Friday, July 03, 2015

Happy Fourth Of July

Some people are saying America isn't so great. What are we celebrating? I suppose you could say that from any direction. Doesn't it always seem like something important has been lost when time passes? Nostalgia is a temptation for great nations, and great peoples, who perhaps have grown weary of testing their principles, and themselves.

A weary people grows tired of testing principles, and a people without virtue grows tired of employing them.

Maybe we are that people. But we can be so much more. I read about a guy who jumped in a lake to save a 4-year-old from drowning. He was paralyzed in the process, and then he lost his life. That kind of selflessness, that's America.

What would you say to the friends and family of the beloved dead in Charleston? True forgiveness is not unique to us, but it's as American as apple pie. That's hero stuff right there.

Maybe some of us will need to learn that process is important, that there are hidden costs to pursuing one thing above all else, at least a thing that isn't big enough (or good enough) to allow other good things within it.

There are genuinely intolerant people here, and they can mess up a good thing for everybody. Pay them no mind. One great thing our Founders gave us was gridlock. No, seriously. There might come a time when passions could run a little high, even among people of good will. There is nothing like frustration to make us slow down, maybe even to listen to one another. Thank the Founders for that.

I think back to the night President Obama won the election the first time. The euphoria was unreal. No matter what else I might say about the president--"in over his head" might be the gentlest thing I'd say--that night was the best of America. I remember the First Kids standing there, and the First Lady, and feeling like I would never have words to describe this moment. All Oprah could do was cry. I don't blame her. How great a country is this? A black woman can get out of poverty coming from nothing, and become a billionaire. And, by the way, there's nothing more American than giving stuff away, and generously, at that. Some time this week, Chris Rock pointed out that his kids have never known a moment when little black kids were not running around the White House. They think it's perfectly normal. Well, it is, in America. The Founders may not have known the greatness of their own principles, but they are great, nonetheless.

 The next time you're tempted to think about all the bad things, and even the bad people you think are messing it up, think of the man who saved that kid, or the soldier who fell on a grenade, so the parents of his brothers-in-arms wouldn't be the ones holding the folded flag.

Remember Flight 93? They fought and died, just so our leaders would not be harmed. We understand better than most: At the end of the day, it's better to mock a president than to bury one.

This 4th of July, have a grilled something or other, and remember that dreams grow wild here, to paraphrase Phil Vassar. Not by sheer luck, but ultimately because they belong to people with thankful and generous hearts.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Read Of The Day

I got your flowchart right here, Sparky. Really, when sex was separated from procreation, it opened the door to all kinds of arrangements based on subjective feelings, instead of reality. Blessed Pope Paul VI, pray for us!

Monday, June 29, 2015

It's Not About The People

It would be easy to go in two directions on this marriage question we're all been talking about lately, and neither of them are good.

I could simply thump the Bible here and there, unwilling to recognize that the most sophisticated advocates of same-sex marriage know the texts as well as I do, not in any way making human contact with these sinners or their allies.

I could also confess the truth of traditional teaching joylessly, almost reluctantly, and I can allow myself to be moved emotionally by the scenes of same-sex couples gaining legal recognition.

With respect to the first case, I'm going to say that I understand sinners. If you sin, that means in that moment, whatever it is has become more valuable to you than the God of the universe. We know intellectually how stupid that is. If you're a sinner, however,--and not in the theoretical--you know that reality in your own life; it's not just a pious guilt-trip you give to Johnny-Bob. It sounds good in fundraising letters; Christian leaders do it all the time.

In the second case, I don't want to be moved by what is disordered! Why are you doing that? You might be sitting there thinking, "But this group of 'biblically-faithful' Christians has so profoundly failed to love that this is why I'm moved! This is why they are here, because of us!" Stop it, right now. This isn't remotely true. Sinners sin because they love a created thing more than God. It's not hard. If that isn't you, you are not responsible. I love these thoughtful evangelicals; penance is a heresy and beyond the pale, but trying to be the Lamb of God Himself isn't.

Repent for failing to love, if indeed you have. I'm not stopping you. But stop giving Satan a foothold, by pretending that you can affirm the truth, while letting your own feelings deny it. "My delight is in the law of the Lord."

We Can All Go Home Now

The End.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What's Freedom For?

Everybody's talkin' 'bout freedom. Define your terms. What is freedom? Two choices: 1. Absolute individual autonomy to make whatever choice you want to make.

 People are already getting jumpy, because most of them don't want to kill someone else, or seriously hurt them. But then, most people are going to do some serious equivocating, because "My Body, My Choice!" Not your body, or your choice, in fact. Except for that. I think most people could make a distinction between killing and murder, such that it would be morally licit to use lethal force against another person, in tragic and unavoidable circumstances, in self-defense. Was the Second Iraq War in self-defense? Debatable. Were the ends sought significant enough to render numerous unintended bad effects acceptable? Except for that.

Not to beat up on anyone here, but we're getting into the weeds pretty fast. It's like we're talking about morality. Uh-oh.

What's our second definition of freedom? 2. A certain modicum of self-determination, flourishing in the absence of coercion, for the purpose of seeking the good, the true, and the beautiful. Let's leave this aside for the moment.

I think the only thing worse than libertarianism is what I like to call "lazy libertarianism." Tell me you've heard this before: "As long as two consenting adults want to do it (or even one), and no one is getting hurt, it's no one else's business." How do you know no one is getting hurt? In fact, that you are not hurting yourself? Ever drank way too much? How do you know "the kids are all right," to pose a question with a little more relevance for our lives today. Do you know, or do you just agree with whatever countenances the thing you've already decided?

I might add, if a person lives in a mud hut in El Salvador, and works for the equivalent of 2 pennies a day, he doesn't have that self-determination I'm thinking of. You know what his "consent" to that situation means? Two things: Jack, and Squat. I digress.

Personally, I just feel guilty that I've been here in this world for thirty-odd years, crowing about freedom and liberty no doubt for most of it, and only recently stopped to ask, "What does that mean, and what's it for?"

Somebody recently asked me, "Why can't people make their own meaning?" Well, they are. How's that working out? In all my years as a citizen of the land of the free and the home of the brave, never have my fellows been less free, or less brave, than they are right now.

Some people worry that if we start asking all these questions, a tyrannical theocracy of fanaticism will somehow appear. I suppose that's always possible. In my experience though, there is nothing more tyrannical than a guilty conscience. I'm doubting whether the dudes with Bibles ever really had that much power. Maybe you need to silence them, because if you don't, and loudly, the cry of your heart will be too much to bear. But that's none of my business.