May 13, 2017 marks 100 years since an extraordinary warning was given to a skeptical world ─ a world which in 1917 was plunging ever deeper into dangers and darkness. That fateful year forever changed the established world order, and in ways that statesmen of the time could have hardly envisaged. A horrific European war was in its third destructive year as machine guns and trench warfare consumed millions of lives, mostly the idealistic flower of European youth. But rather than call off this senseless slaughter, the belligerents doubled down stubbornly because, as in any war, the calm voices of reason are invariably drowned out by the hysterical rhetoric of zealots.
And so the carnage ground inexorably on until March 1917 when the Russian troops who were bearing the brunt of mayhem finally revolted and brought down their Czar. Continue reading
They are often referred to as the Seven Deadly Sins, though this is something of a misnomer. Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, and Lust are more correctly called the Seven Capital Sins from the Latin capitas, or head, because they are not so much direct actions as attitudes or “habits of mind.” As such these habits may predispose one to more concrete sinful activities. These are the root or source of particular sins. One does not commit a direct act of envy, for instance, but envy in the heart can lead to malicious gossip, lying to discredit or harm another’s reputation, sabotaging a co-worker’s promotion, or even murder. These seven deadly dispositions are the underlying, root causes of many evils. They are the motive power behind sinful actions.
Because these seven pathological attitudes lurk deep in the heart and soul of man they have great potential to corrupt. Genesis itself attests to such evil spirits lurking within through the story of Cain and Abel. God warns Cain even before he has sinned, “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well you can hold up your head, but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: Continue reading
Q. What is Prayer? In our earlier parable we used the image of a ladder which is meant to illustrate two things. First it lifts the mind and heart out of its usually mundane sphere by clearing away much of our mental clutter. Secondly it offers us a heightened perspective on reality; allowing one to freely experience the more spiritual, reflective parts of human nature. But prayer must also go beyond our inner thoughts and consciousness. Simply stated, it is an ongoing conversation we carry on with God. Because it is extremely difficult to develop a true friendship without conversation, as we all know, it is often the quality of our conversations that will determine the level of friendship.
There are many different kinds of conversation that we might have, with another person – or with God. For instance, when the phone rings and we hear a strange voice on the other end trying to solicit our opinions or to sell us some product, what kind of relationship does that represent? It immediately established the relationship of buyer and seller. For some people prayer is just that, a business transaction with God, trying to get something they may want out of God and at the least possible cost. Continue reading
Fact: We inhabit a world filled with danger. Many of those dangers are remote or small enough that we can easily take precautions against them ourselves. Locking a car door or exercising care when crossing a busy intersection are obvious examples. But other dangers lie beyond our ability to personally control: criminal acts, cancer, or invasion by an enemy force. That is why societies maintain police, hospitals, and a standing military. We rely on doctors and pharmacists to protect us from diseases that we ourselves cannot even understand much less control.
If there were no threats to our life, security, and happiness such professions would have no reason to exist. But life, as we well understand the older we get, is beset by many dangers, both hidden and visible. Some dangers we can reasonably control, either personally or as a community, but what about those dangers over which we have no plausible control? To whom shall we turn for protection when a particular danger is so grave or overwhelming that no human power is adequate to deal with it? Continue reading
This year marks the 500 anniversary of the great revolt of Martin Luther in 1517. Since that time years ending in ’17 seem to portend dire future events, and so it is with trepidation that we enter this 2017, even as a seismic wave of social unrest rumbles underfoot. It was 1517 that saw Luther post his 95 theses to a church door, an innocuous beginning to what grew into a total Reformation, or Deformation, of the Church ~ depending upon one’s point of view. The fight had been brewing for some time but it took this intransigent monk to light the fuse. The West has been living in the fallout from that explosion ever since.
A hundred years later, in 1617, Ferdinand was crowned the new King of Bohemia as part of a deal the Spanish Hapsburgs cut with the Austrian side of the family. It didn’t pan out so well, however. Within a year those saucy Bohemians had thrown the Hapsburg councilors out of a third story window in Prague, Continue reading
There was once a kingdom ruled by a wise but very mysterious wizard who lived reclusively in a very high tower set at the edge of a beautiful and productive valley. The wizard was a generous hearted ruler and quite concerned for the welfare of all the people living there but, alas, the tower had no entryway allowing any person access, either to it ─ or to the wizard who lived there. Perhaps that last statement is not strictly true. Many years before the present time there had been one small doorway leading to a spiral staircase inside the tower, but this vital portal had long been lost; buried under a great landslide. So many ages had passed since the disaster that even the general location of that ancient portal had long faded from men’s memories. Continue reading
Merry Christmas to all! I generally make it a point to avoid purely political topics in this blog, and yet there are times when certain current events demand a response, as in protestors hounding electors en masse or students violently denouncing ordinary voters as “racists” for simply exercising their civil right to cast a ballot. Some time ago a respected Berkley law professor, Phillip Johnson, coined the term “microphone man” to explain how certain factions in society routinely use the microphones of media, government, and education to effectively silence any dissenting viewpoints. And since the stunning electoral upset of November 8, a shocked and visibly upset microphone man has wheeled into action by disclaiming the “unfairness” of the Electoral College (EC), a favorite liberal whipping boy whenever “progressive” presidential candidates lose elections they figured were easily won. Continue reading
Has Christianity lost its moral relevance in the modern world? I live in a state where two thirds of the electorate recently agreed that physicians ought to be allowed to prescribe a lethal toxin to a dying patient as a substitute for pain medication. Apparently the Christian message no longer resonates with a large percentage of the populace. Could this possibly reflect a fragmented Christianity whose continued doctrinal and moral disunity has reduced even the Ten Commandments to debatable talking points? After all a church itself splintered by countless divisions can hardly expect to hold the attention of the masses. But until the rupture in this body (of Christ) is truly resolved, there seems to be little chance that Christianity can ever heal itself much less the world.
In order to correct such problems one must first address the fundamental cause of that religious cleavage. Ironically, it is the very thing that ought to unite Christians that has proven to be the most significant stumbling block to unity. For it is the Eucharist itself that has polarized Catholics and Protestants into opposing camps for 500 years now. Continue reading
Reflecting on perhaps the most unpredictable and bizarre presidential elections in my entire lifetime brings a satisfied yet wary smile to my face. Certainly the political outcome represents a moment of reprieve for cherished religious liberties that have been increasingly threatened or subjected to governmental intimidation as of late. Still, I sense that Americans are not entirely free of the ever looming specter of overbearing “political correctness,” a phenomenon that has been quietly invading every private (and public) corner of American life for far too long now. My pessimism in this regard stems from the fact that millions of young high school and college age students continue to be systematically radicalized against their own culture, flag, and even religion by those very institutions to which they have been entrusted by parents and taxpayers. I refer to that juggernaut called public and higher education Continue reading
The unprecedented ascendancy of a Donald Trump in the American political equation raises some very interesting questions about the unfolding culture divide, namely that abyss between the ordinary people and a new ruling class comprised of intellectuals, tech wizards, and politicians which has widened into an insurmountable gulf. One of the more telling fault lines demarcating that growing schism involves the belief, or lack thereof, in a Divine Creator. In fact, religious skepticism has become a widely accepted creed among political elites and academics, many of whom who have adopted philosophical materialism, the belief that the only reality is material reality. That materialist philosophy is primarily buttressed by Darwinian macro-evolution, a corrosive philosophy that has been taught as a scientific certainty in virtually every public school and university in our country for decades. Continue reading