After the nation’s bicentennial, a monument to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence was dedicated near the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool. Carved in stone are replicas of each signature, along with the signer’s name, occupation and hometown and state. These men represented all walks of life and backgrounds. They were lawyers, merchants, physicians, farm owners and surveyors. Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was a printer and scientist. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a Marylander and the only Catholic signer of the Declaration, was a merchant and farmer. Lyman Hall of Georgia was a physician and Congregationalist minister.
These signers professed many different faiths. They were Catholic, Congregationalist, Deist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Quaker and Unitarian. From many different backgrounds, representing many religions, they stood united for liberty.
Over the centuries since that decision to lock the Brick Chapel, our struggle for liberty, the Declaration of Independence and our Revolutionary War, we have all recognized the importance of religious faith in a free and democratic society.
Even today in the context of a secular world, the quiet, soft and gentle voice of the Spirit has not been stilled. It continues to speak to human hearts. Not by bread alone do we live.
The second reading for today taken from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians reminds us that we must not “grieve the Holy Spirit of God with which you were sealed.” We must always be open to the promptings of the Spirit. Our commitment to religious liberty, to human freedom, to our faith, does not rest on our individual resolve or limited resources. The First Letter of Saint Peter reminds us, “You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and the abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23).
The celebration of the unlocking of the Brick Chapel is the recognition of the place of values — moral, ethical and religious — in life and in the society of which we are a formative part.
As the key turned in the lock and the doors swung open, we were all provided an opportunity to reflect that sadly there are still those who think that the best way to deal with opposing opinions, differing views, moral perspectives and ethical imperatives is through force. Closer to our day, we see another tactic. The Church is denounced as prejudiced, narrow-minded or even un-American simply because her teaching respects human life, upholds marriage and calls for health care for the most needy in our country.
In March, just across town, we witnessed an example of the new intolerance, the new form of locking doors. At George Washington University an effort was made to silence the Catholic chaplain and to “lockout” his ministry to Catholic students and faculty just because he taught those who freely came to Mass what Jesus said about marriage. And so, here we are.
The idea that the pastor of a parish today or the chaplain of a religious community or campus ministry today should simply be silenced because he faithfully announces the Gospel of Jesus Christ — that he should not be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture, even in a place that is dedicated to the free and diverse expression of ideas — may seem somewhat radical today, but you have to remember there have always been those who try to force their views on all of us. There have always been those who want to lock doors so the voice of the Gospel cannot be heard.
When we talk about marriage, when we speak about the dignity of human life, when we teach about the natural moral order, we are lifting up elements that we find deeply rooted in the consciousness of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Just because someone wants to change all of that today does not mean that the rest of us no longer have a place in this society.
Remember after someone says you cannot speak here, then comes the sentence, “And you do not belong here.” Our response must be the response of Jesus Christ, the response of his Church, a response rooted in love.
The Gospel chosen for today reminds us that Jesus calls us to follow his invitation to love one another and to accept this challenge as the norm for our way of living. When others use force, there will always be the temptation to respond in kind. But we must respond out of who we are. We are followers of Jesus Christ. We speak the truth in love.
Again, in the second reading, Saint Paul tells us, “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.”
To speak out against any form of discrimination, social injustice or the redefinition of marriage, marital relations, or threats to the dignity of life is not to force values upon our society, but rather to call our society to its own, long-accepted moral principles and commitment to defend basic human rights.
The celebration at historic Saint Mary’s City was a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and the ultimate victory of truth. But it was also a reminder that there are always those with a key ready to close us out of the public forum and our rightful and legitimate place in the debates over what is good public policy. The beautiful fall afternoon ceremony of the unlocking of the Brick Chapel was not just a revisiting of history but, in fact, a study of current events.
In January 2012, Pope Benedict XVI explained to United States bishops in Rome the challenge to our culture of a “radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.” He went on to highlight “of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion…The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life.”
The Holy Father’s answer to this “radical secularism” and “denial of rights” is, as he explained, “an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism.” And here you are! Your faith is a remedy for what ails our society. The mission of all of us, but particularly of the laity is to engage the culture with the Good News that only comes from Jesus Christ.
This may seem daunting, but remember, we are a people of hope. It is why Blessed John Paul II called for the New Evangelization and why Pope Benedict XVI carried this call into the new millennium, and why Pope Francis is such an example of living faith with courage and serenity. We know that while we must still defend our freedom, Christ has already won the final victory.
In a moment, we will celebrate Holy Mass. At each Mass, we remember and celebrate who we are as Catholics. We gather around the table of the Lord to receive the gift of the Eucharist, just as the Apostles gathered around Jesus at the Last Supper. The Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death on the cross and Resurrection is made real to us, here and now, and then we go out to the world to share that gift of Jesus’ new life and his love.
That new life in Christ, that living out of our faith, is reflected not only in our worship and in our personal acts of charity, but in our Church’s educational, health care and social ministry outreach. Those works, those acts of faith, are threatened whenever our religious freedom is eroded.
Before I elevate the consecrated host and the chalice of Jesus’ blood, we are all on our knees together. Let us thank our Lord for the gift of life and for the freedom to love and worship our God. Pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit we may be his witnesses.
In the presence of our Lord we will kneel. There is a time to be on one’s knees. There is also a time when we need to stand — to stand up.
Some time ago I was invited to give an invocation at a public event attended by hundreds and hundreds of people. The prayer was to follow the presentation of the flag and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.
From behind the curtain on stage where I stood, I could see the young man who sat with a console on his lap controlling the light and sound mechanisms for the hall. He also had in his hand the script to tell him when to dim the lights and what microphones to turn on.
As the flag was brought in and the singer intoned the Star Spangled Banner, all of the people in the audience stood. Behind the curtain and seen by no one but me, the young man, trying to balance the console, the lights, the sound system and his script, attempted to stand. Clearly, even though no one saw him, the national anthem meant enough to him that he wanted to stand up.
Pray also for the courage boldly and joyfully to stand in protection of our freedom so that we may continue to live out our faith and transform the world in which we live.
Today there are things that should mean enough to all of us, including our religious liberty, that we simply need to stand — to stand up for what is right, to stand up for what is ours, to stand up for freedom of religion.
Let us thank God for the call, the freedom and the courage to stand up for religious liberty.
Perhaps you've felt a tug in your spirit, a yearning to engage and fuel your faith.
I don't think it to be coincidental.
I agree with the Cardinal, society is ailing and needs some medicine. Your faith, however small or large, is what the Good Doctor is ordering.
Now would be a good time to feed it if it's small or exercise it if it's large. Yes, now.
You're being called. Answer the call. There's a higher purpose, a larger need. Become part of the remedy.
Advocating for the right of consenting adults to share and enjoy love, sex, residence, and marriage without limits on the gender, number, or relation of participants. Full marriage equality is a basic human right.
I argue for full marriage equality. By that I mean that society and all local, state, federal, and
international laws, institutions, and programs should recognize any marriage registered by any consenting persons without restrictions on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, caste, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender, sexual orientation, creed, religion, or disability - regardless of the biological relation or number of participants. This also includes the right of these persons to share love, sex, and residence with or without marriage.
In some places, laws against polygamy and consanguineous intimacy (consanguinamory) would have to be repealed, overruled, or superseded, just as some places have done with laws against sodomy, interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, cohabitation, etc. - and I argue in favor of that in that people have a right to engage in these things and receive equal treatment from their government and society and protection against certain forms of oppression.
Be sure to click on that consanguinamory link. You'll be more educated.
I know quite the number of folks who see no problem with supporting gay marriage. I know that they think my opposition to it is archaic, old-fashioned, close-minded... even bigoted.
My question to these people is pretty simple.
Are you also archaic, old-fashioned, close-minded... even bigoted if you aren't supporting full marriage equality?
Despite Google's in your face attempt to make this day about something else, the fact remains that this is the day commemorating the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the promise of life that resurrection brings to those who believe.
It's not about Chavez, despite the best efforts of the idiots at Google. It's not about coloring eggs and certainly not about the bunny. It's about, as today's Collect relays, Him who conquers death and Who unlocks for us the path to eternity.
Religion, we are told, is an escape -- an attempt to explain away the pain and suffering and impossible contradictions of human life. Religion, we are reminded, is full of stuff we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better. Or worse. Religion is something we tell others in order to control them. It's not belief in God, per se, that disturbs our sophisticated, post-modern sensibilities. It's religion; especially of the organized sort. So we're all spiritual, but fewer and fewer of us are religious.
Our culture's complicated relationship with organized religion is closely tied to our culture's complicated relationship with truth. We love our truth, all right, but we treat truth a lot like religion -- it's fine, so long as everyone else keeps their truth to themselves. Tolerance -- which our culture values over all other virtues -- consists in not imposing your truth on someone else.
The problem with this well-meaning attempt at tolerance is that it is unsustainable. It's self-cannibalizing. If there is only your truth and my truth, but no Truth, then there is no common ground upon which to meet one another. Either I'm right, or you are, and since there's no middle ground, the matter is only ever settled when one side wins and the other side loses. A world without truth isn't a world liberated from conflict; it's a world without the possibility of reconciliation.
Pope Benedict's episcopal motto Cooperatores veritatis -- "co-operators of the truth" -- suggests a very different understanding of reality; one in which both faith and reason owe allegiance to the same reality, that is, to truth. And truth, at least as the Catholic Church understands it, is best demonstrated, not by carefully reasoned arguments (though those are important) and certainly not by violence, but by self-giving love. There is nothing more compelling, nothing more true, than sacrificial love.
(The central truth of Christian faith -- God became man in Jesus Christ, through whose suffering and death we are redeemed -- can be summed up like this: God got tired of telling us how to do it, so He decided to come down here and show us.)
It also suggests that Pope Benedict XVI understands a pope's role in the Church as one of leadership, but primarily of service. Among the pope's many titles -- Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of Apostles -- is this, The Servant of the Servants of God. He is only a custodian, a shepherd of Someone Else's flock. The papacy, in other words, was not given him for his sake, but for the sake of the Church's mission.
In 1976 the National Council for Civil Liberties, the respectable (and responsible) pressure group now
known as Liberty, made a submission to parliament's criminal law revision committee. It caused barely a ripple. "Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in with an adult," it read, "result in no identifiable damage … The real need is a change in the attitude which assumes that all cases of paedophilia result in lasting damage."
It is difficult today, after the public firestorm unleashed by revelations about Jimmy Savile and the host of child abuse allegations they have triggered, to imagine any mainstream group making anything like such a claim. But if it is shocking to realise how dramatically attitudes to paedophilia have changed in just three decades, it is even more surprising to discover how little agreement there is even now among those who are considered experts on the subject.
A liberal professor of psychology who studied in the late 1970s will see things very differently from someone working in child protection, or with convicted sex offenders. There is, astonishingly, not even a full academic consensus on whether consensual paedophilic relations necessarily cause harm.
So what, then, do we know? A paedophile is someone who has a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children. Savile appears to have been primarily an ephebophile, defined as someone who has a similar preferential attraction to adolescents, though there have been claims one of his victims was aged eight.
But not all paedophiles are child molesters, and vice versa: by no means every paedophile acts on his impulses, and many people who sexually abuse children are not exclusively or primarily sexually attracted to them. In fact, "true" paedophiles are estimated by some experts to account for only 20% of sexual abusers. Nor are paedophiles necessarily violent: no firm links have so far been established between paedophilia and aggressive or psychotic symptoms. Psychologist Glenn Wilson, co-author of The Child-Lovers: a Study of Paedophiles in Society, argues that "The majority of paedophiles, however socially inappropriate, seem to be gentle and rational."
Legal definitions of paedophilia, needless to say, have no truck with such niceties, focusing on the offence, not the offender. The Sex Offenders Act 1997 defined paedophilia as a sexual relationship between an adult over 18 and a child below 16.
Debate still rages, too, about the clinical definition of paedophilia. Down the years, the American Psychiatric Association'sDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – "the psychiatrist's bible" – has variously classified it as a sexual deviation, a sociopathic condition and a non-psychotic medical disorder. And few agree about what causes it. Is paedophilia innate or acquired?Research at the sexual behaviours clinic of Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health suggests paedophiles' IQs are, on average, 10% lower than those of sex offenders who had abused adults, and that paedophiles are significantly less likely to be right-handed than the rest of the population, suggesting a link to brain development. MRI scans reveal a possible issue with paedophiles' "white matter": the signals connecting different areas of the brain. Paedophiles may be wired differently.
As society continues to place pressure on the acceptance of disordered behaviors as something other than disordered, we really can't be surprised when said same society widens the net as to other behaviors needing to be legitimized.
Yea, that slippery slope.
The more we set God aside, the more we forget Him, the more this sort of thing will come to the forefront and, more threateningly, the more those of us who find problems with it will be ostracized as intolerant, bigoted and out of the main stream.
I want to begin this morning by acknowledging to you that I often don’t like the person I am. I find myself getting impatient with people, losing my temper with people, and hurting people in my family and in my circle of acquaintance. I’m very conscious of my laziness and of the many times when I refuse to deny myself and love others in practical ways because it’s so much easier and more enjoyable just to lie on the couch and read a book. These are just two examples of the kind of failures I struggle with every day of my life, and I’m very conscious of them.
I’ve often heard the Gospel summed up in this nicely balanced phrase: ‘God loves us so much that he accepts us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to leave us there!” And in the times when I’ve allowed myself to become lazy and complacent about my Christian life, I really need to hear the ‘God loves you too much to leave you there!” part of the phrase. It reminds me that God wants positive change to happen in my life, and that God’s power is available to help that happen.
Our Old Testament reading for this morning, from the prophet Malachi, emphasises this second aspect of the Gospel – the need and possibility of change. The image that Malachi uses is the image of ‘refining’. He says of the Lord, ‘For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver’ (Malachi 3:2b-3a). I want to explore these words with you this morning.
Malachi probably wrote these words after the Jewish exiles had returned from the Babylonian captivity around 500 B.C. The temple in Jerusalem had been repaired and daily worship was going on, but if you read all four chapters of the little book of Malachi – the last book of the Old Testament - you’ll see that he isn’t happy with the way things are going in the temple. The priests are not living holy lives and they’re not putting their heart and soul into the worship of God, and the people aren’t giving their best to God in sacrifices either – they’re just giving the lambs that are so sick they would have died anyway. So Malachi speaks of the Lord coming to ‘purify the descendents of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness’ (3:3).
We might wonder what this has to do with us today; after all, the Levites were full-time temple ministers, and most of us are not! But we need to remember that in the New Testament we no longer have a physical temple made of stone; rather, the people of Jesus are a living temple. You and me and all Christian people around the world – together we are a temple, a community where God lives and where God is worshipped. So for God to come and purify his temple means that God is at work among us to set right the things that are wrong. And that applies to us as individuals too, because Paul tells us in one of his letters that we are each of us ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’, because the Spirit lives in us. So, yes, the Holy Spirit is going to be constantly at work ‘refining’ his people, both as a community and as individuals. Let’s think about this for a few minutes.
First, let’s ask the question “What does ‘refining’ mean”? The Old Testament prophets often use words of judgement against God’s people. When we hear them, it sometimes sounds as if God’s aim is not to help his people but to smash and destroy them! That’s why this image of refining that Malachi uses here is so helpful. A refiner is attempting to purify molten metal from all its dross in order to create an object of beauty and strength – perhaps a silver cup. In Malachi’s time this would be accomplished by putting the unrefined metal into a pot or furnace and heating it up until all the dirt and impurities were burnt out of it. And there’s another lovely little detail here. A number of Bible scholars say that the refiner would know that the process was complete when the molten metal was so clear that he could see his own face reflected in it.
This illustration of refining provides a very helpful picture for us of the ongoing process of purification in our lives as Christians. The General Confession in the old Book of Common Prayer says, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done”. In other words, God’s work of change in us will have both negative and positive aspects. Negatively, the refiner will be trying to remove our impurities – the ‘things we ought not to have done’. Positively, God will be trying to form the image of Jesus in us – Jesus who shows us by his way of life ‘the things we ought to have done’.
So here’s the challenge for me: Do the members of my family feel like they’re living with Jesus? What about my friends and the people I work with – when they rub shoulders with me from day to day, do they feel somehow as if they’re meeting Jesus in me? And wouldn’t it be great if they did?
This applies on a corporate level as well. Wouldn’t it be great if our culture was continually noticing how Christ-like the Christian Church is? That doesn’t necessarily mean ‘nice’ or ‘inoffensive’, but it does mean becoming a community of self-sacrificial love, consciously modelling its life after the teaching of Jesus. Think about the things that Jesus taught us in the gospels, and then think about the way we live our life as a parish here at St. Margaret’s, and ask yourself the question, ‘Does this look like Jesus? Would new people who come among us notice the way we live together and be reminded of Jesus? Or if they don’t know about him, would they learn about him without ever opening a Bible, just by noticing the way we live as a community?’ Of course, the honest answer is, sometimes yes, and sometimes no! So of course, some refining is in order.
So refining is about the removal of our impurities and the transformation of our lives so that people see the face of Jesus in us. Now, let’s go on to ask ourselves ‘How does this refining take place?’ If I was a lump of silver, complacent in my state of impurity, and if I found myself suddenly picked up by a refiner, thrown into a pot of molten metal and heated up to boiling point until parts of me were burned away, I don’t imagine I would find that to be an entirely comfortable process! And in the same way the process of refining that God is inviting us into as followers of Jesus is often uncomfortable for us – in fact, it challenges us to move out of our comfort zones into new territory with God. Let me share with you just three of the methods God uses to refine us into the image of Jesus.
The first method involves a number of activities I’ll gather together under the heading of encounters with God. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul says ‘And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit’. I’m reminded of the story in Isaiah chapter six of how the prophet found himself in the presence of the heavenly court, with the Lord on his throne in the centre. Isaiah cries out ‘Oy’ve! I’m a foul-mouthed sinner and I’ve seen the Lord!’ Then one of the angels takes a live coal from the altar, touches Isaiah’s lips with it, and says ‘See, this has touched your lips – you are cleansed and purified from your sin’.
How do we encounter God in a transformational way? It can happen when we come together to worship, to sing his praises, to listen to his word and share the sacrament. It can happen when we pray alone, or when we open up the scriptures. The word of God rebukes us, corrects us, encourages us, and trains us in the new way of life of God’s kingdom. So a willingness to allow the Refiner to do his work in us involves making a commitment to public worship with other Christians and to regular times of prayer and meditation on scripture for ourselves.
A second way in which God refines us into the image of Jesus is through circumstances that call for the development of the virtue we’re trying to cultivate. I’m reminded of the old story of the young boy who went to his grandfather with a problem. “Grandpa, I’m such a skinny little thing! I’d like to have real big muscles! Is there any way you can give them to me?” The grandfather replied, “That’s a difficult one – it might take me a while to think of something. Tell you what, I’ll work hard at trying to think of something if you’ll do something for me?” “What’s that?” the boy asked. “Get busy on my woodpile and chop wood for me”. Well, you’ve guessed what happened! The grandfather kept putting the boy off, and the boy kept chopping, and eventually the muscles he was hoping for started to grow!
I think God puts us through this sort of exercise quite frequently. My Dad has said on a number of occasions that he is a very impatient man, and so every time in his life he has really wanted something, God has made him wait for it! “Well of course”, God might say to us; “how else did you think I was going to help you grow patience?” The King James Version translates the word ‘patience’ as ‘longsuffering’; another friend of mine joked about this, saying “Every time I pray for patience the Lord sends me longsuffering!”
God refines us through encounters with him, and through circumstances that help us to develop the virtues we want to cultivate. A third way, I’m afraid, is through suffering. Suffering often invites us to concentrate on the really important issues in life and shows us that so many of the things we used to value so highly aren’t really that important. For example, someone once said ‘the prospect of an immanent death wonderfully concentrates the mind’. Terminally ill people have frequently told me how clearly they now see their lives, and how much better able they are to let go of less important things and to focus on things that really matter. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but it is nevertheless a truth that if we pray for holiness, God will often answer our prayer by allowing us to experience suffering on the way to that goal.
We’ve thought about encounters with God, circumstances that test us, and suffering. These are all tools that God can use in the refining process in my life and yours. Through it all, the Holy Spirit will be working gently in our hearts to transform us into the image of Jesus. Paul says ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22-23). Sounds like the character of Jesus to me! That’s what the Holy Spirit will be working toward as we go through this refining process. So let’s ask ourselves now – what does this mean for me today?
In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy and his father are looking for the Holy Grail, the cup Christ used at the Last Supper. In the movie, if you find that cup and drink from it you will have eternal life. But in the movie, what eternal life means is simply ‘living forever without experiencing death’. Now I have to ask myself – do I really want that kind of eternal life? To be as I am now, with all my weaknesses, shortcomings and bad habits – and to have to live with that forever? That sounds like a pretty good definition of hell to me!
So the good news this passage is communicating to me is that I don’t have to be stuck in ‘no progress’ forever. Change is possible, and I’m being invited into a change process. Listen to those words of Paul again: ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22-23). Wouldn’t it be so much better for my family, my friends, and my work colleagues if those words described me? Wouldn’t it be so much better for me?
Well, how’s it going to happen? Let me give you an example. Those who know me well know that I’m rather anal-retentive about punctuality. I was raised in a punctual home and it was bred into me that being on time for appointments was a way of showing respect for the other people involved. I still think this is true, but of course one of the Devil’s favourite ways of knocking us off course is to take a virtue and push it to extremes, so that we’re good in a bad way! And I think that when I’m dealing with other people, people who haven’t had the same sort of punctual upbringing as I’ve had, it’s possible they may have noticed that the fruit of the Spirit marked ‘patience’ still needs a lot of work in my life!
But do you know what is really happening in those times when I’m forced to wait for other people? Really happening, in God’s school of character development? I’ll tell you – God is putting me into a situation where I have an opportunity to develop some patience muscles. I have a choice; I can pass up the opportunity and rant and rave a bit. Or I can choose to keep my cool and practice the discipline of enjoying God’s gift of a bit of extra free time in my day. The choice is up to me!
So let me close by asking you to consider two things. First, think of your experience of worship with other Christians, as well as your private times of reading the Bible and praying. Have you noticed that God is using those times to invite you into the change process? Have you noticed that God will use the scripture readings to point out to you areas of transformation that are especially necessary for you in your life right now? And have you noticed that you sometimes find an inner strength to be more Christ-like, a strength you didn’t notice before? If so – welcome to the refining process! Stick with it, and see where the adventure leads you!
Secondly, what difficult circumstances in your life right now – whether suffering you’re going through, or just general circumstances that stretch you – what difficult circumstances in your life are actually God’s invitation to you to grow in Christ-likeness? Is it a difficult person God has put in your life? Is it something you’d like right now that you’re having to wait for? Is it a prayer that hasn’t been answered as fast as you thought it would be?
Remember: God loves us so much that he accepts us just as we are, weaknesses and all – but he loves us far too much to leave us there. This morning God is gently inviting us into this process of being refined from all impurities until he can see the image of Jesus clearly in us – and until the people around us can see it too. So this morning let’s commit ourselves afresh to co-operating with God in this process of being refined into the image of Jesus.
It has been a week of anarchy in the world—mob violence, murder, chaos. While the political way ahead in Egypt, Libya, Iran, Syria is far from clear, and the proper response of US and Canadian governments is far from clear, I hope we can all at least join together in fervent prayer for peace in these and in all parts of the world. Lord have mercy on us.
We do see in this situation, however, the true value and indeed necessity of social order, rule of law, basic structures of police, military, court systems, and the constitutional framework into which all these fit. When this collapses, when law is violated and the structures that enforce the law co-opted to serve the political ends of whoever is exerting power of office today, then anarchy is upon us.
And with anarchy, eventually the violence of the mob. And this is not some far away (yet all too close) Middle Eastern phenomenon. Lawlessness and mob violence are growing in North America, too. When people in power ignore the laws of the land for political expediency, when the rich and the powerful seem to be exempt from the petty rules that govern the rest of us, when the rules and regulations themselves appear to breed like Tribbles, each new set of regulations born pregnant with the next batch, so that it is probable that both you and I are breaking some law or other right now… when the law is broken, in other words, it is only a matter of time before people take to the streets in sheer anarchic revolt.
Underneath the political issues is a moral and spiritual question. Namely, are we as a society concerned with forming people to be good human beings, or merely good units of production? Are we as a society concerned with passing on the virtues of justice, equity, self-sacrifice, concern for the common good… or are we content with reducing people to the level of cattle to be herded, exploited, and kept happy with ample feed?
I know—I’m starting to rant here. Sorry about that. (It’s been a while since I’ve ranted, hasn’t it?) But a society that has no concern for the moral fiber of its citizens is a society on its way out. A nation, a civilization that throws pornography and light entertainment, cheap food and drink at its people, while seeing them fundamentally as ‘human resources,’ sources of capital and labor, is a civilization sowing the wind and about to reap the whirlwind.
Basically, if you treat people as sub-human, don’t be surprised when they behave sub-humanly. And when the music stops, the money starts to run out, the food and drink is a bit scarcer… well, a people who have never heard of, let alone been formed in, an ethos of justice and shared sacrifice and concern for the common good may not take this too easily. Today there are mobs in Egypt and Libya… tomorrow or the day after it could be well be Ottawa, Toronto, New York, Washington.
He's not done... and he finishes with an action plan of sorts.
Barrett traces the roots of the West's existential crisis and identifies nihilism* as the source of our deepest personal and cultural anxieties. B.O.'s 2008 campaign directly addressed these anxieties with an appeal to superficial Hope & Change. And we bought it. Well, most of us did anyway.
I'm not suggesting that you read Barrett as a matter of political science but as a plausible diagnosis of what's happening to us as a freedom-loving nation and God-fearing culture.
Many of the political developments in the last half-century arose out of our collective fear of personal annihilation (physical and spiritual), a need for security now that we've sequestered God away from the public square. The academy's assault on the intelligibility of truth and the rise of the National Security Nanny State push us further and further along the road to serfdom.
I'm not suggesting that philosophical existentialism gives us a solution to our cultural anxieties. Far from it. Historically, existentialism served as a diagnostic tool not a treatment regime.
The only well-documented treatment for the crippling fear of nothingness is God. While the Nanny State has always failed--will always fail--God does not and cannot fail.
If you disagree, do so in the comments and expound.
If you don't, then perhaps like me, you're asking yourself, what am I doing to pursue God with more vigor?
Hillary Clinton says Libya's Muammar Gaddafi must be killed or captured
Speaking to students at the University of Tripoli, Clinton said: "The most important thing to do right now is to make sure that Gaddafi and his regime are finally prevented from disrupting the new Libya.
"But we hope he can be captured or killed soon, so you don't have to fear him any longer.
"Then you have to move forward," she said, urging the students not to waste time "trying to settle scores of the past."
Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi died of wounds suffered on Thursday as fighters battling to complete an eight-month-old uprising against his rule overran his hometown Sirte, Libya's interim rulers said.
His killing, which came swiftly after his capture near Sirte, is the most dramatic single development in the Arab Spring revolts that have unseated rulers in Egypt and Tunisia and threatened the grip on power of the leaders of Syria and Yemen.
"He (Gaddafi) was also hit in his head," National Transitional Council official Abdel Majid Mlegta told Reuters. "There was a lot of firing against his group and he died."