A brief thought: The People of God are called to be an alternative community for the world. You can't be an alternative to something unless you are very clear abut what you are not, or what you resist. This makes a theology of resistance important (and protest OK).
Posted by guest blogger, Leslie, a Canadian of Norwegian descent.
Being a fair-minded, liberty-loving individual, I believe it is important when one finds a scrap of good in the New York Times, to glom onto it, as one gloms onto blue moons and other rarities.
So pleased was I to find a delightful op-ed by David Brooks, comparing the USA with its Olympic gold medal match nation, Norway. Both Norway and USA won 9 gold medals in the recent 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He begins:
The United States, a nation of 300 million, won nine gold medals this
year in the Winter Olympics. Norway, a nation of 4.7 million, also won
nine. This was no anomaly. Over the years, Norwegians have won more gold
medals in Winter Games, and more Winter Olympics medals over all, than
people from any other nation.
So what is so delightful about this? It is not in so much as what Brooks says, as what he doesn't say. Please, do me a favour and click that last link. I digress.
Brooks continues by outlining a story from Norway's past. The kind of story you hear the history books tell of Norway every now and then. WWII occupation. Small independant group tries inflitrating the Nazis to liberate the country. Horrific winter conditions. Skiis. Avalanches. Raging gangrene. Persistence. Friendly neighbours with a hot cup of coffee just in time to prevent frostbite from taking mittened fingers. I mean, it got pretty bad for the story's hero, Jan Baalsrud, while he was evading the Nazis:
He wandered aimlessly for four days, plagued by hallucinations.
one point he thought he had found a trail, but he was only following his
own footsteps in a small circle.
Finally, he stumbled upon a
cottage. A man named Marius Gronvold took him in. He treated Baalsrud’s
frostbite and hid him in a remote shed across a lake to recover.
He was alone for a week (a storm made it impossible for anyone to reach
him). Gangrene invaded his legs. He stabbed them to drain the pus and
blood. His eyesight recovered, but the pain was excruciating and he was
Those Norwegian stories are always so hard and so good at the same time. The Viking gene lives on in these quiet people, only the lingering menace drives them to the medal podium rather than stealing the gold they find on the high seas.
And so Brooks ends on this note:
This astonishing story could only take place in a country where people
are skilled on skis and in winter conditions. But there also is an
interesting form of social capital on display. It’s a mixture of
softness and hardness. Baalsrud was kept alive thanks to a serial
outpouring of love and nurturing. At the same time, he and his rescuers
displayed an unbelievable level of hardheaded toughness and resilience.
That’s a cultural cocktail bound to produce achievement in many spheres.
Hardheaded toughness and resilience as a means of liberation. Ironic attributes to be admired in the NYT, perhaps. Although I suppose it depends on how you define liberation. I may live in Canada, but we get Glenn Beck up here and politically, it appears America has a few ferocious winter snow storms to ski through in order to liberate herself from an ideological occupationthat seems to have crept up on it over the years.
But it's do-able. Just have to be willing to accept the gangrene for what it is and have the mettle to drain it without anesthetic.
One of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded struck Chile on
Saturday, toppling homes, collapsing bridges and plunging trucks into
the fractured earth. A tsunami threatened every nation around the
Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.
Chileans near the epicenter were tossed about by the magnitude-8.8
quake as if shaken by a giant. At least 147 people were killed,
according to Carmen Fernandez, director of the National Emergency
The quake shook buildings in Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires,
and was felt as far away as Sao Paulo in Brazil — 1,800 miles (2,900
kilometers) to the east. About 13 million people live in the area where
shaking was strong to severe, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
I have found there to be a rule of thumb in public education. That is to say, if you don't take care of business in administration, it's only a matter of time before kids get hurt on the playground or in the classroom.
I was reminded of this when over at The Corner and was intrigued by how two consecutive posts were remarkably inter-related in this school of Life.
Three mass graves were discovered in the sub district of Dubiz in
Kirkuk. Announced the Kurdish daily news paper ASO on Sunday, Feb.21st.
These graves are to be excavated by the Ministry of Anfaled and Martyrs
of Kurdistan regional government in a near future. [#]
Three out of hundreds of mass graves. Cheerfully sponsored over time by the children of the Global Village, namely: Blind Eye and Say Nothing.
One of the most meaningful pieces of poetry I’ve come across is St John of the Cross’, “Dark Night of the Soul”. A shallow read of this will make it smack of some tin foil valentine card, but for the type of message St John is delivering, Hallmark is silent.
When the breeze blew from the turret, as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.
I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies. (Dark Night of the Soul)
When the universe aligns life’s circumstances to sear a person like an ant under a magnifying glass on a sunny afternoon one is suddenly plunged into the Dark Night of the Soul. It is here he meets his creator and with nothing left he finds he needs no longer worry about anything for the details of life are all being orchestrated by much larger hands. That is always true but not always recognized. Bidden or unbidden, God is still there. [#]
People who have never been “gifted” with the experience of the magnifying glass have a harder time finding the peace that comes with reconciling with the reality of one’s anthood.
The thief comes to kill and destroy -- approaching Christ in the desert as he does you and I today.[#]
And once we've run out of the things that drive us, be it food or glory, it is then the Beloved appears, leaving all cares to drop forgotten among the lilies.
1455 The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.
1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: "All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly."54
When Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, "for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know."55
1457According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year."56 Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.57 Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.58
1458 Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.59 Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful:60
Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear "man" - this is what God has made; when you hear "sinner" - this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made. . . . When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light.61
Confession is but one part or piece if you will of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and those interested should read the entire segment of the Catechism to learn more. I find it all pretty fascinating.
And now for a more Protestant look at the subject matter, I turn you over to Leslie, who as an aside for those who don't know, has her own blog over at Alice the Camel.
Rick’s journey toward Catholicism has had me thinking about my own doctrinal philosophies. For me to go “home” in that regard, I turn to the Lutheran Confessions as assembled in the Book of Concord, and in this case, the Augsburg Confession written in 1530:
Article XI: Of Confession.
1] Of Confession they [the Reformers - L] teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches, although in confession 2] an enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: Who can understand his errors? Ps. 19:12.
Lutherans only have 2 sacraments -- baptism and communion -- classified as such because they were directly instituted by Christ. As such, confession isn’t a sacrament in the Lutheran church.
I could be wrong about this, but in discussing confession with Catholics I get a sense that there is something of a blissful time, post-confession, that one is all squeaky clean. The Augsburg Confession’s term “impossible” refers to what I have found to be a pervasive emphasis on God’s role in the redemption of man. Here, Luther explains the third article of the Apostle’s Creed:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.
Compare that with this phrase from the Catholic catechism Rick quoted and you will get a sense of the different approaches:
Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God
Just some thoughts from me. One thing to keep in mind is that Luther's first choice wasn't starting his own denomination. He was excommunicated. Therefore, Lutheran doctrine isn’t an outright rejection of the all Catholic doctrine. There are many, many commonalities in the midst of the differences. In fact, if you click "Confutation" under Article XI, you'll find the Catholic response to this issue is one of basic agreement.
Back in the old days, it used to be OK to eat whatever you wanted and it was wrong to have sex with anyone but your spouse. Now, it's OK to have sex with whomever will have you and it's wrong to eat anything but broccoli. Or broccoli type stuff.
Think of all the foods of the night that are now verboten. Steak, butter, carbs, salt, alcohol etc, etc.
Gastroporn: A book or magazine with pictures of food so good it makes you say "more, yes, GIVE IT TO ME!!!" and then feel guilty just for looking at it.
Sex was once a matter of universal moral law and food a matter of taste. Now, food is a matter of universal moral law and sex is a matter of taste. The guilt flipped from sex to food.
So now I ask you, is it worth it? All this sex we the people are having? Is it worth it to have so much sex and only be able to nibble on a little celery at meal times? Don't even get me started on the egregiousness of decaf.
3 meals a day, every day, day after day.
Year after year.
I don't know. The free love types told us about all the guilt back in the day when people were more reserved about only sleeping with their spouse. Seems to me, it could have been worse.
At least they had their cake and they ate it too.
Once in a while I get the feeling there is someone looking out for me. What a day it has been.
In the midst of it all, I happened past a shelf of 10 cent books and
flipped open a hardcover which turned out to be a book of Canadian
poetry by Mohawk-British E. Pauline Johnson
(Tekahionwake) published in 1912. Now, I am neither Mohawk, nor
British, but she and I stood together for a brief moment this afternoon
and I came away blessed.
Soulless is all humanity to me
To-night. My keenest longing is to be
Alone, alone with God’s grey earth that seems
Pulse of my pulse and consort of my dreams.
To-night my soul desires no fellowship,
Or fellow-being; crave I but to slip
Thro’ space on space, till flesh no more can bind,
And I may quit for aye my fellow kind
Let me but feel athwart my cheek the lash
Of whipping wind, but hear the torrent dash
Adown the mountain steep, ’twere more my choice
Than touch of human hand, than human voice.
Let me but wander on the shore night-stilled,
Drinking its darkness till my soul is filled;
The breathing of the salt sea on my hair,
My outstretched hands but grasping empty air.
Let me but feel the pulse of Nature’s soul
Athrob on mine, let seas and thunders roll
O’er night and me; sands whirl; winds, waters beat;
For God’s grey earth has no cheap counterfeit
taken from: Flint and Feather as part of a poetry collection under the title The White Wampum