On the Brink

 

On the Brink

 

“Why?” the child asks.

“Who says?” the youth asks.

“When can I?” the teenager asks.

“Why not?” the twenty-year old asks.

“Who are you?” the thirty-year old asks.

“Where are you?” the forty-year old asks.

“Who am I?” the fifty-year old asks.

“When can I?” the sixty-year old asks.

“What did you say?” the seventy-year old asks.

“Whatever.” the eighty-year old says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

©Ann Johnson, Kingdom Venturers

Culture Considered in Conversation

Culture Considered: A conversation between Roger Scruton,a philosopher, and Terry Eagleton, a Marxist, about culture and the best way to infuse its value, whether as Scruton would have it-as of traditional worth or as Eagleton would have it-as a radicalized deconstructed whatever?

Capitalism tends to overtake high culture with base consumption. Marxism tends to come up lazy and empty handed as its namesake, with little to add to culture except ad hoc criticism.

“Most people who read “The Communist Manifesto” probably have no idea that it was written by a couple of young men who had never worked a day in their lives, and who nevertheless spoke boldly in the name of “the workers”.” Thomas Sowell, economist

 

St. Mary’s Park: April Showers Bring May Flowers – After the Flood

Yesterday I drove over to St. Mary’s Park in Saint Charles, IL.  I typically go for long walks at St. Mary’s after winter recedes and spring bursts out.

Burst out it did!  As you will see much of the park along the Fox River had been under water because of the recent heavy rains.

Saint Mary's Park 008 Saint Mary's Park 010 Saint Mary's Park 011  Saint Mary's Park 009Saint Mary's Park 013 Saint Mary's Park 012

Saint Mary's Park 019 Saint Mary's Park 021

Saint Mary's Park 023

Just, Fair and Equal: the Stooges of Progressivism

“Creating a world that is just, fair and equal.”  This Progressive mantra was recited again yesterday. I heard it during a television interview of two historians at a history writer’s convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The black historian’s words sounded so right, so full of righteous human endeavor but in reality his words were the sounds of empty utopian piety deficit of any moral context.

 A world that is just is a world where every man gives the other his due.  Yet government’s redistribution of wealth does the opposite. It takes away from the taxpayer what is due him, his earnings and property and gives to someone else that which is not due him. This confiscation and redistribution of personal property is for no other reason than to turn unequal incomes into equal outcomes.  This highway robbery is currently termed “social justice” by progressives today who were yesterday’s socialists. 

Here is Josef Stalin, a murderous dictator, talking about his desire to see socialism dominate the world (meaning you and me):

“…Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country alone. After expropriating the capitalists and organising their own socialist production, the victorious proletariat of that country will arise against the rest of the world …”

St.Thomas Aquinas in his On the Book of Job (8,1) said:

 “Justice is destroyed in twofold fashion:  by false prudence of the sage and by the violent act of the man who possess power.” 

 As we see our nation become increasingly secular we see its structure being pulled away from its Judeo-Christian cornerstone.  And in so doing we the ‘homeowners’ are becoming displaced and disordered much like furniture during a house relocation.  Without realizing it we are becoming objects devoid of human nature, becoming the un-created or the walking dead.  Removed from life’s foundation man is devoid of God-given inalienable rights as well. And with out individual inalienable rights there is only left to mankind the justification of totalitarian power, a totalitarian power that promises a “just, fair and equal world.” This secular utopian promise is not new to mankind:  Hitler and Stalin among others promoted such ‘worlds’.

 Justice can rightly be discussed only within a complete moral context that includes prudence, temperance, fortitude, charity and a host of other God-derived virtues.  To replace that moral context with a secular humanism is to presume that God did not create humans.  It presumes that God did not create man as a person, as a whole unto himself as a spiritual being that exists for itself and of itself and that wills its own proper perfection.  On these grounds secular humanism denies individual God-given inalienable rights in favor of the general ‘good.’ This denial is imposed on us today in our democracy by majority rule – voters enthralled by the secular humanism advocated by the main stream media, by our president and by Democrats in particular are voting to empty man of his individual nature through law and fiat.  They are doing so in the name of communal “social justice.” No one seems to notice except a few on the right.

 Because of human nature there will always be those in a small camp who think to themselves “every man for himself” and “screw the other guy so I can get ahead.”  And likewise, on the other hand, there will always be those who believe that each of us should give up our person, our property and our individualism for the good of the whole. Neither of these political philosophies should ever be put in power.  And yet with high-sounding, pious jingoism pumped out by the main stream media propaganda machine the left is now succeeding into promoting the latter.  We already know who the willing recepient is:   “a sucker is born every day.”

 As individuals each of us should act with justice toward our neighbor giving him his due.  What is his due?  My neighbor is due his inalienable God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I owe him truth.  I owe him the same love I give myself.  I owe him freedom from coercion. Beyond that the mantras of “social justice,” fairness and egalitarianism become the Godless mind control pumping the ever marching jackboots of rank and file humanism.  Once a sufficient numbers of useful idiots and stooges have succumbed to humanism’s opiate effect a sure and complete enslavement of our nation under a totalitarian regime will occur. Welcome to the world of the godless if Obama’s regime is re-elected in 2012.

 For a world to be “fair” someone in power has to determine what is fair.  Do you really want to use your vote for that kind of self-subjugation?  Certainly there is no Biblical a priori for demanding that life must be fair. Where does this understanding of the need for fairness come from?  Is there a philosophical argument for fairness?  A moral one?

My guess would be that much of the “fairness” allure comes from popular psychology and socialist rhetoric both which absolve people of personal responsibility and seeks to rectify a person’s losses and hardships by pointing blame at others.  Class warfare rhetoric is a prime example, as it defines others as being the reason for your lack.  More devastating to our culture and its preoccupation with fairness is our nation’s increasingly secular nature, a secular nature of envy and jealousy actively promoted by president Obama in his many “fair share” speeches.  Obama is a secularist wolf in Soros’ bought sheep’s clothing.

  A world that is “equal” is a world that removes difference for the sake of bringing every one down to the same low common denominator and nothing more.  Imagine our government choosing your husband or wife, your doctor, your food, your home and your words based on what is thought to be equal for everyone. Equal-outcome based thinking destroys incentive, destroys each man’s uniqueness, his God-given differences, his inalienable rights and eats away at civic life-like a flesh-eating disease feeding on its host. 

According to Allan Bloom in his book The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Soul’s of Today’s Students in the chapter entitled Values “Egalitarianism is conformism…Egalitarianism is founded on reason, which denies creativity”

 Imagine a world where there is no creativity and no aspirations only sameness.  Imagine being a citizen of North Korea.

Without moral-based justice as an inoculation against greed and envy people would constantly be looking at others to compare themselves with their neighbor. Forget contentment in a world that is egalitarian.

 Finally both fairness and egalitarianism, as laws enacted via secular humanist congressmen and presidents voted for, remove individual moral choice (justice) along with charity, fortitude and temperance from life. If the government does your thinking and makes your choices for you then you as an individual are absolved from any moral duty whatsoever.  What than is the purpose of the individual?  Without you the state becomes the all-powerful meat grinder and you along with everyone else become the human sausage extruded into the casings of humanism. Digest that if you will.

“A government big enough to give you everything you need, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have….” President Gerald Ford

A Return to Failure is Not a Step Forward

 Three and a half years into Obama’s presidency it would be naïveté and simplemindedness to blame George Bush for the economy’s problems.  During his term as president Obama, the Amateur, has taken all the wrong actions or no actions at all when action was called for.  His reign of malignant incompetency has passed the onerous Dodd-Frank act and Obamacare legislation further crippling our nation. And, Obama has surrounded himself with incompetent and partisan people who promote racial strife, class warfare and division – a second civil war has been forced onto our nation.

Obama is a president who is proud of the fact that more people of this nation are on welfare and receiving food stamps than at any time in our nation’s history.  He encourages dependence on government  Yet, one would think that an American president would work to produce the opposite effect – more people able to care for themselves.  Instead, Obama’s incompetence and his top down government policies are forcing our nation into indentured servitude fit for his plantation.  Obama and the government will become your taskmasters.  As once free people of a great nation you become slaves beholden to the whims of the masters. A political civil war must be fought to oust the slave market creators – Obama and the Dems.

If you voted for Obama in 2008 here are only some of the overall economic effects of his Hope and Change administration.  These are economic facts and they do not convey the pain, the suffering and the lost hope that millions of the unemployed feel:

From the post “The Great Obama Welfare State:”

 Much has changed in America since Barack Obama was sworn into office as the 44th president of the United States on January 20, 2009.  In less than 1,000 days as chief executive of the U.S., President Obama’s failed policies and initiatives have resulted in a dizzying array of dismal economic statistics.  As it stands now, Obama appears headed toward an economic legacy that may very well surpass Jimmy Carter in its level of failure.

Government dependence, which is defined as the percentage of persons receiving one or more federal benefit payments, is at a staggering 47%, its highest level in American history, while 21 million households are reliant on food stamps. 

According to the August employment report from the Department of Labor, the nation’s unemployment rate remained at 9.1% with a total of zero jobs added to the economy during the month.  Among demographic groups, Latinos had an unemployment rate of 11.3%, while African-Americans posted a rate of 16.7%.  For blacks, that represents the highest unemployment rate for this group since 1984 and a rate more than double that of whites (8%).

When Obama took office in January 2009, the nation’s unemployment rate stood at 7.8%, a rate higher than the historic norm, yet far below the current rate, and above any rate during the Bush administration.  Since June 2009, six months into Obama’s term, the nation’s unemployment rate has been at or above 9% during 25 of 27 consecutive months.

The economic numbers are especially poor for the demographic groups that most supported Barack Obama at the polling booth in November 2008.

Take Wayne County, Michigan, for example, where President Obama made a Labor Day economic speech.  This county, which includes the city of Detroit, voted for Obama at a rate of 74% in 2008.  It has been estimated that Detroit’s “Real Unemployment Rate” might be upwards of 45%, and Michigan remains the state with the dubious honor of having the highest unemployment rate.

 …

These woeful economic figures have come during a time in which we have experienced the most government involvement in the economy since the days of FDR and government spending without parallel in our nation’s history.

The list of taxpayer-paid government bailouts and government spending under the Obama administration is seemingly endless and has resulted in our national debt now above $14.7 trillion.

President Obama has thrown billions upon billions of dollars at the U.S. economy with nothing to show for it.  His so-called stimulus policies have been, in fact, contractionary and his presidency stands to be remembered as nothing short of an economic failure. (emphasis mine)

 Can anyone in their right mind believe that any of the above is good?  Can anyone in their right mind vote for Obama and Democrats again?

In November vote for anyone but Obama and you will go Forward. End the growth of failure now.

The Rectitude of Silence

The Memorial Day weekend and the recent retirement of my boss, a Vietnam veteran, tugged at some heart-strings drawing me back home…

 At 6:00 am dad nudged me out of a dream where I had been standing over Grandma Johnson’s gravesite.  Half awake I got out of bed and dressed being sure not to wake the rest of the family.  When I reached the kitchen I could see from the window that dad was already in the car waiting for me.  The car was running.  I walked quietly back to my bedroom, grabbed my trumpet case and walked out the door.

In the car I sat silently as Dad drove us to the nearby Village Hall. There the Memorial Day ceremony would take place on the front lawn.  Earlier in the year of ‘69 my father had become the village’s mayor. He was now to deliver the Annual Memorial Day Speech during this service of remembrance.

 As we drove up a podium with a microphone was placed on the lawn outside the entrance to the village hall.  All around us dozens of people were streaming out of their cars and joining the semi-circle facing the podium.  Behind the podium there stood several men from the local VFW. 

These veterans were decked out in their dress uniforms. Several of the uniforms bore chevrons and gold braids with medals festooning their chests.   Thin ribbon bars, their colors revealing the military campaigns, the theaters of battle, they had been involved with.  Bronze and silver stars and medals of commendation glinted in the morning sun light. An aged vet who had served in WWI sat in a wheel chair. There were many there who had served in WWII.  And there were some, home from their first tour in Viet Nam, who looked like teenagers compared to the older vets.

I watched as front and center on the grass a detail of vets, each representative of a different branch of the armed services, practiced presenting the colors, recalling a formation they had learned years ago.

To one side of the podium my father talked about the order of the service with the speakers and presenters.  A pastor would pray for the men and women in the military. A Marine captain would present the colors. A Navy ensign would recall Guadalcanal. An army vet would speak about things he held dear such as duty, honor, sacrifice and friendship.  He would choke up as he spoke about comrades lost in battle.

At fifteen years old it was not lost on me that guys at the age of seventeen were going off to war and some were not coming back.  The specter of going to war loomed ever larger for me, especially as horrific scenes of the Viet Nam war were shown on almost every nightly newscast.  There seemed to be no end to the conflict in sight. 

  I knew guys just two years older than me who were being drafted.  I knew that I could possibly be drafted and sent to off to Vietnam.  I knew that would have to register with the selective service when I turned seventeen.  The possibility sent chills down my spine.  I picked up my horn out of its case and began nervously pumping the valves.  Buzzing my lips against the mouthpiece I blew warm air through my trumpet. I wondered if I was good enough horn player to play with the U.S. Army Band.

 At 7 am my dad moved to the podium and spoke a welcome to all who had “come out on this beautiful Memorial Day morning.”  He acknowledged the members of the VFW and each Village trustee who had attended.  To open the service he asked a pastor to come forward and lead the service with a prayer.

 Before my father gave the pastor the microphone he asked that there would be a moment of silence in memory of those who had fallen. We bowed our heads. 

Before me stood a WWII vet, head uncovered, head bowed.  Overhearing him earlier talking to another vet I understood that he knew full well the horrors of war better than any acid-eyed tie-dyed peace protestor. This veteran had paid a significant price for any protestor’s right and the rights of Europeans and Asians to live free from tyranny’s aggression. 

American men and women were able to assemble and protest because of the sacrifices men like this soldier made on their behalf. The strength of our republic lay in our individual resistance to evil where ever it threatens us – at home or abroad. And, here at home, an evil grew which was just as insidious as foreign aggression– licentiousness.

 Carl Sr., a Presbyterian minister and the father of one of my close friends, prayed a blessing on the cherished memory of the fallen and their families.  He prayed for those in the midst of battle that very day in Southeast Asia.  He sought comfort and succor for those who live on with injuries received in battle, both physical and mental.  He prayed for all those friends and families who had grieved the loss of loved ones.  He then prayed for our nation, a nation openly riddled with discord and godlessness, submitting our country “to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”  

 After the prayer my father spoke. Dad’s words honored those who had gone to battle to protect our liberties and the liberties of our allies. He spoke of their commitment to freedom, to a higher purpose. He spoke of their courage not often found among men and women of this age.  He spoke of their ultimate sacrifice:  “greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friend.”  In closing, he hallowed their memory, echoing Abraham Lincoln’s words, saying, “…that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

 The flag ceremony began.  White gloved hands unfolded the American flag. Two vets held the corners of the flag, keeping it from ever touching the ground.  Unfolded the flag was hoisted to the top of the nearby flag pole. My father, placing his hand over his heart, began:  “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” I could see that the Stars and Stripes, at ease on this serene morning, moved the veteran’s hearts to their throats, pushing tears into their eyes.  There were no placards of “Make Love Not War” here this morning.  The bearers of those signs must have been sleeping in, secure in their beds.

 After the pledge of allegiance a high school senior came to the microphone and led the singing of our national anthem.  There were more tears and more memories halting reverent shaky voices. 

I sang the anthem thinking about the year before:  while young men and women were fighting in the steamy death-laden jungles of Southeast Asia east coast hippies gathered at the Fillmore East in New York City to hear Grace Slick sing about a White Rabbit.

 Even at fifteen I knew that the peace-loving hippies had ceased fighting against the tyranny of drugs and the unbridled desires that come with it. They thought that all they needed was “Love.” And while “Peace” and “Love” became the mantras of their drug-infused songs, some of the protesters became aggressive and violent in their anti-war protests.

Bill Ayers the co-founder of the Weather Underground, a communist revolutionary group, began bombing public buildings as a sign of contempt over theU.S.involvement in the Viet Nam War. The contradiction, violent murderous aggression to obtain peaceful ends, didn’t make sense to me and it surely didn’t respect the freedom they clearly enjoyed, freedom paid for with the lives of decent peace-loving men and women.

 “Now we will have the presenting of colors”, the loud-speaker sputtered dad’s words.

 The honor guard, waiting in the background, marched to the front of the assembly.  The commander led them through the drill.  Once the men were in formation the American flag was presented and the other flags were lowered. The vets came to attention and saluted the flag.

 Commands were given to the small rifle squad.  Rifle barrels were inspected and loaded.  The vets were then commanded to raise their rifles. “Ha-Ready,” “H-Aim,” “Fire!”  The crack of twenty-one bombastic gun shots sent shock waves to my ear drums.  The air began to fill with the smell of sulfur, chalk and burnt paper – gun powder. Smoke, in small billows rose above the rifles, seeming to carry the memory of fallen soldiers up into heaven.

 After the twenty-first shot there was a long silent pause, lasting five minutes.  Then my father nodded over at me. I stood outside the assembly with two other trumpeters, the three of us standing at fifty yard intervals within a cluster of cottonwood trees. Taking a long deep breath I began to play Taps.  The second horn echoed a response after the first phrase and then the third trumpet echoed the second horn. From the corner of my eyes I could see the vets with their hands on hearts, their caps off and their heads bowed in solemn reverence:   the fallen are remembered.  Honor.  Chivalry.  Courage.  Sacrifice. The fallen are remembered.  Not forsaken. Never forsaken.

 Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is near.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is near.

 A gust of wind lifted the branches above me as the third trumpet’s final echo fell silent in the distance.  The leaves shuddered and then the wind seemed to hold its breath, as if muted by grace.  In that ethereal silence with ears already deafened by the sound of a twenty-one gun salute I was reminded of love’s supreme sacrifice, of a mother’s prayers rising up, of songs tearfully sung at gravesites and of sacred words commemorating lives offered in the line of duty.  Though war will always be near because of mankind’s ungodliness God is always nearer.

That Memorial day I mournfully sounded the last trumpet call “Day is done” as a prayer of eternal rest for those men and women in the United States military who made the ultimate sacrifice.  And since that day, as I’ve grown more silent, my soul again hears that last trumpet call.  It is calling me to live a life worthy of the lives laid down for me, a life near to God.

© Sally Paradise, 2012, All Rights Reserved

No Way But Up

What’s at the core of America’s problems today? Is it partisan politics or is there a greater rift in the American people?

 Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Soviet and Russian novelist, dramatist, and historian during his commencement address delivered at Harvard University, June 8, 1978, gave us his diagnosis.  His speech is a stinging indictment of the West –  its materialism, its enabling of the abuse of individual freedom, its self-serving inbred media and its disavowal of its spiritual roots:

 However, in early democracies, as in the American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. … State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer.

 And…

“If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President’s performance be reduced to the question how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.” (emphasis mine)

And…

“It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times. Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?”

Take a look at what drives you and perhaps you will see why America is no longer a nation under God, no longer a nation of civil courage, of moral decency.  Perhaps you will see why people would vote for a president who uses class warfare rhetoric to promote the sands of material security as foundational to life and not the rock of spiritual fortitude.

What’s the Unitarian?

It is little wonder that the well-known ‘angry’ atheist Richard Dawkins wrote the anti-thesim book The God Delusion.  It is easily understandable especially after one reads the interview (excerpted and linked below) between a Unitarian Minister Marilyn Sewell and another anti-theist atheist the former Christopher Hitchens (Hitch).

 As evident from the interview, Marilyn Sewell, a minister, is utterly delusional in her understanding of God and Christianity.  And it is blatantly obvious that Hitch has a better understanding of Christianity than this Unitarian minister.

 Apparently from her bio Sewell has studied theology but I contend it is not Biblical theology.  Her questions and remarks as interviewer reveal her embrace of syncretism – a diversity of false beliefs and humanism blended with the truth of Christianity. Unitarian could be another term for syncretism.

 From her eponymous blog we are told that liberal believer and retired minister of the First Unitarian Church of Portland Marilyn Sewell is a former teacher and psychotherapist.  She has authored numerous books. Over a period of 17 years Sewell helped grow Portland’s downtown Unitarian congregation into one of the largest in the United States. At this point I must say that the fact that this woman and the Unitarian Church are misleading many is of serious concern to me. I must contend for the truth of Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 It troubles my spirit greatly when people like this liberal Unitarian minister use the name of Jesus Christ to preach “another gospel” and not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her message is a mish-mash of new age religion, liberal theology, social justice and cheap grace.  The ultimate message becomes half lie half truth:  “It’s not what you believe but how you live.” Ergo an embrace of diverse beliefs and social justice activism are at the forefront of Unitarian creeds.  As you’ll read, for Sewell just like the Episcopalian minister ghost in C.S. Lewis’, “The Great Divorce” all is metaphor, and therefore, cannot be taken seriously

 The deity of Christ, His death on the cross, His atonement for sins, judgement, heaven and hell, all are dismissed as being metaphorical, as not relevant to present human need and too exclusive a message to preach and teach.   Clearly this is syncretistic thinking and delusional with regard to the truth.  And because of its soft, socially acceptable version of theology the tentacles of Unitarian tenets are quickly creeping into evangelical churches across the nation.

 As a follower of Christ I am posting this information expressly to note the deception hidden in Sewell’s misguided words.  I have no problem talking about this interview in no uncertain terms. From the public record it can be noted that Sewell is a social activist and polemicist as was Hitch. They are/were each able to dish out pious platitudes at will and certainly, as their backgrounds would support, are/were able to hold their own in conversations regarding issues of faith and God.  So here goes.

 The interview took place prior to Christopher Hitchen’s January 5th, 2010 appearance as part of the Literary Arts’ Portland art and lecture series at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.  Hitch was political columnist for Vanity Fair, Slate, and other magazines, and known for his frequent contributions on the political TV circuit.  Hitchens’ pointed attacks against all religion has earned him regular debates across the country, often with the very fundamentalist believers his book, “God is Not Great”, attacks. Sewell, the interviewer, though, knows nothing about the fundamentals of Christianity. It would seem that Hitch is in a joust with Jello.

 Here are excerpts from that interview,  linked here

 Marilyn Sewell: In the book you write that, at age nine, you experienced the ignorance of your scripture teacher Mrs. Watts and, then later at 12, your headmaster tried to justify religion as a comfort when facing death. It seems you were an intuitive atheist. But did you ever try religion again?

Christopher Hitchens: I belong to what is a significant minority of human beings: Those who are-as Pascal puts it in his Pensées, his great apology for Christianity-“so made that they cannot believe.” As many as 10 percent of is just never can bring themselves to take religion seriously. And since people often defend religion as natural to humans (which I wouldn’t say it wasn’t, by the way), the corollary holds too: there must be respect for those who simply can’t bring themselves to find meaning in phrases like “the Holy Spirit.”

Well, could it be that some people are “so made” for faith. and you are so made for the intellectual life?

I don’t have whatever it takes to say things like “the grace of God.” All that’s white noise to me, not because I’m an intellectual. For many people, it’s gibberish. Likewise, the idea that the Koran was dictated by an archaic illiterate is a fantasy. As so far the most highly evolved of the primates, we do seem in the majority to have a tendency to worship, and to look for patterns that lead to supernatural conclusions. Whereas, I think that there is no supernatural dimension whatever. The natural world is quite wonderful enough. The more we know about it, the much more wonderful it is than any supernatural proposition.

The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Let me go someplace else. When I was in seminary I was particularly drawn to the work of theologian Paul Tillich. He shocked people by describing the traditional God-as you might as a matter of fact-as, “an invincible tyrant.” For Tillich, God is “the ground of being.” It’s his response to, say, Freud’s belief that religion is mere wish-fulfillment and comes from the humans’ fear of death. What do you think of Tillich’s concept of God?”

I would classify that under the heading of “statements that have no meaning-at all.” Christianity, remember, is really founded by St. Paul, not by Jesus. Paul says, very clearly, that if it is not true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then we the Christians are of all people the most unhappy. If none of that’s true, and you seem to say it isn’t, I have no quarrel with you. You’re not going to come to my door trying convince me either. Nor are you trying to get a tax break from the government. Nor are you trying to have it taught to my children in school. If all Christians were like you I wouldn’t have to write the book.

Well, probably not, because I agree with almost everything that you say. But I still consider myself a Christian and a person of faith.

Do you mind if I ask you a question? Faith in what? Faith in the resurrection?

The way I believe in the resurrection is I believe that one can go from a death in this life, in the sense of being dead to the world and dead to other people, and can be resurrected to new life. When I preach about Easter and the resurrection, it’s in a metaphorical sense.

I hate to say it-we’ve hardly been introduced-but maybe you are simply living on the inheritance of a monstrous fraud that was preached to millions of people as the literal truth-as you put it, “the ground of being.”

Times change and, you know, people’s beliefs change. I don’t believe that you have to be fundamentalist and literalist to be a Christian. You do: You’re something of a fundamentalist, actually.

Well, I’m sorry, fundamentalist simply means those who think that the Bible is a serious book and should be taken seriously.

If you would like for me to talk a little bit about what I believe . . .

Well I would actually.

I don’t know whether or not God exists in the first place, let me just say that. I certainly don’t think that God is an old man in the sky, I don’t believe that God intervenes to give me goodies if I ask for them.

You don’t believe he’s an interventionist of any kind?

I’m kind of an agnostic on that one. God is a mystery to me. I choose to believe because-and this is a very practical thing for me-I seem to live with more integrity when I find myself accountable to something larger than myself. That thing larger than myself, I call God, but it’s a metaphor. That God is an emptiness out of which everything comes. Perhaps I would say ” reality” or “what is” because we’re trying to describe the infinite with language of the finite. My faith is that I put all that I am and all that I have on the line for that which I do not know.

Fine. But I think that’s a slight waste of what could honestly be in your case a very valuable time. I don’t want you to go away with the impression that I’m just a vulgar materialist. I do know that humans are also so made even though we are an evolved species whose closest cousins are chimpanzees. I know it’s not enough for us to eat and so forth. We know how to think. We know how to laugh. We know we’re going to die, which gives us a lot to think about, and we have a need for, what I would call, “the transcendent” or “the numinous” or even “the ecstatic” that comes out in love and music, poetry, and landscape. I wouldn’t trust anyone who didn’t respond to things of that sort. But I think the cultural task is to separate those impulses and those needs and desires from the supernatural and, above all, from the superstitious.

Could you talk about these two words that you just used, “transcendent” and “numinous”? Those are two words are favorites of mine.

Well, this would probably be very embarrassing, if you knew me. I can’t compose or play music; I’m not that fortunate. But I can write and I can talk and sometimes when I’m doing either of these things I realize that I’ve written a sentence or uttered a thought that I didn’t absolutely know I had in me… until I saw it on the page or heard myself say it. It was a sense that it wasn’t all done by hand.

A gift?

But, to me, that’s the nearest I’m going to get to being an artist, which is the occupation I’d most like to have and the one, at last, I’m the most denied. But I, think everybody has had the experience at some point when they feel that there’s more to life than just matter. But I think it’s very important to keep that under control and not to hand it over to be exploited by priests and shamans and rabbis and other riffraff.

You know, I think that that might be a religious impulse that you’re talking about there.

Well, it’s absolutely not. It’s a human one. It’s part of the melancholy that we have in which we know that happiness is fleeting, and we know that life is brief, but we know that, nonetheless, life can be savored and that happiness, even of the ecstatic kind, is available to us. But we know that our life is essentially tragic as well. I’m absolutely not for handing over that very important department of our psyche to those who say, “Well, ah. Why didn’t you say so before? God has a plan for you in mind.” I have no time to waste on this planet being told what to do by those who think that God has given them instructions.

You write, “Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and the soul.” You use the word “soul” there as metaphor. What is a soul for you?

It’s what you might call “the x-factor”-I don’t have a satisfactory term for it-it’s what I mean by the element of us that isn’t entirely materialistic: the numinous, the transcendent, the innocence of children (even though we know from Freud that childhood isn’t as innocent as all that), the existence of love (which is, likewise, unquantifiable but that anyone would be a fool who said it wasn’t a powerful force), and so forth. I don’t think the soul is immortal, or at least not immortal in individuals, but it may be immortal as an aspect of the human personality because when I talk about what literature nourishes, it would be silly of me or reductionist to say that it nourishes the brain.

I wouldn’t argue with you about the immortality of the soul. Were I back in a church again, I would love to have you in my church because you’re so eloquent and I believe that some of your impulses-and, excuse me for saying so-are religious in the way I am religious. You may call it something else, but we agree in a lot of our thinking.

I’m touched that you say, as some people have also said to me, that I’ve missed my vocation. But I actually don’t think that I have. I would not be able to be this way if I was wearing robes or claiming authority that was other than human. that’s a distinction that matters to me very much.

You have your role and it’s a valuable one, so thank you for what you give to us.

Well, thank you for asking. It’s very good of you to be my hostess.

[end of interview]

 Note above that after Sewell’s reference to theologian Paul Tillich’s take on God as “an invincible tyrant” and after mentioning Freud’s dismissive take on faith (also well-known to Hitch), she wants to hear from Hitch about Tillich’s concept of God.  Listen closely to Hitch’s response:

I would classify that under the heading of “statements that have no meaning-at all.” Christianity, remember, is really founded by St. Paul, not by Jesus. Paul says, very clearly, that if it is not true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then we the Christians are of all people the most unhappy. If none of that’s true, and you seem to say it isn’t, I have no quarrel with you. You’re not going to come to my door trying convince me either. Nor are you trying to get a tax break from the government. Nor are you trying to have it taught to my children in school. If all Christians were like you I wouldn’t have to write the book.

 Wow!  The money line: “If all Christians were like you I wouldn’t have to write the book.”

 Even Hitch knows that this woman is way off the mark in her ‘theology’.  In this case Hitch doesn’t drop famous names from history like Sewell.  Hitch cuts to the quick with the truth of the Gospel as he knows it.  He quotes from Scripture:  “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (I Cor. 15:19). 

 Hitch has known Christianity from standing outside looking in while.  He does not like Christianity’s authority and the abuse of that authority (as I do not).

 Sewell, on the other hand, knows the hodge-podge Unitarian philosophy from inside out.  She knows all of its labyrinthine pathways leading to the utopian fields of humanism, new age philosophy and God is love-ism. The irony:  Unitarian ‘theology’ clearly advocates the contention of atheists that religion is about wish-fulfillment and fear of the unknown.

Here is Marilyn’s take on the conversation from her blog:

“The man is brilliant, but not wise; clever, but not deep; and a fundamentalist, in regard to religion, rejecting any form of liberal Christianity as bogus religion, not to be respected

Hitchens clearly has never studied theology, (This is rich.  See my comments above) and most of the comments he made concerning the Bible, Jesus, salvation, etc., were shockingly naïve (Hitch’s knowledge of Christianity trumped yours, Marilyn).  Where he has something to offer, of course, is his critique of religion and society, and all of the horrors and nonsense done in the name of religion, which I have no argument with.  It’s not exactly news that the Inquisition was a bad thing.  And that Catholic priests shouldn’t abuse altar boys.  And (his particular nemesis) jihadists shouldn’t blow up innocent civilians. 

Hitchens is the ultimate intellectual “bad boy.”  He performs.  He “debates.”  He entertains. All of which he does very well.   But this should not be confused with thoughtful discourse. “(I agree with this last paragraph of Marilyn’s)

 I would certainly argue from the details of the interview that Hitch knows Christianity well enough to be convicted by its message – but he rejects it outright.  Sewell, on the other hand, doesn’t know the truths of Christianity and appears to only embrace the parts of the Gospel that fit with the Unitarian belief in humanism – a theology of a coddling, benevolent and indulgent God who accepts you no matter what.

 Gospel truth convicts people of their sin and their separation from God whereas the tepid mollycoddling theology of Unitarianism destroys lives with its abandonment of truth and its good intentions. And as we all have heard, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Or, hell is full of good wishes and desires.  In the end Truth matters.

Are you seeking the truth?

 To find the truth about the Gospel of Jesus Christ read the four gospel accounts that record the life and death of Jesus Christ:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  These historical eye-witness accounts are not metaphors as liberal theologians (Sewell, Elaine Pagels and others) would have us accept.

 Follow the Truth wherever it leads you and it will eventually lead you to Jesus Christ.  He is The Way, The Truth and the Life. I have been on the road of truth with Jesus for many years now.  I know Him and he knows me. 

 Truth and Love go hand-in-hand or not at all.

You’re the Best Particle of Me

Did you know that Intelligently Designed quantum physics provides matchmaking services? You didn’t?  Well, recently, I read…

”…that in reality two electrons can really fit into the same energy level because they can have opposite spins.  This means that they can both fit into the lowest (symmetric) energy level and, crucially, this level decreases in energy as the atoms get closer together.  This means that it is energetically favorable for two distant atoms to move closer. And this is what happens in nature.”

 And God saw that it was not good for atom to be alone.

 (Two electrons, opposite spins?  The atoms get closer together?  Yin and Yang, Matter and anti-matter. Grace and nature. Male and female. This fundamental symmetry makes sense at the atomic level and also at the nuclear family level.  Hence the mating song “I’ve Got You Under My Spectrascope.”)

 “…This preference for two atoms to stick together as a result of sharing their electrons between them is known as a covalent bond.”…

 And the preference for two humans (Mr. Spin up and Ms. Spin down) to stick together as a result of sharing their lives in the molecule of marriage is known as intimate bonding.

 “…covalent bonding is the reason that you are not a bunch of atoms sloshing around in a featureless blob.”

 This explains a lot about my love life!  I’ve got your atomic number, buddy.

 Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match. A little covalence bonding is all I ask.

 The above quotes from Chapter Eight, Interconnected, from:

The Quantum Universe (And Why Anything That Can Happen Does) by Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw, Da Capo Press, copyright 2011

 You should know that…

Covalent bonding is universal:

Odd Is The Loneliest Number

Odd.  That describes me in a nutshell.

 Flannery O’Connor, the great Catholic writer, was once quoted as saying “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.”  So be it. I am in good company then.

 Now that I am older and wiser (at least according to the aphorism) I am less jostled by every wind of fashion, less captivated by got-cha type of thinking typical of the penny-ante journalists so in vogue today.  In more ways than one I have let odd take over.

 Some odd thoughts:

 A wise old preacher once told me “If it’s new it ain’t true.  If it’s true it ain’t new.”

 Truth has historical record. Lies, cheap novelty as in “Hope and Change.”

 I agree with Wolcott’s assessment (see James Wolcott’s Vanity Fair article  “Prime Time’s Graduation”)about the state of today’s movies being rather boorish and sophomoric and that television/cable TV is far outpacing movies with its much higher quality of writing and directing and a greater depth of characters. Yet, I despair of any good thing coming out of either.

 Truly, I cannot remember the last time I rented a movie.   I don’t remember the title of the movie, either. I haven’t been to theatre in well over two years.  For what reason I did attend is forgotten.

 TV:  I don’t watch The Living Dead, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Real Housewives of Chicago’s North Side or all manner of well-written, well-crafted dramatic episodes or all manner of crime investigations, all manner of (fill-in-the-blank) “finely textured” serial programming that Hollywood cranks out. Though superbly crafted these often prurient programs hold nothing of interest or value to me. I am happily odd without them in my head.

 You can believe me when I say that I don’t care about dead people who hang around unwanted or that Don Draper is losing himself in his work and the next untapped babe or that Walt is a terminally living drug producer and seller (Breaking Bad, like many cable shows in fact outrage me.  That anything like this can of trash is available on TV for kids and adults to view is unthinkably criminal. I’m a mature adult. I don’t care about the show’s supposedly ‘mature themes.”  I think the show is substantive abuse.)

 Look around.  We consume comparison:  commercials, magazines, TV programs, the Shahs of Sunset. I could easily imagine that Obama’s class warfare rhetoric would quickly lose its teleprompter zip if our culture didn’t keep promoting keeping up with the Shahs of Sunset and the like.

 Contentment has been dislodged from the human psyche and has gone missing.  Ubiquitous high-profile bling now holds court.  Disparity is highlighted daily. And, as a result, charity (in the form of higher taxes) is demanded in order to make all things equal.  Somehow, this equates to social justice.

 These days low-income people can dwell on income disparity 24/7.  Many now have big screen TVs and microwaves.  And, before them now on the big hi-def screen are the ostentatious rich:  The Real Housewives of Atlanta.  It would be easy for anyone watching to say “The Grass IS greener…” Envy and covetousness are in your face, especially when the bas-relief is provided by HDTV. 

 Beside this, BHO and other talking heads of the liberal media are telling them that the rich need to do their part. This demand is ludicrous.

With his bully pulpit BHO promotes class warfare.  He tells us that the answer to your problems is to take money from someone else!  Isn’t this the mentality typically found among Chicago street gang members but is now code-named Social Justice?  (BTW:  What we need is not a single payer health care system. What we need is single payer taxpayers where every single person does their part and not just 50 % of the nation. Everyone should be invested in our country.)

 Am I human?  Upon occasion:

I have been known to watch Guy Fieri (I think he’s cute.) on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives hamming it up with restaurant owners. And, sometimes when I’m in a really grisly mood I watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (Anthony, Paula Deen can cook for me anytime, your blackballing of her cooking style notwithstanding). 

 Speaking of food, I don’t own a Blackberry, iPhone or other hand-held electronic device which could bleep in a restaurant and interrupt a Crème brûlée with a dear friend.  This even though I work in a technical industry and could easily finger pointed barbs with the best of them. I am old school.  Pen and paper work well.  Spitballs, too.  And, if the world is going to end I am prepared. I won’t need an iPad telling me that I’m going to be with the Lord – that’s already been documented.

 Without the gizmos I don’t tweet. I don’t send 140 character snippets of pithy self-brined revelation out to chomping-at-the-bit (or byte) followers.  Come to think of it I don’t think I have any followers! (This post has enough characters to choke a gaggle of hand-held devices and their indentured slaves.)

 ‘What does she do?”

I mostly read, talk to myself when no one is around, go to church, dance wildly to the Romantics’ What I Like About You, annoy my family and routinely infuriate people I don’t know on the internet. 

 How odd. But with a name like Sally Paradise how could I not be the odd woman out or the \sqrt{3}.