Friday, January 4, 2019

Freedom and Responsibility

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams, 2nd President of the U.S.

Freedom without individual responsibility [which is the result of consciously chosen psycho-spiritual maturity] devolves toward tyranny. This is true because immature or unenlightened humans are selfish and feel entitled; conditions that, when prevalent in a society move it toward chaos, division and lawlessness. And when the populace gets frustrated with lawlessness, it longs for a strong hand to take charge and set things right. This is why it can be quite satisfying to see a strong parent sternly take charge of unruly children and sit them in the corner until they come back to a place of civility and respect for their elders. [This is not abuse. It is good parenting.] And the same principle applies in the hearts of citizens who see their culture being overrun by selfish, entitled adults who are primarily concerned with their “rights and privileges.” Indignation can rise to the point of desiring a strong hand of law and government to intervene and make people behave. In the early 1970's I asked a German woman who had married an American soldier and moved to the U.S. “How could a man like Hitler rise to power?” She replied “Oh, he made the streets safe to walk again.” The chaos that arises from immature, immoral, selfish and entitled citizens cries out for a powerful, suppressive government—in other words, tyranny. And we do not get to determine what morality is any more than we determine what is healthy or unhealthy for our physical bodies. We did not create our bodies; and we do not create morality. Just as healthy and unhealthy phenomena are innate to our bodies [and we violate their principles to the detriment of our physical health] so also, principles of morality are innate to humanity. We can discover those principles [the main concern of true religion and the best philosophy] but we cannot determine them any more than we can determine the physical principles by which the universe operates. Man always degenerates when he elevates himself above his Creator or, more secularly, when he begins to believe that he can redefine the eternal principles that generated the possibility of his existence.
Everyone suffers when anyone is irresponsible. Freedom is contingent upon individual responsibility. And freedom is costly, as those in Syria who took a stand for it can dreadfully attest. I think it is generally true that those who have lived entirely in a free society are sorely tempted to undervalue it and fail to appreciate its rarity and fragility—thus the tendency toward societal “suicide” that John Adams wrote about in the quote above. We are privileged in our time with freedom to access information via the internet that would have taken our ancestors a college degree to assimilate. And we can see now, more clearly than ever, what is happening in other nations on this earth; and compare them to our own. Perhaps this can enable us to value and protect what we have in a way that John Adams could not have anticipated.
We are free, but we are not entitled. And if we fail to be individually responsible, we have no right to demand anything of anyone. We are gifted with life, but we don't determine the principles by which it becomes a blessing or a curse. Humility enables us to discover those principles; and maturity manifests as the willingness and ability to submit to them. Jesus is the very embodiment of these eternal principles.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Common Sense

I recently read this statement: "You don't have to have an academic degree to have common sense." I agree--to a certain extent. But I remember another statement I read some years ago: "Common sense is what tells us that the earth is flat and the sun and stars revolve around it." If you conflate these statements, you might conclude that common sense, followed to its ultimate extent, tells us that we must look deeply into some aspects of life, holding an open mind, and not being too dogmatic about too many things. Some dogmatically held on to the flat earth principle to the extent that they persecuted those who held otherwise.
There are a few things that I am dogmatic about. Only a few. One is that the ultimate Truth is very good--better than we can yet totally experience. My very existence is the only confirmation of that that I need. Beyond my existence however is exorbitant evidence that the Truth is good: manhood and womanhood, the existence of the experience of "beauty", and humor, laughter and playfulness, the feelings that we have for our children, the amazing resilience and stamina we have to overcome the worst of life's tribulations, the fact that we can perceive in ourselves a psycho-spiritual evolution---a progressive enlightenment---albeit slower than we might hope. We had absolutely nothing to do with any of these except that we benefit from the gift of them. I have come to trust deeply the goodness of the Power [the Truth] by which this life and these experiences came into existence. I am dogmatic about that. And since the best that I can perceive within myself and my fellow humans is Love, in its most evolved manifestations, I am dogmatic about the belief that the ultimate Power, the ultimate Truth, is exclusively this Love, because the best in me, and the ability to perceive such a fact, would be the gift of that Power.
When I read the New Testament [something every true seeker of Truth must do] these facts that I am dogmatic about are confirmed---especially in the life and teachings of Jesus. He said that He is the Truth. And He lived a life of perfect Love in human form. He commanded His followers to love each other, and even their enemies. {Mt. 5:44] And He taught us that God is Love.[John 3:16, 1John 4:8].
When I live in the Light of this Truth, I find a peace that I desire for everyone that I love. And in Him, I love everyone. This is like coming Home. It is to find and inwardly experience true freedom.
Then we have good common sense, infused with wisdom and humility.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Political and Social Polarization

This video expresses the philosophy of Jordan Peterson and intelligently explores the current political polarization. I obviously recommend it. 

My comments would be: We have come to focus too much on "rights" and too little on "responsibilities". This is Jordan Peterson's message, and it's a very accurate and important one. In this left-leaning social environment, the Christian faith has been ignored, demeaned, misrepresented and identified with a rigid and stultifying component of conservatism rather than the unifying, liberating and life-enhancing power that it actually is for those who go deeply into it.  Christianity, the way I and many people in my circle understand and experience it, seems to be the primary, if not only, influence in the human family that can unify us without force or violence while simultaneously maintaining and even enhancing the beauty and value of all cultural sub-types. Jesus described His Way as "yeast in a lump of dough". Without it we risk a revolutionary explosion of the suppressed frustrations that accrue to normal spiritless living in ANY political or economic system. The problem is not the "system". The problem is the individual soul. When that is transformed [which Christ does wonderfully and thoroughly] then the world becomes what it can and should be, and what we have always wanted it to be. Otherwise we continue to unconsciously project, and set up and destroy straw men; tilting at windmills. Then we create something that is as [or more] pathological than the "system" that we destroyed. History is replete with this cycle.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Night-time Prayer

Lord, it is night.

The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God.

Difficulty sleeping?  Pray this prayer meditatively. Let the words go deep and come from deep within you. 

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; 
let it be.

The night is dark.
I bring my fears of the darkness of this world and of my own life to
rest in you.

The night is quiet.
I allow the quietness of your peace to enfold me,
and pray for all who are dear to me to be enfolded in Your peace,
and for all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
I look expectantly with secure hope to a new day,
new joys,
new possibilities.

In Christ Jesus' holy name I pray.

Religious Wars?

It's ridiculous to blame any human violence on a religion whose progenitor was Himself non-violent and taught His followers to love their enemies, bless those who curse them, do good to those who would hate them, and pray for those who would despitefully use and persecute them (Matthew 5:44). The earliest disciples and followers elaborated on His teachings, inspired by His Spirit, and commanded followers not to return evil for evil, nor to be overcome by evil, but rather to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17, 21; 1Thessalonians 5:15; 1Peter 3:9). Jesus would not even allow His followers to use the sword to protect Him when He was taken into custody at night by a vigilante party operating under trumped up and blatantly false charges (Luke 22:50-51).  His primary command was that we are to love each other as He loved us and gave His life for us (John 15:12-13).
We must not blame wars on the Christ of the Bible; rather we must recognize that wars come from the evil that He exposed in the human heart, elaborated on by His half-brother and disciple, James, who stated that wars come from inner desires and lust for power and pleasure (James 4). Wars come from the desire for land, resources and power; certainly not from the love of Christ. And the fact that Christianity could ever be used to promote any form of violence is a testimony to the evil exposed by Christ and more generally in the entire Bible. The Jews, who follow what we call the Old Testament, which is certainly a more violent scripture than the New Testament, are nevertheless one of the least violent and most beneficial people groups on the planet (and strangely, one of the most hated people groups). Even though Jews comprise only .2% of the worlds population, they have been awarded 22.5% of the 900+ Nobel Prizes which  are widely regarded as the most prestigious awards available in the fields of chemistry, literature, peace activism, physics, and physiology or medicine. This makes sense in light of the fact that the God of the Old Testament is the God Who promised the Messiah, Christ of the New Testament; and even though the psycho-spiritual growth of humans has been slow and violent, we see the Spirit of the Old Testament God in Christ Who lived and preached love as the highest good.  It is irrational to blame Christianity--the teachings of Christ--for the wars and violence of this world. Islam is a different story because Mohammed was a warlord and the Quran tells a different story about God and Christ than the Bible relates. Every true Christian is offended when Christianity is lumped together with Islam in statements blaming "all religions" for the problems of this world. An objective account of Christianity reveals that enormous good has come and continues to be rendered to the human family because of Christ's teachings. The fact that our democracy has emerged in large part from Judeo-Christianity is indisputable. It is in the fulfillment of the Christian religion, not in its eradication, that we will find peace in the human family. Instead of blaming Christians for wars and violence, it would be wiser to encourage them to be better Christians.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Love and Respect in Marriage

I was going to write about love and respect but I found an article that expresses it beautifully. [below link]  The only other thing I would point out is the vicious cycle generated by spouses when they do not love and respect each other. As the article points out, biblically speaking, men are to love  their wives, and wives to respect their husbands. Men need respect, women need love. It is hard for a man to love a woman who does not respect him; and it is hard for a woman to respect a man with whom she feels unloved. So you see the downward spiral this could create. It can be reversed by either partner who is willing to practice the required discipline even if his/her spouse is not practicing it. This is not something to be tried once or twice and then collapse into "This is not working!" It's a good practice even your spouse never responds positively. It's good for you. It's God's will for us to "love our enemies" and to not return evil for evil. You become a better person when you do not allow your spouses' failures to determine your attitude and behavior.  This does not mean that one should tolerate and submit to chronic abuse. Abuse should be sternly confronted; and the abusive partner must come to understand the counter-productive outcome of abuse and discipline him/herself to eradicate abusive behaviors, words, gestures and even attitudes from his/her personality. This is the work of the Holy Spirit--very important work! It is work motivated by love, even for the abuser. We don't stop loving our mate with Christ's Love when they lapse into abuse, because Christ doesn't stop loving them. But we must be careful to protect ourselves, and especially our children from abuse. Love is manifested as a strong intolerance for abuse.
Read more in the below well-written article.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Earth and Soul

Cancer cells are what we might describe as narcissistic. Unlike healthy cells that work in cooperation with the other cells and organs in the organism, and self-limit on behalf of the whole, cancer cells continue to consume and reproduce at the expense of the organism that hosts them, to the point of destroying their host organism--and themselves in the process.
Humans can, of course, learn a valuable lesson from this: Unless we limit our relentless consumption of the earth's resources for the benefit of our comfort and pleasure, we might become the cancer cells of planet earth. We've moved through the Industrial Revolution into the Technological Revolution. It seems that if we do not now embrace a Spiritual Revolution [actually made more possible by our Technological Revolution] our quality of life will begin to deteriorate along with our planet.
The Bible teaches contentment with food, clothing and shelter. All great spiritual teachers possessed little and were exceedingly peaceful and joyful. Most busy Americans long for a simpler life but seem addicted to fast-paced excitement and the constant challenge of more, bigger and better things to satisfy egoistic cravings and stave off boredom. The "Economy", dependent upon constant economic growth, must no longer be our god--the deciding factor behind all our decisions. The subterranean fountains of spiritual enlightenment are springing forth across the human landscape, and the Living Water is there for those who thirst and seek.  As we are transformed, we become agents of transformation, and we become more aligned with the satisfying power of Love by which the earth and the universe operate. And there are hints in the Bible that the earth itself is healed by the healing of the human soul. {Rom. 8:20-23} In my lifetime, Lake Pontchartrain, near my home, has been cleaned up to the point that it is swimmable most of the time. This seems like a light of hope and a reminder of what we can do.