November 06, 2004

Publishing Politics

You know, every time I write about politics, I just become more confused about the whole point. I really think Jeff Culbreath, the Amish, and the Mennonites have a really keen idea.

However, until I live in a separated community, I really don't have much choice but to participate. Or is that true? The Church teaches that it is a moral obligation to work within the system, and yet I cannot but wonder if it isn't at times a moral obligation to turn your back on a system that consistently fails you.

The withdrawal from the affairs of politics offers harmony, peace, and good-living without extensive argumentation on either side. I do not have to support someone engage in dubious battle, and even less someone who would countencance the slaughter of the innocents.

Well, what is a blog for but thinking aloud? I think I'll return to things my mind was made for--literature and spiritual writing. I am always distressed in writing even remotely about politics and while I try to persuade myself that I have no convictions, what i actually discover is a mass of self contradictory convictions on which no reasonable person, let alone party, could build a platform for living. Better just to travel the gospel way.

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Probably Not

You Are a Conservative Democrat

Frankly, the way most other Democrats behave embarasses you greatly.

You pride yourself on a high level of morals, and you have a good grasp on right and wrong.

It's likely you think America needs to get back to its conservative, Juedo-Christian values.

Why aren't you a Republican then? Because you believe the goverment helps more than hurts.

What political persuasion are you?

No, not really. But when in the midst of a quiz you are constrained by the choices. Mostly government tends to hurt more than it helps. But I cannot deny that it DOES help and should help and so I end up with this weird label. On the other hand, I do admire Zell Miller, and I am a Southerner to the core, so it's hardly surprising that I would look to THAT party historically. (Too bad that, like the republicans, it no longer even vaguely represents what it started out as.)

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November 05, 2004

A Personal Note--On Church Teaching

In light of yesterday's post "Mixed Feelings," I felt it important to make certain provisional statements.

My personal credo, whether I acknowledge it or not, is "Always question authority." It turns out to have been how I have lived my life. This goes for Church teaching as well as anything else.

But my questioning of authority does not start with an automatic bias against authority. The questioning of authority is more about elucidation that it is about rebellion. "Why should that be the way things are?" is an important question to me.

As a result, I often struggle to come to terms reconciling personal experience with Church teaching in certain areas. One of these is the subject of homosexuality and homosexual expression of love. While I do not necessarily by the "genetic predisposition" argument, I also do not completely by the "matter of choice argument." It appears in the characterization of the upbringing of a great many homosexual men there are similar elements. These environmental factors appear to shape as irreconcilably as genetics. That is not to say that there is no alternative; however, it does mean that alternative paths are extremely difficult to take and people being the fallen creatures that they are, it is exceedingly easy to step off the straight and narrow. It is this fact, among others, that makes reconciling Church teaching with appropriate attitude extremely difficult. Compassion tends to overwhelm and reason tends to take a back seat. If I truly believe such conduct is a sin (and I do) then real compassion would dictate that I would confront it in the same manner as I would any sin. However, for some reason, perhaps because of past experience and wide acquaintance with the homosexual community, this is very, very difficult.

So, this is a very long-winded way of saying, please understand that I am not trying to say that the Church is wrong or that the Church should change its teaching to accommodate me. I am only saying that it will take a while for me to internalize and truly accommodate Church teaching. I will need to strike a balance between recognizing and reproving the sin and welcoming the sinner. In the meantime, I'll let the heart struggle and I will be true to the feelings of it. They may be wrong (in this case, my reason grants that they are wrong) but trying to wrestle them into line with reason never works anyway, so I'll let them be and continue to have mixed feelings even as I recognize that those feelings stem from misplaced compassion. Better misplaced compassion than misplaced anger--compassion can at least usually be persuaded to do what is really best for a person--anger is much more difficult to reason with.

So thanks to all who have responded so far. And to those who were uncertain of what I intended by the post yesterday--it was merely an expression of feeling. It was not intended to cast doubt on present or past Church teaching or to call into question the wisdom of the Church. But I do think it salutary to share the difficulties one has encountering the teaching as well as the triumphs. Most of us struggle with one point of doctrine or another somewhere along the line. It's okay to struggle so long as we always hold in mind that long-held, traditional teaching of the Church is always correct. The teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium bears the same seal of infallibility that the teaching ex cathedra does. I know that and I am thankful for that above a great many other wonderful things the church offers. The guidance is clear on the matter. I have a lighthouse and I have the various tugboats of St. Blogs that will assure that I do not find myself wrecked in the shoals. My thanks to God for His Church, and to all of you who heed His word and help those who struggle (myself included) find their ways.

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November 04, 2004

JCecil3 speaks. . .

and it is, as usual, thoughtful and thought-provoking. See here for a wonderful example of gracious in defeat. Skip that, simply gracious. It is good to have such people as JCecil3 in our community, civil, polite, and willing always to look for God's grace in whatever may occur.

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Scriptural Reflections

Once again, I invite you to visit The Journey each day and enjoy the reflections on scripture to be found there. I particularly delilghted in writing this one. I read it and discover in it much that is not me. I hardly remember having composed it, and so I attribute the joy it produces in me to the Holy Spirit who also (I trust) inspired it. He uses even this weakest of vessels at times. And what is really wonderful is that I am rewarded by reading the work that I have done and discovering something new in it, that I did not see in writing.

from The Journey

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. . .

Hallelujah! This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them. What could possibly be better news for us? I, for one, will not refuse a gift outright given. The Son of God welcomes sinners. Me, you, everyone. And He eats with us and shares with us the precious food that is His body and Blood.

The next time you fail, remember with joy, "This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them." What was meant to express His deep shame has become His victory and our amazing and unending joy. When overcome with our own worthlessness, when despairing of ever getting better, when thinking for a moment about our own condition, let's always bring to mind, "This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

Praise God, what a wonderful promise, what a beautiful savior! What more could we ask for than that God Himself should eat with us and share Himself with us. Throughout the day let's remind ourselves, "This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them." And then remember the age-old wisdom as we approach the altar, "You are what you eat." We too become the Man who welcomes sinners and eats with them. The whole kingdom rejoices in our transformation and in the transformation of all around us.

Keep as an inspiration to hope, this wonderful criticism that has become our glory. "This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

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Mixed Feelings

I rejoice in the fact that 11 states voted to recognize the traditional, sacramental definition of marriage. It is likely that there will be a great deal of legal wrangling over this, but the people have spoken unequivocally on the matter.

I am a good deal more conflicted over the fact that 8 of these states apparently also voted to outlaw gay civil unions. I suppose the matter is merely semantic. At least in my mind that is how I have drawn the boundaries--marriage is between a man and a woman--a union recognized both by the Church and by Law. But a civil union? Why should I oppose the legal recognition of a long-term relationship.

Why, for example, should it be possible for a spouse to inherit with or without a will in most states the estate of a spouse upon the demise of the spouse, but such cannot happen without a will in place for persons of the same sex.

I see justice-of-the-peace marriages as simply a legal recognition of a bond between people. While I may be required to insist that such a bond cannot and does not exist sacramentally, what sense does it make to say that it does not exist legally?

I think the bishops have said that we should certainly fight to preserve the sanctity of marriage. And I suppose one could reasonably make the slippery slope argument with regard to the legalization of civil unions. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the heart is entrained in the strict line of reason. In this case, for me, it is not. Yes, I regard homosexual practice as a sin, but is it not possible for the homosexually attracted to live in a committed, non-sexual relationship? I suppose the temptation is always present, but temptation is not sin, and it is, frankly, none of my business and certainly not within my purview to regulate it.

In this case I will say, "The heart has its reasons that reason cannot know." I don't know why I am saddened by this turn of events, but I am. I feel that in some sense justice has been denied even while truth has been reaffirmed in the main statement.

So, I rejoice in the 11 states that have defined marriage traditionally, but I am saddened that the two issues seem to be one in at least eight of those states.

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November 03, 2004


I was surprised at how well this film succeeded for me, and how strongly it reinforced my conviction that the death penalty is in nearly all cases unjust. You are well aware that this is the movie for which Charlize Theron (next to Halle Berry definitely in my icongraphic hall of Most Beautiful Women in the World--well there's a few others including (still) Sophia Loren, etc. but that's for antoher post) went plain. But not only did she "go plain," she also demonstrated an amazing acting ability. Who'd have guessed even after such films as The Astronaut's Wife?

In the film Theron plays Aileen Wouros, a down-and-out prostitute who is pushed over the edge and begins to kill the men who solicit her services. Ms. Wouros was a real person who was executed in 2002, an action I protested to the Governor and it consituted the first vigil I maintained. (Although being who I am, I didn't join any large crowd of people doing so. I prefered my vigil in the silence of my home in prayer.)

What struck me in the course of the film was how I was able to sympathize with the plight of this woman who had everything taken from her and was expected to survive, to make it on her own. Don't get me wrong, almost every choice she made was wrong--from the very beginning. However, the film shows the consequences of not reaching out to help people who find themselves in this situation. It shows the consequences of "victimless" crimes such as prostitution. It shows the consequences of our refusal to love even the unlovable, of our insistence upon meeting a set of arbitrary social standards before you are acceptable. The tragic irony of the film is that just when someone is able to reach out and try to help, Wouros has reached the end of the line.

I expected to be horrified by the violence in the film, and in a sense I was, but it was not the violence coming from Wouros, is was the violence directed at her. She is not a likeable person. She is not a person I would want to engage on any level. And yet, it is precisely that kind of person we are called as Christians to pay the most attention to. We are not allowed our preferences in whom we serve. I was reminded of this over and over because part of the story has a very deeply personal significance which I cannot share.

The film touched me and saddened me. I do have to admit that I was so assaulted by the language used that I came very, very close to turning it off on several occasions. But I stayed the course and I'm glad that I did. A superior film on many levels.

Recommended, but language and violence pretty much limits any household viewing.

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Two Things I Hope All Democrats Learned

Although, they tend to turn a deaf ear to these causes.

(1) I heard on NPR that the number 1 issue above all others in the majority of states was Moral Decline. (Not that I think Bush is particularly an exemplar of moral stability.) But of those who stated that morality was an issue 80% of them voted for Bush. Thought provoking numbers.

(2) Again from NPR, Kerry's strongest showing was in young people. I forget the age range, but something like 24-29. The NPR commentator's statement was, "But there just weren't enough of them to carry the day." Well, as someone else pointed out (and I wish I could remember the article) these are the consequences of aborting your constituency. If the 1.2 million people who might have been born each of those 5 years were voting, perhaps there would have been enough to make a difference.

I certainly hope the Democratic party begins to wake up. [Before: Republican economic policies simply do not reflect Catholic social justice teachings no matter what they may claim to the contrary.] [Amended: because Ell is right in intent] Republican policies that have been enacted have not evinced any particular interest in a "preferential option for the poor" or support for the underprivileged or disenfranchised. This seems less in tune with Catholic Social Justice than does the RHETORIC of the Democratic party. However, if you do not have a constituency because you have killed all of your children, there can be no social justice at all. As it stands, Life is the ultimate social justice issue and on that alone, the Republican party still holds the upper hand. I don't know what it will take for this to sink in for democrats, but I hope they can learn not to ignore the vast red heartland that cries out for morality and justice in government.

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November 02, 2004

Search News

It comes as considerable pleasure to me that the perennial highest scorers for visitors to my site come as a result of searching for one of the following terms:

blue-ringed octopus
Gustave Dore
Rime of the Ancient Mariner

While this post will not help those visitors, a quick run by my search box in the left hand column might do so. Be warned, however, that there is nothing here likely to help those in search of deep scholarly wisdom. I admire those things that I admire, but I do not claim to explicate them to the world at large. Enjoy the treasures I have found, may you delight in them as well, but don't expect that there will be any profound insights.

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Year of the Eucharist

Suggestions and Proposals found via Bill Cork.

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Communal Lectio

Yesterday Tom shared with us some of the fruit of his reflection on the Sunday scriptures. And it was odd, but the same scripture struck me for quite a different reason.

from Wisdom

For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours,
O LORD and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

In the spirit of communal lectio, I'll share what occurred to me in reading the passage.

There are some who maintain that humanity is utterly depraved and in the fall from grace all created things were dragged down with him and made low. That is that all creation is in some part bad, unworthy, or a constant spur to evil behavior.

What struck me here is once again the reaffirmation that what God has created is fundamentally good. He would not have created what is evil, it is not in him to do so. More, all of creation is sustained by Him, has life breathed into it by Him. All of creation is fundamentally good. And I think that extends to the fallen angels themselves. They are, in creation, fundamentally good. They have chosen through their own will to deny the good. They are ultimately negative, creating or causing nothing in themselves, but reacting to all that is and negating it. Nevertheless, they cannot negate themselves. God will put them away at the end of time, but until then, they continue in their rebellion against the basic goodness of all things.

Without becoming Pantheistic, we can say that His breath is in all breathing things, His life is in all living things. All things exist because of His constant intense love and attention. Without that all things would fly apart and become nothing. He sustains all with the eternal hope that all things will return to Him and the eternal knowledge that He has made it possible through His son.

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Two Samuel Stories

Let me share some Samuel stories.

We were talking the other day about what God could do. I said to Samuel that God could do all things and Samuel said, "Well, He can't become Satan." There is deep wisdom there for one so young. It is indeed true that God cannot do what His nature will not allow. Not that He COULD not do it (that He lacks the power for it), but He cannot (He lacks the will for it). And it is in this, among other things, that we have our hope--God can never be other than simple, uniate, eternal, Love.

At communion two Sundays ago, as Linda and I were returning from receiving, Samuel jerked on Linda's shirt and said, "When do I get some of that Christ stuff?" Afterwards he expressed the same idea to Monsigneur who found it utterly delightful and decided that he would share that with everyone.

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If I Never See Another "Rolling Roadblock". . .

. . . it will be too soon.

Those of you who live in states that were "already decided" should heave a great sigh of relief. Over the past five days, I've received more than forty automated "informational" calls for George Bush, John Kerry, and a plethora of others supporting Bush or Kerry, and then one or two for Sheriff, Dogcatcher, Soil Conservator, Groups supporting one or another constitutional amendments.

Traffic has been meesed up one way or the other nearly every day since last week with huge rolling roadblocks that parade the candidates from one place to another.

I will be glad at the end of this day regardless of outcome. We have to live with it anyway, so we simply pray for the best and move on.

I was, of course, outraged that Kerry attended Mass here in Orlando this morning and presumably received communion (on the other hand, I would have to admit that refusal at this point amounts to political grandstanding and really bad judgment.) But I'm appalled at the gall of the man continuing to flout the Church's teachings and presenting himself--he ought to be ashamed of himself.

All I can hope is that we do not repeat the election of 1800. This has been the most polarizing election to date and the divisions become deeper and more injurious with each passing day. Whoever wins, I plead with the other side saying, "Relent and learn to live with what God has wrought. Heal the division and stop the partisanship that is so relentlessly destructive."

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November 01, 2004

Slap the Candidate

The MOST IMPORTANT SITE EVER to visit before voting. That way you can do it with a clear conscience.

(via Don of Mixolydian Mode)

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Homeschooling Moms

Those of you who homeschool are probably already aware of the magazines available to you, but I just recently received one from a very dear friend who has published a wonderful article in it. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the magazine clearly (I left it at home). I thought it was Hearts and Minds. But perhaps one of my audience who does homeschool could perhaps provide the corrected name.

Anyway, the whole magazine is highly recommended from my one view of it, and congratlualtions are due to my very dear friend who against overwhelming odds--(5 children in homeschool and another on its way)--managed to write a great article to help other mothers out there.

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All Saints' Day Hymn

For all the Saints, who from their labors rest
William Walsham Howe

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the apostles' glorious company,
who bearing forth the cross o'er land and sea,
shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
is fair and fruitful, be thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
and seeing, grasped it, thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win, with them the victor's crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on his way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
and singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

El Dia del Muerte

Does it strike anyone else as ironic that this year's elections shall be held on the Day of the Dead? I think the only other more appropriate election day might have been in the "intercalary days" of the Mayan Calendar. Those 5 doomed days between the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Prayer Request

Today being All Saints, let us invoke their aid as our nation approaches an election debacle. May the mighty Lord intervene in this election that we get the elected officials we need rather than those we deserve.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack