So VP Mike Pence walked out of the NFL game today in protest of the protesters!

Image result for child laborers twentieth century

The America Mr. Pence and his rich cronies dream of returning to.

Well, isn’t that just utterly charming! A man of conscience. A man with a sense of morality, which he is allowed to express by walking out of the NFL game he was attending when the players took a knee for the National Anthem.

How lovely that Mr. Pence is allowed the freedom to express his opinion by his actions while the NFL players are, in certain circles, roundly castigated, called names, and have their patriotism question for doing the same thing our Vice-President did today. Does Mr. Pence understand the issues which are present here, or is he just angry because someone has the nerve to be publicly critical of this country and to express it in acts of disrespect towards the flag that represents our country?

I have news for you, sir.  The United States of  America has not been a Garden of Eden for a great number of people who have lived within her boundaries. This includes, first and foremost, black people of all ages, but also includes Catholics who have been persecuted and murdered in this country. Justice for black men and Catholics has been all but nonexistent for centuries, and the prison system is filled with black men who have been incarcerated for the same crimes for which white men have been let go. Perhaps I can excuse this under the laconia that having been brought up white, middle-class, and in relative wealth, it is hard for you to understand what is happening in the urban jungles of America.

In other words, the promises of the Constitution which are supposed to be for “all men” have been a bad joke for certain classes of people. This also happens to include poor white people, what the rich and privileged refer to as “poor white trash.” The working poor.  The lunch bucket crowd. Those people who went down into the coal mines of the rich and were paid a nickel a day while the owner of the mine lived in luxury which would have made Henry VIII green with envy. They labored 12 hours a day, seven days a week until they were finally fed up with such slavery and formed unions. Then the mine owners, supported by our wonderful government, sent in troops to kill the protesters and bust the unions. They labored in unsafe factories and died because it would have chewed into those all-important profits to enact certain safety standards.

If you like having a 40-hour work weeks with benefits, it was protest – and men willing to die for fair treatment – which gave that to America. Had it not been for those men standing for what was right, we would still have the kind of child laborers shown the picture above.

You know what would have been the more honorable thing to do, Mr. Pence? Stay for the game and afterwards, announce to the world that you are publicly inviting the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement to come to the White House for discussions of what can be done to heal the racial divide in this country.  Now it’s true that they might not have been receptive, since unfortunately, some of the BLM people think the government owes them everything and they have no responsibility to help change. But it would have been a class act on your part and would have put them in a bit of a corner if they did not respond. But class has really never been the act of the American Capitalist rich. The history of America shows us over and over again that with them, it’s money, money, money, and people are either useful tools to make money or annoyances which must be dealt with. They take care of their own, or as George Carlin once said regarding the rich kleptocracy which runs this country from Washington DC,  “It’s a great, big country club – and you ain’t in it!”

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Another wonderful display of the Christian faith in action!

A hundred and fifty years of hate-filled, drooling-on-their-shoes, “Christian” rednecks is bound to bring the patience of even the best people to an end. If we haven’t already seen the first shots in it, I fear that with neither side listening to the other, we are in for a real, shooting civil war, just like we have seen in Third World countries around the globe. Neither side completely represents the Christian viewpoint on this issue of race relationships. Neither side appears to be willing to give an inch from the positions they have taken. Both sides have point on which they are right and points in which they are simply dead wrong – but get them to admit that????

Pfffffffffffffftttttt………….fat chance!

These are just a few quick thoughts I had today when I heard about VP Mike Pence walking out in protest from the NFL game he was attending. If anyone is reading this and is angry that I appear to be “unpatriotic” or totally on the side of BLM, let me assure you that if I see another justifiable police shooting and then see BLM leaders ignoring the behavior of the dead thug to attack the police, I will take to the keyboard to rip into their hypocrisy  just as hard as I have ripped into VP Pence today.

Hypocrisy has no color, and I have no problem calling it out when I see it.

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Taking a knee for justice.

The current flap over NFL players taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem has all the elements of an absurdist play written by Eugene Ionesco. To understand why I would say this, you must understand the key elements of absurdist plays:

The theatre of the absurd was a short-lived yet significant theatrical movement, centred in Paris in the 1950s. Unusual in this instance was the absence of a single practitioner spearheading the form. Largely based on the philosophy of existentialism, absurdism was implemented by a small number of European playwrights. Common elements included illogical plots inhabited by characters who appeared out of harmony with their own existence.

Such would be my take regarding both sides of the absurdist theater to which we are being subjected. As of this writing, neither side holds the moral high ground, for reasons which I will hopefully make clear. Let us begin with the Right Wing anger at the “I refuse to kneel for a racist flag” movement.

The common theme I hear from right-wing radio jocks and the assorted Conservative posters on places like Facebook is, “How dare you complain? You have it so good here in America, you ungrateful, multi-millionaire lout.” accompanied by loud demands that those protesting should perhaps leave the country and set up citizenship elsewhere. There exists in Right Wing Conservative types a strange lack of admission to any of the multitude of vile behaviors of the government of the United States has engaged in over the last two centuries. To listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and others, one would think that rather than being a nation which has in its 200+ year history unleashed waves of destruction, persecution, C.I.A sponsored and government approved assassinations, and evil behavior on the populations of other countries, we alone are the “defenders of freedom” and a literal paradise on earth for anyone lucky enough to arrive on our golden shores. Any person with a desire for truth can Google up a great number of articles which show that the United States, far from acting like a “Christian Nation,” America has behaved in a fashion which must make Satan and the minions of hell green with envy.

And it has done this not only to other peoples and countries, but to our own citizens as well. Yet the history books from which our children learn are assiduously purged of any reference to the hatred and bigotry, the wicked behavior and evil, which has been part and parcel of the United States since its beginning. Our country has become so noxious to the rest of the world that 133 other nations have banded together to fight the corrupt influence of the United States in the world. Simply put, we are not loved anymore.  Feared, yes, but no longer is this country the “Shining Beacon of Liberty on the Hill” which other countries admire and wish to emulate.

Having said this, do I need to turn to the long history of crimes and violence against black people in America?

“Well, that was then. Those days are over. These people are protesting something that doesn’t exist anymore.”

Really???  Did you somehow miss this:

                 

Or are you just that friggin’ stupid as to believe that there is no racism left in this country? Maybe you are (probably because you are white), but black people in this country know good and damn well what such a rally means for them here in the 21st century. They know that in the eyes of a number of people, including people who have power over them such as government officials and police, they are still just “nigger.” The money that Rush Limbaugh worships does not make this go away. These NFL players understand exactly what such racism means personally for them – even if they are tolerated by whites because they provide a modicum of amusement on a Sunday afternoon. Being a football player don’t mean a thing if you are black. After reading about a continuous stream of such incidents, a wise man begins to realize that the same thing could just as easily happen to him, simply because his skin has the wrong pigmentation.

Of course, it’s not just football players. Maybe you are walking down the street and ignore a policeman’s orders to stop. Next thing you know, you are dead, despite being unarmed and running away from the police (not threatening) because you are afraid of being arrested and going to jail for failing to pay child support.

Police have been seen over and over treating white citizens more leniently than black citizens, even when the white citizen is acting in a much more violent and threatening manner. Just to be black and driving a car can mean trouble for someone who is minding his own business.

This sort of treatment has been going on for two centuries now to the black community. It has not abated, despite the bloviation of  the Right Wing about what a great country we live in and how blacks should be happy they are living here instead of some Third World hellhole in the Middle East (a hellhole which our foreign policy has helped create). How do you white conservatives not understand that in the face of racism, unwarranted police killings, and the general manner in which black people are treated, such protest was inevitable? Why do you think that because these black men are making vast sums of money in their profession they should just turn a blind eye to this? What is it about riches that makes people unsympathetic to the plight of the poor? It is as if the rich think “I have money, my life is fine. You NFL players are well off also, so why are you complaining about something that has no effect on your life? Every response I am reading from conservative blog sites and right-wing radio jocks talks about the money these NFL players are making. What these mostly rich themselves Republicans do not understand is that the issue of racism and the behaviors that attend it cut across economic lines.They miss the point entirely!

Those who are angered by these protests say that it is disrespecting the flag and our country to take a knee during the National Anthem. But how else would you suggest to make a statement against not only the racism which has pervaded this country for 200 years, but against a government that has more often than not, turned a blind eye to such actions? Respect has to be earned. It is not given just because you have a nice theory of equality for all mankind. It is given when you actually enact that belief and make your country a place of true equality. White people who are incensed at these protests have not had the experiences of prejudice, beatings, financial deprivation, and bizarre experiments conducted on their person. They cannot understand what it feels like to have the American Dream waved in front of you while so many avenues of achieving it have been kept from you. This is a simple formula around the world – if the country in which you live does not address these issues, then the flag which represents that country is treated with the disrespect you feel for the country that is doing wrong to you.

As one Black Lives Matter representative stated when invited to take the stage and speak at a pro-Trump rally,  “We are Americans. All we want is to be treated like Americans.”

I think that not too much to ask.

PART TWO – NFL – Get up off your knees and fix your neighborhoods.

NFL – Get up from your knees and fix your neighborhoods.

 

This is the reality of the “American Dream” for too many people.

There is a strange propensity of the human mind in which it is unable to process certain pieces of knowledge which fall outside the realm of presupposed truths. This cognitive dissonance keeps us from hearing what other people are saying because we are convinced that our cause is completely right, and we are without error in all that we have accepted as truth. It is for the other person to come to us completely, to accept all that we are saying as 100% true – case closed!

In my first part of this writing regarding the protests from NFL players, I attempted to show how this cognitive dissonance is at work in the minds of those who oppose the protest. In their thinking, our country is so Simon-pure that no protest against her should ever be lodged in the throats of her citizens. America is beyond reproach. All that she does is for the good of the world, for she alone has “Manifest Destiny,” the divine right to be the Leader of the Free World, and thus a force only for good. As I showed by several links to the atrocities committed by the United States, this is a fairy tale believed by flag-waving morons who refuse to face the truth of our sordid history. It is as if these thoughtless clowns cannot believe that 200 + years of slavery, oppression, lynchings, beatings, and restriction from full participation in the American dream would somehow have a serious blowback down the road.

Nonetheless, as justified as the Black Lives Matter movement is in their attempts to bring the national consciousness to bear on this insidious racism, they are not exempt from the same cognitive blindness in regards to the goals that they have set for themselves, as well as some serious errors in their thinking. I hope that I can, without being charged with racism, point out some of the more obvious problems in their protest which are keeping true consideration of their real grievances from taking place. Side by side with real problem of racism is the equally serious problem of the destruction of the black inner city community. Black leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton refuse to address the real reasons that there are problems with the police, instead blaming only the police for confrontations which end in death.

  1. The black family has been all but destroyed by Democrat policies which began with Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. The Great Society was the response to Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Department of Labor report warning that ghetto family was in disarray.

More than most social scientists, Moynihan, steeped in history and anthropology, understood what families do. They “shape their children’s character and ability,” he wrote. “By and large, adult conduct in society is learned as a child.” What children learned in the “disorganized home[s]” of the ghetto, as he described through his forest of graphs, was that adults do not finish school, get jobs, or, in the case of men, take care of their children or obey the law. Marriage, on the other hand, provides a “stable home” for children to learn common virtues. Implicit in Moynihan’s analysis was that marriage orients men and women toward the future, asking them not just to commit to each other but to plan, to earn, to save, and to devote themselves to advancing their children’s prospects. Single mothers in the ghetto, on the other hand, tended to drift into pregnancy, often more than once and by more than one man, and to float through the chaos around them. Such mothers are unlikely to “shape their children’s character and ability” in ways that lead to upward mobility. Separate and unequal families, in other words, meant that blacks would have their liberty, but that they would be strangers to equality. Hence Moynihan’s conclusion: “a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure.” 

By virtue of their visibility in the media and the the idol-worship their athletic success provides, black athletes are in a position to positively influence young men. NFL players concerned about the treatment of their fellow black citizens can be a force to turn around the devastation of the inner cities by providing wholesome role models to young black men, a daunting task in the face of a society which from every media outlet glorifies fornication as a right and violence as the means by which all problems are solved. Black leaders need to take an honest look at the scientific correlation between the 70% illegitimacy rate of the ghetto community and the poverty and violence that is prevalent in these communities. How are black football players helping repair this mess when they are shacking up with their girlfriends and having babies out of wedlock? What role models are they giving when they beat up their girlfriends and are arrested for bad behavior?

2.  The media in this country has done the black community no favors in promoting the “thug life” by means of rap music and BET television programs. BET television glorifies fornication, guns, gang membership, and violence in the videos it plays. Rap music portrays women as sluts and the thug life as normal, yet no one will take a stand against this and say, “Enough!” because BET makes money, and we worship money in this country. The NFL could take a strong and positive role in such communities by using NFL players in advertisements which teach respect for women, and the truth that real men do not get young girls pregnant as a proof of their masculinity. It would also be a help to get rid of the bumping, grinding, almost naked cheerleaders. Men are visual creatures, stimulated by what they see. The soft porn of nearly naked women is no help to chaste thinking. You want to protest something – start with BET and the liberal media who glorify anti-family themes that have destroyed the black family.

3. Conservative leaders have rightly asked where is your outrage at an average of thirty black deaths a weekend in Chicago at the hands of other blacks. It seems more than a tad hypocritical to many people to turn your back on this terrible reality and only concentrate on white-on-black violence.  Chicago is merely the most visible symptom of a very sick society in which life has come to have no value. Going back to point number two, if the unborn child is of no value, then what makes you think that any other human being will be respected?

4. Black community leaders need to stand together in support of successful black men, no matter what their political affiliation. Instead of towing the Democrat line against men such as Justice Clarence Thomas, the black community should have been outraged when Democrat politicians mercilessly attacked this man. He should have been lifted up as an role model to young black men, someone who overcame great obstacles, instead of being  torn down because the Democrats didn’t like him.

5. Speaking of Democrats, the black community needs to take a critical look at the policies of the Democrat Party, starting with the history of support of racism and violence against blacks by the Democrat Party. They need to call to account black Democrat toadies such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and realize that these men are nothing more than self-serving race-baiters who profit from racial unrest. Neither of these men has offered anything of a substantial answer to the problems which plague the ghetto community, other than to beg for more welfare funding. While the Republican Party is no prize package in itself, and needs its own reformation so they stop being whores for the rich, the Democrat Party policies, including the support of abortion which kills an unprecedented number of black babies every year, are a disaster for the black community. Fifty years of Great Society policies, with over four trillion dollars spent in the “War on Poverty,” has done nothing to improve the lives of black people. They are, in real fact, considerably worse today. Why do you keep voting Democrat when it is obvious to any thinking person that the Democrat Party is using you?

6.  Black leaders need to stop the use of the word “racism” to describe every single event which takes place in which a white person disagrees with a black person. If I disagree with Maxine Waters, it is not because I am a racist. It is because the woman is a flamin’ idiot!! I don’t like Barack Obama because he supports the killing of infants in the womb, gay “marriage,” and the persecution of Christians who refused to participate in such “marriage ceremonies” by not baking a cake for them. It had nothing to do with his skin pigmentation. There are millions of us who don’t like certain black people because they are immoral and despicable people, not because they are black. The use of the word “racism” in every situation of black/white disagreement kills off any possibility of productive conversation.

7.  Do I have to say this? Stop blaming all white people for every act of racism, either true or imagined. Some of us are sympathetic to your concerns. We watch YouTube with horror as police react in violence which is far beyond what is required to bring a situation under control. We are angered when we see a young black man get 25 years in prison for selling marijuana, while the white-collar criminals who caused the 2008 financial meltdown are not only walking free, but received astonishing financial bonus packages from the very companies they almost destroyed. The whole corrupt federal government system – judicial, executive, and representative – drives us to fits of outrage, but you will not keep us on your side by accusing us of being complicit with the degenerates and side-show freaks who are running this country.

8. In regards to the police, the black community needs to take a long, hard look at the kind of people that the police are having trouble with on a regular basis. Michael Brown was not the doe-eyed angel that the media has made him out to be. While there have been police-caused deaths which can in no way be justified, not every single black man who is killed by a white cop is innocent. You seem to not want to admit that there is a serious criminal problem that the police face in the inner cities.

Put yourself in the place of the policeman who is apprehending someone. His life is as precious to him as yours is to you, yet he is entering a highly volatile, unknown situation where he is aware that in the next minute, all hell can break loose. His adrenaline is flowing, tension is high, and then some smart-ass young punk either makes a sudden move to his clothes or starts to mouth off. Try to honestly put yourself into that situation rather than acting as if the police are always wrong, no matter what goes down. It is not going to help the conversation one bit to take the position that in every shooting racism was present and the police are always wrong.

9. STOP kissing up to Communists!  Do you not realize that these people do not have your best interests at heart? Are you not aware of the 100 million deaths that can be laid directly at the feet of Communism in the last century? Stalin was no hero – he murdered his countrymen at a horrendous rate, even ordering the killing 3,000 of the generals in his army, an act which historians agree almost cost him the war with Hitler. Che Guevara was a murderous thug, not some hero. Stop wearing his shirts at your rally. Do you honestly think these people, if you were to somehow overturn the Constitutional government of the United States for Communism, would be your friends and put you in high places.

Antifa, the Communist Party in America, and the assorted miscreants who have created the riots in Baltimore, Washington, and Ferguson, are not your friends. White people see this violence and immediately lose any sympathy they might have for your cause. Learn from Dr. Martin Luther King and Ghandi, both of whom brought about major societal changes without the use of violence. Associating yourself with people who use violence will not only be detrimental to the goals you are trying to achieve, they may very well turn that violence on you if you win.

10. Finally, the most serious question I can ask of those who are taking a knee at the games – what are YOU doing to straighten out the mess? Have you used the millions of dollars you are paid to help clean up neighborhoods and establish places where young people can have alternatives to playing where drugs are dealt? Or is your money just to buy  more “bling” in the shape of mansions, expensive cars, and other expensive toys? I know that many NFL players have done a great deal of good with their money. This question is pointed specifically to those men are protesting yet have done nothing of the sort. You have the right to protest – you have the duty to do something about it the situations you are protesting. Protesting is easy, anyone can do it. Rolling up your sleeves and expending your time and effort is hard.

I hope that by now, my two articles have it clear that I see guilt on both sides of this argument. Neither one can claim complete purity of thought and/or actions. What I have written is only my thought on the issue. Perhaps they are of some value, or perhaps I am dead wrong. I am sure that those who might read this will let me know.

Do I have an answer myself? I see the problem as a result of the fact that our country never has been a “Christian Nation,” as some foolishly aver. If and when the Gospel of Jesus Christ takes root in the hearts of Americans, there will be no place for racism and hatred in the hearts of people. If the Gospel takes root in America, when people see a picture such as the one we see above, they will not shrug their shoulders and turn the TV channel looking for entertainment. Our priorities will be people, not amusement. The Gospel of Christ unites rather than divides. It is love rather than hatred. It brings out the best in mankind because we are united in love around the Person of Jesus Christ. I see this as the answer because receiving the love of God in Christ some fifty years ago greatly changed me for the better.

It can do the same for anyone – black or white.

The Man Who Helped Destroy America – Reflecting on the Life of Hugh Hefner

Goaded into consciousness this morning by the factual droning of the NPR announcer, I awakened to the words “…the founder of Playboy magazine, dead this morning at age ninety-one from natural causes.” Slapping the snooze button into once-again silence, my foggy mind slowly realized that Hugh Hefner has died and gone to his reward, which I think he is finding right now to be most unpleasant. God is not mocked, and this man did great evil in attacking the moral basis of our country and in helping to create the destruction which followed for the next six decades.

I imagine many who hold similar religious and moral views will state that Hefner was responsible for the current state of moral degeneracy into which our country and the world has devolved, but I think that in one sense that is giving him too much. Hefner simply lit a match in a room filled with the combustible vapors of smoldering sexuality, in the same manner that Martin Luther lit the fuse of latent resentment against Roman Catholic corruption and rampant abuse of the Christian faith. The resulting explosion, aided by other men such as Larry Flynt of the insanely depraved HUSTLER magazine, has left moral devastation which is continues to harm lives some 60 years after Hefner began his one-man crusade to throw off the last restraints of Christian sexual morality. Along the way his philosophy and his magazine have left a trail of death and destruction.

To some who might read this piece, such wording appears to be over the top religious hyperbole.  No doubt there are many who, upon hearing such a diatribe against Hefner and his hedonist philosophy, will write off anyone espousing it as a crank or religious nutcase. I, however, speak as one who has experienced this devastation first-hand. This is a painful piece for me to write inasmuch as no one likes their private vices and sins trotted out for public examination, and yet here I am doing it of my own accord. And I am only one of a growing number of people who are speaking out against their personal harm done by the so-called freedom of the “Sexual Revolution” which Hefner’s smutty little publication kicked off in the 1960’s.

We were told that casting off the shackles of religious sexual oppression would free us. Now websites such as The Ruth Institute  exist to share with the world sad stories of how unleashing sexual passion has destroyed lives. Walt Heyer is a former transgender with a passion to help others who regret gender change. Walt travels extensively to share his story of redemption at conferences, churches and universities. Walt has appeared on numerous radio and television shows in the U.S. and Canada. Walt’s articles have been published online and his many books are a welcome resource in understanding the issue. He is another human being profoundly hurt by believing the lies given to him by the sexual freedom crowd.

 How has this affected me personally?

I was sexualized at a very early age.  A psychologist and Christian counselor with whom I had several sessions told me that based on my psychological construct, I may have been sexually abused. By eight years old (that’s right-eight!) I was experimenting with both boys and girls who would allow me into the private areas of their bodies, as well as indulging in daily masturbation. This is not normal. This is a young boy who needed serious help to curb his passions and take control of his body. Instead, when I hit my teens, I discovered Playboy magazine. If the Bible is the book to help us control our spiritual and moral selves and regain the dignity of human beings created in the image of God, Playboy magazine was a road map into degeneracy and bestial behavior. If the Church is the place to go to find true freedom, the Playboy Mansion was the Mecca to which all young men dreamed of one day visiting. The airbrushed pictures in Playboy fueled my my sessions of self-pleasure, and the articles which I   read, assured me that I was a perfectly normal male who should feel no guilt over indulging my lust. I was convinced that my nominal religious upbringing and the shreds of morality attached to it were keeping me from the happiness of multiple sexual partners and experiences. Playboy magazine promised a paradise on earth. For me and millions of others, it delivered hell.

By my early twenties, I had been the recipient of gonorrhea eight times. The last time, the doctor looked me dead in the eyes and said in a stern voice,  “You may think this is a joke, young man, but let me tell you what is going to happen to you if you keep this up.”  He then proceeded to tell me that whenever a man catches this disease, his urethra becomes inflamed and raw. As it heals, the walls can heal shut with scar tissue, closing off the channel for the removal of urine.

“If that happens, I will have to run a glass rod up your penis to open it up, and I assure you that you will not like that at all.” His voice carried a stern as possible warning as he could without taking me by the shoulders and screaming in my face,  “Wake up, you damn fool!!”  I didn’t care.  I went right back to looking for more sexual adventures.

And then there was Robin. Robin Davis was the love of my life, a beautiful young girl who loved me in a manner in which I had never been loved before. I have spent fifty years thinking – wondering what my life would have been like married to her and regretting the loss of her companionship. If I had done things in a proper manner, I would have asked her to marry me and sex would have been for our honeymoon night. Instead, I stole her virginity from her, messed up our relationship, and ultimately destroyed the love between us. All because Playboy magazine and the increasingly promiscuous culture it was developing told me that it was okay to have sex before marriage. And mine is just one of a multitude of sad stories in the same genre and with the same ending.

Along the way to my  marriage to my first wife, who passed away in 2006, I developed a serious addiction to pornography. This addiction continued, even after I was married and had a woman whose sexual appetite was equal to mine. A sex addict cannot get enough stimulation, yet it is not the sex itself he is looking for. It took me many years and much counseling to realize that what I was looking for was not the sexual act. Psychologists will tell you that any addiction is an attempt to self-medicate away the pain in their lives. People deprived of love, who are given no real sense of meaning and importance in their lives, who have done things for which they are profoundly guilty, are prime candidates for addiction to some substance to relieve those feelings. Sex is just one of many choices, and Hefner’s magazine fueled that for many of us.

What are the “gifts” that Playboy magazine has left this world? STD rates are skyrocketing, burdening the healthcare industry, and creating problems of sterility and severe health problems for people. Yet in the article I linked, instead of blaming promiscuity and the pornographic mindset of the American culture, created by Playboy magazine, the write blames budget cuts.  This is the typically dishonest response of the political Left to our sexual problems.

Other societal ills include divorce, abandonment of families by men and women seeking new sexual partners and new thrills, and the utter destruction of the black community. During Lyndon Johnson’s presidency,  the single-family rate in the black community was under 20%. Today, it is over 70%. Numerous sociological publications such as  NCJRS and Marripedia have shown the link between fatherless “families” and crime. With a single-parent rate of over 70% in the black communities, it is no wonder that crime and poverty are rampant in the inner city black communities. We have witnessed generations of young black men growing up who are angry inside that they were not important enough for their father to stick around. A child who grows up feeling abandoned and unimportant will grow up to be an angry man who will take out that anger in acts of violence, or an emotionally deprived woman who will seek fulfillment in promiscuous sex. No one has cared about them, why should they care about others? Their lives become a seeking for fulfillment of an emotional need, regardless of the cost to the neighborhood, the culture, or the world. Yet our politicians and media culture will not take this information to heart or act upon it.

And then there is abortion. Playboy magazine has led the charge in the promotion of “sex without consequence.” Yeah, well that’s all fine and dandy for the man, but it is the woman who gets to wake up finding out that she is in the middle of a life-changing event that she didn’t bargain on when she let the man have what he wanted. Playboy magazine, aided by the feminist movement, has done a legendary work in making women believe that they also deserve sexual pleasure without consequence. Pregnant? It’s not a baby. Just get an abortion. A few dollars, a little time in a “clinic, ” and the problem will soon be over. What they refuse to admit to is the growing number of women who are coming forward to talk about the painful and crippling guilt they have endured over killing their baby.

Finally, (and there is much more I could say) pornography has the strange ability to settle into a man’s memory and not go away.  I am at a point in my life where I don’t wish to think of pornography, yet I find myself often having sudden and uninvited memories of a particular video I watched over thirty years ago. The embedding of the pornographic mindset in the mind makes women into objects rather than persons. After years of watching naked women copulate on film, the mind turns every woman into a porn star. The result of this (and I can only speak for myself, but I imagine that this is quietly more widespread than reported) is that whenever I see a woman, my eyes go to two places on her body almost immediately – her breasts and her crotch. This is a horror to me, but it is a deeply embedded behavior from years of treating women as nothing more than a piece of meat for my enjoyment, either in bed or on film. I fight this constantly with prayer and repentance, but it is as if a groove is cut into my thought patterns which I cannot fill up and be done with. And I am deeply ashamed to admit this.

Pornography not only hurts the viewer,  it is devastating to the lives of those who make the films. This is not a victimless crime, as we were assured in the pages of Playboy. Pornography distorts emotions so that porno addicts cannot develop truly intimate personal relationships.

So one icon of free-wheeling sex-without-responsibility is gone. In his place now are thousand and thousands of his disciples who are carrying on his deadly work. Sex has been elevated to the status of godhood, a position which it was never meant to carry. What I needed was a society which would help me understand what had happened to me (if I had been abused), why I felt the way I did, and most of all, that it is possible with the help of others, to control my passions. As Dr. Jennifer Morse says in her website, we need to let people know that they won’t die if they don’t have sex. I needed a voice to tell me that the sexual act is a special act reserved for marriage to that one person with whom you wish to spend the rest of your life. Promiscuity destroys the special quality of that night. Promiscuity takes the nuptial evening and turns it into just (yawn) another sexual adventure. It becomes instead just one more in a line of sexual acts with no particular meaning. The voices promoting sexual “freedom” in the 1960’s were deafening – the Church was almost silent. Or at least, if She was talking, it was so quietly that I didn’t hear what She was saying.

God made the sexual act in such a way that it bonds a man and woman together. Recent studies have found that during the sexual act, a woman’s body releases a powerful hormone which creates a bonding effect to the man with whom she is having sex. Every moral and psychological implication of the sexual act shows that it is supposed to be something special, reserved for that one with whom you are bonding in marriage. Thanks for Playboy magazine, it has become sport, and our society is suffering the consequences. Yet no one except Christian people will admit to this, and shamefully, many who call themselves Christians are on the side of extramarital experimentation, closing their eyes to all the sociological and moral devastation which such immorality brings with it.

I have been celibate for six years now. My second wife is unable to have sex due to a painful physical condition which prevents intercourse. I have found, both after my first wife died, and after this discovery, that I can live without the media-promoted idea that it is necessary to have sex as often as I can. The reason is that in finding the love of God in my heart, I have found the paradise I was looking for. Sex promised to give me meaning. Being loved by God has given me that meaning. Playboy magazine and and all the various activities which it promoted caused my life to spin out of control. In Christ, my life is in control. Looking for sex all the time made me a boorish person around women, always trying to get them into the bedroom. In Christ, I have found that truly loving people means to serve them, not to take advantage of their bodies. In promiscuity I found loneliness, sorrow, and destruction. In Christ I have peace, the joy I was falsely told by Playboy that random sex would give me.

I wonder if we will ever recover as a society from the damage done by Playboy magazine, the pornography it gave rise to,  and all those in the media and government who stand on the side of unrestrained hedonism? The genie is out of the bottle, the disciples of pleasure are in all the media outlets and even in the Christian religion, still telling our world that any sexual expression you wish to follow is okay, even after decades of societal and moral decay. Sex is used to sell everything from hamburgers to cars. Buy this, and the sly innuendo in the advertising infers that you will get laid. Viagra and Cialis advertising offers you pleasure on the spot. God forbid that a person might actually admit that his sexual life is over, or that he can enjoy life without sex. No, take the blue pill and be happy! God forbid that you should ever have to stop. I read somewhere online that Hefner, in his waning years, lived on these little blue pills. What a sad commentary on his life and what he put value in.

The worst part is to see religious leaders joining the Playboy bandwagon, normalizing activities such as homosexuality, transgenderism, and gay “marriage,” rather than offering to the world the love of Christ which can bring people out of bondage and into morally balanced lives of the normal sexuality as God intended. Those who do stand for the God-ordained union of one man and one woman for one lifetime are roundly condemned as “bigoted” and “homophobic” haters. But is it really hatred to offer people a way out of their chains, a freedom from their slavery? With all my heart I wish someone had come alongside me when I was destroying my life, my health, and my relationships, and offered me the way to the joy I was wrongly seeking in the pages of Playboy magazine.

We are seeing a slow turning away from such behavior as more and more young people are heeding the warnings being put out by people like myself, but it is an uphill battle.  I do not expect that there will ever be a complete end to immoral behavior, but this is a battle worth the fight. If I can tell my story to one young person and help them avoid the pain and sorrow I inflicted upon myself, then it is worth it.

Postscript:  I was all ready to publish this latest writing effort when I heard something on the radio which made me quite angry. It was a conservative radio talk-show host, talking about Hugh Hefner and making statements applauding the fact that Hefner “stood for our First Amendment free speech rights.”  He also, at the end of his monologue on Hefner, said “Yes, he was quite a man” and “he lived a real interesting life.”

Such inane blather is one thing, and to be expected of the anti-family, anti-religion liberals in our country, but for such to come from a member of political conservatism, which labels itself as “family friendly,” is beyond my understanding. How anyone of a conservative mindset can look upon the utter wreckage of the American family, which has resulted from the last sixty years of unfettered pornographic expression in America, and say that Hugh Hefner was anything other than a deeply evil man, is beyond me! And to defend pornography on the basis of some imagined “Constitutional Right,” is offensive to those of us who realize that words are capable of either great blessing or great destruction. The shame of our country is the politicians and lawyers who, when confronted with Playboy magazine in the sixties, did not have the moral fortitude to shut it down and throw Hefner in prison to think about his life choices. The reality is that they probably were hiding copies under the sheets of their own bedrooms.

There is no constitutional right to do or say that which harms others. To treat women as objects,  to promote that which destroys lives, to come to the defense of the sexually immoral, to destroy a country by destroying the families therein – this is not a right. Mr. Hefner made his choice, and in doing so, has done irreparable harm to millions. As a Christian, I must forgive you, Mr. Hefner, for leading me astray.  May God have mercy on your soul.

Obeying Jesus -When It Really Hurts

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Jesus Exorcising the Gaderene Demoniac

A few days ago, the Gospel reading for the Morning Office was Mark 5: 1-20. Anyone who is Christian will know what it is about when I say that it is the story of the Gaderene demoniac.  For those who might not know, this is the story of a man who somehow had wound up with a legion of malevolent spirits living within himself. The story gives no indication of why or how he found himself in this lamentable plight, only that it had severe repercussions for him.

Mar 5:3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:

He lived in a graveyard, away from family, and friends he may have once had. He lived among the dead, an appropriate place, for his life as such, was a kind of living death. The last part of the sentence is telling. Why would he need to be bound? I surmise that it was because he behavior was out of control, no matter in what situation in which he found himself. Perhaps he was given to fits of uncontrollable rage – for demons are filled with rage and malice – expressing himself by blasphemies, throwing of objects, or physically attacking others. Whatever his actions, he was persona non gratia in the town from which he had come, and all attempts to bind him had met with failure. Thus he was hounded out to the graveyards where he spent his life.

Mar 5:4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.

Mar 5:5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

His violent and unsociable behavior was not restricted to others. The demons within drove him to commit acts of violence against his own body. This is common in situations of demonic possession.  The hatred and malice of the demonic world would be all to glad to express itself in the utter destruction of every human being on the face of this earth – and the more agonizing, the better.  I cannot say for sure what percentage of destructive behaviors in our world today are demonic and what percentage are merely human stupidity, but I cannot image that this:

Image result for hideous tattooed people to be anything less than the handiwork of a malevolent spirit. So are a high percentage of the numerous addictions which plague our world – from sexual, drug, and alcohol, to the more respectable lusts for money, power, and prestige. There is a host of enslaving passions which keep human beings from being what they were created to be – joyful children of God, created in His image and free to love others.

The story of the Gaderene demoniac is a familiar story to me, having heard it in many sermons and gone through it as part of reading the  Bible.  Yet the other day, something came to my attention at the very end of the story. For some reason, as I read the narrative of this man who had experienced such a stunning deliverance from the powerful forces which enslaved him, the thought came to my mind of how ecstatic he must have been to have been freed from the passions which had driven him for years.

Mar 5:15  And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.

I can relate to this in a deeper and more powerful way than the average person, for in my teen years to my early twenties, I was driven by impulses and passions I could not control. I could easily have become the tattooed person in the above picture. My life was, as many other addicts have expressed it, completely out of control.

It is incomprehensible to the average person what it is like to wake up one morning and realize that for the last three weeks, you have not been driven by desires you did not understand and that deep within, you knew were warped and immoral. The visual distortion and psychological ravages of my LSD-induced mental breakdown were gone, along with the despair that I would never be normal again. On a snow-covered December day in 1972 I stood on the beach in Virginia Beach, Virginia and looked out on a world that had changed from dark and foreboding to bright and clear with promise for the future. The world was fresh and new, and a peace reigned in my heart that has continued to grow over the years. Like the man from the Gadarenes, in the depths of my gratitude, I wanted to follow Jesus anywhere:

Mar 5:18 And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.

The word “prayed” is not a good translation. The Greek expresses a fervent desire, a deep, longing passion to be with Jesus, to follow Him wherever God’s will might take them together. This verse and the next  stood out to me as I read. Can you see with me the worshiping  love in the eyes of the Gadarene for the One who had delivered him from the nightmare in which he was trapped? Do you hear his voice, filled with deeply impassioned pleas to be allowed onboard the ship with Jesus and the disciples. Look at how he prostrates himself before the One he has in an instant come to love and wish to give his whole life. Here in this place remains only the bitter memory of days and years of isolation, torment, and self-destruction. What lies ahead is a future with One who loves him in a manner he has never to this day known. Surely this love will let him go forth with Him.

But Jesus does not:

Mar 5:19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

Do you hear the love in Christ’s voice? I close my eyes and I see Jesus gently kneel down to the prostrate figure, begging to be allowed on the ship to go with his beloved Master, touching him with the hand of love and tenderly but firmly saying, “No. I need you to go tell your family, your friends, and your town the great things that the Lord has done for you.”  He lifts the formerly-possessed man to his feet, looks him in the eye, and tells him, “You will do far more good than you realize if you do this for Me.”

It is the hardest thing the Gadarene has ever had to do, but how can he deny the request of the One who has given back to him his very life?

At the end of  Peter Jackson’s wonderful film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Gandolf is about to board a ship which will take him from the Hobbits. Suddenly the remaining group are informed that Frodo will not be staying, but instead leaving with Gandolf.  What follows is a very touching scene as the hobbits bid an sorrowful farewell to one of their number who is so deeply loved by them. Pay attention to the final hug between Sam and Frodo. The intense, passionate embrace between these dearest of friends is what I imagine  when I think of the Gaderene bidding farewell to the Lord with a kiss on Christ’s cheek and tears in his eyes (this is a common expression of friendship for men in the Middle East). With one last look and nod of the head, he turns to fulfill the great commission he has personally been given.

Mar 5:20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

After finishing the last verse,  it occurred to me a way in which the Lord may have used his act of obedience. In a short time, Christ would be crucified, buried, and resurrected from the dead. When the news of this arrived in Decapolis, the Gaderene would be a living testimony, more powerful than mere words, that this Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Master over all spirits and flesh, the awaited Messiah.

“Yes, this Jesus is the man who freed me. He is our all-powerful Messiah. Do you remember what I was when you drove me from the city?  He is my Lord and Savior and I believe He has risen from the dead.”

That I understand also. I couldn’t wait to tell anyone who would listen to the story of how the Lord had made my life whole. I actually made quite a pest of myself, looking for any opportunity in a conversation or crowd to tell people about my experience of God’s grace. In gratitude I have tried to follow the Lord who delivered me from my addictions and gave me my life back.

Why is this story so appropriate for me today? Because now I find myself in a place I did not foresee and from which, had I been given foreknowledge of this destination, I would have gone in the other direction – as fast as I could. But inasmuch as I firmly believe there are no accidents in God’s providence, I know I am here, as uncomfortable as it may be, for some divine purpose which I cannot see. I spent a year in agony after being betrayed by those who should have been close friends and mentors to me. How often I had to pray “Not my will, but thy will be done.”  I may not come to see the results of my struggling to obey God’s will, but I am determined to believe that despite the hardships I am facing now, good will come some day. And on days that are especially difficult, I am determined to continue to go to Confession for my failures, then once again take up the cross I have been given and walk in obedience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Morons – Why Do People No Longer Listen?

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Our highly skilled and professionally trained crew of customer representatives are eagerly waiting to take your call.

I just disconnected from yet another frustrating exercise in telephone annoyance.  The more I use the phone, the more I find myself wondering how anything is getting done in this country.  No, I take that back – things are getting done.  They are being accomplished poorly and with little concern for quality or meeting deadlines.

Honestly, when I  verbally present my wife’s Email address, and the customer service representative on the other end of the line can’t even properly spell the name “Betsy,”  I just lose it.  If I were asking her to spell Kishacoquillas High School  (Yes, this is an actually high school in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania) I could understand her confused fumbling around and repeated requests for me to spell It.  But my wife’s name, “Betsy?” Come on!

What has happened to our educational system that people on the other end of my phone can’t spell simple English words?  I am not speaking about the people in India who are happily resolving my repeated problems with my computer. No, they actually appear to have a better command of the English language than many of my native-born fellow travelers.  When  their computer-operated cash register went down, I watched a young lady at my local Dunkin’ Donuts struggle to figure out that $4.32 from a $5.00 bill leaves .68 cents change.

And speaking of which,  how many times, dear reader, have you picked up your order from the drive-in window of some fast food joint, only to find out down the road that the bagel with cream cheese you ordered somehow during your drive to work magically evolved into a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant?  My experiences like this are legion, and if I as a single person have had this happen more times than I can count, it must be representative of a nationwide epidemic of  sheer incompetence.

My experience this morning is symptomatic of a deeper problem we have in this country. No one is listening anymore.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been on my phone, trying to resolve some problem with an overeager customer service representative who just kept talking, and talking, and talking.  Holy St. Peter…..shut the hell up and listen to what I am actually saying before you run on and on and on!!!  I have had conversations that go something like this:

“But on the fourth of April…..”

“Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak…..”

“But they already cashed the check…..”

“Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak……”

Ma’am, that’s not the issue here…..”

“Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak…..”

until finally, in a state of annoyed desperation I have to yell into the phone.

“WILL YOU SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO WHAT I AM SAYING?”

And then I am the one who is the bad guy.

 Morons morons everywhere - Morons morons everywhere  Toy Story Everywhere

Why is it that so many times, being forceful, rude, or downright obnoxious is the only way to get someone to pay attention to you?  It is as if I am dealing with a robotic program, or trained monkeys who cannot respond outside of the response parameters they have been given.  Seriously,  I have had people three times in a row repeat to me what sounds like a completely canned response.  When I ask “Are you hearing what I am saying?” I get the same response yet again.  It is maddening!

My first wife passed away in 2006, the beneficiary of 35 years of two-pack-a-day smoking.  It took four years for her lungs to go from needing supplemental oxygen to a state of unworkable mush.  Along that sad journey, numerous trips were required to the emergency room and our primary care physician’s office, to be referred to another specialist or written another prescription.  The particular event I speak of now happened almost 20 years ago, so I don’t remember the particulars, but after a number of times of getting wrong information and/or wrong prescriptions from the doctor’s office, I was completely fed up with the level of incompetence with which I was dealing. One day, after trying for five minutes to straighten out yet another botched  prescription over the phone with her doctor’s office,  like Bruce Banner splitting his shirt open in shades of green malevolence, I devolved into — SNOTTY!!!

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And earn it they did, a verbal dressing down of monumental rudeness and anger. Which exercise of my frustration resulted in being invited to visit with the office manager the next time we arrived at her doctor’s office.  While my wife is in with her physician, the office manager proceeds to give me a not so friendly questioning regarding “treating my people rudely,” accompanied by a warning that there are other doctors to whom we can bring her health concerns. I in return politely but firmly outlined the frustrations which had pushed me to the point of being obnoxious,  including my concerns over a wrongly written prescription which could have killed Karen quicker than the COPD that was taking her breath from her. Visibly embarrassed by the lack of professionalism I had detailed, he apologized and stated firmly that he would look into the matter, promising it would not happen again.

“Isn’t it a shame, sir,” I opined as I left his office, “that a person has to resort to being a rude jerk to finally get listened to?”

What has happened to our country that folks no longer listen? 

Vacuous Answers to Reasonable Questions – Part Two

In the first half of this musing, I brought up my general dissatisfaction with the Roman Church and how She has mistreated the Scriptures over the last century and made up doctrines which were not known by the Apostolic Fathers.

I recently came across yet another Facebook RC Traddie posting which seems to take a certain delight in the prospect of sinners roasting forever in the flames of hell.  Here is a bit of what he posted, a snippet from a “vision” that was had by St. Anthony Claret.

First, the fire is all-extensive and tortures the whole body and the whole soul. A damned person lies in Hell forever in the same spot, which he was assigned by divine justice, without being able to move, as a prisoner in stocks.

The fire, in which he is totally enveloped, as a fish in water, burns around him, on his left, his right, above and below. His head, his breast, his shoulders, his arms, his hands, and his feet are all penetrated with fire, so that he completely resembles a glowing hot piece of iron, which has just been withdrawn from an oven. The roof beneath which the damned person dwells is fire; the food he takes is fire; the drink he tastes is fire; the air he breathes is fire; whatever he sees and touches is all fire….

But this fire is not merely outside him; it also passes within the condemned person. It penetrates his brain, his teeth, his tongue, his throat, his liver, his lungs, his bowels, his belly, his heart, his veins, his nerves, his bones, even to the marrow, and even his blood.

“In Hell,” according to St. Gregory the Great, “there will be a fire that cannot be put out, a worm which cannot die, a stench one cannot bear, a darkness one can feel, a scourging by savage hands, with those present despairing of anything good.”

A most dreadful fact is that by the divine power this fire goes so far as to work on the very faculties of the soul, burning them and tormenting them. Suppose I were to find myself placed at the oven of a smith so that my whole body was in the open air but for one arm placed in the fire, and that God were to preserve my life for a thousand years in this position. Would this not be an unbearable torture? What, then, would it be like to be completely penetrated and surrounded by fire, which would affect not just an arm, but even all the faculties of the soul?

Does this at all bother you, this description which seems to be more in line with the actions of some pissed-off pagan “god” than that of our heavenly Father, of whom the Bible says He is love?  I don’t doubt that love has a good and sometimes severe spanking as one of its remedies for a rebellious child, but any father who would strap his child’s hand to a stove, turn on the flame, and leave it there as a punishment for misdoing would be summarily thrown in prison as an child abuser.  Yet this is the picture of God we get from the minions of the Roman Church.  And some of these folks seem to absolutely delight in this, as if this is a good thing for God to do to His wayward children.

So in response, I posted the following in the thread:

 Thinking out loud. Just wondering.

1. If this picture of hell is true, then why is the Old Testament simply silent about the existence of hell? Why did God not warn Cain before his murder of Abel that if he did so, he would be in an eternal fire of torment? Did God love the people of the OT less than those in the NT who have heard all these warnings?

2. Where in the Scriptures does it say that a offending (sinning against) a man of great stature. honor, and power deserves a greater punishment than doing the same sin against a poor beggar? I thought the Scriptures stated that God is no respecter of persons. How then does sin committed in a finite state deserve an infinite punishment?

3. If this truly is the end of all who persist in sin, and if God loves all mankind and wills that all be saved, then how is it that God allows the devil to tempt, trick, and triumph over mankind to our personal destruction? Why does God not give to all mankind, to every human being, a personal knowledge of Himself that would bring people to Himself? Why even allow temptation if it will result in damnation such as stated in this article?

4. Why did a great number of the saints of the Early Church teach that hell would have a restorative purpose to cleanse the soul and that hell would eventually come to an end? Why is there no mention of hell in the original Greek languages, nor any mention that the place of torment (Sheol) will last forever?

5. What does this picture say about the character of God? The God of this man’s visions sounds more like Zeus than Jesus, who is the God who came and incarnated Himself to save mankind.

6. If Hell lasts forever, then the devil wins, doesn’t he? I mean, if God is unable to eventually, through means not known to us, chastise, cleanse, and bring all souls to repentance and to Himself, then His power to save is not as great as that of the devil’s to damn. Have you ever considered this? If I was the devil in hell with billions of souls I had stolen from God and gotten to hate Him forever, cursing Him forever in the pit of hell, I would be bragging to God and rubbing it in His face that He was not omnipotent after all.

7. If sin and death will be finally defeated and no longer exist in the New Jerusalem of the Kingdom, then how can there be a hell where people continue to sin by hating God and cursing Him and His very existence? Doesn’t make sense to me.

8. How do I love such a fearful God who would do such things to poor human creatures? I am but a terrible sinner myself, and despite my best efforts and going to the Sacrament of Confession, I continue to sin. This vision gives me no hope and certainly does not make me feel like I have a loving heavenly Father.

I received the following reply, to which I have put in my current commentary in red

Edward: 1. Dahlia posted a link below regarding this.

The link was to another site which gave a vacuous and atrocious excuse for apologia regarding the idea of an eternal hell. The author simply threw up verses of scripture without any exegesis or explanation of them, to which I would love to see a rebuttal based on the fact that the Greek in the NT doesn’t say anything of the sort. The Greek word “aionios” does not mean “eternal.”  Yet all English translations, which are rooted in the Latin of Augustine, who admitted that he hated the Greek language and didn’t understand it, have this Greek word saying eternal.  Is this then really the “Word of God” when the very meaning of the original language has been changed?

2. This has more to do with rejection of earthly authority, which leads to rejection of heavenly authority. If you look at the Ten Commandments, the first few deal with how to respect God, but then we get to Honor thy Father and Mother, which deals in part with earthly authority. Hierarchy on earth teaches humility and respect to mimic the hierarchy in heaven where one must also have these traits.

Totally does not answer the question I asked. Show me a place in Scripture where it says that someone who offends a king is to be punished with a different and more severe punishment than someone who has offended a commoner. In the Bible, if I steal a sheep from you, I am required to pay it back, along with a certain addition for loss of the sheep’s productivity. No mention is mentioned in the Levitical laws of whether that sheep belonged to a king or a pauper.  Yes, there is rebellion against authority, but that is a different class of crime with a different punishment. There is punishment for defiance and rebellion against legitimate authority, but that was not what I was talking about here. I was talking about proportional punishment for sin.

3. If you’re on a deserted island with your wife, can you boast of her faithfulness? No, because she has no alternatives to you. God permits temptation because triumph over temptation breeds virtue and greatness.

One of the Top 10 WORST answers I have ever heard in my life!!!  Did you forget that we are not talking about some minor crime and punishment here. We are speaking about being tricked into eternal torment.  Eternal.  It doesn’t end, Bozo!!! That is far, far different from being tricked out of a ten dollar bill by a street corner con artist. The Scriptures state that God wills the salvation of all mankind. ALL.  If eternal torment is true, to allow the devil to trick and deceive me into damning my soul is in no way the actions of a God who wills that all be saved – and the Calvinists are right. That vision of God is an ogre who arbitrarily chooses some to be his slaves forever (love is not in the Calvinist paradigm) and damns others for His own glory. That is paganism as I see it, not the God of love who  died to save all mankind.

4. Please cite sources for which saints actually said this.

St. Issac the Syrian for one.   Here’s a list of the writings and Early Fathers who preached Patristic Universalism.  Do your homework and stop being so lazy. It is profoundly lazy to allow others to think for you and then sit there and parrot what they teach.  Anyone can do that. I did that myself for 25 years as a  Protestant before I got up off my duff and actually read some Early Fathers and realized that Protestantism cannot be found in any of the  Early Church writing.

5. God is perfect justice. Zeus didn’t punish people with eternal fire, so I think your comparison is stretching. Sinning against God, who is all good and in Whom all good is contained, merits great punishment. It may seem excessive to us, but if it is revealed to us through scripture and saints that this is what sin deserves, then that means we must reform our consciences and intellects to this will of God instead of whining like petulant children that it is too hard.

Exactly.  Perfect justice, which does not hang a child for stealing a loaf of bread. Perfect justice is outlined in the Bible, and through those writings, God shows us that lex talionis, the law of retaliation, whereby a punishment resembles the offense committed in kind and degree is the proper and just way to punish for offenses. Eternal burning fire that never ends is not lex talionis.  It is someone venting their spleen in anger and getting even, often way out of  proportion to the offense which was committed.  Such is neither a worthy description of our heavenly Father, nor descriptive of His impassibility. He is unchanging, therefore such passions as men have do not belong to Him.

6. The devil does not win over God because he is doomed to suffer for eternity. Not only that, but he has no power to damn because souls damn themselves. Is it winning to be the eternal king of the dung heap with the greatest of sinners as your subject?

Missed the entire point that I made.  Even in eternal hell (if such as you believe exists) the devil would gloat over the billions of souls which rightfully belong to God, but which he stole from under His nose.  If I as your enemy were to destroy your mansion with fire and you rebuilt only one room and then lived in its semi-destroyed state for the rest of your life, who won?  Mankind – that is, all of us who would ever exist – were cursed by the Fall. If mankind, all of us who would ever live, were not somehow redeemed and brought back to our original purpose, that is, divinization, then the devil wins.  It’s that simple.

7. Sin and death will be destroyed in the New Jerusalem. God is perfect humility. Sinners completely removed from Him in hell cursing His name doesn’t grate on Him the way it would to our prideful selves. You are thinking as man, not from His greater perspective.

Exactly the point I made earlier. God is immutable. He is not about getting His revenge. He doesn’t sit on the edge of His heavenly throne with fire in His face, growling in anger, offended, barely restrained by the hands of Jesus and the Virgin Mary from coming down and whuppin’ our butts.  That isn’t God, but you Romans and your eternal hell and visions of God are the ones who are thinking like man and putting ideas of mankind to God. He isn’t like that.

8. We do not get to make God in our image. If there is an all-powerful and all-good being who reveals to us that eternal pain is the only alternative to Him, then we must strive to live in Him and not be distracted by excusing the bad behavior of others because we disagree with the perfect omnipotent Creator. The problem is us in that instance, not God. If He did create the universe and author all life, we should be willing to concede that He may be able to see and know things that we don’t and give Him the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t even understand the point you are making here, but I will address the first sentence. It is not I who is making God in man’s image.  God Himself has given us His image in Christ Jesus.  God has told us that He is love.  You are the one not dealing with that. 

Does love seek to gain revenge, the kind of revenge of which the eternal hellists speak, or does love seek to restore after justice has been done?  Some people are never satisfied with mere revenge.  Look at the stories of men who have dug up enemies, long since dead, and burned their bones before scattering them on the river. That is the kind of thinking that the hellists have. 

In closing, take this passage from 1 Corinithians 13 and see if you can really apply it to the torments of eternal hellfire which are so popular among Western Christians:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Charity never fails.  Can it fail to bring to repentance even the most stubborn of sinners?The Early Fathers didn’t think so.  Only the Roman Catholic Church, with its saints who had visions of almost all mankind going to eternal hell, thinks this way.

These are just my thoughts today, which is what a blog is – a place to vent, to publish what I think, and encourage conversation.  I would like conversation on this subject, but only if you can give me some deeper thoughts than what I encountered on Facebook. I am worn out from fielding vacuous nonsense trying to pass itself off as deep thinking.

Vacuous Answers to Reasonable Questions – Part One

Some issues in life can be resolved with a fair amount of speed, the answers coming forth being both factually explained and clearly understood. Others, such as my continuing interest in Patristic Universalism, which flies in the face of sixty years of being taught that there is an eternal hell of torment, do not go away so quickly.  Add to this my confusion over which Church is the true Church (yes, it does matter!) and you have a man who spends an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking with others about these subjects.

Right now I am in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which church is in union with the Church of Rome, aka the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church believes itself to be the Church, and as such, also insists that anyone who is “in communion” with Her must hold to Her dogma. Therein comes the rub. I find that I no longer can swear my allegiance to all the teachings of the Catholic faith as expressed in Roman Church. Notice I did not say that I question and doubt the Catholic faith, just certain peculiarities of the Roman Church.

“What’s the difference?”

The difference is this: the word katholicos in Greek, from which we get the word “catholic,” means “universal” or “of the whole.”  St. Vincent of Lerins  defined the catholic faith as “that which has been believed everywhere, at all times, and by all people.” This shows a continuity of faith expressed in what is called “Holy Tradition.” Holy Tradition is simply a reference to those teachings about the Bible which were believed from the beginning. For instance, when the heretic Arias went about teaching that Christ Jesus was not God in the Flesh, but merely a creation of God, he defended himself at the Council of Nicea by appeal to and reasoning from the Scriptures alone, making himself the first to practice “sola scriptura.” The Fathers of the Nicea, on the other hand, responded by appealing to Holy Tradition, in essence saying, “Well, that’s all very interesting, but this is not what has been taught from the beginning.”  They referred back in history to all that the Church had taught through the saints and bishops who had come before and what they had said.

Which puts the Roman Church in a peculiar and bad light, since She teaches things that were never known by the Apostles or those whom they taught.  For a list of the problems with the Roman Church, you can to go Roman Presidency and Christian Unity in our Time by Fr. Thomas Hopko.  Father Hopko clearly outlines some of the additions to the Apostolic Faith which Rome has added over the  last millennia, and especially during the Medieval Ages, when the picture of sinners being roasted in an eternal fire gained popularity in the West.

The Catholic Church is not the Roman Church. She is a unity of twenty- three different sui juris churches who are in communion with Rome. This means that they share the opinion that the Holy Father of Rome is the head of the Church on earth, a position with which Orthodoxy does not agree.  These are the churches in unity with Rome:

To be sui juris, or self-governing means that while the pope is the head over the Catholic Church, each independent and self-governing body creates within itself certain particulars of practice and ordains their own clergy.  Thus, the Orthodox Church does not look favorably upon the pope appointing bishops within a sui juris church. As they see it, he is out of his jurisdiction. And this overreach has caused no small amount of angst in the Byzantine Ruthenian Church in America, which has been, for a number of decades, highly latinized, meaning that their Liturgy is no longer distinctively Eastern. They are slowly regaining their tradition, but things like married clergy, which is our right as Eastern Catholics, are coming very slowly after almost a century of the Roman Church telling us that we cannot do such a thing. Pope Pius X in 1907 issued an apostolic letter enjoining celibacy upon all Catholic priests in the United States. Many Greek Catholics were angered. They argued that by the 1646 Union of Uzhhorod their clergy had been granted the right to marry before ordination. Some members of the church snubbed the papal letter, and it remained unenforced.

This is the kind of meddlesome stuff I am speaking of, and it has left a distinctly sour taste in the mouths of many geriatric Ruthenians who are old enough to remember being bullied by the Roman Church. One priest, Fr. Alexis Toth, after enduring enough of the overreach of Bishop Ireland from the Roman Catholic Church, simply gathered together his congregation and left, becoming united to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Now why did I go into all this?  Because in dealing with Roman Catholics, there is a real tendency among them, especially the “Traddie” types, to insist that I, as an Eastern Catholic, must believe everything that is in the Roman Catholic Catechism.  There is still that triumphalist mentality among many Romans that if we are “catholic” then we must be Roman and adhere to Roman teaching.

PROBLEM!!!!

Many well-catechized Eastern Christian, understanding that our patrimony and history is from the Orthodox East and not the Roman West,  do not accept the teaching of indulgences, the Immaculate Conception, and other ideas which have been added since the schism of 1054 AD.  In addition, I recently found out that the Latin Church played rather fast and loose with the translation of the Scriptures. Matthew 3:2 in the Douay-Rheims translation of the  Bible is such an example:

3: 1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

And saying, do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Ah ah!  NO!  That is not what it says in the Greek!  The Greek word is “metanoia,” which means to change one’s mind, not to go into a cell somewhere and beat yourself bloody with a whip, which is the epistemological end this idea of “doing penance” will eventually take you to.

Now if the “pillar and ground of truth” can create a major league screw-up like that, either deliberately or by accident, then I think I have every good reason to question if they have been less than honest in other areas regarding the Christian faith.  Areas such as the teaching of a fiery eternal torment for sinners, the terror of which is most convenient to keep sinners in line with the behavior you wish them to exhibit.

Of course, and I’m not the first or original one to say this, looking at the state of the Roman Catholic  Church today,  I would say that the threats of eternal hellfire aren’t doing a very good job of fearing people into correct dogma and moral behavior.

Part Two

Trump, Transgenders, and Truth

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Well, as of  Wednesday morning, the cookies have really hit the fan in the Liberal media community.  Donald Trump has made it clear:  transgendered are not to serve in any capacity in the military.

So now we will face a dependable stream of indignation from the Left,  accompanied by the usual circus of boneheaded bigots from the Right, such as the KKK who will defend Trump, and in doing so, make people who oppose the normalization of transgender behavior seem like droop-jawed, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. I cringe to think that any day now, the people of Westboro Baptist will come out with a statement of their hatred,  smearing all Christians with the tar brush of their dyspeptic souls to make us look like hate-filled cretins for simply pointing out a fact: certain sexual urges and behaviors are not normal. It is a real no-win situation for those of us who wish to care for people, no matter how messed up they might be, and yet who have certain moral standards which cannot be flexed to accommodate the whims of the time. I guess this is where, for better or worse, I get to put in my .02 and let the arrows fly at me from both sides.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said that we are to love everyone,  no exceptions. We don’t get the luxury of hating anyone, even our enemies. This is a very tall order, one that most people lovingly oh and ah about when they read it in the Sermon on the Mount, but do not like to actually engage in.  It is highly more fun and self-aggrandizing to have a group of people to whom we can point and call names than it is to interact with them, especially if they A.) insist on pressuring us to do something we do not want to do  B.) verbalize their hatred for us in the most vile language possible, or C.) want to outright kill us.  Loving forgiveness, however, is exactly how Christ responded to His enemies who did all three of these things to Him, and killed Him in the most excruciating manner known to mankind.  Take time to reflect on just what He was going through on the Cross when He uttered those well-known words, “Father, forgive them, for they  know not what they do.”

At the same time, there is this delicate balancing act in which one who is a follower of Christ must not compromise with the moral, spiritual, and scientific realities of our lives while caring for others, which puts us in an uncomfortable spot when visiting with friends and family who may have the desire to not only flaunt their chosen lifestyle, but be very demanding and evangelical about it.  How does one maintain a friendship and at the same time say, “I’m sorry, but you’re wrong about that?”  A great deal of tact is required.

I have a dog in this fight.  My youngest daughter decided that she wanted to marry a man who thought himself a woman, which I guess made my daughter a lesbian. (?)  I’m not sure. It was too bizarre a relationship to understand.  The breaking point came when my daughter demanded that in addressing her spouse I refer to  him by his chosen female name, rather than his proper name, John.  I tried reasoning with her to no avail. She was having no parts of it. For her it was “my way or the highway” as far as her relationship with her father went.  I spoke to a couple of Christian counselors and a priest regarding my next course of action. They assured me that I could not validate John’s choices by going along with the demand to use his female name. I wrote what I thought were a couple of tactful letters explaining why John was confused and needed help.

This simply enraged my daughter. I wrote a final letter in which I discussed everything except John, hoping to maintain a relationship with her, which was something two of my other children said I should attempt. I have not heard from her since. This is the common response of not only transgender people, but of most folks who do not wish to hear others tell them something they do not wish to hear. My best friend of many years broke off his relationship with me after I converted to the Catholic faith.  I have written to him a couple of times and never received a response. Running from conversation rather than engaging in it, especially if your position is weak and cannot be defended, appears to be the order of the day.  How many people really want to listen to the other side, especially if the other side has arguments against your position which are hard or impossible to refute? This is what makes reaching out to those in the transgender “community” so hard. They do not want to consider that perhaps they need help, and become abusive when we try to suggest it to them, no matter how kindly we express our concern for their chosen behavior.

So how do we view Mr. Trump’s already notorious decision that transgender people are not to be allowed in the military?

The first problem to consider is that of what you might call esprit de corps. Our fighting forces are not the place for disruptive social experiments. Ranking officers know that the only way a unit can fight and win is if the unit thinks and acts as a cohesive whole.  This is why boot camp breaks men from self-centered individuals into single, united force. The individual is enmeshed into the group, and group-think takes over. Such things as women in combat, open and flagrant homosexuality, and transgenderism cause immense problems within the unit, therefore, they cannot be tolerated if the unit is to perform according to its expectations – that is, to kill the enemy and break things. The battlefield is no place for distraction in thinking about side issues regarding various forms of sexuality. And as one Iraq vet tweeted in response to the ongoing media kerfuffle , the battlefield is no place for those who are already under the stress of questioning who they are. While not everyone who is transgender will react the same under stress, the battlefield is not the place for experimentation regarding who will respond correctly when the bullets start flying.  Lives are at stake.

There is also the fact that most men are not terribly comfortable around open, expressive forms of sexual deviance from normal sexuality. This leads to the second point in my discussion – those who identify as transgender are about .03% of the entire population. The normal expression of sexuality is males attracted to females and vice-versa. Even those who identify as homosexual represent only around 5% of the population. Why then this great push to act as if they represent the vast majority of people? A space alien observing our media from afar would come to that conclusion,  and that heterosexual relationships are the oddity.

When I was in the workforce, I observed a wonderful and intricate robot which was packing boxes of candy into a carton. This is what it was designed to do. If, however, the machine suddenly began to pick up the boxes of candy and fling them against the far wall, the manager would have wasted little time in shutting it down and looking for the reason it was not operating according to its design. And no one would have accused him of hate speech if he said, “This thing is not acting right. We need to fix it.”

The human body is a wonderful machine. Through it we can enjoy the many delights of our world. By looking at it and studying its design, we see that it is divided into two forms – male and female. The male and female body are designed with parts that have certain functions. No one tries to breath through their liver. The liver is not made for that.  Likewise, the reproductive organs are made in such a manner that the male and female are complimentary, designed to unite with each other and produce life.  This is their function, and the body has a wonderful computer, the brain, which is designed to send signals to the rest of the body to accomplish this.  These signals are called “sexual attraction” and should attract males and females to each other.

It is no more correct to say that a person who is attracted to the same sex, or who thinks he is a female trapped in a male body, is functioning normally, than it would be to say that a packaging robot flinging candy all over a warehouse is acting according to design. Yet this is what we are being told we should say regarding those who think they are transgender people. Scientifically, through the observation of the human body, we have to say this is problematic. Their computer – the brain – has some wires crossed somewhere, and the compassionate thing to do is to find the source of the problem and fix it, not to let the machine keep flinging candy against the wall while we tell people it is operating normally.

Mr. Trump has once again stuck his foot in his mouth by insisting that the United States cannot afford to have the military sponsor “gender reassignment” surgery.  The Left has already seized upon this as a species of verbal legerdemain from the leader of a country which is spending money on war toys hand over fist.  Trump picked the wrong thing to say – again – and those of us who have legitimate concerns  regarding transgenderism will have to pay the price in the arena of public debate.  Some advice to anyone who wishes to speak against transgenderism in the military.  Do not speak in any way of the expense to the armed forces of sex-reassignment surgery . You will get your ass handed to you, and you deserve it. If you are going to drool over our military spending money in the trillions of dollars for an endless ability to sustain war, your argument against transgender surgery paid for by the military will seem the ultimate in hypocrisy.

So here is my take on Mr. Trump and what he said. I reserve the right to be utterly wrong on this, but I think I have some good points:

  1.  Regarding the military, this is not an issue of money, since we have an unlimited checkbook for throwing around $830,000 Cruise missiles like kids tossing water balloons at each other on a sultry summer day. The money is not the issue with me. It shouldn’t be with you, especially if you are one of those right-winger, war-hawk types who thinks that bombing the hell out of anything that moves is the answer to every problem on the face of the earth. It is strictly an issue of not creating disruption among the troops. Soldiers enlist to fight, not be distracted by wondering about another man’s sexual preferences.
  2. Scientifically speaking, someone who is a man and thinks he is a woman has a problem with the computer between his ears and needs psychotherapy.  If you are born a man, your brain should think like a man.  If it doesn’t, you need help.  Walt Heyer is one of many men who have come to understand that a sex change operation is not an automatic cure for deep-seated psychological problems. You can read his story here. Walt and many others like him who have come to regret their sex change surgery, are ignored by the Liberal media. Meanwhile, the suicide rate among those who have identified as transgender is 31%.  Something is seriously wrong, but Liberalism doesn’t want to go near this reality with a 10-foot pole. What they are doing instead is searching high and low to find as as many examples as they can of openly transgender men in the military who appear to be well-balanced and normal people.  None of them will speak of the fact that normalcy doesn’t include 45% of teens who identify as transgender attempting suicide.  They won’t go near the report by Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins Hospital in which he states that to be transgender is a mental disorder.  No, the Left is working overtime to present such thoughts as just one facet of normal life.  But our bodies and the science behind them says different.
  3. Finally, religiously speaking I come to the most difficult part of our burden for those who find that they do not have normal sexual urges. God loves all people. We as Christians need to share that love, but it is all too easy to be aloof and judgmental. In my own way, I am every bit as broken in God’s sight as my daughter and her spouse.  Despite this reality, I must stand for that which is the truth of God’s creation – maleness and femaleness – and the proper use of our sexuality.  In no way does standing for this mean that I am somehow “holier-than-thou.”  If my priest were actually allowed to share what I confide in the Confessional, you would know this to be fact. What the Christian faith wants for all of us broken people is that we find our deepest fulfillment in becoming what we were created to be – children of God who walk in freedom from debasing passions. This includes not only LGBTQ people, but straight men who are enslaved to pornography,  women who flit from romance to romance not being able to find real intimacy, and the myriads of addictions which enslave people: racial hatred, war-mongering, addiction to money and power, lust for food, drink, and the many other poor substitutes for a real, living intimacy with both God and others which brings true peace to the heart.

To stand for the truth in a world that is enamored with lies is a truly loving act, especially when the lies are damaging people in a myriad of ways. This is the time when the Church needs to proclaim the Good News that God loves all, that peace, freedom, and healing from passions can be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. We as Christians have the truth. Let us use it both lovingly and wisely to bring people the peace they are seeking through so many false venues.

REFLECTIONS ON DYING

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There was a time when I was taking twenty-seven pills a day. Every day. Every day was the same tiring routine for me. Twenty seven pills is a lot of pills to take, especially for someone who has always found swallowing pills to be a hard business. I kept them in one of those brightly-colored, plastic pill containers you can buy at any drug store or grocery store with a pharmaceutical aisle. Red, yellow, blue, purple. Four plastic rows of four colors that separated my pill-taking in to four times of the day– morning, noon, supper, and bedtime – although I was not all that prompt about taking them. My nutritionist told me that  missing occasionally was okay, as long as I was making the attempt at taking them, which, of course, gave me an excuse to cheat and sometimes skip a morning or evening.

Evenings were harder for me than mornings. By evening  of any day I am tired and I just want to go to bed.  Pills and the world took a back seat to my desire to just get to sleep and put one more day behind me.

I took this conglomeration of pills because sometime back in the 1980’s, before there was proper screening, I received a pint of infected blood. I went almost twenty years without even knowing about it until one day I decided that as part of my routine yearly physical, I should have the doctor do a complete blood panel.

His follow-up letter was terse and to the point. Something not right with the blood test. An anomaly of some sort. We want you to come in so we can retake your blood and find out what exactly is going on. Something is not right. I didn’t think much of it. I had been healthy for decades, never having had a major surgery or illness that I could remember. Probably nothing.

It turned out to be Hepatitis C.

So why do you take all those pills every day? And what’s this about a “nutritionist?”

The simple fact is that after I did a little online research of the illness, I didn’t like the odds stacked against me with the use of what is termed “conventional medicine.” The standard treatment is a drug – if you can call it that because it is found normally in the body – called Interferon. It is quite expensive, the full spectrum treatment costing around $50,000 for a year’s dosage, but it works only about a third of the time, and makes the person taking it as sick as a dog. I mentioned this last part in the form of a question to the nurse in the office of the gastroenterologist  to whom my family doctor referred my case.

“Oh, yes!” Her smile was cheery. It wasn’t she who was about to enter into a journey of misery.  “We recommend you take your shot on Friday so you can be sick the whole weekend.” Again with the big smile.

I squelched a desire to say something profoundly nasty to her, walked out of the office, and the following week drove to see an old friend at her health food store. Marta listened intently, then described to me the various herbs which would attack the virus and detoxify the liver to help it rejuvenate. It’s a marvelous organ, this giant filter for the body. Cut one in half and it will regenerate the missing half. I had microscopic beasties trying to destroy mine, eating away at the cells, pushing me towards liver failure. It was war, and I in turn declared war upon them and began to supplement myself with all manner of good things which would aid my liver by detoxifying it and helping it regenerate. The only sad part of it all was an elongated and very sad farewell to Yuengling Lager. No sense in helping the little bastards kill me.

A few months later, my family doctor showed me a copy of the letter the gastro doctor had sent to  him. It was filled with all sorts of impressive sounding medical jargon, describing in detail the numbers and factors in my blood test which proved I indeed had contracted Hep C. I found the last summary paragraph to be profoundly irritating. It said something to the effect of  “Mr. Hara has decided to pursue a course of vitamins and supplements by which to treat his infection. We expect to see him when he is finished with his little experiment.”  The tone was unmistakably snotty. I wanted to call him up and tell him what a pretentious ass I thought him to be, but I decided I had better things to do with my life. Never setting foot in his office would be one of them. That was twenty years ago. I’m still alive and doing fairly well. He’s probably dead by now.

I was doing well for a number of years, or so I thought, but a visit last year to my second wife’s gastroenterologist showed that I had progressed from Stage One, where I had been for many years, to Stage Three.  Stage One is the beginning stage. Stage Four is “You need a liver transplant – NOW – or you will be dead within months.”  To my lifelong gratitude – however many years I do have left – Dr. Scudera and his marvelous assistant, Rachel, got me on one of the new medications which do actually effect a cure rather than give false 30% cure-rate hopes.  I am now, as of last month, officially free of the virus.  The next part of this horrid little adventure is to hope that the scarring in my liver does not turn into cancer.  We will have to keep an eye on that every six months, but for now, I am alive, my liver damaged but functioning, and my future much more hopeful.

Back to the pills.  They were a daily reminder of my mortality. None of us likes to think about such grim business as death, but the combination of pills and the general aches and pains of a sixty-five year old body were undeniable reminders that my days are growing shorter.   Four years later now, I am even closer to that day which is marked on God’s celestial calendar as “Edward Hara comes Home today.” I think of it fairly often, the slowing of my energy and numerous problems reminding me that I am not going to live forever. I have already outlived a number of my friends who died too early. We say that – “died too early” – but believing as we claim to that all is in God’s hands, they really died right on time. It was just too early for us, for our friendships, for the time we wanted to spend with them and didn’t get to. Sometimes I see obituary notices for famous people and I am led to think, “Hmmm….he was three years younger than I am.” and it again prods me to double check my will. I believe there are some loose ends that need to be tightened up.

So I spend a lot more time nowadays thinking about death from time to time. What is it going to be like? No one knows. Oh, I’ve heard the “bright light” stories of those who claim to have died and been brought back to life on the operating table. I find them unsatisfactory at best. For one thing, the accounts tend to be contradictory and lean towards the particular religion of the person who “died.” Catholics see the Blessed Virgin Mary. Protestants don’t. Okay, can we get our stories straight here?

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve had three members of my immediate family die and I wasn’t there when it happened – by deliberate choice. My father was the first. I laugh at how long he lived – a few months short of ninety– considering how badly he took care of his body as a young man. A medium to heavy regimen of cigars, cigarettes, and booze and he absolutely refused to see a doctor for a yearly checkup. Dad simply had no time for them. He was a stubborn old cuss about it, too, despite my Mom’s nagging him to get a checkup. A bum hip joint finally tightened up to the point that he couldn’t ignore the pain. Old bones grinding together until he could no longer put on his tough guy face and pretend everything  was okay. An operation, a nice, new titanium hip replacement, and even after all that, it was still a chore to get him to see a doctor.

A few years later he wound up in Doctor’s Hospital in Lanham, unable to breath through what was left of his lungs. He was transferred to Georgetown Medical Center where he died one night, alone and without the benefit of anyone being by his bedside. I kept thinking that I should go down and be with him, even though he was unconscious, but the hospital was three hours from where I lived and I couldn’t justify in my mind going there and waiting and waiting and waiting, not knowing how long he would remain. So my father died alone and I stayed in Pennsylvania to take care of my wife, who was also sick.

She was the next to die.

Karen was healthy until the infamous Three Mile Island incident took place. I had the fortune of being out of town on business – a convention in Atlantic City which my employer insisted I attend in order to learn about new products and meet some of the clients we represented. She was alone in the mobile home, only ten miles from the power plant as the reactor melted down and a cloud of radioactive materials was sprayed all over the surrounding landscape. Without a car – Karen never learned to drive and didn’t wish to – she was there for the whole weekend. Two years after that, her thyroid began to act up, followed by adult onset diabetes. The two packs of cigarettes she smoked daily didn’t help either. By the time my father died, Karen was on oxygen, dragging the little green tank around behind her on wheels or using the portable sit-down unit as she sat on the couch watching TV. I spent four years watching her slowly waste away, an ugly business made even worse by spending the last two years in a coma after a stroke took away her ability to move and communicate.

One day, our adult children came to me, before the first of two strokes reduced Karen to an immovable mass of flesh, a person trapped in a world without motion or the ability to communicate anymore. We could all see her going downhill and they sat me down for an important discussion. One by one they agreed that they didn’t want to see Mom put in a nursing home.

“We can all take care of her.”

The mood and the subject were serious but there was upbeat determination. Mom would stay home, surrounded by loving children and husband. That was the plan, the ideal we all thought we could pull off until the social worker who cared for Karen’s medical payments and other issues got wind of our plans. She made us sit down with a home care nurse, who gave us a very detailed explanation of just what it is like to care for someone with her level of illness. We listened, our faces becoming more somber with each detail until we understood that the job would entail far more than we could handle at her level of illness. A few weeks later, the first stroke settled the issue and Karen died at York County Nursing Home on September 26th, 2006. She was fifty-four years old. And again, I was not there for the death of someone in my family.

Nor was I there for my mother’s death. Mom lasted a long time – 97 years to be exact – which is really somewhat amusing to me because all her life she made people think she was constantly on death’s doorstep. I grew up hearing her litany of complaints, her aches and pains, and the constant swirl of doctors for every malady. Maybe my Dad’s refusal to go to any doctor was backlash against it all. My brother took care of her for the last ten years of her life after Dad died, and he deserves a medal of some sort for doing so. Mom was always demanding and insistent on getting her way, but as her mind began to slip into foggy moments of dementia punctuated by semi-lucidness, all the latent impulsiveness came out and was taken out on my brother.

He once told her that her hair appointment had been cancelled and in response she screamed at him and shoved him. Even though she was only about eighty pounds at the time, she almost knocked him over and down the steps to the den because it took him by surprise. During the last six months of her life he called me weekly to unload a torrent of complaints punctuated by angry swearing. He couldn’t afford a nurse round the clock and because of that, he wasn’t sleeping, which made things even worse for him. Every time he would manage to doze off, as if some devilish radar operated in Mom’s mind, she would call him to be picked up and put on the toilet. He screamed, he yelled, he cursed in frustration, yet three months after she died, I spent half an hour on the phone trying to alleviate his guilt for the times he screamed at me, “God, I wish she would just die!”

I saw her the night she died. She barely weighed fifty pounds. At under five feet tall, Mom had never been a large woman to begin with, yet the shrinking of her already tiny frame made her look strangely like a little girl. She appeared not at as a woman who was almost a hundred, but a rather, a five year old child, small, delicate, frail. We talked for around an hour. She asked me about her grandchildren – over and over and over again – because her short term memory was gone. I gave her the same answer each time, kissed her goodnight an hour later, and left her in the care of my brother and the hospice nurse. He called at seven the next morning to tell me that she was gone. And I wasn’t there either.

This has been my relationship with death. I haven’t wanted to see it, stalking, taking people away, making them do the things they do in the last moments of their lives before they give up the ghost. But now it stalks me and I am not only aware of it, I realize that there is no getting away from it. I cannot deny it. Every ache in my body, every time I am sick, which is more frequent now, reminds me that I am not young anymore.

I admit now what you, dear reader, have probably already realized – I’m scared of death. I am embarrassed to say this because I shouldn’t be.  I shouldn’t be because I profess to hold a religious faith which teaches that there is life beyond the grave, and a very beautiful one at that. Nonetheless, it is too….too unknown for me. Will it hurt? What will it feel like? What will it be like to be conscious on the other side of this life? I am a person who likes answers. Mysteries intrigue me, but only because I enjoy figuring them out and coming up with answers, something tangible I can grasp with my understanding. Death evades such clarity and understanding. Death mocks me with unknowingness, a mystery unwelcome by all.  I mean, really, who spends free time pondering death? It is not the invited subject of the cocktail hour or the dinner party. It is the unwelcome one, the dark, slinking visitor who whisks all away without warning. The hope of every man and woman is to go to sleep and simply not awaken, yet all about us we see violent and painful death impose itself upon mankind. The reality of such potential ugliness scares me, and my inability to figure it out, to come up with any form of answer as to what that moment will be like, scares me even more.

What will it be like and when? I don’t know. All I do know is that I am a lot closer to it than I was ten or twenty or thirty years ago. The day continues to move ever closer. Perhaps if I had not been such a coward – if I had taken the time to be with my loved ones – perhaps the mystery would not be so imposing. My daughter, Jennifer, who was with her mom at the moment of death, said that she suddenly sat up, took a breath, and died.  I had a friend do the same thing.  I have read in stories of people who see family members, who see the bright light and feel peace.  Will that be my experience?

I have run from death, and in doing so, have created a terrible mystery for which I have no answer.