Is Putin Christian? How are we Christian today?o

By human definition, Putin is Orthodox Christian. He was raised Orthodox Christian by his mother. His father was atheist and also a career with KGB. Putin “joined” the Orthodox Church at age 41 and has used their platform to garner support ever since. I think most of the world sees Putin as Godless. Interestingly a right-wing think-tank below states the same despite the risk of the same arguments underpinning GOP connection to evangelical Christianity.

I have not seen any news regarding the Russian Orthodox Church speaking out against the war and violence.

https://www.heritage.org/europe/commentary/how-putin-uses-russian-orthodoxy-grow-his-empire

The Vatican and Pope Francis has condemned the war. Regardless, this is not a religious war. This is a nation state war run by a man who is at heart, his fathers son. Religion, like everything else including oil and human life, is a means to an end. Ruthless. Neither spiritual dialogue or atheist ethical or moral relativism will reach this man.

He is the spearhead for several autocratic nations declaring a return to primal means of achieving power. China, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and other anti-western nations are vocally supporting Putin. They are not alone: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/25/where-do-russias-allies-stand-as-western-powers-slam-moscow.

The UAE also is supporting Russia. They are aligned with what they see as their long-term economic interest. Morality, humanism, spirituality, and freedom are not weighed in this calculation. Saudi Arabia also has joined the Russian talking points, not surprisingly, they executed 81 people yesterday.

NATO is also calculating and minimizing its exposure. They are doing more then Russia calculated and this has shocked both the East and the West. A large part of their peoples are supporting Ukraine on moral and humanitarian grounds, some on spiritual beliefs. Putin is counting on paralysis and withering support.

Where is the Christian believer in this war? Outside of both religion and government. They are with those suffering, the poor, and the oppressed. Like Christ and early Christians, they are powerless to stop the war or unravel the geopolitical of shifting alliances and resulting tragedies. Yet they must bear witness, sacrifice, and shed light.

The Ukrainian people themselves are the brightest star in the sky today while suffering grave loss of life and livelihood today.

The war pulls at my human heart. First and foremost for the Ukraine people. Then for the soldiers on both sides. And downstream the millions that will be pushed into poverty as a result of this war.

It also pulls at my human yearning for revenge and violence. Not at all Christ-like. Seeing Ukraine’s defend their homes, I am happy to see Russian forces pay a dear price, until I think of the conscripts who had no idea they would be invading their neighbor, who are dying not knowing why, and for their families left behind.

In an overly simplistic manner, I blame Putin. However, we are all responsible for embracing strong men autocrats, militarism, inequality, and injustices worldwide that diminish the value of human life. That allows men like Putin to take many lives today.

It is a time for most of us to feel spiritual desolation. Some, ones I am covetous of, have faith so strong and vibrant that neither war nor death nor personal suffering diminish their faith. In fact, when confronted with this misery they rise above the suffering and their faith precedes them in everything they do. The saintly ones even ask to take their brothers suffering if God wills it. Today people in Ukraine and the world over are doing that in large and small ways.

I have no interest in Putin’s faith or Putin himself. The rest of the world controls Ukrainian destiny including the Russian people. I pray for their help.

Selfishly I am glad we are not sending marines and other forces abroad – though my inner barbarian wished we had.

It is hard to phantom the “end” of freedom or “end” of a democracy or other ways of life. We take that for granted in the U.S. Our way of life is at risk. The Ukrainian people’s plight and suffering is a wake call for American citizens to stand up and demand accountable governance and accountable voters. Toxic disunity must end and civility restored. Our torn nation cannot lead without unity. Without unity democracies worldwide are at risk.

Is it possible to call to arms all people spiritually and politically…

Recent update: Russian Orthodox stick by Putin.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/13/nyregion/russian-ukrainian-orthodox-churches.html?referringSource=articleShare

They

It is in my religious ethos to reject the singular pronoun They. The tentacles of ingrained passionate belief infused with only a peripheral understanding of the field of linguistics, a limited experience with challenges of accurate translations, and a high degree of contextual historical uncertainties is a recipe for potentially grave error with far reaching consequences.

We have a modern day Tower of Babel edifice before us. Stack original language of Adam and Eve, oral traditions, multiple transliterations, cultural and historical contexts, gender and identity science and human realities, and politics one upon the other for at least 2000 years and now tell me we are experts on our religious ethos with even the simplest challenge – use of one pronoun.

Genesis 11 (NIV) dependent on your view gives a mythological or historical account as follows:

“11 Now the whole world had one languagand a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lordsaid, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun To do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel —because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

In the very foundation of Jewish and Christian scripture we have acknowledgement that we, for whatever divine purpose, are incapable of understanding each other with something as simple as language, never mind content.

Language is mutable since the original Adamic language used by Adam and Eve. There is ambiguity there as well. Dante’s literary works have broad Jewish, Islamic, and Christian influences as an example of one Christian exploring the meaning of life and death through the longest poem I have ever read. His view was language is by its nature very mutable.

There is archeology supporting a historical site in Modern day Iraq. After that I leave the rest up to your inquiry and imagination.

However, I mentioned language and real consequences. The use of the singular “he” to represent both he and she has only recently become accepted as “they” due to acknowledgement that our language fundamentally is flawed and patriarchal – representative of a primitive time that does not account for spiritual, scientific, and overall human development.

As a white, Christian male it is easy for me to avoid this reality and self-serving as well. Now, let’s take the unfathomable leap to LGBTQ issues. The Washington post link at the end below discusses an actual legal case where the court refused to use a pronoun that most accurately represents the individuals identity. There are cases pending at every level of state and federal courts impacting the rights of LGBTQ in individuals today. This case has a central character that is hard to support as the primary charge is child sexual abuse – we are apt viscerally to use an all together new pronoun not listed below. However, there are countless cases of LGBTQ issues being fought in what amounts to a cultural war on people I do not understand, on people that can confuse me. I have a hard enough time understanding my wife and daughters perspective and the use of “they,” never mind the plethora of terms that can capture gender available today:

I like to believe I am open-minded and attuned to my ignorance and lack of definitive knowledge of complex human issues as well as divine certainties. The grammarian in me knows I can barely use pronouns appropriately and can often interpose the Nominative, Objective, or Reflexive terms accidentally, never mind use of Ze or Ey.

How can I objectively define another persons Gender Identity and do I have that judgement right to begin with anyhow? Even the term for “God” lacks uniformity amongst the worlds major religions and even within singular faiths.

I am dismayed at the rigidity of our use of language and its applications when used to dehumanize others, define others, and assign them a hierarchical order in our world based on our imperfect knowledge of each other and ultimately of divine will.

Philosophically and practically oriented we prefer as human beings prefer to define with certitude our understanding of the natural and spiritual laws of our universe. Historically we have ample evidence that we have been dead wrong in matters spiritual, philosophical, sociological, and scientifically time and again.

What is it about human nature that allows our religiosity to exceed its domain of seeking divine truths with humility to assuming we are God’s will with absolute certainty?

There are absolute truths known to mankind. They are fewer than we presume. Language and LGBTQ issues are not one of these absolute truths other than “they” are human and share equally with “us” all things within our human experience. In essence “they” and “us” are “we” – one and the same, no separation or individuation other than the artificial ones we impose on each other.

This is alarming to some. You could apply the same logic to immigration issues, nationalistic and globalization conflicts, and the way we govern the world – where does it end? What, are we to have no laws or social mores?

To the contrary, in our lack of certitude we would have greater wisdom and more cautious mutable laws ever evolving as more is revealed. Our minds and hearts would be eager and ready to embrace with weighty spiritual discernment and collective conscientious matters small and large without preconceived assumptions that go untested. The knee jerk political whims of current political leaders would not be used destructively against others by manipulating the passion of specific groups.

The individual would at once hold any issue both from there own self-vested position and from the position of others, for they know, they are one and the same.

The walls between Democrat and Republican collapse through dispassionate and honest dialogue. The same between interfaith and other artificial divisions.

For the Christian reader you are called to especially embrace the other more so than those you get along with – that is no effort at all. Perhaps the true expression of Divine will is how we engage with those we do not understand, with the strangers, the refuges, the faithless, the sinners, and the reviled, untouchable ones. Yes, we still have a society where we cast out people.

Sometimes we cast them out with a simple choice of pronouns.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-judge-said-calling-a-transgender-woman-her-would-show-bias-oh-please/2020/01/19/7d3a9f3c-3965-11ea-bb7b-265f4554af6d_story.html

Perhaps a return to music and art can revitalize what we miss with words….

Transformation in Christ: Part IX

Door Knockers:

Two men in suits rang my bell today.  There was no chime as the battery is dead.  In a moment of weakness I ducked my head under a blanket and considered if they were politicians, Jehovah’ Witnesses, or unusual door to door sales men?  I peered back out and the two were conversing casually patiently.  Now the lead unwanted intruder into my Saturday a.m. peace knocked at the door.

door

Reluctantly my Christian attitude kicked in and my juvenile inclination to avoid this encounter subsided.  Baptist preachers they turned out to be inviting me to their 53rd Anniversary tomorrow.   Several steps below my anathema for Jehovah Witnesses these two would be simple to dispatch.

The main doctrinal differences with the Catholic Church are significant but not opposed to the central tenets of our mutual belief in Jesus Christ.  Baptist believe in baptism for adults (people ready to fully accept God) versus Catholics that perform infant baptisms.  Baptist has a strong message of salvation through faith in God alone whereas Catholics have the same and the rich traditions of the Holy Sacraments.   Many Baptist are Catholics who have been re-baptized as adults.  There is a further theological split in history between Baptist and Anabaptist.   There is no end to the divisions and splinters of Christianity from the great schism in 1054, to the Protestant Reformation, and the very history of the formation of the Roman Catholic Church itself.[i]    Our shared history beyond the historical life of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection is often muddied and convoluted by century’s old theological and religious interpretation – not to mention political influences and outright co-opted churches and religious leaders.

4c6b5cc8019eb2ed3a77173ba72a3cbb--political-satire-political-cartoons

Sometimes people do not want to hear your version of Christianity!

Warm greeting, gratitude for their visit and evangelism to the community, acceptance of pamphlets and wish you a good day was not enough to dispatch these two gentlemen.

The opener debate was do you believe your eternal life (going to heaven) is certain?   No, I answered.  He answered it is certain if I believe and quoted John 3:17.  I knew enough of the bible both old and new to advise him it would be foolish of me to assume with certainty my belief that I had a spot in heaven with certainty and I would deem anyone proclaiming this with certainty foolish as well.

He returned to his certitude for which I am sincerely joyful for him and for his neophyte, if not outright jealous of their confidence.  He did acknowledge he could not know but the bible tells him it is so and again quoted John 3:17.  On his way the two left I presume feeling somewhat purposeful on having educated and delivered a nugget of salvation to this misinformed Catholic.

Perhaps it is a good thing Catholics generally do not go door to door.[ii]  The greatest blemishes of the Catholic Church, aside from pedophile, includes the dark history of persecuting heretics, the holy crusades, inquisitions, anti-semanticist positions, and other grave errors as an institution.   Lest we forget we must never error to assume that we possess alone the self-righteous authority to impose our will on others under the name of our God.  We remain with at least one solid foot grounded in this earthly existence and with that equal opportunity to perform evil actions contrary to what is divinely defined as living a holy life.

These two were lucky I did not invite them in to my home with my faith’s religious history of addressing non-conformist!  Now that they have left safely, I can’t but help take a look at John 3:17:

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

Not to compelling with that little word “might” at the end of the sentence.  Maybe I should see if they still are on the block?  Let me not blot their day and impinge on others receiving a nugget of confrontation with the Baptist and bible scripture.

Holy Mercy:  (Chapter 15)

I was not inspired this morning to write on “Holy Mercy,” continuation of my review of “Transformation in Christ” by Dietrich Von Hildebrand (DVH).  However, this morning interlude with the door knockers awoke me to the distinction between showing Mercy and Receiving Divine Mercy.

Human Compassion and Mercy:

Dietrich defines for us, to keep things clear, the distinction between mercy and compassion. Compassion presupposes we are equal with the person we are giving comfort and aid to and we are demonstrating we too are like them, we understand and could very well be in their shoes.

Mercy by its nature says I am greater than you!  It implies a power differential that simply cannot be ignored.  It is the elephant in the room.  The fate of one is at the mercy of the other.  It can be an uncomfortable situation for both parties.

How do you know if you are even in the position to perform Acts of Mercy? Mercy is to give only if we have the power to effect change in the subject we give our Mercy to and we do so humbly without benefit to ourselves.

It is a unique situation where we do something we are not obligated to do like forgive a debt (unconditionally), feed the poor (without a tax break, social status credit, or other self-interest motive), or forgive a personal injury at the hands of another (like not to prosecute a thief).

It is in its nature pretentious and condescending as we are the sole driver of the action and we in essence take pity on the recipient by showing mercy.

Through these actions, if we demonstrate Mercy towards others, we can get a glimpse of divine mercy.

Active Acts of Mercy and Charity:   

“Whenever we have to deal with a person laboring under any kind of inferiority, whether it is moral depravity or intellectual debility, vital deficiency or lack of culture, a misshapen body or grievous poverty, or any sort of social disability – we must not only not enjoy our advantage but painstakingly avoid letting our partner feel his inferiority in any fashion.  In charity we must draw him to ourselves so as to extinguish in him all sense of oppression and inferiority.” (DVH)

What is your true instinctual response when confronted with abject poverty, disease, moral depravity, or physical deformities that are neither your responsibility or within your personal or professional calling in life?  Do you consider acts of Mercy as often as you can?  The Catholic Church in its year of mercy provides 14 examples of works of Mercy:

Hands_of_Mercy

Now back to the question of the door knockers:  Can we be certain of our own eternal life?  Without witnessing acts of mercy, receiving mercy, or performing acts of Mercy the path to certainty of eternal life by divine mercy through faith alone is a steep climb.

The Baptist Pastor and I are saying the same thing – without a grounded faith (which if true and genuine beyond throwing coins into the offering plate) we are apt to have no reference to truly believe in eternal life.

The pastor appears on the surface to have greater certainty than me in his redemption and in all likelihood will be judged more favorably than I with regards to his unwavering faith.  His evangelical work no doubt re-enforces his faith.  He has the knowledge that faith includes deeds and action.  For him it is one and the same.  Still I believe his certainty is taking for granted the limited nature of human understanding of how God may interpret our worthiness.

I have to turn to James to expand on the “may” term above and put caution to relying on faith alone:

  14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  James 2:14-17

It seems to me faith alone not only short changes one’s long term eternal prospects but also ones immediate sense of purpose as well.  What are we without actions and deeds?  Our actions and deeds are perhaps the only capital we have to give.  Everything else is given to us including our corporeal bodies, the air we breathe and the water we drink.

This is not such a tall task.  What if we were to feed many tomorrow?  Are we in good standing?  The act of feeding the masses can be a noble act, but if done with wrong intention is perhaps worse than doing nothing at all.

Feeding the masses with the purpose to demonstrate to all who could see how good we are while also putting those we have fed in a position of indebtedness to us at the same time?  Would this act be showing Mercy?

A criminal can be set free through no action of his own by a presidential pardon.  Does President Trump’s string of pardons ring of genuine Mercy?

As it turns out dispatching Human Mercy turns it can be both extremely simple to carry out and equally simple to distort it’s holy purpose.  “Mercy is an unmerited act of kindness to someone in need.”[iii]

In some cases to demonstrate Mercy may not benefit the one shown mercy or the one giving it and perhaps even harm others in the process.  Mercy by definition contradicts our human measures of justice.

And yet we know it is called for and is honorable to perform acts of mercy when we find ourselves in the position to be able to effect a positive change. Dietrich retells the parable of the prodigal son returning home as an act of Mercy.  How much more powerful is mercy when we show it to complete strangers?

Deeper still:

 1011_blessed_are-the_merciful_for_they_shall_obtain_mercy

Selig sind die Barmherzigen, denn sie werden die Barmherzigheit erlangen by Ernst Barloch, 1916 Lithograph

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”[v]

You have signed on and accepted faith and acts are necessary for living a peaceful and holy life.  On deeper examination our actions are still hollow if not linked to our understanding of Jesus Christ, the redeemer of our souls, who wiped away original sin and made possible, if we accept through faith his redemption, forgiveness of our multiple sins committed today, yesterday and tomorrow.   In essence, if are so fortunate to be able to perform an act of mercy, we are doing so imitating Jesus Christ and the Holy Father, who gave his only son to redeem our souls.    And if we were able to imitate Christ in this fashion we would surely perform such acts by “painstakingly avoiding letting our partner feel his inferiority in any fashion.”  We ourselves, acting as we think Jesus Christ would want us to act, would by that very framework recognize humbly that our work is not ours, but the divinely inspired plan of God.  We would be actualized in holy transformation.  And by demonstrating mercy ourselves we open up ourselves to God’s mercy as well.

Our act of mercy would carry with it the power of the holy trinity infusing the act with a ray of love and purity of intent that would be truly transcendent.

Divine Mercy: 

If I have learned anything from seeking God, from reading transformation in Christ, from prayer and contemplation it is that I am imperfect and so comprehensively not saintly material.  Without Divine Mercy I am hopelessly condemned by original sin (theologically) and by own folly in things trivial and serious.  With God’s mercy and forgiveness and my faith and actions in earnest, Mercy is not guaranteed but highly likely if you share my view of God being a loving and personal god.

Dietrich spares only a little ink on God’s mercy.  His intent is on how we transform our actions, not presuming to detail God’s infinite omnipresence and mercy in this chapter.  However, we are not without guidance from the bible:

With God All Things Are Possible

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”[vi]

It would seem that this passage is similar to the message of the door knockers.  Despite my actions all things are possible if it is God’s will.

The door knockers, Dietrich’s chapter on Holy Mercy, Sacred scripture, and the various footnoted references have emboldened me to say we can as imperfect people live our lives close to holiness today.  Guided by the Sermon on the Mount, open to the Holy Spirit, practicing our faith through prayer and action, and refining ourselves through experiencing both joy and suffering we may be at peace when we lay our heads down in prayer, at day’s end, or life’s end, and have a confrontation with God.  We can ask for Mercy tonight and every night before that final day.  Hopefully we are not asking for Mercy for the same missteps night after night!

Still there is the nuisance of what it means to receive Mercy.  It reminds us that Mercy is totally up to the entity that has the power to give us Mercy.  For some of us the act of surrendering to God totally for what is his will (after having done our part to the best of our ability) is not easily done – especially when the outcome involves pain, suffering, loss, or even just minor inconveniences.   The book of Job may have a lesson for us or even Jesus’s words on the cross: Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt 27:46.

At that the end of the day God may treat us as we have treated others.  Perhaps now is the time more than ever to know where to put your trust?  And than you will not have to ask me or the Baptist Pastor if we think eternal life is a certainty for the faithful.

Update: 1 John 5:13-15 New International Version (NIV). The Pastor also quoted this to me again the next day…..which is more direct!

Concluding Affirmations

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

IVIL

Better yet, where in your life do you have the opportunity to practice Mercy?  

It is mildly infuriating that we act and believe we are a merciful people and then as a nation we support politicians, policies, and social agenda’s that are contrary to any vestige of allowing for merciful treatment of arriving refugees or illegal immigrants here in the United States.  Our current healthcare and safety net programs are also under vicious attack.  We will have our confrontation with God if we seek him in prayer and in our final days.  Even if we do not seek him confrontation awaits us at every turn in the immediacy of our every day life and at the end of times.  We can choose to move closer to or farther away from God.

compas

In the interim we are called to confront evil and fight for justice wherever we are given a platform and the tools to do so in a manner aligned with our beleifs.  The latter baffles many.   Too many are rendered silent or misguided in their actions – despite heart felt good intentions.  God, have Mercy on us all.

Thank you for visiting my blog.  Have a blessed day.  

Addendum:  I would be remiss to not mention Sister Faustina and her journal in which she records receiving divine revelations:  “The message of The Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us – all of us. And, he wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy.[vii] Sister Faustina is modern day for us (1930s) relative to other respected Saints and mystics.  You could pray for Divine Mercy with the Divine Mercy prayer written by Sister Faustina Kowalkska.[viii]

There is a national shrine of Devine Mercy in Massachusetts carrying her message today.  However you need not join the Marians of the Immaculate conception who are seeking to make Sister Faustina a doctor of the church.    It is probably safer to stick with the words of Jesus Christ and as close to bible as one can for interpretation and discernment of God’s will.  That being said it is difficult to ignore mystics and saints that have had special callings and lived lives that far exceed our imagination as sources of spiritual affirmation and growth.

Footnotes:

[i]https://www.quora.com/Did-Early-Christianity-come-first-before-Catholicism

[ii]http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/bringing-christs-church-door-to-door

[iii]http://www.catholicstand.com/the-fifth-beatitude-mercy/

[iv]http://www.catholicstand.com/the-fifth-beatitude-mercy/

[v] Matt: 5:7

[vi] Matthew 19:23-30 New King James Version (NKJV)

[vii]https://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/

[viii]https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/prayers/divine-mercy-prayers/divine-mercy-prayer

Radical Transformation: Part VI

It has been 74 days since the last entry regarding Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s “Transformation in Christ.” It is evident that this 500 page thesis is a lived experience that cannot be adequately read, digested, and reported on with any modicum of brevity. In this post I will highlight thoughts on the following chapters ten through twelve. Appropriately they followed Striving for Perfection (Post Part V) as they continue to raise the ceiling and the complexity of truly living a holy and transformed life.

True Freedom:

Ah, Bloody Hell. Try this clothe on for size today:

“My conduct will be decided by Christ and His holy word, and not determined, for instance by an inordinate zeal which, spurning virtue of discretion, gives vent indiscriminately to one’s natural enthusiasm rather than translating into action a true and unreserved surrender to Christ.”

I do not know how to begin to unpack and dissect this sentence. However, a few pages later, simpler in simpler language he states:

“The true Christian will abhor this complex independence in all its varieties. To him it must be clear, not only that he owes everything to God – that he is, and shall be, a beggar before God – but that he is dependent on the help of other men.”

In every topic that Dietrich addresses he painstakingly walks us through the complexity of our human situation and the perils of free will within the context of confrontation with God. In living a holy life we must have confrontation with God, or at least our limited understanding of God’s expectations, in all our actions, not just at the end of time. On the face of it we may perceive a miserable existence living this way but in reality when truly living in proximity to God’s plan and providence for us great peace and joy envelop us regardless of the immensity of human misery and tears of suffering that we share compassionately with our brothers.

The same holds true for our own weeping when we have to face our own crosses, whether of our own making, or descended upon us from forces outside of our locus of control. The lens becomes making choices based on divine commandments as the higher value always versus human statues. The latter has many positive fundamentals encoded in our laws, our religious institutions, and family traditions, and our culture – but at that end of the day we must hold our actions up to a higher authority. We know our human institutions can sometimes fail us and lead us astray.

For brevity sake I will throw out two hindrances’ mentioned: “familiarity of a thing is not by itself a legitimate reason for cultivating it” and “the case with people who are eager for sensations.” The first speaks to things we do by habit that we become accustomed to and hold high and the second to our drive for the highs and lows of human experience.  How many people today are ruled by human desires for alcohol, substance use, money, power, or social status?

true-freedom

Both of these common human yearnings are littered in the fabric of our lives in many forms. I myself can be very cruddy without coffee, can fall into the comfort of religious security based on superficial church teachings without a deep dive in application every day, and love the high and lows of competition, chess, horse racing, and roller coasters. While none of these things in and of themselves are evil, if put in front of God’s will they come become unnecessary distractions to true peace. This is only the first step – to acknowledge one’s freedom of choice and decisions at every cross road. But what do we do with this freedom?

DCF 1.0

Blessed are They Who Hunger for Justice:

Oh how we go astray in this arena. How indifferent we are to the homeless beggar, the expectant mother considering in our eyes murder of her unborn, to the immigrant seeking asylum, to the migrant working our fields, and to the invisible suffering that is just outside our peripheral vision. From our arm chairs of belief we throw out condemnation of societal ills, blaming other nations and other political parties, and the victims of horrendous struggles themselves – and then we pray for them without action. Or rather we do take action to legitimize their suffering as their very own, unrelated to our very own social contract with society, and we pass laws to minimize their visibility and presence in our communities for as long as it benefits our self-conception of our high moral standing and our relative praise worthiness in the eyes of our neighbors. We are at once immune to beggars and ignorant that we too are beggars before God.

Perhaps I am not giving myself or you my reader enough credit. We may lend our voice to the injustices carried out in our society and our world. We may pray for all the suffering. We may even have written an Op Ed, donated to countless charities, and performed many other wonderful deeds. Did we do these things out of direct response to God’s calling and guidance? Would we have done all of these deeds if they were truly invisible to our peers, never to produce a single platitude from the receiver of our help or from our peers?

Did we act with “unconditional supernatural zeal for the kingdom of God and his justice” without taking any personal pride or credit ourselves in the process. I have dedicated my life to working with oppressed populations (homeless and people living with severe and persistent mental illness) and despite a strong faith I am too reliant on professional recognition, personal compensation, and concern for my own well-being! I cannot say God’s will and God’s justice has always been in my conscious thoughts and actions as the primary driver of all my actions. I cannot say I have not forgotten that there is very little “I” in my successes and a very big “I” in my failures!

Dietrich describes the needed passion this way: “No personal success of happiness can dull the edge of their interest in the victory of justice or soften pain at the triumph of evil.” He describes our passion needs to be day and night “must be swayed by the burning desire that God be glorified in all things.” Would my God accept but “I gave at the office today – it is my field to help the oppressed every moment, I can’t do this work all the time!?” Many a helping professional becomes burnt out from their profession and numb to suffering and pain if they are not mindful of their own personal care. The error above though is me proclaiming “I” do this work all the time. If we in the helping professions live with the fallacy that we are the primary the healer of all societal ills we will surely be wrong and suffer greatly and ultimately be of use to very few.

Today I have listened to a stranger for 30 minutes grieve her departed brother that she cared for in the very hotel I am at for the last 8 months. I witnessed a homeless person attempt to engage a friend by yelling his name across a conduit, and with that failing, attempted a loud whistle with his hands and mouth, only to find he had lost that skill as well. Helpless to even alter the path of a fellow sufferer to engage in company, he shrugged and moved on. Another homeless woman observed me with indifference as I visited a statue outside one of several churches I biked past today in New Hampshire and had stopped to take a passing photo. A teenager, ran down the steps away from her family, and in defiance announced I am going to see a friend to borrow some money. The family’s gaze seemed to offer no hope for the destiny and troubles that lay ahead – poverty seemed to announce itself from every fragment of architecture on this old house. I may have lent an ear to one grieving person today – but what about the countless others I passed without a word or a hand?

I am in pursuit of perfection – but I have not been able to live the life of the Saints where they have demonstrated all things are secondary the one thing necessary – God’s will and justice.

Holy Patience:

At the start this chapter and others I entered with an assumption that I am in good standing with the virtue or principle at hand. By the end of the chapter I am humbled by the depth of thought and action required to truly delve into a holy life.

It reminds me of a men’s retreat I took many years ago. I arrived with my self-appraisal being relatively high amongst fellow men. It was a laymen’s retreat of everyday people. An anonymous man from an unremarkable background became the joke of the retreat. It was said his corporal body would reach heaven before his soul! How could this be? As part of his action list he has been a donor for over thirty years of blood, bone marrow, a kidney, and other sacrifices. He gave in the immediate and over a life time. His quiet demeanor and peace was truly evident. The moral of this story is when I think I have done enough I may want to think again.

Dietrich defines holy patience above and beyond our laymen understanding. He also defines what it is not. A current western trend, for example, is secularized Mindfulness to provide calm and peace to individuals in our very busy lives and teach truly being aware and living in the moment. The meditative practice at its roots is built on Buddhist practices. In an on-line forum I visit the group is almost fanatical about Mindfulness being opposed to living a holy life. The group is focused on contemplative prayer. Dietrich in one paragraph, while not attacking Buddhist tradition or mindfulness clearly and with precision separates out Buddhist placidity versus Christian patience. When one thinks of patient people we often think of Buddhist monks immersed in deep meditation. In a rare break from his consistently serious and theological writing Dietrich describes Buddhist detachment as being reduced to a position of pure spectator and being akin to just as “a lunatic can no longer commit any sin but can no longer display any virtue either.” This section is high level theological paradigms, but no less important is the daily importance of fighting impatience as it is often a form of self-indulgence.

At the root of most impatience is our sense of time and what we expect to happen when we want it to happen. When we are disappointed we may act out passively or not so passively with ill-humor, anger, or outright aggression!

Dietrich than takes on my significant faults as he hammers away at my false reliance on my life being a normal situation (safe from unexpected tragedies, health scares, financial woes, job disruptions, unfair and unjust affronts to my personage), my sovereignty of self (my desire to not need assistance and/or not have my independence or wants jeopardized by others or external forces), and ultimately my pride (that allows me to deny my creaturely existence and lowly nature relative to the absolute).

These are tall orders especially given we are presumably remaining active in our special calling to perform our works (whatever they maybe) with passion and zeal. If we are “all in” it is to see how impatience with results could bubble up to the surface.

This chapter finishes with the “how to” aim to live with holy patience.

“In the attitude of patience we emphatically let God act, thus allowing all things to unfold from above – as proceeding from their Origin – and by so experiencing their operation again render to God what is God’s.”

Our tools of faith, charity and hope can sustain us in every endeavor.  Achieving a balance of fervent action and an attitude of patience is no simple task for most of us.

Until next post – have a truly free, action oriented, contemplative and patient holy day!

 

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