Pleasure in toil as God’s gift to man

Your theme for Labor Day, I mean, Vocation Day:

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-12)

Rendering to Caesar and to God

Happy Independence Day! The birthday of our nation would be a good time to contemplate that great text on church and state, Matthew 22:21, in which our Lord charges us to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

What “things” are Caesar’s, and how do we render them to him? And what “things” are God’s, and how do we render them to Him?

Obviously, all things are God’s, but Jesus must have had a particular sense of this in mind. A pastor I heard on Sunday–I’m on the road, so it wasn’t our pastor–said that the Greek implies that we are giving back what we have received. So we might think of this in terms of “what do we receive from the state” and so what are we obliged to a giving back. Jesus’s example of money works here. What else? And how does this apply to the gifts of God?

World Swastika Rehabilitation Day

Sunday is World Swastika Rehabilitation Day, celebrated by the New Age religious cult known as the Raelians:

World Swastika Rehabilitation Day (WOSRED) will be celebrated on June 26 through marches and informative events worldwide, according to a statement released this morning by the International Raelian Movement (IRM).

WOSRED was launched last year by Rael, spiritual leader of the IRM.

“The goal is to return the swastika’s true meaning of peace and harmony to this ancient symbol regretfully hijacked by the Nazis,” said Brigitte Boisselier, Ph.D., IRM spokesperson. “I’ve been questioned often about my Raelian symbol, in which a swastika intertwines with two overlapping triangles that form a six-pointed star. People were obviously disturbed to see a swastika intertwined with a Star of David, but when they’re told it was used for millennia and is still used today by many peaceful religious groups, especially in Asia, they look at our symbol in a very different way.”

On June 26, “hundreds, or, hopefully, thousands of people” will celebrate World Swastika Rehabilitation Day in the streets of Miami, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York in the United States; in Vancouver and Toronto in Canada; in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth in Australia; in Zacatecas, Veracruz and Mexico City in Mexico; in Milan, Italy; Lyon, France; and Rotterdam, Holland.

Boisselier pointed out that the Pro-swastika group initiated by Rael now includes Buddhists and Hindus, who have used the swastika as a symbol since the very beginning of their religions.

“No one should be surprised to see the swastika as a revered symbol in most religious groups because it’s part of the symbol given to us by the human scientists from another planet who created us, the Elohim – those who are at the origin of all religions,” Boisselier explained. “They gave the Raelian symbol to Rael when they met with him in 1973 (see rael.org), just as they gave it to all the prophets of the past. That’s why we can find traces of this symbol on every continent and in every culture, not only in Asia with the Buddhists and Hindus, but in America with the Native Americans and Aztecs; in Europe with the Celts and the Greeks; and even in Israel, where you can see it in some of the temples.”

Boisselier said it’s important for Raelians to rehabilitate this symbol given to us by our creators, since they not only brought it to us but explained what it means.

“They said it represents the infinity of time, a very important concept that is now essential to the Raelian philosophy,” she explained. “According to Rael, the universe is infinite in both space and time. It has always existed and will always exist.”

The problem, Boisselier said, is that our society wants to have a beginning and an end for everything, including the universe.

“That’s the reason for the big bang theory, which is now more and more contested by scientists,” she said. “Already in 1973, the Elohim were telling us that there is no beginning to an infinite universe, and this concept of infinity is essential to grasp before we can continue to advance scientifically from where we are now. By promoting the swastika, we’re actually helping the world scientists who have a few minutes to share with us. They need to make this major paradigm shift to progress!”

via Raelians to Celebrate ‘World Swastika Rehabilitation Day’ on June 26 – Yahoo! News.

That the Nazis did choose this figure as their symbol tells us something about them as well, their embrace of an essentially pagan worldview, one that rejects “Jewish” (a.k.a. Biblical) notions such as creation and linear time.

Anyway, so the Raelians believe that we were created by space aliens who came back to have a conversation with their founder in 1973.  Here is another new religion that tries to cast itself in scientific and materialistic terms.  Maybe the swastika could become the symbol of the Singularity.

HT: Joe Carter

Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers

Those who believe ritual and ceremony are meaningless have never watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Arlington Cemetery.  This article by Sarah Kaufman on the soldiers who perform this duty–the precision of their marching, the seams of their uniforms tailored to 1/64th of an inch, their shoes and gear obsessively polished–makes for a good Memorial Day meditation.  Read it all, but here are some excerpts:

Like so many great romantic moments in the arts, it begins with the tolling of a bell. The sound dies. Hushed anticipation. Finally, the soldier makes his entrance — no ordinary recruit, but the relief commander of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, taking part in the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

You could land an airplane on the flatness of his hat, balance teacups on his shoulders. He has been polished and honed to perfection, a man as monument, symbol and embodiment of order, respect and dignity.

Washington life swirls around him — crowds gather and disperse, jets climb into the clouds, the cemetery’s infernal lawn mowers roar. The weather may bake or freeze him — the high, marble mesa on which the tomb rests, at the top of a hill affording one of the loveliest views of the city, can feel like the hottest spot on Earth, even in May. It can also approach the coldest, as when blizzards covered the city two winters ago, and snow buried the plaza as fast as soldiers could shovel it. They replaced their shiny black shoes with combat boots. But the vigil and guard changes went on around the clock, as they do now and have since 1937.

The world doesn’t matter here, in this outdoor theater where the show always goes on. This guard posting is a marathon of purity, a spectacle of the finest abstraction and strictest minimalism, where precise, unthinking repetition blots out just about everything else.

The commander strides across the plaza, past the sarcophagus containing the remains of service members from World Wars I and II and Korea. (An unknown from the Vietnam War had joined them, but his remains were removed and returned to his family when DNA testing revealed his name.) He takes slow, measured steps, rolling his shoes on their outer edges so there’s no hint of a bounce in his body.

It’s the most luxurious legato. The man is a play of contrasts: loose in the knees, square in the chest, all business in the eyes. You know this even though you can’t actually see his eyes because of his sunglasses, so tightly fused to his skull they must be giving him a migraine. But there’s enough expression in his granite jaw to suggest that those hidden eyes are cold. Still, that delicious walk goes on, 18 steps, 20, 21 . . . clack! It’s brought up short, punctuated by a sharp clap of the heels. The metal plates on the inner edges of the shoes are one of many modifications to the basic dress-blues uniform.

The changing of the guard ceremony is like that, a precise, stop-start ballet performed by three men — commander, relief sentinel and the retiring sentinel— alternating between smooth and sharp, silence and staccato pops. With that same liquid gait, the relief sentinel makes his entrance, brandishing the most beautiful, sparkling M-14 you’ve ever seen. . . .

[Sgt. Benton Thames] recalls a time when several World War II veterans in wheelchairs were watching the ceremony. As Thames walked past them with that stately gait, buttons blazing, uniform pressed to a razor sharpness, behind his sunglasses he could see the old soldiers pushing down on their armrests, trying with all their trembling might to stand.

“Those that could saluted me as I passed,” Thames says, swinging his right hand up to his brow with a shy smile, a gesture both casual and elegant.

“That kind of got to me.”

A veteran once told Thames that he’d lost a buddy in World War II and that the body was never recovered. When he comes to the Tomb of the Unknowns, the veteran imagines that those remains belong to that guy — and this becomes the place where he can be mourned as if his name were cut in stone.

This is why the sentinel buffs his shoes, hollers for a good tucking-in, submits to having his creases measured to within a fraction of an inch. This is why he has seemingly shaved away every shred of his own individuality, his identity, for a task whose purpose is, at the heart of it, exquisitely tender. It is the physical expression of an intangible wish, the fulfillment of a promise.

Long past Memorial Day.

“All soldiers recognize that it represents them,” says Barrett, The Citadel professor. “Underlying the tomb is that if something happens to you and we can’t identify you or find you, that ceremony still honors you.

“We ask them, if necessary, to lay down their lives,” he continues, his voice faltering with emotion, for he was once a soldier. “This is the corollary: They will not be forgotten.”

via At Tomb of the Unknowns, a ritual of remembrance – The Washington Post.

Happy National Day of Reason!

In their attempt to become, in effect, a socially-acceptable religion–getting military chaplains, vaunting how moral they are, and evangelizing the unenlightened–atheists are trying to start a holiday.  May 5 is the National Day of Reason!

I love holidays and I love reason, so I am willing to celebrate. . .uh, what is it we are celebrating?  I will try to set aside time to think.  But don’t we need something more to inspire our observance, to give it some meaning?  It turns out that May 5 was chosen simply to counter something else that is on that day, the National Day of Prayer.  The atheists are protesting that by trying to take over the day for themselves.

This demonstrates the weakness of atheism.  It is purely reactive.  Its doctrines are purely negative (there is no God; there is no life after death; there is no meaning in life).  And even when its teachings are put in a positive way–we believe in reason! we believe that material things are all that exist!–there is nothing, really, to celebrate, or even to be happy about.

Actual holidays, on the other hand, commemorate some meaningful event and we celebrate the meaning.  They usually involve some kind of story.  They are deeply, richly, human, evoking family and good memories and inspiration.  And Christian holidays–widely recognized even by devotees of other religions are the best of all–are full of wonder and joy.  The root of “festival” is “feast.”  “Holiday” means “holy day.”   You can’t have a holiday without some sense of holiness.

It’s hard to celebrate an abstraction, such as “reason.”  But, hey, let’s give it a try.  How could we do to make the Day of Reason work as a holiday?  What would be the equivalent of a Christmas tree or Easter basket for the Day of Reason?  What foods should be associated with this day of rationality?  If it ever rates a day off, what should individuals and families do?

National Day of Reason :: About Us.

He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows

On this Good Friday I urge you to read and to meditate upon that astonishing prophecy of Christ’s Passion and His redemptive work in Isaiah 53.  In doing so, consider these words:

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his stripes we are healed.

We are familiar with the notion that Christ on the Cross bore our transgressions and our iniquities, though we can never plumb the depths of that truth.  But we don’t hear much about how He also bore our “griefs” and our “sorrows.”  What does that mean, and what difference does that make in our lives?


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