Book Review: Coming Home to Wholeness

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Life is hard. 

Life for Americans is not only hard, it is usually frantic. 

We are frantic, almost driven, people. I did not realize this until I went to a country where people live by a different internal clock. The contrast was stunning. 

Americans are certainly not the only people who race from deadline to goal to commitment to task. And we have a sense of self about how we do it that is our special grace among the driven places on this earth. But living here is a tough boogie.

Life is hard and it is fractured and in some ways desperate. Our nation is divided between the drop outs who just sit, and the doers who never sit at all. In both cases there is a kind of desperation and overwhelmed thing going on. In the case of the drop outs, overwhelmed is where they live and what they do. But for the doers, overwhelmed is the demon they fight every day. 

Judy Valente, the author of Atchison Blue, is an overwhelmed fighter. She is an astonishingly high achiever who has managed to carve out a flourishing career for herself in two competitive worlds: free lance writing and human interest broadcast reporting. 

Her private demons are a nagging dread of death and the great bugaboo of everyone; family problems. The major betrayal of her life was being laid off from her job at the Wall Street Journal the year after she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Based on what she writes in this book, losing this job was an earthquake for Ms Valente, a wake-up call about trusting career to be the all-in-all of life. 

Her solution for her human woes is to seek the thing we lack in our American society: Wholeness. 

It is a simple fact that the abundant life that Christ offers us is based on a spiritual and emotional wholeness that the larger society (any larger society) can never provide. Anyone who wants to be whole must find a way to retreat at intervals from the squabbling bitterness of our workaday lives. Without these retreats, we slide into a kind of fractured insanity without being aware of it. I see this insanity quite often in the exceedingly fractured world of politics. In fact, there was a time, back before Jesus rescued me, when I was pretty sick with it myself. 

There is no permanent cure for this fractured-ness. It’s causes are so thoroughly woven into this fallen world and the way it treats people that no one anywhere can completely escape its pull. However, for overworked, over-stimulated Americans, it is particularly ubiquitous. We are a driven people. The fact that we in large part drive ourselves does not change this. 

Without retreats, stopping places, we become so fractured that the insanity of life becomes our own insanity. 

My retreat is simply going home. When I walk into my house and shut the door behind me, I leave the frantic outside world. Nobody inside those walls is going to attack me or betray me or go on the internet posting lies and accusations about me. Inside these walls, I am free of that. 

Ms Valente sought something akin to this when she went to the Benedictine monastery, Mount Scholastica, in Atchison Kansas.

I’m beginning to think that monasticism is a particularly good fit for writers. After all, writers are already contemplatives by nature and avocation long before the monastery bug bites them. 

For someone like Ms Valente, who is a poet and human observer writer, walking into the monastery must have been something akin to what I feel when I walk into my house. She must have known at some level that this was home. 

Atchison Blue is a lovely book written by a journalist-poet whose writerly skills enable her to tell the story without letting the poetry overwhelm it and still keep the romance of the contemplative life in the midst of the story. It’s a delicate balance; the kind of writing that probably comes naturally to a journalist-poet. 

Reading this book makes me want to pack my bags and head off to Atchison myself. I imagine it will do the same thing for many of its readers. 

Love stories are like that. They make you want a love of our own. 

In the final analysis, that’s what Atchison Blue is; the love story between one woman and monasticism. It is the tale of her homecoming to wholeness in the contemplative life at a Benedictine monastery. 

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The oblates of Mount Scholastica, Benedictine Monastery. Ms Valente is the one on the bottom right. 

California Makes a Bad New/Old Law

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I’ve voted two times against giving people who rape children the death penalty.

I authored a bill to put them in prison for life without parole.

That pretty much sums up my attitude toward people who sexually abuse children. I don’t want to kill them, but to say I have no use for them is an understatement.

I’ve also written several times about the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

I point to all these things now in hopes of forestalling what I am guessing will be a hailstorm of negative reaction and wild accusations because of what I’m about to say. I think the new California law temporarily erasing the statute of limitation on child sexual abuse is a bad law. I would have voted against it.

The new statute I am talking about passed both houses of the California legislature a few weeks ago. It is now on the governor’s desk, waiting for his signature to become law. The law is clearly aimed at the Catholic Church. It exempts public schools and and other government institutions, as well as the child abusers themselves. It also repeats something California has already done once, which is to rewind an old law and essentially erase the statute of limitations on old sexual abuse cases.

Here are the reasons why I think this is a bad law.

Rewind

1. It is a dangerous practice to make people retroactively guilty. Change the law going forward, if you want. But don’t go back and re-write laws in the past to find people guilty of things they wouldn’t be guilty of under the laws as they were at the time they committed the crime. The situation in the new California law is a shade of that practice (which is unconstitutional on its face) since what we are talking about is re-winding the statutory time in which a crime can be punished, in this case, by civil lawsuit.

Let’s say, as a for instance, that the statute of limitations on rape is 5 years. Let’s also say that it comes to light that a general in the armed forces participated in the gang rape of several enlisted personnel back when he was a lieutenant. This was decades ago, but he even though he hasn’t participated in any more rapes (that we know of) he is now turning a blind eye to other rapes in the ranks.

One way to get at this monster would be to rewind the statute of limitations (say we do it for one year to give prosecutors a window to get at him) and extend the time rapists can be brought to justice to 40 years instead of 5.

Problem solved, right?

No.

Problem created.

What we would be doing is setting a precedent of selective justice, and worse, selective law-making, to get at one man. We would be declaring open season on anyone that prosecutors and legislative bodies of the future want to take a crack at retroactively. It might not be such an undoubted monster the next time. It could be anybody, including anybody that the special interests who actually write most legislation want to get at.

We could end up with powerful businesses retroactively suing their competitors out of existence with this practice. In fact, given that most legislation is about helping businesses destroy their competition with laws they write themselves and then get their bought and paid for legislators to pass for them, you can bet it would and will happen.

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2. The California law is, as I mention above, aimed at one group of people, in this case the Catholic Church. The practice of writing laws to get at one group of people, no matter who they are, is egregious.

Here’s why.

When we’re going after a group of people most folks think of as the boogeyman, in this case, a huge Church that not only tolerated, but enabled child abuse for a long period of time, it’s easy to decide that any way we can make them suffer is a good way. However, as always happens with these intrusions of the irrational in lawmaking, what begins as a seemingly justifiable exception, soon becomes the unjustifiable norm.

If the legislature can do this once, as they already have in California, then the legislature can do it again. And as with most things, the more they do it, the less outrageous it seems and the smaller the reason required to do it again.

Pretty soon, we’ve got major corporations writing up legislation that specifically limits their competitors or uses the government to control their customers, and doing it by name.

This is actually just the next step in special interest legislation. Special interest legislation of this type takes up almost all of legislative time right now. This is a bit off the subject, but if special interest legislation was eliminated, most legislative bodies in this country could finish their work in about a quarter of the time they spend today.

Courtroom

3. There are better ways to punish long-term miscreants than retroactive laws. Legislators do have to put on their little thinking caps. But it can certainly be done. What they have to do is pass a law that begins when it is signed by the governor and goes forward and that is written for everyone.

Of course, I am guessing that California already has all the laws it needs to deal with child sexual abuse in institutional settings. Those laws just weren’t utilized at the right time. Outrage that child sexual abusers escaped punishment because the powerful abused their power is what fuels the desire to use lawsuits to punish the child abuse enablers now.

But civil lawsuits are a poor way to deal with this problem. People who sexually abuse children should go to prison. I am not talking here about Catholic priests. I am talking about all child sexual abusers. I’ve had some dealings with this in Oklahoma and I can tell you that far too many of these guys skate. There are lots of reasons, but judges who, like Dr Richard Dawkins, just can’t seem to see the harm, are among the primary causes.

I believe that sexual abuse by a priest, or any clergy, is especially egregious simply because the trust people place in their clergy puts them in a vulnerable position vis a vis the clergy. People confide things in their priests that they don’t tell anyone else in the world. This makes them deeply vulnerable to this priest. Sexual abuse, especially of a child, is a horrific betrayal of this trust.

At the same time, I am becoming concerned that we are developing a legal and social double standard about child sexual abuse. Dr Dawkins, as a for instance, engaged in grand-standing talk about arresting the Pope because of the Church’s child sexual abuse scandals. Then, he turned around and tried to take a wink-wink attitude toward child sexual abuse in other contexts.

Dr Dawkins isn’t alone in this behavior.

I agree with giving longer sentences to those in a position of trust, such as counselors, clergy and doctors, who violate that trust in this way. I think that, considering the vulnerability of their patients and parishioners to them, it is appropriate to hold them to a higher standard. However, those higher standards should be statutorily defined, not handed down willy-nilly as vengeance.

I do not agree with a wholesale two-tiered system of justice which singles out Catholic clergy for higher sentences simply because they are Catholic clergy. That is discriminatory on its face.

I think the new California statute is a bad law that sets a terrible precedent. It’s just a matter of time before that precedent ends up being used and abused in ways that none of the backers of the law foresaw or intended.

The Prez Who Hates the Bill of Rights and His Senatorial Minions Write a Little Law

The HHS Mandate. (First Amendment)

Surveilling the American people. (Fourth Amendment)

Gun control. (Second Amendment) 

Those pesky amendments keep getting in the way of better government. 

Thankfully, we have a Congress (who we trust soooo much) who, as everyone knows, always puts the needs of the American people ahead of any special interests, to take care of those little tripping-up points in the Constitution. These are the folks who sat on their thumbs while the administration pushed through a quasi law attacking religious freedom called the HHS Mandate. They are the ones who want to find some loophole to allow them to do away with the right to bear arms. 

Their latest little move is to rescind the legal protections of the free press to protect their sources. They are doing this by “defining” who is the “press” and doing it to their advantage. What they’re doing is limiting First Amendment protections to the “legitimate” (i.e., the corporate) press.

As anyone with half a brain knows, the corporate press is not free. They are owned. And they function more and more as a propaganda tool for the government, which also appears to be owned. 

It follows and it’s easy to follow that if the corporate press is the only legitimate press, then there is no free press. 

Slam dunk and done. First Amendment, (both parts) tamed and brought to heel. 

To put a cherry on top this rescission of the First Amendment, our Senators want to make the Attorney General of the United States the person who gets to decide which press is “legitimate” and worthy of First Amendment protections. 

Now, let’s think for a moment. Who appoints the Attorney General of the United States? 

The President of the United States. 

And who confirms this appointment?

The Senate of the United States.

Mr Fox, here’s your gun. You’re now in charge of the henhouse. 

From Breitbart:

An amendment is moving through the Senate Judiciary Committee that would essentially allow the government to determine who is a journalist for purposes of legal protection of sources. For purposes of protecting a source, a “journalist” under law would be anyone who: 

  • Works or worked for “an entity or service that disseminates news or information by means of newspaper; nonfiction book; wire service; news agency; news website, mobile application or other news or information service…news program; magazine or other periodical…or through television or radio broadcast…” These people would have to have the “primary intent to investigate events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information.” Opinion journalists might not be covered.
  • Bloggers and citizen journalists – citizens who commit acts of journalists without working for such an outlet – would not be covered, unless it was determined that “at the inception of the process of gathering the news or information sought, had the primary intent to investigate issues or events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information.” In other words, the government – the Department of Justice – would now determine whether primary intent was news distribution or political concerns.
  • Those explicitly excluded from protection include those “whose principal function, as demonstrated by the totality of such person or entity’s work, is to publish primary source documents that have been disclosed to such person or entity without authorization.” Glenn Greenwald, please contact your lawyer.

 

 

Another Shooting

Another shooting, this time at the Navy Yard in Washington DC.

The details available are almost certainly at least partly incorrect. But here is the information as of now.

From the Washington Post:

At least 12 people are dead and others were wounded after as many as three shooters dressed in military style uniforms opened fire in a rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, police said, spreading fear and chaos across the region as authorities tried to contain the incident.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced the mounting death toll in a 2 p.m. news conference. One suspected shooter is dead, and Lanier said authorities still are looking for two other potential suspects wearing green and tan military style clothing.

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Map: See the scene of the Navy Yard shootings and nearby closures.

Click Here to View Full Graphic Story

Map: See the scene of the Navy Yard shootings and nearby closures.

“The big concern for us right now is that we have potentially two other shooters that we have not located at this point,” Lanier said.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray said no motive is known. He said they have no reason to believe it was an act of terrorism, though he said he could not rule it out.

Lanier described one of the possible suspects as a white male in his 40s, wearing what appeared to be tan military clothing, “consistent with a Navy uniform,” and a beret. She said police also are looking for a black man in his 40s with gray sideburns, wearing an olive-drab military-style uniform.

The Pope, Priests and Fatigue


Pope Francis recently discussed a letter he received from a parish priest at a gathering of Rome’s priests at the Vatican.

The priest had mentioned his fatigue. I think that’s something everyone who bears a responsibility for other people can understand.

Here are the Holy Father’s comments.

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European Petition to Protect Life Garners 1 Million Signatures


Defending the sanctity of human life is a worldwide struggle, with as many venues as there are attacks on the inherent right to life of every human being.

European pro life people have successfully gathered the 1 million signatures needed for a petition to protect life. This is only the second time in history that any group has achieved this.

The video below gives details.

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Habemus Papam 1939-2013

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The Church.

The Rock.

Against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.

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“If You Don’t Like Gay Marriage, Then Don’t Get Gay Married”

Dont like too bad

If you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t get gay married. 

That’s how the slogan goes. 

But … who really believed they meant it?

Not, evidently, the Church of Scotland. The Kirk, as it’s called, is considering a move to discontinue performing marriage services “rather than face a slew of lawsuits from homosexual couples demanding to be wed.” 

Read about it here

The Price

Americansoldier

They don’t know us.

They are our own government, our elected officials, our press.

They claim to speak for us and to inform us. But they don’t know us. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

We are not their sheeple to manipulate and lie to and send to die. We do not and will not endlessly respond with Pavlovian obedience to the bells they ring for us.

That truth is slowly dawning on the insulated and isolated minions who run our cable news networks, sit in our seats of power and claim they speak for us with absolute accuracy. We are not their toy soldiers they move about in a game.

How could they be so wrong about us? After all, they’ve been successfully lying to us and manipulating us for decades. They’ve convinced us to fight and die for no reason at all time and again all over the globe. What is different now?

Perhaps the difference is the price. Aside from phonied-up claims that “supporting our troops” means we have to keep them at war and in war in perpetuity, these people don’t know much about the price. They were beamed into their elected offices and sit in front of cameras that were paid for by beams of corporate money that comes from the same, or interlocking boards of the same, corporations that are making money off these wars.

Their world is not the world of paying the price. It is the world of reaping the benefits.

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Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, fought on the ground in Afghanistan. But the moguls of our war machine did not send their young princes to the front. They were too busy getting the finest educations and living the best life, preparing to be the decision makers who send others to die in their place.

The “news” arm of this complex harangues us every night about the high cost of social security and how keeping our word to retirees is fiscal suicide for this country. Simultaneously, they batter us with constant calls for ever higher “defense” spending.

We are armed past imagining. We have more aircraft carriers and all that goes with them than we did when we were fighting the Germans and the Japanese combined. We buy weaponry that actual combat soldiers say fails in the dust, heat and impact of real warfare. But we don’t buy enough body armor for our troops. We don’t provide returning soldiers with adequate medical and psychological care.

American soldier with gun

And we can’t rebuild our roads or put together meaningful public transportation. This same country that built a railroad that went from coast to coast in the 19th century, that created a national highway system, suddenly cannot spare the cash to develop a national public transportation system that would lower our dependence on the foreign oil that drives these wars. It appears that the same companies that build the bombs can no longer build the roads.

We do not make the goods this country consumes. We import them. Our industry is weaponry. Our export is war. We are breaking our own backs as a nation to feed a war machine we do not need to keep us safe. We are endangering the future of this nation to enrich a few by engaging in endless random wars that enrich a few and impoverish the rest of us.

Why?

An american soldier

Maybe it goes back that those beams of money that beam our elected officials into office. Maybe it has its roots in who is signing off on the enormous checks those talking heads are pulling down.

While our standard of living declines, they are living large.

While we fight these wars, they incite them.

And that is the reason why now they are so gobsmacked to find that We the People don’t want to make war no more.

They don’t know anything about the price that we’ve been paying for their wars. Because they don’t know anything about us. We are another country to them. They manipulate us. They patronize us. They don’t respect us. In fact, all they know about us is what they learn from reading polls.

It’s time someone tried to explain this to them. They need to understand The Price.

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Breaking: US, Russia Reach Deal to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Weapons by 2014

The people spoke, and for once the government listened.

It seems that the US and Russia have brokered a deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by 2014.

Presumably, this is the way to avoid America going to war in Syria.

One question I have: Where is Syria in all this?

The United States and Russia brokered this “deal.” That’s interesting. But it’s even more interesting that the two 800 pound gorillas did all this “brokering” on their own.

I am glad beyond glad that we’ve side-stepped this particular war. However, I feel just as strongly now as I did before about the things I’ve written concerning our self-destructive spiral of over-emphasis on “defense” to the exclusion of building our economy here at home. We have got to take a look at ourselves. Or we will perish.

From Haaretz:

After days of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia reached agreement Saturday on a framework to secure and destroy Syria‘s chemical weapons by mid-2014 and impose UN penalties if the Assad government fails to comply.

The deal, announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, includes what Kerry called “a shared assessment” of the weapons stockpile, and a timetable and measures for Syrian President Bashar Assad to follow so that the full inventory can be identified and seized.

The U.S. and Russia agreed to immediately press for a UN Security Council resolution that enshrines the chemical weapons agreement under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which can authorize both the use of force and nonmilitary measures.

President Barack Obama made clear that “if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”

Russia, which already has rejected three resolutions on Syria, would be sure to veto a UN move toward military action, and U.S.¬ officials said they did not contemplate seeking such an authorization.


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