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The Good, the True, and the Beautiful…

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful by way of John Senior, and Ben Cash

Have you ever heard of John Senior?  If not, and you’re a Christian, you should make yourself acquainted with him.  More Catholics than Protestants have heard of this teacher, but in this day and age we can all benefit from his kind.  There is a fantastic biography of him by Fr. Francis Bethel, OSB called John Senior and the Restoration of Realism.  During the 1970’s Senior was a professor at the University of Kansas and was instrumental in developing an Integrated Humanities Program there.  Interestingly the college shut the program down after several students converted to Christianity, many of them becoming Catholic.

The ideas the Senior put forward were that we are only truly human when seeking and finding the good, the true, and the beautiful, and doing so with our minds and our senses.  Not only were the classics taught in abundance, Senior and several other professors introduced the students to dancing, star gazing, poetry, and even singing.  Truth was presented as it really is; fixed and real.  Goodness as something to be pursued because it is rooted in truth.  The flip side (rejecting Truth), Senior argued, results in depression and hopelessness, destructive personal behavior, which in turn leads to a breakdown in society and culture.  Sound familiar?  Maybe sound like what’s going on in Western culture right now?  (Go check out the suicide statistics, study the trend, and then let that sink in.)

When I first watched Captain Fantastic, which I reviewed here just the other day, I instantly (and somewhat ironically) thought of John Senior and his method of teaching.  As I mentioned in my review of the movie Ben Cash is the father of the Cash clan and his method of teaching included star gazing, anatomy, copious amounts of reading and debating, music and singing, and exercising one’s mind and body through physical encounters with the real world.  I said “ironically” above because Ben Cash apparently despises Christianity (at least through much of the movie), which John Senior championed and also held up as the ultimate lynch pin of everything, including the true understanding of the humanities.

Both Senior and Cash seem to hold some key to the massive sense of… ennui we currently seem to have in our society.  Technology isn’t evil, but I think we can all agree that in most cases what was supposed to draw us closer together either hasn’t produced that promise, or, perhaps worse, has made us all engage in compulsive comparisons which then results in depression.  Keeping up with the Joneses has become global, and when the Joneses only post the highlights of their lives on social media it compounds the problem (folks, here’s the secret; Mr. Jones has a gambling addiction, Mrs. Jones is contemplating suicide, the kids hate each other, and they are in debt so far over their heads they’ll never get out… well, maybe that’s hyperbole, maybe not.)  Consumerism has run amok, mental health issues are on the rise, and we are more divided as a people than ever.

Both Senior and Cash call us back to our senses; we are whole and complete creatures only when our physical selves are involved.  Seeing someone’s picture or even a live vid of them is great when that’s all you can get, but isn’t a hug 100 times better?  You can see the real person, feel them, heck, even smell them (hopefully it’s a nice smell!).  How about nature?  Seeing a picture or a vid of a tree isn’t anything like experiencing a tree with our senses.  When our senses are involved it speaks to the concrete nature of our world, it gives us experiences that are more rich and steeped in truth.  When you are out hiking and trip on a root or a rock and fall, you are experiencing gravity first hand, and yes, you experience physical pain.

We have become divorced from nature and nature’s God.  We’ve even become divorced from each other.  And, yes, I’m speaking in generalities, as there are those who actually make an effort to experience life first-hand, instead of through a screen (however, I know more people who gripe about tech and social media and yet still have their noses shoved up against screens 24 hours a day).  How many of us still hike, stargaze, grow our own food, hunt our own food, write letters with a pen and paper, hold books in our two hands, bury our noses in roses, learn to actually dance with a partner in a manner that takes finesse and skill…  The classics of literature are being trashed (sometimes literally), and cast aside.  We read less and less (especially the males of our society) and watch TV more and more.

What Senior and the fictitious Cash calls us toward is a reconnect with what makes us human, something that gives us roots and wings.  I think of Tolkien’s hobbits when I read of Senior as well; comfort, and parties, and food… a warm, dry house, and a full belly while strolling in the garden that you planted and tended.  Sure, Bilbo and Frodo were grand adventurers and heroes, but that is because their roots were in the good, the true, and the beautiful represented by the Shire.  Ben Cash’s kids were indeed brilliant, but lacked that incredible piece of the puzzle that makes us fully human; society.  Now our society itself lacks the good, the true, and the beautiful, and it’s up to us as individuals to seek them out, and to offer them to others as much as we can.  (BTW, Ben Cash, and his wife, both turned their backs on God and that was the other major piece of the puzzle missing… interesting how Cash’s downfall involved rejecting both key commandments summed up by Christ; Love God, and love your neighbor.  So, as much as Cash reminded me of Senior in his teaching style, that’s the major difference and why Cash became so disconnected to the world he tried to teach his kids about.)

We need more physical activity, more time in nature, more unprocessed food, and to share that healthy food with others, more gratitude.  Instead of basking in the glow of our electronics, perhaps a good ol’ fashioned cookout is in order, with the glow and the warmth of the fire reflected from friendly faces.  When is the last time you read a classic?  How about some poetry?  Go visit someone you haven’t seen in forever, take ’em some home grown veggies, flowers, or just yourself.  After it’s all over, find and acknowledge those feelings of gratitude.  God hasn’t gone anywhere, perhaps spare some time for Him, and that’s to fulfill your needs, not His.

In other words, let’s remember what it’s like to be fully human in the world we inhabit; seek and find the good, the true, and the beautiful, share it with others, it’s still there.

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Philosophy, Psychology

Seeking the Divine in Architecture

I’ve hunted down and read people’s comments on a lot of different sites about the Notre Dame fire and its restoration.  Most of it is supportive, but there are a few fellow Christians (and others of course) out there hung up on the money it will take to restore Notre Dame, and the fact that “it’s just a building.”  I do my best to empathize with my fellow human beings, especially when there is a dearth of that on the interweb, so I do get the point they are making, but they are missing The Point of structures like Notre Dame.

Yes, it will take loads of cash to rebuild the Lady, yes, that cash could go elsewhere (I suggest putting your cash wherever you like if it bothers you so much, and make sure you are eating beans and rice, and not anything more expensive so you can give even more money to your causes), but do you seriously think that a structure is all that the money is going toward?  What good are buildings anyway?  Does God disapprove of buildings? Of beauty? Of Architecture?

We already know from Art Appreciation 101 that the human eye, hence the human mind finds certain ratios, and shapes pleasing.  It evokes something in us at a level that we are hardly aware of.  There are many articles out now about the impact of architecture on the human brain, even neurobiologically speaking.  Interesting isn’t it?  I don’t think God does anything frivolously, especially in the laying down of laws or guidance, so all of those structures he ordered humans to build in very specific ways can’t have been capricious.  We are not Gnostics; the physical world (including our bodies) started out good, we are physical beings, and after the resurrection we will have perfected physical bodies.  The physical is important, it always has been since the beginning.

God even gave specific instruction dealing with physical things all the time, including buildings.  The way He instructed the Jewish tribes to arrange their camp, the instructions for the tent, and then the temple.  Noah’s ark, the ark of the covenant, and Nehushtan the bronze serpent.  God knows us and our minds because He made us and He recognizes the need we have for physical-ness.  No, He is not limited to physical place and clearly when Jesus walked the earth, was crucified, and resurrected things did change, but there was never a proscribed ban on buildings built to hold worshipers.

Notre Dame was built with worship directed toward God.  The artisans and workers poured themselves into it and made their praise physically manifest.  The windows were the Gospel writ large in living color.  Symbols are important, they are not impotent signs, but rather something that has taken on the true essence of the thing it represents.  Symbols have power.

There are people that owe their belief in God to capitulating to His call put forth in beauty.  People have felt His call in churches, before great works of art, or listening to music.  I know the stories of people who were agnostic, but upon traveling to all the great old cathedrals in Europe said they came away knowing He existed, and have followed Him since.  When humans allow God to work through us, or to inspire us, the result can be a glimpse of heaven.  We can definitely see that in nature as well, but when we see something that comes from the effort of a group of humans working together to build instead of destroy… well, we recognize a truth in that.  Civilization.  Civilization directed toward God and in His service.  That’s important.

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All we can do is pray.

Ugh.  Recently this phrase has been everywhere; television, social media, the internet… I have no doubt there are cases of life getting to the point where “all we can do is pray,” but mostly that is poppycock, piffle, and balderdash. It’s also an excuse to be lazy, or offhand.  Don’t get me wrong, brothers and sisters, praying is powerful, praying is called for, and praying should precede other things… but it isn’t the only thing we can do in 99% of the cases.

Let’s take the recent and ongoing Ebola outbreak.  All we can do is pray. No, we can find out about it and become educated on what Ebola is, how it is spread, how to prevent it, what to do if you suspect you’ve been exposed, etc… We can also find out who it is effecting and how to help.  Whether it is Politics, Israel’s battle against the terrorist group Hamas, Economics, World Hunger, The Youth leaving the church, whatever it is we can do more than pray.

If you want this country of ours, the USA, to be different, then pray, but don’t stop there.  Do what you can when you can.  Read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, find out who your representatives are, aid the campaigns of people you support, find a need in your local community and fill it, teach a class at your church, fly a flag, you get the picture.  Do we “have” to do these things? No, of course not, but don’t utter that phrase unless it is true… but don’t forget even in those circumstances, there is also singing, and praising, and worshiping.

As an aside, much of what we can “do” revolves around our own homes and our own families.  Educate yourself and your families, get your house in order (literally), see to your own finances, have strong bonds with your families, then learn to look outside of yourselves, outside of your own homes, or towns, or even countries.  Many of my readers have already done all of this, and to you I say; great job! Truly.  Keep it up.  But some of us, me included, need a nudge, a reminder.

God is powerful beyond measure.  He’s in control and history itself bends to His will.  Yes, pray.  Scripture tells us to pray.  But let us also open ourselves up to the nudges of the Holy Spirit and do the works He empowers us to do by grace through faith, that all flows from God.

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Filed under Christianity, Health, Musings, Religion and Politics

War is Coming.

Wow, did The Scribbler just make a prophecy? Am I a prophetess? Nah.  War is always coming, and further, there is always war currently waging, we in the U.S. are unfortunately short sighted when it comes to killing and conflict. It is happening every single day in countries that may seem distant to us, but because it is our fellow humans, it isn’t distant at all.  Don’t believe me that there are wars ongoing?  Use your search engine of choice and check it out; search for current wars.

There are those in the U.S. who don’t seem to realize that war is inevitable.  They don’t know the news, except for what is fed to us by the mainstream U.S. media.  They don’t see what is going on with Russia, the Ukraine, in the Mideast, etc… War, esp. World War, belongs only in the history book to their way of thinking, or on the Silver Screen.  We have become a nation that doesn’t contemplate the inevitable and that is dangerous and sad.

Proverbs 24:5 A wise man is strong, And a man of knowledge increases power. For by wise guidance you will wage war, And in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Wisdom, knowledge, and wise counselors can only be had if we admit that there is a need to be strong, powerful, and have the ability to wage war and come out victorious.  We need strong and wise military minds and that takes top-notch military schooling and training.  It also takes us, as a culture, saying that being a Godly warrior can be a calling.  The Lord willing may they never see battle, but they are a need.  There is a time for war, and a time for righteous anger.

One last point; if you are a current service man or woman, or have served this country in the past, OR are family to a service man or woman; Thank You for your service.  For the rest of us, we need to be aware of the changes to the military in this country, the lack of funding, and the lack of respect from certain segments of our own government.  When looking for ways to teach our kids charity, make sure to consider those highly ranked charities that aid our men and women in uniform.

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Filed under Christianity, Logic, Musings, Religion and Politics

Marriage.

Marriage has become a hot-button topic in our day and age mainly because of the same-sex marriage debate.  But, lets set that subject aside.  As easy as that, let’s focus on the real point.  Biblically, in the New Testament, marriage is indeed to be between one man and one woman.  Marriage is a sacred institution, and the tragedy is that somewhere along the way the church adapted marriage to the world.

Confessing Christians get divorced at rates that cannot be pleasing to God.  God hates divorce, while at the same time allowing for it.  I have the feeling that Christians don’t respect the idea of vows and marriage like they should. Duh.  So, what is some of the problem?  One major factor is the idea of love.

In our modern time, love has been redefined as a mix of lust and fluffy nebulous feeling.  That, esp. lust, has nothing to do with Biblical love between a man and a woman in marriage that is spiritually equal to a legal, binding contract.  We tend to forget that at one point in time divorce was pretty much illegal unless you could show hard evidence of something like ongoing adultery.   By tying marriage into lust, we cheapen it, and make it extraordinarily easy to make excuses to get a divorce from someone we don’t “love” any more.

But you have to love your spouse right?  No.  Not in the way the world defines love.  Look at arranged marriages, just for an example.  In the beginning of an arranged marriage, the two people don’t even know each other, instead they have trusted either their parents or an intermediary to pick a spouse that meets certain criteria.  I believe that we should be able to pick out our spouse; however, I also believe we have lost some of the common sense aspects of arranging a marriage that is going to last.

I don’t really care how good looking a person is if they can’t work.  I don’t really care about anything else if they don’t believe in the same God I do.  Whether I find the person sexually attractive becomes moot really quick unless they have the same expectation when it comes to kids; do they want them?  Can they provide for them?  How many?  How are they to be raised?  Is the mom going to stay at home or not?  What about education?

The family budget, and what money is ultimately for.  Where are you going to live?  Do they have a good relationship with their parents, and on and on.   Also, when we get married it is like starting a family that is as permanent as our former family, meaning that my genetic brother is still my brother no matter what happens.  I can hate him, or not talk to him for five years, but he’s still my brother.  My husband is the exact same. That is the important bit we seem to be forgetting.  Two become one flesh.

Annnddd, here’s something a lot people probably don’t want to hear; you need to decide who is in charge.  Not in a command way, but someone, at some point, is going to have to lead.  If everything is functioning properly, it should be the husband.  Women, marry someone with that in mind.  I truly believe the husband needs to be at least as smart as the wife.  I believe that women can be leaders in the church (such as deacons), and that when God used the term helpmeet, He did so deliberately, and that people miss the part where He uses the same word for Himself.

A weaker thing cannot help a stronger thing.  Just sayin’.  Men and women are meant to be complimentary, so that life is enhanced by their joining.  Ok, so you’ve picked a suitable mate; what kind of love needs to be there in the marriage over time?  Many know that there are different words for “love” in the Greek language used in the Bible, and these show us the type of love that should be there (keep in mind this isn’t a pick-one, leave the rest list, this is inclusive).

1) Agape love – This love is an unselfish love and is the key to all the rest.  This is the same type of love that God has for us, that unconditional love that forgives.  This is the love He had toward us that while we where yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.  We are called to love our spouses in the same way.  If you start with selfish love, your mate is rightly going to feel manipulated and judged.

2) Epithumia love – Interestingly this type can, and is, both positive and negative depending on form.  The negative side is lust.  The positive side is desire within marriage.  This is the physical desire that results in fulfilling sex within marriage.  Guess what?  Sex is good if done in a Godly setting, sex was devised to bring release and intimacy for BOTH partners. This can also be abused if it turns lustful, esp. outside of marriage (or sadly even within).  When someone cannot temper this they will hurt their mate if they are demanding, obsessed, and insensitive.

3) Eros love – This is the romantic love often skewed by the media.  Romance in Christian marriage is all about pursuing your beloved… it is the chase within marriage.  It is seeking out your loved one and showing them how much you cherish them.  We have already covered the physical side, so this love includes more than that.  This is the compliments, the verbal praises, the together time, the day dreaming, the hugs, hand-holding, the planning, etc…

4) Storge love – This is the comfort type of love.  At home with our family we are to feel safe, and secure in love.  We should feel that we “fit” together.  You know those older pair of jeans that are so comfortable and are just “you?” Well, that’s storge-type love.

5) Phileo love – Friendship love is sharing time and interests together.  It’s that feeling of camaraderie and “liking” as well as loving the person you are with.  It’s ok to have our own interests, but we should also cultivate interests in common and pursue those as well as our own hobbies.

Again, all 5 types of love are what we should have in our marriages.  The key is to find our strengths and weaknesses, and to consciously change the weak areas and work on them, practice fulfilling them.  Another key thing to remember is that agape love calls for us to have all 5 types regardless of our mate… that’s the point of “unconditional” love.  Be friendly even if you mate isn’t (and don’t be attack-friendly to try to show how wonderful you are).  Of course all that assumes that you are not being harmed by an abuser.  God does not look kindly on an abusive mate.

If you find your marriage is on rocky ground, seek Christian counseling through a Christian psychologist or counselor, read some good book on marriage, pray and seek God’s help and grace.  All marriages hit rough patches, and they can only be smoothed out by understanding how God sees marriage, and what our roles are to be.

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Parents; it is your job to teach your kids about God.

I heard something on the radio today that disturbed me greatly.  What was it?  A preacher trying to tell parents the way to tell their kids about God, Jesus, and salvation.  Ugh.  No.  He was tossing words out there like “justification.”  Yeah, say that word to your three year old, and see if they understand.  The preacher was making a point in saying that you just keep telling the child the same thing over and over, and eventually, mysteriously, they’ll get it.

Any developmentalist will tell you that you don’t talk to a three year old the way you talk to a nine year old, it’s useless.  The preacher seemed to think that a child has to jump through a series of hoops in order to be well and truly saved, and that the kid needs to know everything an adult would know, and that the child needs to make sure to be old enough, etc… Well, yeah, children need to have an understanding of who Jesus is, and what He did.  But, Jesus didn’t ask how old the children were who wanted to come to Him.

Anyone, regardless of age is allowed to go to Jesus, in fact, it is encouraged.  The child isn’t going to be able to set down and write out a dissertation on sin and redemption, but that’s fine.  A child’s faith is held up as what we adults are to aim for.  A parent needs to evaluate each child and not compare them to one another.  Some will “get it” sooner than others, and that’s fine.  It is indeed your responsibility to always check along the way, for example, when your child wants to take communion, you need to make sure they do understand what it means.

Further, parents, it is your job to teach you children, not a preacher.  You need to know your own faith, and why you have it, good enough to explain that to your children.  Know faith and grace, know scripture, know Jesus.  Remember your kids are watching you and you need to make sure you realize you are their number one model.  Also, realize your child does not know what you know, you are not your child.  You may know that baptism isn’t required for salvation, and why, but your kids don’t, unless you TEACH them.

Some parents think that they can just give their children books, or have them watch cartoons, or listen to a certain preacher and that will be fine.  No, it won’t.  You are to raise your children up with the instruction that they need from you personally.  Ask questions, and then really listen to their answers.  Listen to sermons together, watch those cartoons together. Read the Bible together, and don’t water it down.

As a final thought; as you walk this road with your child, I would bet they’ll teach you a lot about God too, so be willing to learn.

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Filed under Christianity, Communion, Conversion, Theology, Uncategorized

Contract law (or, the efficacy of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection)

The Truth of the gospel is so simple a child can understand it.  However, there is also the meat of the gospel.  The details and teachings that are more complex and also extremely fascinating.  This article is going to discuss the idea of contracts (also known as covenants) and why they are so important.  I felt this was an appropriate topic, since this Sunday is known as Resurrection Sunday.

Contracts are pretty straightforward.  They are agreements between parties that lines out what is expected of each person participating in the contract.  God is a God that uses contracts/covenants to interact with and to guide mankind.  God drafts the contract and then man participates.

The Mosaic Law was a covenant between God and man, or actually a group of men, the Jewish people.  God said if man would flawlessly keep his side of the contract, then the person would inherit eternal life, would have his sins covered.  Mankind, in our fallen state, could not keep that contract perfectly. So, why did God make that covenant if He already knew we’d not be able to keep it?  The answer is simple; to show us that we couldn’t keep it.

What that shows is that we cannot gain eternal life and forgiveness on our own, we cannot fulfill our side of the contract and we are not righteous creatures, but the problem is, God is a completely righteous and just God and can’t just shred the contract, it must be fulfilled in order for there to be room for a new contract.   An example may help: You need to rent a house, so you sign a contract with the landlord to pay $500 per month for a year.  You are legally bound by the statues laid out in that agreement.  The ways you can fulfill your side of the agreement are clearly spelled out.

God set up the contract with man so that it could indeed be fulfilled under certain conditions.  A specific type of sacrifice must be made, and it must be a blood sacrifice.  What is sacrificed must be kin to whatever that sacrifice is going to cover.  The sacrifice must be perfect according to God’s law, therefore the sacrifice had to come from the chosen people with whom God made the covenant.  None of this was designed by accident.  Mankind caused it’s own fall, but God had a plan to redeem us.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was that perfect sacrifice.  He was perfect according to the law, and He was human, so He was kin to us, and He was Jewish, from the tribe of Judah.  He shed His blood by spilling it on the Cross.  This is why Jesus proclaimed it finished upon His death.  All debt was paid, all was covered, the contract was fulfilled.  The old covenant was nailed to the cross making way for a new agreement; anyone that trusts on Jesus’ person, life, death, and resurrection to cover all sin will inherit eternal life.

The new covenant, or contract, now hinges on faith.  By responding to God in faith, we sign on the dotted line and become covered by Jesus’ blood, our sin washed away, and we are no longer under the law of the old agreement.  God Himself seals us, and we become indwelt by the Spirit.  This is the only way to Heaven, and a correct relationship with God.  Faith in the Son.

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