Civility is Not a Sign of Weakness: The Hope of John F Kennedy and his Inaugural Address

padresteve:

Friends of Padre Steve’s World
Well my friends it is Friday night after a long week that began very painfully when one of my PTSD induced nightmares got way too physical. My neck still hurts really bad after busting my former nightstand/bookcase with my chin. Doctor said that it was like being in an auto accident. I do have a follow up appointment scheduled because I guess I jammed or did something else to my neck. Pray for me a sinner…. but I digress…. I have also been working and re-working a chapter of my Gettysburg text, I think that I will have it completed by Sunday of Monday. I also tantalized you with a note about a situation dealing with some harassment that I received from someone using a government computer on government time, that situation is ongoing and I have to hold off on putting out anything while law enforcement and others look into the situation. Believe you me I want to put this out but can’t do it just yet. Promise when I can it will be good.
But tomorrow, November 22nd is the 51st anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It is a date that always gets me, especially when I see the films of the assassination. I just think of a life cut far too short and an event that coupled with the Vietnam War and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has left scars on our country that have never fully healed.
So until tomorrow,
Peace
Padre Steve+

Originally posted on Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate:

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“So let us begin a new remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” John F Kennedy

Fifty-three years ago a young, handsome Irish Catholic from Massachusetts took the oath of office of the President of the United States. President John F. Kennedy had won an exceptionally close Presidential Race against Republican Voce President Richard M. Nixon, a race that some believe was decided by votes of the dead in places like Chicago and West Virginia. Despite the contested nature of the election Nixon was gracious and conceded the race to avoid deeper division.

Fifty years ago today that young President was gunned down in Dealey Plaza in Dallas Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. It was an event that shattered our nation which helped in…

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Reembracing the New Birth of Freedom

padresteve:

Friends of Padre Steve’s World
It has been a long day and I do have some new articles in the hopper. As I mentioned last night one is on hold and as soon as I feel comfortable in publishing it I will. Likewise I am almost ready to publish a new chapter of my Gettysburg text about the complex character of General Gouverneur Warren and why he and people like him matter. I have some other articles coming as well, some dealing as almost always with Gettysburg, others about civil and religious liberties issues and others about foreign policy, PTSD and other issues that matter to me.
So anyway, this is a repost of an article that I published in August dealing with the Gettysburg address which was coincidentally delivered by Abraham Lincoln on November 19th 1863. I was at Gettysburg under three weeks ago and I am already planning the Staff Ride for our winter class at the Staff College. As that time nears you will see more new or revised articles about the battle and the people who were so instrumental in securing the New Birth of Freedom for Americans that so many on the political right seem eager to crush. Yes, history matters, especially when there are people with tremendous political influence that desire to create an oligarchy that supports their discriminatory practices and gives them all the benefits while working overtime to deny the privileges and liberties that they benefit from to those that they despise.
So until tomorrow,
Have a great night,
Peace
Padre Steve+

Originally posted on Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate:

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I am always humbled when I travel to Gettysburg as I did a week and a half ago. It is hard to believe in that now peaceful pastoral setting that over 157,000 Americans, almost 82,000 Union and 75,000 Confederate met in a three day battle. In those three days over 28,000 Confederates and 23,000 Union soldiers were killed, wounded, missing or captured. It was the greatest number of casualties inflicted in one battle on American soil in history.

The places that the battle was fought have become legendary, for they are “hallowed ground” as President Abraham Lincoln so eloquently put it. The places, McPherson’s and Herr’s Ridge, Seminary Ridge, the Railroad Cut, Barlow’s Knoll, Cemetery Hill, Culp’s Hill, The Wheat Field, Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard, Little Round Top, Cemetery Ridge, the Apse of Trees, the Angle and the High Water Mark are in a sense holy, or hallowed, consecrated…

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It Depends on What Your Definition of “Christian” Is…

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My friends, I know I said last night that I had a big story to break, but I have to wait. I had something occur that was so troublesome that I had to report it to certain Federal law enforcement authorities and a nationally known advocate for religious liberty issues… Since the Feds are doing their thing and that I am scheduled to talk in person with the religious rights advocate on Friday I need to hold off on posting what I have written about the encounter. I hope that by the weekend that I can post it, if I don’t you may see it in the news… but I digress…. It will have to wait for the weekend if then, so tomorrow you will get my latest revision to my Gettysburg text and tonight this….It all depends on what your definition of being a “Christian” is….

That being said my friends I don’t think I am a Christian anymore… but then being a “Christian” really does depend on what your definition of being a Christian to use the words of former President Bill Clinton…well… is….

Well at a least to what I hear from some people but I tend to disagree with them, if it means what they say being a Christian is….

Elevating your interpretation of the Bible over Jesus…

Using your interpretation of scripture to damn other people, even if there are equally valid interpretations from other Christian sources…

Elevating partisan political issues above the commands of Jesus…

Being more concerned with political power than caring about people…

Demonizing anyone that disagrees with whatever pet doctrine that you hold dear…

Accuse others of the most horrible, unbelievable and false conspiracies and then claim that God told you…

The funny thing this is not new. Such behavior by Christians goes back over a millennium. Let’s face it the Roman Catholics and Orthodox split over one word in the Nicene Creed that described the precedence of the Holy Spirit. The Protestant Reformers elevated their interpretation of scripture over the Roman Catholic instance on scripture being interpreted through Church Tradition and the theology of Thomas Aquinas. The Radical Reformers insisted on believer’s  or adult baptism over infant baptism, and the list goes on and on with the creation of each new Christian sect. Hell, even last century the early Pentecostals insisted that unless one had been baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of “speaking in tongues” that you were not a Christian.

Among these various denominations and sects these doctrinal issues are still officially in place, even if many church members don’t understand. The only difference is now that many of these people, who I would say are sincere in their beliefs have come together under a political banner, condemning secularists, atheists, and other non-believers to ensure that the Christian franchise remains on top. This was the whole intention of the Manhattan Declaration of a few years back. Throw aside centuries or actual theological and doctrinal differences in order to keep political power, yes that is the Christian way. Martin Luther united with the “anti-Christ” Roman Catholic Church to exterminate the “enthusiasts” and Anabaptists during the Peasant’s Revolt, and there are plenty of other examples that I will not cite here, but forgetting doctrine to keep power is nothing new for Christians.

Be assured that if all the groups that the now supposedly politically unified Christians now oppose were wiped out and their survivors had no more rights than let’s say non-believers under radical fundamentalist Moslems, that these supposed Christians would start fighting each other again to keep power. That is the nature of humanity, that is the nature of religion, that is the unalterable nature of life.

If you are a “true believer” in any of these Christian traditions you may disagree with me, but in your heart you know I’m right because you know that you are right, and if you are right then no one else is, and your power and stays must be maintained regardless of the cost. That my friends is the nature of Christianity which is more grounded in politics and power than it is in Jesus. Eric Hoffer wrote about “True Believers”

“A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.”

Disagree with with me if you will but since I paid a lot more attention to church history and systematic theology and philosophy in seminary than most people do I can whip this stuff out without even looking at my notes. The fact is that once an external enemy is defeated, those within the community, even Christians of different denominations, who are different must also be defeated, humiliated and destroyed.

That my friends is the truth of history, that is the ever present witness of supposed Christians who value their political power, their economic position, and their place above all others. Alliances between various Christian sects are almost always temporary, never once have Christian sects who have united to face down what they think is an existential threat to themselves  have maintained their unity after the threat is eliminated.

So it is… It really is not about a truth, nor is it about faith, nor is it about love… it is about naked brutal power. Power that is only satisfied when the ones seeking it have eliminated all opposition, even that of former allies.

That is why I say that it is all about “what your definition of Christian is.” 

So if my belief and trust in Jesus is not enough for the true believers… I am okay with that.

If the fact that I am baptized, confirmed and even ordained is not enough for the true believers… I am okay with that.

If my belief which is grounded in scripture, tradition and reason is not enough for the true believers is not enough… I am okay with that.

If I do not use the name of Jesus to bludgeon non-believers and  if I do not ally myself to the Christian true believers who seek their political power and are willing to make temporary alliances with  those that they despise in the process…. I am okay with that.

If that means to be a Christian, then I am not… I am okay with that.

I guess that if this means to some to be a Christian then I am not a Christian… then I am okay with that.

If being a hateful, self righteous person who despises all that do not believe like them which is the litmus test of what it is to be a Christian then I am not a Christian… and I am okay with that too.

If those are the things that are now what are the marks of being a Christian, then I do not want to be one… I am okay with that.  I would rather follow Jesus than be labeled that kind of Christian.

After all, in the end it is about what God thinks, and not what your definition , or my definition of what being a Christian is.

I guess that Bill Clinton was really on target when he said that it all “depends on what your definition of is is” especially for politically minded Christians who don’t give a wit about what the doctrine of the churches actually is until they eliminate external opposition and can concentrate on eliminating  the “heretical” Christians who were at one time their allies.

That is the ugly truth of “Christian” history.

Condemn me if you want, but first take a look at history, especially the history of other Christians who once they eliminated external threats persecuted those that did not believe just like them.

As far as me, I am now no longer on the defensive. I am taking the offensive against people who value their privilege, power and place in society more than they do the simple command of Jesus… to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

As far as me, I will fight and protect the rights of the same people that condemn me to Hell. I do this  because as a human being; and because of my office that I am by law, obligation and and my oath to the Constitution that I am obligated to give them the protections and freedom that they refuse to give others. That being said, when they decide to mock me, attack me or threaten me I will not play the victim. I will use even legal and moral option available to me to expose those that do for what they are and that is what I have to keep a tight grip on for now.

You cannot believe how much that I want to expose those that attack me using the freedom that I by my service and oath strive to protect. Honestly I cannot wait to tell you what transpired over the last two days, bur right now I cannot. So until I can, I am yours,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frightened by Christians

padresteve:

Friends of Padre Steve’s World
It has been an interesting day and you will find out all about it tomorrow or the next day when I finish writing about it, but life is never dull for Padre Steve. Thank you as always for your taking the time to read what I put out here. Time is valuable, we only get so much of it, so I do appreciate your readership. This is an article I wrote about six months ago, an article that does kind of tie into what I will be writing about soon, something that will be a bombshell; so hold your horses and get ready to ride.
Peace
Padre Steve+

Originally posted on Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate:

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“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi

I expect that this article might make some people uncomfortable but it is something that I need to write.

I am a Christian. I am a Priest and I am a Navy Chaplain. But for the most part I am afraid of Christians. There are many reasons for this. Some are more general in the way I see Christians treat others; their own wounded as well as non-believers, the political machinations of pastors and “Christian” special interest groups masquerading as ministries.

But most of why I am afraid is because what I have experienced at the hand of many Christians, some of whom I had counted as friends many of whom are pastors, priests or chaplains. To experience rejection or being shamed by people that you thought were friends is very…

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Things that Go Bump in the Night Terrors of PTSD

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Bram Stoker wrote in Hamlet these immortal words in his novel Dracula:

“How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.” 

I am getting ready to go to bed, hopefully a bit early tonight and hopefully without the terror of so many nights, but I dread to sleep. I can understand why the savior of Little Round Top, General Gouverneur Warren wrote his wife after the Civil War:

“I wish I did not dream that much. They make me sometimes dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish to never experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.” 

Last night was difficult, the nightmares and night terrors were quite terrifying. Thus I almost dread bedtime tonight. Since the summer my dreams and nightmares have become much more vivid and often so terrifying that I either wake up or am woken up by Judy when she sees me becoming too physically active in them. I have when up several times either screaming or hitting the floor when I fall out of bed trying to attack something in my dream which is threatening me or Judy, or when I am fleeing a threat, usually as I hit the floor or the bookcase that doubled as my nightstand. Judy has woken me up a number of times, once when it appeared that I was shooting at someone. It must be thrilling for her. Of course Minnie our youngest Papillon decided that hanging on to mommy during such times is a good idea, while my unflappable Molly, my Papillon-Dachshund mix who helped get me through many nights after coming home from Iraq now simply looks up and goes back to sleep. Evidently she is used to me now, it is good that someone in our little household is able to not be too bothered by nightmares.

Last night I in a place where Judy and I had been trapped by enemy soldiers of some kind. I was unarmed and to allow Judy to escape up a hill I shut a gate to keep the enemy soldiers from pursuing us. As I struggled to lock the gate, I turned and saw that Judy had reached safety. I turned to join her but found that I could not get up the hill, I struggled and as I did the soldiers broke through the gate and began to shoot at me, I dove to avoid their bullets and was rudely awakened by my chin hitting the edge of the previously mentioned bookcase.

I slammed into it hard, so hard that my teeth cut my upper lip, and that my chin and jaw were swollen and in pain. I got up, walked into our master bathroom where my mouth was full of blood and my chin already swollen from the impact. Because of the hour I did not want to have Judy take me to the emergency room so I rinsed out my mouth, packed it with tissue to soak up the blood and lay back down until my normal time to wake up.

When boring came I got up, unpacked the very bloody tissue from my mouth and lips, showered and got ready for work. As I did so I noticed the damage to the bookcase, my jaw had shattered the pressed wood. I was shocked, evidently I have as hard of head as my dad accused me of as a child. I was surpassed, took a picture of he damage and went to work, where I reported what happened to my dean and went to our branch medical clinic. I spent most of the morning getting my head examined.

Though I hurt from the neck up, and was in a lot of pain nothing was broken so the doctor sent me home. The doctor said that though nothing was broken that I would be in pain for some time, and I am. He compared the impact to being in an auto accident. My neck is sore, the chin, jaw and mouth sore and I do have a pretty good headache.

When I see my new primary care doctor I will get scheduled for a sleep study.

Judy mentioned something that I didn’t think about either last night when this happened or while I was at the doctor. The fact is that had I not crushed the bookcase with my jaw I could have suffered a very severe injury, perhaps even a fractured skull.

I think that most of my current nightmares are triggered by reading about or seeing news reports about what is currently happening in Iraq where I left so much of my heart. But my dreams and nightmares are such surreal mixtures of fact, history, reality and imagination that it is sometime hard to tell where the dream ends and reality begins, or for that matter if there is much difference between the dream and reality, as Edward Allan Poe wrote:

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?”

I make no pretense of saying that I can understand or interpret them. Last night may have been triggered by the F-18s from the USS George H.W. Bush flying in to the Naval Air Station following their return from deployment not far from where I work during the day. The noise of their jet engines took me back to Iraq.  When I was in Iraq, any time that I was going west or east and waiting on flights at Al Asad Air Base in Al Anbar, the Marine and Navy F-18s based there would keep me up all hours of the day and night as I tried to sleep in the tents that transients like me stayed. Of course those tents were only a couple hundred yards from the flight line, so sleep was rare and the noise got into my head.

I honestly do hope that my new therapist and medication manager can find the right combination of therapy and medications to manage this. It would be nice to be able to sleep without waking up in terror with dreams of war and of enemies, both real and imagined trying to kill me.

I have posted the photo of the broken bookcase here just to give you an idea of how hard I hit it with my chin. It shocked the hell out of me when I saw it. Yes that is the damaged that I caused, it is about three inches in size.

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So anyway, I am going to try to get some sleep. But as Guy Sajer, the author of the classic account of brutal combat wrote: “Only happy people have nightmares, from overeating. For those who live a nightmare reality, sleep is a black hole, lost in time, like death.” Since returning from Iraq, my nights have been nightmarish. I wish that I never had to sleep, for sleep is far worse than being awake, even awake in a combat zone. Like Gouverneur Warren, my dreams sometimes, in  fact most of the time cause me to dread going to sleep.

All that being said I do not want to lose my dreams, the good, the bad or even the terrifying. The somehow are a part of me, though I certainly would wish that they would not be so vivid that I end up physically bruised and sitting in an acute care clinic. That being said, I have to agree with Joseph Heller who wrote: “I want to keep my dreams, even bad ones, because without them, I might have nothing all night long.”

With that, I wish all of us peace and pleasant dreams, even in the midst of real life nightmares.

Padre Steve+

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If they Destroy Our History…Why Defeating ISIL Matters

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The Islamic State Destroys the Tomb of the Patriarch Jonah, holy to Moslems, Christians and Jews earlier this year

My friends, I know that I said that I was tired and was just going to re-post an old article about the moral and ethical issues of fighting the Islamic State.I did that, but tonight as I watched my Blu-ray disc of the movie The Monuments Men I was struck by something that was very profound, the necessity of preserving our culture and history, and not just American, European or Christian history, culture, art and literature.

Robert Edsel, the man that wrote the story of the men who worked under enemy fire to save the works of the great artists who so  represent who we are as a civilized people wrote:

“To save the culture of your allies is a small thing. To cherish the culture of your enemy, to risk your life and the life of other men to save it, to give it all back to them as soon as the battle was won… it was unheard of, but that is exactly what Walker Hancock and the other Monuments Men intended to do.”

Wherever ISIL has taken power they have made public displays of destroying the monuments, works of art and religious shrines of those that they oppose. The leaders and spokesmen of the Islamic State have made it clear that theirs is not only a religious war, but a cultural war. A war that they claim to be backed by their religion even as they defy the very basic tenants of it.

For ISIL it does not matter if the works that they destroy are Islamic, Christian, Jewish works, or works that came before any of our current major religions, or even of the people that they murder are fellow Moslems, the fact is that they believe that all that do not believe as them must submit or be destroyed.

For a log time I have wondered just why this was the case. But in the film Monuments Men there was a quote which I think speaks volumes about the real intent of the Islamic State. George Clooney, who plays the American professor Frank Stokes remark to his team members:

“You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting for…”

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan are attempting not just to kill and destroy a generation, but to wipe out any sense of their history, culture and tradition. They do not care if what they destroy predates their own religion, because for them all culture, except  what they can use to propagate their faith is profane, heretical or worthy of destruction.

In Afghanistan the Taliban destroyed irreplaceable works, including an irreplaceable,  massive and ancient Buddhist shrine. In Iraq and Syria the Islamic State have destroyed and are destroying the works that people of faith, be they Moslems, Jews or Christians cherish. Tombs of the ancient patriarchs and prophets of our shared faiths, shrines, Mosques, Churches, or Synagogues are not sacred to such people.

The leaders of the Islamic State are perhaps even worse than the Nazis. Many Nazi leaders sought to preserve great works of art, even if it was only for their benefit or profit. However, the leaders of the Islamic State have an allegedly “higher motive” than the Nazis, their motive is to destroy anything that offends their image of God.

If we believe that there is any sense of historical, cultural or religious meaning and value. If we believe that there is any sense of the holy. If we believe that there is any sense that we must preserve the works that countless generations of Christians, Jews and Moslems have sought to preserve for our shared culture, then we must resolve to see that the Islamic State is destroyed.

There are things that are worth fighting and dying for if we are not to lose who were are as people, who we are as humanitarians, who we are as people of faith, just who as people respect and care for the people, cultures, faith and thought of those who came before us and who have contributed to who we are.

Some might say that works of art, history and culture are not wore fighting and dying for, but they are wrong. For if we have any sense of who we are as Christians, Moslems, Jews or any other people of faith or culture, including nonbelievers who see value in such works; we cannot allow the Islamic State to win. There are some things, in our common humanity that must be fought for if we are to survive as human beings who seek to preserve our history, faiths and culture.

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The fight against the Islamic State is not just about religion. It is not just about oil,  It is in fact a fight to preserve who we are as human beings and our shared cultural heritage against people who have no regard for culture, religion, faith or humanity.

Sadly, unlike the small team of art experts who worked to save the works of art and culture that the Hitler was bent on destroying at the end of the World War Two, there are no teams working to save the great works of antiquity that the Islamic State is intent on destroying. It is just too dangerous.  The tomb of Jonah who is important to Jews, Moslems and Christians was destroyed earlier this year, as well as  many churches, mosques and synagogues, burial grounds, shrines, icons and works of art which the leaders of the Islamic State have determined to be degenerate, heretical or disrespectful to the Prophet, works that generations of Moslem, Christian and Jewish scholars, leaders and common people in the Middle East fought to preserve for posteretity. Works that even if they differed in their religious beliefs, that all believed were worth preserving.

But to paraphrase the words of what the character that George Clooney played in The Monuments Men in said about the Nazis to the Islamic State:

“They can wipe out an entire generation, they can burn their homes to the ground, somehow people will still find their way back. But if they destroy our collective history, if they destroy our collective achievements, it will be as if we never existed. That’s what the Islamic State wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting against…”

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

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Can you Live With It? The Moral Costs of the War Against the Islamic State

padresteve:

Friends of Padre Steve’s World
I am pretty tired today, but since I wrote about the expanding war against the Islamic State last night I thought that a look at the ethics of this conflict through the lens of Star Trek Deep Space nine would be a good way to end this weekend. I wrote this article in September as it became apparent that the war against ISIL was going to be a long one. The question is, can we live with it?
Peace
Padre Steve+

Originally posted on Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate:

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“My father used to say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I laid the first stone right there. I’d committed myself. I’d pay any price, go to any lengths, because my cause was righteous. My… intentions were good. In the beginning, that seemed like enough.” Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) Star Trek Deep Space Nine, In the Pale Moonlight

I think that among the Star Trek series that my favorite is Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Of course all of the series deal with ethics, philosophy and morality to some extent, but Deep Space Nine is perhaps the most interesting to me. Don’t get me wrong I think that the Original Series and Start Trek the Next Generationwere and are leap years ahead of most television series when it comes to addressing ethical, moral and existential issues, but somehow living in the post 9-11

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