Monthly Archives: February 2012

Romney Stops the Bleeding but Race far from Over

The Republican nomination process was supposed to be a done deal by now. Mitt Romney was by now to have for all practical purposes secured the nomination. It hasn’t been that way. After an advertised win that was not really a win in Iowa Romney went on to win on his home turf in New Hampshire. Then things came apart. A series of gaffes led to a strong win by Newt Gingrich in South Carolina. Then Romney clobbered Gingrich with negative ads in Florida and Gingrich added to the meltdown by two lack luster debate performances. Romney’s win in Florida made it look like he had seized control of the race.  Romney quickly picked up the endorsement of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) and a narrow and disputed win in the Maine Caucuses over Ron Paul and a win in Nevada. However that did not last as Rick Santorum stormed to victory in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.  Those defeats sent the Romney campaign which had just seemed to have recovered some momentum int a near panic.

The Romney camp spent an anxious two weeks before the upcoming Arizona and Michigan primaries. Santorum continued to surge during these two weeks and for a couple of days began to poll ahead of Romney in that state. The two campaigns bombard each other aided by the attacks of Newt Gingrich and Ton Paul on the front runners. Santorum then departed from his emphasis on the economy and understanding of blue collar family concerns which contrasted sharply with Romney’s inability to connect on these subjects. Santorum turned the conversation to conservative social and moral issues and made some comments which probably took his numbers down in Michigan. I think that the key mistake for Santorum was his comment that President John F. Kennedy’s religious freedom speech had made him “want to vomit” accusing the late President of promoting an absolute separation of church and state that denies religious people and churches access to the public square and debate. It was a terrible misrepresentation of Kennedy’s speech and plays to a certain paranoia in the conservative Evangelical Christian and Catholic base.

Romney easily won Arizona with the conservative vote being divided by Santorum and Newt Gingrich who improved his showing in that state.  However Romney won Michigan and won the Roman Catholic vote showing a weakness in Santorum’s strategy to go after moral issues that may lay Catholics even have problems with. At the same time even though Romney won the popular vote by about 3% he split the delegates 15-15 giving Santorum a claim to have at least tied Romney in Michigan.

Romney stopped the bleeding and won what were described as “must win” states. However the post primary speeches revealed just how tenuous Romney’s wins were. Santorum closed the night with a passionate speech in which he attacked Romney and President Obama and looked like he was trying to cover some to the damage he had done over the past few days by focusing almost exclusively on moral and social issues where he already has the support of the conservative GOP base.

Romney made a speech that showed little passion and looked to me to be like a businessman trying to close the deal rather than a passionate believer in his cause.  Saturday is the Washington Caucuses and next week is Super Tuesday. I expect that Romney, Santorum and Gingrich will all have wins, just who wins what states and how big those wins are could define the next stage of the campaign.  But even more importantly it is how badly the candidates continue to damage each other will drive the narrative going into the later primary season. This could also effect their fundraising support and possibly increase the calls for another candidate at a brokered convention.

I expect that all four candidates will remain in the race and do whatever they can to gather delegates and seize the momentum. Into this mix the national GOP including major leaders are beginning to wonder what the primary campaign is doing to their chances of winning in November.  When people like Jeb Bush, Sarah Palin and others question the viability of their field in a general election it is time for the GOP to wake up.

The race continues and my prediction is that the GOP fratricide will continue and that if it does the chances of the party winning in November will go down with them. I think that  at this point barring reconciliation and a true united front in the GOP before the convention that any nominee that they field will be damaged goods and despite the obvious weakness of President Obama and the economy stand a diminished chance of winning in November. Democrats should not rejoice and count they’re chickens before they are hatched because they can still lose the election especially if the economy gets worse. However, if the inter-GOP civil war continues they stand an excellent chance of losing an election that even a few months ago I assumed as did many others was theirs for the taking.

It shall be interesting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Faith for those that Struggle with Faith

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

I’m taking a few minutes tonight even while watching primary returns and political punditry from Michigan and Arizona to muse a bit on faith during Lent.  I’ll post my analysis of tonight’s results tomorrow.

I have found over the past couple of years that there are many people that grew up in some kind of Christian home that for a host of reasons are struggling with faith, God and  the church. It is something that I find interesting from more than a theoretical premise because I went through a period after returning from Iraq where I struggled and could best be described as an agnostic struggling to recover faith.  Faith for me is still a work in progress, I can fully relate to father of the child Jesus healing in Mark 9:24 saying “I believe help my unbelief” and Thomas who after the Resurrection that he would not believe without being able to put his hands in the wounds of Christ.  Saint Anselm of Canterbury talked about faith seeking understanding and I think that is the mark of theological honesty.  I believe but seek understanding but even if I don’t understand I can have faith even if it is imperfect and plagued with doubts as well as frustration about things I see done in the church and in the name of Jesus.

When people come to me and admit their struggles I simply try to listen and let them be honest about their doubts and to know that even if they struggle that God still cares about them. I think that people, at least from what I hear are tired of the lack of honesty that characterizes much of what is being sold as Christianity in America.  What they struggle with is that “faith” marketed  by the health, wealth and political power preachers, pundits and politicians that make up the Unholy Trinity of American religious life.

Lent is one of those times of reflection where hopefully those that call on the name of Jesus can deepen faith or in the case of many that struggle, return to faith.  I really believe that honesty with God, each other and the world is one of the keys to faith and for those of us that struggle absolutely vital.

Part of that honesty to recover faith is to realize that God does love the real and very imperfect world that we live in. God loves wounded, doubting and imperfect people. Dietrich Bonhoeffer the German pastor, theologian and martyr said it this way “God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.” 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The War that Cannot Be Won: Afghanistan 2012

“There is no single piece of land in Afghanistan that has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier . . . no single military problem that has arisen and not been solved, and yet there is still no result.”  Sergei Akhromeyev, Soviet General Staff Chief 1986

Sometimes one wonders if anyone actually reads history and if they do whether they actually want to learn from it. Back in 1979 the Soviet Union had advisors in Afghanistan. A lot of them. A local and indigenous Communist Party had some measure of political power and this was before the Soviets invaded.

However in March 1979 a major unit of the Afghan National Army in the city of Herat mutinied against the Soviets and the Afghan government. Before the mutiny was put down 50 Soviet advisors as well as 300 of their dependents were brutally murdered by Afghan Army personnel. A further 5000 Afghans died in the revolt.

Since 2009 the trend of Blue on Green killings, that is Afghan Soldiers or Security Force members killing US or NATO personnel has been increasing at a troubling rate. We should not be surprised, the one thing that the Afghan loathes above all is the foreign soldier on Afghan soil.  While some Afghans may desire a more modern society and something more akin to the Western democratic political model to include women’s suffrage they are in a distinct minority.  The fact is that as General Barry McCafferty recently noted regarding the murder of two US military advisors in the supposedly secure Afghan Interior Ministry “we may be seeing a watershed event after billions of dollars and 16,000 u.s. casualties. we see how shallow the impact we have on this primitive society is.” 

Approximately 130,000 US and NATO troops including a number of my friends are deployed in penny-packets across Afghanistan and are increasingly isolated and in danger.  The “inadvertent” burning of copies of the Koran in a garbage dump by US personnel has resulted in the deaths of at least 4 US military personnel and the wounding of 8 more and put our bases on lockdown as thousands of Afghans protest and attack them.  More than two dozen Afghans have died in the recent violence.

As deployed they are able to achieve local success but unable to secure the country. Dependent on supplies delivered by air or along tenuous supply lines hundreds of miles long these forces though numerous are dispersed and deployed in areas where their inherent technological and operational superiority is negated by weather, terrain and restrictive rules of engagement as well as a counterinsurgency strategy in which these advantages matter little and that they do not have enough troops to accomplish.

US and NATO forces are embedded with the Afghan Army, Police and Border forces, many of whom are either incompetent, corrupt or allied with Taliban or Al Qaeda. Most Afghans feel that any foreign occupier is a mortal enemy and mistakes such as the recent Koran burning only add fuel to the fire of hatred no matter how many times our leaders apologize. Formerly unclassified but now classified reports easily available on the internet including at US Government websites paint a picture of mutual distrust and animosity that can only be described as toxic between the Afghans and NATO personnel, especially Americans.

To make matters worse the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan are surrounded to the west by an ever more bellicose Iran, to the south and east by an unstable and often adversarial “ally” Pakistan through which 30-40 percent of their supplies transit.  To the north the United States and NATO are dependent on agreements with the former Soviet Central Asian Republics Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with most having had to transit Russia.  In the 1980s the Soviets only had make a withdraw across the border into their own country.

Another potentially disastrous situation would be for a war to break out between Iran and Israel or with the United States and our allies. The way our troops are deployed means that they cannot be easily concentrated to parry any threats and their isolation prevents them from being used as an offensive asset should a war break out against Iran.

The fact is that US and NATO forces are now in a very similar position to the Soviets in the mid to late 1980s.  We are engaged in a war where military success is not going to win the war. No matter what any politician says there is nothing that can change that unless they would be willing to commit to greatly increasing the number of ground forces in Afghanistan with the costs and logistical problems that would entail.

President Obama is in a “damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t” position.  If he keeps the status quo the danger persists and maybe increases. If he were to begin a more precipitous withdraw there would be the same dangers and possibly more during the withdraw. But mitigating against a faster withdraw is the 2012 election in which his Republican challengers would accuse him of “losing the war and betraying our troops.” However the chance to end the Afghan War from a position of strength was lost in 2003 when we diverted our efforts to the invasion of Iraq. That action gave Al Qaeda and the Taliban the breathing space that they needed to make a comeback and that was not on President Obama’s watch.

Geopolitically the presence of 130,000 US and NATO forces does nothing for regional or US national security and prevents those forces and the attendant resources needed to support them unavailable for any other dangers in the region. The goal of “creating a stabile and secure Afghanistan” is a myth. Afghanistan is not Iraq and will for generations remain a backward, tribal and religiously intolerant society that will never embrace western ideals that conflict with their culture.

The question now is how do we get out of this place, seal it off to keep terrorist threats from emanating from it and endangering US, NATO and Allied interests in the region.  The reality is also that no matter what we do that any defeat or withdraw will be grist for Al Qaeda, Iran and other Islamist propaganda.  The inability of the Soviets to “win” in Afghanistan was of the factors that brought down the Soviet Empire and ended the myth that Soviet Communism was invincible. The same could happen to the United States.

When presented with a cataclysmic strategic situation on the Western Front in 1944 Field Marshall Gerd Von Rundstedt was asked what should be done. His simple response was “End the war you fools.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ch56NAL1C-I

We are not yet in a cataclysmic situation but the time to make decisions is now not later because there is nothing that can change the strategic or operational conditions in or outside of Afghanistan. Facts are facts and politicians from both the Republican and Democrat parties should stop trying to turn this into short term political advantage and look at the actual strategic interests of our country as well as our broader security and economic interests in the region.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Drudge Distort: A New Feature at Padre Steve’s World

I do most of my business on that dirty Internet that you were just talking about, where I find there is a lot of freedom to report exactly what I want.”  Matt Drudge

I have been noticing for quite some time that conservative media scion Matt Drudge, publisher of the Drudge Report has a penchant for producing sensational and sometimes misleading headlines to articles linked to his site. Sometimes the headlines twist the meaning of what was in the article so completely I have to believe that Drudge’s intent is to stir up and mislead an already paranoid readership who probably will not actually dig into the article to find out the truth.

Today’s entry was Town Considers Banning Smokers From Smoking — Outside Their Own Homes!

The article was from the local CBS News affiliate in Sacramento http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2012/02/24/rocklin-considering-banning-smokers-from-smoking-outside-their-own-homes/

The headline on the CBS site read “Rocklin Considering Banning Residents From Smoking Outside Their Own Homes.” However the town is not considering that. The council was asked by a citizen to do it but the Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst said the city has “no intention of considering the matter.”  This was actually mentioned in the article, but if you just read the headline you would think that the local town council is coming after smokers in their homes. The headline is a deliberate distortion of the story both by the local reporter and Drudge.

 

I look at Drudge a couple of times a day and have been doing so ever since Drudge broke the Clinton Lewinsky scandal.  The site often has great links and the format allows me to quickly scan his headlines to see what some of the major stories are before I start looking through the large number of other sites that I read to see what is going on in the world.

That being said since I returned from Iraq in 2008 I have looked at all news sites much more critically and weigh each of their respective biases when formulating my interpretation of events. When I started doing this I noticed that Drudge was masterful putting sensational headlines to various links, headlines that anyone who studies group psychology and mass movements knows are designed to inflame the passions of his readers by appealing to fear, in this case fear of intrusive government.  It is what William Randolph Hearst did so well in the 1890s, back then it was called yellow journalism.

Drudge is a internet news pioneer and a powerhouse and a lot of times he breaks news that is important or provides links to articles that are sometimes ignored in larger traditional news outlets. I admire the fact that he can get stories out sometimes before other media. Drudge’s presence does make the media more accountable.

That being said Drudge has a political bias and will distort headlines when it suits his purpose. His page will often feature links to several unrelated articles which paint a narrative of what he wants to point out.  He is very good at doing this and it is a reason for his immense popularity. Thus readers need to take that into account before getting too spun up when they see one or several sensationalist headlines on his site.

In the 2012 campaign it goes without saying that Drudge does his best to zing President Obama at every opportunity but he appears to me to be playing kingmaker in the GOP primaries in helping take down Newt Gingrich in Florida as well as Ron Paul and more recently Rick Santorum.

The Drudge Report for all of its prowess is as susceptible to bias and creating bias as is any traditional media outlet or reporter. Unfortunately many of Drudge’s readers can’t see that and as such what is highlighted on the Drudge Report often ends up repeated all over the media, especially the conservative “new” media even if the headline is a sensationalized distortion or outright falsehood propagated by another news site.

So I will be adding a tab at the top of this page called The Drudge Distort and when I notice something terribly distorted I will post a short note about it with the link and any other supporting articles.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Baseball in February: The Freedom Classic and an MVP Beats a Drug Charge

I was able to go to a baseball game today. It is hard to believe that there are ball games going on outside of Spring Training but NCAA College Baseball has been underway for over a week. Today drove up to Kinston to take in a game between the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy. The occasion was the Second Annual Freedom Classic.

It was a cold day with temps in the low 50s and winds blowing 15-25 miles an hour but I was able to get together with my friends in Kinston to watch a game for the first time since the Kinston Indians final season ended with a loss to Frederick in the Carolina League Championship series on September 15th.  Though the weather was cold it was good to be back with my friends watching a game at a wonderful baseball venue.  I hate the fact that the Indians owner sold them without a replacement team and did not offer the city a chance to find an owner that would keep the team in Kinston. But at least there was baseball in Kinston this weekend.

Of course spring training is underway and all of the teams are working out.  Lots of moves were made in the post season following one of the most dramatic seasons in baseball history. Big names moved, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to the Angels, Prince Fielder to the Tigers, Ozzie Guillen taking over the Marlins and a host of other situations.

But despite all the positives there was a cloud during the post season involving the National League MVP, Milwaukee Brewers Left Fielder Ryan Braun reportedly failed a drug test for Performance Enhancement Drugs (PEDs).  Braun appealed the results of the test and Friday it was announced that Braun won his appeal based on issues with the chain of custody of the sample. Evidently the collector of the sample who was required to immediately send the sample to the testing lab via FedEx held onto the sample.

Braun was out proclaiming his innocence today. He was articulate and appeared humble but at the same time there are still questions in many people’s minds about the test and if he was clean or not.  Having been in the military for over 30 years I have been repeatedly drug tested and as a Company Commander had to oversee a unit drug testing program.  When I heard about the process used and the actions of the collector I was appalled. Chain of custody does matter in any type of drug test that can impact someone’s career no matter what line of work they are in.  Failure to safeguard samples undermines the integrity of any drug testing program and there are cases every year where positive results are thrown out because of a chain of custody violation.

I learned about the importance of chain of custody as a Company Commander back in 1986. I had a soldier test positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. We were sticklers about maintaining a solid chain of custody and based on the test results and the un-impeachability of the chain of custody I offered non-judicial punishment under Article 15 and reduced the soldier in rank. Since the soldier was otherwise a good soldier and back then a commander did not have to separate a soldier under pay grade E4 for a first drug related offense I elected to keep the soldier in the Army. The soldier appealed the sentence as is his right and to my surprise I was called to my higher headquarters and had my ass chewed by the group commander and Sergeant Major for not maintaining the chain of custody. I knew that was not the case but the Platoon Sergeant who had accompanied the soldier to the headquarters for the appeal inadvertently left the chain of custody documentation on his desk. When the group commander reviewed the paperwork he thought that the chain of custody had not been maintained. Within 5 minutes I produced the original documents which changed the nature of the conversation, the sentence was upheld and the ass chewing stopped. But I learned that the chain of custody for a drug test or paperwork regarding a failed drug test needs to be airtight to maintain the integrity of the system.

In the case of Ryan Braun I have my doubts, I but the incompetence of the collector who did not adhere to established rules of shipping a sample brought the chain of custody into question. If Braun was indeed innocent as he maintains then he will always have a cloud that follows him. If he lied and the test was really positive then justice was not done because chain of custody was called into question.

The little things do matter.

Since I got home I have had the MLB Channel on all night, that is so much more relaxing than almost anything else on television. Only about a week until the first Spring Training games begin. It may be cold but spring is in the air.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Spring Training and Lent 2012

“Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.” Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

The season of Lent invariably coincides with Spring Training, a fact that is not lost upon me. I love Spring Training and find that with each passing day I become more drawn into the beauty, grace and magic that is baseball.

However Lent is not my favorite time of year. It never has been especially when I slavishly attempted to pound myself into every jot and tittle that was lentenly imaginable.

Even when working really hard I was not very good at observing Lent. I could do the outward aspects such as abstaining from various foods or activities or adding more times of prayer but it was difficult.   Thus Lent was a ordeal to be endured rather than something to encourage the growth of grace in freedom.  The problem was that I was focused on the outward actions rather than the relationship with God or God’s people.

That being said I do find value in the outward disciplines of Lent. But sometimes I wonder if we as Christians in the West in our often nearly medieval practice of the outward forms of Lenten observation miss the grace that fills Lent in that it is all about the forgiveness of sins. The message of this is so well said by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

That is something that I endeavored to focus on last Lent and will do again this year. In a sense my observance of Lent is becoming like Spring Training. It is becoming a season to help bring discipline to my game and to hopefully through the grace of God do better in life as a Christian, Priest, husband and Chaplain and utility infielder.

Yes, as Schiller said “Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.” Who could not watch a perfectly executed double play and not think the same.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Christian Dominionsim on Display the Return of Constantine: We Were Warned by Barry Goldwater

“[I]n our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political, economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all thought is divinely classified into two kinds — that which is their own and that which is false and dangerous.” — Justice Robert H Jackson, American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 US 382, 438; 70 SCt. 674, 704 (1950)

It is Fat Tuesday and tomorrow Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, a season of penitence   and self reflect that hopefully draws the Christian into a closer relationship with Christ and his people.  Unfortunately I don’t believe that the political climate of the country now dominated by the most extreme will allow many people to enjoy that as politicians and politically minded preachers are using their “faith” to fuel animus against President Obama and Mitt Romney to further their political aims.

I am a Christian and a Priest in a small Old Catholic denomination. I am a graduate of a premier Evangelical Protestant Seminary where I came to appreciate and revere religious liberty. What I am going to write today may offend some but it has to be said. I believe that the cause of religious liberty, and for that matter the liberty of the Christian Church to be faithful to its call and unencumbered by unseemly political alliances is in danger due to the actions of people that in many cases honestly believe that they are defending religious liberty. Justice Robert Jackson prosecuted the major Nazi War criminals at Nuremberg and was able to view the results of what happened when churches that entered into such alliances.

Today I saw Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham basically say that President Obama was a Moslem without saying it flat out and that Mitt Romney is not a Christian.  The fact is I don’t care what Franklin Graham thinks about anyone’s faith that is not and never has been a criteria for elected office in this country. Meanwhile Rick Santorum running against Romney has all but compared the President to Hitler and the President’s Christian faith into question but then when asked if he was doing acted like he didn’t mean anything by his comments. I was incredulous as I watched and realized just how right Barry Goldwater was so many years about the character of this movement.

Barry Goldwater, the man who inspired Ronald Reagan to run for President and who was the conservative bulwark for many years in Washington DC warned what would happen when the Religious Right took over the Republican Party. Goldwater said of the types of people that currently dominate the conservative movement, if it can be still called that:

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.” November, 1994, in John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience.

Billy Graham, a saint if there ever was one and a man who used his faith to build bridges even while being unabashedly evangelical warned back in 1981 about the current crop of religious conservatives and stand in sharp contrast to the words and actions of Franklin:

 “I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” Parade Magazine February 1, 1981, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

What we are seeing today is the expressed manifestation of religious bigotry operating under the guise of defending religious freedom. It is being shown in its ugliness by the brazen If there is any way to lose religious freedom it is to follow this attempt to marry the Christian faith with the American government is not only short sighted but does great damage to the faith and our American liberties.

Rick Santorum, Franklin Graham and a host of influential of Evangelical leaders, politicians and even Roman Catholic Bishops have said what they believe religious liberty means to them and it has little in common with the understanding of our founders. It has nothing to do with limited government nor religious liberty. It is the imperial religion of Constantine, dressed up a bit to keep up with the times.  It is simply an attempt by these leaders to use the apparatus of the government to support themselves.

George Truett, the great Southern Baptist Pastor who served as President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote in his book Baptists and Religious Liberty in 1920 about the decidedly negative effect of when the Church became the State religion:

“Constantine, the Emperor, saw something in the religion of Christ’s people which awakened his interest, and now we see him uniting religion to the state and marching up the marble steps of the Emperor’s palace, with the church robed in purple. Thus and there was begun the most baneful misalliance that ever fettered and cursed a suffering world…. When … Constantine crowned the union of church and state, the church was stamped with the spirit of the Caesars…. The long blighting record of the medieval ages is simply the working out of that idea.”

The late Senator Mark Hatfield a strongly committed Evangelical Christian before it became popular in Washington made this comment concerning those that are now driving this spurious debate:

“As a Christian, there is no other part of the New Right ideology that concerns me more than its self-serving misuse of religious faith. What is at stake here is the very integrity of biblical truth. The New Right, in many cases, is doing nothing less than placing a heretical claim on Christian faith that distorts, confuses, and destroys the opportunity for a biblical understanding of Jesus Christ and of his gospel for millions of people.”  quoted in the pamphlet “Christian Reconstruction: God’s Glorious Millennium?” by Paul Thibodeau

The current campaign is the imposition of Christian Dominionism onto the rest of the country. It may reference the Gospel and even certain Christian moral understandings even as it mocks other just as “Biblical” Christian teachings.

Back in 1981 Barry Goldwater said on the Senate Floor “The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent.” 

Like it or not Goldwater was right about this crowd. They will drive their churches and their political party into the abyss.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Up Chuck and Die: Was it Stomach Flu or the Cookie?

I think I had a wicked case of the stomach flu this weekend, but then it might have been the Black and White Cookie.  Either way I am still recovering and thankfully not feeling as bad as I was on Sunday.

Sunday was bad all night long I was doing the full body heave.  I have tossed my cookies before, but this time was more violent than cookie tossing that I have been involved with. I mean my stomach was doing summersaults in my gut, it was though it had taken on a life of its own. I have never had my stomach do that before nor have I remained in pain the following day after tossing my cookies. Thankfully I seem to be recovering and the day after the morning after I seem to be feeling much better.

I was wondering if it might be something that I ate but since Judy and our Nephew Adam who was visiting for the weekend both ate what I ate the chances of that were small.  Thus I believe that it was a case of the latest stomach flu bug going around.

Now Judy was telling that it might be psycho-somatic but I reject that out of hand unless it was the cookie….

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlLPAIrmqvE

Seinfeld again imitates life perhaps?  As I downed that Black and White Cookie I remembered that great episode from Seinfeld called The Dinner Party and as the cookie descended into my stomach and I put myself to bed I thought “no, that could never happen.”  But I as I laid in my bed unable to sleep with reflux building I knew that there was a war going on in my stomach.  It was as if David Duke and Louis Farrakhan were leading crusading against each other in my stomach and Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney were not playing Ebony and Ivory.  No my friends, Padre Steve’s stomach was the apocalyptic battleground of a cookie divided against itself.

I don’t want to believe that it was the cookie, or even the latest comments by Rick Santorum, but I prefer to believe that it was the impersonal action of a virus.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Question is When, Where and How?…not If…. The Inevitability of War with Iran

“War is the unfolding of miscalculations.”  Barbara W. Tuchman

I do not think that there is a sane person in the world that sees any benefit of a war between the United States, Israel and the West and Iran.  But then sane people seem to be in the minority of all those involved in the current escalation of tension regarding Iran,  Israel, the United States, the West and the Arab World.

That being said I don’t think that anyone really wants to go to war even as all of countries involved move military units around the region, stockpile more weapons and issue ever more strident threats against one another.

When the war between Iran and those that oppose it occurs it will be because one of parties involved makes a fatal miscalculation that leads to a regional war with unimaginable consequences.

The immediate parties involved, the Iranians, the Israelis and the Americans have all hardened their military, political and economic stances in the past few months. The Iranians in particular have escalated military tensions by threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, moving naval units to Syria even as that country devolves into civil war and making attempts or threats on the lives of Israeli diplomats in various countries including the United States.

Israel is reacting in kind to what many Israelis view as an existential threat from Iran in regard to the possibility of Iran producing nuclear weapons and delivery systems that could threaten Israel.  Reports seem to indicate that the Israelis could conduct a pre-emptive strike against Iran any time between the spring and the November elections in the United States.

The United States and much of Europe have imposed an increasing number of economic sanctions on Iran that are taking a toll on Iran’s economy.  Iran is increasing pressure on its own citizens who want more freedom. The Iranian military and the Revolutionary Guards are conducting exercises which are becoming increasingly bellicose including sending warships into the Mediterranean Sea to Syria.  Whether they want war or do not their actions could accidentally trigger a war with terrible consequences to the region as well as the global economy.

At this point I do not see any easy way out of a war which everyone knows is coming but cannot or will not avert.  The question is no longer if? It is when, how and where? Will it be a naval action at the Straits of Hormuz? Will it be the assassination of an Israeli, Iranian or perhaps a Saudi diplomat or leader? Will it be a terrorist attack against Israel by an Iranian ally such as Hezbollah which triggers an Israeli response?  Who really knows? There are so many possibilities that could trigger a regional war that it it boggles the mind.

The media with its 24 hour news cycle which demands fresh news raises the tenor of emotions and passions of the people and nations involved with each passing day.  The fear of war is driving people to the brink of it.  Back in the late 1890s it was called “Yellow Journalism.”

Adlai Stevenson said that “In matters of national security emotion is no substitute for intelligence, nor rigidity for prudence. To act coolly, intelligently and prudently in perilous circumstances is the test of a man, and also a nation.”  But this is not always the case. It is very possible that Israel, Iran or the United States may conduct a “preventative” strike against its opponents.  Otto von Bismarck commented that “Preventive war is like committing suicide out of fear of death.”

One can only hope that leaders and nations will see the truth of Stevenson and Bismarck’s words before the someone makes that one fatal miscalculation.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Foreign Policy, History, middle east, national security, News and current events

A Memorial Service for HM1 David Graney and the End of a Long Week

This has been a busy week. It began with an unexpected emergency to baptize the grandchild of a dear friend injured in a terrible household accident.  I drove from North Carolina on Sunday to Virginia Beach and returned Monday evening. When I returned I was getting ready and preparing for the memorial service for a shipmate who died just two months from retirement, a service that we conducted today. After the service I was able to drive back to see my wife Judy and our nephew Adam, an Army Sergeant who is taking a course at Fort Lee and who is visiting for the weekend.

I am tired but blessed. Despite the hectic schedule I do love what I do and the people that I have the honor of serving.  Today was no exception as I had the honor of conducting the memorial service for Hospital Corpsman First Class David Graney, a Cardiovascular Technician at Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune.

David was preparing for retirement and was just two months away from when he would retire when he passed away. He was beloved among his fellow sailors, a mentor, friend, shipmate and leader. He was so knowledgable about his work that many people that he met in professional settings assumed that he was a fellow Cardiologist and not a technician who was attending conferences with the Cardiologists that he worked for and with. He was a leader who took care of his sailors teaching, caring and helping. He was a model Corpsmen. He was honest, forthright and did not hesitate to give his professional opinion and had a devastating sense of humor. I did not know him well, I had only met him a few times but from what his friends, shipmates and co-workers said I realized that David was a gem of a human being ad wonderful sailor.

His memorial service was attended by his family as well as former shipmates who travelled from across the country to attend. With our sailors drawn up in ranks in their dress blues David’s friends and shipmates recounted his impact on their lives.  I had the honor of conducting the service as well as preaching the homily.  I was really touched by the words of a young Corpsman who David led, as well as the words of our staff Cardiologist and a Petty Officer who had attended the Cardiovascular Technician course with David. What was consistent was that David was honest, forthright, knew his job, cared about those that were in his charge and was incredibly funny.  His death, sudden and unexpected reminded us all of our own mortality.

David will be missed by all those whose lives he touched. His death tore a hole in the fabric of the community that he served and in his family. I know that I wonder and ask the “why” question when someone like David dies seemingly before he should. Of course the “why” question cannot be answered except that for all of us death is a certainty, but not necessarily the end. Likewise that God will not fill the hole that is left in our lives when we lose someone dear to us. We can try to do it but that is ultimately self defeating because as long as that hole remains we remain connected to the one that we have lost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that:

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” 

I am tired right now, but have been privileged to be a part lives of the people that I have be able to serve this week. The are friends, they are shipmates, they are family.  They are part of the tapestry of my life.

Tonight I was able to celebrate the birthday of a friend at Gordon Biersch and I will check in on my friend whose grandson was injured while I am home. It should be a nice and hopefully relaxing weekend wit Judy, Molly and our nephew Adam before I return to North Carolina on Monday.

Have a blessed weekend.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, Military, remembering friends, shipmates and veterans