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What too Many in Their Hearts Desire: A Massacre and Those Who Will Not Condemn it


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

When I got up yesterday morning to head over to my chapel at the staff college, despite the fact that with classes out of session that I would have no-one to worship with, I saw the news of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I was stunned, and of course I prayed for the victims. As the morning continued I read with horror the dramatic increase in the number of people killed and wounded. I have Gay friends in Orlando and thankfully they had checked in safe on Facebook, which relieved some of my concern, but not my shock and anger over what had happened. 

Then came news of the murderer. His name, Omar Mateen. He was a Muslim, born in the United States to Afghan parents. As the day went on we learned more about him. He had been on the FBI radar for comments sympathetic to terrorists, including the Boston Marathon bombers. He was employed by one of the largest private security firms in the world. He had recently completed an associate of arts in Criminal Justice and a college in Florida. His first wife said that he was unstable and frequently beat her. His father claimed that he was enraged when he saw two men kissing in public a few weeks ago. In the past two weeks, despite having been on the Federal radar, he was able to legally purchase an assault rifle and a Glock semi-automatic pistol in Florida. During the massacre he called 911 and swore his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, or ISIL. He rented a car and travelled 120 miles from his home to attack this specific target. 

Was he a terrorist? Yes. Was he motivated by a deep hatred of homosexuals? Yes. Did he have religious reasons to do this? Also yes, fundamentalist Islam has no problem with killing homosexuals, and the more militant types seem to take a perverse pleasure in killing homosexuals, especially Gay men. This happens all the time, and not just in areas controlled by the Islamic State or the Taliban. Was Mateen an actual member of the Islamic State? It depends on what your definition of membership is, as the FBI sorts through his cyber trail we will find out more about his connections with militant Islam. Evidently his father is a supporter of the Taliban and has spoken on American Afgani television programs about that support, though he may be delusional as well, since he has also claimed to be the President of Afganistan. 

Sadly, the fact that is was a hate crime committed against LGBTQ people in Orlando will be obscured by the Islamic connection. Donald Trump has been doing this all day, for him the victims don’t matter, all that matters is his campaign and his determination to make all Muslims pay for the actions of some. Expect to see more of this, especially from the supposedly “Christian” political leaders, pundits, and preachers who make their living demonizing the LGBTQ community in the United States; who ramrod legislation to deny Gays to same rights enjoyed by others across this nation; and who promote “kill the gays” laws in other countries, especially in Equatorial Africa, where numerous American evangelists have gone to help try to pass such laws. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick tweeted this shortly after the shooting:


Frankly, at least from my point of view it seems that there is little difference between anti-gay preachers and bigots of any religion who cry for the death, punishment, and persecution of Gays. All find some reason in their scriptures to justify their hatred and violent attitudes, not just towards Gays, but toward anyone that disagrees with them. All in my view are culpable of the murder of these men and women. In the classic film Judgement at Nuremberg, Spencer Tracy’s character, Judge Dan Haywood said these all too pertinent words:

“The principal of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common. Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime, is guilty.” 

One cannot expect to have a society where Gay people are demonized and discriminated against, where anti-gay vitriol runs rampant, especially in religious circles, and then to pretend that ties shooting is an isolated incident committed by an Islamic terrorist who was motivated by terrorism versus hating the people he killed because they were Gay. That is a convenient excuse. When I mentioned this on Facebook yesterday morning I waited to see reactions of friends. Interestingly enough of all the people that commented, or expressed any feelings of toward the victims, none were conservative Christians. None. When I mentioned this later a few came on line to agree how terrible this was. I looked at other friends timelines, and thankfully there were some who condemned what happened, but overall, very few said anything either to condemn the attack or to offer any sympathy or support to the victims. One of my friends, another Navy Chaplain immediately commented on that and said, “The gunman did what too many in their hearts desire, unfortunately. They are silent because they know that truth…” 

Sadly, he is all too correct. Whatever happened to the words of Jesus who said to love our neighbors as we do ourselves? Whatever happened to the words of Jesus about the Good Samaritan, the man who was despised by the religious elite who alone had mercy on a man who had been attacked and badly injured who religious leaders passed by on the road. (See Luke 10:25-37) 

With that in mind have a good day. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crime, LGBT issues, national security, News and current events, terrorism

Christians and Pagans: Glad for You All

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I want to say thank you. In the past couple of months Judy and I have undergone a tremendous amount of stress. She was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer at the beginning of July that was after we found that she had suspicious granular cells the same day in early May when we had to have our oldest dog, Molly put down. That scared the hell out of me, all I could think was “both of them, no!” Since then all I could think was that I had lost the dog who helped say my life after Iraq and the only woman I have ever loved who coincidentally is probably the only person who could have put up with my long-standing love affair with my other mistresses, the United State Army and Navy.

Judy went through a D & C at the end of June, actually the day of our 32nd wedding anniversary that showed the cancer. Her OBGYN immediately made a referral asking that the case be handled promptly. He did not want to take any chance that the cancer would spread. Sadly, the first surgeon we were referred to kicked the can on surgery to the end of August. That caused us after a fair amount of consternation, especially when we found out that the doctor was going to be on vacation for a good part of July and August, something that neither she or her staff told us.

That led to a lot of anxiety, and when we found that we had been lied to we went back to her OBGYN, a very wonderful doctor who referred us to another OB-Oncologist who saw us two working days from the referral and in surgery a week later. Today we got the results from the pathology that they caught things early enough, the cancer had just barely begun to spread to the muscle lining of the uterus and that with the hysterectomy that there is a 95% plus chance of a complete cure with no further treatment, just periodic monitoring to make sure nothing comes back.

During the past couple of months we have had a lot of encouragement from a lot of people, some who are Christians and other people who are not. In fact many of those who are not Christians would be considered bound for hell by many people who claim the name of Jesus. They are mostly friends from our favorite haunt, the bar at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach. Most of them we have known for years. They are friends, some Christians of various denominations, but people who don’t wear their faith on their underwear. There are others who are Wiccans, Jews, Moslems, Atheists and Agnostics, straight people, as well as Gays and Lesbians, and people who still have some kind of faith but are no longer a part of any religious denomination. These are people that some pollsters refer to as the “Nones,” or no religious preference.

Some people might be offended at what I say now, but that is okay. We have been members of many churches over our lives, and yes, we still have friends from those churches who are dear friends who would do anything for anyone, showing the love of God through simple human care to anyone. We love and value those people, they are too numerous to name. At the same time as far as churches that we have been members of, that is another matter, I cannot think of a single church, chapel or congregation that has been more compassionate, caring or wonderful in their care than the people at Gordon Biersch, no church we have belonged to has ever been sop caring. Our general manager Eric was the first visitor. Our friend from the bar, Barb brought a card signed by everyone she could get, along with flowers and a gift basket. Others showed up too, including a Catholic priest who through the machinations of a corrupt bishop is currently unassigned, though his heart is all for carrying the love of Christ to people, no-matter who they are or what their faith.

I contrast this with the supposed care of some people and churches, in fact most demining the pastor of the evangelical church which first ordained me in 1991 who told a parishioner who asked how sick he would have to be to get a pastoral visit in hospital “you don’t want to be that sick.” I kid you not, the pastor joked about it in his Sunday sermon. Sadly, that is par for the course. Many of the people that we have known from churches in the area have simply said that “they would pray” even though Judy just wanted a visitor or someone to hang out with during the anxious weeks before the surgery. I value and appreciate prayer, but if someone lives within a few minute drive and can’t be bothered to stop by or even make a phone call I wonder how sincere the promise of prayer is.

I have also been blessed by my fellow faculty and staff at the Joint Forces Staff College who have helped make my life easier over the past few months, people, who like our friends at Biersch represent a wide spectrum of belief, and all want to find a way to help in some practical way. My students too, in my ethics class and Gettysburg Staff ride have been wonderful, checking on me and letting me know that they are thinking about or praying for Judy. This includes both of the Saudi Arabian officers in my ethics class, both who have checked in on me and let me know that they are praying for Judy.

That being said, our “Nones” show a better witness of Jesus than many who call themselves Christians. Maybe that is why according to so many polls and studies that so many people are fleeing the church, or organized religion in general. Many it is because they are cared for more than those who we have so often denigrated as “Pagans” than those who beat their chests about the rightness of the Christian faith and support supposedly “Christian” politicians who tell us why they should rule others who do not believe like them through the power of the government and the courts; but then when people have forgotten the basics of the love of God, all they have left to rely on is force to maintain their rule over others.

Christians and Pagans. I love them all, especially those who demonstrate the love and care of God to others, even those who they may not agree with theologically, politically or philosophically. But then doesn’t that go to the heart of the Gospel?

Anyway, hopefully Judy comes home tomorrow or no later than Sunday and we can get her back to 100% within the next few weeks.

To my readers here on the page, those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I am grateful for your kind words, thoughts and prayers. It really does mean a lot to both of us.

Have a great night and thank you so much,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith

The Things that We Do: Killer Angels and Hew-Mons : The Part of Humanity we Don’t Like to Talk About

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“Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, Nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people, as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people… will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don’t believe me? Look at those faces. Look in their eyes.” Quark to Nog Deep Space Nine- The Siege of AR-558 

We human beings, regardless of our race, religion or political ideology are a complex lot.

On one hand we can exhibit the utmost kindness, compassion, care and charity and on the other hand we can bless, endorse, encourage. condone and execute the most cruel,  hateful, violent and “inhuman” acts against our fellow human beings. We are quite a contradictory lot if you ask me.

It really is a most interesting and at times contradictory phenomena when you look at it. Of course, I like to believe, as to most of us I am quite sure like to think that we have either been created by God or evolved into a species that rises above the baser parts of life, the things that we like to say were done in years past but are no longer a part of who we are as human beings.

The same can be said for those of us that consider ourselves to be Christians. We look back on nearly 2000 years of Christendom and well, it is not a pretty sight. But like every other generation of Christians we like to think that we are better, perhaps more spiritual, better educated, better interpreters of the Bible or even perhaps better in tune with the Holy Spirit of God than were those before us.

Of course those of us that think that we are so advanced that we have evolved past violence, cruelty, hatred and avarice, be we Christians or not tend to gloss over the fact that we are human, or as Quark calls us “Hew-mons.” As such we are capable of the most extreme acts of kindness, love and benevolence as well as the utmost in cruelty.

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Of course when I say “we” I do include “me” because I am like about everyone else, I have my good days and bad and as much as I would like to think that I am better than my baser instincts something happens and I find that I am not. That much is evident any time I get out into traffic or go to Wal-Mart. It is a good thing that I do not display any Christian symbols on either of my cars, I don’t want God getting blamed for my lack of Christian behavior, and frankly I wish more Christians would do the same. I have lost count of the number of vehicles adorned with Christian symbols, bumper stickers and personalized plates that have ignored all the basic courtesies, rules of the road and polite behavior and who are frankly rude assholes that probably shouldn’t be allowed to drive that make me wish that they would keep their faith in Jesus to themselves, it makes Jesus look bad. But I digress… but just a moment, why do so many of these people drive mini-vans? At least I seem to end up behind them or get cut off by them. Maybe the mini-van is an invention of the Devil? You won’t get me behind the wheel of one.

No wonder that Paul the Apostle laments in the 7th Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”  Martin Luther, the great leader of the Reformation commented on this passage “This tension lasts in us as long as we live; though in one person it is greater, in another less, according as the spirit or the flesh, and he fights with himself until he becomes wholly spiritual.” It is one of the most honest commentaries on scripture even written no wonder we don’t like it.

I don’t know about you but this does make me think, take inventory of my own strengths, weaknesses, virtues and vices. The fact is that in any given situation Quark’s description of Hew-mons in general is very applicable to me.

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In Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels and the film Gettysburg there is a remarkable exchange between Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, Colonel of he 20th Maine and Professor of Natural and Revealed Religions at Bowdin College and Sergeant Buster Kilrain, an exile from Ireland fighting for the Union.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [quoting Hamlet] “What a piece of work is man, in form and movement how express and admirable. In action how like an angel.”

Sergeant ‘Buster’ Kilrain: “Well, if he’s an angel, all right then. But he damn well must be a killer angel.” 

In light of all that we see every day as human beings we must find it in our hearts to agree with Kilrain. We are such a contradictory species. As Spock would say “fascinating.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, civil war, faith, star trek

If I Wasn’t Already a Christian I Wouldn’t Be

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In the movie Major League, the Cuban ballplayer Pedro Cerrano commented to a Christian teammate “I like Jesus very much, but he no help with curve ball.”

I like Jesus a lot. In fact I believe in Jesus and am completely orthodox in the basics of the historic Christian faith. Now I did go through a crisis of faith when I returned from Iraq that left me for all intents and purposes an agnostic struggling to believe. When faith returned in the Emergency Room at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center to this day I believe that it was a miracle.

However, since that evening in December 2009 I have found that despite Jesus, that some American Christians can be among the most hateful, intolerant, narrow minded and vicious people on the planet. In light of the very real fact that people are fleeing the Church in ever increasing number and that the fastest growing segment of the religious population in the United States is “the Nones” or those that have no religious preference you would think that Church leaders and for that matter those that call themselves Christian would take a bit of time to reflect on what is going on.

The great evangelist Dwight L Moody once said “Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian.” I do believe that is true. The earliest Christians, men and women that followed Jesus when there was no earthly benefit to doing so attracted people to their faith and their Savior because their lives exemplified love, care and humanity quite unlike many of their persecutors. William Blake, the 18th Century English poet would say “The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.”

However I have to say that if I was to be looking for Jesus by the recent experiences that I have had with people that call themselves “Christians” I would never consider becoming a Christian. Now I am a Christian and I do not plan on leaving the faith but I have to agree with Mahatma Gandhi that “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

This yesterday I received an e-mail from a woman upset with an article I wrote about the death of the Reverend David Wilkerson a couple of years ago. I was polite and even apologetic but in two subsequent e-mails she persisted and finally sent me an e-mail stating: “You are an arrogant pompous hypocrite a classic wolf in sheep’s clothing. Call yourself Padre tells it all. Now get thee behind me Satan. In Jesus name.”

I have for the most part stopped taking such attacks personally. Yes there are some times that they hurt or anger me, but in light of them I can understand why so many people hold Christianity, the Church and Christians in such low esteem. This particular person was so ignorant about what she was talking about and me that I could hardly take her comments seriously or be hurt by them. What scares me is how widespread this type of attitude is in some church communities and the effects that it has on so many people and our society as a whole. In light of this and so many other interactions I have had with “Christians” that I am tempted to agree with Mark Twain who said: “If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be—a Christian.” Since I have written about these encounters many times I will not go into detail here other than to say that they make me tired and simply restate that if I wasn’t already a Christian I wouldn’t be.

The late Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of El Salvador wrote: “I don’t want to be an anti, against anybody. I simply want to be the builder of a great affirmation: the affirmation of God,who loves us and who wants to save us.”

That is the kind of Christian that I want to be. I will strive to love people and tell the truth, and if need be confront injustice against any of God’s people. Hopefully in doing so I will be a witness that helps call people back to the love of God shown in Christ.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Painful Lessons of Looking in the Mirror of Social Media

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I had an encounter this last weekend on a leading social media site. It was not pleasant and I waited for a couple of days to think, pray and meditate on what happen in the encounter before I decided to write about it.

It occurred on a page which is pretty popular and deals with military issues and the man that runs that page I enjoy very much. He frequently brings up very pertinent issues dealing with military issues, strategy and tactics, foreign policy and national security policy as well as social aspects of current military life.

I got involved in an debate, probably not the best thing to do because the debate had already degenerated into a pretty vicious cesspool of recriminations between pro and anti-gay rights supporters. The subject was the actions of the Officers Wives Club at Fort Bragg North Carolina to initially reject the entry of the lesbian wife of a female Army Lieutenant Colonel for membership, the subsequent court battle and the wives club’s grudging issuance of a “guest pass” to the woman.

What got me to comment was the absolutely venomous tenor of the gay rights opponents, their often obscene comments about the lesbian couple and how many self identified as Christians or supporting Christian values. It wasn’t a matter of agreeing or disagreeing about policy and interpretation of law or even the validity or sincerity of their beliefs, it was the shameful way that they demonized and dehumanized the people involved as well as those that pointed out an opposing viewpoint.

I hesitated at first but then having seen such how such clubs deal with those different from their majority of their members I wrote this comment:

“in my experience of 30 years commissioned I have found many Officers Wives Clubs to be a cesspool of gossip and self-righteousness covered with a veneer of respectableness covering up their own vanity. Most often they are the domain of white women, who do not work and historically have shunned male spouses of female officers, wives that are working professionals whose identity is not built around their husband’s achievements as well as minorities, the physically disabled or wives of officers who spent years as enlisted men. The treatment of the Lesbian wife is another chapter in officially sanctioned discrimination. Chaplain wives organizations are similar, except you can toss in the stigma of not being a Evangelical or Conservative Protestant. Wives of Chaplains that don’t fit that mould are marginalized, be they Mainline Protestants, Jews or Mormons and of course wives whose faith is different then their husband, such as a Protestant Chaplain with a Catholic wife. My view, if they want to be a private membership that excludes those that they don’t think fit in, then meet off base…”

I don’t think that my comments were off base. They actually seem to describe the history of these organizations fairly well. However, my post attracted the ire of a relatively recent Army retiree and stupidly I shot back with a flippant comment. He had already been heavily engaged in the debate and the fact that I was a Chaplain gave him all that he needed to begin tThat comment was ill advised. A Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel friend of mine noted that I shouldn’t wrestle a pig. I ignored his advice as well of the advice Judy also tried to warn me off.

My flippant comment elucidated an attack from the man that went well beyond dealing with policy, law or even faith, it became a personal attack. To him my arguments did not matter, it was a matter of not only attempting to defeat what I said but to discredit and destroy me in the process. When I attempted to build bridges to dialogue and invite him to actually get to know me, he attacked more vehemently and personally making accusations about me, my character and my beliefs. Instead of debating any of my defenses of my position, theological or constitutional he dismissed them. His characterizations and comments that were so off base and wrong that anyone who either knows me personally or reads this site regularly would know that they were absolutely false.

But the attacks wounded me and left me incredibly angry. But that was not a bad thing. They caused me they think back to a time early in my ministry when I did similar things to those whose doctrine, beliefs or practices that I believed were wrong. I was very good at it. My Chaplain Assistant who is now a relatively senior Army Chaplain used to call me a “Catholic Rush Limbaugh,” even though I was not a Roman Catholic. A very conservative and reactionary Roman Catholic journal called The New Oxford Review published two of my articles back in 1998 and 1999, which ended up getting me banned from publishing for years by my the second ranking bishop of my former church. I was accused of being “too Catholic” and the irony was that he left that church well before I was forced to leave becoming Roman Catholic and writing similar articles to mine for a major Catholic apologetics online website.

So as I said I was good at this. With precise logic I could devastate others. The man that attacked me was much like me. I was seeing my old self in a mirror and it was not a sight that I enjoyed and it tempered my remarks to the man that I made in my defense.

It seems to me that those that argue most strenuously and personally are not necessarily bad people. They are consumed with zeal. Jesus had to deal with such people during his earthly ministry and every time he left them perplexed. I am not that good at this point in doing that. I simply gave up and told my attacker to “pound sand.” Jesus was much better at ending debates like this one than me.

I felt like George Costanza of Seinfeld trying to get the last word. Not very Jesus like, but revealing to me. Revealing to the point that I was reminded of Bonhoeffer’s words that “nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent in ourselves.” It is a hard lesson to learn and it seems that I have to learn it more times than I like. In a sense it was like looking in the mirror but seeing me more than a decade ago.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, News and current events, Political Commentary, Religion

Thoughts on the Well Deserved Death of Osama Bin Laden and some Christian’s Crocodile Tears for his Soul

Note: This is one of my Denny Crane moments indulge me

Osama Bin Laden got his just deserts yesterday at the hands of the Navy SEALS of Seal Team Six known simply as DEVGRU to those that have served in the SEAL and EOD community.  A head shot and a chest shot and Osama was off to meet his 72 Virginians via Davy Jones Locker.  Rumor has it that a pack of sharks trolling behind the USS Carl Vinson for lunch noted his enshrouded body sinking into the depths and passed on it leaving it to sink to the depths to be devoured by bottom feeding creatures.  When they were asked why they didn’t chow down on the murderous yahoo from Yemen one was quoted as saying “He gave our profession a bad name.”

All kidding aside I am glad he is gone and if I could have been in Washington DC, at Ground Zero or at the Phillies Mets game http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Video-Phillies-fans-chant-8216-U-S-A-8217-?urn=mlb-wp5081  I would have partied all night long and I cannot imagine any American or for that matter any decent human being not celebrating this.  The good guys got a win for once and we should celebrate we deserve it. We haven’t had much to celebrate since September 11th 2001 and this is as good of occasion as any.

Now I know that I’m going to get some crap from some readers that this is not a Christian attitude and I will admit that they are probably right.  I know this to be a fact because I saw absolutely idiot comments from some of my Christian friends on a social ministry sight almost shedding crocodile tears about Bin Laden’s death saying that God doesn’t take any joy in the death of the unrighteous but if you are a good Old Testament type Calvinist, which by the way I am not by any means, you can interpret parts of the Old Testament as God having one big party as he has his people whack and shwack their enemies ethnically cleansing whole cities so they might have a place to live. Heck the Psalmist even rejoiced in bashing babies heads against big rocks.  Not a very pro-life sounding message there but it is the Old Testament and happens to be in vogue among some parts of Evangelicalism.  Thus to hear some of the same people who love to use these “imprecatory prayers” against fellow Americans on the opposite side of the political aisle cry these faux tears over the soul of Bin Laden it makes me sick.

The man was a brutal killer and thug who killed thousands of our own people and thousands of others, many which were his fellow Moslems.  Some of these folks such as Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell and even the recently deceased David Wilkerson and others even told us back after 9-11 that it was “God’s judgment on this county.”  I remember the aftermath of the September 11th 2011 attacks and seeing the internet for the first time in days after being locked down aboard Camp LeJeune NC. I was aghast to see some of these men and others that this was God’s judgment on America.  Of course when many of their own congregations and donors objected most retreated from their positions with immense “mea culpa” moments.

Back in the 1960s it was the liberals that said we were the bad guys for Vietnam and punished those that served in that war.  Now days it is a bit different especially because we have a Democrat in the White House, a black one without a good American name like Bob we have conservative Christians acting like the liberals of the 1960s crying over the death Che Guevara and extolling the Chinese “Cultural Revolution.” For some reasons and I can’t imagine why there seems to be such a loathing of their own country by such people. Sure we are not perfect and we have messed up a lot. If you read this site I am not uncritical of various actions of different Presidents, Congress or any part of our government and some of our actions around the world.  We’re not a perfect nation but but we still are one of the best shows in town. But I’ll tell you what I love this country and continue to serve her and defend the rights of all Americans to hold views about the country that I personally distain. But that is why I love the Good Old USA because we don’t have to agree to be Americans; well at least that’s what I think.  But sometimes when I see comments like this crying for Bin Laden’s soul and condemning the country I wonder what the hell is going on. I see them criticize the very country that gives them the right to criticize their government with impunity, even using the “judgment of God card” as they wish.  In fact that is why the Pilgrims and other English Separatists came here so they could criticize the crown without being harassed and ensured that those that disagreed with them couldn’t do so safely without having to go establish the Rhode Island Colony like Roger Williams did.  But I digress….

When I see such comments mourning Bin Laden or assuming that God’s judgment is on America I feel my inner Colonel Nathan R. Jessup rising up especially when I see so few of them flocking to the colors and run to the recruiting stations saying “here I am send me Sir!” You see it is so easy to theologize and criticize but so much harder to put your life on the line. However if you secretly loathe the country it is easy to condemn those charged with protecting it from the Commander in Chief down, especially when you claim God as your authority.  I love this quote from the great film A Few Good Men coming from Colonel Jessup played most delightfully by Jack Nicholson and I think it suits my mood right about now:

“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.” 

Now our forces from the Commander in Chief down did their jobs and did them well in providing Bin Laden an exit from his internet less misery in Pakistan.  I for one celebrate this event. If this makes me somehow less spiritual or Christian so be it. I am an American and Osama Bin Laden was our enemy personified. So go ahead and weep for Bin Laden if you wish my fellow Christians. Pray for his soul but let the rest of us enjoy a moment of victory in this painful and long war in which so many Americans and others have died because of the actions of Osama Bin Laden and his minions.  Don’t piss on their memory by feeling bad that Bin Laden didn’t get a chance to meet Jesus in this world.

Yes I’m a bit snarky today but I haven’t forgotten September 11th and I am glad that so many Americans are overjoyed by this. For once we got one in the win column.  We’re entitled to celebrate because we get to go back on the field tomorrow and hopefully whack some more of Bin Laden’s slugs.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, Foreign Policy, History, iraq,afghanistan, middle east, Military, national security, philosophy, purely humorous, US Navy

Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Heck and Helven…Choices for Eternity

I was reading the comics yesterday when I found this great Dilbert.  I have loved the strip for years and some of the funniest strips for me have been those dealing with religion and spirituality.  Be it Saint Dogbert and his “Out out Demons of Stupidity” or Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light who rules over “Heck” with his pitch-spoon where people are “darned to Heck for minor infractions,” I have always gotten a chuckle or even a belly laugh out of them.

Of course many people and religions have different conceptions of the afterlife for both the saved, sometimes known as the elect or the unsaved that are sometimes referred to as the damned.  Without getting into anyone’s knickers I want to just have some fun with what can be a subject of speculation and even controversy.

Of course heaven is the place of the elect and is usually characterized by streets of gold, angels, pearly gates and lots of time around whichever Deity that the religion in question believes in.  Heaven is a good place and probably where you want to be going if you have to spend the rest of eternity, which I am assured sports fans is a very long time.  Now there are variations on heaven. Some religions have different concepts about it and others have looser or tighter rules as to who gets in, everything from the “All dogs go to heaven” of universalists to the 144,000 of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the real strict fundamentalists of various religions (fundamentalists of all religions tend to be peas in a pod) who are even more select that the JWs.

Some even have different levels of heaven.  To go back to the JWs they have “real heaven” where the 144,000 go and then a perfect earth where the rest of the JWs go to pick fruit and pet animals for eternity.  If you ask me that kind of sucks because it is a works system based around how many people you convert to be JWs.  The thing that would suck is like you thought you had gotten the last of the 144,000 available spaces and someone that you converted knocked you out of the competition.  If you are not a JW forget it, you just get annihilated, not even the eternal punishment of hell to look forward to.  The Latter Day Saints have a cool belief that if you are a super cool Mormon man you get to be God of your own planet while everyone else gets regular heaven and only the really bad people go to hell. Of course some Moslems believe that if you are martyred for your faith you get to have 72 virgins in heaven to have eternal sex with, no mention of what happens to female martyrs but I wonder if their virgins would be the ones with pimples and wearing rape control glasses, Moslem nerds so to speak.  The Hindus have a number of different beliefs but the prevailing trend is that heaven and hell are things to help get you perspective in between periods of reincarnation.  Since the soul is immortal and you keep getting reincarnated this sounds like summer school.  Have you ever noticed that a lot of people who believe in reincarnation believe that they were someone famous in a previous life?  I think that Kevin Costner playing “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham asked the same question to Susan Sarandon but regardless why don’t you hear people say that they were a flea on Napoleon’s horse at Waterloo? In Buddhism the endless quest is to attain Nirvana whose lead singer Kurt Cobain off’d himself.  Actually it is to attain Nirvana but that has nothing to do with Curt Cobain.  Nirvana is a state of nothingness which in my mind is kind of boring if you worked really hard to get things right for a multitude of lifetimes.  I guess that I’m too western and wonder what the payback is for working hard only to end up as nothing.  I am also uncomfortable that there will be no more “me” if I am successful, I like me.  The folks who are Jewish have a number of ideas about heaven and hell that are not too much different than those of Christians except the little fact of who gets in. Now this will vary between the three major groups of Jews from the pretty open minded Reformed Jews, to the Conservative and then to the Orthodox Jews who come in various strains of strictness.  The Reformed folks are pretty open-minded and the more extreme versions or Orthodox don’t think that anyone apart from them will get in.

Now as far as Christians we have a wide number of interpretations of both heaven and hell and to whom might be qualified to be admitted to either location. The Calvinists that are really serious believe in something called double predestination which basically means that people were either saved or damned before the creation of the world.  Not much room for choice in that theology.  There is a subgroup of these folks who sometimes are called Antinomians who believe that since they are saved that they can do anything that they want, any sin, no matter how big and still be saved. Personally I think that is really pretty presumptuous and downright scary.  Then those who are more Wesleyan or Armenian weigh in on the side of choice even including that one can “lose their salvation” after they were saved this is often found in Wesleyan and Pentecostal groups.  A similar stream is found in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, where though not technically losing salvation keeps you on edge wondering if you made it or not until you die.  In Roman Catholicism this might mean that you end up in heaven, hell or purgatory.  There are a wide number of interpretations within the Christian faith other than these but these are probably the most common views and interpretations.

So since I have in a nutshell (you are what you eat) in a manner of speaking have presented what different religions think of heaven and hell I shall move on to some of the interpretations of what this means.

As I said heaven, regardless of the religion is “good” unless of course that your religion does not have one in which case it is what it is.  Of course the opposite is true as well, if you don’t have a hell that can’t be too bad, unless of course you guess wrong which would really suck.  It would be almost as bad as when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson missed the Rapture.

Moving on the Roman Catholic Church has a doctrine that is called Purgatory.  Now Purgatory much to the disappointment of some is now “junior hell.”  It is a place for the elect, or the saved to go to clean up their act and learn to love Jesus better before getting admitted into heaven proper.  It is a place like being elected to the baseball Hall of Fame you may get elected to the Hall but there is a period of time that you get to wait before the plaque goes up at Cooperstown. Likewise there must be a “Purgatory” because the state of West Virginia is described as “Almost Heaven” which would mean that it is in reality Purgatory. Since that is where my family originally comes from and from where my current driver’s license is issued that I too am headed there?

Map of Hell

Now Hell, with the exception of Hinduism is pretty much universally a place that you don’t want to go, kind of like Detroit.  There are many images of Hell including the best which come out of Dante’s Inferno which should not be confused with Disco Inferno even if you despised Disco.

I like the image of Hell as the “Lake of Fire.”  This conveys to me the image of a lake in the deep south which is painfully hot, overwhelmingly humid and swarming with flies, mosquitoes and other vermin.  I cannot imagine anywhere worse.  Rowan Atkinson has a great skit called Welcome to Hell where he plays the Devil welcoming a fresh group of the damned to the infernal regions. I’ve linked that here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFGrQMD6Uqc

Now I have already mentioned “Heck” which is ruled by Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light who “darns you to Heck for minor infractions and Helvin the place that souls are outsourced to due to the unionization of the Angels and Demons.   It seems to me that heck is not a particularly bad place however Helvin may not be too great of place to be.  I really don’t want to know how they would give my harp to me.

So anyway, I guess I shall invoke Saint Dogbert to banish the Demons of Stupidity as I go to sleep dreaming of the real heaven where the baseball diamond is the lushest green field with foul lines that extend to eternity.  In this heaven the game never ends and you never get tired.  Not much longer until the earthly baseball season begins again.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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