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Smile and the World Smiles with You: PTSD, Broken Noses, Smiles, F-Bombs, and God’s Love


 Smile and the World Smiles with You: It Looks and Feels a Lot Worse in Person, the Black Eye is Awesome

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tuesday morning began with a fucking bang. I was in the middle of one of my HD PTSD nightmares and I was rudely awakened when my face smashed into my nightstand. It’s not the first time that this is happened, and it is the second time in the past two years that the incident required a visit to the ER. I have had a lot of these incidents since returning from Iraq in2008, but thankfully only two required going in for medical treatment. The last time I required medical treatment was when in a similar nightmare, I bruised my jawbone and gave me a concussion. Today, just a gash across my face and a broken nose. The incident was so violent that it scared the hell out of Judy, Minnie, and Izzy. I woke up and felt liquid on my face and realized that I was bleeding. So I rapidly put some Kleenex to keep the blood from dripping everywhere I didn’t want to clean and stumbled into the bathroom where I was confronted with my bloodied image in the mirror. I looked like an old and out of shape MMA fighter who just had his ass kicked, but thankfully I didn’t tap out. 

Judy drove me to the Naval Medical Center, and two of the nurses both related to my situation, having both dealt with the nightmares of PTSD. One female nurse said that hers lasted over five years after returning, mine have been going on over eight years. It is one of the marks of PTSD, the fucking brain matter gets scrambled, and sometimes, no matter how much therapy you get, or how good your medication management is, shit like this happens.

That my friends is life. It may not be fair. It may not fit in with a theology that says of you pray that God will heal you, but it is life, and for that matter it is much more in keeping with scripture, and reality than the bullshit put out by the mega-church and television preacher bullshit artists who call themselves pastors, who fleece their flocks by the tune of millions of dollars every fucking day of the week. So fuck them, not that I would want to, but I digress… 

That being said, with the except of the chronic insomnia and nightmares I am doing much better when it comes to dealing with PTSD. I make accommodation for it, I avoid things that I know are likely to blow me up, and So I have a choice; I can either sulk and be angry, or while realizing how serious it is I can decide to live, to smile, and to love. So fuck it, I’m going to live and smile. I might need to start wearing a catcher’s mask to bed to keep from hurting myself when I have these high definition nightmares, but then I did play catcher in both little league and softball. 

So… What now? Well for me the answer is simple, live, love, and smile, because when you smile, no matter how fucked up things are, the world smiles with you. Laugh, and no matter how fucked up things are, and the world laughs with you; and for that matter, God might even give me a grin, because the God I believe in actuality understands and cares about real human beings and is much more concerned about our happiness than he is about the occasional F-Bomb. 

As for me, no matter what life and dealing with the effects of PTSD and TBI may be, I am still going to fucking laugh, and fucking smile. Even so I do think I will go looking for a comfortable and well fitting catcher’s mask when I get back from Gettysburg. 

Have a great night, and no matter what happens, try to smile.

Peace

Padre Steve+

P.S. I will post something about the Democratic Party National Convention tomorrow and promise to soon do something on the Trump-Putin bromance and Trump’s probable treason in the coming days. 

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Filed under mental health, PTSD

Conservative Christians and Torture: Wedded at the Hip

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Friends, of Padre Steve’s World

It looks like it is time to piss off the Christian faithful again…, so here it goes…

Have a great night

Peace

Padre Steve+

“We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches it’s all ancient history. Then – before you can blink an eye – suddenly it threatens to start all over again.” Captain Lean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) Star Trek the Next Generation “The Drumhead”

Last week the Senate released its report on the American use of torture.

It was a glaring indictment of the policies of the Bush administration which had for all practical intents had legitimized the use of torture, which Americans and our allies had long considered to be war crimes .

I had pretty much avoided commentary until I was asked by a fellow priest in my old denomination to link a post about war crimes to a thread that he had started which had brought a lot of comments. One of the commentators, a bishop of my former church from Africa made a comment that the “end of repentance justified the means.” I objected and claimed that such was the justification of every Christian from the Inquisition to the Puritans and beyond for the commissions of crimes against fellow believers. He most graciously understood what I was saying, but sadly all too many Christians in the country are willing to throw the actual love of God in Jesus to the wind to support criminal activities and crimes against humanity that defy the imagination.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson who was the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg noted:

“If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

Sadly, it seems that all too often that Conservative Christians, especially American Evangelicals and Catholics are decidedly in favor of torture and other actions that the United States has prosecuted others as war criminals for doing are now in vogue. The latest Pew Survey confirms these. Most Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics are okay with torture, in fact by overwhelming margins it seems that Christian conservatives are on board with criminal activity that our ancestors condemned and prosecuted the Germans and Japanese for doing and condemned the Chinese Communists and North Vietnamese captors of U.S. military personnel for using on U.S. military personnel.

Does it matter that previous generations of Americans considered such activate to be war crimes?

No.

Does it matter that previous generations of Americans tried as war criminals those who waged wars of aggression and committed war crimes on others?

No.

Sadly, besides the soulless former Vice President Dick Cheney and the American version of the infamous Nazi propaganda paper Der Sturmer aka Fox News, the strongest supporters of torture, war crimes and unjust, illegal and immoral wars are Conservative Christians. Sadly, if we applied the standards of the Nuremberg tribunals to former President Bush, Vice President Cheney and a host of their advisors and aides most of them would have ended up on the gallows of Nuremberg.

Earlier in the year, former Republican Vice Presidential Candidate, former half-term Governor of Alaska and failed reality TV star, and more damning, Evangelical Christian icon  and darling, Sarah Palin told the NRA national convention that “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” In saying that, Palin equated one of the holiest and sacred of Christian sacraments with a war crime, and sadly few Christian pundits, preachers or politicians condemned her for it. Sadly they applauded her for it and in the process exposed themselves for the anti-Christs that they are in their heart of hearts.

But why should we be surprised? For over a millennia Christians and Christian leaders have advocated similar and horrible ideas.

Torture has been a preferred technique for Christians for over a millennia. In the days before the Great Schism of 1054 Christians persecuted and tortured as heretics those who did not agree with their theological definition of the Trinity or other theological questions. The fact is that if you did not agree with the “orthodox” position you were not just a heretic but a criminal against the state.

After the split of 1054 Christians in the East and the West used to power of the church and state to persecute, prosecute, torture and execute those who did not agree with their position.

After the Protestant Reformation things did not change. Lutherans and Catholics banded together in Germany to crush the Peasant’s revolt. John Calvin used the power of the sate to prosecute any deviation from his understanding. Ulrich Zwingli, drowned his former students in the Rhine River to make a point after they were “re-bapitized” in believers baptism. The Church of England persecuted Catholics, Separatists, Puritans and Baptists. In the new world the Puritans did the same to Baptists, Quakers and other dissenters. Later American Christians justified the extermination of native-Americans and the institution of slavery, of course using their interpretation of the Bible.

Torture? Wrong? Un-Christian? Of course not. Of course to all of these people it is justified. It is a part of all of them and almost always buttressed by a theology that said that anything was fair if it resulted in repentance. The most evil and un-Christian means ware justified for a theological and political end, the kind of end that would make it perfectly logical to kill Jesus to achieve.

Sadly most of today’s American Christians don’t even do that. They are just okay with torture because they have abandoned any semblance of empathy, care or love or for that matter any . It is no longer about Jesus. It is about unfettered political power buttressed by the blessing of the church. Gary Bauer, a long time political leads in the Christian right noted:

“We are engaged in a social, political, and cultural war. There’s a lot of talk in America about pluralism. But the bottom line is somebody’s values will prevail. And the winner gets the right to teach our children what to believe.”

Sadly it no longer matters for many Christians what is right or what is wrong when it comes to torture and war crimes.It does not matter that the justification which was used against their theological and ecclesiastical ancestors; especially torture is something that they now bless. It does not matter that wars that are condemned by historical Christian understanding of the Just War Theory, and which most recently were condemned by Pope John Paul II are vehemently defended by conservative American Christians. It does not matter that Christians support torture, murder and repression of people that they disagree with because by doing so they are “bringing people to repentance.” 

Sadly that was the excuse of the Inquisitors and every other supposed Christian who killed others, even those who were also Christians in the name of Christ.

The sad truth is that for Christians to bless, promote and make a mockery of their faith by supporting such actions is unconscionable. If to such “Christians” that say this means that I am not a Christian than I would rather not be; I would rather follow Jesus than them; be they Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, the hacks of the American Family Association, Christian Dominionists, or any other allegedly “Christian” group party or individual. If they are right about the character of God I would rather be damned to Hell than agree with them.

But I do not believe the they are and I will fight them until I die. I no longer care what they call me, or even if they physically threaten me, as some have.

I have a higher duty to God, the same kind of higher duty that William Lloyd Garrison and William Seward, Christian abolitionists, inflamed “Bible believing Christians” in the South and the North when they condemned the “Christian” defense of slavery in the ante-bellum United States.

War crimes are war crimes no matter who commits them. The fact that a sizable number of Conservative American Evangelical and Catholic Christians not only condone but approve of the practices demonstrate, at least to me, that the faith that they claim t defend is a sham. Their actions show that they approve of such activities because of their political beliefs with which they buttress and baptize with selective Bible quotes. Such cannot be equated with faith in Jesus, however it can be equated with the defense of Christendom.

The two are not the same, despite what the most ardent defenders claim, but for the most part conservative American Christians and their theological ancestors are wedded at the hip. Torture, the use of unjust wars to achieve political ends and the subjugation of peoples, races and those even within their faith who are demeaned to be heretics. The list of such deeds done in the name of Christ and Christendom is mind boggling and sickening, but still Christians not only defend them but claim biblical justification to do so.

What Sarah Palin and so many other “Christians” support and endorse is nothing more than the evil perpetuated by every totalitarian regime that has ever existed.

For those that support her, Dick Cheney and those like them, be warned; like the non-Nazi German conservatives who initially supported Hitler but later had second thoughts you too could considered a terrorist using the methods that Palin advocates against others today. You get what you vote for…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian and a martyr under the Nazis wrote:

“Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God, either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God, too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there will be nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words… never really speaking to others.”

A man that I know, a member of my former denomination and leader in the anti-abortion movement named Randall Terry said: “Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…” 

Yes, it is not the love of God which motivates many conservative Christians today, it is hate, hate in the name of righteousness.

As Martin Niemoller said after the fall of the Third Reich:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Of cours by saying this I will be condemned as something less than a Christian and American by those who are willing to bless all types of war crimes to defend. Sadly such Christians just don’t get it, and help forge a link in a chain of torture, injustice and inhumanity that will ultimately swallow them. Sadly most of them, convinced by the all consuming hatred of their political patrons will adjust their theology in order to enhance their position.

In the words of Captain Jean Luc Picard:

“With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie, as wisdom and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged. I fear that today…”

When I read and watch the comments of so called “Conservative Christians” and their allies today I am convinced that should they ever gain the control of the franchise as they claim to want, that they will ensure the death of our republic.

If the United States is destroyed it will not be the fault of external forces. Nor will it be the fault of non-Christians, or “unbelievers.” It will be the fault of those who claim God’s mantle using the name of Jesus for their own political power and control and in the process invite the worst forms of violence and depredation against their fellow citizens.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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The Insidious and Orwellian “Religious Liberties Protection Act” of “Christian” Kansas

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“There is no such thing as part freedom.” Nelson Mandela 

In their desire to protect the rights of conservative Evangelical and Catholic Christians the representatives of the State of Kansas enacted a new law. It really is an amazing law that enshrines discrimination against homosexuals based on religious preference. The law is targeted to allegedly protect people who do not want to serve homosexuals based on their religious beliefs. However, the law is so broadly written that it can be used against anyone for any reason by an individual, business or organization “if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity.”

It is legislation that is reminiscent of Jim Crow laws used against blacks, Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws against the Jews of the 1930s, and the laws of Islamic nations that allow non-Moslems or more open minded Moslems to be prosecuted or even killed for anything that offends Islam.

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Kansas Representative Charles Macheers

The language of the authors of the Bill is Orwellian. It is called The Religious Liberties Protection Act. The sponsor of the legislation State Representative Charles Macheers noted:

“Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill. There have been times throughout history where people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs because they were unpopular. This bill provides a shield of protection for that.”

However, Macheers and his supporters seek to prevent discrimination by enshrining it as law. Unlike Bills in some other states, this Bill does not simply apply to private business or individuals, but it also empowers government employees to discriminate against people if it violates “their sincerely held religious beliefs.” It is a law that allows public employees, paid by taxpayers being free to discriminate.  (Read the Bill as enacted here: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/measures/documents/hb2453_01_0000.pdf)

What this does is to give anyone claiming a “sincerely held religious belief” in a private or public capacity to deny people basic civil rights and liberties. It is license to discriminate and it is something that James Madison warned us about:

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

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The authors of this legislation and its supporters throughout the country don’t seem to get the fact that once you begin down this path that you set precedent. That precedent to discriminate against a person or group of people based on religious beliefs is dangers. The writers seem unconcerned about the ramifications of what would happen if this bill became law. In their hatred of homosexuality and homosexuals they forget that any law can which legalizes discrimination can be used against anyone, including those that enact it order to supposedly protect their religious liberty.

They also fail to understand the words of Thomas Jefferson who wrote:

“I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” 

I am a defender of religious liberty, but religious liberty needs to be for all, not just for some. Religious liberty is something that our founders understood, and they took great care to ensure that the rights of religious minorities and unbelievers were respected in our Constitution. Just as I do not want the government regulating religion, even religious views that I do not agree, I do not want religion to be used to deny the civil rights of others simply because those people are different from those that choose to use the law to discriminate. I wonder what those that support this law would do if in another state the same kind of law was passed to discriminate against their basic civil and human rights. I don’t think that they would like it very much.

My view is much like Andrew Sullivan. I may not agree with someone’s deeply held religious convictions, they may be intolerant and even hateful must be allowed the space to speak about them and even enter into the public discourse. I do not want to see religious people silenced. I may disagree with what some say and how they say it but they like everyone else need to have the space to speak their convictions. Allowing that space is what “true liberals do.” Sullivan notes that those who advance the agenda of Gay rights and equality “should be wary of being seen to trample on religious freedom and be defined as discriminators of another sort.”

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I agree with Sullivan on this, the fact is that Gays like so many others have been the target of state sanctioned religious discrimination throughout history. It is natural that the LGBT community, which has been so hated and discriminated against would want to push hard against those that use religion to attack, demean and marginalize them. But it is important remember that reconciliation and acceptance is a two way street. The actions of the late Nelson Mandela after the fall of Apartheid in South Africa should be a model. Mandela said: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Unfortunately in Kansas, many religious people, for reasons, some real but many imagined; feel the compelling need to use the power of the law to suppress LGBT people or others that they believe threaten them. In other places religious people attempt to use the police power of the government at the Federal, State and Local level to suppress anything or the activities of anyone they deem to be against God, or rather their interpretation of God.

Though I am not Gay I feel the sting of these laws because although my Church will allow me to marry a Gay couple I cannot in the state that I reside or many others. I know a number of Gay couples that have asked me if I could perform their marriages, but such will have to wait until we can find a time and a place where I can legally perform their nuptials. The sad thing is that in some places like Indiana there are legislators who in defending their religious freedom would criminalize an attempt by me or any other minister performing such an act if they could. Thankfully that amendment to the Indiana Constitution has been pushed back for at least two years.

Their belief compels them to use the law against homosexuals, non-Christian religious minorities, secularists and humanists and attempt to curtail the advances and discoveries of science, archeology and history. I believe that such attempts are short sighted and do violence to the religious beliefs that many espouse. Eric Hoffer wrote in his book The True Believer that “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.”

The proposed law in Kansas, which looks as if may stall in the State Senate is an evil being enacted to supposedly support the good. Nothing good can come of it, if passed it will poison the hearts and minds of the very people it is supposedly written to protect. It will give them legal right to treat people who are different than them in a way that does not reflect the Gospel, and encourage the worst type of self-righteous behavior, and it will blow back in their face.

The attempt of the Kansas legislature to pass this Bill into law reminds me of something that Spencer Tracy’s character, Henry Drummond said in the film Inherit the Wind:

“I say that you cannot administer a wicked law impartially. You can only destroy, you can only punish. And I warn you, that a wicked law, like cholera, destroys every one it touches. Its upholders as well as its defiers.” 

This is a wicked law, and if it is made law it will do great harm to those that is directed against, those who the precedents in it may be used against in the future and those that think that will protect their. It is Orwellian and at its heart it is evil. If it is enacted into law it should be opposed at every opportunity by every person of good will, no matter what their faith, political ideology or sexual preference, because all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Star Trek God and Me…1966 Until Hopefully Far into the Future

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Capt. Picard: I sincerely hope that this is the last time that I find myself here.

Q: You just don’t get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did.

Capt. Picard: When I realized the paradox.

Q: Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That*is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.

I can’t wait. The next installment of the Star Trek franchise Star Trek Into Darkness comes out this week. It is the second episode of the new cinematic re-boot of the franchise and as someone that grew up and matured with the series in its various television forms as well as on the big screen I am rather excited.

When I first saw the hints of the new movie franchise a couple of years before it premiered in 2009 I wondered about it. I wondered how they could pull of the feel of the original series. I heard friends rave about it and every review I read was sweet. The movie was great.  The cast, most of whom I had seen very little of in other roles, had the feel of the old cast.  Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Qunito (Spock), Karl Urban (McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty) had great chemistry.  The supporting cast worked well too.  I was simply blown away as they pulled this off and managed to do a “prequel” which worked.

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As a side note, my undergraduate campus, California State University at Northridge served as Starfleet Academy.  All in all it was a very satisfying experience and the crowd applauded loudly as the final credits came up, preceded by Leonard Nimoy  doing a voice over as the Enterprise went by saying; “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.”  This was followed by the theme music of the original series as the credits rolled out.  That was special.

As I said I will see the second installment of this series sometime later this week. From the trailers and reviews it looks quite good. I haven’t seen it but when I do I will review it. From what I have read it does seem to tackle issues that many of us will be familiar with in the post-9-11-2001 world.

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I grew up with Star Trek. I remember as a kid when the original series was still on NBC and when it went into syndication I tried to watch it whenever it was on, or whenever I could get control of the television.  There was something that captured my imagination, a glimpse of a positive future, possibility and adventure.  Since I have always been seeking new frontiers, note my career in the military, Star Trek, the Original Series was an inspiration.  Kirk, Spock, Scottie, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Nurse Chapel became part of my life.  When not watching it I was reading Star Trek novels, something that I continued with Star Trek the Next Generation. I was fascinated by the Klingons and Romulans, the though of other planets with other intelligent beings was something that did not frighten me, or cause me to question my Christian faith.  Since I have always believed in a very big God, the fact that God did not have to be limited to just dealing with humans seemed, as Spock would put it “logical.”

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No I know that some people could be offended by this, or could give me some flak for what I just said.  But I see no reason why God couldn’t be working in all of the gazillion galaxies, solar systems, planets and maybe even parallel or alternate universes.  Why not?  What if there was a planet where there was no fall and the inhabitants didn’t screw it up?  I think it would be cool.  My God is big, in fact the Bible and the Christian tradition is pretty clear that God is like really super duper powerful and capable of handling a whole lot of stuff all at once.

In fact we Christians like to call God omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and a bunch of other “oms” most of which are not even biblical concepts, but we have borrowed and used them so much to explain the God that we believe in that you would thing that they are.  Likewise, at least some of us believe that God is a creative God and if we do really believe all of those “om” descriptions that we ascribe to God why should we be threatened that there might be other live, other civilizations out there?

So why would we look out and see this vast universe and say: “Nope Clem, just us out here.” So since I am backed up by the testimony of Scripture and Tradition about some of the attributes of God I think it is safe to say that God indeed could well be working elsewhere in the universe.  If I believe that God is who Scripture state him to be, then I have to at least give some thought to this possibility.  Can I positively say this is the case? No, but I can infer it from what the faith teaches me about God and by what science has revealed to us over the past couple of hundred years.  None  of this takes anything away from God working his plan of redemption through Christ with humanity.

Anyway that rabbit chased back into the woods, I continue. I followed the Star Trek movies, with The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home being my favorites.  Not long after I learned to drive in high school a friend and I went to a Halloween party.  I had made me a Mr. Scott uniform and my friend was dressed as an alien.  After the party we headed home. We had just gotten on I-5 and I looked at him and said  “set course 010 Warp 8” and being young and dumb took my 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 with a twin barrel carburetor up to about 90 MPH. I noticed a pair of headlights coming up behind me.  I slowed down for the Benjamin Holt Drive exit and exited the freeway where a stoplight was red.  Beside me pulled a CHP cruiser.  The trooper looked at us, me with my Star Trek uniform and my friend in his alien suit, laughed and waved.  I watched my speedometer like a hawk the rest of the way home and prayed that the trooper would not turn around to get me.

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Later in Germany I was driving my first German “beater” a 1976 faded and rusted powder blue Ford Escort nicknamed “the Blue Max” to my base on a Saturday with Judy.  Ahead of us a Mercedes crept along going well under the speed limit of 100 km/h and it was driving both of us crazy. People that do the same here in my post-Iraq PTSD world and I wish I had phasers or something to blast them out of my way, perhaps a transporter or tractor beam would be maybe a tad less violent.

Since we were on a two lane state highway going through the hills of the Saarland along the bank of the Nahe River there was no way to get around this guy.  My little car known as the “Blue Max” had its emergency flasher located on the center of the dashboard. It was a red button about an in round.  I looked at Judy and said “fire phasers.”  I reached down pushed the button of and on and in front of us the strangest thing happened.  There was a boom, a flash and the guy’s muffler and tail pipe dropped off.  I avoided the debris and he coasted to a halt alongside the road.  Judy and I both looked at each other with looks of shock and disbelief.  Yet it had happened.  I have tried this again on every other car that I have owned with no effect.  I guess phasers are not standard on this side of the Atlantic.

When Star Trek, the Next Generation, or TNG came out in 1987 I was a young Army Captain getting ready to go to seminary the following year.  I fell in love with TNG and its cast.  In fact during my clinical pastoral education residency my supervisor was able to use analogies from the TNG characters, Lieutenant Worf and Lieutenant Commander Data to help me gain insights into what was going on in me.

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I have a lot of affinity for both of these characters as someone who wrestled with where I fit in life and the world, and where was home. I shared that with these characters, particularly Picard and Worf.  There were a couple of episodes dealing with Captain Picard entitled “Family” and “Tapestry” which actually woke me up to a couple of things in my life. I think I can say that the Deity Herself used them to help me through that time when I was still sorting through my life, vocation and issues of home and heart. I thought that the character development in TNG was great and I still will watch TNG whenever I come across it or want to pull out one of my DVDs.

I liked the darkness of Deep Space Nine and the fact that baseball was a part of it. DS9 fascinates me, like TNG it is quite complex in the way it is written and in the way that the characters were developed. The carry over of certain characters and story lines from TNG made it especially interesting. I like the fact that the bulk of the story centers on a Star Base and that you never always know who the good guys and the bad guys are. It kind of reminds me of my service in Iraq. Distrustful political factions, religion, power struggles, competing powers and terrorist groups of various kinds make DS9 a lot like real life, the live that I have lived and continue to live in.

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One of the things that I really liked about DS9 was the way that the writers incorporated religion and faith into the script. I know that some people don’t like the fact that they did not incorporate Christianity into it and saw that as an affront but the themes brought out with the Bajorans, Cardassians and even the Ferengi in terms of faith, theology, religious structure and philosophy have a lot in common with many religions that we know here on earth. The fact that it does not deal with any religion practiced here makes it a wonderful vehicle for religious discussion for anyone of faith.

Another thing that the writers of DS9 did was to bring back the alternate universe first shown in TOS in the episode Mirror Mirror. To me the whole concept of alternate universes and possibly other versions of me is fascinating. To wonder what I might be like in some alternate reality is quite fascinating to think about.

I did not take as well to Voyager or Enterprise as my life was getting really busy with military deployments and operations. When I am done with DS9 I will probably start doing Voyager. As was the case I ended up collecting the entire TNG series on DVD and am well on my way to collecting all of DS9. In fact I have watched every TNG episode back to back between last years 2012 World Series and Opening Day 2013 and I am a bit over two thirds of the way through season IV of DS9.

I have a jacket similar to the TNG jacket in Science/Medical Blue with the communicator badge and Lieutenant Commander collar insignia. I also have a very rare Starfleet Chaplain pin with a white Greek Cross on it.  This came out of one of the old TOS Technical Manuals dealing with rank and branches of Starfleet.

So I guess I am a Trekkie, or Trekker, depending on which Star Trek sect I belong, but nonetheless, Star Trek has been, and will remain part of my life.  Thanks Gene Roddenberry, and all who over the years have brought the Star Trek universe to us.

Live long, and prosper my friends.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Everyone Dies…But Not Everyone Lives: Thoughts on Life, Death, Faith and Community

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“Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got. ~Art Buchwald”

I had an epiphany during my post Iraq PTSD crash….“Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.” I actually think that I remembered a similar quote from the movie Braveheart but whether it was a real epiphany or simply an errant movie quote that resonated in my badly shaken brain it really doesn’t matter.

The value of living life to the fullest really came to me then. Now I admit, though I discovered that truth, it was often difficult to make real in my life. That being said, living every day matters to me and doing so in community with others, people who have an important part in my life.

To get to this point has not been easy. I have seen a lot of death and destruction in my life: I’ve experienced trauma, had people shoot at me, been robbed at gunpoint, been on aircraft with mechanical problems, narrowly missed terrorist bombs and a lot of other rather “sporty” events.  Likewise I have seen death and trauma up close and personal.  Babies born too early to live, elderly people passing away after long lives, young men killed and maimed by war, children and the elderly maimed, cities and villages devastated.  I’ve seen people of all ages whose lives have ended suddenly either to disease or trauma and seen people suffer long and painful deaths which can only be described as excruciating.

In all of this though I have also found life in people who no matter what their circumstance choose to live and often seen the grace of God in the midst of great suffering. It is as Anglican theologian Alister McGrath says: “Life under the Cross.” I had one of those experiences with a Navy widow when I was serving as the ICU chaplain at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth back in 2009. The woman in her dying moments continued to look after those around her, thanking people, blessing people, laughing, joking, crying and praying.  I had the privilege of conducting her funeral, she was a saint.

I know that death is a reality, those who seek to deny it only deceive themselves. Even Jesus died, there is no resurrection without death first. There is almost a death denying cult in the western world. Many doctors cannot look someone in the eye who has a terminal illness and tell them that the illness or something related to it will kill them.  We often rely on machines to extend life well after they serve any purpose in bringing healing to the patient forgetting that the patient is a person with hopes, dreams and wishes. Everybody dies…but how do we live?

I also know that there is injustice and poverty in the world, even in our country. I know that innocents suffer because of the choices of powerful nations and individuals, politicians, businessmen, dictators and even religious leaders.  There are times when we have to stand up to injustice. In fact that should be a normal part of life and faith. But when we do stand up against injustice we must be in the business of reconciliation and not revenge while we advocate for the least, the lost and the lonely, those who have no one to speak for them.

I know people who for whatever reason cannot seem to enjoy life or find happiness. I know people who cannot enjoy friendship with people who are not like them and I am sad for them. It almost seems that for them the glass is neither half full or half empty; but rather that there is a flaw in the glass that will cause it to explode and send a shard of glass into their eye. Mark Twain said that “the fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

There are also people of faith, or at least people that believe that they are people of faith who dehumanize others who don’t believe like them or live by the tenants of their particular faith. Some of these people actually kill in the name of their God and I am not simply talking about radical Islamic terrorists. There are plenty of examples of this among the Christian, Jewish and Hindu faiths throughout history.

There are plenty of others from every faith tradition who dehumanize other people. The members of the Westboro Baptist “God hates Fags” crowd who disrupt funerals of fallen US Servicemen and women saying that their death is God’s judgment on them for serving the United States. They despise the nation and the sacrifices of those that they mock while enjoying the freedom that both give them.

There are people in every religion who do this sort of thing, they dehumanize the people that God has created in his image. That being said I have seen others who have no faith who mock those who have strong religious faith and seek to deny them their rights. Both religious and secular radicals are often willing to use the power of government to silence  or even persecute those that they disagree with. Somehow I don’t think that this kind of life is what God intended, and certainly not by the men that wrote our Bill of Rights.

My Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor during my hospital chaplain residency said something to me that resonated then, and still does today. He told me that I had to stop living my life expecting failure and heartache. He said that I could actually write much of my own future by how I look at life and chose to live in faith, hope and dreams, to believe in a good future while remaining grounded in reality.  He opened the future to me, a future full of possibility,exploration and adventure.  A future of hope, friendship and faith.

I’ve learned, and it has been an often painful learning curve, to live and appreciate life and the great gifts that God has given me.  I’ve learned to laugh and live with people and to have friendships beyond what would have been my comfort zone even a few years back.

I have also learned that even if I believe something with all my heart it doesn’t necessarily mean that God agrees with me. I had to learn to turn off the incessant voices in the media that seek to divide and destroy their opponents, who belittle, silence, attack, dehumanize and quite often demonize those who disagree with them.  This doesn’t mean that legitimate differences should be pushed aside, but it is a call to civility especially for people that are entrusted with reconciling the world to God.

For me life has come to mean community and friendship, finding commonality while recognizing differences. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but that’s okay, it is a free country.  I’ll agree to disagree but do my best to remain respectful and not become enemies just because of a difference of views. I have chosen to live in this reality but unfortunately I don’t always live up to my own expectations.

As I look forward to another year of writing on Padre Steve’s World I hope that what I do in thought, word and deed is to live and to help others to live. There is far too much death, trauma and hatred in this country and the world not to attempt to do so.

Thank you for following this site and blessings,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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All that We Are and Can Be: Where Past, Present and Future Meet

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“The past always seems better when you look back on it than it did at the time. And the present never looks as good as it will in the future.” Peter Benchley “Jaws”

St Augustine of Hippo once asked “How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet?”

It is an interesting question but I think that the question is flawed. I think that the past lives in the present much more than we would like to think and that our future, though unwritten can unfold in a multitude of ways and possibilities.

Many of us live in the past as if it were today. We, individually and collectively, as individuals and nations live in the past and look to it much more fondly than when it was our present. I think that historian Will Durant possibly said it the best: “The past is not dead. Indeed, it is often not even past.”

As a historian myself I value the past and seek answers and wisdom from it to use in the present because what we do in the present does, for better or worse defines our future. Confucius said “study the past if you would define the future.” He did not say to live in the past.

That is something that I have been learning for close to 20 years now when my Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor, using a Star Trek Next Generation metaphor from the episode A Matter of Time.  In the episode a shadowy visitor claiming to be from the future refuses to help claiming that if he were to help that his “history – would unfold in a way other than it already has.”

Finally Picard is forced to make a decision and confronts the visitor, who turns out to be a thief from the past using time travel to collect technology to enrich himself. Picard responds:

“A person’s life, their future, hinges on each of a thousand choices. Living is making choices! Now, you ask me to believe that if I make a choice other than the one that appears in your history books, then your past will be irrevocably altered. Well… you know, Professor, perhaps I don’t give a damn about your past, because your past is my future, and as far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t been written yet!”

It was in telling me that my future did not have to be my past that opened a door of life and faith that I had never experienced before and which showed me that life was to be boldly lived in the present. While it meant a lot then, it means more now for the past according to William Shakespeare “is prologue.”

We cannot help being influenced by the past. We should indeed learn from it, but we cannot remain in it or try to return to it. Kierkegaard said that  “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” 

Since I am a Christian my faith in that future is in the God who is eternal, the God of love. Victor Hugo in Les Miserables said “Love is the only future God offers.” That is the future that I want to envision.

Living is making choices and the future hinges on thousands of them. Many of these choices we make automatically without thought simply because we have always done them that way, or because that is how it was done in the past. However, if we want to break the cycle, if we want to live in and envision that future of the God of love then we have to live in the present though the past lives in us.

T.S. Elliot penned this verse:

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Advent and Life: God Loves the Real World

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O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

(From O Come O Come Emmanuel) 

Today is the fist Sunday of what we in the liturgical Christian world know as the season of Advent.

Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year, in a sense the opening day of a new season of faith, as much as the Opening Day is in Baseball. It is a season of new beginnings, of hope looking forward and looking back. It is a season of intense realism. It is a season where the people of God look forward to their deliverance even as they remember the time when God entered into humanity.  It was not simply entering the human condition as a divine and powerful being inflicting his will upon people but deciding to become subject to the same conditions know by humanity. As Paul the Apostle, wrote about him: “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5b-8) 

In the incarnation Jesus Christ shows his love and solidarity with people, humanity, the creation, reality. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“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.” 

That simple fact is why Christ came.

He didn’t come to found a government. He did not come to exemplify “Christian” virtues or to condemn people that religious people condemned as sinners.

The meaning of the incarnation, and the hope of the season of Advent is that God loves people, even those that some that presume to be his spokesmen and women despise.

In the next few week there will be much written and said about Jesus. Much of it will not actually deal with Jesus or the people that he came to save but instead about the worldly power and influence of those who seek the profits of being “prophets.” Some of them will talk fervently about the “war on Christmas” as if somehow God and Christ are so small that they need government sponsored displays in the public square in order to be real, relevant or or for that matter important. What a small God they must have.

Somehow the message of Advent, the coming of Jesus is contradictory to the message of the for profit prophets. Certainly the early Christians had no government backing of any kind. They simply lived the life and showed God’s love to their neighbors, often at the cost of their lives and paradoxically the message was not crushed, but spread and overcame an empire. It was only when they became co-executors of government power that the message of reconciliation became a bludgeon to be used against those who did not agree with the theology of the clerics beholden to the Empire.

The Christ of the Season of Advent, the one who came and who promises to come again is not captive to the capricious message of the for profit prophets and their political and media allies. I would dare say that God is much bigger than them or those that they believe will somehow end the Christian faith as we know it. But then maybe the Christian faith “as we know it” is more a reflection of us and our need for temporal physical power over others than it is of Jesus.

All I know is that the simplicity of the message that “for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” is more powerful than any political-religious alliance. Likewise the two things that Jesus said to do in order to “inherit the Kingdom of God” were to “Love God with all your heart and love our neighbors as ourselves,” and similarly the words of the old Testament minor prophet Micah, who asked “what does the Lord require of thee? To love show justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.” But then there is not much money or political power in that is there?

But despite the inconvenience of a direct temporal profit or power which is so central to most churches, I do think that the message that God loves the real world is worth repeating. In fact I think that because the message of God’s great love for those deemed “repulsive” is so distasteful to the “for profit prophets” of our time that it is not only worth repeating, but actually believing.

It is a good reason for me to during this season of Advent to look forward to our celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation, the coming of the God who “emptied himself” and took “the form of a slave” in order to save his people.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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