Tuesday, August 17

Thought for the day

The Devil loves a distracted Christian.

It occurs to me that two things these days distract those of us who claim to follow Jesus with actually working on the whole "Love God, Love your neighbor" thing.

Fear -- Islam is terrorism and that's bigger than God.

and Loathing -- I have to find a way to convince myself I'm a good person while still hating my brother.

Same as it ever was.

And Eric Cantor and the rest of the apologists, who say "well, of course, they have rights but not if it makes the white American pretending-to-be-a majority uncomfortable."  "Polls say they can't do THAT on their private property."  Rush Limbaugh, it's not that all of a sudden liberals care about private property it's that all of a sudden you DON'T.

We are living in an age where we the comfortable are being outed and afflicted and called to live up to our own ideals.

Same as it ever was.

It should give us all hope.    We don't need to stand aghast so much as stand strong.


  1. StonyPillow6:26 PM

    Real hope, like real grace, ain't cheap.

  2. What she said. Twice? Stuttering Tuesdays?

    Or as Todd Snider says "If you're pointing fingers all around there's a good chance nobody's looking at you."

  3. I don't relate to the Fear – not those fears, anyway – but I relate to what you're saying about Loathing. That Nietzsche line to "Battle not with monsters" has always resonated with me. Can you do battle without losing your soul? So many right-wingers are so rabid, destructive, nihilistic – basically exactly what they claim their foes are. And how does one combat that, and do it a healthy way? I doubt I'll ever completely stop struggling with that one, and that's probably a good thing. There is the Gandhi-MLK route, and I greatly admire it, but that also seems "long game" and not always practical, especially in a media world that would give all of MLK's air time to Andrew Breitbart.

    Or take the questions raised in King Lear - true virtue, being a "fool," is no guarantee of success or a happy ending. So can you, will you, be a truly virtuous person despite a unjust world? Can you find a way to do that without that virtue making you a slower, more easily hit target? Is there a sort of "savvy optimism" to be found past the songs of "innocence" and "experience"?

    I sometimes think liberalism and conservatism are in large degree one's response to bullying, and I would think most people know both sides of those dynamics. The liberals, having experienced the receiving end of bullying, empathize and resolve to try to make things more fair. The conservatives, not liking the feeling, become fixated on being in power, never being victimized again, and striking out at others first. They want to rule the hierarchy, and strengthen it, not dismantle it. I think doughy Karl Rove has always been the brainy suck-up buddy to the rich jocks; that was his survival strategy. The National Review cruise described by Johann Hari had a speech by Dinesh D'Souza about how liberals were the losers and the moochers, and conservatives were the winners, so screw everybody else.

    There's a story, Zen or Tao, about a doctor, who's dismayed by the warfare constantly raging across his land. He patches people up only to see them injured again, or killed. He despairs, and wonders what's the point. He goes into the mountains to meditate. Why should he keep striving? Finally, it comes to him – "Because I'm a doctor."

    When I first heard that story, I didn't like it, because it felt like embracing a sort of victimhood or martyrdom, accepting an unjust system. But it's grown on me. The reality is that the doctor can also work to stop the war, or someone else can. But healing is his unique gift. That is what he does well, does best. It's his contribution to the Great Cause, to the good guys. (Sorta the entire premise of M*A*S*H, and also Sullivan's Travels.) Or as Tennessee Williams put it, "Once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle, you are equipped with the basic means of salvation." Lord, let me not live in interesting times, huh?

    Sorry, all this can sound awfully grandiose, but I feel you're talking about things that are genuine struggles for people who give a damn. You also touched on morale in a recent podcast. Since you're dipping into JC, I'm reminded of two lines from Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ. Judas (an earthy Harvey Keitel) tells Jesus, something like, 'That stuff about turning the other cheek – I didn't like that. I didn't like that one bit.' And there's another exchange where Judas presses him for an answer and Jesus says, 'I don't know! God only speaks to me a little at a time.'

  4. Bats, I think you asked (and answered) the central question: Can you do battle without losing your soul? I feel like that has been the question each individual has to ask before crossing lines that can not be uncrossed. I think soon we will see that the ones pushing the envelope on hate without any introspection whatsoever is the one that will plummet into the abyss. I think we can see where this is going.

  5. taylorbad11:07 AM

    The values battles are ultimately won by having the better argument and example for those in the middle. By eroding the dominant dogma with a more appealing set of values. It's how Christianity got its toehold in the Roman Empire. By the time Constantine converted, the tide had already turned.

    The power of the radical Islamist movement is its ability to capture the disaffected with a dogma that enslaves half the people (women) and uses most of the rest as foot soldiers. The task of the West is to show we have a better system. Our inability to do so stems from those who communicate our message. Our values do not translate to the foot soldiers when we make friends with the tyrants, rip off their resources, sustain corruption and have a presence that can be termed an "occupation."

    Christians and liberals will only prevail by winning over the oppressed and the middle with a better solution than the desparate-what-have-I-got-to-lose but my place in Heaven with Allah and his Prophet.

    Sometimes I feel we have sent the waterboy on the field to win the Homecoming game.

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  7. I don't worry about fear. It's human nature to always be afraid of something. I worry about cynicism, because that's what's driving an awful lot of this crap.

    (LOVE that graphic, by the way.)


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