In Gratitude: Big, beautiful, loving families all over the world

In yet another airplane interview, Pope Francis said to reporters and the entire world that “Catholics don’t need to breed like rabbits.”

Simply put, there are no words to adequately describe the heartlessness of that statement, no matter how he or his legions of yes-men may try to contextualize it.

So to all the big, beautiful and loving families of this world, whatever your creed, I say thank you for bringing love into the world.  Each conceived soul is a gift from God, not an economic asset or liability on Pope Francis’ or Planned Parenthood’s spreadsheets.

One day people will see that.  Until then, we must keep our hope alive, and rejoice in the love that does exist in this world,  expressed in so many ways, including by parents whose hearts are filled with joy and excitement with the addition of each new child in the family.

My 2014 Persons of the Year: The 66 Fallen Israeli Soldiers

Image result for Oren Simcha Noah

(Oren Simcha Noah, Age 22, of Hoshaya, Israel)

They were men whose lives were cut short, and were doubtless some of the most hated people in the world, serving in the army of what is now one of the most hated countries in the world: Israel. Yet at this time of year-end reflections and media selections for “Persons of the Year,” this dissident blogger chooses a group of men whose loss I not only mourn, just as I do the loss of the far greater number of Palestinians, but who have won my total respect: the fallen soldiers of the IDF of 2014.

One need not offer a political blessing to the so-called “Operation Protective Edge,” which resulted in the deaths of nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, or for that matter offer one’s blessing to the current Israeli government’s broader military defense posture – I certainly do not – in order to appreciate the contributions these beautiful fallen men have made, not only to their country, the only Jewish state in the world, but to the basic decency of modern nation-states.

When nations send their young adults off to war, and those people are killed in war, it is right, and should be normal, that the nation grieves the loss of those young lives. To do the opposite – to not grieve as a nation – is to reduce those lives to mere cannon fodder. That, in a word, is ungodly.

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Encouraging Off-Ramps for Homosexual Lust

“Virgins and Angels Imploring Christ not to Punish Lust, Avarice” by Late Renaissance painter, Scarsellino.

Recently, the Catholic cable channel, EWTN, aired a program with the Rev. Paul Check, the executive director of Courage, a Catholic organization dedicated to helping same-sex attracted Catholics who desire to live according to the teachings of the Magisterium live celibately and, thus, find peace and happiness. While Rev. Check’s psychological and theological assumptions about homosexuality were as disdainful as any other conservative Christian, Catholic or Protestant, he made one point that those of us who view homosexuality as a precious, naturally non-procreative gift from our heavenly Creator ought to consider: nouns, and sexual identity labels in particular, have their limitations in the spiritual realm.  Amen to that.

Though religious conservatives like Rev. Check may never see homosexuality, like this writer does, as God’s natural offering to men and women who desire sacred, naturally non-procreative sexual union, that does not mean these conservatives don’t have anything to offer human sexual progress, and progressives like myself: namely, people who have no hang-ups about the human body and sexual desire, but who wish all people would stop denigrating the lives of others, including their sex partners, and especially our unborn baby brothers and sisters.

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The Miracle of Whitney

Fifty years ago today, just a few weeks before Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech at the March on Washington, a miracle happened: a baby girl was born. She would grow up to become a global superstar, but most importantly, she would be faithful, even in the midst of inner battles, to the mission God gave her: to bring love and joy to this world through the gift of song. The baby girl’s name was Whitney Elizabeth Houston. Her family would call her, simply, Nippy.

Over a year has gone by since Whitney passed away at 48 years of age. For many of us, the sorrow will really never go away. And yet, for me anyway, the more that time passes, the more that sorrow swims alongside a flowing, gushing, and unadulterated gratitude: gratitude for Whitney, and gratitude for God for giving our world such a miracle.

Down below is a link to one of Whitney’s 1991 hits, Miracle. This line from the song resonates with me now as it did back then:

Nothing should matter
Not when love grows inside you
A voice of love is crying out
Don’t throw love away
There’s a miracle in store…

Ironically, on this day, August 9, we also remember the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945. As Whitney sang in Miracle, we all have love – individual talents from the Creator – growing inside each and every one of us. It is always we human beings who throw away that love, who throw away the “miracle in store,” when we use our talents for war and other destructive purposes, or perhaps countenance or, quite commonly, live in fear of, those who do.

It is never, ever God who is throwing away the love that was put inside of us from the moment we were conceived.

It may sound like a stretch, but perhaps God decided that baby Whitney should be delivered into the world on August 9, simply to get us to stop throwing our hands up in the air when war and injustice take place, asking – and indeed shouting – “Why God why!”

God is always, always doing his part: giving us miracles of love inside each of us to work with, every single day. Miracle upon beautiful miracle.

Despite her battle with the dreadful disease of addiction, Whitney never threw away her miracle. Even in the last few years of her life, when her voice was wearing down, she still was faithful to her call – singing from the depths of her soul the best she could. She gave, and gave, and gave.

Generations yet to come will be blessed by God’s generosity that came in the form of this beautiful person, just as we have been so blessed.

Happy 50th Birthday, and rest in peace, Whitney Elizabeth Houston. Yes, we will always love you.

Here is Whitney’s video for the classic song, Miracle:

The Petraeus Illusion Is Our Own

In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton famously wrote about his spiritual awakening at the corner of Fourth and Walnut in downtown Louisville’s shopping district. Away from the monks and bucolic rhythms of Gethsemani Abbey, Merton described his reaction to seeing all the city people bustling about: “It was like waking from a dream, a spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream. Not that I question the reality of my vocation, or my monastic life: but the conception of ‘separation from the world’ that we have in the monastery too easily presents itself as a complete illusion: the illusion that by making vows we become a different species of being, pseudo-angels, ‘spiritual men,’ men of interior life, what have you.” Merton goes on to explain that though he and his fellow monks live their spiritual lives“out of the world,” they are every bit as much a part of the same violent, tormented physical world as everyone else. Merton writes, “We just happen to be conscious of it [the world’s problems] and to make a profession out of this consciousness. But does that entitle us to consider ourselves different, or even better [his emphasis], than others? The whole idea is preposterous.”

Though not referring to his theretofore monastic experience as a brainwashing, Merton nonetheless described his awakening experience at the corner of Fourth and Walnut as a kind of ecstatic deprogramming: “And I suppose my happiness could have taken form in the words: ‘Thank God, thank God that I am only a man among others. To think for sixteen or seventeen years I have been taking seriously this pure illusion that is implicit in so much of our monastic thinking.”

In the wake of the Petraeus scandal, much has already been said about journalistic failure, not only of the broken boundary between the former general and his biographer, but about the media’s largely uncritical reporting on Petraeus and his rise to power. Yet it seems that for some years now the American people have been drinking the same strange brew as the media when it comes to things Petraeus: opposing the military quagmire in Afghanistan, yet standing foursquare behind the military general who principally conceived it.  This strange brew, it seems, leaves our critical capacities fully intact – handing out teddy bears to Afghan children to win “hearts and minds” while dismissing those same children as “collateral damage” when they and their parents are killed by U.S. bombs is both immoral and nonsensical – yet simultaneously renders We the Drinkers utterly incapacitated to actually do anything to stem the aforementioned bombs-and-teddy bear schizophrenia. What gives?

 

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