Tag Archives: Christianity

Monsignor Richard Von Phul Mouton, Obituary Post

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette passed away Wednesday. He was 86 years old. The press has remembered him already and so have many of the institutions with which he was associated. His official obituary in the Daily Advertiser is here. More or less the same obituary appeared in other papers. I attended only the wake for complicated reasons but expect the funeral to be a grand and deserved tribute.

Mouton died at 2:21 p.m. Wednesday at Lafayette General Medical Center among those attending to his last illness was his brother, Frank Anthony Mouton. He is preceded in death by his father, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Sr., mother, Inez Genevieve von Phul Mouton, brother, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Jr., and sister-in-law, Margaret Apple Mouton. He is survived by his brothers, Frank Anthony Mouton and Marc Gilbert Mouton, Sr., sister-in-law Betty LaCour Mouton, and numerous nieces and nephews.  The Mouton family is a prominent family in the region and Alfred Mouton, at least for now, still occupies a central place on a statue in the center of Monsignor’s hometown. The Mouton House is a museum not far from the Cathedral  where Monsignor lived out much of his last phase of life since July 1, 2007, Monsignor took up residence as a Senior Priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. This nearby Mouton house seems small compared to other Plantation owners homes in the South but this  was the town house (not the larger country home) where  Governor and General Mouton — father and son– stayed over to attend mass at the nearby St. John’s  Church in Antebellum Lafayette.  The Mouton connections among Acadians (such as the governor and the General) and the non Acadian French are indeed extensive. Monsignor Mouton was very aware of his heritage though not one to harp on it with people who were not aware of it.

Richard Mouton was born on March 17, 1931 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was baptized on March 25 of the same year at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, where he would later attend  the Cathedral primary school and receive the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation. He was ordained at this same Cathedral on June 4, 1955 and assigned as Associate Pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville –which has always been my real home parish where I was baptized, made my first communion and was wed — but Monsignor did not officiate at any of those sacraments and was not pastor there in any of those years.  I did not know him as Associate pastor.

When I met him he was the intellectually mature Pastor of the Parish who had returned from completing his doctoral degree in Rome. His doctoral thesis was entitled “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Mass,” Father Mouton returned to Louisiana and was assigned to Immaculate Conception Parish in Lake Charles, the current Bishop of Lake Charles Glen Provost was one of his Associate Pastors at St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville and they distinguished themselves as a team with their deep love of the liturgy. Monsignor had also gotten an international status as a priest before he was pastor — this was because in 1962,  he attended the Second Vatican Council, in the company of Bishop Maurice Shexnayder, and was subsequently appointed Peritus Concilii Vaticani Secundi (Expert of the Second Vatican Council). Still before I met him and when I was in fact two years old, In June 1966, Father Mouton was elevated to Monsignor Mouton. Like Monsignor Ignatius A. Martin with whom I lived in Duson and who had a major role to play in my parents return to the faith of their youth when he was a  Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene — Monsignor Mouton would also serve as Superintendent of Catholic Schools from June 1967 to the time he received his first assignment as Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville in 1973. It was during that period that I got to know him. Many people knew Msgr. Richard Van Phul Mouton better than I but nobody knew him exactly as I did. His official obituary did not mention founding the Christian Service Center in Abbeville, the work he did with liturgy in parish life, hosting the Lay Evangelist Training and Commissioning Program for the Diocese of Lafayette or his significant involvement with the Fr. Conley Bertrand’s Come Lord Jesus program, the ground work and development of the Catholic is the Name Weekends, fostering Perpetual Adoration, or any of the other ways in which our paths crossed most publicly. He also officiated at my great grandmother’s funeral where I read one of the readings and based on that encounter he asked me to serve as lector which I did most of the time when I was in country and he was pastor was it was my turn. Many of the friends of my youth had him as a teacher at VCHS, they told me. I never did. But despite eating hundreds of meals with priests, I was somehow closer to Monsignor than all but a tiny few. It is odd, I suppose. But my real connections were more personal and complicated, he twice asked me to enter the seminary and I twice regretfully declined — that was a long time ago, before I was married. I considered the priesthood at other times but really at those particular times I felt certain that I could not seriously pursue that option. Monsignor was also my confessor and spiritual director for some but not all of that time, I found him an insightful and serious man with whom anything could be discussed.

In February 1987, Monsignor Mouton was assigned as Pastor of St. Pius X Church in Lafayette in a an unusual swap with Fr. Donald Theriot who was the celebrant at my wedding.  Theriot came to St. Mary Magdalene from Pius X. During his time as Pastor, Monsignor participated in the development of various pastoral ministries, most notably the development of St. Thomas More Catholic High School and the founding of St. Pius X Elementary School.  I would later teach at St. Thomas More High School of which St. Pius is a Corporate Parish and would move there during my year of teaching and then away to Baton Rouge to pursue my M.A. but my parents would move there with my younger siblings and  he would remain their pastor and he would be someone I had much occasion to see. When I was teaching at St. Thomas More High School we did have some interactions. Mostly those related to crises in the school administration at a school which is normally stable but was having an unstable year. STM was in the official obituary whereas virtually nothing from Abbeville  was in it except merely his pastorate. However, it is not a matter of question that St. Pius Elementary School there is one of his greatest achievements.  He saw Catholic education as a key part of preserving the Faith and the right kind of Christian intellectual development. But he was a Ragin’ Cajun as well and continued his studies at the local secular university and not only at St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Pontifical College. He saw the light of Divine Truth in all learning, although I don’t have the particular courses at hand I am pretty sure that I remember that. He lived a faith in his time.  To quote the official obituary:

If the loss of faith is a life’s greatest tragedy, then surely its preservation is a life’s greatest triumph; Monsignor Mouton was certainly a great guardian of the Church and preserved Her teachings through his ministry to the many who loved him. 

“I value the priesthood I have been graced to share in…I have happily done what I was asked to do by my Bishop, ministering to his flock, hopefully, with zeal and charity. God knows and I praise Him for the graces I believe He gave me in doing so. All the good I have done I have truly done by the grace of God.”

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton

By the Grace of God

Beyond those public ministries, going back to the family comments made at the start, Monsignor was a full and thorough example of commitment to the priesthood but he was also a man with all the connections of a man of a particular, place time and lineage.  Msgr. Mouton had a circle of not very close friends with some common regional interests and I helped people a few times with translations of Heraldic and ancestral documents because they met me when I was discussing such things with this son of Acadiana. He also had great capacity for saying a lot in a few words about places he’d been. I have probably traveled with a hundreds priests, some bishops and a few cardinals — I never remember being in the same vehicle with Monsignor. We were at many receptions together over my lifetime but only shared a meal at table perhaps four times.

Monsignor knew many challenges in life. One of them was a bit vicarious. One of his closest friends in life was also ordained Jun. 04, 1955   and Msgr. H.A. Larroque was the brilliant Canon Lawyer with whom he could discuss many ideas and concerns. Before the explosion of the child abuse crisis Monsignor had (hard as this will be for many to believe) discussed with me his concerns about safe environment issues and the need to do more in preventing problems related to sexual behavior through priestly formation. But the conversations were related to our discussions about my concerns with some seminary environments I had encountered in the world. I had no idea he was dealing with real problems among priests close at hand and not as effectively as he probably should have and felt he should have. His really good friend was caught up in dealing with religious and secular legal matters, world wide media scrutiny and countless other moral issues and it was an ordeal. With me Monsignor never pretended he or his very close friend had perfect answers to any of these crises. I was proud of the fact that the Church paid huge damage awards, sponsored programs, organized safe environment training, struggled to weather the storm and did lots of other things. I often said that while I excused nothing of the worst abuses the Church paid mostly the price of being a responsible and enduring institution in the society of shirking, dissolution and changing  names which characterizes the modern world.    But truthfully the child abuse  scandals did change something about our conversations.

Monsignor and I were both strong personalities, he was clearly the more successful of the two and much older but we held very little back in our really private conversation although they were ALWAYS  cordial they could be both heated and cordial intense and measured. During my later life we corresponded almost entirely about grave and confidential matters and enjoyed only a few brief friendly conversations. Virtually none were related to child abuse or other issues that make a lot of ink. But they were issues we both took seriously.

I considered him a great man and a good priest. Sometimes, I considered him a fairly close friend. That’s not something I find as easy to explain. I lived with Msgr. Ignatius Martin and was a close companion of a Jesuit Missionary priest named Joseph Stoffel in the Philippines. Both were friends and I knew them in more ordinary friendly ways. But Msgr. Mouton and I had some common concerns that I shared with few other people over my lifetime. We didn’t always agree. But the void he leaves cannot be filled by anyone else I know. Life has taken many turns since the days since Monsignor Mouton and I knew each other best.
I have usually posted a kind of obituary on my blog for prominent people who were also significant in my life and I am doing that again for Msgr. Mouton. For as long as the blog exists it helps me organize these memories. People have often revisited these blog entries over the years, so someone else gets something out of it as well. But Monsignor is not likely to slip my mind often for very long.

Advertisements

Halloween and Elections, a Few Thoughts

Happy Halloween. Halloween as it exists in America is a time for celebrating the scarier parts of our unconscious and also other parts of the imagination with children.  This election season is for many Americans time of frightening realities and a scary walk and wait for adults. America is well populated with people who are afraid of Hillary as President and people who are afraid of Trump as President.  There are some who are not happy with either and this long post will discuss both Halloween and the elections as scary ritualistic events.

I have posted about Halloween here.  I also dealt with this day in the context of other days around this time just here. I have remembered that for me it was near my maternal grandfather’s birthday. I have also remembered the occasions of All Saints Day and All Souls Day which follow hard upon us.  The New Orleans Saints Football team was also founded on November first, the Feast of All Saints and of course the two things are related although how they are related is not so clear.    Family Missions Company and many of my family members usually have a Holy Ween Party with many traditional aspect of Halloween where the kids however costume as Saints while they bob for apples, get candy and play games . It is a rather beautiful and fun custom. All these events other costuming and the national celebration of Halloween make up the meaning of these days for me. The memories of those days are largely good ones as are the memories of many of the earlier days I spent Trick or Treating.  There have been plenty of bad memories as well.  But nothing really terrible is closely associated in my mind with these days.

This particular Halloween 2016 is one of those days which is not all together one thing for me and not all together another. It is a day when the weight of many problems ways down upon me but the weights, worries and regrets are offset by other aspects of my life. Nonetheless what is most notable about it is that it is Halloween. It is also the day after my deceased maternal grandfather’s birthday and the day before all Saints Day. But today, while trying to find out if the party is happening and perhaps drop in on it I will also be helping my aunt  with whom I share my grandparents house where she has been living for a long time recently and I have lived many times in the past. She will be giving  out candy during Abbeville’s official Trick or Treating hours between 6 and 8.    The town also has a  public access Scare on the Square in the late afternoon. That is my contact with the mainstream Halloween. The first picture posted below is not one of those pictures but I may add some pictures of the Square to the mix over time. There are quite a few decorated houses which have gotten elaborate. I might get a picture of one or two but probably not as to do them justice on really needs to go out at Trick or Treat time and I am not doing that.

14695490_1358407560870843_9072138967214929784_n

Among Cajuns  in the past the customs of these days varied from place to place. But generally some of the adolescent boys, in some cases united into societies that passed on their customs across generations and in other cases not in such an organized way raised a little hell on day we call Halloween. They went to houses and put skinnier and lighter cows on roofs and in barn lofts, made ghostly shapes and figures on window panes, howled like wolves and brought their dogs around to scare the farm animals but not enough to do serious harm.  Inside around the fire and stove there would be a few traditional treats and some scary stories. The loup garou  or Cajun werewolf tradition is not deeply tied to Halloween but it is tied to all things scary in this culture. I have posted about that tradition a little bit here and here in the glossary. The connection is available in music today, there are many things to be written or said about the  Halloween, All Saints and All Souls Day  customs in the region without mentioning the werewolf tradition but one song of some significance  by a musician named Daigle is viewable here. . On the morning of Toute Saints or All Saints people would walk ride or drive through the village, town or region to see the mischief done. Then people would go to church for the feast of All Saints. After Mass in some communities there would be a feast and music in the cemetery so that people could wake up early and clean, repair and decorate their ancestors tombs on the feast of All Souls on November first. In most communities however people ate at home and got ready to go to the cemeteries on All Souls. Caring for the tombs and visiting with others doing so was the  main focus of Acadian and Cajun practices around this time of year. In some places it was customary for widows to remove their black shawl on the first All Souls Day after they finished one year of  mourning.  In other places the calendar year alone was the key for the end of all mourning dress. Courtships sometimes began between widows and those men repairing other tombs who would pay respect to the dead husband’s tomb before courting the widow. Only taces of all of those custms remain today. But all of these things are in my mind on these days.

I also grew up a good bit of my life in Mexico and remember the various customs of the Dia de Los Muertos — the Day of the Dead. I have spent significant time in cemeteries and changing out flowers and such around the tombs of family members but that has not been as associated with this time of year as I would ideally have liked it to be.  So that is a summary of what these four days in a row bring to mind most for me.

In Celtic tradition this was a time when the year passed from the light half to the dark half of the year and the dead  were free to move between realms through a sort of portal opened up by these occasions. the very early Christians (such as the Galatians to whom St. Paul wrote)   included many Celts. There were people of living  flesh and blood who took advantage of the time of spiritual and demonic activity to do some bad things. Jack O’ Lanterns and scary costumes have some connection to scaring off bad spirits and bad people in ancient Celtic society.  The Christians gave some Christian meaning to those cultural acts but the darkest and worst parts of paganism such as human sacrifice were woven together in the same symbolic language and the controversies have been ongoing from the earliest days.

To lump all of this together in a single post when more clever writers are discussing the elections is probably only another means of whittling away the tiny readership that I still have.  Perhaps the scaries Halloween reality for me is embodied in that reality related to this post and to the fact that I used to write a great deal for many thousands of folks and get paid. Now I am trying to embrace the career path I am on which will end with paying one person a great deal to read my work. It never hurts to know where you are heading. Like many writers over history I might do well to dress as an unpaid bill or perhaps a a literary agent. those are scary realities for sure.

But is there anything that can be said coherently about all of these varied faces of this time of the mysterious, the mortal and the unusual. For me the unusual and the little known ar not unique cetainlu to Halloween.  I have had an unusual life thus far. In it I have sailed small vessels, ridden horses, hiked, climbed, spent time and energy in  pretty exotic and secret places. Form Boucheries, to Hula dances, to cava and Haka ceremonies in Polynesia to teahouses in China — I have sought the insights of the treasured common ceremony. My own life as a Christian every day  has been wrapped about with a number of secrets. Now I am in the process of revealing a few of them. Of course the Catholic Sacraments are described by the Latin word “Sacramentum” but also by the Greek word “Mysterion”, the same word translates as mistery. Catholics pass into the sacred mysteries at different phases of Christian life and the human lifecycle. They gain spiritual insight, renewal and energy.

I never pledged a college Greek Fraternity. I got a bid from the TKE chapter at Steubenville but declined it, I was honored but unable to take on the commitment and I was committed to a household that had few secret aspects to its initiation.  But there have been rituals that have been part of my life beyond church. I have posted a good bit about Mardi Gras, here and here for example. Besides the  Carnival and the  Official Christian Catholic mysteries, I remember being bloodied after a significant kill and bloodying young boys after a first kill — this is an important hunting ritual that I have seen in many forms. I remember fathering my hunting cap for the first kill of significant desirable duck or geese species like mallards, pintails, specks and snows. Then somehow I remember my first time at a bar after a rugby game, my first byline in print, my first time in a deep pool cave where sun never shines, my first time in a bat filled cave and a weta cave. Drinking and caves also remind me of other drinking rituals and not all involving alcohol or drinking cava in ceremonies on the Pacific isles. I remember getting a driver’s license and learning how to use computers — in both processes there were real initiation rituals and the car is extremely dangerous in many ways. Like a lot of people there were many milestones on the way. Somehow I got involved with some rarer and more exotic ones. When I was a teacher at St. Thomas More High School one of the classes that I taught was the Junior year “Sacraments and Morality” year. Both the editors of the textbook and I chose to show how rituals like birthday parties and Friday night football games were formative for young people learning the language and practice of rituals that they would use in Confirmation, the celebration of their weddings and the celebration of Mass.

For some people the politics of this election cycle are a bit of a mystery.  The cycle does not fit with their view of the way things should be and their ideas of what is normal in America. For some people much of life is a mystery, but many still hope for candidates from both parties that feel transparent and normal. Spies, detectives, lawyers and clerics keep lots of their life’s work hidden form many people who know them. I have known prophets, witches, mystics, shamaans, monks of various faiths, nuns, vampires and members of secret orders of knights. Some people would argue that virtually none of these people can exist. But nobody can argue that Anthony Weiner’s laptop full of Hillary’s email and his own problems exists. Nobody doubts Trump has said and done tings on record which many Americans consider abnormal or scary. these are our major choices this year. Neither Hillary nor trump were my choice this year.  I believe in the duty of citizens and I did my duty.

I voted. I voted yes on all but one of the Constitutional Ammendments — although I had less conviction than is ideal. I voted for Marilyn Castle for Supreme Court. Both seem qualified but she is very well qualified and I found her husband a decent boss back in 1989. I voted for Charles Boustany in the packed Senate Race. I selected Scott Angelle for Congress. Mike Francis for Public Service Commissioner and for the big finale….

I have voted for a third party or independent candidate once in a while but never for the Presidency. I voted for Keniston. I do not apologize for it and give him a limited endorsement:

Who is Chris KenistonChris Keniston is a family man, a patriot, a veteran but more importantly he is an American that will work for the people. Get to know Chris and…
CHRISKENISTON2016.COM

I believe in the basic claims of Christianity and in differences between good and evil outside of the question of whether something is Christian or not Christian. By no means would I put contemplative Carmelites and human sacrificing demon worshippers on the same moral plane. However, both groups like their privacy, both like to use symbolic language and both can be communities with long traditions that are well known to insiders and little known to outsiders. Discussion of what Halloween, All Saints Day  and All Souls Day mean are tied to the problems that exist across any tradition f rituals and secrets tied also to public celebrations.  I would urge that, if you have never thought about it, you realize that metaphors can be made real on film and effects are used to sell tickets. Halloween does not answer all our questions about the scary beings portrayed in some costumes  just as Real nuns don’t fly or seem like characters in “Sister Act” but you would recognize real nuns from either “The Flying Nun” series with Sally Fields or from Sister Act. I have had the time, desire and guts to get into a whole lot of varied mysteries. Sex and love are of course among the greatest mysteries and none of us exhaust them.

I have taken up too much time and space to discuss the other things I wanted to discuss. But we have concerns at the holiday and on election day. I will do my best to cope with each.

Racial Violence, Islam, Christianity, America and Me… Part One

There is a lot to say and so I am using a series to look at our challenges described in the title. This is not a long series of posts it has only two parts. There was an assassination of police officers in Baton Rouge this Sunday. Three officers, two white men named Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola were killed as was one black man named Montrell Jackson. The basic original report of their tragic death is covered here by the Times-Picayune.  Of the dead, two – Jackson and Gerald- were Baton  Rouge city police and the other one was an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s deputy. All leave behind families that include children. At least three other officers were wounded. All casualties were from the same two departments. One of the wounded, Nick Tullier, is still struggling for life. The others seem certain to survive.  It makes me sad and angry to think about the loss of life, the breach of peace and public order and the cost to all parts of our civil society arising from these tensions and their many manifestations. I especially realized how emotionally involved I am from video on one of the local television stations which showed me in a distant wide shot asking the panel my question during the forum. I was more agitated than I normally am as far as body language can allow one to communicate agitation, and that was without voice or a close up. But nonetheless I am not devoting this entire post to these events.  I do have emotions about these events that I need to express but I feel the need to express more than those emotions… But frankly, this post is only partly about the police ambush. A small part is about this important story in fact. This blog has some themes to pursue and these sad events occasion my pursing them a bit further. However, this has been more intense of an experience for those who represent the State of Louisiana at the capital city, and that has been covered by the Advocate here.

Baton Rouge cops shot art

In what has been described as a rambling series of YouTube presentations by several reporters and analysts, Gavin Eugene Long claimed to be a former Nation of Islam member, there has be no public affirmation or denial of this claim by  any Nation of Islam leadership that I know of so far. Also on what was basically a You Tube show, however unsuccessful, Long in fact referred to Alton Sterling, the armed black man who ran a long term squatter based DVD business in front of a convenience store and was killed by Baton Rouge police officers on July 5,  this was seen in graphic images and there was at least an element of summary execution in the images that a reasonable prosecutor could pursue as grave police misconduct. Gavin Long operated his own YouTube channel under his new legal name, Cosmo Setepenr which he had adopted in May of 2015. He used the Sterling shooting as an example of oppression, making references to oppression against blacks and police protests.Also relevant to these acts Long called the shootings of five Dallas police officers an act of “justice” in one of his videos. His political analysis led him to declare that  “One hundred percent of revolutions… have been successful through fighting back through bloodshed.” Some portion of the reporting on these matters is well handled by the Los Angeles Times here.  In his You Tube presentations Long said  the act of peaceful protesting was a futile method based on emotion and was easily forgettable. So he claimed association with the Nation of Islam and with more exotic small and less Islamic supposedly Muslim groups. But he also belonged to a number of groups most Islamists would never touch. The individual sovereignty movement is very small but also very diverse, with members varying enormously from one another in every way and it appears that Long was part of that movement. I did receive a degree from  LSU and I had intended to be there in a few weeks as of not so long ago. I reported recently that that would not happen.

Monday, July 18,2016 I attended the Acadiana Press Club Forum Panel Discussion on policing in times of civil unrest. Panelists included David Khey, head of the criminal justice department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette;  Reginald Thomas, interim chief with the Lafayette Police Department; Marja Broussard, Lafayette NAACP leader and community organizer; and Maj. Art LeBreton, enforcement commander with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office. Not in attendance as announced was Tracie L. Washington, a New Orleans-based National Lawyers Guild attorney. The discussion also included a number of people from the audience all of whom were concerned about the state of affairs we have been hearing about in Baton Rouge among other things. The mood has been tense in various places across the region since the shooting of the police in our state’s capital on Sunday and remains so to some degree today. But where I am and in many other places it is a subtle tone and feel which is easily missed. The usual  moderator was absent and a young woman from the Advocate organization named Lanie Lee Cook did an excellent job of moderating.She allowed a number of issues to come out including my question about tendencies to unduly nationalize crises and questions about riot gear which later shaped her own article appearing in the Acadiana Advocate.  I met here fro the first time when I helped her bring in the water from her car to go with complimentary snacks. But there was for me a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces as there always is in these events. Several people were there for this topic who would almost never normally come but still that is not so unusual as people come specifically for each topic as well as those who try to come to most events. The violence in Baton Rouge including protest violence and arrests certainly colored all other discussions about this topic. A pastor and a senatorial candidate from the  African American community certainly brought up black on black violence and how this affects all of our perceptions of the current troubles. But admirable as I find these fora to be they are always limited in scope.

There should be enough material for several blog posts in discussing the Baton Rouge police ambush shooting, the protests and arrests as well as the Alton Sterling shooting that went first in this timeline. The video taken from a witness’s phone showed police struggling with Sterling and shooting him to death. It appears that in both the Sterling shooting and the ambush police responded to reports of an armed man who appeared to be a threat. Gavin Long, Sunday’s shooter was dressed all in black, was a military veteran ( like the Dallas cop killer) and seems to have come all the way from Missouri to kill Baton Rouge law enforcement officials. Rich as that story is, I am only going to deal with it briefly. He was clearly involved in the political realities of his time and clearly was not overly successful, not so different than me or a good number of other people I know in that regard. Just days before his deadly rampage Lafayette General Hospital was launching the formal establishment of the Mayci Breaux Memorial Scholarship founded to honor one of the two women killed at The Grand Theater in Lafayette. That story was reported on my blog here and here.  Also this reminded me that like that shooter, only more so, this killer drove a distance to come to Louisiana and kill our people. Two known high profile incidents do a pattern make. They may also indicate a larger pattern. I can think of a lot of reasons why the choice to attack Louisiana might seem a natural one to some people. Hauser was a man as much an open Christian as Long was a Muslim and then had some nearness left to spare. But his Christianity was of the Hitlerite variety and I will mention Hitler and his views just a bit below. Hitler was a larger supporter of a breed of anti-Semitic, violent and disruptive Islam not so different than the Islamist terror movements of our own day. These two groups often find it easier to converse than Muslim  Sufis and Catholic Charismatics for example. But I believe that for America the Catholic Charismatics and the Sufis would have more to offer as citizens and in productive dialog.

This is the season where one can argue endlessly about the success of various programs and wars and not really agree on where the results stand. In his final Prime Minister’s Question David Cameron dealt convincingly with the progress of the war and yet one knows that there is no doubt that the war on ISIS has a darker side than he describes when hne lists the devastation of their militarized territoties and even claims that their foreign recruits have been cut off by as much as 90%.  Even if those things are true, and it is hard to be sure we know that the region is a mess and the world is made more unstable by the many degree and layers of chaos that are ongoing there.  There is much more to say about that dark side of the Syrian and Iraqi political realities and their consequences elsewhere than we can get to here. There is so much to be said about the recent terrorist attack in Nice that deserves more attention in this post than the Baton Rouge attacks and that event as a whole is more than we can get to here. The Nice attacker was of Tunisian descent but his family seems to have arrived in France even before that early wave of the Arab Spring. He was not directly a part of the huge displacement of people, the refugee crisis and the resulting tensions across the region in Europe and even here in North America which has resulted most of all from the Syrian war. But that is not the only bad outcome. However, it is  quite debatable which outcomes are good and bad fairly quickly.  For me few things could more clear than that we need to fight ISIS and that it has not been an entirely successful fight  — I hope this post contributes something  to understanding what has contributed to the faults in our strategy. The fight with ISIS, the Black Lives Matter excesses, the remnants of Al Qaeda, the Arab Spring, the chaos in Turkey and the tensions related to BRexit cannot all be seen as purely disparate phenomena. In addition,  in September of 2012 in this blog I posted a post  titled “The Current Crisis in US- Islamic Relations…”, you can link to it here but it is reproduced significantly in what follows. In that post I was declaring that the angry Muslim crowds protesting outside US embassies, the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his four companions at the consulate in Benghazi were all  deeply troublesome events. I reminded readers that from 1776 to 1950 no United States Ambassadors were killed in office.  I speculated given my lack of research resources that perhaps two or three died in transit from posts or even sickened and died after taking some kind of leave but none died in office. Just as with Lincoln no presidents were killed in office before him nor shot but a good percentage were shot or shot and killed after the Kennedy assassination, however I failed to mention that if Andrew Jackson had not had the skills that he had as a sort of action hero co me to life then he might well have been shot on at least one occasion and if he survived that then perhaps on another. This initial shooting of Lincoln after our greatest national crisis also tied to race forms a pattern for future and repeated violence and if one leaves  aside the Indian curse and natural deaths in office that made up a patter until Reagan survived his shooting then one can say it was a creation of a new bloody political discourse when John Wilkes Booth shot the President he perceived as a tyrant. If that is the Case then Ambassador Steven death for which Secretary Clinton bears little penalty might become a very important and seminal historical event because it had been almost thirty years since our singular period of bloody Ambassador service had ended, that is from 1950 to 1988 seven died violently in office. Two in plane crashes ruled accidental and five in armed attacks. The last one killed in an armed attack was in 1979, that was almost forty years ago. It is true that in the last few years no more Ambassadors have been killed. But since on September  11 2012  the whole consulate in Benghazi was gutted and the Ambassador, an IT specialist and two armed men (one of whom was a former US Navy SEAL and the other a State Department Security professional) were killed we can see an escalating patter of violence and worldwide disorder related to the forces that killed them.  Symbols matter from the prompt reality that the within hours of the Libya events  the US flag was torn down in our embassy in Cairo and desecrated and an Islamist flag was raised in its place to the attack in Nice and the shootings of cops by two people who had some ties to Islam in their final views on what to do in America. Other embassies surrounds are erupting and the potential for more killings is very real. Prior to the attacks on the embassy, in fact one day prior on September 10, 2012 I posted the following  paragraph in a note here in this blog:

I am concerned about tomorrow’s anniversary. There have been a lot more shootings in Afghanistan lately of our troops, there have been a lot of ammo dumps opened up to terrorist groups through the so-called Arab Spring. There are new governments with ties to these terror groups. There have been a lot of mass shootings in the USA lately. Our border is very porous with Mexico in which violence is breaking out in new ways daily. In addition the Arab element in Mexico has multiplied many times over in recent decades. Very little has been done to honor the woman who shot the Fort Hood shooter or to punish the Fort Hood shooter. I do not mean to predict that there will be ground based terrorist attacks on our soil this month. Probably there will not be. But if there are they will not be unpredictable.

We find that I was well aware of the general kinds of risks that we would face on the very day that disaster occurred because I was aware. Montrell Jackson was a big armed black man,  sexually vital and successful enough to be a father and financially successful enough to make it in middle class America. he was not less assertive than his killer or less black. But what did he care about: He discusses being tired sending out prayers and hugs working for peace and unity. He has a desire for the civic good to come about as inspired by and separate from the religious good but connected to it. I do not know where this man whose wife had just given birth to a son a few months before worshipped but it is a deeply Christian vision with roots in Augustine and the book of Acts of the Apostles. Labels are not the most important thing and all Islam is not the enemy of all peace in America. But it is true that here the killer found solace in the Nation of Islam and the defending martyr in sentiments with a deeply Christian provenance. Adolph Hitler in his early years of organizing decried the efforts of German missionaries to  make Christians converts among the negroes in Africa. More subtly but clearly enough Macaualay the great British historian indicated a few truths that string together for him into a doctrine. First that Catholic Christianity leads to race mixing more than Protestantism and  secondly that Protestantism produces a superior civilization.  He also believed Catholic Christianity had created the English as a racial entity by mixing the Norse, Celts and Germans but that having happened then it was important that it not happen again. Christians in America do not subscribe generally to such explicit ideas, but they are not irrelevant to us. Christians here do not really understand that Egypt, Turkey and Syria form a real part of the Christian Holy Land and the churches devastated under the years of American influence are deep and sacred parts of our heritage. Almost every comment Christians in the west would make about the racial and ethnic identity of those old Christians is offensive ot most of them even though all the statements are profoundly at odds with other offensive statements from the West.

Montrell Jackson Post

This is not the easiest post to write and not all of them are easy to write anyway. What we have to recognize in my opinion is the real history of the United States as regards Islam. The role of religion in the life of the United States and in geopolitics was probably less open and more minimized during my early childhood than ever at any other time among American children. The Soviet Union was the great Marxist atheist adversary which had reinvented itself and had nothing to do with the thousand year formation of Russia as it struggled to be a Christian nation. The struggle for nationhood and the struggle for Christianity can be separated for discussion but they are deeply linked and in the most complicated ways. We also have to remember that the Slavic peoples we criticize for abusing Muslim territories have an ethnic name of Slav that resembles  slavery in English largely because they were enslaved by Turks and Arabs on a broad scale for centuries.  The numbers are staggering and althoughmany died horribly their genes as much or more than Hellenic and Minoan communities absorbed before account for many of the Europena genetic features in parts of the Arab world which would other wise be far more negroes because of other people enslaved by Arabs and other Muslims then freed over previous centuries.    In this period of history of which Putin is likely more aware than Trump or Clinton most white slaves did not have definably negro masters but certainly thousands of whites did have negro masters and the overall tone that informs the racial dialog in America is in blissful ignorance of these matters.  Almost exactly year before Long shot up Baton Rouge a Muslim shot up a recruiting station in Chatanooga, Tennessee.  Did the internet savvy Long find those memories online when making a decision? The endless bloody chain of events has no end and we must at least understand it — that includes the slavery in America and the COnfederacy but those events have a context as well.  Monuments and flags are coming down across America but what is taking their place?

Today we all know religion has a profound influence on the world, its politics and its power arrangements at least as compared to the secular tone of my childhood as it was portrayed in the news and politics more often than not. I am myself a very openly Christian person and it is not hard for me to connect my  faith to anything else that I might be interested in doing, talking about or writing about in this blog. Sometimes the connection is that what I am doing is not very Christian but there is always a connection. The future of Christianity in America is not assured and not easy to define. It can take many forms and it will face many challenges.  But however much I may disagree with many Americans about what that faith is  meant to be and what its role is — but I think we can not ignore its significance. In the next part of this series, which may or may not be the next post , I will look at how Christianity and Islam offer competing visions of America which affect the violence in our streets.   But for now I will simply conclude by saying that we will not get anywhere I want to go without a lot more painful and uncomfortable discussion of the inter changes between race, religion and violence than we have known so far.

Faith Camp, Bukidnon Youth Conference and the Future

Faith Camp is a one week long camp held for middle school aged students based somewhere in Vermilion Parish. There are currently two such camps held each year. While the kids are the focus it is an event that involves people of all ages. For many who participate in its various aspects it is both an optimistic and fun experience and a deeply spiritual one. The Catholic faith is celebrated in a context which is fairly complete and brings the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the experience of church into the lives of these young people in a complete way.

The last two weeks  before this posting there has been ongoing the 20th year of continuous Faith Camps. This ministry was founded by my sister Susanna whom I saw at Faith Camp last night. At the time she founded she and were regular prayer partners and she was in the area and living at Big Woods during the summer after having started her studies at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was a fairly small camp that year but I was deeply impressed with it and shared with her my own memories of a live-in conference  in Bukidnon when she was a child as one of my better memories and so the two things were linked in my mind at the inception although there was not much of a causal link.  Susanna wasalso a small child when the Bukidnon Youth Conference was going on around and near her in various manifestations in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on the southern island of Mindanao in the Republic of the Philippines. I haven’t been back since the 1980s but it was a time which I have always felt had a big influence on the rest of my life and other lives in the family. Many members of my family have played key roles in the success of the camp over the decades. This year a middle school aged child of one of the campers at the second camp was a camper at Faith Camp.

 

 This year my sister Sarah’s eldest daughter Alyse is the coordinator of Faith Camp as she was last year. This is one of the blog posts that I write that is not primarily driven by the news. It is more driven by  a series of important experiences, recollections  and feelings which resonate in my life. This is one of those posts which combines both some vivid recollection and some fading memories: But the hope one felt at key times continues. The possibility of really putting together a history of those years is a daunting and not a very promising prospect. But the prospect of trying to recapture some of the spirit of those times seems a worthy aspiration as it will help me to convey some thoughts about the current times and some of the times in between now and then. I went from New Zealand to the Philippines with my birth family when I was seventeen and arrived there around Christmas. The bottom right hand picture below is of the Maranatha Youth Group in St. Pius X Church Parish in Titahi Bay which I left behind there on those cool windswept coasts. We passed through Australia on the way there.The top set of damaged images are from my time in the Philippines as is my better picture of myself leading my sisters on the carabao. The bottom right hand corner isa picture of the wall of my Household at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

 

 We were in the Philippines for a couple of years (or so I remember without checking) and Simon was born with difficulties associated with Prader-Willi Syndrome. That was also at Christmas and was at the time of my Bukidnon Youth Conference which is the real subject of part at least of this post. Due to Simon’s condition we came back to the United States. While there I completed my Freshman Year at USL — now the University of Louisiana  — in one semester and in the preceding summer worked in some college and youth ministries in the church. Then we all returned to the Philippines and I renewed my ministry for a while and in the summer just after my brother Joseph was born and having overstayed my visa in a tense time in a country on edge and with a gift of a large and dangerous looking tribal sword I flew back alone to the United States.The picctures I took there for various reasons have not much been digitzed and the ones that were have not al made it into part of the cloud I can access. But the memories that I have of the Philippines are indeed plentiful and meaningful. Many of them were pleasant enough. Although the images in the pair below do not show the day to day life there as I justified that life they do show some of the rewards of the experience. Visiting the sick westerners in trouble, prison ministry, speaking to dozens of groups and working with college ministries all filled most of my days. But the Bukidnon Youth Conference was perhaps the  peak of my ministry there.  Being a 52 year old, divorced, childless near indigent was not the future among many possible futures which I saw as most likely in those days. But the journey since has certainly been a complicated on and rich too in color and texture and that sense of richness makes me feel like an expert on almost everything on some days. While that is not fair to much of anything neither or the days entirely fair when I feel that my onIy efforts to communicate come from having little else to do that is fulfilling and that I only ever feel that I  am well qualified to be a sage because I appear not to be qualified for anything else. My life has not been laser focused in a single direction and my time in the Philippines was not either. I like Faith Camp and I liked the Bukidnon Youth Conference in part because they touched many aspects of life from the arts to sport to socializing over dinner. This reminds me of one of my first Facebook notes when I wrote about  some of the extracurricular activities and hobbies that have enriched my life  and divided them into the big three categories of Faith, Science and Sports which I  chose to denominate as easy issues for that early Facebook note. These Easy Issues are not to be confused with the Easy Essays written by Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement. His essays were easy,  because he easily guided the reader through the complexities of political philosophy to a simple and cohesive approach which would provide the framework fo the movement he and Dorthy Day were founding. In my Facebook the subjects are easy because of my tremendous insights into the very narrow experience I had in each of those fields — I did not concern myself with the larger picture. There was some tongue in cheek in the use of there terms and words but Faith Camp and the Bukidnon Youth Conference were also founded to give young people a real body of experience that they could claim as their own. A small window of controlled positive experience from ehich to see the world.

During those years when ministry was part of my life I did a lot of work preparing to work . One thing  or another or many things must be left out including almost all my regular Catholic  school time but I now note  the religious education I received. Some I received within the context of the schools mentioned. However, I also took a set of remote preparation confirmation classes in the Diocese of Lafayette within the Come Lord Jesus Program and the brief imediate preparation course at a Parish in the Archdiocese of Wellington, New Zealand. I was confirmed by a cardinal. In the Diocese of Lafayette I also completed instruction in and was commissioned for Evangelism as a Lay Evangelist of my native dicoese. This was also where after college I was certified as a catechist. Beyond those things, I completed the Life in the Spirit Seminar, the Cursillo de Cristiandad (en Ingles), a basic Lector’s training, Prayer Group Leaders Training Course, a salvation history micro course and stdied as a journalist the English translation of the Prelature of Bukidnon’s Alagad course which was a successful lay leadership course. I also read and discussed the Documents of the Second Vatican Council many times and in many contexts. Susanna who founded Faith Camp completed here degree in theology while continuing to build up this ministry. The two things have in common that they communicate to the kids from a depp and well laid foundation.

Like a lot of activity among Christians it is designed to provide an opportunity for a personal spiritual experience. The importance of personal spiritual experience in America is more evident than in some countries. One of the reasons for that comes from a man who was not a Christian but had a profound influence on the Christian and other populations of these United States at a critical time — the Revolution. Thomas Paine, one of the great thinkers of the American revolution basically stated that one of the profound problems with revelation as a basis for any law or covenant is that as soon as it is written down or described rather than existing as a perceived miracle or apparition or Messianic epiphany it becomes mere tradition. Three things can be said about that idea that miracles and revelation become traditions:

1. It is somewhat true and worth keeping in mind.
2. If God, the universe, the gods and Divine Wisdom were communicating with humanity they might not excuse people who said “Well, I needed that direct Apparition your Highness — didn’t get it so it’s your fault not mine.”
3.In places and times such as existed in the Charismatic renewal there was a renewal within the person which was seen to confirm the written Word and the received tradition. It is out of that third connection with the renewal of the background music and lifestyle of our family that the Bukidnon Youth Conference (BYC) and twenty years of Faith Camps have come. The Bukidnon Conference was less part of the Charismatic Renewal than was some of my work in those days and the current Faith Camps only remind one of the renewal. But the tradition is there.

St. Augustine is credited with two sayings that mean a lot to me as far as faith goes. One is “Seek not to understand that you may believe. Seek rather to believe that you may understand.” That saying is not perfect and is easily misconstrued but it remains profoundly true and truly profound.The second saying I will allow to explain itself and to be interpreted without me. St Augustine wrote “The best and the worst men in the world live in monasteries.” The idea that these young people come together to find understanding and to explore a fully lay spirituality does not mean that none will later become monks, priests, scientists or theologians some do and those around usually rejoice.  But the experience is of a different focus of informing a growing faith and living for Christ in the world.

That Filipino journey  in which the Bukidnon YouthBconference was born was one  which only temporarily ended just after the conference itself. But after returning with them from my time at USL and in this region I did not stay but went to enroll at the school where Susanna was studying when Faith Camp was founded.  I returned a bit early and went to live that summer with my paternal grandparents in a larger than most two storey house beside a park. That  is where I lived in that intervening summer have lived at other times and is also where I am living  now as I type this but I have only been here for a few months this go round. Then I enrolled as a sophomore at the Franciscan University. The summer after my sophomore year I returned to the Philippines to visit and overstayed my visa yet again by only a few days and flew home alone. I left school in mid semester for complicated reasons including some to do with problems in the Philippines related to those whom I had invited into the region to help me with the Youth Conference and  shortly after leaving school I met my parents returning to Abbeville where I currently reside. All of that was along time ago and I took a break to do some more ministry and other things before enrolling again at USL and finishing my degree there. Thousands of picture taken during those and subsequent years are unavailable to me here and now on this blog. But the family on the bottom left hand of the set below are the son of Abbeville friends and his wife who have been FMC missionaries where we once served for more than a few years now. The picture on the bottom right hand corner shows my brother Simon and my parents at an FMC Donors Dinner. He clearly survived the ordeals surrounding his birth as did we all.

 

Of the  actual BYC as an event I have no photos to share and never had many photos. Indeed of the conference itself very little documentation was made and far less survives. But there are a few things and here are a pair of snippets of that time. The newsletter Resounding Praise which defined so much of our communication with the rest of the world had a feature on the conference. This gathering so distant in time and space is still near to my memory and sensibility. The sense and vision behind the conference was one of bringing young Catholics and some not sure they were Catholics together to celebrate the gospel and to deal with the real challenges not only of their personal lives but of Islamist and Communist pressures from groups which in several cases were profoundly hostile to their Catholic Christian commitments.  There was also a real openness to finding what could be improved in the generally pro-American, Catholic, free market synthesis that informed the conference. There was not a tone of xenophobia or paranoia but of relatively optimistic participation in the world as it was  for young Catholic Christians. There is something in Faith Camp’s tradition that has always reminded me of that event.

 

 

There are bigger events in the world than Faith Camp or the Bukidnon Youth Conference but bigness is not everything. Nonetheless as America approaches it participation with other countries in the Rio Olympic Games I am reminded that the New testament is full of references to Olympic events. Paul wrote of racing, boxing, archery and of the disciplines of training as well as the glories of victory in those ancient games. For those going to the Olympics who are Christians while they should respect the games and the diversity there it can be both a mission and a spiritual experience in Christ.

A few years ago London prepared to see the wedding take place in Westminster Abbey there was a lot of suffering and pain in the world. Truthfully, there is almost always a lot of suffering and pain in the world.  Whatever their role may be in adding to the sum of distress in the world, the British royals do quite a bit to lessen the sum of woe and that was not the less true in a year when they were planning a royal wedding . That  set of outreaches to those in need is an effort that  is well documented. Prince Charles, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall and Prince William (the bridegroom this weekend) all have long supported a variety of charities benefiting humans, animals, ecosystems and cultural groups in distress.Prince Charles has a substantial income as Duke of Cornwall and donates a great deal of the income to charities in such a way that it leverages and is leveraged by other charitable donations. While it may well be that not a direct penny of that family’s efforts and gifts will go to help those hurt by the tornadoes whch ripped through the South last night it is also true that they are part of a philanthropic community around the world in which helping is informally circulated almost everywhere. Two babies (at least) ago the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth celebrated on the 29th of April 2011 The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. This expensive and extravagant occasion was also a Christian ritual and gathering and an expression of faith. The scene was truly extraordinary and the elegant venue and the well prepared  liturgy and preaching were all rather impressive even for those who are not so easily impressed.  The sermon of the Anglican Bishop of London is one which I have found to be a worthy sermon to address our times:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day!

It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.

uture.

 

The future does flow through families and gathering and weddings and the like. Churches and other communities have an obligation, it seems to me to prepare young people to be conduits of the grace of God and the hope of the future into new generations. They need to be prepared for the task. All married couples, all celibates and many other classes of not mutually exclusive kinds of people have to be educated in that complete humanity. For Faith Camp that is a Catholic Christian experience An I like that best but it also speaks to those not with us in that community. I am not a young optimist and my own view of life can be pretty bleak often enough. But while  I am sorry that when caught up in nearly apocalyptic events I often already have declared myself to have been involved in a number of calamities — sorry but not very repentant. these conferences and other things have not made me boldly cheerful in that sense. But each Faith Camp and its predecessor to my view  have in fact reminded me that how one engages with life may change over the years  but faith filled engagement  and courage remain necessary.  I know that I  was at one time more fully engaged in meeting the world and the changes going on around me with gusto and energy than I am now. I beilieve that some of those now enthused will persevere in doing good but will not have the same zest when they are my age as they do now.  The world is no stranger to my dire assessments and prognostications regarding my own life and future but the truth is I am still in the fight for the same causes and so are some of those who fought with me under that old distant BYC banner. So also is Susanna and her early team.

Faith Camp prayer - 8   But there is a time and a place for looking back on all that has happened in ones life and that place is this blog. The time is spread out over many posts and pages. The truth is that I was not always quite so late middle aged, directionless and chronically despondent as I am now.  There were times when I aspired to other and more things in daily life than a differing serving of a perpetual mix of the routine, the impossible and the trivial. I was working hard at BYC but perhaps nobody got more out of it than I. I rejoice in the legacy I see although nobody else may see it the same way exactly.

The outgrowth of my various involvements and labors over the years are not all that easy to track, however there has been an institution which has grown out of all that activity in one sense or another and which is also dear to my heart for various reasons…  My brother John Paul was the head coordinator longer than anyone else so far I believe. It is also interesting that this year’s head coordinator Alyse Spiehler has a brother who although he only went to the first camp and was abroad on his birthday during the second camp has celebrated his birthday at Faith Camp several years and probably will again. In fact all of my sibling except Simon and my deceased half brother have served ads head coordinators or coordinators although I never have. I did of course at BYC which I consider to be an ancestor of Faith Camp. The family tie is a real one with my family but there are many other family ties as well. This does not make the focus more narrow and our family does not embody any analogous local set of privileges to those that shaped the hosting of the large wedding in London mentioned before. But the family story is part of the Faith Camp story.

 

That is, with everything else already mentioned and many other things not mentioned here  — the ongoing work of Faith Camp. That is the distant legacy of the BYC. And in some way it is the universal call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to be the Body of Christ as Church and to celebrate the mystery of the fullness of life Christ came to offer and assure. All of that is part of the Faith Camp Story.

faith camp week 2, 2016 - 4 faith camp week 2, 2016 - 2 faith camp week 2, 2016 - 1

Clinton’s Campaign: Does She Have Credibility, a Creed and a Contest ?

Will Secretary and Senator and Former First Lady  Hillary Rodham Clinton be the first female President of the United States? It certainly seems likely. Here you can read my first post when she became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.  Since the very first version of this post came out the Washington Post has run an article saying that her credibility is damaged, that article is here and it may or may not represent political reality. But the contention made here in all versions of this post so far is that there appears to be a small chance that she will be indicted, arrested and charged in the email scandal or in any matter to do with Benghazi. By small of course I mean that there is not a large chance. There appears to be a miniscule chance that Bernie Sanders will mount a successful revolt or set up a powerful third party challenge which would derail her path to the presidency. There is more or less no realistic chance that she will be stopped from being elected except by the victory of Donald Trump as the Republican Nominee over her as the Democratic Nominee in the general election. Almost no chance is not the same as no chance. Any number of things could happen including death of physical impairment. But the odds seem to be better than fifty percents that she will be the next POTUS. Few people have ever had more relevant work or official experience when approaching the highest office in the land. To be a Senator is a lot, to be Secretary of State is a lot, to be First Lady is a lot — to be all three is a staggering degree of experience. Of course I physically stagger more easily than some more physically gifted readers and so I go to that adjective and the related adverb more readily than they might. But if one does not stagger one at least must take notice of the degree to which she embodies tremendous experience. Compared to her:

  1. Donald Trump has never held elected office,
  2. he has never lived in the White House,
  3. he has never lived in the executive mansion of a State,
  4. he has never held an office appointed by a President,
  5. he has never led a sustained policy discussion as Clinton did with healthcare,
  6. he has never been officially invited to sit at the table to negotiate  a formal treaty on behalf of the United States.
To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

To safeguard liberty we must be able to adapt to the changing times.

On the other hand they do have some lack of experience in common:

  1. Neither on has held a major post in a religious institution,
  2. neither has served in the military,
  3. neither has served in the workaday world of the intelligence community,
  4. neither has lived on our borders or in border towns for any length of time,
  5. neither speaks Spanish of French well, official languages of our neighbors,
  6.  neither has lived and worked as a citizen in the way business people, missionaries, journalists and  volunteers do every day across this world as they forge an American identity abroad.

Ambassador Stevens was an unusually high ranking victim of violence abroad. In the last few days other Americans have lost their lives around the world but a glimpse into the kinds of decisions he faced is also a glimpse into kinds of decisions that Americans who believe in what they are doing abroad face every day.  The following excerpt is from the recent report on the Benghazi incident:

While the end of the fiscal year funding deadline was looming, the Diplomatic Security Agent in charge at the Embassy in Tripoli was, nonetheless,
concerned about Stevens’ trip to Benghazi. Although his first planned trip to Benghazi in the beginning of August 2012 had to be canceled because of security,14 Stevens was adamant, however, about going in September.15 The Diplomatic Security Agent testified:
Previous to this—to his decisions to going up there, there was— we would meet weekly to discuss the security situation in Libya.…[
T]here was a specific meeting regarding what was happening in Benghazi. In that meeting, we reviewed incidents and  probable causes, what’s initiating it. And a lot of discussion was that it was the conflict or the incidents up there were, you know, local population against local population and that that they weren’t specifically targeting Americans … up there. I expressed my concerns about the incidents that did involve us. And the basic response was that they … were anomalies.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

Romney was a missionary in France during anti-American times, Bill Clinton visited Russia as a student in the Cold War years and there are other connections to tat least the same world Chris Stevens lived in that can be found in other political lives outside the military but not in the lives of Hillary Clinton or Donald trump so far as I know. Both have traveled a great deal. both have been at some risk but the proportion of risk to resources has never been equal in my opinion to the baseline many Americans abroad have experienced every day all of my life.

The other thing that they have in common is access to fame, fortune, privilege and the people in power. This is not an even contest between the two of them but neither does it really matter who has had more of such opportunity. These opportunities have defined both of their lives for a long time. One big difference of course is that Trump like all previous American Presidents is a man and Clinton is a woman. I visited that in the post where her candidacy was all but assured but I am not going to deal with it much in this post.

There are issues related to Clinton that have very little to do with the fact that she is a woman. Trump recently said he just knew very little about her religion and she responded by declaring her self emphatically enough to be a Methodist. My own take on some of the discussion of Clinton’s religion has been posted in this blog before and can be seen here. Of course there may be more to say as time goes on.  One fact about the election of the first Clinton to the Presidency is that the result was likely determined by the most credible third party candidate in presidential politics in my lifetime — Ross Perot. He made it more than possible for Bill Clinton to defeat George Bush Senior. Thus Clinton did not face the kind of intense contest he would have otherwise.  This kind of splitting is well established in British politics and may have been fostered in some way or another by the Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton as the biggest take home lesson from his time in Oxford. Some may see Trump as Ross Perot on steroids. He is the third party candidate who became the  candidate of a major party and the main obstacle to Clinton’s election. that would still be true even if Romney or someone becomes a real third party candidate somehow. So how does trump match Clinton on matters of faith?

To see Clinton’s faith in political terms this season means to examine Donald Trump’s faith as well. He seems to be a person, like Clinton, about whom one could say a great many contradictory things based on pretty good evidence. That is not necessarily because he is deceptive or a hypocrite but may be because of the place he comes from in his life context. Interestingly enough he has made it clear that he supports Christmas as a national holiday and seeks to preserve it. That was the narrow subject of my original blog post about Clinton’s faith and the faith of other candidates.    Christmas was of course never my only interest in the religious identity of candidates. I love Christmas very much and the Christian observance of it by this country is a tradition I think worth striving for and worth some sacrifice. However, it is interesting that the ugliest rumors and suspicions about Donald Trump involve the ways in which he reminds people of the NSDAP or Nazis and the Third Reich. While many Christians nothing like the Hitlerites have rallied around Christmas, there is also no doubt that the Nazis made Christmas and especially the control of Christmas tree sales and early focus of political activity.  In further clarification, it is interesting to note that the list of candidates in the Democrats poll I posted in that article did include Biden but did not include Sanders. Even more interesting is that Trump does not appear among the six Republican candidates who appear in the poll I posted and reviewed in terms of the religion of the candidates. Huckabee was the leader in the poll and he was of course a Baptist minister who claimed the same hometown as President William Jefferson Clinton — Hope, Arkansas. So where does that leave the discussion of religion as I saw it back in 2014? It is not a perfectly relevant post in every way  then.  But here is the principal quotation from that blog post as it pertains to understanding Clinton’s faith in very general political terms. The first paragraph below deals with how Americans likely to vote Republican were thinking about Republican candidates in 2014 and how that related to Christmas and it observance by the Christians of this nation . However the remaining paragraphs  relate to what Clinton’s religious identity is likely to be. It is perhaps best to look at the text:

There is a lot of shaking out to do if these numbers mean any thing before any Republican can claim the nomination.  But it does indicate perhaps the streams of thought that are shaping the country as regards finding a religious root for values expressed by America’s  “right” in politics.

What then about the left? Where does the other side of American  political energy come down on our connecting with the roots of Christianity.  Unlike the possible GOP nominees, Hillary Clinton has tended to tower over her challengers for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Some people are saying that candidates like Elizabeth Warren are poised to show explosive growth but it would take a lot of growth to challenge  Clinton in the primary.

Joe Lieberman who ran with Al Gore was not a Christian but a Jew who seemed to tolerate a good deal of public Christmas. Mitt Romney belonged to what most scholars consider to be a post-Christian religion but it is one that celebrates Christmas as an American holiday and the birth festival of Jesus Christ. Many presidents have been devout Christians: Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy and half a dozen others are clearly men who in my opinion must be seen as Christians entirely. Whatever they did not achieve of the Christian ideal is not because they did not adhere to that faith and religion. Richard Nixon was reared as a Quaker and (though many American Quakers seem pretty much to be Christians) Quakers as a whole are not a Christian faith but one which grew up among Christians.  It is hard to say what Nixon was when he was President. With men like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and  a few others it hard to say where they stood in terms of religious classification and identity.

So that brings me to Clinton. She is a favorite enemy of the Christian Right and other religious people in American politics and she may well deserve it. She has a background which is mostly verifiable: Clinton was reared a Methodist Protestant Christian, belonged to a Senate Prayer Group and has spoken at Prayer Breakfasts.  Her profile may seem different to American atheists than to most other people. Here is an atheist site evaluating Clinton’s background and religious values.  It is hard to know how  she would deal with Christmas.

I have just finished observing the Independence Day  holiday in a minimal sort of way. It is always a time that I like to think about what it means to be an American and posts about those thoughts can be seen here. But although those ideas have been posted here they have more often been shared in other places and my thoughts about America have been posted here on other holidays. Those holiday thoughts on Memorial Day have been  here and on Veterans day have been here. While I have in common with Clinton and Trump that I have not a day of service in the military in my past it seems to be the military holidays that most inspire my patriotism. My observation of the Independence Day holiday was not entirely minimal by every standard and I did post quite a few notes and the lyrics of the National Anthem on my Facebook profile but minimal my observance  certainly was  in some measures. Neither Trump nor Clinton were very visible in my own perusal of our nation’s birthday. But one of them will likely be the American Head of State by next Independence Day. Unlike Christmas these holidays are not specifically Christian. I am a Christian and for me Christian prayer is part of these national holidays. I am not sure how the faith of either major candidate informs  their celebration of these days.  But faith and the most gung ho kinds of patriotism are linked by many as can be seen at links here and here. What else does  America expect from a leader and does Clinton have it?

Clinton has a lot of government experience, but the range is not infinite. One of the big achievements of this week has been the placement of the Juno observatory in position as a satellite of Jupiter. Some of the reason many people around the world are interested in this project can be gleaned here.  Neither Clinton nor Trump seems to be the kind to play an extraordinary role in blazing a pioneering trail into space.  These kinds of brave explorations may shape the future or not but they do not seem to define the vision of either Clinton or Trump.

One question many people have about religion is whether or not someone who prays for help should be President. Perhaps prayer means one cannot do the job. But some contend Clinton had private emails because she did not want to disclose the degree to which she could not do her job. That story can be seen here. It is to be noted that this not entirely clear story comes from a publication as biased in favor of Clinton and against Trump as one can get. But the point is here only that Buzz Aldrin, a rocket scientist, astronaut and space planner is a noted public prayer promoter in his own life and not being known for religious acts makes nobody a scientist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas is a Coming and a 2016 Presidential Preview

An image showing the basis of all this Christmas celebration.

An image showing the basis of all this Christmas celebration.

It is still a bit too early but “Merry  Christmas and  Happy New Year!”  This post mixes Christmas wishes with political discussions. That is surely not every one’s cup of tea. It is not always mine. But this blog combines such themes as they are combined in the passage of time in my life. This blog post is another one of those. In some ways it is perhaps an admission that neither  one’s Christmassing nor one’s political life are all that they should be. I have been opposing much of Obama’s agenda in this blog and it certainly seems to have slipped back a few notches in the most recent election.  This Christmas we as Americans can see that the world is in flux. We can hope to find our way forward through these holidays and the coming year without a great catastrophe but we can also know that there are crises afloat and afoot. Americans can find some solace in the stresses endured by the Holy Family on that first Christmas.

Mom with a Christmas tree in a previous year. Today she is scheduled to buy a tree.

Mom with a Christmas tree in a previous year. Today she is scheduled to buy a tree.

I have not had an exemplary early Christmas and Advent and by some measures I am spoiling whatever moral or religious value it had be sharing it with you. This year I made some new ornaments to replace the missing ones in the old set my parents hang on the Jesse tree which is one of the only objects I still have from when I was married. I also put a few dollars into the Salvation Army kettles out and about, donated a few gifts to the toys programs at dollar stores and discount stores  and posted a bit about Advent. I also went to religious services and participated in the Advent rituals around the wreath and Jesse tree at home.

The celebration of Christmas rates some substantial coverage on the White House’s official website. You can link to some of that coverage here. Wikipedia takes note of the White House Christmas tree tradition here.  So, perhaps mixing up the elements of a Christmas blog post and an early presidential politics blog post is not such an odd idea after all.

Santa Claus is a powerful Christmas symbol in America today.  Santa is certainly part of the landscape of my holiday.

Santa Claus is a powerful Christmas symbol in America today. Santa is certainly part of the landscape of my holiday.

 

Even for a conservative Catholic Christian like me it is getting closer to the time when one might say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”. I have used the word “Advent” in two blog posts (as well as the word Christmas in one of them). None of these posts have been as seasonal as some other I have posted here, here and here in previous years. It is also early be discussing the Presidential election of 2016 but  I am doing that as well.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

 

The reality of our political life is such that the Presidency is currently our biggest symbol and most important feature of our political life. What we have in our society is a dearth of many of the symbols of the cohesion and sharing of our social values with one another in the way that a great holiday can unite a nation and a society. So Christmas and its presidential aspects have a lot to do with our awareness of ourselves as a people and as a society that stands out as existing in some real way in the world. With ISIS executing American hostages almost continually, Russia flying more military sorties than it has since the Soviet Union was at the height of its Cold War assertiveness, the North Koreans mobilizing large cyber resources against us and real decay of US stature in Europe we are either likely to say what does our Christmas unity matter or we are likely to say that the unity we express is not the most important national concern. That is of course unless we are like millions of Americans who have very little concern for foreign policy. It is also true that some of us think of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Mankind as a particularly relevant sentiment in times like these. The Angels greeting which came with that sentiment at the first Christmas was joined to their adoration, “Glory to God in the Highest!” Many Americans will be going to a variety of churches to honor God as they celebrate Christmas. Others will go to other places of worship to celebrate other holidays – including Chanukah which is a holiday Jesus’s family would have known. But Nativity scenes and even Christmas trees have become a set of lightning rods in the controversies about Christmas in public life. That discussion in return has become a big part of the discussion of religious expression in public life. What Presidential contenders will think about faith is increasingly a political issue that can be seen from many points of controversy.

Me in a shot by one of the proprietors on my phone as I walked into the Donors Dinner.

Me in a shot by one of the proprietors on my phone as I walked into the Donors Dinner.

While the President plays the role he does in pardoning turkeys, lighting the National Christmas tree and seeking to embrace a holiday theme that resonates with the nation it is not impossible to think of the Presidency of the United States as part of our Christmas landscape. When we do there is a sense of the way that our society does and does not function which forms part of our  vision of both the holidays and the politics of our nation. So who is likely to be the next President of the United States of America?

 

 

Christmas has long been a political and legal battlefield. The assault on Christmas has been part of the story but so has the defense of Christmas in public life. In the chart featured below which may still have some currency even though I believe it is based on data from before the 2014 Congressional elections we have two Republican contenders for the Presidency in 2016 who have about equal shares of prospective primary votes. One is Mike Huckabee who regardless of what he might say if asked about Christmas is a former Protestant Christian ordained minister who clearly has a likelihood wanting to keep the tradition of honoring the birth of Christ as a nation.  The other is Rand Paul who, regardless of what he might say about Christmas is deeply committed to a libertarian point of view and politics. Such libertarians often find themselves in alliance with Atheists, some other religious groups and liberals of particular strip in undermining America’s traditional Christian holidays.

Early December 2014?

Early December 2014?

There is a lot of shaking out to do if these numbers mean any thing before any Republican can claim the nomination.  But it does indicate perhaps the streams of thought that are shaping the country as regards finding a religious root for values expressed by America’s  “right” in politics.

What then about the left? Where does the other side of American  political energy come down on our connecting with the roots of Christianity.  Unlike the possible GOP nominees, Hillary Clinton has tended to tower over her challengers for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Some people are saying that candidates like Elizabeth Warren are poised to show explosive growth but it would take a lot of growth to challenge  Clinton in the primary.

Joe Lieberman who ran with Al Gore was not a Christian but a Jew who seemed to tolerate a good deal of public Christmas. Mitt Romney belonged to what most scholars consider to be a post-Christian religion but it is one that celebrates Christmas as an American holiday and the birth festival of Jesus Christ. Many presidents have been devout Christians: Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy and half a dozen others are clearly men who in my opinion must be seen as Christians entirely. Whatever they did not achieve of the Christian ideal is not because they did not adhere to that faith and religion. Richard Nixon was reared as a Quaker and (though many American Quakers seem pretty much to be Christians) Quakers as a whole are not a Christian faith but one which grew up among Christians.  It is hard to say what Nixon was when he was President. With men like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and  a few others it hard to say where they stood in terms of religious classification and identity.

So that brings me to Clinton. She is a favorite enemy of the Christian Right and other religious people in American politics and she may well deserve it. She has a background which is mostly verifiable: Clinton was reared a Methodist Protestant Christian, belonged to a Senate Prayer Group and has spoken at Prayer Breakfasts.  Her profile may seem different to American atheists than to most other people. Here is an atheist site evaluating Clinton’s background and religious values.  It is hard to know how  she would deal with Christmas.

 

Early December 2014? Whenever this is it is Clinton's race to lose at that moment.

Early December 2014?
Whenever this is it is Clinton’s race to lose at that moment.

Christmas and even religion are important but most religious people realize that religion connects to how they see all the world and does so in complicated ways. Real issues like how to evaluate science, how to evaluate ethical policies and how to make peace are informed by our religious background, point of view and  activity. We see this with political issues from funding homeless shelters, to stem cell research to the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. But it goes beyond that.

I am a Christian and many of my blog posts are explicitly Christian.  But my thoughts about science are in connection with my religious thought. So my scientific areas of discussion do seek or do have a harmony with my faith. Here, here and here are some examples.  So my choices of how to use resources here and elsewhere are in connection to my religious values. I do accept and embrace pluralism in America. I see a kind of pluralism in America and the structure of the universe.

The truth about all of life is that it is a bit interactive and interactive and multifocal.  That means that what we do affects what  we see done and there are many other active people and forces creating the continuous drama that is the universe, playing out the great game — or whatever other metaphor might work for you.  Increasingly one  may disagree with what the meaning of different part of the drama or game may mean, how much they will matter or who should care. For example some scientist are feeling sure that they have just recently  found the key to working out the meaning and structure of dark matter in the universe.

I am very interested in Astronomy but probably my use of space exploration money would place low priority on this research until  a better theoretical framework was developed. That also has something to do with Christmas. So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Whether or not you are a Christian or an American I think the American experience of the holiday has something to say to us all. Chinese New Year and Chanukah are different indeed but they also represent a reaching for unity, meaning, celebration and often family.  Not just a reaching for money, power and resources. A society with no spiritual moorings seems very close to shipwreck to me. I hope we will never see America in such a condition.

 

Holy Thursday and Other Dates and Occasions

I am busy trying to do many things and watch the Vatican’s Mass of the Last Supper on EWTN. However I want to post this Facebook Note while I can:

Today is Holy Thursday. For many others as well as in memory for many who celebrate Holy Thursday this is one of the days of Passover. It is a time to remeber dates.

” On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the paschal lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where do you wish us to go to prepare the Passover Supper for you? ” He sent two of his disciples with these instructions : “Go into the city and you will come upon a man carrying a water jar, Follow him. Whatever house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my huest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” Then he will show you an upstairs room, spacious , furnished and all in order. That is the place you are to get ready for us.” The disciples went off. When they reached the city they found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover supper.” Mark 14: 12-16 New American Bible.

Later on Jesus would speak of having longed for this holiday feast. He would rejoice in sharing it withthose he did before his terrible Passion — in which he would be the Lamb of God. This holiday feast is essential to understanding the Eucharist, Breaking of Bread and Lord’s Supper which would take place soon and which we commemorate tonight. In the time since Jesus celebrated that Last Supper, the Christian Church has passed through many tirals and been near the Gates of Hell if not quite to them. Hammered by Roman persecutions, Barbarian invasions, Vikings, Islam, Communism, Nazism and a thousnd other threats it has produced a countless number of good effects across many centuries in numerous lands and places. It has gained knowledge, richness and tradition and been adorned with beauty in its history. However, there have been many bad things that have happened to it and within it as well. I want to discuss some of that badness in this note today.

Antisemitism, which in itself is a very imperfect term is really one of the great blemishes on Chrisitianity. That does not mean there are not intrinsic conflicts between the Jewish faith position which is not explicitly also Christian (and that has always been rare) and the Christian Church. However, the idea that somehow the Holocaust was a ong time ago or that it was within a great tradition in CHristianity are both absurd ideas. people slaughter eachother and are slaughtered and those without long status in a state homeland are most likely to be slaughtered and Jews fall into this category and often havein many places and this is a long-standing situation. But the Nazi extermiantion of Jews is the worst and most outlying expression of some very distinct and new horrors. While supported bny many baptized Christians Nazism was clear enough about the difference to be officially Anti-Christian in it policy and Philosophy. First get rid of the Jews and then get rid of Christianity was there clear plan. They knew Jesus was a Jew after all.

Some facts:
1. When Jews converted to Chrisitianity in medieval Europe the King was their godfather and a grerat feast was thrown.
2. Medieval Churches and early renaissance churches in Inquisitorial Spain and elsewhere were built with the sign of the Star of David often included. These churches had abeilief that the extant remains of the House of David were still royalty on Earth and had no trouble sseing how Jesus related to the House of David and struggled in his lifelong postion as regards the House of Herod.
3.For centuries all Christians knew that Jewish rabbis in a hundred cities instructed gentiles in the Septuagint or Greek Old Testament throughout the Hellenic world and Jews were respected intellectuals in much of the pagan Greek world. Those who studied but did not convert were called God-Fearers and it was in the God-fearer network that early Chrisitianity mostly spread. But modern Jews, Protestants and Anglicans reject the Greek version of the Old Testamant and the Greek Orthodox church has been much disabled by Islam and decimated by it and so there is no historic basis of understanding that is true to the origins of the Christian Church except in the tenuous and disturbed fabric of the Roman Catholic Church.
4. Rome has had recent centuries of the Church influence by the very poor heritage of Western Europe and Britain who now often find themselves ot good for Rome and lost much of its other constituency to Islam. It is able to conventiently forget that when the Holy Family fled into egypt they went to a city that was in a cultural and religious state of sophisitication which may be among the greatest ever achieved by mankind. They create a poor ,dirty persecuted Jew more and more as Western Europe loses its sense of all that formed the Christian experience.

Jesus was an Earthly Prince — Son of David. He was a Rabbi. He was a Craftsman. The scene quoted from Scripture above shows his sophisticated secret network and not a miracle. His Apostles carried some weapons even in heavily guarded Jerusalem and he had many followers. The later Medieval and early modern imitation of Christ as mostly poor and obscure is just antisemitic and antichristian nonsense. He did suffer poverty, homelessness and pesecution for good causes.He did accept crucifixion. I will not get to all of that now.

I see a few things also of interest in this year. Our family like many (but not the majority of) Christians will celbrrate a Pseder meal with lamb, bitter herbs and a translation of the ancient Hebrew words into the vernacularof our community (English). I like to try to do this and attend Holy Thursday Mass but sometimes I ctach the ealier broadcasts of the Mass where there is a conflict with this custom.

Spiritually, the Christian Church may be the spotless Bride of Christ but in many ways it is a train wreck. I say that with conviction, I simply think that it is still better than much else in the world even in its flawed human aspects. Some say kate Middleton has knon Jesish descent and if that is true I rejoice in the Anglicans joining her to the Prince in Westminster Abbey. It is worthy and Christian in ways they little understand I smugly declare. But I will hope the marriage goes well over the years and hold some judgement till then. America’s policy in support of Israel seems weak and confused to me. Our President and First Lady are not invited to the Royal Wedding I am told and our country also seems to be a mess. There is agreat deal of inter=relatedness of issues I cannot make clear here. I do wish we were supporting the growth and devlopment of Israel into what it can be. I do wish we had a sound British policy. I do wish we had a healthier Christian Church. However, I am still gratefull to celbrate Holy Week and Easter.

Happy Holidays to all of you. Happy Spring if nothing else. But if you have time while being happy to think about devloping our culture in more healthy and authentic ways — then I am all in favor of it.

Feast of the Assumption: National Day of the Acadians

Today is for Roman Catholics the Feast of the Assumption.  Today is the National Day of the Acadians. those of us who are both would like those in the Acadian Nation who are Jewish, Protestant, (even Anglican though today is an awkward day to be both), Freemasons with no other formal religion and adherents of other faith to join what is still the (not so large) Roman Catholic majority and not merely plurality of their countrymen in celebrating the Le Jour National des Acadiens. We also wish those Catholics who are not Acadians but live among large numbers of us would remember this is a dual holiday for us. It is a sad kind of National Holiday. We do remember all that we are but we are not principally celebrating the founding of Acadie by our ancestors which has become Nova Scotia. We are not primarily remembering the founding of the Novelle Acadie in Louisiana which has become Acadiana. We are primarily remembering the tragedy, time of weakness (relative to an old and established empire in its homeland) , loss and death which is the destruction of the land of Acadie and the start of Le Grand Derangement.  This holday has roots in the past since the Acdians were French subjects and as the first came to the new World the King of France had just designated the feast as the special day of France and the Fench. In 1881 there was the first large publisc and open convention of the Acadians since the exile itself in which a few thousand gathered for real national policy and it was at that time that they declared the holiday a national feast. The reason cited by some knowledgeable sources is in part to distinguish them form the Freanch Canandians who honored St. John the Baptist as their patron. You will see that I think the truth is more complex but the tie to the French synthesis they left behind is vital enough. We are remembering that we are a people and have a past and future in the face of great suffering. Here are some Acadian links in this site itself:

1. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/acadian-forum-archive/glossary-of-terms-casually-defined/

2. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/acadian-forum-archive/

3. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/well-see-if-bps-viking-shows-his-horns/

4. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/after-an-american-revolution-the-royalist-portion-of-the-empire/

5. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/images/photographs-in-vermilion-parish/photographs-reproducing-mommees-paintings-1/

There are many more than these posts and pages which reference Acadian ethnicity and the Acadians in some way.  I hope that this set of links will help the reader to find more than they planned on in the time devoted to one post. Then there is the other side of the Holiday. Acadians celebrate the Feast of the Assumption as their National Day partly because it falls during the days when the first flotilla of surviving exiles were all at sea. Having watched the destruction of Acadie largely in the form of dying frail relatives and the plumes of smoke from farms and churches near the coast.   But Acadians also choose it because it is a holiday that has entered the Universal calendar of the Catholic Church as a Solemnity in this modern era in which they experienced this loss. They also honor it because it is a feminine holiday in a Christianity which has sold out to a largely woman-hating world in much of the modern era. While some parts of the world were more anti-feminist in the past and some are eager to bring that back — the feminine  half of things was prized in much of Ancient Greece, Byzantine Christianity, High Medieval France and Acadie. Acadians can remember that we stand with that always developing tradition and against its destruction. In 1938 the Pope officially recognized the Acadian celebration of the Feast of the Assumption as their national holiday. He also entrusted them to the special patronage of Our Lady that this recognizes. 

Of course the Assumption itself actually celebrates the raising of the body of Mary into Heaven to join her believers spirit. this is very hard for Protestant, Jewish or Skeptic Acadians to relate to one would think. First let us think about the celebration in Biblical terms of interest to Protestants and Jews. The Bible talks of Enoch and Elijah being taken up into heaven and so it is not without precedent in the Jewish Scriptures.  For Protestants remember that in addition to these two Old Testament precedent we have what can be taken as the prophecy of Mary in the Canticle Catholics call the Magnificat .

And  Mary said.

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely , from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done Great things for me, and  holy is his name…

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones

and lifted up the lowly.”

Luke 1:46-49, 56

Depending upon one’s hermeneutic the whole canticle is even more of a prophecy of such an event as this one or it is not such a prophecy at all. But there is a case which can be made.

For the true skeptic especially in modern times the whole thing is indeed pretty alien but remember if you possibly can, how very much you take on faith from poorly reported science that is constantly changing. There are different kinds of faith, some see this holy event and others out of ordinary experience as primarily symbolic and having a great deal to say about womanhood, queen mothers, suffering mothers who lose sons, the human body, death and other things without really thinking of any event.  Others have a more earthy and integrated faith. The point is that sadly while your skepticism is poorer than religion in artistic light and shadow I am afraid theat I cannot grant you status as having a more rational faith experience — that has not been my experience so far. I do have lots of experience with skeptics.

I wish everyone a happy Feast of the Assumption and National Day of the Acadians. Life is marked by holidays in important ways. 

Friday the Thirteenth: Some Thoughts About the Darkside

Today is Friday the Thirteenth. This is not the same kind of holiday as Halloween, it lacks the roots in all kinds of deep Pagan traditions and the ties to major Catholic Christian holidays still celebrated within a few days. It is not a day which is the same kind of thing as some day dedicated to a full-fledged and living set of terrors or celebrations of a dark cult.  it is a day to think of the weird, skewed, unlucky and creepy if you live in a milieu which will note such things.

I am really getting this post out too late to matter and it will be too short to matter much. I will just sneak it in under the wire with a few thoughts for next time. One thing that I feel is really true about our era is that a great number of very large adjustments in society and the world and people’s lives are going on all at once. The change in Christianity as it exists in Protestantism differs from the change in Orthdox and Catholic traditions. But it seems to me that as a whole Christians are more and more afraid to see in their faith tradition  that strand which is mysterious and careful and nuanced and aware in dealing with spiritual darkness and evil. In my experience that stuff has real risks for a church. But I also believe it has  very often been the case that those most aware of such aspects of the Faith were the greatest warriors for pure light and truth.

I am tapping this out without quotes but you can look this up or trust me. The New Testament is careful to exhort us to show respect for devils who are fallen angels and beyond the comprehension of fools. An epistle writer cites an extracanonical book in which St. Michael says “May the Lord rebuke you!” in struggling with Satan over Moses’s body. This is the language of a respectful adversary. St. Paul in addressing the Areopagus speaks partly of pagan religions and their gods themselves when he says that God spoke to the generations before Christ in varied and fragmentary ways.     Jesus called his Passion and Crucifixion “The Hour of Darkness” as a time in which evil forces had the right in some real heavenly law to be in control.

So what does all that matter?

Well it seems there is a huge market for thinking art and entertainment about this stuff of dark and evil forces. Christians seem to be losing an edge. Catholic church proceeding never require a Devil’s Advocate under law any more. Protestantism is marked by those who disbelieve in evil forces of the Satanic type, those who find them uninteresting and those who trivialize and insult them. Obviously I am oversimplifying and being negative as I so often am. However, Look at film, music, video and other things and ask if we are even slightly holding our own as makers of popular culture in this regard. I do not think we are and I think that this has consequences.

Some thoughts about marriage in America

The US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker has held that Proposition 8 which outlawed same-sex  marriage was unconstitutional and that this  is because heterosexual couples and same-sex couples were identical.  The judge ruled that the ban on homosexual unions was simply a kind of persecution which is at once entirely unmerited and simply cruel. There will be a lot of controversy as this goes through appeals and makes its way to the Supreme Court. But it does raise issues related to marriage and particularly polygamy that I wish to discuss here. I am going to point out a couple of my own posts where I have touched on issues relating to marriage, sexuality and the varied crises and have in one of them at least touched upon polygamy. However, the issues covered in this post do not require a close reading of these posts.  

 1. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/why-i-dare-to-advocate-radical-change/

I start with this post above because I think that it is vital that we recognize how far away from any ideal of marriage that has been proposed by the Christian faith in it its most idealistic and monogamous we really are.  If polygamy could be achieved for a portion of the many who are having children and expressing their sexuality with no reference to that ideal then it would be progress in terms of social and cultural nearness to both the spirit of Christ and the life of the gospel. That does not mean that there are not real risks and nothing that can be lost which is valuable and precious.

The link below is one in which I have discussed both the nature of human sexuality and also how it relates to social development and royalism.  We must find a way to address sexual reality. That is especially true for those of us who have the kinds of ideals that relate to humanism, Christianity and Judaism. It is imperative that we become conversant with reality again.

2. https://franksummers3ba.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/monarchy-and-royalist-culture-in-america-past-present-and-future-part-3-3/

I am a Christian and Christianity has never been the most polygamous religion. However, it has never been as completely anti-polygamous as it currently has almost entirely become. The Roman Catholic theologian Tertullian argued against the common and theologically supported practice  of priests (some of whom were celibate even then) commonly marrying two wives and especially sisters. When Tertullian was later disciplined for other reasons it is possible that in part it was because of the portion of the church which believed polygamy was an important part of the Christian tradition for some men in leadership both royals and some clerics especially. But there were few Christian royals (not none) in the third century. This is just part of the picture: Charlemagne who was able to add the filioque procedit   phrase to the Western version of the creed was an open polygamist as were all of his sons. 

One issue that I think has to be discussed if one is going to discuss polygamy at all reasonably is that one has to begin to visualize it in order to understand it and discuss. Where it has been so universally illegal for so long it is not so easy to visualize. I want to include some film and television references that deal with varied and complex glimpses of polygamy and make it possible to see where the institutions of plural marriage have found their way into American viewerships and audiences.  Here are some worth watching:

1. One Night With The King: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0430431/

The first link is to a film that tells the Biblical story of Esther.

2. The Other Boleyn Girl: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0467200/

The second link is to  a film telling the story of Henry VIII and his women.

3. King David: http://www.amazon.com/King-David/dp/B000JGD264/ref=pd_vodsm_B000JGD264

The third link is to the telling of the story of King David which is extremely important to both Judaism and Christianity.

4. Big Love: http://www.hbo.com/big-love

The  fourth link is to a fictional family trying to restore and modernize Mormon polygamy. It is complex, muddied by multiple perspectives at times but I think it is a good show nonetheless.

Then I want to show some examples of contracted relationships between Americans in our history and present.  These are real lives past and present that matter to those who live them quite a bit. As a committed son of Louisiana I am pleased to discuss one of the institutions that expressed polygamy in a new and workable way tied to old traditions. Take a chance to look at this and I may return to it later and have actually touched upon this before in other posts. Clearly the social realities of the quadroon ball are very far from where we are now. But if you take a global perspective it is entirely clear to me that  they were often superior values and ideals from which we could still benefit some day.

The Quadroon Ball:

I. http://www.frenchcreoles.com/CreoleCulture/quadroons/quadroons2.htm

II. http://www.nathanielturner.com/livesandtimesofquadroons.htm

I also wonder how it would feel to be this young woman in the next video and be aware of all that is disastrous in our sexual realities in the world and still have one’s lifestyle just barely outside the criminal. I think it is horribly tragic.

Modern polygamy in the Mormon tradition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANXeiyGx7To&feature=related

It is to be remembered that if you are reading this blog you are reading the blog of someone who wants to change and reform the government and not either escape or limit it into insignificance. I think that governments of the States of the Union and of not yet existing institutions I have proposed would have a vital role to play in making any polygamous domestic institutions work.  It is not entirely clear to me whether the current king of Thailand can be said to ever really have entered into plural marriage. I have not confidential sources and the public sources that I have seen indicate all sorts of contradictory things. It is perhaps a powerful sign of anti-polygamy in the United States that the only true Oriental King to have been born to the rights of an American citizen is part of the possible complete dismantling of an institution so valued in Thailand. However, it may be that it has been a slightly concealed part of his life. To see something about the history of the royal polygamy of Thailand see the next link:   http://www.1stopchiangmai.com/articles/dara/

One thing to understand that is really vital is that those of us who would rather not lie, murder slaughter innocents wholesale or proceed blindly into the future have competitors and opponents who would  like to have all these thing happen routinely and others who would like most of them to happen often. We can still recognize that polygamy is something less than the best and highest forms of monogamy and acknowledge it has a role to play in the survival of anything that can be called civilization.

I will make on of my personal revelations here in this post. I have been married only once and to only one person. Although I am involved with Christian ministry I am not a regular churchworker and not reaping rewards that would cause me to greatly limit my romantic life on that basis alone. Given the actual realities of my life I think it is true that I have had a very limited sex life outside of the seven years of my marriage. However, I have dated a lot. I have sometimes had more than one girlfriend who knew each other. In a few of those instances I have dated two women who were lesbians and attached to each other. I would not flatter my self so much as to say that had polygamy been legal I might have married those gals, certified one as a covenant mistress and one as her maid or whatever else. But it has been an issue in my actual life. I am getting old and tired and mean and in every way less eager to marry but I feel personally that  I have been harmed as well as in the lives of my friends.  

There is so much more to discuss. Polygamy has dark potentials and sides that must be resisted and that is why government has a role to play. I am not interested in persecuting homosexuals but I do think commitments between wives or ladies and maids in royal harems meets the needs of those who really need commitment and maintains marriage between a man and a woman.  I do not want a world where all monks and canons are presumed homosexual. But I do believe homosexuals who care for each other can find civilized happiness as part of such groups. We must find ways to embrace sane civilized options that are imperfect and build again. We live in a world where ruin and deliberate evil  combine to threaten more than most people can imagine. Life will not be improved by further simplifying a too simple society nor by pretending same-sex couples are capable of marriage to each other as heterosexual couples are  capable of contracting such unions.