Thoughts for a Sunday

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An all-embracing and intense longing for God binds those who experience it both to God and to one another.

–Thalassios the Libyan

The patient endurance of the saints exhausts the evil power that attacks them, since it makes them glory in sufferings undergone for the sake of truth. It teaches those too much concerned with a life in the flesh to deepen themselves through such sufferings instead of pursuing ease and comfort; and it makes the flesh’s natural weakness in the endurance of suffering a foundation for overwhelming spiritual power. For the natural weakness of the saints is precisely such a foundation, since the Lord has made their weakness stronger than the proud devil.

–Maximos the Confessor

The Blame Game

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It’s a fact taught over many millenia that people not involved in helping tend to be very good at griping.

It’s a fact that over the last two decades a culture of political backbiting and obscene hypocrisy has developed so that no matter what happens people will blame those they already blame for every other ill.

Such a thing is happening now, and it’s making me sick. Not as sick as watching the reality of the coverage, but it is adding to that quite a bit.

Whose fault is Hurricane Katrina? That’s really the only question a lot of people are asking. As the situation devolves into what is clearly akin to a third world disaster let’s all pick and choose who can bear the brunt of this.

President Bush? Well, he should have done everything right, known everything, and had complete control over the situation. He is President after all, and he lowered funding for projects intended to bulk up the levees. That he is in a long line of Presidents doing the same thing (Carter’s first veto was blocking the same) isn’t the point. Bush is obviously stupid and this is another example of that, and we hate him, and he’s stupid, and therefore it’s his fault because he’s a cowboy and not anyone we’d have over for dinner. Plus, he has that silly grin, and anyone with a silly grin does not care for the less fortunate. Bush should have pulled his shotgun off the wall, and gone into New Orleans to manage everything directly. Anything less than that, or more than that, is unacceptable because, as mentioned, Bush is stupid and we don’t like him.

Local Authorities? Well, they are claiming they’ve asked for money for quite a long time without getting the extra billion dollars with which they would have used upwards of a quarter of that money to actually build something. “For decades,” they cry, “we have asked to line our pockets and use what’s left to give to some corrupt construction company in order to make us feel better without doing anything.” And in support of this bold stand the local authorities showed their commitment to the cause by refusing to prepare an evacuation plan of any sort. “If the President and Congress refuse the money, let them lead the people out.” Had there been any sort of clear plan or order, the local authorities could have jumped into action, with just about the time their supplies were exhausted, the Feds would be mobilized to come in with support. Surely, the local government could have anticipated a flood exodus if they were so vocal about the need for flood control. Who is to blame that streets and blocks and emergency services became completely nonfunctioning? Those who have immediate authority over such things. The Democratic local leadership was inept in planning, corrupt for far too long which ruins any chance for investment, and dropped the ball entirely with any sort of leadership beyond demanding leadership from others.

Maybe we can blame God? He’s an easy source. Our sinfulness seems so enveloping that we might as well blame the one who has done quite a bit to convince us otherwise. Sure, bad things happen, and people’s evil tend to make bad things a lot worse. But that’s who we are so let’s blame God.

Or why blame him when we can theologize some rationale for this suffering? Are you Muslim? Well, clearly then it’s America’s involvement in overthrowing tyrants who did a lot more egregious acts than even the thugs shooting survivors in the streets. Clearly, it is an affront to God that America dare do anything in this world. We’ve danced with Islam’s enemies and are now paying the cost. Clearly.

Jewish? Well, we should have supported Israel even more and opposed the pullout in Gaza (yes, I’ve heard this). By abandoning God’s people, we have shown ourselves to be God’s enemies and thus God, in his wisdom, will destroy the bit of America which has likely the least involvement with anything related to Israel. But, that’s God’s act, even though he did promise not to flood the world and kill people anymore.

Christian? Obviously a city as sinful as New Orleans was asking for the punishment. You can’t wallow in that kind of immorality and expect to turn out okay. New Orleans has been celebrating a Bacchanalia called Mardi Gras for too long, turning a religious feast into an irreligious celebration. Certainly anyone with a brain would realize that a city so well known for celebrating its Fat Tuesday would also eventually have to begin celebrating its Lent. Such is the way of things.

Have a cause? Accuse your opponent for it was their fault this happened. Fill in the blanks with the blame. “__________ could have done __________, but they didn’t so this disaster is sad but _____________ are the ones at fault and should be _____________.”

Let’s all wallow in our recrimations. Let’s use the death and suffering of many to advance our own pet cause. By all means let’s revel in the fact that while we would have done everything right, they are so evil and callous as to be dancing with joy at the suffering in hopes of raising their own stature.

Who is to blame? We all are. This is a natural disaster. This is a human disaster. This is a national disaster. There is a breakdown at every level.

Who is to blame? Blame. This whole disaster is the pervasive result of long term blaming, with everyone pointing elsewhere except at themselves. It continues. The looters blame their oppression, so they might as well make it all more oppressive. The local authorities blame the higher authorities for not doing what they should have done. The higher authorities blame the local authorities for the same reason. The Left blames the Right, the Right blames the Left, the immoral accuse the moral, the moral accuse the immoral. And in the meantime levees break down, people drown, and those who don’t die right away die two days later because they don’t have any water to drink.

So what to do? That’s it. Do something. Don’t blame, act. Don’t accuse someone else, do what you can. Imagine if at every level people had this attitude. What if ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty years ago people decided to do what they could do within their own authority and power? Would a hurricane have come? Absolutely. But, it wouldn’t have caused this same suffering. People would have found their responsibility bear fruit, even if it meant less points scored against political opponents.

What is there to do? With this, likely nothing. It’s become chaos, and in chaos there can only be a painful solution. People are suffering, and they don’t care anymore about blame. They need help. It will come, for the fact is that even in shifting blame, Americans care about each other and its obscene for anyone to accuse others for being callous and unwilling. It’s chaos and poor decisions have been made, but there’s no doubt people are trying to do what is right and good. There is unity in this pursuit. Unfortunately, the decades of only seeing someone else’s duty means this pursuit won’t come in time for far too many people.

However, what can be done? A great deal. Stop the blaming and act. Stop the attacks and stop the next disaster. What’s the next disaster? I don’t know, except that obviously the great majority of people knew this was going to be the next disaster and didn’t do a thing about it. So, do what you can to stop what’s coming next. Work in your community to stop the suffering which doesn’t have to do with this flood. Work in your politics to find solutions not power, answers not partisanship. Don’t insult, but encourage. Find what works, and work with those who pursue the same goals even if their means are different.

We will see this next week with the Roberts hearing exactly the same sorts of things which exacerbated the Flood disaster. We encourage and celebrate this reality even as it disgusts us. Because we like to blame and accuse a lot more than we like to solve and act.

On television is the result of such attitudes. We see the reality of our disunity and moral positioning, and the sight is sickening.

Last night they were reporting a hospital being unable to evacuate the sick because there was a sniper shooting at anyone who left the building. For no reason, this evil man was attacking those who were trying only to do what is right. I was disgusted when I heard this, unable to understand what kind of person would do such a thing. Then I realized something. That man is doing in action what this whole country seems to be doing in rhetoric. I hear of this sniper, then I hear those blaming the President, or blaming the Democrats, or blaming God, or blaming a race, or blaming whoever else comes to mind.

This sniper represents a good many of us. Instead of helping or acting, we take out our rifles and shoot at those who are trying to act. Instead of helping we hamper, so much that at times people literally die. It’s time we put down the rifle and help evacuate the hospital.

Only then will we find hope and salvation in the midst of catastrophe.

Killer Whales

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even in captivity:

An enterprising young killer whale at Marineland has figured out how to use fish as bait to catch seagulls — and shared his strategy with his fellow whales.

Touchstone

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So, my new issue of Touchstone came yesterday. I thought it very good.

Today, as I delved deeper into the magazine, I thought it amazingly good.

I say this not as an advertisement or for any other pointed reason — If you are a Christian who thinks about this world and our faith, you really need to subscribe to Touchstone magazine.

Jaguars are back

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The real ones. The kind with tails and steely eyes. The kind that roars. Jaguars have come to Arizona.

Maybe sometime soon I’ll write about the time when I was attacked by a jaguar. It’s been about twenty years since it happened, but I remember it like it was yesterday…

some pictures

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Things I see when I turn my head to look out the window:

The Sky

A bug