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For most people who observe Christmas, whether in church or just as a holiday with presents, the holiday is a joyous occasion. However, there is one part of the Christmas story which is largely forgotten, and which can be found in Matthew 2. (NIV here)

1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”



And so it was that with one of the most joyous events in the history of the world, there was also great pain and mourning for all the little children who were slaughtered on the whim of a tyrant. In the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre, many people are trying to reconcile the incredible pain of this horrendous tragedy with the joy of Christmas. However, even from the Bible itself, we see that this has always been so, and that despite the incredible sorrow, we should still continue to live with joy.

(The traditional estimate of the toll of Herod's purge is 14,000. The Eastern Orthodox Churches commemorate this on December 29th - just four days after Christmas. Also, a haunting icon in commemoration. )
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It is rare thing to enter the bedroom of a teenager without noticing posters on the walls of movie stars, bands, or sports figures. Once upon a time, when I was much younger, an adult asked me, "Why do this? It doesn't make any sense. It's not like the person in the picture cares about you." As a child, I had no good answer, but as an adult, I'd like to commit a few comments on the subject here.

As members of the human race, we are wired to be social beings. We come into this world almost completely helpless, and only have one or two things which we do well. Life after that is an incredible learning experience for children, but they rely on others - especially parents - to teach them things. As a result, a child who has parents who take an interest in his education, no matter what the economic level, does better than a child whose parents are indifferent.

As children grow older, they start to admire others outside of their immediate circle for doing uncommon things. If it's a sports figure, seeing a poster might remind the person how exciting it is to watch him play or it might be an encouragement to compete in the same sport. A poster of a band might remind someone of the feelings one has listening to the band's music. Movie stars represent a type of lifestyle people dream about living.

This type of thing is hardly reserved for adolescents. All over, we see images of people as reminders to us as to what they achieved. In the grand scheme of things, the accomplishments of a baseball team or its members are not terribly noteworthy, but if one goes to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play, it's not just baseball one will see, but also statues of notable people who have been with the Cubs' organization. Of course, the statues are placed in honor of the people depicted, but they wouldn't be placed there if there wasn't some sort of emotional response that people have by viewing them.

Just as learning is for a baby, the extent of human knowledge is social and cumulative. To be an airplane engineer, for example, is not to say that one has to do as the Wright Brothers did and create a totally new aircraft. A young person studying aircraft engineering will learn early on an incredible amount of information that is being handed down to him by others, be it directly or by books. Because so much can be learned quickly this way, one does not need to live longer than everybody else to learn more than others. In doing this, one becomes indebted to the ones who have built that foundation, but there also comes the understanding that we might be providing a little more to the generations following us. There are really few who have made the most incredible breakthroughs, but this is the reason that one might find a picture or bust of Shakespeare in a library.

(This line of thinking reminds me of sermon I once heard where the priest talked about discussing history with his cat, making the point today's cats live their lives in the same manner that cats always have; there are no "great cats of feline history", nor do cats build monuments or memorials to cats of yore.)

One of the very important things that I believe that Protestant churches have lost is the sense of the worshipper being part of the community of saints. Especially in the United States, Protestant churches tend to be very plain, and more than that, in not recognizing more than a handful of early saints, I believe that it becomes more difficult for people to understand that Christianity is not something that is solely personal but something precious that has been shared and passed on through the ages. By surrounding ourselves with icons, for example, one has a constant reminder that there have come before us champions of the Faith, people who struggled through their lives but stayed on the path to holiness, in days long past, as well as in days much more recent.

The images of people we don't personally know that we put around us are a good indication as to what we like, what we respect, and what we aspire to. Therefore, we need to be very careful who we choose to look to - and look up to - in the most physical sense. A child cannot explain why he wants to have these pictures around him, but it is a very powerful way of reminding him not only of history, but the potential he brings to the present.
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According to the dictionary, cognitive dissonance is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. I would argue two points related to cognitive dissonance; first, that most people need to find some way to resolve this dissonance in order to set their minds at ease (not just for spiritual but also physical well-being) and that the leftist ideology demands that its adherents live with tremendous amounts of unresolved cognitive dissonance.

As an example of this, one of my cousins is quite leftist, and before I blocked her from my Facebook, I would occasionally comment on her posts with things to consider. At one point, when she was afraid that the Republicans in the Senate might use the filibuster to block some legislation that she favored, she posted a link to a petition to try to end the filibuster as a Senate tool. In response, I posted quotes from her favorite politicians, President Barack Obama among them, praising the filibuster as a necessary and useful thing. Instead of considering the new information as something to consider in her opinion of the subject, her method of dealing with the cognitive dissonance was to become extremely upset with me.

Cognitive dissonance enters our lives in a variety of ways. First of all, there are the types of people who seem to be duplicitous by nature - many politicians seem to fall into this category by virtue that they can say things that directly contradict each other, and yet not only seem to believe what they themselves say, but hope to get everyone else to believe it too. For example, on election day, I saw a tweet from somebody with "Catholic" as part of their username who said that they had just gotten back from voting for Obama because they were concerned about the number of abortions, and it seemed that only President Obama had any plan for reducing those numbers. Really? Does that make any sense at all considering the man's attitudes and actions on the subject? Yet here was this person who either couldn't or wouldn't compare the words to the actions.

Secondly, guilt is a kind of cognitive dissonance, especially if the action is ongoing. Yes, Mr. TSA agent knew he shouldn't be stealing things out of suitcases, but he continues to do it anyway. As a society, we've decided guilt is bad, and so we must find justification for our actions to relieve this burden. Had Mr. TSA agent been paid more, he contends, or had the working conditions been better, he wouldn't have "had" to resort to stealing things.

Third, there is the cognitive dissonance of disbelief. For example, it's hardly surprising anymore that after some youth gets arrested or killed doing something, all the people around testify that "he was really a good kid" or "he was just about to turn his life around". If the story makes the news, the families sometimes even provide pictures of this "good kid" being involved in questionable activities, all the while blaming others, especially police, of "overreacting". ([Update 30 Nov 2012: A perfect example here as to what I'm talking about. Note that the girl who was killed breaking into someone's house is lauded as a "role model" at school, even though her cousin says she's a) had substance abuse problems b) has been through some sort of rehab program and c) was probably breaking in to service her addiction. How is this girl a role model exactly? ])
Related to this, is the dissonance children experience, for example, when they expect that their mothers, at the very least, love them, but the mothers don't show that love. The children often go out of their way to try to reconcile the fact that they know they are supposed to be loved, but they grow up not experiencing it.

The way liars usually get caught is that they no longer can keep these lies straight. If one has thoughts that cause tension because they are irreconcilable, it goes to reason that at least one contention has to be false. A thinking person, therefore, will consider these ideas and try to find a resolution by figuring out what is true and what is false. Modern liberalism expects that all of us can accept contradicting notions without question. For example, it's highly ironic that one week, Time magazine ran a cover with the story "The Case for Killing Granny" (as a good thing) but soon afterwards, an ad runs depicting Paul Ryan as throwing grandma off a cliff (as a bad thing). Were liberalism consistent or truthful, the latter instance would be held as an example of the first.

I truly believe that this dualism is a leading cause of depression and a greater sense that so many people of my generation have of being lost and without purpose. We are told, for example, that we are random happenstances who live but for a moment, then cease to exist. While we are here, we have no greater objective than to reduce our own suffering to the greatest extent possible. The soul, which was designed for the eternal and longs for it, is but a piece of delusion. If we cannot reach for the objective Truth in this instance alone, how can one keep from going insane?

If there is no Truth, there is no reason to seek it, and we become enslaved to those around us who have managed to amass the most power. Without the power of independent thought, and the ability to exercise our own will to think, we become powerless to resist the tyranny of those whose goal would be to amass power by enslaving others.

The answer here is the paradox that is Christianity. In order to save our lives - to experience the eternal that the soul longs for - we have to be willing to die to this world (the exact opposite of the goal of a secularist). In order to be free, we must live by the rules set forth to us by God. In order to have faith, we must seek out objective Truth. Only as we get closer to these ideals can we shut out the cognitive dissonance around us and that which has entered our minds and souls. The more we do so, the more we are at peace, even though we never give up the fight for what is right.

Puzzles

Nov. 15th, 2012 10:55 pm
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Tabitha, at not quite three, often amazes me with the things she can do if she puts her mind to it. I bought a set of "Very Hungry Caterpillar" frameless puzzles that were on sale a few months ago. Tabitha tried them out, and they were way over her head, even with help. I tried to keep them out of sight afterward, since any toy around here with multiple pieces has a propensity for ending up dumped out all over the floor.

Recently, the box with the puzzles has been moved, and so Tabitha begged and begged to play with the puzzles again. I finally relented, and we went through putting the four puzzles (ranging from 9 to 16 pieces) together. She paid attention, and seemed to understand some of what I was trying to explain to her about pieces with the caterpillars "little red head" having to go together, but the shocking thing is that now she can put all four puzzles together without any help.

Of course, she's no expert yet, and a lot of what she does is see tabs and holes and try to fit them together irrespective of whether it logically fits, but that's a skill that takes time to master. She does recognize when things fit together, and she's happy to get them done, because then she can take it apart and start a new one.

I can't help but think of the many little kids who even come into kindergarten not having experienced things like putting puzzles together. Many kids, even if they have had puzzles, has there been anyone around to help explain the task and set their mind on it, rather than just saying, "here kid, play with this". As adults, it's nearly impossible to sit down with a new computer program and use it with any sort of competence without some sort of instruction or guidance. How much harder, then, for children to know what to do with so many things in this world without a little help - and how much further prepared for life the children are who have had the help to get them started!
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Since early 2009, I have been involved, to one degree or another, with the American "Tea Party" movement. According to the prevailing media, that puts me into a category of "far right-wing kooks" who simply do not want to pay taxes (or, on a more sinister note, supposedly do not want to pay taxes so as to undermine a black president... but I digress).

My goal here is not to explain or justify the Tea Party. It is hardly monolithic, the numbers range from few to huge, and in it there is a coalition of disparate groups.

One of the strengths of the Tea Party is its focus on taxes as an issue, although at almost any Tea Party rally, signs referencing a wide range of issues can be found. As a practical matter, sticking to a more universal theme is helpful, as this provides a wider base of support.

However, I am considering now how this focus on taxes becomes a weakness, if viewed from the other side. From the perspective of a taxpayer, more and higher taxes are bad because they make it harder to survive on the same amount of work and they stifle economic activity because money that could be used to spur on other economic activity is being sucked away by government.

That being said, when one is the beneficiary of others being taxed at a higher rate, whether employed by the government or government agency, or receiving benefits, such as welfare, the cry by others that taxes are too high rings like a rallying cry of heartless greed; an example of Ayn Rand's axiom, "Greed is good".

There has even been a strain of supposed Christian opposition to the Tea Party, citing various Biblical references from obedience to civil authority, especially Romans 13.

As a Christian, I reject Rand's Objectivism. In my last post, I wrote about Hebrews 13:5, which commands "Keep your lives free from the love of money" and "be content with what you have". On the subject of taxes, Jesus himself says, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's". The Old Testament, in particular, details many times tax rates and how taxes were levied. Jesus' statement concerning paying taxes, was, in large part, an affirmation that His mission on earth was not to be the King of the Jews in a political sense; Jesus' mission on earth was not to challenge Rome, or even to free the Jews from foreign occupation. Jesus affirms that as citizens of nations, Jews - and Christians - are subject to the laws of the land.

The biggest caveat to this teaching, however, is when there are laws in place which contradict God's Law. Think of the story of Daniel. Think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Think even of Jesus' parents who fled to Egypt rather than to follow the edict of Herod to kill all baby boys under 2. The Bible is clear on this point. When laws of the state and laws of God are in conflict with each other, a Christian must follow God's law.

Paying taxes is one thing; there are very few, even in the Tea Party, who believe that taxes ought to be done away with altogether, and fewer still who fail to pay taxes. However, when we say our government is a republic and our taxes are used to support abortion, there needs to be some outcry. When money collected in taxes is used to prevent a whole section of society from discovering its potential, there needs to be some outcry. And when the money from our taxes is used to support the god that government has built unto itself, there needs to be some outcry.

What about the poor and needy then? Are they to starve? I believe that the Bible is also very clear on this point as well. Those who can work, should work (2 Thes. 3:10), but those who are not able to (widows, orphans, the elderly and infirm) should be taken care of by anyone who considers himself to be a Christian, by virtue of Christian love. Shirking our duty as individuals by depending on the state to tax us in order to provide a bare minimum of care is a tragedy and completely foreign idea to Christian doctrine.

I'm not delusional in thinking that every member of the Tea Party is a Christian who is speaking out on Christian principle. However, it is certainly not incompatible for one to be a Christian and to be a member of the Tea Party.
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Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."

Hebrews 13:5


Awhile ago, while visiting my grandmother, there was an article in the paper about a television show who had built a house for a local family. If I remember correctly, the mother was disabled, the father had died, and there were six children. The house that was built was enormous, and the comment my grandmother had was something to the effect that although it was good that the family had a more suitable house, did they really need a house that was so extravagant.

My grandmother's attitude about this is hardly unique; furthermore, there are many religious groups in America, such as the Amish, who regard plainness and simple living as some of the greatest virtues a person can exhibit.

However, the flip-side of that is that many live with an inherent distrust of those who are quite wealthy. They tend to believe that when somebody has a lot of money, it must be the love of money that drove them to amass their wealth, and therefore these people worship before a false god.

I would argue, though, that Hebrews 13:5 has less to do with being successful than it does with being covetous. "Be content with what YOU have" hearkens back to the Ten Commandments, where it is spelled out "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." If your neighbor is doing well enough to have any of those things, it's none of your business; that he has these things does not harm you in any way.

The ironic thing is that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is probably regarded as the closest thing to a modern-day saint for many Protestants, despite the fact that he was a very wealthy man from one of Germany's most elite families. The difference is that even from early on, Bonhoeffer's wealth was not what consumed him, but was a means for him to be able to do many of the things that he did. As a young man, working with impoverished youth in Berlin, he realized that as many of them were ready for Confirmation, they could not afford suits for the occasion. Upon realizing this, Bonhoeffer bought material and had a suit made for every one of his students. Furthermore, for whatever wealth that he had here on earth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is still known primarily as being a man who lived by and died for his faith in God.

Yes, the Bible has many special admonitions geared toward the rich. However, as in the parable of the servants with the talents, God is not happy with those of us who are content to do nothing with the talent that He has given us. As in the parable, the servant who was given ten talents and comes back with twenty is praised, as is the servant who is given five, and comes back with ten. It is only the servant who is given the least - and, I'd imagine, was pretty upset with being given the smallest sum - who does absolutely nothing with what he was given, with whom the master is upset. Does the servant who now has twenty really need that much? What about the master? Surely one who lends money to his servants has more than enough to outright give some to his servants to do with as they wish!

There are many, many people in the US and elsewhere who have lived good and upright lives being "plain people". I believe that these are the type of people who make up the backbone of civil societies. Nevertheless, out of everything we must be careful to excise the demon of pride. When we begrudge others of successes and good fortune, it crosses the line into envy. Jesus has a special place in His heart for the poor, and He showed that especially in His ministry on earth, however as long as wealth does not become one's god, He has never commanded anyone not to do the best that he can.
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In the final days of the 2012 campaign, I happened across a picture of Mitt Romney embracing his grandson, Parker, which can be found at the following address: http://twitchy.com/2012/11/04/what-love-looks-like-photo-of-mitt-romney-hugging-grandson-parker/. Photographs capture moments, and in this moment, the unconditional love that Mr. Romney has for his grandson is apparent to all but the hardest of heart.

I recently read the discussion that Dr. Paul Vitz gave to Socrates in the City regarding the importance of fatherhood, and how a child's father is an incredibly important influence on how the child relates to the world, and more importantly, God. In hearing more about Mr. Romney's family, it becomes blindingly obvious that he has lived a life of value and virtues, and that his sons, now grown, have benefited tremendously from this, as he did from the example of his own father. A child that does not have this very often grows up in rebellion, raging blindly, flailing against an "unfair" system, rejecting all the traditional values that he did not have the opportunity to experience as a child. Furthermore, many of these people never truly recover from the effects of a "stunted" childhood.

Getting back to the picture of Parker Romney, though, I have to wonder if there was any time in President Obama's childhood where there was somebody who would do the same for him. I know he had a stepfather and a grandfather, but the way the younger Romney is being held, it presupposes a relationship of pure love and mutual adoration. As with Mr. Romney's own children, I have no doubt that young Parker is growing up with love and support and character, and will almost certainly be successful in whatever endeavor he chooses.

I am disappointed, to say the least, that President Barack Obama was re-elected. So much of his campaign was hinged on the politics of divisiveness and envy. He preaches to (at least) two generations now that have suffered incredibly from the absence of parents, particularly fathers. My generation was one of "latchkey kids" and this one is one of single moms and daycare. And so it is no wonder that his message resonates with a large percentage of the population. Our challenge going forward is not so much political as it is cultural: We need more men like Mitt Romney so that we have fewer children like Barack Obama.
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No, not the one from the night that Trayvon Martin was murdered, but the one written about here.

What is striking to me is that so much of what is written here about the Zimmerman family is so traditionally and quintessentially American - father former military, mother an immigrant, closeknit family, involvement in church. Furthermore, it is also representative of the "post-racial" ideal, with ancestral background that is white, Hispanic, and black, and a life that has been a reflection of what Christians, at least, should aspire to - love and service to our brothers and sisters, no matter what race or background.

No one is doubting that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin back in February. The upcoming trial, now, supposedly will be to ascertain what the circumstances of this action were. How sad it would be if it turns out that most of what this case turns out to be is a tool to incite racial unrest in this country based on the assumption that someone with a "white" name must therefore be a racist white man who was just looking to do harm to a black kid. There is no place for race in justice; either a man is guilty or innocent regardless of what his skin color is.
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...because saying things like that, he'd surely get laughed out of here!

Recently, the "comedian" Bill Maher made the comment about Ann Romney that she's not had to get out the door at 7am for work. (No, I'm not using some of the more "colorful" language.) This comes on the heels of another Democrat operative, Hilary Rosen, claiming that Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life", despite being the full-time mother to five boys.

As I said before, these comments would be hilarious were it not for the fact that these people, even if they don't believe them, expect others to.

In the ensuing furor which has surrounded these comments, nearly everyone involved has made the admission that, of course, being a mother is hard work, but the debate then swirls around to how that compares to the hard work of the career world.

One of the things that is so very striking about human children is how much help they need and how long they need this help. Tabitha is a very independent child, and at two, she has a lot of motor control and has a huge vocabulary, but if you leave her alone in a house, she can't take care of herself for more than a few minutes at a time because she has no common sense. If she finds food, she'll pick the ice cream over vegetables every time. Asher is acquiring more motor skills, but he'll choke on the first thing that he can get undetected into his mouth, including candy wrappers and his sister's barrettes. This isn't even mentioning the fact that as both of them are in diapers, both need help in that respect.

As their mom, a good portion of my day is devoted to just the essentials of raising children. As more people had children around them, this was once much better understood. Even in those "repressive" shows of yesteryear, mothers were not portrayed as people who sat around and did nothing while the children moved around them, but rather as busy people who had to take care of their homes and family.

However, as we as a society separate motherhood from actually caring for children, the perception of value falls, because we're saying that caring for children is something practically anyone can do. I feel like crying when I see the signs for daycare providers advertising placements for children from "6 weeks to 6 years". I know people who have done daycare, and who love the children they take care of dearly. Nevertheless, daycare is not the best place for little kids.

Now Bill Maher tries to say that Ann Romney doesn't know what it's like to have to be out of the door by 7am for a job. Has he had to be responsible for anyone else besides himself when he's going out the door? How about getting five little boys ready for school by a certain time? When I leave to go somewhere, not only have I had to have taken care of myself, but I've had to find outfits, socks, shoes, sippy cups, snacks, diapers, etc. for two other people. For people who have their children in daycare, not only are they trying to make that 7am deadline themselves, but they're probably trying to get two or three or four people ready to go by 6:30am, so that there's enough time to drop the kids off at daycare first. If the kids are cranky or don't want to get up or get dressed, that's too bad because there's a schedule to adhere to here, and mommy's boss might not understand why she's late again and feeling terrible because her two or three-year old doesn't want her to leave for the day.

My kids drive me nuts sometimes. They need a lot of help. I'm only starting to be able to carry on conversations with my oldest. However, my husband and I are doing the things necessary so that I can stay home with them during the day because we believe it's the best for our kids. I don't get paid, and there are a lot of things, like picking up the living room floor for the 10th time that day, that I don't really need my college education for. It still is work though, and it doesn't run on a 9-5 schedule with nights, weekends, and vacations off. I'll be here when I'm sick or injured, or when one of them starts crying at 2am... and 4am... and 5am... The reason why these comments have gotten so much attention is because they are so ridiculous, and thankfully, most people in the US still have some understanding of the work it is to be a mother.
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Nikolai Berdyaev's book, "The Fate of Man in the Modern World" was written after the incredible destruction of World War I, the memory of which was still near enough that many believed that everything must be done to avoid a repeat performance. Yet at the same time, the world, and Europe in particular, was drawing near to an even bigger conflict, the likes of which few could imagine at this point in time.

Politically, the world was in chaos. Many of the old monarchies had been overthrown, and each country was filling the power void in various ways. In Russia, the Bolsheviks had been in power for 17 years, in Germany, Hitler and the Nazi party had recently gained power, Spain was in the midst of civil war, and little seemed to be resolved by the Great War of recent memory.

In reading one of the reviews on Amazon.com for this book, the reviewer seems to postulate that although Berdyaev presents a good number of interesting ideas, he offers very little in the way of answers to the problem of "the fate of man in the modern world", as no political or philosophical can do this.

The only answer, as Berdyaev, is Christianity; the belief in Jesus Christ as God and the change in one's life that being a Christian must precipitate. It is only through Christianity that the uniqueness and creative energy of each individual can still be respected in the midst of the aggregate; that the conflict inherent to individual need and greater good become one in the same. When one doesn't believe this, or at least have some understanding of how different a truly Christian life should be, it is no wonder that it seems like Berdyaev is somehow "short" on answers here.

I Corinthians 1:18-19 For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness: but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise: and the prudence of the prudent I will reject.
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There have been many news stories over the last few years documenting the phenomenon of (relatively) young people who either never moved out of their parents' homes or have returned reato their parents after moving out for awhile.

Undoubtedly, some of this is due to the economy and some of it is due to a culture that allows young people to be treated as adolescents for an extended period of time.

However, there are two more reasons I think this has become so prevalent have more to do with demographics than with anything else.

First of all, most people coming of age these days do not come from large families. There have always been some children who never move out of their parents' home, but if one comes from a large family and has to share everything with siblings, it becomes much more of a goal for a young person to get to the point as quickly as possible to get to a point in one's life to finally have things of one's own. With fewer or only children, they already have this sense without having to move out to get it. Secondly, if one has 10 children and one never moves out, that's a much smaller percentage than a family that has two children and both live in the parental home well into adulthood. Furthermore, especially when it comes to only children, I believe that many have the idea that they will inherit what their parents have, and so why bother moving out or buying a house of one's own when, logically, that child may very well end up with the parental home in the long run anyway.

The other demographic reason that I believe that contributes to adult children staying with their parents is the prevalence of divorce among the parents. Divorce is now ubiquitous among the generation that now has adult children. Many of these people would rather have their adult children at home with them (and the adult children are willing to oblige) rather than to face so many years of being alone. Ironically, this situation often handicaps the children from being able to deal with adult relationships as adults.
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Recently, I read the book Nikolai Berdyaev's book "The Fate of Man in the Modern World", which, despite being a fairly small book (about 130 pages) and dealing with the issues of Europe in 1935, is still quite prescient and touches upon many issues that the "modern world" is still dealing with.

Berdyaev himself was a Marxist who came back to Orthodox Christianity and was eventually exiled from the Soviet Union because of his writings. He first ended up in Berlin, but after a period of a couple years, he settled in France, where he lived out the rest of his days. Because of this, he has firsthand experience living in Russia, Germany, and France, and as he speaks about the modern world, much of what he writes about centers on these countries.

However, in 1935, which was the year this book was written, it was not as though these countries were somehow insignificant on the world stage. The Soviet Union had existed for 17 years, and behind the wall of socialist utopia, Berdyaev understood entirely what socialism does to human beings who are trapped in that system. In 1935, Adolf Hitler had been in power in Germany for two years, and again, Berdyaev considered what had happened in Germany to have been something akin to mass insanity of which nothing good could come.

In dealing with the substance of "the fate of man" in this current age, Berdyaev also is no huge fan of capitalism, as he sees that in its pure form, it is as dehumanizing as socialism. As he understands it, a Christian society is one that necessarily has elements of socialism, and so he's considered by many to be a "Christian socialist". However, the more I think about this, the more I believe that he is correct.

This isn't to say that I believe that socialism is the right way to go, and I don't believe that he would either. Take, for instance, the book "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. Rand is adept at painting the picture of the world as it is when government strangles free enterprise, when it picks winners and losers for the sake of fairness, etc. At most Tea Parties, there are numerous signs with pictures of Rand, with the question "Who is John Galt?" as well as other references to this work. It is a powerful work, but it largely fails when it comes to answering the question of why someone who is gaining power and influence would also not use illicit means to solidify that growing power and influence. Her answer seems to be along the lines of "Excellence breeds virtue", and to demonstrate that, all of the elite characters are truthful and good when it comes to matters of business.

However, this worldview - objectivism - is hardly virtuous in a Christian sense. In the world of Atlas Shrugged, for example, charity is considered weakness, and traditional "moral" values such as fidelity and chastity are nothing more than old and useless traditions. Without a Christian base, this is logical. Communism values man as far as his contribution to the collective; in "pure" capitalism, man's value is still determined as a function of his production.

Berdyaev, though, avers Christianity as something that is different, that raises man up and out of the vicious circle of communistic and purely capitalistic societies. Christianity insists that one's worth is intrinsic to one's being, regardless of what that person can produce either for himself or for society. As a Christian, one is called to take upon himself a code of conduct that calls him to act in a "Christian" way; a way in which he does not lie, cheat, or steal, that he supports the poor, old, and hungry through willing acts of charity. Ironically enough, it is when people act in these ways, a civil society is built, upon which just about any type of governing system can be placed (though, for obvious reasons, socialism will only work in places like monasteries), because people, as a whole, will govern themselves.

And so, in America at least, we have two different groups who consider themselves "conservative" even though their worldviews are often quite a bit different. In the example of the "Tea Party", it comes to a shock to many that a large percentage of those who support this "libertarian" movement are the dreaded "social-conservatives", who, if we are to believe what is being said, want to use government to enforce their (usually) "Christian" values on everybody. The other group is the more "libertarian" group, who claim to make very few "values" assessments, and claim to just want to be left alone by government as well as others.

In these days, there are quite a number of places where the interests of these two groups converge, but it is amazing to see the amount of infighting among the "conservative" movement as to who is a "true" conservative. For this reason, even though many, many people see Rick Santorum as a conservative, because he is squarely in the "Christian values" group, many of the more libertarian-minded point out repeatedly how he can't possibly be a conservative and at the same time encourage a return to "family values" and make statements against contraception and pornography.

To the Libertarian, freedom itself becomes the highest ideal, and a government should serve no more than to keep society from falling into the chaos of anarchy. Yet this type of freedom lends itself to many abuses and an eventual de-humanizing of the soul. As to the conundrum that Christianity and freedom have created from the beginning, I refer back to the words of St. Paul: "For ye, brethren, were called for freedom; only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh, but through love be servants one to another. (Gal 5:13)
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One of the running gags (well, a comedic device, actually) of Shaun the Sheep is that all the humans, but most importantly the farmer, suffer having terrible eyesight. It works for the show because it allows the animals to get away with all sorts of things (sheep impersonating people, etc.) but I suppose too, that it serves as an allegory of the human condition here on earth; that even though we see, there is so much more going on that we cannot see.

2 Cor 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight
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In traditional Christianity, the body itself is not to be worshipped, but is to be respected being made in the "image and likeness of God" and as the container, so to speak, of the soul. Furthermore, at Christ's second coming, there is to be a physical resurrection of the dead. For these reasons, the body, even after death, is to be cared for with respect and the reason for burial rather than cremation.

In 2009, a scandal broke out as it was discovered that in the Burr Oak cemetery, plots were being resold, headstones were being relocated, and bodies were being dumped to random parts of the cemetery. As part of the effort to rectify this mess (to the extent possible), the director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese's Executive Director of Cemeteries was put in charge of this task, and ultimately, the Catholic cemeteries buried bodies in their own cemeteries, in plots that they donated.

Three years later, we are now embroiled in another scandal involving the dead in Chicago. Apparently, the Cook County morgue was overcrowded to the point of being completely unsanitary, with many more bodies than could be accommodated . Sometimes, there have been reasons for delays, but a lot of it boils down to plain incompetence.

Again, in the city's hour of need, the Catholic Church has offered to them free burial plots. This isn't some slick marketing ploy, or a political move on the part of the Roman Catholic Church. This is plainly in keeping with the Church's mission, that every life is of value and deserves some dignity even in death. However, this time the city is not so quick to accept.

I can only think of one reason that the city is not working with the Catholic Church, and that is that it boils down to politics. In the last few weeks, the Catholic Church has made a stand against the Obama administration's diktat of mandatory contraception coverage by all employers. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, not only is President Obama's former chief of staff, but has a brother, Ezekiel, who is the Head of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health. The Obama Administration has made it clear that it is hostile to the Church, and as such, it would be very hard for someone this close to President Obama to publicly accept help from such a source.

Some of the people whose bodies at the morgue remain unidentified. Some seem to hav no family. Others can't afford the costs of burying their dead. However, reverting to the "logic" of the contraception fight, it would be terrible for these poor souls to be buried in a Catholic cemetery because undoubtedly not all of these people were Catholic, and as such, a tragedy if they weren't offered free birth control!
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In the Orthodox Christian tradition, today is the first Sunday of Lent, a day called the "Sunday of Orthodoxy" or "The Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy". According to OrthodoxWiki, it is the celebration of the victory of the iconodules over the iconoclasts by the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Therefore, the service is to commemorate the restoration of icons for use in services and private devotional life of Christians.

One of the common practices on this day is to have the members of the parish, or the parish children, process in or around the church carrying icons. Icons are considered to be "windows to heaven", so to speak, not to be worshipped themselves, but to serve to remind the faithful of those who have defended the Faith, and often died in the process.

The priest who gave the homily spoke of an old widow in Albania, who, in the early 1990s had her house ransacked by military police who came in and destroyed all the icons in her home. As they were leaving, she told the soldiers that they forgot one, and so they went back into the home to search for it. They could not find it, and as they were about to leave again, she told them that they had missed it. Again, the soldiers went through the house and found nothing. Finally, she told the soldiers that she was a living icon of God, and upon hearing this, the soldiers beat her badly.

We are created in the image and likeness of God, "living icons", if you will. As I watched the children process around the church with icons, it became clear why a secular society would be entirely hostile to children: As children, they are closer to God. They carry in themselves something holy, a birthright that many adults have either forgotten, or have sold for a single bowl of soup. In the Gospels, when the children are being shooed away from Jesus, he reprimands those doing this, saying, "Let the little children come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven". In my own experience, I've seen this myself; my daughter, not even being two, intrinsically understood things about God that nobody had ever told her. In this fallen world, the Truth which the little children bear witness to cannot be borne, and so the world must do its best to do away with as many children as possible. No wonder having more than an "acceptable" number of children these days seems more and more a political statement!
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(well, actually late last night.)

A religion that does nothing to fundamentally shape the way a person orders one's life is no better than superstition.
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James 4:13-14 (ESV) Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

From reports on the internet, last night Andrew Breitbart went about his daily business, tucked his kids into bed, took a walk in the neighborhood, stopped by a local bar and talked politics, did some twittering, and on his way back home, collapsed and died. The man was 43 years old. He leaves behind a wife and four children, and thousands of fans as well as many who could not stand the man or anything that he stood for.

I had the chance to see Mr. Breitbart speak in 2010, and he was one of the most engaging speakers I have ever had the chance to listen to. Many have characterized him as a "happy warrior", someone who with all cheer confronted those who worked to shout or tear him down. His favored method of dealing with these people seemed to be holding up a proverbial mirror and letting them make fools of themselves in front of the whole world. At the event I went to, there were people who were bussed in to protest; Mr. Breitbart confronted them and asked them questions about why they were there, and the answers were completely incoherent. I don't feel that he ever had malicious intent toward anybody, yet he had skill in calling out the hate directed at him and making it ridicule. (Strangely enough, I think of a parallel between his methods and the way Boggarts are handled with in the Harry Potter series.)

Life is a gift. Forty-three years on this earth goes by in but the blink of an eye, and yet, by all accounts, Mr. Breitbart used the time he had to live life to the fullest, to make every day count, to actually go out and achieve something grand in the small amount of time allotted his lifespan. How many of us can say the same? I know there have been times in my life when days seemed to plod on, days of falling into despair, days of seemingly being put on this earth for no reason in particular. Mr. Breitbart may have had days like these himself, but in all the praise for him from those who knew him well to those who didn't, it seemed as though he had an indomitable spirit, a joie de vivre, that also served to inspire those around him.

Joy is a concept that is rarely discussed in this day in age; we may be amusing ourselves to death, we may be seeking the road to happiness, but joy is something much deeper, and is something that comes about not with self-esteem, but in the deep conviction that one is living the life that one was designed for and accepting the gift that life is every day and multiplying its blessings. None of us can be certain that we will even see tomorrow and so it is imperative that we take the talent that we have (or which we have been loaned) and really do our best to fulfill our potential in all that we do.

Mr. Breitbart's life shines forth so brightly because he took each day as it came, enjoyed it to its fullest, was bold in his beliefs, and was genuinely kind to others. In that sense, I'm sure he was more "ready" for being called away from this earth than most. Mr. Breitbart's death certainly is a sad event, however, even sadder are the legions of people who see this life as a wasteland, who, if they would die tomorrow, would not have accomplished anything that their lives were meant for.
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In all fairness, not all the comments are bad ones, but in this small article (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/9064139/Declared-a-saint-the-anti-Hitler-activist-beheaded-by-Nazis-at-age-25.html) about the recent glorification of Alexander Schmorell as a saint in the Orthodox Christian Church, many of them are completely rude, ignorant, mean-spirited, and vulgar. The article itself isn't terribly well written (and was originally ridden with misspellings of Alexander Schmorell's name), but that doesn't take away from the extraordinary life this young man, who was executed at age 25 by the Nazis, led. As part of a small group of courageous people, spurred forward by their Christian faith, he and his friends, for a time calling themselves the White Rose tried to help foment popular resistance to Hitler and the Nazis through their leaflets and deeds.

In a secular understanding, they failed miserably. For all their effort, they failed to incite any sort of widespread, grass-roots resistance to the Third Reich. Furthermore, they were caught and executed at a time when many believed that the best thing talented young people could do was wait out the war and try to lead Germany from out of the inevitable rubble.

However, as believers in Christ, the measure of success is far different, and totally incomprehensible to those who do not know Him. To aspire to the Christian ideal is the ultimate foolishness; that one should strive for virtue must be ridiculed because the light of that virtue reveals the dark gutters which many believe they are happy wallowing in. To the members of the White Rose, it was a moral imperative to act against the forces of evil that the Third Reich was, characterizing it as "the dictatorship of evil" and calling Hitler and the Nazis "servants of the antichrist".

Having been caught, arrested, tried, sentenced to death, and facing execution in less than two weeks, Schmorell wrote wrote his sister, the following It will perhaps surprise you, then, when I write that from day to day I become calmer inside, even cheerful and happy, that my state of mind is, for the most part, better than it was earlier in freedom! Where does this come from? I want to explain that to you right now: This whole terrible misfortune was necessary in order to bring me to the true way - and because of that, it really wasn't a misfortune. Above all, I am happy and thankful to God that I had the chance given to me to understand where God was pointing to and through this to be able to go along the right path. What did I know then about faith, from true, deep faith, and of the truth, and above all, about God? Very little! Now, however, I have come far enough, that in my present situation, I am cheerful, calm, and confident, come what may.

It shouldn't be surprising, then, to see all the vitriol spewing forth in the comments on a little article about a true saint. After all, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." (Jn 15:18-19 NASB) These comments do absolutely nothing to diminish who Alexander Schmorell, St Alexander now, was when he walked upon this earth or that he has come into God's eternal Glory. God cannot be mocked, and it surely is foolish to even imagine that a few careless and ignorant comments sent out into cyberspace do anything to facilitate a "takedown" of a saint.
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My little son has a personality which is generally more laid back than his sister's. Whereas Tabitha was working to hold her head from the time she was born, Asher didn't master this until he was a couple of months old.

However, at some point, Asher decided that he really wanted to crawl. Almost overnight, he went from the kid who was happy to let things happen in their own time to the one who was determined to get this thing done now. And so, he started using almost all the time on his tummy to try to get up and get going.

Eventually, he figured out how to get on his hands and knees. For weeks, he would get on his hands and knees and rock back and forth, unsure of what to do next, eventually screaming in frustration. He would do all sorts of strange things with his legs, and sometimes it seemed as though he was going to learn to pull himself to sitting instead of actually learning how to crawl.

One day, he did get it; he started moving his hands forward, and the rest of him followed. Within about a week, he's got enough coordination to move pretty well across a room or two. He's extremely happy he can crawl, but he's got bigger things in his sights; within about two days of actual crawling, he's learned how to pull himself up to his feet.

There are so many things in this life which, when first approached seem difficult or almost impossible. However, through perseverance, and through the grace of God we are able to go forth and accomplish these things. Like Asher, though, once we accomplish our goal, it doesn't do to sit back on our laurels, but use our successes to continue on to the next challenge.

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