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Abundant grace and the elder brother: Sunday reflection

Westlake Legal Group rembrandt-prodigal-son Abundant grace and the elder brother: Sunday reflection The Blog Sunday reflection religion Christianity

This morning’s Gospel reading is Luke 15:1–32:

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Then he said,
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

The lesson of the prodigal son is one of the most compelling of Jesus’ parables because it fits our desires so perfectly. We commit the same sins as the younger son does; in fact, this is a very incisive retelling of Original Sin — the rejection of the Father and the wish to inherit His kingdom as though he were dead. We reject His authority and go out to make the world as we see fit rather than through His will.

And that turns out about as well as one would expect. The younger son makes ruin of his life, realizes and repents of it. As fallen sons and daughters of the Lord, we eventually feel our sins so keenly that we become desperate for forgiveness. We hope to receive at least some crumbs of the table when we return in repentance to the Father, not the fatted calf. That kind of reception is too gracious for us to imagine — and yet Jesus promises us exactly that, if we return as the younger son does.

It might surprise people to consider that the younger son is actually our idealized conception of ourselves. Too often, we are the elder brother — the son who complied out of fear alone, sitting in judgment on others, and jealous to the point of rage over the Father’s love for others. The father forgives the elder son too, but not without a soft rebuke for his stubbornness and scrupulosity. This son also sins in his own way, also seeks to supplant the Father as judge, but unlike the younger son neither recognizes his sin nor repents of it.

In the historical context in which Jesus preached, it’s not difficult to understand which audience Jesus intended for both parts of this parable. The younger son would have been the rank-and-file Israelites who had been lost in sin; the elder brother would have been the temple authorities that used the law as a weapon to protect their own privilege and deny the love of God to others.

But this goes farther than just the historical context, because we find the same tension within ourselves. At different times, we might be the dissolute son thumbing his nose at the Father, or the repentant younger son seeking His forgiveness. In fact, we might swing back and forth repeatedly between these two states, and in between — when we’ve momentarily humbled ourselves and repented — suddenly become the elder brother, willing to cast out those who acted in the same manner as we did. In those moments, we become so determined to follow the law that we forget that the Father who wrote it is the one true judge.

Today’s readings give us guidance on navigating these waters. If any one New Testament figure embodies the elder brother, it is Saul of Tarsus who later became the apostle Paul. Saul persecuted and pursued Christ’s church, being present at and likely directing the martyrdom of Stephen, among others unnamed. He was determined to impose the law by force and ensure that those who crossed it in his judgment could not be saved. Paul writes to Timothy that he was among the worst of sinners — “a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant.” Yet Christ forgave and anointed him, in part, to show the boundless nature of the Lord’s forgiveness. “I was mercifully treated, so that in me as the foremost [sinner], Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example[.]”

In our first reading from Exodus, we see the grace that Jesus taught in action. The Israelites have decided to dethrone God just as the younger brother does in Jesus’ parable, relying on their own material wealth to create an idol for the worship that belongs to God. After building the golden calf for idol worship, the Lord tells Moses that His people have blasphemed and must be destroyed. Moses, an elder brother of sorts in the faith, does not run down the mountain to smite everyone in His name. He implores the Lord for mercy on Moses’ younger siblings in faith. The Lord blesses Moses for his love of his family and withholds His judgment, forgiving the blasphemy against Him.

Jesus calls us to be both the younger and elder son, or more accurately, recognize that in the end there is no difference. Sin is our rebellion against God, our attempt to dethrone Him and exploit His inheritance to satiate our own selfish desires. Both the younger and elder son do this in different ways and for different purposes, but both have to recognize this and ask forgiveness. The Father waits for one and all to return to Him in that way, and has a banquet of celebration waiting for each of us who do.

 

 

The front-page image is a detail from “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1661-69. Currently on display at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Via Wikimedia Commons.

“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here.  For previous Green Room entries, click here.

The post Abundant grace and the elder brother: Sunday reflection appeared first on Hot Air.

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Marianne Williamson: Why are conservatives nicer to me than the left is?

Westlake Legal Group w-4 Marianne Williamson: Why are conservatives nicer to me than the left is? The Blog right religion progressive mean marianne williamson left Faith conservative

Is it because … lefties aren’t very nice generally?

I mean, who are they nice to? Besides Bernie, of course.

This isn’t the first time lately that she’s complained about their meanness, for what it’s worth.

She knows one of the reasons for the disparate treatment, as she explained to Eric Bolling in a subsequent interview (which you can watch in full here): “The Republicans don’t have to be attacking me now, I’m in a Democratic primary, so Republicans are like, ‘Hi, Marianne!’ And some people on the left are working for other candidates, you know how that goes.” She’s an agent of chaos in the Democratic race, a wild card offering progressive policies packaged with New Age warnings about “dark psychic forces” in the White House. Righties naturally crave Democratic electoral chaos, Democrats naturally abhor it. Ergo, righties are warmer to her than lefties are.

But there’s a point to be made here too about righties being more open to religion — or “spirituality,” in Williamson’s case — than lefties are, with some caveats. The numbers from Pew:

Westlake Legal Group 1-2 Marianne Williamson: Why are conservatives nicer to me than the left is? The Blog right religion progressive mean marianne williamson left Faith conservative

More Republicans signal religious/spiritual interest than Democrats do no matter how you phrase the questions, although the gap often isn’t as wide as you’d think. In the table above, for instance, the Republican advantage over Dems among those who say religion is very or somewhat important to their lives is 12 points — noteworthy, but not overwhelming. When asked if they’re absolutely or fairly certain that God exists, 90 percent of Republicans say yes but so do 76 percent of Democrats. Steer the questions away from God/religion and towards vaguer “spiritual” signposts and the gap narrows. Among those who say they “feel a sense of spiritual peace and wellbeing” at least once or twice a month, Republicans lead just 77/72.

There are some notable divergences, though.

Westlake Legal Group 3-1 Marianne Williamson: Why are conservatives nicer to me than the left is? The Blog right religion progressive mean marianne williamson left Faith conservative

Asked where they’re most likely to seek guidance on right and wrong, 44 percent of Republicans say religion. Just 25 percent of Democrats do. Go figure righties might take appeals about “dark psychic forces” more seriously than lefties.

But wait, there’s another important distinction here. Although it’s true that most Democrats are generally religious, it is not true that religious belief is distributed uniformly across demographic lines within the Democratic Party. An eye-popping result from another Pew survey:

Westlake Legal Group g-1 Marianne Williamson: Why are conservatives nicer to me than the left is? The Blog right religion progressive mean marianne williamson left Faith conservative

Just one-third of white Democrats believe in God as described in the Bible. Nearly as many, 21 percent, don’t believe in God at all. And it’s Very Online white Democrats, of course, who are writing most of the liberal commentary on the presidential race and who are heavily invested in Sanders and Warren as instruments of a social-justice revolution that can overtake America if only the rest of the field, which includes Williamson, will get out of their g-ddamned way already. (If Williamson thinks they’ve been mean to her, she should ask Beto O’Rourke how it felt to be targeted by Berniebros early in the race as a potential obstacle to socialism’s final victory.) Of course the left’s atheist-agnostic progressive pundit niche would have special contempt for someone like Williamson. They’re the ones who are “being mean” to her, not Democrats generally.

And in fairness to them, sometimes they’re right to be. Not for religious reasons but for crankery like this.

Anyway, she missed the cut for tonight’s debate and has never polled much better than an asterisk despite her splashy performances at the first two debates, so she’s effectively out of the race even though she technically remains in. From now on we’ll have to get our fix of religion, progressive-style, from Pete Buttigieg, who seems to view Christianity chiefly as a political cudgel. Although given his polling lately, he might be headed for oblivion with Marianne soon enough.

The post Marianne Williamson: Why are conservatives nicer to me than the left is? appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group w-4-300x159 Marianne Williamson: Why are conservatives nicer to me than the left is? The Blog right religion progressive mean marianne williamson left Faith conservative   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Sharpening the pencil: Sunday reflection

Westlake Legal Group jesus-feeding-5000 Sharpening the pencil: Sunday reflection The Blog Sunday reflection religion Christianity

This morning’s Gospel reading is Luke 14:25–33:

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

I have a confession to make, which for a Catholic is hardly an earth-shaking declaration. I’m not terribly good at prayer. Perhaps this comes from being an adult revert to the faith after having skipped most of the catechesis on prayer aimed at youth in the church, or maybe I’m just too self-conscious for it to be comfortable.

Still, I pray every day, at least at dinner, and occasionally through the rest of the day when people ask for intercessions. When I remember to pray at other times, I ask the Lord to strengthen me in three ways. “Lord, help me to remember who I am today: a child of God, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and an instrument of Your holy will.” If I can get that much right, I figure, the rest will fall into place — as long as I don’t get in the way of it.

Today’s Gospel reminds me of the last of those three requests — a reminder of our purpose, especially those who put their faith in Christ. Mother Teresa spoke about it in 1988 in an interview with Time Magazine, which was reprinted this week in the National Catholic Register. She offered an excellent analogy as to what it means to be an instrument of God’s will, and what it takes for us to fill that role:

You feel you have no special qualities?

I don’t think so. I don’t claim anything of the work. It’s his work. I’m like a little pencil in his hand. That’s all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.

The analogy of a pencil goes well beyond just being an instrument. How do we use pencils? In their original form, they’re useless. They have a rubber tip on one end and a squared-off blunt end at the other. We have to sharpen the pencil to use it, shedding the useless attachments to get to its core. The more it gets used, the more we sharpen it and shed those attachments. At times, the tip breaks under pressure, or we get dull and ineffective from the effort. We only become effective again when we shed more attachments and allow ourselves to be sharpened for the effort.

When I read that this week, this passage spoke to me in a manner I didn’t quite realize until I began to reflect on this week’s Gospel. Jesus is telling His disciples the same thing. He certainly isn’t telling people to hate their families, no more than Jesus is suggesting that we have to be invading kings in order to receive salvation.

Instead, Jesus wants His disciples to focus on preparation for salvation rather than be consumed with the worries of this world. This teaching took place in a society where family obligations were paramount in the social structure. Everyone had very clearly defined roles and responsibilities to close relations; it would have been shocking to entertain the idea that those could just be abandoned. (Even today, it’s still a bit shocking, although hardly as rare.)

All those, however necessary they might be, do not themselves advance the cause of salvation and the coming of Christ’s Church. Jesus’ disciples will have to prepare for that in the same manner as a builder or a military planner in order to fulfill the roles they have as instruments of God’s will. To do that, Jesus tells His disciples that they have to whittle themselves down to their essence as children of God. They must shed their attachments and sharpen themselves for their mission.

And like Mother Teresa’s pencil, this must be an ongoing process. No pencil gets sharpened once and stays sharp forever. We must understand that becoming the Lord’s instrument means constant sharpening and focus, allowing the accretions of the material world to fall off like shavings in order to get to our spiritual essence. Only in that way can the Lord truly work through us.

Needless to say, that process is hardly pain-free. Nor does the pencil know what its Writer has in mind. It requires us to have faith and trust and to put the demand for knowledge and control aside. Our first reading today from Wisdom makes that clear. “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends? … Scarce do we guess the things on earth,” the scripture observes, “and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty[.]”

If that’s true — and our experience in the world makes that more clear the older we get — then there is no way for us to grasp the Lord’s plan or His will. All we can do is either accept that the Lord is good and His plan is for our benefit, or reject Him entirely and any hope of eternal life in His love. If we wish to be His instruments, then we must trust the Lord and allow Him to work through us — and to continue sharpening us in ways we might not imagine or understand.

The front page image is a detail from “The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes,” early 16th century, by Lambert Lombard. Currently on display at the Rockox House in Antwerp, Belgium. Via Wikimedia Commons.

“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here.  For previous Green Room entries, click here.

The post Sharpening the pencil: Sunday reflection appeared first on Hot Air.

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Jonathan Clark: Brexit. Is democracy at risk?

Jonathan Clark was a Fellow of Peterhouse; at Oxford, he was a Fellow of All Souls College; latterly he has been Visiting Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago, and Hall Distinguished Professor of British History at the University of Kansas. His latest book is a study of Thomas Paine.

Observers agree that this is the most impassioned episode in British politics for over a century. But it has been so under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson alike. The last alone is not to blame. Why, then, is it so bitter? We ought to be able to debate whether GDP will be slightly higher or slightly lower in 15 years if we leave or if we remain in the EU without expulsions, mutual denunciations, threats, and lawfare. Other things are at stake, far beyond economists’ guesswork. At least two are at issue, for the Brexit crisis is at its heart a proxy war.

The first is democracy itself, for two conceptions of it are widely held in the UK, representative and direct. In 2019 they collide. What are they?

Representative democracy assumes that Parliament once seized sovereignty from the King, and the Commons then seized it from the Lords; or, alternatively, that if the People once had sovereignty, they surrendered it completely and for all time to members of the Commons, who, collectively, now have absolute authority. Being wise and restrained patricians, MPs rule in the national interest. This theory looks more unpersuasive the more one explores it.

Direct democracy assumes that sovereignty resides with autonomous individuals thanks to God’s gift or to Nature – thoughtful individuals who know all they need to know in order to govern, and who exercise their authority just as they please via universal suffrage. Again, this theory is not wholly plausible. Which of the two predominates is likely to depend on practice more than on theoretical argument.

Practice depends on logistics, and these continually develop. Representative democracy seemed obvious in days when communication was slow and expensive. Members of the Commons might visit their constituencies seldom. The franchise was restricted, newspapers reported little, the actions of most MPs at Westminster were seldom in the public eye. Members were unpaid, so normally had to be rich: they were seldom inclined to defer to the poor. But all that was long ago.

From the mid-1990s, and increasingly every year, the internet has transformed everything. For the first time, it is possible to conduct opinion polls in a shorter time than it takes MPs to file through the division lobbies. For the first time, I can watch my MP speak live in the Commons, or in a recording. I can monitor her every vote. I can email her almost instantaneously (I have even exchanged brief emails with one distinguished MP while he was in a debate). Thankfully, my MP is admirable, in her labours both in Parliament and in her constituency. But for voters who differ from their MPs, the potential for active involvement is far greater than ever before.

Kenneth Clarke speaks for the old school of Parliamentarians in insisting that the referendum of 2016 was merely advisory. But he is out of date. The European Union Referendum Act 2015, which made the arrangements, nowhere said that. Nor did the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. No legislation has ever provided that votes cast in general elections are merely advisory either. On the contrary, the electorate decides things.

We can only deduce the advisory status of referendums by implication, from the premise ‘Parliament is sovereign’. But no Act of Parliament can establish parliamentary sovereignty, any more than Kenneth Clarke can rise into the air by pulling on his shoelaces. Since the People elect members of the Commons directly, by binding votes, and of the Lords indirectly (via elected members of the Commons), it might plausibly be argued that the People are sovereign.

Yet representative democracy is widely championed, and here lies the second great point at issue: a culture war, over what might be called the recent hegemony of social democratic values. It was not so in 1962 when Anthony Sampson published his famous Anatomy of Britain; it shaped the subsequent understandings of ‘The Establishment’ as a closed social circle of the public school and Oxbridge educated who staffed the boardrooms, Parliament, the judiciary and the church.

But a wind of change has swept over Britain as well as over Sampson’s beloved South Africa. The public schools and Oxbridge are still there, but captured for other purposes. Rank derived from birth and class now derives from style and political correctness. The old boy networks are replaced by the luvvie networks. Sampson himself (Westminster and Christ Church) became a Social Democrat during the 1980s.

Set aside the party label; its opponents perceive a state of mind shared by larger numbers of people. They are the commentariat. They allegedly run the media, the universities, the civil service, the judiciary. They are not, indeed, socialist: that would be too uncool an ideology for the twenty-first century. But they are not democrats either, and instinctively reject the outcome of the largest democratic exercise in British history, the referendum of 2016. To them this is ‘populism’, the opposite of themselves.

In this sense, say their opponents with ever clearer definition, social democrats are ‘anywheres’ rather than ‘somewheres’: they have no particular loyalty to a country, let alone Bolsover or Sunderland. They encourage mass migration and multiculturalism. They have places in the sun. They countenance divorce, sex change, and gay marriage. They are secularists who favour religions that are loud against religious establishments. The EU suits them perfectly. Its Roman Law tradition fits their world view, since it works down from grand statements of principle; England’s common law tradition worked up, from specific concrete entitlements. In their eyes, social democrats champion correct, modern, enlightened values. These entail membership of the EU.

Against this perceived social democratic hegemony have developed two great protests: Momentum, and the Brexit movement. To simplify, Momentum wants real socialism; Brexit wants real democracy. They can only achieve either by championing an old ideal that now becomes a new one: the People are sovereign.

Both these conceptions of democracy are plausible, but flawed. They have historic force, but they are contradictory. A collision was inevitable sooner or later. What better ground on which to fight than the UK’s membership of the EU?

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hmmm: Williamson deletes tweet crediting mind power for turning Dorian’s path away from mainland

Westlake Legal Group Williamson Hmmm: Williamson deletes tweet crediting mind power for turning Dorian’s path away from mainland The Blog religion prayers new age mind power marianne williamson Hurricane Dorian 2020 Democratic primaries

As a person of faith, I believe in the power of prayer, but not in its potential to control the weather. Marianne Williamson deleted this tweet after perhaps thinking twice about how it came across:

Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson on Wednesday deleted a tweet saying that the “power of the mind” resulted in “millions of us seeing Dorian turn away from land.”

“The Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas…may all be in our prayers now. Millions of us seeing Dorian turn away from land is not a wacky idea; it is a creative use of the power of the mind,” she said in the now-deleted tweet.

“Two minutes of prayer, visualization, meditation for those in the way of the storm,” she also said in the tweet.

The best-selling author replaced her tweet with one offering prayers to people in the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

As a practicing (and imperfect) Catholic, I certainly believe in the power of prayer. Prayer is what connects us to God and forms us to more readily accept His will above our own desires. Intercessory prayer is also real, from the “thoughts and prayers” response to tragedy to more ongoing and specific prayers for peace and justice. We pray for the Lord’s intercession and assistance all the time. However, that also is always — always — subordinate to the will of God, rather than a dictate that produces a specific and desired response. When God answers prayer, it’s not because we obligated Him to do so because a certain number of people asked for it in a certain manner.

What Williamson described in her deleted tweet isn’t really prayer as much as it is mass telekinesis, or maybe incantations. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the impact Williamson credited to it anyway. Dorian didn’t miss the Bahamas, which qualifies as “land” too; in fact, it plowed right over those islands as a Category 5 hurricane. There are likely a large number of dead, not to mention billions of dollars’ worth of damage left in Dorian’s wake.

It’s not exactly missing the US East Coast, either, even if it’s not as bad as the storm track first indicated. States of emergency now exist from Florida to North Carolina, and the damage might still be substantial:

Don’t expect mind power to save you, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper warned:

Williamson has been trying lately to escape her hippy-dippy reputation, Politico reports, which might explain why she belatedly thought twice about the tweet:

Williamson has begun to push back more on being written off because of her quirks, and has claimed in recent interviews that a string of news stories highlighting her past skepticism of vaccines and antidepressants were part of a smear campaign.

In a New York Times Magazine profile published this week, she expressed confusion about why people associated her with the practice of healing crystals, and suggested there was a double standard when it came to perceptions of her campaign.

“When David Brooks says it, it’s profound,” she said of the Times columnist. “When I say it, it’s woo-woo.”

Maybe, but her first tweet was pretty “woo-woo,” and I doubt David Brooks was saying it. More prosaic is the observation that the Internet is pretty much forever, so presidential hopefuls attempting to cast themselves as non-“woo-woo” might want to think first before suggesting that mind power can re-direct hurricanes.

For everyone else in Dorian’s path: We’re praying for you, but get out of the way if you can.

Later, Williamson argued that her critics were denigrating prayer:

There’s plenty of denigration of prayer too, and it’s good to have at least one Democratic presidential candidate defending it. In this case, however, the criticism of Williamson’s tweet had less to do with prayer and more to do with her other claims of success from “the power of the mind.” The two are not the same thing, because the power of prayer does not originate in the human mind. It originates with, and is oriented to, God.

The post Hmmm: Williamson deletes tweet crediting mind power for turning Dorian’s path away from mainland appeared first on Hot Air.

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Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble: Sunday reflection

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This morning’s Gospel reading is Luke 14:1, 7–14:

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

One of my favorite novelty songs of my youth was Mac Davis’ It’s Hard to Be Humble. The hilarious lyrics as well as his folksy delivery exposed the vanity of pride and the absolute blindness it produces. “Some folks say that I’m egotistical,” Davis sings at one point, “hell, I don’t even know what that means! I guess it has something to do with the way that I fill out my skin-tight blue jeans.” Davis’ live audience roars with laughter throughout the song as its over-the-top depiction of useless pride resonates with everyone. It’s perhaps one of the quintessential human experiences.

Usually, though, it’s much more difficult to identify than in the first-person voice of Davis’ song. We all struggle with pride, even the least self-assuming of us. Human society was for millennia organized on the principle of nobility, and even in this egalitarian era still organized somewhat on the basis of pride. That is useful to an extent, as long as it’s based on accomplishment and capability more than reputation and popularity — and is not used to exalt one’s existence at the expense of others.

In The Screwtape LettersC.S. Lewis noted the subtle nuances of pride. There is no danger in acknowledging good work done by one’s self as long as one does not set himself apart for having accomplished it, Lewis notes in Letter 14:

The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things.

That’s no easy feat in today’s social-media-driven self-promoting world. Our culture craves rank just as earlier cultures strove to be added to the nobility. The pursuit of rank descends into absurdity and twists values as well, promoting the inconsequential at the expense of the truly necessary. It’s no longer enough to build the world’s best cathedral, but taking the world’s best selfie within the cathedral is what brings fame and rank these days.

And yes, I’m well aware of my Twitter bio.

This was just as true in Jesus’ day, and as He explains in this Gospel reading, equally vacuous in the end. Man’s judgment is not God’s judgment, Jesus repeatedly preaches, and uses this teaching as a way to emphasize the point. The problem of pride goes beyond self-regard but also in how we commoditize those around us in order to maintain or increase our self-love.

Jesus starts off with a humorous situation in which a guest at a wedding assumes a place of honor without having been invited to it. How embarrassing will it be, Jesus teaches, when the host has to tell you to go to Table 19 in front of everyone else? That’s the Mac Davis example, if you will; a person who is so full of himself that he can’t possibly perceive of anyone more important than himself. He’s a buffoon, a figure of ridicule who will serve as an example in novelty songs for millennia.

The second example is more insidious, however. Jesus speaks of those who use pride and rank for aggrandizement. They invite people to their parties in order to oblige them into reciprocity, thereby increasing their own social rank. They are seeking payback — a kind of social extortion by which they can manipulate people for their own selfish benefits.

All of this — all of it — rests on human judgment of worth, not the Lord’s. It mainly has to do with material benefits, not spiritual. And in the end, Jesus teaches, it’s all utter nonsense. God does not value celebrity nor wealth; He values faith and virtue. Our ability to judge others is so limited by our own sin and limited perspective that we cannot possibly rank ourselves rationally, let alone others. It is that realization that represents the true basis of humility, rather than any knee-jerk false self-disparagement that attempts to pretend at humility.

Lewis also has Screwtape’s perspective on that impulse, and on the true nature of vanity and pride:

The Enemy will also try to render real in the patient’s mind a doctrine which they all profess but find it difficult to bring home to their feelings—the doctrine that they did not create themselves, that their talents were given them, and that they might as well be proud of the colour of their hair. But always and by all methods the Enemy’s aim will be to get the patient’s mind off such questions, and yours will be to fix it on them. Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased[.]

Vanity and pride put us at the center of the universe rather than the Lord. False humility does the same. That makes us the man who attends the feast by first sitting at the place of honor, until the host has to remind him that he’s not the center of the universe. Jesus exhorts disciples to look outside the circle of those who we might exploit to maintain our delusion of grandeur, in order to ground ourselves in the reality of a fallen world that this delusion creates.

Only then can we open our eyes to the Lord as the center of all things, and only then can we experience true humility — and offer whatever gifts we have to His purpose.  Stripping away that self-deception is among the most difficult tasks we have on the path to salvation, but a great welcome of equals at the Feast awaits us when we succeed.

The front-page image is “Supper in Emmaus,” c. 1560 by Paolo Veronese. On display at the Louvre. Via Wikimedia Commons.

“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here.  For previous Green Room entries, click here.

The post Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble: Sunday reflection appeared first on Hot Air.

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Eighth Circuit Rules That Videographer Doesn’t Have To Make That Video

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The right of Christians to be free from the state coercing them into actively participating in events that they consider reprehensible won a major victory in the Eighth Circuit.

Carl and Angel Larsen run a video business called Telescope Media in St. Cloud, MN. The are observant Christians but the Minnesota Human Rights Act unambiguously requires them to provide video services of basically any event. They could be forced to memorialize the drag queen story hour at the local library or day care center or record for posterity a sham wedding ceremony.

In innumerable cases courts interpret laws that prohibit discrimination against homosexual persons to prohibit discrimination against homosexual behavior, and thus to require complicity in behavior Scripture declares to be sinful. Pointing to the many types of behavior one can legally object to in the marketplace, and the obvious wrong of having to facilitate activity deemed immoral, is met with the claim that discrimination against homosexual behavior is discrimination against homosexual persons.

A very recent case of this type concerns Telescope Media Group videography company in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Influenced by Reformed theologian John Piper’s comparison of telescopes magnifying distant stars and microscopes magnifying small objects with our reason for being, which is to magnify God, Telescope Media Group founders and owners Carl and Angel Larsen endeavor to glorify God in all their work and present his truth through their video skills. Although they have a clear religious and expressive purpose in their work, and desire to use their talents to tell stories with their videography about “the historic, Biblically orthodox definition of marriage,” they are unable to use their narrative skills with weddings because of Minnesota’s sexual orientation anti-discrimination law. Not only does the law provide for severe civil and criminal penalties (triple compensatory and punitive damages to the aggrieved party up to $25,000, and up to 90 days in jail), but it is aggressively enforced by the state attorney general with “testers” who seek out merchants who will decline services that contribute to homosexual behavior.

Rather than wait around for the obvious set-up as has happened to Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop and then litigate with tens of thousands of dollars in potential damages hanging over their heads, the Larsens, with the assistance of the Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a suit in federal court seeking injunctive relief. Unsurprisingly, the case was tossed by the district court judge who was pretty much in the “bake that cake” camp. The Larsens and ADF appealed to the Eighth Circuit and last Friday they won in a big way.

(Read the whole decision.)

In its opinion in Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, the 8th Circuit wrote, “Carl and Angel Larsen wish to make wedding videos. Can Minnesota require them to produce videos of same-sex weddings, even if the message would conflict with their own beliefs? The district court concluded that it could and dismissed the Larsens’ constitutional challenge to Minnesota’s antidiscrimination law. Because the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say, we reverse the dismissal of two of their claims and remand with instructions to consider whether they are entitled to a preliminary injunction….”

“Indeed,” the 8th Circuit continued, “if Minnesota were correct, there is no reason it would have to stop with the Larsens. In theory, it could use the MHRA to require a Muslim tattoo artist to inscribe ‘My religion is the only true religion’ on the body of a Christian if he or she would do the same for a fellow Muslim, or it could demand that an atheist musician perform at an evangelical church service. In fact, if Minnesota were to do what other jurisdictions have done and declare political affiliation or ideology to be a protected characteristic, then it could force a Democratic speechwriter to provide the same services to a Republican, or it could require a professional entertainer to perform at rallies for both the Republican and Democratic candidates for the same office.”

I think the court gets this exactly right. The Minnesota statute essentially makes any business owner and any employee a serf to any customer. Carried to its logical conclusion you could have a situation were a demented pre-op transsexual could demand that a women’s salon wax and moisturize his balls.

Just some thoughts here.

The decision was 2-1. A Trump and a Bush appointee finding in favor of religious freedom, an Obama appointee demanding that the cake be baked. The Trump appointee wrote the opinion. You people who laughed about folks voting for Trump because of judges and who actively pushed for a Clinton presidency, you should be feeling pretty ridiculous right now…but I know you aren’t.

I don’t know what kind of legs this decision will have but the majority lays out an easily understandable and defensible position in the face of totalitarian laws like the one in Minnesota.

Every time we get one of these cases to the Supreme Court, we’ll gain some ground. The recent decisions out of SCOTUS on parochial school funding, management of church personnel, and the display of religious symbols have stopped the bleeding. Even though Jack Phillips did not have a clear win, his partial victory certainly makes these little fascists on state “human rights” boards and commissions be more inventive in their deliberations.

This is a struggle that will go on for years but I think in the end we’ll be able to carve out sufficient space for people of faith to be able to live a life comporting with that faith in the public square.

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The post Eighth Circuit Rules That Videographer Doesn’t Have To Make That Video appeared first on RedState.

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A New Poll Reveals a Disturbing Trend Among Millennials Over the Ideals America Has Long Held Dear. Is Revival Still Possible?

Westlake Legal Group family-2485714_1280-620x413 A New Poll Reveals a Disturbing Trend Among Millennials Over the Ideals America Has Long Held Dear. Is Revival Still Possible? Uncategorized the wallstreet journal republicans religion poll Patriotism NBC News millennials God Front Page Stories Family democrats decline Culture & Faith Culture children CHAD DAY Allow Media Exception

 

 

You know what’s important in life? God, family, and country.

Oh, wait — sorry. That’d be the things that aren’t important.

So believe millennials, according to a new poll.

The annual study conducted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal started just over two decades ago, asking Americans what values they hold the most dear.

At the time — as noted by the Journal, “principles of hard work, patriotism, commitment to religion and the goal of having children” were all high on the list.

These days? Not so much.

WSJ’s Chad Day observes:

Today, hard work remains atop the list, but the shares of Americans listing the other three values have fallen substantially.

Compared to scores from 1998, as for their ranking among “Very Important” components of good living, religion dropped a whopping 12%; having children suffered a startling 16% plummet; and patriotism took the plunge at a rate of 9%.

How do the youngsters match up to the old folks? Like this:

Among people 55 and older, for example, nearly 80 percent said patriotism was very important, compared with 42 percent of those ages 18-38 — the millennial generation and older members of Gen-Z.

Also found: “A majority” are happy with the country’s economy, and two-thirds don’t expect the next generation to necessarily be better off.

According to the survey, Democrats have changed more than Republicans.

One metric seems point to the radical revolution happening on the Left:

In fact, the views of Democrats over age 50 were more in line with those of younger Republicans than with younger members of their own party.

Personally, I find that pretty believable.

“Faith, family, and America” used to be our most treasured ideals. The fact that those have fallen is a disturbing prognosis for the future. Can the tide be reversed, or is it too late? If there is such a thing as hope, where can it be found? I’ll start with here and here.

What would you add? I look forward to hearing from you in the Comments section.

-ALEX

 

Relevant RedState links in this article: here and here.

See 3 more pieces from me:

A Celebrity Couple Can’t Let Their Parents Meet For The Stupidest Of Reasons, & It’s A Pathetic Commentary On What We’ve Become

Parents Fight Virginia School District’s Transgender Policy That Takes Away Their Right To Know Their Own Children’s Identity

Former Disney Star Leads New Graphic HBO Show For Teens That Promises To Leave Parents ‘Totally F***Ing Freaked Out’

Find all my RedState work here.

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Poll: Younger Americans much less likely to say that patriotism, religion, and having children are “very important”

Westlake Legal Group c-3 Poll: Younger Americans much less likely to say that patriotism, religion, and having children are “very important” younger wsj values The Blog religion poll Patriotism children americans

What a horrifying result.

Of course patriotism is important!

I’m wondering, though, how angry we should be at a generation whose lives were wrecked by the Great Recession (and will be even more wrecked by the next recession) and whose future was mortgaged so that the country could pretend for a little while longer that it can afford entitlement programs for senior citizens.

Like, there’s probably *some* blame to be placed for the civic alienation of young adults on the garbage generation we call Baby Boomers, no?

Westlake Legal Group b-10 Poll: Younger Americans much less likely to say that patriotism, religion, and having children are “very important” younger wsj values The Blog religion poll Patriotism children americans

The WSJ didn’t provide partisan splits on each question, but if you suspect that young Democrats are driving this collapse in basic American values, you’re correct: “In fact, the views of Democrats over age 50 were more in line with those of younger Republicans than with younger members of their own party.” Call it the AOC-ization of the Democratic Party. Thanks to the drift among progressives, the overall share of the public that says each of the values listed above is “very important” has declined significantly since 1998. As a society, we’re now nine points less likely to say patriotism is very important, 12 points less likely to say that religion is, and 16 points(!) less likely to say that having children is. The last of those is actually under 50 percent, in fact, with just 43 percent finding it “very important” to have children.

If forced to choose between children and time on one’s smartphone, the choice is clear.

Just one wrinkle. How much can we trust the age groupings in this poll? Putting the Silent Generation and the Boomers together doesn’t fully compute. Older members of the Silent Generation lived through World War II; Boomers were born after the war and have Vietnam as their most vivid military memory. You’re probably going to see some differences on patriotism between those groups. Likewise for the pairing of millennials and Generation Z. The former remember 9/11 and the Iraq war; the latter remember … I don’t know what. The financial crisis, maybe? Certainly the dawning of the Trump era. I’d be curious to know if there are any differences within these broad demographic pairings on basic values questions given their life experiences.

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Greg Hands: One might think that no-one in Brussels has read our Alternative Arrangements report

On the face of it, this week’s exchange of letters between Boris Johnson and Donald Tusk doesn’t offer a lot of encouragement for the great majority of us who do want to see a Brexit deal done between London and Brussels. Tusk’s response in particular, came across as rather intransigent, even absurdly claiming that the Prime Minister is seeking a return of a hard border in Ireland.

At times, the whole debate about the Northern Ireland Backstop is reminiscent of that between Pope Leo X and Martin Luther in the years after 1517. Brexit can appear like a debate between two rival sets of theologians. In 1517, the issue was transubstantiation or consubstantiation: did the communion wafer actually become the body of Christ, or was it merely representative of it?

This was a debate which would have been barely familiar to anyone just a few years before. And the sale of indulgences, and the basis of the scriptures and so on all formed part of it, too. At the Diet of Worms in 1521, the debate came to a head between the representatives of the papacy and Emperor Charles V on the one hand, and Luther and his followers on the other.

Four years on, however, what the theologians had missed was that the debate was no longer about narrow points of doctrine, but had come to involve much more fundamental principles like self-determination and popular consent, and a desire to find a solution that all sides could work with.

The current Brexit debate seems like that debate in 1521. Brussels has become entrenched. It is sticking hard and fast to the backstop, stubbornly ignoring the bigger picture. Practical politicians need to give this a fresh look. Unfortunately, the current Commission remains in place until November. A new set of eyes would understand that whatever the merits of the backstop, it simply isn’t going to pass through the Commons. And without the assent of the Commons, there is, by definition, never going to be a Brexit deal. That has been the case since early 2017 – whatever deal was negotiated would have to be agreed by the Commission and Council with the UK Government, and then ratified by the Commons and the European Parliament. All four hurdles need to be crossed. Three isn’t good enough.

So the backstop, like transubstantiation in 1521, might seem esoteric. But Johnson is also right when he describes it as anti-democratic, and therefore, like in 1521, emblematic of wider and more significant issues. He puts it succinctly in his letter to Tusk: “The backstop locks the UK, potentially indefinitely, into an international treaty which will bind us into a customs union and which applies large areas of single market legislation in Northern Ireland. It places a substantial regulatory border, rooted in that treaty, between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The treaty provides no sovereign means of exiting unilaterally and affords the people of Northern Ireland no influence over the legislation which applies to them. That is why the backstop is anti-democratic.”

And that isn’t his only objection to the backstop. So, if the backstop isn’t going to pass the Commons, and doesn’t any longer have the agreement of the UK Government, it is self-evident that we need to urgently find something that does. This might seem an impossible task with just 72 days to go until Brexit date.

But much of the work has already been done. When Nicky Morgan and I agreed to co-chair the Prosperity UK Alternative Arrangements Commission in April, we knew we would be working with a superb team of technical experts from around the world – experts in borders, customs, logistics, transit and so on – and that we were giving ourselves around 10 weeks to produce a report on how it could all be done.

Fortunately, we knew that both sides wanted to see the work done. In their Strasbourg Declaration (actually, not that far from Worms) in March, both sides had committed themselves to finding alternative arrangements to the Backstop. When we published our 272 page report and draft protocols in July, we therefore thought we ought to be pushing at an open door. We went three times to Northern Ireland, twice to Dublin, and to Brussels, Berlin and The Hague to market the proposals to politicians, the media and other opinion-formers.

Both Johnson and Jeremy Hunt warmly welcomed our report during the recent Conservative leadership campaign. It should therefore not have a been a surprise to Messrs Tusk and Juncker that Alternative Arrangements would form the explicit or implicit basis of a refreshed UK approach on Brexit. The Prime Minister’s letter was, in my opinion, carefully crafted to be both realistic and conciliatory on what could be done, but one thing was clear, that the backstop could not form part of the deal, as it won’t pass the Commons. That is simply a statement of Realpolitik.

So Tusk’s response was disappointing. A Brussels spokesman quoted by the BBC claimed to not know much about Alternative Arrangements at all, asserting that the Prime Minister’s letter “does not set out what any alternative arrangements could be” and there was “no guarantee” they would be ready by the end of the transition period. It is almost as if nobody around Tusk had actually read our report.

Our Commission concluded clearly that Alternative Arrangements can and will work. But they won’t be up and running by October 31st. This is not a “No Deal” blueprint. Quite the opposite: our solution is the only one available which leads to a Brexit solution which will pass all four hurdles. And our proposals do need the (or at least a) transition period. Many of them can be brought in quite quickly. Some like the trusted trader scheme might take 12 – 15 months. We don’t believe anything will take longer than two to three years.

The Brexit solution lies in Alternative Arrangements. It just needs both sides to grasp it. Otherwise, I fear there could be a schism between London and Brussels which might take years, maybe decades to overcome.

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