Rachel weeping

Peter_Paul_Rubens_Massacre_of_the_Innocents

I’m back, but it was a late night and I’ve nothing prepared, so mostly this will be one more of Jessica’s, but not a happy one. It is also a day after our churches celebrate the Slaughter of the Innocents. Some of those churches, it must be said, with their eyes tight closed to what they propose. But this is one thing most of us agree on, and so a bit from me, and also a bit from my friend Chalcedon at the Watchtower

Indeed, before the advent of Christianity, human life was generally held cheap. The death rate among new-borns was high, and there would have been few families at the time who did not have the experience of losing a baby, and even a mother, in child-birth. But the massacre of little children was something else – it was seen as barbarous, even in barbarous times. Quite what even barbarous times would make of the modern West’s habit of mass abortions, who can tell? To those without an ideological blindness to it, the practice is appalling, and it is no accident that the abortion industry does not want the details of what goes on inside its clinics more widely spread; few, surely, can read the detail without a feeling of nausea? But such is the state of our ‘civilization’ that now only the Catholic Church holds the line firmly here. The same faith which told the world that even the life of a slave was worth the same as that of an Emperor in the eyes of God, tells an unheeding world that the life of every child in the womb is valued in those same eyes. It holds to a high view of the worth of human life in a world where, increasingly, it is seen as having variable value. The unborn, the handicapped (yes, don’t use the word, but do defend aborting such babies whilst they are in the womb – never forget words are all that matter) and the elderly, especially the elderly who are unwell, all of these lives have a different value to those of the ordinary person of working age upon whom health services can spend a small fortune to keep alive and as fit as possible. All lives matter, but some matter far more than others.

Chalcedon is speaking of Britain, in the States, the Catholic church has some allies, parts of the Anglican and the Lutheran churches are allies, as are a fair number of evangelicals, why any Christian is not is well beyond my ken.

And here is Jessica:

Today is the day on which the Church remembers the massacre of the Innocents as recorded in Matthew 2:13-23.

Verse 15 refers to words of Hosea 11:1“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.” 
Just as Israel was preserved from destruction in Egypt, so God’s Son, the hope of Israel, is preserved from destruction; but just as the first-born of Egypt died, so now, do the first born of Israel.

Verses 17 and 18 refer to Jeremiah 31:15

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.”

Rachel, the wife of Jacob and thus the mother of Israel, is depicted by the prophet mourning over her descendants who have been slaughtered by the Babylonians. But if we take the whole of Jeremiah 30-33 we can see that either side of these lamentations there is the looking forward to the new Covenant, the new era which the coming of the Messiah will inaugurate.

St. Matthew, steeped as he was in the Jewish Scriptures, sees the parallel for us – that out of this destruction there will come a new life; Jesus is the fulfilment of the words of the prophets. At the end of the chapter there is a reference to Isaiah 11:1, where Jesus, the ‘Stem of Jesse’, the ‘Branch’, and also to Isaiah 6:13 where, after God had cut down the tree of Israel, a little stump was left from which a branch would grow.

Suffering, like the poor, is with us always, and in so far as we alleviate the suffering of the poor, we do it for and to Christ, because he is in every one of us, and we are in his image. Death is something which comes to us all, even if our society conspires to hide the fact. I never knew my mother, who died soon after I was born, and that is a sorrow, but it is one which is in the natural order of things, which is what makes the massacre of the Innocents the more shocking, because it runs against the natural order in two ways: the child dying before the parent, and adults killing rather than caring for children. What can comfort a mother for the loss of her child? And yet in our time, many mothers choose not to have their child, and society, so anxious to shield us from the reality of our own mortality, turns a blind eye and uses smooth words to condone infanticide. We should not, we cannot and must not, judge women who come to that place; we cannot know what drove them there, and everyone is different. But we can lament the slaughter, for that is what it is. If they truly knew what it was they did, then many would not do it.

We have moved from a society which accepted (because it had no choice) that infant mortality would be high, through one which sought to end that situation, to one where we routinely abort millions of children in the name of a spurious ‘right to choose’. I say spurious because no one asks the child in the womb, who gets no choice at all. So, on this feast of the massacre of the Holy innocents, let us pray for all those afflicted by this modern curse of abortion – including the women concerned.

And this, more than any other factor, is why those who would like us to call them pro-choice are not, they are part of a very ancient cult: the cult of death. They think it proper to slaughter babies, even before they are born, which to my mind at least makes them even worse than Herod, himself. Humans have a tendency to murder each other for very little reason, it took Christianity almost 2000 years to mostly end this practice, if not the desire, now we seem to be slipping back. And yes, voluntary euthanasia is simply more of the same horrible sauce.

But there are encouraging signs, abortion in the US is lower than at any time since 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade. That is something to give thanks for, for it is indeed a good start. But outlawing the practice is not really enough, the problem is that there are people that think such barbarity is acceptable. We are, can be, must be better than this.

Christmas

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[ One of Jessica’s best from 2013]

Well, Neo and I are both, in our ways, in the bosom of our families, and we both hope that you are too – but perhaps like us, you are just looking at that Reader in the intervals of good cheer and fellowship. We are all, of course, extremely fortunate, and when you think of the many Christians in the Holy Land and its environs who live in fear, it makes you glad for what you have – but sorrowful for them; it puts our woes into perspective.

We are so used to Christianity that we tend to think of it as our religion in the sense that it is something of the West – which is in a way a tribute to our Faith. It has spread across the globe, and it has adapted itself to so many different cultures because it appeals to something we all have in common – a sense of brokenness, of incompleteness, of loss and separation. In Jesus, God speaks to us directly. This is not some voice from on High, not even a burning bush or a vision; no, it is a man, one like us who was, nonetheless, the Lord of Heaven and Earth. Men and women like us met Him, talked with Him, saw Him die – and rise again from the dead after three days. The Apostle Paul tells the doubters that more than five hundred people, including many known to his listeners, had seen the Risen Lord. He was not born in a Palace, and he didn’t wear fancy clothes, nor did he use complicated words and ideas – no, he talked to us as one of us. He told us something so simple that even after all this time we have trouble with it: we need to repent, we need to confess He is Lord, and we need to follow Him – and we’re saved. How hard is that?

It turns out it is very hard. Men have needed to see more than that. Surely there are conditions, catches, things we ought to do or else? The earliest Christians were Jews, and they took their Temple-style worship with them when they left the synagogues; used to solemn ritual, they kept it. Many Christians have done so to this day, and as one whose Church uses incense and icons, I am not going to say anything bad about it, because it all helps me worship; but I know it is an additional extra; something God-given, to be sure – but if I never saw an icon again, it would make no difference to God’s love for me.

It is to that love we all respond. Jesus told us to call God “abba”, which is, in the Aramaic, something akin to “Daddy”.  We can have all sorts of dressing up games with Daddy, and we can be safe because we know Daddy loves us. It is that sort of child-like faith Jesus tells us we need.

In this world of sin and sorrow, we cannot but be fearful, not least at the moment, for our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and its neighbours, and I hope that if we have a few dollars to spare, we can give something to one of the many charities which are doing the Lord’s work among the oldest Christian communities in the world. At the first Christmas time there were many families suffering from the brutality of a tyrant called Herod, who, like all such, abused his position and authority, and for what?  Whatever earthly pleasures he may have had, he has left a name which is a stench in the nostrils of history, whereas the son of Mary, the wife of the carpenter from Nazareth, has the name above all names, at which every knee should bow. In His name, perhaps especially at this season, we should give something to those refugees treading the road that he and his mother and St Joseph trod.

From Neo and myself, warmest greetings – and may the peace and joy of the Christ child be with you now, and forever.

Remembrance Sunday

I wrote this morning on All along the Watchtower, this is part of that article.

Poppy_wreath_stockwell

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

 

A WOMAN’S TRIBUTE

The Message of the Double Line of Khaki; From the London Times, October 18, 1921

In Westminster Abbey, yesterday, General Pershing laid the American Medal of Honour upon the grave of the Unknown Soldier of Britain. The bright sunlight streamed through the high stained-glass windows in long shafts of light that fell warm upon the grey stone of the Gothic arches, upon the quiet people in the Nave, and around the flower-strewn tomb, and that lay in a cloth of scarlet on the flag above the body of the Unknown Dead.

A thousand years of great history stood silent within those old walls. Close by are the tombs of Norman, Plantagenet, Tudor, and Stuart Kings and Queens, of the priests, and soldiers and the sailors, of the poets and statesmen that have made England great.

As the organ filled the sunlit spaces of the ancient church with its deep volume of sound, there marched up the aisle, with bared heads, a detachment of British soldiers from the Guard’s regiments. As they formed a line facing the centre, an equal number of American soldiers, bare-headed, marched up the other side, and turning, stood facing the British soldiers across the narrow aisle.

Both lines of khaki, both lines of straight and young and clear-eyed boys, both lines of men of Anglo-Saxon blood, of the same standards and of the same ideals they stood there in the sunlight in that shrine of a thousand years of memory, looking straight into each other’s eyes.

Between them, up the aisle, marched the choir in their scarlet vestments with their bright cross on high, the generals, the admirals, and the Ministers of the Empire, and the Ambassador and the Commanding General of the Great Republic but in all that they represented, and in all that was said in the ceremonies that followed, there was no such potent symbol as those two lines of khaki- clad boys, with the sun shining on their bared heads, their brave young faces, and their strong young bodies, looking each other straight in the face.Between them lay, not the narrow aisle, but a thousand leagues of sea, the building of a new world, the birth of a new destiny for man. But as they stood there where they could have touched hands in the old Abbey which was a shrine for their common ancestors, they were so amazingly alike in bearing and appearance that they ceased to be a detachment of soldiers from two different countries, and they became a symbol of the illimitable potentiality of a common heritage that heritage of which the ancient Abbey was a shrine the heritage of the ideals of freedom, of order, of self-discipline, of self-respect.

If any words spoken in the Abbey could have conveyed a hundredth part of what that double line of clear- eyed boys said in utter silence the world would have been a happier place to-day. The old strength and the new force of a common heritage stood in khaki in the aisle of Westminster Abbey bare-headed, to honour the symbol of supreme sacrifice to those ideals in the Cross of Christ and in the body of an Unknown Soldier.

The service included this.

It has been a very long century since that last quiet August weekend of the Edwardian Age. It has been filled far too often with the roar of the guns, and the rattle of musketry followed by the sounding of the Last Post. But the mission has been maintained, it will never be won, although we can and should pray that it will be less horrific going forward. But all around the world, freedom-loving people have learned of the steadfast valor even unto death of English-speaking soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. We are proud of our part, yes. But we are equally proud to be your allies and friends.

Has it been worth it? The citizen of Ypres, Belgium seem to think so. Every night at 8:00pm since 2 July 1928, except during the German occupation in World War II, they have executed this ceremony, and when the Polish forces liberated them in 1944, they resumed, while heavy fighting was still going on in the city. While under occupation in World War II the ceremony took place at Brookwood Military Cemetery, in Surrey, England.

EVERY NIGHT

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

 

Maintaining the Dream

w1056

John Stuart Mill said

… the very principle of constitutional government requires it to be assumed, that political power will be abused to promote the particular purposes of the holder; not because it always is so, but because such is the natural tendency of things…

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? One of the reasons we vote is to vote for whoever we believe will abuse the power we grant them less. Yes, that’s a pretty low standard, but over the years, well centuries, it has proven to be a valid one.

To me, maybe partly because I’m an American, I’ve always thought it applied more to us than to other countries, because as Jessica (who is British) has written here several , “Other countries are a place, America is a dream”. She’s right, you know, we are American because somebody in our ancestry, or we ourselves, followed that dream. Maybe for a better material life, maybe for a more politically free life, maybe to follow their religion free from interference, maybe for other reasons, or for all of them.

It has always been thus, in America. Way back in 1630, John Winthrop said

…for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world…

And so it is still.

So, tomorrow we will vote for a new president. Like all presidents, he will find he has both more power than can be imagined, and at the same time less power than he hoped, for good or ill. This has been a very distressing campaign, for all of us, and I suspect any who read here have made up their minds. So be it. I’m not going to argue the case anymore. Vote for the candidate you think fulfills the need best. But remember, this country was founded to give the individual in community the best shot at being successful, however, success is designed. It was not founded to make your life easy from cradle to grave.

Out here along the Oregon Trail, where I live, it used to be said, “The sick never started, and the weak died along the way.” That’s pretty much America, right there. It is not now, and never was, a country for the weak. Those people that braved the Atlantic in small wooden ships, in steerage, however, they got here really did not expect to find the streets paved with gold. A promised land it may have been, but it has never been a land of milk and honey. It’s a country built on sacrifice and very hard work, as well as personal responsibility for you and yours.

But the hard work and the sacrifice paid off. It paid off well enough that Russian immigrants wrote home ecstatically, “Here, we eat wheaten bread, everyday.” Where they came from, they were lucky to have a chunk of wheat bread on holidays.

So by all means vote, it is, after all, your right. But remember this too, it is your responsibility, and your duty, to vote for the person you think will do the best by you, and by America.

And remember what Thomas Paine said in An American Crisis

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master.

What Christians believe

This is from a talk entitled What Christians Believe, by G.K. Chesterton. It became Chapter 11 in Mere Christianity.

As usual, it sums things up very well.

And yes, it is one of my favorite books on Christianity.

Why Conservatives Should Start Breaking The Laws That Oppress Us

gandgiThis carries on something that I have been speaking on at the Watchtower, you can find those articles here, and here, and do read the comments as well, many points are clarified there. This is from The Federalist.

Take a look at this sentence from a Daily Mail article reporting on Donald Trump’s “Contract with the American Voter” given this past Saturday. “Included [in the contract] are six anti-corruption pledges, seven actions related to jobs and trade and five on immigration and the ‘rule of law.’”

Why is “rule of law” in scare quotes? Is this really where we’re at in our thinking? The rule of law is some niche idea conservatives include in their wish list—like a “culture of life” or a “free market”?

Perhaps it alludes to the typical reader’s comprehension—“Psst, there’s this thing conservatives refer to as ‘the rule of law.’ Haha, I know, right? I mean, everyone on the right side of history knows laws are for fools, but just so you know, some of the true believers are still out there.”

Regardless, it certainly fits everything we’re seeing this election season, both in the presidential campaigns and in our culture.

Hillary Clinton gets exonerated for mishandling classified information by claiming not to understand a system I learned literally my first day in the Army Reserves… as a freaking chaplain! “I made a mistake.” Oh, that’s what breaking the law is called.

The Left Is Above the Law—Whatever the Law Might Be

We could go on and on, listing the litany of laws the Left routinely ignores: immigration laws in sanctuary cities, abortion laws regarding the trafficking of body parts, bribery laws with the Clinton Foundation. Or we could bring up obvious cases of corruption: like the FBI giving special treatment to Hillary, or the IRS targeting conservative nonprofits. But if a tree falls in the woods, and the media don’t report it, does it make a noise?

via Why Conservatives Should Start Breaking The Laws That Oppress Us

He does a very good job of explaining the concepts of Gnosticism, as one would expect from clergy, and how the ‘Archons’ who built the modern world have been replaced by the Archons of the left, which bear no relation to reality, or God. His conclusion is that we need to start disobeying their laws. I think he is correct but would add that we need to remember that there may well be a price, likely a high one, attached to doing so. We should not forget that Dietrich Bonhoeffer died a very cruel death when he was hanged at Flossenburg Concentration Camp.

But I fear that the God’s of the Copybook headings are approaching quickly

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Let’s close with Pastor Burfeind

Several years ago—I think it was during the Obamacare debates, when Democrats were doing all their “sausage making” shenanigans—I was at a red light at the end of my road. The light is unbearably long. No one was coming from either direction.

I said to myself, “F*** it,” and turned left on the red light. At that moment the red light became an icon of everything I was coming to hate about government: a coldly mechanized totem of inefficient government management, pretending to be the height of rational governance.

How easy it was to break the law their laws.

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