The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Strange Things

I believe I can safely say that it takes a lot to shock me. I been around both the block and the world a few times and have come face to face with some pretty nasty stuff. I've seen abject poverty of the kind that simply does not exist in this country. I've witnessed acts of horrific brutality spawned by ideological hatreds that a rational human being can barely comprehend. But I encountered most of this in distant or unusual places during particularly challenging times. And so, I suppose these encounters weren't unexpected.

I am far more disturbed when such things occur in the midst of the day-to-day human activities in our supposed civilized societies. Abortion, of course, is a perfect example. Not long ago, certainly during my lifetime, abortion was considered a serious crime -- the murder of an unborn child -- and those who performed and procured it were prosecuted accordingly. It was certainly treated as a serious crime during the Nuremberg trials. Among the charges for which several Nazis were tried and convicted was the "encouraging and compelling of abortions." Indeed, it didn't matter whether or not the abortions were voluntary. The War Tribunal that announced these convictions stated:

"The acts and conduct, as substantially charged in the indictment ("encouraging and compelling abortions") constitute crimes against humanity as defined in Article II (c) of the Control Council Law No. 10 and...(they) also constitute war crimes."
Dr. Joseph Mengele (left). Mengele, called the "Angel of Death" at Auschwitz, later escaped to Buenos Aires, where, under an assumed name, he specialized in abortions

We've sure come a long way in 60 brief years. Abortion is one of those "crimes against humanity" that truly does shock me because I simply cannot understand how a civilized society can allow it. Perhaps we're not really as civilized as we think.

Abortion today is really no different from the brutal, and very public, human sacrifices performed by the Mayans to appease their gods. As acts of appeasement, these sacrifices were really selfish acts, murders sanctioned by a society in the hope that they would bring about some improvement in the lives of those committing them. Isn't that exactly what abortion is -- a selfish act? Isn't it simply the murder of an inconvenient human being, someone whose continued existence would make the mother's (and father's) life more difficult? The only difference I can see is that today's human sacrifices are carried out more or less privately. But given current trends in "entertainment" I wouldn't be surprised to hear that some media outlet is planning a live abortion reality show. Can YouTube be far behind? So I suppose, in a very real sense, we have regressed back to the uncivilized times of the Mayans and all the other pre-Christian, pagan societies that glorified sacrificial death.

Mayan human sacrifices

Sometimes, though, it's not what people do that shocks me; rather, it's what they say. One would think that the President of the United States has some able and thoughtful speech writers, and that on those few occasions when there's no teleprompter and he's forced to ad lib, he would weigh his words carefully. After all, the media captures his every public utterance and those recorded words won't ever go away.

President Obama recently signed the Daniel Pearl Press Freedom Act, “which authorizes the State Department to include information about attacks on journalists in its human rights reports.” I'm not familiar with every aspect of this legislation, but it sounds like a good thing to me and I'm glad the president signed it. Unfortunately, it's what he said as he signed the legislation that bothers me.

As you probably recall, Daniel Pearl was the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and savagely murdered by an Islamist terrorist group in Pakistan back in 2002. These vicious killers didn't just murder Pearl, they beheaded him and videotaped the act. Then they released the video, joyous that they had rid the world of, in the killer's words, "the American Jew Daniel Pearl." Nice folks.

And so what does the president say as he signs this legislation named in honor of Daniel Pearl? Here's the quote:
"Obviously, the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is."

Captured the world's imagination? It's hard to believe he used those words. Apollo 11 captured the world's imagination. Mother Teresa captured the world's imagination. The destruction of the Berlin Wall by the German people captured the world's imagination. The victory over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan captured the world's imagination. An Olympic skier, or skater, or sprinter, or hockey team might capture the world's imagination. But the brutal torture and beheading of Daniel Pearl did not in any way "capture the world's imagination." That would be like saying, "The vicious shooting spree at Columbine High School captured the world's imagination."

No, Mr. President. The loss of Daniel Pearl horrified me and every civilized person who heard about it. It showed me how close we are to sliding back into barbarism, a state, by the way, that far too many of these Islamist terrorist groups actually hope for. Pearl's death came about because of a visceral hatred for Americans and an even greater hatred for Jews, the latter which extends all the way back to the days of Mohammed himself. And, I'm sorry, but it didn't remind me of "how valuable a free press is." No, it reminded me, and just about any sane human being, of how brutal and vicious an enemy we face in this war on terror, a fact we must never forget.

[The above photo is of Daniel Pearl as I am sure his family would like to remember him. By the way, Pearl was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who now sits in the prison for terrorists at Guantanamo.]

Oh, yes, after signing the "Press Freedom Act", the president refused to take any questions from the press who had gathered there for the ceremony. And as soon as the signing was complete the press were all herded out of the room. Deliciously ironic, isn't it?

Finally, I came across this item that truly shocked me. A Korean couple let their baby starve to death. Why? Because they were busy playing an online "game" in which they raised a virtual child. Apparently they spent many, many hours raising this make-believe child and while doing so totally neglected their own very real baby girl. There are so many things wrong with this that one doesn't know where to begin. All I will say is behold the fruits of the contraceptive mentality that considers human life to be virtually valueless. It also shows us the kind of world we can expect as God is removed from human activity and thought.

Yes, sadly, the world can continue to shock us, and I expect things are not going to get better any time soon. But you and I do not have to accept this degradation of our civilization. We can fight it in our own lives by how we act and what we say. We can live our Faith as it really is and not as some gross politically correct imitation. We can be active witnesses to Jesus Christ in the world pointing out the Way, the Truth and the Life to all whom we encounter. In other words, we can be the disciples He calls us to be.

Eric Voegelin summed it up well in his book, Science, Politics, And Gnosticism when he wrote:

"...the spiritual disorder of our time, the civilizational crisis of which everyone so readily speaks, does not by any means have to be born as an inevitable fate; that, on the contrary, everyone possesses the means of overcoming it in his own life. And our effort should not only indicate the means, but also how to employ them. No one is obliged to take part in the spiritual crises of society; on the contrary, everyone is obliged to avoid the folly and live his life in order."

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