revolution, murder or just a sad day when men forgot God?

“Over half a century ago, while I was still a child,
I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the
great disasters that had befallen Russia:
“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution;
in the process, I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies,
and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away
the rubble left by that upheaval.
But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous
revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people,
I could not put it more accurately than to repeat:
“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


((a sheep gazes out over the Atlantic among the cliffs of County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I think of what makes a revolution just that, a revolution,
I often think in terms of those heady days of yon when people were drunk with the
notion of upheaval and change.

Heads often literally rolled, blood was certainly shed as revolutionaries and “the people”
held up clenched fists in solidarity.

Revolution was the upsetting of the proverbial apple cart to the status quo and the deliberate
culling of the old guard.

“Power to the people” was boldly shouted over the din of clashing swords and
the volley of gunfire.

And so when I read the following quote by the Irish prime minister regarding the recent
vote to lift the ban on abortion in Ireland,
I was left wondering who were to be the ultimate victims of this particular “revolution”…

Because if anyone knows their history, there are always victims of a revolution…
many of whom are merely the innocent caught in the crossfire of man’s folly while the
revolutionaries disregard such losses as expendable,
the mere price to be paid for the revolution.

“The Irish prime minister has hailed his country’s “quiet revolution”
as early results point to a “resounding” vote for overturning the abortion ban.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44265492

I think we all know who the victims of this revolution will be…

Those who yet have a voice to speak…

“. . . we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life,
the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”.
We find ourselves not only faced with but necessarily in the midst of this conflict:
we are all involved and we all share in it,
with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”

Pope John Paul II
(Evangelium Vitae)

Thoughts no longer your own….

Denouncing your neighbour for a ‘thought-crime’ was a favourite past time
in the old Soviet Union.
The problem for anyone accused of having the ‘wrong thoughts’ is that it’s
impossible to defend yourself.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(stock image CNN Soviet Army Parade)

“Well the practice is back.
‘Hate crime’ is the new thought crime.
If someone else’s views makes you feel uncomfortable,
all you need to do is to accuse them of either ‘hate’ or, if you prefer, ‘extremism’,
or best of all, both.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

I read the latest posting by Bishop Ashenden this morning as he continues to address the maddening debacle of a Church of England church school kicking out a Christian
organization because parents complained that the group was too Christian for their children.

Remember we’re talking about a Christian church school and a Christian organization…
You may read the post here as I’m still in disbelief:

Hatred, like beauty maybe in the eye of the beholder; cowardice, complicity and the Church of England

And I have found myself ruminating over this whole incident on and off since first
reading about it over on the Wee Flee blog of the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.

https://theweeflea.com

However it was more than what the good Bishop added today to the story that reignited
my ire over all of this, it was what he said about our very thoughts that disturbed
me more than anything else.

You may recall my having mentioned reading the book The Book Thieves
by Anders Rydell
The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return A Literary Inheritance

I’ve yet to finish the book.
It is a very difficult read…for all sorts of reasons.
It is a story that I have had to put down for extended periods as it is not easy
processing the sheer overwhelming information—
the tragedies, the unbelievable acts and the mercurial madness of humans
against other humans

Mr Rydell has done an exceptional job with the devastating facts and figures…
that of the cities, the towns, the libraries, both public and private,
that were decimated.
He has traveled extensively all over Europe, as well as into Russia,
in search of recovery efforts.
He has followed the often frustrating breadcrumbs left by owners…trails that
eventually lead to various death camps or simply stopped as abruptly as they
had begun.

Millions of priceless, and the not so priceless, manuscripts, books, torahs, diaries, incurables that were stolen, plundered, confiscated, hidden, burned or reduced to pulp
the for Nazi’s own paper needs…
With many important collections simply being scattered to the four corners
of the globe…
As there is now a race against time underway to reunite families with the
recovered “treasures” of lost, and sometimes forgotten, loved ones.

But the one thing that Mr Rydell has actually unearthed is the reasoning as to why
the Nazis would go to such extensive and meticulous extremes to confiscate books
along with entire libraries across all of Europe and Russia—
a reason which was more than merely amassing of war booty—
it was something so much darker.

It was to be the complete eradication of the spirit and soul of the
People of the Book.

“The Nazis knew how important books were to the Jews. Reading makes you into
a human being. When someone takes it away from you they also steal your thoughts.
They wanted to destroy the Jews by robbing them of what was most important to them”

Michal Bušek

And so today with Bishop Ashenden’s words of recounting the notion of
“thought crimes”–something the Nazi’s and later the Soviets would each attempt
to master, we are reminded that such practice is now alive and well with a key focus
on the Christian thought….

“If it were possible for any nation to fathom another people’s bitter experience
through a book, how much easier its future fate would become and how many
calamities and mistakes it could avoid.
But it is very difficult.
There always is this fallacious belief:
‘It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.’

Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

it isn’t rocket science

“In keeping silent about evil,
in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface,
we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future.
When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers,
we are not simply protecting their trivial old age,
we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Voices from the past…
voices not so long past…
continue reaching out…
Their words remain drifting along the currents of time.
Individuals from a different life are now born into the prophets of our day.

Their words…
now more urgent…
now more critical…
No longer merely mentioned in a speech or interview…
but rather crying out for our attention.
This now lost and stumbling generation…

Will the scales fall finally from our eyes,
Will we turn our hearing their way…
Opening our hearts and minds to the Truth

Or have we now all gone simply too far…
drifting further away from that offering of Salavation

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical
confrontation humanity has ever experienced.
I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society,
or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully.
We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church,
between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the Antichrist.”

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, 1976

Truth

We shall advance when we have learned humility;
when we have learned to seek truth, to reveal it and publish it;
when we care more for that than for the privilege of arguing about ideas in a fog of uncertainty.

Walter Lippmann, c.1917

We do not err because truth is difficult to see.
It is visible at a glance.
We err because this is more comfortable.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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(Rock of Cashel, the Rock of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

What is truth?

It is man’s most eternal quest…

We have often wondered if it was buried somewhere in the mix of stone and mortar,
those tangible breadcrumbs to man’s exhausting pursuit at leaving his mark.

Yet stone and mortar, as now wire and cable, each with time, are eventually left to erode and rust.

Truth is not found in the rusting or rotting of decay.

We have wondered if it is found in the intellect of thought and speech.
The defiance and defense of man’s existence…

Yet there is no truth to be found in fighting and fretting.

However for a certain percentage of humankind, those oft looked upon as foolhardy souls,
those who have openly accepted a fateful day as the hallmark of Truth,
Truth is found beyond the building blocks of civilizations,
beyond the liables and legalities…
and far from the might and power of man.

Truth, rather, is found in a most odd place…
A place no one had thought to look…

For Truth is found not in the vibrancy of life and in the yearnings of mere mortals….
but rather in the loss and darkness of the seemingly emptiness of death.

Albeit so sad and empty as this quest may all but seem,
This is not just any death in which Truth plays hide and seek…

For this Truth, this elusive wisp of shadows, is not found in our death…not yours and mine…
but rather in just one single death…

A single death experienced only once…not at all repeatedly…
Only singularly experienced for all of mankind.

“Our old man was crucified with him,
that the body of sin right be done away,
that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin”
(Romans 6:6)
That is not an exhortation to struggle.
That is history: our history, written in Christ before we were born.
Do you believe this?
It is true!

For the secret of deliverance from sin is not to do something but to rest on what God has done.
When you cease doing, then God will begin

Watchman Nee

So truth, it seems, is found in a single deed on a single day…
long ago and seemingly far away.

Yet is it really that far away….

“God is waiting for your store of strength to be utterly exhausted before He can deliver you.
Once you have ceased to struggle so hard, he will do everything.
God is waiting for you to despair.
He has done it all.”

Watchman Nee

Costly Justification

“It is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

RSCN2711
(flowering quince / Julie Cook / 2016)

‘It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it costs God the life of God’s Son—“you were bought with a price”(1 Cor 6:20) and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God. Above all, it is grace because the life of God’s Son was not too costly for God to give in order to make us live. God did indeed, give him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship Vol 4 pp 45

We have honed our craft both you and I….
As we have become that which we justify…

For within each justification lies…
the crime,
the hating,
the sentence,
the lying,
the hurting,
the bombing,
the cheating,
the policy,
the stealing,
the taking,
the death,
and even the murder…

Echoed are the causal observations…
“Twas a crime of passion”
“It was a justifiable homicide”
“It was taken in order that they could eat”
“It was hidden for their own good…”
“It was stolen in order to pay…”

There are…
The interestingly tragic assisted suicides…
The abortions due to untimely pregnancies…
The surreal justifiable shootings…
The acceptable culture of death…
The wars to end all wars…
The nuclear deterrents….

Every human act can be justified into being correct…

It was…
the right decision…
a necessary evil…
the only option…

How quickly it rolls off the tongue, as it slips easily from consciousness.
There is no remorse, no guilt, no real sorrow…
because it was something that had to be…

The justification of and for every action and reaction of mankind…

And yet how does one justify the free offering of ones only child…
In order that others may live…

One word….

Grace….

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—-not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

contentment

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

― Lao Tzu

“Satiety depends not at all on how much we eat, but on how we eat. It’s the same with happiness, the very same…happiness doesn’t depend on how many external blessings we have snatched from life. It depends only on our attitude toward them. There’s a saying about it in the Taoist ethic: ‘Whoever is capable of contentment will always be satisfied.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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(Percy and Peaches enjoying life / Julie Cook / 2014-14)

Where is
your comfort
your peace
your happy place. . .

“Come to me my beloved. . .
My outstretched arms are longing waiting, aching, hoping to embrace you. . .
to hold you, to comfort you, to protect you, to warm you. . .
In my arms you may let go. . .
You may let go of all your worries, your excess, your burdens.
I want you to fall freely into my arms where you can finally exhale and rest. . .
Where you may finally find peace, warmth and contentment. . .
I am here my beloved, waiting. . .
Waiting for when you are ready. . .
Ready to let go of those things which separate us, which separate both you and I, keeping us apart. . .I am here, waiting, to offer you my warmth, my heart, my love. . .”

Turning point

What most of all hinders heavenly consolation is that you are too slow in turning yourself to prayer.
Thomas a Kempis

DSCN8758
(detail of a pinecone / Julie Cook / 2014)

As a tale-end Baby Boomer and child of the Cold War, the Soviet Union, the USSR, The Federation of the Russian Republic or simply Mother Russia, has always been an uncomfortable shadow over my shoulder, just as it has for most everyone my age and older. The enigma known as Russia, who most graciously hosted the world last February for the Winter Olympics only to turn around and shock us all a few months following with the “invasion” of Ukraine, has remained a conundrum for the free world since the Russian Revolution of 1917 which gave way to birth of Communism.

When I was in high school, which seems to be many lifetimes ago, I had the good fortune of taking a Russian History course—with the most memorable experience being of my introduction to the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I had the good fortune of reading several of his books. . . One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Gulag Archipelago and Cancer Ward.

Now all these many years later I find myself drawn back to the writings and words of Solzhenitsyn, of which I find more prophetic than I had ever imagined.

For those of you unfamiliar with Solzhenitsyn, in a nutshell, he was a Russian soldier (WWII), Gulag prisoner (for nearly 10 years), writer and novelist, historian, Soviet dissident, Nobel Prize recipient and finally, again, Russian citizen.

As a life long member of the Russian Orthodox Church, Solzhenitsyn was guided by a deeply spiritual moral compass. He was a very loud and vocal opponent of Totalitarianism, of which expedited his forced exile from the Soviet Union, yet he could also be equally critical of the West and its obsession with Capitalism, Consumerism and Materialism. All of which reminds me of the chastisement the West often received from Pope John Paul II, as well as Mother Teresa—as perhaps those who have suffered more grievously under the Socialist and ultra Nationalistic Regime of the Nazis and then that of the Communist Soviets, have perhaps a clearer perspective of our often blind view of what we consider to be “the good life”

I am poignantly reminded of Solzhenitsyn, his words and wisdom as well wise counsel and rebukes of those who have witnessed first hand the sinister wiles and atrocities of Evil, particularly during this time of year as it seems the world always appears to crescendo to a heightened sense of madness–just as the holidays come into focus. I don’t know why that is except that as the world seems to not only witness an abundance of joy and goodwill, there seems to be an equal measure of evil and chaos. Perhaps it is because Christians are drawn to the birth of the Savior and Jews begin the celebration of the miracle of light and the rededication to the Second Temple– a time of a tremendous pull of people toward God—as it seems Evil must have its share of the pie by unleashing its part of unimaginable pain and suffering in order to create some sort of sadistic counter balance.

Perhaps our senses are on hyper drive this time of year as we keenly feel the highs of Joy and Wonder along with the bottomless pit of despair and suffering as they each roll in to one. These thoughts reverberate in my mind just as Sydney, Australia was held hostage Monday by a radical Islamist madman leaving 3 individuals, including the gunman, dead. Then on Tuesday, Pakistan witnessed an unimaginable attack on a school leaving 132 children and 9 adult staff members dead all at the hands of the Taliban.

We currently have a menacing cyber attack taking place at Sony as North Korea is suspected to be retaliating to the release of a tongue and cheek movie which sadly mocks an attempted assassination of an, albeit, unhinged world leader. Sometimes I think we, those of us in the West with our often sophomoric entertainment industry, have lost our sense of what is considered off limits or morally wrong when it comes to the exploitation of movie making and entertainment—but I suppose a moral compass would be needed in the first place in order to be reminded of such. . .

We have just marked the tragic anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre as we continue reading headline after headline of local, national and global tragedies. Just as the world tries to come together in some sort of unity marking two very sacred holy times of the year as well as the secular merry making of Santa, Papa Noel and Kris Kringle’s arrival.

In reading Solzhenitsyn’s book Warning to the West, which is actually a brief composite and compendium of the texts to three separate addresses made in the US in the late 1970’s, it is startlingly frightening noting the parallels of then verses now. I am keenly reminded of the relevance of Solzhenitsyn’s words which were uttered almost 40 years ago as they could very well be spoken on the world stage today regarding today’s global state. I will leave you with a few pieces of his excerpted texts in order to ponder and ruminate the relevance and warnings which echo across our prosaic landscape as we wrestle to make sense of the tragic events which continue to unfold before our very eyes this holiday season. . .

“Is it possible or impossible to transmit the experience of those who have suffered to those who have yet to suffer? Can one part of humanity learn from the bitter experience of another or can it not? Is it possible or impossible to warn someone of danger?
How many witnesses have been sent to the West in the last sixty years? How may waves of immigrants? How many millions of persons? They are all here. You meet them every day. You know who they are: if not by their spiritual disorientation, their grief, their melancholy, then you can distinguish them by their accents or their external appearance. Coming from different countries, without consulting with one another, they have brought out exactly the same experience; They tell you exactly the same thing: they warn you of what is now taking place and of what has taken place in the past. But the proud skyscrapers stand on, jut into the sky, and say: It will never happen here. This will never come to us. It is not possible here.”

“In addition to the grave political situation in the world today, we are also witnessing the emergence of a crisis of unknown nature, one completely new, and entirely non-political. We are approaching a major turning point in world history, the the history of civilization. It has already been noted by specialists in various areas. I could compare it only with the turning from the Middle Ages to the modern era, a shift in our civilization. It is a juncture at which settled concepts suddenly become hazy, lose their precise contours, at which our familiar and commonly used words lose their meaning, become empty shells, and methods which have been reliable for many centuries no longer work. It’s the sort of turning point where the hierarchy of values which we have generated, and which we use to determine what is important to us and what causes our hearts to beat is starting to rock and may collapse.
These two crises, the political crisis of today’s world and the oncoming spiritual crisis, are occurring at the same time. It is our generation that will have to confront them. The leadership of your country, which is entering the third century of existence as a nation will perhaps have to bear a burden greater than ever before in American history. Your leaders will need profound intuition, spiritual foresight, high qualities of mind and soul. May God granted that in those times you will have at the helm personalities as great as those who rested your country . . .”

(excepts taken from a speech delivered in New York July 9, 1975, at a luncheon given by the AFL-CIO)