civil discourse

“Of our thinking it is but the upper surface that we shape into articulate thought;
underneath the region of argument and conscious discourse lies the region of meditation.”

Thomas Carlyle


(big sister Alice with her boy friend Sonny / Julie Cook / 2018)

Civil discourse…
two words…
the first-word meaning—courteous and polite
the other word meaning—a conversation

Put them together and you have a ‘courteous polite conversation.’

Yet that is not exactly what we are witnessing taking place across this society of ours.

Firstly let’s take a look at our current protests emanating from within our schools.

This is a bit of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it’s a good thing that our kids are upset over the escalating violence
taking place from within our schools—of which are, in actuality, their schools.

But let us be specific here…this violence we’re speaking of would be gun violence
and gun violence only.

It has nothing to do with the fighting, the rampant profanity, the disrespect,
the brawls, the knives, the unwanted sexual advances, the thefts or the bullying
that continues taking place…
all of which continues to happen on a daily basis in many of our schools across this nation…
nor does it really address the fact that many of these kids who are coming to school with
these guns are known to and by other kids…that no one necessarily sees the coming storm or
acknowledges a hand in the making of the storm is both problematic and disconcerting.

And granted that is not always the case, as we have sadly seen at schools such as Sandy Hook…
that these are not necessarily known kids on anyone’s particular radar.
In the case of Sandy Hook, we had an older teenager coming into an unsuspecting elementary school…

So not each shoe obviously fits every foot.

We are on a case by case basis.

We are also talking about frustrated minors..aka adolescents.

Adolescents, as we all know, is a time of an emotional roller coaster full of angst
and hormones.
Emotions run high, deep and quick.

When I was a student in high school, Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement had just hit
their zenith.
Protests, sit-ins, love-ins, demonstrations had all become standard words within the
vocabulary of our Nation.
We had witnessed college kids “expressing” themselves…
so naturally, high school kids felt equally as strongly yet were perhaps frustrated by the
inability to truly take part in the sweeping discontent as seen on many college campuses.

At the turn of the decade from the 60’s to the 70’s, I was in the 8th grade—
which was a part of our 8-12 high school.
A beloved teacher was fired for supposedly moonlighting as a bartender.

There was a walkout.

The principal came out of the school with a bullhorn—he told the disgruntled student body
that if they, the students, didn’t immediately return to class, there would be
disciplinary actions against those students insisting on continuing with the walkout.

Naturally, I went right back inside.

I didn’t want to get in trouble—not with the school nor with my parents who would be livid
if I decided to show my “butt” by being defiant and disrespectful to the rules and authority
of our principal and the school.

A couple of years later, during my senior year, I remember very clearly when the senior
class had prepared for some sort of no-show day…
The principal had gotten word of the senior class opting for a massive skip day so
he called in the class officers—of which I just happened to be vice president.
He told us, in no uncertain terms, that if we participated in the skip day—
there would be serious repercussions.

Now if this sort of thing happened today…the idea of a principal “threatening” a
group of students with repercussions for participating in a skip day…
well, there would be undoubtedly parents up in arms as lawyers would be circling
the wagons salivating to get involved…
Least of which would be the ACLU, who mind you, would be jumping on the bandwagon
sputtering nonsense about the civil liberties of students and threats against minors.

Our principal explained that we were the leaders of our class and that we were to set
an example of doing what wasn’t necessarily the popular thing but doing that which was
the right thing…
There were rules about skipping school and if we opted to skip…
well, there’d be penalties for our poor choices.

Needless to say, the four of us were in school that day,
along with a handful of other mindful students.

In the end, did I simply miss a good time or had I learned an important life lesson?
I would say that latter.

As a former high school teacher, I can honestly say that I appreciate the passion
many of our kids are displaying for wanting to take a stand against the gun
violence happening in their close-knit worlds.

But…

at the same time, our schools have rules about things such as disobedience,
defiance and rule-breaking…
where things such as walkouts and or demonstrations fall directly under said headings.

Schools should not be “punished” for maintaining a standard level of discipline.
If one system supports a national walkout—that’s fine…
Such being a school system’s prerogative.
Yet no one should punish or shame those schools or districts who decide to hold onto their
standards, rules, and approach to discipline versus participating in a walkout.

I was more than slightly incensed last evening when I heard an Atlanta lawyer interviewed
on the local news using his legal language insinuating that students had been
“pressured, intimidated and bullied” by school officials over their wanting to walk
out when the school had issued a ban on doing such.

If your school was one to opt out…well then…that’s that is it not?

We live with rules…whether we like it or not.
A civil society.

And our kids are just that…they are kids.
While we, in turn, are the adults.
Sometimes the responsibility of the care entrusted to us over our kids comes in the
form of rules, discipline and even tough love.
Adults are entrusted to make the rules…rules which are in place to help govern
a civil society.
And as adults, we are charged with the care of our students and children and the fact
that they must understand that we set rules for a reason.

Obviously, our legislators need to act…
And as adults, it is our responsibility to see to it that they do act—
and if we don’t like how they act…we therefore voice our objection and vote
them out of office.

Is it not our responsibility to support our school administrators who
need to be allowed to do their jobs—
of which…is to keep our kids safe, orderly and educated.

These moments, which we have been witnessing around this Nation of ours regarding the
disgruntlement our kids, are what we call “teachable moments”…
moments when its ok to deviate from the curriculum and lessons at hand as we address
a bigger issue.

But allowing the protests and defiance to take on a larger than life momentum,
as well as a life of its own, in turn, creates a disservice to each and every victim…

so…do we do our best to work toward a means of civil discourse
or do we simply allow our children to begin living as we adults are…
living by throwing civility, laws, and rules totally out the window as
the end means…
getting what it is we think we need and want by any raising the loudest and
most disruptive clamor—
Becoming a society that gets what it thinks it wants by making demands and
strong-arming any and all sense of order or civility…

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

hedonism

“Men in the vehement pursuit of happiness grasp at the first object which
offers to them any prospect of satisfaction,
but immediately they turn an introspective eye and ask,
‘Am I happy?’
and at once from their innermost being a voice answers distinctly,
‘No, you are as poor and as miserable as before.

‘Then they think it was the object that deceived them and turn precipitately
to another. But the second holds as little satisfaction as the first…
Wandering then through life restless and tormented,
at each successive station they think that happiness dwells at the next,
but when they reach it happiness is no longer there.
In whatever position they may find themselves there is always
another one which they discern from afar, and which but to touch,
they think, is to find the wished delight,
but when the goal is reached discontent has followed on the way stands
in haunting constancy before them.”

Johann Gottlieb Fichte


(ripening persimmons / Julie Cook / 2017)

We wonder where it started…this hedonistic nature of ours.
History certainly speaks of the Roman’s thirst for all things sensual and soothing.
An insatiable appetite of all things of pleasure.
With a never-ending quest for the wanton.

And yet we know of other societies, other cultures that were equally focused on
a hunger for lusty tastes.
So does this mean that this hedonism of ours is an innate quality or
is it rather a learned trait?

Oftentimes we of the present feel a smug sense of superiority to those people
of the past.
We believe ourselves to be more knowledgable, more sophisticated,
better educated…
so therefore we grow overtly confident and even pompous believing ourselves
better than.

And yet current events are appearing to indicate that we may not actually be
better than…as in better educated, better controlled or even a better people…

Take the following observation by our friend the Wee Flea….

“As an international chaplain I find it a source of constant embarrassment that many international students are bemused and offended by the banality and stupidity of a monolithic hedonistic culture, which seems to be encouraged by the University.”

The Rev Robertson offers us his latest observation in a posting concerning the recent
start to Dundee University’s school year with the welcoming of the new freshman class.

University Challenge

Pastor Robertson raises concern over what appears to be an ever increasingly
pleasure seeking college population.
Our western college and university campuses are now rife with a generation of
youthful learners known as snowflakes…meaning they rapidly melt at the
slightest hint of uncomfortableness…all the while the majority busy
themselves imbibing in any and all earthly and sensual pleasure…
with their mantra being “you only live once.”

Pastor Robertson recalls that “I once spoke to some third and fourth year
male students who had returned early for Fresher’s week.
“Why have you returned so early?”
“Fresh meat!” was their sickening reply.
They had come back to see how many new female students they could sleep with.
This is how in our ‘PC’ culture women are treated.”

University officials however, as we have witnessed throughout this country
in most recent weeks, appear not to be in control of their youthful charges
as they turn blind eyes to the raucous and even violent behavior.

Most college educated adults know first hand about the difficulties of balancing
both faith with what is known as “the college experience.”

Newly found freedoms, a plethora of choices, liberal academic thinking,
accented with open sex, alcohol and drugs…makes keeping the faith an often
difficult task for even the most ardent of Believers.

All the while administrations and educators are turning a blind eye, or even worse,
offering words of encouragement for experimentation…coddling and indulging a
growing generation of self indulgent narcissists.

That is until various troubles hit the news circuits…
Think Penn State’s current legal woes over the death of a college freshman at
the hands of his drunken fraternity brothers or the costly destruction to property following the riots at Cal Berkeley and Evergreen College in Washington.

In his most recent post, the good Pastor reflects on the backlash a school
administrator faced when pushing back on the young charges under her leadership.

The former principal of St Andrews University, Louise Richardson (now of Oxford),
has been told to apologise after she upset some students by claiming that they
have no right not to be offended.

Predictably they were offended by her remarks.

She claimed that she had been approached by several students who
are uncomfortable with the views about homosexuality expressed by some professors
and lecturers.
“they don’t feel comfortable being in class with someone with these views.
And I say, I’m sorry but my job isn’t to make you feel comfortable.
Education is not about being comfortable.
I’m interested in making you uncomfortable.
If you don’t like his views, you challenge them,
engage with them and figure out how a smart person could have views like that.
Work out how you can persuade him to change his mind.”

Her sensible and mature attitude surely would not in almost any other age in the UK,
have needed to have been said–but in today’s censorious,
dumbed down and intolerant culture they were deemed to be highly controversial.

Oxford University student union president Kate Cole, said
“Freedom of speech is not an excuse for homophobia”.
In other words forget freedom of speech if it is deemed across our absolutist line!

Oxford City Councillor, Tom Hayes added;”
it’s simply not acceptable for students to face prejudice tutors who will
propagate hateful views and pass of discrimination as debate”.
Doubtless Mr Hayes will tell us what hateful views are
(presumably anyone who disagrees with him)
and will ensure that no debate takes place at all.

In another sign of the irrationality gripping some sections of academia,
a student Latin course (Reading Latin by Jones and Sidwell)
was outed by an American PhD student because the text featured three goddesses,
each confidently stripping off, determined to win the golden apple from Paris,
and two rapes.
Such ‘offensive’ choices, she said, did not help the cause of Latin,
‘or make the historically racist and classist discipline of
classics more acceptable”.

Meanwhile back on planet earth normal students face their own University Challenge.

Rod Liddle – “The idea that she might subordinate her feelings for the good of
some higher purpose did not sit easily with Diana.
Because according to this new mantra, there is no higher purpose than
simply what one feels”

LED 8 – Yemen – The Proms and the EU Cult- Jacob Rees Mogg – Religious Decline in the UK – Canadian Immigration – Irma, Climate Change and Lovelock’s Change – University Principal takes on Snowflake Students – John Knox’s Transgender Toilets – Don Williams.

And so I will close our look at the new fall term taking place in our Western society
with words both thoughtful and prayerful offered by the good Pastor on behalf or our
students, those Believers amongst them and of the adults charged with their care and education.

Let us pray for, encourage and seek to serve those who have begun the new term this week. Especially those Christians who go against the flow and are prepared to stand up for what they believe in the face of an increasing hostile culture. As our Universities forget their Christian roots and market themselves as monolithic academic businesses.
They are becoming places where a diversity of views is not encouraged.
In such an environment Christians are the real radicals!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,
in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

worry, what me?

“The same has happened on this side of the pond when Christians
think that their views on Brexit are essential to the maintenance of the gospel.
Do we not realise how puny and pathetic it is that we play power politics with
our limited knowledge and abilities?
Does it not display a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God?
We are certainly entitled and encouraged as free citizens in a democracy
to have our own political views–
but we are not to make the Kingdom of God dependent on them.
Sometimes the Lord will use a pagan king, like Cyrus,
to fulfill his will.
Sometimes he will convert the Emperor.
But at all times those who are his people need to rely on him to open the door.”

David Robertson

d4c6ea0e2d387adadf284ac846b05090
(Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman)

For some odd reason, mainstream media, most political leaders, liberal Hollywood…
the list only grows daily,
are all feeling as if the world, as we know it,
will be coming to an end by week’s end.

And then on the other hand, we have a growing number of the faithful
who believe that the ‘end of time’, once again as we know it,
is to take place,
as well,
by week’s end…
as in Jesus will be trumping, no true pun intended, Friday’s inauguration.

And if you’re anything like me, you may actually be hoping for the latter as
I’ve had just about all of the naysaying, whining, grousing, fussing, cussing
and downright vile vitriol sputum flowing out of the mouths of most of this
angst ridden nation of ours that I can stomach.

We have governmental elected officials and leaders who are threatening to boycott
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have entertainers who are encouraging defiance and protest before and during
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have colleges, state funded mind you, providing “safe places” on their campuses
for their dismayed students to be able to cry and be comforted because
of a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have fellow Americans threatening other fellow Americans because of a presidential
inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have other country’s warning and threatening us with reprisals, retribution or retaliation
over a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have the birth of fake news taking place because of a presidential inauguration…

Shame on us all…

It beats all I have ever known in this lifetime of mine.

News flash.

I don’t think the end will be ending on Friday.
Pretty certain you can take that to the bank.

It’s all just a shame.

A shame that educated adults are behaving so badly
as we wonder why the kids are behaving so badly.

Adults setting examples of immaturity, pettiness, ugliness, hate, tit for tat,
alarmism, rudeness, disrespectfulness…
everything accusatory that was shouted at the president elect for what was claimed that he
was displaying and demonstrating
is now being demonstrated and carried out by those very accusers—

So now it appears that no one is acting any better than the other…
and there’s nary a soul in this Nation who has decided to demonstrate real character by
taking the high road…

A few weeks back I read a wonderful article by a Scottish pastor, David Roberts, reflecting on
a bit of this current obsessing over the idea of the end times…
as it seems everyone on either side of the fence, faithful and not,
are in some sort of rising state of panic….

I offer a link here for the faithful and the non faithful alike….

Why Christians Need to Stop Worrying about the End Times – (Revelation no.7)