Silence, authentic and evil

“The Islamic State’s genocide of Christians in the Middle East is well
documented. Yet this modern atrocity is often judged less newsworthy than the
jihadists’ destruction of the region’s cultural heritage. What are the roots
and human realities of this unfolding tragedy in the birthplace of three
great religions?”

back cover offering of the book The Last Christians by Fr Andreas Knapp


(one of our trees in last week’s snow / Julie Cook / 2017)

Speaking of books arriving via the post….
another bookmailer showed up in my mailbox yesterday…

Dare I say that this most recent book will take us in a vastly different
direction than the children’s book seen in yesterday’s post
If My Moon Was Your Sun by Andreas Steinhofel….
Not to say that there won’t be both poignancy, sorrow and loss…
but such will be on a scale that will touch all of us rather than some of us….

This recent book does not look to be an easy read.
Not that there should be great burdensome amount of academic depth but rather simply
the hard tale of human loss and suffering on an epic and historic proportion….
and yet mostly on an overlooked and even ignored level.

Of which is actually most perplexing given the significance of the situation.

The book is entitled The Last Christians by Andreas Knapp

“For a long time Christians in the Middle East have been condemned to silence.
For centuries they have been discriminated against by a predominantly Muslim
society and, as a minority, they have been forced to quietly accept
injustice and lead an inconspicuous life in the shadows.
Even I, a preist and theologian, was for a long time unaware of the moving story
of Christians in Syria and Iraq.

Two years ago, I met some Christians from the Middle East who now live in my
neighborhood of Grunau, in Leipzig, Germany. Having listened to their stories,
I was so moved I had to write them down.
They may not be entirely politically correct, but they are correct in
the sense that they are authentic.”

Fr Andrea Knapp

It is noted from the publisher that “remarkably, though these last Christians hold
no hope of ever returning to their homes, they also harbor no thirst for revenge.
Could it be that they–along with the Christians of the West, whose interest will
determine their fate–hold the key to breaking the cycle of violence in the region?

Their’s is a story that I have actually written about before…
around the same time Fr Knapp, the German priest,
came to see with his own eyes, then came to write down his interactions
and observations…
but yet this is a story that is still exceedingly timely and necessary to hear.

My origianal post is from March of 2015 and is more informative
than what is offered here today…as it includes a 60 Minutes segment in which
Lara Logan had also gone to visit the region in order to see and hear
first hand the plight of this particular group of ancient Christians.

The post offers images and insight into the barbarism used by ISIS to systematically annihilate this last vestige of the original Christians who have existed in this
region since both the death and resurrection of Christ.

Regarding the book…I have not yet had a chance to delve into it…
but from what I have gleaned from the tantalizing tidbits…
this will be not only a very important tale to Christians but also a hugely important
story for historians, Jews as well as Muslims…as it actually determines the course
of humanity.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/blood-of-the-lamb/

And perhaps ironically today, as I was thinking about these first Christians who are
lined up to be the last of their kind, I caught a very brief, like all of 2 minute,
video clip of an interview of sorts given by the Reformed Presbyterian Minister David Robertson—
a clip where he is responding to the question of
‘How does the existence of Evil undermine the atheistic worldview?

Pastor Robertson notes that in the mind of an atheist, the existence of Evil
is a clear sign that there is no God.
As they will rationalize that if there was a God,
He would in turn be all powerful and therefore He could and would prevent all Evil….
So since there is Evil, there is obviously no God.

Yet on the flip side of all of that is how then does the atheist define Evil
with no moral absolutes?
If there are no rules, no judgements, no afterlife, no God, no way of resolving
or dealing with Evil, how does the atheist actually deal with the concept of
evil in any sort of defining way.
The answer… He cannot.

So the non believer has a conundrum…with the mindset of ‘well, since there is no
God and Evil isn’t Evil, we might as well just live it up….

This as humankind wrestles with what to do about the historic and epic genocides…atrocities which have taken place throughout all of time.

And so you are now asking as to why I would write about such during this time of
Advent—a time of all things full of Expectancy, Anticipation and Christmas…
a time that is to be of softness, love and dare we say, hope…
Why should we worry ourselves over the ugliness of reality as those are problems
not on our particular or given radar—things that are happening over there some
place and out of sight.

Why write about the annihilation of Aramaic Christians, atheists and their fight for disbelief and the very concept of Evil….

‘Please not here, not now, not at Christmas…’ we are each heard to lament.

Well it actually is because it is Advent and the Christmas season that we should be
and need to be most mindful of such….

As those of us who confess to be Believers must not find ourselves falling
into the hole of secularism and the Societal notion of Christmas…
of which we have done.

This secular celebration of all things Christmas that is currently in all
its full glory and regalia is lulling us into a time of contented ignorant bliss.

And just as I reminded us in Tuesday’s Meat and Potatoes post….
this time of year is particularly very loud and very noisy…for a reason…

Do you not think that there is one who delights in the pure distraction
from what is to be our Truth?

Advent….
yes…
be ready,
be watching,
be waiting…
for there are epic things taking place all the while as we busy ourself with
the minutia of the moment while missing the importance of the day…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15

disbelief and consequence

“But again He is equally present in sudden unexpected moments,
and it is the neglect of these moments that is the most fruitful source
of disbelief in Him.”

Charles Williams


(a hidden squirrel enjoys supper / Julie Cook / 2017)

the following is a question posed by a novice to his master teacher,
Elder St. Paisios the Athonite….

Q. Geronda (common name referring to a Greek Orthodox monk),
why was Moses deprived of the Promised Land for a minor fault?

A. It was not a minor fault; it was disbelief.

God had provided for the Israelites’ passage across the Red Sea [ Exodus 14:1-31],
and provided water for them at Sinai [Exodus 15:22-25; 17:1-7],
nourished them with manna [Exodus 16:1-36].
He had shown them so many marvels.
And yet, when they were once again without water, they complained.
And when God told Moses to strike the rock to get water, he doubted Him:
‘Is it possible for water to come out from the rock’ [ Numbers 1-13]?

That is why God later gave him that rule:
‘As punishment, you will see the Promised Land only from a distance
[ Deuteronomy 32:48-52].

Now if God had not provided water for them before in such a miraculous manner,
then Moses could have been somewhat justified for his disbelief.
At this point, however, there was no justification for his disbelief,
which is why God did not permit him to enter the Promised Land.”

— From the book Passions and Virtues:
Counsels of Elder St. Paisios the Athonite, vol. 5.

“This is what the Lord says:
‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.
These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words,
who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods
to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless!
For as a belt is bound around the waist,
so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’
declares the Lord,
‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor.
But they have not listened.’

Jeremiah 13:9-11

bits and pieces

In designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences.
Pope John Paul II

You can’t sacrifice truth because some people will suffer because of the truth.
Ben Shapiro


(shelf fungus deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

Slowly a Nation is learning the bits and pieces of the unimaginable horrific puzzle that now makes up the small Texas town of Sutherland Springs.

A town shattered…along with families shattered…
as a Nation shatters just a little bit more.

The stories of a madman now percolate to the surface as fact is sifted from fiction.

People have raced to conclusions—be they true or false, mainly because people
want to validate their own thoughts, fears and notions of the hows and whys.

But as I said yesterday, the real how and why is simple.

Satan.

Satan, Evil, demons exist and it is all very much real…
all because you and I live in a fallen world.

So believe and argue as you may, there is no other rationale or
understandable explanation but for where we fall into the world of
the Creator as His created.

Evil is evil and will perpetuate itself throughout the course of all of time
while human beings walk this planet…until Salvation returns….

Yet people will blame everything and anything else, the this and that of things
because they refuse to accept that the root of all the blame is simply Evil’s
product…with that being hate.

Hate for people…
Hate for self.
Hate for God.

The Scottish Pastor David Robertson offered his own take yesterday in an article
written for Premiere Christianity:

In June 2015, when Dylan Roof, who was a militant racist, killed nine church members
in a church prayer meeting in Charleston South Carolina,
there was justified outrage which highlighted the continuing poison of racism in
US society and even led to the removal of several Confederate monuments throughout the nation.

So when a professed atheist goes into a church and kills 26 Christians,
why is that not even considered as a possible factor?
Where are the demands to remove all memorials of famous atheists?

….I have already seen several comments which mocked Christians who have prayed for the situation. “They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.”
Even the BBC news report on it this evening signed off with a snide gibe that Americans seem to think the answer is in guns and God.

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/The-Texas-Christian-Massacre-and-the-man-who-committed-it

Hate.
It was a word growing up as children we were told never to use.
We were taught that ‘hate’ was not to be a part of our language,
let alone a thread in our fiber as a human being…
If you were good and decent, you didn’t hate…rather you cared for, you loved,
you were empathetic, you were compassionate…you were to be anything but ‘hate’

And yet we subconsciously saw and heard it in its nuanced guise hidden behind our
fears, phobias and our sense of both right and wrong…
and when those bad unimaginable things happened,
we allowed ourselves to finally speak and feel the full fury of the word..
as the full level of our hate was unleashed under our own sense of self righteous
indignation.

Just as we now see how easily it rolls out of our mouthes and emerges ever so freely
from our own actions.

As the one glaring fact remains…that hate indeed begets further hate.
As in a perpetual state of a hate filled continuum.
And it is a continuum that we have bought into and adopted as our own.

Yet our Faith constantly admonishes us…Do Not Hate.

But how hard, how difficult that all is when Evil kills children at point blank range.

My thoughts and tears are now there in Sutherland Springs for the Holcombe family
who lost 8 family members Sunday morning to Evil’s hate.

Sons, daughters, husbands, wives, unborn babies….all gone, all taken…
as prayers were being said and hymns had been sung.

In his book Lessons in Hope George Weigel shares the tale of his personal
time spent over the years with Pope John Paul II—
Weigel recounts the assassination attempt on the Pope’s life by the assasin Ali Agca.

“In salvation history—that inner core of world history in which God’s purposes are
worked out through the action of divine grace on individual lives—there are neither happenstance nor coincidences. Rather, what appears to be sheer happenstance or coincidence is an aspect of Providence we don’t yet grasp.”

So here we now are…feeling alone, vulnerable and reeling from what seems to be
an endless march of madness against humanity….
We are left grappling with our own emotions and fears and lack of security.
We are left struggling while sorting out our disbelief, denial, acceptance,
forgiveness and even our hate…

All the while we wrestle with what is to be our reaction to Satan

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.
For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,
cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love
their brother and sister.

1 John 4:20-21

we continue beating our heads against the wall

I am hitting my head against the walls,
but the walls are giving way.

Gustav Mahler


(a little moth sits on the garage wall / Julie Cook / 2017)

Once again we are left standing before the hard blank wall of this current time of ours,
beating our heads in bewilderment, disbelief and overwhelming sorrow and grief.

Once again a radicalized young man has decided to step up to the plate of all things
evil by willingly sacrificing his life in the demented notion of all
things Allah and Islam by blowing himself up to bits in hopes of inflicting as much
mayhem, fear and death as he possibly can….
upon children.

Never mind his overt cowardice in his choice of targets.
Never mind that his priorities and choices were all screwed up.
Never mind that there won’t be any reward, let alone 70 virgins, awaiting
upon his arrival in Heaven…for Heaven is a far cry from his final destination….

A suicide bomber is the ultimate in cowardliness…
for despite the skewed thinking of ISIS, that such a murderer is really a martyr
in disguise…
a suicide bomber’s actions are so grossly screwed that they possess neither glory
nor valor but rather an altered, dare we say, demonic view of reality.
Never to be considered a true soldier of war….but rather as a poser and pretender..
a mere shadow of a fighter hiding among the woman and children.

Yet none of this talk, none of the future ensuing blame game, none of the what if’s will
be of any comfort to this new set of grieving families as they now are left to sadly join
ranks with those other families who have preceded them in the grief of what is known as
terrorist attack survivors.

This phenomenon of surviving terrorism is becoming all too common.
Such that I fear the world grows a bit hardened.
The attacks, the tragedies, the lives left shattered, the lives torn apart, the pieces of
the world forever shaken, are becoming more frequent than we can mentally process.

We of Western Civilization are left with two choices.
We can either stand beating our heads against the wall,
all the while knowing that these sorts of catastrophic events will indeed happen again
and again and again….
or we can say enough.

And if we are indeed strong enough to say “Enough!”
We will have to stand in solidarity against the politicians, the entertainers and
even our fellow citizens who insist on choosing to turn a blind eye to the root cause.

“Enough!” we say to those who want the world to continue on it this surrealistic
state of denial…
“Enough”! to those who say forget the vetting, forget the travel bans,
forget the carefree open boarders because we are a better people than that…

For it is in that naive line of thinking where our problem lies…

There was a time when we could welcome those wishing to come to the land of freedom
and democracy in search of a new life….
Opening our arms and embracing those who saw something of promise and hope
in Western Civilization.
These newcomers joyfully did what it took in order to contribute to their new home.
Seeking work, most often hard and labor intensive.
They sent their children to American schools and wanted their children
to learn to read, write and communicate in English

Yet now within the masses of those who are coming and going freely are the very ones
who say to us that we are not a kinder more open people but rather that we are a foolish
and grossly naive people…and that our demise is their only desire.

That is not alarmist thinking.
That is not xenophobic thinking.
That is just the reality of our current times.
For we are indeed naive.

The Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan is a small microcosm of perhaps our
own naiveté.
It is estimated that 45% of Dearborn’s approximate 95,000 total population are
Arab Americans with a large percentage of those devoted followers of Islam.
Sharia law is readily observed and Dearborn is considered the Arab capital of
America housing the largest Mosque in North America.

And whereas it is an example of an enclave of ethnicity and immigration where many of those who
live do so wishing to live a dual existence of being both Middle Eastern and American,
it is also an area of welcome…a haven for others whose desires are not as virtuous
as they may readily blend in unnoticed.
For it is an area that is more Middle Eastern than American.

Yet those who argue when eyebrows raise,
point to places like Harlem, pockets of minority living that are
cultural places for minorities to feel comfortable living while feeling connected.

And there will be some who find highlighting such a city and its dominate population as being
bigoted, insensitive, racist or that of some nutty right wing alarmist’s observation…

That is not this post’s intent.

Yet whereas many will say that Dearborn is simply like those once predominately Irish,
Italian or German neighborhoods of the turn of the 20th century…
there is one big difference.
And that is the difference of ideology.

For there is a vast difference between the ideology of the Judaeo Christian
Western Civilization seen in the Irish, Jewish, Black, Latino neighborhoods
verses the neighborhoods of Middle Eastern Muslims.

And it is in that same ideological difference that lies the unwillingness to adopt Western
ways or to assimilate while melding into the culture.
Rather it is preferred, or more aptly expected, that the host culture melds to the ideology
of Islam…where Sharia law takes precedence to local American law.

Yet in our manic desire to appear to be all encompassing and welcoming, we bend over
backwards to accommodate and appease.
And therein lies our problem.
Yet most of us simply don’t see a problem.

And whereas we can all agree that the times in which we live are indeed frightening and
most uncertain, there are steps and measures that we can take to bring an extra level
of safe guarding to the situation,
but the problem is that our leaders and even many of our citizens are yet not willing to do such.

So we’ll just keep beating our heads, raising our terror threat levels and literally
picking up the pieces of the shattered lives because we simply refuse to see
what’s going on….

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! … The fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog. … Insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. … A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity….”

“The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property,
either as a child, a wife, or a concubine,
must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power
among men.
Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities…
but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it…”

“No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund,
Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.
It has already spread throughout Central Africa,
raising fearless warriors at every step;
and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science,
the science against which it had vainly struggled,
the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”

Winston Churchill
The Nile River Walk 1899

who’s listening?

God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C.S. Lewis

The Son of God suffered unto the death,
not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.

George MacDonald


(Percy surveys the rain / Julie Cook / 2017)

iF God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy,
and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished.
But the creatures are not happy.
Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”
this is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.

C.S Lewis’ opening sentence from the book The Problem Of Pain

When I initially read the quote about God shouting to us in our pain…
The sheer notion that God is indeed shouting when we are at our lowest,
most often at our most vulnerable and even most desperate…
I found it to be, well, oddly comforting.

For Mr Lewis reminds us that while God knows we are having trouble listening…
trouble hearing Him speak to us, wooing us, comforting us….
He has no problem in shouting at us, to us, in order to get our attention.
For He is steadfast that way….

For man, in his inestimable knowledge, has concluded that if humans are in pain,
hurting, tortured, agonizing and grossly unhappy…
man falsely concludes that any being that boasts to be an
Omnipotent God who can do all things…why would this God of supposed Love, Compassion and Grace
sadistically allow all the anguish and pain to not only continue, but
to exist in the first place?

The conclusion…there is no God…
or if there is…He is cold, calculating and menacing….

And that is very much like us is it not?

We find something to our disliking, our displeasure, and we expunge it from our world
or we label it as an enemy to our living…
For we believe we are a people of absolutes…but the truth of the matter is, we are not.
For we do not tolerate absolutes…we rebel against the notion of the definitive.

And in this world of absolute verse definitive,
we have hardened our hearts and chosen the side of the secular…
In part because we cannot tolerate the fact that we live in
a world full of pain and in that pain we actually find our need and helplessness…
And it is in that helplessness that we seem unable to allow our ego and pride to go…

For in our defiance against the Absolute Creator,
our hearts have grown cold as our eyes are now blind and our ears now deaf.
We are weak and vulnerable, yet we defiantly, as little children,
stomp our feet while displaying our anger and resentment within our proclaimed disbelief.

All the while our God shouts as we stand with our fingers jammed in our ears.

For God continues to speak louder and louder…
Patiently, steadily calling us one by one,
name by name… to His open arms, to His side…
because the day is coming when there will be no more sorrow,
no more anger, no more grief, no more pain…

And soon a senseless world begins to make sense to the believer…
Because the believer knows that he has never been a part of
this limited pain filled world….

There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation;
There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
My wounds grow foul and fester Because of my folly.

Psalm 38:3-5

Spiritual man

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

img_1287
(a small framed image of Jesus that my dad has had his entire life sitting on his
dresser from the time he was a young boy until now)

Sitting with my dad who is just shy of 89 and is indeed dying…
who despite my small attempts of diversion when he hangs his head low in despair
and utters a forlorn…
“I’m on my death bed…with this terminal cancer.
I just don’t have much longer….”

As I find myself countering with a rather matter of fact “well Dad,
I suppose we could say that all of us are terminal to some degree or another…”

And it is not my intent to be callous or flippant in my reply but rather to stave off
the black places Dad has always gravitated to.
For you see that not only has Dad been a glass is half empty kind of guy…
his glass has always been nonexistent…
He is A.A. Milne’s character Eeyore come to life

He continues…
“Reckon man just made all this business up about heaven?
How do we really know we go to be with God?
How do we know there really is a God…”

as his warbly voice trails off as his heavy lids flutter over the now glassy tired eyes…

Despite being raised a Southern Baptist, who years ago jumped ship for the
Episcopal Church, and despite serving on the vestry and serving for years as
an usher at church…
Dad has always played the role of doubter…often bordering on the ludicrous.

And always oddly seeming to enjoy drawing my ire when, after watching countless
shows about extra terrestrial life and sweeping galactic space shows,
muses about aliens coming and going verses the foundations of our faith….

He even got caught up in more lunacy after watching a show about the missing
years of Jesus’ growing up…
the what ifs of what happened in those years following a youthful Jesus of 12 being lost
from the family during the pilgrimage for the Passover,
while finally being found in the Temple,
to the next part of the story, years later, as he meets John at the River Jordan….

Dad’s mind wandering to what Jesus did in those 21 yeas in between.
He watched a show that claimed the young boy Jesus took it upon himself to travel to
India to be enlightened during those missing 21 years…
Dad buying hook, line and sinker into the nonsense….

I would get so frustrated wanting to know why in the world he would watch such crazy
farfetched shows…
and for heaven’s sakes…
why on earth would he buy into the foolishness…

And just as easily as I share my disgruntlement over Dad’s willingness to dip deep
into the well of snake oil and falasies,
there are those who are currently reading this post, who in turn are thinking…
“Julie’s dad has a point.”
How do we know?
How does anyone know?

And that’s when I looked at Dad, who is now swiveled and shrinking and racked with pain
in his little hospital bed which has long replaced his regular bed,
as I tell him, “we simply call it faith Dad…”
“Yeah, that’s what John Bruster use to tell me”
John Bruster being Dad’s former parish priest.

“We’ll Dad, it is the foundation of Christianity…
the underpinning as it were…
faith…

Which brings us all back around full circle to the quote by Father Teilhard de Chardin…
that man is indeed a spiritual being.
And he, man, yearns, nay aches, to be connected to that which he seeks.

Many people spend a lifetime seeking to quell the ache.
It is sought so falsely…in so many dark corners of our lives.
Empty and fleeting.
Always grasping for the tangible proof, we run a lifetime into the empty ground of
conjecture while being placated by magic…
wanting, seeking…yet always coming up empty.

It is found in the faith of the God who offered a piece of Himself to be born
into our misery,
Who chose to bear our burdens,
the darkest and most foul reassess of our diseased and blackened minds…
who took upon himself the sickness and brokeness and shortcomings of our bodies…
who faced depravity, deception and falsehoods…
who suffered…
who died and was buried…
Who vanquished hell…
And who rose again…
and is now seated at the right hand of His Father
And who will indeed truly come again…
Who will judge both the living and the dead
And who will welcome us home…

It is that which we claim although our eyes do not see…
For it is in that which we rest our hope in…
our Faith….

“Compel yourselves;
say the prayer;
stop idle talk;
close your mouths to criticism;
place doors and locks against unnecessary words.
Time passes and does not come back,
and woe to us if time goes by without spiritual profit.”

Elder Ephraim of Arizona