enough people…enough is enough

It is not enough for us to restrain from doing evil,
unless we shall also do good.

St. Jerome


(Kayla Mueller before being kidnapped by ISIS)


(Kayla in ISIS captivity)

In February of 2015, 4 long years ago, I wrote two posts about the abducted American
aid worker Kayla Mueller.

I wrote about her again in 2016 when her ISIS abductors finally killed her.

You can say what you want.

You can say that she was foolish for going into such a volatile area.
You can blame what happened to her on her own choice and actions.
You can blame President Trump…becuase you always blame President Trump.
Because don’t we blame President Trump on all our ills?

But President Trump was not president when Kayla was abducted.

President Trump was not president when ISIS emailed Kayla’s parents demanding a ransom.

President Trump was not president when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi personally tortured
and raped Kayla over and over again.

Put yourself in the shoes of Kayla’s parents, her brother, her grandparents.

What and how would you feel knowing your daughter was being so utterly abused
and your own government was not there for you and you were helpless to stop the days,
the weeks and the months of her cruel abuse?

How could you live as a loving parent?
How could you sleep at night knowing your daughter was in constant harm?
This was your child…your baby girl and you were helpless to rescue her.

How could you go on day in and day out, knowing your beautiful, loving and selfless
daughter/granddaughter/sister was being tortured and repeatedly raped by a man of
pure evil because she was the American aid worker in the lot?
The other kidnapped workers all noted that it was Kayla who took the brunt of the
torture and rape because she was an American and they were not.

And so now you’re saying that I’m simply basing my words on emotion.
I’m playing on emotions…

And you’re right, I am.

Why?

Because it is emotional.

It is emotional because a young woman who went to help take care of displaced children
was, in turn, kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed…all because she was an American.

The man who personally took pleasure in her mutilation and sexual abuse was,
this past weekend, trapped in a tunnel…hemmed in by American troops and so in turn,
did what any coward would do, he blew himself up rather than being captured.

Only a coward tortures a young girl and uses her for his twisted sexual pleasures.
Only a coward blows himself up.

Hitler blew his brains out.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi blew himself up.

The man who took sadistic pleasure from abusing a young American girl cowardly
blew himself up…just like a man who called for the deaths of countless men, woman, and children
because they were Jews, or Catholics or handicapped, hid in a bunker and blew his brains out.

Evil seems to always self implode when it is cornered.

So Americans should perhaps feel some sense of justification in the news that another
member of evil’s clan is gone.

And yet Congress is up in arms because they didn’t know about the covert military operation.
A ballpark booed a President, chanting “lock him up” …
The Speaker of the House announces that she will call for an impeachment vote this week.

However, in all of this upside-down madness, there are two grieving parents who have thanked
that very same president for finally bringing some sense of justice to the
cruel treatment of their daughter.

No one can bring back their daughter
No one can give back the sense of innocence their daughter once possessed and in turn
lost at the hands of evil.

But at least these two tormented parents now know that someone in the leadership
of their government, our government, remembered their daughter…
someone acknowledged their neverending nightmare and has worked to bring those
responsible to justice.

This is what I wrote back in 2015:
“Kayla had gone to Syria, working with the humanitarian organization Hayata Destek,
Support To Life, in order to help the refugee orphaned children in Syria whose lives
had been displaced and shattered by the ongoing fighting.
Kayla conducted art therapy projects with the kids,
as children can often express themselves in drawings when words cannot be found.
She noted that when the children asked her” where was her world”
–then telling them, they asked why had her people not come to help them…
her response was simply to cry along with and for the children.

This is what I wrote in 2016:

Tuesday night, after having spent much of the day glued to the news and having grieved
along with Kayla’s family, having noted that she was the same age as my son,
having wrestled with the position of the United States in such matters as hostages and war,
I found myself settling in for the evening reading over the Bonhoeffer book that
I have previously mentioned…of my meditating On The Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
translated by David McI. Gracie.

The evenings reading was based on Psalm 34:19
A Sermon on the Suffering of the Righteous
It was a meditation that Bonhoeffer had actually written down and mailed to his dear friend
Eberhard Bethge while Bonhoeffer was a prisoner in Tegel Prison near Berlin—the
first of three different prisons before his subsequent execution.
Bonhoeffer had already been held by the Nazi’s for over a year,
his future uncertain. He had just become engaged prior to his arrest,
and with it now being over a year away from those he loved, the confinement was
wearing on his soul.

Once again, as the created and not being the Creator,
there are those events in life that we simply will never truly understand no matter
how hard we try. We can write them off as this or that,
we can grow bitter and cold or simply empty and numb but there are those moments
when we will find ourselves at a loss for words, a loss of understanding.
It will be there, in the midst of the suffering and sorrow, that we will meet God. . .

I want to offer the following excerpt of the meditation as I find its
subject most timely and most enlightening…
(the translator has chosen to mix up the use of the feminine and masculine pronoun)

Psalm 34:19
The righteous person must suffer many things;
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

1 Peter 3:9
Repay not evil with evil or railing with railing,
but rather bless, and know that you are called to this,
so that you should inherit the blessing.

The righteous person suffers in this world in a way that the unrighteous
person does not.
The righteous person suffers because of many things that for others
seem only natural and unavoidable.
The righteous person suffers because of unrighteousness,
because of the senselessness and absurdity of events in the world.
She suffers because of the destruction of the divine order of marriage and the family.
She suffers not only because it means privation for her,
but because she recognizes something ungodly in it.

The world says: that is how it is, always will be, and must be.
The righteous person says: It ought not to be so; it is against God.
This is how one recognizes the righteous person, by her suffering in just this way.
She brings, as it were, the sensorium of God into the world;
hence, she suffers as God suffers in this world.
“But the Lord delivers him.”

God’s deliverance is not to be found in every experience of human suffering.
But in the suffering of the righteous God’s hope is always there,
because he (the righteous person) is suffering with God.
God is always present with him. The righteous person knows that God allows him to suffer so,
in order that he may learn to love God for God’s own sake.
In suffering, the righteous person finds God. That is his deliverance.
Find God in your separation and you will find deliverance!
The answer of the righteous person to the sufferings that the world causes
her is to bless.

That was the answer of God to the world that nailed Christ to the cross: blessing.
God does repay like with like, and neither should the righteous person.
No condemning, no railing, but blessing.

The world would have no hope if this were not so.
The world lives and has its future by means of the blessing of God and of
the righteous person.
Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying:
You belong to God in spite of all. It is in this way that we respond to the world
that causes us such suffering. We do not forsake it, cast it out,
despise or condemn it. Instead, we recall it to God, we give it hope,
we lay our hands upon it and say: God’s blessing come to you;
may God renew you; be blessed, you dear God-created world,
for you belong to your creator and redeemer.
We have received God’s blessing in our happiness and in our suffering.
And whoever has been blessed herself cannot help but pass this blessing on to the next one;
yes, wherever she is, she must be herself a blessing.
The renewal of the world, which seems so impossible,
becomes possible in the blessing of God.
As Jesus ascended to heaven, “he lifted up his hands and blessed” his followers.
We hear him speak to us in this hour: “The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Amen

So enough!

Enough of this stupidy that is tearing our nation apart.
Enough of the ignorance and stupidity.

The problem is not President Trump.

Our trouble goes much deeper than that of a single man.
No single man can cause so much divisiveness.

329 million people, give or take a few, cannot be toppled by one single man.
So there is something else going on.

But you’re too proud, to selfish to see it any other way.

It’s time you get over yourself.
Your paranoia.
Your false accusations.
Your inflammatory reactionary foolishness.

It’s time we get back to being a unified United States…because if we don’t…
it will indeed be too late.

Stop to think about the grieving families who have lost loved ones to terrorism…
But you can’t because you’re too busy complaining and blaming a man who really
wasn’t on the scene when this craziness began.

May our prayers and support remain with families like the Muellers.
And all those who we have buried because of terrorism.
Terrorism that was ramping up long before President Trump was president.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/song-for-the-innocents/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/innocence-and-sorrow/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/onward-christian-soldier/

politicians destroying art…vol. II in the Chronicles of the Asinine

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
Thomas Merton


(just one wall section of the murals at George Washington High School in San Francisco)

Today we continue our venture into the tales of the asinine with another example
of idiocy outweighing common sense.

It is now officially a sorrowful fact that we, as a culture, have a serious issue
with common sense…as in, we don’t possess any.

Case in point, a high school in San Francisco—oh wait, that alone probably says all you
need to know…but I digress.

This particular high school has some very historic murals that have sadly found their
way into the sites of the Political Correctness Police.

Wait.
“Are they a thing?” you ask.
“What?” I ask…”You mean the PC Police?”

Well, sadly yes…I’m afraid to report that it does seem that the
PC police are indeed very real, very powerful and very scary.

George Washington High School in San Fransico has a collection of murals that
are on display throughout the school and have been there since the 1930s when they
were painted and funded by FDR’s New Deal.

The murals depict the life cycle of George Washington.
They show images of slaves and even Native Americans—some living, some in battle
and some dead.

Images in part because this was part and parcel of this man’s life in the 1700s
during the inception of this nation….not all positives yet realities of the day.

The San Francisco School Board has voted to allow approx. $600,000 to go toward the
destruction of the murals.

All because our culture no longer likes the truth about how life used to be in the early
days during the founding of a nation.

And so we are now seeing that art, which depicts a life that was, is being deemed to be
politically incorrect–as it is viewed through the closed lenses of a 21st century
gone mad.

The culture we live in has deemed that the life of George Washington is obviously
politically incorrect…
Incorrect to those liberal progressive nuts of the 21st century who don’t like the reality
of a man’s life in the 1700s.

I was an art student at the University of Georgia in the late 70s into the start of the 80s.
Well, let’s make that an Art Ed major who took a copious amount of Art History courses,
as well as a great many studio classes, right alongside painting majors, printmaking majors,
sculpture majors, interior design majors…

And it’s never been much of a secret that art majors tend to be a more liberal lot.
Which is in part as to why my conservative younger self sometimes looked a bit out of place,
However, I managed to find a love for many of my professors and fellow classmates.

It was a different time when differences of opinions and lifestyles could still enjoy
one another’s company while still offering nuggets of growth and wisdom to one another.

I did not like modern art…Post-impressionism, Postmodernism, Op Art, Surrealism, Dadaism,
Pop Art, assemblages, installation art, etc…
but rather I loved Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Impressionism periods.

Yet I learned early on that art tells a story.
And I do not believe in the notion of art for art’s sake…
Because there is responsibility to art as well as a responsibility from the artist.

I would often tell my students that art must be aesthetic…
that which is “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.”

As a class, we would spend hours discussing the blatant destruction of the ancient
artworks of Iraq and Syria by ISIS fighters. From the smashing of statuary to the actual
blowing up of temples and centuries-old carvings.
Destroying the stories of a previous people—whose breadcrumbs were left as gifts to
future generations—left to be everlasting in order to tell a story—-
telling their story of then to us today.

Much like the murals in George Washington High School in San Francisco.

According to an article on artnetnews.com at least 400 writers and academics are
protesting the planned destruction of the murals.

The 13-panel painting was created by Russian-born artist Victor Arnautoff in 1936
through the Works Progress Administration. The cycle depicts the life of Washington,
and includes images of America’s first president as a slaver.

But the decades-long debate—which pits activists who take offense at the startling
images against those who say the works were specifically meant to be critical,
not celebratory, and should be used as a teaching tool—is lingering on.

Last week, the academic online journal Nonsite published a fierce defense of
the murals in a letter that has since been signed by nearly 400 writers, historians,
and artists, including prominent academics such as Michael Fried, Aijaz Ahmad,
Adolph Reed, and David Harvey.

“It is an important work of art, produced for all Americans under the auspices of a
federal government seeking to ensure the survival of art during the Great Depression,”
the letter reads. “Its meaning and commitments are not in dispute.
It exposes and denounces in pictorial form the US history of racism and colonialism.
The only viewers who should feel unsafe before this mural are racists.”

The letter has since been submitted to the San Francisco Unified School District,
which had not responded to Artnet News’s requests for comment.

Rocco Landesman, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts,
wrote a letter to the New York Times decrying the planned destruction of the
painting cycle.
“This just in: A significant segment of the liberal community is turning anti-art,”
he wrote.

“When important artworks of our cultural heritage are not just hidden away but destroyed,
how do these desecrations differ from those of the Taliban, who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas
in Afghanistan, or the ISIS commanders who destroyed ancient monuments near Palmyra, Syria?”
Landesman asked.

These continuing tales of the asinine are more than simply stupid happenings
by self-righteous ignorant people.
They are a blatant reminder that we are not progressing as a culture…but rather
rapidly regressing.

And the sad thing is, as much as these rabid masses fuss and cuss that which they
claim to be politically incorrect, we as a global family are suffering
due to some odd sense of entitled hatred.

When will we say enough is enough?

Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.
Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.

Isaiah 1:5-7

no shame…but where are we really?

“the age of self-afflicted shame, is over…”
Mike Pompeo

Our (latest) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was in Cairo this past week.
And depending on your choice of news coverage, you may or may not have heard much about his trip
or of the speech he made.

And depending on that news outlet you tend to watch, read or listen to…you might have
gotten some mixed signals.

And to be honest, I’d like to be able to say huzzah to his speech…but does Pompeo’s speech mirror
the full policy of the US?

That, I’m not sure.

Our President tells us we’re pulling out of Syria.
His Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis, has resigned.
Word is that they are at odds over such a decision.

I have really appreciated what I have read about General Mattis’ leadership—I even wrote
a post about the character behind General Mattis…the type of military leader you’d want
having charge over your own son or daughter.

Last evening I heard that Trump is the most popular Republican president, in well, ever.
And as I am a huge Reaganite, I had to go double check out that latest factoid and there does some
to be some validity to such a boast.

Not that I don’t support our President, I do…it’s just that I feel that we, as a Nation,
have entered a new era of something other than…other than who and what we use to be.
An era that I’m not fond of.

Socialistic Democrat is an oxymoron that I don’t think I care to wrap my brain around.

When the likes of Joe Lieberman is publically mocked and disrespected by a  new up and coming
young Democrat, we’ve got trouble worse than most millennials will sadly ever understand.

But one thing I can appreciate is the speech that Mike Pompeo offered in Cairo.

America is not a nation that apologizes for supporting various nations.
With Israel being one of those nations—the elephant in the room when it comes
to the United States and the Middle East.

Nor shall America excuse the Muslim world for its culpability for those
who, in the name of Islam, commit heinous crimes against humanity.

We did not excuse a fallen Nazi regime.
In fact, there was an allied trial holding those who remained, accountable for their actions…
despite the argument that they were merely the following orders of others.

Here is an excerpt of Secretary Pompeo’s speech.

I found it powerful and reminiscent of an America I once knew…
I suppose we’ll see what will follow…

“It was here, in this city, another American stood before you” and, “told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology.”

Pompeo’s view is unequivocal and crystal clear: “America is a force for good in the Middle East.”
He didn’t even add the usual qualifiers about our historic imperfections.
Expect our adversaries abroad and snowflakes at home to be mighty upset at this moral clarity and self-confidence
from the greatest, freest country on Earth. Our real allies will love it.

Pompeo’s speech had three watershed components:

First, Pompeo made it clear that the chief focus of U.S. policy in the Middle East is thwarting Iran’s
dangerous and tyrannical ambitions.
While violent jihadist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda still exist and deserve our attention,
they are now a lesser threat.
Also, by condemning Obama’s decision to do nothing in 2009 and 2010 when Iranians took to the streets
to protest their oppressive regime, Pompeo opened the door to supporting Iran’s internal opposition.

Second, Pompeo specifically called out “radical Islamism” and condemned Obama for not doing so.
This is a refinement and extension of President Trump’s condemnation of “radical Islamic terrorism,”
which is the tactic that Islamists use when they go violent.

Far from semantics, this change from “Islamic terrorism” to “radical Islamism” means that finally,
40 years after Islamists took over Iran, 36 years after Islamists blew up our Marine barracks in Beirut,
and nearly 18 years after Islamists attacked us on 9/11,
we can clearly name the ideology that animates most of the problem actors in the Middle East.

In contrast to failed efforts to either spread American democracy or apologize for it,
this means we can rally all of those opposed to radical Islamism,
including monarchies and imperfect republics across the Middle East that oppose Islamist theocracy.
It means we can be clear about opposing not only terrorists like Al Qaeda,
but Islamist political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third, Pompeo outlined the Trump administration’s rigorous efforts at diplomacy across the Middle East,
which have contributed to radical change and unprecedented cooperation.
Pompeo disclosed that “Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s
efforts to evade sanctions,” and lauded assistance from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He added that “private companies in France, Germany, Britain and elsewhere have calculated
that enriching themselves through work with the regime is bad for business” –
a gentle and much-deserved slap at the governments of those fading allies
that have actively opposed getting tough on Iran.

Pompeo reminded the audience that last year,
“the Israeli national anthem played as an Israeli judo champion was crowned the winner
of a tournament in the UAE.”
This story and scores like it have been missed by our mainstream media.
American strength and moral clarity and fear about the threat from Iran are dissolving
old animosities and creating new alliances. We may actually see new Arab embassies in Israel.

Finally but crucially, Pompeo included a cautionary principle regarding what the U.S.
is willing to do in the Middle East.
Remarking about U.S. support he said: “But ‘assist’ is the key word.
We ask every peace-loving nation of the Middle East to shoulder new responsibilities for
defeating Islamist extremism.”

This is the fundamental essence of “America First.”
We will not apologize for America, we will stand up for our interests,
and we will cooperate with our allies as long as they are willing to share the burden
of preserving freedom.

Adding an additional touch of pragmatism, Pompeo condemned the Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad,
but cracked open the door to aiding postwar reconstruction if Assad kicks the
Iranian military out of Syria.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pompeo-at-site-of-obamas-address-to-muslim-world-rebukes-his-legacy-age-of-self-inflicted-american-shame-is-over

This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem:
Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets,
and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
On that day people will be stricken by the Lord with great panic.

Zechariah 14: 12-13

Hidden faith

“The cause is hidden.
The effect is visible to all.”

Ovid


(a portion of the interior of St. Kevin’s Monastary, Glendalough National Park / Co. Wicklow, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

The thrill of the dig.
Or is that the thrill of the hunt??

Either way, I think it’s how archeologists describe what it is they do.

They dig, sift, hunt and discover.

It’s that adrenaline rush when searching through endless layers of rock, dirt, and sand
knowing that ‘treasure’ is but a shovel scoop away.

When I was young, I was fascinated by digging, unearthing and discovering.
Add to that a love of history, and for me, it all made for an imagination which was running wild.
Wild with wonder and of possibilities and of the what could be’s…

Would I find a Piece of Eight while building a sandcastle at the beach or
perhaps a fossil in the soil while camping…not to mention the anticipation
of striking it rich while panning for gold in the North Georgia mountains.

Nowadays I usually relegate my digging to Antique stores…
yet the hunt is no less exciting.
And the find—well the real finds are few and far between.

So it was with a tad of bated curiosity that I clicked on the following story.
It’s an intriguing tale about the unearthing
of what is believed to be a 2nd century hidden underground Christian church;
hidden for centuries, right under the feet of occupying ISIS fighters
in the city of Manjib, Syria.

Historians and archeologists believe this underground maze of chambers, trap doors,
and tunnels to be that of a secret church dating to the time when this area of
modern-day Syria was under Roman occupation.
It dates to the time when Christians were persecuted for the practicing of their faith
and therefore met in secret as they were literally forced underground for their faith.

As I watched, read and wondered about this latest discovery of those who courageously once
worshiped during perilous times, my thoughts couldn’t help but wander to a time in our own
future and that of our own practicing Faith’s uncertainty…
I felt that I had received a more somber history lesson than I actually cared to imagine…

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2018/05/01/ancient-christian-ruins-discovered-under-former-isis-held-territory.html

Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.
Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge.
In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
that I may keep your law.
This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts.

Psalm 119:49-56

our confliction…

“Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust

“History is much more the product of chaos than of conspiracy.”
Zbigniew Brezezinski

As people of faith we learn to be bi-focal.
We look through the eyes of secular newsflashes,
and we look through the eyes of spiritual and theological discernment.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

Anytime a Western coalition is mounted against “the bad guys”…whomever
those bad guys may currently be…more and more questions abound…
more questions than there may be answers.

Maybe it’s because I grew up during the Vietnam war.
A horrific conflict and war where thousands were killed, maimed, scarred and lost…
leaving no clear win or victor.

The bad guys were still bad and we were left limping back home…
home to a Nation now divided…and still dividing as we speak.

For Christians, the notion of war is a tough call.

The Koran makes no bones about the allowance for war and killing.

Our faith, on the other hand, admonishes those who opt not to turn the other cheek
or refuse to offer the shirt when the tunic is first taken.

For the Believer there is an inner turmoil…a conflict of both faith and righteous indignation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pacifist German theologian, lived this turmoil.
It also lead him to the gallows.
A walk he took decidedly confident because he knew his faith secure.
He looked to the words and teachings of St Thomas Aquinas when he agreed to be a part of
an assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler.

The moral issue here is that of tyrannicide…
the killing of a tyrant, and specifically, the killing of a tyrant by a private
person for the common good.
Technically, there are two classes of tyrants: a tyrant by usurpation
(tyrannus in titulo), a ruler who has illegitimately seized power;
and a tyrant by oppression (tyrannus in regimine),
a ruler who wields power unjustly, oppressively, and arbitrarily.

The key conditions for a justifiable act of tyrannicide in this case include
that the killing be necessary to end the usurpation and restore legitimate authority;
that there is no higher authority available that is able and willing to depose the usurper;
and that there is no probability that the tyrannicide will result in even greater evil
than allowing the usurper to remain in power.

However, if the tyrant by oppression attacks the citizen,
jeopardizes the welfare of the community with the intent leading
it to destruction or killing the citizens, or commits other evils,
then a private citizen can morally commit an act
of justifiable tyrannicide.
Moreover, if because of the tyrant’s rule, a nation cannot defend itself,
is on the course of destruction, and has no lawful means to depose or to condemn the tyrant,
then a citizen may commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide.
Interestingly, many modern political philosophers would posit that a leader who abuses
power and has become tyrannical ipso facto loses legitimacy and becomes a usurper.

(Catholic Resource Education Center / Fr William Saunders)

(see the previous post:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/the-seeds-have-been-planted/)

And so it is with interest that I’ve read a couple of the most recent posts by our friend
Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding his feelings and thoughts about the coalition attack
on Syria.

The necessity, the truth, the need, the deception, the compassion, the empathy,
the indignation is each woven into the fabric of our confliction as human beings.

The conflict between right and wrong, defending the undefended, the truth versus
the deception…
that which is right versus that which is wrong,
the need for freedom versus the oppression of tyranny…

What are our roles, our responsibilities, our culpability…

The good Bishop offers one more perspective, one more layer to the fabric we
Christians continue to weave…

Do I agree with his doubts, his concerns, his pointed questions?

I think his questions lead us all to a place of asking even more questions.

Yet the real question found in the Bishop’s concern is simply leading us back to wondering
where the real true answers rest…

So Syria has been much in the news.
But to the community of faith, Syria is not just a place.
It is both a birthplace, and an end-place.
Theologically, for Christians it is the birth place of the Church.
It is the place where in Antioch, we first became known as Christians (Acts 11.26);
for Muslims the place at the end of time, the apocalypse.
This dual identity lies at the heart of the present secular conflict and how we unders
tand it.

And yet, it is clear in geo-political terms that what is taking place in Syria
is a proxy war fought over future energy sources and types of Islamic hegemony
between Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other.
The opposition to Assad was not a plea for regime change by democratic Syrians,
but an attempt to remove a non-Muslim ruler and replace him with a Muslim regime by
Saudi backed terrorist groups.
Twice now chemical attacks have been attributed to the Assad regime with the
immediate effect of inducing in the West a moral indignation that led to a call
for bombing the Assad regime.
But though the video footage was provocatively emotive, the hard evidence that laid a trail
back to Assad was always just missing.

Syria and the Western Christian conscience.

It’s simple really…

“It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but to actually be one.
Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.”

— St. Ignatius of Antioch


(painting attributed to Cesare Fracanzano (1605-1651) Galleria Borghese, Rome)

This morning when I read today’s quote by St Ignatius of Antioch,
it was as if I had been hit upside the head.
How simple yet so profound—

It begs the question…
does being dubbed, labelled, branded a Christian…
or…
claiming, professing, proclaiming to be a Chrisitan necessarily make one…a Christian??

The answer, in a nutshell, is a resounding no!!!…it most certainly does not!

Ignatius follows up this thought with the novel idea of then having to prove oneself as a Christian.
Meaning that if one can live it, share it, show it, prove it…
then one may lay claim to the name!

This is not to be an in-name-only sort of affair…

The back story of our friend…

Born in Syria in the year 50AD, Ignatius converted to Christianity and eventually became
bishop of Antioch.

It is believed that it was actually St Peter who appointed Ignatius as bishop of Antioch and
the surrounding region.

“The saint was called “God-Bearer” (Theophoros),
because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him.
He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.”

And as the outspoken Chrisitan, he was, Ignatius was eventually arrested by the local Roman
authorities on grounds of “atheism” against the Roman gods.

In the year 107, Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and forced the Christians there to
choose between death and apostasy.
Ignatius would not deny Christ and thus was condemned to be put to death in Rome.

“In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians,
ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods,
and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols.
In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch.
Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ,
and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity.
Saint Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor,
so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch.
Saint Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols.
The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts.
Saint Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him.
His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses,
who accompanied Saint Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

Ignatius bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus.

On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led Saint Ignatius into the arena,
and he turned to the people: “Men of Rome,
you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime,
but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced.
I long to be with Him,
and offer myself to him as a pure loaf,
made of fine wheat ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts.”

After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces,
leaving only his heart and a few bones.
Tradition says that on his way to execution,
Saint Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ.
When they asked him why he was doing this,
Saint Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart,
and that he confessed with his lips Him Whom he always carried within.
When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched.
When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters:
“Jesus Christ.” After his execution, Saint Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful
in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome.

Hearing of the saint’s great courage,
Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians.
The relics of Saint Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29),
and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in the church of San Clemente.

Ignatius is well known for the seven letters he wrote on the long journey from
Antioch to Rome.
Five of these letters are to churches in Asia Minor;
they urge the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors.
He warns them against heretical doctrines,
providing them with the solid truths of the Christian faith.

The sixth letter was to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was later martyred for the faith.
The final letter begs the Christians in Rome not to try to stop his martyrdom.
“The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God.
I am the wheat of the Lord;
may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.”

Despite the story about Ignatius’ life being considered ancient history,
it would be wise for those of us who claim the name of ‘Christian’ to actually follow
the example of Ignatius.
…that we could / would not only claim to be a Christian… but that we could / would actually
live out being a Chrisitan.
Not just the worldly notion of Chrisitan but actually that of Christ’s true intention.

Imagine the change in this world if we each claimed the act behind the label of faith.
It now seems so simple really…

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you,
for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Isaiah 41:10

Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Ephesians 6:11 NIV

what lengths are you willing to go so that no one will ever forget?

Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.
Malcolm Muggeridge


(Photo: Getty Images/Ellen van Bodegom)

Maybe you’ve fantasized about living out your days in a Mediterranean villa.
You might have even gone so far as to check listings before the reality of your
bank account forced you to give up on the dream.
Well, despair no longer.
One town on the Italian island of Sardinia is offering the real estate deal of a
lifetime, as long as you’re willing to stick around for the long haul.
In Ollolai, one of several hundred historic homes could be yours for just $1.25 (€1).
Yes, really.
Mayor Efisio Arbau successfully petitioned local residents to turn over their
abandoned homes in the town,
which then put them on the market for the attention-grabbing low price.

The aggressive real estate blitz is an effort to prevent a town known for its
successful resistance to the Roman Empire from fading into obscurity.
The village’s population has shrunk from 2,250 to 1,300 over the years,
and the migration of its younger people to larger cities has led to a declining birthrate.
“My crusade is to rescue our unique traditions from falling into oblivion,”
Arbau told CNN.
“We’ve always been tough people and won’t allow our town to die.”

as seen on Conde Nast Traveler / CNN Travel

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/ollolai-italy-one-euro-homes/index.html

I always love these stories—the ones about the small tranquil village that has witnessed
a tremendous decline in its inhabitants and in turn makes almost outlandish sales offers
in hopes of luring would-be occupants and potential citizens to come own, inhabit and live,
all at very little expense, for a piece of paradise.

And we know that the reasons for these villages slow deaths are for all sorts of troubles…
families move, youth…when grown…move-out and away,
and the Old…well they have simply died…

And so now all these small communities, all over the globe, begin to slowly shrivel up and die…

The young see no growth, no fun, no potential, no reason to stay.
Young families have no real choice in schooling or sound medical care.
Those trying to make a living and livelihood discover that such is nearly nonexistent…
while the Old have hung on for as long as they can, yet are now dying off in large numbers…

It is the visual death knell sounding for small communities worldwide.

And yet there is a real desire that these communities remain for they have existed for eons…
they have been the underpinning, the lynchpins, of our greater society as a whole…

And of course, the catch for the potential buyer is always the caveat of remodeling
and pouring copious amounts of cash into the refurbishing of said piece of paradise.

But I’ll admit, the allure of buying a piece of paradise for all of a buck is pretty darn
appealing…however it’s the copious amounts of cash needed for the remodeling, modernizing
and upkeep that is the killer of the dream.

And so I bring all of this up as I’m still making my way through Andreas Knapp’s book
The Last Christians…Stories of Persecution, Flight, Resilience in the Middle East.

You may remember it was the book that my publishing friend from Plough Publishing House
sent out for my perusal back around Christmas.

It’s not a long book and you’d think I would have finished it ages ago,
but it is a book that demands my full attention—
especially since I take highlighter in hand as I read, along with a notepad
as I make notes while reading.
I cover only a few pages or a chapter a day here and there as time allows…

For meatier stories demand our utmost attention…and this is such a tale because the
subjects of this story deserve nothing less.

And it is not an easy read—it is not easy reading about persecution, murders, terror,
and insanity.

I was struck by what Mayor Efisio Arbauin said in the Conde Nast / CNN article
about why he wants to maintain his dying village in Sardinia.
“the aggressive real estate blitz is an effort to prevent a town known
for its successful resistance to the Roman Empire from fading into obscurity.”

Advertise like crazy as we want to maintain an ancient town that stood up against
an aggressive, mighty, powerful and brutal empire…

And yet I marvel at how the world at large will allow the last remaining true
Aramaic Christians, who trace their lineage, which in turn is our lineage,
back to Jesus himself–a world that will allow, nay is allowing,
these Aramaic Christians to be tortured, murdered,
disbanded, scattered and ultimately totally destroyed and wiped from the face of the Earth.

Read the following excerpt offered by the book’s author Fr Knapp along with a
priest and Bishop Petros Mouche who is the leading prelate of a
dispersed and disparaged people:

“Many people in Western countries, he points out, campaign for the protection of
animal species threatened with extinction.
And yet all appeals to halt the loss of the oldest Christian
Culture and its people and language have been ignored by the Western World”

(Bishop Petros Mouche displaced Syriac Catholic)

A young priest along with the Bishop both relate their tales of horror to the author
Fr. Knapp

“He who says nothing implies consent”
Latin Proverb

“How can we rebuild our trust?”
We can’t simply forget what happened.
And how can there be reconciliation with our Muslim neighbors when they haven’t expressed
the slightest regret?
Indeed will Muslims ever be capable of acknowledging any guilt toward us Christians?
Bishop Petros intervenes quietly at this point: “In times like these, we ourselves
can experience feelings of aggression.
We must overcome them.
It is God’s will that we should love our enemies.

I am silent, left speechless by his stance in the face of such a brutal reality.
He shakes his head thoughtfully.
“We can’t just forget what has happened.
But we will ask God to forgive the offenders
and lead them to think differently.”

Still, the white-haired bishop’s face betrays a deep anguish.
With this last oasis of Iraqi Christianity now under IS control,
and a nearly two-thousand-year-old
local church reduced to rubble, Qaraqosh is like a ghost town.
Bishop Petros is especially troubled by the fate of a three-year-old girl and some
young women abducted from the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plain who–
like the Yazidi women-face sexual abuse, forced marriages with
Islamic fighters and slavery.

Bishop Petros told me of one eighty-year-old man who asked the terrorists why there wouldn’t
spare his family any food for the children;
their response was to hack off his hands and feet.

And yet the Bishop states that “they may have lost everything else,
but they have never lost their faith.”

What will the world be willing to offer in order to save these last Christians?
What will Christians be willing to offer in order to save these ancient brothers and sisters?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character;
and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,
who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5