Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Joy to the World!

In the midst of all the ideological and theological battles raging around us, Christmas opens our eyes to the wonder of:
  • The fact that there is a cosmos, a universe, a planet custom made for us. Were we thankful today for our breath of life?
  • The hope that is renewed in our hearts in the midst of winter's storms.
  • The love we enjoy with family and friends.
  • The Christmas Story that actually proclaims (in the words of G.K. Chesterton), "Glory to God in the Lowest!" One of the names given to Jesus in the Gospel According to St. Matthew is Immanuel - literally translated, "The With-Us-God." 
  • The thought that Christmas is the narrative of holy humility, of the Creator condescending to become a flesh-and-blood part of our story. 
  • Our universal and unquenchable desire for peace - in our own souls and among all nations.
  • Millions of ordinary people pausing this Season and doing extraordinary works of service for those who can not return the favor.
  • The macrocosmic beauty of galaxies and mountain peaks and the microcosmic intricacies of a single cell. Such Design evokes reverence for the Designer.
  • The freedom we have in the nation to debate about and live with our deepest differences while forging a common bond of virtue.
Let's take several moments to enjoy the wonders of Creation,  Christmas and laughing children. Perhaps in these moments we will find the courage to embrace the future with the faith, hope and love of Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Charlie, Kathy, Michael, Charlotte and Christopher Self

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Where Has Sanity Gone?

Every Holiday Season the battles begin anew over a creche in the public square and whether or not Kwaanza is getting equal time with Christmas and Hanukkah. This year's "twist" consists of some members of the US Congress affirming Islam and Ramadan and refusing to affirm the importance of Christianity and the persecution of Christians around the globe.

I am a historian. There is a simple explanation for this insanity. Yes, it is insanity when the tradition of a vast majority of Americans is relegated to obscurity while the faith of many of our enemies is given special attention. 

Here is the problem: The protestors of 1968 are the "activists" of 2008; however, they are stuck in an ideological and moral time warp. They are still fighting what they see as the dominant "White-Patriarchal-Judeo-Christian-Traditional-Values-Colonialist-America-First" culture. All these hyphens are needed because the enemy list is so vast!

The deep self-hatred for all things traditional and Western is acute among these "Well-Educated-Mostly-White-Academic-Public Service [What - get a real job and support capitalism?)-One-World-Global (unless you hate the WTO)-Elites."

Radical Islam wants to reify the 13th century and there is nary a cry of protest from this quarter. "It is because of poverty - and that is our fault!" they cry. Nonsense. There is enough oil money in the Islamic nations to feed everyone and to stimulate new economies. 

Al Gore makes over $100 Million from peddling fear and he is rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize and acclaim from jet-setters who have a Prius tucked away for public appearances. 

The nine Congresspersons who refused to affirm that Christians are persecuted and that Christianity is a faith honored by millions are part of this group still fighting the 1950s. They should be leading our fight against terror, the real fight for the environment (sound planning and wise preservation) and the wars on AIDS, poverty and slavery.

The answer to such insanity is clear, honest thinking rooted in history and hope. Narcissism and nostalgia are the twin enemies of honest assessment and hopeful aspiration. The Insane/Self-Destructive Elites need to ponder the economic engine that drives their Vespas. They need to think about where freedom is found and rediscover that freedom means responsibility and virtue and sometimes fewer choices, not endless navel-gazing about identity. 

Conservatives need to end all self-delusion about any halcyon days of yesteryear and allow deep-rooted values to propel us toward a more free and just society.

It was not ethnic or gender politics that brought Civil Rights to millions in 1965 - it was universal, Judeo-Christian principles (with some Ghandian pragmatism included!) that shaped the Rev. Dr. MLK's great assertion that we are assessed not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character.

It was not "redefining-the-family-sexualization politics" that saw our nation through a Depression, World War and the rebuilding of Europe and Japan. It was millions of hard-working people learning (sometimes the hard way) to live with their differences while making a difference!

Islam will not promote any peace except that of submission (coerced or voluntary; immediate or long-term) to its dominance. Yes, there were moments of cultural flourishing and toleration in parts of Spain and  the Middle East centuries ago; however, the contemporary Muslim voices for pluralism are few and persecuted.

Where did sanity go? It was sown to the wind of self-indulgence and we are reaping the whirlwind of self-destruction.

Is there hope? Absolutely! The hope lies in moral and spiritual renewal that affirms timeless truth while creating timely solutions. A non-polluting car is near - if free markets will partner with public good. Sustainable ecosystems are possible, if we get past the unproductive polemics. AIDS can be conquered - with medical care and moral responsibility.

Forty years ago I was a fifth-grader fascinated by the Presidential race between Humphrey, Nixon and Wallace, scared of the violence in Chicago, saddened by the Vietnam War, but hopeful about the future. I am still saddened by our current challenges and I am still hopeful - if we get off the lemming-style pathway of hatred and choose the road of responsive love.