Reviewing the Pope’s Speech: Overall, Worthwhile

The head of the Catholic Church and the head of state of the Vatican came to speak today in Washington before Congress. Here is the plain-text transcript of the speech to read for yourself.

The transcript above is as it should be, in black-and-white print, uncontaminated by photographs, commentary, captions, or other fruits of media-consultant-driven tactics of subliminal psychological manipulation found on every media web page. Instead, just the text…

And now comes my commentary, absolutely contaminated by opinionated polemy. If you can’t stomach that, stop now and go to a more appropriate site.

First, some background: I am a Christian–imperfect, sinful, and as such prone rightly or wrongly to fits of sarcasm, mockery, profanity, smack talk and horrifying flatulence–but no less or more a Christian than the Pope or any other. I am an independent Christian, having attended services of many denominations but belonging to none, beholden to no human organizational doctrine or dogma. Instead I follow and worship only God himself (in three Persons–Father, Son and Holy Spirit); I follow not any given church’s doctrine but instead God’s Holy Word–both as manifest through the Bible and through direct communication with God in the form of prayer and his powerful answers in the form of blessings and actions in my life.

Given that, I can stand independently of any pressure to conform or adhere to any particular declaration of the quite-fallible church bureaucracy. I recognize the Pope’s church for exactly what it is: needed, absolutely an agent of good, but also a group of imperfect humans like me who are prone to err. That includes the Pope. I do not consider the papacy as a position (or as a man) more holy or better than anyone else. He and I both have to sit on toilets and take dumps, and we both bleed red when cut. The only man before whom I will bow is Jesus himself.

That’s not meant to badmouth Francis personally; it’s simply factually true, in a pragmatic and physical sense. I have great respect for the Popes of my lifetime and the mostly positive and necessary ambassadorship they have provided for Jesus. Through all the sideshows and scandals, the Catholic Church in particular has done great net good; the refusal of secular humanists, anti-Christians, “angry atheists” and others with similar agendas to recognize this and give it due weight is an insidiously vile form of hatred and bigotry in its own right. Despite not being a member of the Catholic denomination, am a strong supporter of several of its charities and the Godly motivation behind them.

Though I see the Pope as mortal like everybody else, I do recognize his unique standing and capacity to influence millions through the very smallest of actions or utterances. The current Pope, who took the name Francis after the patron saint of animals, shares a great deal in common despite our seeming differences. He and I both arose from poor and humble origins; in many respects our personal Venn diagrams overlap considerably despite our wildly divergent nationalities, languages and life paths. I have a lot of respect for the man, even when I disagree with him; for in the role and under a really hot media microscope he must speak out about a lot of topics that will be dissected, interpreted, misinterpreted, and even abused.

Popes, by the nature of their positions and vast audiences will be loved and hated, sometimes by the very same people depending on what they say today. Most certainly they are unduly politicized. Liberals and conservatives alike will cherry-pick Francis’ statements on assorted topics and use them as rhetorical weapons or crutches for their own agendas. Wisely, one liberal Catholic writer warned against such behavior amongst fellow liberals before this trip. [Yes, sometimes a liberal can be wise…it is possible, if uncommon.] It’s no secret that I am a sociopolitical conservative and religious dude, but one thing you have not seen me do is take papal quotes and mold them into personal props. I’m much more of an independent thinker than that!

So what was my impression of his speech? Reading through it, most of what he said was fairly predictable and consistent with the various doctrines of that denomination. I agree with some points and quibble with others, as usual. Foremost, I was pleased that he mentioned the importance of family, as a core representation of the ideal of social good. This was a much-needed message given the rampant attacks on the sacrament of marriage as prescribed biblically (see the verses in my last BLOG entry) and on the wholesome and holy ideal of the nuclear and extended family as God intended, with father, mother and children. His discussion of the role of Moses was refreshing. And I agree with him that we need to take care of the Earth on which we live, despite the truth that some pundits will twist his words into advocacies for all manner of costly measures that will hike the cost of fossil fuels, and in doing so, increase the very poverty the Pope rightly decries.

The most striking aspects to me, however, were what the Pope did not discuss, at least not overtly. I was disappointed at topics that were left out. Omission is a very important way of conveying the notion that the topic is of lesser importance or does not matter much. So…search the text linked above.

    * The speech failed to mention the thousands of martyrs for Christ, the Christians who are being slaughtered for their beliefs all over the world (mainly Africa and the Middle East), overwhelmingly by barbaric Islamist jihadists and their bloodthirsty and intensely hateful sycophants. Francis has spoken of this before on a few occasions, but this audience desperately needed the reminder. Too many in this country–not just the overtly secular but the naive and/or apathetic–are either coddled by their own entitlement or blind to this horrible state of affairs; worse, others know of it but don’t seem to care.

    * The word “abortion” was not used in the speech. The Pope was too indirect in talking about protecting life at every stage. Come on, man…be blunt, be forthright, hammer that nail squarely, don’t be wishy-washy!

    * What responsibility to the countries that originate these refugees and immigrants have toward their own, in order that they need not be compelled to flee in the first place?

    * Not once in the entire speech does the name Jesus appear. That’s mystifying to me, given the position of the speaker. I’d love to hear an explanation for that from the source himself (not from a third-party speculator).

One facet of his speech also contained a gross historical misrepresentation: Lincoln’s legacy was not conciliatory; he instead fought the terrible institution of slavery through…get this…war. So given that fact, I would ask the Pontiff if war sometimes is justified–and in particular, the one that brought an ultimately Constitutional end to American slavery. God Himself has waged mass conflict as documented often (mainly in the Old Testament); even Jesus rampaged through the temple that was infested with money-changers. Sometimes conflict, even war, is needed–nowhere nearly a often as it has been the case in reality, but sometimes.

I also would ask the Pontiff to reconcile his stated stance on how to treat immigrants with the Vatican’s own extremely strict immigration policy (which includes an extensive, tall physical wall).

All in all, the speech was worthwhile because it brought (albeit ephemerally) a Godly mindset to the Capitol, a place where God has been mocked, rejected, voted against and ridiculed in word and deed, by too many, for too long.

Anniversary Tribute to Elke and Reflections on Marriage

This cool, calm and still morning, I strolled outside to admire the dawn, as eastern cirrus clouds evolved through wondrous progression of salmon, cotton-candy pink, Tang-powder orange, luminescent gold, champagne, and aluminum silver hues. Reminding me of the reverse tonal sequence of sunsets I’ve watched with my wife Elke in our treks all across the Great Plains, the experience brought an appreciation of the many blessings God has granted me—a small one being that sunrise, and a larger one of life itself in a land where (for now anyway) we’re still free to get out there and catch those colorfully brightening glows.

Elke’s presence is God’s greatest blessing to me. That’s just the simple but powerful truth. Thirteen years ago Tuesday, we wed in a small chapel in Golden, Colorado, near her home at the time, set in the foothills—a small, intimate wedding with a dozen or so friends and another dozen or so family. Her arrival in my life was the clear and obvious answer to prayers, some general and some very specific over the span of two years prior, in which a very humbled and broken soul in me laid my future in the Lord’s hands and asked that His will be done, because my failed first marriage proved I did not have all the answers. I still don’t, but now I at least can report on what resides on the healthy and happy side of the marriage equation, and why! And so I will here…

Much has been made lately about marriage, how it is defined, who lays claim to it, legal versus religious, and so forth. Divisive topics they are. Not exactly being a reclusive wallflower when it comes to controversy, I have staked out an unwavering stance of strength and certainty on the meaning of marriage, and being rooted firmly in His word, make no compromises thereon. Maybe that’s not all because of my faith and moral convictions, however, but also, partly because I know what does and does not work in a marriage. One ended cold and hard, a divorce that was biblically justifiable yet no less agonizing, a Titanic sunken to the chill depths after years of trying to right the badly listing vessel. Regardless of friends who assured me it wasn’t my “fault”, the truth is it takes two to succeed in any relationship, and two to fail, regardless of anybody’s perceived distribution of blame. At the time it was an abject failure of the ideal of marriage, an unheard-of and resounding defeat for a former straight-A public-school student who didn’t and still doesn’t tolerate such very well.

Yet my marriage to Elke has been a success beyond anything I could have dreamed, a relationship of the sort I’d like to place in a glowing display case on the highest mountaintop and offer up to the word as Exhibit A on how it can and should work. Is our marriage perfect? Of course not; none ever is. Yet we hardly ever argue, and when we do, it’s usually over something fairly trivial about which one or the other of us (most often me) has gotten a little too self-centered, and it passes quickly. Sure we’re different in some minor ways. It doesn’t matter; in the most important ways, we are not just similar, but one.

Here’s the key: on the most important issues—faith, values, household roles, finance, life priorities—we are fully together as a unified body. Early in our relationship, we realized how uncannily similar we were in our worldviews, and only have grown even tighter in tune with each other over the years since. I’ve changed, she’s changed, but in ways that grew us even closer. Instead of trying to adjust each other (perhaps the most common error in a marriage and a very selfish undertaking, truth be told), we’ve interwoven ever more tightly and adapted to life together. Together! We’re united in faith and strength amidst a broken and harsh world.

Now, a most fortunate 13 years passed, I cannot imagine, nor do I want to, a time without my beautiful bride, an introvert by nature who also is also the most insightful, endearing, compassionate, thoughtful, spiritually gifted, and quietly intellectual person I’ve ever known. Her gifts come from God (as all ours ultimately do) and have been illuminated brilliantly for me, and I’m thankful for it every single day.

Yes, God. It is to Him I give credit for his guidance is what brought us together and keeps us on the rails, and the miracle of Elke’s presence in my life. [Hey, if someone would marry me willingly, eagerly and happily, that must take a miracle from above, right? Or at least that’s what many who have known me for a long time will claim.] Yes, I deem it miraculous, without reservation; the mathematical odds at the start of this sequence (before our births) would be far too small to attribute to anything else. How else do these two unlikely mates ever come together?

  1. An adorable little four-year-old Austrian girl in Salzburg, speaking nothing but German, beloved by her family for her gentle and loving nature, quiet brilliance and outward beauty even as a small child. Her father, a geological engineer, hauled the young family to the U.S. Rocky Mountains when she was a little tyke. Why immigrate here? His skills were in high demand, as I-70 was being carved and blasted through the mountains, but ultimately it was thanks to a love for and fascination with America instilled in him by one simple deed of kindness in war’s devastated aftermath: a candy bar given to him in childhood by a U.S. serviceman.

    Growing up in the Front Range suburbs, outwardly an idyllic life, the irresistibly cute little German-speaking girl became a beautiful woman with no trace of an accent, and with a deep love for helpless baby animals that got her mom started in a lifelong career of raptor rehabilitation. Then hard lessons of life shattered her innocence and shook her faith in both God and people, through a series of painful personal relationships and awful family troubles out of her control. She had many different jobs, most not paying well, most involving shift work, some involving hard physical labor. Through it all she developed a love for storms that would bring us together online, of all places, in a medium that didn’t exist just a few years before. And she rediscovered, in deeper and richer ways than ever, a patient and welcoming God from whom she had strayed. Then we became friends, and later, much more…

  2. An only child of a laborer father and visually impaired mother, living paycheck-to-paycheck in the city, sometimes with no paychecks at all, “white trash” minority in a majority-minority inner city. We lived in assorted rental duplexes, each in mostly decrepit condition with no air conditioning in Dallas summers (we couldn’t afford it). Rats crawled through walls and ceilings, roaches crawled up my legs in bed. I heard the gunshots, wails of sirens, and barking dogs all night. Quiet by nature but innately intolerant of BS, I got street-smart and street-hard with an attitude, learned how to fight and fight effectively…got in more than I care to admit, and have some scars to show for it. I also learned early to compartmentalize rigidly…saw by abundant example what did and did not work in terms how to handle poverty…and very seldom got in trouble at school. Education obviously was the path to following a deep passion for severe storms and tornadoes I had since earliest childhood and I was not about to screw that up.

    As a teen I dabbled in atheism but reasoned my way out of its literal dead end and gradually heeded the call of the Lord. In college I dabbled in chosen victimhood and its Siamese sibling of leftism but outgrew that unproductive nonsense quickly, thank God. The storm passion, itself a gift from above in my infancy that never has wavered, and a stubborn determination that has been both blessing and curse, led me to a great career. But personal life got mired in a bad marriage along the way. [Even that was a blessing in the end, for it gave me two kids, now grown, whom I love deeply.] And out of the ashes of personal failure came a miracle from Austria via Colorado, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Let me tell you this: in Heaven, I’m going to find that WW2 GI, shake his hand and thank him profusely for the cross-generational fruits of his simple act of generosity!

That beautiful little Austrian doll, this dirty kid with attitude from inner-city Dallas, somehow together in midlife in Oklahoma after some intense times along the journey before…that’s no accident. I believe with all I know that it was guided from above. Elke told me before we wed that she wouldn’t be with someone who hadn’t been to hell and back. We all know she didn’t marry me for my looks, so it had to be the real deal. :-) God turned life’s hardships and pain into the richest blessing I’ve known, and it is to Him I give all the thanks.

You know, faith was the very first topic Elke and I ever seriously discussed at length—one many would like to avoid for fear of offense, but one we charged right into with mutually caring, supportive, sharing fervor. Our prenuptial e-mails and phone calls on that topic alone could write hundreds of pages of text. We learned so much from each other about God and our respective bumpy and rough journeys to find Him, and what better foundation can there be than that? The Lord was the centerpiece of our building relationship then, and remains so today. Every day we discuss faith in some way. God truly is the architect and arbiter of our marriage. Yes, God-less marriages can be happy and last a long time, at least outwardly; most rules do have exceptions. Nonetheless, even if the couple doesn’t fully realize or acknowledge such, something huge still is missing regardless: a spiritual wholeness and fulfillment that, in our case, most certainly is not. The message fundamentally is consistent and sturdy across time and books and translations…

    “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” –Genesis 2:24

    “And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.'” –Matthew 19:5

    “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” — Ephesians 5:31

Our marriage has been so wonderful because each of us does not put “me” first. The doom of every bad marriage is selfishness…every single one! Tell me the circumstances of any divorce, every breakup, and I’ll point out blatant examples of selfishness. We look for ways to give to each other, be it when she cooks a delicious meal for me or I give her a foot rub. From her days working shifts, she knows what it’s like and adapts accordingly. I try to give her the room she needs to be a creative and effective web designer and graphic artist. We go on lunch or dinner dates several times a week, look for bargains on useful items at estate sales, and watch football together (she has become quite the OU Sooners and Dallas Cowboys fan…see, I have had a little beneficial influence!). She selflessly sacrificed of herself to help to raise my kids, for which I am forever grateful. All the while, I think we set an example for my kids of how a marriage should work, after all the torment and uncertainty they had endured when smaller. For years we have traveled together on journeys of storms, photography, exploring the world, and rediscovering each other and God’s glory, and cherish every bit of all of it. She is my beautiful angel, better than I deserve, and I try every day to treat her that way. As a song once said, “She’s close enough to perfect for me.”

Our roles are traditional: I’m the “breadwinner” (but she contributes financially too as a freelancer) and she does the most around the house (though I try to be helpful too). I work on household projects with her; she does web and manuscript layout for a meteorology journal I edit scientifically. Our hobbies and interests either are identical or mesh well, and our Christian worldviews have phased together in an awesome and real way. We complement and encourage each other in many ways, usually with little conscious effort. As another song once said, “we’re one, but we’re not the same”…and we respect that. We don’t try to change each other, but we do heavily influence each other—and for the better! Thanks to her, I’ve gotten less hard-hearted and rigid over time, in those ways that rigidity is deleterious (still an idealistic and opinionated iconoclast otherwise, and she loves it!). She has taught me so much about love, living in the moment, and appreciation of days, and I’ve taught her a few things about storms and football. [Rather lopsided, I know…]

Life experience means something, which is why I often advise young people to wait and gain some, to think rationally even more than emotionally about marriage and what it entails in a pragmatic as well as romantic sense. Will you love your mate when he or she looks like a shriveled-up old prune? Will you want him or her to change to match you better? If not, don’t marry that person. Do you think you can make him or her different? Have you discussed deep issues like faith, child-rearing philosophy, money, sex, materialism, career goals, where you see yourself in 5, 10, 20 and 30 years? If not, it’s too soon to marry. Is he or she jealous, possessive, with a history of bouts of rage and/or abusive behavior toward people or animals, prone to drinking too much or doing drugs? If so, run far from that relationship!

You see, it helps to understand, to let go of self, to learn to offer oneself and to follow through, to give to each other, and to recognize and squelch the temptation to put “me” first. Know each other’s strengths and roles, and respect them. It helps to have fully compatible worldviews. Sure, a conservative can marry a liberal, an atheist can marry an observant Jew, a Christian can marry a Buddhist, a Sooners die-hard can marry a Longhorn fan (perhaps the greatest chasm to bridge!). Do not, however, underestimate nor discount the value in a marriage of hugely overlapping and mutually enriching worldviews!

I’ll go out on a limb and say that the biggest predictor of marital success is not race, class, status, looks, or even what passes for “love” in those torrid nights of hormonally fueled young romance. Instead, the best gauge of marital success is how closely a couple’s worldviews match. I’m so fortunate to be with someone whose beliefs, temperament and outlook so closely overlap mine that we relate in ways that go far above, beneath and beyond what is spoken. We are determined never to stagnate, either; for in relational and spiritual life as well as professional, stagnation is death. I’d take that vow to love, honor and cherish, still today, and every day hereafter. Elke is worth all that and more.

Here’s to however much more time we are allowed on this Earth. I look forward to every day, regardless of the trials of life and the accursed sickness of the world at large, because I know it will involve being present with the one I love in God’s grace and oversight. That’s more than good enough for me, and I’m a grateful husband for Elke’s presence. After all, as I often tell her, she’s the “bestest and the beautifulest”—inside and out.

Yet Another Left-Wing Lunacy

Just when I thought the high-horse eco-moralizing of the pompous environmental jihadists could go no further, here comes documentation of yet another growing dirty snowball of loony left-wing stupidity. Behold the war on air conditioning.

Do you actually buy this outlandish crapola?

Yes, like the women in the Washington post link, sometimes I get cold at the office too–no, most of the time, I’m too cold at the office. You know what I do? I adapt…suck it up and deal with it, just like the many years I had no air conditioning at all in the inner-city South.

As someone who lived without air conditioning for nearly half my life, in Dallas, because we just couldn’t afford it, I dare anyone who makes a bleeding-heart left-wing eco-hipster sociological issue out of it to put talk to action and do the same.
My challenge: spend 18+ years with no AC in Dallas, Phoenix or Miami, and then check back. I already have. Will you? Any takers?
The crickets chirp. Actions speak louder…

Can’t do it? Won’t do it? Well no excuses, that slams the door. Your arguments just went around the bowl and down the hole. Credibility: gone! Shut up and sit down. I’ll instead gladly discuss this in depth with someone who has, or demonstrably will (once completed). At least their direct, first-hand experience gives them some tenability in the dialogue.

Talk really is cheap, and it’s easy to be so principled in an air-conditioned newsroom at the Washington Post, or the cool-climate coffee shops of San Francisco, Seattle, Boulder, Vermont, or England.

One lesson I long have known, but is reinforced by this “issue”, is that a bunch of leftists have nothing better to do than sit in their ivory towers of privilege and lecture others in the real world on how to live.

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