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Jimmy Carter was the U.S. president (pres. 1977-1981) that oversaw the giving of military aid to the government of El Salvador during the bloody Salvadoran Civil War. Carter was the first American president that I became aware of as I began to pay attention to the news as a boy. The first American president I voted for was Ronald Reagan (pres. 1981-1989), who came immediately after Carter. The Reagan administration increased the giving of military aid and support to the Salvadoran government. In 1980 the Salvadoran government was behind the brazen assassination and martyrdom of the then archbishop of El Salvador, Óscar Romero, now a saint of the Catholic Church. Thus, my first vote as an American citizen, though not for Carter, and actually for Reagan’s second term which happened years after Romero’s death, is nonetheless indirectly but forever linked to the death of a saint. I only just realized this. Unfortunately, this is the reality of being an American voting for candidates who then go on to promote questionable and sometimes terrible foreign policies. Of course I plead ignorance, but we’re all ignorant of many things, and that doesn’t mean we are not complicit at some level, even if not actually guilty. Perhaps its “structural complicity?”

Anyway, I am learning more about one of the Church’s most recent saints, Óscar Romero. I believe Romero’s concerns were ultimately spiritual and heavenly, but they played out within a volatile political context, and he was martyred for them.

The battle lines of politics are always much more than politics. There are narratives competing with narratives, ideologies with ideologies, and almost always class struggle. In the U.S. we are not allowed to talk about class struggle or the structures of economic inequality or we are immediately labeled a socialist or communist. There is a powerful narrative in that labeling, and that narrative and the hegemonic forces behind it drive a great many other narratives. Human beings, being sinners and fearful, will all too readily kill other human beings for the sake of the narrative they hold dear, often for very selfish and ignorant reasons. From Cain until now we have been killing our brothers. But Christ calls us to love our brothers, our neighbors, and even our enemies. Saint Paul tells us our battle is not against flesh and blood, but is against spiritual forces of darkness. The entire narrative of salvation being written by God in the very fabric of creation tells us to trust in Him and that He will fight our battles. We forget this every day. They forgot that in El Salvador too. But many, including and perhaps especially Óscar Romero, did not forget it.

I know very little about the Salvadoran Civil War, but that is the historical context of Saint Romero’s assassination. I perhaps know only a little more about Saint Romero than I do about the war, which is to say almost nothing. Here are three contemporary news reports on the war, its brutality, and role of faith and the Church.

This 1983 documentary takes a look at both sides of the war and provides an intimate overview of the attitudes and perspectives of each side:

Made by the same filmmakers as the above film, this is an excellent documentary from 1983 on the religious aspects of the war, in particular the ideas of Liberation Theology:

Here is an in-depth documentary about the Salvadoran civil war and the life of Óscar Romero. It was made before he was canonized a saint.

Here is a great lecture by Michael Lee (Fordham University) on the life, legacy, and meaning of Saint Romero’s martyrdom and case for sainthood:

I suppose little seeds were planted in my life along the way to prepare my heart and mind for caring for and wondering about the life, legacy, and meaning of Saint Romero’s martyrdom and case for sainthood.

In 1984 (the same year I voted for Reagan) a largely unknown, but with a passionate fanbase, Canadian singer-songwriter and brilliant guitarist released a song that became a surprise hit. I vaguely remember that song, but I was so politically, geographically, historically, and socially unaware that I didn’t get what the song was about, except for the fact that I felt as much as anybody that we all need a rocket launcher sometimes. But the song was specifically about the brutal wars in Central America, the dictatorships that promoted and leveraged them, the support those dictatorships received from the U.S. government, and the terrible havoc they wrought on the lives of the people. Here is Bruce Cockburn, 30 years later, performing live and acoustically his song If I had a Rocket Launcher:

I find this discussion posted below wonderful. Neither Jordan Peterson or Slavoj Žižek are Christians, but they are both influenced deeply by classically Christian concepts. In this discussion , which was billed as a debate but turns out much better, begins with each speaking formally for 30 minutes, then each getting 10 minutes to respond to the other’s intro speeches, then it goes into a back and forth series of questions and responses. Both of these men have lively minds and that kind of humility that undergirds the search for truth. In effect what we have here is a modern version of a Platonic dialogue.

I have been somewhat of a fan of Žižek for years and more recently of Peterson — not an unqualified fan of course. In the end, at least in terms of this “debate,” they constitute, or at least lean towards, a kind of Christian balance but, I believe, without the full realization they are doing so. Peterson lays out his path, a kind of stoicism as it were, of pursuing the good life, and Žižek responds with a deep pessimism. My immediate thought was of St. Paul writing to the Romans about how he does the things he ought not to do and does not do what he ought, thus finding within himself the principle of sin acting against him. We might agree with Peterson’s path but find ourselves repeatedly incapable of staying on that path. In this sense the biggest lacuna in this particular discussion, and I believe in both men’s general work about the human condition, is a complete understanding of sin and its effects, though they both seem to have a better understanding than most. Nonetheless, this dialogue between these two original (especially Žižek) and deeply cogent (especially Peterson) thinkers is an incredible opportunity to have one’s mind creatively engaged.

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Modern Times: Camille Paglia & Jordan B Peterson

francechurchesdestroyed

It’s sad to see a beautiful Catholic church building destroyed. The video below shows some demolition moments from a church destruction earlier this year in France. But for how sad the video is, the churches demolition is really just a symptom of many other factors.

Those factors include such things as:

  1. The French government and not the Church itself owns all the Church buildings. And many of these buildings are old and in need of major repairs, and are unsafe if not repaired — the one above was going to be quite expensive to repair. And though beautiful, they don’t attract enough tourism to warrant their survival.
  2. A Church whose membership numbers have been in free-fall for decades. Thus there just are not the numbers to keep the churches filled with parishioners and, consequently, financially supported. There are a lot of reasons for this, but certainly they include: Too many priests and bishops who no longer believe in the faith, but have found careers essentially live action roll-playing being priests and bishops. Modernism and all its mutant children, including bad theology, a lightweight view of marriage, and rampant sexual immorality seem to have replaced a hearty and robust faith — and few are interested anymore. And many Church leaders often seem eager to dismantle the Church.
  3. Consequently very few Catholics are left who have the means and are willing to save these old churches. It’s easy to bemoan the loss on social media, it’s another thing altogether to step up and contribute where needed, even to fight for it.

And the list goes on. The point is, however, that we should not be surprise at all about the destruction of this church. What we should be is sad. But not so much for this building as for the Church itself, and for the world that is so actively and happily rejecting Christ. If anything, the above video is a powerful reminder of how the Church has been, and is continuing to be, assailed from within by a Catholic leadership who no longer has faith, and a laity who follows suit.

This is the text from the video* notes:

This is the last moments of Église Saint-Jacques d’Abbeville (St. Jack’s Church Abbeville). France is paying for 2,800 Cathedrals & Churches to be Demolished across France. The Saint-Jacques church was a neo-Gothic parish church located in Abbeville The building was constructed from 1868 to 1876 at the site of 12th century church which was rebuilt in 1482. It gradually deteriorated for lack of maintenance at the beginning of the 21th century and was demolished from January to May 2013. Architect Victor Delefortrie was responsible for the design of the church. The church contained two bells, Jacqueline from 1737 and another, mute, dated 1645. Inside, there was a particular organ called Mutin Cavaillé-Coll from 1906. During World War I , Abbeville was bombed but Saint-Jacques church was not affected. Only impacts shattered the windows. It also survived World War 2. In 2008, it was estimated that it would cost 4.2 million euro to restore the church from weather damage and disrepair. In 2010, an association was created to safeguard the church and a petition was launched. In spring 2011, while deciding on its fate a crack was noticed which had caused stone to fall from the church. The 31 January 2013, Nicolas Dumont, the mayor of Abbeville, issued an order to demolish the church as a safety hazard. The next 7 February, the city council voted to demolish the church at estimated cost of EUR 350 000. On April 27, the foundation stone was found and preserved by the city. In November 2013, the rubble of the church are used by two artists to create a work of contemporary art entitled Build/deconstructed. A town square was proposed for its replacement. The project was the work of an architect in the city, Jean-Marc Demoulin, who accommodated the desires of the residents. A lawn of grass covers the church’s location, taking its shape and orientation. Two pathways form a cross. At the site of the choir, a memorial will be erected to honor veterans and Achilles Paillart, the pastor responsible for the church’s reconstruction in 1868. A small pond will occupy the site of the altar The conversion also included the creation of forty-two parking spaces on the perimeter of the square, including three for people with reduced mobility.

The story as told above doesn’t seem as horrible as the video images first seem, but it’s still a terrible situation. I do not know if it’s entirely true about how many churches France is paying to demolish. 2,800 seems rather high, but my gut says it’s probably true. Is there hope for France and its churches? Can these buildings be saved? Can the Catholic Church in France rise from the ashes? If Christ returns will He find faith in France?

I pray every day for the Church in France.


∗ The original source for the video has disappeared. I found another source, posted above, but it does not contain the text in its notes.

A view shows a damaged gargoyle at the Notre Dame Cathedral in ParisThe cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris is slowly crumbling. It’s expensive to repair. Since the French Revolution churches in France are owned by the state. So the state has the responsibility to keep the churches standing, or decide some other fate, which could mean demolition. The cathedral of Notre-Dame needs $70 million dollars. Here’s a story about that:

Perhaps the French state should give the catherdral back to the Church. No?

Story found here.

by Robert Frost, 1932

Why Tityrus! But you’ve forgotten me.
I’m Meliboeus the potato man,
The one you had the talk with, you remember,
Here on this very campus years ago.
Hard times have struck me and I’m on the move.
I’ve had to give my interval farm up
For interest, and I’ve bought a mountain farm
For nothing down, all-out-doors of a place,
All woods and pasture only fit for sheep.
But sheep is what I’m going into next.
I’m done forever with potato crops
At thirty cents a bushel. Give me sheep.
I know wool’s down to seven cents a pound.
But I don’t calculate to sell my wool.
I didn’t my potatoes. I consumed them.
I’ll dress up in sheep’s clothing and eat sheep.
The Muse takes care of you. You live by writing
Your poems on a farm and call that farming.
Oh I don’t blame you. I say take life easy.
I should myself, only I don’t know how.
But have some pity on us who have to work.
Why don’t you use your talents as a writer
To advertise our farms to city buyers,
Or else write something to improve food prices.
Get in a poem toward the next election.
Oh Meliboeus, I have half a mind
To take a writing hand in politics.
Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
I may be wrong, but Tityrus to me
The times seem revolutionary bad.

The question is whether they’ve reached a depth
Of desperation that would warrant poetry’s
Leaving love’s alternations, joy and grief,
The weather’s alternations, summer and winter,
Our age-long theme, for the uncertainty
Of judging who is a contemporary liar
Who in particular, when all alike
Get called as much in clashes of ambition.
Life may be tragically bad, and I
Make bold to sing it so, but do I dare
Name names and tell you who by name is wicked?
Whittier’s luck with Skipper Ireson awes me.
Many men’s luck with Greatest Washington
(Who sat for Stuart’s portrait, but who sat
Equally for the nation’s Constitution).
I prefer to sing safely in the realm
Of types, composite and imagined people:
To affirm there is such a thing as evil
Personified, but ask to be excused
From saying on a jury here’s the guilty.
I doubt it you’re convinced the times are bad.
I keep my eye on Congress, Meliboeus.
They’re in the best position of us all
To know if anything is very wrong.
1 mean they could be trusted to give the alarm
If earth were thought about to change its axis,
Or a star coming to dilate the sun.
As long as lightly all their live-long sessions,
Like a yard full of school boys out at recess
Before their plays and games were organized,
They yelling mix tag, hide-and-seek, hop-scotch,
And leap frog in each other’s way, all’s well.
Let newspapers profess to fear the worst!
Nothing’s portentous, I am reassured.

Is socialism needed, do you think?

We have it now. For socialism is
An element in any government.
There’s no such thing as socialism pure
Except as an abstraction of the mind.
There’s only democratic socialism
Monarchic socialism oligarchic,
The last being what they seem to have in Russia.
You often get it most in monarchy,
Least in democracy. In practice, pure,
I don’t know what it would be. No one knows.
I have no doubt like all the loves when
Philosophized together into one-
One sickness of the body and the soul.
Thank God our practice holds the loves apart
Beyond embarrassing self-consciousness
Where natural friends are met, where dogs are kept,
Where women pray with priests. There is no love.
There’s only love of men and women, love
Of children, love of friends, of men, of God,
Divine love, human love, parental love,
Roughly discriminated for the rough.

Poetry, itself once more, is back in love.

Pardon the analogy, my Meliboeus,
For sweeping me away. Let’s see, where was I?
But don’t you think more should be socialized
Than is?
What should you mean by socialized?

Made good for everyone things like inventions-
Made so we all should get the good of them
All, not just great exploiting businesses.

We sometimes only get the bad of them.
In your sense of the word ambition has
Been socialized the first propensity
To be attempted. Greed may well come next.
But the worst one of all to leave uncurbed,
Unsocialized, is ingenuity:
Which for no sordid self-aggrandizement,
For nothing but its own blind satisfaction
(In this it is as much like hate as love)
Works in the dark as much against as for us.
Even while we talk some chemist at Columbia
Is stealthily contriving wool from jute
That when let loose upon the grazing world
Will put ten thousand farmers out of sheep.
Everyone asks for freedom for himself,
The man free love, the business man free trade,
The writer and talker free speech and free press.
Political ambition has been taught,
By being punished back, it is not free:
It must at some point gracefully refrain.
Greed has been taught a little abnegation
And shall be more before we’re done with it.
It is just fool enough to think itself
Self-taught. But our brute snarling and lashing taught it.
None shall be as ambitious as he can.
None should be as ingenious as he could,
Not if I had my say. Bounds should be set
To ingenuity for being so cruel
In bringing change unheralded on the unready,

I elect you to put the curb on it.

Were I dictator, I’ll tell you what I’d do.

What should you do?
I’d let things take their course
And then I’d claim the credit for the outcome.

You’d make a sort of safety-first dictator.

Don’t let the things I say against myself
Betray you into taking sides against me,
Or it might get you into trouble with me.
I’m not afraid to prophesy the future,
And be judged by the outcome, Meliboeus.
Listen and I will take my dearest risk.
We’re always too much out or too much in.
At present from a cosmical dilation
We’re so much out that the odds are against
Our ever getting inside in again.
But inside in is where we’ve got to get.
My friends all know I’m interpersonal.
But long before I’m interpersonal
Away ‘way down inside I’m personal.
Just so before we’re international
We’re national and act as nationals.
The colors are kept unmixed on the palette,
Or better on dish plates all around the room,

So the effect when they are mixed on canvas
May seem almost exclusively designed.
Some minds are so confounded intermental
They remind me of pictures on a palette:
‘Look at what happened. Surely some God pinxit.
Come look at my significant mud pie.’
It’s hard to tell which is the worse abhorrence
Whether it’s persons pied or nations pied.

Don’t let me seem to say the exchange, the encounter,
May not be the important thing at last.
It well may be. We meet I don’t say when
But must bring to the meeting the maturest,
The longest-saved-up, raciest, localest
We have strength of reserve in us to bring.

Tityrus, sometimes I’m perplexed myself
To find the good of commerce. Why should I
Have to sell you my apples and buy yours?
It can’t be just to give the robber a chance
To catch them and take toll of them in transit.
Too mean a thought to get much comfort out of.
I figure that like any bandying
Of words or toys, it ministers to health.
It very likely quickens and refines us.

To market ’tis our destiny to go.
But much as in the end we bring for sale there
There is still more we never bring or should bring;
More that should be kept back the soil for instance
In my opinion, though we both know poets
Who fall all over each other to bring soil
And even subsoil and hardpan to market.
To sell the hay off, let alone the soil,
Is an unpardonable sin in farming.
The moral is, make a late start to market.
Let me preach to you, will you Meliboeus?
Preach on. I thought you were already preaching.
But preach and see if I can tell the difference.
Needless to say to you, my argument
Is not to lure the city to the country.
Let those possess the land and only those,
Who love it with a love so strong and stupid
That they may be abused and taken advantage of
And made fun of by business, law and art;
They still hang on. That so much of the earth’s
Unoccupied need not make us uneasy.
We don’t pretend to complete occupancy.
The world’s one globe, human society
Another softer globe that slightly flattened
Rests on the world, and clinging slowly rolls.
We have our own round shape to keep unbroken.
The world’s size has no more to do with us
Than has the universe’s. We are balls,
We are round from the same source of roundness.
We are both round because the mind is round,
Because all reasoning is in a circle.
At least that’s why the universe is round.

If what you’re preaching is a line of conduct,
Just what am I supposed to do about it?
Reason in circles?

No, refuse to be
Seduced back to the land by any claim
The land may seem to have on man to use it.
Let none assume to till the land but farmers.
I only speak to you as one of them.
You shall go to your run-out mountain farm,
Poor cast-away of commerce, and so live
That none shall ever see you come to market-
Not for a long long time. Plant, breed, produce,
But what you raise or grow, why feed it out,
Eat it or plow it under where it stands
To build the soil. For what is more accursed
Than an impoverished soil pale and metallic?
What cries more to our kind for sympathy?
I’ll make a compact with you, Meliboeus,
To match you deed for deed and plan for plan.
Friends crowd around me with their five year plans
That Soviet Russia has made fashionable.
You come to me and I’ll unfold to you
A five year plan I call so, not because
It takes ten years or so to carry out,
Rather because it took five years at least
To think it out. Come close, let us conspire-
In self-restraint, if in restraint of trade.
You will go to your run-out mountain farm
And do what I command you, I take care
To command only what you meant to do
Anyway. That is my style of dictator.
Build soil. Turn the farm in upon itself
Until it can contain itself no more,
But sweating-full, drips wine and oil a little.
I will go to my run-out social mind
And be as unsocial with it as I can.
The thought I have, and my first impulse is
To take to market— I will turn it under.
The thought from that thought—I will turn it under
And so on to the limit of my nature.
We are too much out, and if we won’t draw in
We shall be driven in. I was brought up
A state-rights free-trade Democrat. What’s that ?
An inconsistency. The state shall be
Laws to itself, it seems, and yet have no
Control of what it sells or what it buys.
Suppose someone comes near me who in rate
Of speech and thinking is so much my better
I am imposed on, silenced and discouraged.
Do I submit to being supplied by him
As the more economical producer,
More wonderful, more beautiful producer?
No. I unostentatiously move off
Far enough for my thought-flow to resume.
Thought product and food product are to me
Nothing compared to the producing of them
I sent you once a song with the refrain:

Let me be the one
To do what is done

My share at least lest I be empty-idle.
Keep off each other and keep each other off.
You see the beauty of my proposal is
It needn’t wait on general revolution.
I bid you to a one-man revolution
The only revolution that is coming.
We’re too unseparate out among each other
With goods to sell and notions to impart.

A youngster comes to me with half a quatrain
To ask me if I think it worth the pains
Of working out the rest, the other half.
I am brought guaranteed young prattle poems
Made publicly in school, above suspicion
Of plagiarism and help of cheating parents.
We congregate embracing from distrust
As much as love, and too close in to strike
And be so very striking. Steal away
The song says. Steal away and stay away.
Don’t join too many gangs. Join few if any.
Join the United States and join the family
But not much in between unless a college.
Is it a bargain, Shepherd Meliboeus?

Probably but you’re far too fast and strong
For my mind to keep working in your presence.
I can tell better after I get home,
Better a month from now when cutting posts
Or mending fence it all comes back to me
What I was thinking when you interrupted
My life-train logic. I agree with you
We’re too unseparate. And going home
From company means coming to our senses.