Andrew J. Schatkin's Collections
There was a time when poets such as Shelley, Byron, Tennyson, and Browning had a wide audience in the English-speaking world. John Stuart Mill, an English 19th century philosopher, had a wide intellectual impact on the English-speaking world and was even in the House of Commons at one point. In short, writers, poets, and philosophers at one time generated great respect and a substantial public following. Even in the 20th century, philosophers such as John Dewey and Bertrand Russell had a great public impact. There persons were in some ways the celebrities of their time.
It is apparent that times have altered and changed and one may wonder if the change has been for the good. American society has admiration for and sets up on a pedestal the wealthy, the rich and the famous. For some time now, it has been pounded into the psyche and minds of the American public that persons with wealth, notoriety, and celebrity fame are the ones to whom we should look up. Images of the rich and famous are constantly flashed for us by way of television, images, computer images and the silver screen. The American public has been propagandized into believing that the rich and famous are the persons to be admired and respected. This is absolutely ridiculous. In our society, little respect is given to intellectual activity whether scientific or otherwise. The American people are told to respect money and success.
In the early 20th century, Albert Schweitzer left his post in France to serve, for no money reward, African natives in what was then French Africa. He did so because of his Christian commitment to alleviate suffering. It is possible that in today's world he would be ignored and the public eye would be focused on former Mayor Bloomberg and Mitt Romney. For every rich and famous celebrity, there is a humble doctor saving lives, a farmer raising food for the world, and, one may hope, a lawyer bringing some form of justice to his clients. For every celebrity and for every one of the rich and famous whose images appear on television and newspapers, there is a mission post throughout the world in which believing Christian render free medical care and establish free schooling for persons too poor to get that help. One may conclude that being rich and famous does not mean a great deal.
Thus I suggest that American culture, which elevates fame, money, and riches, is a poor culture. There is no respect in America for a great writer who earns no money. There is a great respect for sports figures and actors and actresses because, in American society, success is the benchmark and keystone. How one dresses, for an American, defines that person.
In my opinion, American culture is shallow and deficient in its thrust and meaning. Culture should be defined by artistic, intellectual, scientific and literary contributions, and not by wealth appearance, looks, or the images of success that the media impose on the American public and propagandize into believing their validity and Truth.
Times change. In the 4th century A.D., wealthy people went into the desert of Egypt to find Christ. In today's world, people seek to find what they wish will define themselves in their Lexus or their house in the Hamptons or their penthouse on Park Avenue. It remains to be seen where the truth lies. One may only say that a Galilean peasant 2000 years ago founded a movement that is followed by two billion people today. One may wonder whether the wealth and success that American pop culture idolizes will last beyond the deaths of the persons who have presented to us in their lifetimes images that are fictional and false and have no truth.
I am told that children in the first grade are given computers to toll their sums and learn and compose their first nascent paragraphs. Information is gained by computer, essays are now composed on a word processor and entertainment obtained in the silence of the bedroom staying at one's computer. In a word, the printed word, as a means of entertaining one's self and informing, is fast becoming a relic. At one time, men read the dramatic poetic monologues of Browning for pleasure; men and women read the novels of Charles Dickens, Henry James and George Eliot in magazine serial form. There was a time when men and women listened to the three-hour sermons of John Donne and Lancelot Andrews and then read them. There was even a public for epic poetry- witness the publication in 1679 of Milton's Paradise Lost.
Reading tastes and habits have not only altered, but shifted to combine visual and oral mediums. If the printed book is not in danger of becoming extinct, it is surely in danger of being replaced by other more capturing and sensually-exciting forms of oral and visual entertainment.
What then can we say of the relevance of Classical languages and literature, Greek and Latin; what reason can we offer for the study of long dead languages? The answer is much in every way. For better or worse, we stand on the shoulders of the ancients, if not at their feet. Alfred North Whitehead offered the view that all Western philosophy was by way of being a footnote to Plato. Before the Christian or Muslim god there was the unmoved mover of Aristotle, the first and primary cause above all other causes whereby the universal mechanism operates. St. Thomas Aquinas restates Aristotle in the light of revelation Epic poetry primarily in Homer and secondarily in Virgil are the models of the genre. Virgil is the guide in Dante's Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost and the Italian epics of Tasso and Aristotle find their source in Virgil
Whether it is the epic, the choral lyric of Pindar, Greek Tragedy or Roman Comedy, we of the West owe almost every poetic and dramatic form to the Greeks and Romans. Before Bacon, Montaigne or Ralph Waldo, Emerson there were the essays of Cicero on Friendship and on Moral Duties. The romantic novel of today has its source and is a lineal descendant in the ancient novel of Apuleius.
There is nothing new under the sun. Our so-called modern ideas find their source in ancient philosophy. Feminism is the new wave of the millennium. Plato in the Fifth book of the Republic posited the equality of women and argued for their equality in the educational, governmental and social spheres. Communism found its ultimate model inn Plato's ideal state where philosophers are kings.
If we are not to be the victims of our continued mistakes, sin and ignorance or if we are not to limit ourselves to current fads and our own particular parochial schools of thought and we are perchance to step outside of our own limited sphere for a day, the Classics remain relevant and telling.
The Greeks and Romans still speak to us in our time in their literature and art, expressing in their literature ultimate beauty, form, and original thought. We have not grown beyond them or away from them but remain their children growing in our minds and persons as any child does but ever knowing and mindful that whatever is ideal, spiritual, metaphysical and literary in ourselves will never be severed from them. You who have beyond the whims of youth know full well in the approach to the gates of death we are tied and bound to the Classical heritage. For as we die we cease to fight those who have given us life.
The past still speaks to us, dead or alive, advising, loving and pointing the way out of our limitations to our continued relationship with the past.
We do a disservice to our children when we leave them in the ignorance and abyss of the current modern novel and the daily newspaper and the computer. To think one is modern because one is in the throes of some current idea, be it feminism, Marxism, or materialism, is to be cut off and benighted.
The classics free us of our modernity, free us of our presumptions and desire for a relevance found first in the Dialogues of Plato. To know the Classics is to be a little more liberated from oneself, a little freer, and somewhat more human than possible. We reject them at our peril.
In our present age and society, it would appear that we are in the midst and throes of great progress. This progress seems to take many forms and so may be defined in a number of ways. To begin with, in medicine, with the advent of anesthesia, antibiotics and advanced surgery we have greatly extended the human life span and made life for most persons easier and more fulfilling. There are many cures for formerly incurable diseases that in former days ended life completely. Thus many diseases such as Tuberculosis, Polio, and Measles have been completely eliminated. Advances in medicine thus have brought about an extended lifespan and a more pain free life for most of us.
In similar fashion, there has been great progress in technology. With the advent of computers and technology, in general life has been sped up and everything and anything has become more accessible. The distance has been eliminated to a large degree and connection between persons if not nations is more rapid speedier and easier. The result has been globalization and the virtual elimination of national, religious, and racial distinctions. Machinery and technology have made life more facile, and with email communications we may reach out and touch whomsoever and wherever we want. With more rapid communication and transportation, we are in striking distance of anyone and anywhere in Earth.
In these areas, progress has occurred and it can be confidently said that life is better for more of humanity who can avail themselves of these advances. In other areas, technology and medicine have accomplished little, if anything. We are still spiritual- and poverty-stricken amoral cripples. The 20th century has witnessed massive human slaughter in two World Wars as well as a number of genocides including the Armenian genocide by the Turks; the Jewish genocide; the genocide of Pol Pot; the Rwandan genocide, the genocide of former Yugoslavia, and most recently the genocide occurring in Darfur in the Sudan. The massive slaughter that followed the Russian revolution should not be left unmentioned. We still, kill, maim, and torture our fellow human beings. We attack our spouses, verbally and sometimes physically. Fathers decline to support their children and mothers at times choose not to bother with their children or abort them in the first place. We have made materialism and narcissism our benchmark and desideratum. The advances in technology and medicine have been matched by our puny if not non-existent personal, moral, and ethical progress. If not for laws that control human behavior, life would be impossible and intolerable.
Our souls are dry rot; we are served with a diet of meaningless poverty-stricken concepts and ideas generated by television and the internet. We invent more and more sophisticated weapons of mass destruction to kill more and more people. And technology and machinery have been employed to effectively kill more and more people more efficiently.
There has been some moral and ethical progress, at least in the Western world, since we no longer torture people in the stocks or employ the whipping post, or boil them in oil, or drown them, or burn them at the stake as occurred well in the l9th century. But we still employ the death penalty rather than incarcerate many criminals, which costs much but does offer the chance for rehabilitation and change for that person.
On the other hand, there has been little progress in literature. For example, poetry, once a popular art form is not the province of specialized academics. We have no Dantes, Miltons, Virgils, Keats’s, Shelleys, or Victor Hugos. We produce massive glass structures but cannot produce a Gothic cathedral dedicated to the glory of God. In short, we produce cars, pedestrian malls, and buildings of massive ugliness and monstrosity, but very few beautiful things.
With progress comes decline. What we gain in one sense, we lose in another. We can only say that we are still moral and ethical barbarians and employ technology to kill and maim and employ medicine to treat the maimed and crippled. We may eliminate distance, do things faster, and live longer, but we still on a continuous and intense basis inflict pain and suffering on our fellow human beings. Having done so, we remain largely indifferent to the pain and suffering we may have inflicted.
Whether real progress has occurred and has happened at all remains a question.
In our modern world, intelligence, intellect, academic intelligence, or being smart for many people, if not most, has a premium value. Our society is a competitive one, and puts great emphasis on intellectual and academic ability. We admire people who are smart, and often many of us, if not most of us, have the desire to be smarter or brighter than the others around us.
The simple reason for this is that in the past men, and to a lesser degree, women, accomplished their ends by brute force. Cavemen used their brute strength to vanquish their neighbors, enemies, or adversaries. For many centuries, this was the most frequent scenario in our society, that is to say, men took what they could get, whether wives, land, goods, or whatever else, by brute strength. It should be noted that the class structures in our society, even in the modern world, have their genesis in particular families having acquired more wealth, goods, and land than others, at some point in the past, thereby becoming “upper-class” and by that method attaining economic superiority if not economic subjugation over their immediate neighbors, who in this process and devolution became “lower class.”
Intelligence, academic ability, and being smarter than other people have replaced brute strength as a method of obtaining power, wealth, goods, position, and status in our society. As a result of this, the modern world requires many years of schooling and puts a premium on those individuals who have the requisite academic talent to obtain, by this method, upper class status. Surely, there are other forms of talent and ability which include, creative ability, business ability, athletic ability, and, for the wife and mother, nurturing and caring ability.
In any event, as a convinced Christian I must differ from this emphasis on “smartness” or “being smart” as the main thing in life because that barometer does not take into account a person’s character. Paul the Apostle, the greatest of philosophical and religious thinkers in the history of the world, in my opinion, has a different view. St. Paul presents a different perspective on the premium the modern world puts on intelligence, intellectual ability or whatever might be contained under this rubric. In his letter to the Corinthian Church, Chapter 13, he says the following:
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
It is clear that for the Apostle Paul to the gentiles, love is greater than fancy speech or even the speech of angels. Prophesy, mysteries, knowledge, and the faith to move mountains and material goods are nothing, for the Apostle Paul in comparison with the quality of love, or what might be better understood as charity. He says that when he was a child he spoke like a child, reasoned like a child, and thought like a child but when he became a man, he gave up childish things, which includes all those things that he had enumerated as nothing in comparison to charity or love. He says that of the three qualities of faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love.
For the Christian and for St. Paul, knowledge, intellect, arrogant intellectual superiority, or the desire to be smarter or better than others, is nothing and negative in comparison with love and charity. For the Christian, love is the aim, not being smart or smarter. It is love and charity that build a better world, not facile smartness. The ultimate aim is not being smart but being kind and loving. It is stupid to be smarter than others when the aim is stamping those around us intellectually under our feet.
A final note: I have always found it ironic and significant that Jesus chose as his disciples and apostles, not the richest and not the smartest but simple working folk, such as fisherman. To these seemingly not-so-smart people, he entrusted the salvation of the world.
This essay is taken, with changes and alterations, from chapter 27 of my book entitled “Essays on the Christian Worldview and Others, Political, Literary, and Philosophical,” pp. 66 and 67 published in 2011 by Hamilton books.
I take this title from the broadside of Jonathan Swift who proposed a solution to the overpopulation of the poor in Ireland to boil and roast these young children.
I say here that the Democratic Party’s platform and its positions are not only wrong but cannot be voted for. Let me take a look at the platform…
The Democratic Party proposes open borders and sanctuary cities. What this means is that illegal immigrants will be admitted en masse and not only admitted but actually protected from deportation. The Democratic Party envisions and wishes to build a system and society where lawlessness and legal anarchy govern whether the person here illegally not only gains easy entrance but takes jobs from the struggling black and Hispanic minorities which they so desperately need and may be forced into the army in their quest for employment and may be fated to die in the battlefields of Afghanistan.
Our illegal residents may and will be favored over those who have come here legally and play by the rules by reason of being paid low wages and no benefits. We live in a system of law, not legal anarchy and lawlessness. I note that recently an illegal immigrant who was deported six times has been charged with the murders of 3 homeless men This in fact if the Democratic Party is restored to office and is placed by vote in control of the Senate and House of Representatives is the system envisioned by the Democratic Party.
Just recently the governor of California allowed the issuance of licenses to illegal immigrants, an obvious attempt to permit persons illegally here to vote. Again, this is nothing more than endorsing and promoting illegality and law-breaking. I ask can we as citizens vote for a party that in some sense backs and promotes the violation of law and says it is good and charitable? More to the point, Governor Cuomo of the State of New York gave voting right to 24,000 felons on parole including murderers, rapists and pedophiles. Herman , a killer of 3 police officers in New York, was recently granted this right of reprieve, but four months later he murdered a San Francisco police officer. This was accomplished by executive order where the law was that this voting right could not be permitted until the completion of parole. The Governor bypassed the law in doing this. I would note that parole is a part of a criminal sentence and the felon is still a sentenced felon where he has obtained the right to vote.
The Democrats vehemently opposed the President's travel ban. I have no prejudice or anger of hostility to our Muslim brothers and sisters as a Christian since I know how the eternal God loves and values them. But the fact is that within certain Muslim-majority countries there is a minority that does do harm to others on an alleged religious and cultural basis. It is undeniable that for some time these attacks and murders have occurred in NY, Boston, California, Orlando, and in many European countries, including the UK, France, Germany and Belgium. The President's action in this ban was a pragmatic response to serious acts of criminality. The Democratic Party, if elected, might chose to end this ban and thereby permit these attacks and murders to continue.
I make a final note. The Democratic Party opposes the pro-life position. We Christians take this view not opposing or seeking to persecute women but because we set a value on human from inception to the grave. The value we set is the value that God places on all men and women eternal and undying. The Democratic Party may oppose pro-life yet this party of charity for the illegal well knows that the vast majority of abortions are performed on poor black and Latino children. If the Democratic Party is so concerned with separation of children at the border, where is their concern for these poor minority children whose disposable lives are tossed in a garbage can? I ask you my fellow citizens not to vote for the Democrat, whose policies I have just stated and defined have the potential to destroy the fabric of our society and bring about a system of anarchy, death, and abandon the rule of law.
If you wish to know more about me, please feel free to visit my website SchatkinShow.com, where you will see my books, blogs, and podcasts, and also feel free to join me in this movement to not merely restore our country but to prevent what could well happen to us all. My e mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I also welcome calls at (718) 229-2761.
I will now make some final comments on left wing media reportage and left wing ideology. Karen Pence, the Vice President's wife, was criticized if not attacked for teaching at a conservative Christian school. The school requires employees to pledge they believe marriage is monogamous and heterosexual and that they will not engage in homosexual or lesbian activity or adopt or promote transgender identity, and the school can deny admission or remove a student whose behavior is in opposition to the biblical lifestyle the school teacher.
I note the following: Other religious traditions such as orthodox Judaism and Islam, if they operate parochial schools, may have similar rules. Those other schools and religious belief systems are not under criticism and attack by the left. It is quite clear that this is a selective critique and attack on a certain element and part of the Christian community. Moreover, the Sheridan school headmaster, Jessica Donovan, stated that she banned the school from playing sports with the Immanuel Christian school where Karen Pence teaches and then decided her students would wear rainbow socks in a show of LGBQT support.
I say this first: I have every love and concern for the homosexual and transgender community who are very much our brothers and sisters in Christ and I certainly do not endorse any form of discrimination directed to them within the civil society. But this is a private parochial religious school that can set its own parameters. The Roman Catholic Church’s catechism lays down no moral approval of homosexual acts but stresses homosexuals must be accepted with respect and compassion and not discriminated against and uses the term “disorder” to describe their lifestyle. One may not agree with the position of the Roman Catholic Church on this matter, but it lends some support to the position of the school where Karen Pence teaches. Although I must stress that I myself have no hostility or ill-founded feelings toward our homosexual brothers and sisters.
In addition, there is significant scriptural support for the position of Karen Pence’s school. Genesis 19, the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, addresses this issue. The book of Leviticus also issues a prohibition against this activity (Lev 18:22). In the book of Romans, St. Paul in verses1:24-27 speaks against this activity. There is biblical support for the position of the Immanuel school and its religious views which have a degree of support for some in the Christian belief system it is not a matter of discrimination but understanding this particular religious tradition and its basis.
I would like to make an additional comment about an article in the Queens Courier of Jan. 31, 2019 entitled “Queens advocates fume over latest ICE sweep in borough.” The article is by Emily Davenport and Mark Hallum. The article responds to ICE arrests of convicted criminals, and those who had criminal charges pending, while 55 had a final order of removal or had been previously removed from the United States and returned illegally. Alisa Welleck, the executive director of the Immigrant Defense Project, stated without factual basis that the records of these individuals were mischaracterized and that the raids were unconstitutional and immoral. Ms. Welleck says the flames of hate are fanned by demonizing any immigrant with a criminal record Ms. Welleck also states that ICE has no place in sanctuary city such as New York and that her job is to fight for undocumented immigrants.
There are a number of fallacies in this article and Ms. Welleck’s statements. First, these are not immigrants nor are they merely undocumented, but they are illegally here and should be treated as such. The arguments here by Ms. Welleck are indefensible. Second, Ms. Welleck admits that in fact many of these immigrants have criminal records in addition to being here illegally. The actions of ICE are a proper enforcement of law. The issue is not immigration or immigrants but illegal presence with in some instances a criminal record. The hate and immorality lie with those who defy the law and commit crimes, not with law enforcement whose duty and obligation it is to properly address this issue.
At the present time in the United States, there are few available legal remedies for the employee who perceives he has been unfairly treated by his employer. Whether in being denied the position he has applied for; in not being promoted; in being terminated; or in being subject over a lengthy period of time to a consistent pattern of harassment constituting a hostile work environment, there are not many legal options. It is true that there are a number of federal statutes that protect these employees from discriminatory actions on the part of the employer in the respects I have just mentioned. These include discrimination on the basis of disability via 42 USC Sec. 12112; age discrimination prohibited under 29 USC Sec. 623; and discrimination based on national origin, race, sex, gender and religion under 42 USC Sec. 2000e. There is also a statue statute under Sec. 296 of the New York State Executive Law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin or marital status.
All of these statutes provide a remedy for the employee who has been discharged; refused a job; not promoted; or subjected to a hostile work environment if the employee can prove actual discrimination in these actions by the employer. These statutes are particularly important and significant in today’s society. For some time now, unions have shrunk in numbers and power in the United States. As a result, few workers have the protection of any union from demotion, firing, or, in general, unfair treatment on the part of their employer. Thus most employees, unless they have civil service protection, have no job security. This is particularly prevalent in the private sector where most people are employed in the United States and where they can be terminated by their employer for virtually no reason at all. This is known as ‘termination at will.’ Unless legislation is passed mandating that the employer provide some sort of job security, the employee has no other recourse but to sue under one of the discrimination statutes, and they will only have success if they can prove discrimination.
The capitalist system in this country, which allows the employer to fire for any reason except discrimination can be proved, is not likely to be changed at any time in the near future. The present system, where firings occur on an extremely regular basis, makes life extremely difficult for the worker who needs a regular job to pay the expenses of maintaining his or her home and family. Thus, at the present time in society, these statutes have great importance and significance.
They are the only way that provides any form of balance of power between the employer and the employee. Where there is civil service protection, the employee is given the ability to defend himself against unfair treatment by the employer. The alternative is treatment that is completely outrageous and unfair on the part of the employer because the employer has such far and wide ranging discretion. Many times, this discretion can take the form of discharging someone even for reasons of personal dislike or on the basis of personal chemistry and feelings by the employer. It is obvious that to discharge someone who has been doing his or her work competently because of personal dislike is not fair.
The only protections in our present society against these sorts of actions and events are these statutes described above, and a few others like them, until our present system can to some extent be altered and modified. In our present society, the situation that has evolved is that not only is the worker unable to keep his job for any period of time, but he is not even allowed to earn a pension or have any long term benefits. These statutes may and have been abused by plaintiff employees who really have not been discriminated against but merely discharged for another reason, perhaps personal, on the part of the employer. I suggest, however, that under these statutes the courts of this country give the employee every chance to have some ability in an economic system where they have been made pawns on a checker board and can be moved at will out of the economic system. The capitalist system cannot endure unless workers are given the right to have and keep a job to pay their expenses and support their families. Without this, although the wealthy and management class may be enriched temporarily, the system will eventually fail and fall. I argue these statutes are extremely critical and that the employee should be given every opportunity to present his case since this is his or her only recourse in our present society. These statutes may be the only way that our broad citizenry can survive in a system where they are pushed farther and farther down solely for the purpose and the enrichment of the corporate and wealthy class.
All of us are concerned about feelings, mainly our own. Sad to say, we give little thought to other people and their feelings and, as I said, we are rather egregiously and absolutely concerned with our own typical human self-involvement and egotism. This little essay will concern itself with analyzing feelings.
The first thing that must be said is that feelings are very inexact indicators of truth. Our feelings may be affected when someone chooses not to talk to us, or declines, or is indifferent to that issue. In reality, that person may be simply living their life without reference to our feelings at all, or to ourselves at all. We interpret their indifference or lack of attention to us as a stab at our feelings and personhood, At times, our feelings are affected when someone speaks to us in what we perceive as an overly harsh, cutting, and mean spirited fashion. That may be the way that person speaks to everyone and that particular behavior may be and is not directed to us or our feelings.
Thus as we see by these examples our feelings interpret things and twist them, misleading us, and so it may be said that feelings are not very exact indicators of truth. Second, in the present state of society, feelings do not occupy a very great role. An example would be the ideal of romantic love, which governed western culture for some 1900 years up to the present time when lust has taken over. lf we chance to view the movies or listen to the Broadway shows of the 1930s and 1940s, we see romantic love featured men and women approach each other gingerly and barely touch.
At that time in society, love was paramount, not lust. The films of that era depicted men and women as falling in love and getting married. The films of today portray them as jumping into bed, to wit the James Bond films. The popular music of our day is crude and its lyrics at times offensive, featuring animal passion as opposed to the love songs of South Pacific, one of the great Broadway shows of the 1940s, including "Some Enchanted Evening". If we have not grown up from love, we perhaps have grown away from it and so feelings are nulled and hidden and not really featured.
The delicacy of romantic love and the love songs of the Broadway stage have been overcome by crude, loud, blaring cacophony, featuring grotesquely offensive lyrics.
One may speculate that the reason for this is the decline of the Christian worldview which promoted love leading to marriage. That worldview has been slowly eroded and in some cases eliminated depending on who you are talking to.
A final point in this little literary byway about feelings is that feelings and emotions differ between child and adult. The child is concerned, if not twisted and obsessed with, his own feelings and being loved or better put being the recipient of love from his parents, teachers and other adults that he or she looks up to. Adult feelings are different. Compassion, kindness, and charity are adult emotions and feelings. They
concern themselves not with the feelings of our persons in our self but concern consideration and humanity as respects others. Only a mature adult can realize and express these feelings. What then can we say of feelings? What with cell phones, emails, computers DVDs, television, and movies feelings and relationships are distant and removed and so love is distant and removed. This is another reason why feelings are on the decline in our present society. We are more and more separated by technology and electronics and the opportunity to form giving, concerned, compassionate humanitarian relationships is becoming and has become more and more difficult if not unreachable.
One may hope that human relationships will make a comeback from the forces of darkness that assault us men and women A world without feelings between persons is a gray, boring world and is unforgiving and without growth and dynamism. One may hope that there will be a return to the romantic humanitarian ideal, which is the only way to true growth.
We, all of us, as we go through our lives, often seek to uplift ourselves above the crowd, or, better put, seek to nail and found our self-confidence or personhood on some personal quality, accomplishment, or whatever we might want to pin our hopes on.
Many, if not most, pin their sense of self-importance, particularly in the present age, on their material wealth or riches. They say to others, my superiority or greatness lies in my expensive car, perhaps a Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes, or my expensive vacation home in the Hamptons.
Others prefer to point to themselves on other bases. Some people seek to uplift themselves by saying, “I am smarter than other people or better educated.” They may point out to others that they have specialized knowledge in some certain field, and so they convince themselves they are in some way so much superior to the “lesser minds” that surround them.
A third group of folks adopt another way of raising themselves above the crowd. They will point to the fact that they are cultured and better educated, and by this method, they see others, and label them at least in their own minds, as ignorant or unlettered.
The fourth group may say to the world, “I have greater physical strength.” Football players and athletes may seek to dominate their environment by this method.
For a fifth group, it may be their appearance or looks that enable them to say to themselves, “I am better than other people.” This is particularly prevalent in our present society. It makes victims, by this false standard, of both women and men.
The sixth group, and this is a particularly sad commentary, may claim that they are morally superior; perhaps they may say, “I have great religious faith,” and for these folks their greater virtue, morality, or faith, at least as they believe, separate them from the crowd.
These modes of pinning our hopes on some quality or accident attached to ourselves is, I think, fallacious. For the true believing Christian, God attaches value to all souls and all people, regardless of their economic status, culture, appearance, physical strength, intelligence, education, or their faith.
In short, one might say that God attaches greater value to one soul that comes to him, than all the culture, wealth, intellect, knowledge, beauty, or strength that others may have.
Let me end this little essay by saying that when I was a younger person I thought culture, education, and perhaps religious faith might be important, or at least I sought to make myself important by these methods. I now know this was a mistake. In fact, by making culture, education, or religious faith a kind of idol, I mistook their use and purpose. Culture, as a term, has no particular meaning beyond the fact that some people, if not many people, enjoy particular artistic products. The goal is the natural enjoyment of those works, rather than the use of them to separate and exclude others. By the same token, religious faith, or Christian belief, is not to be used as a method of barring and excluding the unsaved, but is rather a good thing in that it makes us better people and makes for a better life for us and the people around us.
It is a grievous and sad commentary that humanity uses the many goods that surround them as a method of dominance, exclusion, and the establishment of class demarcations. That is neither the use nor the purpose of the particular qualities and goods that I have just discussed. As usual, any good is corrupted by twisted human nature.
As a Christian, I value all life from inception to the last dying seconds. That is the value God places on all humanity, regardless of race, sex, age or any other factors. In this essay, I would like to talk about the death penalty and why as a Christian I oppose it but with reservations on the issue.
The death penalty spells an end to life. The argument is that the full measure of vengeance by the people comes upon another who has taken a life and this deters other societal miscreants from doing the same. Admittedly, homicide is the most heinous of crimes. Yet as a citizen, as the whole person and as a Christian who sets and understands the eternal value God places on all human life LI oppose it. I do so not because I believe that it does not truly deter future murders—I do—and not because I believe that mistakes are made in the criminal justice process and thus the death penalty may be wrongly imposed—they are. I feel this way because every man or woman, be he or she among the handicapped, the elderly, the mentally disabled, or children not yet born, has value. As an aside, for the same reason I oppose abortion and euthanasia. All life at any stage has infinite value and eternal value. Value is to be accorded to all, not due to their apparent superior intellect, or talents, not because of their superior financial status, and not because they are the ruling of dominant class, sex, or race. Those who think themselves so much better are likely so due to environment, opportunity, or current fashion. The baseball player or rock star is paid millions while Mother Teresa earned little or nothing for all her service to the outcasts, unwanted, underprivileged and poor. She saw value in all not because of what they have but because of what they are.
Jesus Christ, for me God incarnate in human form and for others perhaps a great teacher, forgave the criminals beside him at the moment of his death. He points the way to truth. It is the way of advanced civilization, the way of all the great religions, and teachers, the way of Tao, Confucius, and the Talmut. However disheveled, unattractive, and apparently abominable, there is value in all. I say again that Jesus for me as God is the sole mediator and way to understand what I say here but the teachers I mention here also provide guidance in this respect.
A society that sees no value in life itself—even in murderers—falls short of that respect and devotion to life in all its forms that must govern any enlightened society. It is not the outside of a man or woman I see, but the inside, the inner light. This inner light may be found in all, even the weak and the seemingly unattractive, and yes, even in criminals. Any civilization of society that chooses to exterminate any of its members for facial reasons of justice, vengeance, or deterrence falls short of the measure of an enlightened civilization. Five thousand years or so have passed since the Code of Hammurabi. If we have not grown up from it, let us at least grow away from it. English common law once executed pickpockets. That is no longer so. If we are to avoid the stigma of barbarism, let us once and for all cease what can be said to amount to no less than murder in the name of justice. Let us acknowledge that we do not raise ourselves and our society by placing no value on a life. This is the way beyond the Holocaust, beyond the Cambodian Genocide, and beyond Genghis Khan. Let us take that step.
Let me add something here. I oppose abortion and euthanasia for the reasons I have given here. But the lives of the unborn and those approaching death may not be equated with the death penalty imposed on one who has grossly violated our legal system and taken the life of another. The death penalty does take a life through the operation of our legal system but it is not the life of an innocent or the dying elderly that have had say in the decision taken to take away their lives. This is the point of distinction and it must be considered and heard in this present discussion. There is a question whether the life of an innocent or dying elder with no ability or chance to have a say or defend themselves is the same as the imposition of the death penalty after a find of guilt. It is clear they are not to be totally equated.
This essay is taken, with modifications and changes, from my essay in the book “Select Legal Topics: Civil, Criminal, Federal, Evidentiary, Procedural, and Labor,” Chapter 50 p.162, entitled Why I Am Opposed to the Death Penalty, published by University Press of America.
There has occurred and developed in the United States and many Western countries a parallel understanding and view of Christmas and Easter. Christmas has been co-opted by the commercial business sector with the object of making money. Christmas in its secular interpretation is concerned with children, laughing, and joyful exchange of gifts and a general atmosphere of love and happiness. This Christmas has been widely adopted by many faiths and many of the carols we hear have no connection with Christ. This general Christmas of good-will also involves Christmas trees and decorations and it is possible that these have pagan origins.
But there is a second Christmas, which is the real Christmas – this is celebrated by a thinner and thinner minority in our society. This minority concerns itself with the birth of Christ and God revealing himself in human form. It is a joy and wonder that God took on humanity and entered human history. The true meaning of Christmas is not the glitter and noise but the act of God in taking human form to bring about salvation and eternal life. The real purpose of Christmas and Christ is the repair of our broken natures, and, if you will, our sinful natures. The secular Christmas, we must recognize, has no truth and serves to mislead people from the true Christmas. The true Christmas is Christ offering to humanity new life and the conquest of death. The Christmas which is based on commerce and money certainly has little truth. Perhaps the reason the world does not recognize the Christian Christmas is because it does not recognize the problem and its solution in Christ. Christmas is God’s way of providing a way out from sin and death. It is certainly not the Christmas that has taken over our world.
I would also like to talk about the two Easters. The secular or commercial Easter has come to dominate the entire celebration and holiday. It involves sometimes the Easter bunny and sometimes an Easter egg-hunt. Once again, the festival has been co-opted by the business and commercial sector and that takeover is misleading to the real meaning of Easter and its significance. Easter completely and solely is concerned with the risen Christ and his conquest of death. It certainly has nothing to do with the things I just mentioned. Easter is the resurrection and the offer by Christ to share in his eternal life and love. In fact, it has come to the point when both in the commercial Christmas and commercial Easter, Jesus is left out of the picture. I have to say that I am in somewhat disagreement with these business takeovers of what are essentially religious festivals and events. A child which comes to think of Christmas as trees, decorations, and gifts is being misled and misinformed. The Easter bunny has little connection with the offer of eternal life and love in the risen Christ. I have no objection to these secular interpretations of these events, but I for one do not choose to agree with them or be convinced by them. I do not think the government or secular society is obligated to observe these religious festivals but it is my position that the true nature of these events should be made clear. In short, the commercial interpretation of these religious festivals is a lie.
Moral relativism, so called, has gained in the United States and many Western nations and societies, currency, if not widespread acceptance. The idea behind moral relativism is that there are no set or absolute moral or ethical rules and, as a result, it follows there is no absolute truth or truths. Moral choice is apprehended not as an absolute, but, as an individual choice, from person to person, and from age to age.
Thus, for example, adultery, once codified as a crime, has subsequently come to carry nothing more than a severe societal stigma. Adultery has now gained a degree of tolerance, if not outright acceptance. Casual sexual liaisons, also, conducted outside of the marriage bond, once stigmatized, have gained widespread societal acceptance. Consensual homosexual relations, once known as consensual sodomy, also in the past regarded and codified as illegal have, as well, gained toleration.
At this point in time in most Western societies, we do not tolerate, and have
stopped short of tolerating and accepting, incest or adult/child sex, but appear to be moving toward total acceptance of same-sex or homosexual marriage.
Moral relativism as an idea, implies if not states that ''you can do what you want" and gain toleration, if not approval, as long as you harm no one outright, and break no laws.
Absolute truth posits there are fixed ethical and moral norms, the deviation from which constitutes some sort of wrongdoing or moral error, which should not be tolerated or accepted and which deserve to be stigmatized, if not made illegal and punished.
Moral relativism has its roots in a number of misleading and erroneous thought sources. The moral relativist says that as long as what you do in some sense makes you feel good and does not constitute a bother or irritation to anyone in your vicinity, it is seen as ok. This idea has its source in the media, where television, computers, and, of course, the Internet present deviate and illicit sexual behavior as fine and implicitly, if not explicitly, encourage it. A glance at Internet chat rooms and personal advertisements shows this to be true, as well as the widespread dissemination of pornographic material at all newsstands and places we can buy things.
The media, as a source of moral and ethical truth is, charitably put, faintly if not actually, ridiculous, since the promotion of these purported lifestyles and images has its source in the desire of its purveyors to obtain for themselves wealth and financial gain. This desire to make money, as a source of these ideas, constitutes a kind of corruption with the result that what the media presents as the image and desideratum of what we as men and women should do and be, is nothing more than an outright bald-faced lie, emanating from the desire for personal enrichment on the part of its creators and purveyors.
The second source of error in the concept and principle of oral relativism is a misinterpretation, or rather misapprehension, of what is meant by democracy. In a democracy, there is a belief that all men's and women's opinions have equal value and validity in the free and open market place of ideas that constitutes a free society. In sum, we are led to believe that since everyone has an equal vote that therefore what they may happen to say constitutes some sort of truth. This is a misconstruction and misinterpretation, I think, of democracy. What everyone happens to say does not have equal intellectual validity or truth, and should not, therefore, be given equal credence. The idea that this should be so stems from the mistaken idea that all men and women are actually equal in their talents, intelligence, and ability.
A democracy is nothing more than a system of political equality, giving all its citizens an equal voice in the electoral process and voting franchise. Rich and poor, intellectual and worker, disabled and healthy, are all given an equal role in the governing process, insofar as they all have the same vote.
Let me add that democracy is the best of all systems, since it distributes power among all its citizens, with the result that any tendency on the part of one or more individuals to obtaining absolute power is checked and limited. Democracy, however, does not mean that all of us are equal. I may be a good lawyer, but I will never be a professional tennis player, a concert pianist, or even a rock star.
It follows from this that not all opinions and ideas should be given the same
toleration and given the same sort of respect. Thus, this misinterpretation of democracy, which is nothing more than a political system, leads to the mistaken view that morality is solely an individual matter and has no reference to any form of absolute truth.
The third source of the error of moral relativism is what has come to be called "political correctness." We, all of us, want to fit in and not publicly oppose what I hesitate, but must call, the current propaganda and jargon that is constantly and continuously inflicted on us all. We fall in with whatever, as it were, is in the air. All of us know that greed and the worship of material goods and money as a final end is not only wrong, but absurd.
Political correctness forces us publicly to say otherwise. What then can we say? Is it better to apprehend truth on the basis of what each person regards as personally appropriate for their particular situation or put it another way, what the particular age or Zeitgeist recommends at any particular time.
I admit that so-called fixed moral rules can and do lead to great human suffering if they are not carefully examined from age to age and from generation to generation.
Since human beings and human nature are in some sense corrupt, that corruption will operate in the name of a fixed morality to bring about and create wrong and moral errors, such as slavery, the oppression of women, or any other form of injustice. Corrupt human beings and their leaders will use morality and moral rules for whatever corrupt political purpose they may have, whether to gain power for themselves over less powerful and unfavored groups, or simply to get more money.
The sources of moral relativism—the media, greed, and misleading political thinking—mean that, as an idea, it has little or no value. Political correctness, the forces of greed, and corrupt political leadership say to us that adultery and casual sexual liaisons are perfectly fine. We all know within our hearts and spirits that they are not. The media says through bombarding us with pornographic images that that is ok. We all know within our hearts it is not. We all know that the single minded desire for material goods and wealth as a value system is totally bereft of any intellectual validity. We are told by our corporate and political leaders that this should be our lodestar.
In short, we, within our deepest levels of consciousness as human beings, do believe that there are absolute moral norms and absolute truth. We call this natural law, for want of a better word. We all agree that we should be nice to the people around us. Christianity tells us to love our neighbor. In some sense, there is a universal thought system of moral law that informs and permeates our entire society. I am not convinced that what is purveyed by the media, what is in the air, or what is mistaken as tolerance constitutes any sort of truth. Some things are true, and others are not. I am not prepared to have the source of my thinking and life principles, molded by whatever happens to be faddish or fashionable, imposed on me and all of us for reasons of personal financial gain on the part of its makers, who inflict these corrupt ideas on us, solely for the purpose of attaining power.
At the present time we are barraged, if not bombarded, with what for want of a better word may be termed propaganda.
Most of what assaults us through and by the media is subtle, if not outright lies, and has no truth. Unfortunately, the danger exists of confusing truth with political sloganeering. For example (and I do not point to or seek an attack on any political party or leader), former President Bush said he wished to make citizens of illegal aliens, mostly Hispanic. This seems like an act of good will, and it is masked as love and charity; it also serves to undermine the American workers’ ability to earn a living and support his family at a sufficient wage. Thus the former President's apparent purpose is not to aid the many illegals in this country, who have no business here in the first place other than to provide cheap labor with no benefits, the purpose of which is to enrich corporate America's coffers.
The former Presidents, Bush and Reagan, both endorsed Supply-Side Economics. They posited that by not taxing the wealthiest sectors of society and the most profitable businesses, jobs will be created, and trickle down to the workers of America. Supply-Side Economics again, in my view, is nothing more than a political slogan and is really a lie, since its real purpose is to enrich the rich and make them richer.
Again, former President Bush offered faith-based charitable initiatives to displace government social programs by private charity. This might have been a good thing but the actual result might be to remove the government from medical care and social welfare and remove the social safety by transferring these programs to private charity, perhaps leaving the poor, aged, and disadvantaged without the basic social safety net they may desperately need. Again, I repeat the church and church-based charitable programs and initiatives could well be as or more helpful than the government bureaucracy. Again, some in both parties promote unbridled capitalism as the economic solution and talk of deregulation. Deregulation could bring greater prosperity, allowing business to function more effectively, but I do say that unbridled capitalism as an idea and philosophy is materialism which is nothing more than a system based on greed and selfishness, ruthless competition, survival of the fittest and self-aggrandizement.
In short, political propaganda and slogans have no truth in them.
Let me take a look at the policies and platform of the Democratic party. Until recently, the Democratic party claimed to be the party of the poor and the minorities. This party identified with the civil rights movement of black America. Yet well all know that America is a relatively rich industrialized country with some poor bur surely not poor in the sense that a person from South America, Asia, or Africa might be said to be. More recently, the Democratic party under the mask of charity and humanity told us that we should have open borders admitting large numbers of illegal aliens and have sanctuary cities to prevent them from deportation. In truth, this policy far from being humane and loving, serves to deprive the legal poor citizens and union members from the ability and chance to obtain positions that these unlawful and illegal individuals obtain. Illegal immigrants get lower wages and no benefit so they edge out the poor of all races and national origins from these jobs. The illegal aliens protected in the sanctuary cities touted by the Democrats get medical care, education, and even welfare that they are not legally entitled to and get them by outright manipulation.
Politics and political hype are not to be confused with truth. The truth is that as private citizens we should be charitable to our neighbors yet at the same time we all must recognize the need for the government safety net. It is also the truth that capitalism has its points in offering people incentives and opportunities but should and must be modified and controlled by social programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Minimum Wage and Unemployment Insurance.
The truth is that class distinctions which are the result of economic dominance and subjugation by some fortunate few are the product of human arrogance and selfishness and should be eliminated as much as possible to equalize our society. The truth is that cheap illegal labor attacks the American workers' ability to get jobs and hold them. The truth is enriching industry through deregulation is wrong, since future generations ability to enjoy our natural environment is severely compromised. It should be stressed that deregulated industry can and does provide jobs for workers. The truth is not homosexual marriage may not be such a good thing at least in the view of the church of Christ; but, on the other hand, homosexuals are citizens and are entitled to equal treatment under the law and most certainly should and cannot be discriminated against. The truth again is that Supply-Side economics may create jobs but under the guise of that terminology the wealthiest sectors pay no taxes and far from trickling down the rich hold and may hold all profits for themselves.
Keynesian economics say that government can rack unlimited deficits but all of us know in our hearts and mind that a government which is bankrupt and cannot pay its bills on current income or tax revenue and must continually borrow to continue functioning must fail and fall much as the private household or small business cannot function on that basis. The truth is that although we are told that selfishness, greed, and materialism are good things and we are told they will make us happy, we surely know that as human qualities and ideas they are not good and do not make people happy.
Where then can we find truth in a world where media is always lying? This is a hard question and the answer is equally-hard. The fact is that nothing can replace the Christian Worldview, the Bible, or the great idea in Western civilization. More important, nothing amidst this cacophony of untruths that are forced on us should compromise our ability to critically think and sort. It is only through our own reflection, in the course of our lives, along with our exposure to the great ideas of the past that we can understand our world and ourselves. We will never understand sadism, cruelty, egotism, and selfishness without understanding that men are on some level corrupt, and blackened in their souls.
We will never understand that materialism is not the answer until we recognize that men and women have a spiritual nature, that they will live beyond the grave, and that all our lives will come to an end, perhaps sooner than we think.
We will never understand the world or be surprised by it until we recognize that men have corrupted and debased a good thing.
Politics and political propaganda and sloganeering are nothing more than artful lies serving to deceive and obfuscate true-life principles that we all must find in the course of our lives and that we may be acute enough to see and grasp as they are presented to us and offered to us.
I would now like to discuss some examples from news articles about the confusion of politics and truth. In the Bayside Times, a local community newspaper in Bayside, Queens, NYC, dated October 26 to November 1, there is a front page story entitled “NE Queens residents rally in Bayside.” Speakers including Rep. Grace Meng and State Senate candidate John Liu. The article was concerned with the detention of some 13,000 Central American Children. The article ignores a number of possible facts. First, these children obviously cannot be held in adult facilities. The danger to them is obvious. Second, they may not be the actual children of the adults seeking entrance. Third, both adults and children have no legal right to enter this country. It is likely the children are being used by the adults to gain entrance. The same thing goes for the Dreamers. Their parents came to the country illegally and the children are here illegally and have been here on that basis for decades. The presence of both using our educational system, medical facilities, and gaining employment are acts of gross manipulation. They seek sympathy and compassion when both parents and children have used and abused our system when both had full opportunity to become legal citizens. Our system and its citizens can and should not be made a fool of.
There is another column in the newspaper in which the writer, Mr. Prashad, objected to the census question asking the person's legal status. If a person is illegally here, this question is extremely relevant. A person, in this case a person who is in violation of the laws of this country, has no reason to complain of this question when he has no right to be here in the first place. We live in a country based on the rule of law, which we all must obey. The writer also targets and complains of a law that a green card can be denied if the applicant is primarily dependent on public assistance. But should an illegal immigrant be permitted to obtain public assistance and then get a green card? Is that not rewarding a person for committing an illegal act?
Finally, I would like to reference an article by Jordan Duffner in the Fall 2018 issue of America, the Jesuit Review of Faith and Culture. The article is entitled “A Fair Picture of Muslim Belief.” Let me preface this critique with the statement that I have overwhelming respect for both the Roman Catholic church and the Jesuit Order, although I am a Lutheran. The Catholic Church and the Jesuits are at the forefront of the intersection of Christ and the world. Second, I have great love and respect for our Muslim brothers and sisters and certainly entertain no prejudice knowing the overwhelming number of Muslims are peaceful, honest, and hard- working. The author raises two points. First, he asks why the Muslim community does not condemn these attacks; and second, he urges that this violence is not the true Islamic faith. I have a point of disagreement. Islam grew by conquest, first of the Jewish and Christian communities in North Africa. The battle in France about 750AD; the Conquest of Spain,; the approach to Vienna about 1550; and finally the genocide of the Armenian Christian Community after the First World War in which two million Armenian Christians were killed and tortured. I present this information while knowing full-well that Christians have been responsible for abhorrent act, such as the Holocaust and the Inquisition. Human sin and wickedness have no racial or national or religious limits. Yet the number and continuing character of Jihadist attacks cannot be ignored. Attacks in Boston, NY, California, Orlando, Germany, Belgium, the UK, France, as well as the persecution of the Coptic church in Egypt, are serious modern crimes against humanity. Moreover, in some Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, neither Church nor bibles are allowed. Islam there is enforced by religious police. It is quite clear that to some extent this is the religious/political system in some Muslim-majority societies. The oppression may not stem from religious belief but may be traced not only to religion but to culture and the political system in those countries. Therefore I cannot conclude with the author of this article that these acts of violence are not in some sense connected to the Muslim religious/political system. The Koran is in Arabic and most probably the vast majority of Muslims do or cannot read it. The fact is that there are a fair number of passages in the Koran directing the death of infidels or unbelievers; the execution of apostates; and sections suggesting the oppression of women. The following Koranic passages urge jihad to infidels: Koran 8:65;9:5; 47;4. These verses establish the death sentence for apostates: 2:217;9;73,74;88:21;5:54;9:66. The following verses are derogatory of women and their status: 24:31;4:24;33:50. I can only say to Mr. Duffner that the issues as he presents it that Jihadism is not the real Islam I think somewhat misses the mark. The truth is that terrorism is a part of Islam, however small, and not activated by the majority of Muslims; but the solution must be that the Muslim community must recognize that reform and modification is necessary if Islam is to survive in the modern world.
First, let me state that as a system Marxism has not been particularly successful. Two countries come to mind where the Marxist system has brought about great human suffering and economic distress: Cuba and North Korea. As a Christian, I cannot endorse or agree with Marxism, which takes materialism as its philosophical basis and also supports atheism as part of its system. In Marxism, men and women are seen as pure economic commodities and nothing more. Hence the system in communist Russia and of mass killings with no regard for the individual life.
Communism and fascism, in excluding the spiritual dimension, can and will result in these actions. I now say here and suggest that Marx in his thinking was correct or certainly had a point to make. For some time now, many countries and societies have adopted the capitalist model of system. Communism has collapsed in most societies and countries with the exceptions I have just mentioned. Unfortunately, the capitalist system has evolved to a somewhat deficient end.
Capitalism is based on greed and competition and a free market system. The idea behind it is that if people are given some sort of equal starting point, the society will benefit by job creation and wealth creation and all will benefit ultimately.
Capitalism, however, has developed in a somewhat negative direction than originally envisioned. There are many reasons for this development; for example: Jobs have been outsourced to South America and Asia; unions in the United States have largely been eliminated; there has been an influx of cheap labor from South America and Asia to the United States; and, in the name of supply side economics, there has been a vast transfer of wealth to an extremely small segment of the population. Manufacturing has largely left the United States for places where the labor pool is inexpensive such as South American and Asia.
The result of these developments has been threefold. It has been very difficult for the American worker to get employment. The jobs that do exist are without benefits such as pensions or health benefits. Older workers are easily and constantly dispensed with for younger workers. The end outcome of all these developments is to make it extremely difficult for any American worker to get some sort of quality employment to support his family for as long as needed. The end result in another way is to create a plutocratic and oligarchic society where the economic and political structures are controlled by a few wealthy individuals and corporations. In short, the capitalist system has become extremely unfair and functions now to exclude people from opportunities to advance themselves or even to enter the economic and political system. It would appear that the capitalist system is in crisis and has become dysfunctional.
This essay proposes that Marx in some sense may have been right. Marx and Engels in their writings and activities responded to the abuses of the working class in industrial European countries at that time. These abuses included child labor and the use of sweatshop labor. Marxism proposes a number of ideas and concepts which I think are fairly good:
1. Marxism seeks to eliminate class divisions which capitalism encourages. These class divisions are falsely based on some persons having greater wealth than others. It is faintly ridiculous to refer to a person who has greater wealth than others as upper class since the having and possession of wealth has no significance in itself.
2. Marxism seeks to provide some of employment for all and provides free healthcare and free education for the entire population. Eliminating income inequality allows people of talent and merit the possibility of obtaining positions that the capitalist system might bar them from based on their lack of wealth. The ultimate aim of Marx in his writings was to bring about a society not controlled by the wealthy or aristocracy but by the workers. Unfortunately, in various countries such as Russia, China, Cuba and North Korea, attempts to bring about these potentially good things resulted in the use of force and a police state dictatorship.
3. Marx sought to have a government run directly by the people. This may not have actually happened in the aforementioned countries; however, it is still an admirable goal.
In sum, Marx had some ideas and concepts that still have value and should be considered by thinking people: the elimination of classes; elimination of income inequality and the redistribution of wealth; and a society governed by the people. I cannot say where Marx or Marxism went wrong, but, at the present time, the capitalist system as it has developed and evolved is problematic and wanting. The capitalist system has evolved in a sort of dictatorial state in which the wealthy rule and in which he vast majority of the population toil to survive. I cannot give a solution to the present difficulties in our system but I can say this much that this system should be reexamined in the light of the ideas behind Marxism and Socialism. This is not to say that I wish to impose a dictatorship which Marxism developed into, but I do suggest that the present state of the capitalist system be reexamined in light of other concepts, thoughts, and ideas, wherever they may be found.
Many people in our present society make the claim that the Church is anti-woman. This statement is largely based on the position of the Roman Catholic Church and several other churches such as the Orthodox Church and certain more conservative Protestant denominations that do not ordain women for the priesthood or ministry.
More to the point, many people have lighted upon certain statements or comments about women that Saint Paul makes in his letters. For example, in his first letter to the Corinthian Church in chapter 7:39, Saint Paul states a wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives, but if her husband dies she is free to marry whomever she wishes. In that same letter, in Chapter 11:3-15, Saint Paul states that the head of a woman is her husband. He further states that any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled is dishonoring her head and that if a women will not veil herself then she should cut off her hair. Saint Paul further states that the woman is the glory of man and that women were created for man. He then concludes that that is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, and in the Lord’s eyes, a women is not independent of man. Saint Paul further states in the Letter to the Ephesians 5:22 that wives should be subject to their husbands because the husband is the head of the wife and wives should be subject in everything to their husbands. He further states that husbands should love their wives. In the first letter to the Corinthians 14:34, Saint Paul states that women should keep silence in the churches, and it is shameful for a women to speak in the church. In the letter to the Colossian church, Chapter 3:18, Saint Paul again states that wives should be subject to their husbands.
These statements of Saint Paul must be weighed against the entire revelation of the bible about women and their completely equal status. In Genesis 2, we are told that a woman is created as a helper for man and that both bear the stamp of the divine image. This statement does not mean inequality. It simply means that women in the world have a slightly different role than men. Women create homes and raise families. This does mean that this activity is inferior or less important than other activities. The teaching in Genesis is that God created both man and woman in his image and that both bear that same divine stamp and image. The Book of Judges 4:5 tells the story of the Judge Deborah who, as a wife, was judging Israel. It is quite clear that this particular story should not be read not as lowering a woman to a lesser status since in fact Deborah had a high societal role in Israel.
Let me now look at Jesus’ relationships with women in the Gospels. In Matthew 2, we are told about the birth of Jesus to Mary. The fact that God himself chose to be born of a woman is a statement of the real status women in the eyes of God. The very God of God was born of a woman and had a mother. In Matthew 5:27, Jesus again raises the status of woman in saying that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her. Again, in verse 31, Jesus states that anyone who divorces his wife except on the ground of lack of chastity makes her an adulterer and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Once again, Jesus Christ is significantly raising the status of women in the world. In Matthew 15:21, Jesus heals the daughter of a society outcast a Canaanite woman. In Matthew 27:55, Matthew says that many women followed Jesus from Galilee, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary went to see the sepulcher after the crucifixion.
In Mark 15:40, we are told that many women looked on Jesus from afar, including Mary Magdalene and Mary. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him and many other women came up with him to Jerusalem. Again, in Mark 16, we are told that Mary Magdalene and Mary were at the tomb of Christ after his crucifixion. In Luke 1 and 2, we are told of the birth of Christ. In Luke 7:37, we are given the story that a woman of the city who is a sinner brought a flask of ointment and standing at Jesus’ feet wet his feet with his tears, wipe them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
The Pharisees asked, “What sort of person are you? Associating with this sinner?” And Jesus pointed out for Simon that when he entered his house he gave him no water for his feet but this woman has we t my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Jesus says, “You gave me no kiss but from the time I came, she has not ceased to kiss my feet. And you did not anoint my head with oil but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”
In Luke 10-38-42, we are told that Martha received Jesus into her house and that she had a sister called Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. In Luke 23:36, we are told that the woman who followed Jesus from Galilee stood before him from a distance at the crucifixion. In John 8, we are told a story of a woman caught in adultery. Jesus prevents her execution. In John 12, again we are told the story of Martha and Mary. Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany and Martha served Jesus and that Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with oil and wiped his feet with her hair.
This essay reveals that although it is basic and superficial in its examination of the status of women in the church, it is quite clear that both in the Hebrew Bible and the gospels that women have an equal status in society for Jesus. Apparently, Jesus had many women friends and women who followed him and he had friendships with them. The passages I have taken from the gospels clearly reveal that, to put it bluntly, Jesus had no problem with women. Thus, what I just have taken from the gospels and the Hebrew Bible should be weighed against the statements and comments of Saint Paul. Saint Paul was possibly addressing particular situations in the churches he had established. Perhaps his comments about the role of women may have emanated from his background and culture which had a slightly different view of the role of women in society.
My conclusion is that the Son of God was born of a woman; had many women followers who were present at the cross event; and were first present at the empty tomb and in the course of his ministry were actively present and involved with him in his work. And so, by his actions, he not only significantly raised the status of women in society, but he insisted on their total equality and equal value.
In the 16th century, Galileo, one of the world’s greatest scientists and thinkers, ran into a bit of a problem with the Roman Catholic Church and specifically the Vatican authorities at that time. It had been formerly thought that the Earth was the center of the universe. This misconception emanated from Copernicus. In fact, it is a rather reasonable assumption and is no more ridiculous in a sense than the conception that the Earth is flat since the Earth appears to be flat.
Galileo was arrested and charges and accusations were lodged against him by the religious authorities and he was virtually imprisoned for some period of time. I think the Catholic Church and their position that the Earth was the center of the universe and Galileo in his view that the Earth revolved around the sun were both right but came at the thought from different angles and different perspectives. There is no doubt that the Earth revolves around the sun. But in many ways the Earth is the center of the universe at least theologically, philosophically and metaphysically.
It appears to be the case that despite valiant attempts by scientists to prove otherwise that human beings have not been found anywhere else in the universe. Searches have been made for life at least in the planets nearby us such as Mars and Venus and nothing has been found. Thus, in a very real sense, for whatever unknown reason, humanity has made its stand on the Earth and no other place. No one knows the reason for this and there appears to some mystery in connection with this fact and phenomenon.
Humanity, in a very real sense, is the center of things since everywhere else we look and have looked we find nothing resembling life or human beings. The biblical view that the Earth is the center of things is true. Thus, the opinion of Galileo is a physical opinion alone. The conclusion of Galileo was a statement of fact. When we know that everywhere we look we find nothing but darkness and void, and on the Earth alone life and humanity have developed, we have the absolute confirmation of the Genesis story in Chapter 1 that God created the heavens and the Earth. The problem at the time of the controversy of the Church with Galileo is that both agreed but neither understood how both agreed. The Roman Catholic Church felt threatened in its theological stance but in reality was not by the conclusion of Galileo that the Earth revolved around the sun. There was no challenge there but merely an observation of fact that failed to change the reality of what is going on, namely that only here on Earth do we find humanity.
I am confident that whatever happens to humans, God in his mercy and grace will move history as he chooses, and for whatever end he wishes, to bring about whatever he wants for us all in whatever process he chooses to employ. The heavens will be there and humanity and the Earth alone will move to whatever inevitable conclusion is ordained. The Earth may revolve around the sun but in this pinprick of life we call Earth there is something going on and as it occurs and moves along it will bring an end that none of us at the present time can understand or know. It is the absolute truth that humanity and the Earth are the center of things. Galileo was not wrong nor was the church. They both engaged in a misunderstanding and both were right.
This essay is modified from Chapter 7 of my book “Essays on Faith Politics, Culture and Others Philosophical, pp. 19-20, published in 2016 by the University Press of America.
At the present time, our culture is in crisis. Let me say that in certain areas there have been significant advances, such as in technology and medicine. The fact of the matter is, however, what we may define as culture in terms of literature, philosophy, drama, painting, and certain types of music, have come to an end. This is a rather obvious fact. During the Twentieth Century there was outstanding dramatic production in both the American and English theater. Playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O' Neill, Arthur Miller, Clifford Odets, and Lillian Hellman come to mind.
Live dramatic productions have ceased and one can speculate have been replaced by television and movies. At one time, and rather recently in the 19th Century, there was a very large public audience for poetry. The most recent 20th Century poets to have a public audience were
TS Eliot and William Butler Yeats. Poetry as an artistic medium of expression directed to the wider public no longer exists. It is obvious that painting and sculpture are essentially passé, apparently replaced by other forms of imagery such as the Internet, social media, television, movies, and camera images. The novel still survives but not as it appeared in novels such as Middlemarch by George Eliot and War and Peace by Tolstoy.
It is also quite apparent that classical music has had its day, last heard by such composers as Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky. One may say that the American musical theatre from 1930 to 1955 or 1960 was a further expression of that classical musical impulse. At the present time, even that type of musical expression is gone. Most musicals on the Broadway state today consist of a redoing of older musicals.
The question that comes to mind is why so many forms of art have ceased to exist, in effect, and appeal to a very miniscule audience. I suggest two reasons for this. There has been a decline in religious belief and the Church has very little influence on the wider culture as it once did. The rhythms and drama and stories in the Bible are presently unfamiliar to a large percentage, if not most of the population. When a society has no spiritual underpinnings, one can only conclude that the expression of art and beauty will cease to exist. A purely materialistic society such as now obtains in the Western World cannot produce art and express beauty. This is speculation but there is some truth to it. We may have computers and all sorts of gadgets but apparently we cannot produce the Bachs, Mozarts, Miltons or Dantes. We do things faster but we fail to reach people in their souls. It is also significant that philosophy is no longer a part of our society as once was. Philosophy today has only an academic audience. Two important American thinkers come to mind that once had great influence and respect, John Dewey and William James, but they are no longer are paid attention to.
I proffer a second reason for this cultural decline. The education offered formerly in the
Western World is no longer literary as it once was There is an overwhelming emphasis on money and business in our educational system. When People are no longer given the literary past and have it made available to them, their minds will suffer and deteriorate in the areas I just mentioned. Reading great books or literature raises the mind to think creatively and artistically. When the system does not give our young people this food for their minds, again I think the type of artistic production I mentioned will not occur.
A final word: Many people will say that as long as I have the material goods I need and I can pay my expenses, that is all I need. The purpose of life, however, is to raise people beyond that essential and basic level of functioning. A society without music, literature, poetry, and art must and will be a very gray and dark society that at the present time we all have to suffer through and in. A society without art and beauty must create and bring about a very unhappy race of beings whose lives are most somber and lack deep meaning, depth and, in fact, love. A society without art and without beauty is a society without love and surely without God.