‘super’ bowl

A “super” day…

 

If we compare to last year, 111.3 million of us will sit down in front of the television at some point this evening and turn on Super Bowl XLVII.  The San Francisco 49ers — led by Coach J. Harbaugh — will face the Baltimore Ravens — led by Coach J. Harbaugh.

 

We will watch the obviously super brothers, and… we will eat…

 

In fact, we will eat a lot…

 

Some of us will grill.  Regardless of snow covering half the country, Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest grilling day of the year — the first being the Fourth of July.

 

We’ll eat chips; an estimated 11 million pounds of potato chips will be consumed.

 

(… uh, not a ton of health food…)

 

Pizza will be served in plethoras.  It is, no doubt, the busiest day of the year for pizza restaurants, with major chains supposed to sell double what they do on a regular day.

 

Not to be out done, however, by wings and rings and even more things, as 1.23 billion chicken wings are expected to be consumed, accompanied by 49.2 million cases of beer.

 

Second only to Thanksgiving, Americans are expected to double their food consumption to 33 million pounds of snacks.

 

So we should be satisfied physically, enjoying the creativity of newly aired commercials and thus money exchanging hands…

 

CBS is charging advertisers an estimated $3.7 to $3.8 million dollars per 30-second spot.  30 seconds.  3.8 billion.  That equates to $125,000 per second.

 

(…I could do a lot with $125,000 per second…)

 

How about betting?  Is the Super Bowl the number one gambling day of the year?

 

Probably.  According to “Business Week” magazine, “No one knows for sure since the huge majority of the money changes hands under the table.  Last year, Nevada’s 184 sports books wrote $93.9 million worth of bets.  The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, aka March Madness, recently surpassed the Super Bowl’s handle (the total amount wagered) in the state with roughly $100 million in bets, but that’s over 67 games.  According to the American Gaming Association, a gambling lobby in Washington, the Super Bowl is still the biggest for illegal wagers.  The AMA says the Nevada handle accounts for only 1.5 percent of the Super Bowl total, which would make for more than $6 billion nationwide.  March Madness, the lobby says, citing the FBI, is a $2.5 billion betting event.  But Pregame.com founder R.J. Bell estimated in ‘USA Today’ that March Madness topped the Super Bowl last year, $12 billion to $10 billion.  Again, nobody really knows.”

 

So allow me to get this straight…

 

Tons of money exchanges hands…

Money that could arguably be more wisely spent is gambled away…

We will eat and drink lavishly, ‘stuffingly’, unhealthily…

And upon completion, the winners will call it the ‘best day of their lives’…

… the losers will articulate the utter agony of defeat.

 

All for what is best described as a “game.”

 

A “super” game, no less — but still just a “game.”

 

Yep, our country is sure messed up sometimes…

But can’t wait to watch…  love those brothers Harbaugh…

 

Respectfully,

AR

fact as opposed to rhetoric

Every now and then a story strikes me as so significant that my sense is we need to discuss and highlight such amidst these postings.  The depth of the news deserves our attention.  Today is such a day.

 

Allow me to initially note that this account is very current; that being so, details are evolving daily.  I would encourage you to pay attention to those details.  Hence, take note of the following name:  Saeed Abedini.

 

Abedini is a 32 year old American citizen.  He is originally from Iran.  Abedini has a wife and 2 small children.  His extended family remains in Iran.

 

Abedini returns regularly to the Arab country in order to both visit his extended family and oversee a humanitarian effort he began years ago to build an orphanage; he has been arrested multiple times upon his return.   What has Abedini been arrested for?

 

Abedini is a pastor.  He is an American Christian pastor.  Abedini converted from Islam to Christianity.  As we logically wrestle with fact as opposed to rhetoric, know that any Muslim who apostatizes — literally “regresses” — or specifically goes on to at some point, somehow reject the Islamic faith — commits an offense which may be punishable by death.  Islamic scholars disagree on this assessment; the reality exists, however, that a sizable number of scholars believe execution is the appropriate consequence.  Under Shariah law, a Muslim who converts to Christianity is on par with someone waging war against Islam.

 

In mid-December without initial notice of any formal charges, Abedini was again imprisoned.  As he remained incarcerated, the Iranian government ambiguously charged him with compromising national security, omitting the specifics of the compromising actions.  The government also announced the American would go on trial for this offense.  According to his attorneys, Abedini is scheduled to appear before an Iranian judge known as the “hanging judge,” a man identified by the European Union in 2011 as an individual actually subject to sanctions for human rights violations.  Judge Pir-Abassi has reportedly presided over a number of cases against human rights activists, often handing down long prison sentences and even several death penalties.

 

One more seemingly significant detail:  at the time of this writing, Abedini’s whereabouts are also ambiguous.  When his family went to visit him in Iranian prison last Wednesday, they were told he was not there.  Then yesterday, they were told he had been moved within the prison yet they were not permitted to see him.

 

A couple more related notes:  Abedini’s family reports that he has been repeatedly interrogated and beaten within prison walls.  He has also experienced injury and pain as a result of these beatings and may be in need of medical treatment.  His attorney and family seem to know few more specifics.

 

Allow me one more rather relevant detail…

 

While the American government often calls for the fair and humane treatment of its citizens — in fact, our government often simply calls for the fair and humane treatment of all people regardless of citizenship — for months the American government has said nothing.

 

Finally, this week — only after approximately 250,000 online signatures, significant negative publicity, and public appeals by 50 U.S. House Representatives — the U.S. State Department called for Abedini’s release.  As Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) stated, “Every U.S. citizen should have the assurance that the U.S. government will come vigorously to their defense in a time of need, especially when they are unjustly tried in a foreign country.”  For months, there was not only no vigorous defense; there was no defense.

 

Why would we allow an innocent man to persevere alone?  Did his religion affect our response?

 

Ensuring that we wrestle with fact as opposed to rhetoric, the Intramuralist can only concerningly, definitely offer, “I don’t know.”

 

Respectfully,

AR

[Note:  This morning, Jan. 27th, Abedini was sentenced to 8 years in prison for attempting to undermine the Iranian government.  His attorney was apparently shut out from some of the judicial proceedings.  What will now be the response of governments around the world?]

inaugural

A subjective review of history suggests that most second term inaugural speeches error a bit on the boring side.  While each of us can discern for ourselves whether such was true of Pres. Obama’s address yesterday, one second term speech stands out with certainty… written in 1865…  penned by Pres. Abraham Lincoln.  With the end of the Civil War and slavery in sight, Lincoln still spoke not of great hope nor previous promises.  Lincoln spoke of sadness… and of what binds us together…

 

“Fellow-Countrymen:  At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

 

[Still acknowledging conflict, Lincoln widely recognized what so many forget — that more can often be said with fewer actual words…]

 

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

 

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

 

[Wow… in an address that audiences would attend to for years, Lincoln not only acknowledges the reality of God but also a submission to God…]

 

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

 

With just over 700 words and a remarkable reliance upon the divine, the revered Lincoln soberly recognized the depth of division within our country.  There’s a focus on unity, a call for healing, and a humble commitment to heal the wounds together; there is also a respect for all people regardless of position or politics.  Yes, today, we have much to learn.

 

41 days after this address was delivered, Pres. Lincoln was assassinated.  Let’s face it:  the brave call to unification and reconciliation is not popular.  It is a far easier route not to unify and not to heal.  As we face the next 4 years together, I pray for the braver, more humble, more difficult route.

 

Respectfully,

AR

executive orders… round 2

In recent days, there has been much conversation about the appropriateness and legality of bypassing the legislative process via executive order.  The Intramuralist is certainly no expert, yet as Pres. Obama averred his presumed certain authority to exert specific decrees, my mind wandered (albeit fairly facetiously) as to what decrees I would declare, should I perceive such authority…

 

… I hereby declare that all young men under the age of 23 must pull up their pants, with underwear waistlines fully covered…

 

… I hereby declare that no texting, Facebook, Twitter, or alternative social media shall substitute for authentic dialogue…

 

… I hereby declare that Congress and the White House must work together and actually listen to one another…

 

… I hereby declare that Congress cannot simply, solely arrogantly obstruct the desires of the White House…

 

… I hereby declare that the White House cannot simply, solely arrogantly decide what is wisest and what is not…

 

… I hereby declare that Pres. Obama must discontinue use of the self-focused phrase “I won”…

 

… I hereby declare that the government can no longer spend more money than it takes in…

 

… I hereby declare that again…

 

… and again…

 

… I hereby declare that the Constitution must be adhered to…

 

… I hereby declare that term limits be imposed immediately…

 

… I hereby declare that radio stations must quit over-playing “Gangnam Style”…

 

… I hereby declare that “Keeping Up the Kardashians” is not reality…

 

… I hereby declare that most all reality shows are not reality…

 

… I hereby declare that we will no longer borrow money from China…

 

… I hereby declare that we will no longer borrow money from anyone…

 

… I hereby declare that we will not print money in order to make money, thus decreasing the American dollar in value…

 

… I hereby declare that no one is allowed to scare people via the inexact science of global warming or climate change…

 

… I hereby declare that no one is allowed to scare the elderly via inflammatory rhetoric so that they will be more prone to vote a certain way…

 

… I hereby declare that politicians will not and cannot lie… ever…

 

… I hereby declare that I will not and cannot lie… ever…

 

… I hereby declare that no politician will overlook what is good or right or true in order to advance their own political agenda…

 

… I hereby declare that no more executive “actions” or orders will be allowed.

 

By this I stand.

 

This is enough.

 

… albeit even facetiously…

 

Respectfully,

AR

falling from grace

Today is the day.  According to multiple news outlets, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the world’s most infamous and (previously seemingly) successful cyclist, Lance Armstrong, has admitted to intentionally using performance-enhancing drugs.  The interview is scheduled to be aired today on Oprah’s OWN network.

 

The significance of the admission is obvious:

 

  1. Armstrong has been incredibly successful; his career has included 7 Tour de France victories (albeit titles of which he has since been stripped).  And,
  2. Armstrong has vehemently denied drug usage for years; his denials have also, often, arguably, publicly defamed other people…

 

When fellow Tour winner (and fellow Tour-title-stripped winner), Floyd Landis, implicated Armstrong, Armstrong publicly declared Landis “desperate for attention and money.”

 

When the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was investigating, Armstrong called the head of the quasi-government agency, Travis Tygart, “obsessed” with “getting” him, boldly proclaiming that Tygart was executing an “unconstitutional witch hunt.”

 

With today finally being the day, we now know that all of the above were lies.  We also know that all of the denials of truth telling around him were intentional efforts to discredit others instead of deal with self.  (We like to do that sometimes… discredit others instead of deal with self… but alas, I digress…)

 

Once more, the infamous has fallen from grace.

 

Some fall hard, friends… well, at least initially… Marv Albert, Jim Bakker, Kobe Bryant, John Edwards, Tonya Harding, Marion Jones, Richard Nixon, Sandi Patty, David Petraeus, OJ Simpson, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods… persons supposedly at the “top of their game,” widely admired, yet those who fell a long, long way down.

 

My mind wanders…

 

Did they ever deserve to initially be so admired?  Did we allow their words, athleticism, or success to substitute for a wrongful impression of sound character?

 

Did their immoral act simply unveil their true character — a character that was previously well hidden under the surface of celebrity?  That’s fascinating to me, especially as I see many of the above seem to pay only the penance of time, flying intentionally below the media radar for a specified period — and then ease back into a comparable, original role, undoubtedly hoping few will mention the reason for their fall.

 

Still, are they each capable of redemption?  I mean, most of us observed what happened at Penn State last fall — and the extent of the passion directed not only at the perpetrator but also at all associated with him.  Was/is Jerry Sandusky even capable of redemption?  What if we ever falter? … are we capable?

 

Finally — thinking again of Armstrong’s admission — how should we feel about the “good” Armstrong has previously done?  Lance Armstrong’s “Live Strong Foundation” has provided significant support and inspiration to cancer survivors for years.  Now that Armstrong’s unethical acts are evident, how are we to think about the past good he has done?  Was it all just a facade?  Can the efforts and actions now even be considered good?

 

Once again I’m humbly reminded as to how consistently through history, broken people are used for a greater good.  Warts and all — many who have at one time (or more) engaged in unethical acts — can still contribute to the good.

 

I wonder then what the future holds for Lance Armstrong.  Is he capable of redemption?

The better question, however, is will he be humble enough to actually seek that redemption and thus be used for the greater good.

 

We shall wonder.  Some shall pray.  Praying, too, that no other broken person feels so confident of throwing that first stone…

 

Respectfully,

AR

blessing in the bad

Every now and then, the Intramuralist semi-gracefully stumbles upon a truth which is so counter-cultural — an ideal or behavior that seemingly opposes all prudence.  In other words, there exist areas of wisdom that the world completely fails to comprehend…  where society thinks one way… often fairly adamantly… often obliviously… often, unfortunately, at its own peril.

 

Lately, the Intramuralist has been observing society’s reaction toward suffering.  Let’s face it; there’s been a lot of “bad stuff” happening…

 

… people out of work… government bickering… Sandy Hook… Hurricane Sandy…

… death… divorce… distance between friends…

… not enough money… not enough time… sickness…

… sick children… fighting… debt… more debt…

… friends losing houses… families losing jobs… neighbors not knowing how to put food on the table each night…

 

Trials and temptations, negative circumstances, scenarios which are simply incredibly difficult to endure.  There’s been a lot of “bad stuff.”

 

Most of us — maybe, possibly, most all of us — perceive the “bad stuff” as exactly that:   bad.  Hence, we work tirelessly to alleviate the “badness” — to eradicate any situation in which suffering exists.

 

There’s only one, glaring glitch embedded within that pursuit.  If we eradicate all the “bad,” my sense is that we miss the surprising, bountiful blessing within…

 

  • Blessed are those who are poor… who are thus more likely to realize their need for God — and not allow arrogance to get in the way…
  • Blessed are those who are grieving… who are thus more likely to seek out lasting comfort — and not fall prey to numbing themselves via merely temporary means…
  • Blessed are those who don’t succeed… who thus have opportunity to learn to genuinely celebrate the success of another…
  • Blessed are those whose best laid plans have completely fallen through… who are less likely to struggle with their need to dominate or control…
  • Blessed are those who must sacrifice… who are then more likely to comprehend what is valuable and what is not…
  • Blessed are those who cannot care for themselves… who are thus more likely to appreciate the authenticity of selfless service — and in turn encourage service in others…
  • Blessed are those who have tragically lost a loved one… who are far more likely to long for something more eternal than this planet…
  • Blessed are those whose children have disappointed them… who have intensified opportunity to recognize what’s most important to teach — and surrender that which is minimal…
  • Blessed are those who cry… for they have learned the beauty of empathy…
  • Blessed are those who have less… for they are less likely to take life for granted…

 

Friends, we work to eradicate negative circumstances.  And while I would wish such specific circumstances on no one, I am concerned at the bountiful blessings society seems to simply ignore — that it completely fails to comprehend.  It’s almost as if in our perceived pursuit of rights, fairness, and entitlement — each which possesses some value — we forget that there exists blessing in the “bad.”  Joy lies ahead even amidst the trial.  Hence, if we eradicate what is arduous, if we abolish the “bad” — no matter how adamantly — we may also eradicate the blessing…

 

… and the waning wisdom of society.

 

Respectfully,

AR

executive orders

In the wake of emotion following the shock of Sandy Hook, this coming Tuesday, a Washington group led by VP Joe Biden plans to place on the desk of the President their recommendations regarding increased gun control and safety.  Foreshadowing their report, Biden publicly remarked that while multiple options remain, “The President is going to act.  There are executives orders — executive action that can be taken.”

 

U.S. presidents have been taking “executive action” for over 200 years.  While these orders are not legislation, they still are accompanied by full force of law.  The reality is there is no specific constitutional provision for the decrees, but there exists a vague granting of executive power in Article II.  The idea is that presidents issue executive orders in order to assist in operational management of federal agencies or to carry out what they perceive as their unequivocal, “constitutional responsibilities.”   That’s what the orders are supposed to do; however, through the years — as for some reason seems typical in contemporary culture — we have digressed…

 

Initially, executive orders were issued for such as the following:

 

  •   On December 25, 1868, Pres. Andrew Johnson pardoned “all and every person who directly or indirectly participated in the late insurrection or rebellion” related to the Civil War (the “Christmas Proclamation”).

 

  • In 1861, Pres. Abraham Lincoln used presidential directives to run the early months of the Civil War.  Within his first two months in office, Lincoln issued a proclamation activating troops to defeat the Southern rebellion; he also issued proclamations to procure warships and to expand the size of the military.

 

  •   After World War II began, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the interment of Japanese-Americans — thinking they may be a threat — thereby impacting more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans, even though many were U.S. citizens.  Note:  it is widely believed that in FDR’s clear growth of government, expansion of the extent of executive orders was also his practice.

 

Via executive order, Teddy Roosevelt protected 130 million acres of land and created 5 national parks.  Pres. Ford pardoned Richard Nixon.  Executive orders have been arbitrarily and subjectively utilized, all via one man’s discretion… albeit one very powerful man.

 

Don’t let me also act as if all of the above was deemed categorically constitutional; much, in fact — even then — was controversial.  Conventional wisdom tells us that Lincoln’s actions were most likely unconstitutional, and the purported cruelty of Roosevelt’s executive orders has been debated for decades.

 

Still, as alluded to, through the years, executive orders have digressed; they have become seemingly more arbitrary and albeit, more political.  Such as…

 

  • In reaction to 9/11, Pres. George W. Bush created the Dept. of Homeland Security.

 

  • On March 16, 2012, Pres. Obama gave the White House absolute control over all the country’s natural resources in case of a natural disaster or during a time of war.

 

There is more.

 

Friends, herein lies the challenge…

 

If you are a supporter of Pres. Obama, the probability is that you wholeheartedly support his executive orders.  If you were a supporter of Pres. Bush 43, you most likely supported his decrees.  The challenge is that wisdom must be adhered to regardless of who is president.  For example, should any president decide he or she has the discernment skills to dictate the approach to the economy — meaning proceed via executive order — such would scare me.  For example, as much as I respect Pres. Obama, his economic background, in my opinion, is strikingly minimal.  Hence, should he enact any executive order affecting our economic future, the Intramuralist would question the inherent wisdom.

 

Gun control?  Gun control?  Did VP Biden misspeak once again?  Or is it totally ok to bypass Congress and simply dictate one’s opinion, assuming it is wisest and best?  Is it ok to bypass bipartisan debate?  Is it wise?  Or is it arrogant?

 

Great questions.  Guess we’ll see on Tuesday.

 

Respectfully,

AR

the end of the world

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.

 

Truthfully, long before R.E.M.’s popular, 1987 musical refrain, many have consistently experienced the end of the world as they know it…  long before R.E.M… before and after the revelation of the new age translation of the currently publicized Mayan Indian prophecies.

 

Briefly, for those of you unfamiliar with Mayan prophecy — noting that this specific calculation is not adhered to by professional Mayanist scholars, yet predicts a series of unknown cataclysmic events — the world is scheduled to end this Friday, December 21, 2012.  (In other words, if your Christmas shopping isn’t complete, feel great freedom to forgo it.)

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

 

Any time the end of the world is definitively foretold, it always gets me thinking, as it’s long been humanity’s habit to proclaim our unique omniscience, especially — for some reason — in grandiose matters.  From Y2K to 2011‘s Harold Camping to Pompeii, Italy to the arrival of Halley’s Comet, humans have long specifically predicted the date and time of the bloody end to the planet.  Uh, best I can tell, with all due respect, of course, to date, they’ve all been wrong.

 

I do chuckle inside somewhat…  I mean, the historical scriptures affirm that no one will know the hour nor the day; somehow, however, people continue to miss that rather obvious point.  In light of the current December doom, in fact, I also chuckled at NASA’s response.  The government space agency released a statement saying that Friday will actually not be Earth’s end.  Hmmm… My sense is that if no one knows the actual hour nor the day, then the ancient Mayans couldn’t have known it… and NASA — smart as those scientists may be — wouldn’t know it for certain either.

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

 

For the moment (dare we) — perhaps only for posterity’s sake — let’s entertain this idea that Friday — or today or Sunday or even next Wednesday or Thursday — actually is the end of the world; how would we live differently?  … beginning today?

 

How would we act differently?

What relationships would we invest in?

What would we be more intentional about?

 

We’d hug our kids a little tighter.

We’d tell our loved ones that we love them.

We’d affirm those around us, focusing on their strengths, as opposed to chastising their weaknesses.

We’d be less partisan.

We’d offer generous grace.

We’d omit no truth with that full application of grace.

We’d quit spending more than we take in… (wait… since those bills wouldn’t arrive until after Friday…)

We’d listen more.

We’d take time to figure out who God is and who we are in relation to him.

We’d be still.

We’d give more.

We’d take less.

We’d be aware of the beauty of the moment.

We’d look at the skies and be in humble awe of creation.

We’d give thanks.

We’d forgive.

And we would love lavishly and generously… no matter what.

 

If we did all that, we could belt the last line of R.E.M.’s refrain — remaining unfazed by events out of our control.  Intentional living is good and true regardless of world events… from the tragedy of Newtown, the wrangling in Washington, and yes, even those ancient Mayan prophecies.  It doesn’t matter when the world will end, as intentional living girds us with peace; we can be fine.  Fine?  Actually, that’s the last line of the song…

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

 

Fine it is.  P.S.  Hope you read this before Friday.

 

Respectfully… always…

AR

a hope that lasts

Still 4 days later, it’s hard to focus on something else…

 

We could focus on the number of shopping days left, but they pale in comparison.

 

We could focus on solving the so-called “fiscal cliff,” but that, too — even with its almost unimaginable depth of debt — pales in comparison.

 

We could focus on all sorts of things; each would pale in comparison…

 

… except maybe…

… just maybe…

… the meaning of Christmas.

 

I realize to many the story is simply too old.  A baby, born in a manger, in swaddling clothes with no room in some ancient inn… what exactly are “swaddling” clothes, anyway?  Let’s face it:  the story is old.  The meaning, however, is timeless.  In the aftermath of Connecticut, when we continue to rush to justice — when we definitively aver that these horrific events must never happen again, when we find some solace in our own, at least perceived resoluteness — we need a lasting message… a truth that is timeless.  No speech nor warm wish, nor legislation, movement, or monetary investment compares to the lasting, old meaning of Christmas.

 

That babe — born some 2,000 years ago — is said to be the only being ever capable of fully and ultimately ushering in peace and bestowing goodwill to men.  Fascinating in the study of world religion, no other proclaimed deity has fulfilled the profound prophecies of Jesus Christ.  No other faithful figure has made the claims he’s made and been able to back them up.  For no other have the words come true.

 

Peace.  Goodwill to men.  Lasting.  Many have tried to find a solution, to offer healing, to keep bad stuff from happening again — seeking means, movements, and monies that would at least put a better-feeling Band-Aid on those evil, earthly events.  The motive seems somewhat pure; we don’t want to hurt anymore; we don’t want innocent others to hurt either.  But none are fully capable; none carry a lasting, effective meaning.  Hence, no movement or legislation, well-intentioned as it may be, is capable of being more than a so-called Band-Aid.

 

When I think of the 20 kids who died in Connecticut, I need to be reminded of something I know will work… that I know will be an authentic solution.  I think of peace.  I need to know it’s available.  I think of goodwill… to all men.  I need to be encouraged to generously offer that goodwill.  Hence, I need a lasting hope to hold on to.  Why?  Because nothing temporary makes sense.  Even though potentially good and well-intentioned, “Band-Aids” are temporary.  And while temporary may seem necessary and helpful and may appease our passions for the moment, we forget that underneath the Band-Aid only exists a deeper scar.  My desire for each of us is not to adhere what covers up the wound — but rather, what wrestles with the deeper scar.

 

Did we cross some sort of line on Friday?

Did society finally go too far?

Did we pass a point of accepted immorality that no longer we can stand?

 

And better yet, did Friday’s horrific act finally get our attention?

 

Ah, great discussion… one that no doubt we would each benefit from should we engage in respectful, listening-prioritized dialogue.

 

My sense is no new lines of morality were crossed.  Instead, arguably, our senses and souls have been heightened with a renewed awareness.

 

For Band-Aids?

 

No, for a hope that will last.

 

Thank God.

 

Thanks for the coming of Christmas.

 

Respectfully,

AR

selective morality

As all times when we are so shockingly rattled, the race to reaction is furious and fast.  When scenarios and circumstance significantly disturb us, we immediately jump to the solution.  “If we only had tougher gun laws… eliminated the violent video games… cared more for the mentally ill… if we put an end to all the ‘war’ rhetoric…”  (note that the last of those suggestions seems oft hypocritically proclaimed, as violent rhetorical usage is often chastised until it’s convenient to employ for personal passion…)

 

The reality is, friends, that I understand the rapid reaction.  We probe possible cause and means of prevention.  We want justice.  The disturbance demands justice!  And when the victims are obviously, especially innocent — as in Newtown, Connecticut, where reportedly 20 of the victims are under the age of 10 — many of them kindergarteners — kindergarteners! — our need for justice is only magnified.

 

Thus, in our quest for justice, we attempt to find the way or the one thing that would solve the seemingly inherent problem, such as the gun laws, video game and rhetorical restrictions, etc.  “If we only had that!…”  Those are wise, appropriate conversations that we should have.  The challenge, however, is that none attack the root of the issue; none address the actual bottom line, and if we fail to tackle the bottom line, shocking scenarios will continue.  They may look a little different — possibly utilizing different weapons and words — but we will feel the same.  Still shocked.  Still rattled.  Still so disturbed.

 

How could someone actually do this?!”  It doesn’t make any sense.

 

It’s sad.  It’s grievous.  But evil exists on this planet.  I recognize that such is not a popular thing to either say or believe.  In fact, I have been a part of many discussions where at some point in the conversation in order to press home a point, one person inserts their passionate perspective that “all people are inherently good.”  Some may be messed up or mentally ill or a ‘switch is off somewhere,’ but for the most part, we’re all pretty good.

 

Popular or not, the Intramuralist respectfully disagrees.

 

Each of us have witnessed friends and loved ones make some rather confounding choices.  We’ve known persons who’ve engaged in violent crime, salacious infidelity, and unfathomable professional wrongdoing.  Simply put:  we’ve known people who have made bad choices.

 

What we now identify as a “bad choice” has somehow changed.

 

The closer people are to us, the more likely we are to offer grace and potentially, possibly, even alter our moral standards.  We have become, it seems, as I like to describe, “selectively moral.”  The closer we are to the perpetrator, the more morally selective we’re tempted to be; on the other hand, the more emotionally distant we are, the easier it is for our need for justice to trump any extension of grace.  What could instead cause us to attempt to offer full justice and full grace — simultaneously?  The recognition that none of us are “pretty good.”  It’s about capability; we are each capable of becoming confused in our moral standards — thus each capable of making bad choices.

 

Ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.  The invisible qualities of an omnipotent creator have been made manifest.  Yes, evidence of God is all around us.  But yet, even though we’ve known God, we sometimes refuse to worship him or even give him thanks.  We begin to instead think up our own ideas of what God is like — as opposed to seeking what he says he is like.  We craft our own ideas — our own solutions — perhaps ideas that fit better with our individual experience and thus passions.  As a result, our minds can become confused.

 

When a person’s mind becomes confused, they typically come to worship or value something far lesser than the divine.  And my sense is when that happens — not knowing exactly how things work here on planet Earth — that at some point God abandons them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desire.  It’s similar to a parent/child relationship; we teach and encourage obedience, yet over time and the repetition of wrongful thinking and poor behavior, at some point, we give our children over to their own desires, hoping that they learn wisdom the hard way, potentially via the consequences of their own behavior.

 

As a result, therefore, of the shameful things in some persons’ hearts, people will do vile and degrading things.  That’s what we witnessed in Newtown on Friday.

 

It’s shocking.  It’s tragic.  And it doesn’t make any sense… even with our admirable demand for justice.

 

Respectfully… and with an incredibly heavy heart…

AR