Archive for the ‘freedom of religion’ Category

Vienna

July 8, 2017

My mama raised me to be a Catholic. Daddy wasn’t into religion much.

After I grew up, and became a man who could/would relate to the world on my own terms–after I had reached the age of reason and I had decided for myself what this life was all about. . . after I had lived life to the full, and managed to do a few things right and many a thing wrong–after I had made a grand mess of my life, then allowed the Lord of the Universe, our Creator, to take hold of me at the ripe old age of 27 and turn me around and plant my wayward feet firmly in the ground of the gospel of Jesus Christ–after all that. . .

I met my wonderful little women, Pat from New Jersey. We got married in 1980 and by n’ by she presented three lovely children to me. Eventually the kids grew up, became responsible adults, etc and, long story short, we have followed each one of them to various points of interest all over the world.

Our current adventure in following progeny has brought us to the wonderful city of Vienna, Austria.

Now I have to say that this is an amazing place. Walking around this city for just one evening has already taught me some profundities about what life is all about and where things came from, long before I was born. Previously unexplained elements of my childhood, my heritage as a Catholic kid who later turned born-again Christian, can now be contemplated from the perspectives of history itself, and the movement of certain people groups at various periods of time from the Old World to the New, which is to say, America.

I mean, we grow up and we see things and we don’t really have a clue where all this stuff came from or how it got here and how we came to be in the midst of it all. In my case, I was a kid in the middle of the Deep South, in Mississippi in the 1950’s. Growing up, snotty-nosed and clueless as I was, now I’m wondering how likely it could have been that I grew up Catholic instead of Southern Baptist.

Well, my mama was a French-American Catholic from Louisiana, and my daddy’s people were from Scotch-Irish stock from up in the piney wood of Mississippi and before that they had come through Pennsylvania and before that from the old country, Ireland or Scotland or somewhere over there on the other side of the Pond.

So now, at this particular moment in time, it just so happens that I wake up this morning on the other side of the Pond, which is to say: now we are in Europe, the Old World, because yesterday (or maybe it was the day before that) we flew from America– formerly the New World– to this Old World, and one plane led to another and now I find myself in Vienna on a sunny morning and thanking God for such a wonderful life a the one we now find ourselves in.

As we strolled along the Karntnerstrasse last evening, we encountered this very impressive big cathedral structure, so I snapped a pic:

Steph-z

The immensity of history–what has gone before–is what I’m feeling as I pondered this structure. The erection of this church building took lifetimes of work and toil and sweat, and devotion, back in the days of the Holy Roman Empire, whatever that was, and its long tails of historical development through Peter and Paul and later Constantine and then all the Popes in Rome and eventually the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Hapsburgs and their hunky-dory relationship to the Catholic Church. . .

Until that fateful day in 1914 when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand got shot in Sarajevo by an angry young Serb and the Empire ended and the Old World ended and World War I dealt the final death blows to the ancient reins of power and the reigns of the royal houses that had ruled Europe for a couple a thousand years or so.

As I was pondering all this, we did stroll inside, into the Church at Stephensplatz. We found there a group of devoted Catholics celebrating Mass. This kind of thing has been going on here for a long time. And I don’t care what you think or say about it . . . This was a good thing.

Steph-in

That devotional setting took me back to childhood memories of being Catholic because that’s the way Mama raised me, even though Daddy wasn’t into it.

So as I contemplated, and in some sense, entered into. . . the devotion of these congregants to their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and their expression of that devotion in the sacrifice of the Mass,  and as I reconciled in my mind between those ancient strains of high-church faith and the Protestant Reformation that later changed everything . . . right down to the johnny-come-lately tides of Charismata that had drawn me into my experience of the Christian faith in 1978, and my present appreciation for all that God has done for me and Pat and our grown-up children and their spouses. . . as I stood there in the quiet reverence of a tourist who just happened into a cathedral while other believers worshipped in their strange high-church way . . .

I could relate. I could relate to what they were feeling.

This morning, I can still feel it, devotion.

Devotion goes way back. This is a good thing.

King of Soul 

The Two Trees

July 3, 2016

It’s no accident that the first human story in the Bible is about a man, a woman, and two trees. One tree is referred to as the tree of life and the other is called the knowledge of good and evil.

Here’s a pic, so you’ll a have visual to help you visualize the scene. Images are, as you know, so important these days on the internet, because it is generally thought that text is boring and doesn’t really get the point across like images and icons do. So here’s a pic of two trees; you can get an idea of what the man and woman might have been dealing with:

TwoTrees

You’ll notice that this image is a little faded, but that’s okay. The photo itself is over 5000 years old, so I was quite lucky to obtain it for this presentation.

As you go through life you will come across many different people, places, things. Sometimes you know what to think about them; other times you don’t quite know what to think. So knowledge itself can be a sketchy thing, especially when it comes to knowing the difference between something that is good and something that is not good. Occasionally you may come across something that is so “not good” that it can be classified as “evil.”

Death that results from a car accident, for instance, is a bad thing, but not necessarily evil. On the other hand, if some jerk runs you down deliberately on the street and kills you, that would be evil–both the act itself and the person who did it.

If someone gives you an apple and you bite into it and it tastes good, then you know that it is good, so to speak. This is knowledge that comes from tasteful experience.

If someone gives you a mushroom, will you just bite into it like you would bite into an apple? I hope not, because some mushrooms are poisonous, while others are not. To be able to identify a poisonous one from a nutritional one would require knowledge. If a friend of yours grows a portobello mushroom and gives it to you for your dining pleasure, that is is good. The mushroom is good in your salad or some other prepared dish. You could even say the person is good because of their generosity to provide this tasty proteinous food for you.

If, on the other hand, a person knowingly gives you a poisonous mushroom, this is evil. The mushroom itself is not evil, because it has no evil intent; rather the person who knowingly gave it to you is evil. So to know the difference between good mushrooms and bad ones is knowledge; not only that– it is useful knowledge.

Now, understand this: there is a difference between knowing something and believing something.

If you wake up at 5 a.m. and it’s still dark outside, you still know that the sun will rise and and day will come. This is not a matter of faith; what you believe about the sun coming up has nothing to do with whether the sun actually does come up. The sun rises to a new day, every day, whether we believe it or not. We know this.

If, on the other hand, you believe that the day will be a good day– that is a matter of faith. Because your believing that it will be a good will probably make a difference in whether you do have a good day or not. Furthermore, it you believe that there is a God who is good and can make any day good even if bad people are trying to screw it up for you, then that is a matter of faith.

And more furthermore, if you believe that a good God can give you good instruction about how to discern between good and evil, that is also a matter of faith. And you can believe it if you want to, no matter what anybody says. And if someone comes along and tells you there is no evidence to support the existence of God or the tree of Life or any other good thing that you believe, you tell them to go jump in the lake.

Because knowledge can only take you so far in life, in liberty, and in the pursuit of happiness, while a little faith fan take you a lot farther. In the days ahead, we should remember this. All the humble people of the world whose well-being is founded in faith should retain, no matter what happens, their right to believe.

And the people who think they need to make everybody conform to some proven facts and the big data–they don’t know what they’re talking about. To hell with them.

In this picture, see if you can guess which one is the tree of life and which one is the tree of knowledge.

TwoTrees

I’ll give you a hint. Both of them are growing on a planet that has survived very long ages of warming and epochs of cooling. As you ponder and choose among the trees of life and the many branches of knowledge, try to cultivate a warm heart with a little faith, while still keeping your cool and being wisely analytical. And it will go well with you.

Also, watch out for snakes.

SnakeRoot

Glass Chimera