Prayer for a New Generation

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Lord, I come unto Thee in all of my imperfections,
in a world that does not see You as perfect;
Unto Thee do I offer my shortcomings and weakness.

Lord, I come unto Thee with a certain unwillingness,
from a world that sees all too many choices;
Unto Thee do I offer my freedom of the human will.

Lord, I come unto Thee from the world You created,
though I am told that the world itself has all to offer;
Unto Thee do I offer my greed of worldly things.

Invite me into Your Holy Temple, for I seek You alone.
Though the world might give me mansions,
I seek only the shelter of your tent.

Lord, I come unto Thee with what little I possess,
although the world might tempt me with everything;
Unto Thee do I offer all of my wealth and prosperity.

Lord, I come unto Thee with the soiled clothing of sin,
with the hope of Thy provision of snow white garments;
Unto Thee do I offer even my temptations and faults.

Lord, I come unto Thee, my God, my Master, Abba.
Beam through me that I might commit my spirit unto You.
Unto Thee do I offer my sanctity as gifted by You alone.

Invite me into Your Holy Temple, for I seek You alone.
Though the world might give me mansions,
I seek only the shelter of Your tent.

Lord, I come unto Thee, with a deep sense of abandonment,
though I know the world offers no reception for my return.
Unto Thee I offer my want of coming back prodigal to You.

Lord, I come unto Thee, with fear of loneliness and despair,
though I know that the material world offers no peace to me.
Unto Thee I offer my family and its generations.

Lord, I come unto Thee often with my hatred of the self,
for I know the world does not see me as the image You know.
Unto Thee I offer my unique human identity.

Invite me into Your Holy Temple, for I seek You alone.
Though the world might give me mansions,
I seek only the shelter of Your tent.

Lord, I come unto Thee with a sanctity challenged by deeds,
but I know that I find my deepest soul in Your Sacred Temple.
Unto Thee I offer even my dark lusts and desires.

My God, why do I feel as though you have abandoned me?
I know that You do not allow me to be lost, even in the world.
Unto Thee I offer my confusion and hopelessness.

My God, why do I come unto You with my war and rebellion?
I know that You only seek to protect me in Thy loving arms.
Unto Thee I offer my weapons, aggression and hatred.

Invite me into Your Holy Temple, for I seek You alone.
Though the world might give me mansions,
I seek only the shelter of Your tent.

Wherever I find You, I know that I enter Your Temple.
The Light of the World is found in Your Temple alone.

I come upon Your Most Holy Staff, my Shepherd,
seeking only to be led to quiet pastures and streams.

Raise up again the mist from which You created me, My God.
Put me to sleep, that I might always awaken to my Bride.
For You Alone are the Most High – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

1/23/2011

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Lamentations

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Lamentations should not be perceived as the loss of a soul. Rather, Lamentations reflect the deeper search for the light of the soul. Be not afraid in your pleas for understanding, mercy, and love. You cannot feel the hand of God until you walk in complete darkness and realize what you have walked into.

The Purpose of Suffering

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1990-91The purpose of my Faith is not to avoid suffering, but to learn from it and to become better through it. {Psalm 38}.

It’s one thing to accept personal suffering as a time to be tried in the fire, but it is entirely a different thing to rejoice in the suffering and loss of another. Joy in the suffering of others is pure evil; the acceptance of what God gives us is the beginning of Renewal. If another is want of food, and you have it, feed him or her and do not mock them. If you are unable to feed your neighbor, offer encouragement, and pray for someone to come into that person’s life who can feed them. {TheImpossibleProposition}.

Wash Up and Get on Your Knees

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Wash Up and Get on Your Knees:
Thoughts About Daily Purification and Humility

A few weeks ago, I deeply enjoyed a sermon put on by Victor Marx, a local Calvary Church minister. Victor also happens to be a person for whom I have the deepest respect and admiration. He did a great job of exploring what it meant to wake up each day with a view toward living a holy life and a life which is acutely focused on God. He even talked about how waking up each day leads to the basic meals that we enjoy and the feast of the day known as supper.

However, I doubt that he was thinking that he was making a great argument for the importance of the daily Catholic Mass, but I’m going to run with the thought anyway and admonish that any differences in the practice of theology are just that – differences only. Without a doubt, I consider Victor to be a Brother in Christ and a Messenger of Truth.

Victor very simply described the process of waking up each morning – with a view toward having God as the focus our day, having God help us stumble out of bed, immersing ourselves in the Word, and the individual importance of simply having our coffee and a good shower. He quickly drew the metaphor to the truth of the Scripture found at Ephesians 6:13-20, which states:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints —

While at first this all seemed to be rather simplistic, in a good way, in the coming weeks I have had the realization that what Victor was describing is exceedingly profound with deep theological underpinnings. He laid out the steps that I personally try to take each day I am able to get my lazy self out of bed and make my way to the local Catholic Church for daily Mass.

In thinking about the spiritual metaphors for daily cleansing and purification, the idea of taking a daily shower becomes a perfect metaphor for the spiritual cleansing which should take place on a daily basis. However, it also goes without saying that each of us even bathe differently on a daily basis, even though the outcome is much the same.

For example, one of us might use Irish Spring soap, another glycerin soap, or just about any other kind of soap. Nor do we all use the same brands of shampoo and conditioner. We don’t all use the same type of towel. Some like cold showers versus hot showers. Some shower in the morning — others at night. Some need bathrobes. Others need to just get dressed right away. Some get dressed in a closet and some folks just troop around in their birthday suits for a while. While this all seems mundane, the metaphor is powerful.

With respect to spiritual cleansing on a daily basis, some need to cleanse through a particular core theology which differs from yours. Perhaps, a physical reminder of our cleansing is needed through sacramentals such as holy water. Some of us feel a deeper need to dress up for Church than others. I, for one, enjoy getting up early and catching a time of reflection as the sun is just coming up. Some of us need to acknowledge our sins daily in a forum of admitted/fellow sinners. Indeed, some of us find deep benefit from art and imagery reflecting the bridge between our humanity and the spiritual world. For some, the power behind prayer, said in daily unison among believers, is remarkably powerful and unforgettable.

Indeed, some of us need to spend more time focusing on one area of our lives for cleansing and purification, just as one might use a specific type or brand of soap for one’s specific skin/hair condition. In the end, the basic purification process is accomplished. Although it may very well be true that a person forgets to wash his/her hair or forgets to wash some particular body part. Or it may be that the soap we’ve chose is simply insufficient for cleansing us of some disease or bacteria. This said, it’s probably also worth noting that most of us would not judge/condemn another for the type of cleaning product used. But, we might guide them to a way of doing things that helps their immunity from disease and ability to enjoy life. And, of course, we would acknowledge that taking a shower is a deeply personal issue which should be kept that way. Most of us are happy just knowing that others take the time to clean themselves. Why must it be so different in the case of religion and spirituality?

Before launching into the more controversial theme of this article, I must state that I absolutely agree with the premise that we ought to avoid dissension, theological fights, and any diversion away from our Christian purpose which has been described over several thousand years (i.e., Loving God with all of one’s heart and tending to the needs of the helpless). Isaiah 58:1-9; Romans 16:17-20; 1 Corinthians 1:10.

Nevertheless one should not be afraid to express personal views of what it means to be faithful and the practices by which one is able to fully realize the daily glorification of God such that we might better the plight of those we come in contact with and such that our souls may be amply purified for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 22:34-40; 25:31-46. This is the daily testimony that we should share with each other so that we might each come into a relationship with Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. John 21:15-19 [a directive given by Christ after what sounds like a good breakfast with his disciples].

Unfortunately, judgment of one religious view, or practice, over another has caused way too much division, but yet allows for the possibility that all Truth will be reduced by the failure to focus on reunifying and absolute truths. 1 Corinthians 1-15. Many would say that there are no absolute truths, but relativism is just one form of intellectual and spiritual anarchy. The Story of Christ is consistent, filled with unity of purpose and philosophy, and does indeed lay down a set of principles by which all Christians are to live by. See; https://richackerman.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/we-should-know-what-we-believe-in-not-just-believe-in/

For me, the best way of getting ready for the day is the regular attendance of daily Mass. It assists in providing a spiritual cleansing, it provides a sense of an integral part of the larger universe, it gives cause for introspection, provides cause for acknowledgment of my imperfect state, gives me a chance to clean up my imperfections, offers a daily “altar-call,” and ensures daily reaffirmation of the Redemptive Story as it plays out in/around me.

One is also provided with the daily opportunity to know that the Word of God is being spoken in a literally universal sense. There truly is a communion of the faithful on Earth and in Heaven. At any given time, there are countless faithful who are hearing and bathing in the same Word each day for 24 hours a day. With the right purpose and heart, it is done only for the glorification of He who is in Heaven and acknowledges our worship of Him. See; U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lectionary for Mass (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. 2002). I am humbled to join in the ranks of those who choose to collectively and literally kneel before the Throne of God on a regular basis.

With the thought that I can only describe what works for me in terms of daily preparation for life, this article is not intended to be an argument, but rather a heartfelt apologetic for what works for my spirit. I assume, because of your common humanity with me, that we might both better understand each other in what I have to say and your reaction to it.

For those not familiar with the Daily Mass and its Order, it goes something like this (with some variance according to day or purpose):

1st Most congregants will enter the Sanctuary and acknowledge their need to begin fresh by symbolically washing their head, heart, and body with holy water. Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:21. An introductory song is sung along with the entry of the priest responsible for leading the mass. Most Catholic hymns are taken directly from Scripture and put to music. Each day is a little bit different in terms of what theme the Mass might take with the music and Scripture to be read. Spiritually, this is the time when the congregants wake up and get out of bed – so to speak. We assess the availability of our spiritual armor and go through the process of putting it on for the travails of the day. It is a time to prepare for the spiritual cleansing and journey for the day. It is a time to fit our armor. Conceptually, it’s even good for those who like to wake up with a music alarm.

2nd Much in the same way a family member might greet us as we are waking up and beginning to mosey about, the Priest opens with a greeting and calls into focus the source of our power for the day. 2 Corinthians 13:14. Specifically, we are reminded that what we do is through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We physically reflect on our inner thoughts and sincere intentions by doing the ‘sign of the cross’ at this time. From this point, we ask for the blessings of God and prepare ourselves for the penitential reminder we need each day. Matthew 15:22. We acknowledge the marks upon our soul and ask for the cleansing that can only come through God’s Almighty Grace. We gird ourselves with the Truth of His Redemptive Purpose for us.

3rd We confess our sins to Almighty God and to our brothers and sisters. We acknowledge that we sin in not only what we do, but what we fail to do. We ask for prayer and forgiveness. Simply put, we recognize that we have made ourselves unclean by our acts and failures and that we wish for ourselves to be cleaned and to be provided the water and soap necessary to do that. I personally think that we even ought to recognize that there are fellow humans in the world who have neither water or soap. The same goes spiritually. It is difficult to think about putting on a protective breastplate or to shod one’s feet for the day when one does not so much as have a drop of water nor the ability to fight off disease and famine. We, who do have these things, must share of our wealth so that we might all be cleansed and ready for the pouring out of God’s Holy Rain upon our spiritual lives. Isaiah 58:1-9.

4th After taking confidence in our awesome blessings, through Faith & Grace, we can enjoy everlasting life, we thank God for his ability to cleanse us and the unique source and demonstration of His Power. Isaiah 6:3; Revelations 4:8; Psalms 188:26; Mark 11:10. This is done in the form of the Gloria, where we acknowledge the need for peace, we give thanks, we acknowledge that His cleansing takes away the sins of the world (not just us), and that He alone (in triune communion with Christ and the Holy Ghost), holds the power to cleanse us of our iniquities. We take on the helmet of Salvation and prepare to take up the sword of His Word only after thanking God for the strength and Grace to do so.

5th Next, the congregants take time to hear Scripture from the Old Testament, a Psalm (song), celebrate our participation in truth with a solid Alleluia (what is supposed to be “a superlative expression of thanksgiving, joy, and triumph”), and immerse ourselves in the Gospels. Psalms 146-150; Revelations 19:1-6. After each reading, we thank God for giving us His daily directions in the form of the Word. In this we have truly begun to bathe ourselves in Truth and prepare ourselves for acknowledging Christ in our lives in a most literal way each day. We think of the work that is required in our lives to fulfill the holy destiny that God has for each of us and how we will apply/work our lives in that direction through the thoughtful control of our freewill and the protective Grace of God.

6th We enjoy the interactive process of having a human representative of the Church (as a body of believers) share the practical meaning, history of, and interpretation of Scripture. As a representative father, he instructs on what we are to do with our day and the importance of staying clean for purposes of avoiding illness and in being able to commune with others. We acknowledge that the messenger is not perfect, but that the Message is perfect.

7th We collectively acknowledge the foundations of our faith by making a formal profession of our faith (particularly on Sunday). This is much in the same way that a family might sit down for breakfast and share in the value of their communal experience and daily purpose as a family. It can be as simple as enjoying a common last name. The processes of the father providing for his family and the mother providing the daily nurture for His Little Ones are put into motion. It is amazing to me how much the method of worship serves as a tight spiritual bridge to the natural order of our lives. Indeed, it should be no shock that the Mass bears spiritual truth in its representation of what it means to be human – even in some of its most simplistic aspects.

8th The purpose of our day is put before us in the form of gifts before the altar of Christ. This is much in the same way that a parent lays out breakfast on the table so that the members of the family might have energy for the day ahead. As so too does the priest accept the necessary gifts and make them ready for consumption. We take thanks that these nourishments are suitable to our spiritual bodies (i.e., our souls) and make ready our hunger for what is good and nourishing to our human be-ings. Before taking part in our spiritual meal, we acknowledge the purposes of our doing so and thank God that we have been provided with an Earth capable of producing what we need – for we have not so created that which we need for life.

9th We pray as Christ asked us to and acknowledge the simplicity of His purposes and provision. Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4. We make peace with those around us and acknowledge their humanity by shaking a hand and sharing a smile. John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19-20; 20:26.

10th Once we are at peace, we acknowledge that we, in our human states, are not worthy to receive Christ, but that he alone has the ability to heal us so that we might be able to make use of the Spiritual Nourishment we are about to receive. John 1:29-36; Revelations 5:6-13, 22:1-3; Luke 7:1-10.

11th We enter into the ultimate purpose of our day – to meet Christ literally and figuratively in our past, present, and future. We do so by acknowledging our sinful history, becoming clean again in Communion with Christ and his Church, and looking forward to the power of the meal we have taken up for the spiritual energy we need to sustain life into the future day.

12th After coming into full Communion and enjoying the Holy Meal put before us, we take a few moments to relax and contemplate the blessings we receive by and through He who provides for us. We prepare for dessert, which is the success, travails, sharing in the Redemptive Story, and hopes of a new day. Because we are not greedy or selfish, we look forward to sharing in our new found hope with others such that we might be a humble beacon of life to those around us. What a joyful way to start the day. We are clean and ready to go out into the world.

13th After having girded up for the day, His representative leads us in a request that we have a good day through God’s blessings and that we go out into the world in peace. So too is it in the case of parents sending their children off to school and taking upon themselves the duties of providing for those in need (i.e., their children who could not otherwise take care of themselves but must grow up to be responsible in their provision and sustenance from God). Genesis 28:3; Deuteronomy 14:29; Numbers 6:23-27; Psalms 29:11.

While I know that Victor wasn’t headed in this direction when he spoke of the value in starting one’s day right, I must say that his sermon had a very powerful effect on my faith and the faith that I try to live by. I honestly don’t expect everyone to use the same spiritual soap that I do, and I have no problem acknowledging that we each prepare ourselves for the coming day in different ways.

What I can say for certain is that Truth often speaks through the most simple aspects of our lives (like eating, bathing, creating and maintaining a family, etc.). These things don’t take great brain power, come naturally, and are the bare essence of what it means to be human. For me, anyway, I choose a spiritual discipline which most reflects this same essence. Oddly enough, the Sacraments also each mirror the basic necessities of human survival (birth, necessary food, health, procreation, adulthood, commitment/service/purpose, death).

Much of the totality of human life, when looked at from afar, appears complicated and unresolved. Yet, on the most basic level, when all humans come to have the basic ability to bathe, learn, and eat, we will truly be at peace. Only by acknowledging that we must do this with a common purpose (Love of something much higher than ourselves – the highest source of our Being) and with a love of our fellow humans (Love of one another), do we ever have the possibility of achieving ultimate peace and prosperity.

We should each wash up and get on our knees.

Richard D. Ackerman (2/20/2010)

We’re Stirring the Cosmic Soup: A Quick Retort to the Religion of Pure Atheism

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While it may very well be that all that we are nothing but a cosmic soup of atomic matter, it certainly does seem that humanity has the unique ability to stir the pot.

As of late, I have given some thought to the arguments of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Edward Wilson, Peter Singer and a number of other players in the current debates about God, morality, and evolutionary biology.  Their basic premise seems to be that what it means to be human or a part of nature can only be explained by evolutionary theory.  Moreover, this theory leads the to the inexorable conclusion that all can be reduced to an explanation as to how atomic physics have played out in the last however many billion years or so. (See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe ). Nary a thought is given to the real fact that all of us have an epistemological gap between us and the beginning of time, such that no present explanation of our world can suffice to explain it entirely.  God does readily fill that epistemological void.

While it may very well be that all that we (and the universe we have our be-ing in) are nothing but a cosmic soup of atomic matter, it certainly does seem that humanity has the unique ability to stir the pot.  This ability is seen nowhere else in the ‘natural world.’  Indeed, it is this very deviation from cosmic destiny, evolutionary theory, or even simple neuro-psychology, that uniquely defines what it is to be human.

Unlike the natural world, we are not dependent on the synchronicity of our coexistence with/in  the many moving and interactive elements of the earth’s evolved environment.  Ostensibly, we are readily able to defy what nature might otherwise dictate.  Singer and others have, rather oddly, concluded that behavior which defies nature is somehow ignoble or immoral.  Isn’t everything “natural,” in the sense that all that is must be derivative of evolutionary processes and atomic destiny?  What possible moral difference could stirring the pot of cosmic existence make, if we can only have derived our ability to stir the pot from the very substance found in the pot?  There has to be a clear distinction made between the subject and objects confronted by human existence.

As an aside, this does not mean that morality would have to be completely dependent on some traditional notion of God. It is simply a matter of distinguishing a difference between intentionality, conscious acknowledgment and the human experience of what is “moral,” from that which is simply a byproduct of evolutionary necessity and atomic structure. Whether these aspects are distinguishable from each other is the question that Professor Dawkins raises. The conceptual parsing done by Dawkins is actually quite admirable and necessary to the understanding of either side’s argument.

Moreover, it seems readily apparent that the process of evolution for the ‘natural world’ moves at the same pace as it has from the beginning of time (barring any natural disasters).  Animals and plants are not dependent on us for their existence in a natural state.  They only evolve at certain scientifically definable rates in accordance with the environmental variables which govern the process.

Simply put, humans command the ability to even deprive ourselves of the natural synchronicity with nature.  It is indeed arguable that we sometimes separate from nature and defy it.   At a minimum, we stand out from nature.  For example, a lion cannot simply redefine itself or make claim to an existence other than that which it has at its essence. A view toward’s Heidegger’s philosophy on death would also underscore the reality that humans are perfectly capable of  experiencing “unnatural” deaths.  Most lions and other creatures will die substantially the same way and of the same causes.  Humans, however, bear a capacity for defining even the parameters of our own deaths.  Certainly, our nearest alleged “relatives,” chimpanzees, can hardly lay stake to such abilities.  In other words, there is something about the human experience that can be completely differentiated from that of the animal experience.  Indeed, this statement can be made even without accounting for the unique capacity of humans to conceive of [a] God, to understand beauty, and to engage in the fine arts.

Nevertheless, we can rightly claim that humans engage in unnatural acts.  They engage in acts that defy natural selection and the otherwise undisturbed progression of the natural world outside of humanity.  Animals are not generally self destructive in any real way.  Humans, on the other hand, are completely competent to destroy themselves and everything else around them.  Indeed, humankind is readily able to change its environment quickly and drastically.  And, in so changing, it becomes apparent that we are the only creatures on earth that are capable of self-directed evolution, even to the point of destroying ourselves.   Seemingly, evolutionists are ready to deprive of humankind of this sacred and distinct attribute shared by no other living creatures.

Frankly, it seems inconsistent to stand by an evolutionary biology explanans for why things are the way they are, and yet complain about the seemingly out of control, or even allegedly  immoral, progress of humanity.  Morality simply has no place in a universe driven only by the predisposed nature of atomic structures and the rules of physics to which they are bound.  In a very important sense, the effect of human existence on the environment is no less evolutionary or atomically driven than any other process that is claimed to have arisen from a purely evolutionary beginning.  That is, if one believes that all must have come from simple existence which led to a graduated complexity.

In order to speak of “moral” behavior, one must first believe that there is some constituent part of the universe which can be moral or act in a moral way.  If we rely simply on the synaptic firing of our neurons, coupled with a genetic destiny, it simply does not make sense to incorporate a moral lexicon into human existence.  However, if one believes that moral behavior is a step above, or uniquely differentiated from, the coldness of evolutionary survival of the species, it must follow that one believes that there is a higher arche to the human existence.  Whether this is attributable to God or a higher being/be-ing (a template for higher being or a more complex nature outside of the natural rules that apply to all other creatures), or not, seems to be the real question.

There are a good number of evolutionary biologists and philosophers of our time who readily conclude that all of human existence can simply be explained by reference to the primordial atomic soup from which all has evolved.  They do not explain where the atomic structure/fabric came from, they do not explain the source of the energy driving all that is, they ignore or gloss over the origins of art and beauty, and they completely ignore the obvious fact that the human line of species significantly deviates from otherwise predictable genetic destinies or even basic natural evolution of the rest of nature and its evolving complexity.

At first glance, the basic problem with evolutionary biology is that it rests upon what appears to be a purely linear view of the time-space continuum.  This purely linear view adds an unnecessary viscosity to the stream of the cosmos and nature itself. The evolutionists view does not account for the fact that all matter, or representations of matter, derive from an admittedly common source and theoretical moment of being put in motion.  That is, all things that can be perceived in the real world are the same age by reference to atomic matter, interactivity, and movement of the cosmos.

The only difference between one atomic structure and another is the ‘present’ constituency of the thing perceived.  Under a non-linear view of time, it may just be the case that the “age” of things is a function of where they are in the movement of the “cosmic swirl.”  An evolutionist should not confuse the properties of age with actual age — if time can even be said to be a good structure for cosmology.  If there was a single moment of creation, moving forward, differing “ages” of the atomic world’s constituents are not so obvious as to merit the conclusion that the universe actually is 13.7 to 37 billion years old or any other specific age for that matter.  If, at the time the cosmos was put in motion, certain aspects of reality were given characteristics in their atomic structure that give off the impression of being “older,” it may simply be that the evolutionist has been fooled in much the way a purchaser of art might be fooled by the acquisition of a good faux painting.  The thing acquired or perceived has all of the characteristics, but is lacking in the need of its original creator and an understanding of the process leading up to the perceived masterpiece.

In other words, the moment of creation may simply have been a stirring of the pot by an Omnipotent and wholly self sufficient Primary Mover.  A cyclical or interwoven time structure is not the same as a linear structure which starts from a given point and brings us to something called “today.”  The ‘swirl’  of the cosmic mass we call reality should not be confused with a purely linear view of reality, upon which evolution must rely (i.e., reliance on a Big Bang, primordial soup, then various periods of evolution/advancement of varying species).  Obviously, if linear time is the framework for the edifice of evolution, there is a strong likelihood that evolutionary theory is defectively constructed.

Additionally, it seems that the atheist opposition confuses their perceived improbability of God with ultimate exclusion from the range of all possibilities.  In the view of Dawkins and his company, it is nearly an absolute truth that God does not exist.  Were it the case that Dawkins could overcome the long standing objections that might be made by George Berkeley as to the importance of human perception in all of this, perhaps a better argument could be made.  However, Dawkins and his crew presuppose the validity and concrete values of their perceptions and just assume that a consensus gentium argument will carry the day because a vast number of other evolutionary biologists happen to agree on the notion that God, Creationism or Intelligent Design are improbable or altogether wacky.  Solipsism remains a strong enemy of confidence in the truth values of our own perceptions.  In fact it does seem that the utility and efficacy of certain “memes” bears out this very problem.  Cultural evolution is a product of passed on perception, without necessary regard to or of principles deriving from mathematics or physics.

In order for anyone’s argument to work with respect to great cosmological arguments, it does seem that the veil of basic human perception must first be torn and put aside in favor of an unobstructed view of reality.  Humanity has proven itself quite incapable of divesting itself from its condition as a status which depends purely on the senses and humanized logic.  Professor Dawkins and his ilk may be assured that just as great a number of scientific theories have fallen, after ready acceptance by consensus, as have arguments for the existence of particular gods or ontologies.  In large part, it seems that the human defect of limited perception is the cause of a great number of these many failed scientific theories throughout history. Indeed, it seems apparent that our singular or collective experiences limit the conclusions to which we may arrive.  Experience naturally limits the parameters of what we can actually know.  Admittedly, the breadth of one’s “experience” can be widened with knowledge/exposure to mathematics, physics, chemistry, theory of biology, philosophy, and other areas of learning.  However, the expansion of theory is dependent on the limits of our own personal knowledge and that of our colleagues in thought.  The limits of humanity do not give way simply because one believes in evolutionary biology.

Father Time has proven himself to be a bitter enemy to the life span of most scientific theories.  As human perception ‘evolves,’ scientific theories die.  Sometimes they die by the weight of their own complexity or the simply are shown to be inconsistent with the collective perceptions of an advanced humanity.  Oddly, however, the explanatory value of a higher cause or higher being has not died since the conceivable beginnings of human thought about the source of our being and the reasons for our existence.  This may be simply because a belief in God does provide a fabric to all that is.  Or, it may just as well be that the vast majority of humans have perceived something that can only be described as God.  For as many scientists and theologians as there have been in history, there have probably been nearly as many fools among them.

The pervasive perception of God, or the empirical basis for the use of a word such as “God,” cannot be simply disregarded.  Simply because Dawkins has not personally perceived something that might be called God does not allow him to summarily dispense with any Wittgensteinean objections as to the limits of our language and ability to articulate what we experience.  It is undeniably the case that the Judeo-Christian view of the world has rather successfully sufficed to unite an advancing/progressive group of humans, indeed the entirety of Western Culture, of which Professor Dawkins would be a participant.  The “memes” of, or which are, Christianity have proven to be a rather powerful force by any account.  See generally, John 1:1-4 (KJV).

It seems to me that the evolutionists of our time ought to give some minor consideration to the thought that the theoretical explanans and the actual explanandum of human existence are conceivably different.  If truth be the sum of its complete, necessary and agreed upon conditions, the evolutionary biologists/theorists have plenty of agreement, but could not possibly have a complete or necessary epistemological basis for the ultimate truths they espouse.  Admittedly, the same applies for a strict historical or epistemological view of Christianity.

In the case of both Evolutionary Theory and the belief in God, there is indicia of pure religion.  Religion requires certain elements, which appear to be:  1.)  A redemptive or explanatory story for what is;  2.) An explanandum/definiendum which outside of complete human perception or experience;  3.) Preachers and prophets of the truth or content contained within the explanans/definiens; 4.) A body of the faithful who simply may have no epistemelogical basis for a belief in what is explained or the explanation itself; 5.) A desire to operate by explanatory fiat or ultimatum.  Zealotry on behalf of any such religion can lead to discord and unnecessary viscosity in the stream of otherwise valuable arguments.  Certainly, both sides of the Intelligent Design argument seem perfectly capable and willing to lift the sword toward the other.

Or it may very well be that the enemies of God are simply asking the wrong questions even about their own existence and be-ing (Dasein) in the Heideggerian sense.  Perhaps it is just that they think it important to “stir the pot” in the proverbial sense.  But what sense does it make to stir the pot if you’re in it?

 

 

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Hearing the Call, Defend Something Greater than Yourself

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When asked to write an article on religious liberties, I originally thought to give an update on First Amendment jurisprudence and maybe to throw in a couple of quips about the direction the courts have taken on religious freedom. Instead, I find myself struck by the awe of our professional calling under the Constitution. I think about the current state of our moral and financial economies as a nation. Moreover, I think of the political philosophy of Eric Voegelin and his view of what it means to seek the higher order in life and the law.

The solemn oath we have taken as officers of the Court is a serious oath to defend the Constitution and all that it stands for. In my view, the Constitution came from and stands for something much greater than ourselves. Indeed, when we think only of ourselves, that’s about all we get. We must always be willing to think of and be willing to defend something greater than ourselves.

The need to defend free speech, religious freedom, and the right to assemble has never been more critical. We live in a society where values have become relativistic, where morality is centered on individual ‘needs,’ and where economic viability is the test for one’s societal worth. Sadly, the First Amendment often finds itself protected only by those who have a certain political view of what it means and the regular absence of a counter-position is misread as victory or consensus. We also forget that relativism is but a subtle form of anarchy. Yet, fortunately, the objectivity of the Constitution provides a societal solace not found in many other parts of the world.

Moreover, much of the ‘defense’ of the First Amendment has resulted in the conclusion that anything of divinity has no place in public discourse. Religion, faith, and a sense of wanting to restore order have been morphed into a negative, if even reviled, position in contemporary jurisprudence. It should not be so. We all ought to self-examine the purpose of being legal professionals and must strive to zealously defend the First Amendment as though the very progress of humanity depended on our advocacy. Indeed, we can only progress when we seek a higher order beyond our present lot in life. But for the idea of something greater and outside than ourselves, we would have no need or desire for progress as humans. We often forget that the difference between human evolution and natural evolution is that human evolution is generally self-directed. You must know that we can define the parameters of a bright and recovering future. We as lawyers can help define the justice necessary for America’s recovery.

In the case of the American justice system, our higher order is reflected in the language of the Constitution. In this vein, the trier-of-fact’s pull toward the higher order can only be had through a tension existing between the conduct that gave rise to the litigation and the law which applies when a given state of events is proved. Each side has a story to tell, both sides are presented and, from the tension between the sides, comes “justice.” The concept of a living justice is a purely noetic experience. Equally, justice must always be reflective of a higher calling toward Reason.

Reason, in the classical sense, is not to be taken as referring to `reason as mere logic or logical constructs’. Instead, “Reason” is a human experiential event, an ever-present “constituent of humanity,” and a “source of order in the psyche of man.” With an air of sincere hope, Eric Voegelin saw Man as being able to actually experience and articulate divinity. This experience, is one that comes from the illumination and presencing of both: a.) the disorder which constitutes man’s limited spatio-temporal material existence, and; b.) that which causes man to be a questioning being containing the divine within him. Please do not confuse the term “divine” with purely theological connotations. Think of it as more of the essence of what makes Man different than a common animal.

Voegelin’s representation of Reason is used here as a paradigm for the workings of a Constitutional jurisprudence. In this vein, all of us called to the profession of law must defend the cornerstone of our higher order, which is the First Amendment. It must also be known that when we fail to defend it, we deny human progress, we deny the opportunity for diversity of thought, and we kill the very spirit of our system of justice.

Historically, it must be acknowledged that the development of the Constitution could not have been anything but a manifestation of America’s pull toward the Divine and was reflective of the experience of Reason. The Constitution was not meant to be a mere recital of ideas and concepts that might prove useful in the governance of human affairs in the eighteenth century and beyond.

Presently, it seems that America is in a pull toward the passions of socio-economic existence and we have voluntarily lost sight of the divinity in us. Our present pull toward the darker elements of American humanity amounts to an outright rejection of the Divinity which inspired the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

In my view, the inspiration for the Constitution was an identifiable experience of reality and the “cognitively luminous force” which allowed resistance against the tyranny and disorder of English rule and allowed the founding of a vibrant new democracy. By reflection on the experience that gave rise to the articulations set forth in the Constitution, Americans came to have a guiding force by which they could direct the higher voice of Reason through their unique cultural experiences. This force was a force within them and a force that defined/created them.

Voegelin’s notion of Reason is founded on the essential claim that `experiences create concepts.’ In the case of the Constitution, the American experience of the 18th century created powerful political concepts. The human experience of the time, however, was only a medium through which the Constitution could come to be a representation of the higher order giving rise to its possibility as a living documentation of human contact with higher/divine order.

The Constitution, as an instrument of communication, is an accounting of the transcendent experience that the Founders had. It was/is account of that which they believed to be “God-given” or divinely-given. The Constitution contains reflections of the metaxy between Man and the Divine which existed long before the American Revolution and which could not have prevented the split between America and Great Britain. The enactment of the Constitution certainly did not serve to completely disenfranchise men from their passions, enslavement of other human beings, or the need for a physical revolution.

The force that allows the human psyche to resist disorder is called the ever present, but oft hidden, “Nous.” Each of us has Nous within us we participate in the Nous of our times. Nous is reflective of a movement toward higher order. However, as suggested above, the noetic movement toward higher order is countered by a natural human pull toward our primitive passions and the matter which makes for our finite human existence in time and space. According to Voegelin, this creates a tension (i.e., metaxy) between the passions and higher order. As such, we are in a state of existential unrest and do damage to ourselves by failing to recognize the divinity in our human purpose.

Humbly, however, we are to recognize that Man is not self-created nor is Man a self-sufficient being which carries within him/her the ultimate meaning of the universe. Rather, humanity is left with questions about the “ultimate ground” of reality. Our experience is taken to be from the position of being an interrogator of reality. Our ability to articulate perceived answers to our own interrogatories becomes our greatest and most respectable endeavor. This work is most reflective of that which makes us what we are. This ability to articulate with regard to the `process of questioning’ allows us to hint at, reflect on and share with others our experience of the “ultimate ground” for our existence, which again, is in us and which created us.

It is our questioning that is, in of itself, reflective of our pull toward that which created us. We know not why we question; Yet, we do know that we are compelled to question. The First Amendment provides a guaranty that we might be able to engage in higher Reason even when we fail to desire the sanctity of our freedoms. By defending that which serves as the force behind our inherent desire to question, we are thinking about the arche’ of our humanity. A necessary mode of tension is created between the higher order and our struggle to attain it.

When in good health, our modes of tension can take the forms of hope, faith, love and trust. This includes faith, hope and trust in our fellow man, whether he be Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, or simply questioning. Moreover, the theophanic events of hoping and believing are not dependent on race, creed, religion, ethnicity, or gender. Justice is the mode of tension in the Noetic-Constitutional experience.

The initial appeal to our divine nature in the development of the Constitution of the United States finds itself in the following language from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The phrase “self evident” detectably takes on a sense of having truths and knowledge of the divine arise from within ourselves and yet also directly arises from that which allows us to be or that which created the ability for us to see these truths as self evident.

In fact, the serious disorder of the age was reflected in America’s claims about the conduct of Great Britain. In point, America claimed that Great Britain was acting against the public good, engaging in invasions of rights, obstructing the administration of justice, plundering and ravaging, burning towns, destroying lives, completing works of “death, desolation and tyranny,” and being “deaf to the voice of justice.”

Assuming these things to be true, with a view toward our own times, it certainly appears that early America did not continue to remain in the apeironic depths of its then extant position in the continuum of human time and space. There were no more house burnings, trials by Church and State, or obvious acts of tyranny following the divine encounter of America. Nor was She limited by any belief that man cannot aspire to the divine.

This Nous of the eighteenth century was again manifest in the language of the Constitution itself. To wit, the following was stated and ratified on September 17, 1787:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America.”

The Constitution would then become that “supreme law of the land.” The articulations contained therein would now become the `persuasive force’ that would, in Voegelin’s terms, illuminate America’s existence for its citizens and the world as a whole. The Constitution was now an articulated unit of meaning having arisen from the metaxy of man’s human experience and that which caused him to believe that there was a higher order outside of his epistemological footing of the time. Justice would now take place at a new and ongoing politico-metaxy existing at the junction of the Constitution and the conduct of our daily human affairs.

On December 15, 1791, the United States further exhibited its tension toward the ground of its existence by ratifying the Bill of Rights. Among these fundamental rights, and first mentioned, was the right to free speech. This particular right is an ultimate reflection of the experiential phenomena described by Voegelin in that it secured the right of persons to “articulate” their experiences as questioning human beings. Again, we must remember Voegelin’s claim that our movements toward the divine ground can only be had through articulation of our experiences. The First Amendment affirms man’s questioning nature and so he becomes temporarily vindicated from the disorder and tyranny that began to stifle his questioning existence. America’s pursuit of that which was claimed to be “God-given” would then be further vindicated by enactment of the remaining nine Amendments to the Constitution.

Assuredly it seems that the right to be secure in our persons and property, the right to trial by a group of our peers and the separation of Church and State bolster our ability to seek the ultimate ground of our existence on an individual level.

Nonetheless, Voegelin, in his discussion of the Greek experience of Reason, warns us that humans can find themselves distanced from the Nous and Reason when these things are viewed as something wholly abstract and distanced from the realm of the direct human experience of consciously facing off with reality. We begin to develop certain psychopathology when we lose our openness and desire to pursue the divine. Modern America is exhibiting near terminal pathology relative to the Constitution as higher order given by the divine within us. This is a pathology that is manifest by a disrespect for the value of human life, political party agendas (outside a beneficial conservative/liberal politico-metaxy), and the fears of a society governed by fiscal economies.

As mentioned above, Reason comes about through an interactive experience wherein man and his arche are mutual participants at the metaxy between them. The mutuality of the experience makes for healthy existence. When we focus away from the ground, we become philosophically ill.

That which created us is taken to be as much a part of our existence as the human experience of existence itself and thus plays a central role in our healthy consciousness. Undeniably, it seems that consciousness comes into being, that complete consciousness is the prerequisite to experience and that experience of reality is the medium by which we come to acknowledge our consciousness.

We must also realize that we cannot simply reason ourselves out of the horrors of our time. It must be recognized that “reason” (with a small “r”) is only a tool by which we can come to interpret the material world around us. It does nothing to bring our attention to that which allows or which created our “reason” in the first place. Focuses on “reason” are only focuses on human interpretation of the world and not on that which is in the world per se’.

Thus, it seems that a philosophical ascent to that which is the higher cause or source is much more in line with the ultimate goal of experiencing mankind as something more than mere matter clashing with other matter in the world of conscious reality. The philosophical ascent is the one that soars on the wings of the tension between that which caused us to be and that which we are. All the while, we must maintain an openness to that which compels us to be questioning beings. “Reason,” as an epochal historical event, is to be taken in an ontological sense and is a process happening in the whole of reality and, when recognized, assists us in rising above the disorder of our material conduct.

Matter, in a sense, becomes a constant: Our interactive and questioning nature, when acknowledged, activated and defended, allows for variables and choices beyond what merely “is.”

Our human be-ing becomes a state of interactive questioning, in the sense of “What might be, besides that which is before me?”, Thus, we are moved forward in our be-ing. The First Amendment promotes this process. A passive view of reality would not allow us our individuality or perceived acknowledgment of God-given rights or the Divine or Reason. Denial of the right to question denies our fundamental humanity. Further, the process of questioning is the very eventing of the human consciousness and defines our humanity.

When we solely focus on the mere “matter” of experience or the tools which are used to interpret the matter, we are at most existing at an experiential standstill. A focus on logic, mere sense data, language, passions and scientific method calls us only into the present and past. Questioning is a bridge to the future. Our willingness to defend all questioning provides the necessary materials for this bridge. Although the material necessary to effectuate and answer is within the world, the questioning comes first and is a humanly conscious event beyond the realm of matter.

Again, the Constitution provides an articulation of the structure of government and the relationship of the People to Government. The Constitution wasn’t meant to be temporary and, quite properly I believe, we have not treated it as such. The Constitution is a reflection of what America should be. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily a reflection of who Americans are today.

In order to have a truly free society, there must be a mutual participation between us and the spirit of the Constitution. We must recognize the divine nature of others. When officers of court or everyday citizens reject the divine order reflected in them, we become ill as Constitutionally created, inspired, and driven citizens. Notwithstanding, we should not remain in offense of another’s rejection of Constitutionality, but must seek the production of faith, hope, love and respect by placing ourselves back into a state of unrest at the metaxy of our daily conduct and the Constitution.

There are such things as justice, love and equity in the world by virtue of our interactive role in the whole of reality. We come recognize that there are such things because we engage in conduct and interaction that is substituted by words like “justice.” It is in the experiences of life that we find justice and, as a lawyers, the Constitution reaffirms our daily purpose. Listen to the call of your profession and defend something higher than yourselves.

My Personal Testimony

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Philosophy begins with the experience of human existence. Seemingly, the best impetus for philosophy comes from the horror of human existence and the victories that come from defeating the horror. The ‘good life’ comes from learning how to avoid the horrors.

I was born on May 15, 1969. From what I can tell, life didn’t start off all that well for me. According to my parents’ divorce papers, I was left to lie in my own human waste often enough to cause any social worker at least some real concern. Of course, my mother cannot be much to blame in this matter since she suffered from retinitis pigmentosa, and has suffered from a host of mental problems all of her life. Her own mother apparently committed suicide on a Christmas Eve, and her father died in an alcoholic stupor some years later.

In fact, I suspect that it was an uprising of my mother’s mental disabilities that crushed the marriage of my parents. For better or worse, I was only a few months old when all of this occurred. As an aside, my father was a disabled World War II veteran and suffered from various emotional and physical disabilities as well.

I know I was born into the Catholic Faith and was baptized as such. Much of my childhood memory up to the age of six or seven is clouded at best and probably not relevant to any conversion that I may now tell you of. About the only thing I remember from this time was the constant whippings by my mother as a form of ‘disclipline.’

What I know for sure is that I did attend Catholic school for first grade and went through the sacramental process offered through one’s First Communion. Although I do remember having severe pneumonia at the time, I was aware of the importance of my First Communion and the idea that Christ could be offered to man and child — so long as they stood willing to confess of their sins and at least make a good faith attempt to come before God in as pure a state as humanity could ever offer.

Religion, for many, is a passive experience brought about by adherence to culture and tradition. Rarely is thought given to the idea that Man is capable of a direct and intimate connection with his Maker.

This said, about the same year as my first communion, I distinctly recall having had a profound conversion experience. Specifically, I remember dreaming, in the grossest of detail, that I had been condemned to hell. The intense flames arose all around me and I could feel the heat as strongly and clearly as I can hear my own voice.

The self awareness of my dire and decrepit human state was overwhelming. I woke up in a profuse sweat and immediately was compelled to bring myself to my knees and pray harder than I had ever prayed even to date. As I prepare this testimony, I still wish that I could find the desire to pray with as much intensity as the child that I once was. Sincere prayer is hard to come by even though answers and blessings from God abound in our existence. As the great revivalist, Charles Finney, suggested, many people don’t remember what they prayed for five minutes later. This may be, in part, why there is such a lack of gratitude amongst humanity’s members. If we actually remembered our prayers, we would be all too aware of the answers that come pouring out of the Divine Grace and Providence of our Maker.

In any event, I remained faithful to my commitment to the Church and was happy to be an altar boy and regularly served at the early morning mass on weekdays before school. Oddly enough, I was even ready and willing to serve at Mass during vacations and other off-times. As I recall, during my years in elementary school, I had formulated the belief that I would become a priest when I grew up. I sincerely had hoped that I would be groomed for St. Michael’s Seminary in Trabuco Canyon, California. However, this never came to fruition because of the many problems that would surface later.

As a pre-adolescent child and aside from a few incidents of extreme violence against me by my mother, I remained fairly free of her mental problems and related iniquities. We survived on welfare income of about $700-800 a month as I recall. My mother, much to her credit, was able to somehow purchase a 900-square-foot or so three-bedroom house in Santa Ana and managed to provide for my brother and me until I was about 13 years old. She had no family here in California. I was lucky enough to have my father. My brother was not so fortunate as to have a father figure in his life during his childhood. However, I was sexually abused by a paternal great-uncle during this time and it took many years to recover from that particular horror.

In any event, I am often taken aback by many of my fellow human beings’ complaints about how they can’t do certain things. Call it a chip on my shoulder, but it does seem odd that a delusional and blind woman could manage to purchase a house by herself, raise two children and somehow manage a household. All the while, we see so many able-bodied humans complaining about what they supposedly can’t do. ‘Can’ and ‘cannot’ are matters of attitude toward life. If Man has free will, it exists only at this level of being able to change our attitude toward what we cannot change.

As indicated below, it seems to me that our purpose in life is to fulfill a God-given destiny and the only thing that matters is our attitude toward meeting the charge of our unique and personal Divine Predestination.

In any event, my brother is three years younger than me. Once I turned about 12 or 13, things became extremely bad. As for myself, I had begun a pattern of drinking during the summer between eighth and ninth grades. I even managed to overdose from alcohol before I reached the ninth grade. Other than a two-week restriction, the overdose incident didn’t get a whole lot of mention and I doubt that my parents ever talked to each other about the event.

My parents maintained a hostile relationship for so long as I can remember. It’s odd that they should have spent so much time berating each other when I was busy boozing it up and enjoying my entry into the world of drugs. I supposed that what happened a decade before between them was much more important than the reality that their 12-year-old son was becoming a drug addict, alcoholic and immorality addict.

The whole drug thing began shortly after becoming a high school freshman. One of the guys in the neighborhood introduced me to “Al,” who worked at the local Jack-in-the-Box. Al introduced me to pot for my first time and I can’t remember it being all that great in and of itself. I think that the violation of my parents’ ostensible trust and my moral upbringing was much more of a high than the drug itself. That said, I ended up dropping out of high school by the time I reached the halfway point in my first year. My attendance, even up to that point, was sporadic at best. I did join in the Academic Decathlon Team, water polo team and swim team, though. That was about the only appearance of normalcy at that time. Oddly, I still have yet to take a formal class in English, Math or History.

By the time spring semester of my freshman year rolled around, I was already tattooed. I paid my girlfriend’s brother a joint for a tattoo of a skull over a cross. By this time, I had already had sex with his 12 or 13-year-old sister and I had managed to get myself well into a strong pattern of drug and alcohol abuse. I would later have a tattoo artist add flames to the skull and cross to further demonstrate my hatred for all that represented my Christian upbringing.

I can only imagine that my youthful hatred for Christianity arose from the fact that many of my mother’s acute episodes with mental illness revolved around religious themes. She would regularly engage in sickly violence, swear, and commit crimes in the name of God and justify her own abuse of my brother and me by claiming that God told her to ‘beat’ us as an act of love. As her mental illness took on even darker tones, she would literally attempt to cast out evil spirits from various household items including the washing machine and my father’s car. Her claimed stigmata was no less disturbing with the blood, screaming, and ‘spiritual’ experiences.

As a child, one can well imagine that the surfacing of a mother’s severe mental problems is not an easy burden to carry. My brother was too young to understand what was going on and probably too innocent to understand the harm that was being caused to the family. It therefore became my responsibility to call 911 and to have my mother committed to a mental facility on more than one occasion.

I can assure you that it is no easy task to call the police and emergency services knowing that they will come out with a gurney and forcefully strap your mother down before your own eyes. You cannot even imagine the fear that was struck in myself and in my brother’s eyes as this all went down time and again.

While the police and others left my brother and me to the care of neighbors or others on occasion, we both eventually ended up being placed in what was known as the Orangewood home for abused children. Can’t say I lasted long. I chose to escape and ended up at a friend’s house. My brother, abandoned by me and the system, ended up in a foster home and eventually was returned to my mother somehow.

It is probably noteworthy to this story that I was arrested some three or four times between the ages of 14 and 16. The charges ranged from possession of narcotics, grand theft, burglary, trespass and other various violations of law. I ended up serving only about two or three months in juvenile hall. In terms of the burglary, I should probably mention that it was my own father that I robbed. Indeed, I encouraged my friends to rob him as well. Needless to say, moral aptitude was not an adolescent specialty of mine.

In terms of my drug use, I regularly used cocaine, marijuana, LSD, and crystal methedrine. I also partook of PCP, mescaline, belladonna, and other drugs as they would be offered through the course of my youth. I even shot up once. I didn’t particularly like the experience of shooting up only because the high came much too quickly. I always enjoyed the feeling of having the high ‘come on.’ Otherwise, I suppose I could have easily ended up strung out on heroin.

During this time, I enjoyed going to punk shows, hanging out with friends and their drugged out parents, I sported a bleached white mohawk haircut, lived with bikers and meth dealers, got into many fights and just generally looked for trouble wherever we might find each other. I even managed to get shot at during this time and had narrowly escaped a severe jail sentence after being involved in a big drug bust in Santa Ana (while being told to freeze while I was reaching for a gun). Many of my friends ended up on jail, prison, and the victims of addiction. This was normal in our minds.

On other battle fronts, a friend’s mom died of a heroin overdose and a good friend of mine died of the same cause at age 16 or 17. As an ultimate demonstration of my depravity at the time, I even had the moral audacity to literally urinate on another human while they were passed out by a toilet. The human being was my girlfriend at the time. My friend Steve and I took great pleasure in the degradation of her humanity. She later forgave us.

In terms of spiritual events, I attempted to attend church two or three times during this intense period of strife. Once, I thought I was saved at a church in Costa Mesa. Didn’t last long as to the immediate emotions, but the effects were eternal. At another time, I attempted to attend a Catholic service in Garden Grove, but some person passed out in the entryway and the church members were concerned about getting her out of the way so services could begin on time. I suppose praying for one’s soul and health is secondary to punctuality in certain minds of the time. For me, this was but one more turn-off to the whole of Christianity. In fact, this little event managed to keep me away from any church until I was in my mid-twenties.

Once I turned almost 16, I was placed at the Wallace Community Day School in Santa Ana. This was a school designed for children like myself who simply couldn’t handle the normalcy of a regular high school. Here we were allowed to work at our own pace. I excelled in this setting and decided that I would take the California High School Proficiency Exam. I took the test at about age 16 and began attending Santa Ana College later. I received decent grades in most of my classes. Even so, I continued in my self-created courses in drug addiction and alcoholism.

I did well as a philosophy major and had plenty of opportunity to think about theology, ethics and philosophy in general. I was particularly caught up in the debate about determinism. If God knew everything, then it had to be that I had, so to speak, a sticker on my back that says “heaven” or “hell” and I just can’t see it — but, God can see the label and wills it so.

More important to my concerns, if all is predetermined, I can’t be responsible for all of the horrible things I’ve done in life since it was, in theory, already known that I would do them. Under this analysis, accountability and mercy make absolutely no sense.

Nevertheless, its more than 20 years later and I still haven’t got all the answers to the ‘question of determinism.’ What I do know is that the pain of sin can be forgiven and that the forgiveness is available to any ready, willing, and asking person who comes to our Maker with a contrite heart and a desire to change. Nevertheless, glimpses of what appears to be truth are but a nanosecond flash in the darkest caverns of my intellect.  Yet at the same time, the Ultimate Truth reveals itself everyday through my family, profession, and interaction with others.

Before completing my studies at the college, I finally stopped smoking pot. It made me feel stupid and out of control so I gave it up ‘cold-turkey’ one day. I may have revisited pot once or twice thereafter. However, I still enjoyed speed and cocaine for a short while thereafter. I quit these substances cold-turkey one day as well. I can see no self-caused reason for my sudden inclinations to quit drugs. Divine Mercy and Intervention are the only possible explanations for my decision to turn away from drugs.

While in college, I also met the person that would become my first wife. My experiences with her have been of the more moving in my life in terms of raw force acting against and framing my sense of morality. Of particular note was the fact that she had an abortion without telling me (before we married) and then later lied about being on birth control after we got married. That particular lie ended up in a second abortion. I haven’t yet fully realized the reasons for my blind allegiance to the causes of such acts.

Oddly enough, I did drive her to and from the abortion clinic the second time. I had decided in my mind that mercy dictated that I overlook the harm that she was causing me in favor of insuring that she was at least safe. Whether or not my apparent mercy was a demonstration of my own lack of self worth or esteem, I suppose, is an open question. I now know that my futile attempts at human mercy and compassion pale before God’s ultimate understanding and mercy in my own life. Such are the beginnings of a philosophy on life and a continuing Testimony.

I am happily married to my beautiful wife Stefanie and have been since 1996. God has blessed us with two daughters and two sons, Hannah, Abigail, Thomas and Timothy. Through them, I have been able to experience the highest that humanly existence has to offer. God has opened a completely new world to me through my family and my wife’s love for me.

I have served the community as an attorney since 1994, began sitting as a part-time judge for the Riverside County Superior Court in 2004, and have worked on a number of very high profile cases affecting our culture (First Amendment, Tenth Amendment, addressing the issue of same-sex marriage, defending the Pledge of Allegiance, fighting the removal of Christian history from public life). The cases given to me to fight have been presented on CNN, KTLA, Fox News, ABC, NBC, The O’Reilly Factor, and hundreds of other media outlets across the entire world.

In sum, the sanctity of our humanity is best realized when we acknowledge that we are not, nor were our parents, or theirs before, self-caused. Our humanity and its value derive from the fact that we were born into the dignity that we call humanity. We were born into the image of a Being much greater than ourselves, thereby allowing us to enjoy our existence and to strive for greatness of spirit. Human dignity does not come from a revolt against our inherent human characteristics. True liberty comes from the acceptance of who we are as we were created. True liberty comes from knowing that we have been designed to complete our God-given destiny. Only by completing our purpose do we give glory unto our Maker.

Denials of our biological and cultural humanity are not implicit in the concept of ordered liberty nor are they reflective of the deep and rich history of our nation. The founders of our nation, including William Penn, Abigail Adams, James Madison, and the others, adopted the position that we are to accept the lot given to us and that no man prevent us from fulfilling our destiny. Again, this is a destiny not chosen by us, but by our Creator.

Those who would suggest that we deny our birth-given sanctity tear away at the very foundations of our nation and even the loosest sense of freedom. The foundations of our nation and community rest, in large part, on the notion that diversity and the marketplace of ideas are best served by self acknowledgment, not self-denial.

Liberty of the Spirit and mind comes directly from the acceptance of that which we do not choose. It is not our choice that we were born male or female, poor or rich, into a certain culture, into a certain age, or that we were born in a certain geographical area. Liberty can be found in the simple acknowledgment that these things matter not to our inherent dignity. Indeed, freedom is not found in forcing another to accept our personal revolts against who we are. Being thrust by birth into a culture not of our own making is not a crutch, but a rich and robust collage of opportunities that came before us and constitutes the fundamental building blocks necessary to the fulfillment of who we were and are at birth.

Indeed, the desperate search for meaning in life and the realization that we are not self-created are mutually exclusive states of mind.

This work is dedicated to the Glory of God, my wife and children, my parents, my brother, my philosophy students of the past years, to Father Jordan, Steve Bleecker, Bernie Luna, Aaron Trujillo, Jim Christian, Robert Putman, Ike Riddle, Jeff Davis, Larry Mendenhall, Terry Mosely, Daniel Guirriere, Paul Tang, and all others who have motivated me to think about my humanity and purpose.

In Lumine Tuo videbimus lumen.

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