Diary and Commentary

Page 21

FEBRUARY 5

God in History

One year ago there were 22 million Iraqis who were forced to live under an Orwellian regime that regularly raped, mutilated, murdered, tortured and robbed them. They were really the slaves of Saddam Hussein, and he treated them as such. They lived, served and died at his behest. Under no circumstances could this situation have been considered as due to the will of God. Indeed, to all who know Him or know of Him, it was hateful to Him. Today these Iraqis are free, just as God intended them to be: free to choose Him or reject Him, but free in any case. To put the matter another way, God's will was done in Iraq. His children were freed, just as the Hebrews were freed 3200 years ago. If you cannot believe this, then you must believe that the Iraqis under Saddam were better off then they are today or that God cares nothing for His creation. Thus you must also believe that the Hebrews were better off under pharaoh than they were while wandering freely around Sinai.

And who was the one who freed God's people? It was George Bush who did so, George Bush who carried out the will of God. Do you find this hard to believe? If so, then you have either not read the Bible or you do not understand it. For it is shot through and through with God moving in history by using His creation to work His will. He could easily have freed the Hebrews, but He chose Moses to do it. When Moses complained that he was not up to the task---it seems that he had as much difficulty speaking in public as Bush has---God sent his brother Aaron along with him. It was the same with Joshua. God could have simply eliminated those pesky Canaanites, but He sent Joshua to wipe them out. And the Assyrian Sargon II, the Chaldean Nebuchadrezzar II and the Persian Cyrus are explicitly mentioned as doing the will of God. And on and on throughout the Old Testament.

And it is the same in the New Testament. In fact as we know, God became man to perfect His plan for the salvation and redemption of His creatures. Of course He could have just willed that all men be saved, but He chose another method, one that would involve man himself. He even chose one His creatures, Mary, to bear His Child---with momentous results for all.

You see my point. God works in history through the pinnacle of His creation, man. It has been thus since Adam and Eve. It is the same today, unless God has changed---an impossibility of course. What happened in Iraq happened because God willed it so. He loves Iraqis as He loves all of His creation. He wanted them freed. They were freed. And let us not hear any complaining about the lives lost in doing so. The cost of doing the will of God is often paid in blood: of martyrs, of soldiers, of religious. God Himself paid for the sins of man in His own blood.

Of course, you can certainly believe that there is no God, that all religion is nonsense, and so on. But then you are still stuck with the moral question: Is the world a better place or not since 22 million Iraqis were brought into freedom? If you agree, then you must agree with the method of their liberation---that would be the US military. If you do not agree that the world is a better place, then the nightmare of Saddam's regime did not bother you at all---and I fear for your soul. (You might wish to run your opinion by an Iraqi, but I will not be responsible for his reaction if you do so.)

And God is not finished working in the Middle East, most of whose peoples are forced to live under corrupt and tyrannical governments. All of these are coming to an end, just as they did in the same region thousands of years ago. Deus lo volt.

Dante Takes a Road Trip

You have to hand it to third-world capital cities: they sure are chock-a-block full of the odd, the weird, the nightmarish, the improbable and the impossible, an odd farago of the sacred and the profane. Whatever horrors occur in places like New York , Dallas and Chicago---leaving out San Francisco for obvious reasons---rest assured that it is much worse where I am traveling. Dante himself would be lost for words here.

These thoughts intruded as I began comparing Guatemala City, Managua and Tegucigalpa. All three are congested, dirty, noisy and crowded---but it is Guatemala City that takes the award in these catagories--- sometimes dangerous but always entertaining. As for being cursed by God, it is Managua in particular and Nicaragua in general that wins here. The most livable city---or rather, the least unlivable---is Tegucigalpa. (But more about these things in due course.)

None of these cities exhibits any sort of planning whatsoever, unless the planners were also drug dealers who regularly sampled their own merchandise. All is confused, helter-skelter, gimcrack, nutso, here and there and everywhere. Forget city maps. These are merely suggestions---and besides, most streets have no signs in any case. (Now you see why mail is near-impossible to send or receive.) Looking at a map while waiting at a corner would just label you a dumb tourist ripe for plunder. And the labrynthine way the streets and avenues meander would confuse even the Minotaur. Cars have the right of way over pedestrains of course, and you had best step gingerly to avoid having to visit the local emergency room---believe me, these are best avoided. And if you do get tapped by a vehicle---and survive---you will probably be in a cast, which means that you will be easy prey for any wandering gang member. Like everyone's mom always said, look both ways before crossing the street.

All these cities---in fact, every city, town and village in Latin America---are centered around a plaza where one can find an incongruously huge and glittering cathedral. In the midst of jaw-dropping poverty these monuments to God are all works of art, gilded and bejeweled, intricately carved and decorated, and all with a particularly bloody Christ. These are not complaints---I am not Protestant after all---but simple commentaries. They are as they are. Their wealth is all from voluntary donations freely given---unlike the monuments in Washington DC, for example, whose magnificence came from forced confiscatory taxation. Enter these houses of God and you enter a place that is supposed to resemble Heaven: colored lights filter through rose windows, incense is on the burn, a thousand candles all a-flame. If you do not like it here than get the Hell out---literally.

Much of public life---and there is little private life in these cities---centers around the market. All is for sale: the junky, the trashy, the freshly picked and recently slaughtered. Some advice: watch where you step, and tell your nose that there will be surprises coming. What one sees in the street is nothing short of appalling: intestines, feces, mountains of trash, leavings of fruit, squadrons of flies and a host of mis-bred and malformed dogs fighting for the best pickings. 

These canines deserve special mention.  They are all without exception scabarous, diseased, mangy, cut-up and infested with ticks and fleas and worms. Some have fewer than the standard number of legs, many have machete-chopped tails and heads. (Do not let these grotesque beasts lick you, and do not pet them.) Their legs are too short and their bodies too long, and they have a habit of dying in the middle of the street on a regular basis. Sometimes these corpses remain there through cooling and rigor mortis and on to liquefaction. Who picks them up and where they are taken I have not the foggiest idea---and I do not wish to know at any rate. (It just occured to me that there are always myriad Chinese restaurants near the market. Hmm...)

The slam-dunk gold medal prize for violence goes to Guatemala City. Guatemala suffered a communist insurgency and guerrilla war for 37-odd years. After the so-called 'peace accords' the armed communist toughs---oh, I'm sorry: the former 'freedom fighters'---simply changed their mentor from Karl Marx to Alphonse Capone. Their guns were kept and used upon the populace, who also acquired guns, and the fun began. The violence there is on a Colombian level. I scarcely meet any Guatemalan who does not start a conversation with, "Damn this government! When will it stop the violence?" Businessmen are regularly kidnapped---families too---stores robbed, taxi drivers beaten and killed, busses hijacked in plain daylight and policemen slain. Professional criminals go back and forth from illegal enterprise to security work. Every bank and American establishment, from Domino's to Burger King---and more than a few Guatemalan places---have a cohort of well-armed guards. (A sawed-off shotgun is the weapon of choice, for obvious reasons.) A few years ago a tour bus hired by an American university was stopped on a busy highway under a bright sun. As traffic zoomed by a few feet away the criminals pulled everyone off, robbed the men and raped the women---everyone of whom was a college kid.

God has it out for Nicaragua. Pharaoh and those plagues had nothing on this place. Consider its history over the past 30 or so years: an earthquake that left not one building standing in the capital of Managua except the gringo-built Hotel Intercontinental, a revolution, a civil war, foreign intervention, Hurricane Mitch, an Indian rebellion, attempted genocide, a cholera epidemic, tremendous floods, regular and terrifying volcanic eruptions---what a mess! All is broke down, junked out, rusted and pot-holed, worn through and through, condemned and fit only for the trash heap.  I  got to hand it to the Nicaraguans for hanging in there---as if these poor souls had any other option. (While awaiting transport one day a beggar approached. I could not see her very well from a distance, but I could hear a loud buzzing, as if a thousand bees were about. As she got nearer I noticed a smell like that of a two-week old dead cat. When she was next to me I saw that her scalp had suffered a tremendous blow, probably from a machete, and was hanging loose behind her head. Her hair and bleeding flesh were encrusted with flies and maggots---thus the noise and the smell.)

And so I am making Tegucigalpa my center of operations while in Central America. It is as chaotic and goof-ball as those other capital citites, but still retains a bit of charm---at least as I define it. Besides, the Hondurans try very hard to be modern. Newspapers here are full of optimistic articles about how to increase tourism and bring in real cash---along with more somber stories of Dengue Fever and gang activity. (Today's headline and large cover story: "One thousand German tourists enjoy San Pedro Sula!" There were photos of, well, a lot of Germans who did indeed seem to be enjoying San Pedro Sula.) And truth be known, there is more adventure tourism potential in Honduras than in all of the rest of Central America combined. One senses a sort of buzz around possible attractions.  Even though Hurricane Mitch wiped out the equivalent of the entire foreign trade earnings of Honduras---think of the USA losing a couple of trillion dollars in a four-day perfect storm---these people are friendly and disarming. I wish them well.

 

Heading for the Hills

 

Tomorrow I leave for Gracias, which is one of the entry points for Monte Celaque National Park. It is time to go---it has long been time---as I am getting a bit too well-fed here in the Goose. What delayed were the dentist and Santiago---good things indeed, but now I will continue doing what I set out to do: walk with pack and machete through the rural parts of Central America. I have spent a great deal of time writing on the site, making changes and transporting thought to web. It has been fun, but exhausting. When something pops into my mind begging to be written, I have no real choice, I must get to writing it. An addiction? Perhaps. The monster seems to be sated for now.  I will return to the Goose in ten days or so, and so there will be no chance to write for a while. I will have other things on my mind, and it will be best if I am not distracted.

 

From Gracias---about five hours from Tegucigalpa---I will walk with all my gear and seven days worth of food eight kilometers out of town to the park entrance. Remember that this is Honduras. When you read 'park' do not associate this with Yellowstone. The facilities are...well, this is Honduras.  I will camp there, and then the next day head 1000 meters up the mountain and set the tent. The next day will be to the summit, where I heard there is another trail that leads far westward to a bunch of Lenca Indian villages. I will let you know. Stay tuned.

 

Bye...and later.

 

 

FEBRUARY 15

Peripatetic Montane Perambulations and Cogitations

I returned yesterday from six days spent  in Celaque National Park. It was a fine place, full of cloud forest and excellent hiking. I climbed to the top of Monte Celaque, the highest point in Honduras at 2825 meters. OK, no big deal if one compares it with about any peak in Peru, but there you start higher. The total amount of climbing and descending was about 4000 meters---not bad for six days. The final day I walked from the highest camp site (2505 meters) all the way back to the town of Gracias---20 kilometers away and 1300 meters down. My legs are still useless. Beer helps take the pain away. So does Chinese food. And chocolate donuts.

 

And it was cold up there, much colder than I had thought. My little REI jungle sleeping bag was barely adequate---no, it was inadequate. I was cold in my tent. I slept at 2505 meters with socks, Gore-Tex oversocks, long underwear, long-sleeved shirt, T-shirt, Gore-Tex pants, polar vest, polar fleece, jacket, wool hat, sleeping sheet and in the bag, and I was still cold. I want to climb Monte Babilonia sometime in early April, but not until I have a warmer sleeping bag sent down. I hate being cold. Period.

 

I wanted to walk from the summit of Celaque to another village, Belčn Gualcho, but it had rained the day before and all was slippery. Imagine walking down a steep and muddy trail with a heavy pack into some unknown cloud forest and you will see what I mean. Besides, from the summit all one could see was clouds directly below. It was rather eerie to be on a little point on a ridge and be surrounded by nothingness.

 

Time for some rest here in Tegucigalpa, and then head to Nicaragua for three weeks or so. I can hardly believe that there are only three months to go in this year of living dangerously. What the devil happened to all that time? All those journeys through Peru and Chile and Argentina and Paraguay and Guatemala seem far away, dream-like, fantastic. I read my own thoughts at the time on this web, and I seem to be reading the travel journals of someone else, a stranger even. What is going on here?

 

Now I am occupied occasionally with thoughts of employment in June. I have also given thought to what I will do if I do not find employment for the next school year. Sometimes that idea is positively attractive, sometimes it seems like an idea straight from loserville. And yet...there is something to the desire to wander about for a year through God's creation in my own nation---along the Pacific Crest Trail, for example. How else could I do that if not with a whole bunch of time? And I still have Andean dreams: ridges unwalked, valleys untraversed, frozen lakes lost and found. And I have not yet even mentioned the guitar---an old friend who is making his absence painfully felt. Even as I walk I haveTelecaster dreams in shades of rhythm and blues. Hmm...seems like a time to turn everything over to God and let Him decide.

 

However, there is nothing solid yet, but stay tuned. There are lost cities and monkey gods to find, and miles to go before I sleep.

 

 

FEBRUARY 16

Random Thoughts

Why are people so surprised that China has aided and abetted rogue regimes and terror organizations in their lust for nuclear weapons? China has never made a secret of its desire to challenge and one day defeat the US. If you did not know this then you have not been paying attention.  From the Chinese perspective it is good foreign policy to engage in nuclear proliferation---in North Korea, in Pakistan, in Libya, in Iran, in Iraq, in Saudia Arabia---as it keeps the US otherwise occupied. Never mind that China has signed an entire series of non-proliferation treaties. Murderous regimes such as China care nothing for such things. What they are interested in is power however gained. As I have written before (here and here), China is an enemy, though an astoundingly crude and belligerent one. It should be treated as such.

*********

France is also an enemy, but an astoundingly impotent and silly one. She should be ignored.

*********

And speaking of those nukes: The Pakistanis have been selling nuclear secrets for almost 20 years now, though all the while denying it was happening. Buyers were the usual grimy tyrannies: North Korea, Libya and the rest of that shabby lot. But Libya has now turned and given to the US a whole host of information about how this underground market for nuclear weapons operated. So wonder no longer why the US military has in the past two months expanded into western Pakistan and East Africa, and is putting a great deal of pressure on other nations. America is looking for those weapons. Hope she finds them. Fast.

*********

Some Hollywood types---few of whom are known for outstanding moral standards---have vowed never to work with Mel Gibson again. Why the outrage? It is because of Mr. Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The film, though not even released yet, has already generated horror among the Ten Commandment-challenged set. The reasons for this are obvious: Passion is a vehemently Christian movie with the power---as all who have previewed it have testified---to change hearts and minds. As such it represents a threat to the Prince of this world and all his noisome minions. They hated Christ when He walked among us. They hate His followers. Christ pointed this out Himself: "If they have hated me, they will hate my followers." Mr. Gibson recognizes this. In a recent interview he said that

Critics who have a problem with me don't really have a problem with me in this film,

they have a problem with the four Gospels. That's where their problem is.

 

Gibson calls it exactly as it is. He also spoke of his own past and why he decided to make the film.

 

Gibson tells Sawyer that ultimately he was moved to depict Jesus' sacrifice on film after reaching

 "the height of spiritual bankruptcy" himself more than a decade ago. Things got so bad that

 he says he once contemplated hurling himself out a window.

Instead, he turned to the Bible.

"I think I just hit my knees," Gibson says. "I just said, 'Help.' "

 

It happens to the best---and to the worst--of us, Mr. Gibson. It happened to me.

 

The Passion will be released February 25---Ash Wednesday.

*********

The loudest criticism about The Passion is that it promotes anti-semitism. How is that? The movie uses the actual words from the Gospels as its script. These state that some Jews demanded that Jesus be crucified. Well, so what? Most Jews demanded no such thing. Jesus, the 12 Apostles, Mary---they were all Jews. So who is responsible for killing Christ? The Romans? Hardly. They could not have cared less for what they saw as the bizarre theological musings of Pharisees and Sadducees and Essenes. They went along with the rabble rousers in the crowd who demanded Christ's death. They are gulity of indifference.

So who killed Him? We did. I did. All of us did. Our sins did. Mr. Gibson makes this clear in his movie. The arm that hammers the nails into Christ's hands is his own.

*********

At Mass yesterday here in Tegucigalpa the priest mentioned that the parish would be showing The Passion to all interested parishioners. The ads have already started to appear in Honduras. The impact that Mr. Gibsonīs film will have all over the world might astound. Bad news for the MTV crowd. Bad news for Massachusetts judges. And simply terrifying to haters of Christ everywhere.

*********

And a prediction: Some Christ haters will see The Passion out of some odd curiosity or to find something to criticize and to despise. And they will be converted. Recall that Saul was a Christ hater. He hunted down His followers and imprisoned them and killed them. After the little incident on the road to Damascus, he became Paul and wrote most of the New Testament. As the The Passion works its way through our global culture, expect surprises.

*********

Here in Latin America the locals look with amazement upon the US military. They saw the war it waged in Afghanistan, conquering it in ten weeks, something the USSR could not do in ten years even though it shares a border with it. They saw the 'shock and awe' of the last Iraqi war. They saw the capture of Saddam. The American military seems almost fantastic and other-worldy to them, the height of competence, technology and lethality. But then, much about the USA seems that way to them. And to me. One really has to travel to understand the influence that America has in the world. I neither condemn nor condone, just comment.

*********

A 17-page letter by al Qaeda terror master Abu Musab al Zarkawi was found in Iraq. It was written to those  leaders of the terror group who are not in prison or reposing with their 72 virgins---not a large number, truth be told. What did it say? What encouraging words of wisdom did this killer send to his acolytes? Well, some of it was a complaint against the Iraqis. It seems that they are not being helpful in any way. They do not allow their homes to be used for terror assaults on either Americans or other Iraqis. Arab brotherhood indeed!

But al Zarkawi reserves his greatest condemnation for---and whining about---the USA:

"America...has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes."

Well, I could have told him that. Most Americans could have told him. Bush did tell him.

And he adds, "we can pack up and leave and look for another land,

just like what has happened in so many lands of jihad."

 

Look for another land? Where? The US military is very persistent, and would love to reach out and touch someone---like you, pal.

 

"Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases."

Well, duh! In other words, Zarkawi, you and your terror buddies got your a***s kicked in every battle on all fronts, everywhere and at all times. If you had read a bit of History you would have found that America wins its wars. But you also said that Americans

"...are the biggest cowards that God has created."

Well, we cannot claim the heroic actions you and yours have done, that is for sure. We are remarkably inadept at slicing the throats of bound stewardesses, blowing up schoolchildren and murdering women in their beds. We leave all that to you.

But anyway, from now on take your complaints to the Marines. I hope both of you meet soon.

FEBRUARY 17

Heading for the Hills Redux

Change of plans. Rather than head for Nicaragua, I will leave tomorrow for more cloud forest and mountain stuff, this time in the Honduran province of Olancho. The town of Juticalpa will be my base as I go off to Gualaco and Monte Babilonia. I should be back in the Goose around March 3 or so. Ten days later I will meet some ex-students for some very cool jungle backpacking in Costa Rica. Thus, the reason for doing more serious backpacking pronto: I must be in great condition when those guys arrive in Costa Rica. What if they are in better shape than I? What if all those donuts and all that Chinese food I have eaten while in Honduras makes me look fat? I would never live that down, alas!

The province of Olancho is a bit rural and rustic, so I might not be able to update the web for a while. In the meantime, I promise to try to stay out of jail.

Bye.

FEBRUARY 18

I am continually amazed at how much Central America has changed for the better since my first visit 20 years ago. Then all was dirty and impoverished and politically disturbed; now the poverty is still there of course---though less in-your-face---but all nations have improved economically and politically, sometimes dramatically so. Part of this has been due to the end of the regional wars that afflicted almost every nation here. In 1983 there was either war or revolution---or both for always unlucky Nicaragua---everywhere, and the USSR and its hand-puppet Cuba were up to no good financing this war and that guerrilla army. The silly and pretentious and parasitical intelligentsia of Latin America---Chč pretenders the lot of them (and almost as malignant as our own professoriate)---wholeheartedly supported all this, perhaps in their adolescent heart of hearts yearning to come to power themselves. (And sometimes these bookish types did: witness the carreer of Sandinista poet and dreadful little cad Ernesto Cardenal. This girly-boy crybaby once declared that the reason he could not write poetry was because of Ronald Reagan---yet another success of Reagan's foreign policy.)

Speaking of whom...when Reagan came to power in 1981 he vowed not just to contain communism in Central America, but to 'roll it back' and defeat it. And truth be told he had his work cut out for him after the four years of Carter incompetence. But Reagan was as good as his word. With US cash, military advisers, support for anti-communist movements and a will of iron he brought democracy to the region (by Central America standards, that is) and began the process of radical economic and political reform. The results are clear to anyone who was here then and who is here now. Even the 'accursed by God' Nicaragua is better off now that the Castro-wanna-be Sandinista thugs have been voted out of power and have returned to their dreary poetry seminars. In fact, the Nicaraguan cities of Leon and Granada have become sort of hip places to hang out.

Honduras itself is most certainly a different place now than it was 20 years ago (even the girls are prettier).  Travelers still normally just stop at Copān for a day and then head to Nicaragua via Tegucigalpa, but there are more of them---and they are beginning to venture out into the astoundingly beautuful Honduran forests. Truly Honduras has more eco-adventure-tourism-type possibilities than all its neighbors combined. This is why I have chosen to see as much of the place as time allows---time being defined as between now and June 1. It is somewhat shocking to be in a cattle town in the Honduran countryside---Juticalpa, that is---and find internet cafes where I can work on my web site. Yes, things have changed here.

OK, there is still trash everywhere---though less of it---and the Hondurans still spit too much (though 'Please Do Not Spit' signs are obeyed more often than not), but hey! While traveling one takes what one can get.

I head to Gualaco tomorrow as it provides access to the mountains surrounding Sierra de Agalta National Park. Monte Babilonia hides behind some clouds thereabouts, and I there I go to seek her.

Bye.

FEBRUARY 26

I returned yesterday from venturing into Sierra de Agalta National Park. I walked five days---no, I climbed three and descended two. Seldom was there any level ground to walk upon. All was steep, and not entirely pleasant. The route to the summit at La Picucha (2500 meters) was not marked. There were many downed trees blocking what remained of the path, which looked as if it had not been hiked in some time. I had to  constantly use my machete to clear the trail. There was much mud---again! Sierra de Agalta has no infrastructure, so one is basically alone and without map or useful advice about what to expect. To top things off, on the third day I reached the ridge that led to the summit, only to find there was no water. I searched up there for four hours with no luck and was forced to spend a thirsty night in my tent. The nearest water was three hours away---straight down. There were howler monkeys about, but they were heard and not seen---a good thing, as I despise them and all of their simian cousins.

Was it worth it? Yes, but barely. The forest was your typical cloud forest that one can find anywhere between 1000 and 2500 meters all through the tropics of Central America. Nothing extraordinary, and I have seen it all before. (And no, I am in no way jaded.) What was indeed a payoff of this hike was that it well prepared me for the more strenuous one coming in March in the Costa Rican jungles. Then I will be with some very cool ex-students from Lincoln School. I had better be in superb shape or I will make a fool out of myself---a  state with which I am well acquainted, truth be told. And soon to come will be a seven-day walkabout on the Nicaraguan island of Ometepe.

So I am back in the Goose recovering. It is my knees that need this the most. Yesterday at Mass---it was Ash Wednesday---when I went to kneel down the knees screamed at me. They need rest, and they will get it. And my stomach will get its share of attention too, for there is yet much Chinese food and donuts to eat. Oh yes, and beer to drink. (After all, I am not a Baptist.) And what am I to give up for Lent? Chocolate? Beer? Hmm...let me think a bit. I'll get back to you after dinner.

Or I could take the advice of the Senior Pastor at Irvine Presbyterian Church, Mark Roberts. He says that a perfect Lenten preparation for Easter would be to read the Gospels one chapter a day. True, that is a fine idea at any time, and I have just begun a study of them, starting with Matthew. My Catholic Study Bible was (as usual) in my pack while walking Sierra de Agalta. I would have it no other way.

I need sleep. Bye.

FEBRUARY 27

One Day on the Trail

Here I am resting three days ago in Sierra de Agalta National Park, covered with mosquito and ant bites and a few ticks, filthy with dirt and sweat---and knowing all the while that a cold beer awaited in Gualaco. I sat because while chopping a bit with my machete I felt a wetness pour over my hand which made the thing hard to grasp. I thought it was sweat, but it was my own blood. I had wandered into some type of thorn bushes without knowing it. I was otherwise engaged and concentrated, it would seem. Anyway, it was a fine time for a break and a good photo op.

There is a certain scent that one takes on around day three while doing such things as I do. It is a combination of old sweat, new sweat, bug repellent, sun block, rotting plant life, dried saliva, animal feces, spilled food, dirt, mud, blood and the pulp of crushed insects---not quite Paco Rabanne. It is unerving at first, but then one accustoms---as one always does in such situations.

At times when I am so engaged I cannot wait to get back to what passes for 'civilization'  in the region through which I am traveling. Mostly though I simply revel in the glory of where I am at the moment: all of God's Creation all around and everywhere, dwarfing and consuming. I walk entranced, dreaming, fulfilled. No material thing, no merely physical pleasure, can approach this. Was it so before Eve ate the apple? Will it be so once again?

No, it will be better. Don't believe me? Then you do not believe.

Random Thoughts

A recent attempt by another Palestinian to blow himself up failed. It seems the fellow was a bit incompetent at the bomb-strapped-to-bicycle business. His bomb exploded too early and only destroyed some plants near a greenhouse---which might send some environmentalist-type tree-hugging wackos into a frazzle. Well, of course the bomber himself was blasted to pieces too. A tough break, no? Better luck next time I guess. Oh...there will be no next time.

*********

I have never heard any woman---no matter how addled with politically correct feminism---lament about how she should have spent more time at work when she was younger. I have heard many a  woman, however, lament not having spent more time with her children when the kids were young. Too late babe. Better luck next time I guess. Oh...there will be no next time.

*********

Roger Ebert is a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. I do not particularly like the fellow, as his reviews are often shot through and through with his silly liberalism. And when Ebert was younger---and slimmer---he earned his bread by writing pornographic screenplays. He is a master at his (present) craft, however. I was greatly surprised at his review of The Passion. In it he reveals that he was an altar boy as a lad growing up in Chicago. As such he has retained a certain understanding of and sensitivity toward Catholic tradition that comes out in the review. As Ebert explains it

What Gibson has provided for me, for the first time in my life, is a visceral idea of what

 the Passion consisted of...This is not a sermon or a homily, but a visualization of

 the central event in the Christian religion.

 Take it or leave it.

 

Gibson has not made a movie that anyone would call "commercial," and if it grosses millions,

 that will not be because anyone was entertained. It is a personal message movie of the most radical kind,

attempting to re-create events of personal urgency to Gibson. The filmmaker has put his artistry

and fortune at the service of his conviction and belief, and that doesn't happen often.

 

I myself am no longer religious in the sense that a long-ago altar boy thought he should be,

but I can respond to the power of belief whether I agree or not, and when I find it in a film, I must respect it.

 

 Like Nicodemus, Mr. Ebert might not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Take that last step, Roger.

 

*********

The Christ haters are out in full force and after The Passion and its maker, Mel Gibson. Their latest wailing and gnashing of teeth concern the movie's violence. "Shocking!" they screech. "Outrageous!" they say. "Horrific!" they bellow. But no such gentle and delicate sentiments clouded their fondness for such movies as Gladiator or Pulp Fiction or Natural Born Killers or The Matrix. "Masterpieces!" "Oscar winners!" "True works of art!" "Brilliant!" they all yelped in Gadarene unison.

 

 

The Catholic Church Oppresses Women!

 

Recently I was listening to a radio show on Catholic Answers. A self-styled feminist-type called in to complain about the the Catholic Church's 'oppression of women.' Her arguments were standard liberal boilerplate: the Church's stand on abortion 'oppresses women'; the Church's stand on an all-male priesthood 'oppresses women'; the Church's stand on divorce 'oppresses women'; the Church's stand on homosexuality 'oppresses women'; the Church's stand on Chastity---you guessed it---'oppresses women.' And so on. She spoke calmly and matter-of-factly, as if her concerns were common knowledge. She seemed to say, "What is the Church going to do about all this oppression?" Short answer: not a thing. There is no oppression of women in the Catholic Church.

 

There are over one billion Catholics, and half of them are women---that would be 500,000,000 give or take a stray nun or two. All of them---every single one---is in the Church voluntarily. Every nun, every lay worker, every woman in the pews on Sunday can leave the Church any time she wishes. No questions asked, no hard feelings, we wish you well, we will pray for you, we hope you return. Catholic women certainly know this, yet they belong anyway. Can it be that all those teeming millions are simply deluded slaves who unconsciously yearn for the liberating ideas of radical feminism? Rather unlikely I would say.

 

The Church promises much, an Eternity with Christ to be precise. How so? Well, there are rules---all voluntary of course---on how to go about obtaining this free---yes, free---gift. They come right from our Lord and are most clearly laid out in the Bible---which the Church nursed for 2000 years---and her own Catechism---based on the same Bible and hundreds and hundreds of years of Christian writing and commentary. Look them up yourself if you wish. The Catholic Church can no more rescind these rules than she can rescind the law of gravity. God would not allow it---and we have His word on this. Our feminist will be sorely disappointed in her attempts to stop all of this 'oppression'. Her argument is not really with the Church, but with God---the very God who gave the Church to the pinnacle of His Creation.

 

Take a look at abortion. The Catholic Church calls it murder, yet our feminist calls it 'oppression of women.' There have been 40,000,000 abortions in the US since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Guess how many of these aborted babies were female? Hmm...that would be 20,000,000. (And nothing so oppresses a female as murdering her.) So the Church has been one of a few voices---the others being Islam and conservative Protestant Christianity and Orthodox Judaism--- defending the rights of all those unborn girls. Our feminist would have them all slaughtered---oops, they were all slaughtered. All those slaughtered females, never to grow up to be oppressed by the Church---or for that matter, to be indoctrinated into the mysteries of radical feminism.

 

Our feminist can certainly find some branch of (so-called) 'Christianity' that sanctions all of her fantasies. There are many, for example, that have female 'priests', several that sanction homosexual practices including marriage, and others that could care less about pre-marital sex, birth control or abortion. So why pick on Catholicism when her ideals have already been realized? The answer will disturb, but it must be said. She---that is, the master who governs her---is not interested in those couterfeit forms of belief. He, this 'lord of the flies', is only interested in destroying the real McCoy---and Catholics will tell you that there is only one game in town, the Catholic Church. She is the 'real deal', the fullest expression of Christ's Word, the purest form of Christian Faith and Doctrine---and Beelzebub knows this.

 

Perhaps our feminist is an ex-Catholic. Well, she is no longer one for sure. So why does she complain? She is 'out of the game' as it were. No Catholic chased her down and tried to drag her back into Mass. She freely left---and she can freely return, though she must repent and confess of course---though her pennance might take some time. Now, what if she were a Cuban who had tried to leave that charming island? She would be shot or imprisoned. Now that is real oppression.

 

And any Catholic can receive the gifts of the Church without spending one cent. Communion, Confession, Eternal Life, bingo nights---all available without putting one thin dime into the collection plate. Now, how about the gifts the State offers? Try not paying your taxes that pay for these 'gifts'. What would happen? You would be sent to prison, your property confiscated, your life ruined. Again, that would be real oppression. And the State cannot even deliver on its promises to protect its citizens, the most basic thing it is supposed to do. Not even the USA, the most powerful state in existence, can do this. (And by the way, it was the USA that allowed those 20,000,000 abortions of unborn girls. Not even potential future citizens of the State are safe from its evil.) Yet the Catholic Church can and does deliver upon her promises every time, and not even the gates of Hell can stop her.

 

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me, and at a reasonable price to boot.

 

PAGE 20                          PAGE 22

 

Home    Professional Pages    Personal Pages    Sabbatical Itinerary

    Essays    Backpacking Entries   Diary and Commentary

Search     E-Mail