"The void within" chronicles the sad state of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. In desperate decline and plagued by sex scandals, the Church is losing ground faster than ever throughout all of Europe, including Poland.
Governments have become impatient with what they regard as Rome's stonewalling investigations into parishioner abuse by Catholic priests. Some have already taken over investigations and others are threatening to, thus eliminating Rome's centuries-old tradition of managing its own affairs, thank you very much.
Public confidence in the Church has plummeted, as have attendance numbers and vocations. The Church is drying up even as the rapid pace of secularization proceeds unchecked all over the continent. While there will always be a handful of faithful, the Church, The Economist opines, "is not so much shrinking as dying."
Scandals among leaders, moral compromise among members, wide tolerance of doctrinal differences, and a tone of arrogance with respect to the rest of the population are all making the Catholic Church an institution to be avoided. Could the same happen to the evangelical Church in America?
After all, many evangelical leaders have yielded to the temptations of the flesh. The morality of Church members doesn't much rise above that of the unchurched - if at all. And a "holier-than-thou" attitude surfaces in the face of social and moral issues which just about everyone finds offensive if not disgusting. What can keep the American Church from shrinking or dying as well?
Revival. Only revival - a work of God's Spirit which He brings in response to tears of repentance and much pleading for His help on the part of God's people. Only revival can keep the Church in America from going the way of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe.
And revival, if it is to begin, must begin with each one of us.
T. M. Moore
T. M. Moore
The present Administration is making a concerted effort to change the face of governance in this era of image and information. These past few weeks of trying to push through a health-care reform package offer a study in the new approach to governing President Obama and his cohort have determined to pursue.
Essentially, we might call this government by campaign. The President pursues his agenda of policies and programs as if each one were an item to be elected by the people. He trots around the country speaking at town hall meetings, rallies, and invitation-only events, holds more press conferences than any president in history, and makes deals with every hesitating lawmaker in order to ensure that the votes he needs will be there when he wants them. This looks more like the run-up to a party convention than the serious business of managing the public weal.
In governing a nation, elected officials are bound by law, precedent, and the processes of legislative creation and review. This in itself can be a rather nasty business, as backroom bargains and sweetheart deals are often added to the task of vote-getting when more noble appeals, such as to the common weal, fail to do the job. Add to this the incessant campaign rhetoric - rife with cliches, anecdotes, hyperbole, and spin - that has become the stock-in-trade of this Administration, and all semblance of good governance becomes swallowed up in the imperative of getting what the President wants. Almost nothing is pressed on the basis of Constitutional necessity, sound reason, or even common sense. What matters most is accomplishing an agenda, striking while the iron is hot, while Democrats still hold a majority, in order to further and fasten the grip of government on the lives of its citizens.
But can this constant cajoling, badgering, and promising everything to the public make us a stronger nation? Or will it only wear us down, until we give away more of our liberties to elite cadres of lawmakers in our nation's capital? Campaign rhetoric is temporal, trivial, and, very often, truthless. Government control over our lives and liberties, by contrast, is difficult to roll back. If we yield to the campaigning approach to governance, we can be sure of this much: more politicians will be fanning out to fan the flames for whatever might be the next big thing, promising us the moon but leaving us only with fewer liberties.
If I thought President Obama spent as much time talking with God about his policies as he does stumping for them around the country, I might be willing to give them a closer look. As it stands, I don't believe the President is interested in governing. What the President wants, it seems to me, is to win, and winning is the work of campaigns. Serving is the work of governance.
T. M. Moore
Unable to convince members of their own party to commit political suicide, Democratic leaders are contemplating the use of a procedure called, "deeming," to bring the health care reform bill to passage. In this procedure House members do not need to actually vote for the Senate bill; they can simply "deem" it to have passed, then amend it as they like before sending it back.
Sounds all very Constitutional, doesn't it? The sort of thing the Founders would have written into the document they hoped would inaugurate a "new order of the ages." Except, of course, they didn't. Turns out our contemporary politicos are turning the novis ordo seclorum into something right out of the pages of the most egregious, self-serving, and corrupt political orders of the past and present. Most astonishing of all, they're counting on us, the electorate, not noticing - or not caring.
The "deeming" procedure also goes by the name "the self-executing" procedure, referring to a bill's ability, magically, to execute itself into law. More likely, if this procedure is used, the "self-executing" will refer to those House members who support it. It's also called the "Slaughter" provision - and that, too, may have a prophetic element to it.
Let's face it: Democrats want this bill because of the control it gives them over the private sector of American life. But they don't want to take responsibility for it. We can almost imagine House members, as the dust settles after using this procedure, Saul-like, before their constituents back home: "I didn't vote for the health care bill; the Senate, they..." And so on.
It is not comforting to know that the affairs of the nation and the common weal are in the hands of spineless, self-serving schemers, or that our self-proclaimed Christian president would allow such a blatantly dishonest and deceitful tactic to be used in the pursuit of his agenda.
T. M. Moore
As of this writing we're still awaiting the final House vote on health care reform, although, with the President's "cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die" executive order promise to Bart Stupak, the outcome seems anticlimactic. It's pretty clear that, by the time you read this, health care reform will be the law of the land.
This past year of the Obama Administration has focused the attention of the American people on the politics of Washington, D. C., like few issues I've ever seen. Politics, it is now plain (if it wasn't before), is the art of getting what you want by whatever means is necessary. Politicians are the players, together with those whom they must either manipulate or own in order to secure their desire ends. At bottom, the goal of all political activity is to secure and retain, if not increase, personal power. Politicians are drunk on power - the sense of importance and the perks and deference that come with power are, for those who have tasted it, too alluring to deny or refuse. Once tasted, power must be acquired by every possible means.
All the deals, compromises, off-line agreements, budget fixes, amendments, and assorted other legislative devices are merely ways of gaining and keeping power. You may say you need that $100 million for a hospital in your state, or that break for the elderly or those affected by natural disaster, but it's really all about you, and what you have to do in order to get the people who ceded their political power to you to allow you to keep it and keep expanding it.
The framework of American politics is just; the practice of it is corrupt, encouraging just about every form of self-serving machination anyone can invent to help make sure that everyone gets what they want by whatever means. The abuses are about equally distributed on both sides of the aisle, because the players on both sides are unable to restrain themselves when power is on the line.
I can't help but feel sad for our country as I watch this dance of drunkards cavorting around the halls of Congress and the White House high-fiving one another for their latest achievement. The process sickens me, yet the only way to change it is to stay in it and try to influence for good at least some of the players, so that matters of truth and goodness will one day, hopefully, supplant matters of mere self-interest.
But don't hold your breath. Politics is not the way to lasting change in this or any nation.
T. M. Moore
There was an interesting article about the competition in ebooks now that Apple's iPad is out to rival Amazon's Kindle. A musing on how inflation might be just the thing to cure our national debt. A piece by a writer about his early years as a literary agent (so to speak). An assessment about the state of marriage in America. Four or five poems - one about trout fishing, with intimations of transcendence.
Now all these pieces were interesting; however, none of them really matters. Nothing is going to change as a result of the thousands of words these writers bothered to inscribe in their separate periodicals. But there they are anyway. A writer's gotta write, I suppose, even if his words are little more than trivial. Makes me wonder why people like me pay good money to subscribe to journals of so little consequence.
But maybe having no consequence is the point? Do writers just need to write, as if writing were an end in itself? Do we need to keep saying to ourselves, over and over, "There's this and that, and those things over there; and while none of it matters in the long run, well, there it is." Is the art of living just a matter of observing, reflecting, and commenting, without any thought of why or to what end?
And what about conversation? Do people just talk to fill up dead space with meaningless vocalizations to act like they're interested in one another?
People of the Word should be careful with their words, don't you think? Both the words they consume and the ones they produce. The Word of God tells us that everything matters and that we will be accountable for every word we speak. Perhaps we should consider the implications of that for how we use our words day-in and day-out?
Do your words matter? You who read and study the Word of God, do you consider your words carefully, deploy them adeptly, and bolster them with additional words aimed at the same purposeful result? Do I?
A Gresham's Law of words is threatening to bury meaning-full discourse in our day. The least we, the people of the Word, can do is to make sure our words are thoughtfully chosen and fitly spoken, no matter what the subject of our speech or writing might be.
T. M. Moore
Undoubtedly there is wisdom in seeking to make the best decisions about long-term financial needs. So I don't begrudge these commercials; they're just trying to encourage people not to get so bogged down in the present gloom that they lose sight of the light they'll want to have at the end of the tunnel.
Actually, this is a message I'd like to hear more of from churches. Not with a financial focus, of course, but with a view to eternal rewards. The focus in churches these days seems to be, in large part, on trying to get as much as we can from God here and now, whether what we seek is material prosperity or just peace of mind. The faith of Christ is, in the main, presented as proffering something for everyone, whatever you need (within certain moral bounds, of course).
But, "Hurry! Invest now!" is really the Lord's message to all who choose to follow Him - right out of the parable of the talents (Matt. 25.14-30). The servant who was most commended was the one who, having received his endowment, "immediately" set about working to create a return on investment for the Master.
Everything we have comes to us from the grace of God. None of it is our own. We are not our own. We belong to the Lord, and He calls us to invest everything we have and are, all we say and do, every relationship, role, and responsibility, toward bringing the knowledge of the glory of God to light in our everyday lives.
Whatever lies ahead of you today, whatever you do with whatever you have, "Hurry! Invest now in the Kingdom of God!" The servant in that parable who did not follow this tack, you will recall, was the one from whom his endowment was taken, and he was cashiered.
T. M. Moore