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If you've listened to my show enough, or are friends with me on Facebook (if not, look me up!), you'll know that I'm got big issues of concern with Donald Trump. For the first time in my voting life, I did not cast a vote for either major party candidate for President. I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton for numerous reasons, most significantly her extremism on abortion, and I wouldn't vote for Donald Trump, for a list of reasons you can probably guess. I'm not telling anyone else how they should have voted--that's up to the discernment of your own conscience.
I've tried not to jump to conclusions now that DJT has been elected. I'm hoping, of course, that those who say, "Take Trump seriously and not literally" are right, and that he is going to back way off many of his outrageous campaign promises. While I think it strange that anyone would vote for a candidate with the assumption that he or she is lying, I'm willing to set that aside and let things unfold.
I'm also trying not to rush to judgment regarding Steve Bannon, former head of Breitbart News and Trump's recently named strategic advisor, particularly regarding his ties and alleged sympathies to the "alt-right" movement. I'll admit to be largely ignorant of the nature of the self-titled alt-right movement, but here are a couple of articles that give me serious pause about having Bannon as an integral part of White House affairs. The first is an article by a member of the alt-right, published at Breitbart, that gives a basic primer on the movement. The second is an article by Ian Tuttle, columnist at the conservative National Review, with his concerns.
Read carefully, friends, and understand that ideas (and elections) have consequences.
First of all, thank you to each of you who are supporting the show with your gifts and prayers. I am mindful every day of how inadequate I am apart of God's grace, finding myself often at the end of my stamina but sustained by the One who never grows weary. I am also strengthened and encouraged by the support of friends like you.
I apologize for being less than prompt throughout this fall with "Friend of the Show" updates. But the most of the leaves gone from the trees now, I'm turning over a new one (a leaf, that is). You'll be seeing more on here from me in the near future.
In my typical adult ADHD fashion, I'm sporadically reading several books simultaneously this summer, with the sober awareness that the (relatively) carefree summer months are drawing to a close. The books I'm reading are as follows, with a notable quote from each.
1. The Beginning of Wisdom by Leon Kass.
I really like what I'm reading so far, because I have long felt, like Kass, that reading Genesis is as foundational to understanding salvation history (and basic anthropology) as reading The Hobbit is to understanding the Lord of the Rings books.
As someone who works--and lives--in the realm of family life, I've also long believed that the book of Genesis is at its core a book about families, with just about every dimension of family life exhibiting the best and the worst of human nature.
Here's one quote from Kass that you can rest assured will make its way into my show: "[T]he beginning of Genesis shows us not so much what happened as what always happens. And by holding up a mirror in which we readers can discover in ourselves the reasons why human life is so bittersweet and why uninstructed human beings generally get it wrong."
2. Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar.
Contemplative prayer, to be honest, has never come easily for me. I'm much more oriented toward saying prayers than resting in a spirit of prayer (my wife is much different--prayer for her is like breathing). I'm early in the book, but I'm encouraged by what I'm learning, particularly the reminder that our prayers are always a response to something God has initiated. Consider this quote: "God's word is his invitation to enter into truth and abide there with him. It is like a rope ladder thrown down to us in danger of drowning, so that we can climb into the ship, or a carpet unrolled before us leading to the Father's throne; a torch shining the darkness of a silent and sullen world, in whose light we are no longer harassed by problems, but learn to live with them."
3. Gay and Catholic by Eve Tushnet.
While there may be some interpretations and facets of Sharia Law that are incompatible with democratic ideals and sensibilities, that doesn't mean that all interpretations and facets of Sharia Law are irreconcilable with American society. To reject religious laws as "foreign laws" is to unwittingly absolutize state sovereignty over our lives. There is a proper jurisdiction for religious laws among those who freely assent to membership in that religious community, just as their is a proper jurisdiction for the laws of parents within their own households (assuming those parental laws do not violate basic human rights and dignity). Sharia Law, within these understood boundaries, can function much like canon law does among Catholics, providing a system of laws independent of civil government for those in the Catholic community. All the better if such a system of laws can help take care of certain issues locally within those communities without needing the oversight of the state (again, provided that no is being beheaded for apostasy or dismembered for stealing).
Two articles that might be worth reading. The first deals with issue of "family sovereignty," arguing that the state is not an absolute lawgiver and must respect the proper jurisdiction of the family. The second makes some direct comparisons between the paranoia some Americans once felt toward Catholics and the similar paranoia currently being expressed toward Muslims.
Enjoyed breakfast with guest Jason Hall after today's show at one of my favorite places, because they give you a lot of good food on the cheap (being the tightwad I am), the Keeneland track kitchen. Unlike the grandeur of the Keeneland grandstand area (if you're unfamiliar with central KY, Keeneland is a gorgeous thoroughbred track), the track kitchen is an unassuming, year-round place that offers a generous breakfast for 5 bucks (eggs, bacon or sausage, biscuit and gravy, grits, potatoes, etc.).
We talked further about the connection between the vote in Great Britain to leave the European Union (BREXIT for shorthand) and the populism driving the Donald Trump phenomenon, and I think there are clear connections. Both movements are rooted in palpable skepticism for current leadership to hear and respond to the concerns and grievances of the people. In Great Britain, as Jason Hall pointed out, there is a profound "Euroskepticism" that has left many Brits feeling as though they were losing their country, in terms of cultural identity (with Muslim immigration a major concern) and economic might (concerns about trade, particularly among certain industries).
With Trumpism, there seems to be a populist revolt against the "establishment" of both parties to really hear the concerns of the working class, economic concerns about losing jobs to globalization and illegal immigration, security concerns about radical jihadism, and the loss of America's stature in the world. For some, Donald Trump is the only politician who takes these concerns seriously.
As I've said, I can never vote for Donald Trump any more than I can vote for Hillary Clinton. Both have, in my view, tremendous political and personal issues that are deeply contradictory to Catholic social and moral teaching. But to ignore the forces that have elevated Donald Trump would be a major mistake.
If you listened a few weeks ago, you probably hear me kvetching about our home improvement adventure, otherwise known as "a wife with Youtube is a dangerous thing." Anyway, here's Angie running a rented floor sander for the first time.
The picture at left above may not look like much, but to our family it's a little slice of heaven on earth. Green River Lake State Park near Campbellsville, KY, has been our annual camping destination for the past 8 years. It's there that we set up our big tent, cram inside it at night, and otherwise enjoy (most of the time) the slow pace of unplugged time together. I say "most of the time" because anybody who has camped knows that there is a lot of misery and unpredictability involved at times too, particularly in the chore of packing up what seems like a third of your house, or dealing with unpredictable weather, or even my family having to deal with my horrible snoring. The upside is I get these photos of Zoe, our 10 year old, kissing a fish and Naomi, our 18 yr. old, holding the biggest catch of the week.
I wrote a column about the blessed filter of camping memories a few years ago. Enjoy...and thanks for being a friend of the show.
The Blessed Filter of Camping Memories
One thing I appreciate about my kids is that when it comes to family vacations, they’re pretty easy to please. While they’re aware that some families are taking summer trips to Disney World, touring Europe, or enjoying Caribbean cruises, they’re usually content to pitch the family tent near a lake at a state park campground here in Kentucky.
Don’t get the wrong impression—we’re not survivalist campers. We like clean, well-lit campgrounds with shaded campsites, hot showers, camp stores, ice machines, and pre-bundled firewood. And when we load up, it feels like we bring half the house, with our big family van packed to the ceiling with clothes, tent, canvas gazebo, camp stove, cooler, fishing poles, lawn chairs, grill, clothes, toiletries, sleeping bags, and for the wife and me, the essential air mattress. Do you see why packing is the least enjoyable part of my experience?
Once you get there and set up, however, the good stuff begins. The quiet pace of unplugged days, the taste of freshly brewed coffee on a crisp campground morning, the smell of bacon on the griddle, the cool lake water on a summer afternoon, the tug of a bluegill on your hook, the radiant warmth of a crackling campfire, the taste of s’mores, and the fireside games and prayers.
But I won’t lie to you. Despite our best preparations, we’ve had a number of miserable experiences. Like when the air was so thick with mayflies that several got mixed in with our chicken and rice (thankfully we were eating after sunset—ignorance is bliss). Or the night our air mattress developed a leak, requiring a 3am Wal-Mart run to get a new one. Or the year our campsite got terrorized by a skunk who had spent way too much time around people. Not to mention the trip with the head lice and the bad transmission.
Then there’s the weather; and with tent camping you’re rolling the dice. We’ve camped through heat waves and damp chills, not to mention the rain. And storms, of course. There’s nothing like riding out a thunderstorm cramped together in your van on a muggy night.
One year we awoke to a thunderous downpour that had filled our tent with several inches of water, prompting us to abandon our tent and drive home, going back to retrieve it the next day (fortunately it was only in Frankfort).
Yet with all this misery, my children approach every summer with the same question: When are we going camping? Maybe I’m crazy, but I even find myself looking forward to it.
Memory is a funny thing, a filtering gift of grace that can bring sentimental joy from recalling the good times and gut-busting laughter in remembering the disasters. Our camping adventures serve as a microcosm of life, really. As much as we whine about our struggles, imagine how dull our lives would be if everything went perfectly. And while life’s most serious tragedies may not bring laughter in retrospect, the experience of enduring them together can serve to unite families in ways we could never experience in bliss alone.
Go to a funeral visitation, and listen to the memories shared by those gathered. See what they laugh about in their grief. Chances are it’s a memory of something that went wrong, maybe even caused by the person they’ve lost, or an idiosyncrasy of the deceased that was both frustrating and endearing. God, through time and grace, has redemptively filtered their memories.
That’s something I need to remember, whether in camping disasters or other life trials. My family, those who know me best, can tell you that I get pretty grumpy when things don’t go my way, when mishaps force changed plans or when time schedules get compromised.
They may even talk about my crankiness at my own funeral one day, but I guess that depends on whether I learn anything each passing year. Camping, with its highs and lows, might just offer an important lesson in virtue; namely, that the pains of the present can one day become important threads in our family’s tapestry of memory. And knowing that, maybe I can learn to not sweat the small stuff and actually enjoy this crazy ride.