Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Vox Clamanti Manifesto

I have heard it said that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, and as a general principle, I would have to agree. However, at certain times and in certain places a prophetic voice is needed, a voice crying out in the desert, a chiding one that calls a people to change. Sometimes it is needful to curse the darkness.

To put it another way, Solomon wrote that every purpose under Heaven had its proper season. Sometimes one builds, sometimes one tears down. Our purpose and aim is to do both.

A Time to Build

For the sake of our own sanity, we cannot always be railing against the dying of the light. We need, and those who read this blog, need to hear and see beauty. We need to be secondary creators in emulation of our first Creator.

So expect from time to time descriptions of our parish, the natural world around us, and the joys of friendship, parenthood, and marriage. Perhaps also some art works, some art discussion ... perhaps some poetry.

And, where possible, where appropriate, and where we see them, we will offer our solutions to the various issues raised.

A Time to Tear Down

There are, regrettably, many thing that need changing in this world of ours. It is a deeply flawed and hurting world that we have inherited, a world under bombardment not only by our sins, but by our man-made toxins and our mountains of forever garbage. And it is a world where there is little to no repentance for our demon-like hatred of God’s Creation, man and world both, because we have constructed around our misdeeds horrible ideologies to defend them. Here follow the issues that we have identified (and this section will undoubtedly evolve over time).

A. Environmental Concerns

These issues form an assault on the Creation that God called good. It is a failure to recognize that when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all the cosmos at Pentecost, He began to restore, through and by the prayers of the faithful, all Creation to its Edenic state. It is a failure to realize that all of nature has the potential to become sacrament, to become grace-bestowing, and it is a wanton violation of our role as stewards of a world that is not ours but God’s, lent us for a while. In many cases, our profligacy holds dire consequences to our health and well-being, and the health and well-being of our descendants.

I. Toxins: I have broken these down into four categories, from what I consider the most immediately damaging and dangerous to the least.

  • Injected toxins – These would include street drugs, some pharmaceuticals, and vaccinations. These are easiest to avoid, most immediately damaging, and affect humans (and sometimes their progeny) alone.
  • Ingested toxins – These would include unbound chemicals in our plastics, pesticides and heavy metals in our foods, and fluoride, chlorine, and various medications in our water. Where these toxins are carried in our groundwater and our waterways, the responsibility for them is shared, and the consequences involve more than our species alone.
  • Breathed toxins – These would include cigarette smoke, smog, airborne pesticides, and vapours from household cleaning supplies. These are harder to avoid, and involve, again, a shared responsibility and collective harm.
  • Absorbed toxins – These would include the plastics, pesticides, and bleaches found in our clothes, as well as skin contact with certain cleaners and varnishes.

II. Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are aberrant creations formed in Frankensteinian laboratories in a world-wide experiment to see what happens when the unnatural is tossed into nature. All too frequently these are self-replicating monstrosities.

Completely aside from whether or not these are a mockery and a blasphemy against God’s Creation, we eat many of the products made from these GMO’s, and we do not know what the long term effects will be.

III. Nuclear waste and depleted uranium are persistent and invisible mutagenic pollutants that will remain with us for millennia.

IV. Hormones in our meat, milk, and water have already been shown to have an effect on the hormones of those who consume them. This is another global experiment gone awry.

V. Garbage – our plastics and the throwaway culture that gave them birth – must be combated, reduced, and ultimately eliminated. There is no “away” to “throwaway”. Non -biodegradable garbage stays here in this world, our home, and as such is a present to our descendants that will keep on giving.

VI. Animal torture and the wanton cruelty towards animals, whether as manifestation of sociopathy, as the result of the industrialization of animal husbandry, or as a result of reckless and irreverent experimentation, constitutes a kind of savagery unknown even to the barbarians of yore.

VII. Clear-cut logging, unlike a more selective logging, is a habitat eliminator and the forefather to desertification. I recognize the need for wood for many uses and purposes, but our harvesting of this resource must allow renewal, rebirth, and the harvesting by future generations.

VIII. Power lines I include tentatively, largely because while we know that all electrical systems throw off magnetic fields, we do not know the long-term effects of constant habitation in a powerful magnetic field such as is given off by high-voltage power lines.

B. Social Concerns

These issues invariably are an affront to the human person, a degradation of the image of God, and a complete and utter failure to see God in others. Sadly, many of us participate in them through our self-indulgence and our pride.

I. Abortion: We need to take a tougher stand against this holocaust, this incessant feticide and its byproduct industries. Any vaccination that uses cell-lines derived from human fetuses (read: babies) must be avoided as we would avoid the taint of Nazi gold pulled from Jewish teeth. Likewise fetal stem cell research and any medical “advance” derived from fetal stem cells must be banned, boycotted, and shunned. Lastly, in vitro fertilization must be rethought where human embryos are formed in large number but not implanted in the mother’s womb. Throwing these out, as is customary in most cases, is another form of feticide, and as such constitutes murder.

II. Human trafficking: We as a society agree that human trafficking (the buying and selling of humans for the purposes of slavery) is wrong. However, we lack the moral courage to create an outright ban on prostitution and pornography so as to crush sexual slavery and the traffic in woman and children for sexual purposes. We lack the moral courage to outlaw and criminalize all companies that use forced labour, slavery, and sweatshop labour. We lack the moral courage to place adoption and organ transplants under the microscope to ensure that human exploitation was not involved, and we lack the will to vigorously punish those who engage or who knowingly benefit in such practices.

III. Usury, or interest, is a form of slavery in that it creates bondage through debt. The receivers of interest (the ever-wealthier) effectively enslave, through the medium of the banks, the ever-poorer. Banned by Mosaic Law and the Church, it has enjoyed not a resurrection but a revivification in more recent times.

IV. War, torture, and the use of weapons of mass destruction are similarly great evils. While I might argue that a defensive war is a necessary evil to preserve a nation in the face of military aggression, I fear that we have lost the ability to discern what a defensive war is. It is not a preemptive war, and it is not an offensive invasion of [another] belligerent country.

C. Cultural Concerns

These issues are those that, while not an affront to Creation or the human person, are distractions that interfere with our ability to stop, think, meditate, pray, and simply be, in silence and before God. Monastics would recognize these, I think, as tools of the Enemy to keep us from the knowledge and pursuit of God.

I. Speed: We live in a society that exists at only one speed, and that is breakneck. We need to slow down, we need to stop. We need to escape the tyranny of the ticking clock and the fear of “wasting” time as if it were something wastable. Just as God created us in matter so that we could learn to receive His grace through matter, He created us in time to experience Him in time.

There are many things – all the important things, in fact – which cannot be obtained quickly, or by any measure of time, but only by the measure of living, suffering, praying, loving, and growing. Building a marriage, raising a child, achieving maturity, gaining wisdom, and finding salvation itself are the products of a life, and cannot be measured by time or gained by the “spending” of time. We examine and speak of time as if it were quantitative, when any child could tell you it is qualitative.

II. Silence: St. Gregory Palamas was identified as a saint in part through his defense of hesychasm (silence) as a means to finding and experiencing God. Centuries before him, St. Elias discovered that God was not to be found in the crashing thunder but in the still small voice. And before him the Psalmist wrote of the need to be silent on our beds.

Silence is a precondition for meditation and prayer, and has become an ever-rarer commodity in the face of modern noise. Music pumped over the radio, through headphones, and in the supermarkets, engines roaring throughout the world, there are few places where one can entirely escape the sounds of busy, worldly Man.

III. Advertisement: Our senses and our peace are under constant assault by the omnipresence of signs and their ubiquitous siren call to buy, buy, buy. We are urged to satisfy our inner emptiness through endless consumption. We are titillated and amused, seduced into greed. We are not given the chance to rest, but are barraged and bombarded until we accept the hidden premise that we are consumers, not citizens of a nation nor the distinct people of God.

D. Ideological Concerns

These issues can be divided into two categories: heresies and philosophical ideas. Both, however, derive from the imagination of Man independent of Christ and His Church.

Thoughts may and should be free, but the implementation of these ideas – these pernicious and dangerous follies – have cost us a great deal, and will continue to cost us, unless we replace them with real wisdom and real knowledge.

I. The cult of youth: In the West we worship youth and beauty, and so we do everything in our technological power to promote youth, beauty, and “sexiness”, and to hide what is old and ugly. Our seniors are locked away into old folks’ homes. Our disfigured are urged to undergo plastic surgery. Our young starve themselves into looking more “beautiful”. Wrinkles are botoxed away and faces are lifted, grey hairs dyed, and beards shaved.

There are two even uglier consequences to the cult of youth. First, we hide our dead behind makeup and we attempt to preserve the illusion of life – eternal youth – through embalming, a profound abuse of the body, and a manifest disbelief in the reality of the resurrection of the dead. Second, the logical extension of the worship of youth results in the perversion of baby beauty competitions and prepubescent whore chic (where we display our young as sex objects), and pedophilia (where our young are perceived and treated as sex objects).

II. Modernism teaches, in essence, that things will keep on getting better. Evolutionary theory is a rationalization as to how this reversal of entropy works. What makes modernism so dangerous is that it has given us countless technologies without reckoning their cost. Vinyl must be a good, because it is a new technology – but the production of vinyl involves the incredibly toxic dioxin. Atomic energy must be a good, because it is a new technology – but in the 63 years since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the ushering in of the atomic age, we have yet to find a safe way to handle the waste. Genetic manipulation must be a good, because it is a new technology – but we have produced alien species unknown to this planet with consequences unforeseen and unlooked-for.

It is the recklessness of modernistic technophilic zeal that has given us the heavily polluted world we know today.

III. Calvinism: This is the Christian heresy wherein free will is removed from Man’s finding of salvation. Grace (a pale, limited grace) is bestowed upon the elect, will he nill he, resulting in the saving of just these elect. Calvinism’s bastard child is the Enlightenment, and its grandchild atheism. Where God has been made odious and onerous, there people will flee Him. Doubtless some hardy Germanic types have found Calvinism the intoxicating and heady brew necessary to stir them to great and glorious achievements for the Kingdom of Heaven. However, for many (most?) others, Calvinism does not solve the age-old problem of theodicy but enshrines it. We depart from the question as to why does God allow evil and we conclude with the statement that God wills evil.

IV. Globalization, aside from its resultant dependence on slavery and forced labour, and apart from its systemic replacement of the person of the local merchant and artisan for the faceless and soulless body of the international and unaccountable corporation, is a modernistic movement that is causing massive pollution of the environment through the endless crisscrossing of oceans and continents by exhaust-emitting mega-vehicles. The only solution to globalization is a restoration of the merchant, artisan, and craftsman, the re-empowerment of the small farmer, and the replacement of the ideal of globalization with the ideal of locavore.

V. The Armageddon Complex: In the world at large disregard for the environment seems to stem from selfishness and greed. In the Christian community, however, this disregard originates from what I call the Armageddon Complex. This is the belief that the end of the world is at hand, with its implicit destruction by hail and fire, etc; in the face of this destruction there is no point to cleaning up the world (or to keeping it clean).

We do not know the day nor the hour of Christ’s return. We may suspect He is coming soon, but to fail to care for our home would be a dooming and a damning of our children to live in a toxic cesspool should He not come. In point of fact, ours is the first civilization to fail to provide for, think of, or work towards the betterment of the next generation.

VI. Compulsory public age-graded education: One of the worst (again modernistic) ideas of the 19th century was the one that remade the education of our young. It concluded that all children learned alike, at the same age and in the same manner, cloistered away from real life and real-world experience. It concluded that apprenticeships were bankrupt, despite being the primary method of disseminating knowledge for millennia. It concluded that all children would do best divorced from the God-created whole spectrum of ages that is the family at the microcosmic level and society at the macrocosmic. And it concluded that the government and its emissaries the education theorists, pedagogues, and teachers would know better how to raise and educate a child than the parents who knew it best.

VII. Right to Paradise: We appear to believe that we have the right to a disease-free paradise where there is peace and plenty for all, along with all the paradisiacal technological gizmos and devices that are the hallmark of the wealthy. Ours is a jubilant and narcissistic expectation that we are owed everything we desire. We have seemingly fallen heir to the world, and we consume and consume its resources without any sense of the other three-quarters (or more) of the world that has none of the advantages we have. We are astonished and indignant when these rights are encroached, when disease makes a comeback, when oil prices rise, when our peace or our prosperity is in any way lessened. We cannot fathom that bacteria and viruses mutate, that peak oil exists, or that there is sin in the world.

Ours are the “rights” of the delusional maniac, unaware of a fallen world. Ours are the “rights” of the locust, devouring everything in its path. We have no right to Paradise, no right to any Utopia. We can only be given Eden through the sacramental life of the Church, the healing of the Holy Spirit, and the prayers of the saints. And we will only fully enter the garden when God makes it anew.

In the meantime, our avaricious society is a blight upon the earth and a gross inequality that time and the wrath of other nations will iron out. We should accustom ourselves to a simple life before it is made simple for us.

- V.,
Writing for V. & E.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Leading Up to Lent

(Of course, it is Lent now.)

In the weeks leading up to Lent, I found myself wanting to calm my soul a little, to back away from the sorrows and the tragedies against which I have been railing recently ... so too those I haven't yet addressed but which simmer on my back burner regardless.

Calm. A chance for quiet and reflection.

A chance to sit down and hammer out what exactly it is I hope to do here. What Vox clamanti is all about. Why we need to have a voice on the Internet. Because there are certainly many others already speaking.

More to come soon.

In the meantime, may you have a blessed Lent. May you have a chance to escape the tyranny of selfishness and pride. May you find Christ this Lent ... in the fast, in prayer, and in acts of self-emptying kindness.

And pray for me, that I may experience the same.

- V.