The New Punic War

The Church in Russia views Moscow as “The Third Rome”. It’s been this way for a while. Rome was Rome, but then Rome fell – and there was a filioque, but lay that aside as gently as you can. Then Constantinople was Rome, and the heathen Rus even tried to sack it. But then it fell to the Muslims. (Istanbul is Constantinople, don’t you know that?) So Moscow became the Third Rome, but history has poo-pooed that as a political reality. See, the West kinda glommed onto it: Charlemagne, the Holy Romans, Napoleon, the British Empire, and last, the good ole US of A, all took this place on the World Stage. And, even as Moscow fell, and her Church as well, to the Revolution, various other places became Novus Roma: In Tempore Bello. Perhaps Moscow has watched all of us like Carthage, wandering about with Elephants, ruining her place in the Sun?

We don’t like mess. Americans don’t like mess. Bloody meat may be fine and fashionable, but not on a carcass. Farmed venison is nice, but hunters are not. Armed criminals are bad, but armed citizens protecting themselves is pure evil. We come up with names to avoid mistakes: venison, again, is nice, but deer meat is kinda scary. Abortion is a good, shooting up a school though, that’s senseless violence. We are the same politically: we love results, but we don’t want to see the blood. Blood makes us uncomfortable, results make us happy.  We are unhappy with “boots on the ground” wars. We’ve already imaged the people out, but just their boots are bad, too.

As Americans, we generally like petitions, giant quilts, and million man marches or other methods of acceptable protest. Such protest protect our way of life and our self-image. It makes us look Good and Peaceful Yet Concerned with Justice™. We are so unlike those other, violent people. We are building, and spreading, Civilization! They are destroying it with their protest. We refuse to admit that they are really protesting us by proxy, our activities in their homes. It is only our secular, money-centered, greedy culture they are protesting.

Russia, just to take you back to history class, remembers how the US and the UK used the Soviet Army in WW2 to destroy Hitler’s strength: making hamburger in the meat grinder of Stalingrad. Then, just when we said we would help her rebuild, we announced, “We can’t help communists”. In walking away from our former ally we were hoping that in Russia’s weakness she couldn’t beat us to oil in several places around a war-torn globe. We gave Stalin a financial failure, a reason to renege on all his promises to his people. To no small degree, the blood of 50,000,000 Soviet citizens is on our hands. But we had muscle cars, Elvis, and West Germany!

Much of the rest of the world has been fighting – with guns – against dictators we installed and supported; who in exchange for that support made possible our way of life. We remember Kennedy because he failed to pull this tinkering off in Cuba. But we set up the Cuban Banana Republic therefore they had their revolution. Read up on the School of the Americas. And Iran-Contra. And the Philippines. Grenada. Cristiani. And the Panama Canal. And the entire history of the world since the Louisiana Purchase. And then there are the Native tribal peoples in all of the US, including Hawaii and Alaska. We manipulate, divide, and rule. It’s our MO. But please don’t show us. That’s what made us so uncomfortable with Viet Nam: we could see it. People are worried that Russia hacked our election. So what? This is what we’ve been doing to other people forever. See this about Honduras. See this one about Egypt. Palestine? Iraq? Chile? Ah… let me go on.

Not one president in this or the last Century (at least) is exempt from this critique. The World gave a Nobel Peace Prize to the man who became the greatest Drone Warrior of all time – and now we call him Classy. Please don’t remind us that our boots and our drones kill people. We have never had a family so classy. Never.

When the kids rioted in the 60s and 70s we were annoyed at their destruction of property. We felt the same regarding riots in the 80s, 90s, 00s, and now. We never want to rock the boat too much because, well: cheap gas is good, be you Democrat or Republican. Cheap plastic junk is good, be you shopping for plastic junk at Walmart or IKEA and Target. We want to feel good about our recycling – we don’t care that we have to sell our garbage to China because no one here is willing to do the work. We like our bottled water we don’t care we’re ruining Fiji’s ecosystem, or that it takes gas and pollution to get get our bottles here with all speed. We don’t shoot children in schools, it’s less traumatic to kill them in the womb. We don’t chop the heads off Christians on video! We just drain their charity coffers with lawsuits and force them to pay for things they can’t morally support. We are making bloodless martyrs. Cool, Civilization, cool.

If stuff happens under DJT the way people think it’s going to and we go more than 4 months without some sort of revolt – and I don’t mean Occupy Central Park, I mean revolt – I’ll call BS. I will not, however, be surprised. We have never been willing to tell our freely elected powers that be that we would rise up and overthrow them in the name of freedom… because, really, we have our freedom, the freedom that we want – cheap gas and plastic junk. We don’t very much care that everyone else is paying for it. In the mid-50s we redefined our freedom to be the depth of the produce section at the A&P and the number of car salesmen we could find in the phonebook. We made fun of the Soviets for standing in line for toilet paper. They had to pick from a one party ticket. We had two! Trump will be no different, as long as gas and plastic junk stays cheap. We were happy with Obama’s corporate welfare program for aging insurance companies. We even acted like it was new: not the same welfare that propped up Iacocca’s Chrysler, or the Savings and Loan scandal, or the Military Contractors. As long as the status quo includes my latest gadgets, I’m good, thanks.

This is how we’ve slipped over the years. Once our freedoms are redefined as consumptions, we let someone else’s power corrupt our corruption. If you have cheap tiny Asian fingers in your Christmas decorations, your computers, your watches, your clothing then you did this. I did this. I don’t really care who you voted for, what your race is, or any other of your petty identity issues. While we sit around worrying about what might happen to us, we, as a country, have been making that very thing happen everywhere else at least since the Spanish American War.

To the extent that Russia did anything at all to make this happen (and I like to imagine it was a lot) Russia has helped unmask us to ourselves. Not to the rest of the world – they already knew us.  I don’t think Russia really likes DJT. He’s not gym-sexy and smart like Ramzan Kadyrov. He’s not crafy like Putin. He’s not clever, even, like Medvedev. I think Russia supported Trump exactly because he will be – in public – what we’ve always been in private. Bullies. Trump hasn’t the diplomatic ability to be two-faced. He hasn’t the skills to be diplomatic at all. Putin can now point at us and say “We have never expected anything less from this nation, but at least we will hear it out loud. We won’t be stabbed in the back.” All of this however, takes us out of the way of the Third Rome. We become Carthage. We will burn ourselves up.

If Trump turns into the nightmare he’s supposed to be and I don’t see something exciting and even revolutionary, then, we will all know that the cheap plastic stuff is very important indeed.

May you live in interesting times. Carthago Delenda Est.


Today’s Readings:

  • Hebrews 5:1-10
  • Mark 2:18-22

In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE with other Mass texts.

Alleluia: Vivus est sermo Dei et efficax, et discretor cogitationum et intentionum.
Alleluia: The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
From: Hebrews 4:12

The Alleluia verse is my text today mostly because I missed it when it came up in the regular readings last week.

Coming from a Protestant background I’m used to hearing this verse often (especially in the King James version) as a comment on the “inerrancy” and “inspiration” of the Biblical text.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 

“Quick” in the KJV’s language means “alive” but this is often lost on prot Preachers. It translates the word Zoe, the title Jesus takes to himself saying, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Zoe). This text, in Greek, is:

Ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ , καὶ ἐνεργής.
“Living is The Logos of God, and energetic.”

The next verse makes much more sense if this is about a person rather than a book:

Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight: but all things are naked and open to his eyes, to whom our speech is

So it is Jesus (God’s Logos) about whom St Paul writes here. It is Jesus that is Life indeed, and Energetic. It is Jesus that is “more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Nothing is hidden from him and we are all open to his eyes.

Jesus: not the flat, hardbound green things the Gideons leave in empty hotel rooms in the hopes that it might magically convert someone. Jesus is the Infallible, Inerrant Word of God.

If I could only get that into my head and my heart I might be able to live the Gospel.

You cannot pour the new wine of the Gospel into your old life: you can’t hold the Gospel and keep being your old self. You can’t so a Jesus patch onto your old, tired Identity Politics, false humanist idea of sex and sexuality, modernist ideas of amorality and tolerance: the wineskins burst, the clothes tear. This is what is currently happening in the liberal Protestant bodies, trying to hold on to their favorite parts of the World and molding the Gospel thereto. Even now, they imagine that they can take the Gospel and pour it into the tired, old sins of the world



Like the woman bleeding for decades, the only way to find healing is for them and me to come back to Jesus.

God’s Secret Weapon

Today’s readings
  • Isaiah 49:3-6
  • 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
  • John 1:29-34

In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE with other Mass texts.

Et ego dixi: In vacuum laboravi; sine causa et vane fortitudinem meam consumpsi.
To me, all my labour seemed useless, my strength worn out in vain.
Isaiah 49:4a

This verse is missing from the assigned readings today. It’s actually pretty Prophetic of that Eloi, Eloi, moment on the cross, I think. More though, how much I recognize this sentiment, how much it sounds like life sometimes. The Psalms are filled with this, as are the Wisdom books: sometimes stuff just sucks. Worse than that, it feels like nothing makes sense, like nothing you’ve done is of value.

Yesterday (Saturday) was the anniversary of an event in my personal life that totally wrecked my well-under-way midlife crises. Being laid off from a good job in a wonderful company, finding oneself alone and drifting can point out a lot of things: a lot of failures in life planning. The big one for me was the realization of how much of my self identity was invested in work. What I did for money held a lot of my sense of “Who I Am.” The loss of my Job felt like a loss of my Me. To go with Isaiah, here, “To me, all my labour seemed useless, my strength worn out in vain.”

I’m told that for men, this investment of self, this submersion of identity in work is a real problem. I can imagine, though, it might be so for women as well. Thus the drive for women to be able to do the same work as men, right? It’s founded not on a quest for equality as such, but rather on a greed for equal cultural capital in a culture that invented and sells that mistake of you-are-what-you-do.

If my things-done are are without value who am I?

In this mindset I took great comfort in podcasts from my friend and from this guy I follow on Twitter, both named Steve. Both of them reminded me that it is in working out my salvation that I live out my faith, not in standing around waiting for God to reveal his plan for my life. In fact both Steves suggested that was a Protestant, Prosperity thing that had nothing to do with anything Christian. There was this one, on Mediocrity, and then these two on the whole “plan for your life” thing (wait for it).

In the Hobbit (the Book), Bard the Bowman has a secret weapon called “The Black Arrow” which never misses its mark and always is found again. Bard uses the Black Arrow to slay the Dragon Smaug – its fated destiny. I’m sure in the horrid Peter Jackson Blasphemy, Bard had, perhaps, a trident warhead and maybe shot it from a large tank. Here’s the way it looked the first time I was ever introduced to Tolkien’s work (1977)

Isaiah is right there, ready for the punchline. In Verse 2 of the same chapter, the prophet sees himself as “a arrow he has chosen out carefully, hidden yet in his quiver.” God’s secret weapon. “Use thee I will, he (God) promises.” The thing is, we do not get to pick how God will use us, nor really, will we know: God may use you to make a post on Facebook that will cause someone to block you – and will haunt them until they go to Church. But you may never know. Steve the Missionary’s third video goes here, because he gets it: say your prayers, go to Mass, be as obedient as you can with the resources God gives you and slowly, but surely, God will make you a blessing. And you will be blessed.

Where, though, does our sense of self come from, if not from the work we do? A Christian’s selfhood is defined in Christ. He is the image of God – and we are in him, united in his sacrifice. OUr selfhood is so invested in him, that we were called “little Christs” by the Romans. St Paul says that he is dead and it is Christ who lives in him: that’s here we all should be. In today’s opening to the Epistle to the Church of Corinth St Paul makes this point. First, he calls the community of Christians he founded the Ekklesia. It is a noun, meaning “called out” but a few words later, he uses the same word as a verb “Kletois” or “summoned to” what? We are called to Holiness, being set apart for God. God has us in the quiver. We’re there, intended to be used. Only it’s not up to us to be used, we just go through life. God will make use in his own time.

If you end up in the side of a dragon, though, I’m gonna be jealous.