RELIGION, NATION, MARRIAGE: THE LOYALTIES OF MEN
PRAY, WORK, STUDY, PROTECT: THE DUTIES OF MEN


Thursday, September 29, 2022

SEPTEMBER 29: FEAST OF THE ARCHANGELS


[first published 29 September 2012]




On this feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael -- some thoughts of Doc Pence on our angelic partners.  He begins with an anecdote:

   About a year ago when I was arguing with a theology professor at St. John’s in Collegeville MN about women priests and homosexuality -- it struck me.  I asked him, "Do you believe there was a first man and woman, Adam and Eve?”  He said, "No, science has proven that wrong."  I asked, "Do you believe there is a wicked angel, Lucifer, who is the devil; a real being, dedicated to evil and not redeemable?”  He said, "No, there is definitely evil in the world and in all of us but not an actual powerful spiritual evil being."  "Well, how about angels in general -- another order of beings -- purely spiritual who can know and love and who are actors in the domain of nature and history?"  I asked.  He hedged and hemmed and asked to be excused.

   I told myself, "I have been in the wrong discussion -- the problem is a lot of these guys don't have the cast of characters or central events of the Divine Drama in place.”

   What is priesthood, and who cares if it is all-male, if there is no Satan and the story of Salvation History is just a hodgepodge of Semitic texts?  I haven't gotten into arguments over women priests for a long time because I find those who favor them have a much bigger deficit that has to be first addressed.  


  Today we give thanks for the angels -- pure spirits organized in hierarchical orders -- our great elevated partners in the Divine Drama. 



God is an eternal Being outside of time: one Divine nature in three Persons. The angels are pure spirits. They have the two characteristics of spiritual beings: they can know and love.

The material world is mineral, vegetative, and animal. The minerals (atoms, chemical elements and molecules, and all non-living matter) do not have souls.  The vegetative and animal beings are living, and thus have souls. Souls are the central unifying principles of living things. All physical living beings have souls, but their souls are different. The souls of bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals die with the creature. Spiritual souls are immortal and rational. We don’t talk about an angel’s soul because a soul is a form in a material being.
 
Living Beings have interiority and agency and hierarchy. Living things act for themselves in a way that rusting iron and eroding rocks don’t (agency). All living things have an inside and an outside, from cell structure to internal body cavities to the interior spiritual life of man (interiority). All life comes from life, and exists within a structured sacral order (hierarchy).

Man is the one material being with a spiritual soul -- he can know and love. Thomas Aquinas thought one could logically argue to prove the existence of angels. He said there needs to be a created being which is spiritual but is not made of matter. (This balances the material world in which there is matter without a soul, material creatures with a “material soul,” and material beings with a spiritual soul.) Angels perfect the universe because they are created immaterial beings, which are spiritual. They too can know and love.

Angels know directly (they intuit), and desire and decide instantaneously. Their decisions are irrevocable. Angels use matter for appearances but do not become living material beings. Each angel is his own species. Angels are organized into hierarchical orders: some worshiping, some in charge of movements in nature, and some personally involved in the lives of men and nations.

When we contemplate the angels this brings us in closer contact with the hierarchical nature of the cosmos, the reality of Satan, the heroism of Michael, the ongoing active dialogue between the spiritual world and human development. We are part of a cosmic drama that started long before we got here. In this drama, the sons of Adam are given a major participatory role in the restoration of Justice after Satan’s rebellion. Man is part of a cosmological reality and so are the angels. Man cannot fully understand his role here without a robust and clarified view of the Angels in the Drama.


UPDATE: In both Jewish and Christian tradition, every nation has been assigned a guardian angel through which Divine Providence works out His purposes in history. While Pope Francis suggested that Catholic discussion be less preoccupied with homosexuality, abortion, and contraception, he has continually emphasized the present-day reality of the evil angel Lucifer. 

St. Michael, St, Raphael, and St. Gabriel: pray for us.   

Saturday, September 17, 2022

ANTIETAM: America's Bloodiest Day


September 17, 2017 -  just shy of one week after 9/11 - marks the 157th anniversary of the bloodiest day in American history. It was on this day in 1862 that General Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the north was turned back, Confederate recognition by Britain and France was thwarted, and the Emancipation Proclamation was ensured. The cost of this was around 23,000 American casualties, almost 4,000 of which were killed in combat. In comparison, 9/11 witnessed the deaths of 2,996 while some 80,000 Russian and French casualties resulted from the single day Battle of Borodino in 1812.

The Battle of Antietam followed a string of Confederate victories led by the newly appointed General Lee beginning in late June of 1862. In a period of one week, Lee won a series of stunning battles that drove the Union Army back from the gates of Richmond. In late August, Lee followed up his opening victories with the Battle of Second Bull Run, located south of Washington DC. In another decisive win, Lee almost outflanked and destroyed the Union Army as it withdrew over Bull Run.

With these victories in hand, Lee decided it was time to take the fight north.

As he would do in the Gettysburg campaign, Lee marched his army nearer to the mountains in northwest Virginia, using them as a screen to cover his forces moving north. Believing the Union commander, General McClellan, to be a slow and cautious leader, Lee took the risk of dividing his forces on the march. While Lee's estimation of McClellan was accurate, Lee did not know that an order containing his marching plans was accidentally discovered by Union forces. With Lee's marching orders in hand, there was little stopping McClellan from attacking the Confederate army piecemeal, and thus bring an end to the war.

McClellan, however, failed to take advantage of Lee's mistake. As he began his attack, McClellan's advance actually drove Lee's disparate forces towards one another. Their final position, however, found the Confederate army sandwiched between the large Potomac River behind them and the Antietam Creek in front of them.


Unable to rapidly retreat across the Potomac, such a situation could prove disastrous to the army should they lose the battle ahead. What's more, Lee with 40,000 men was far outnumbered by McClellan's 80,000. One large push forward with all his troops should have led to the destruction of Lee's forces.

The Battle of Antietam ended in a tactical draw. However, the repulsion of  General Lee's invasion into the North forcing his return to Virginia, was a strategic win for the Union. It was the most significant victory of the war in terms of American foreign policy objectives.  Some argue that Antietam, not Gettysburg, was the turning point in the war. Why did McClellan fail to destroy Lee at Antietam? We invite our readers to watch this short 4-minute video explaining the battle. We can summarize Antietam by describing McClellan's strategy as a rolling attack on Confederate lines from north to south (see map at left). Fighting commenced in the morning at a cornfield at the north end of the battle, then passed further south to an area called the West Woods. From here the action moved to a sunken dirt road now known as the Bloody Lane. Further south it seemed as though the tide turned as Union forces crossed the large stone bridge, pouring troops around Lee's southern (right) flank. Last minute Confederate reinforcements, however, pushed back Union forces and thus brought the battle to an end.

Antietam proved that Lee wasn't invincible - and with Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, the war was increasingly tied to the moral fight against racial slavery. Despite their need for Southern cotton, neither Britain nor France - both of which condemned slavery - would be giving their support to the slave-holding South.

Although the war would drag on for another three deadly years, the blood spilled in war against racial slavery would providentially reflect slavery's grim death toll. For the six million African slaves that died in the Atlantic crossings, one-tenth of that number - 600,000 - is the estimated number of American dead during the Civil War. From Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address:
"...if God wills that [the Civil War] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

September 14: The Triumph of the Cross

"Though He was in the form of God, 

Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. 

Rather He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave being born in the likeness of men. 

He humbled himself obediently accepting even death, death on a cross. 

Because of this God highly exalted Him and bestowed on him the name above every other name. 

So that at Jesus' name every knee shall bend in the heavens and on the earth and under the earth and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!"    

                                                                                                                                 (Philippians) 



          



The Triumph of the Cross is the establishment of a new honor/shame code. The obedience of the Son -- filial piety -- conquered the disobedience of the Evil Angel and the first humans. Even more than the sacrificial love that Jesus shows for all of us in His death, it is His obedient love for His Father that is the driving dynamic of this event. Jesus obeys His Father and allows Himself to be publicly humiliated, with His mother close by as a participant in His suffering. Jesus had asked that this cup pass Him, but He submitted to the will of the Father. Obedience to a sacral order, not equality of station, is the road to Victory. This does not abolish honor codes but elevates a new King and incorporates the angels and martyrs in a new court of reputation. This does not do away with shaming and expulsion but dethrones the Prince of this world and scoffs at the glitter and glamour of sin.

The Triumph of the Cross and the Kingdom of God is established by entering into the sacramental order that flows from the side of the Pierced One. That sacramental order reconstitutes the human species as the Body of Christ. The sacramental order is built on a sacral brotherhood that Christ established to maintain His Presence and His sacrifice to the Father on earth throughout time. Through Christ's Church we are incorporated in the interpersonal love of the Trinity. As brothers in Christ we go forth to baptize the nations to effect the Kingdom of God and Triumph of the Cross. The fraternity of priests sustain the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic forms of local Church and earthly Kingdom. The laymen shape civic territorial circles of patriarchal fraternity and order - -some explicitly Christian; others patterned after other transcendental truths. Creating these concentric circles of ordered fraternity bring men into the formations that protect the Eucharistic acts of worship while preparing humanity for the final Coming and Triumph of the Lord.


 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

SEPTEMBER 11: Remember, Reconsider, Redirect

by David Pence




It has been 20 years since 3,000 Americans died in the attacks of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The New York firefighters and the passenger citizens who prevented the hijacker goals on Flight 93 remind us that a fighting citizenry and local police and firemen are always the primary defense in this asymmetric form of war. The natural response to an attack is for a people to assemble in natural protective relations to safeguard the group. This religious war will be fought by a religious people organized as a nation of protectors in every city and state. A return to God as a people and a renewal of our American national identity are essential elements in our defense. Reversing the asexual modern socialization patterns of young males is just as necessary. Our civc/political failure to link male maturation and patriotic protective duty has spawned, some effeminate and others thuggish, hyper-individualized and ungrateful young males. The 9/11 attacks did bring an outpouring of gratitude and honor toward the soldier, policeman, and fireman -- the traditional male citizen protectors. Our young males need such clarity. Male maturation has nothing to do with color; it is about entering an adult male group united by religious and protective duty. Adolescents think they know it all but real men submit to spiritual authority. Boys are protected by women; grown up men protect women. To effectively protect, we must bond together as a fraternity of fathers. Reversing the cultural lessons of the sexual revolution by reasserting the spiritual meaning of manhood and national brotherhood is another essential response to 9/11.

From the beginning the US governmental response to the attack has misunderstood the religious animus that still motivates our enemies. This has led to strategic incoherence in picking our allies and isolating our enemies. The shock of 9/11 has misguided our tactics as well leading to a skewed emphasis on protecting airplane flights before securing our water supply and electrical grid. We have argued that we must understand the role of religion and nations in framing this conflict. We think there is much to be learned from both Barack Obama and his senior foreign policy advisor (scroll down for interview with Ben Rhodes within this link). They came to understand the failure of our own foreign policy establishment and the mistake in demonizing Shiite Iran when we are fighting a branch of Sunni Islam fostered by Saudi Arabia. This understanding has been deliberately obfuscated by Israeli and Saudi forces who wish to turn the war on terror into a war against Iran. A significant reinforcement  of their narrative is the US Marine memory of Oct 23, 1983. For many soldiers  the Iran/Syrian/ Hezbollah inspired bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut was the "real beginning of global Islamic terrorism." The event was part of the 1982 Lebanon, PLO, Israeli war in which US troops were inserted with no definitive military goals for the forces themselves. There is a great lesson to learn from our soldiers' deaths in Beirut. That lesson is not that Iran is the chief exporter of terrorism in the world.    

The war in Afghanistan is a different theatre than the struggle in the Mideast. But like the fight against ISIS in the Mideast, we will need Iran and Russia as well as India and China in helping bring negotiated peace in Afghanistan. (Scroll to Islam and Mideast in this link for good review of Afghanistan conflict).

The war of the Saudis against the Houthi of Yemen has weakened our fight against AQAP in Yemen. This is directly analogous to our long involvement in aiding jihadist Sunnis against the Assad government in Syria. Our country is an ally in the religious persecution of Shiites which animates so much of Muhammed bin Salman's new more aggressive Saudi foreign policy. This aggression is part of the young Crown Prince's effort to win favor with the Wahhabi clergy in pressing his claims for succession to the throne against his more competent elder kinsmen. The Crown Prince is also the force behind the anti-Qatar campaign (scroll to new Crown Prince). The strategic goals of the US have been obfuscated by confusing them with the goals of our traditional allies. Pakistan in South Asia, as well as Saudi Arabia and Israel in the Mideast have different goals and different enemies than the U.S.

President Trump has advocated an 'America first' foreign policy. Now we need citizens, journalists, scholars -- but most of all the US Senate -- to debate fully what that means. We owe clarity of strategy to our dead, our military, and the young men we are socializing to continue the protection.   This must include trying to resolve the almost 40-year-old Iran/Israeli war which is being confused with the global war against salafist jihadists. (See this excellent summary of Israel's geopolitical stance in which ISIS as a buffer is preferred to a stabilization of Shia-led governments in Iran, Iraq or Syria.)

We now (2018) hear officials and some newsmen say that 9/11 was caused by "radical Islamic terrorism." That is true and that is an advance but that is not enough. That brand of radical Islam which attacked us had a launching pad in Afghanistan but they had a home base as well. The Islamic radical movement which struck us comes from a particular school of Islamic law. They have a territorial address. But after 7 years under President Bush, 8 years under President Obama, and 4 years under President Trump, we have not given them a proper call back yet. Let us remember, let us reconsider, let us redirect.

{Our extended 18,000 word essay published on Sept 11, 2018 places our arguments about 9/11 in the historical context of the 20th century. It is a long illustrated piece-our culminating synthesis.}

2021 Update: In the late hours of 9/11's 20th anniversary, the FBI released a heavily redacted report revealing more links between the 9/11 hijackers and Saudi Arabia. It is the first of several documents - all hidden by Robert Mueller - expected in the months ahead. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Religion, Nations, and Geopolitical Review: SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3

by A. Joseph Lynch

R&G NEWS ROUND UP

BIDEN DECLARES WAR? Biden's Thursday speech might have been more than a shot across the bow at Donald Trump and the MAGA - America First - movement. His speech was given in front of a blood red back drop (which CNN color-shifted) and flanked by two Marines. He declared Trump and his tens of millions of voters a danger to the republic with undertones reminiscent of a pre-war speech. We fear many dark days are on the horizon as the establishment wings of both parties attempt to snuff out the nationalist-populists of America. 

DEATH OF GORBACHEV: Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who brought about the end of the Soviet Union, freed the captive nations of eastern Europe, and made peace with the US and its allies, has died. With Russia at war with Ukraine and in a proxy war with America and its allies, the timing was not the best. While we at AoA fondly look back at his legacy of peacemaking, many in Russia associate him with the dark days of the 1990s. We understand the complex place Gorbachev holds in modern Russian history, yet we were saddened to hear Putin would not be attending his funeral

DISASTER IN EUROPE - A ROUND UP: As fall and winter approach, things are headed in a dismal direction in Europe. The UK is not only looking at upwards of 20% inflation by next year, but also homes that can't cook after 8 pm, pubs closing at 9, and three-day school weeks among others. While we hear that British PMs can write off increased energy bills, the Hague - Europe's bureaucratic center - wants to be exempt from Russian sanctions. It's no wonder why by June only 38% of Brits support sanctions on Russia even if it means higher inflation at home.  Meanwhile Russia has indefinitely shut down Nord Stream 1 - meaning that Germany has no chance of securing enough natural gas for winter - while also slashing natural gas to France. And just as Germany stares over the abyss, the German foreign secretary announced that she would put Ukraine first before Germany no matter what the German voters thought. Business owners across Europe are now posting to social media images of their skyrocketing energy bills. In Poland, homeowners are lining up for days to get their hands on coal. And it's not just energy - Poland is now looking at a food crisis as the cost of fertilizers skyrockets. German companies are even now closing down due to high energy costs.  On the military front, "Western" ammo stockpiles are running dangerously low while Russia's vast industrial base churns out enough shells to fire off 50-70,000 artillery rounds each and every day. Even Germany's defense chief warns his allies not to underestimate Russia's military strength. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated the next 5-10 winters would be difficult in Europe while French president, Emmanuel Macron, summed it all up best: "What we are currently living through is a kind of major tipping point or a great upheaval … we are living the end of what could have seemed an era of abundance (emphasis mine)." End of abundance indeed.