December 31, 2012
“It is not the young man who should be considered fortunate but the old man who has lived well, because the young man in his prime wanders much by chance, vacillating to his beliefs, while the old man has docked in the harbor, having safeguarded his true happiness” - Epicurus
Fearing old age prevents many of us from enjoying what this time in our life has to offer
I was recently turned on to a new book by fellow blogger and cyber-friend Ronni Bennett over at her Time Goes By blog. It’s a book by Daniel Klein entitled “Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life” Klein is a Harvard college graduate who majored in philosophy but whose career includes scripts for TV comedy and eventually focused on writing both fiction and non-fiction books. His most popular was Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar – Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes which covers the classic categories of philosophy, with concepts explained or illustrated through humor.
author Daniel Klein
In “Travels with Epicurus” Klein looks at old age as a stage in our life that should be appreciated for what it’s worth rather than something to dread. It is after all an inevitable period in our lives we are all destined to face. There is much for each reader to take away from Klein’s observations as he spends time among the inhabitants of the Greek island of Hydra to study the culture’s apparent capacity to accept old age for its benefits, not its perceived curses. Rather than view old age in and of itself as the threshold to death, the elders on this tiny Aegean landscape seem to value this time in their life that offers much more than we can attain wearing blinders during our ambitious and energetic youth.
For me, there were two themes that emerged - waiting and acceptance. Behaviors that are not only foreign to today’s youth in most cultures, but to many of those people as well who are broaching old age or who have already crossed over to the late autumn of their lives.
Old age is not something I fear but I do get anxious at the thought of living long past any state where my quality of life has pretty much vanished. There is always that dread of living too long where we become nothing more than a fixture to be endured by our family, friends or even those strangers in our lives that become our caretakers. It becomes a condition where our life has no real value if our mental and physical faculties depend largely on drugs, mechanisms and the 24-7 care of others.
It is this type of aging I dread the most, something Klein refers to as old, old age. Kept alive by a generally held sense that “only God can take a life” we are thus deprived to die with dignity and by our own choice. He notes that Aristotle once opined that “there is absolutely nothing to look forward to in old, old age”. But the right to die is a topic I have addressed already, here, here and here. This post will deal with the needless fear of growing old in a culture that wants to be “forever young” and in doing so ignores the wisdom and quality of life that allows us to treasure the last years of our life.
The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. – Bertrand Russell
One of the appealing aspects I discovered in Klein’s study of the people on the Greek island of Hydra is how they are never in a hurry. In so doing they are able to see things that people in a rush often miss. A leisurely stroll around the neighborhood as opposed to jogging. Watching the play of squirrels in your backyard instead of watching squirrelly people on TV. The joy of an extended conversation with friends or just a reflective moment alone. In our contemporary society we have been geared from birth to hurry, supposedly out of some economic urgency. “Time is money” is an expression that discourages patience and if we are waiting for anything we are losing an opportunity to achieve greater material wealth. Or so our notions of life in the fast lane would have us believe.
But there is much to gain in waiting and it is only when we age that the true value of a slower life can be appreciated. Not the type of waiting a curmudgeon friend of Klein’s anticipates that waits for the diagnosis; that “day or doctor’s visit [that’s] going to deliver the news that our first major geriatric, and possibly fatal, disease has shown up.” But rather a waiting that allows all that life has to offer to imbue us and capture the awe that was once ours as a small child. I still think fondly of those times I had lying face up in my back yard on a starlit night and watching not only the unfathomable cosmos beyond our planet, but the interplay of life between musical crickets and light shows from fireflies.
When we rush we engage in unhealthy practices that obstruct a view of life that has much to offer in the nuances and minor details that surround us and that can enrich our hearts and minds. In this high-tech age we have grown too accustomed to artificial sensations that occur on our cell phones, I-pads, TVs and the big movie screen. All which tantalize our visual and auditory senses. But it is a sight and hearing that are artificially manufactured; synthesized via mechanical means not part of the natural world. A simulation if you will rather than an actualization. Missing are the full range of human senses that include touch, smell and the experience that only comes when real contact with the world occurs.
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
- William Blake, from “Auguries of Innocence”
In waiting there is a sense of peace. One that allows us to feel in control rather than pressured to complete a task only to anticipate and begin a new one. This ideal is addressed in what Klein refers to as the “forever young” mode that many people of late middle age and early stages of old age find themselves drawn to. A kind of denial that scorns old age and places excessive value on youth. A disconnect with reality because in the final analysis, youth will escape us all. And if we are unprepared or unwilling to confront this reality then our remaining years are fraught with unnecessary worry, ruining the chances for any contentment that awaits those who will take advantage of what old age offers all of us.
In our culture that values accepting nothing less than the very best but too often takes short cuts to gain a quick fix, we often carry this over to a part of our humanity that ignores the reality that not everyone can be the most beautiful, the smartest and the richest. Surface images tend to hold greater value in such cases than what lies below them. There are millions of people who will never grace the front covers of magazines that extol success, beauty and genius. And though many of us often strive to achieve such status, there are many more who live comfortably and happy with what they have been handed.
In accepting a life that is rich with things that money, beauty and privilege overlooks, we are allowed to focus on things we really have no control over. To marvel at such things and consider their value without fear of reprisal or of failing is a great burden lifted from our shoulders. This is not to say that things that matter should not be fought for and worked towards.
There is a crucial need to make sure that rich and powerful people do not rob us of our dignity and our future with policies that only they benefit from and create undue suffering as a result. We should never be accepting of the human “collateral damage” that comes from regional and global conflicts or the ongoing destruction of our ecosystem through man-made usages of fossil fuels.
Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little – Epicurus
Neither should we have to buy into the crass commercialism that we’re sold by a consumer mentality about how our lives will be enhanced in a variety of ways by making purchases of manufactured goods or for-profit self-improvement services. None of this should consume us so as to obscure that part of our life we can find some measure of joy and fulfillment from. In his book, Klein reminds us that high on Epicurus’ list “of the ways we thwart happiness is by binding ourselves to the constraints of the ‘commercial world’”.
Accepting simplicity is not a practice to be ashamed of. Relieving ourselves of a drive that can never be fully satisfied is a reward we earn over time, when after having lived so long we now know better what to accept and what to reject. Accepting the necessity to slow down in all things can actually enrich our lives and brings us closer to that eternal quest that seeks the meaning of life. A meaning that sees life as a gift and not as a means to some other end. Something that relishes what it has in the here and now and eschews the fears of an uncertain tomorrow or regrets of a past that cannot be altered.
Klein depicts this notion of acceptance as he spends time with one of the old men of Hydra he has developed a friendship with, Tasso, as they celebrate an Easter dinner with Tasso’s family. Spending time in late spring, under a lemon tree with these “lively, loving people” drinking ouzo, a Greek spirit, and snacking on mezes, a cultural hor d’oeuvre, the author is reminded of William Blake’s warning “not to attempt to cling to a sublime experience, but to allow it to come and go with grace.”
He who binds himself to a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise
It appears true then as Epicurus has noted that good fortune lies not with what youth can achieve but what time will give us if we are but patient and accepting of its gifts.
December 22, 2012
Do more guns with more people ensure a safer society or does such a notion simply ensure a steady profit flow for the gun industry?
Wayne Lapierre, the long time Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Rifle Association finally responded to the latest gun violence at the Sandy Hook elementary school last week by essentially blaming everyone else and the anti-gun views they allegedly hold. Though he did take aim at an element of the violent gun culture in this country, berating the movie makers and video game creators who sensationalize gory guns scenes, his only “solution” was to support a program to train and certify volunteers to protect schools that he felt would be able to stop people like Adam Lanza from any spree killings. (click on the RELATED ARTICLE link at the bottom of this post to discover the hypocrisy of LaPierre’s berating of violent gun video games)
This promotes what many gun advocates are certain will stop any further serious threats from mass killings by essentially eliminating gun free zones where more “qualified” people can pack heat. This is like saying that if we had fire fighters positioned around every forest or dry wilderness that we could prevent arsonists from doing any serious damage to our natural treasures.
If it wasn’t clear before that it is the gun industry’s interests that Lapierre’s NRA has covered rather than the public’s safety, this announcement should alter that for many. The notion that we should in effect return to the days of Judge Roy Bean totally disregards the biggest single factor that allows the mass shootings that have occurred some 62 times in this country over the last three decades – easy access to assault-style weapons and high-capacity or extended ammunition clips. Eliminating this component alone will likely save many more lives than any security guard responsible for a heavily populated building.
But such a sensible approach isn’t in the interests of 114 gun manufacturers in this country. Their bottom line may suffer and how then will they be able to supply larger donations to gun advocacy groups like the NRA and their political supporters in Congress and state legislatures?
On the surface, even people who don’t own a gun are inclined to believe that, as Lapierre likes to tell it, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But without addressing the fundamental flaws in this type of thinking we can only hope that some of Lapierre’s “good guys” won’t have a mental breakdown and become one of those bad guys. After all, some of the bad guys were at one time good guys who were buying their weapons for all the reasons the Lapierre’s in this world like to tout.
It is highly possible that tighter security at schools, malls and theaters will discourage some shooters or at least minimize the body count, IF, they see the shooter before the shooter drops them first. Or if they can get to the shooter before he has had time to empty a magazine with 30 rounds in it and reload. But there is sufficient evidence to suggest that arming more people to prevent such actions will likely result in more injuries and deaths than they are intended to stop. People who are mentally imbalanced are not incapable of calculating their risks in such circumstances and likely will simply adjust their tactics to address this risk.
Here is a video of such a scenario that ABC news put together in conjunction with experts at the Bethlehem, Pa. police dept. after a shooting occurred at a northern Illinois school in 2009, killing five students and wounding twenty others.
Though this scenario doesn’t favor a shooter in some settings like a Mall, it does demonstrate that people under such duress are not going to be the cool, calm collective Dirty Harry-types that gun zealots like Lapierre imagine.
Gun advocate claims that gun free zones invite shooters also seem to make a legitimate point when they point out these are the places where such spree killings occur. But there is no empirical evidence that this prevents mentally disturbed people from acting out their horrible fantasies. James Holmes in the Aurora, Colorado shootings anticipated such responses and wore a ballistics helmet, bulletproof vest and bulletproof leggings. Was Jared Loughner fully capable of realizing that his victims were in a “gun free” zone at the Tucson shopping area where Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords was greeting constituents or was it simply that this was the place where large numbers of people were going to be? It was no coincidence that Gabbi Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, was one of Lapierre’s critics following his weak response to the Sandy Hook shootings.
“The NRA could have chosen to be a voice for the vast majority of its own members who want common-sense, reasonable safeguards on deadly firearms, but instead it chose to defend extreme pro-gun positions that aren’t even popular among the law-abiding gun owners it represents.” SOURCE
The notion too that arming more people makes us safer and freer has been aptly disputed by Firmin DeBrabander, an associate professor of philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art
As N.R.A. president Wayne LaPierre expressed in a recent statement on the organization’s Web site, more guns equal more safety, by their account. A favorite gun rights saying is “an armed society is a polite society.” If we allow ever more people to be armed, at any time, in any place, this will provide a powerful deterrent to potential criminals. Or if more citizens were armed — like principals and teachers in the classroom, for example — they could halt senseless shootings ahead of time, or at least early on, and save society a lot of heartache and bloodshed.
As ever more people are armed in public, however — even brandishing weapons on the street — this is no longer recognizable as a civil society. Freedom is vanished at that point.
An armed society is polite, by [the NRA’s] thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.
As our Constitution provides, however, liberty entails precisely the freedom to be reckless, within limits, also the freedom to insult and offend as the case may be. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld our right to experiment in offensive language and ideas, and in some cases, offensive action and speech. Such experimentation is inherent to our freedom as such. But guns by their nature do not mix with this experiment — they don’t mix with taking offense. They are combustible ingredients in assembly and speech. SOURCE
Wayne Lapierre’s ode to simple-minded fixes to stop wanton mass shootings appeals to gut level feelings most of us may hold but in effect does nothing to resolve symptoms of such tragedies in this country. The fear that sensible gun control measures like re-instating the ban on assault weapons will take away any 2nd amendment rights is unfounded. There has been no action whatsoever to limit gun ownership in this country under the Obama administration but the fear that it will has generated the greatest number of sells prior to and following both elections where Obama won.
It’s time to quit listening to the louder but fewer voices that contribute nothing to the public safety. Removing the more deadly weapons from the public arsenal along with equally serious measures to provide mental health services for those in need, better background checks (eliminate the gun show loophole) and addressing the gun culture’s impact on our kids is a comprehensive approach to ensuring that no one else will have to worry about sending their kids to school or if a trip to the Mall or a movie show will end in terror.
The Gun-Game Complex
December 19, 2012
What leads one to purchase a small arsenal of assault style firearms unless you are part of a militia in a war-torn country or a member of a drug cartel? What drives some of those in the U.S. to purchase an excess of guns to feel secure in their homes?
As more information evolves from the tragic killings of twenty 1st-graders and 6 adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a profile has emerged of the mother of Adam Lanza, who herself was killed by her son prior to the school massacre. Nancy Lanza was killed with an assault rifle she purchased along with two other semi-automatic handguns, a shotgun and a hunting rifle.
Away from her house, friends characterized the 52-year old sandy-haired mom of Adam Lanza as a generous soul, who was willing to share the substantial income she received in an amiable divorce from her husband, Peter, in 2008. She was well-liked by her neighbors and many of the friends she played bunco with, a favorite parlor game of this small, affluent New England community.
But hidden beneath the surface was a woman who not only dealt with the looming threat from ever-increasing behavior problems of her young adult son who had Asperger’s syndrome, but one who had come to assimilate the fear that an economic collapse in this country was just around the corner. This latter state of mind drove her to start making preparations for such an event and in so doing, led her to purchase an assortment of weapons she perhaps felt were necessary to fend off those who hadn’t prepared and would thus come after those who did.
Nancy Lanza, whose gun collection was raided by her son Adam for Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook school, was part of the “prepper” movement, which urges readiness for social chaos by hoarding supplies and training with weapons.
“She prepared for the worst,” her sister-in-law Marsha Lanza told reporters. “Last time we visited her in person, we talked about prepping – are you ready for what could happen down the line, when the economy collapses?” SOURCE
As this revelation manifested itself, I couldn’t help but think how this “survivalist” seed that was planted in her mind was the origins of a crime that would shock a nation that was already becoming numb from the growing number of mass killings in this country. Who would have thought that the fear that gripped people like those at Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidians in Waco would be a causal factor that has now changed the way we look at gun ownership.
What was always a part of the end-timer fears found amongst small contingents of anti-government and zealous religious groups – usually blue-collar types with no more than a high school education at best – became a way of life for Nancy Lanza who was more a part of upper middle-income lifestyles that included a college education and an income derived from Wall Street activities.
There is a veritable smorgasbord of personalities and cults who preach that end-time conditions are upon us. There has been for as long as I have been alive. But it seems that such groups have become more pronounced over the last few years, ever since that “socialist” Obama was elected, implementing policies that some people have concluded will lead to economic ruin.
Though many of the people who take this tact genuinely feel that prophecies regarding an Armageddon are in place, there are those who raise this level of paranoia to take advantage of people’s fear simply to turn a buck for their own self-gain. People like self-proclaimed survivalist movement “pioneer” Miles Stair.
Stair has written a series of booklets and newsletters on such a movement and created a website, the End-Times Report where he warns adherents that “Time is fast running out to get preparations done for hard times.” One of the booklets he hawks on this website is entitled Survival Reloading that tells readers to “Keep your rifles and handguns shooting with properly reloaded ammunition using portable reloading equipment.” It comes as no surprise either that Mr. Stair also has another business he calls the Wick Shoppe that just happens to sell “the world’s largest selection of … quality kerosene items since 1999.”
I have no idea where Nancy Lanzer’s source of information came from about preparing for economic hard times that likely suggested arming herself. Nor do I want to dwell on this subject matter that has led many to spend what resources they have preparing for a dark day that exists more in the minds of people who are too easily convinced of such fears than planning for a future of promise and growth.
But I do raise this aspect that is now related to the tragedy in Newtown to demonstrate that guns in this country, once viewed as a source gathering food and a defense against unknown threats in frontier regions, has evolved into a culture that now makes this country the primary marketer of firearms around the world.
In 2011, US corporations sold 75% of all the arms sold in the international weapons market, some $66 billion of the $85 billion trade. Russia was the runner-up with only $4 billion in sales.
The US share of the arms trade to the Middle East has burgeoned so much in the past decade that it now dwarfs the other suppliers, as this chart [pdf] from a Congressional study makes clear. SOURCE
It is this culture of guns and their destructive capabilities we have developed along with other factors that create a fertile medium where the seeds of mass killings are planted in the minds of vulnerable people like Nancy’s son Adam. Most people who own guns to feel secure in their homes likely pose no threat to their community.
Not counting the innocent deaths of children who get ahold of their parents’ poorly secured guns and accidentally discharge them, guns are relatively safe until they get into the hands of that small percentage of people who are not legally qualified to own firearms and fall through the cracks. Background checks are required only with licensed dealers. Roughly 40% of the guns sold in this country are sold through gun shows and individuals who are not required to perform essential background checks. In the harried minds of such sick people who may also have been overwhelmed by socio-political tensions common today, guns will kill more people much easier than any other weapon at their disposal.
It is in this understanding that the efforts to regulate guns in American society needs to be addressed. Personally I would have no problem with it if guns were no longer a part of our lives. I did my share of game hunting as a youth and qualified with the M-14 rifle while serving in the Marines. I know their deadly capabilities when operated by thoughtful owners. I shutter at the death and destruction they exact in the hands of desperate criminals and mentally imbalanced individuals.
The insane notion aroused in many by the gun industry’s handmaiden, the National Rifle Association (NRA) that any all firearms are legitimate wares to offer the general public, has proven to be a nothing more than a deception to increase the profits of some 114 manufacturers in this country. Though on the surface they argue the more benign view that Americans have a right to feel secure in their homes, there is that underbelly of fear promoted by the other for-profit groups that create an unwarranted urgency to stock pile weapons in the events of economic collapse brought on by political upheavals or long-held prophecies of spiritual Armageddon. Alleged threats that often peter out shortly after they’re declared but which constantly keep some people on edge.
It is this frame of mind that Nancy Lanza apparently found herself a part of several years ago. A belief that required the purchase of deadly weapons and found a home in a place where a child with serious mental disorders would eventually get his hands on them and end the lives of 26 innocent people, most of them still years away from experiencing the joys of adolescent love and building a life around their dreams.
…the evidence is clear: we have the current gun laws — ineffective as they are — because we have neglected a right even more important to Americans than the right to bear arms: the right to be safely unarmed. SOURCE
The belief that the 2nd amendment was meant for anything other than forming a “well-armed militia” to feel secure in our communities or personal ownership of a simple firearm to feel secure in our homes is a false belief fostered by people who see potential earnings in the fear-gripped minds of otherwise normal, decent human beings. That their passions for profits would lead to a siege mentality in this country and put deadly weapons in the hands of people who cannot function rationally in everyday society is something that needs to be exposed.
The public debate on this issue should not be focused on taking guns away from the majority who own them, but to ensure that those who do are the least likely people to walk into a crowded mall, theater, school or public square and fire off multiple rounds in seconds, ripping flesh and bone from people who simply had the misfortune of being in what most would consider a safe environment. This is the conversation we need to start having now so those who complain that the blood isn’t yet dried from this recent tragedy won’t be making similar absurd remarks the next time it occurs.
We can Fix the Gun Problem
December 15, 2012
Will we continue our cowardly ways of dealing with this social disease or will this become the pivotal point where we stand up to the merchants of death in this country?
Another senseless mass killing from gun violence occurs in Newtown, Connecticut
What is the message we take away from the Newtown Conn. school mass killing? When crazies do things like this, what could conceivably motivate them to take another human life and then, in a lot of cases, their own. Anger and rage are likely a part of it aimed at someone or some idea represented by those they kill. But if this is part of this insanity, how would that apply to killing children so young as 5 years old whose lives have yet to develop any ideological bent that would offend the meanest advocate of some world view?
We’ll never know. And after the shock and horror of it all subsides we will once again fail as a society to take concrete action to address the source of all this pain – easy access to weapons of destruction and their increased firepower. The zealots of 2nd amendment rights will evoke the bogus fears about how their right to own guns is being threatened and demand even greater access to such weapons. Some with the belief that this will really help deter those who would engage in such horrible actions. This falsely presumes of course that we’re dealing with rational people.
There is only one sure answer to reduce the gun violence in this country and that’s to find the courage in enough people to finally stand up to the Wayne Lapierre’s of this country and shout down the fear-mongering that declares any restraint of gun sales is somehow a slippery slope to despotism. The ardent defenders who see the 2nd amendment more than just the necessity of establishing a “well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state” have convinced too many Americans that private ownership of small arsenals of deadly weapons are truly what the founding fathers envisioned for future generations.
Human fear buys into to such nonsense too easy and it is this fear that the makers and devotees of guns promote to make sure we don’t think outside that box they have created. We see the violence on TV and it overwhelms us. Our fear allows these scenarios to explode in our mind thinking that we’re next and that only by equalizing our chances by possessing a gun or guns will allow us to sleep safer at night. It’s a myth we allow ourselves to take seriously because we are reticent to admit that we are too afraid and uncertain.
The Second Amendment does NOT guarantee the right of any and all citizens to own any and all kinds of guns. It DEMANDS, in the name of national security, that we regulate it.
NEVER let assertions of the so-called “sanctity” of the 2d Amendment bully you into thinking it guarantees unregulated weapon ownership. It does NOT. SOURCE
It is this fear that ties us up and prevents us from taking charge of the gun manufacturing and sale of weapons in this country designed solely to kill; just like other nations have. Because of the laws they have in Britain, only 39 people were killed with guns. That same year there were over 9100 people killed with guns in this country. The silly argument that people kill people, not guns, is lost on that victim and their surviving family members who was the 20th person killed by someone who had the means to kill 20 people before having to reload.
We can make fortresses out of the schools and treat children entering each day as potential threats in order to save them but will that really stop another mass killing that we just witnessed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School? I do not think so. If there is one message the shooter in this tragedy was telling us, it was that there is no safe place from people like him. As long as we make it so easy for such people to purchase weapons of mass destruction, NO ONE is safe. And all the fear mongering and twisted logic to continue a way of life that allows this country to buy weapons in the fashion we have become accustomed to will only prevent us from doing what needs to be done.
“God will not have his work made manifest by cowards” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
December 10, 2012
You would think that the Catholic Church would take a lesson from the recent failed GOP game plan and not publicly disparage women or presume that roles for women haven’t moved beyond older, male-centered views that refuse to see women as social equals.
After a 92-year old priest recently allowed a woman to participate by his side in a church liturgy, the Catholic church, that shielded pedophiles for years, acted quickly to strip Father Bill Brennan of his priestly functions because he dared challenge the church dictum that says women cannot participate in any role designated for men only. A ruling that has no basis for continuing in todays modern church.
According to Catholic Ecclesiastical Law, Canon 1024, women are unsuited for the priesthood. They may be suited for many functions within the church but Canon 606 points out that this equality stops at such things as the priesthood because such restrictions are supposedly “evident from the context of the wording or the nature of the matter.” The nature of the matter appears to be the dated view of old men, unlike Father Brennan, who presumed that if women were intended to be priests then Jesus would have selected one or more to be part of his core group of apostles. This follows the degenerative thinking of the hayseeds that believed if man was meant to fly God would have given him wings.
Seriously, a judgment call made by the dominant patriarchal culture of the patristic era of the early church viewing choices made within an even stronger patriarchal society in ancient times are going to hold this as an absolute for males only in the priesthood today? The point of all of this is that times change and so should certain traditions that have no intrinsic value in and of themselves. If institutional Christianity were to develop from some occult out of the mainstream today, as it did over 2000 years ago, women would clearly be on equal footing with men in their clergy selections because that’s how we roll today. (despite the fact that a few neanderthals like Limbaugh and Santorum still remain)
But the institutional church was formed when men were the only gender that counted back then and like all things that survive more than a generation or two, people become set in their ways and their existence becomes formalized in rules, codes and laws that evolve over time. The ecclesiastical laws, the antitheses of Occam’s Razor, are an example of decades and centuries of layer after layer of minutia within traditional organizations that tend to obscure the group’s original purpose and thus its attraction to large numbers of people. The duration of such minutia also tends to give credence to the notion that change is unacceptable and what was originally nothing more than a selective thought of handful of early leaders now becomes so ingrained in its institutional setting that merely willing a change in policy is considered heretical.
Father Brennan’s punishment for trying to bring the church back to its roots and enable it to survive in the 21st century was based on the same premise they claim to judge the offenses of a pedophile.
Pope John Paul II issued a letter in 1994 saying that the church “has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,” and in 2010 the church included the “attempted ordination of women” among the list of grave crimes against its law, under the same category as the sexual abuse of minors. Grave crimes are punishable by defrocking or excommunication. SOURCE
So “the church” that established the rule in the first place now declares that it “has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”. Isn’t there some pathological disorder with people who commit harmful behaviors to themselves and others but declare they are unable to control such senseless acts?
Jesus didn’t deliberately exclude women from his close followers. He had several. The church fathers that began to formalize christian teaching however, following Constantine’s acceptance of the once outlawed faith, saw fit to delete certain traditions and views that didn’t adhere to an orthodox agenda.
In her book, The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels illustrates that as persecuted Christians eased into the mainstream, they themselves began to condemn certain practices. The views of more conservative christians began to outnumber less orthodox views and ultimately ostracized the gnostic christians who essentially held that God was both father and mother and “believed that salvation lay not in merely worshipping Christ, but in psychic or pneumatic souls learning to free themselves from the material world via the revelation. According to this tradition, the answers to spiritual questions are to be found within, not without.”
This threatened the church fathers and their hierarchical design which followed the cultural norm of the day that put men at the top of the social pyramid. The women who played a prominent role during the life of Jesus were down-sized to minor roles. Culture and time took care of the rest that allowed the male leadership to justify excluding women. Clearly their control of the message over all this time has allowed this hoax to manifest itself. By wrapping their machinations around church dogma and doctrine any challenge to alter them are confronted with the alleged authority of God himself. What God has wrought let no man … try to make sense of.
If the Church really wanted to validate their claim to male superiority they would have killed off the virgin birth myth long before it became part of new testament canon. Apparently though the humanity of Jesus as the son of God required a human birth which of course requires the presence of a womb.
It seems clear that the new testament allows Jesus to give limited recognition to women but non-canonical sources gave greater latitude to their role and one of the gnostic gospels Pagel’s refers to in her book was the Gospel of Mary. In it, it shows even the apostle Peter looked toward her for words of encouragement shortly after the resurrection of the crucified Jesus.
a dying breed of leaders?
So listen up you silly old men who strut around in your dated robes. It’s the 21st century and the male-dominated precepts that disparaged the female gender all these years are a rotting carcass whose stench needs to be removed by burying it along with laws that force women to carry unwanted pregnancies and forbid them humane forms of contraception.
Human and social experiences evolve over time and try as you may to prevent this change you only diminish your own authority in attempting to do so. Time does indeed give value to things that endure but it also erodes those things that are false and cheaply made. There is no mandate from God that insists women should be excluded from the priesthood just as there is no super-natural authority that insists abortions are likened to murder.
We make the rules. We can change them. We read into ancient texts those things that fit our time/space continuum. Institutionalizing that which is destined to change is simply an admission that we fear the unknown and our own consternation that we can face it with any degree of courage.