Friday, October 28, 2005

The facade of idealism cannot forever obscure the abyss of immorality

From "Spare us the in-your-sleep moralizing" by Victor Davis Hanson (via RealClearPolitics)

To paraphrase the ancient Greeks, it is easy to be moral in your sleep. Abstract ethics or soapbox lectures demanding superhuman perfection mean little without deeds.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other global humanitarian groups recently expressed criticism over the slated trial of the mass murderer Saddam Hussein. Such self-appointed auditors of moral excellence were worried that his legal representation was inadequate. Or perhaps they felt the court of the new Iraqi democracy was not quite up to the standards of wigged European judges in The Hague.

Relay those concerns to the nearly 1 million silent souls butchered by Saddam's dictatorship. Once they waited in vain for any such international human-rights organization to stop the murdering. None could or did.

Now these global watchdogs are barking about legalities — once Saddam is in shackles thanks solely to the American military (which, too, is often criticized by the same utopian-minded groups). The new Iraqi government is sanctioned by vote and attuned to global public opinion. Saddam Hussein was neither. So Amnesty International can safely chastise the former for supposed misdemeanors after it did little concrete about the real felonies of the latter.

We've seen many examples of this in-your-sleep moralizing. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan pronounced from on high that the American effort to remove Saddam was "illegal" — this after moral paragons in the Security Council like China and France chose not to sanction the enforcement of their own resolutions.

Annan presided over a callous, scandalous oil-for-food program that starved millions with the connivance of international financial players, among them his own son. Again, it is easier to grandstand on television than curb illicit profits or be firm with a killer in the real world.

Europeans especially demand heaven on earth. The European Union is now pressuring the United States to turn over its exclusive control of the Internet, which it invented and developed, to the United Nations. So far the Americans, so unlike a Saudi Arabia or China, have not blocked users from Net access, and freely adjudicate the World Wide Web according to transparent protocols.

That would never be true of the United Nations. If Iran or Zimbabwe were to end up on the Human Rights Commission, then they would be equally qualified to oversee the computers of millions of Americans. The same European elites who nitpick the United States about its sober stewardship of the Internet would be absolutely impotent once a China or Syria began tampering with millions logging on.


What do all these recent examples have in common? In the world of utopianism, we see that refined reason, not force, reigns. That may be admirable, but, unfortunately, abstract moralizing has little to do with a real world in which brutes abound.

So instead, to maintain the idealistic facade, sleepwalking moralizers chastise those who listen and are civilized — but see nothing, hear nothing and speak nothing about those in the moral abyss....


So Americans increasingly tune out the U.N., Amnesty International and other once-respected bodies like the Nobel Prize Committee. That's unfortunate, given the noble charters of these groups. But for all these agencies' moralizing, they increasingly prove quite immoral themselves.

Read the full text here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fill our Hearts with Sweet Forgiving

Forgiveness is the culmination of all foregoing, forbearing, and forgetting, It does not mean giving up one's protection, but one's coldness. One deep form of forgiveness is to cease excluding the other... --Clarissa Estes

Forgiveness, like many sacred principles, has gotten a bad rap in today’s world. As a member of the counseling profession, I have often spoken out to colleagues on the necessity of forgiveness in a therapeutic situation, and been met with great scorn. Even amongst LDS therapists, this marvelous principle of healing is often given less than its due. A dear sister who was my visiting teacher related some problems that she had in her past, with family discord, and some genuinely hurtful but not extreme offenses that were committed against her. This sister, normally such a sweet and mild lady, suddenly took on a whole different spirit, as she related in a very angry and proud way, that she was told by another sister in the ward, who was a therapist, that she did not have to forgive such gross offenses, at least "not right away" (mind you, we are talking about something that was many years in the past). Now, I was shocked to see such a quick change in her spirit, and to see the anger and pain rise up so suddenly in my good friend’s countenance. I recognized that the therapist sister had leaned more upon the teachings of the worldly counselors, and not upon that of the Great Counsellor, the Prince of Peace.

I said to my friend, “Forgiveness is not about what happened between us and the ones who have hurt us, but is between us and the Lord. The question is, do we trust Him enough to allow Him to be the judge and sort it all out?” Her jaw dropped, and we both felt the Spirit of the Lord bear witness to the truth of what I had just said, and the anger and pride both suddenly melted away, and her face resumed its usual gentle sweetness. She said, “Wow, you are so wise.” I said, “No, I am not really so wise, but I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. Peace can only come through forgiveness.” By giving us the miracle of forgiveness, the Lord allows us to place these heavy burdens of pain, anger, confusion, and more at His feet, while we can “bear a song a way” in our own hearts.

Steve F. Gilliland, in a talk entitled “Forgiveness: Our Challenge and Our Blessing” (Ensign, Aug 2004) addressed this issue. He said, “In Doctrine and Covenants 64:9 the Savior said, ‘Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.’ The greater sin? How can that be? Sin is anything we permit into our lives that will destroy us spiritually. When we poison ourselves with vengeful feelings, with hate, we distance ourselves from the influence of the Spirit of the Lord. Not only that, but we attempt to assume one of God’s roles—that of determining who is worthy of forgiveness.”

Failing to forgive not only leaves us in a place where we are trapped with our pain and anger, in essence allowing the offender to hurt us again and again each time we remember it; it also begins to determine our choices, and hinders our agency. Lisa Ward, a Christian minister, spoke of this problem: “Without forgiveness, the past would ever determine the future. The baggage we all carry would remain intact and grow daily, until there would be no room for change or anything new. Without forgiveness, we would eventually cease to exist. We'd cease to learn, we'd cease to grow, and we'd cease to see outside our own wounds, our own rage, fears, walls and assumptions. Without forgiveness we would be defined by those who hurt us, giving them power over us: defined by what ‘they’ did to us. Without forgiveness we become professional victims, letting blame shape our identity and imprison us in reactive behavior. ‘I am this way because of that thing or those people. I can't change my behavior because I was too hurt.’ If we do not have forgiveness, we release responsibility for our lives and let someone else's actions, whether recent or in our childhood, determine how we make our choices. Without forgiveness we simply are not free ...none of us...because we all make mistakes and we have all been offended in some measure or another. If we lock ourselves into the hurt or into the blame, then we will inevitably experience a crisis of courage to go on.” (Lisa Ward “Name the Harm, Find the Heart: Forgiveness”)

President Gordon B. Hinckley, in a talk entitled “Of You It Is Required to Forgive” (Ensign, June 1991), said “The Lord has declared in words of revelation: ‘My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened. Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds’ (D&C 64:8-11). If there be any who nurture in their hearts the poisonous brew of enmity toward another, I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. This expression of desire will be of the very substance of your repentance. It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come. And even though he whom you have forgiven continues to pursue and threaten you, you will know you have done what you could to effect a reconciliation. There will come into your heart a peace otherwise unattainable. That peace will be the peace of Him who said: ‘For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ (Matt. 6:14–15.)”

President Hinckley continued, “His Beloved Son, our Redeemer, reaches out to us in forgiveness and mercy, but in so doing he commands repentance. A true and magnanimous spirit of forgiveness will become an expression of that required repentance. Said the Lord—and I quote from a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph: ‘Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit . … Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.’ (D&C 19:15–18, 23.)”

I can only speak for myself, but my sins in this life are quite considerable, and to know that if I do not forgive even the least of others’ trespasses against me; if I harbor an unforgiving spirit, that my old sins return to me, and I will stand not in the mercy of the Atonement, but in the place where my “sufferings be sore…” That thought sends me to my knees pretty quickly when I realize that I cannot be forgiven if I do not forgive.

Gerald E. Melchin, in a talk entitled “Thy Sins Are Forgiven” (Ensign, Jan. 1995), said this: ”The story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil in the home of Simon the Pharisee opens to us a most interesting subject and one that touches the lives of all of us. Simon, believing the woman was a sinner, thought it improper she should touch the Savior and that ‘if he were a prophet,’ Jesus should have been aware of her unworthiness and forbidden her. Jesus responded with the story of two debtors, the one owing five hundred pence and the other fifty. When the debtors had nothing to pay, the creditor forgave them both. The Savior then asked, ‘Which of them will love him [the creditor] most? Simon answered and said, I suppose he, to whom he forgave the most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.’ At the end of the discussion, Jesus said to the woman, ‘Thy sins are forgiven’ (see Luke 7:37–48).”

Like the woman with the most debt, I have been forgiven of much, and so my love of the Savior and my gratitude for His Atonement are great. I know that I can only feel peace in my heart when I am one with Him. I can tell that I have need to repent of my unforgiving nature when I feel the coldness in my heart toward others of which Clarissa Estes spoke. That coldness, as she mentions, alienates us from those around us; which is what the adversary wants, to wrap us up in an isolating blanket of misery. But the Savior wants us to be united in our warmth and love for each other and Him, because this is the source of joy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Of such are the Kingdom of Heaven

From "Age of Consent" by one of Canada's finest essayists, David Warren.

We are living, today, in the most child-unfriendly society that has existed. There is little room for children in public life, and little time for them in the double-income structure of the “modern” family, even when it remains intact. Children are actually banned from many apartment buildings and upscale residential environments, and where they are permitted, grow up in neighbourhoods physically adapted to cars and other heavy machinery, but not to them.

Play areas are allotted in public parks, where they are tolerated under conditions of intense supervision, and daycares now proliferate where the smaller ones can be warehoused during office hours, so that they do not become an impediment to their mothers’ professional lives. The older ones continue to be warehoused in unionized and bureaucratized public shelters, which are misleadingly identified as “schools”. There, they become the subjects of government experiments in social engineering, designed to make them politically correct.

But our repulsion from children begins much earlier, and is quite literally murderous. Under Canadian law, mothers may have their children aborted at any point during pregnancy -- even on the delivery table -- and that boundary will soon be stretched with “liberal” laws on euthanasia. Parents are, moreover, under social encouragement to eliminate a child promptly, should intrusive medical procedures determine that the creature in its mother’s womb is imperfect in any way.

At the other end of childhood, when adolescents are progressively released into urban and semi-urban surroundings that resemble the old red light districts, they are now commonly deprived of the crucial parental influence of a father, by family law that effectively enables their mother to exchange him for cash. But this is only the end-point of legislative innovations that have anyway transferred nearly every traditional paternal function, except the earning of a paycheque, to the state.

It should thus be no surprise that our young -- where they survive at all -- are turned out today wearing the faces you may see on public transit and the sidewalks. Unhappy, empty, and cynical, would be among words most apt to describe many I see pass me every day, from a society that has delegitimized childhood.

The upshot of the essay is that a bill was recently squelched in Canada that would have "raised the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years of age. This would have brought Canada into line with most Western countries, where it is at least 16, and sometimes 18 years..." Please read the whole thing here.
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