Thursday, December 22, 2005

I Guess the Answer is

No. My daughter asked me a couple weeks ago if we could get a tree before Christmas eve this year. It's December 22 and no tree in sight yet. I've been working 16 hour days to finish projects before Christmas and get some money to make up for another 10,000.00 hit I'm taking on a big remodel. Two in one year is REALLY hard to recover from. We already refinanced the house to take up the slack for the last one. Sigh.... 25 years in business and no major problems, I guess I'm getting them all on my silver anniversary.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Capital Punishment

Some random thoughts on the recent execution...

I spent most of my formative years and adult life as a pacifist. I registered as a concientious objector during the Vietnam War and was ready to head to Canada if my lottery number came up. I was anti war, anti self defense, anti death penalty. I can't really put a finger on when my views started shifting. The concrete shift happened when I took street fighting classes at a karate studio when I ran a residential treatment center for severely disturbed boys who had inclinations toward wanton mayhem. Being beaten with a baseball bat by a 180 pound "hyperactive" (as they were called back then) kid with no concience was not an option for running an effective treatment program. It might make good classroom arm chair philosophizing about non-violence, but broken teeth and bones and 12 other kids and my wife and child in the path of blind rage are not abstracts, they are real.

So...I know that does not illumine the question of restraint versus retribution and punishment. Life in prison restrains the evil doer. But then so does death. Which biblically and according to the Fathers of the Church, death IS indeed the ultimate constraint on evil. Death is actually the blessed curse, it cuts short the days of man so he cannot wax grossly evil. Death is also referred to in our readings for the Saints during the Vigil services as a blessing: God takes the righteous early so that they will be spared the evil days to come. So the question is not "death or no death" the question is "death by whose hands"? Capital punishment was exacted under the theocracy of Judaism. Yes it was a shadow of the Gospel. But the Theocracy of Judaism is fulfilled in the Church, not the State. No one who supports capital punishment believes the Church should execute its sinners and heretics or apostates. But the State is not the Church.
The Church exists for the redemption of the human being, an agent of the Gospel of forgiveness, the giver of the sacraments, the bearer of grace to the fallen race. What the Church cannot do is undo the temporal consequences of the actions of the human being. It may forgive the sin of embezzlement, but it does not forgive the debt or pay it for the embezzler.
It forgives adultery, but it does not pay the child support of the adulterer. It forgives the negligent homicide but it does not substitutionarily give one of its members to serve the prison sentence for the drunken driver who ran over the child on the sidewalk. While the Church can affirm life, repentance and forgiveness, it cannot legislate it. "The state does not bear the sword for naught", St. Paul says to the evildoer AND to good-doer. Do good and fear not the State and its sword he advises. Of course you've all heard this before. This is nothing new under the sun.

The tension is both theological and emotional. How does a finite human being perfectly join justice and mercy? Can we legitimately call on God, and God's ordained State authority to mete out justice to the evildoer, crush those who are enemies of life, peace and goodness? Is it wrong to cry to God to send SOMEONE to punish the men of a village in Afghanistan who are repeatedly raping 12 year old orphan girls...or whatever heinous crime sticks in YOUR head. Is fire and brimstone from heaven too good for them? What about fire and a bullet from an authorized agent of the State? Should they be given time to repent? Should we let them live to find God? What about the time they've already had? How have they used it? Opportunity for repentance abounds every minute of the day. Will a few more minutes make any difference? Perhaps knowing the minutes are about to end will be more motivating to repentance than the prospect of unlimited minutes in solitary confinement. I don't know.

Is the death penalty inhuman? No, it is ultimately human. Is it ungodly? No, God required it of His people. Is it effective? Depends on how you define effectiveness. Is it a restraint on those who might do evil? Maybe. Maybe not. Does it restrain the one who has done evil. You bet, once and for all. Can he be restrained by confinement? Maybe.

But, ultimately it may not be about restraint alone. It might be more about bringing the inhumanity of humanity left without God up front and personal to the evil doer and the ones who are executing him. If balancing the books of body counts is all its about then what are we about? If its about the violation of something greater than one materialistically determined biological unit doing something to make another biological unit to cease functioning, then we have whole 'nother thing going on here. Justice is about love. We kill the killer because we know more than mere biology has been violated. Love has been violated. No love, no life. The killer exhibits no love and kills someone who is loved by someone else. "Society"...what is society? ...an amalgam of beings that join together in a community mutually respecting and affirming life: love at a primeaval level, I suppose.... society condemns and kills the ones who refuse to submit to love. What if they've learned to love? All the better, then they are prepared to meet their Lover on good terms, and if that is the case, then they are better off than we who are left behind and have to continue the struggle to repent and prepare to meet our God.

Can someone be about grace, love and repentance and still believe in the death penalty. I think so. I am. I pray Tookie Williams or whatever his name was, repented and is forgiven. I even think "society" can forgive him and still take his life, because God would have sooner or later anyway whether he was ready or not... and perhaps this is merely the way God decides to do it by ordaining civil authority to carry the sword.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Kellogg Promises Healthier Pop Tarts

WHAT TH....!!!!?????
Healthier POP TARTS???!!!!
What next? Non-Genetically Altered Strawberry Pop Tarts? No Additive Portobello Mushroom Pop Tarts? Tofu Pop Tarts? Free Range Chicken Pop Tarts?
What marketing idiot thought of "healthier Pop Tarts"?

LEAVE MY POP TARTS ALONE, DAMMIT! If I want a healthy breakfast I'll eat a Snickers with my Doctor Pepper, thank you.... What'll they think of next? Healthy Frosted Flakes? Healthy Cap'n Crunch? You would really consider taking people's childhoods away from them??

Look Kellogg: if I want to eat healthy, I'll buy Krispy Kremes, they have the corner on the market on healthy breakfast foods, OK. Natural flour, natural butter, natural sugar frosting, natural lard. But I don't buy Krispy Kremes, I buy Pop Tarts. Look, fools...If you change Pop Tarts, I'll buy Little Debbie Little Chocolate Donuts instead. I know for a fact that they're just as good as Pop Tarts because that bag of of them has been sitting on the shelf for 3 and a half months now and there's not a BIT of mold on them yet. If whatever preservatives and additives you guys put in your pastries can make Pop Tarts and little chocolate donuts virtually immortal, think what it can do for MY immune system... now THAT'S healthy.

I'm Orthodox folks... and I know when I die, if they ever exhume my body a hundred years from now it will be preserved incorrupt. There will be those who will give glory to God thinking that I was a saint, but I'll be giving glory to Kelloggs because we'll both know it was the Pop Tarts.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I Despise Christmas Shopping

My daughter in college noted in my blog that I'll give 60 bucks to a homeless person but my kids don't get squat from me (all good naturedly, lest anyone think she's some kind of malcontent gen-Z or whatever the hell kids are these days....). Welll...they do get squat, but not much more than that. With 4 kids in college at once I basically told them "I put myself through 17 years of college working fulltime/part time and getting scholarships etc.... and if they are really motivated and put their nose to the grindstone they too someday can have 3 degrees and 130 hours of post graduate work and hold a construction job." So we basically supply them beer money. Well, its supposed to go for an occassional rent payment, brake job or books, but it all comes down to beer really, and Ouzo.

Anyway, that's not what this blog post is about. Its about how I really don't get into Christmas shopping. Despise is a bit harsh. I like the giving, I just don't like the shopping.

But that's not what this is about either. Actually, I had a great time Christmas shopping last year for the first time in my life.

We usually get our tree late in the season. My daughter asked today if we can get a tree like earlier than Christmas eve this year. Heck, they were free on the sidewalk last year on Christmas Eve! But that's not the point either, really, its kind of almost it. There are never any gifts under the tree from me until the last minute. My kids always ask "When are you going Christmas shopping, Dad?" I ALWAYS tell them, "That's why Circle K is open 24 hours on Christmas eve." Well, last year I shopped for all my gifts for everyone at Circle K. I stole gobs of napkins from Circle K dispensers (the ones with the red logo on them). I bought everything they had with a Circle K logo on it... coolers, coffee cups, mugs, lighters, matches.
I wrapped everything in Circle K napkins and masking tape and put it under the tree late Christmas Eve.

Inside the coolers were the shirts, books, icons, etc. The lighter went with the new lampada for my wife's altar, and inside the car-cupholder sized coffee cup were the keys to the car we bought for my daughter in college.

I don't know what I'm going to do this Christmas. I may have to see if AM-PM has a better gift selection.