Category Archives: Charity

Enough

Years ago, I remember putting a lot of hours in a short period of time into getting my second book, Guerrilla Apologetics for Life Issues, ready for an upcoming conference. One book, or one product, is not enough for a company.

However, the book was a disappointment sales-wise. Despite the benefit of being a writer for LifeNews.com at the time and being “out there” in the movement, the general response to the book was summed up in the remark a woman made to me:

“Pro-life arguments? That’s ok, I already know enough about that.”

Enough.

I heard the word used again and again in regards to pro-life, or anti-abortion groups and movements. It was shocking to hear how many pro-life leaders, groups, and representatives would echo the sentiment, “We are doing enough,” in order to wave off or discredit another pro-life group’s initiative, work, or other effort.

As much as loathe the word “enough” being used in such a context (a great discussion should take place to explore just what level of action will be “enough” to combat a social evil like abortion, especially after 40 years), I eventually realized there was another word that was more troubling in the statement.

We are doing enough.

Who is we? This group, this church, people like me. Seems harmless enough until you realize that the call to love one another, to do for the least, and to ensure social justice was not a call to “join up” to a group, but an individual call to action. Jesus didn’t issue recruitment calls to join an international nonprofit to raise awareness to social justice issues, He said “Sell all you have and give to the poor,” “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.”

While I found this attitude prevalent in many pro-life groups I encountered, they by no means have a monopoly on the poisonous sentiment. Charitable foundations, outreach programs, churches and awareness campaigns reek of the attitude as well.

Don’t use a group membership to shrug off your responsibility. What are you doing?

Photo courtesy Franco Folini on Flickr.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 6, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Examination Of Conscience by Virtues and Vices

 

 

Pursuit of the Christian ideal is more than being simply moral, we are called to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Mathew 5:48).

A daily or regular examination of conscience, sometimes referred to as an examen, is a practice that goes back to the very early days of Christianity. It is a reflection on one’s thoughts, words, actions, and omissions to identify areas where one can improve.

The idea is not limited to Christians. Ben Franklin kept a daily record of his activities and failings in pursuit of perfection. Though not particularly a Christian, Franklin chose 13 moral virtues that he wished to not offend, and daily checked that he was keeping those virtues. Franklin was inspired mostly in this endeavor by Aristotle.

There are many examinations of conscience that use the ten commandments as a guide. Those are good for starting out, but keeping the commandments are a lot simpler than pursuing perfection. The rich young man, for example, was unable to follow Jesus (otherwise referred to as being a Christian) even though he kept the commandments from a young age (Matthew 19:16-30)

Therefore this list of questions for yourself is divided by the 7 heavenly virtues – those three chief virtues identified by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13, and the four virtues identified in Wisdom 8:7. I’ve also included in the heading the traditional vice that opposes the virtue, a pairing made in Dante’s Divine Comedy and elsewhere.

This is only a start, you should of course use this to develop your own examen. I will warn you, though, that it will grow. Perfection is a goal you will pursue all your life, it will only get harder and more involved as you draw closer to God. However, as Thomas Aquinas wrote, “To stand on the way of the Lord is to move backwards.”

Take time each day, or each week, or on an otherwise regular basis to see how well you are keeping the virtues. Like any soldier, drilling and practicing and keeping a vigilant watch is critical to overcoming an enemy on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8).

Charity/Love – Sloth/Acedia

  • Do I think of and treat everyone with love, even those who are hurtful to me?
  • Do I only tolerate my enemies, or do I show them the same love as I do my friends, as Christ commanded?
  • Do I procrastinate, kill time, or watch the clock?
  • Do I waste time wishing that things were other than they are?
  • Do I love others as I do myself?
  • Do I do everything for the love of God?
  • Do I discount my own life or efforts are unworthy?

Hope – Envy

  • Do I believe, and act as though God will meet my daily needs?
  • Do I believe, and act as though God’s will is in my best interest?

 

Faith – Pride

  • Do I think that my actions, efforts, or status will provide for me and my family?
  • Do I act upon my fears – including fears of financial loss, death, suffering, and evil?
  • Do I trust God’s word about what is evil and good?
  • Do I trust God’s word that he will provide for my needs?
  • Do I think that I have merited my blessings or salvation by what I have done?
  • Do I think that my achievements, honors, or actions make me more worthy than any other human being, including my enemies, my friends, my family, celebrities, politicians, and people whose sin I believe I can see?

 Prudence – Greed/Avarice

  • Do I seek to possess more than I need?
  • Do I ensure that others have what they need?
  • Do I tithe from what God has given me?

Fortitude – Anger/Wrath

  •  Do I bear wrongs patiently?
  • Am I holding any grudges?
  • Do I endure suffering and pain without complaint?
  • Do I face my fears to overcome them, or do I seek to avoid them?
  • Do I endure trials, even embracing them as they draw me closer to God?
  • Do I seek to die to myself every day, taking up my cross?

 

Justice – Lust/Luxuria

  •  Do I desire things that I do not need?
  • Do I desire things that will have no benefit to me?
  • Do I give God, my employer, and my government their just due?
  • Do I see that those around me have their needs met, before pursuing things that I only want?
  • Do I practice chastity in thoughts and actions?
  • Do I treat others as I expect myself or my loved ones to be treated?

Temperance – Gluttony

  • Do I make choices based on my will to serve God or my selfish desires?
  • Do I seek pleasure more than I do God?
  • Do I worry about having enough time for pleasurable pursuits?
  • Do I abuse pleasures by indulging them too often?
  • Is there anything in my life that I do to excess, to the detriment of my spiritual life or duties to God, my family, or authority?

 

Photo courtesy of Eric the Fish on Flickr.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 6, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Revolution Starts With You

It is all too easy to push off changing the world to things that “society,” “the future,” or even worse, “the government” ought to do.

You may have noticed we don’t talk a lot here on Eternal Revolution about current politics, if at all. Most of us can’t affect the power plays of the ruling class other than with our votes and the occasional participation in notification campaigns.

Leaving change to something society must do is lazy and cowardly. It reduces your requirement to change things in your life, in your world, and in your sphere of influence. The Eternal Revolution, like the Kingdom it is restoring, exists in its smallest, most nuclear form within you and your family.

Jesus did not call society to change. Rather, he said specifically that men’s hearts must change first. When teaching socio-economics, his command was “Go and sell what you have and give the money to the poor.” It was a a personal call to action, not a suggestion to join a political action committee.

Many of us would rather cut off a hand than quit a job, for instance. Even a morally questionable job, even though we are told to sever the ties that lead us to sin – even if it be a hand or an eye. Most of us fear criticism of our fellow man more than doing the right thing.

Most of the changes we need to make are not drastic, world-changing actions in the public eye. Looking to your personal economy. Look first to care for those who you have a divine charge to take care of – your children, your family, your neighbor. The revolution starts there. Don’t skip ahead.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 6, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin, and Charity

A graphic recently came up on facebook with a quote from Christian comedian Mark Lowry.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin? How about: Love the sinner, hate your own sin! I don’t have time to hate your sin. There are too many of you! Hating my sin is a full-time job. How about you hate your sin, I’ll hate my sin and let’s just love each other!”
– Mark Lowry

Since it’s hard to trust the truth of these things, I double checked and the quote is on Mark’s site. 

It’s certainly a nice, tolerant sentiment. But as I commented when I saw it on Facebook, it’s not a biblical or charitable sentiment.

(For the record, the only attribution I can find on “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is Mahatma Gandhi. So no, the quote isn’t found in the Bible.)

The war for our souls is indeed personal. The eternal revolution for the Kingdom of God is within each and every one of us. But at the same time, just as we should look to our own battle, we should not neglect our neighbors, our brothers and sisters.

The quote is “hate THE sin.” Mr. Lowry’s error appears to be assigning ownership of the sin. “Your sin,” “my sin.” Sin is an act of will that cuts us off from God. To jump to an extreme, if one person murders someone, murder is the sin. It doesn’t become “his sin.” It’s an act he committed. His act, but still the sin of murder. The expression “There’s so many of you” belies this sentiment; there are many of us, but comparatively very few sins.

I don’t believe Jesus spoke idly. When He he rendered judgement in the case of the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), He dismissed her persecutors but still admonished her, “Go and sin no more.”

Jesus cleansed the temple, condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, told his followers to judge by the fruits, and gave them counsel on how to address sins of others (Matthew 18:15+) . The whole parable of the good Samarian was a clarification of who your neighbor was (answer: even your worldly enemies) – a question raised by the second great commandment to “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.”

So if you hate the sin that you commit, don’t neglect to loathe it because it is destroying the eternal life of someone else.

And that’s just from that nice fellow Jesus in the New Testament.

When we go back to the Old Testement, God clearly instructs the prophets that they will be accountable for not guiding others. (Ezekiel 3:18, for instance).

It is certainly not charitable to tell people that God hates them (which is a lie, Jesus died for everyone, a sacrifice of love). But it is also uncharitable to tell them that you don’t detest “their sin,” simply because it affects their soul and not yours.

So love your neighbor as yourself, for God loves them as well as you. That includes not only the LGBT community, but the serial killers, the rapists, the murderers, the thieves, the prostitutes, the politicians, the child molesters, the pornographers, the dictators, the socialists, the capitalists, and even other Christians.

Who ever said charity was easy or nice? No one in the Bible, that’s for certain. Neither did those ancient warriors, the samurai.

In the Hagakure (quoted in The Way of the Christian Samurai) it is written:

“To give a person one’s opinion and correct his faults is an important thing. It is compassionate and comes first in matters of service. But the way of doing this is extremely difficult. To discover the good and bad points of a person is an easy thing, and to give an opinion concerning them is easy, too. For the most part, people think that they are being kind by saying things that others find distasteful or difficult to say. But if it is not received well, they think that there is nothing more to be done. This is completely worthless. It is the same as bringing shame to a person by slandering him. It is nothing more than getting it off one’s chest.

To give a person an opinion one must first judge well whether that person is of the disposition to receive it or not. One must become close with him and make sure that he continually trusts one’s word. Approaching subjects that are dear to him, seek the best way to speak and to be well understood. Judge the occasion, and determine whether it is better by letter or at the time of leavetaking. Praise his good points and use every device to encourage him, perhaps by talking about one’s own faults without touching on his, but so that they will occur to him. Have him receive this in the way that a man would drink water when his throat is dry, and it will be an opinion that will correct faults.

This is extremely difficult. If a person’s fault is a habit of some years prior, by and large it won’t be remedied. I have had this experience myself. To be intimate with all one’s comrades , correcting each other’s faults, and being of one mind to be of use to the master is the great compassion of a retainer. By bringing shame to a person, how could one expect to make him a better man?”

Now if a pagan warrior can show this much compassion and charity but still counsel his brother about “his” sin, how can you as a Christian do any less? Certainly not by condemning and damming a person, but neither by dismissing someone else’s sin as their own problem and reserving all judgement.

Hey, it’s not called the narrow way for nothing.

 UPDATE: An online friend pointed out Augustine’s The City of God (Book 14, chapter 6):

“Wherefore the man who lives according to God, and not according to man, ought to be a lover of good, and therefore a hater of evil. And since no one is evil by nature, but whoever is evil is evil by vice, he who lives according to God ought to cherish towards evil men a perfect hatred, so that he shall neither hate the man because of his vice, nor love the vice because of the man, but hate the vice and love the man. For the vice being cursed, all that ought to be loved, and nothing that ought to be hated, will remain.”

This post originally appeared in an earlier incarnation of the Eternal Revolution blog.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 6, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

The Facebook Farewell

Today, I unfriended everyone on Facebook and unsubscribed from every group to which I belonged.

My decision was not based on a terrible incident, or fear of government spying – definitely not the latter, as my father had worked for the NSA in the 1970’s on a project called Echelon. Nor did I do it to make a statement. It is a very personal decision.

I did it because of the noise.

I felt like something had been lost. My thought process had moved from “I cannot wait to share this with so and so” to “I can’t wait to share this with Facebook.” It was shotgun-communication. It was impersonal. It is disturbing when you reflect on it.

I tried unsubscribing from some people, and blocking all game requests, and only using Facebook on the weekends. But every time I logged in, even to do some maintenance on one of Eternal Revolution’s pages, there was this barrage of opinions, thoughts, tidbits, graphics and information that was not directed to me personally, but yet pushed through the boundary into my sphere.

We’ve lost touch with the inner life, driven to distraction. When the ceaseless flow of information stops, when I got caught up on my timeline, I felt a need to consume more. And how much of it was relevant to what God and I were working on today in my life? Very little.

I felt as though I lost something in interpersonal skills. Instead of constructing a message through email to send to an individual person, crafted however briefly, I was broadcasting a message to hundreds of people at once. And not everything was relevant or necessary for them to know. Thus I was imposing on others with most of my messages just as they were on me. My networking skills grew lax, as I could always rely on Facebook to serve up the information or keep tabs on others. I want my communication and use of the gift of language to be intentional.

I know a lot of good people who are changing the world without Facebook. And all the great ones who have in the past did not use it. So obviously it is no requirement for making a difference in the world, or in yourself. It might even be the opposite.

I won’t delete my Facebook account, as I still will use the pages for Eternal Revolution and feed information there, but by unfriending everyone I cut myself off from that particular social network.

For my friends, or any one else that wants to communicate something to me, there are dozens of direct ways to contact me – phone, email, postal service – you know how to find me. And I can reach out to you, intentionally and directly, as well.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 6, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Play Thy Own Game

I really do try to avoid Facebook.

The few times I popped on, though, my feed was full of reactions to goings-on in the news, even from bloggers and writers that I follow for their essays. A politician did or said something stupid and frightening, something obscene happened on a tv show on a channel I never watch, and some person whose respect I do not require nor desire said something that offended people.

I suppose that could wrap up any given week, come to think of it.

A while ago, I had come to the conclusion that I did not want this blog or these essays to be reactionary to current events. There is enough of that on the internet already. There is probably too much of it already. With every scandal, every fear mongering news story, every public figure that does something shocking and moronic there is a flurry of opinion pieces and analysis, even from Christian writers. I refuse to play that game.

I will not let myself be led by the nose through the muck merely because it is trending. Sure, rumination on things going on in the world will lead to insights I will share. But I will not chase the deadline for dead news. In a way, instead of dog eat dog, the editorial policy here will be “let the dead bury the dead.”

I did my stint in the news, having written for LifeNews.com and American Life League’s magazine, and public relations for a number of ventures in addition to that. I have even done several opinion pieces on old incarnations of this blog. There is something to getting the story. There is something else entirely to forming your opinion about what is going on, and to a lesser extent a need to express that opinion on occasion. But when that is your daily grind, you are letting the world lead you.

There is a concept in board gaming that goes as far back as chess and go. Play your own game. If your moves are always in reaction to your opponent, you are playing their game. That is the way to defeat. To win, you need to take the initiative, to lead, and to make your moves have merit on their own basis. In life, it is important that you are making your decisions based on your path in Christ, irrelevant of the chaos in the world that has been, is now, and will be until kingdom come.

Don’t take your eyes off the New Jerusalem to keep reacting to what is going on in Babylon. Play thy own game.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 6, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.