What's Tony Thinking

Notes As A Week Ends


Friday late afternoon, 4:00 p.m. It is that time of the year when it is almost already dark at 4:00, at least here in the Northwest. I touch on several topics here: hope, suffering, the inconsistency of a Republican ‘pro-life’ agenda, and fear of speaking out and up.

A word of hope, then, from one of Fleming Rutledge’s Advent sermons, “Waiting for the Dayspring,”

“This morning, the third Sunday of Advent, the preacher brings news of a living reality that changes everything. Jesus, the Dayspring, has come; Jesus, the Dayspring, will come. Whatever your own personal darkness it has been and will be overcome. (italics added)

“If you are not patient, God will yet grant you patience. If you are not charitable, the Savior will create charity in you. If you are not forgiving, the Lord will work a wonder of forgiveness in you. The darkness has been overcome, and it will be overcome.”

David Brooks wrote yesterday about “what do you say to the sufferer?” He quoted Thornton Wilder. Here’s Brooks/ Wilder:

“And so we are right to treat those who have suffered with respect and credibility. ‘Without your wound where would your power be?’ Thornton Wilder wrote. ‘It is your very remorse that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve.’”

I was taken by Wilder’s words in part because they so clearly express a point stressed in the New Testament, “Letter to the Hebrews.” The Preacher speaks of Christ’s superiority to the angels in similarly paradoxical terms. “The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living.” That’s what Hebrews is saying about Jesus, the Son of God who has been tested as we all are. Or as Bonhoeffer put it, “Only a suffering God can help.”

On Wednesday I walked onto “Thin Ice” with a column about abortion. Among my points, the assertion of complete personal autonomy and right to control one’s body — invoked as an argument for abortion rights — is the same argument made by anti-vaxxers. Washington Post columnist, Michael Gerson, flipped that coin to its other side pointing out that the Republican’s “pro-life” stance on abortion doesn’t square with their resistance to the vaccine and mandates. Here’s Gerson:

” . . . it is hard to see how a GOP increasingly dedicated to needless death can carry an antiabortion message.”

After the January 6 insurrection I wrote about Michigan Congressman, Peter Meijer, one of the 10 GOP members who voted for Trump’s impeachment. Meijer is the subject of a recent profile in The Atlantic.  Those ten have paid a price, a big one. Asked why no other GOP members of Congress joined their ranks, Meijer answered, “fear.”

“At one point, Meijer described to me the psychological forces at work in his party, the reasons so many Republicans have refused to confront the tragedy of January 6 and the nature of the ongoing threat. Some people are motivated by raw power, he said. Others have acted out of partisan spite, or ignorance, or warped perceptions of truth and lies. But the chief explanation, he said, is fear. People are afraid for their safety. They are afraid for their careers. Above all, they are afraid of fighting a losing battle in an empty foxhole.” (italics added).

The linguist and new-ish columnist for the New York Times  John McWhorter, who is black, said much the same in a recent interview about the atmosphere in academia. People are, said McWhorter, so afraid of being labelled “racist,” that they say nothing in the face of woke excess and intimidation.

We might think it is only in repressive countries, say, Russia and China, that people are afraid to speak their minds. If Meijer and McWhorter are to be believed, and I think they are, we live — increasingly — in a country where fear reigns and rules.

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