By Charlie Johnston
Tumbling Shoals, Arkansas – On about half of my daily intentions, I have taken to asking relatives and friends of mine who are deceased to pray for me and those intentions. Of course, that does not assume they are in heaven, because I can’t know with certainty. However, my understanding is that souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves – but can pray for the good of people still here on earth and that, in fact, doing that is an important part of their cleansing. So it seems to me that rather than just praying for the poor souls it is good for both of us to give them work to help expiate their purgatory. I have not fully examined this so I may be working from a mistaken understanding. I am perfectly willing to accept direction on this. (But unless you are my Bishop, just telling me I am wrong won’t cut it. You need to explain theologically and according to Canon Law where I have misunderstood.)
Being an older fellow, I sometimes indulge in grumbling of the ‘kids these days!’ variety. But those grumblings are rarely long or deep. That is, in part, because I do work with more than a few young people who are simply marvelous in their understanding and commitment to faith, family, and freedom. The larger part of it, though, is because of my awareness that young people have to navigate through a notably toxic cultural ecosystem these days – and my generation largely created that ecosystem. Some might object that we didn’t do anything. The owner whose fish all died because the tank had become so fouled because they never cleaned it could make the same objection. So when I see widespread dysfunction, I see it as it is, but I also look for how I contributed to it by my actions or by my failure to act when I could have. (I guess I was born with a subtle Catholic sensibility: Mea Culpa is never far from my thoughts and my lips.)
The issue now is not how bad things are. Rather, it is what we are to do to arrest the slide into pure spiritual and cultural anarchy. In his ‘Letter From the Birmingham Jail,’ the late Rev. Martin Luther King spoke of the need for the activist to take a very hard and clear look at himself to “self-purify” before engaging in direct action against a committed opponent. He also said he had come to believe that the greatest stumbling block to the civil rights movement was not its overt enemies, such as klansmen, but the moderates who were more devoted to order than to justice. Do we not see that heavily rooted in the current dysfunction? A whole host of religious leaders, supposedly conservative officials, and commentators, confronted with serial assaults on our faith, our families, our children and our freedom want, above all, to make no waves. Those timid souls are as worthless as the, “bucket of warm spit,” John Nance Garner spoke of. The Lord spoke even more contemptuously of such behavior in the midst of crisis: “…because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16). Diplomacy is a good thing, but neutrality in a time of moral crisis is a good way to earn a ticket to one of the lower circles of hell.
For today, though, I am most concerned with how to live internal purification to prepare us for one of the greatest spiritual battles of the ages. Here then, three habits of mind and action that will help us as this year unfolds.
- Be deliberate and cautious. In an effort to appear smart without putting in the work, people often adopt either reflexive credulity or reflexive cynicism as a means to judge all things. Reflexive credulity abrogates all moral agency to the experts. It believes whatever it is told so long as it comes from an authoritative source, no matter what evidence there is to the contrary. At its extreme it denounces and demands punishment as enemies of the state (or whatever) anyone who is not also reflexively credulous. Reflexive credulity has been a chief enabling factor for every great social atrocity in history – but the determinedly credulous never learn. Reflexive cynicism believes that since some things are lies, all things must be lies. It fancies itself smart and “nobody’s fool” while spouting every bit of toxic and errant nonsense it stumbles upon so long as it can be used to smear someone else. Reflexive cynicism, in its effort to prove there is no good, gleefully destroys the actual good that is around it. It is the devil’s philosophy. Reflexive credulity and reflexive cynicism are opposite sides of the same coin of stupidity. In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus gives the soliloquy that is often shortened to, let your yes be yes and your no be no. Many people think this counsels against nuance. To the contrary, read the whole passage. I interpret it as meaning we should judge a thing carefully by its own merits without a prejudicial lens and then take personal responsibility for the conclusion we come to. I read it as a firm repudiation of both reflexive credulity or cynicism. So I call on you all to be thoughtful and deliberate, taking care neither to smear the blameless nor champion the corrupt.
- Be careful about making bold statements. When I first started writing about these times a decade ago, I frequently cautioned people away from making bold statements about what they would never do or how they would boldly handle complex situations. I maintained that these statements were commonly being made from several centuries of secure freedom and did not contemplate the reality of seriously extreme circumstances. I wanted people to think carefully about that reality – and then decide how they believed they should handle it. Theoretical bravery is a whole different matter than actual bravery. Just ask St. Peter, who swore he would NEVER deny Christ. Fortunately, in the last few years, people have been forced to deal with more than a few extreme circumstances. I personally know more than a few people who, having initially said they would NEVER allow anyone to force them to take an experimental shot, did exactly that when the pressure was ramped up enough or they got scared enough. Some of them, confronted with the complexities of the situation, made morally defensible decisions by taking or by not taking the shot. A Priest I am friends with was opposed to the shot. He took it, nonetheless, when his Bishop mandated it because otherwise he would not have been able to continue his very important ministry. “I thought hard about it, Charlie,” he told me, “and decided I am willing to be a martyr in order to continue this ministry.” I sympathized with him, but deeply respected his decision. Another Priest who was in authority in another Diocese, refused the shot and said he would, instead, request transfer and accept whatever consequences came. His courage prevented there from being a comprehensive mandate in that Diocese. Each of these Priests faced different circumstances – and both made courageous decisions that I think were right, given their different circumstances. Many people were put in a situation of having to choose between being able to support their families or maintaining a principle – and so chose the best they could, taking into account all the circumstances involved. People often think shouting their defiance gives it greater emphasis. If you haven’t thought things through before making a statement, it makes you look like a blowhard when you finally do have to consider all the circumstances and end up making a different decision than what you initially shouted. Take care. If you are looking for the emotional zing that comes from shouting a bold theoretical statement, there is a more satisfying way. I make most of my boldest statements in a normal conversational tone. I am often baffled when people are shocked that I mean it when put to the test later. But there is an emotional zing to that, too. Don’t make a loud, bold statement unless you have thought it through thoroughly, then make it calmly – and when the time comes, live it. If circumstances alter your assessment, candidly admit you were wrong earlier and that you changed your mind and move on. Don’t react to darkening times by making more frequent bold proclamations that you can’t live up to.
- Take responsibility for what you say and do. Few things are as pathetic as someone trying to prove that an errant statement was actually accurate in some exotic way. Few things will more quickly strip you of your credibility. Make it your discipline to be cautious about what you say and then to acknowledge when you have erred, making a mental assessment of how to avoid making the same type of error again. Some people think that if they just go quiet about an error, people will forget it was ever made. They won’t. They will rather conclude you are unreliable even if they don’t mention it. If, instead, you acknowledge when you have erred, they are much more likely to conclude that you value truth and reason more than you do your own ego. Make it your habit to publicly correct your public errors. It is a great discipline. Having to admit error always stings – but if you couple it with a determination to publicly correct the record whenever you discover error, it will both enhance your credibility AND prod you to be extremely careful not to make such errors in the first place. If you are constantly grasping at phantasms and, as soon as they are disproved, move on to the next phantasm while telling people that this time it is surely true, you make yourself into an annoying crank instead of a trusted resource. A little humility and mea culpa goes a long way to helping make you better, more trusted, and valuable.
These are habits of mind and action that are going to become more and more critical as we go deeper into the storm. The challenge before you is not to prove that whatever thing you once said is true in some arcane way, but to help your fellows successfully navigate through the vicissitudes of the storm that is upon us. There are people who, I think, are the devil’s minions who want to tear us all apart. I fear we have let it go too far for there not to be some serious sundering before all is done, but if the devil cannot make us believe his preferred toxic lies, he gets the second best result when our fear and our anger lead us to rash oppositional reflexes rather than considered reason under God.
As the Covid shot mess unravels, two sets of narratives have arisen that cause me a lot of dismay. First, I have encountered some people who agree with me on the deadliness of the shots (and our whole approach to Covid) who are reacting with unseemly glee as the toll of serious adverse reactions and deaths accelerate. For heaven’s sake, we are the people who are called to call people back to sanity and hope, not to rejoice when those who disagree with us die. We might as well abandon any pretense to building society anew and just join up with leftists in celebrating death and destruction.
I know very well that some people took glee in trying to mandate these deadly and senseless regulations on us, so some jolt of schadenfreude as their schemes collapse is unavoidable. All those who have done this who are in official positions of trust or honor should be dismissed and, in many cases, jailed. But we are builders, not destroyers. Never forget that many people who took the shots did so because they chose to believe authorities who were once worthy of trust. Many were under such heavy coercion that they would not be able to support their families had they not knuckled under to the pressure. They are victims of a tragic betrayal of trust and honor. A little grace is called for.
The second set are those people who, letting fear lead them at the beginning, are still determined to prove they were right all along, despite the flood tide of evidence washing such illusions away. This is pure vanity and ego – and it is discrediting many people who once did some otherwise good work. I cringe every time I see someone say that we have always had athletes die suddenly. Yes, we have – but to compare normal times when it would happen globally three to six times a year to now when it routinely happens at twice those levels each week is so willfully and pathetically obtuse as to beggar belief. These are people who, trapped in a tub in the middle of the ocean, would argue that it is no big deal because they have had puddles in their yard before. The problem is that that level of obtuseness will cause many to perish needlessly…all for the sake that the persons in question don’t have to admit to error.
I have recently discovered that almost all the animal studies on mRNA shots have been wiped from the internet. Those studies are largely what I based my early opposition on. It generally took two to three years for the long-term ill effects to kick in. Once they did, things did not stabilize; they sped up dramatically. We are now seeing the long-term effects of the mRNA shots in humans start to kick in. If it proceeds as it did in the animal studies, we have a tough, ugly year ahead of us. I am still not comfortable saying in detail how the process generally worked in the animal studies, except that it progressively degraded the immune system altogether. Neither the gloaters nor the ego-driven pollyannas are going to help us weather this very tough challenge.
As I said from the beginning, God is not to be mocked – and when officials create hysteria around a serious, but not generally deadly, virus, that is to mock God. When they mandate half-baked remedies that actually make things worse, that is more mockery. But as much as God is offended by our behavior it is our reclamation, not our destruction, that He wants. The same God who sent a plague of vipers upon the rebellious Israelites in the desert also had Moses mount the brazen serpent that the rebels might be healed of the deadly bites of their punishment.
I call your attention again to the Brazen Serpent Prayer. I composed this prayer particularly for amelioration of the terrible adverse reactions to the Covid shots, but more generally to help put us back into right relation with God on all our health and wellness decisions. The owner of Full of Grace USA Supply House worked with me to design the cards. She was kind enough to sell 5,000 of them to CORAC at cost, which we have distributed to Regional Coordinators and Team Leaders to give out for free. I carry a supply which I give out at every talk I give. I will get some reinforcements this first quarter to make sure our leaders are well-stocked. But you can order them anytime directly from Full of Grace.
Please note that while Full of Grace has been a wonderful ally and partner to CORAC, we do NOT get any commission on these prayer cards. For us, they are an expense item, not a profit center. But it is part of our prime mission, to bring people back together in harmony with God. And God bless Lisa at Full of Grace. They handle much of our shipping for us at cost as well as working with us on many things. Ha! I don’t have to watch what they bill us for: I have to push Lisa to make sure she is recovering her expenses in working with us to bring hope to so many.
I will speak this Saturday, January 21, from two to five pm Central Time at Irondale Pickers, 5401 Beacon Dr., Irondale, Alabama 35210. I am pretty excited. When I was a little tyke, up until I was three and a half years old, we lived in the Norwood section of Birmingham – but I spent a lot of time with my great-grandmother who lived on a hill up above the train yards on Old Ruffner Rd. in Irondale. There was a big boy in town who thought I was a very cool little kid and would ride me all over in the basket of his bike. I loved it. If you watched the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes,” the Whistle Stop Café at the center of the story was based on the little restaurant at the train station at the edge of town. My maternal grandmother worked as a waitress there in the 40’s and 50’s. For those of you who have read the book or seen the movie, you will understand why I became leery of my grandmother’s barbecue recipe. Being above the train yards, I loved the sound of all the trains shifting at night. It was very soothing to me – and the sound of a train at night is till soothing. I know that does not sound soothing, but if I was not in Irondale I was in Norwood where my nighttime serenade was raucous shouting punctuated by the occasional gunshots. I’ll take train noise every time. Hope to see you there.
If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.
Find me on Twitter at @Charlie62394802
The Corps of Renewal and Charity (CORAC)
18208 Preston Rd., Ste. D9-552
Dallas, Texas 75252