Where Did Our Beloved America Go?

A Democracy forged in the fire of human discontent

and molded into an enduring symbol of freedom.

A Republic founded on the highest of human ideals

to aggressively defend against tyranny and oppression

that may come from within our borders and far beyond.

A country of immigrants from every corner of the world

who always held true to the promise for others that came.

A land of hope cradled between two shinning seas

where anything no matter how improvable was possible,

where dreams that seemed impossible could be realized.

A nation full of people who are stronger and better

only when they elect to embrace their great diversity,

and not only celebrate their differences, but relish in them.

The home of a grand lady with a torch standing in a busy harbor,

a bold monument to the virtues and principles of freedom itself,

a profound testament to what our great country proudly stands for,

a welcoming sight for those desperately seeking a flicker of hope,

for those yearning to be free from persecution and oppression,

for those seeking a new beginning in a more accepting place.

 

Please! Please! tell me where did our beloved America go?

How did we go from tearing down walls in other nations

to erecting these unwelcoming monuments in our own backyard?

How did we go from being the leader of the free world

to putting people from neighboring countries in metal cages?

How did we go from being the world’s defender of democracy

to separating small children from their families at our borders?

How did we lose our civility and our national sense of purpose

to become repugnant provocateurs of ignorance and intolerance?

Today one small child cries for their mother on our border.

Tomorrow we mourn in silence for a great nation,

that once was the focal point of democracy in the world,

that once set the example for other nations to follow,

that once stood as the standard-bearer for freedom everywhere.

Please! Please! tell me will our beloved America ever return?

For The Students Standing Up Against Gun Violence In Their Schools

To all the students that are walking out to take a stand on and seek action on gun violence, I would like to say that every American in this country should be proud of you. Your voices are those that should and must be heard on this issue. You are the ones that must attend our schools and you have an absolute right to be safe in them, no matter what must to be done to achieve it. Do not allow anyone to deny your voice, do not allow anyone to dissuade you from lending your voice to not just the cause of your lifetime, but the greatest good of your lives. Your voices, your tears, and your anger over the senseless death and human carnage these school shootings have caused across this country must be heard, so do not be afraid to shout from every city, town, and village in this country “this must stop now.” Your voices hold the promise that students coming behind you will not have to hide in terror while gun shots ring out in their school, watch as the bodies of friends and teachers are carried from their school with tears of abject terror and sorrow running down their cheeks. Your voices hold the promise that not one more parent will have to stand over the coffin of a child contemplating the life that could have been had it not been for a gunman with too few screws, too many bullets, and the means to turn a school into a war zone. Your voices hold the promise to give voice to all the young people that have been silenced by gun violence in our schools. Your voices hold the promise of a tomorrow when the halls of our nation’s schools will once again hold only memories of the hopes and dreams of those who pass through them, not the memories of bodies, blood, and tears that fell on them or the screams of terror and rapid gunfire that echoed through them one day shattering the lives of many in an instant and forever engraving a horrific memory in the minds of those who survived. You hold the promise of a better tomorrow, so young people be loud, be proud, and make your voices heard every damn chance you get.

Written by Kim Morrison

A Prescription for the Death of Generations

A Prescription for The Death of Generations

By Kim E. Morrison

Saint Leo University

PSY-499

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite our wars on drugs and the numerous slogans we have used to try and keep people, especially our youth, off illegal drugs, drugs have always been a pervasive part of the American culture. As a matter of fact, one could argue that illegal drugs and those who used and sold them were a culture within culture because in the past not every nook and cranny of America were touched by them in the same way. Yes, you would here about the occasional drug overdose death or here about some dealer or group of people being busted for selling and distributing drugs, but many people in suburban and small-town America could say I am glad we do not have a drug problem here or say my kids would never get addicted to drugs here, so drug abuse and addiction was not something talked about around the dinner table of rural or suburban America. The average American dismissed drugs as being a problem of larger cities. Drugs were something that were sold on seedy street corners by emaciated drug dealers trying to support their own addiction, by gangs in ethnic neighborhoods trying to make a buck by first poisoning people within their own ethnic group and then reaching into other groups to increase their profit and power, by pimps trying to make more money on their prostitutes or as means to increase their production, or the pure for profit drug dealer who is always around to capitalize on the misery of others. A “Sugarman” as they were once called in song, that could be found in the shadows just waiting to take advantage of those desperately needing a fix to fend off the unrelenting agony of withdrawal, those trying to escape personal demons that haunt their every waking hour, and those who live lives of quiet desperation seeking a temporary freedom from the chains of their situation and dilution of the thoughts associated with it.

Unfortunately, the demon of drug abuse and addiction that we once believed would remain in the dark corners of American life has stepped out of the shadows into a new seemingly respectable form that is leaving no age, ethnic demographic, or socioeconomic group untouched by its consuming grip.  America is in the throngs of what many are now calling an opioid epidemic that shows no signs of abating. An epidemic not fueled by illegal drugs, but by legal prescriptions drugs and the dealers are not on dingy street corners, but in fine offices wearing white coats and stethoscopes armed with nothing, but prescription pads and the best of intentions for patients in pain. As a result, prescription drug abuse, addiction, and dependence has become a repugnant addition to the drug problem in America that not only could be eliminated, but must be before we witness the death of more generations.

In less than a decade studies trying to ascertain the extent and depth of this problem as well as find viable solutions to this problem have yielded some mindboggling heart wrenching statistics and clearly explains why everyone is calling this an epidemic. Just from late 1999 to 2011 opioid overdose deaths in the United States quadrupled (Cheatle, 2015). In 2012 drug overdoses was the leading cause of deaths, surpassing automobile accidents (Barry et al., 2015).  By 2016 nearly two people per day were dying of opioid overdoses (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017). In just one month in 2008 they found that 4.7 million adolescents and adults in this country were misusing prescription opioids which represents about 2% of the entire U.S. Population (Cleland, Rosenblum, Fong, & Maxwell, 2011). The number for those seeking treatment for addiction in the period from 1999-to 2008 skyrocketed. The increase for heroin addiction was 69%, but the increase in those seeking treatment for prescription opioids jumped up twenty-fold to 1, 896% (Cleland, Rosenblum, Fong, & Maxwell, 2011). The number of prescribed opioids from 1999-2012 increased to 400% which is enough to supply every adult in the United States with a one-month twenty-four-hour supply of narcotics (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017). In 2012 opioid pain relievers were directly involved in 470,000 hospital emergency department visits and the economic costs associated with opioids which included medical, productivity, and crime came to 50 billion dollars (Barry et al., 2015). One of the most heartbreaking of these statistics was that there has been a 400% increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome just between 2000-2012. What this means in simple terms is that a baby is born addicted to drugs approximately every twenty to thirty minutes in the United States and some figures put it at every fifteen to twenty minutes (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017).

In 2006 the Prescription Opioid Addiction Treatment Study, POATS, was launched in response to the epidemic level trends of prescription opioid abuse and addiction in this country, and the burgeoning number of people seeking treatment to drug programs for addiction (Weiss et al., 2010). These continuing studies have proved informative on many aspects of the opioid problem. They found that people who can no longer acquire prescription drugs will try to obtain and use heroin in place of it. As a result, along with the prescription opioid epidemic, there has been an uptick in heroin use in this country as well (Weiss et al., 2010). POATS has studied treatments for opioid drug addiction and dependence and found that there may be different outcomes for pure heroin addicts versus those who are addicted to prescription opioids and the fact that many people have used more than one drug complicates everything, including studying the problem because it makes it harder to define study groups. As a result, the statistics and figures obtained on the opioid epidemic may be conservative, so this epidemic may be even worse than the data shows. Researchers considering these factors and others have suggested that treatment programs should be tailored toward the individual and their specific drug use pattern to be more effective (Weiss et al., 2010).  Another issue related to the opioid epidemic that researchers have discovered is that some portions of rural America, even when adjusting for density, have the highest rates of opioid poisoning and death. Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Alaska have been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic with all having rates of poisoning and death from opioids not only greater than more populous areas, but far above the national average (Keyes, Cerdá, Brady, Havens, & Galea, 2014). The trouble is there is very little empirical data to explain why this is occurring in these areas. However, some researchers have suggested that these high rates are related to the extreme poverty levels in these states and the tight kinship between people there because statistics have shown that 70% of those who report non-medical use of prescription opioids state that they received them from friends and relatives (Keyes, Cerdá, Brady, Havens, & Galea, 2014).

Oklahoma, one the rural states hit the hardest by this epidemic, was among the first to begin initiating statewide policies to combat the epidemic at the pharmacy benefit or payer level. This was prompted by the fact that the costs associated with abuse and dependence diagnosis among Medicaid patients was much higher than for other patients. The policies which included quantity limits on certain drugs, pharmacy lock in programs on patients thought likely to misuse due to their medical utilization history, prior authorizations for specific drugs, step therapy program which basically requires that a physician use designated products for the first step before you go on to other steps, and other restrictions were perceived as prevention methods with the goal of reducing potential abuse and costs (Keast, Nesser, & Farmer, 2014).  In the short term the strategies created by Oklahoma Medicaid, MOK, seemed to achieve some results. The CDC, Centers for Disease Control and, the NIH-NIDA, The National Institutes of Health- National Institute on Drug Abuse are now funding research to determine not just the impact of these policies, but any policies like them and the consequences from them (Keast, Nesser, & Farmer, 2014). There are a few problems with dealing with this issue on the costs side of it alone. One, it doesn’t address the problem of those already addicted to prescription opioids and two, it seems logical that just doing these cost related measures alone is sure to cause an uptick in illegal drug use, particularly heroin, so the idea of the groups above studying these measures make sense on a lot of levels.

In 2009, to find some balance between the potential effects of prescription opioids without reducing legitimate access to opioids for pain relief the FDA proposed a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, REMS, to look at the risks and benefits of opioid medications and describe requirements and procedures to reduce the misuse and abuse of these types of medications (LING, MOONEY, & HILLHOUSE, 2011). The idea here is to put some type of restriction or create or make some arrangements controlling prescribing practices in ways that might reduce or lessen opportunities to misuse opioids (LING, MOONEY, & HILLHOUSE, 2011). Patient education on these medications would be a part of REMS as well and that is necessary because research shows that 80% of the people fail to understand just how easy it is to become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers (Barry et al., 2015). There are some great ideas here as well because 78% of the people surveyed on this issue say doctors are responsible for a solution to this problem (Barry et al., 2015). However, once again these solutions do not address the problem of those already addicted or the 70% of the people who report non-medical use of prescription opioids that state that they got them from friends and family (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017).

Every idea some states and the federal government have come up with so far to do something about the opioid epidemic in America deserves merit, but what has been done so far to address this problem is tantamount to a group of men urinating on a forest fire with the hope of keeping it from spreading.  What is needed to effectively solve this problem is a full-throated approach toward every angle of the opioid epidemic and to do this you would need to get everybody that is directly involved in, connected to, or touched by this massively growing social problem to generate ideas and workable solutions to the problem. This would include bringing people together from the medical community, the police, drug enforcement, emergency medical personnel, policy makers from the state and federal level, clinicians, doctors and pain management specialists, drug rehab and treatment center specialists and counselors, people from state Medicaid agencies, health insurance providers and other payors, pharmacists, drug manufacturers and distributors, psychiatrists, psychologists from every discipline, family members of addicts, and former drug addicts themselves because no one understands the problem of drug addiction better than those who have been intimate with this demon. To some great extent the Clinton Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have done exactly this very thing and have come up with recommendations that would greatly reduce this problem if not eliminate it entirely. First, mandate prescriber registration and optimize Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, PDMP’S, in all states. These programs if optimized would be highly effective in reducing drug abuse and diversion. Their purpose is to monitor, collect, and analyze electronic data collected from and submitted by dispensing pharmacies and prescribing physicians. This data can also be used for research for public education, and abuse prevention (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative).  Second, the Centers for Disease Control has had guidelines on prescribing opioids to people with chronic pain for some time, so the next obvious step is to work with medical boards to pass policies that reflect these guidelines (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017). Third, expand drug take back programs and provide clear guidelines on safe disposal and storage of prescription opioids (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017). Forth, work with drug manufactures to look at innovative packaging and in creating prescription opioids that are more difficult to abuse (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017). The have already shown that they can reformulate oxycodone, so it can used without being abused. The savings in costs and in lives alone with be worth researching this more and doing it to other opioid medications (Kirson et al., 2014). Fifth, work to obtain funding to build more drug addiction treatment centers in those rural areas or any other areas where addictions rates are high (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017). Sixth, work with developers to reformulate Naloxone, Narcan, the drugs that can reverse opioid or opiate drug overdose, so they can be used by non-medical professionals to prevent drug overdose deaths and work to get them distributed to schools, clinics, all first responders, and any where else they might be needed (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017). Naxolone, Narcan, should be easy to utilize and as easily available as epi pens because it could prevent a death and give someone another chance at life. Seventh, work to create more public awareness on the opioid epidemic issue and work to avoid and end stigmatizing language with relation to drug users, treatment, and everything else associated with it (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative, 2017).

Dear Mr. and Mrs. not my children, not in my neighborhood please be advised that the opioid epidemic in America is a lot closer than you think if it isn’t already at your door. The time for national complacency on this issue has long past. We can no longer afford to declare another meaningless war on this problem and try to incarcerate it away or simply just say no to the problem with our eyes closed wishing and hoping that drug abuse and addiction goes away. What we must do is call this opioid epidemic what it is and that is a national health crisis. A crisis that is shattering and destroying families and communities in every corner of our country, costing our country billions upon billions of dollars, and taking human lives at a staggering rate of one every twelve hours of every day. We can no longer afford to say not my clowns, not my circus because we are all in this clown car of hell and it is headed for a cliff. We can no longer just nibble at the edges of this massive social problem. There are no quick fixes for what we are facing, no single approach that will even begin to put a dent in it. What is needed are real solutions to solve this issue and we will not get them if all the voices, even those remotely connected to this issue, are not heard and our approach to it is not a multifaceted effort with every idea considered and utilized if good and every possible consequence of the actions taken thought through. The opioid epidemic has already cost us a couple of generations and it is poised to insure the death and destruction of more generations if concrete action is not taken now.

Our mission will not be considered complete if teenagers who were prescribed pain medications for injuries are getting addicted to them and when they cannot get them are searching for illegal alternatives before the sickness and agony of withdrawal begins to kick in.  Our job will not be done if mothers and fathers or grandfathers and grandmothers in chronic pain from injuries or illness are getting addicted to prescribed pain medications and requiring rehab to free them from addiction. We will not have done enough if young people of any age are able to buy prescription drugs like oxycontin from neighborhood drug dealers under street names like hillbilly heroin, kickers, and killers. Our task will not be over if people addicted to prescription opioids are replacing them with heroin or a lethal cocktail of opiates and benzodiazepines and dropping dead from overdoses in homes and streets across our country. We will not have done all we could if one person dies of an opioid overdose just because there was no access to Naloxone, Narcan, to reverse it. This will not be over if distraught parents with tearsoaked eyes and a hole in their heart are still picking out little pink and blue coffins for children who could not be helped before the relentless grip of drug addiction drained the light of life from their eyes. If one infant somewhere in our country lays in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) inconsolable, screaming an agonizing shrill, twitching, seizing or shaking like a tuning fork involuntarily as he or she awaits a nurse to administer a baby sized dose of methadone or morphine to fend off the painful agonizing sickening effects of narcotics withdrawal our job is not done, our mission will not be complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

 

 

Ford, J. A., & Lacerenza, C. (2010). The Relationship Between Source of Diversion and Prescription Drug Misuse, Abuse, and Dependence. Substance Use & Misuse, 46(6), 819-827. doi:10.3109/10826084.2010.538461

 

Cheatle, M. D. (2015). Prescription Opioid Misuse, Abuse, Morbidity, and Mortality: Balancing Effective Pain Management and Safety. Pain Medicine, 16(suppl 1), S3-S8. doi:10.1111/pme.12904

 

Cleland, C. M., Rosenblum, A., Fong, C., & Maxwell, C. (2011). Age differences in heroin and prescription opioid abuse among enrolees into opioid treatment programs. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 6(1), 11. doi:10.1186/1747-597x-6-11

 

LING, W., MOONEY, L., & HILLHOUSE, M. (2011). Prescription opioid abuse, pain and addiction: Clinical issues and implications. Drug and Alcohol Review, 30(3), 300-305. doi:10.1111/j.1465-3362.2010.00271.x

 

 

 

 

Weiss, R. D., Potter, J. S., Copersino, M. L., Prather, K., Jacobs, P., Provost, S., … Ling, W. (2010). Conducting Clinical Research with Prescription Opioid Dependence: Defining the Population. The American Journal on Addictions, 19(2), 141-146. doi:10.1111/j.1521-0391.2009.00017.x

 

Barry, C. L., Kennedy-Hendricks, A., Gollust, S. E., Niederdeppe, J., Bachhuber, M. A., Webster, D. W., & McGinty, E. E. (2015). Understanding Americans’ views on opioid pain reliever abuse. Addiction, 111(1), 85-93. doi:10.1111/add.13077

 

Keast, S. L., Nesser, N., & Farmer, K. (2014). Strategies aimed at controlling misuse and abuse of opioid prescription medications in a state Medicaid program: a policymaker’s perspective. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 41(1), 1-6. doi:10.3109/00952990.2014.988339

 

Keyes, K. M., Cerdá, M., Brady, J. E., Havens, J. R., & Galea, S. (2014). Understanding the Rural–Urban Differences in Nonmedical Prescription Opioid Use and Abuse in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 104(2), e52-e59. doi:10.2105/ajph.2013.301709

 

 

 

 

 

Kirson, N. Y., Shei, A., White, A. G., Birnbaum, H. G., Ben-Joseph, R., Rossiter, L. F., & Michna, E. (2014). Societal Economic Benefits Associated with an Extended-Release Opioid with Abuse-Deterrent Technology in the United States. Pain Medicine, 15(9), 1450-1454. doi:10.1111/pme.12489

 

 

Jeffery, D. D., May, L., Luckey, B., Balison, B. M., & Klette, K. L. (2014). Use and Abuse of Prescribed Opioids, Central Nervous System Depressants, and Stimulants Among U.S. Active Duty Military Personnel in FY 2010. Military Medicine, 179(10), 1141-1148. doi:10.7205/milmed-d-14-00002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondary References

 

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Health Matters Initiative. (2017). THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC from Evidence to Impact. Retrieved from https://www.jhsph.edu/events/2017/americas-opioid-epidemic/report/2017-JohnsHopkins-Opioid-digital.pdf

 

A special thanks to all those recovering from drug addiction that I transported to Operation Par Inc and other drug addiction treatment centers over the course of several years in my position as a Non-Emergency Medical Transport driver because without the many casual conversations I had with you over that time the parts of this paper where I did not point directly to a peer reviewed or secondary reference would not have been possible. I truly hope you are all living large and free from the chains of drug addiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does The Kiln Of Life Not Alter What The Potter’s Hands Creates?

This interpretation research paper was done for my religion course at Saint Leo University for which I got a 97%. It is all based on just a couple of scriptures from the bible and my research on them. This course on salvation has been one of the most provocative and thought provoking college courses I have ever taken and it has pushed my skills as a writer and thinker like no other. I do not expect everyone to agree with what I wrote here, but I think many might find it interesting.

 

 

 

Does The Kiln of Life Not Alter What The Potter’s Hands Creates?

Kim E Morrison

Saint Leo University

 

 

 

 

 

Does The Kiln Of Life Not Alter What The Potter’s Hands Creates?

 

Did you ever wish that you could have conversation with God? I am quite sure many of us do and I am certain God knows that I do. I hope he also knows that I do not wish to have his audience anytime soon because, after all, this blissful ignorance to our creator’s ways that we all share should have some tangible virtue. If any conversation with God were to take place, I am certain that many of our questions would relate to the bible and these two verses would most certainly be on my list, not because I think they are more important than any others in the Bible, but because God’s response sounds angry: Rom. 9:20-21-20 “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel [a]for honorable use and another [b]for common use?” My first question to God about these verses would be, why does man attempting to use one of the gifts, though limited they are, you endowed humanity with make you angry?  Should our father in heaven not be proud that we mere humans are attempting to go beyond our natural limits to try an understand only that which you hold the answer too? If these two questions I posed to God, did not get my butt tossed on the elevator to Hell immediately, I would then be forced to point out that if we were made in your image then the clay the potter made us out of is quite unique because it can change over time. For the new piece of pottery God’s hands created would not be the same piece after a lifetime of use. Which goes to my title question, Does the kiln of life not alter what the potter’s hands create?

 

 

These two verses along with many others from the bible have been wrestled with by many scholars, theologians, and saints through the ages. One the most notable Saint Augustine of Hippo discussed his views thoughts on it several times in different pieces of his written work. In his “Rebuke and Grace” Saint Augustine states that he can not answer why “God gave them, humans, the love by which they lived as Christians did not give them perseverance” (Augustine, Rotelle, & Teske, 2001, p. 119).  Saint Augustine then states that in saying that he does not know he is not being arrogant, but is recognizing his limits (Augustine, Rotelle, & Teske, 2001, p. 119). Later when free choice of human is mentioned or brought up, he states that is not in accord with the grace of God, but in opposition to it. Whether someone perseveres in good is not because God granted it, but because the will of humans brought it about (Augustine, Rotelle, & Teske, 2001, p. 119).

My human mind may well be limited as many of the Saints suggest and incapable of understanding God’s inscrutable judgements, but it is good enough to see Saint Augustine’s grossly flawed logic. Previously he states that God gave humankind love, but did not give them perseverance and later he states that if we persevere in good it is not because God granted it, but because the will of humans was able to bring it about.  First, if someone has the will to do something, they are determined. If they have persevered in doing something, it was because they were determined. Determined in some form is a synonym for both the word persevere and will, so you cannot have one and not the other. Second, If I, a member of humankind, has the capability or will to achieve goodness after I have sinned, why then do I not have the will to avoid sin in the first place?

In his work “The Predestination of the Saints” Saint Augustine tells us that faith from the beginning to completion is a gift from God (Augustine, Rotelle, & Teske, 2001, p. 163). He then states that the gift of faith is given to some, but not to others and that the fact that it is not given to all should not disturb any believer who believes that because of original sin that “all have entered into condemnation” (Augustine, Rotelle, & Teske, 2001, p. 163). Saint Augustine thinks this is just because no one could blame God if no one were set free because our condemnation was built in at birth. In other words, those who are saved have reason to thank God for his mercy, but those who are not saved have no reason to complain because we were already condemned at birth because Adam sinned. Saint Augustine believed God’s anger toward us was just and that his mercy to a few is great, in his thinking, salvation illustrates God’s mercy and damnation shows God’s justice, so God’s judgements are inscrutable and we should not be questioning them (Augustine, Rotelle, & Teske, 2001, p. 163).

First, the reason some humans would think they have reason to complain here is not because of themselves, but because we are talking about condemning a being at birth. In the limited human mind, we are hearing that our father in heaven is condemning what we perceive as innocence. A human being would be even less tolerant of the notion if they knew Saint Augustine created or advanced this idea of original sin. Two, if a human knows that he or she is already condemned to damnation at the start because of Adam’s sin, would he not be more compelled to commit sin than to refrain from it. In other words, if you call humankind reprobate from the beginning because you believe human society cannot be perfected, have you not set into motion a self-fulfilling prophecy for all of humanity? Would that not make God’s mercy to some seem even more merciful and his judgement of damnation to the rest of us seem less egregious?

 

In “Calvin’s Institutes” John Calvin tells us that all the sons of Adam, humankind, because of original sin fell into a state of wretchedness. Calvin then goes on to talk about the power of God is such that it cannot be hindered. Calvin does pose a powerful question by saying, “How could he who is the judge of the world commit any unrighteousness?” (Humpries, n.d., p. 321). Using (Prov.26:10) “The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool and rewardeth transgressors.”  Calvin suggests it is God’s pleasure “to inflict punishment on fools and transgressors though he is not pleased to bestow his spirit on them.” Calvin goes on to state that humankind suffers from a “monstrous infatuation” because we seek to subject something to our limited reasoning that is beyond his ability to understand. What God knows and only God knows is what Calvin refers to as the “secret counsel” of God (Humpries, n.d., p. 322).

Calvin does appear to see original sin a lot like Saint Augustine does. Calvin tells us in no uncertain terms that what God does is part of his “secret counsel” and that his power cannot be hindered and that what God does is not within bounds of our limited human reasoning. In answer to his question I do not believe that God is capable of unrighteousness. What I do believe is all men past or present are capable of misinterpreting God’s word to suit their beliefs. After all God’s word had to go through man to arrive in a book man refers to as the revealed word, so man is not questioning God, but rather other men’s interpretations of God’s words.

A far less known writer named Dave Bovenmyer has an interesting interpretation of   Romans. 9:20. He tells us that we should be “careful not to think that the analogy fits reality in every single detail” (Bovenmyer, n.d.). He explains that Paul is not telling us that we are senseless mounds of clay without the ability to reason or resist God’s will, nor is Paul saying that God creates some people to make them evil (Bovenmyer, n.d.). He also states that Paul is not saying that God turns some men toward evil because of some secret plan that is opposite of his revealed will. What Paul is doing is using an analogy “in relation to God’s freedom to show mercy-to have mercy on one (like Moses) and harden on another (like Pharaoh)” (Bovenmyer, n.d.). It does seem like the next two verses reinforce his evaluation because they talk of “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory” (Bovenmyer, n.d.).

While Bovenmyer’s interpretation of these verses might sound simplistic to some, they certainly raise less questions and less push back from readers than the interpretations of Saint Augustine and Calvin. The idea that it may be in relation to mercy is made more sensible when he uses the examples of Moses and Pharaoh because they are severely opposite poles, like good and evil.

The issue I have with Saint Augustine’s and Calvin’s interpretations is that they are intertwined with their belief in the original sin. The idea that each of us is damaged by the sin of our original physical father Adam and because of it we are all doomed to suffer the same fate from birth which is eternal damnation and we cannot be saved unless our course is altered in some way by divine intervention or by God’s grace. We cannot help but commit sin because it is in our nature to sin and we have no power over if we sin because as stated earlier we lack the will, so we are all condemned to fail.  As a result, we are all reprobate in the beginning because of Adam’s sin, so our lives, no matter how pure we lead them, are ill fated journeys toward destruction unless our merciful God judges us fit for heaven and elects to save us. If not, we stay reprobate and are doomed to our predestined fate. The trouble with this is that Saint Augustine set up the idea of the original sin which in turn gave birth to a gnostic thinking that states that man is forced to sin by his nature. The early Church believed man could choose between his nature because of his fee will. Another problem with this view is that all which is connected to man is built around the concept of fate. A concept that judging by “The Banquet of The Ten Virgins” Discourse 8, Chapter 16 that bothered some of the early Church fathers to the point that they questioned it with the following: “Now those who decide that man is not possessed of free-will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate, and her unwritten commands, are guilty of impiety towards God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils. For if He harmoniously orders the whole circular motion of the stars, with a wisdom which man can neither express nor comprehend, directing the course of the universe; and the stars produce the qualities of virtue and vice in human life, dragging men to these things by the chains of necessity; then they declare God to be the Cause and Giver of evils. But God is the cause of injury to no one; therefore fate is not the cause of all things” (“CHURCH FATHERS: Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse 8 (Methodius),” 1886).

Certainly no one now would want to imagine that God could be the cause and giver of evils or be the cause of injury to anyone because we correlate this kind of handy work with Satan, but a change of thought in those of that time who put fate in the forefront of theological discussion could have set the stage for the cruel and superstitious age history has shown us. Those periods of time where Catholics called people heretics and burned people at the stake for not believing exactly as they did and not subscribing to the thought in concert with their belief that the state had to be submissive to the Church. The Catholic Church wanted this because they believe in their tradition and that the Catholic Church is the repository for all of God’s grace. Anyone that didn’t go along with their entire program could be persecuted even when many of their basic beliefs coincided with Catholic thought of the time.

Given the religious wars in Europe and the history of persecution and violence associated with religious belief is it any wonder why the founding fathers of this country, who were of European heritage, went to great lengths to insure state sovereignty by installing the concept of separation of church and state right in the Constitution our nation was built on. Our founding fathers did not want the same thing that went on in Europe to continue here in the new world.  One could argue that religions violent history only serves to prove that humankind is automatically bent toward sin, but you cannot blame humankind for submitting to a built-in weakness when you have others putting the rules so far in opposition to each other that what one calls a righteousness action would be called sinful action by another. In other words, you cannot say burning someone at the stake for their beliefs is a righteous action when the God you claim you serve clearly states in his Commandments that “thou shall not kill.”  There is no quid pro quo, no grey area, and no exceptions in this language. Another thing telling humankind that they are all set for eternal damnation, regardless of how moral they live their life, because in God’s inscrutable judgement we deserve it because of Adam’s sin, the purveyors of this belief are canonizing a self fulfilling human prophecy that was created by religious figures long ago. One could call me a heretic for thinking this way, but I am sure many have considered this in one way or another and judging from pop culture it too has created our view of Satan. For example, in the film “Devils Advocate” you have Al Pacino, the Devil in this film, saying the following. “I do not make things happen. Free will, like a butterfly wings once touched they never get off the ground” (Lemkin & Gilroy, 1996).  Just perhaps, as suggested in this film, Satan does not have to make things happen, not just because of the evil that may dwell within our nature, but because men with good Godly intentions and strong beliefs set those wheels in motion a long time ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Augustine, Rotelle, J. E., & Teske, R. J. (2001). The Works of Saint Augustine (2nd Release). Electronic edition. Answer to the Pelagians, IV: To the Monks of Hadrumetum and Provence: Volume I/26. Charlottesville, VA: InteLex Corporation.

 

Humpries, T. L. (Trans.). (n.d.). Many are called, but who is chosen. Winona, MN: Professors choice.

 

CHURCH FATHERS: Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse 8 (Methodius). (1886). Retrieved from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/062308.htm

 

Bovenmyer, D. (n.d.). Romans 9 and Unconditional Election | Dave Bovenmyer’s Writings. Retrieved from https://davebovenmyer.com/2013/06/23/observations-on-romans-9/

 

Lemkin, J., & Gilroy, T. (1996, January 18). Devil’s Advocate Script at IMSDb. Retrieved from http://nldslab.soe.ucsc.edu/charactercreator/film_corpus/film_2012xxxx/imsdb.com/Devil’s-Advocate.html

 

 

Someone Up There has Got To Love Us

I wrote this piece for a thought provoking college class I am currently taking on Faith and Salvation online at Saint Leo University. I do not know yet what grade I will get on it, but I figured it was worth sharing with my readers up here.

 

Will man be saved by God? Who will be saved by God? Is one of the Catholic faith more likely to be saved by God than a Lutheran, a Presbyterian, or someone from another faith? Can a simple man who believes in God and occasionally reads the revealed word, but elects not to be connected to any church be saved by God? Would God even bother to try to save a true atheist or a non-believer in God and Heaven? Is there a way for a man to receive the grace of God and be saved and welcomed into God’s Kingdom on his own? I think any man, even those in Godly robes with full knowledge of the revealed word, that thinks he can answer these questions unequivocally to an absolute certainty is exhibiting a level of human audacity, so grand in dimension and size that even God himself is stunned by it. I have no absolute proof, just as no one else does about salvation, but I believe every time our human minds entertain questions which are purely in the hands of the divine one, God is sitting on his throne in heaven with his hand on his forehead going oy vey these wondrous creatures that I have created in my own image cannot even understand what is in their own hearts and minds, yet they presume to know what is in their creators heart and mind based only on those I spoke to or through centuries ago. However, I do believe despite it all that God loves us though and like a mother of many children, God is most protective of the creation, no matter how imperfect or screwed up, that is most like him. I do not believe “man set himself against God and sought to attain his goal apart from God,” because I do not believe there was a deliberate conscious effort on the part of humans to go against the creator. Any appearance that we set ourselves against God must be considered either a thoughtless action on our part or at the very worst an act of hubris in ourselves without regard to God. Pride or hubris is one of the seven deadly sins, but it is one of the sneakier sins because we often do not know it has a hold of us until it is too late. God knows all too well about man’s inclination toward sin because we have failed, starting with Adam, every test he has thrown in front of us, but God also has the wisdom to know that our inclination to sin is equaled with our inclination to do great good.

If we are truly all God’s children and he is our father in heaven as we have often been taught, he must forgive us of our sins for it is not within in a true father to stop loving, to stop caring, to stop being father. It is a job that never ends and with that job comes a lot of worry, pain, and sacrifice and the best any father can hope for, be he God or human, are a few fleeting moments of joy and pride in the being or beings born from the seed he planted.  I do not care whether you are Catholic, Baptist, or whatever, or you never go to church, or what nonsense you believe in, or think you know.  If he is a true father, “our father who thou art in heaven” will not forsake us because it is not in the nature or soul of a true father to do so. Our father will try to illuminate the path to heaven for us all, he will try to save us all if he can, and he will try keep us all from falling into the clutches of Satan’s grip because a true father will protect and defend his children to the end. Unfortunately, just because our father has the will and desire to try and save us all does not mean he will be able to do so. The desire and will to do something even if heaven sent does guarantee thy will be done or achieved. A baby growing in the womb of a mother is not guaranteed life in this world, so how could we expect our father in heaven, no matter how great and wonderful he is, to guarantee us ascension to heaven in the next life. We all know that natural life from start to finish holds no guarantees, so why would you think be you Catholic, Protestant, or a simple man with a deep abiding belief in God above think that a place in heaven is guaranteed to you. God, our father in heaven, does not guarantee us eternal life in his heavenly kingdom.  God merely offers us the promise of eternal life in his Kingdom if we manage to get there through his will and desire.

If it is all dependent on God’s will and desire, what role does the church or organized religion play? They are all well-worn pathways to realizing that promise, but it cannot be the only one otherwise far too many would be left out. If he were to select only Catholics, that would leave all the Protestants and Jews out. If were to select only those who attend some church, he would leave out all those who do not attend any kind of church. A loving forgiving father would not leave so many of his children out in the cold, so there must be other ways he can save them, to help them realize his promise. As our reading states, “the scriptures tell men that God wants everyone saved.” Whether it is a “supernatural salvation” God just grants to his non-Christian or non-believing children or he has some plan or some other way beyond man’s comprehension to save us, a pathway to realize his promise must exist for us all. As we have read, we are all afflicted with the burden of the “original sin,” so through no fault of our own we are all on the road to perdition from the moment we are born. If this is true, there must be more ways off that road. It cannot be all exclusive to one faith, like the Catholic Saints we have read have tried to convince us of for our father in heaven would not want one half or three quarters of his children to perish in the flames of hell just because they do not subscribe to the idea that a wise exalted old fellow in a funny hat is the only one that holds the keys to heaven gate.

I haven’t been to Sunday services in a church in decades, but sitting behind me on my book shelf right at this moment rests several different Bibles. Do I believe every word in the Bible? Absolutely not because literal interpretations of that wonderful book causes people do stupid appalling things in the heavenly father’s name.  God is wonderful, God is great, God loves us and forgives us for our trespasses, but not even divine intervention can fix certain kinds of stupid. Do I believe in God? You bet I do because one not believing in God is far to frightening to contemplate. Two, if any creature on earth ever needed a divine Sheppard to watch over them, it is man because no creature on earth is more hell bent on their own destruction than man. Three, only God could help us make sense of this beautiful chaos we call life. We can only pray that one day we will get the chance to stand in the light of our heavenly father and receive the answers to all the questions religious wars have been fought over, the answers that have always been just out of our minds reach, the answers that have at times both mystified our minds and tortured our mortal souls.

Would My Love Endure?

If I were to have to say goodbye tomorrow,

would you know how much I loved you?

If I took my last step on this earth,

would you remember the feel my love?

If I kissed your luscious lips one last time,

would they remember the taste of my love?

If I gasped one last I love you before dying,

would the breath of my love linger in the air?

If my heart were to stop beating in your arms,

would you still feel the rhythm of my love?

If the angels were forced to take me from you,

would the memory of my love for you endure?

Dixie Rose

Dixie Rose!

You are an enduring natural beauty of immeasurable quality.

The blanket of pink flowers that embrace your lovely branches

conceal an internal strength and a unique unwavering grace

for not even the torrential flood waters of life

or the relentless savagery of a soulless pair of hands

could overcome your will and stubborn resilience

to rip you out by the root and rape you of your splendor.

Despite it all you remain just as desirable as ever

full of a yearning passion that could never be denied.

 

Dixie Rose!

Fear not these tired rugged old hands for they are mere extensions

of a loving heart, full of more patience, and understanding

than you have ever known or could even begin to imagine.

I fear not your painful sharp thorns or the blood they may draw

for I know in my heart they were put there to preserve you.

Spirit Of Santa Claus

Whether you choose to call him Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Papai Noel, Viejo Pacuero (“Old Man Christmas”), Dun Che Lao Ren (“Christmas Old Man”), Kerstman, Joulupukki, Weihnachtsmann( Christmas Man”), Kanakaloka, Mikulas ( St. Nicholas), Babbo Natale, Hoteiosho (“A God or Priest who bears gifts”), Julenissen ( “Christmas gnome”), Swiety Mikolaj (“St. Nicholas”), Ded Moroz, (“Grandfather Frost”) Jultonten (“Chritsmas brownie”), Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or SinterKlass let us not forget the meaning behind Santa Claus. A meaning that is not just built around the religious significance of Christmas. A meaning that we should hold dearly in our hearts each day of the year. A meaning that demands that we strive toward or constantly reach for the better angels of our nature even when it seems impossible to do so. This season is representation of a spirit of goodness, kindness, compassion, and love that should exist within us all the whole year long. A spirit that demands we open our hearts to others without out any expectation from them, but as an example for them to follow. This is the season where the feet of doing the right thing hits the pavement knowing the right thing to do and the realization that the only thing you will get in return for your efforts is the good feeling you get in your heart for doing it. As I used to tell my bus students and now patients, “it is not hard doing the right thing. What is hard is knowing what the right thing is.”  The right thing is that which demands the best from you in the worst of circumstances, that summons that better person inside you, that person you never realized you were capable of being, that person who realizes that doing the right thing routinely comes without awards, gifts, and sometimes without even a simple thank you, but does so just because of how it makes them feel inside.

Merry Christmas To All

Kim Morrison

My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

I remember a Christmas growing up in the mountains of upstate New York when things were hard, money was shorter than usual, and my father was not around much. As we approached Christmas that year, it looked like my mother and I were not even going to have a Christmas tree. I was only about twelve or thirteen that year, but the idea of not having a Christmas tree that year just didn’t set well with me, so without my mother knowing I got up early one morning and gathered up a hand saw and my father’s double-bladed axe. It had snowed the night before and it was very cold as it usually was up there that time of year. However, I was determined to have a Christmas tree one way or another, so I trudged through about four inches of snow into the woods behind my house with the saw in one hand and a double-bladed axe over my shoulder.  Even being bundled up good I was getting cold, so I knew I had to find a tree soon. The best tree I could find was a tall oddly thick pine tree. I could not use the whole tree because it was too tall, so I climbed half way up the tree carrying the handsaw and cut the top off. I tossed the saw down just before I cut through it all the way and pushed the tree top with my shoulder just enough to make it crack and tumble to the ground. When I got down, I tied the saw and axe on the tree with a piece of rope I had stuck in my pocket and dragged my Christmas tree through the snow to my house about a mile or so away. I was really freezing by the time I got back and my hands because I had to remove my gloves to use the saw felt like they were not far from frostbite, so I went in to get warm and to pull out the tree stand. I told my mother I got tree and she looked at it from the window and said, “I do not think that old pine tree is going to work because the needles are going to fall off quicker.” I said, “I guess will just have to make it last somehow.” After warming back up, I went back outside and shaved the trunk flat, brought it in the house, and stood it up in the tree stand. I looked at it and thought well at least my tree looks better than “Charlie Brown’s.” We decorated the pine tree with just about every decoration and light we had that year and it wound up being one of the best Christmas trees we have ever had and the aspirins we put in the tree water did make those needles stay on into the next year. We didn’t have much more than my “Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” but it still wound up being very special Christmas because we made our own Christmas that year.

When we think about Christmas we need to realize that it isn’t just about Santa Clause, presents, or even Jesus Christ, but about tradition. It is about doing those things your family has always done despite what is going on in your life, the passage of time, or the loss of loved ones and friends along the way. The traditions you follow may seem trivial, or unimportant to anyone else, but they are what makes your holiday season special to you. The little things people and families do every Christmas is where the spirit of this season comes from. I make a Christmas cookie from a recipe that has been in my family for a hundred years around every Christmas. I certainly do not need the cookies because I am diabetic, but it is one of the smells of Christmas I remember as child when my mother made them and others. I have Christmas bulbs on my tree now that have hung on my families Christmas tree since my birth and I am fifty-six years old. They say people are usually a little kinder and gentler this time of year. If you believe that they are, it is not just because it is Jesus’s birthday, but because of all of us following our traditions during this special season and doing the things our families have always done for years. The sights, sounds, smells and everything that is wonderful about this holiday are born out of the traditions of families.  Santa Clause is alive in the hearts of small children and the spirit of Christmas is alive and well in the hearts of many during this season because of things big and small that families throughout history have always done. We make this wonderful season what it is to us by the little things we do every year. It doesn’t take much to make a Christmas special or memorable. Sometimes all it takes is a “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.”

 

Once we Were the Greatest of Friends

Once we were the greatest of friends

We enjoyed each other’s company

We could talk to each other for hours

We talked about anything and everything

Nothing was off limits or sacred between us

I used to love to make you laugh and smile

I never thought you did enough of either

You once said that we had a special connection

I thought nothing could ever come between us

I thought you would always be a part of my life

I thought we would be friends until the end

I cared for you to the very depths of my soul

I came to love you for unique reasons

Your difficult life made me crazy with worry

Your silence only served to make that worse

I would wonder if you were hurt or dead

I foolishly tried to be your everything

knowing full well that was impossible

but that did not keep me from trying

because you were always worth it to me

 

Once we were the greatest of friends

You once said you had a big heart

but there was no room in it for me

You must hate me to your very core

You knew nothing would hurt me more

than to leave me writhing in confusion

behind your unrelenting wall of silence

forever to wonder if you are dead or alive

silently praying that your life got less scary

because I will never stop caring about you

I refuse to give up on you like others have

You and others may think me a fool

but realize that I do not have it in me

to do to you what you are doing to me

I truly hope you are in a better place now

and nothing but good ever comes to you

I hope you find everything you seek in life

 

 

Maybe someday before I take my final journey

you will realize the kind of friend you had in me

Hopefully someday you will find a way to forgive me

for being crazy enough about you to foolishly believe

that I could fill all the voids and vacuums in your life

that others deliberately caused or callously left behind

Perhaps someday you will finally come to understand

that I did this because I believed you were far better

than the sum of all your mistakes and bad judgements.

When I looked at you I never saw just another woman

who had simply been ravaged by life and left broken

I saw what I believed was a “Masterpiece Undefined”

Alas maybe I am nothing more than a crazy blind dreamer

stumbling through life seeing only the very best in people

daring to believe that I can make them see what I see.