Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Plowing the Sea

“Can one plow the sea with oxen?” (Amos 6:12) This is the prophet’s image for misguided people thinking they are okay when in fact, having departed from the way of God, they are trying to do something that is both impossible and foolish.

A few days ago I went into a tobacconist’s shop. For many years, I have considered smoking to be one of the two greatest evil causes of death in the world. (The other is abortion.) If the figures I have heard are accurate, tobacco has caused more misery in the form of grotesque tumors, lingering illnesses with prolonged suffering, and more widespread death and grief than any war.

Yet, I must admit, there is a mystique about smoking. The scratch of a match, the aroma of a butane lighter, tamping aromatic tobacco into the bowl of a pipe, wreaths of smoke can be strangely seductive. Sherlock Holmes, hobbits and wizards, and Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver’s dad (I think) all smoke pipes. Gandalf even blows smoke rings. While I was in the tobacconist’s shop I almost toyed for an instant with the idea of buying a cigar just for the fun of blowing smoke rings. Forty years ago I did it a few times for the mystique, but I didn’t like the awful aftertaste, headaches, ruination of my taste buds, and stale repulsive odor in my clothes.

The reality is that even a little smoking is unpleasant, malodorous, and makes you sick. There is nothing redeeming whatever about it. As long ago as the 1950s when I was a child, cigarettes were sometimes called “coffin nails”. The Surgeon General’s Reports that began to come out as a result of many studies only revealed what was already commonly known and widely believed. The reports just gave us more information about it, and showed that what we all knew was even worse than we had believed.

So I always shake my head in wonder whenever I see anyone smoking today, especially a young person. It isn’t cool, fun, or impressive. It’s a sign of empty-headedness.

Like heresy. It’s not just wrong. It’s not just cruel. It’s a sign of empty-headedness. Whenever one goes off the beam of authentic, adventuresome, exciting, evangelical, Catholic Christianity, and holds to that wayward course, disaster eventually results. When it is nearly the entire leadership of a Church and a lot of followers of “where the power is”, the disaster becomes extensive. But it isn’t permanent, though much damage is done to many souls during the time of apostasy. (See this old post of mine on the subject.)

And so it is today in the pseudo Episcopal Church. The spiritual warfare that has been eating the Church from within for decades is becoming more identifiable for what it is. Under its current leadership, the most public assistant is a lawyer. We haven’t heard much about “inclusivity” lately, I think. The principle of “inclusivity”, which for the past thirty years or more has been the banner on the flagship of the juggernaut to falsehood, has been abandoned. The lust for power seeks now, openly and boldly, to root out the opposition and, like a spider, reaches out clutching limbs in a widening circle, grasping after control. Those who believe that they are in power enforce the canons to the slightest jot and tittle in order to inhibit and depose faithful priests and bishops; they encourage lawsuits, crush charitable relationships between people of differing convictions, and contemptuously brush away appeals from all other authorities—and often do so with disregard for canonical and due process, and scorn for anyone who points out that they are doing so.

But they are not in power. They are plowing the sea. Both impossible and foolish. Doesn’t history show repeatedly that those who clutch for power always lose? Like smoking, there is a mystique in power, and the adulating fans of the higher leadership of the Episcopal Church want to reach out and touch it. But in the long run, it is not power but perseverance in the faith, not fans but faithfulness to Jesus, not plowing the sea but planting the seed that get results. It has always, always been so. Heretics, hypocrites, and heavies are empty-headed—as foolish as those who take up smoking. Plowers of the sea.

They are not in power—they only think they are. The Church is God’s, not theirs. Their time will come.


bookmimi1 said...


DavidJustinLynch said...

I agree with you about smoking. I am asthmatic and to be around smokers is no fun for me. I am a lawyer and a lifelong Episcopalian. The Church should have had more lawyers in the clergy long ago to put into place safeguards to prevent parishes from leaving. We are not a congregational church, where each parish believes what it chooses, and a priest cannot disregard his or her ordination vows because he or she doesn't agree with the sexual practices of the Bishop of New Hampshire.

Cinco said...

I agree with your observations, Father, and would add too, that both smoking and heresy make a great deal of show for insubstantiality.