Richard Rohr: Walk Gently on the Earth

When we are secure and confident in our oneness—knowing that all are created in God’s image and are equally beloved—differences of faith, culture, language, skin color, sexuality, or other trait no longer threaten us. Rather, we seek to understand and honor others and to live in harmony with them.

.. In the Qur’an, the people who opposed Islam when Muhammad began to preach in Mecca are called the kafirum. The usual English translation is extremely misleading: it does not mean “unbeliever” or “infidel”; the root KFR means “blatant ingratitude,” a discourteous and arrogant refusal of something offered with great kindness. . . . They were not condemned for their “unbelief” but for their braying, offensive manner to others, their pride, self-importance, chauvinism, and inability to accept criticism. [2] . . . Above all, they are jahili: chronically “irascible,” acutely sensitive about their honor and prestige, with a destructive tendency to violent retaliation. Muslims are commanded to respond to such abusive behavior with hilm (“forbearance”) and quiet courtesy, leaving revenge to Allah. They must “walk gently on the earth,” and whenever the jahilun insult them, they should simply reply, “Peace.”

.. There was no question of a literal, simplistic reading of scripture. Every single image, statement, and verse in the Qur’an is called an ayah (“sign,” “symbol,” “parable”), because we can speak of God only analogically. The great ayat of the creation and the last judgment are not introduced to enforce “belief,” but they are a summons to action. Muslims must translate these doctrines into practical behavior. The ayah of the last day, when people will find that their wealth cannot save them, should make Muslims examine their conduct here and now: Are they behaving kindly and fairly to the needy? They must imitate the generosity of Allah ..

.. By looking after the poor compassionately, freeing their slaves, and performing small acts of kindness on a daily, hourly basis, Muslims would acquire a responsible, caring spirit, purging themselves of pride and selfishness. By modeling their behavior on that of the Creator, they would achieve spiritual refinement [what I would call growing in God’s likeness].

Hallmarks of the Franciscan Order

Both Francis and Clare let go of all fear of suffering, all need for power, prestige, and possessions, and the need for their small self to be important. They came to know something essential—who they really were in God and thus who they really were.

.. Francis did not wish for himself or his followers to be priests, to take higher places on the Church’s hierarchical ladder of education, prestige, and power.

These hallmarks of the Secular Franciscan Order (from the formation manual For Up To Now) can be claimed and practiced by anyone:

  • Simplicity (A spirituality that is genuine; without pretense)
  • Poverty (Love of Gospel poverty develops confidence in the Father and creates internal freedom)
  • Humility (The truth of what and who we really are in the eyes of God; freedom from pride and arrogance)
  • A genuine sense of minority (The recognition that we are servants, not superior to anyone)
  • A complete and active abandonment to God (Trusting in God’s unconditional love)
  • Conversion (Daily we begin again the process of changing to be more like Jesus)
  • Transformation (What God does for us, when we are open and willing)
  • Peacemaking (We are messengers of peace as Francis was)

The ‘H-Bomb’ Fizzles: The Harvard Brand Takes a Hit

There exists a species of person — typically a well-groomed overachiever — who, when asked where he or she went to college, rather than state its name directly, will provide a Russian nesting doll set of geographical responses.

In New England. Massachusetts. Well, Boston. Um … Cambridge.

Finally, sotto voce, with an apologetic wince or sheepish smile, anticipating the word’s being volleyed back in an affected

.. that formerly contrived embarrassment may be ceding to sincere shame and a reassessment of the merits of a Harvard education.

.. Harvard had the sixth-most-reported rape cases on campus in 2014, and its law school figured prominently in the controversial documentary about campus sexual assault

.. Daniel Golden’s 2006 book, “The Price of Admission,” about how the rich buy their way into elite schools, has become newly relevant for its disclosure that Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, received acceptance to Harvard despite an unremarkable academic record, possibly thanks to his father’s donation of $2.5 million.

.. A spokeswoman for Mr. Kushner denied the allegation, noting that Mr. Kushner graduated with honors; Mr. Golden observed that, in a climate of rampant grade inflation, so did about 90 percent of Mr. Kushner’s graduating class of 2003.

.. The acquisitive-rather-than-inquisitive Harvard grad is not a baseless stereotype: Nearly two-fifths of the class of 2016 said they were going into finance or consulting

.. By comparison, just 6 percent went into nonprofit or public service work, and 4 percent into education.

.. In fairness to Harvard, it asks no contribution from families making less than $65,000 per year and provides sliding-scale tuition for those earning more. The New York Times 2015 College Access Index, measuring schools’ efforts to promote economic diversity, ranked it 11th over all and fourth among private colleges, far ahead of places better known for their diversity, such as Oberlin (ranked 132nd).

However, its ratio of federal Pell Grant recipients (for low-income students) to endowment per student is much less impressive.

.. over a third of the student body comes from families earning more than $250,000 a year (the wealthiest 4 percent of households), with more students from the $500,000-and-up 1 percenters than $40,000-and-below families.

.. A 2005 book, “Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education,” determined that, all else being equal, top schools do not offer any admission advantage to low-income students, despite lip service to the contrary.

.. Some parents, though, including alumni, are rebelling against the Harvard-or-bust mentality, not only because of the stresses it places on their overworked children, but from misgivings about the conformist and careerist atmosphere of the Ivy Leagues.

.. “I would like my kids to find their passion, take risks and be curious, engaged, educated people,”

.. “Elite schools discourage kids from being that; they want them to build résumés, to build careers, to be cautious. The kinds of people who go to Harvard tend to be people who succeed by traditional metrics, and that continues after Harvard. I’d like my kids not to be so beholden to those metrics.

.. “only privileged people” like himself “can afford not to be concerned” about the attainment of privilege.

.. he encounters more students who question whether going to a prestigious school “is something that’s really going to make me happy and lead to a fulfilling life.”

“But there’s a feeling like you don’t have a choice” in an increasingly aristocratic society in which one’s college is a primary determinant of status, he added.

.. what privilege says about each of our characters — makes us uncomfortable. Our privilege forces us to question our worthiness and our merit, two of the things most highly valued at an institution like this one.”

Russian Campaign in Syria Exposes Moscow’s Defense Gaps

Deployment of warships to assist Assad regime lays bare weaknesses in Russian military’s naval aviation and carrier operations

 The Russian military hasn’t said that the Kuznetsov is taking part in the assault on Aleppo, though top NATO officials say that is the primary purpose of the deployment.
.. “They are trying to play it both ways,” a Western official said. “On one hand, at the Putin level they have these messages of openness to rapprochement and dialogue and discussion. But…they are in effect taking out insurance in the case the Trump administration continues the course the West has been on vis-à-vis Russian misbehavior.”
.. The Russian navy has a chance to “shake the rust out of their experience and equipment, both figuratively and literally,” in the Syria operation, said Mr. Wertheim.There are other benefits for Moscow. “The navy has been showing the flag and getting headlines,” said Norman Polmar, a naval analyst and author who has studied the Russian and Soviet navies. “Deploying the Kuznetsov has increased the navy’s prestige.”

.. He added that Russian aviators would maintain combat skills “with great, great difficulty” after the Kuznetsov goes in for an anticipated major overhaul and refurbishment following the Syria operation.

 .. A British frigate and a destroyer following the battle group stayed within close enough distance to stop the carrier from carrying out some training missions that the Russians didn’t want NATO to observe, according to a British official.