This morning I was listening to James White’s latest episode while I was getting ready for work and he made a comment that I found a little frustrating.
Commenting on some of the content I listen to or watch online is something I’ve wanted to start doing more of, so here’s a good chance to jump in and talk a little about some of the issues I have with religion generally and the blinders we typically wear when pointing at others.…
So, let’s jump in and discuss….
Starting at 12:30 min….
There are usually two episodes put out by James White each week, and I generally save these for Saturday morning; 1 for when I’m getting ready for work and the 2nd one I listen to during my commute to work. This morning I was listening to the above linked episode and starting at 12:30 min James starts talking about the covid mandates and shot requirements for travel.
For those who do not listen to Dr. White’s podcast regularly, he has been very outspoken against the Covid vaccine, against mask mandates, and has stopped traveling by public transportation for the last few years (because of this) and has taken up traveling to his scheduled destinations by RV.
Keep in mind, everything that Dr. White does is “listener supported.” That means, if he flies somewhere, other people are paying for it. If he drives somewhere, you guessed it, someone else is picking up the tab. Now, I’m not against this concept in theory, but in practicality I typically am. Here’s why – and Dr. White proves my point in this segment of his podcast. Personally I think Dr. White should get a secular job somewhere and stop fleecing the flock, then he can do his “ministry” work on the side like the rest of us do.
But, this is just my opinion.
They Might Just Lift Travel Restrictions
He makes a really good point about this, and it’s something I thought immediately when my own state suddenly decided that, despite the still theoretically high number of Covid cases each day (as of today), we no longer have to wear a mask in public places (indoors or out).
The point Dr. White makes is this has much more to do with the mid-term elections than it does with the risk of infection, especially since the risk of infection was overblown throughout the last two years anyway (and that masks really do nothing to protect an individual from getting or spreading anything).
But, this is not the point of this blog post. There’s something else Dr. White states here in this segment. Back at the 5:30 min mark, he makes a comment that no matter what happens in the world, God is going to use the events around us to make us more like Jesus, and this basically translates into the loss of “stuff” since this is what becoming more like Jesus entails.
Okay. I’m on board with this statement…sort of. I think becoming more like Jesus “can” imply the loss of material things. Maybe more so because western society is so enamored by things and consumerism that we can’t see little else in the way of Christ-likeness. But there is also the universal depravity of man to contend with that has nothing to do with material possession. What I mean, is, it is not inherently “the stuff” that is the corrupting influence on the individual, but the individual himself. The heart of the individual is marred by sin from birth. There is no equivocating. There is no circumventing this reality, though try as humans do. Even the poorest of people do wicked things.
But, on the surface, Dr. White points out a fact. Things do tend to keep up from becoming more like Christ. The love of things, the love of money (which really just translates into the love of self and the love of the desires of the flesh and of pleasures and self-gratification). But, as I listened on, not more than 5 minutes later, Dr. White makes a startling revelation as to why he will most likely not be returning to public transportation as he previously did.
His reason surprised me (but I’m not really sure why it should).
So, those of you who’ve read previous blog posts from me probably realize that according to society at large, I’m broke. I have little money. I have amassed little in the way of net worth. But, I also live a day-to-day lifestyle that is leaps and bounds more luxurious than 3/4th of the world’s population, and, by practicality, better than most people who make a six figure income. The reason why is freedom. I’m free to do whatever I want (within reason). I’m virtually free of a 9-5 job (working only 2 days a week). I’m free of most financial constraints (over half of my income is disposable). But, the ability to do so boils down to one mantra that I got from Thoreau several years ago and have stuck to in all my decisions, “learn to live without a thing rather than learning how to afford it.”
Needless to say, I initially accepted Dr. White’s statement that the loss of stuff equaled Christ-likeness. Sure. To some degree. But then he went on in his discussion (ramblings) about public airlines and why he would most likely not be returning to it.
1. It’s not because the airlines will be continuing with covid restrictions. They won’t because it’s an election year. But don’t worry, all those restrictions and much more will return as punishment for our voting next year.
2. It’s not because there is some moral or ethical objection to flying on planes. Everything in this world – every system, every process, every cultural invention – is all evil anyway, so to avoid all evil we would have to escape the world altogether (or live in a cave).
No, Dr. White finally admits (at the 13:11 minute mark) the reason why he will most likely not be returning to flying on planes in the near future.
“I have lost all my privileges. I had high standing which makes a huge difference…”
Now, as someone who does not and has never earned a significant income in my life, nor have I been a frequent traveller or utilized credit cards with their points and bonuses, etc. as of a month ago I really would not have understood what Dr. White was referring to. To be honest, I had no idea there were even first class or priority class “lounges” in the airports. I thought there were lobbies where everyone gathered together to wait in uncomfortable chairs and then priority status people got to board first, and got the nice seats with a few inches of extra leg room in first and business class for ridiculously amounts of money compared to the rest of us flying economy.
But, over the last few weeks I’ve been binge watching Kara & Nate’s travel videos on Youtube and discovered there is a whole other world for those who can spend lots of money (relative to what I spend in any given year). You can check out Kara & Nate talking about the best first class lounges in the world here:
But, back to my point. It may have been because of Covid that Dr. White stopped traveling by plane to all these far flung places around the world (on someone else’s dime) but now he won’t return to public transportation unless he has the same standard he has grown accustomed to.
Status – Is this not the same thing as Stuff?
So, I wonder if Jesus at any time in his 3 year ministry ever said to his disciples, “no, we’re not going to travel to such and such village or this part of the country because I do not have priority status there.”
I realize Dr. White really kind of likes the sound of his own voice, which is why he can ramble on for 1-2 hours a few times each week, often about the same topics again and again. And maybe this is a benefit to the body of Christ in some way. But maybe there is a lesson here that God is trying to teach him by removing his “priority status.” Maybe it’s trying to illustrate how the concept of money and status are more often than not a judgment on the individual it is given to rather than a resource or a blessing. The fact is, just because you “can” do something doesn’t mean you should. Just because he’s able to (or used to be able to) jet-set around the world doesn’t mean it’s beneficial. Many if not all of Dr. White’s debates are repeats of debates on topics he’s done before. Why do your listeners need to pay again and again for the same thing? Why not point to those previous debates? Because if you did not frequently fly you would lose priority status. The scam is becoming clear.
I looked at how one “achieves” priority status about 20 years ago when my landlord convinced me to get a credit card to earn frequent flyer miles. The problem is, it costs about 5 years of my annual expenses to qualify for the sign up bonus of points and those have to be purchased usually within 3-6 months of getting the card. This is simply impossible for me to do. Just like one individual I spoke with had spent $30,000 one year on Logos Bible Software “tools,” I could live on that for over five years! The same: my sibling called one day bemoaning that they had only made $29,000 this year, stating they never felt so poor in their entire life. I simply remarked, “I made $14,000 this year. I’ve never felt so rich.”
They subsequently asked me if I could loan them some money. Sadly, they were serious.
In the end, I think Dr. White is doing disservice to those who pay for his travel. First he was against travel by plane because of Covid and their forcing the vaccine. Got it. Wouldn’t disagree. I cannot travel by cruiseship simply because it requires vaccine and I’m not going to do it (I probably wouldn’t anyway). Then he had his supporters update his virtual studio where he could live stream debates from all corners of the world since travel was out of the question. This studio, as far as I’m aware, has never been used since for an actual debate. Then his supporters had to buy him a new 5th wheel and pickup truck since this was the way to travel in 2021. I still think there is an argument to be made that it would be more cost effective to buy an economy car and stay at budget minded motels. But, status is apparently an issue.
I’ve listened to the majority of Dr. White’s debates online over the last few years and many if not most of his podcast episodes. I do so because, quite frankly, there is very little else out there to listen to that has substantive quality content. Much of Christianity in the west is cursory content at best, barely if ever dipping into the depths of mature Christian thought or philosophical inquiry. Most Sunday services and lectures (aside from doctorate level lectures) are geared toward the end user: the carnal Christian who has only a scant knowledge of the theology and who seldom if ever actually reads his/her Bible. But, I did not realize the murkiness of those depths in Dr. White’s personal requirements until now.
I guess I’m one of the lucky ones to never have experience “priority status” before in my life.
Thankfully, I simply don’t know what I’m missing…
UPDATE: Upon further investigation, priority status can be had by anyone who is willing to pay $500 a year for membership. So I’m not certain what exactly Dr. White is kicking against here. Since he (presumably) does not pay out of pocket for any of his travel, he could just tack on this additional charge to his travel expenses and resume the status that he’s grown accustomed to over the years. Then again, the issue really isn’t about him returning to this kind of status but the fact that he’s grown accustomed to it in the first place and seemingly won’t travel without it.
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Excerpt from Ashen Monk Mountain:
There was an old elm tree near the end of the lawn, with a circular picnic table and several short benches.
“This looks like a lovely spot,” Mr. Eckey said, taking a seat.
He set his briefcase on the picnic table and flipped the latches, opening the lid.
Christopher took a seat opposite him and removed his hood, folding his arms in front of him.
“I have a tablet and a pen here somewhere,” Mr. Eckey said. “I had it when I left, that is. Not sure if I can find it in this disorganized briefcase of mine…”
He chuckled at himself.
“So – ”
Christopher ran a hand over his short cropped scalp.
“I’m confused about all this. I’m not sure I understand why exactly you wanted to meet with me.”
Mr. Eckey nodded.
“How long have you been a novitiate here?”
“Going on seven months now.”
He glanced up at Christopher as he fetched his notebook and ink pen.
“How are you liking it at Saint Joseph’s?”
“It has been – ”
Christopher thought about the question for a moment.
“ – wonderful.”
“I would assume it much different than – ”
Mr. Eckey flipped the first page over, scanned handwritten notes he had on the second page.
“I received some background from the Precept’s office, as well as from Abbot Greenly. You grew up in – North Platte, Nebraska? Is that correct?”
“I’m native of the Boston area myself,” Mr. Eckey said. “Tell me a little about how you came to the decision.”
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“To become a monk. It must have been quite a journey from Nebraska.”
“Not really. I guess. I just – ”
Unwanted images flashed through his mind.
Mr. Eckey took a deep breath before speaking again.
“Mr. Ward, I don’t actually know a whole lot about this request, to be perfectly honest. As you know, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life – that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it – we are entrusted with monitoring abnormal behavior among those called to the consecrated vocation.”
He tapped his pen on the tablet.
“Tell me, what do you like about Saint Joseph’s exactly?”
“It’s the – well – I feel at home here. Like I belong. I very much enjoy the silence.”
“Yes, I know the Trappists to be quite ardent in their devotion.”
Christopher nodded in agreement as Mr. Eckey took a few notes.
“I enjoy the early mornings, the worship, the offices. The undivided devotion.”
“To God?” Mr. Eckey asked.
“Yes,” Christopher said. “Exactly.”
The stranger focused on his notes for several seconds, silently mouthing the words he wrote.
“Tell me, how does your life now differ from your previous one?”
Mr. Eckey stopped writing.
“Your military career.”
“Oh,” Christopher said, looking down. “I guess – I – I don’t know. There are lots of differences. I’m not – sure I – what is this inquiry about exactly?”
Mr. Eckey put his pen down.
“Mr. Ward,” he said. “The Vatican apparently has interest in your particular gifts and abilities for a – call it – a special appointment. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”
He shifted his weight on the hard bench.
“Normally, the Congregation does not get involved in appointments or a particular monk’s vocational choices. But, sometimes, when the need arises, special arrangements can be made.”
“Are you talking about another monastery?”
“Actually – ”
Mr. Eckey picked his pen back up.
“It’s an entirely different Order.”
Christopher leaned forward as a gust of wind billowed the long sleeves of his tunic.
“I don’t really understand,” he said. “Are you saying the Vatican wants me to move to a different monastery – to a different Order? But…I…”
Mr. Eckey waited a moment.
“Tell me, Mr. Ward, about your military training.”
“What about it?”
“Your experiences. You were a special operator, is that correct?”
Christopher shot him a quizzical look.
“How do you know that?”
“You were part of the 7th SFG? Assigned to operations in Afghanistan for the majority of your enlistment, surrendering your commission as a Captain. Is that correct? What did you like or dislike about your military career? Why was it you left?”
Christopher looked out over the cornfields in the distance.
“Sir,” he said, wringing his hands together. “I don’t really understand why you’re asking these kinds of questions. To be honest, they’re making me a little uncomfortable. I think I – ”
“Please, Brother Christopher,” Mr. Eckey said, putting up a hand. “I don’t mean to pry. As I said, this is a peculiar and rather sensitive situation, not at all normal procedure. So, I do apologize for my rather tactless approach. Let me explain a little, if I can – ”
Christopher tried to relax.
He struggled to repress the memories rising in the back of his mind, the bloody and gruesome images of dead bodies, a horrible, yet all too familiar wave of fear and dread washing over him.
A wave of putrid death enveloped and permeated everything.
He took a deep breath, tried to ignore it.
Mr. Eckey put down his pen again.
“There is a remote monastery in British Colombia. It is of a separate Order, not Cistercian, but similar. It’s rather distinctive, as I am led to believe.”
“What is the Order?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey shook his head.
“You would not be familiar with it,” he said. “There is actually only one monastery in the Order. But it has had a long, and quite fascinating history, to say the least. And, somewhat of a fantastic service.”
“So, why me, then?” Christopher asked. “I’m a novitiate. I don’t have much to offer. I’m not sure what you are asking of me.”
“The Vatican is asking a favor of you, Brother Ward. They are requesting that you take a leave of absence from Saint Joseph’s and visit this other monastery for a time.”
“I’m – I don’t – ”
“I’m honored that the Vatican has called on me,” he said. “I really do feel settled here, though. I would not wish to – ”
Mr. Eckey interrupted.
“Consider it simply a sabbatical of sorts. Without strings attached. We are interested solely in God’s working here in this matter.”
“Are you wanting me to relocate?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“How about we say the Vatican is open and interested in the Father’s call on your life. We simply wish to – test the waters – see if this would or would not be a good fit.”
“So, if I go, and it is not a good fit?”
“Your place here at Saint Joseph’s would be available to you at any time you see fit. Like I said, no strings attached.”
“I would not feel comfortable going without Abbot Greenly’s blessing,” Christopher said.
“You have it,” Mr. Eckey said, his smile widening.
Christopher said nothing.
“Think of it as a vacation. Though, if I’m hearing you correctly, you really are in no need of one. But, then again…. ”
The man shrugged.
“May I – ”
Christopher pondered his words.
“Is it possible to consider this awhile before I decide?”
“Certainly,” Mr. Eckey said. “Because of the situation, though, we would need you to go sooner than later. Is there anything upcoming that you are thinking about in particular?”
Christopher shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I would just like to sit with this for a day or two. Pray about it. How long would the visit be?”
“As long as you need to decide,” Mr. Eckey said. “Preferably a month to start. Longer is encouraged. Like I said, it is a unique situation, so tradition does not really lend itself easily. But, I would ask – ”
He put his notepad and pen back in his briefcase and closed the lid.
“Because of the sensitive nature, the Vatican has requested that you do not discuss this with anyone except me. Not the other monks here, your family, not even Abbot Greenly.”
“But, how – ”
Mr. Eckey put up a hand.
“I’m heading back to discuss the situation with Abbot Greenly before I leave the grounds. He will certainly not have an objection. Not that I can imagine, anyway.”
He fished out a business card from the inside pocket of his blazer.
“Here is my contact information,” he said, handing him the card. “You can reach me on my cell phone any time. Whenever you decide, one way or the other. There is a great need, though, so I do hope you will consider at least visiting.”
Christopher took the card, looked at it, then looked up at Mr. Eckey.
“What kind of need, exactly?”
The man just smiled.
“All in due time,” he said. “Just let us know as soon as you are able.”
Christopher looked back at the card.
“Thank you, Brother Ward, for your time. I do think I can find my way back to the abbot’s office from here.”
He briefly looked around the grounds.
“I do envy you a little,” he said. “What a majestic space you monks have created here. It’s like a slice of Eden. Really.”
He got up, shook Christopher’s hand, then left him there alone, as the stranger retraced his steps to the abbot’s office.
Christopher took a deep breath, then sighed.
The wave of putrid death still lingered as another wind gust blew across the fields, dredging up memories he would have altogether wished could have remained buried, soaking him again in the blood of the past.
He stayed there for a long time, just watching as the endless sea of cornfields waved in the winds.
Buy my book Ashen Monk Mountain to find out what this cryptic and mysterious appointment is the Vatican is asking Christopher to take on. An unheard of monastery, hidden deep in the Canadian Rockies? A secret mission and call? What in the world could be going on?
Click here and grab your copy today! Whatever you do, don’t let this fantastically epic story get away!
But, trust me when I say, you’re not going to believe the truth even when you discover it for yourself. Find out what secrets lay hidden underfoot at Ashen Monk Mountain!