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To Keep, or to Cast Away

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Romans 12: 2


Perhaps it had something to do with my having been listening to the angst-ridden radio newscast prior to entering the church, but at a recent Mass service a certain scriptural quotation virtually leapt at me from the missalette.  It was the admonition by the Apostle Paul to the Romans warning of being consumed in the distractions of the day and losing sight of the eternal truths.  What exactly, I pondered, might have been the distractions of that time that so concerned the writer?  Possibly something akin to our day’s tempests over LGBT bathroom preferences, offensive historical statues, and border fences?  Or something a tad more weighty such as the pending threat once again of global annihilation via thermonuclear war?

More importantly, however, then and now—and the whole justification for being in a pew that day—was the renewal of one’s focus on “what is good and pleasing and perfect”: The Great Source, Its creation, and our individual relationship to it all.  And that led me, quite logically, to ruminating once more on how best to negotiate humanity’s cantankerous community.  To call to mind another scriptural reference, Ecclesiastes 3, it would seem we’re culturally at a “season” of deciding what “to keep,” and what “to cast away.”  What new “stones” should be “gathered together”?  Whether to love, or to hate?  Indeed, we’re living, as another old saying goes, in “interesting times.”

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States has unleashed a plethora of conflicting perceptions, emotions, motives and stratagems from all quarters.  Voices from every side, muted in the recent past, are now blatantly shouting back and forth without restraint or civility.  The Washington political cultural has been exposed unequivocally for what it is—a cesspool of self-serving, hypocritical power elites who care nothing for law, loyalty, constitutionality or the real concerns and best interests of the common citizen.  And that’s not to even mention the abdication of any pretense to objectivity and factual responsibility by the major mainstream media.

The political left, many drawn to the socialist siren song of Bernie Sanders, are declaring war on capitalism, rejecting the “whiteness” of the Founding Fathers’ vision, championing “diversity” of race and gender above all else (even moral character), and squelching free speech (unless it agrees with their own opinions).  Their views feed into a “globalist” agenda in which the United States should be brought to heel and compensate other nations for all real or imagined exploitations of the past (climate-change treaties being one compensating mechanism).  Most of all, however, the election of Donald Trump must not stand, and, by hook or by crook, be nullified once and for all.

A counterview was well articulated in the September issue of James Cook’s Market Update titled “Donald Trump Can’t Save You.”  Mr. Cook identifies two trends that he opines will result in cataclysmic economic and cultural destruction in America.  The first is the profligate monetary and inflationary policies foisted upon the country by the government and central banking system that will eventually result in the collapse of “all fiat currencies.”  The second, which he deems “even more worrisome,” pertains to our “social welfare system,” which he characterizes as having “created a huge population of criminals, addicts, crazies, government dependents and people of low character…in league and in sympathy with the goals of the rioters and revolutionaries of the far left.”  “They envy,” he explains, “the successful, hate the rich and deplore the merit system…see inequality and racism instead of opportunity and the American dream…would not hesitate to overturn the constitution and the rule of law to accomplish their social goals.”   “These people are a threat to our safety and welfare,“ he declares, “…[as] their numbers continue to grow.”  And he concludes by stating, “Unfortunately, no political leader can solve this problem.  It can only get worse.”

So, what are we to believe?  What values are to be preserved and what to be discarded?  And what do surface representations often conceal?  Is, for example, Antifa really opposed to hatred, or only projecting (in the Freudian sense) its own hidden hatred out onto other groups?  (Their recent violent protests in Berkeley and armed, masked demonstrations in Kansas City would indicate perhaps those “masks” have begun to slip.)  Why doesn’t BLM protest the killing of young blacks by other young blacks, an astronomically higher number than those shot by police?   Why is the concept of “legality” nearly always avoided when discussing immigration in the major media?  Ah, so many questions and so few answers.  And, at the core of it all, clouding the clarity, rests a cauldron of “mixed emotions.”  Logic seems to have left the building.  Where today, amid the mundane, can we locate the “good and pleasing and perfect”?

As I sat in the pew listening to the choir that day, another scripture came to memory, Matthew 7:1-2: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”  Hmmmm.  Well, it seems to me (in my “judgment” here) that that’s about all we’re doing these days.  Judging.  And to pose another question: where do you draw the line between tolerance and nonjudgment, and stepping forward and declaring, no, this is wrong?  Some would say a start might be blocking Chelsea Manning—a convicted felon, traitor, classified-document-leaking gender dysphoric—from the honor of receiving a prestigious visiting Harvard fellowship.  Others, however, who have praised her courage and resilience and dedication to governmental “transparency,” have descended critically upon the Harvard faculty for having buckled and rescinded the invitation.  So, then again, maybe not?

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Mark Scheel
Mark Scheel grew up in east-Kansas farm country. He attended both Kansas State University and The University of Kansas, majoring in psychology and English. Prior to writing full time he served overseas with the American Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, West Germany and England, taught at Emporia State University and was an information specialist with the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. His stories, articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines including The Little Balkans Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The Kansas City Star, Heritage of Kansas, Samisdat, and Poet as well as many sites online such as Common Ground News. His literary activities have also involved membership in The Kansas Authors Club, a seat on the board of directors for Potpourri Publications Company and an editorial position with Kansas City Voices magazine. He co-authored the book Of Youth and the River: the Mississippi Adventure of Raymond Kurtz, Sr., and his collection of stories and poems, A Backward View, was awarded the 1998 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award. His most recent book is titled The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom.

4 comments to To Keep, or to Cast Away

  • As an ex-Catholic, I am no longer ‘in audience’ to the words of Matthew, Luke and John, but somehow the gospel according to Mark still periodically comes to my attention….and though we don’t see eye to eye (or for an eye) politically, Mark’s exhortations are always well considered and expressed — so much so, in fact, that I would never regard reading them as penance for my sins.

    All of which is a long-winded way of following the time-honored wisdom never to argue religion or politics — a practice to which I try to adhere religiously (if not always successfully). 🙂

  • markscheel1


    As always, truly appreciate your input. And, in a roundabout way, I’ll take your respect for Mark’s gospel wisdom as a compliment. 😉 I’m partial to that name.
    No, I don’t take scripture as words written in stone from the heavens, but rather as insights into the human condition and history that offer valuable lessons, if we’d have sense enough to heed them and not repeat the mistakes. And certainly I’d fully agree arguing doctrine is a total waste. Actually, arguing politics I’m becoming convinced is a total waste too! You’re also right there.

    Thanks again.


  • Don Frankel


    Gnashing of teeth. I love that line that appears throughout the Gospels. There is much gnashing of teeth going on right now. But let me first acknowledge that I’m a cynic but then go on to say that all these people are getting paid. Some get money through the government depending what cause celebre they may be engaged in. The others are getting paid by banging the drum loudly and getting donations from the frightened and the conned. Let’s take transgenders in the bathroom. If every transgender in America descended on the bathroom at once, no one would notice. They are simply just a fraction of the population. What have they been doing all these years? Not going?

    You know what you can do. Send an email to any of these organizations right or left or any politician right of left and tell them anything you want including ‘Go to hell’ or ‘Your mother bleeps’ and what will you get back? You’ll get a thank you and a request for you to donate to their cause or their campaign. And, not just one request. You’ll be on a mailing list.

  • markscheel1


    Well, sadly, I have to concur with everything you say. Yes, gnashing of teeth. Today many will soon be ground down and need dental implants! Ha. And politicians paying attention? Only if besides money it involves votes! : – ( Thanks for your input.


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