FATHER SHELTON - THE FORMATION OF A POWERFUL MIND


FATHER BRENT SHELTON - A RARE PHOTO
We move from yesterday's introduction to Townsend Tennesseee's Saint Francis of Assisi Parish and its new Pastor Father Brent Shelton, to his own reflections on his intellectual and spiritual awakening as a young boy.


The Boy Who Asked the World a Question (Or, "The War that Helped Produce Father Shelton")
Land.ops.2.enThirty years ago a now distant 'me' became curious. My first eleven years were childish, but the generals of Argentina prompted the Iron Lady of Britain to make a decision that changed the course of my life. The generals, thinking of land that once was theirs, and the Iron Lady, thinking of people who still were hers, went to war over the windy sheep pastures and cold coasts of the Falkland Islands.
For the first time in my life, I felt the force of right and wrong battling for my assent. Both sides seemed to me to be certainly right, but the outcome would be decided only by bruit force. Just a month earlier, my interests were limited to schoolyard games and kissing girls. Now, suddenly, my only interests were right and wrong, force and thought. "How", I asked, "do we know what's right and wrong in this conflict in particular, and in this world in general? To what extent should force, and to what extent should thought, be involved in resolving such questions?"
I wasn't worried about these questions so much as fascinated by them. I converted a closet into a strategy room (what must my parents have thought!), posting newspaper clippings about the Falklands situation on one wall, and even maintaining a chart depicting the latest movements of ships and troops. I noted casualties, but didn't know what to make of these, morally speaking.
Then, from this little war, my interests shifted to related matters, such as 'Thatcherism' versus socialism, imperialism versus colonialism, nationalism versus internationalism, etc. As a son of the Reformation--a distant son--my faith was in a book called the Bible, but not in any community associated with it. But I found this old book just as useful in defending one position as in defending the opposing position, and even when it did lead me to a single conclusion, I knew men both brighter and duller than I were using it to reach opposite conclusions. So, for purely practical reasons, I laid aside any faith in the Bible as a means to resolve man's problems. At age eleven. The only way to resolve disputes and to determine right from wrong, I concluded, had to be by majority vote or by victory in battle.
But I quickly conclude that couldn't be right, either. Was African slavery right when a majority approved of it? Was Hitler right when he was victorious over Poland? The heck if I knew, but if there was a way to find out, I was determined to do it. The trouble was that even if I figured out how to answer moral questions correctly, there seemed little hope that this method would be equally available and convincing to both the Thatchers and the Argentine generals of the world.
I never seriously considered turning directly to God and asking him about any of this, since he did not appear to me to have been very successful at providing sufficiently useful information to a sufficient number of people over the years. Even if he did have the answers, he didn't seem to me to be very good at communicating these to key people, at least not from the beginning of time up to 1982. I supposed he could reveal them all just to me suddenly, but then I would have had to conclude that I was now insane, a condition into which even my new-found inquisitiveness lacked enough force to drive me willingly.
Hmmm...
That was the month of April, in the year of Our Lord 1982, as an emerging 'me' experienced it.

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