Are Americans eating spiritual pufferfish? (2024)

Restaurant owner Tsutomu Shinoda, shows off a fugu or pufferfish at his restaurant in the center of Shimonoseki, a port town 830 kilometers (515 miles) southwest of Tokyo, Nov. 16, 2000. The pufferfish's ovaries, liver and intestines contain tetrodotoxin, a poison so potent the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it can "produce rapid and violent death." (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

What do these stories have in common?

  • A man cooked and ate a poisonous pufferfish that had been given to him, fell into a coma, and died thirty-five days later.
  • A nineteen-year-old hiker was taking photos at a scenic overlook in Utah when the cliff he was standing on crumbled beneath him and he plunged to his death.
  • A thirty-four-year-old man in Colorado was bitten by a Gila monster he kept as a pet and died four days later.
  • A man in India jumped into a zoo enclosure to take a selfie with a lion who then mauled him to death.

Obviously, none of them knew their decisions would lead to their deaths. They sincerely believed they were doing the right thing at the time.

However, can someone who is sincere be sincerely wrong?

Can a nation?

“Is it true that man is above everything?”

I came across an article this week highlighting Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 commencement address at Harvard University. When I reread the exiled dissident’s words, I knew I needed to share some of them with you today.

How well do they describe America’s culture forty-six years later?

Solzhenitsyn warned:

The fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive. You can feel their pressure, yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?

He diagnosed the root of the problem:

We have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.

Then he prescribed the solution:

Since [man’s] body is doomed to death, his task on earth evidently must be more spiritual: not a total engrossment in everyday life, not the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then their carefree consumption. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become above all an experience of moral growth. . . .

Only by the voluntary nurturing in ourselves of freely accepted and serene self-restraint can mankind rise above the world stream of materialism.

Solzhenitsyn concluded:

Even if we are spared destruction by war, life will have to change in order not to perish on its own. We cannot avoid reassessing the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Being above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities should be ruled by material expansion above all? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our integral spiritual life?

In his view, “We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life. . . . This ascension is similar to climbing onto the next anthropological stage. No one on earth has any other way left but—upward.”

The wisest course of action

Would you allow me to ask you some hard questions I’m asking myself this morning?

  • Have you “placed too much hope in politics and social reforms”?
  • Is your life focused on “the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then their carefree consumption”?
  • Is your life “ruled by material expansion above all”?

When we are going in the wrong direction, the wisest course of action is to reverse course. This is why Jesus began his public ministry by calling on those who heard him to “repent,” to make a spiritual U-turn from their sins to their Savior (Mark 1:15).

This is our Father’s urgent call to us still today. If you are hearing a voice assuring you that this call is not for you, you’re being deceived by the “father of lies” (John 8:44).

St. Augustine was right:

“God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”

Your Father has a “new level of life” waiting for any who make him their unconditional king and Lord (John 10:10). This is the “next anthropological stage” for humanity.

Let’s choose it together, to the glory of God.

Wednesday news to know

Quote for the day

“Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make.” —Rick Warren

Are Americans eating spiritual pufferfish? (2024)
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