1

Lent with a Medieval Wheel

I sometimes have a habit of seeing a spiritual presentation or lecture and remembering a lot of detail, but forgetting some basic “logistics”. For example, I once shared all the particulars of a talk with a friend, but could not answer some simple questions he had, so he said, “You just gave me every detail of that talk, but you can’t tell me the name of the presenter or the name of the church where the event was held or even the name of the town? Is that right?” I sheepishly responded, “…Right.”

Such was the case back around 2011 or 2012 (can’t remember which) when I happened to catch Fr. Robert Barron (now Bishop Barron) on EWTN giving a lecture on something called The Medieval Wheel of Fortune. I believe this talk is now part of the “Untold Blessings” lecture series offered at Word on Fire.

This Medieval Wheel strongly relates to the idea of detachment and lent is an opportune time to practice detachment from selfishness, material things and habitual sin; it’s helped me a lot on my spiritual journey, so I like sharing it with others. Perhaps I was particularly intrigued because it comes out of the middle ages and yet seems so timeless.

It goes something like this; the Roman goddess Fortuna was the goddess of fortune and the personification of luck. Fortuna was said to govern the circle of life. Imagine we are firmly attached to the edge of a circle or wheel being helplessly spun around by Fortuna; a wheel containing 4 stages of life as depicted above.

  • Stage 1: I Reign – A zenith or climax. You are on top of the world.
  • Stage 2: I Have Reigned – Things begin to unravel or are in decline
  • Stage 3: I Have No Kingdom – All is lost. This is rock bottom.
  • Stage 4: I Shall Reign Again – Positive signs return. There is hope.

 

A modern day example I’ll use with my confirmation students:

  • Stage 1: I Reign – I just found new (and hot) girlfriend!
  • Stage 2: I Have Reigned – It’s been a few weeks, and she’s starting to get on my nerves.
  • Stage 3: I Have No Kingdom – We broke up. My life is over!
  • Stage 4: I Shall Reign Again – Who’s that other cute girl that keeps looking at me?

 

An example I use when I present to RCIA candidates:

  • Stage 1: I Reign – I just found a great new job!
  • Stage 2: I Have Reigned – I’m under more pressure and I hear the company is having financial problems.
  • Stage 3: I Have No Kingdom – I lost my job.
  • Stage 4: I Shall Reign Again – My new job search has many solid leads

After the fall of Rome, the medievals took this wheel of life and Christianized it. What happens as you move closer to the center of a spinning wheel? It spins slower. What happens at the absolute center? It does not move at all. What would happen if we put Christ in the absolute center of the wheel; at the absolute center of our life? We would experience peace, become centered and detached from the fast edge of the wheel; life’s ups and downs would no longer control us, no longer exhaust us. Stain glass rose windows seen in medieval cathedrals come from this concept.

Theologically, we can say that we are either moving our souls toward God or toward “self”. Moving toward God ultimately becomes Heaven. Moving toward “self” ultimately becomes Hell. In the context of the wheel, we could say that we are either moving our souls toward the center of all things with Christ or out to the edge in an ever-expanding circle of madness.

Fr. Barron brilliantly linked all this to an interpretation of the beatitudes that is all about detachment:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those detached from material things.
  • Blessed are they who mourn…Blessed are those not addicted to “feeling good”.
  • Blessed are the meek…Blessed are those not self-centered.
  • Blessed are those who thirst for righteousness…Blessed are those detached from sin.
  • Blessed are the merciful…Blessed are those who are detached from revenge.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart…Blessed are those detached from evil thoughts.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers…Blessed are those free from hatred.
  • Blessed are you when they insult & persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me …Blessed are you if you don’t care what people think!

Since I like to make thinking “visible”, I created a visual of what I learned. Click HERE for a PDF version of The Medieval Wheel of Fortune from my old blog…and have a “detached” lent.

18

Why Can’t Parents Marry Their Adult Children?

One of the most important “dogmas” seared into the secularized mind is the Dogma of Consent. For example, whatever two adults want to do with each other is morally acceptable as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others.

Seems fair, right? But the dogma doesn’t hold up, even in the secular mind, when placed under close scrutiny. What if black slaves in America consented after the Civil War? Imagine house slaves working in a beautiful mansion for a very wealthy and kind plantation owner. What if they preferred their life as slaves as opposed to the prospect of being left to fend for themselves? They could have willfully signed a contract with the plantation owner to forfeit their freedom and remain his legal property. Under the “Dogma of Consent”, couldn’t slavery be reinstituted as legal in the U.S.?

Consent is at least one of the premises used by some when trying to justify same sex “marriage” (SSM). Who are you to say who can legally marry and who cannot? If secular marriage is about the gratification of two individuals and granting “rights”, what does the number two really have to do with anything? Additionally, who are we to say anything about marriage at all? Why can’t a parent marry their adult child? Here’s a recent article about a man arrested because his wife also happens to be his 20 year old daughter…but what’s the problem???

Why do we discriminate against people with Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA)? Is it because we find incest repulsive? Then we must be a society of bigots making groundless distinctions based on someone’s sexual preference; maybe they were born that way and can’t help it. Is it because incest tends towards birth defects? We don’t exclude other couples from marriage if they have a high risk for children with birth defects. Shouldn’t there be equal treatment under the law? What if a parent and adult child were perfectly platonic, but wish to benefit from state-offered marriage rights? Can we deny marriage to people that choose to be non-sexual?

Once a society accepts the base premises of SSM, the above paragraph contains the kind of disjointed thinking we will potentially need to face. The degree to which marriage means anything we want it to mean is the degree to which it means nothing. Why government involvement then? If two people wish to be best friends forever do they seek a government issued BFF license? How about business partners? Is there a government business partner license to apply for?

Although there is much confusion today, the official Church teaching is just as clear on incest as it is on other matters of human sexuality and marriage. “Incest designates intimate relations between relatives or in-laws within a degree that prohibits marriage between them…Incest corrupts family relationships and marks a regression toward animality” (CCC #2388). Of course, if humans are only smart animals, we must then ask the question…What is wrong with “animality”? Does this mean we can now open the discussion to bestiality in the context of marriage?

Without diving into the Catechism or a lot of theology, we should take pause and think about what rationally links all the things a lot of people still associate with marriage, including people in non-Judeo Christian cultures? Why only two people? Why opposite gender? Why no incest? Why no animals? Why exclusive? Why permanent? Why sex? Why bother?

Aligning the definition of marriage in accordance with the way humans procreate—and the best way to continue the human race—isn’t just some weird coincidence. People are very bold when making assertions about marriage, but not so skilled at asking and answering “why”.

Now it’s time for one of my favorite quotes…

“It is not a pleasant task to call attention to the obvious. To make others appear to be shortsighted, let alone blind, may easily evoke resentment.” 1

– Fr. Stanley Jaki

 

  1. Stanley L. Jaki, A Mind’s Matter (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), p .52.
26

The Moral Blind Spot Continues

So the U.S. Senate failed to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act last Monday by a 51-46 vote (it required 60 votes). According to this article at LifeNews, 2 of the 46 votes against were from Republicans, so 44 must have been Democrats unless some Independents were in the mix. If Republicans are not the party of life, then I can’t think of a substantial political party that is closer. If the Senate had 100 Republicans, do you think it would have pasted? No party is perfect, but where does the data lead?

Part of the argument was that a fetus past 20 weeks is “pain capable”, so this makes it wrong to rip it out of the womb and throw it in the medical waste bin. We shouldn’t think a human being needs to feel pain in order to be a considered a legal “person”, but actually voting to keep these late-term abortions going should give us pause. How can supposedly rational people be pro-choice and recognize science, reason and human rights all at the same time? To be pro-choice one must “abort” science and/or reason and/or human rights. In fact, this is such a harsh contradiction; one can see a need for a diabolical force to help the pro-choice movement along; something to help generate a moral blind spot.

Scientifically, human life begins at conception as an objective and observable fact. To say the first stage of one’s life (or one’s personhood) begins at some other threshold of consciousness or viability is subjective; a matter of opinion. To declare something as important as this on something subjective is irrational (and devious), especially when an objective and observable beginning point clearly exists. Where does the data lead?

In contrast, can anyone name the scientist who discovered that an unborn human baby is actually a “non-person”?  Of course not; there is no such scientist and there is no such science. I would ask again “Where does the data lead?”, but there is no data. Once past the freedom from religion objections and someone is shown how deviously subjective and unscientific the legal term of “non-person” is, the real issue of Human Rights can finally be discussed.

As a side, I wonder how many people will kneel during the National Anthem at the Super Bowl this Sunday. They kneel because they believe certain injustices are happening in this country. Should Catholics and Christians kneel during the Anthem for all the aborted children? I’d say no, because it disrespects the Nation as a whole, but at least it would be for a real injustice that is actually still legal.

22

Analyzing a Christian Tirade

When writing about Catholic Faith & Reason on the blogosphere, you might think the longest rants and tirades against such writings come from militant atheists. Many do, but from my experience, many also come from non-Catholic Christians.

I normally do not engage these challenges because I find them too time consuming and seemingly fruitless, but I thought I’d share just one small part of such a tirade in order to demonstrate how you don’t need a lot of theology or Scripture references to refute them.

WARNING: What you are about to read is a direct attack on the Eucharist, and you may find the commenter’s lack of faith & reason disturbing. ***********************************************************************************************************

“I challenge you to an on-line debate at your website on the Eucharist. The madness of this doctrine must be confronted head-on. The Roman Catholic Church claims that the Council of Trent was infallible. However, if it can be shown that they made even one factual error, the claim for infallibility falls to the ground and all Catholic doctrines fall right along with it. The Catechism says, ‘Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly His body He was offering under the species of bread’ (CCC 1376).

No, he did not say any such thing. Trent’s first error was the brazen lie of telling us Jesus said something, when he didn’t. What they did do is tell us what they THINK he meant and then quote him as if he had said so! This is dishonest. Such behavior would not be tolerated by any school of journalism, let alone are we to tolerate it coming from a self-proclaimed ‘infallible’ church council.”

My Thoughts: What is in CCC #1376 is not a direct quote from Scripture; it’s quoting the Council writings. The writers of the Catechism and the Council are teaching with authority about what “This is my body” means (Luke 22:19). Anyone is free to debate any authority and its source, but this is not about lying or a mistaken quote. After the Ascension of Christ, the Apostles and their descendants told others what Jesus said, agreed? They had no New Testament Scriptures to quote from for many, many years, agreed? So how did they teach others what Jesus said? They taught authoritatively by word of mouth (not by Scripture); what Catholics call Oral Tradition or Scared Tradition. This is really about what Jesus meant, as opposed to what was literally said. If your father was no longer around and left nothing in writing, and you then taught your younger brothers and sisters “what Dad said” without direct quotes, does this make you a brazen liar?

***********************************************************************************************************

 “The second offense was asserting that Jesus was offering himself in sacrifice right there at the table, when the Text indicates no such thing.   Trent teaches, ‘At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed [He] offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the form of bread and wine…’

Reader, that is a bold-faced lie. Jesus offered up His body ‘on the tree’, per 1 Peter 2:24…i.e., at the cross, no sooner and no later; and certainly not at the Last Supper, and definitely not at any Mass going on today.  Awake!  Jesus said he desired to eat the Passover ‘before I suffer’ (Luke 22:15). That being so, he did not suffer and offer himself in sacrifice to God the Father at the dinner table before he went to the cross!”

My Thoughts: The Church teaches that Jesus offered himself on the cross AND at the last supper AND at every Mass. CCC #1367 “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.’”

Is the Church correct or incorrect? Who is to say and by what authority? It seems to always come back to this question.

***********************************************************************************************************

“Their third offense was stealing the word ‘truly’ from John 6:53 (‘Truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man…’) but irresponsibly transporting the word ‘truly’ over to the Last Supper account, where he did not ‘truly’ affirm that at all.”

My Thoughts: See above thoughts.

***********************************************************************************************************

“Instead of letting the Bible breathe on its own, Trent has quoted Jesus out of context. Even if Transubstantiation were true, we are quite sure the Lord would not take kindly to putting words in his mouth.   Need it be said that David required only one stone to kill Goliath?   In like manner, all it takes is just one stone of error to classify Catholicism as counterfeit Christianity.

Since the claim of infallibility is now exposed as false, so too must the doctrine of Transubstantiation be false. This means that Jesus was not speaking literally when he told us to ‘eat my flesh and drink my blood’, but rather, metaphorically. Essentially, ‘eating and drinking’ are synonymous with ‘believing in Christ’ because they both produce the same result: namely, eternal life!”

My Thoughts: Now we get into the crux of the matter. The Bible does not “breathe on its own”. It is people who “breath” and people who teach. The commenter declares that Jesus was speaking metaphorically, but Jesus says no such thing. Why doesn’t he let the Bible “breathe on its own” instead of telling us what he THINKS Jesus meant? The Bible is clear “This is my Body” (Luke 22:19). When God says something is…it is.

I’ll go out on a limb and say the commenter believes that all matters of Christian doctrine and practice should be based on the Bible alone (Sola Scriptura). Anyone who accepts the false teaching of Sola Scriptura first runs into a contradiction and most likely does not realize it. The problem is that this doctrine is not found in the Bible (it’s unbiblical), so you need some other non-biblical source of authority to declare it, which means it violates Sola Scriptura. If this wasn’t clear enough, the Bible itself points us to another authority. In 1Timothy 3:15 the pillar and foundation of Truth is said to be the Church, not Scripture.

Secondly, Scripture is subject to human interpretation. Bible Christians do not use the Bible alone; they use the Bible along with whatever interpretations and traditions their leaders give them. Jesus actually founded one, and only one, universal Church for everybody; a visible and authoritative Church that uses imperfect men, together with the Holy Spirit, to guide us in faith and morals. If there really is a God, He would provide a way for us to know what is true without deterioration from human interpretation. A good Father would not just leave a book behind for us to figure out; a good Father would not leave His children as orphans. He would give us a Catholic, or universal, Church.

So in the last analysis, Jesus founded a Church…not a book. The next time you hear someone say the Catholic Church is not infallible ask, “Are you infallible about that?”

2

Book Offer

Dear TAC Reader,

I have some copies of my book, Faith with Good Reason, I’d like to give away while supplies last. I’ll even ship it to you for free.

I‘m offering the first version published in Sept 2016. The latest version was revised in June 2017. The only difference between the original and the revision is the Imprimatur from my local Bishop printed on the title page and a few typos corrected. Content is exactly the same.

If interested, you can confidentially send your name and shipping address using my old blog; HERE. I promise not to share it with anyone.

“Faith with Good Reason” is a book about Catholic faith, reason and problem solving that will appeal to those who appreciate rational process, but do not appreciate Catholicism or religion in general. Imprimatur (permission to publish) granted by Most Reverend Joseph Siegel, D.D., S.T.L., Vicar General, Diocese of Joliet, May 8, 2017. Foreword was written by a bonafide scientist, Stay A. Trsancos, Ph.D

Topics that will benefit the reader include…

  • Learning how experience and intuitive thinking can sometimes lead us astray, whether we are dealing with a physical problem or a philosophical problem.
  • Learning how the most reasonable, and therefore, the most responsible conclusions can be determined even when empirical evidence is lacking or impossible to obtain.
  • Seeing how the cause of “something” is never “nothing”.
  • Examples of how our thinking can be made “visible”.
  • Discussion on how the need for objective industry standards demonstrates the need for an objective moral point of reference.
  • The art of asking why when drilling down to the heart of a matter, from St. Thomas Aquinas regarding contingency to Toyota’s five whys and beyond.
  • Discovering how the basic principles of reason can be applied to both problem solving and matters of faith and morals.
  • The way logic can be used in terms of going wherever the data leads no matter how unbelievable it may seem.

It’s fun reading for the whole family! Let me know…

4

That Awkward Age Between Birth and Death

A good friend of mine, and Godfather to my son died a few months ago, finally succumbing to complications from Cystic Fibrosis. He was only 52 years old, but if you know about Cystic Fibrosis you may know that a person born with that genetic disorder should not expect to live much past the age 40.

He was a holy man and about as ready to go home to the Lord as anyone I’ve ever known. In recent years, as his health was obviously declining, we’d speak of death and heaven and he would often say things that were unambiguously enthusiastic like, “I can’t wait!!” At his funeral services I found myself a bit jealous. He got to go home to God and I am left here to face not only my own potential future sins, but also the sins of others.

I don’t know about you, but oftentimes what’s in the news is so evil that I take consolation in the fact that I will not live on this Earth forever. From horrifying and mindboggling terrorist attacks around the globe, to the most lewd sexual scandals involving seemly decent public figures from Bill Cosby to Matt Lauer, we wonder what 2018 will bring us. We see the power of sin; what sin can do to a person is somewhat like what the brick does to the washing machine in the following video. Sin is no laughing matter, but I laugh every time I see this:

Washing_Machine_Brick

But as Christians we are not to despair about bricks being tossed about. Instead, we are called to pick up our cross, fend off the bricks and follow Christ to help him build The Kingdom of God on Earth. There is great joy in that, even as we relate to St Paul’s thoughts about life and death from time to time.

“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better. Yet that I remain [in] the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.” (Philippians 1:21-24)

So how do we navigate the awkward age between birth and death? Well, we all have a soul which means we have the ability to know a thing (with our intellect) and then act upon that thing (with our will). We’re allowed to make our own choices, even if we chose evil. Our will should desire Goodness and our intellect should desire Truth because we are made for God and God is Goodness itself and Truth itself. But the effects of sin weaken the will and dim the intellect, so that we no longer seek what is good or understand what is true. In others words, sin makes us spiritually lazy and stupid!

In this life, we either move our will and our intellect toward God or toward “self”. The closer we move toward God the closer our desire for truth and goodness is satisfied. The beatific vision or Heaven is when we are one in union with the source of all truth and all goodness. An eternal and inescapable state of dissatisfaction and loneliness comes when we have permanently moved our will and intellect toward “self” and away from God; this is Hell.

So as we find ourselves in another new year, let us ask ourselves….. What choices am I making each day? Where do I spend my time and money? Where do my idle thoughts go? Am I moving toward God or toward “self”? We may hear or read a lot about the choices we make with our time and money, but even the most careful Christian might underestimate the effect idle thoughts can have on us. I would say this is especially true for men as they struggle with chastity, and their bad behavior towards women ends up in the news or worse yet, lands them in Hell.

“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”1

 

  1. Charles A. Fowler, Biblical Truths for Men (Innovo Publishing, LLC, 2014), p. 115.
3

A Warning From Charles Dickens

No doubt you’ve heard of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have the book and have watched different movie versions all my life, but only in recent years have I noticed a tie-in to Faith and Reason in a short, but important part of the story.

Therefore…at this festive season of the year it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for Catholic Faith & Reason, which suffers greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of basic Church teaching; hundreds of thousands are in want of common sense, so please enjoy this excerpt from my book, Faith with Good Reason, appropriate for the season…

In the famous tale of A Christmas Carol we are given a ghostly warning about “our business”. Mankind is our business, the common welfare, charity, mercy, forbearance and more1.  Another ghost exclaims, “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom…”2

We are to help “the girl”, but our doom seems to stem ultimately from “the boy”. Why? Because what we know directs what we do. If God is Truth, then Truth should direct the will. If love is an act of the will, then to love or judge something, we need to know it. The primacy of the intellect is important in order to love and judge properly. In the end, you will not love a God you do not know—and you will not serve a God you do not love.

Our will reaches for what our understanding has seen. If we are ignorant of what is true, how will we direct our will? What will be our criterion for judging? Scripture gives us a subtle warning on the topic. “My people are ruined for lack of knowledge!” (Hosea 4:6). If we chose to ignore “the boy”, then doom will engulf us all, because it all starts with ideas, and ideas have consequences. “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”3 In the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Mathew we hear, “For I was hungry and you gave me food”. This is certainly about physical food, but also about the spiritual work of mercy to feed the intellect. One can think of “Truth” as a kind of health food for the mind. The seeds of God’s image and likeness are in every person, so we have a natural hunger for truth/knowledge. Stop and contemplate “hunger” for a moment. What happens to people if they are hungry enough, for long enough? They’ll eventually eat something; they’ll eventually eat somewhere, but will it be good food or will it be garbage? Will they care where the food comes from as long as it gives some satisfaction? If we lazily accept anything that gives gratification we risk defaulting to our animalistic sensibilities and have the habit of replacing God with other masters since it seems to save us so much trouble.

We all like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers, but people are like sheep and everyone eventually sits at the feet of a master. Who will feed your intellect about the Good, the Beautiful, the True? Will you sit at the feet of Jesus through His Church or will it be some politician or political party, a celebrity or talk show host, a television evangelist, your favorite college professor, or will it simply be the always “infallible” majority? Who is your master? Whoever it is, be prepared to give an account for what you believe and what you say. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak” (Mt 12:36).

Beware the boy most of all…

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5).

– Bible verse from the New American Standard Version

 

  1. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, (New York: Barnes & Nobal Books, 2003), p. 28.
  2. Dickens, A Christmas Carol, p. 84.
  3. Charles A. Fowler, Biblical Truths for Men (Innovo Publishing, LLC, 2014), p. 115.

Top photo by John Leech – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=448357

8

Mass in Santiago, Chile Today

I’m working in South America this week. Our Chilean distributer is having some technical issues with one of our products that could not be resolved via conference calls. I had to leave Saturday afternoon, fly through the night and I arrived today mid-morning; this left me little time for Mass.

After I settled into my hotel, I quickly searched “Catholic Churches near me” and behold…a beautiful little parish called Santos Angeles Custodios (or Holy Guardian Angel) was about a 10 min walk from the hotel, so I caught the last half of the last Mass of the day. The walk is extra nice since it’s summer here (88F, sunny and dry)!

This is as I walked up..

Inside…

What makes this more interesting is that a colleague of mine, who was supposed to be traveling with me, did not make it. There were multiple car robberies in his neighborhood Friday night and his passport was stolen out of his car, but the police caught the suspects and recovered some items, although no one knew exactly what items. After I went to Mass and said few prayers to St Anthony, I received a text from my co-worker that his passport was recovered and he will try to join me tomorrow if he can catch tonight’s flight.

You gotta just love a universal Church which is all over this world and has Saints all through the heavens!!!

Please pray for our safe travels…

18

The Case of the Black Baker

It looks as though the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is finally going to hear about one of those cake controversies. Can a baker legally refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding or not?

If refusing to sell goods & services for a same-sex marriage celebration because of one’s personal beliefs should be illegal, then other similar refusals to other similar events should also be illegal, right?

I wonder if SCOUTS will ever hear the case of the black baker. Have you heard about it? It’s a doozy. A baker, who happens to be black, was asked to bake a nice white cake to help celebrate a successful rally for a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The baker refused to do it. Should he be punished?

The baker is a Christian and does not personally hate the Klan members or white people. He just does not want to be part of this celebration in any way. It’s not that the baker would never bake anything of any Klan member at any event. For example, if a Klan member was celebrating his or her birthday, he would gladly bake the birthday cake. It’s the meaning of a particular event that is the concern; the problem is the ideology behind the “successful Klan rally” and what it represents.

Actually, there is no black baker case that I know of (I made it up), but I suppose there could be such a case one day. The linked article above mentions the following about this kind of issue, “It’s about the rights of gay people to receive equal service in business and not be afraid of being turned away because of who they are. It’s about basic access to public life.”

But could we not say the same about anyone “being who they are” and having “access to public life”? How about a feminist photographer who won’t take pictures at a strip club event? Should she be punished? The photographer believes that strips clubs are immoral and does not want to patriciate in the event. If a particular stripper wanted a professional headshot photo done, the photographer would gladly do it, but nothing for the strip club event. Could we not say the strippers are just being who they are and the photographer is unjustly denying them public access to photographic services?

In the end, it’s about the principle, not the person. The difference is vast. The more our society accepts transcendent things, like right vs. wrong, as only opinions, the more we will accept a kind of soft tyranny where the government takes on the role of “moral compass”. Tragically, this false compass now tells us that homosexual inclinations and actions are part of ones intrinsic identity, just like race or gender.

They will tell us what is just and what is unjust, fair or unfair and you will comply or be punished. Religious liberty is a founding principle of the U.S. and watching its own citizens leading the charge against people of faith into this oppression may be the saddest part of the whole mess.

15

On Climate Change

In light of a recent post of mine, I wanted to share something from my old blog on the topic of Climate Change, which is fast becoming a religion of sorts. Any denial of it and man’s direct responsibility for it is blasphemy and/or heresy for one side of the aisle. Any agreement with it is just as sacrilegious to the other side.

Because of this quandary, I took some time to look at Climate Change through the lens of the problem solving & decision making methodology we use where I work. Whatever you think about Climate Change, you might agree that people tend to first form a conclusion and then look for data to support it…and, of course, explain away or ignore any data that doesn’t support it. Why is that? Politically speaking, if we can definitively tie Climate Change to human activity (CO2 emissions), it’s a perfect opportunity for a power grab—to control a whole lot of human activity. On the other hand, refuting the aforementioned has the opposite effect if one wants to limit government involvement in human activity.

Before we can even being to address any concerns about Climate Change the situation must be made clear. Before a situation can be made clear any ambiguities and over-generalizations must be dealt with. Beginning at the beginning, we can see that the term “Climate Change” is ambiguous because both “climate” and “change” can mean too many different things to too many different people, so I went to a NASA website for clarification on what is changing and how. I found these:

  • See levels are rising
  • Ice sheets are shrinking
  • Arctic sea ice is declining
  • Glaciers are retreating
  • Snow cover is decreasing
  • Oceans are acidifying
  • Extreme weather events are increasing
  • The Earth and oceans are warming (Global Warming)

Whatta mess!!!

Next is to look at one thing at a time and tackle the most serious concern first. Which concern above would have the biggest current and future impact? I’ll go forward with the premise that Global Warming is the highest priority concern on the list above because it could conceivably be causing most of the other things on the list.

If my superiors at work were to ask our group to look into the Global Warming situation, we would look at something called “The Should” and also something called “The Actual”. For this case, “The Actual” would be the current average global temperature assuming we can get a reliable measurement. “The Should” would be the Earth’s normal average temperature range…the way it should be. What would be the upper limit of that normal range and what would be the lower limit? I can tell you that a huge difficulty we’d run into right away is defining “The Should”. This is very problematic because you cannot truly understand a problem—in terms of an abnormality—if you do not understand what is normal.

But why not just look at the rise in CO2 since that is the presumed main cause of the warming? We could, but we’d invariably be back to the same questions about the Earth’s temperature. What “Should” is good? At work we’ll define “The Should” for a product or system based on historical manufacturing records and control limits and/or established industry standards among other things. There are no such standards for the Earth’s average temperature range that I know of, but we can look at history.

Let’s suppose we have about 200 years of accurate global temperature data. My guess is that it is much less than 200 years because of the many years with no satellite temperature data from space, but we’ll go with it. Also, the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, but I’d say the climate 4.5 billion years ago is irrelevant data for humans living today. Let’s go back an amount of time in which the first mammals were happily living on Earth, breathing clean air and drinking clean water. Mammals go back about 200 million years. Keep in mind that 200 million years is only 4% of the Earth’s lifetime, so it’s a relatively short period of time to look at, but we’ll go with it. So, 200 years of temperature data in 200 million years of history would represent .0001% of the time.

To put this in context of something we can grasp, the Dow Jones Industrial average (DJIA) has been around for about 120 years. .0001% of 120 years is about 63 minutes. Suppose that tomorrow the DJIA were to dive 1000 points from 1:00PM to 2:03PM. At 2:04PM, should we conclude a long term financial disaster and an urgent need for more industry regulation? For even more context, consider that 0001% of ten years is about 5.3 minutes. Suppose you walk into a ten year old home for the very first time with a family inside going about their business and you begin measuring the temperature. You note a warming trend of about 1°C after about 5.3 minutes and announce a domestic warming crisis and begin to regulate the families’ activity. Seems like hysteria to me without more data.

Chart taken from MarketWatch

In either the case of the family home or the DJIA, if you were to declare a crisis and an urgent need for regulation you’d likely be on the receiving end of some blank stares. This does not mean there should be no concern for Global Warming. In my profession I would need to report that there is not enough information to define “The Should”, so we would likely move this issue away from a problem analysis and into a decision analysis. Problem analysis focuses on the question “Why did it happen?” while decision analysis focuses on the question “What should we do?”

A good decision in this arena is above my pay grade, but whatever the decision, let’s be aware of two opposing extremes…

#1 Nature Worship

The view that nature is “perfect” just the way it is acts as a kind of secular “dogma”. With this as a base premise, we can see the logic that concludes the following…any unnatural interference or manipulation of nature for the benefit of man is a deprivation of nature’s perfection, and a good definition of evil is just that—a deprivation of perfection.1 Therefore, defending anything in nature against man is intrinsically “good” and promoting man’s industrialization and expansion is intrinsically “evil”.

#2 Nature’s Neglect

Beware of any ideology that says man can and should interfere and manipulate nature anyway we see fit. God wants us to take care of the temporary dwelling place he gave us. “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” (Gen 2:15) So if we are to be good stewards of all the gifts God gives us, including the Earth, should we not be trustworthy stewards? Of course we should. “Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Cor 4:2)

 

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas’s Shorter Summa (Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2002), p. 125.
15

Finding Truth For a Living

Proof can be a big topic which can easily have you lost in the weeds whether talking about truth with a little “t” or Truth with a big “T”. Whenever I hear skeptics talk about no proof for the existence of God I’m intrigued, and often frustrated, because of what I do for a living.

I’m a technical manager for a very large multinational imaging company and we have a formal process for solving complex problems and making decisions. I’m trained and certified to both use the process and teach it to our techs and engineers. This was the impetus of a book I wrote called Faith with Good Reason, and believe it or not, it all relates back to the human soul.

We have an intellect and a will; we think and then we do. What we think relates to what we believe and what we believe relates to what we do. When our company is faced with a complex technical problem with a particular product or system our superiors are not really interested in our feelings about it, or debating theories or conducting thought experiments. They have two fundamental questions for us…”Why did it happen!?” and “What should we do!?” In other words…they want the truth and once clear about the truth, they want to act in accordance with that truth.

Lacking Evidence:

And so it happens that when trying to solve a problem, we face situations where empirical evidence we would very much like to have is either lacking or impossible to obtain. In fact, I don’t remember a single instance when we had all the evidence we wanted that could answer all the questions we had. Regardless, people still expect us to find the truth. I cannot say we are always 100% successful, but we never report back to our superiors that the root cause of a problem is “nothing,” or “random chance,” or just a “brute fact”. We also never say “Sorry, no way to know.” These kinds of answers are not answers at all and they are unacceptable to explain any observed effect, including the existence of the universe or our own being.

Instead, we have a way to move toward what is more reasonable and step away from what is less reasonable given the available data. This is not done via experimentation or trial and error because these kinds of activities tend to waste company resources. It’s done “on paper” at first to get buy-in that the company should spend the time and money to pursue our conclusion or next course of action.

People generally accept our conclusions. Why? Because accepting some things without complete proof is rational and responsible solely based on the reasoning. We have some skeptical engineers, techs and sales/marketing people at our company. If a technical person were to keep repeating, “I reject your conclusion because there is no proof that it is actually true and I will continue to work as if it were not,” he or she would not be employed with us for long (note that sales/marketing people will normally receive general absolution for this sin).

Of course, the most probable cause of a problem is ultimately proved-out to see if it is in fact the true cause. A decision will also prove itself out over time as a good or bad choice. In the spiritual life this “proving-out” or “moment of truth” relates to the end of our earthly life where the theological virtues of Faith and Hope are no longer needed for a soul in the presence of God. All that will remain is Love (see 1 Corinthians 13:13).

Data Rejection:

I get this same sense of “data rejection” as described above when conversing with skeptics about the existence of God. For example, click HERE for 20 arguments for the existence of God by the fabulous Dr. Peter Kreeft. I would say none of the 20 is absolute proof, but it is all “data” that points in a certain direction. If there are 20 arrows pointing a certain way, a skeptic will find a flaw with each one. This arrow is curved and therefore invalid; this one is bent and this one points in a slightly different direction. This one is so thick that we can’t say it is really an arrow and this one is too thin, and so on. Therefore, the skeptic will reject the conclusion because there is no proof that it is actually true and will continue to live as if it were not.

Incidentally, it can be the same type of thing conversing with non-Catholic Christians. No matter how many roads lead to Rome, a doubter will find ruts in each one, while at the same time ignoring the dead ends when they trace back their own faith tradition.

The following story may help illustrate the frustration when debating a skeptic…

A man and a skeptic are headed to a friend’s house on a dark and stormy night. Their friend is away on vacation and she needs someone to take care of her dog. As they enter the house the man flips the hallway light switch, but there is no light.

      Man:   The hallway lightbulb must be burnt-out.

Skeptic:   No, the storm has caused a power outage in the neighborhood. There is no power.

 

    Man:   Did you not notice the homes in the neighborhood with lights on inside as we drove up?

Skeptic:   Have you not heard of backup generators? That explains why their lights are on.

 

      Man:   But the digital clock on the microwave oven in the kitchen is lit with the correct time as usual.

Skeptic:   Modern clocks have backup batteries.

 

      Man:   I’ve never heard of a microwave clock with a backup battery.

Skeptic:   Well, there is obviously an alternate power supply for the microwave of some kind.

 

      Man:   I just opened the garage door to let the dog out. That needs power too.

Skeptic:   This house must have a backup generator like the neighbors do. This would also explain the clock working on the microwave. Maybe the generator company offered a neighborhood discount for group installations.

 

    Man:   If this house is running on a backup generator, why wouldn’t the hallway light turn on when we first came in?

Skeptic: The hallway lightbulb must be burnt-out.

 

      Man:   ?????!!!!!

Forest vs. Trees:

Note that in the story there is no absolute proof about what the truth really is. There are several things that can keep a light from lighting other than a burnt-out bulb or a power outage, but in my experience committed skeptics are ready and willing to study in great detail and pick apart any given tree, but not so ready or willing to see the forest. It’s almost as if some choose to get lost in the arcane details and want others to follow. The story also ends with the same hypothesis in which it beings. Many skeptics may conclude that certain things are undeniably true as Catholics do (like racism being wrong), but the source of that Truth must come from an internal system like the human mind (internal generator) and not an outside system like God (external generator).

Some very intelligent people think themselves into a corner that says “Everything comes from nothing for the purpose of nothing”. Strong objections to that statement then follow…“Not ‘nothing’, we just don’t know or there is no way to know” and/or “We make our own purpose!” Then I’ll add two words to the statement about intelligence. “Everything comes from nothing intelligent for no intended purpose.” At this, the honest atheist will often reluctantly agree as he sits in his intellectual corner, hugging his purposeless tree, blind to the surround forest.

 

“For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world how did they not more quickly find its Lord?” (Wisdom 13:9)

15

Salvation Is Not a Right

My last post spurred some interesting comments about human rights. One commenter in particular made an astute observation about three inalienable rights in terms of our temporal life.

  • The Right to Life: Relates to your future; lose your life and you lose your future.
  • The Right to Liberty: Relates to your present; lose your liberty and you lose your present.
  • The Right to Property: Relates to your past; lose your property (the fruit of your life and liberty) and you lose your past.

And in the end no one, other than God, can justly infringe upon these rights assuming there is no need to take your life or liberty in self-defense or as punishment, and that your property was justly acquired.

But aren’t terms like “life”, “liberty” and even “property” subject to interpretation and understanding? You’d think the right to life would be fairly straightforward, but for some, animals and trees have more right to be alive than humans who happen to be physically located in their mother’s womb. Along these same lines, a sense of entitlement can lead one to conclude that the right to an abortion is part of a woman’s “liberty” and that your property is not really yours, but actually communal property that can and should be distributed equally.

Kids and young adults might express this sense of entitlement more freely than older adults and this can all relate to how we view salvation. My confirmation students will sometimes say what many adults might often think. An example is when we discuss Original Sin in class. Objections to the dogma may go something like this…What’s the deal with Original Sin? Adam and Eve disobeyed, not me. I didn’t do anything, especially when I was a newborn baby, so why should I have to deal with all the ramifications of Original Sin? It’s not fair!!

The attitude above seems to imply that we are entitled to salvation; we have a right to the free gift of grace and eternal life with God. In contrast, St Paul spoke of salvation as more of a process “So then, my beloved…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) “Work out” implies a process, and “fear and trembling” implies that it can be lost or never realized.

The following analogy seems to help clear things up in terms of Original Sin and not taking salvation for granted: Imagine your father was an impoverished man who befriended a billionaire long before you were born. They were such good friends that the billionaire made your dad heir to his fortune. One day your father betrayed the billionaire, so he removed him from his will, leaving him in his poverty. Years later your father met your mother and you were born. Eventually, you learned the story of friendship and betrayal between the billionaire and your father. You realize that you would have been next in line for the fortune if your father would have remained a faithful friend, so you say, “My father betrayed him, not me. I didn’t do anything, so why should I have to deal with this poverty. It’s not fair!! The fortune should still go to me.”

The reality is that you never had a claim to the fortune in the first place.

13

Conversing with Skeptics

You may have run into this yourself. If not, it’s at least good to be aware of it. When conversing with atheists and skeptics over the years, I’ve learned to be careful with three terms:

1) God:

The word “God” can be an overgeneralization; it means too many different things to too many different people. One may be thinking of a fairy in the sky or flying spaghetti monster (one thing among many). Another thinks of the ground of all being or being itself, or the one “unconditioned reality”, or perhaps…“Father”. I have been told that is inconsequential in discussing God’s existence, and I always object because thinking matters. What we think relates to what we believe and ultimately what we do. Two people may use the term “fetus”. One is thinking of a person in the earliest stage of life just as valid as any other stage (a person exists). Another is thinking of a non-person with no right to be alive (a person does not exist). The difference is life and death.

Another allegory I use is about two small fish in a vast ocean debating the existence of water. If one fish thinks of water as just another thing in the ocean (one thing among many), then the search for water would be basically the same as the search for a rock, a sunken ship or a swimming seaweed monster. The search strategy would be completely different if the thinking was different. In general we do not think about water being in the ocean. We are more apt to say the ocean is water.

2) Atheism:

Just as there are different kinds of “believers” there are different kinds of atheists. I’ve heard the term “weak atheist”, which to me is basically the same as a lazy agnostic. When pressed with some deliberate questioning, a lot of answers from the weak atheist are “don’t know/don’t care” or “no way to know.” A strong atheist is more “evangelical” and eager to prove their point. In general, if you push with some hard questions about The Good, The Beautiful and The True, you’ll quickly find out if you are dealing with a strong or weak atheist. Lately however, I prefer the term “skeptic” to cover all levels of atheism.

Beware that general topics about The Good, the Beautiful and The True can trigger many tangents about specific Church teachings, Church history, Church scandals and things in the Bible that are positioned as not so good or beautiful or true. Jumping into these topics right away with a skeptic is like debating the interior design of a house before the basic structure of the building is thoroughly considered. All of it is important, but the foundation comes first.

3) Evidence:

Some come off as self-proclaimed authorities on evidence. Only sensory/empirical/scientific data is valid evidence. Data from metaphysics, philosophy, witness testimony, inferences and other modes of reasoning are generally dismissed. This is contradictory because saying empirical data is the only valid way to prove something is a philosophical statement that cannot be proven empirically.

Besides the inherent contradiction, please note that everyone believes things they can’t prove…at least not empirically or via a scientific method. Every skeptic I’ve ever dialogued with was both pro-choice and pro-gay to some extent…if the topics ever happened to come up. Can you name the scientist that proved human life does not begin at conception, or the science that confirmed an unborn baby is actually a non-person? You can’t because there is no such scientist and there is no such science. There is no proof, yet people accept these things as dogma. Is homosexual behavior normal? What do we learn from biology and the design of certain body parts? What kind of behavior is ordered to the design and what kind of behavior is disordered to the design? What does the evidence tell us? I’m often reminded that homosexual behavior is observed in some animals, so this proves it is natural and therefore normal. I often need to remind others that some animals will also eat their young. When we look to animal behavior as a guide for human behavior the effect of original sin that dims the intellect is easy to see.

Conversing with skeptics can be very interesting if it’s done civilly, but it is regrettable how many scholars need to spend a lot of time showing how God exists rather than taking that time to help discern God’s revelation in the modern world. It’d be like continuously debating your own existence as opposed to discerning the best way to live. Years ago I too was a skeptic, but I made a decision to enter the faith experiment in the laboratory of my life. If I had not made that decision, I may have been permanently paralyzed by wrapping my own head around a metaphysical axle, as I see many others doing today. No wonder the end of the Bible seems to push us for a decision…

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:15-16)

Interesting Aside:

This article from the New York Post describes yesterday’s Texas shooter as a militant atheist. Not to pick on atheists, but if the shooter were militantly religious, I’d bet we’d all know about it quickly. If he were militantly Christian, we’d never hear the end of it.

 

 

Top photo by Deutsche Fotothek‎, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7937579

 

7

The Occult, R.E. and Me

A commenter on this blog linked an article in MarketWatch entitled Why millennials are ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology. The article was in a business website because of spiking sales among products claiming metaphysical benefits, but it still made some reasonable points about why the ditching is being done.

Summarizing briefly…

  • Young people are looking for a “reference point” to identify with and to place people and events into context.
  • They see the occult as a tangible way for them to take control of their lives when things like politics, economics and the environment seem too big to change
  • There is a “meaning gap”. They might go from work to a bar to dinner and a date with no semblance of meaning. The occult gives the illusion of a way out and a way of putting yourself within the framework of history and the universe.

I get some sense of this fascination with the occult as a Confirmation Catechist. This is my seventh year in Religious Education (RE) and I can tell you it’s sometimes hard to get the attention of a bunch of thirteen-year-olds on a Saturday morning, but when relating the day’s lesson to anything involving the occult, I suddenly have their full attention. This works especially well around Halloween.

We might have some discussion about the origins of Halloween and then talk about All Saints Day and the Holy Day of Obligation, but I’ll also ask the kids what they think about trying to contact any random spirit that might be listening via a Ouija Board or Magic 8 Ball or other means…even if it’s just for fun. Some say nothing; some share an eerie experience they’ve had; some say it’s not such a good idea, but maybe that is said because that is what a catechist would want to hear.

Regardless of the answer we begin with a discussion about angels that goes something like this…The Church teaches that angels are real. They don’t have a body, but are like us in terms of having an intellect and a will, meaning they can think for themselves and then choose what they want to do. Some angels choose not to love and serve God; they are fallen angels, sometimes called “demons” or “evil spirits”.

Now suppose you are calling upon random spirits and one of these demons happens to be in the neighborhood. God or your guardian angel might normally protect you from such a thing, but you have chosen to open a portal via a personal invitation and the demon just might choose to accept the invite. Keep in mind that if an evil spirit hates God, and you are made in the image and likeness of God, then the demon naturally hates you, so you’d be in for rough time. The Church teaches that these things are real, so don’t mess with them! It’s also sinful because you are calling upon spirits instead of calling upon The Lord (see commandment #1).

Mentioning the Catholic Rite of Exorcism and reading to the kids from the Catechism can make it more official. “When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism… The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop… Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church….” (CCC 1673)

I’ll also throw in a story or two written by Exorcist Fr. Gabriele Amorth for good measure:

“One day Father Candidio was expelling a demon. Toward the end of the exorcism, he turned to the evil spirit and sarcastically told him, ‘Get out of here. The Lord has already prepared a nice, well-heated house for you!’ At this, the demon answered, ‘You do not know anything! It wasn’t he [God] who made hell. It was us. He had not even thought about it.’”1

Funny how people poke fun at Catholics until they need an exorcist!

The book of Genesis can provide another teaching opportunity. The seven-day creation story is explained very well in the Great Adventure Bible Timeline during the early world sessions. Day six and day seven can be used to help explain the relationship between God and man and also what certain numbers might mean in an occult-ish sense.

The creation of both man and beast is on the same day; day six (see Genesis 1:24-31). Why is that? Isn’t man set apart from animals with a soul; made in the image & likeness of God? Why don’t we get our own special day?!? Consider this question in light of the 7th day. God blessed the 7th day and made it holy because he rested on that day (see Genesis 2:2-3). God does not need physical rest. The Sabbath day is for us. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).

The beasts made with man on day six do not know or love God. How many people do we know who relate to God the same way an animal does? They do not know or love God, even though they were given the capacity. Although made on the same “day”, man is called to leave the beasts behind in day six and find “rest” with God in day seven. A relationship in which two parties can “rest” in one another can conjure up images of a comfortable, self-giving union. This may remind us of the Catholic ideal of marriage or the idea of “covenant”, as it should. This also relates to heaven, which is an eternal rest with God.

Finally, I remind my students that “thinking means connecting things”2:

    • The number 7 in scripture can represent fullness or completion.
    • The number 6 (1 less than 7) corresponds to evil or imperfection
    • The number 3 is also for completeness and perfection
    • So the number six three times (666) would represent something perfectly evil or …
    • The Number of the Beast!!! (see Rev 13:18)

So, will you choose to “rest” with God in day seven or remain with the beasts in day six? It’s up you. Just remember…these things are real!

 

  1. Fr. Gabriele Amorth, An Exorcist Tells His Story (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), p.22
  2. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: Doubleday, 2001), p. 31.
17

Who Are the Christianophobes?

If one were to ban a Muslim group from attending a new student orientation fair at any given college, because the presence of such a group would be alienating for students of other religions and constitute a micro-aggression, I’d suspect such a person might be called an Islamophobe.

If one were to also ban a Gay Rights group from attending the same event, because the presence of such a group would be alienating for students of other sexual orientations and would also constitute a micro-aggression, I’d suspect such a person might also be called a homophobe.

The same logic could apply to any African-American group, except “racist” would be the word of choice or perhaps “deplorable”.

All these examples might be akin to saying you and/or your belief system(s) are not welcome here and you will not be allowed to recruit new members. What if this happened to an atheist group? I’m sure it would get ugly, although the term “atheist-ophobe” doesn’t roll off the tongue.

For some, the logic doesn’t seem to flow so well when the group is a Christian group. When one of the Oxford Colleges banned members of the Christian Union from its freshers’ fair on the grounds that it would be alienating for students of other religions and constitute a “micro-aggression”, I don’t believe the media stormed the internet and airwaves with cries of …“Christianophobe!” In actuality I’d have to say the action by the organizer(s) constitutes more of a macro-aggression as opposed to only “micro”.

To add insult to injury, the organizer argued “Christianity’s historic use as ‘an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism’ meant that students might feel ‘unwelcome’ in their new college if the Christian Union had a stall.” Imagine if that exact same quote was used referring to a Muslim group.

In the face of perhaps a new era of direct attacks on religious liberty, clear thinking about inclusion becomes especially imperative. Without clarity, the cloud of muddled thinking that billows from all the “inclusion via intolerance” is quickly turning Christianity into society’s second hand smoke. As a people we don’t kill or arrest smokers; we just shame them and make sure they are safely out of the way.

“Marginalizing Christianity from the public sphere is a sign, not of intelligence, but of fear. It is failing to see, through the dark clouds of prejudice, that society cannot help but benefit from Christianity.”

̶ Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco

 

Photo by Tor Lindstrand – SWEATworkshop04, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34812092

2

Of Wind, Culture and Paper Airplanes

This is my first post for The American Catholic and I’d like to start with an excerpt from my book entitled Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens; it’s a book about Catholic Faith and Reason in the language of analytical problem solving and decision making, but a bit more in-depth than something like Pascal’s Wager. In the book I relate some aspects of the Catholic faith (and reason) with my experience working for a global 500 company as Solution Development Manager (or Technical Product Manager and occasional complex problem solver).

Once such experience was when a consultant for our company spoke at one of our group meetings about wind, culture, and paper airplanes. Corporate culture might refer to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact with each other as well as with clients, vendors, consultants, etc. Culture can be subconscious, not clearly defined, and develops gradually over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.

Imagine a paper airplane as a metaphor for an idea, methodology or policy ready to be launched within a company. Imagine the culture of the company as the wind. If there is no wind at all the plane will go anywhere you like with some effort, but there is almost always some wind. If the wind is strong to your back when you launch the plane it has no difficulty going a very long way with very little effort. A plane thrown across the wind may start out in the right direction, but eventually turn and go wherever the wind goes. Launch the same plane into a strong wind to your face and the result is disastrous.

The same goes with how Catholic teaching is viewed in the wind of a given culture. Some things fly rather well. The Church teaches that racism is wrong, that we should help those less fortunate than us, that it’s wrong to beat up homeless people for fun, and I’m sure most would agree with these kinds of teachings. Some things don’t fly so well, like the Doctrine of Just War, teaching on the death penalty and whether or not it’s okay to water-board a terrorist. But most dissent from Catholic teaching involves something to do with human sexuality. Abortion, homosexuality, contraception, women’s ordination, fornication, marriage, divorce and remarriage all have an aspect of sexuality to them.

The term “dissenting issues” is an overgeneralization and like with any good problem solving or decision making technique, overgeneralizations must first be separated and clarified before any clear discussion or action can be taken. Once more specific matters are listed, like those mentioned in the previous paragraph, they can be prioritized by considering the current and future impact of each one. It can be difficult to measure or quantify such things, but we can consider how many unjust wars we are currently involved with or about to jump into, how many people are executed each year and how many people are tortured or likely to be tortured in the future by the government.

Now contrast this with all the effects of the dissenting sexual issues. What are the current and future impacts of all the unwanted pregnancies and the resulting increase in poverty and single parent homes? How about the number of unborn children being killed and that will be killed in the future? Think of the impact from broken homes due to divorce? Ignorance and dissent about the true purpose of sex also brings us pornography, sexual addictions, molestation, sexually-transmitted diseases and marriage confusion. The amount of emotional pain due to fornication is probably not considered by most as something that will impact the rest of the culture in any significant way, but think of the huge number of people bonding and breaking up with different sexual partners over and over again and how this impacts their character? How then, does their character impact everyone else around them?

“Thinking means connecting things…”1 Many, if not most, of the ills in our society can be traced back to sexual confusion or dissent. A game of theological “connect the dots” can help illustrate the connections between God, people, sex, and sin. We can start with the base premise that the devil hates God and if we are all made in the image and likeness of God, we can reasonably conclude that the devil must hate us.

A book called Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West does a good job of explaining how people are created in the image and likeness of God. God is pure spirit and our souls are pure spirit. God has both a will and an intellect, as do we. The Holy Trinity is another way that is not so intuitive, but is the most profound. One way to think of God or the Trinity is as an eternal exchange of love. From the perfect and eternal exchange of love between the Father and the Son proceeds a third person called the Holy Spirit. How can that possibly be like us? In the union of Holy Matrimony, the love between a man and a woman generates a third person called a baby. The purpose of sexual desire is not only propagation, but also the very power to love as God loves.2

Now back to connecting the dots. If the devil hates us because we are like God and we are most “God-like” and mirror the Trinity in the covenant union of male and female, then the devil must hate that about us more than anything else. If this is true then it makes sense that a focus of attack on humanity would involve destroying families via the distortion of sex.3

You may know the acronym WWJD (What would Jesus do?) Stop and think for a moment about WWDD (What would the devil do?) In our culture, what would be the best way to tempt and ultimately destroy the lives of so-called “good people”? What would have the highest probability of success? Should you tempt them to beat up homeless people? You’d likely be wasting your time. How about something sexual? How about sexual temptation mixed in with some sexual confusion? Did God really say that’s a sin? (see Gen 3:1) What’s the harm? It’s only natural. Does male and female really mean anything? Temptation coupled with confusion could do it and do it well!

It’s not that I particularly enjoy writing about these topics. Who wants the wind in their face when it can be at your back? It’s that dissenting issues ought to be written about. No doubt it would be less contentious to write about how racism is wrong, but remember that a given teaching irrespective of a given culture is not true because the Church teaches it…the Church teaches it because it’s true.

 

  1. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: Doubleday, 2001), p. 31.
  2. Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners (West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004), pp. 27-29.
  3. Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, p. 12.