Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Telling the wheat from the chaff

Over at Catholic Hour, there is a fun list of non sequiturs used against the Catholic faith. I saw it posted on Mark Shea's blog, and proceeded to take a look. Yes, some of the arguments I've heard against Catholicism are there, and sometimes they can be rather goofy. But fact is, not all of the arguments I've heard are presented as they are in the list.

Take for instance #2:

(2) "Fr. X sexually abused a minor."
Therefore: "The Catholic Church is evil. (And all priests are perverts.)"

Sure, for those who would make such a claim, it is a ridiculous non sequitur. And there are those who seem to make those leaps, for whatever reason (John Landis, I've got my eyes on you!). But even though some would make such ridiculous statements as 'priest abuses child, Church is evil', it doesn't take away from the fact that most who are critical of the abuse crisis, those who are fair and understanding and not out with an anti-Catholic axe to grind, are in fact concerned about much more than that. It isn't the bad priest = evil Church argument, it's the systemic abuse followed by systemic cover up and a geologically slow response when compared to the swiftness of other responses to other things high on the Church's priority list, that makes them scratch their heads. Sometimes it even makes them question the Church's moral authority to lead and proclaim the Truth.

I'm not saying they should, nor am I dismissing those who obviously appear to care not one lick about abused children beyond simply sticking it to the Church. But we can't just guffaw over all the non sequiturs while avoiding the legitimate concerns about a serious and legitimate problem that continues even now in the Church today.

Imagine: Another thing that could help our schools:

Stop playing intellectually vacant and morally suspect songs laden with hypocrisy as if they are sacred hymns pointing to eternal truths:

As a die-hard Beatles fan, and fan of John Lennon, I admit in my secular days I used to love this song, especially 'imagine no religion!'* Take that God! But as I listened to it over the years, and thought it through, and added this to the various interviews I read of Lennon, I realized as a deep thinking philosopher he made a great rock star. In fact, the substance of what he said is on par with Glenn Beck. Sure he could be right once in a while, but he sure wasn't in this song.

Not to mention the moral problems with a multi-millionaire rock star sitting in a 7 million dollar mansion asking if you can imagine no possessions. Beyond that, nothing to die for? Live for today? Haven't we had enough of living for today? If we want our kids to do better, stop having them place value in baseless, shallow songs that make us feel good about realities none of us would ever want, because whenever they've been tried (the USSR tried to imagine no religion!), they've been found to be exceedingly wanting.

*As an aside, I wonder how a song that so proudly calls down the belief in religion as a good thing can be played in our schools based on the ACLU's interpretations of Separation of Church and State. Are we to ban all positive pronouncements of religious belief, but attacks on religion are fine? That's for another post.

CNN Asks: How do we improve our schools?

First answer, tell our all-important popular culture and the institutions which form it to stop telling our children that this:

and this:

and heaven forbid, this:

should be the ultimate pinnacle to which they should strive. Then we can get down to brass tacks. Till then, every solution in the world won't help us compete against cultures that put a premium on hard work, education, self-sacrifice, and the importance of one's place in society as a whole. But then, perhaps the adults of our country have to stop seeing this as life's ultimate goal first, before we can hope to persuade our children to do likewise.

And end to the bigotry?

Mark Shea, over at Catholic and Enjoying It, is having fun jabbing the modern gay rights movement. Yet behind the jabs are valid points. Modern gay rights, like so many things in the post-modern age, relies on sound and fury and 'I dare you to question us' in debating the issues at hand. Like the right wingers of old, who threw anti-American, heretic, or Communist at anyone who dared question the status quo, the modern Progressives take their cues from the same playbook. Never mind stopping to ask some pretty fundamental questions and being able to discuss them:

  • Are we sure there is overwhelming scientific consensus on just why people are homosexual?
  • Does a physiological tendency toward a behavior make that behavior no longer subject to moral examination?
  • Does the physiological tendency toward a behavior mean that any negative results of that behavior are to be ignored?
  • Just how much actual proof do we have regarding homosexuality, and how much of it is based on biases, interpretation of data, and personal perspectives?
All of these are fair, but try asking them. Mark Shea is having fun pointing out that being overweight is not looked upon well in our society today. In fact, a growing backlash and increasing tolerance toward shaming and stigmatizing overweight people is on the rise. We know that some folks are just going to be heavier, but that hasn't stopped the growing social scorn, the increased demands from the medical community to change lifestyles, and even possible penalties for being heavy.

So the question, rhetorical as it may seem, still stands: why this treatment for heavy people, many of whom may be physiologically and biologically predisposed toward being heavy, while folks who follow another particular lifestyle on the single platform of it being physiological/biological are given a free pass, a 'don't touch this', a conform or else message?

My answer to that will follow someday.

United Nations

Understand that there is little in the United Nations anymore that does not loathe the historic Western Tradition, or the classical Christian faith that helped form it and lay its foundations. This little conference, which appears aimed at undoing traditional families from a Christian POV, is currently having troubles. A good thing, too. But even a setback is just that, a setback. Until folks realize the threats to their morals and values and faith, a setback can be overcome the next time around.

Why Glenn Beck?

This weekend, Glenn Beck hosted a gathering at Washington D.C. on the anniversary of the great civil rights march of 1963. Never mind stepping on sacred ground by daring to touch something hallowed by Secular America's only allowable Patron Saint. That's for another time.

My question is, why Glenn Beck? Most folks who have any level of training in subjects such as history, theology, or philosophy chafe at the things he says and how he says them. Ironically, his approach to history (one of my fields) is no better than those rascally liberal scholar types he often mocks. His understanding of Christian theology in general, and denominations not affiliated with his current Mormon faith in particular, is often quite amiss.

In addition, he gets on my nerves. His style is, well, bothersome. He reminds me of the boisterous and obnoxious cousin who comes to family gatherings, seizes the conversation, and begins spouting off ludicrous tales and fanciful opinions in such a way that embarrasses everyone in the room.

So why would tens of thousands show up to hear him? Because, I think, if you strip away the ludicrous logic behind his historical conspiracy theories, if you put aside his insistence that a person can be both a Nazi and a Communist, if you ignore his overbearing way of saying things, he is hitting a chord in the minds of at least some Americans. He is saying what they think on a broad level.

Christian progressives are, like liberalism itself, fine with a declining America. They don't want it to crumble or anything, but don't see it reduced to the level of other countries as a bad thing. Many Christian conservatives, including not a few Catholic conservatives, seem to take the Qumran approach: we're heading to heaven and America is pagan hedonism now, so don't worry about it.

There are Americans who don't see it that way, who see the good in America and its past, and acknowledge there are problems that can still be fixed. They see the hedonism, narcissism, debauchery and godlessness yet believe it can be changed. They may, to varying degrees, admit the sins of America's past, but don't see those as reasons to roll over and play the 90 pound weakling to other cultures - cultures whose sins they are not afraid to point out. They understand that not everything in America's past was good, but see the movement of Secular Progressivism as a major threat to the country and world that their children and grandchildren will inherit.

And it's to these folks that Beck speaks. Even if he gets his facts wrong, and even though his logic can sometimes be twisted, the general message of 'reclaim America's goodness, be proud, embrace God and God ordained morality' resonates - because no one else is saying it that way. Even such noted right wing commentators as Bill O'Reilly waver between conservative/libertarian and 'who's to say morality is absolute?' Many others, again in the Catholic community, following that age old love/hate relationship the Church has had with America, having a 'it dies, then it dies' approach. Beck is one who, on the surface and in the most general way, is saying America can be saved, we can reclaim what was good, and it's worth fighting for because we do have enemies in the world, and it isn't always us. It may be that last part of the statement, if nothing else, that sounds the sweetest in the ears of those who came by the tens of thousands to Washington over the weekend.

For if you are on the Titanic, who would catch your attention? The one sitting around pointing fingers at who is to blame, insisting he would have had more life boats, suggesting if the builder he worked for made the ship it would never have happened, suggesting they had their nerve being on such a luxury liner in the first place? Or the less than intelligent fellow in the doorway with a life jacket saying 'follow me and let's get to a boat'? Even if he ended up in a dead end passage flooding fast, it would seem a better option than sitting around listening to folks point finger after finger while finally asking for a glass of brandy to go down like gentlemen.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The thing about Islam is...

it isn't Christianity. Christians, at least in Europe and America, have been weaned on the Great Western Guilt. Accepting blame, compromising standards, backing down from positions, admitting inferiority to other beliefs and traditions, downplaying differences - it's the modern Western Way. And all but those in the most fundamentalist sects of Christendom tend to go that way in some form or another. Progressive Christians, as pointed out below, tend to base much of their current faith on a wholesale rejection of the Traditional Christian Faith and its history. Even non-progressive Christians are nonetheless willing to back down in a minute. Apologies for Christian history abound. Pope John Paul II made it one of the cornerstones of his ministry to apologize for 2000 years of wrongdoing. Pope Benedict XVI has, on several occasions, in the face of controversy and anger, backed down and changed his statements (even if there was nothing factually wrong with what he said). Such is the approach that many take who do not want to be herded in with the dreaded fundamentalists, right wing radicals, and religious zealots.

For those not reared in the modern Western tradition, however, such is not the typical approach. I know from folks who have dealt with Japanese culture, whether on the mission field or the business world, that Japanese still maintain a sense of 'if anyone else can do it, we can do it better.' Forget trying to get Japan to fess up to its sins of the past. Same for most other cultures. American Indians are not too vocal with the meaner parts of their ancestral heritage. And Muslims, as a general rule, do not throw down endless tomes pointing out the failings, atrocities, and evils that were wrought in the name of Islam over the years.

In fact, the thing that seems to leave everyone scratching their heads, even those progressives who dearly want to believe that Islam is fine - by virtue of not being Christianity and the traditional West - is this non-apologetic, dare I say, non-wimpy approach to things.

Take the Mosque debate. 60 Minutes, obviously supporting the building of the Mosque, has given the two main individuals behind the project carte blanche to make their case. And their case? Simple: This is what they think needs to happen. And this is what is going to happen. Now, all but a few conservative or fundamentalist Christian groups long ago would have packed up and left town in the face of such overwhelming calls of insensitivity and thoughtlessness. Perhaps the Mormons would have stayed, you never know. But even had they done so, had this or that Christian ministry remained and said 'despite the concerns and troubles, this is what needs done, this is how it needs done, and this is how we are going to do it', the general societal conclusion would have been 'just some more right wingers shoving their religion down our throats.'

Which brings me to the point. Those Muslims we call 'progressive', 'tolerant', or 'moderate' are, by modern standards applied to other (Christian) groups, anything but. Which is why there so often has been a bit of a pause even when Muslims appear to say what we want to hear. On an Easter program a few years ago, the late Tim Russert had a round table, a few token conservative faith leaders, and several 'moderate' members of different faiths. One was a professor of Islamic studies and founder of an inter-faith group. Obviously one of the 'moderates'. Yet, as the show went on, Mr. Russert actually put the question to him on issues like homosexuality and abortion. His answers, though from the mouth of a 'moderate' Muslim, would have been shoved into the realm of right-wing Christian/fundamentalist had it been a Christian leader.

It happens over and over. Muslims speaking of tolerance, interfaith respect, building bridges, and moderation will inevitably say something that suddenly doesn't sound, based on our modern perceptions, the least bit moderate. In the end, somewhere in the discussion, we will be reminded that Muslims don't worship 'their god', they worship Allah, the Creator God, and there is no God but Allah, and Mohamed is His Prophet, and the world will convert to Islam, and this is why they are doing what they do, this is how they plan on doing it, and this is why it will be done. All things that sound far less like a Christian moderate but, based on current sensitivities, more like a Christian conservative (at best).

So in a world in which Christianity comes off as having all the backbone of Dr. Smith in the face of a new alien threat, it is somewhat refreshing to see that, in this world, many still are not afraid to say 'we're right, you aren't, and this is how it's going to be.' I wonder if the Christian Faith will ever reclaim that ability. I'm afraid if it doesn't, such conviction will be picked up by those who truly wish to do ill against all others, who wish to lash out in violence and aggression in the name of Jesus. Perhaps we can learn the real lesson from Islam: you can stand your ground, proclaim your unyielding truth, not compromise, and if modern media narratives are to be believed, still end up being quite the moderate after all. If Muslims can do it, certainly Christians can, too. I'm sure it's not a case of double standards or anything.

America's Propaganda Ministry to strike again?

Watch and see how this story of a future Mosque site in TN that caught fire is covered. And then see how this story of a Mormon Bishop who was killed is covered. I will bet the mental instability of the perpetrator of the slain Mormon Bishop will be emphasized, with 'motive' being left to some personal vendetta due to being ill-treated by the church. Likewise, if the fire at the site of the Mosque is found to be deliberately set by a real straw-for-brains lunatic, the emphasis will still end up being on Islamaphobia unless there is simply no other way out, with copious levels of dialogue and emphasis on the rising anti-Muslim bigotry in America. If it does turn out to be something else, it won't be emphasized, and the anti-Islamic stories will nonetheless continue.

How do I know all this? Precedence. A couple years ago a man with anti-Christian rhetoric on his computer and in his journals opened fire at a Colorado church, killing several. The verdict? He was mentally ill. Merely a product of mental instability. The plethora of anti-Christan rhetoric in the media, in best selling books, in movies and television apparently had nothing to do with it, nor did his ideals that Christianity must go. The same happened at a Texas Baptist church shooting in the late 90s. A man walked in, shouted his hatred for believers, and opened fire. Despite the witnesses all corroborating this, police never found 'a motive.' In addition to this being why I am a full-blown opponent of that baby-step toward censorship and thought control known as Hate Crime legislation, it also shows how bigotry exists everywhere, but it's the bigotry accepted by the society at large that one must watch. So sit back, grab a beer, watch the news, and see how these two stories are handled. I'll gladly concede I was wrong if they are handled in any way other than the way they've been handled in the past. But I don't think I have much to worry about.

Do Liberal Christians Heart Christianity?

It depends on what you mean by Christianity. In some ways, many modern, progressive Christians have an almost Gnostic approach to the Faith. Immanent figures such as JohnShelby Spong and Bishop Gene Robinson act as though it's OK to be a Christian, as long as you see Christianity their way - the right way. For 2000 years, the Faith has been languishing in error; bigoted, sexist, homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-intellectual, wrong, dumb, violent. It's only now, with the rise of this enlightened generation, that we know the rights and wrongs of being Christian. Through the glories of critical scholarship, we now know the bulk of the Bible is myth, legend, and outright lies. We know the proper way to interpret the Scriptures - what little is left of value. And we can see the error of our ways and find true Enlightenment and, if you must, salvation. In fact, so close to an inner, secret Truth is this approach that it shouldn't be a shock that I knew several progressive ministers in my own pastoral days who had little problem with Gnosticism; some actually thought it brought much to the table.

That, of course, is the basis of much post-modern thought. There is an underlying 'surely, you don't disbelieve what we've said, do you?' approach in presenting various subjects. Proof is assumed to be out there, even if it needn't be provided. Are more Americans being violent against Muslims? Has there been violence against Muslims out of proportion of violence against other groups? Do we really know exactly why homosexuals are homosexuals? Do we actually know an unborn baby can't feel pain? Are we sure we have the right to define human life? Are we positive that religion was made up by cave people trying to understand why Woolly Mammoth dung smelled? Is there actual proof? Ask these questions, and there's a snort of derision, a 'you must not be in on the Truth' response. A subtle 'we don't need proof, because we know, and we know because we are' echo in what is said. An approach to knowledge that would certainly bring pride to the most fervent Gnostic thinker of two millennia ago. Which is why a wise pastor once said there are no new heresies, simply old ones repackaged.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bigotry, American Style

I've been thinking about the sudden focus on the Isamaphobic bigotry that seems to be everywhere in America these days. This article from AP subtly showcases Muslim fears of impending uprisings and rivers of blood at the hands of mad American anti-Islamists. Stories are circulating of increased violence. All of this being tied to those who are at the center of opposition to the Mosque at Ground Zero, an opposition labeled by everyone from Ron Paul to Katy Couric to Keith Olbermann to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, at the center of the Center, as bigotry plain and simple. For any reason, to oppose the Mosque or connect Islam to 9/11 makes one a bigot. The bigot label, I guess, is supposed to be the debate stopper.

Yet note that no one has suggested that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a bigot because he made a blanket condemnation of Christianity for the dropping of the Atomic Bombs. Based on that logic, there is nothing in God's green earth to suggest a person is a bigot for blanket condemnations of Muslims for 9/11. Yet that is the crux, isn't it. Those who say '9/11 + Islam - there's a link', are immediately portrayed as bigots, including by the good Imam himself. Yet he, and others, think nothing of routinely blaming anything and everything that ever happened in European/American history on Christians and the Christian faith (ahem, Tavis Smiley).

This is because the foundation of the Western Progressive Revolution is a complete and total rejection of the foundations of the Christian Western Tradition. Being a revolution, it seeks to paint as much of the status quo as possible in the worst light. As a result, an entire generation has been raised to see little of redeeming value in the Christian West. Anything good that came out of that tradition is coincidence, having nothing to do with its Christian roots. Anything and everything done is seen through the worst lenses, given no excuse or validation, condemned outright, and seen as evidence of its inherent inferiority.

Meanwhile, any and all cultures and civilizations outside of the Western Tradition are seen in the best ways imaginable, given many benefits of the doubt, and generally interpreted through value-neutral lenses (didn't the Aztecs practice human sacrifice? Sure, but let's not jump to conclusions; besides, ours is not to condemn with some ethnocentric bigotry). In the odd moment where a non-Western culture did something beyond the mark - like Imperial Japan - the good Progressive could still blame the US: it was the result of racist US policies, European imperialism, contact with the West and its warlike tendencies - you name it.

So 9/11 presented a bit of a problem. As we watched the towers fall, the thousands die, the crowds flee in terror, it appeared hard to avoid outright condemnation of the perpetrators and the ideology that gave them purpose. But not so for the determined Progressive! It took all of a day or so for folks to insist that somewhere, somehow, it must have been the US that caused it. Whether Bush, or some US policies (in all likelihood under a Republican president), we pushed the buttons that caused the attacks. Perhaps European imperialism, or the Crusades. Why, the reasons were endless! And of course, from President Bush on down, we were immediately reminded that in no way did 9/11 have anything to do with True Islam (TM). No, it was never to excuse or downplay the terror (
in most cases) of the attacks. But there soon came an accepted perspective that we in America and the Christian West were somehow at least partially culpable. A view held, of course, by Imam.

And what of the Christian faith specifically? Generally to blame for everything under the sun. Since 9/11, many a Muslim has been happy to drop the Crusades as one reason why the Islamic world has issues with the West. Of course, they never, ever mention Islam's role in the Crusades, the offensive launched by the Seljuk Turks that sparked the call for a Crusade to reclaim the Holy Land and stop the Turks from seizing what was left of the Byzantine Empire. It's simply come down into our modern lore that the Muslims were peace loving folks minding their own business when a bunch of Tony Sopranos in heat swung in and started butchering and slaughtering the babies. A view promoted by both Muslims I've seen interviewed, as well as those in the Western Left. To think otherwise appears to be similar to imagining a flat world, or believing in unicorns.

So in a way, I can't help feel it's the bigotry shared by both Islam and the Western Progressive Left that seems to have created this strange bedfellow of Muslims and Progressives. A bigotry that is all the rage, and supported in many of our media and educational institutions. A bigotry that says, essentially, anything touched by the Christian tradition is wrong, evil, violent, to blame for the world's problems; all others - including Islam which should never, ever be linked to 9/11 - are the innocent victims thereof. Because they both see it this way, they only react in outrage when someone steps outside this shared value system. When someone dares to suggest that, no matter how wrong America was, 9/11 still might have something a little to do with Islam, they are punished accordingly. Such a view is intolerable not because it is bigotry. It is intolerable because it is not the correct bigotry, the post-modern American Bigotry.

Friday, August 27, 2010

New York Mosque?

Steven Greydanus writes the best, most thoughtful take on the New York Mosque I've seen. That's not to say I agree with everything he's said. But he avoids the clangs and gongs of demagoguery and fear bating on both sides of the debate. My main critique would be that of most in our culture today: he suffers from the Western Penitence. The tendency of easily seeing the worst, shadiest, and dishonest motives behind those in our own backyards, while taking the rest of the world at face value and assuming straight forward motives. But that means Steven is a product of his time. We've been taught to adhere to the Western proverb of 'a stranger before my cousin, my cousin before my brother.' It's natural he would apply this to his assessments of the Mosque question. Nonetheless, it's a great read, and the best of any I've heard from either side of the debate.

Note to Catholics:


is not our role model. One of the big disappointments of being a Protestant clergy convert was the number of Protestant clergy converts who seemed to look upon their new found Catholic faith as a license to party. Now, shorn of those pesky puritanical restrictions, we could indulge in endless drinking and partying, dirty jokes and gambling, smoking, cussing, dropping F-bombs - the whole package.

And why not? After all, have you attended a Catholic Church picnic lately? The High Street bars after an Ohio State Football game have little on those. For that matter, sometimes at Mass I've heard the odd F-bomb or S*** bomb. Not to mention the thing that got me to thinking about this in the first place. That thing was the attire that many young (and not so young) women were wearing last week at Mass. Sure, there were some benefits, especially if you are a guy on the make: low cut tops, bountiful cleavage, high, tight shorts leaving little to the imagination; all the ingredients necessary for a successful pick-up.

But there's a problem. This is supposed to be a life of holiness. Sure, Catholics are right in realizing that Protestants can be both fickle and ascetic when it comes to enjoying the fruitful bounties of God's creation. The glass of wine, a nice beer on a hot day, a card game among friends, cutting up on the dance floor at a wedding, even the rare expletive when one hits one's toe on the corner of the piano without fearing an eternity of hellfires and damnation -all of these are fine.

But Catholics appear to take it too far, and that can be a problem. For three reasons really.
The Mission.
Like it or no, people in our society - both Protestant and non-Christian - imagine that being religious means something. They may go overboard, and have unrealistic expectations. But even the most reasonable non-Catholics assume Christian living should not sound like an Eddie Murphy performance. That's just our culture. Many Catholics I've heard and read scoff at this and say it just shows their ignorance of what true Catholicism is all about. Fair enough. But imagine this. Say you were in a strange land where folks assumed that good people never, ever shook hands. Would a Catholic say 'screw them, I'm shaking hands because there's nothing wrong with shaking a person's hand!'? I'd like to think not. Consider yourself a stranger in a strange land, and try imagining yourself as a missionary. And in this strange land people assume following Christ does not make one look, sound, and act the same as a person living a godless life.

The reputation
This leads to the next problem. Catholics, on the whole, have a reputation. In college, we used to say if you want to get lucky, don't date religious girls....but Catholics were OK. That's not good. In most cases, most of the Catholics I knew growing up could out-drink, out-cuss, out-gamble, and quite honestly, out-screw the most hedonistic atheist. Some carried on lives that an MTV reality show would be hard-pressed to air. This spills over into other, more troubling trends: Catholics who seem proud of not following Church teaching, Catholics who routinely live the way they want to live, be it cohabitation, using birth control, supporting abortion, you name it. Study after study has suggested when it comes to hedonism, you'd be hard-pressed to outdo an American Catholic.

And many Catholics serious about their faith bemoan this. But face it, Jesus said those who are faithful with little will be faithful with much. And that's true. Watching my boy's football practice, I notice the coach has emphasized fundamentals. Don't learn the fundamentals, and you won't win the games. We've all seen the movie Patton. When Patton takes over at the beginning of the movie, what does he say? Does he say 'who cares about the little things! Get your guns and let's charge the enemy!' No, he comes down on them like white on rice over things such as shining shoes, wearing dirty uniforms, not having helmets, having pictures of girls in barracks. Because if you are sloppy in the little things in most areas of life, you won't be much use in the big things.

People used to ask me, when I was a pastor, how they would know if they could take a bullet for the faith. I said look at life now. Do you find it hard to wake up and go to church? Do you skip things? Not help? Not take part in things? Not have much of a devotional life? If you can't do those little things, don't expect to jump out and take the slings and arrows of Satanic opposition to the faith. Likewise, maybe - just maybe - the tendency of Catholics to play fast and loose with that witness of holy living regarding little things may tend to lead to dismissal of the big things, and the reputation Catholics have of being the ones less likely to follow Church teaching than many a non-Catholic.

Finally, the witness.
I can assure folks that at no time in my non-Christian walk did seeing a Catholic student on the floor of a bar, or hearing a Catholic drop the F-bomb, or noticing a Catholic who could out party the frat boys, ever make me consider being a Christian. At no point did I say, "After hearing that well-placed F-Bomb, I must think about this whole Jesus thing!" When my third boy was going through first communion, a rather wild bunch of Catholics were in the pew behind me. Cussing, laughing, generally ignoring what was happening while livening the event with a list of expletives that would make George Carlin blush. All I could think was 'thank goodness my (non-Catholic) family isn't here. It's bad enough for some of them we would become Catholic in the first place. That would all but clinch any hope of them ever following.'

Yes, I'm aware of Romans 14. I know Paul points out that the mature in the Faith know it isn't about this or that little regulation or restriction. Freedom in Christ means freedom in Christ. But Paul is also quick to point out that with this freedom comes responsibility. And perhaps it's time for Catholics to look at the responsibility they have before the mission field in which they live. For not only could a little more discipline perhaps show fruit in reigning in those Catholics who so proudly dismiss Church teaching in a host of areas, but it may actually help bear witness to a faith worth more than a romp with Blutarsky in Animal House. A witness that may help stem the decline of the Catholic Church in the West.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Was Lincoln's birth a story worth covering in 1809?

The uproar a few weeks back over the Lockerbie bomber's release caught me a bit off guard. After all, when he was released, many - including most victims' families - were outraged. Yet the outrage found no traction in the media. A few took notice, but seemed to suggest it was all about compassion, and folks needed to get a grip.

Then, a few weeks ago, all hell broke loose. Now we are talking about it for weeks on end. Why? Don't know. A few things have happened of course. First, the bomber who was supposed to die didn't do us the service and remains quite alive. Second, though BP was whispered to have had something to do with it, this time BP was whispered to have something to do with it - after the oil leak. Finally, and this is just an observation on my part, Britain is now in the hands of a less progressive PM.

Do any of these things matter? Are they why there was suddenly an explosion of indignation over something that barely rated a blip on the media screen a year ago? Again, I can only guess. But something has made it a story now versus a quickly forgotten one then. It all goes to show us that, whether biased and agenda driven or not, the media's decisions on what is and isn't important seem to be based on things other than what really is and isn't important.

Thank you boys

A 70th anniversary tribute to the famous 'few' of the Battle of Britain. Before a generation decided there was nothing worth killing or dying for. Thanks for those who realized otherwise.

"The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All our hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day…"

Winston Churchill

It was indeed their finest hour.

When Palin went Liberal

Sarah Palin appeals to arguments reminiscent of 1970s liberalism, and is reminded by modern left leaning media outlets why she's wrong. Fact is, the article is dead on correct. Problem though? Growing up in the 70s and 80s, the very thing that happened to Dr. Laura (who I have seldom listened to and whose opinions mean little to me), would have been deemed censorship of the highest level.

Remember the little line from a popular song from way back when:

But if I really say it, the radio won't play it
Unless I lay it between the lines

Remember that? I Dig Rock and Roll Music by Peter, Paul and Mary. That fit with a recurring theme in the 70s and 80s, that anyone who refused to play this song or show that movie, no matter who and for no matter what reason, was just Big Brother incognito. The radio not playing it was never portrayed as a simple business decision. It was the beginning of the end of all liberty.

Likewise, even in the late 80s, when Madonna had an advertising campaign pulled due protests by parents' groups, charges of Gestapo tactics and an end to freedom as we know it flew like crows. It was 1984 all over again!

And lest we think it was just some radical nobodies in the fringes of Greenwich Village, it was mainstream in many ways. In the early 1990s, as Day Time Talks Shows (the venues which prompted support for an alternative national voice to be heard), reigned supreme, Phil Donahue was the king. By the 90s, however, for the sake of ratings, some of his shows were leaving social commentary and becoming a bit racy. A dentist decided he could no longer take strippers on 11:00 AM opposite Sesame Street demonstrating the proper forms of oral sex for self-produced home pornography. So he went to the sponsors of Donahue's show, plopped in a VCR tape, and told them 'this is what you are promoting.' Sponsor after sponsor began to drop.

Donahue went on a rampage. Appearing on the evening news with the late Peter Jennings, he ranted and raved; this was just the beginning! Next it will be jack-booted thugs kicking in your doors and dragging you into the outer darkness for watching The Cosby Show! Jennings, in a later editorial nod, agreed it smelled like good old fashioned censorship. When polls suggested Americans weren't bothered by the dentist's tactics, we were reminded by 'experts' that threatening people or in any way punishing people we disagreed with was merely one small step toward an Orwellian paradise, and a violation of that most important of all social norms: tolerance.

So you see, the article is right. But it's only right if it bothers to mention that for all those decades, liberals were wrong. Those TV censors with Elvis, those radio stations with the Rolling Stones, those family and religious groups with Madonna, weren't threatening the First Amendment after all. Why, it was all just another wonderful expression of their First Amendment Rights!

Oh, fun note. Notice the article appeals to a very basic, face value reading of the First Amendment. Fine. But notice a similar reading also points out that the First Amendment merely says Congress (national congress that is), cannot actually make a law that officially respects an establishment of religion, nor can it prohibit the free exercise thereof. How does such a simple, straightforward reading square with the government authorities demanding that a young valedictorian be censored from mentioning Jesus in a graduation ceremony? Answer: It doesn't. Which might be how folks read the other parts of the First Amendment, and if speech ends up going the way religious liberty has, perhaps it is worth worrying about. Just an aside that came to my mind. It's something that deserves its own post, if not its own blog.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Is he or isn't he?

If Obama says he's a Christian, that's good enough for me. If folks don't take him at his word, then it is a question worth pondering: why? My guess is, his general behavior. Like Reagan before him, Obama has been pretty open about not spending too much time in the local church. Again, no problem. It's not how I would display my faith, but then President Obama is not me. Nor was Reagan. That doesn't mean I will heap scorn on his spiritual pilgrimage, just as I didn't on Reagan. And I've heard folks do both.

What it probably does indicate, assuming again that non-journalist Americans just aren't bunch of dolts, is that there is a disconnect in what people see and hear. If, for instance, President Obama told me he played football, not baseball, then I would believe him. Now, if I showed up to the football field every week, and he was never there, I might scratch my head and wonder. If he gave me a reason, say he's just too busy to play anymore, I'd be fine with that.

If, however, I began noticing him over on the baseball diamond every Thursday night, hanging with the players, talking with the coaches, and even tossing out a few pitches, I probably would not be too crazy to wonder what it all means.

A popular story a while back was that the Obamas didn't attend church services on Christmas because of security concerns (disrupting the service). Many pointed out he could have improvised, had some Christian leaders over for an impromptu service, something. Instead he spent time with the family. Fine. It's known he isn't spending much time at church. But when people start seeing him spend more time with Muslim leaders, copious amounts of time reaching out to Islam vs, say, Christianity, or openly and proudly attending important Islamic religious ceremonies, then I don't think we can be too bothered by those who then conclude there might be something worth wondering about.

Sure, he's probably a Christian as he says, but with some denominations declaring the New Testament a racist anti-Semitic document, and others willing to ordain atheists or Muslims as priests, let's face it, saying one is a Christian may not mean much at all in how that one ultimately sees the world of religion, if not the world in general.

Too much Mosque?

I realize the last few posts have all been about one issue. But it illustrates, IMHO, much of the narrative that is being hoisted on us as a culture. That's why I'm watching it. Other news will follow.

What! You mean folks opposed to the New York Mosque might not be bigots!! Nah.

Salon.com shoots at the broad side of a barn and misses. In a piece so laughingly bad it should be enshrined in journalism schools across America as an example of how not to publish an article, the writers of Salon.com look on sneeringly, thinking they've scored a coup de grace. Truth is, it shows only the contempt and righteous arrogance of Salon.com toward those who fail to conform to its moral absolutes. The question, of course, could have been 'have we been wrong? Since Right wingers didn't object to a Muslim chapel at the Pentagon after 9/11, maybe they are serious when they say they aren't against Muslims or Mosques, they just have particular issues with the one in New York.' Instead, I don't know if that even entered Salon's mind. If it did, it didn't last long enough to avoid what did happen, and that was a piece that basically tries to say "HA! Got you! Just like we thought, just a bunch of hypocrite bigots trying to score political points by appealing to their base's innate bigotry!" The modern media, so much to be proud of.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Press gives Muslims who want Ground Zero Mosque to be built a chance to be heard. It also allows a couple voices in the Muslim community to part company. Fine. No problem there. Meanwhile, an Orthodox church, the only building not part of the World Trade Center complex destroyed in the attacks, languishes without help to rebuild. The Port Authority seems to have poked the Orthodox in the eye, the media has ignored it, and no one seems to care. But that shouldn't surprise me. After all, many are now settling comfortably into the meme that anyone opposing this Mosque for any reason is simply a bigot. While at the same time this is a society in which people (ahem, Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, John Landis, and other worthies) make their livings mocking Christians, insulting Christians, calling the faith a lie, a hoax, a singular source of evil, calling Christians idiots, dolts, morons, racists, stupid, and on and on. If folks who point out that 9/11 might have had something to do with Islam, or worse suggest it is insensitive to build the center near Ground Zero are merely bigots, then what does the hate filled anti-Christian rhetoric so at home in our own media say about the aforementioned?

When animals run the circus

Bold and brave young entertainers embrace their lowest common denominators of animal behavior to advance their careers. You can see the 'shocking' cover in this link. 'Shocking' since, given the cinematic manure that has been shoveled for the last decade or so from so many circles, the saddest thing is how blah this seems. As any intelligent person says, it's not a question of if we will eventually turn to blood-sport, but when. Meanwhile, peasants and commoners who embrace our 'nothing but animal' approach to life will be condemned and ostracized accordingly.

A civilization that insists humans are nothing but glorified animals should be ashamed of itself for acting shocked when its citizens end up acting like nothing but glorified animals.

Folks with lab coats to the rescue

Loud noise in teens' ears has been found to be likely cause of increased hearing loss. In other news, after extensive research, science has found water to be wet. It's a good thing we have those fancy science types with lab coats to tell us these things. When simple, hard working parents say it they're just being old fuddy-duddies. When scientists with beakers and Bunsen burners say the same thing, it's time to get serious and do something about it.

Ground Zero Mosque news just keeps coming

In other Mosque related news, 63% of New Yorkers are found to be Islamaphobic bigots. This is all the more shocking since the MSM has assured us for weeks that most New Yorkers were tolerant and open and happy to embrace diversity. It was all just a trumped up controversy by those with no understanding of New York in a post-9/11 world. Does the media ever tire of being right all the time?

Where's the beef?

Sam Stein at Huffpost reminds us that critics of critics of the Mosque at Ground Zero still aren't getting the beef they have with the location. The beef is with the sensitivities involved with locating a center dedicated to a religion that produced mass murderers who slaughtered thousands of innocent people on 9/11 near the scene of the horror. It would be like a Christian church erecting a cross near the site of a slain abortion provider with the banner 'choose life' to show it can reach peacefully across the aisle for a peaceful resolution. I can't help but get the strange feeling that there would be plenty of protests from some regarding the wisdom of such a gesture. More than that, I can't help but feel many screaming the loudest at such a move would be the ones now saying 'bigot = any critic of the Mosque at Ground Zero.'

For what it's worth, a couple things leap out at me in the article. First, the strange tendency many on the Left have of pointing to the Bush administration's use of the Imam as some sort of infallible sign that he must be OK. Since the Left has placed undying faith in the Bush administration's decisions, don't you know.

Second, I'm troubled by the Imam's statements. It reflects this 'half off picture' that Islam has been since 9/11 - iinsisting Muslims are against terrorism, but not really doing much about it (again, until the terrorism seemed to be killing more Muslims than anyone). Yet turning out by the zillions when a Danish paper publishes a picture. Or things like the Imam's statements about the bombing of Hiroshima, that this was a 'Christian act'. Should we assume everything ever done by any Islamic nation or culture is therefore an Islamic act? The fact that almost all Muslims I have heard interviewed insinuate 'true Islam is peace while true Christianity is mass murder' perspective is a big reason that I have problems with many Islamic movements in the world, beyond the beef with the 9/11 Mosque.

When I hear more, of for that matter any, Muslim leaders and representatives say 'we realize not everything done by the West is the result of Christianity, and acknowledge that Islam itself has been a cause of much suffering and violence in history', then I'll say it's time to talk. Till then, I remember that Jesus said turn the other cheek, not bend over and spread them.

I sometimes see America and the World as Rocky and Mr. T - before the first fight

An interesting editorial on Time.com. It's obvious the viewpoint of the author. One thing I found interesting, and I've seen this quoted a million times it seems, is the fact that Muslims now don't support suicide bombings the way they did:

A study by the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that support in Muslim countries for suicide bombings has fallen precipitously from post-9/11 levels. One-third of Pakistanis believed terrorism was justified in 2002; now just 8% do.

Three things. First, it only says Pakistanis have had a lowered rate of support for suicide bombings. Does this apply to the entire Muslim world? Are the stats similar? Why mention them as opposed to Muslims as a whole?

Second, is 8% a good amount? If it were only 8% of Muslims, as the article seems to want to suggest this poll would indicate, then 104 million Muslims still support terrorism. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that doesn't help me sleep well.

Finally, why the change? The fact seems, before 9/11 most terrorism was aimed at non-Muslim targets, primarily Israel with the odd passenger jet thrown in. Since 9/11 and the Iraq war, the bulk of attacks have been against fellow Muslims. For all the billions killed and blamed on Bush's policies, most deaths have been at the hands of Muslim insurgents. And most deaths have been fellow Muslims. How many Mosques have been attacked, not by racist, out of control Americans, but by Muslim extremists? Is that why Muslims support it less? Is it in general principle? Why? Certainly we can't ignore the carnage that Muslims have visited on one another in reviewing the poll numbers. Can we?

These are thing I think about. In America, we have been conditioned to easily accept the worst possible interpretation of our own motives, the motives of our leaders, the motives of our culture. We find it difficult to look at other cultures, nations, peoples and say, "You're wrong! It's your fault." Generations of focusing on the sins of our own past, and
believing that without our cultural influence the world wouldn't have been half bad, have brought us to a point where it's almost unfathomable to think all of this could be anything other than Muslims seeing the light for the purest reasons, while America's meddling in international affairs is the main cause of problems. Forget suggesting that, had America done everything right, there could still be a tendency by other cultures to view us in hostile ways.

It all reminds me of those polls a few years ago, from Pew Research to UN studies and other surveys, that found Americans have little to fear from Muslims, since only 10% of those studied support Islamic terrorism against the West. I always wondered what the other 90% thought. Did all 90% want to live like good Western post-moderns? Did some want to conquer the world for Islam but saw terrorism as cowardly? Did others have a mesh of feelings somewhere in between? I don't know. No one asked, and no one told. All we were told was that only 10% of Muslims supported the full and unchecked mass slaughter of all Westerners. And in some bizarre twist of logic, the idea that 130 million people in the world supported the death of me and my family at all cost was supposed to put me at ease.

Such have been the strange attempts by a soft and irresolute America continuing to live its life of pizza and beer and reality shows in the face of a changing, and threatening, world.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Speaking of symptoms of a dying and decaying civilization

ACLU reminds Americans that lesbians and homosexuals must have everything they want, no other standards matter, all other considerations secondary. Of course, had this been a male wanting only to appear in a jockstrap, my guess is everyone would dismiss it as ludicrous, no matter how traumatized and decimated he was at having his True Identity(TM) denied. Wanting to wear a picture of Jesus need not even be considered. ACLU: Demonstrating all the hypocrisy and agendas behind the lofty principles and ideals of our enlightened elite.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Mosque at Ground Zero

A few thoughts on the building of the Mosque at Ground Zero, then I'm outa here till tomorrow (or even the next day?). Do the Muslims have a right to build there? Sure. Should they? Depends on their priorities. If one wants to help healing, as they say they do, the first thing to do is find out from those you are wanting to heal if the process is going to work. Sure, some victims of 9/11 don't mind. Others do. Should they be considered? I would think. But I'm not Muslim. I don't think like a Muslim thinks. I didn't think like a Catholic thinks until I became Catholic, and began seeing things from a Catholic POV. As an agnostic, I didn't think as a Christian until I became Christian.

Sometimes, a belief, ideology, religion can't really be understood until and only until you become part of it and accept that worldview. So I would suggest there are few, if any, outside the Muslim world that can see things the way a Muslim would, can understand if this is the typical approach to pursuing healing, and know if this is just the Islamic way. For despite Disney's instance to the contrary, sometimes we need to remember that it is a big world after all. And not all people see things the way I do. Sure, everyone wants to be happy, but they reckon that differently than I reckon happiness. They want good for their families. Of course they want freedom to a degree. But that doesn't mean, at the end of the day, that they want all these things as understood from a middle-class, Catholic, Midwestern, 21st century American male perspective. My guess is, many Muslims around the world see the issue differently than most Americans. How, I can only guess.

What I do know, and what I find most troublesome, is that those outside the Islamic world screaming the loudest about Freedom of Religion are the ones who for the last fifty years have done everything humanly possible to eradicate religion, er, I mean Christianity, from the public forum and banish it to the closets and ghettos where apparently it belongs. From little Suzie wanting to mention Jesus at her graduation, to parents wanting a cross at a Columbine high school memorial, to crosses along the highway or in memorials, to Christians attempting to voice their political views, the tide has been against such things for decades.

Sure, technically the Muslims have a right to do this, it involves nothing that, as of now, is deemed government, and some will split that little hair to justify the differences. Plus, so many Americans are convinced that this 9/11 project is no big deal while Suzie mentioning Jesus in her Valedictorian address could spell the end of America as we know it. That difference alone, something I have a feeling is lost on those screaming for the Mosque, is what bothers me. I get the uneasy feeling that had everything happened the same exact way, but it was some radical Christian group who flew jets into the Trade Center, that those same ones screaming Freeeeedddddooooommmmmmm, would be calling Barry Lynn out to inform us that religions not conforming to liberal standards should be banished from public discourse. Can I prove it? No. But precedence suggests I might be willing to bet on it. And that's what bothers me the most.

An annus mirabilis

If I had to struggle through Latin in graduate school, by goodness I'm going to use it. Annus mirabilis means great year. It means year of wonders or year of miracles. Far from religious connotations, I saw a post the other day about the old Atari game of my youth. This was the BB-Gun (and we all know what that means) present for Christmas back in 1980, one of my greatest Annus mirabili. Space Invaders had been released, and I wanted nothing other than Atari and Space Invaders. Santa, being a good elf, fulfilled my request, and I settled down for many hours of saving the world from alien invaders.

That wasn't all I remembered. Suddenly, I was in eighth grade again - one of the best years of my life - beginning to move from childhood to adulthood. Old toys were sitting, collecting dust with increased frequency as they could no longer hold my interest. Girls were beginning to appear less offensive. Going places with my best friend was more common, and we spent many days hanging out at colleges while his Mom attended classes, toilet papering and soaping windows on a football Friday night on Halloween, snowball fights in a bowling alley parking lot.

And then other great years came to mind. In what felt like hours of reflecting, I remembered my fifth and sixth grade years, my high school Junior year, fall semesters my freshman and junior years at Ohio State. The smells, the sounds, the scenery all became as vivid as the scenes outside my window right now. I also remembered, more vaguely because the memories even now are beginning to fade into the mists of time, pleasant years of my youngest days. But through them all, that year, 1980, will remain large in my list of wondrous years.

That got me to thinking, as I am wont to do, of how a simple picture, or reference, or even smell, can bring back memories like that, and suddenly I'm no longer here, worrying about job and fatherhood, being a good husband or provider (or lack thereof), or the concerns of aging parents, Alzheimer's, recessions, a fading America, a scandal-ridden Church, or any one of a thousand things that eat away at the child-like joys of yesteryear.

Instead, I'm transported back, and can see the old, blue beanbag chair, the new TV complete with round dials for navigating thirteen channels, feel the plastic cartridge announcing the coveted title of Space Invaders as I push it into the console. It's quite amazing, the thing called memory. The things that set it off, the things that are special. The things we never really get rid of.

I think of that when I read passages in the New Testament that turn to the original Aramaic. The New Testament is in Greek, of course, though the spoken language of Jesus and his compatriots would have been Aramaic. Nonetheless, on a few occasions, the authors of the Gospels, and Paul himself, recount the Aramaic words of Jesus. He says abba, father. He cries out Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani from the cross, he holds a little girl's hand and says Talitha kum, and she rises from her own death.

The authors didn't have to use the original words. They could have translated them into Greek just like the rest of Jesus' teachings. But they didn't. Something about remembering him say those things in particular struck a nerve. And they wanted to repeat them, to remember them. They wanted to pass them down to the ages and try, however incompletely, to allow us a brief glimpse into the actual moment when God reached out and gave so much to us sinners.

Like me remembering that year of wonders so long ago, I can't help but wonder if the Apostles were putting their own nostalgia in, remembering that year way back, when the Messiah walked among us, and the carpenter's son simply held a child's hand and said, Talitha kum. That, no doubt, would cause anyone to think that it was, indeed, a very good year.

Save the Planet, Make the people

The one thing we've learned with all the pollution, global warming, deforestation, and cancer causing carcinogens we have ingested over the years since the scientific and industrial revolutions: don't mess with nature. Unless, of course, it's human nature. Then that's OK. Because this time science and technology will get it right, solve all our problems and nothing - not one gosh darn thing - is possibly going to go wrong. If we weren't so overly hysterical at all the ways our science* and technology are destroying the planet, this wouldn't be half as funny.

*Fun note: You ever notice that science is never, ever blamed for things like all the carbon emissions that are causing man made global warming and other disasters? We all know it's from things like science and invention and technology, but we just don't say it. Humanity, doing what we've always done for thousands of years: not learning.

By the way, the article does not point out just how they are becoming Dads (hint: it's not the natural way, or as gay rights say, not the way we've been indoctrinated into thinking is natural). But the article that did have the celebratory story had pics that didn't need to be linked by this blog, which is all too common in most popular media today. Sigh.

Victor Stenger makes me laugh.

Physicist Victor Stenger writes a hilarious article for the Huffington Post. It's hilarious because, like so much word drool that pours out of the modern atheism movements, the obvious problem in the argument is there, but can't be seen through the biases and beliefs he holds. Essentially, he concludes that since science has looked for God in nature and not found God from a scientific viewpoint, God doesn't exist. Observe his first stellar argument:

Even the most pious believer has to admit that there is no scientific evidence for God or anything else supernatural. If there were, it would be in the textbooks along with the evidence for electricity, gravity, neutrinos, and DNA.
Cuz we all know that if textbooks don't say it, it must not be true! Finish laughing for a minute, then we can continue.

OK, back to the article. Like most modern atheists he begins his assumptions with the religious faith of most modern atheists: that science is the only tool by which we can explain everything, and if science can't explain it, it doesn't exist. That, of course, is necessarily a belief, not to mention circular reasoning. There is no scientific proof that science alone can answer for all that exists. It has to have an assumption to begin with that if science can't explain it, it isn't true. Once you are willing to step out of that little religious covey, it becomes easier to see that 99% of humanity may not be 100% wrong about religious experience and revelation.

The rest of it, as is usual, deals with refuting Christianity's God. Typically when atheists say they are against all religion they spend 99% of their time obsessed with the Christian traditions.

Essentially, his article boils down to this: We all know that if science in 2010 can't prove it, it isn't true. And by proof, we mean proving it based on how we believe it should be able to be proven. And furthermore, we won't consider any proof that doesn't fit our own scientific methods, which, by the way, assume to begin with that God doesn't exist and there is nothing supernatural. His final two paragraphs speak volumes for this:

"As the final example, the Abrahamic God is believed by his worshipers to talk to people and provide information they otherwise did not know. Nothing could be easier to test scientifically. All you have to do is find a few examples where a truth has been revealed that later was confirmed. This could be something simple, such as a prediction of some future event that turned out to be confirmed. This has never happened.

Of course, claims of revelation can be found in all three monotheisms, but none stand up to critical scrutiny. The so-called prophecies in scriptures were all made in the distant past and can't be tested since the events prophesied have already happened, or, as in the case of Jesus returning in a generation, long been falsified."
Note there is no real evidence provided by the author who insists our beliefs should be based on scientific evidence (which, of course, would render them no longer beliefs). The famous Miracle of the Sun*, which saw thousands of witnesses account for a prediction by three peasant children regarding a phenomenon which occurred. Everyone knows it happened, the witnesses have gone on record saying it happened. Wouldn't that be proof? One time is all is needed.

Not so for our intrepid rationalists. They simply dismiss such things by saying 'mass hypnosis', or 'giant conspiracies', or 'mass hallucinations'. Now, do they have proof of any of these things? No. There is no proof that mass hallucinations, hypnosis or conspiracy happened. Yet they base their disbelief on a very simple belief: since we already believe there is no God or supernatural, there must - MUST - be some other explanation, no matter how implausible or unproven.

His last paragraph was simply bizarre, and suggests that as a historian and critical scholar, he makes a good physicist. He doesn't take into account contrasting theories on the dating of Old Testament literature. He doesn't explain the secular critical answers that attempt to explain away the prophecies. Why not? That would be icing on the cake. Simply turn to liberal/secular explanations for the later dating of the Old Testament (which may not be as true as once believed), and that would, if you are willing to enter into it with skepticism, add to the argument. It's almost as if he is unaware of the arguments, because perhaps, just perhaps, he is actually unaware of the very religion he has tried so hard to refute with science. So unaware, that a person of faith has little difficulties seeing the superficial assumptions and understandings of the faith he has tried to disprove, and can see why his supposed smack down of religion is a rather lightweight fluff ball after all.

*Yes, the link is to a skeptics website. I had a good laugh there, too. Notice his rationalist arguments against the miracle: from 'because they weren't as smart as me and didn't know what looking at the sun could be like', to 'mass suggestion' (no evidence), or my favorite: the miracle must have a natural explanation (since miracles don't exist), so the absence of a natural explanation proves no miraculous vision occurred'. Hint: if you want to prove it was no big deal that three peasant children predicted something would happen on a certain day that did happen, then get together three children, have them predict that something will happen, and reproduce the event. Or prove the countless conflicting theories 'disproving' the event are actually true and not desperate attempts at ignoring the fact that it all boils down to you being blinded by science, and nothing more.

Question to News Media

I heard a lead in to a story about the Arizona immigration law and the Tea Party this morning. The lead in was 'Tea Party activists showed support of Arizona's controversial immigration law.' Yet I also heard a story about Prop. 8. I noticed that Prop 8. was also deemed controversial. My question is, why are things that the majority of Americans support controversial, when those who oppose them are not controversial? For instance, I don't believe I've ever heard the media refer to gay marriage as controversial, even though most Americans oppose it. Why not refer to the movements or agendas that oppose the majority of Americans as controversial, rather than the issues that most Americans support? It's a rhetorical question of course. It doesn't really take a genius to figure it out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th Trumped by God

Two shots of a spectacular show from God's creation reminding us we are not confined to the worries of this time and place. One on the way home with the kiddies, and one from our front yard of the same scene. I know for atheists this is merely a collection of molecules doing their thing. But for people of faith, we have the added gift for seeing beyond the veil of physics to the heart and soul of what is the great act. We not only see the celluloid, but appreciate the film, and can even celebrate the work of a Spielberg or a Hitchcock. A person of faith sees something like these pictures of a sunburst on our way home from eating out with the kids, and an otherwise dreary week of ill fortune and disappointments (including not getting submitted articles published) fades away. Even silly superstitions appear put in their place.

Oh, the problems are still there, lest the skeptic snort in derision and suggest this is all a crutch for us to escape our problems. The problems are still there, the hurdles need cleared, the obstacles overcome. But it reminds us folks with the gift of faith that, in the end, there is much more than simply the day-to-day concerns awaiting us. There is something bigger, a small shard of which we can enjoy with the moments spent at a fish restaurant on Friday, a baby running and playing with his brothers, or a spectacular reminder that when God created, he did so out of sheer joy and love. With that, a blessed weekend to all, until next week. TTFN.

When Christianity lost its groove

I've been thinking over the last few months about how the world seems to assume that it is Christianity's job to conform to every other belief and standard. This first hit me some years ago, when I was in a discussion with a Jewish friend over the evils of proselytizing. He informed me, rather emphatically, that it was wrong to convert people to your own religious beliefs. Then it dawned on me: wasn't he tying to do the same thing? After all, has it been shown in the lab, accepted by the scientific community, shown with mathematical precision that trying to convert someone is wrong? Or is that merely his opinion, dare I say, his religious belief about proselytizing and converting?

Of course this was several years ago, back in the mid-90s. Back when much of liberalism was founded on the gospel of tolerance, diversity, respect, and open mindedness. In recent years, however, I began to rethink this little conversation with my friend, and realized that, even he didn't realize it, the whole notion against 'converting' people was a sham. It was a hoax, a farce. It was a lie.

Fact is, humans have always, and will always, convert. They will make absolute truth claims, assume their beliefs are absolutely true, and demand nations, governments, institutions - and yes, religions - conform to those truths. To some extent they will attempt to convey these truths in the hopes of convincing and persuading others to change their minds and accept these truths. Eventually, as we are seeing in the post-liberal Left, there will come a time when tolerance for those who refuse to conform will lead to more 'drastic' measures.

The same is obviously true for religion. Christianity, a part of Western Culture, suffers from the Great Western Guilt. Assured of the narrative that 'the West' is to blame for everything, Christianity has backed off on making stands, against pointing fingers and saying that's wrong, against looking at others and saying 'you need to change.' All while other religions, philosophies, and ideologies think nothing of looking at the Church and saying it's wrong, dumb, evil, stupid, or anything else. Imams and atheists, Buddhists and Rabbis think nothing of sitting on a CNN panel describing the faults, flaws, and failings of Christianity throughout its history.

And all the while, most Christians still lumber along under the false pretense that we must be tolerant, that we must affirm anything and everything else, that we have no right to say we're right, you're wrong. We will not look at the other panelist and say, "Our values are the Truth values because they are founded upon the bedrock of Truth, the foundation of Eternal Divinity: God as revealed through Jesus Christ." Some do, of course. But too many leaders feel the need to become all soft and cuddly. To avoid saying such things directly. They are just scared to point out the flaws in anything else (with the possible exception of radical secularism).

Point out the bad points of Jewish history? Forget it. Mention Islamic aggression and expansion throughout the previous thousand years? Don't hold your breath. Explain that there are many bad things in Asian history, some of which actually tie to the religious beliefs of certain regions? Nope. Oh, their reps can trash, trash, and trash again the Church, its sins, its failings, its doctrines all they want. But all the while, the most respectable Christian leaders continue to be guided by that has-been of a teaching that watching the modern world should show was a lie all a long.

When confronted with diverse opinions at Athens, the Apostle Paul did NOT simply say this is one possible truth, and tell everyone else their truth was as good, or valid, as his. He did not trash his own tradition and stand idly by while others did the same. He did not use violence or aggression, as we should never do. I'm not advocating conversion at gunpoint here. I am saying it's time for the Church to stand up, take a deep breath, and say 'we're right and you aren't.' Doesn't mean we can't coexist. Doesn't mean we can't discuss and debate. It means we hold these truths to be self-evident, and are sworn to uphold and protect them. It means when folks go on tirades about the evils of Christianity, challenge them. Throw it back at them. Discuss the caste system of India, the deplorable rights records of the Far-East, the modern conditions and rights abuses across the Islamic world, the brutality (by modern standards) of pre-Columbia American cultures, the mass slaughter of the secular 20th century and its terror states founded on, among other things, the eradication of religion. Don't hold back or try to be a milquetoast anymore. It's not working. People want truth. Real truth. Truth not afraid to be truth and proclaimed as truth. And if we who believe we hold the truth don't take a stand, then others who we believe do not have the full truth will. And they will win.