Friday, May 31, 2013

If you want to explain why lying is wrong

You don't start by saying 'cuz the Church says so you lousy sinner.'  You start from the beginning.  Years ago, my Dad had a heart attack.  A work horse all his life, he was healthy and that's what saved him.  But the biggest shock wasn't that he had a heart attack (though people who knew him actually wept when they heard, thinking if C.C. Griffey could have a heart attack, anyone can!).  The biggest shock was that he had diabetes.  Pow!  Pow!  One-two punch.

Now, when things settled down and everything got back to normal, we talked about things.  We realized we should have seen it all along.  Out of the blue he began getting tired when he never was tired his entire life.  He was starting to take forever to heal.  He was always thirsty.  I mean that.  We took to keeping milk jugs filled with water in the fridge.  It never dawned on us to look deeper.  We just thought, "Gee, he's awfully thirsty, let's get him some more water."

But all the water and band-aides and naps couldn't help, because the problem wasn't that he was thirsty, not sleeping enough, or just accident prone.  It was that he had a disease.  We were dealing with the symptoms. We were missing the disease.

As I sit back and gradually lose my interest in the Catholic blogosphere, I think one reason is that it is peopled by amateurs.  Amateurs, of which I am one.  I wasn't an amateur in my Protestant days.  With graduate and post-graduate schooling, years of pastoral and counseling experience, leadership and administration, I knew my way around our own tradition.  I knew enough to know that one thing you had to deal with in churches was amateurs.  And you needed to be careful that someone didn't misrepresent the faith, or present a bad witness to the unbeliever in the name of the Faith.

Well, I feel that is a problem with the blogosphere. Too many amateurs.  Oh, they may be brilliant, they may be eloquent, they may be dedicated and devoted.  And some of them may just be blowhards.  But whatever, most of them don't have the formal training mixed with the trenches of applied ministry to filter through what they say.  Often, they simply write subject by subject.  They deal with 'how should you vote?' (like me, duh); or 'should you ever lie to save a dying baby'; or 'we must do whatever it takes to defeat consequentialism'; or, well, you get the point.

But if a Catholic, non-Catholic, or even an American, thinks things like lying for a greater good, or doing wrong that good may come of it, are morally permissible, chances are it isn't because they've grasped the deepest and most foundational basis for Catholic teaching and belief and reached their conclusions accordingly.  It's probably because there are other factors at work.  I've said that if you accept homosexuality, it's because you already accept many things at odds with traditional Christian morality.  If you accept might makes right, survival of the richest, what's wrong with abortion rights, it's because you already have bought into many ideals and beliefs that would have been foreign to a Christian thinker only a few centuries ago.

That's not everyone's fault.  We are of our time, despite what Chesterton seemed to believe.  And so are many Catholic bloggers, who can be just as prone to being children of their age as anyone.  In fact, it's because of this amateur status that they can miss this fact, and end up doing or saying things that seem smack out of the park loony when set against other things they say.

In the end, when you are trained and you have the hands on experience, you begin to look at people and their flaws, errors, and failings, and realize that they are doing what they are doing for the same reason I have my flaws, errors and failings.  Because we are children made in the image of God living in a fallen world.  And our particular era of fallenness encompasses some differing views of the world from that which has been held by the Christian faith, or is held by the Catholic faith today.  And at that point, you begin to realize that just yelling and calling people names, insulting them and smacking them down because they can't see why it's better for a baby to die than tell a lie to save it is about as effective as handing a diabetic more water when they just can't quench their thirst.  If people think it's better to lie to save a baby, it's possibly because they have been weaned on a set of beliefs and values that differ from those of the Catholic tradition, and there's the disease.

Starting with those values, those key and foundational beliefs, that define the Catholic world view would be a much better approach.  It helps because, one, like my Dad's diabetes, it acknowledges the disease rather than the symptoms.  Two, it keeps me humble because suddenly I realize I might be stone dead wrong about things and not realize it, since I'm every bit the child of my age.  Three, it prevents the growth of my own inner fundamentalist who just can't imagine why everyone else isn't as humble as I am.  And finally, it is far more likely to produce results as people may begin to realize that God chose foolishness, rather than great wisdom.  It will do a better job at getting people to stop thinking as men think, and start thinking as God thinks.  From there will come changes in more than the symptoms, but ultimately changes that lead to curing the disease.

With that said, here is the type of person Catholics everywhere should be listening to.  He's a pro.  He has the training and the experience.  And he knows how to go beyond the symptoms, and get straight to the disease.  Watch.  Listen.  Learn why Catholic is Catholic, and not just a variation of modern alternatives.

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