US State Department Praises Pope Francis for Speaking Against Human Trafficking

The United States Department of State issued a report on human trafficking. The report singled out Pope Francis’ strong condemnation of human trafficking for praise.

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Pope Francis: Torture is a Mortal Sin

Pope Francis says that torture is a mortal sin.

For those who might be confused, a mortal sin is a willfully committed transgression against the law of God that deprives the soul of divine grace. In other words, a mortal sin can send you to hell.

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Pope Francis on Child Labor, Fear of God, Love of Money, and Arms Dealing

Pope Francis is first of all a priest. The world is his parish and every single one of us is in the crosshairs of his admonitions to follow Jesus without reservations.

Following Jesus all the way, without holding anything back, is a revolutionary act. People who do it, even the most placid and low-key of them, become revolutionaries themselves. They are God’s change agents in a fallen world.

Those who try to follow Jesus part way, who stop when it gets difficult or conflicts with other things they hold dear, are pretty much useless to God. He cannot change the world with partially converted Christians. We are called to follow Him. There are no qualifiers to that command. It is absolute and all-encompassing.

When Pope Francis exhorts us to do just exactly that, he invariably becomes the target of half-converted Christians who have been using a selective view of the Gospels to condemn others and deify themselves. Everybody gets a kick out of it when the Holy Father calls out somebody else about sins we find appalling. But when he does it to us, well, that’s, as we say in these parts, meddling.

There has grown up here in America a false theology based on the idea that only a couple of sins — abortion and homosexuality — are truly sinful and anything and everything that has to do with money is outside the concerns of morality. In other words, if you oppose abortion, then you can rob all the banks you want.

This has grown to the point that there is a whole movement of fallen Christians out there who will lecture and hector anyone who has concern about the poor and helpless. They justify themselves and attack others with what are blatantly selective and anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture.

They use this obviously false and self-serving bogus theology to justify helping the rich get richer by transferring the wealth of our nation to them. They take prosperity that belongs to everyone and give it to a few and then proclaim that what they are doing is righteousness before God.

I’ve lived with this blasphemy for years on my job as a legislator. I’ve listened as the distorted, self-serving, anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture are flung in people’s faces. It is evil right down to the ground.

The idea that opposing abortion and gay marriage politically is the sum total of the Gospels is a sick, sad, anti-Christ interpretation of Scripture invented by political activists for their own purposes. It is, in itself, deeply sinful.

When Pope Francis tells us that we are bound to follow the whole Gospel of Christ, he is telling us the same thing that Dietrich Bonhoeffer said with his famous comments about cheap grace.

Of course Pope Francis is being attacked for speaking out for the poor. Of course he is being reviled for teaching the whole Gospel.

That’s what happens to people who stand for Christ and Him crucified. It. Happens. Every. Time.

I’ve chosen this particular video because it contains excerpts from three of Pope Francis’ recent audiences in which he addressed what is the moral plague that is destroying the witness of a good many Christians today. He talks about child labor, the love of money, arms dealing and fear of God.

In my opinion, these things are just a few of the manifestations of one thing: A false Gospel that says that economics cannot be judged by moral beliefs. If that isn’t a lack of fear of God in action, I don’t know what is.

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Why Did Jesus Have to Die, and Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

Resurrection

Calvary is the fulcrum of history.

Everything changed on that hill called Golgotha 2,000 years ago. Three days later, when the stone rolled away, God put His final redemptive imprimatur on the story of our salvation.

Before that Day in the garden outside the empty tomb, when He looked at the woman and said, Mary!,  Solomon’s ancient wail of “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity,” was the summation of the reality of human existence.

But Calvary and what He did there, the garden and Who the woman met there, changed all that forever.

Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, for you will surely die, God told them.

“You will not die,” Satan countered, in one of the deceptive lies disguised in a seeming truth that he uses so often against us.

They ate.

And they did not die.

Then.

But death was born into the world with that first bite of disobedience. The scales fell from their eyes and they knew. They fouled their primal innocence with willfulness, and they knew shame; first the shame of their nakedness, and then the shame of their fallenness.

Their first action was to hide from God because, as they told Him, “We were ashamed because we were naked.”

God’s answer illuminates their changed condition, Who told you that you were naked?

Their second action was to blame one another.

Primal innocence was gone in a single bite of the apple of disobedience, replaced by primal love of self.

Humankind denied this loss throughout its history, denies it even to this day. Self-will battles with God’s will in each of us every moment of our lives. And yet, there is in each of us, encoded in our souls, a haunting memory of who we really are, and an inchoate longing that will not be silenced for what we have lost.

“Our hearts are made for thee,” St Augustine said. And so they are.

God-longing is a part of the human condition, as is a hunger for transcendence and lost innocence. Separated as we are, this longing festers into resentment and denial, while the hunger congeals on our souls as hubris and self-worship.

The curse of lost innocence drives us to rageful disobedience. It ensnares us in our own desires and, if we let it, murders us with the excesses those desires breed in our lives.

Throughout human history this pull of longing for God and lost innocence has played against the push of the hubris of our self-aggrandizements and twisted desires. The tension it creates drives us into a universal acceptance of insanity. We kill one another and we kill ourselves in as many ways as the human story can devise. Our blood-soaked history of suffering and misery has one message: We cannot save ourselves.

The God-hunger encoded in us and the God-image inside of us, drive us to seek propitiation. From moloch to corporatism, we feed our lives and the lives of our children into the empty maw of false gods of our devising. We seek our lost transcendence in debauchery and achievement; in doing good and doing bad; in war making and peace making; in causes and rights and laws.

We try to achieve a lost immortality by looking as Ted Bundy did, into the eyes of those we kill and persuading ourselves that in that moment when the light of life fades we are like gods. We attempt to overcome our finite hopelessness by doing good works, and advancing humankind through the achievements of our efforts and our minds.

But in the end, we are but dust. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

God does not force us. He doesn’t reach down and re-invent us back to our lost innocence.

That is not cruelty as some claim. It is love and longing. Love, to be love, must be freely given. Our love for Him must be ours to give or withhold, or it is not love at all.

So God led us gently over long years and slow changes to the moment when He stepped into our history as one of us in order to offer us a Way. Jesus had to die because by dying He became the ultimate sacrificial lamb, the complete propitiation for our sins. He made it right by offering Himself in lieu of us on the altar of life and death.

He was our Passover lamb and Calvary was the ultimate and final Lord’s Passover.

If that is true, then what is the meaning and the necessity of the Resurrection? Wasn’t dying on the cross enough to redeem us?

The answers people give are all true. The Resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is God. The Resurrection is a sign of the resurrection that awaits all of us who accept Him and go through the open doorway of redemption that He represents. He is the Way in a literal and absolute manner. We enter into the Kingdom through Him.

But I think there is another ultimate meaning to the Resurrection. Calvary wasn’t the only way that God could have restored us to Himself. It was the only way He could do it and leave us free.

The Resurrection was the great undoing of that curse we cursed ourselves with in the garden. If you eat of the tree of knowledge, you will surely die. 

You will not die, Satan told us, and left out the word “today.”

We believed the lie, and the curse of death, real death that is separation from the Light, entered humanity.

The Resurrection broke that curse. God Himself entered into death, took on the curse, and experienced its depths. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, Jesus cried from the cross as He experienced the cold annihilation of The Alone in its absolute form.

I’ve have written about The Alone that we inflict on one another with our cruelties. But that Alone, which is a foretaste of the pit of hell, is nothing but a foretaste. The real hell, the true Alone, is complete separation from God.

We experience shades of this hell in the bitter blackness of our sinfulness. I have lived a bit of it, both in things I’ve done and things that have been done to me. The pleasure people take in hurting other people is a dark thing that swallows their own humanity.

We can cast other people into The Alone with our rapes, tortures, murders, greed, gossip and pretentious claims to superiority. Every time we do this to another person, we experience a bit of the cold blackness that such actions come from.

The curse of the fall is our daily experience, and that curse is death. The Resurrection broke that curse. God entered into our cursedness and experienced its shattering consequences. He, Who knew no sin, became sin for our sakes.

Then, on the third day, He shattered the curse like a glass by breaking death itself. He cast off death and arose from the grave.

This was different in every way from miracles such as raising Lazarus or the little girl or the young man who was being carried to his burial place. The difference is that He didn’t stand outside death and undo it for a time, He entered into death and dissolved it for all time.

Physical death is a huge thing to us. But to God it appears to be almost trivial. Jesus raised people from the dead as easily as taking a drink of water. Little girl arise, He said. He took pity on a mother’s grief at her son’s funeral procession and raised the young man with a word. Lazarus, come forth He commanded and Lazarus walked out of his tomb.

Physical death isn’t the great divide that it is to us to One who sees both sides of the experience, to the One Who created life in the first place.

The Resurrection isn’t another casual raising of someone from the dead so that they will die again in a few years. The Resurrection is an everlasting casting off of ultimate death altogether.

Eat, and you will surely die. 

You will not die … today.

I am the Way … all who believe in Me will never die. 

The Resurrection is the end of death. It is the Way out of getting what we deserve.

And it leaves us free. We can accept Him and love Him … or not.

Love is not love unless it is freely given.

The Big Bang has an Echo … Echo … echo

Big bang

The Big Bang has an echo, which is what you would expect from a “bang” that, blew creation into existence.

The elusive echo has finally been located in gravitational waves. The waves, which Albert Einstein first predicted in his General Theory of Relativity, were discovered with the use of a telescope at the South Pole.

What this means, among other things, is that the universe had a beginning, and that beginning was 13.7 billion years ago.

For a long time, scientists made the (at least to me) totally illogical assumption that the universe had no beginning. It just, according to them, always was. Even as a young child, I thought this thinking was daft.

It turns out that my young child intuition was, at least in this one instance, more accurate than the thinking of the big brains of earlier eras.

I think one reason why so many learned folk made this assumption was simply that the idea of a universe which had a beginning raised all sorts of questions that their world view didn’t allow.

That’s not science. It’s human nature, and every single one of us, including scientists, is a slave to human nature. We don’t see what we don’t want to see. Unless, of course, we have to.

The “have to” in this instance was the doppler effect, writ large. Just as a train whistle changes tone as it travels past us, so the light from stars changes color as it moves away. This simple bit of logic led to the realization that the universe, which had once been thought static, was moving away from us. It was expanding at great speed.

Computations based on this movement led us backwards to a point where the expansion began: The Big Bang.

The universe that always was became the universe that had a dramatic and sudden beginning. Existence exploded into existence.

Scientists have advanced all sorts of theories to try to explain away the implications of this Big Bang. Some of them have been quite fanciful.

But this discovery leaves those ideas flat. These gravitational waves are an echo of the Big Bang in much the same way that a tsunami is an echo of an earthquake.

The Big Bang happened. It is where everything, everywhere, came from.

The rest is religion.

Hishands


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