This is Part 4.
The Holy Father’s remarks to Notre Dame strike to the core mission of all Catholic Universities. I hope that they are listening.
I haven’t read every single one of the various atheist books by Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, et al. But I’ve read most of them.
I’ve also read the historic atheists such as Russell, et al.
What amazes me is that anyone takes them seriously. Even when I was deep in my anti-God period, I could see that Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian (which says everything worth saying that is found in any of the other books, by the way) used self-refuting arguments. If you followed his line of reasoning to its end, you would have eliminated the existence of 2 billion Christians who are on the globe today.
The illogic of his logic actually led me to believe that if atheism had good arguments, they weren’t being advanced. This is telling because I was at a point in my life where I wanted to be convinced by atheism.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the crude and nasty atheists of today’s public forums are the way they are for two simple reasons. First, their philosophy, such as it is, is so hopeless and nihilistic that it is crazy-making. Second, anyone who reads one of these “four horsemen” and is convinced by them (much less goes around quoting them and pretending their ideas are your own) is either an adolescent, or they are an adult who is stuck is permanent adolescence.
The Four Horsemen and their progenitors are not thinkers for grown-ups.
I’ve just finished reading a book that addresses this adolescent thinking from the viewpoint of a fellow scientist. David Berlinski is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He has written such books as A Tour of the Calculus and The Advent of the Algorithm. What that means, aside from the fact that he’s got the chops to address the scientific hubris of the new atheism from the inside, is that, unlike most of the professional new atheist apologists, he doesn’t just go around writing hate screeds for a living. He actually writes and thinks about something else.
I wish his book on the scientific pretensions of the new atheism had a less lurid title. The book is of a higher quality than its title. However, I know that titles sell, and publishers make these decisions.
The book is called The Devil’s Delusion, Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions.
If you haven’t read it, you should. Berlinski writes with dry wit and clarity of the scientific gibberish that makes up the framework of new atheist arguments. The book is not, as the atheist books are, a vicious screed against those who disagree with him. It is rather, a gentle poke in the ribs.
Berlinski (who is not a believer) disassembles the house of cards of atheist scientific arguments against God, based entirely on the sheer outrageousness of their claims. There are no calls to insult people or attack them in the book. It doesn’t make totalitarian arguments that scientists should have their children taken away from them for the “child abuse” of teaching their kids what they themselves believe. There’s no trippy conflab about flying spaghetti monsters, and not one word of building a Christian revenge movement to drive atheists from the public square.
The Devil’s Delusion simply points out a few of the many over-the-top claims that atheists make in the name of science and calls them what they are: The attack polemics of a blind and absolutist faith. All of which is to say that the scientific claims by atheists are propaganda. They are not science at all.
I recommend The Devil’s Delusion. I hope that you will read it. If you’re been reading the adolescent rants of the new atheists, I especially hope you read it. It’s a great palate cleanser.
This is Part 2. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch Part 1 here.
What does it mean when the Holy Father is Man of the Year for both Time Magazine and the nation’s number one gay publication?
What, pray tell, is the significance of a pope on the cover of Rolling Stone?
1. The Catholic Church is not irrelevant.
2. The Pope is showing us how to evangelize through love.
This adulation from the press won’t go on forever, of course. Sooner or later the media will figure out just how tough and immovable Jorge Bergoglio is when it comes to the Church and her teachings.
I think we should just roll with it and enjoy our Pop Pope’s popularity while it lasts.
And, in what is probably the most sincere of the bunch, the Holy Father has achieved super hero status in graffiti land.
This is one test I wanted to fail.
In fact, this is one test that I have expended considerable political, social and emotional capital in an effort to fail.
NARAL’s so-called Women’s Reproductive Report Card is out, and Oklahoma got an F. Unfortunately, we’re not the best state in the Union in which to be an unborn child. North Dakota won that one.
But still … Oklahoma did “fail” the pro-abortion test, and I am proud to tell you that one of the pro life bills that Oklahoma passed last year to earn this failing grade was passed by me.
In fact, I went through the list of Oklahoma’s pro life regulations that NARAL dislikes, and I authored the bills that made quite a number of them law.
Now that I’ve told you how “proud” I am of this, I need to back off and back down and admit that I also, back in the years before my conversion, killed most of the same legislation that I have since helped pass.
Back when I was pro choice, I never heard a kind word from pro life people. In fact, they were pretty ugly to me. Fortunately for me, that was not true of a good many pro life legislators. It was their Christian witness of being able to love me just as I was (oftentimes while being excoriated for doing it by a few members of the pro life community) that softened me up.
This softening up played a big part in my ability to turn to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. But even then, I didn’t ask forgiveness for what I had done about abortion. That came later, after the Holy Spirit convicted me of the wrong I had committed. Christ Himself accepted me, as the hymn goes, just as I was; warts, sins and all. He forgave me for things I didn’t realize at that point that I needed to be forgiven for.
I think we need to take a page from His book in dealing with lost people.
That does not mean that I am advising you to tell people that their sins are not, in fact, sins. That would be a grave injustice to them. I am saying that none of us is as bad as the worst thing we’ve done and that none of us — and that means you and me, my friend — is fit to stand before God based on his or her own righteousness.
Our salvation is found at the foot of the cross. It is an unearned and unearnable grace; a free gift of love from the God Who made us.
Do not go around banning people from the Kingdom because they fall short of your idea of personal righteousness. Your standing in the order of things is that of the created, not the Creator. You do not get to ban anybody from the Kingdom. That is not your place in the order of creation. You are not the Judge. You are the judged.
Every single one of us should be grateful that God loves us and accepts us. That is what I believe the Holy Father has been trying to tell us this past year. We need to remind people that there is a remedy for their anomie and misery, and that remedy is the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
We live in a devolving, falling-apart culture that has gotten so turned on its head that evil is preached as good and good is preached as evil from every venue. It is maddening, I know, to see and hear people demand that Christians validate sin by denying the sinfulness of what is in truth moral depravity. We can not and must not do that.
It is even more maddening to have people who do not believe in Jesus and who actively mock Him, mis-use Christ’s clear commandment that we should not judge to mean that we are called to ignore the equally clear teachings of morality and purity. I understand the anger this provokes. I’ve felt it. I feel it many times when I encounter this smug sophistry.
But, I know that Jesus calls you and me to more than righteous anger. I know that righteous anger, if it is nursed and allowed to go on, destroys our relationship with Jesus. When we become anger and rage — and at least a few of the people who comment on this blog seem to have fallen into this trap — then we are not and cannot be following God who is love.
Never equate the person with their sin. If Christ looked at you like that, where would you be? I know where I would be. I know what I deserve.
Is there one person reading this who would not go straight to hell, if God judged us as harshly as we judge one another?
Sin is wrong. But the person who sins is a child of God who can be loved from death to life. It is not our job to play God and condemn them to hell. Our job is to show them the Way. Part of that, certainly, is an insistence on the truth of God’s teachings about personal morality. But the hardest part of it is an honest and forthright attempt to live those truths in our lives.
We are all prey to the world. I certainly am. If I do not fall into the sins of active behavior — which is almost impossible not to do — then I will fall into the sins of thinking that my righteousness is sufficient and that I can judge and condemn those who I see failing in ways that I do not.
The thing that saves me is the grace of God that keeps reminding me that I am only saved from eternal hell by unmerited love.
Pray without ceasing for the poor, sad people who are trying to live without Christ. Never stop praying for them or give up on them. Make the best witness that you can by living out your Christian commitment without flinching back from it.
Do it because it is what Jesus asked you to do.
Look to the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments and the Catechism of the Church for your guides on how to live. Do not pay attention to various gurus who would add to or take away from those things.
If an honest attempt to follow the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments and the Catechism doesn’t teach you humility, then re-read them and compare yourself to the requirements found there with a bit more honesty.
Stop comparing your personal edited and flattering version of yourself to the sins you witness other people committing. That’s the wrong way to look at it. It can cost you your soul. Look instead to Jesus. If you compare your righteousness to Jesus, hanging on the cross, it will bring you down to your knees, and on your knees is where you — and me, and all of us — belong.
My sins were and are great. I owe a debt that I can never repay.
The fact that God let me be the person who passed a few pro life bills was and is a measure of forgiveness that I did not and do not deserve.
What do you owe?
What, honestly, do you owe your Creator?
If it’s not more than you can repay, then you are not truly human.
Do not engage in attacks against people. Focus instead on the issues at hand, filtered through the Truth of God. Remember that we are all of us dust, and that we will each stand before God much sooner than we imagine.
Do not throw away your soul on the sad satisfactions of judging and unforgiving. That is a preposterous waste of the free gift of eternal life.
Billy Graham has written what he says is his last sermon. I think it’s worth pondering as we look ahead to the New Year in front of us.
A few weeks ago, my pastor preached a homily based on what is a simple but absolute fact of all our lives.
We will die.
You are going to die.
I am going to die.
It may be in a car wreck this afternoon as you go to the store to buy milk. It may be years from now as you sleep in your bed at 85. But you and I will die.
My pastor told us that when we die, someone will say to us, You belong to me. The question is, who will be saying this to us? Will it be Jesus, welcoming us Home. Or will it be someone else?
We are the ones who decide who will tell us You belong to me on that day. We decide, not so much by the things we say, but by what we do. Who do you serve with your life? Whose teachings do you follow?
Do you follow the troubling teachings of the Gospels as elucidated to us by the Holy Father, Pope Francis? Or do you follow the serpent who whispers in all of our ears, Take. Eat. God is a liar. You will not die?
As with all really successful lies, this one was part truth. When the serpent whispered You will not die in Eve’s ear, it was true. All the serpent had to do was add one word to make it absolutely true. That word was today.
You will not die today.
Take. Eat. And you will be like God, knowing right from wrong. And you will not die today.
There are many serpents in our world today, and each one of them speaks to us in the peculiar language of our own hearts. They tell us that what we want to do is right and the Church which tells us otherwise is wrong, cruel, hard-hearted and mean to tell us it is not.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your sexuality, your politics, the way you treat your family or some secret sin you keep to yourself. You have your own serpent to whisper in your ear and tell you, God/the Pope/the Gospels are all liars. Do this and you will be free of those binding appeals to lying morality.
And, of course, you will not die.
But it’s all a lie from the father of lies. The Gospel this Sunday talks about judgement day, when Jesus told us that one will be taken and another left behind. Many preachers concentrate their preaching about this on some final Judgement Day for all humankind that recedes in front of us like the horizon as we live our lives.
But I think that there are two judgement days and the one we need to concern ourselves with is our own personal Judgement Day that is coming at all of us faster than any of us wants to believe. On that day, someone will say to us You belong to me.
One of the primary purposes of this blog is to encourage Christians to take a stand for Jesus in a post Christian world. Since I am myself a politician, I am calling you from the depths of my experience to cast off the false gods of political claptrap and follow the Gospels of Christ without compromise.
Do not follow false teachers who are the political serpents whispering in all our ears and who edit the Gospels of Christ to serve their political masters. Do not bow down before the elephant or the donkey. Do not do it.
When we die and someone says to us, You belong to me, we are the ones who will have determined which voice we hear saying it. We are choosing now as we choose who we serve, who we follow and who we believe.
Follow His Vicar who was chosen by the Holy Spirit and who cannot teach us that which is contrary to the Gospels of Christ.
Stop trying to lead, and follow. And stop quibbling about it.
I have learned from my own disastrous failures at doing it my way and I am telling you now from the bottom of my heart: There is no other Way.
Yesterday’s news of fresh scandal and rumors of scandal in the Church left me feeling like the little girl in Poltergeist. Her family had suffered a harrowing attack by demonic forces. As fresh attacks started, she turned to the camera and said, “No more.”
That’s exactly how I felt when Deacon Greg Kandra posted that another of our Church leaders has been accused of sexual misconduct. This came at the tag end of a day in which the Vatican issued a denial that the Holy Father’s resignation was in any way a response to what sounded like a cabal of homosexual cardinals within the Vatican and Cardinal Mahony loaded on with another of his weird, cardinal-from-space blog posts.
My reaction was exhaustion and depression and sadness, all rolled into a sigh. No more, indeed.
This is especially sad, coming as it does at a pivot point in history. The Catholic Church is the only unified Christian voice in the world today. Christianity is under attack as it has not been for 17 centuries, with Christians in many places quite literally under the gun. Even the Muslim invasion of Christian lands and the subsequent subjugation of entire Christian populations that took place in the Middle Ages did not have the universal, multi-faceted breadth of the challenges Christians face today.
What a terrible time for our leaders to become disgraceful, not for their fealty to Christ, which would inspire and edify all of us, but for their overweening self-absorption.
Before I went to bed last night, I read a remarkable post by one of my colleagues here at Patheos, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, who blogs at The Velvet Kippah. In this post, Rabbi Adlerstein asks Are Christians the New Jews? He says:
The violent persecution of Christians in the Middle East, which is what Rabbi Adlerstein is describing, is part — but only a part — of the tsunami of persecution that is heading toward Christianity and Christians today. In truth, violent persecution of Christians has spread over a good bit of the world. Christians are burnt, beaten, beheaded, kidnapped, raped, tortured and imprisoned with impunity in much of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and various Pacific nations.
At the same time, hate speech against Christians and Christianity has long been tolerated in the so-called Christian West. It is not only tolerated, but actively encouraged on many of our university campuses. Christians are increasingly faced with the choice of losing their jobs or following their faith throughout what has been for many centuries the stronghold of Christian faith.
We need leaders, and, fortunately, we have them. Our bishops have provided courageous leadership this past year against the overt government attack on religious freedom that the HHS Mandate represents. I am proud of them for this. They have my complete support and gratitude for doing it.
We are, as I said, at a pivot point. If we are going to turn back this tide of Christian-bashing bigotry, we must do it now, before it gets stronger. It is a great sadness that we keep getting battered by scandals at the highest levels in our Church in this perilous time.
I know that God makes all things, even bad things, work to the good. Good will come of these scandals. One good that I think we will see is a more authentic and committed priesthood. I am not one to criticize our priests. Based on my experience, I think they do their very best, and that this best is quite good. However, tough times are ahead. We are going to need priests who are committed to Christ to the death. The day is coming when we will need priests who can lead us through the fire.
I believe that these repeated scandals are the result of the Holy Spirit, cleaning things out. I don’t have any more insight into this than anyone else, but it seems to me that God just got enough. These abuses had to stop, and, even though the cure is quite painful, I believe that the scandals and the misery they bring to all of us will stop them.
So it is with the revelations of scandal from yesterday. These things have to be exposed because the Church cannot fail. The gates of hell will not prevail against this Church. There are times when things must be laid open because sunlight and air purify and heal. I think we are going through such a time in Church history today.
This brings me to something Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1969, decades before he became Pope Benedict XVI. I am going to quote it in its entirety because I think it is pertinent to what we face today. Read it prayerfully, and remember that St Paul told us, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Do not let the sins of other people, including the sins of our religious leaders, lead you away from Christ or His Church. Do not throw away your salvation because someone else has sinned. Trust Jesus and endure to the end.
Cardinal Ratzinger’s comments in 1969 say in part:
The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.
It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek . . . The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain . . . But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes . . . she will lose many of her social privileges. . . As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members….
And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.