2013 Favs: If You’re Looking for Me, You’ll Find Me Standing With the Pope

I doubt that they’re interested in what I think, but I want to send a message to the charlatans out there in the blogosphere. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me standing with the Pope.

If you are a Catholic, and you have been joining in the orgy of Pope bashing that is coming from the right wing of American politics, then you need to get in line right behind Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and all those other Catholics you love to hate. Because you are one of them. Get yourself a cafeteria card and get that baby punched.

If you are a Catholic, and you are not outraged by the river of slime being dumped on our Pope by vicious right-wing pundits, then you need some spiritual smelling salts.

Wake up Catholics. Stand with your Pope.

American politicians and their minions in the media love to bash the pope.

Remember the attacks from the left wing against Pope Benedict XVI? They couldn’t/wouldn’t stop cracking their verbal knuckles over what this 80-year-old man had been forced to do against his will when he was a boy. The same crowd that calls foul if you hold any of their heroes accountable for what they said or did five minutes ago, wanted to proclaim that the entire sweep of this Godly man’s life was worthless because of something that had happened when he was a child.

Remember the bullets raining down on Pope John II? They were fired from a gun held by a paid assassin.

Politicians envy the moral voice of the Pope because, alone of all the great religious voices of our day, his is the one they cannot control. Left or right, it doesn’t matter; they all hate and fear the Pope.

That is because he is not one of their toady religious leaders that they have co-opted for their own purposes of gaining and keeping power. The Pope is not answerable to politicians, including American politicians, American politics or America’s self-deified tin gods of the media.

That enrages them.

Politics in this country has endeavored for the past four decades to slice and dice, buy and sell Christianity. It has, with the eager help of its pet clergy, narrowed the revolutionary message of the Gospels down into neat, easily-controllable little sound bites that it can use in campaign ads.

Christianity in America has become a politicized, bastardized mumbo-jumbo of apologetics for both right and left wing politics. Religious leaders have cut the Gospels into political shapes that do not in any way resemble the Gospel that has the words that lead to eternal life. Instead of leading their flocks on the Narrow Way, they are misleading them along the political way.

I have seen these religious leaders bow down before political power. I have witnessed them change their positions when their political masters yank their chains, even on issues of grave moral concern such as abortion. They have bartered Christ in the political marketplace. The fact that at least some of them were paid considerably more than 30 pieces of silver does not change the nature of the transaction.

Political power brokers in the media have not hesitated to use religious language to condemn the political opponents of the power column that is paying their salaries. Toady preachers have not hesitated to back them up. This has become such an unadulterated heresy that large segments of the Christian believers of this nation actually think that following one or the other political party and its “teachings” is tantamount to following Christ.

How did people come to this heretical viewpoint?

They came to it because their religious leaders sold out the Gospels to political power brokers and used their prophetic and moral voice to go whoring for either the Rs or the Ds. They have sold not only the Christian message but themselves in the bargain. They have become the things of the politicians and when they occasionally try to exert themselves as if they were actual men and women of God, they are quickly told to sit down and do as they are instructed, and they do it. 

I have witnessed these things and argued in vain with some of the religious leaders, urging them to grow spines and stand for what they say they believe. I have heard their excuses. I have also seen how whipped and meek they are in their dealings with these politicians.

I’ve seen them back off and back down about the one issue they claimed was number one with them: The issue of abortion. I’ve even had pro-life leaders lie to me in a failed attempt to try to keep me from taking a stand against legislative initiatives that were enabling abortion rather than shutting it down.

These political leaders are the religious leaders’ masters, and they are not at all shy about yanking back on the reins if the religious leaders forget this.

I believe that this prevailing relationship of religious corruption and political abuse has created an expectation on the part of right-wing leaders in all venues, including the media, that religious leaders are under their thumb. This public adulation of a Christ-less christianity of the political is coupled with a private contempt for its practitioners that has become so rife in American politics that they aren’t hiding it anymore.

The Pope is the great exception to this. He is not owned or dictated to by either the minions of the right or minions of the left.

The Catholic Church does not trim its teachings to suit the fancy of American politicians. For all their arrogance and power, these political forces and their operatives cannot control or dictate to the Pope.

There is nothing more frightening and enraging to political power brokers than a genuine man or woman of God. They are no different in that than the political power of the first century. Their instincts, which are always honed in the service of getting and keeping power, go ding-ding-ding like a fire alarm when they encounter a religious leader they can’t buy-bully-destroy.

That is why they are attacking our Holy Father today. They can’t control him. They can’t make him teach a two-sin Christianity that deifies them and their politics. They can’t get him, as they have so many other religious leaders, to comb through the scriptures to find verses that will exempt their actions, particularly their actions concerning economics, from moral scrutiny.

That is why the right-wing blogosphere has been littered the past few days with attacks from Breitbart, Limbaugh, Fox News, et al; all claiming that Pope Francis is a Marxist, or something worse, an Obamaist. They use ridiculous headlines such as Pope Francis Attacks Capitalism, Calls for State Control, (Breitbart) Pope Francis’ Latest Document is Pure Marxism (Limbaugh) Pope Francis is Giving Obama an Orgasm (Limbaugh again), Pope Francis is the Catholic Church’s Obama. God Help Us (Fox News) and CNN’s entry from the left, The Pope as Marxist: Is Limbaugh Right?

These people have become so arrogant that they think they can talk to the Pope the way they talk to their toady political religious leaders that they’ve bought and own. Since they can’t even get an audience with the Pope, they are going directly to their cult-like following among their readers and listeners and are doing their best to get them riled up into a froth of Pope-hating.

These attacks on the pope serve a two-pronged political purpose. First, they are an attempt to weaken the Holy Father’s moral leadership in America. Second, they are a method of damage control among the pundits’ Protestant followers.

Evangelii Gaudium does not say anything new in terms of Catholic teaching and economics. But its total lack of obeisance to the political powers in one wing of American politics both affronts and angers them. The Pope is a problem.

The last thing the political powers that be want is for religious leaders to start behaving as if Jesus Christ was actually the arbiter of their teachings. The scary thing about Pope Francis’ independence and total unconcern about them and their power is not only that tens of millions of American Catholics might follow him, but worse, that their toady religious leaders might consider preaching the Gospels of Christ instead of political expedience along with him.

Courage breeds courage. There is just the glimmer of a possibility that these had men of the fallen collar class might decide to become real men of God and start standing for Christ. What would happen if, instead of bending over and apologizing to their political masters for disagreeing with them, the religious leaders these political parties depend on for their moral cover actually stood for Christ?

Thus we are being treated to the sorry spectacle of tawdry attacks on the Vicar of Christ by people who have made their excellent livings promoting fealty to political christianity.

The pope attackers are trying to use the same thing that President Obama has used in pushing the HHS Mandate. They are counting — probably correctly — on the latent anti-Catholicism in our society, in particular in certain conservative Protestant circles.

Not only do these outlandish slanders against the Pope feed them red Catholic blood to whet their anti-Catholicism, they demonstrate what can happen to those who don’t do what they are told. The Pope might be able to shrug off their insults, but lesser clergy would have their reputations and careers wrecked by an onslaught like this.

In short, since they can’t bully and coerce the Pope, they will try as much as possible to isolate him and render his moral teachings insignificant among those religious leaders they can bully and coerce.

That is what is causing the outrageous attacks on the Pope. The claims that these pundits are making about Evangelii Gaudium are baseless lies. I’ve read the document and I can tell you that it is consistent with Catholic teaching on economics going back at least to the 19th century. I know this because I’ve also read the encyclicals of previous popes on this subject.

The Pope is a Marxist??? If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.

In case I haven’t made myself understood, I’ll explain this caterwauling and attacking of the Holy Father in outline form:

  1. It’s about power.
  2. It’s about politics.
  3. It has nothing to do with morality, truth, the facts, Marxism or even Obama.
  4. It is about these punsters using your fidelity to them to destroy your fidelity to your Church so that when the Pope disagrees with them, it won’t matter. It is about them appealing to anti-Catholicism within the body of Christ to divide us and scatter us so that we cannot stand for Our Lord with one united voice.
  5. These things they’re saying about Pope Francis are not true. They either did not read Evangelii Gaudium, or they are deliberately distorting what it says. When they say that the Holy Father “attacked capitalism, called for government control and is a Marxist,” I am hard-pressed to call it anything other than a slanderous lie.

I’m going to go over what the Pope actually said in a series of Cliff Notes posts. I’ve done one already. But I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this economic issue for the simple reason that it’s not that important to the overall message of Evangelii Gaudium. You can either take it from me, or read the document for yourself. These attacks on the Holy Father are absolute garbage.

From some of the comments I’ve seen, I would guess that a number of Public Catholic readers are drinking this Pope-hating Kool Aid. This is the small first test in what is coming people. If you allow these crude and vulgar attacks to shear you away from your Church, then you are the lowest of the low hanging fruit on the apostasy tree.

As for me, I am a Catholic woman. This is a Catholic blog. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me standing with the Pope.

2013 Favs: This Just In: Millions Watch as Irrelevant, Dying Sect Inaugurates Poorly Dressed, Out-of-Date Leader

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First Question: How many secular pundits does it take a perpetrate a lie?

Answer: All of them, talking from the same script.

Second Question: How many pundits does it take to claim a world leader with over a billion followers is “irrelevant?”

Answer: See question one.

Pope Francis’ inaugural mass was a ratings hit. So was last week’s election of Cardinal Bergoglio to the papacy.

Ratings do not necessarily mean that everyone watching agrees with the Church. But they do lead one to wonder, just how “irrelevant” is a Church whose every action inspires so much adoration, abuse, worship and hatred? Maybe the people who’ve been reporting this story need to check their dictionaries for a better word. Like, say, a phrase such as “Church that says some of the things I want to do are wrong.”

Our public discourse is in the grip of tantrum-throwing narcissists, who, it appears, only talk to one another. They appear to be the products of an education that is more indoctrinating than edifying. They also seem to be stubborn about reporting the story as they want it to be rather than the way it is.

To borrow from that witty atheist writer Mark Twain, reports of the Catholic Church’s irrelevance are greatly exaggerated. However, unlike Twain and his witty retort to an inaccurate report of his death, the reports of the Catholic Church’s irrelevance will always be exaggerated. There is never going to be a day when the Church’s Gospel message of forgiveness of sins, basic Christian morality and the promise of eternal life will be irrelevant to the people who must walk this Earth.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that these issues are the only things that, in the final analysis, matter at all.

It appears that many of these comments are coming from the group rage of self-entitled people who do not like being told that they are wrong. It seems to set their conflated egos aflame whenever the Church says that sex outside of marriage is wrong, killing people they want to kill is wrong, stealing from, exploiting, dehumanizing people made in the image and likeness of the Living God is, well, the kind of thing that can get you sent to an eternal hell.

That last one really makes them mad. Hell is verboten in popular discourse. We can talk about beastiality or show films of gang rape for entertainment, but the word “hell” as an actual destination for wayward souls rather than a curse is forbidden. Saying the “h” word in front of any of these folks puts you in the same place as the little girl who pointed her flashlight at the Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurassic Park. Do that, and you know you’re gonna get kicked around.

Why?

If these things are “myths,” why do they care? I would guess that first of all, it’s because the devil makes them do it. Not the comic book devil, but the real one who hates the light and whispers his hatred in the ears of us humans. Second, I think they do it because the Church is, in fact, not irrelevant at all.

I would say that there is no other institution quite as relevant as the one and only Church that stands strong and will not be moved on matters of the Gospel. The Church weighs in on issues of death and eternal life. It shows us, in easily-followed and understandable ways, how to go to heaven. It also posts signs along the roadside of our lives saying, in essence, “don’t turn here, that road will take you over a cliff,”  or, “pass by this rest stop or you’ll be mugged.”

Danger do not enter sign

Church teachings are not prohibitions. They are warnings. Ignore them, and sooner or later, you will reap the whirlwind of your own lost soul.

I have no doubt that the bizarro commentary about the “irrelevant” Catholic Church will continue, even as the commenters are reporting every word that’s uttered at the Vatican.

Meanwhile, I think the rest of us should pray for these folks. They are, after all, our lost brothers and sisters.

Book Review: What Are You Afraid Of?

To join the discuss about What Are You Afraid Of?, or to order a copy, go here

BC WhatAreYouAfraidOf 1

What Are You Afraid Of? by Dr David Jeremiah seeks to provide a workable life theology for believers who are facing the inevitable rough spots in life.

It is a fact of existence that some people skate through life without experiencing overwhelming tragedy. It is also a fact that other people suffer one tragic even after another. Another unwelcome fact is that the course of a person’s life can change from sunshine to tragedy in a moment.

You never know.

It is this not knowing that creates much of the fear we have to live with as we traverse our days. It engenders all sorts of fear in people. Dr Jeremiah focuses his book on some of the most common fears, beginning with one I’ve had some recent acquaintance with: Natural disasters.

Dr Jeremiah not only focuses on natural disasters, he uses a description of the May 20 tornado that flattened a large part of South Oklahoma City (where I live) just a few months ago. People I know are still rebuilding their homes, grieving their dead and trying to put themselves back together from this tornado.

So, why does one person skate through a disaster like this without so much as smudging their mascara and another come out of it permanently paralyzed, or facing the loss of home and loved ones? Is there a balance in the cosmos that makes this right?

I’ve read about people who respond to these things by turning their back on God. But I’ve only known one person who did this in my whole life, and he found his way back to God later. In truth, it’s the people who aren’t suffering who use the tragedies of life to make jibes at God. The ones who are in the throes of the pain are far too busy clinging to God with all they’ve got to find energy or time to denounce Him.

Dr Jeremiah retells the story of the Tower of Siloam, which fell on a group of people in Jesus’ time, killing several of them. Jesus tells his disciples that this didn’t happen to the people who were killed because they were sinful. “God makes his rain to fall on the just and unjust,” he said, which I suppose, was Jesus’ way of saying that stuff happens.

Does that mean that God is uninvolved in what happens to us?

Anyone who has ever walked with the Lord knows this is not true.

That leaves all of us with unsatisfactory answers to these things. I think this is primarily because our perspective is temporal. God sees things from outside time.

What Are You Afraid Of? is an interesting book that seeks to answer one of the deepest questions of humankind: How do we balance the innate, existential fears that are encoded into us with the certainty of God’s promises and eternal life?

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Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4

Michael

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

This is day 4 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Our Lord was crucified by a group of corrupt priests and a cowardly politician. Today, let’s meditate on the cowardly politician. 

Pontius Pilate was not a coward in what we normally consider the manly sense. He was a soldier, and I would imagine a brave one. He certainly had no fear of putting people — even innocent ones — to death. Not too long before he was faced with the early-morning trial of this carpenter turned itinerate miracle worker and preacher from Nazareth, he had ordered the slaughter of worshipers in the Temple, “mingling their blood with their sacrifices.” 

Only God knew how many people Pilate had killed. I’m sure that Pilate had lost count long before he was forced to deal with the demands of the corrupt priests that he put yet another man to death. He knew the priests were corrupt because he was their corruptor. Rome left the Levitical priesthood in place when they conquered this land, but they did what governments always try to do: They tamed this priesthood with money and special favors; with the power of speaking for the larger populace to the ruling powers.

The uneasy population underneath this layer of Roman-Levitical governance gave the priests a certain power in dealing with Pilate. If Pilate had been an absolute ruler, or if Judea had been an unimportant area, this wouldn’t have been true.

But Pilate merely governed in the name of the Emperor in Rome. His head was as easily forfeit as that of any of the people he governed. Judea, for all its backward ways, was an important piece of real estate. It sat strategically along the trade routes between Rome and the breadbaskets of Egypt and the East. War here hurt commerce everywhere.  And Rome, like all empires, cared far more for commerce than human life, including the life of its governors. 

Pilate’s job was to keep things peaceable and those trade routes running. Uprisings and military clashes cost Rome money and endangered its privileged way of life. They weren’t to be tolerated.

The priest’s job in all this was to work with Pilate to keep the people down. Which meant that they had Pilate by the throat. Pilate, on the other hand, could certainly squeeze and punish them harshly if they cost him too much trouble, which meant he had them by the throat, also.

So, it was a gathering of political friends and allies that morning, come to haggle over what should have been a small thing to this Roman governor: The death of a single man. 

But there must have been something in Pilate, some honest thing or longing that only God saw. Because He dealt differently with Pilate than He did Herod, or even the priests.

He warned Pilate with a dream to his wife. Have nothing to do with that innocent man, she told her husband. For I have suffered greatly because of him in a dream last night. 

Jesus talked to Pilate, answering Him as directly as He ever did anyone. My kingdom is not of this world … I come to testify to the truth. 

Pilate responded with the answer of nihilists from then to now: What is truth? 

And yet, he tried. He tried hard to comply with his wife’s warning and what sounds like a cacophony of inner warnings in his own mind and step aside from killing this one man. He sent Jesus to Herod and tried to pass the problem off on him. He had Jesus scourged and displayed His wrecked and bleeding person to the priests with the words See the man! 

See how I have punished Him for you, he implies. See the blood and brokenness of Him. See the man! Isn’t this enough for you?

He even tried to use their own religious laws to free Jesus because of the Passover. 

But nothing worked, because they wouldn’t have it. And in the end, Pilate literally washed his hands of the whole affair declaiming that the blood of this man is on you to the priests and ordering Jesus murdered by means of crucifixion. 

It is fascinating that even though Jesus came for the purpose of redeeming all of humanity on Calvary, God still gave Pontius Pilate every opportunity to avoid his participation in this great crime. The point here is that God does not entrap us into sin, even if our sin plays a part in the on-going history of His Kingdom. 

We choose. 

The cowardly politician and the corrupt priests who murdered Our Lord did not have to know that they were dealing with God Incarnate to see that what they were doing was wrong. Their own laws told them that. The innate natural law that is inborn in each of us told them that.

You do not murder innocent people. Killing people to preserve your political career or your place in society or your special privileges is wrong. There is no qualifier to the wrongness of it. 

But the priests convinced themselves, as people do, that what they were doing was a political necessity to “save” the nation, and Pilate convinced himself that by killing this man he could avoid the uprising that might get him recalled. They convinced themselves and that is the key. It is the key to their evil that day and to most of ours today. 

We can convince ourselves of anything. 

That is what is at work in the political and religious justifications for the violent persecution of Christians around the world today. And for these persecutors now, just as it was for Our Lord’s murderers 2,000 years ago, there is no qualifier to the evil wrongness of what they are doing. 

The innate, inborn natural law that tells us every one that the murder of innocents is wrong condemns every person on this earth who breaks it. There is no confabulation or dissimulation or propaganda that we can use to convince ourselves otherwise that will wash away the stain of blood guilt for those who kill innocent people.

Those who kill Christians because they are Christians commit the almost unfathomable sin of crucifying Christ again in the persons of His followers. 

Without repentance and the grief that comes with the realization that they have done monstrous things, they are doomed. 

When we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, we need also to pray for their persecutors. 

For while those who are privileged to suffer for Christ are piling up crowns for themselves in heaven, their persecutors are committing sins, that, if they die with them on their souls, will condemn them to an eternity in hell. 


Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 4. Please pray it and ask others to join you.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Mary and Following Jesus: There are No Limits

JesusandMary

I have been progressing through the 33 day preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.

I am well over half way through it, and it has tested my faith every step of the way. I do not mean that it has made me question my belief in God. It has not put my belief in Jesus or the teachings of the Church to the test. Far from it.

What it has tested is the limits of my willingness to live my life based on that belief. Just how far will I go in following Jesus? A book I reviewed today, Fight, also tested those limits.

That seems to be the season I am in. On the one hand, the prayers and meditations of Total Consecration have pushed me to consider just what I will yield to another person, even the person of the Mother of God. How much can I trust anyone, even her? Specifically, how much of my relationship to God, to Jesus, will I yield to her rather than doing it all myself?

Fight challenged me with the question of how far I would follow Him, how completely would I do what He asks, even when I really don’t want to.

It’s really all one question and Jesus asked it best: Do you love me more than these?

His mother answered that question in the affirmative every time in every way. When the Archangel Gabriel asked her to assent to what was death-dealing anathema for girls of that era — unwed pregnancy — she said yes. When Simeon told her how it would end, she said yes. At the wedding at Cana, when she sent her child forward into His ministry which they both knew would culminate at Calvary, she said yes. When she prayed with the Apostles for the birth of the Church before Pentecost, she said yes.

Mary, like Jesus, had to be resurrected and taken into heaven as part of the divine plan. He gave her to us from the cross, and once again, she said yes.

She had to be lifted up because we need her there. The Immaculate Conception of Mary was the door opening on our salvation. She was then and she is now an outstretched arm, pointing to Him.

“Do whatever He tells you,” she instructed the wine stewards.

She says the same thing to us.

Because, as I am discovering and wrestling with, when she is your guide, there are no limits to following Him.

Book Review: American Militarism vs the Kingdom of God

Fight To join the discussion about Fight A Christian Case for Nonviolence, or to order a copy, go here

Fight is an ironic name for a book that is a polemic on the Christian call to nonviolence.

The book’s author, Preston Sprinkle, wrote the book in response to and as a conversation with America’s militaristic evangelical community. Even though I have a few problems with some of his interpretations of specific scriptures, I think he’s got a point. In fact, I think he’s dead-on accurate in many of his conclusions.

I remember seeing a video of one of our preachers here in Oklahoma City. This preacher was speaking (I can not regard his speech as a sermon of any sort) to a thoroughly roused-up and enormous congregation. Since the speech was going out over the airwaves, his actual audience was much larger.

This preacher was charging up and down the stage, mike in hand, using all the theatrics at his disposal. He would bend over and lower his voice to make a bottom dropping point at one place, and then straighten up and shout out his next point. It wasn’t a sermon. It was a performance.

And it wasn’t even vaguely Christian.

This man was taking verses out of the Bible to weave a totally fallacious case that somehow or other Jesus supported invading Iraq.

He had his audience in the palm of his hand. After all, most of them came to this particular church because they liked performances for their sermons and because they wanted “christian teaching” that would get them going emotionally while making them feel great about whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

The audience cheered and yelled like they were at a football game.

I haven’t seen many things that disgusted me more than this performance sermon and its clearly heretical mis-use of Holy Scripture to support a war.

I knew, even then, that the whole Iraq invasion was a sham. This was an unnecessary war that we were going into for reasons that had nothing to do with what we were being told. I have never understood why anyone would have had trouble seeing through the excuses for this war.

I also saw that if America’s Christian community did not stop using Christ to justify war, it would eventually destroy itself. People will follow the theological heresy of militarism so long as if feels good. But, as Europe has shown us, bombed out buildings and gas ovens do tend to dim the luster of it.

War is an almost preposterous evil. The Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, the same General Sherman who burned Atlanta and waged war on the civilian population in his infamous march to the sea, said that war is hell.

He was right.

A friend of my husband’s went to view the federal building after the bombing here in Oklahoma City. “That is nothing,” she said as she gazed at the ruins. “Nothing.”

She had lived through war waged on a large scale. She had, in her youth, seen whole cities razed to bombed out hulks, human beings burnt to ash as they hid in their bomb shelters.

We are so soft when horror comes to us. We can not bear our losses, cannot abide our pain. But we treat war itself, which is savagery writ unimaginable, as if it was a computer game. Maybe we do that because we can switch our wars off in the same way that we switch off computer games.

There is very little reportage of what is happening on the perpetual warfront that America has embarked on. We bomb and slay without the rest of us here at home knowing about it. Our best hint of what is happening is when we see our own soldiers, returning to us with shattered bodies and — often — shattered minds.

Something ugly is out there on the other side of the endless rambles of the talking heads debating their endless gaffe reporting about what some politician said to a friend in an elevator or mumbled under his or her breath when he or she thought the mike was off. Something really ugly is out there, but we can’t see it, don’t know about it.

Our only real intimation is that we hear constantly about our national debt. We are told that the cause of this debt is us. It’s Social Security and Medicare. It’s the public schools. The whole debt and economic malaise of this country is the fault of those who pay the bills: The American people. No one mentions, no one even whispers, that we are funding a war colossus that asks for more, more, more ever single year and has been doing so since World War II.

We never talk about that 800 lb gorilla sitting in the middle of the room eating all the bananas. Such talk would be unpatriotic. It would mean that we don’t want to “defend ourselves” against all those people out there “who want to kill us.”

Militarism is a false idol. It is also, according to the author of Fight, anti-Scriptural and anti-Christian.

Fight takes the reader on a survey of the Scriptures from the viewpoint of looking at God’s teachings about war and militarism. Notice that militarism is a category that is distinct from war. One is an action of government-sponsored violence. The other is an outlook, a belief in war itself. It is an idol.

A large part of what Mr Sprinkle writes about the Old Testament necessarily focuses on discerning what God meant, rather than what He said. This is important to all Christians because the Old Testament seems in many ways to challenge the New Testament. Western Civilization is at its best when it is responding to the clear teachings of the New Testament, and at its worst when it looks for excuses for its murderous impulses in the Old Testament.

How are Christians meant to understand the seeming contradictions in attitude between the two covenants?

Mr Sprinkle does a fine job of presenting his answer to this, at least so far as it concerns war and war making. Fight is a well-written, well-researched presentation of his viewpoint concerning violence, war and the call of all Christians to follow Christ, even to the cross.

I don’t honestly know what I think about some of the points he makes. I need to think them through first before I can say. But I do think the book is a good read that opens a debate American Christians need to have.

I do not want to see Christians in this country fall into the trap that Christians fell into in Nazi Germany of supporting militarism right down to the pit of hell.

I am not and never have been a pacifist. I believe in self defense. That would seem to put me outside the ideal Mr Sprinkle is advocating. However, I cannot deny that his presentation is compelling.

My main interest in his book is that it starts a needful conversation. I remember that preacher charging around the stage, preaching what was clearly the heresy of militarism to a cheering crowd. I see this country edging ever closer to economic ruin while we feed our resources into the maw of a war machine. And I know that we must change or die.

 

 

The Cult-Like Anti-Intellectualism of Christian Bashing

Let’s look at the arguments we’ve seen against the faith here on Public Catholic. They tend to fall into categories.

By far the largest category is the Dawkins without attribution crowd. These people repeat arguments Dr Richard Dawkins has made in his popular books, usually without adding a single thought of their own. But they don’t attribute them to Dr Dawkins. There are so many of these it would be worthless to try to list them. Here is one recent example.

A reader made the statement (I’m paraphrasing) that the reason we live in a universe that appears to be tuned for life, at least life here on Earth, is that, well, however improbable, that’s the universe we live in. This is from Dr Dawkins’ runaway best seller The God Delusion. 

Obviously, this doesn’t answer anything. It simply sidesteps it. Also obviously, it wasn’t the reader’s own thought. 

There are a large number of pretend Dawkins commenters on this blog. Except for one time, I’ve let every single one of them pass through without calling them on their failure to say that they are quoting someone else.

What is interesting is that they don’t seem to be able to think past quoting Dawkins without attribution. I don’t remember one of these people adding anything to Dr Dawkins’ thinking when they slap these things down in the combox.

I don’t know for sure of course, but I’m guessing most of them haven’t thought all that deeply about what they’re quoting. If they had, they would probably have decided it isn’t worth repeating, as it doesn’t hold water. 

God-is-evil commenters are another large group. They have picked up out-of-context Bible verses and stories, sometimes from Dawkins, but I think mostly from Christian-bashing blogs. They come swooping in here with their Bible verse or story and throw it down with an almost audible There! Take that!

I’ve noticed that Public Catholic readers aren’t so good at answering this tripe. Our religious education has not taught us to look at the Bible from a viewpoint of defending God Himself in disputation.

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Protestants are good at seeing specific verses because that is the way they have been taught. They are much more adept than Catholics at picking out a verse anywhere. I know Protestants who can recite whole chapters of the Bible. I can give them a word or two of a verse and they will tell me immediately where it is in the Bible by Chapter and verse. 

Catholics are good at seeing the overarching story of the Scriptures, because that is the way they have been taught. Every Sunday we hear an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a reading from an Epistle and a reading from the Gospels. Catholics who go to daily mass will hear almost the whole Bible read to them this way in a three year cycle. These readings are chosen so that New Testament fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy or foreshadowing is placed side by side, along with an Apostolic interpretation of these same things from one of the Epistles. 

Catholics come away from this with a good understanding of how the Bible fits together to tell one, single story of our salvation. 

However, neither Protestants nor Catholics have been trained to deal with the dubious “scholarship” of highly aggressive Christian bashers. These people are cult-like followers of leaders who earn their living by attacking Christ, Christianity, the Church and God. Many of the Christian-bashing blogs are over the top with followers. Hate expressed in anti-intellectual shibboleths is popular with certain types of people. It always has been. 

Propaganda

These leaders comb the Scriptures looking for stories or single verses that they can manipulate to support their contentions. They studiously overlook the vast bulk of Scripture that abrogates their prejudices so clearly that even they cannot twist it into meaning something else. They then reinterpret their gleanings according to their own malice in order to judge both God and Christians by the obnoxious standards of 21st century self-righteous nihilism.

This whole practice of pulling things out of context and ignoring all scholarship to reframe them according to your propaganda is intellectually bogus. It is not a sign of intelligence, especially since the people who come on this blog to throw these things down are just parroting what someone else has said or written without any real understanding. 

I haven’t been trained in dealing with this. So far as I know, nobody has. After all, those of us who follow Christ are more intent on learning what the Bible actually teaches than mining it for gotcha verses and stories to use against God.

However, a lot of dumb clucks are buying it as if it meant something. I don’t mean Public Catholic readers. I mean your friends and mine. I mean our kids and the family we see once a year at Thanksgiving. People who have not studied the Bible in an intelligent and informed way are sitting ducks for this sort of anti-intellectual approach to Scripture. 

PonderScriptureGlobe

From what little I have read and seen in this area, every single one of these accusations is answered by simply learning why and what the Scriptures are actually saying. I haven’t read one attack on the faith from Scripture that didn’t fall down dead by simply knowing what the Scriptures actually mean. 

The problem is that these understandings don’t fit in a combox. In fact, they would only fit in a full post if you take them one at a time, and that would be an entire blog of its own. They require what these anti-intellectual propagandists claim for themselves but don’t demonstrate: A certain amount of intellectual gravitas. 

In this post Christian world, we’re all going to have to become apologists, each in our own little world. The time when we could devote our studies to personal piety has ended. We are in a battle and we must, as St Paul said, “take on the whole armor of faith.” That includes an understanding of how and why these attacks on Christians and on God Himself through Scripture are both anti-intellectual in their methodology and untrue in their facts.

The result for us as individuals will be a greatly strengthened faith that “needs not be ashamed.” 

Faith grows when you step out on it, and that’s a fact. 

Book Review: Deriving the Personality of God from His Actions in Scripture

FindingGodintheBible 1

To join the discussion about Finding God in the Bible, or to order a copy, go here

I gave this review a title that more or less describes what I see as the function of the book, Finding God in the Bible, by Darren Wilson.

Mr Wilson has an interesting story of his own. He was, by his own description, a ho-hum Christian, doing an ez-pz light-weight Christian walk through life when God butted in and called him to go make movies.

He doesn’t go into detail (which I would love to read, btw) about this call, but it sounds as if God did one is his, “stand over there” deals with no explanation and expected Darren Wilson to step out in faith and do as he was told. God has never hit me with something like “go make movies” with vague directions to head off to foreign lands with a camera and see what happened. But I’ve definitely gotten more than one of those “stand over there” type instructions.

I don’t know about Mr Wilson, but I felt like an idiot the first time I did it. I mean, the version of “stand over there” I got made absolutely no sense. In fact, it placed me where I didn’t particularly want to be and where I was also (to my understanding) wasting my time. It felt at the time as if God was putting me on the bench to sit out the game. Then, out of nowhere, He pitched me the metaphorical ball, which I could never have caught if I hadn’t been standing “over there” as He’d told me.

It is true that faith grows with these experiences. It never gets easy, but you do learn that God has a plan and you can at least trust that He knows what He’s doing, even if you don’t. I am confident that there are times when God tells us to do things and we do not see the reason until we get to heaven.

Mr Wilson covers a bit of this in his book when he talks about Abraham. God told Abraham to get up, take his wife and leave a nice cushy life in the most forward-looking metropolis of his time and head out into the wilderness. This was the ultimate “stand over there.” Years later, God promised Abraham a lot of things about the great nation of people who would come from him, but Abraham never saw any of this come to pass in his lifetime. He died in that wilderness and was laid to rest in the cave near Mamre with nothing but his trust in God that all these promises would be realized in time.

The Bible says that despite the fact that he would never see them in this life, Abraham believed God when God promised him these things and God reckoned that to him as righteousness.

So maybe following a “stand over there” command gives each of us a small bit of righteousness. It would be nice to think so.

Darren Wilson did what Abraham did and what so many people do not do. He got up and headed out the door and did this utterly impractical thing that God had asked him to do. The interesting thing is that every time you do that, God counters with a bigger request the next time. Before you know it, you’re living your life built around Him.

That’s the lesson of Abraham and Darren Wilson.

It’s a lesson that reverberates throughout the interpretive re-telling of Bible stories that this book contains. One after the other, God interrupts the lives of people in the Scriptures with requests that they do what they’re really rather not do. And one after the other, they  do it. Some of them do it gracelessly and after a good bit of whining and argument, but in the final analysis, they almost all follow through.

The one big exception in the stories Mr Wilson chose for this book is King Saul. Saul’s failed reign finds its failure precisely in his lack of faith. Saul didn’t wait on the Lord. Unfortunately for us type triple As, waiting on the Lord is as much a lesson of faith as doing for the Lord.

God always seems to make you wait. And then when you’ve decided nothing’s going to happen, here comes that metaphorical ball that He’s tossed you. At that moment, you understand a bit of what you were standing around waiting for in the first place.

Waiting is a lesson in faith. Just like “stand over there” is. Sadly for him, Saul failed this test.

I didn’t agree with every single nuance of every single interpretation of scripture that Darren Wilson wrote in this book. But there’s no reason why my understanding is any better than his. The point for me is the fact that he engaged me to the point that I wanted to sit down and talk to him about it.

I liked this book, and I also found myself liking its author. I plan to look up the movies he’s made and watch them.

I think, after reading Finding God in the Bible that I can see why God gave that particular assignment to this particular man in the first place.

Data Omniscience Hubris and the Bible

Head

I remember reading a few years ago that archeologists had found a shard of pottery with mention of King David on it.

Evidently, this was the first material evidence of King David’s existence. According to the articles I read, lots of learned folk had, up until then, been preaching and teaching that King David never existed, was a myth, a legend, a made-up fictional character from a preliterate era.

I remember reading that, and thinking, Huh? Then shaking my head.

What these so-called learned folk had fallen into was the hubris of believing that what they knew was all there was to know. It happens all the time with learned folk, and much misery for us less learned folks ensues.

Here’s a small example: I have rheumatoid arthritis. It first reared its head when I was 16. I once had a doc tell me that I had the highest ra titer in my blood she’d ever seen. Despite that, it’s well controlled. I know how to handle it, and God has been generous with me about it. I never go a day without aches and pains, but I’m not debilitated and my joints aren’t deformed.

However, one thing I can count on is knowing when bad weather is in the offing. The day of the May 20 tornado, I woke up aching literally from head to toe. The foot I broke last fall, my leg, and every other joint I had including the little ones, ached from the moment I got out of bed with that oh-no-something’s-coming indescribable ache. My husband says he’ll trust my joints over the weather man, every time.

How this applies to the discussion at hand is simply that for years scientists and other learned folk insisted that this aching before a storm stuff was, in their scientific opinion, “all in your head.” They may have changed their pointy little minds about this by now. I haven’t kept up. But that is for sure what I read back in the day when I first noticed that my body was a powerfully accurate weather vane.

My point?

Just this: Learned folk think more of their data than they do reality. In fact, they believe that their data is reality, and that reality is a figment of everybody else’s imagination. To top it off (and this is where King David comes in) they believe that if they can’t prove something, then it doesn’t exist. This is kinda like me deciding that, if I can’t find my car keys, that I just imagined I ever had car keys and they don’t really exist.

I understand that scientists can’t and shouldn’t corroborate claims that they can’t prove. What I don’t understand is this mighty leap off the side of the hubris cliff to bold assertions that everything they can’t prove is either a myth, a confabulation, or some sort of delusion. They carry this, especially in questions of religious faith, to the point that, if you believe them, you’ve also got to believe that everybody on the planet is hallucinating about something.

I used the words “teaching and preaching” advisedly when I said that they had been preaching and teaching that King David never existed, because what they were claiming was not science. It was a matter of faith. The faith was their addlepated and totally unscientific belief that their data was omniscient.

What they should have been saying is We don’t have any proof that King David ever existed. That would have been a fact. But bold assertions that he, in fact, actually never existed, were just — dare I say it? — myth.

I am not writing this to make you doubt science or to encourage you to start believing that everything that cannot be proven must, by derivation, be true. Not at all. What I am saying is that you should look at the claims that learned folk make by asking yourself how solid the basis is for what they are saying. Sometimes people falsify data. But it is far more common for them to come up with bogus applications of the data they have. Data omniscience hubris is a common and widespread learned person error when dealing with anything that appends to matters of faith, in particular and specifically, Christianity.

What I am saying is that they are biased. And they allow their bias to interpret their data for them.

Zaius 1

The good thing — and it is a very good thing — is that when the data changed, they didn’t deny it. They didn’t toss that pottery shard into the sea and pretend they hadn’t seen it. This was not a Doctor Zaius from The Planet of the Apes moment.

They not only acknowledged the pottery shard, they also acknowledged its implications, which were that there probably was a historical King David.

Now, archeologists have uncovered what they think may have been a palace that belonged to King David. And they’re talking about it and filing it away in their data trove.

Davids palace

When they found something material that conflicted with their earlier interpretation of their data, they changed the interpretation. That says one simple thing: They aren’t liars.

So we have a scientific community, some members of which seem to be suffering from data omniscience hubris. But they are essentially honest folk who will change their too far-reaching conclusions when the data changes. They’re arrogant, but they’re not liars.

This is important for us to know when dealing with their conclusions. Unfortunately, it puts us in the position of often having to interpret their data for ourselves, since their interpretations are subject to their biases.

What they are leaving out of their considerations is that while the data may not be human, they are. And they are subject to all the vagaries and venalities of humankind, including, and especially, since they are intelligent, gifted people who get a lot of respect, hubris. Anybody can make a mistake. But data interpretation according to hubris will be mistaken as often as not.

As for me, I’d forgo this dubious gift of being able to predict the weather if it would get me out of the pain that goes with it. However, time has shown that, despite the claims of those suffering from data omniscience hubris, my husband is right: My arthritis is just about as accurate as the weather man.