Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt.

I am tempted to say that Dr Richard Dawkins is the Westboro Baptist Church of the atheists.

But I won’t.

The reason? The only thing Dr Dawkins has in common with the much ballyhooed and massively exaggerated Westboro Baptist Church is that they both specialize in attacking the sensibilities of other people in order to gain fame for themselves. The similarities pretty much end there.

Dr Dawkins writes best-selling books that evidently convince a lot of people to pull their own pants down in public and waggle their beefy buns in other people’s faces. Dr Dawkins gives speeches that attract tens of thousands of cheering fellow haters.

Some them have gone on to write books and run popular blogs, spreading this hate like a virus. Dr Dawkins is, in a word, effective at spreading his call for verbal bashing and social discrimination.

Meanwhile the Westboro Baptist Church is a family-sized congregation of weirdos who go around the country demonstrating with homemade signs. They carefully pick the place to do their thing that will upset and offend the most people. They are universally dissed. People form human chains to defend their targets from the offense they give.

The Westboro Baptist Church, is, in a word, ineffective.

For these reasons, I cannot call Dr Dawkins the Westboro Baptist Church of atheism. In fact, I think I will avoid that kind of comparison altogether and let Dr Dawkins speak for himself in the video below. 

The interesting portion of the video comes after Dr Dawkins’ predictable call for his audience to “mock them, ridicule them, in public … with contempt,” when they talk to Christians. That’s when Dr Ravi Zacharias responds to Dr Dawkins’ little diatribe.

There are people who come on this blog all the time with the intention of following their leader’s instructions. They get deleted.

Dr Dawkins begins his comment with the phrase, “Whenever I talk to religious people …”

My question is why would a religious person talk to Dr Dawkins? Why would anyone allow themselves to be interrogated in the manner he claims he engages in? What he describes is verbal abuse. It is hate speech. It is Christian bashing.

His call to “mock them, ridicule them, in public … with contempt” speaks far more specifically to the valueless ethos of his non-belief than it does anything else. It is also, as Ravi Zacharias points out, ridiculous.

I would suggest two things: Watch the video below to hear Ravi’s reaction. And do not allow yourself to be subjected to pointless verbal abuse by people who’ve drunk this particular form of vicious kool-aid. Delete them. Hang up on them. Walk away. If you are in a situation where you can’t do one of these things, try coming here and asking the rest of us for ideas. We are, after all, in this together. YouTube Preview Image

From Me to Pope Francis: Remember the Ladies

 

“Remember the ladies.”

Abigail Adams to her husband John

Abigail Adams spoke up for women at America’s founding. “Remember the ladies,” she wrote her husband, John Adams. “Be more generous to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of your husbands.”

Unfortunately, John didn’t listen to his wife, such notions being “too radical” for a nation founded on the equality of all men. About a hundred years later, the men of that time didn’t listen to the women who had fought gallantly in the abolitionist cause, either. “It is the black man’s time,” they said, when the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments were drafted. In essence they advised the women who had sacrificed so much to end slavery to, as women are often told, “wait your turn.” Subsequent Supreme Court rulings specifically said that the amendment did not include women.

Adams’ plea to her husband notwithstanding, it took 170 years of marches, speeches, arrests, forced feedings, mob attacks and an entire, separate, Constitutional Amendment to give half the people in this country the simple right to vote.

My grandmother, who was born on the Kansas prairie in 1886, was 34 years old before she had the legal right to vote.

Even today, women are bought and sold like chattel. They are sexualized, degraded and trivialized in our media and even by some “civil rights” commenters. Women are raped, beaten, tortured and murdered at high rates all over the world, including right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We accept this as natural and the way things are. Half the people in this country are told to be careful what they drink when they go to parties because it might be drugged and they could end up being gang raped for fun by the men at the party. Half the people of this country are told to go out in pairs at night for their own protection.

We make the sadistic rape and torture of women into our entertainment. How many millions of men support an on-line porn industry that pumps these hideous images of women being used, abused, beaten, raped and reduced to things into their homes so they can be titillated by it?

And yet,

And predictably,

The press buried the Holy Father’s statements about women. After all, gay is soooo much more important.

I’m not going to quote the Holy Father’s comments except to say that he didn’t open any new theological ground. You can hear what he said without any filters from me here.

Personally, I want to see the Church begin to preach and teach that violence against women is a sin with the same vigor that it preaches and teaches that abortion is a sin, and for the same reasons. Whenever any group of people is singled out for violence, abuse and murder, that is a deep social sin. We have laws against killing women, while we have laws allowing the murder of the unborn. But in actual practice we live in a world where violence against women is our entertainment.

I once helped organize a meeting of the various heads of Oklahoma’s denominations in an attempt to get them to acknowledge the seriousness and the evil of violence against women. The response was heartwarming, but, the fire went out after the meeting was over. My personal reason for doing this was simply because I had been sitting in pews for decades and I had never once heard a single sermon or homily in which anyone said that rape is a sin.

All I know is that I’ve worked decades of my life on this one issue, both as a lawmaker and as a private citizen, and it seems that violence against women is worse now than ever.

We’ve had talks on this blog about papal encyclicals we’d like to see. I’ll add my hope to the list. It would mean more than anything to me if the Holy Father would write an encyclical condemning the endemic, worldwide and historic violence against women for the great evil that it is.

Follow Jesus, Not the R or the D (Thank You Readers!)

Can a Christian be a Democrat?

That’s a loaded question in today’s America. We have one political party directly targeting Christians to the point of having paid organizers who “work” the churches for them. Meanwhile the other political party has become the outpost for every Christian-bashing group going.

It would seem, based on that analysis, that the party providing the political home to the Christian bashers would be the one to avoid. That was the basic response of many of the commenters on my earlier post on this question.

The arguments went back and forth, up and down, all along the political spectrum, but the upshot was that the Democratic party is hostile territory for traditional Christians, while the Republican Party is more welcoming to them.

One commenter raised the question of what is a Christian. After all, there are some denominations who use the moniker Christian on their church bulletins and fit right in with the Democrats. Are they less Christian than the others?

In my opinion, all this begs the central question. Let me reframe it to be more specific. Can a traditional Christian who accepts, believes and tries to follow the 2,000 year old Christian teachings about human conduct and morality be a Democrat?

The converse question also bears a look: Can that same Christian be a Republican?

I think the answer to both these questions is yes … and no.

You can certainly register as either a Democrat or a Republican. But you may not, on peril of your soul, budge one inch on the 2,000-year consistent teachings of traditional Christianity.

Abortion?

Can’t do it or support it.

Gay marriage?

Nope.

Stealing from the poor to give to the rich?

Uh-uh.

Unjust discrimination against other people?

Not allowed.

Following Ayn Rand?

Are you kidding?

The truth is that Christians can and should go just about everywhere in our society. We need to engage the culture at every level. But we cannot compromise the Gospels of Jesus Christ while we are doing it.

If you follow that simple rule, believe me, you’re going to catch flak from whichever political party you join. Both parties torture the Gospels to make the Gospels fit themselves. Both parties have their toady churches who enable them to do this by providing theological cover.

I’ve heard preachers quote take Bible verses out of context to justify everything from gay marriage to doing away with safety standards on food. The right wing does it for the corporations. The left wing does it for the gays and the abortion industry.

This has reached the absurd point that people — intelligent people — will argue about which party is closer to Jesus.

Repeat after me: Political parties are not churches. They are about getting power and keeping power. Everything else they say is a lie.

The Republicans formed their pro life position as a strategy, not as a morality. They realized that it was an issue that could be used as a wedge to divide the Democratic party from their core constituencies of labor and working class people. This has been largely successful for the Republican Party.

It has not benefitted the sanctity of life or Christianity in this country. In fact, it has marginalized the whole concept of the sanctity of human life and turned it into a power issue in power politics. This over-zealous support by many religious leaders of the Republican Party and all its positions, including some that are quite evil, has tarnished the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity and weakened the leadership of Christian clergy.

People are sick of the Jesus-is-a-Republican heresy. Unfortunately, they tend to over-simplify and blame all Christianity for the sins of some of its more politically motivated leaders.

On the other side of the spectrum, good Christians are sick of hearing from the anything goes religious leaders who have searched the scriptures and come up with a namby-pamby version of Jesus that basically oks anything anyone wants to do except be against government hand outs.

Let me be clear about this. You can not say that killing unborn children is ok and speak for Christ at the same time. Conversely, you can not slight the needs of women or ignore the disgusting exploitation of and violence against women that is drowning our culture and be speaking for Jesus.

You can not put your political party ahead of your fealty to Christ and be a faithful Christian. You can not do it. It makes no difference if you are a Republican or a Democrat, if you do not look at your party and see that it is doing things that are anathema to Christian teaching and following Christ, you need to get on your knees and pray for forgiveness and guidance. You have put the wrong god to the forefront of your life.

Can a Christian be a Democrat?

Yes.

Can a Christian be a Republican?

Yes.

Can a Christian follow their political party instead of Jesus?

No.

We are called to convert the world, not let the world convert us. That includes our political parties.

The One Person

Everybody, it seems, is writing about what not to do if you want to stay married.

Everything I’ve read so far, which you can find here, here and here, is good advice.

But is staying married a matter of the things you don’t do?

I hope not. Because I am convinced that there is a lot more to a happy marriage than what you don’t do, or, for that matter, just “staying married.”

Did you notice my choice of words? I said “a happy marriage.” The goal of life — and marriage is life — should not be to just stay with someone. Marriage is a relationship that sustains. As such, it is about trust.

There are many levels of trust. When you leave your purse sitting on your desk at work without worry that your co-workers are going to riffle through it, that’s trust. When you drive through an intersection believing that none of the other cars are going to ram into you, that’s trust.

But married trust goes a lot deeper than these superficial trusts that make it possible for millions of people to live together in a society and function independently dependent on one another.

The trust of marriage involves that one flesh thing the Bible talks about. Your husband or wife knows you in a deep-down, all-the-way-through kind of way that precludes simple definitions of trust. You bind yourselves to one another at a spiritual level that goes deeper than any other relationship you will ever have, even and including relationships with your parents and the children you create with one another.

This person, this one person, is your helpmate, friend, lover, love and the steadying hand under your arm when you are shaky. That goes beyond simple lists of don’ts, even though it does include them.

You may not sleep around. You may not hit, disparage, gossip about or abuse your spouse in any way. Because, stupid, you and your spouse are one flesh. What you do to them, you do to yourself. Make them miserable, and you will be miserable, too.

So, rather than give a list of things you shouldn’t do, I want to give you one thing you must do if you want a true marriage that lasts: Love your husband. Love your wife. Cherish them and treat them as if they were your life’s companion; the one person you will share your days with all the days in this life that you have.

Because that’s exactly who they are.

The Pope and “Judging” Gay Priests, Redux

Pope francis and dove

The National Catholic Register has an excellent article by Edward Pentin. The article analyzes the press reaction to Pope Francis’ comments concerning homosexuality.

The Holy Father made these comments during his flight back to Rome from World Youth Day. I wrote about them here, and gave you a video of them here.

The point the NCR article makes is that the Pope did not overturn 2,000 years of Catholic teaching on this issue. He simply gave an example by his actions as to how it is lived out in real people’s lives.

The media not only misinterpreted Pope Francis’ comments, but it has consistently, and with what seems to me to often be deliberate malice, misinterpreted Catholic teaching on this subject in its entirety. This is so widespread that I can’t just offhand think of a major media outlet that represents Church teaching accurately.

I know this is due to some extent to the limitations of space and time in which they work. There is also the problem of shoddy workmanship in which they settle for quoting one another rather than checking things out. Whatever the causes, the media has consistently portrayed Church teaching concerning homosexuality inaccurately and negatively.

I was impressed and proud of the way Public Catholic readers responded to this dust up over Pope Francis’ statements. The comments to these two posts concerning the Pope’s remarks were thoughtful, well-informed and intelligent.

You were not stampeded by the press. Bravo!

One thing that I think you already know, but that I want to make clear, is that the Catholic Church does not “hate gays” and it certainly is not homophobic. The only way it could be judged “homophobic” is by self-serving definitions of the word used by people who claim that any limit on homosexual behavior is, de facto, “homophobic.”

The Church offers the same gifts of the sacraments to homosexuals as she does to everyone else. There is no bright line in Church teaching that says that homosexual acts are worse than adultery or other, similar, sexual sins. The Church — and the Pope in his press conference — simply refuse to deny that these acts are, in fact, sinful.

If the Church bowed to the dictates of trendy morality and started going along with people’s demands that it tell them that their sins are not, in fact, sins, it would certainly not be doing them any favors. In fact, it would be endangering their immortal souls, and denying its own mission.

The Church cannot do this.

The Church is here to be a pathway to heaven. It shines a light on the narrow path that will take all of us who chose to follow it Home.

Do you want to go to heaven? Then do what the Catholic Church teaches.

It’s as simple and easy as that.

For those Protestants who don’t fully understand what I am saying, doing what the Church teaches will lead a person into a close, intimate and fruitful relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They will be born again into the new life of truth and spirit. Doing what the Church teaches means accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I know this is hard to see from the outside, but I’ve lived it, and I know it’s true.

The Church cannot tell people that their sins are not sins. That would be the worst possible lie. It would wreak damage on them of eternal dimensions.

Churches who are falling into the trendy mindset of re-writing the Gospels to suit the fancies and fashions of the day are misleading their followers. They are ignoring their responsibilities to the people who trust them, and to the God they claim to follow.

The Catholic Church, for all the failings of its people, will not do this. It is the Rock and it will not lie to you in ways that can get you sent to hell.

This is not homophobia. It is love.

From the National Catholic Register:

Daily News

Misinterpreting Francis (1944)

NEWS ANALYSIS: A Vatican official chided the mainstream media for its conflation of the Holy Father’s remarks on homosexuality.

– CNA/Alan Holdren

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality during a press conference on the papal plane back from World Youth Day in Rio were largely misreported by the mainstream press, according to a Vatican official and a Church expert.

During a surprise and wide-ranging in-flight press conference Sunday that lasted 80 minutes, Pope Francis reportedly said: “If someone is gay, and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” the Holy Father went on. “It says one must not marginalize these persons; they must be integrated into society,” he said, and he reportedly made the distinction between homosexual acts, which are sinful, and tendencies, which are not.

“The problem isn’t this [homosexual] orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying, either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby,” he said. The Pope recently said a “gay lobby” exists in the Vatican, which protects some priests and threatens to blackmail others.

The Catechism states that the number of men and women who have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.” The inclination is “objectively disordered,” it continues, and “constitutes for most of them a trial” (2358).

It adds, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (2358).

The Catechism teaches that homosexual persons “are called to chastity” and that “by the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (2359).

 

Not Changing Doctrine

But large media outlets, such as the BBC, often accused of promoting same-sex rights, were quick to report the story in accordance with their own biases. The BBC splashed this headline across its news site: “Pope Francis: Who am I to judge gay people?” Others followed suit, misleadingly implying that the Holy Father “doesn’t judge gay people.”

“[The Pope] is not saying homosexual acts are not a sin, and he obviously isn’t changing Church doctrine, but he is making a change of emphasis,” one Vatican official close to the Pope told the Register on condition of anonymity.

 

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/misinterpreting-francis?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-07-30%2012:53:01#ixzz2aXmze850

In His Own Words: What the Pope Really Said

Pope Francis’ comments pertaining to the hot button issue of homosexuality have been over-interpreted by some members of the press.

I think that at least some of this is due to the fact that the over-interpreters don’t know very much about Catholic teaching. In truth, the Pope did not change existing teaching at all. He simply confirmed it.

The revolutionary act was in his willingness to address the question of homosexual priests openly and without embarrassment. That, far more than his words, signals welcome change.

However, this welcome change is not limited to questions of homosexuality. Pope Francis has demonstrated this same unflinching and unapologetic grasp of reality linked with traditional Catholic teaching in all of his actions and statements.

What interested me far more than his comments about homosexual priests was what he had to say about women.

Instead of making the mistake of over-interpreting things myself, I’m going to let you watch the video and decide what he meant. Based on the intelligent comments you’ve made to my earlier post on this topic, I think you are going to do a great job of it.

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The Holy Father Does Rio


These are videos of our beloved Holy Father’s time at World Youth Day 2013.

They include the Pope’s arrival at Copacabana Beach, his visit to Varghina Favela slum area, an enormous flash mob for the Pope, one home movie and Pope Francis’ farewell gesture of love from the helicopter as he was departing Rio.

 

Pope Francis Arrives at Copacabana Beach for Mass

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Pope Francis Visits Varghina Favela

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Swooning at the sight of the Pope

Massive Flash Mob for Pope Francis

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Pope Francis departs Rio.

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Go and Evangelize the Whole World

“The Church needs you,  your enthusiasm and joy,” Pope Francis told the 3 million assembled youth at the closing mass of World Youth Day.

“This experience must not remain locked up,” he said, urging them to go and evangelize the whole world.

The video below contains scenes from this last mass, including parts of the Holy Father’s homily.

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Trust God and Love Him. Stop Carping at Our Fellow Christians.

The video below has evidently become a flashpoint in certain Catholic circles.

I honestly have no idea why.

It shows a large group of Catholic bishops rehearsing for some sort of musical presentation at World Youth Day. The bishops appear to be having a good time. I know it made me smile when I saw them doing this. My only negative reaction, and it wasn’t negative, but affectionate, was that they need more rehearsing.

There is nothing sinful that I know of about them doing this. I think it shows our religious leaders’ willingness to reach out to the people of God. I will never criticize the bishops for doing that. I rejoice when they do it.

After all, St Paul preached a sermon in the name of the Unknown God to try to reach people for Christ. Can you imagine the carrying on if a bishop did something like that?

Whimsy is not sin. It is not heresy. In fact, whimsy is a good thing. We should always take God seriously. Ourselves, not so much. Trust God, and love Him. And stop carping at our fellow Christians when they are trying so hard to do their best for Him.

Does anyone honestly believe that Jesus and the Apostles didn’t dance at the wedding at Cana?

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Christian in a Post Christian World: How Should We Handle Attacks from Atheist Internet Trolls?

How do we respond to people who follow Dr Dawkins’ advice to mock and ridicule us with contempt and in public?

One reaction is to try to reason with the mockers and ridiculers.

Another would be to mock and ridicule back.

A third might be to invite them to, as we say here in Oklahoma, “take it outside.”

The problem with all these responses is that people who deliberately and with malice of forethought single out a group of people for public mockery and ridicule have, by their actions, placed themselves beyond the pale of civil society. Their behavior is reprehensible. So long as they continue to engage in it, they do not deserve the courtesy of either replies or engagement of any sort.

I posted Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt with the expectation that I would get a flurry of idiotic comments from atheist provocateurs, trying to engage the readers of this blog in verbal mud wrestling. I was not disappointed. I deleted all but two of these which I let through because they were the least offensive. I wanted to make them available as an educational exercise for the Christians who read Public Catholic.

I think we need to become aware of this asinine behavior and decide how to handle it.

Two of Public Catholic’s regular readers tried to answer these comments. One reader went the way of giving the commenter the benefit of the doubt and trying to answer it intelligently. The other reader replied with anger.

Neither response was wrong.

But it is interesting that one of the atheist provocateurs immediately pounced on the angry response with an ad hominem attack on Catholics. It was actually a comic pose for this individual to take, considering the spate of claptrap — all insulting — he had tried to post on this blog. It is also interesting that he did not want to answer the more measured reply. He went instead for the response he had been trying to provoke, which was anger.

Now, I’m sure he’ll re-tell this tale of his daring assault on the Catholics — with himself as the hero — to his fellow atheist provocateurs.

Do I hear the word “childish?” How about the phrase “grade school?”

They both fit.

And that is the point.

It doesn’t make any difference what you say to people like this. Anger is as good as reason. They aren’t trying to engage in legitimate discussion. They are trying to provoke, so they can count coup when they get back to their den.

This is what their leader, Dr Dawkins, has taught them to do.

The entire edifice of their tawdry behavior is based on a pretense they pretend that they are intellectually superior. This pose is something that Dr Dawkins and many of the other “new atheists” have used to peddle their worn-out arguments to impressionable and desperately insecure people who want above all things to be different, special and superior. They tell these people that all they have to do to prove their intelligence is take a pose of unbelief and behave like a pack of hounds on the verbal attack.

Of course, anyone who buys this pandering sell-job is unlikely to be all that canny. But that’s another issue for another post.

The reason they come over here and behave like trolls is that this behavior gives them something to brag about later.

Not all atheists behave like this. But there are enough of them who do to make life miserable for everybody else.

Unfortunately, not every obnoxious atheist you will meet in your life is going to fall into the braggadocio category. Some of them are genuinely hate-filled jerks who get a kick out of hurting other people. Our society has decided that race baiting and gay baiting are no longer acceptable sports. It has replaced it with Christian-baiting. Especially in our institutions of higher learning and in certain parts of the country, it is socially acceptable to publicly mock, ridicule and treat Christians with contempt. It is certainly acceptable to do so in our movies and on made for cable television.

So what’s a Christian to do?

Let’s focus today on the online atheist trolls who come onto blogs and take over the discussion. These fall into two types. The first just argues in an endless circle. They can go all day and never say one original thing, and they are unashamed to repeat themselves over and over. They never stop making their argumentative comments. These people seem to have a goal of taking over other people’s conversations and focusing them on themselves and their agendas.

You’ll notice that I made a statement in the blog rules here that I don’t allow people to take over this blog with their agendas. That statement is there for people like this.

This isn’t discussion. It’s bullying.

I’ve seen it at public meetings when a group comes in and begins yelling and taking over the mike. They can effectively end all discourse and shut down the meeting. This is not free speech. It is something quite the opposite of free speech, since it has the effect of keeping others from joining into discussion. It also serves the purpose of ending public meetings. I’ve seen many groups just decide to end public discussion because they could not handle the disruptive bullies who show up.

In an online forum like this one, their behavior is easy to stop, if the person who’s running the blog has the will. All I have to do to shut them down and allow others to speak is delete their blasts of 20 hateful comments, or, as I often do, allow the most thoughtful of their blast of twenty comments through and delete the rest. If I didn’t, the nice people who enjoy this blog would end up leaving and all I would have left would be the trashy trolls and their hate-filled, bullying agenda.

Another tactic I’ve seen is to make comments like the two that I let through on the Dawkins post. These aren’t anything even vaguely resembling an attempt at discussion. They are nonsensical little barbs designed to provoke. I would guess that what they are hoping to provoke is something they can use to brag about later.

I think these kinds of comments come from the lower end of the atheist spectrum; the mentally — if not chronologically — adolescent members of the atheist  group who are total and absolute followers of their leadership. These is a certain swagger to their behavior, but certainly nothing that is recognizable as intellectual gravitas.

I almost never let these kinds of things through to the Public Catholic board. When I do, it’s always for illustrative purposes.

There is a lot of this tripe out there in the blogosphere, so what’s a Christian to do when he or she encounters it?

My feeling is that if a blog is run for the entertainment of this type of person and they tend to dominate the discussion, your peace of mind requires that you shun that blog. Why go through trying to talk to people who have such aggressively closed minds? They need prayer more than they need argument.

It’s all right to practice on the few of these that I let through on Public Catholic. That’s usually why I let them through. So you can have a go at them and learn from the experience.

One thing I have observed: Nothing makes atheist trolls more upset than being ignored. When I delete them, they respond with snotty comments directed at me personally. These can get quite ugly, but they don’t bother me. Rather, they confirm my original decision to delete their earlier comments. I didn’t create this blog to provide a forum for atheists. That’s not its purpose. I also didn’t create it to attract as much traffic of any sort that I could get.

Public Catholic is here to help Christians stand for Jesus in a post-Christian world. I range all over the map with the topics I cover, but all of them are in some way connected (at least in my mind) with that one goal. One of the most important facets of standing for Jesus in a post Christian world is learning the mental trick of standing a bit apart from that world and thinking things through for yourself. You cannot follow Christ and be swept up by the gods of this world, or their many memes.

Every so often I put up a post dealing with the new atheism and its vitriol. I never do this to annoy the new atheists. I always do it to help you learn how to deal with them.

We’ll talk later about the much more serious attacks that come against Christians in our real lives. For now, let’s try to discern how to handle the internet atheist trolls.

If you have a blog of your own, how do you handle them there?

Do any of them manage to shake your faith?

Do they make you want to hide your faith when you go online to avoid attack?

Do they overwhelm you?

Can you answer them, or do you just want to leave the premises when they start their stuff?

These are all questions we need to explore. They are part of what it means to be a Christian today.

Convos With My Two-Year-Old: The Pants

 

I love Convos with My Two-Year-Old.

These are the continuing episodes, 6 & 7, titled The Pants.

Enjoy.

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Pope Francis to Youth: Grandparents are Vital. Cherish the Elderly.

My kids adore their grandmother.

The word “dote” wouldn’t be too strong to describe their attitude toward her. It’s a mutual doting. She tells me constantly how “brilliant, sweet, generous and good” they are. They, in turn, seem to not mind one bit doing the yeoman labors of making sure she takes her medicine, gets her meals and is constantly looked after.

Caring for an elderly parent is not all that difficult when the grandkids stop their rounds of work, dates and classwork to take on far more than their fair share of the tending. It amuses me no end that the first person they introduce their girls to is my mother. She always knows all about their date lives, while I am usually far behind on the information curve.

They feel so strongly about their grandmother, that when I tried to take on more of her care — in the mistaken idea that I was lifting  a burden off them — they protested loud and long.

I felt much the same about my own grandmother. Grandparents are a healthy relief from the intensity of the parent-child relationship. They give a safe place for kids to spread their wings in the relatively low-key and tolerant atmosphere of adoring grandparents. I remember once my mother told me “we don’t do homework at my house,” when I asked her to make sure the boys did some sort of schoolwork that needed doing at the time. I don’t remember if my lower jaw hit the floor or not, but I do remember the amusement I felt when she said that.

I had the urge to tap her on the forehead and ask, “Mama, are you in there?”

This clearly was not the same woman who had raised me.

And, of course, that was true. She wasn’t the same woman who had raised me. At that point, I was the one on the hot seat. I was the parent with the task of shaping these babies of mine into responsible, productive adults who could earn their living and found families of their own one day.

My mother had done her time in the parental labor yard, and now she was deep into that other role of Grandparent. It was not her job to make sure they did their homework, and she wasn’t going to do it. Her job was to adore them and give them the unalloyed love and adoration that only a grandparent can.

Judging by their attitude today, when she’s a little bit dotty and a whole lot in need of unalloyed love and adoration herself, she did well.

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Pope Francis spoke of this beautiful and unique contribution that grandparents make to the welfare of their grandchildren yesterday, on the feast of Joachim and Anna, who were Jesus’ grandparents. We often think of Joseph, Mary and Jesus as a totally isolated unit. But in truth, they existed within a community of relations and kinsmen, as do people in the Middle East, even today.

Scriptures mention this in the story of Jesus getting separated from Mary and Joseph when He stayed back to teach at the Temple when He was 12. There are oblique mentions of it later in His life when the Scriptures reference His mother’s relations, as well as His “brothers,” which is to say His kinsmen. Again, even today in the Middle East, people call their kinsmen, including cousins and more distant relations, “brothers.”

Sts anne et joachim

We don’t have specific information about how Joachim and Anna lived out their grandparent role in Jesus’ life, but since God had chosen to be born to this particular girl who was part of this particular family, I think it’s a good guess that they did it well. After all, these were the people who raised Our Lady. That’s a powerful testament to their child-rearing abilities.

Pope Francis emphasized on the flight from Rome to Rio earlier this week that the elderly are as important to the future of the Church as the young. There is a symmetry to life and this Latin American pope seems well aware of it. Traditional families, based on a mother and a father, and backed up with the loving help and support of the generation before them, are the best, most stable and healthy way to nurture and guide children from birth to adulthood.

People who grow up in this environment have learned the value of all people at various stages of life by seeing that value acted out in their own families. They’ve learned love by being loved. They acquired stability by growing up in stable homes. They’ve been supported, first by their parents and then by their grandparents who could pitch in and broaden their experiences and also fill the gaps in their experience that parents could not reach.

I had many of the most profoundly shaping conversations of my childhood with my grandmother. She had time to just sit and listen to my childish rambles that my mother and father did not. She was removed from the pressures of getting it all done and could give me her undivided attention for hours at a time. I basked and flowered in the soft sunlight of this attention.

My mother did the same thing for my kids. And now, just as I adored my grandmother, they adore her.

My youngest son drives a pick-up that sits high off the ground. When he wants to take his 88-year-old Amah out for a spin, he picks her up like she weighs no more than a potato chip and lifts her onto the seat. Then, off they go on a ramble.

She invariably comes back all aglow, telling me “that boy is the sweetest thing.”

I was setting up some work on my house yesterday. The lady who took my order was here for a while, measuring and writing down the particulars. I got calls from my kids who were at work and my mother who was at adult day care all through my discussion with this lady. I didn’t think anything about it. They call me all the time.

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But as we were winding up our discussion the lady taking the order said, “Do you know how blessed you are?”

I said yes. And I do know. But it was lovely to have her remind me.

The generations, young to old, are good. The Holy Father is right: We should cherish the elderly, for they are vital to us and our well-being.

It’s a Rule

You can’t make everybody happy.

It’s a rule.

I’m not sure where this rule is codified. Maybe in the back pages of the textbook for the school of hard knocks.

But it’s true. You can not make everybody happy. So, in my humble opinion, you should not try. It appears that Pope Francis is of a similar opinion, at least about the not trying part.

He has, from the moment when the announcement “Habemus Papem!” sounded and he walked out onto that balcony, been indisputably and absolutely himself.

That is an incredible accomplishment for someone who sits on a throne that is placed above the grave of Peter. Every move the Pope makes, from the things he wears, to the gestures he makes, are supposedly choreographed by centuries of other Popes who did it this way first. However, Pope Francis seems to have understood from the beginning just how much power the Papacy holds, including and especially the power to communicate by word and action.

He knew that he didn’t have to do these things. He could choose. And chose he has.

By the choices he’s made, he has focused on a Papacy of the Word, accompanied by a visual simplicity that symbolizes his message of concern for the least of these. This is a heartfelt pain for those who are what education professionals call “visual learners.” In Catholicism, we tend to call them “traditionalists.” But I think they are, for the most part, simply visual learners gone to Church.

These people groove on the same lace that I think looks like my great-grandmother’s doilies. They feel lifted up to heaven by the incense that sets off my asthma and raises worries of fire hazards. They love the sound of Latin and find awe and grandeur in pre-Vatican II liturgy, all of which I see as unnecessary barriers between the people and Jesus.

Some folk like pcs; some folk like macs. We are individuals who, due to His superior democracy, can come to God through whatever path opens in front of us. The same God who honors one person’s incense and Gregorian chant, will rock along with another person’s rap. What He wants is our love and obedience. How we get there is all good to Him.

There is neither Greek nor Jew, neither slave nor free, male nor female. For you all are one in Christ Jesus.

There is also neither lace nor non-lace, neither red shoe nor black shoe, neither miter nor non-miter. For we are all Catholic, united under the one Vicar of Christ, who is our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

World Youth Day Flash Mob

I learned about this a while back. These young people have been rehearsing for weeks for this and it was a success!

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Data Omniscience Hubris and the Bible

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.

 

Conversion Story: Hell and Oyster Crackers

Sam Rocha and Katrina Fernandez, aka, The Crescat, got together for a Facebook interview.

When those two get together, you just know the result is going to be interesting.

And it was.

There’s lots to read, and you can find it here. I want to focus on one aspect of that free-ranging discussion: Katrina’s conversion story.

Kat came to Jesus by way of art. Imagine this: A seven-year-old who spends a lot of time in museums (already it’s getting unusual) spies Memling’s painting, The Last judgement. She’s small enough that her eye-view is of the bottom of the painting. She’s nose to canvas with the lost souls in hell. The prospect convinced her that hell was real.

Sam’s response, “You found God in hell?”

That sounds like a reasonable question to those of us who’ve never been converted by art. I mean, how does that track?

Here, according to Kat herself is how:

If Hell is real then it stands to reason that God was real. Simple as that.
Why do atheist struggle so? Their arrogance to dismiss their first instinct… that child voice plainly stating a fact as fact. There’s nothing intellectual about “well, duh!” which is what happened when I saw Hell. Well, duh! God is real.

She goes on to add, “Landscapes showed me God is kind.”

Katrina is not the only person I know of who was converted by art. Peter Hitchens related an almost identical conversion experience in his book The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith (which I recommend) and then later in this interview. Peter Hitchens, who is the brother of the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, found God by studying Rogier van der Weyden’s The Last Judgement. 

Hitchens was an adult at the time of his conversion. He described it this way: 

… I gaped, my mouth actually hanging open, at the naked figures fleeing towards the pit of hell.  These people did not appear remote or from the ancient past; they were my own generation … They were me, and people I knew. 

Do you recognize the Power at work in both these stories?  Hint: It’s not the power of great art, although the power of great art is certainly real. 

This is the Holy Spirit, at work in two souls, calling them to Jesus.  These stories illustrate the single most powerful truth of conversion that I know: God meets us where we are. He is not too proud to accept us through any route to Him we find. In the Person of the Holy Spirit, He will call to us and reach out to us along any path that we will walk to Him. 

The fact that God meets us where we are has other facets to it besides His willingness to come to us through a painting or a sermon or the guilt we feel for our sins.

One of these facets is that He does not ask us to get perfect first. Too many times, people who are trying to bring people to God focus on the other person’s need to change. 

The truth is, you don’t need to change to come to God.   All you need to do is say “yes” to Him. The changing part comes later, and it will be through a changed heart and converted spirit. As I’ve said, God doesn’t change what you do. He changes what you want to do. 

But at the beginning, all you have to do is open your heart — or in the case of Katrina Fernandez and Peter Hitchens and others like them, their eyes — and say yes to what is right in front of you.  There is no one right way to come to Jesus. Jesus Himself is the Right way. 

Kat and I both experienced another, second, conversion. This one was to the Catholic Church. In the usual Kat fashion, her experience was sudden, a bit defiant and absolute. Mine was gentle and insistent. But despite the differences, it was the same for both of us. 

Kat attended a communion service in a church where they offered communion, which I would wager they regarded as a “symbol,” in the form of grape juice and oyster crackers. Kat, being Kat, rebelled. She knew. Knew right then without any dissembling that this was not the real deal. She also knew that there was a real deal out there somewhere and that she wanted it. Here’s how she describes it:

It was Easter Sunday 
and the pastor wanted to “do communion” and wanted to try something a little different 
so he had us all line up to come to the “altar” and receive a shot glass containing grape juice and a packet of oyster crackers.









 And God said “NO!” I immediately knew this aping display was not the real thing. I grabbed my son under my arm and got up and left.

She was, in short, called to the Church by the Eucharist. 

Welcome home Kat, so was I. Only for me it was an almost constant call from Christ in the Eucharist. He called me for years to Himself in the Eucharist. When I finally found Him there, I experienced the healing of the woman who reached out and touched His garment.

That same healing is there for anyone, anytime, in all the Catholic Churches of all the world.  Conversion, real conversion, is a one-way street. Once you’ve found it, you know it’s real and you can never walk away from it. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is real. Life in Christ is a living reality. 

I love conversion stories when they’re told by people with authentic hearts. Every single one of them exposes a truth of God’s love for us and His simplicity in dealing with us. 

Conversion stories are always elemental stories of birth. They relate the dynamics of how a soul is born from eternal death into eternal life. And just like that first biological birth, they happen to each one of us individually. Because we are each unique and wonderful enough that the God Who made everything, everywhere, accepts us as the old hymn says, Just as We Are.   


Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

The Heresy of Politicized Christianity

Deacon Greg Kandra published a post today describing a “study” that says that “Christian Progressives” are on the cultural ascendancy.

I put the word study in quotes because all this study amounts to is some yo-yo with letters after his name who went out and tabulated Google searches, dividing them between “conservative Christian” and “progressive Christian.” His criteria: Google searches for “Christian right” vs google searches for “Christian left.”

Based on this handy-dandy spreadsheet workout, this person has extrapolated to all sorts of predictions and prophecies about the direction of Christianity in the future USA.

Aside from the fact that this is about as scientific as predicting the future by studying the entrails of a goat, it does reveal quite a lot about the researcher and the way that Christianity is discussed today.

After I converted to Catholicism, I encountered a lot of talk about which Catholics were “orthodox” or not. I remember wondering what the tar-heel an “orthodox” Catholic might be. I had some idea about what an Orthodox Jew was. But an “orthodox” Catholic seemed to be one of those vague, do-it-yourself monikers that people hang on themselves in order to chastise other people. To this day, I’ve never heard a useful definition of what an “orthodox” Catholic might be, even though I still read about folks who claim to be one and seem to think they know.

Now that I’ve dipped my toe in the blogging waters, I find myself repeatedly encountering verbiage that attempts to define Christians and Christianity along political groupings. Even here at Patheos we have a portal for “progressive” Christians. I don’t fault Patheos for this. The moniker is out there everywhere and the Progressive Christians themselves seem to think they are members of some clearly demarcated understanding of Christianity that groups them together and separates them from the rest of us who stand at the foot of the cross.

Not that I’m saying they don’t stand at the foot of the cross. But I guess they would place themselves in a separate group of before-the-cross-standers that distinguishes them from other, non-progressive Christians. Of course, we also have the “conservative” Christians there before the cross, as well. In this Americanized/politicized version of Christianity I guess the rest of us who don’t want to be “conservative” or “progressive” Christians just wander around aimlessly, or maybe circulate back and forth between the two groups.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider this imaginary portrait I just painted. We have the cross, with the crucified Savior of the World hanging on it. And we have His so-called followers standing there in front of it, looking not at Him, but at each other. The “conservative” Christians are standing as far away from the “progressive” Christians as they can get, and vice versa. They are not thinking about or concerned with the God who died for them on Calvary. They are not grieved by what their sins have wrought. They are not caught in wonder at the love God has for them.

Nope. They are both like the Pharisee who went to pray and spent his whole time thanking God that he wasn’t like that sinful tax collector over there.

Pharisee

Does anyone remember what Jesus had to say about the Pharisee? If you don’t, you can find it in Luke 8: 9-14.

I wrote a post yesterday, encouraging Christians to engage with the political structure. After reading the comments it garnered, I repented of that post. We aren’t ready.

Before Christians can engage the larger culture they’ve first got to be all-in for Jesus. That appears to be a major stumbling block for a lot of people. These ridiculous designations of “conservative” and “progressive” Christians are a symptom and an expression of just how far away we are from actually following Christ, or even taking Him seriously at all.

In today’s America, “conservative” and “progressive” are political terms. If we were being honest, we’d just dispense with those terms and say what we mean. On the one side we have people who twist the Gospels to justify themselves for following right wing politics instead of following Jesus, and on the other side, we have people who twist the Gospels to justify themselves for following left wing politics instead of following Jesus.

They are, both of them, following the world instead of following Jesus. And they are claiming that Jesus not only supports them in this, but He is following them. 

I’m not a theologian. I’m just a pew-sitting Catholic who is grateful that, after the things I’ve done, they let me inside the Church at all. But I love Jesus.

This disregard of Him, this crude claim of ownership of Him, by people who carry His name hurts me. It stings and bites at me when I think about it. What is wrong that so many people can look at the living God and see a self-justifying reflection of themselves?

I repeat: I am not a theologian. But I think that this twisting of the Gospels to suit fashionable politics and political power is heretical. It is also, evidently, deeply embedded in people’s hearts.

Diamond cross pendant er41160

If you look at the cross and feel smirky holier than thou self-justification for you and your politics, then I would wager that you are not looking at the cross at all. You are considering a piece of jewelry you’ve hung around your neck that is made of cold metal and, without the real cross that it symbolizes, can not save you.

Conservative/Progressive/Right/Left Christianity is a human invention. It gives us what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” which is to say self-approval. It makes us self-righteous and mean.

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If you are interpreting the Gospels in the light of your politics, then you are not following Christ. This business of co-opting the Gospels to fit the world has eternal consequences.

There is one Jesus; one narrow way; one means of salvation; one cross.

Our job as American Christians is to believe that one Jesus, walk that narrow way, and to conform our lives, including our politics, to Christ and Him crucified.

I want to follow Christ. I do not want to follow conservative Christ or progressive Christ or right or left or middle of the road Christ. I want to follow and I pray for the grace to follow, Christ and Him crucified by conservatives and progressives and rightists and leftists and all the rest of the crowd who will not follow Him without reframing Him to suit themselves.

That is why I accept the teachings of the Catholic Church. Not because they are easy or politically correct. But because I’ve tried making God in my own image. I know that I can’t judge, can’t decide, can’t know. Left to my own devices I will do horrible things, just as my heretical brothers and sisters on the left and the right are doing horrible things.

Standing before the real cross means that you know you are not worthy to be there. You know that your own understanding put Him there. You know yourself for what you are and you realize that without Him you are doomed to the hell you have created and earned; to the hell you deserve.

“Lean not on your own understanding” the scriptures tell us.

It’s good advice.

Mother Teresa: How to Love God

 

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