Does that phrase refer to unalienable human rights that are ours by virtue of the fact that we are human beings? Or, does it refer to laws and rules that can be shifted and changed by the whim of legislative bodies or the flick of a dictator’s will?
What are human rights, and where, if they exist as a separate entity, do they come from?
Thomas Jefferson, Deist that he was, got it exactly right when he said that human beings are “endowed by their Creator” with “certain unalienable rights.” By using those phrases, he chose to found this nation on the concept and reality of the fact that there are certain things that we, as human beings, know without being taught that we may not do. These things are written on our hearts, placed in our souls, from the moment that we begin to be.
We are never amoral. That is not possible for human beings because we are made in the image and likeness of God and His image shines through us in this undeniable and universal understanding of human rights that we are born knowing. From dateline to dateline, pole to pole, every culture, every people, every person, knows what murder is and that they may not do it.
Atheists often reference this when faced with the question of how they can possibly devise a morality of their own making, without reference to God. Everyone knows that murder is wrong, no matter what they believe about God they say. This is undeniably true, but it is not because there is no God. What they are doing without realizing it is affirming the teaching and the concept of Natural Law.
But, even though we know these things from our beginning, we are not automatons. We are not animals who operate by unchanging instinct. We are, from the moment we begin to be, free to chose. We can reject God or choose God. We can deny Him or follow Him. It is our choice.
We can — and we do — murder one another, oftentimes in great numbers and with a sadistic savagery that no animal can either feel or comprehend. We know that murder is wrong, but we can write laws to give ourselves permission to murder. We can create arguments that, however specious, allow us to fool ourselves into believing that murder is not only allowed, it is a positive good, and that we are taking the higher moral road by advocating for it.
I did this myself.
I was as convinced as a person could be convinced that legal abortion was a positive good that was necessary to save women’s lives and to further the just cause of women’s rights. I responded to the cruelties, discrimination and violence that I saw visited on women, oftentimes as a result of the fact that we are the ones who bear children, with a committed advocacy for legal abortion.
Later, when I realized the horror of what I had done, I was grieved beyond my capacity to bear. God showed me what I had done, and then He helped me bear and heal from the effects of knowing it.
Because of this experience, I am both the euthanasia advocate’s harshest critic and his or her most sorrowful and loving prayer warrior. I know what awaits them if they ever realize the full extent of what they have, by their advocacy, allowed, encouraged and done.
Innocent blood is on their hands and only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can wash it away. But repentance for crimes against humanity of this type is not cheap. It comes with the price of knowing that you — you — are a monster. You have murdered innocents.
As much as I sorrow for them for what they are doing to themselves and others, I fear for them even more. They have locked themselves into their towers of unbelief and built moats of pride and hubris all around. Repentance for the murder of innocents is not cheap. But to live and die without repentance is to buy yourself a one-way ticket to eternal hell.
These advocates for euthanasia and their hapless followers are the most pitiable of all people.
At the same time, they, like the women who advocated for abortion, have raised issues and questions which must be answered. Evils like abortion and euthanasia have been sold to us as solutions for our own sins. The call for abortion didn’t just spring from the head of Zeus. The arguments which gave legal abortion sufficient moral gravitas to hook into the public imagination were based on real terrors such as rape and the fear of being forced to give a baby up for adoption.
These arguments found their traction in the sexual double standard and the vast cruelty and hypocrisy — oftentimes supported by the Church — that allowed it. Abortion was taken as an answer to violence against women, discrimination and prejudice against women, and the suffering of women because of these things. We turned to the murder of innocents rather than face our sins against women and repent of them.
In the same way, the arguments for euthanasia began as arguments for compassion for the suffering of dying people. Their traction in the public imagination was gained by the indifferent and cold way that people in our society died, hermetically sealed in hospitals and given only enough pain meds to keep then on the edge of screaming until death finally released them.
Once again, the answer for our sins was murder.
In the process of justifying these murderous answers to suffering and cruelty that we didn’t want to address directly, our intellectual class developed a whole set of arguments based on the concept that we are, all evidence to the contrary, just animals with big brains. We are nothing, they tell us, but chemical processes and meat.
The concept of human rights as unalienable and universal was dashed to the ground and replaced by the nebulous idea of rights founded, not on a universal human right to life, but on the idea of a relative right to life that only applies to human persons who are able to justify their right to life by exhibiting a sufficient level of social utility. This definition of what is a human being who has right to be alive has narrowed down to the point that now it stands basically at the notion that only those humans who can advocate for their own lives in a court of law are deemed truly human enough to have a right to life,
I’m going to delve into this brave new world of killing in greater depth in future posts. But for now it is sufficient to say that the universal understanding of murder as something that we may not do has been massaged into nothingness by those who want to kill at will.
A small number of deadly thinkers have used the media and our educational institutions to infect the public and the body politic with such confusion about what it means to be human that they are no longer capable of responding rationally to the social problems before them. If murdering innocent people is the answer, we really have to ask, How valid is the question?
We are being given false dichotomies and told to chose. The truth is, we have, and we have always had other options.
Women’s human rights are not supported by being forced to soldier on in a misogynist world that gives them the “choice” of murdering their own child in order to be taken as fully human. By the same token, there are myriad ways to address human suffering. Killing the sufferer is not, no matter what we have been told, one of them.
So, is it a mistake in today’s jumbled up climate of a propagandized and totally amoral public debate to talk about “human rights” at all? Has the phrase become so bastardized that it no longer means what it means?
This question strikes to the heart of the anomie of our times. If language is destroyed, then communication is destroyed and more to the point, thinking becomes impossible. What I am saying is that the people who advocate these things have drunk a lethal intellectual kool-aid that has so seriously compromised their thinking capacities that they no longer are capable of intelligent discussion.
That’s why they veer off into personal attacks and vendettas rather than take positions and discuss them intelligently. It’s why they go in circles, endlessly repeating slogans. They are arguing a moot point with bastardized language and concepts that are not concepts but the product of propaganda. Slogans and epithets presented as absolutes are all they’ve got.
Human rights, on the other hand, has the huge weight of generations of intellectual, theological and even some scientific debate and discussion behind it. The concept of unalienable rights and natural law are even accepted by those who deny their existence when they are pushed to explain how they can be moral all of themselves.
Every human knows that the murder of innocents is wrong. That is the reason for the ridiculous arguments, the vast amount of energy wasted on propagandizing the populace and the body politic. If we didn’t know that murder was wrong, it would not be necessary to create fictions and then sell them relentlessly that murdering someone is, in fact, saving them. We must turn the idea on its head or no one will accept it.
Of course, this lie begins to break down as the reality seeps through. Killing is killing. The press and popular imagination can deny this so long as they keep their distance. But the reality of lost lives hits hard for those who vacuum the uterus or administer the drugs. They are actively doing the deed. They are, by their own hands, committing murder on a mass scale.
Just as the Nazis found that machine-gunning thousands of innocent people day after day broke the SS troops who pulled the triggers, the nurses in the abortion clinics have often broken. It will be the same with euthanasia.
Some people — the Mengeles, Eichmanns, Pol Pots, Stalins, the leaders of ISIS — do not break. They are like the Ted Bundys and John Wayne Gacys. They like killing. Abortion and euthanasia was made by and for folks like these.
But for those who are not killers, who actually have bought the whole line, the moment will come when they see and know what they have done. They will break, and in that breaking will be their salvation.
This is why I persist and will continue to persist in using the scuffed and battered phrase human rights. Because it is exactly the right phrase to describe what I am talking about. Because the truth of that is written in every human heart. Because I know — know — that if I persist, someone out there who I may never know in this life will hear me and understand.
I am writing this for that someone, that one person, who will read it, or maybe the next post or the post after that, and realize that human beings have certain unalienable rights and that among them are Life.
Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta published a post concerning a couple of ominous notes received by an atheist leader at an “atheist church.” Public Catholic reader Lark brought this to my attention and asked me to comment on it.
I have zero problems saying that the nutso practice of putting threatening letters in people’s mailboxes is not only a federal crime, it is wrong.
There’s a lot I don’t know about this note-in-the-mailbox scenario. According to Mr Mehta’s post, the recipients of these missives are leaders in a local Louisiana “atheist church.” Leaving aside the whole question of “atheist church,” which, to be honest, sounds more like a community gathering than a church, let’s take up the two notes.
So far as I can tell from Mr Mehta’s post, these notes were placed anonymously in the family’s mailbox. The photos of the notes show them to be typewritten. I can see how someone who hasn’t experienced this before might find them threatening. Evidently, the family in question is taking them very seriously indeed. Most of the family has been moved “somewhere safe.”
Speaking as someone who has been a public figure for a long, long time, I can tell you that morons say a lot of moronic things, and that a good number of those moronic things are threatening.
Looking at the photos of these notes, I can make all sorts of conjectures about where they came from, ranging from teens playing a joke to a seriously disturbed nut, to — and this is reaching, but it could be true — a small group of militia types. That’s how vague my understanding of this is.
Frankly, I think our society gives people far too much leeway for inflicting their inner crazy on the people around them. I have a file on my hard drive, called the Crazy People file, where I put the threats and insults I got from the public (never from the district I represented) during my tenure as a legislator.
I’ve had people follow me around the state, showing up at every speaking engagement to heckle me. I’ve had my house broken into and my political records riffled through. Some idiot even stole my garbage right out of the can. I’ve had my tires slashed — repeatedly — and my brake lines cut. They even killed my dog.
My delete file here at Patheos gets steady incoming from the moron side of every issue we discuss. Most of these are just snipes and barbs and nutty diatribes. I get batches of the same insult that come in waves, which are obviously the result of a post by another blogger out there somewhere, flogging me for my opinions. After public office, this is pretty tame stuff. Blogging doesn’t seem to raise the same level of hate as political office.
I mention all this because I think we need a bit of perspective in the matter of these two notes. I don’t know if the notes were the only thing that happened, or if there have been other things, as well. Assuming that the notes are the whole deal, I repeat: They were wrong. Placing them in a mailbox is a federal crime.
If someone who claims to be following Christ put them there, they’ve got their heads on backwards. Hatred and attacking other people is sinful. It can keep you from going to heaven.
I think the solution to this situation is for both sides to try a dose of live and let live. Atheists have every right to think as they think and believe (or disbelieve) as they believe. However, that does not include the practice of continuously attacking, insulting and badgering other people. It’s wrong for everybody, including atheists, to behave this way.
Hopefully, these notes were a prank of some sort. If they were not, I hope that the perpetrators are found and punished.
Public life has good things about it, not the least of which being the many wonderful people you meet.
But the morons are out there.
And they say and do moronic things.
My advice to everyone, whether they are atheist or people of faith or just done care, is to stop inflicting your inner crazy on other people.
Don’t give yourself permission to be a jerk.
I haven’t read every single one of the various atheist books by Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, et al. But I’ve read most of them.
I’ve also read the historic atheists such as Russell, et al.
What amazes me is that anyone takes them seriously. Even when I was deep in my anti-God period, I could see that Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian (which says everything worth saying that is found in any of the other books, by the way) used self-refuting arguments. If you followed his line of reasoning to its end, you would have eliminated the existence of 2 billion Christians who are on the globe today.
The illogic of his logic actually led me to believe that if atheism had good arguments, they weren’t being advanced. This is telling because I was at a point in my life where I wanted to be convinced by atheism.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the crude and nasty atheists of today’s public forums are the way they are for two simple reasons. First, their philosophy, such as it is, is so hopeless and nihilistic that it is crazy-making. Second, anyone who reads one of these “four horsemen” and is convinced by them (much less goes around quoting them and pretending their ideas are your own) is either an adolescent, or they are an adult who is stuck is permanent adolescence.
The Four Horsemen and their progenitors are not thinkers for grown-ups.
I’ve just finished reading a book that addresses this adolescent thinking from the viewpoint of a fellow scientist. David Berlinski is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He has written such books as A Tour of the Calculus and The Advent of the Algorithm. What that means, aside from the fact that he’s got the chops to address the scientific hubris of the new atheism from the inside, is that, unlike most of the professional new atheist apologists, he doesn’t just go around writing hate screeds for a living. He actually writes and thinks about something else.
I wish his book on the scientific pretensions of the new atheism had a less lurid title. The book is of a higher quality than its title. However, I know that titles sell, and publishers make these decisions.
The book is called The Devil’s Delusion, Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions.
If you haven’t read it, you should. Berlinski writes with dry wit and clarity of the scientific gibberish that makes up the framework of new atheist arguments. The book is not, as the atheist books are, a vicious screed against those who disagree with him. It is rather, a gentle poke in the ribs.
Berlinski (who is not a believer) disassembles the house of cards of atheist scientific arguments against God, based entirely on the sheer outrageousness of their claims. There are no calls to insult people or attack them in the book. It doesn’t make totalitarian arguments that scientists should have their children taken away from them for the “child abuse” of teaching their kids what they themselves believe. There’s no trippy conflab about flying spaghetti monsters, and not one word of building a Christian revenge movement to drive atheists from the public square.
The Devil’s Delusion simply points out a few of the many over-the-top claims that atheists make in the name of science and calls them what they are: The attack polemics of a blind and absolutist faith. All of which is to say that the scientific claims by atheists are propaganda. They are not science at all.
I recommend The Devil’s Delusion. I hope that you will read it. If you’re been reading the adolescent rants of the new atheists, I especially hope you read it. It’s a great palate cleanser.
Pope Francis has spoken of Christian persecution. So did Pope Benedict XVI. The papacy is continuity, going back to the words, Thou art Peter. Unfortunately, Christian persecution is a continuity, as well. More Christians have died for their faith in the last century than all the previous centuries combined.
Far from abating, Christian persecution appears to be worsening and spreading, including socially accepted Christian baiting and bullying of Christians here in post Christian America.
I wrote this post on January 11, 2013.
The Holy Father cautioned bishops that they will inevitably face persecution for standing for Christ in the increasingly secular world of the future.
He issued this warning in his homily for Epiphany. Even though the warning was directed to bishops, I think it applies to all Christians. The day of cheap grace is passing for all of us.
We must, as Joshua instructed the Israelites, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” I hope that we will be able to say along with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
ROME, January 9, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “What sort of man” must a bishop be? The kind of man who can face persecution without flinching, Pope Benedict XVI said at the Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany at St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.
At the Mass, the pope ordained four priests to the episcopate, one of whom is his close confidante and private secretary, Msgr. Georg Gaenswein.Pope Benedict XVI
“Inevitably,” the pope said, faithful bishops will be “beaten by those who live lives opposed to the Gospel, and then we can be grateful for having been judged worthy to share in the passion of Christ”.
The Pope’s comments follow his recent pattern of especially strong statements on Dec. 14, Dec. 21, and Jan. 7 in response to the increasing push for abortion, acceptance of homosexual behaviour and general fierce opposition to the Church’s moral teachings from both inside and outside the Church.
“Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs,” Pope Benedict said.
“Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous.” Seeking the “approval of the prevailing wisdom,” he said, “is not a criterion to which we submit.”
“The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves,” said the pope. “The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.” (Read more here.)
What kind of “men” kidnap young girls as a means of waging a “holy” war?
The video below is difficult to watch, but then the reality of what is happening to Christians in Egypt and elsewhere is far more difficult.
The practice of kidnapping Christian girls, raping them and forcing them to “convert” to Islam appears to be widespread throughout the Middle East. There’s not much to say about men who do cowardly things like this to women and young girls except that their “manhood” isn’t all that manly.
One of the more disgusting things about this is the silence from feminists. Where is the outrage about this outrage?
On a side note, I repeat Ravi Zacharias’ reaction when he heard Dr. Richard Dawkins’ incitement of his followers concerning people of faith to “mock them; ridicule them; in public; with contempt.” Dr Dawkins and his crowd should book flights to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc, and try this there.
They could also do similar experiments with the Hindus of India. I’ve got videos of what can happen. Or, they might try ridiculing the faux religion of statism that is practiced in the various atheist paradises.
In truth and in fact, the only societies in the world where they have the freedom to behave like this are those that are informed by Christian values. You know: The terrible, horrible Christian morality that says that all human beings matter, no matter their stage of life or level of health, and that every person has certain inherent rights that come from God.
God help us all if the Christian bashers of the world succeed in wiping that morality out of public discourse and civil society.
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.
A reader asked if I had written about my conversion. I wrote this a while back and republish it here.
I’ve written about other people’s miracle stories. Now, I’ll tell you about one of my own.
I think most Christians have miracle stories. Mine is the fundamental Christian miracle, the accessible and universally available miracle. I am going to tell you about the day I stepped, blundered actually, from death to life.
I lived about 17 years of my life in an anti-God mindset. There were reasons for this. To this day, I understand myself and accept that when I made the turn away from God, I did the only thing I could have done under that circumstance.
I didn’t decide that there was no god. I tried. I read the atheist books of the day; Passover Plot among them. I went back a few decades and read Why I Am Not A Christian. I actually wanted to believe there was no god. It would have been a great simplifier for me in those days.
But the books I read were essentially self-refuting. You can’t think them through too seriously and miss the train-sized holes in their line of reasoning.
In truth, I knew there was a god. I’m not sure how I knew. But I did. My problem wasn’t that I thought he wasn’t there. It was that I thought he didn’t care.
I didn’t come to a point where I decided Today I Will Become Anti-god. I just sort of segued into it, one decision, one discussion, one opposing commitment at a time.
By the time I was into my 20s, I was thoroughly launched on my anti-god way of living, thinking and reacting. The fight to defend Roe v Wade and legal access to abortion pushed me hard toward an aggressive anti-god mode.
What had been a walking away became, through the catalyst of my pro-abortion stand, a fierce resentment. I detested the various churches for their opposition to Roe. I thought, believed to my core, that they were utterly indifferent to the sufferings of women.
This wasn’t all just a web I wove in my own mind. I knew of actual instances of churches turning away from women who were in great distress; of them abandoning these women or even attacking them.
To say I was angry over this hardly touches it. I was enraged, bitter and hard as a diamond about it. I knew there was a god. But I also thought I knew that he didn’t care. I had no use for him.
I did a lot of things in this period of my life that I regret now. I wish I could tell you that everything I ever did that I regret I did then, but that isn’t true. However, my most dastardly deeds, including the one time I ever hurt another person deliberately, selfishly and with full intention, happened during those years.
I was, in the way I judged myself at that time, certain that I was a good person and that everything I was doing was not only right but morally superior. Even the one thing that I absolutely knew was wrong didn’t bother me.
This peculiar moral certitude of moral ingrates is, I believe, a direct consequence of being your own god. If you decide what is right and wrong, it’s pretty easy to be morally proud 24/7. I encounter it in people who are their own gods all the time. The difference being that now I know it for what it is.
As time went by, this one thing I couldn’t justify to myself ate at me. I knew I had hurt another person. Worse, I knew that I had decided to hurt another person and done it for entirely selfish reasons. I stood convicted in my own court by my own rules. That brought me face to face with one of the sadder realities of living life as your own god: When you come to that place where you see that you have really been wrong, you can’t make it right.
You are stuck there, you and your guilt, in a battle for your peace of mind that you can only win by hardening your heart and “going on.” If you do that, of course, it will be much easier to do the wrong again. And again. And again forever until you die. You become wedded to your sin and in time it becomes who you are.
I was stuck there, at that precise fork in the moral road. I could either tell myself to forget about it, or even, as many people do, blame the person I had hurt, or I could face my own fault. It’s never an easy thing to face the fact that you are really not such a good person. But in truth none of us are. We only pretend, and mostly we pretend to ourselves.
Fortunately for me, I wasn’t able to take that sharp turn into the abyss and send my healthy and completely justified guilt away. I knew what I had done.
I didn’t talk about it. Didn’t share it with anyone. I kept it inside me.
The tension grew.
I have tried many times to find the words to describe what happened next. But I can’t do it. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no words.
I was alone in my car, driving to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. Without thinking about it or really understanding what I was doing, I blurted out two words. Forgive me, I said. I said it out loud. But I wasn’t talking to myself. I was talking to the God who didn’t care.
Here’s where words fail me. I’ll try, but please understand: I have no words for what happened next.
I said Forgive me, and it was as if someone, some Being, Who had been right beside me all along without my knowing of it, reached out to me. I felt this Being’s joy for me, experienced His absolute, ecstatic love. I had a physical sensation of this love, pouring into me, filling me with His joy.
As I said, there are no words. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening. But I knew it was real. I also learned in one instant that the god who doesn’t care was my own creation. God, the real God, loves us beyond anything we can comprehend, or, in my case, describe.
I didn’t understand what had just happened. I went on to my meeting, made my speech, and said not a word about it to anyone. But it wasn’t an apprehensive silence. The Being I met in the car that day stayed with me. He kept me enveloped in love and I basked in it.
I also waited. Waiting is not something that comes naturally to me. I am most definitely not the waiting around kind. But this time, waiting came easily. I didn’t know what to do next, so I waited, with complete peace of mind that the answers would come, for this Being to tell me what to do.
About a month later, it came into my head to go to a large metropolitan church. I did, and over time, that path has led me to where I am now.
As I said, this is the most prosaic and commonplace of miracles. It is freely available to anyone who asks for it with a sincere heart. It’s free for the asking. But I wouldn’t say that it’s cheap. I’ll talk about the cost in other posts at other times.
Today, I just want to add one of my miracles to the ones I’ve been sharing. I also want to make it clear that the real miracle here isn’t that I experienced these things, but what they meant. I said two words from my heart to a God I had come to believe didn’t care, and I stepped from death to life.
That is the miracle that lasts for eternity.
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.