Sunday, August 9, 2015

Unconquerable Weakness

St Paul makes much of weakness.

In 1 Cor 1:25 he makes the famous statement "the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." This verse comes at the end of a short section on how the wisdom of God seems to be foolishness to men.

Again, in 2 Cor 16-29, St Paul enumerates the times when he was persecuted, beaten, and suffered at the hands of men and in natural hardships. In this he explains that these show his weakness. He does not fight them but endures them. What is extraordinary is that he then boasts of his weakness (cf v.30).

Finally he ties this to Christ in 2 Cor 13:4, who "was crucified out of weakness, but he lives by the power of God. So also we are weak in him, but toward you we shall live with him by the power of God."

There is a paradoxical relationship between strength and weakness in St Paul's letters. At first glance, it seems as if it were a simple comparison between the human and the divine.  The divine is just a bigger version of the human.  Hence the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of man. So then in Paul's list of hardships, he is weak, The list of hardships continue to demonstrate this weakness, but why would he then boast of them? Christ dies in weakness?  Where is the power of God in that?

One may ask if a Christian should simply expect no earthly rescue by God. It's just that God is really powerful and we are not. Christians are not allowed to fight back so we just have to suck it up and take it. Even Jesus himself had to simply let himself be killed.

I will suggest that this weakness is not something inflicted upon Paul but an impenetrable shield for his defense. The reason speaks to how the devil works. To quote Tolkien, "the Shadow can only mock, it cannot make." Evil corrupts. All sin is a corruption of something good. Worldly power, therefore, is a handle by which the devil can grasp to use against us.

What then is our protection against this corruption?  Weakness. Weakness is the only thing that evil cannot corrupt. It has nothing to grasp us by. This weakness is related to kenosis, the self-emptying St Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:7.  Self-emptying means ridding ourselves of pride, it means a true humility, a realization that to God alone belongs the victory, even when furthered by our own efforts. Most importantly, it is a radical dependence upon God and his providence.

This radical dependence appears from the outside to be weakness, but upon it we can safely rely for invincible protection.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Faith & Reason Quote of the Day

“There are some who come to him through their minds, through study, and through considering the problems of today, suffering above all. We should be ready to discuss their thoughts with them, not in order to score points against them in argument, but to help them clarify their own ideas, to form their own conclusions – this, with the gentleness of Christ, that they like the disciples on the road, may feel their hearts burning within them as the mystery of the Redemption begins to shine in their minds.”
– Caryll Houselander


Who are the "some" mentioned in the opening sentence? I think it's anyone who is sincerely and sanely searching for the Good, the Beautiful, and the True. An honest seeker will ask opened ended questions or raise objections in an open ended way.

As a cue, one looking to gather new information may ask open questions that mostly start with "What, Where, When How, Who, Why..." Those who wish to put you and your faith on trial may be more likely to ask closed questions, which are commonly used to help confirm things that one already suspects, and begin with "Do, Have, Will, Can, Are, Is..."

Consider the statement: "Purple fish eat candy."

Yum!

If one is predisposed against you, your way of thinking and your worldview, you may hear:
- Are you serious?
- Have you ever seen purple fish eating candy?
- Can fish really sit around eating candy bars and licking lollipops?
- Do you see how this is only a delusional fairytale?

If one is sincerely trying to understand, you may hear:
- What do you mean?
- How can fish eat candy?
- What kind of fish?
- What kind of candy?

I don't really know if purple fish eat candy. I suppose it's possible that some kind of tropical fish, in some shade of purple, might like to eat tiny bits of candy or any sugary substance, but the point is...

Understanding must first begin with a heartfelt attempt to believe; you must first know what the idea would mean if it were actually true. This is the impetus of Faith through Reason.


Monday, July 20, 2015

What is Catholic Familyland?

Just got back from Catholic Familyland and wanted to help spread the word about this holy place.

I'm outta here...
A Catholic family planning a summer vacation may wonder where to go to Mass or what shrine they could visit while gone. What if your whole family vacation was something spiritual? What if you could vacation in a kingdom of sorts, but not a certain Magic Kingdom that may come to mind?

It’s been said that a main theme of all the teachings of Jesus is the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom is where the King is. Jesus came to earth to touch us, heal us and save us. The Church continues his work today in his Kingdom on earth, through graces and the sacramental life.

But what might the loyal subjects in the Kingdom be like or act like? I suspect they would be exactly like what you’d find at a Holy Family Fest at Catholic Familyland in Bloomingdale, OH, which is part of the Apostolate for Family Consecration. A family “camping” vacation with swimming, hiking, horseback riding and much more, but also inclusive with:
  • Mass available each morning in a huge auditorium with jumbo-tron screens no less!
Holy Mass

  • Inspiring and encouraging talks by professional speakers after Mass for adults while the kids are out doing  age appropriate activities.
  • Rosary every evening at 7pm.
  • Everything stops at 3pm for the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Those swimming at the pool need to stop and sit on the edge. Even the St. John the Baptist water slide shuts down!
St. John the Baptist Water Slide

  • Outdoor confessions available all afternoon everyday at Holy Family Park. Several priests sit under shady umbrellas hearing confessions for hours.
Sacrament of Reconciliation

  • Eucharist adoration made regularly available.

The Apostolate is dedicated to the renewal of the Church and the world through the renewal of the family. It’s a fruit of the apparitions at Fatima in 1917 and the Marian spirituality of Saint John Paul II with the goal of consecrating as many families as possible to Jesus, through Mary, in union with St. Joseph.
They have an audacious message of hope that is a formula for world peace. I share my notes from this “Message of Hope” in one of the blog tabs above which elaborates about a specific problem and specific solution based on the message of Fatima.

My youngest at Holy Family Park as we were heading to the 7pm outdoor Rosary.
A rainbow appears right on cue.
 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Welcome to The New "Non-Normative"

The proper definition of freedom is not being able to do what we want, but being able to do what we ought. This freedom to do what we ought relates to our fundamental human rights which relates to our fundamental human needs and tendencies. A reader sent me THIS LINK to a very interesting interview with a priest named Fr. Marcel Guarnizo who connects these ideas in terms of same-sex attraction and marriage rights and since thinking means connecting things it’s certainly worth a closer look.


Humans all have natural tendencies which stem from our desire for self-preservation. We have natural tendencies toward food, drink, shelter, sleep, etc. If anyone tries to take these things from us or prevent us from getting them, they are violating some of our most basic natural human rights. Even the freedom of speech comes from our natural tendency to communicate; freedom of religion comes from our natural tendency to worship or to connect with something transcendent.

Beyond self-preservation of the individual, humans also have a natural tendency toward procreation. Our sexual tendencies relate to the preservation of the species and also self-preservation in terms of passing on our traits and culture to our children. This is why all humans have the right to reproduce and why marriage rights find their rational basis in the context of procreation.
 
 
Any natural human tendency can manifest itself in non-normative ways in terms of excess, deficiency or defect. In the case of the natural tendency toward food we have non-normative excesses like bulimia and non-normative deficiencies like anorexia. In the case of sleep there is narcolepsy and insomnia. Paranoia is a non-normative state that relates to our natural tendency for self-preservation in a disproportionate way. Being suicidal would be another non-normative state working against self-preservation. The same is true for our sexuality. Nymphomania would be a non-normative excess of sexual tendency and impotency would be a deficiency. Sexual tendencies toward children, close relatives, other species (animals) or members of the same sex are also non-normative as they do not foster self-preservation in terms of the preservation of the species.

How can we objectively say a tendency is non-normative? It’s not necessarily a discussion of moral vs. immoral. Sometimes it’s just about data. If you were late to work only 4% of the time, would it be fair to describe you as “normally” late to work based on the data? If you were late to work 96% of the time, would it be fair to describe you as “normally” on time? The percentage of those who claim to have same-sex attraction in the U.S. is less than 4% (interview link above sourced the 2013 National Heath Study). This makes it objectively and statistically correct to say same-sex attraction is a “non-normative” tendency without any discussion of the inherent dignity or morality of the individual.
 
Basic human rights and thus our laws are based on universal and normative human tendencies. With same-sex marriage we have a situation where we have made universal legislation based on a non-normative tendency. This is not only unreasonable, but also irresponsible. In trying to do justice we erode a fundamental rule of law; making it biographical or relating to a special interest.

Other than same-sex attraction, we never celebrate non-normative human tendencies. There are no pride parades for anorexia. But we should be concerned and ask “Why?” We should seek the root cause or causes instead of just telling people to embrace it and demonizing those who question it. Truth is the foundation of compassion and mercy. Any mercy without truth is not merciful; in fact it is quite the contrary. Unless we recover our intellect, we will not be able to recover our civilization.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE:
The interview mentions nations like Croatia, Slovakia and Macedonia recently amending their constitutions to protect marriage as being between a man and a woman. Could it be that these nations oppressed by communism for decades understand and appreciate basic human rights and justice more than we do?


I want YOU to recover your intellect!



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Two Catholic Men and an Interview

The Two Catholic Men were recently interviewed by Fr. Robert Barron!!!

Just to avoid any confusion, the "Fr." abbreviation stands for "Friend'. This friend of ours is not the famous apologist Fr. Robert Barron (wouldn't that be a hoot), but Robert Barron, the editor of the Joliet Cursillo Newsletter located in the dioceses of Joliet, IL.
  • Learn about the mysterious origins of Two Catholic Men and a Blog
  • Find out what makes us tick
  • See a goofy photo of us trying to pose like this...

I love how it starts on the cover...
"You’ve seen those ubiquitous moving vans, ‘Two Men and a Truck’, the name of the company being its marketing slogan as well as implying its proposition - a low cost move providing you all you really need to get yourself from here to there. In much the same way, two Catholic men, Ben and Joe, through their blog are helping many get from faith to reason and back and see the ways that science and logic actually make the case for God’s existence and the teachings of his pilgrim Church on earth."

Read the rest HERE starting on page 8.
You know you want to...Don't pretend like you don't want to.


 
By the way, Cursillo is a movement within the Catholic Church that helps the essential realities of a Christian to come to life. Cursillo refers to a short course or study in Christianity, and for me it's all about those vital things Christians forget or just don’t realize.


Monday, June 1, 2015

What If We Compare Marriage Rights to Voting Rights?

God is the author of true marriage, but this does not resonate well with same-sex marriage activists. The “Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve” argument doesn’t go very far. Reflex rebuttals include, “You have no right to impose your religion on others.” and the familiar “Separation of Church and State”. When the dialog shuts down I find that secular arguments tend to re-boot the discussion.

Why is the government in the marriage business? Why does the government grant certain rights at all? Why would one set of rights be seen as unfair and another fair? To help answer the question it can be helpful to compare what is perceived to be a problem to what is perceived to be OK.  This can also help to determine if there is actually any problem at all.
 
No comparison is perfect, but comparing voting rights in the context of elections to marriage rights in the context of procreation comes eerily close. The granting of special rights normally implies some special responsibility with regard to said rights. If one is granted the right to vote or the right marry, it follows that you should do something with that right for the common good.
 

Voting:
So what can we say about voting rights? The base rationale for voting is to conduct elections. People given the right to vote are generally anticipated to actually vote, but no one will force you and no one will take away your right because of non-participation.

Not everyone is allowed to vote. There is an age limit because a serious responsibility is involved, and a unique status called citizenship is required. The French are not allowed to vote in a U.S. election and neither are the Chinese. This not because of hatred toward the French and the Chinese, it is because they are not applicable to the situation.

The sought after outcome is a functional government. We all know that voting & elections do not guarantee a functional government, but if we have a one, the elected members will strive for the common good and everyone ultimately wants that.

Marriage:
So what can we say about marriage rights? The base rationale for marriage (as far as the government would ever care) is procreation. People given the right to marry are generally anticipated to procreate, but no one will force you and no one will take away your right because of non-participation.

Not everyone is allowed to marry. There is an age limit because a serious responsibility is involved and a unique status of a male-female union is required. Close relatives are not allowed to marry and (in many places still) gays are not allowed to marry. This is not because of hatred toward close relatives and gays; it is because they are not applicable to the situation.

The sought after outcome is a functional family. We all know that marriage & procreation does not guarantee functional families, but if we have them, the created members will strive for the common good and everyone ultimately wants that.

Visuals are most helpful:
 
 
And then we get into all the “Buts”…
  • But gay couples could raise a functional family too.
    • And the French could vote in a U.S. election, possibly resulting in a functional government, so we should let them? The French are not applicable to a U.S. election just as gay partnerships are not applicable to procreation.
 
  • But they can adopt.
    • Adoption is not procreation; it is dealing with children that are already with us.

  • But what about surrogacy and impregnation?
    • This is procreation, but that’s all it is. Any one person or group of people can arrange it. If this is how to achieve functional families, then special marriage rights would not be intrinsic for either gay or straight couples.

  • But marriage rights have nothing whatsoever to do with procreation. Childless married couples prove this.
    • Just like voting rights have nothing whatsoever to do with elections. People who don’t vote prove this…Really?

  • But if you give those who don’t procreate the right to marry, you have to let gays marry.
    • And if you give those who don’t vote the right to vote, we have to let the Chinese vote?

  • But marriage is about love.
    • And voting is about patriotism? Are we after some tangible objective for the common good or just granting rights for the sake of granting rights; rights for the personal happiness and gratification of individuals?

In the last analysis, if there were no elections, there would be no voting. If there was no procreation, there would be no marriage. Of course, if there was no procreation we would not be here to discuss it, but let’s say humans reproduce asexually; would marriage exist at all? Seems silly, but think about that one. Do you suppose that defining marriage throughout history and throughout the world the way humans reproduce, as one man and one woman, is some kind of weird coincidence?


Marriage should be reinforced, not redefined. Take that into the voting booth the next time you're there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Taking the "Girl" out of Girl Scouts

There are several ways in which we can understand ourselves to be made in the image & likeness of God. For example, God has a will and an intellect as do we; God is spirit and our souls are spirit. Another way relates to human gender and sexuality. Theology of the body explains how we can speak of the Trinity in terms of love and persons. From the eternal love between the Father and the Son proceeds a third person, called the Holy Spirit. In a similar way, the love between a husband and wife helps to create a third person, called a baby.

In Catholicism male and female matter and sexuality is not only physical, like it is for animals, and it’s not only spiritual, as if we were angels or “mini-gods”. It’s both.

In secularism, sexuality is spoken of in both physical terms and psychological terms, but seems to be treated as only physical or only psychological when it is convenient to the situation.
 
 

“It’s just sex” appeals to the idea that sex is for adult entertainment and it’s about physical pleasure. In this view the physical nature that brings the pleasure is what matters. Any psychological concerns that arise from extensive and varying forms of fornicating are merely the result of religious oppression, or other societal guilt. Unjust and unneeded remorse is forced onto individuals which keeps them from enjoying what comes naturally.

On the other hand, if a boy believes himself to be a girl or vice versa, the physical evidence of the body as male or female has no meaning. All that matters is the psychological concern.

The psychological only view has found its way into the Girl Scouts of America (GSA). A new GSA policy will now extend membership to boys who identify as girls. The group says on its website, "If the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe."

This basically means that the girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as “normal”. Boys from kindergarten through high school can join the Girl Scouts if the boy considers himself to be girl and “others” agree.

Boys in skirts and maybe a little make-up will become a part of the program and one would suppose they must also be allowed to use the same camping tents and bathrooms. It would not matter what the other girls in the troop or their parents think because the boy will essentially call the shots. If the boy believes himself to be a girl and the family and school/community agrees (whoever they are), it’s decided for everyone else. Physical evidence of being a boy means nothing.

I'm no expert on gender confusion, but I can't imaging a situation where the “school/community” leads a boy to think he might be a girl. Rather, it is more likely that the boy does or says things that would relate more to being a girl and the parents think “Let’s go with that lead.” and then look for support in the community.  In other words, the child, whose cognitive reasoning is not developed, leads the way, and we should ask ourselves in what society in human history have children ever been allowed to lead the way.

We’re losing our common sense and it’s a challenge to point it out because… “It is not a pleasant task to call attention to the obvious. To make others appear to be shortsighted, let alone blind, may easily evoke resentment.”
- Fr. Stanley Jaki
 
Are they sold by real Girl Scouts?