Conciliation

Today we read:

Job spoke, saying: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of a hireling?
He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been told off for me.
If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”

And then:

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
He calls each by name.

Great is our LORD and mighty in power:
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.

And this is my experience of God in a nutshell recently. Alone I feel absence only. Frustration at my own sinfulness and in that an unwillingness to change or to move towards what I know, reconciliation and conciliation. And then in the very moment, in the forced and almost hollow feeling sacrament of confession, Job washes away and the Psalmist’s words are revealed.

 

Why the Church cannot walk away from ‘marriage’

I find this little piece insightful, particularly the distinction drawn between marriage and matrimony. While I disagree with Msgr. Pope that we should abandon the word marriage to the secular masses (though of course we need to make it clear that Matrimony is more than mere civil marriage.) I do believe the Church should get out of the civil aspect of “marriage”–which seems to be more along the lines of what Dr. Peters is arguing against anyway. And we should get out of it for the very simple reason that it isn’t marriage.

Dr. Peter’s is right that the state has some interest in marriage-and certainly I think that the US will eventually be lead to regret this redefinition of marriage from a pro-creative relationship to just a sort of formalized way of saying you love someone–with tax benefits. But for now what the state is really doing is proclaiming that it has no interest in marriage, and we ought to take the opportunity to reclaim marriage, by pointing out that the state no longer has anything to do with it. The state has abandoned marriage for an upgraded sort of civil union. That is what the state now recognizes, not anything like marriage, and the church has no reason to be involved in a legal contract. It seems very likely that we will be forced into this position one way or another anyway; that is that some lawsuit will come along claiming we cannot refuse to perform a gay marriage in one of our churches because of its civil union nature–which again is all the state now recognizes. As such, better to act now when our actions make a point.

To touch once more on the subject of the state’s interest in marriage and marriage as natural law, Marriage is a natural right, and as such the church does have reason to defend it. But this involves repudiating the whole institution of civil marriage as it stands today: none of it is based in natural law. Civil marriage today is not viewed as a natural right, but a privilege bestowed by the state on people for its own devices and purposes. It is in the very name itself; we are “granted” marriage licenses. A license has a legal definition that runs something like:

“The permission granted by competent authority to exercise a certain privilege that, without such authorization, would constitute an illegal act, a Trespass or a tort.”

The state already views marriage as something akin to a hunting license. If we want to defend natural law marriage, let us not pretend that the state has anything to do with that at present. If marriage is a natural right, it does not require approval from the state. The state is not here recognizing a natural right, but granting a set of privileges, and if we let them keep calling that marriage there will soon be nothing natural about marriage.

If we want to defend natural law marriage, we had best start with a complete overhaul of how the state even recognizes marriage. And as a start, we ought to not participate in, and so add legitimacy to, what it claims is marriage. The greatest defense of natural law marriage would be to question the very role of the state in dispensing what is supposed to be a natural and freely arising right.

In the Light of the Law

This bad idea keeps popping in various versions, most lately from Msgr. Charles Pope, a superb writer but alas not a canonist (so few are perfect), namely, the Church should get out of the marriage business, stop using the word ‘marriage’, and deal henceforth only in Matrimony (one presumes, the sacrament thereof).

Interesting idea, except it’s terrible. As Pope (the Monsignor, not the Successor of Peter) invites replies to his idea, I’ll oblige, though not in the detail I fear this bad idea (which doesn’t seem to go away) warrants.

Marriage (and I’m talking about marriage, not Matrimony yet) is part of the natural law and, I think, one just does not walk away from the natural law. Marriage was not abolished by Jesus, it was (under certain circumstances the Church has worked out over the centuries) raised by Him to the level of a sacrament we call Matrimony…

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A Litmus Test for Syria

There’s plenty of argument amongst Christians whether or not the last decade the US has spent in the Middle East has been good or not. I stand firmly on the side that it has been disastrous for a variety of reasons.

But whatever the stance you take, whether or not you believe that what we did was necessary to keep Americans safe, i think there is a simple litmus test Christians should all adhere to: what is happening or going to happen to our fellow Christians in the Middle East.

While we think of the Middle East as a purely Muslim place, every good Christian has heard of the 10-40 window all but centered on the Middle East, but there are in many countries substantial Christian minorities. Percentages run as high as ten percent. They literally number in the millions: or at least they did.

The sole effect of our Middle Eastern policy has been to crush minorities. Following Western interventions like a shadow, is the spectre of minority oppression. And in particular, persecution against Christians. It’s well documented, but entirely ignored. Iraq:

The lot of Iraq’s Christian population is particularly glum. Though a steady trickle had been leaving for decades, the exodus became a flood after the American invasion in 2003, when radical Islamists unleashed a sectarian onslaught against Shia Muslims, Christians and others.The Economist

Afghanistan, where we’re ready to declare mission accomplished, our supposed successful attempt at nation building:

A democracy enthusiast would anticipate that the Christian community would be thriving now that a “democratic” Afghan government was installed by American military power after the ouster in 2001 of the Taliban regime. After all, Afghanistan’s constitution, adopted in 2004, guarantees freedom of religion. But Afghan Christians today are compelled to worship in secret lest they be accused of apostasy for converting to Christianity from Islam, a charge punishable by death. -The National Interest

And most recently Syria where we are about to start actively providing weapons to the same people who have kidnapped Catholic Priests and beheaded others:

The monastery in which he resided was burnt and looted, echoing the events of a massacre in Homs last month which resulted in the entire population of a Christian village being wiped out and their houses and possessions burnt. Two Christian bishops who were kidnapped by Chechen gunmen in Aleppo earlier this year, are still missing and are not the same persons that were beheaded.-RINF

And the idea that we can control the flow of weapons where it’s not even clear who is who and amidst myriad coalitions and alliances is just nonsense. Not only that, but our weapons aid is so unsubstantial that all it can possibly do is prolong the conflict and the torture of Christians. :

Although the US government isn’t saying how many rebels will be vetted, the program’s success could dramatically impact how the situation in Syria turns out. Three former CIA officials who have spent decades on the ground doing it say the upcoming campaign will be a crapshoot at best. -Quartz

Nor will I forget the Indonesian Priest we had on loan at St. Peter and Paul in Waimea explain in his first introductory homily how the Islamist vandalized his church and destroyed a Christian cemetery because of US foreign policy. Three girls in Indonesia, consider vandalism a light price to pay:

The three girls, Theresia Morangke and Yarni Sambue, both 15, and 17-year-old Alfita Poliwo, had their heads cut off. One of the heads was placed in a bag along on the steps of a church along with a note reading, “We will murder 100 more Christian teenagers and their heads will be presented as presents.” -Frontpage Mag

It is the same in Pakistan where our drone attacks have resulted in further persecution of Christians. It is the same all over the Islamic world and the reason is abundantly clear. Christian’s in the US are firm in their claim and in their belief that the US is a Christian nation. (I wish it was, but don’t agree with this that much.) We proclaim this, and so Muslims lash out at what the Christian nation is doing or perceived as doing to their brethren. And regardless of whether or not we are a Christian nation, if we want to claim it, if we want to hope for it, we might at least in our foreign policy try for something that doesn’t result in Christians the world over dying.

Ding Ding!

 As one woman said, “It has shocked me to read in papers that we were beat and our heads shaved and that we were badly treated by the nuns… I was not touched by any nun and I never saw anyone touched.” … The authors of the McAleese Report, having like the rest of us imbibed the popular image of the Magdalene laundries as nun-run concentration camps, seem to have been taken aback by “the number of women who spoke positively about the nuns”.

Via The Telegraph.

I don’t really understand these sorts of sentiments. And while I mean no disrespect to the author, they are just silly.

 

First, it is not going to convince any genuinely religious person of atheism, but more likely to create a knee-jerk reaction and further entrench them in their belief; especially if they really have nothing more than faith and know no philosophical arguments for religion.

 

If someone is really doubting their religious sentiments, this sort of post could reach them. But it doesn’t do so by anything that is best at atheism; no attempt at reason is made here. Rather, this will do little more than shame a person into belief. It does not engage, it makes fun of. And while that may work, is it really so different than a Christian trying to pound belief into your head by propounding on all your “sins”?

 

And finally, no one I know says a sunset is beautiful because some deity made it. But just as my (limited) understanding of science and how the colors of the Sun, the sky at noon, and the sky at dawn and dusk are all so different, they are all the result of the same natural phenomenon where lightwaves are bounced around when they hit atoms in the upper atmosphere greatly increase my enjoyment of the Sunset, so to does my even more limited understanding of God. All humans have the same basic need to understand, science gives me the how, religion gives me the why. I may be wrong; I am very often mistaken. But when I think of a sunset, I am happy. And I do not always know why. But I think, that perhaps it is something like in the Little Prince, where the Little Prince makes the fox happy even in his absence because now to the fox the golden fields of grain ever remind him of the Little Prince, whom the fox loves. Or when the Prince leaves the author with the memory of his laughter, so that forevermore the stars will laugh for the author because he knows that on some distant planet, on some lucky star, the Little Prince is laughing. This is obviously a thoroughly silly sentiment. But so is that feeling we have when we see a sunset. There is no reason it should make us happy, whether it is a glitch of evolution or a memory of divinity. But it does, and religion adds to my understanding of a sunset just as science does.

 

But I don’t think this post is meant to really address any of those things. I think it is meant for those who are already atheists. It is a cheap chance to snicker at those naive and stupid religious people. They haven’t seen the great, liberating light of atheism and science! And in this you only prove one thing, that while you may have concluded differently than those myriad cheap religious, you think the same. The same banal platitudes, the same jeering attitude.

 

And that is a shame; because even though I so often disagree with atheism’s claims, there is much to be admired in their method. Atheism strives to be fundamentally logical and scientific, unbiased and level-headed. And while I think you may arrive at the wrong conclusion, I love that emphasis. Atheism has much to contribute. This isn’t contributing.

Don’t Usually Read

The Daily Kos, but this article is very much worth a read. 

 

The Catholic Church is wonderfully spot on with regards to the death penalty:

“Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

“If however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

“Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” CCC(#2267)