The Culture We Deserve: March 2006 Archives

I saw a sign. . . .

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I have a day off today and this morning I was out running a few errands. While I was out I saw two signs, one on a gas pump at Sam’s, the other on a church marquee sign.

The sign at Sam’s said, “We will be closed on Easter Sunday.” To be honest, when I first noticed the sign, I was surprised. After all, in the list of commercial holidays Easters hardly ranks with Thanksgiving or Christmas anymore. It’s not typically thought of as a time to be home with family enjoying a turkey dinner and exchanging presents. Yet someone in that huge organization that is Sam’s Club caught the importance of the day and made the decision to honor it appropriately. The decision likely means foregoing millions in sales across the country to competitors who might not be so reverent, but the right decision was taken.

The other sign, the one on the church marquee said:

Yabba Dabba Dooooo
God Loves You

This sign, even though it appeared in front of a church, seemed to me to show a lack of reverence. I remember the phrase, “Yabba Dabba Doooo” being uttered by a rather oafish cartoon character named Yogi Bear. I also remember the story about some famous theologian, a man known for his deep thought and weighty scholarship, it might have been Karl Barth, who was being interviewed and was asked what the most profound theological statement he had ever heard was. He began singing the children’s song, “Jesus loves me this I know. . .” Yabba Dabba Dooo, was a joke, a cartoon tag line. I think it’s a measure of how secularized society has become, that Christians think they must trivialize one of the most important truths of our faith, one of the truths that society most needs to hear right now. It’s as if what a person might hear in church would be more acceptable if its not taken, or expressed, too seriously. It seems someone at that church is afraid adults won’t listen unless these ideas are expressed in a trivial manner, if they are expressed at all. Why would someone searching for truth be lured to a Christian church by a cartoonish tag ling. Why would someone make a commitment of his entire self to Jesus Christ based on the wit and wisdom of Yogi Bear?

Maybe I’m being an old fuddy-duddy, it wouldn’t be the first time anyone ever accused me of that. But, I think there might be a lot of people today who would welcome hearing the clear, unvarnished truth of the Christian faith. But, for that to happen, Christians have to start taking themselves seriously and believe that the message they bring is serious, even a matter of life and death.

So, today I saw two signs and I can’t help but think that the sign on the gas pump at Sam’s was the one that showed true reverence.

Christian Convert Has Left Afghanistan

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006 KABUL, Afghanistan - The man who faced the death penalty after converting from Islam to Christianity left Afghanistan on Wednesday, and Italy said it granted him asylum and expected him to arrive "soon."

Abdul Rahman, 41, left Afghanistan early in the day, an official closely connected to the case said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

The official did not know where Rahman was flying, but Italy's government said it expected him to arrive there perhaps within the day.

I guess!

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PS -- I think this goes back to my post yesterday on Christian dialogue with Islam. The gentleman's difficulties: facing a death sentence, being forced into exile for the rest of his life, perhaps facing a lifetime of fearing thugs who might be seeking to murder him, all these things amply illustrate one thing. The point is that Islam cannot tolerate any kind of dissent or disagreement. Islam cannot tolerate freedom of conscience. Rather than life and freedom, it seems amply clear that Islam only knows death. I think we in the West need to keep that clearly in mind when we think about dialogue.

Priest's Union

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The following is from an article in Sunday’s Calgary Sun newspaper. To say it boggles the mind is an understatement.

A Canadian Roman Catholic body representing 22,000 priests, nuns and religious brothers has labelled the Vatican and the Canadian church outmoded on issues such as homosexuality, contraception and divorce, reports said yesterday.

In a letter sent to every bishop in the country, the Canadian Religious Conference also says the church is locked more into defending church dogma rather than listening to people's search for meaning, and faults the Canadian church for its "unconditional alignment ... with directives issued from Rome."
The letter talks about the Vatican's and the Canadian church's intransigent stands on sexual morals, their unwelcome attitude toward homosexuals, their lack of compassion for those who divorce, their fear of dialogue with other churches and their censorship of dissenting views.

The letter goes on to say:

"This is an uncommon step for us to take," a Toronto newspaper reports the letter as saying. "We take it with the firm conviction that it is absolutely essential, particularly at this time in the great history of the church. Our church has seen great suffering and is being called upon, now more than ever, to carefully discern the signs of the times."

I'll have to say, when I first saw this story, I thought it was a joke, or a parody of a protest by your stereotypical, sixties' dissident. After all, the thing contains every cliche ever used by those of that ilk. I mean, "discern the signs of the times", "search for meaning", "outmoded". C'mon, how tired are those expressions?

The letter also contains every error, or misrepresentation of "dogma" ever propounded by such groups. To take one example, the letter refers to the Church's teaching on divorce as being among her outmoded ideas. But, those teachings were not just dreamed up by the Church, they come from Jesus himself. We read this in Matthew 19:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."

These words of Jesus are at the heart of the Church's teaching on divorce. If you want to say they are "outmoded", then everything that Jesus ever said or did is subject to being considered outmoded. Where do you stop? Which of Jesus' teachings do you decide to accept or reject? Are these people suggesting that Jesus was unable to "discern the signs of the times"?

One of the things that finally drove me from being a Presbyterian to becoming Catholic is the tendency among liberal Protestants to do this same thing. They will take a passage from the Bible, one that is very clear in its meaning, one that is clearly not politically correct, say Paul's discussion of homosexuality in Romans 1, and say "oh, it doesn't really mean that, you know. He's talking about something else entirely." You can expect, and almost accept this kind of thing coming from a Protestant, but from someone who represents themselves as Catholic? It's a lie, from the prince of lies and Catholics are supposed to know better.

I am waiting to find out if this letter was indeed some sort of joke perpetrated by someone with, at best, a weak sense of humor. If not, I have to admit to mixed feelings on my hoped for reaction from the Canadian bishops. Part of me wishes they would react strongly against this impertinence, for the sake of the Church and their flock, if not for themselves. It seems that failure to react to so bold a challenge is to give the impression that the teachings of the Church are not really important and need not be followed. Worse, some could interpret weakness here as a sign that the bishop's themselves are not all that convinced of the truth of the Church's position on these issues.

On the other hand, there might be some reason to look for a pastoral reaction. I think this kind of letter from a group supposedly representing priests and religious is much more dangerous to the faithful today than in the past because of the abysmal state of catechesis today. There are a good many people out there today who likely do not see anything wrong with this kind of thing, who think that maybe the Church should get in tune with the "signs of the times." The pastoral thing to do would be to make a real effort to promote solid, orthodox, catechesis for the (adult) faithful, and make it much more widely available than it is today.

Finally, I think if I were one of those Canadian bishops, I would certainly call an assembly of all the priests in my diocese. The purpose would be to have a real heart to heart talk. In the military, we used to call it a "come to Jesus meeting."

Love is God

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To paraphrase a famous quote from that famous work of philosophy, Pogo, We have seen God, and he is us.

I have looked back over the last few days of my experiment in blogging, and over all I think it rates a B-. I wasn’t selective enough is determining which items could be considered of “real interest” and, therefore, had too much opportunity to indulge in my great blogging weakness, the rant. I’ll try to keep that under control. However, I do discern a pattern.

I’d like to refer to a facinating post done by Mr. Anthony Esolen, over at Mere Comments. I think I may be studying this brief note for the next few days, at least. The post concerns an article about an Italian philosopher, Romano Amerio that was sent to Mr. Esolen by a Touchstone reader.

Amerio held that the misery we experienced though so much of the twentieth century stems from a “misconception of the essences of the divine nature.” Esolen goes on to write:

But modern man, instead of identifying God with love, has rather identified love as his god: he has, in art and literature, in economic life, in statecraft, and in the banal wranglings that pass for politics, assumed as an irrefragable fact that his desires are centrally important for no other reason than that they are his. No one may summon those desires to the bar of rational judgment; at best we can adjudicate between one person’s desires and another’s, and come to a mutually agreeable compromise; at worst, we lapse into war. In such a world even religion devolves into self-help, or saccharine consolation, a superstition rigged up to satisfy a bruised ego. We do not long for God, but reduce God to what we long for. We revise the words of the writer to the Hebrews, and say that it is a lovely and delightful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “For God is love,” we say, for our own purposes misconstruing that word “love”.

If we do not have a clear idea of who God is, we do not understand what the truly good is, and thus we go off in all directions searching for whatever seems to satisfy us at the moment. This is not a prescription for peace and prosperity.

I think we see an example of what Mr. Esolen is describing, that is religion devolving into a program of “self-help or saccharine consolation” in Cardinal Mahoney’s efforts to allow illegal immigrants free rein to enter this country and find the support of the Church. I think that the idea implicit in programs like this is that breaking the law should have no consequences, in fact be rewarded. Programs of this type also deny that those who wish to immigrate to a country have a duty and a readiness to become good citizens of the country they are entering. In Los Angeles, they can come and are immediately made objects of charity. They can make no contribution to their new country, in fact, must become wards of that country. It is not only uncharitable, it is degrading.

All of this ties in with a paragraph written by Fr. Boylen in his book, This Tremendous Lover that I quoted earlier in the week.

To foster the development of that union with God in the lives of the faithful is the purpose of this book. Our aim is devotional rather than didactic. We believe that the proper foundation of devotion is dogma, and that the best way to lead Catholics to live their Catholic life in its fullness is to try to make clear to them what a Catholic really is, and what the plans and the principles underlying Christianity are. Believing that most of the evils of the day arise from the neglect of metaphysics in the world of thought and from the neglect of the interior life in the practice of religion, we try to show how the interior life is the logical sequence of the nature of the Christian, who, as someone has said, is composed of "a body, a soul, and the Holy Ghost."
“Believing that most of the evils of the day arise from the neglect of metaphysics in the world of thought and from the neglect of the interior life in the practice of religion, we try to show how the interior life is the logical sequence of the nature of the Christian, who, as someone has said, is composed of ‘a body, a soul, and the Holy Ghost.’” True devotion arises out of a clear understanding of “what the plans and principles underlying Christianity” are. To quote a Presbyterian pastor I once knew, “If you don’t know what you believe, how do you know you believe it?”

In all of this, as Esolen says, we say “God is love” but have no idea of what that really means. We don't come close to understanding the true meaning of love, it is perverted into a degrading form of lust, nor do we have more than the slightest idea of who God is. In the jumble, we become gods, the focus is on ourselves and our immediate desires, rather than on the eternal, the one true Good. It is a horrible confusion.


The Angry Left

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Joseph Bottum, writes over at First Things, about a meeting he had with a Liberal friend of his. The friend details exactly what will happen if the Democrats win Congress this year and the Presidency in 2008. I think there is a real possibility that what he is describing may well occur.

Bottum's conclusion is:

Well, the political situation is wildly exaggerated, of course, but some of these facts are not exaggerated at all: The Left in this country is more furious than it’s been since 1974, and they do believe there is blood in the water.


What’s more, if they should gain massive political power, their anger would probably spill over into criminalization of as much of the pro-life movement as they could reach. At the very least, they would end any hope of overturning Roe v. Wade, and the more they can tar the pro-life movement with what they believe is a criminal Republican administration, the more abortion is guaranteed as a permanent part of the American landscape.


I still believe that the Iraq situation is winnable, and I still hold that what I called the new fusionism between neoconservatives and social conservatives has deep and perduring roots, and I still think the initial invasion of Iraq was a moral thing to do. But suppose that my friend is right about the political future of America. What ought the pro-life movement to do—now—about it?

Prepare, vote and pray.

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I heard a brief story on the news while listening to the radio on the way home last night. This version of it comes from something called "The Peoples World Daily" or some such thing.

LOS ANGELES — A leading member of the Catholic Church has condemned a congressional resolution that, he says, further victimizes immigrants. In response he has initiated a campaign for immigrant rights.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, who heads the Los Angeles archdiocese, attacked House Resolution 4437 as “a new attack on immigrants [and] a very malicious bill that imposes restrictions and penalties on immigrants [and also] those who offer them any kind of assistance.” The resolution was authored by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Peter King (R-Calif.) who chair, respectively, the House committees on the judiciary and homeland security. The House passed the resolution on Dec. 17.

Its key provisions include changing undocumented presence in the U.S. from a civil to a felony offense, broadly expanding the definition of smuggling immigrants to include the provision of services to the undocumented, eliminating many due process rights for documented and undocumented, involving state and local police in enforcement of immigration laws, erecting 700 miles of a wall along the border with Mexico and adding many new military surveillance systems for border patrol.

For the CRS summary of this legislation, go here.

In a quick reading of this summary, I don't see any mention of charging those who provided services with felonies, nor do I see any mention of building walls on the border. Regardless, this bill is not an attack on "immigrants." It is an attack on criminals of both the illegal alien and the terrorist variety. Anyone who has spent any time on the border with Mexico knows full well that our borders are wide open. Anyone, from a Mexican peasant who wants to come to this country to work to terrorists hoping to make a major attack, can head from this border and have a decent chance of getting across. Clearly something needs to be done about that, and obfuscating the issue by trying to make it a question "social justice" is ridiculous.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the The Culture We Deserve category from March 2006.

The Culture We Deserve: January 2006 is the previous archive.

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