Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Is a Relationship?

It has been a while, but I figure now is a decent time to break my blog silence (though I really just want to get into writing books). I recently got into an argument with my Protestant mother about what it means to have a relationship with Christ, she contended that the "forms of worship" do not mean you have a personal relationship with Christ. What she implied is that my desire to do Catholic devotions is not a sign of a personal relationship, when I contend that it cannot be anything but that. All relationships have rules, you do not act the same with EVERY set of friends. You do not treat your parents like they are your friends (if the relationship is in its proper place). The list goes on. Therefore, I see the "forms of worship" as merely relational rules. These "forms" are how we worship and relate to God. Worship itself is a sort of relational thing. To adore anyone or anything you have to have some sort of attachment to it. You must be oriented to it in some way, that is you must have some sort of relationship with it. I think my mother was using a very narrow definition of relationship that she has not really questioned (which is mostly fine, as my walk is not her walk). A personal relationship with Christ seems to mean, and I might be over simplifying here, that you need to be freestyle praying all the time, not doing things ritualistically,and actively engaging in your relationship with Christ. The problem here is that Christ even gave us guidelines for how we were to pray. This was not to say that we could not make prayers off the top of our head (in fact, most of the used prayers in the Church were originals at some point). Rather it was done to help us see one specific way of relating to God and thus Christ. The Lord's Prayer reminds us to put our wills aside and try to line up with our Lord's. The institution of the Eucharist was the same thing. "Do this in memory of me." Before the Last Supper, Christ said that his followers, those that would be saved, needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood. He also made sure to make sure they were taking this rather literally. When he instituted the Eucharist, he gave Christians a way of further relating to him. We receive His Grace through this an other sacraments. The fact that it is a ritual is neither here nor there. If God is our creator, as we Christians believe, then there is surely a specific way of relating to Him that we must follow. We are not supposed to make up things every day and always change our approach. This does not mean that there are no developments or changes, but these are revealed over time and must be revealed to us by our Creator. If He wants to change our methods, He has to let us know somehow. Let's look at it this way: I am a twenty something. I am now, basically, an adult. This means that my relationship with my parents and other elders has had to change in many ways. However, it would be unwise for me to assume just what I was supposed to do in these situations. Suddenly using first names with people I had called mister and missus would be jarring and probably not appreciated. God is, of course, different in many ways, but that does not mean that He does not tell us how to reach him. For years it was through the Jewish temple system and He honored those pagans who sought him and tried to live uprightly. Their relationship was mysterious in the fashion that they had no idea what they were looking for, while the Hebrews had a God who revealed himself to them over time. After Christ, the Father revealed himself to the Gentiles. Through Christ, the Father helped, Jews and Gentiles alike, learn a new way of associating with Him. The relationship itself and its external aspects changed at His behest. So, it appears that ritual is one important way we associate with God. Protestants still do this. As is general worship when we are alone, or when we show someone true love. Protestants do this as well. Just because I have ritual does not mean I have no personal relationship with Christ, it just means that my relationship is different than a Protestants. Still, we ALL have rituals, so that that thought is silly. Having form prayers is helpful when you are under duress or when you are tired. It gives you something to say when you may not have the words. There is a place for freestyle prayers, but using form prayers is not the worst thing in the world. It may seem like it is not heartfelt, but that is not necessarily true. Ritual and form can become stagnant, we are not creatures that persevere very well in such manners. However, it does not follow that the rituals and forms themselves are what is the problem. We are amphibians, as C.S. Lewis once said. Therefore we are affected by our moods, bodily states, and other factors. We inhabit time. Things becoming stagnant does not even mean that you have lost your relationship with Christ, lukewarm though you may be. Your relationship can be damaged or in jeopardy, but that does not mean you do not have one. Finally, having rituals does not make a relationship impersonal. We can have secret handshakes and whatnot with our friends without making the relationship less personal, why would ritual necessarily do that with our relationship with Christ? Anyway, I am le tired. Later. Z

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Unwrapping Part I

Unless you already know me, you likely do not know that I've had a fairly rough upbringing. It is hard to tell sometimes because I have a strongly phlegmatic temperament. For those not in the know, this means that my actual reactions are very slow and reserved. Not in a shy sort of way, but I just process things more internally than it seems (I am an ENFP, though my extroversion is not way higher than my introversion. Thus, the deeper thoughts are rarely revealed while the less serious thoughts are revealed almost immediately in an extroverted fashion). Here's a prime example: I'm likely to say some sort of dry humored quip in response to someone making fun of me, without truly expressing whether or not I was hurt about it. I've even gone as far as feigning hurt to repel the hurt. I likely felt and reacted quickly, internally, but I certainly did not express what went on inside of me. So, here's the deal: I was abused verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically by my father. However, I did not really fully acknowledge that I had pain from it until many years later. I tend to just pick up and keep going, ignoring the internal issues. I never revealed my less than ideal family structure to anyone for the majority of my life. I went through a lot of changes at the end of my junior year in high school, that made me want to open up. Unfortunately, that lead to a lot of over-sharing on my part. Particularly, when I was in a romantic relationship. I just spewed all the negative, questionable, and bad things about myself (mixed in with good stuff) all at once, at the beginning of the relationship. This is a habit I only really started acknowledging the problem. I never realized I was doing it and did not think it was wrong. After all, the relationship is something where two people are to know each other fully. Marriage is two becoming one. I have approached romantic relationships in a wholly irresponsible way. However, I am learning, and I believe that my time alone will help me get a better grip on these things. I recently broke up with my girlfriend, she initiated. The first night, I was completely devastated. But, I am starting to see it as a blessing, because we were not in a healthy relationship. Well, at least not a wholly healthy relationship. There was a lot of good there, but the bad parts were particularly cancerous. So, here is the biggest lesson I learned in these past couple of months: people are gifts that need to be unwrapped slowly, quite slowly. This feels completely counterintuitive for those of us still in our youth. Hannah once reminded me that I was still young, and she was right. There are plenty of "old soul" aspects about myself and my tastes, but I still can make careless, youthful mistakes. I, we, made plenty of those in our relationship. I won't go into details on her side of things, but our mutual lack of experience, and my apparently false understanding of my previous experiences lead to things moving way too fast and us never getting the chance to enjoy each other--I mean really enjoy each other. Our love was speedy, we enjoyed the countryside like we were in a ferrari instead of on a tandem bike. We were in jets and unable to even make out the beauty in full way. She is, and always will be, an incredible, unique woman; I am an interesting and unique man. There was a ton of potential, but our rapid sharing and the speed of things kind of made things self destruct. There is, of course, no way of telling if things would have turned out completely different; but, the gift of hindsight, has highlighted a lot of what I did wrong. For every good thing we did, there were a host of bad things we did--mostly unknowingly. I still think there is a ton of potential; but, now that it is over, I think it best for me to stay single until I am stable. If we ever meet again and are both in a place to do things well, that'll be great and I'm open to it. But, that cannot be my goal for working on myself. I want to just be healthy in general. I'm, thankfully, in therapy and figuring out a lot about myself. There are plenty of unconscious behaviors I have due to my upbringing. I don't realize they are there, but I think I figured out one of the biggest ones. I figured out why I rush. You see, I often thought I could not do anything right. This effected me,. as I grew older, in a number of ways: stopped taking my schooling seriously, never fully tried, lost my drive, and rushing relationships. Additionally, the duration of most of my relationships was a month or less; so, the tendency to rush was exacerbated. I wasn't even aware of that until now. Thank God for clarity. I thought I could not do anything right because things I did were never considered good when it came to my father's evaluations. It was never just good. I could have handled it better, I think, if the approach had been: "This is really good. But, let's see how we can make it even better," or something in that vein. I may have taken it just as badly, as I am fairly sensitive to criticism, but I think opening with that first statement helps a great deal. Eventually this seeped into how I do things. Additionally, my early life was colored by the fact that my father was in and out of my life--and the fact that most of our interactions felt frightening to me. The former part is the most important here though, he was gone--often. Being a child, I could not completely understand that it was partly work, partly problems with him and Ma, and partly his not wanting to deal with his own problems. I can see these things now, but that is beyond the reach of a child. I am not yet sure how I processed it, but I know I had to be conflicted with how I both loved and was legitimately afraid of him and his reactions. There had to be relief mixed with guilt of that relief and terror. That conflict became buried in my psyche and would manifest itself in odd ways. In relationships, it eventually meant that I would over-share. I mean this in all relationships. I would give away too much of myself too quickly. In my romantic relationships, this meant revealing things that did not need to immediately be revealed. This, I am starting to see, puts a lot of pressure on the relationship. Doing this meant that the person who normally would reveal themselves slowly, do so as quickly as I have; the seriousness of the relationship is ratcheted at an extremely high level, causing worry; and, forcing the party not ready for the seriousness (read: both parties)to blind themselves to certain issues, placing a huge chink in the armor of the new love. To conclude, this is why I vow not to do that again. First of all, it fits my temperament better and drains me less. Second of all, it would put undue pressure on the success or failure of a relationship. Thirdly, both my significant other and I can have the great chance to unwrap each other shortly. A star takes a long time to become what it is. The materials are all there, but the star does not appear immediately. Relationships are a bit like this, and we can only appreciate starlight because the forces of the universe took their time. It is there that I will stop. I'll go into unwrapping more a bit later. Zaire

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cliches Christians Use Part 1

My girlfriend actually posted an interesting article on her facebook. The link is here: It highlights cliches you often here Christians spouting in various situations. I find a lot of it quite true, as someone who dislikes cliche; but, some of it misses the point of the statement. In the comment, there are some other cliches that were mentioned, "love the sinner hate the sin" being one of them. I will pay special attention to dealing with that issue after responding to the original list. First of all, let me highlight the well-made points. The following ARE, in fact, terrible cliches (some of them strictly because I am now Catholic): -Everything happens for a reason -If you died today, where would you spend eternity -He/She is in a better place -Can I share a little bit about my faith with you (when done in extremely early encounters) -Will you come to church with me on Sunday? (similar reasoning) -Have you asked Jesus into your heart? -This could be the end of days -Do you accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior? The others either are really silly or completely miss the point of the statement. However, let us first look at: "Everything happens for a reason." Here the blogger actually partly misses the point. I agree that it isn't a comforting statement and that, truly, a lot of comforting does not require words. However, someone saying to a woman who has been raped is not asserting anything that doesn't make any sense. Of course there is a reason for everything that happens, be it due to cause and effect or simple free-choice. The statement is not comforting simply because it misses the entire point. There is always a reason for something, and most would agree with that; but reminding someone who has suffered trauma of any kind that there was a reason it happened is not the way to comfort them. I understand, and hope the blogger I'm responding to understands, that the person who says this is trying to infer some divine plan in the whole thing. However, that is not something they can directly note or define. They should never presume to say it. It takes a bit of gall, though they may not notice it, to claim insight into the divine plan behind something that has befallen a friend or neighbor. The simple truth of the matter is: the world is full of people and people can be quite wicked. They will have reasons (unless severely brain-damaged) for doing whatever wrong they do, but that neither makes them sensible or obviously connected to the divine plan. Additionally, that phraseology commits people to a completely predestined view of the world. A sensible person can accept that some stuff as being inevitable. They could have been born with a defect or had a horrible accident that literally changed their minds into something unrecognizable. Those kind of things, you generally have no control over. You also cannot control your genetics, though you certainly can control how you approach life once getting knowledge of these genetic possibilities. However, a lot of stuff is inevitable simply because of the choices you make. It was not inevitable that I would fall in love with my Alma Mater, Baylor University, upon my first visit to campus; but, it certainly was inevitable that I would attend there after having made my choice to go to there while on that campus visit (note that there are some things that could have happened inbetween that perhaps changed that; but, all things being equal, it was inevitable). Perhaps a better example would be found in drunken driving. People know it is dangerous and are warned constantly about those dangers, and yet find themselves doing it anyway. It is unavoidable that the possibility of an accident increases with your impairment. It isn't a fact you can change. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, including the ones saying: making that lane change is a poor decision or slow down, fool. You are more likely to be risky while drunk that much has always been sure. Thus, the dangers of being drunk. These are simple matters of fact (again, there are variables that may help or hinder your chances; that's why I used the increase in probability of an accident as a example. We have studies that demonstrate this). However, the belief that everything is inevitable ignores the fact that we clearly have free-will. If you do not believe me, become a teacher. The students are not automatons that just respond to outside stimuli, they are living beings who make choices just like you and I. Sometimes, that choice is to be disrepectful and to bring my righteous indignation and doom down upon their heads. I can, of course, choose not to do that; after all, I have control over how I chose to behave or react later. Gut reactions defy this, but you CAN reign yourself in. If people actually indulged every gut reaction, I am sure that there would be even more violence than there is already. So, what does this mean for my main point? We do not know the future and cannot know that there was a plan behind this sin, whatever it may be. It is far more sensible to admit that inability than use this cliche phrase and note that God can turn terrible things into something good. Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and make even the worst pain into something glorious (C.S. Lewis). Pretending otherwise is little to no help at all. Instead, LOVE that person and provide yourself as the "hands and feet" of Christ. Next, how do we view "do you know where you're spending eternity" or any variant of that question? This runs into a similar problem to the previous cliche, namely: the fact that we cannot, for sure, know the future. At best, we can make an educated guess. This is the Catholic view of it; it isn't set in stone, but you can reasonably guess where you'll end up if you have been keeping track of your relationship with God. DO you have unconfessed sins? Have you been obstinate and refuse to give up a particular sin? You're likely not in good shape. If you are making actual efforts to improve, you're probably okay, as that demonstrates faith in a far truer since. This isn't the assurance that Protestant churches claim they have, but it is more sensible. There are still many choices to be made in life and it makes little sense to believe one choice made long ago, for whatever reason, has completely sealed you off from becoming doomed. If you make choices that constant pit you against what that choosing of Christ requires of you, unrepentantly, then you probably are not in good shape. Here I could go into mortal vs. venial sin, but that would be too much. Additionally, as the article I'm responding to say, this reeks of using God as a get out of jail free card. That can work at a conversion right before the end of one's life, but most of us have plenty of living to do. The assumption of being completely saved and needing nothing else is actually going to do more harm than good in the long run. What is there to strive for when one is not endangered? That fact that life is full of various dangers is partly why people have achieved anything (actually I would venture to say this is the main reason). Realizing that you are on a journey and having a ending place for this journey will make you more watchful. Things can go wrong on an adventure and it is not good for you to help those things along. You have to find the problems and fix them. That "get out of jail free" mentality was a large part of my conversion process. That mentality eliminates true conversion. So, in summary: We cannot really know where we will end up in eternity, but can make decent guesses; also, that knowledge can be very detrimental to your spiritual walk as it eliminates the necessity of the whole "walking" part. "He/she is in a better place" has exactly the same problem, except the educated guess come from observation etc. Remember, there HAVE been full saints before. Not every man was heading towards purgatory or needed a quick scrubdown before entering those holy gates. We don't know the resting place of any soul for sure (excepting, perhaps, those who are saints) and are failing to help by saying this to someone. The two questions that pertain to getting someone to church/mass or sharing one's faith have the exact same problem, when approached in a particular way. These statements are the equivalent of an emotional dump on a person you just started dating. A habit of my own I have been slowly breaking with Hannah. The difference is mainly that the later tends to be more negative and the former tends to be a good-hearted attempt to help...someone you hardly know. You simply cannot assume that you know what a person needs when you've only just met them. These questions are best after having formed some sort of relationship. Get to know them, love them. This is the way to help. They'll note your loving care and the fact that you actually are attempting to get to know them. These "tactics"can lead to a more open heart for those two questions to actually have some effect on. Love your neighbor. Have you asked Jesus into your heart? This phrase also has the distinct smell of the whole "get out of jail free mentality" as it is often followed with the statement: once you do, you shall be saved. Again, and this may just be me being catholic (which I hope it is), I think that this is a poor understanding of the Christian life and leads to more paralysis than striving. While there are people of this ilk who do strive for heaven, it is more of an accident, since their philosophy/theology does not truly allow for it. Remember: it makes no sense to strive for something you've already achieved. Any improvement after that is likely going to be for pride's sake, which cannot be too safe. "This could be the end of days" signifies a misunderstanding of the book of Revelation. Knowing the history and context of the book works wonders. That said, we run into the whole cannot predict the future thing with the harsh statement of "no man will know the day or hour" of Christ's return. His return represents the end of this Creation and the process of remaking all that was good, but it isn't nothing we can predict. Early Christians learned the hard way, they sometimes adopted rather unhealthy practices because they thought Christ's return was soon to come. Best thing to do here is not try to predict when He is coming back, or you'll look like that random guy who predicted everything would end next year. Also, you'd likely be a Jehovah's Witness... The final phrase is "have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior." Here I mostly agree with the authors assertions, but think he misses part of the point. There is actually no equivalent to a lord in our western world, so his thinking about the word lord being archaic and easily misunderstood makes little sense. Also, there are dictionaries. Secondly,people tried to elevate Jesus to the role of "King" in contrast with the dominion of Rome and thus a revolutionary. They did not try to make him a lord. Additionally, historically speaking: a king is technically above a lord (uses promises to get the lords to do things). In any case, he rejected the sort of revolution that the Jews assumed was to come when the Messiah came. Is not most of the Gospels spent showing how people misunderstood things--including the disciples? Also, Christ refers to himself as lord quite a few times. The time I can remember at the moment is: not everyone who cries out to me 'lord, lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven. He accepted tributes and acts of worship. He accepted people having faith in Him. He did this for one of two reasons: 1. He truly was or believed he was the Son of God/God or 2. He was a madman who was not a servant of God but himself. Finally, I find it interesting that we gloss over the more violent words and imagery that Christ used, such as: being a sword that separates or being the cause of hatred between even family members. Pigeonholing Christ into a convenient box does damage to those who cannot understand and fails to realize that Christ's message was complex. He took many moments to explain to just his disciples what he meant. He knew he would be crucified and go back to heaven, so he took the time to try and explain something that is not wholly simple. Christianity is not a connect-the-dots but rather a harrowing adventure tale where anything can still happen and things can get foggy and complex. Trying to wholly simplify the Faith into maxims and the like doesn't do its justice. How odd is it that God allowed himself to feel as we often feel? How crazy is it that Christ apparently resurrected from the dead? Let's remember the complexity and see the beauty of it all. In my next post regarding the blog I mentioned earlier, I will address the quotes I wholly disagreed with. -Zaire

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pushy Veganism and the Like

I have a beef, you guys. 

I am consistently irritated by philosophies that go to far into one direction and stop making sense. One such example of this are pushy vegans/vegetarians. There is even a group on facebook that wants to extend the idea of murder into ALL killing of animals (so it appears on the page). This is a notion that simply makes no sense. 

What specifically is murderous about killing another animal for food? Don't misunderstand me, there are instances where people do actually murder animals, like the bunny seen on fatal attraction, but it does not follow that any killing of an animal is murderous. Why? Because you simply do not extend the same distinction to carnivorous animals. What makes a human so different from a tiger in this regard? Think about it, the prey animal is alive (often enough) for longer stints than animals killed using human implements. Not all kills are clean, but humans are actually better able to do that than most species.

If a tiger or cheetah are aloud to devour herbivores, why can't humans? Don't try and say that it is HOW the kill the animals (though there are things that make sense in that thought) because most deaths are going to be painful in the animal world. Nature is not kind. Seriously, it isn't in the least. 

In nature, animals are killed in many and varied ways, often painfully. In nature, animals kill other animals all the time and we are not trying to turn tigers and polar bears into vegetarians. If you're going by the gore, a seal clubber produces just as much blood as a polar bear (though the animal is far less shredded when beaten to death). It cannot simply be the pain and gore that are the problems.

I'm willing to concede that animals have souls in a far more limited sense than we do. This may sound terrible, but humans are different from other animals in a great many ways. As with most things, it isn't the similarities that matter, it is the differences. Where humans differ from other animals is far more important than the similarities, in this case pain, soul in some sense of the word, and feelings. 

As far as the animal kingdom go, humans are a strange phenomenon. We make art, we use thought when making out buildings, we develop better tools etc. We are the crazy ones. The is something that is above or, in the least, not normal in the existence of human life. 

Turtles are not likely having existential crises or fighting someone because someone talked about its mother. Tigers are not either. Animals, while filled with life and soul, are of different stuff than us. Yes, they have emotions and can feel a lot of the same things, but it isn't exactly the same in every way. Animals are far more tied to their instincts than we are. We can choose our own course, but it isn't like there are Ape colleges or dolphins capturing humans for an underwater LandWorld. Let's just face it, humans are different.

That said, humans are omnivores (though they do not have to be). Humans, moreso than any animal, can adapt to the food that is available to them. A tiger cannot likely become a vegetarian and nourish itself properly. Its stomach is built to handle raw meat, not vegetables. Killer whales are not often in waters that even have a lot of vegetation and similarly built in such a way that meat is the way for them. A human's digestive system can handle so much more. Much like bears, humans can eat most anything and they do. Since humans are like this, it makes sense for various peoples to prefer different foods for various reasons (religious etc.), but it does not make sense to think that eating meat is necessarily wrong. If other animals can eat meat, why are we so different? If other animals cause pain, why are we so different?

Bear in mind that I, in no way, condone mistreatment of animals; I just think that the line for mistreatment is in a completely different place than pushy vegans/vegetarians say it is. Is it wrong to train dogs to fight and drown them if they don't perform? Surely. Is it wrong to club a seal just to club a seal? Yes. Is it wrong to (as a I saw on a comic on that group site) boil your cat to make sure that your water isn't scalding hot for you? Of course. But, one cannot just use a broad brush and paint any situation where an animal is hurt or loses its life as a case for murder or moral wrongness. Not all cases where such things occur are as these people believe. 

Here is another point: if you are equating humans and other animals in terms of morality, then the times when you allow other animals to do something "murderous" should be allowable to humans, no matter what the method is, teeth, fangs, or musket. If a wildebeest can end the life of a lion to protect its young, so can we. If a lion can end the life of a gazelle for nourishment, so can we. That is all in simply thinking that humans and animals are equal. The pushy vegans/vegetarians are trying to equate us with pure animals and hold us to a standard that is clearly not natural.

Let's look at nature again: dolphin males regularly rape and badger females for sexual pleasure. They will go as far as killing a calf to make the mother receptive. Would this be acceptable for a human? no way, no how. Dolphins also regularly kill sharks for fun and don't even make an attempt to use the carcass for anything. If it weren't for animals that can survive off of such a thing, the thing would wither away. That's a waste of a good shark. 

What I am trying to say is that, they need to make up their minds. If we are the SAME as other animals, their arguments fail for sure. If we are different, then they need to find a way to tell us why an animal life should get the same consideration a human life does. Why should I not eat that delicious baby gazelle; nature certainly does not prohibit it because prohibitions are a human invention.

I am done for tonight, and I hope this makes sense. Again, there are times when were ARE mistreating animals, but we cannot say it is mistreatment because they are the same as us, the similarities are nice, but we are still QUITE different. In the areas where we are similar, it is perfectly acceptable to take the life of another animal. I'm not talking about hunting for sport and not using the animal in any way, I'm talking about milking a cow or killing it to eat it. These things are not wrong (there are ants that raise aphids like farm animals for slaughter) in nature and do not appear to be wrong when looking from outside of nature. Their rhetoric and arguments need to change. Goodnight.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Punished With A Baby

I just saw a delightful piece of Pro-Life propaganda. I'm pro-life, but it was still propaganda. Stop acting like it is a dirty word!

Anyway, the sentiment was that President Obama would rather his grandchildren aborted than his daughters become responsible mothers. This was drawn from a statement when he said "I would never punish my daughters with a baby," a couple years back. The conclusion drawn is the most extreme one, and probably not what President Obama meant while pandering to another political lobby. But, still, the line of thought is inherent to saying one's daughter's having a baby is a punishment for poor decision making (you should have had a condom!!!).

I say that he probably didn't mean such things because he seems to be a kind-hearted man, a rather weak one in my opinion. After all, he is a politician. Before someone goes crazy, I do not think that ALL politicians are weak, but rather that they are prone to certain weaknesses that come with the territory of having to have people like you to stay in office to do anything at all. Keep in mind, that none of this would be this way without Andrew Jackson and the like. Jefferson believed in the people, but was still an elitist and felt that people who were trained to do so should run the government. That's the whole purpose of the electoral college etc. Additionally, the president was not the most powerful position initially. Again, that is something that happened due to Jackson's presidency. But, I am not here for a history lesson.

The point is, with the popular vote actually being important these days, politicians have to walk a fine line. In general, most will not go out right and say certain things unless it is too their advantage. Politicians tend not to be built for any real conviction or, if they once were, shed that ability for the sake of office.

In this regard, I can say that Obama was being rather brave. The topic of abortion is a hot button issue, and going out right for abortion as a President, is a rather big deal. He's still wrong, but even the Russians love their children, right?

In any case, like most politicians, I am willing to wager that he has maybe had one introductory philosophy class (okay, so this entire section of this blog was kind of ad hominem. Forgive me, but I cannot trust politicians and I am hoping that will become more evident later. This can also be considering poisoning the well...but, anyway). As a novice philosopher, he surely does not easily come to the logical conclusions of what he says. Richard Dawkins is a brilliant bioligist, but a failure as a philosopher because he does something similar.

Essentially, what we are dealing with is a form of sophistry, that has only become necessary because of how our government works. In a monarchy, there isn't much public opinion can do unless it spawns a revolution. In our government, it can be near about everything. A president cannot continue for another four years if the public opinion has generally swayed away from his favor (though, there are exceptions). So, President Obama is participating in sophistry and poor philosophy.

Here is what he is missing, his statement does imply that he would rather his daughters have an abortion than carry the child to term. His assertion additionally implies that pregnancy is a punishment for poor planning. Actually, it goes beyond simply implications and veers directly into outright saying that it IS a punishment.

Now, I could say, 'how can he say that, pregnancy is so natural,' but that would not be the best argument to make. After all, a lot of things are natural but really dangerous and detrimental to human life and aspirations. For example, there are natural things like cancer, HIV, or the flu (which isn't really a thing apparently...). These are things that do harm to human life, but occur in the natural world without human assistance. They just happen.

On another point of view, sexuality is natural, but what sort of sexuality is good is often up for debate. How are we to tell what natural things are GOOD things? Well, by using our noggins and doing the noodle dance, of course.

In older societies, let us not forget that they were societies, this was discovered by using what we term as natural law. Essentially, it is looking at the world as it is and looking for the ends, or teleology, that natural things appear to be oriented toward.

For sex, people thought, 'what is the teleology of sex?' In the end, an overwhelming majority decided that sex was for procreation and some felt for unity as well. So, what is a good sexual act? It would appear to be one that has, at least, the possibility of producing children, which societies cannot continue without. You have to replace all the old people, you know! Silly old people.

So, let's look at it that way. Pregnancy, what is the purpose of it? What is its teleology? Obviously, pregnancy works within sexuality to produce the next generation. Its purpose is to bring new life into the world to replace the old (in the simplest terms). Without pregnancy, mankind was not going to survive. This clearly means that pregnancy must be a good thing! Why else would there be fertility banquets and deities?

However, despite most of the world agreeing with this thought, there have ALWAYS (abortion isn't new people) been those who find particular pregnancies to be highly inconvenient or unfortunate for various reasons.

Can a pregnancy be inconvenient? Certainly. Can it be unfortunate? If it is doing what it should do and producing life? Not in my opinion. Not in any understanding of its teleology can it be unfortunate, unless it turns out that life isn't good and we need to avoid having children.

Parts of our society (and parts of others) are of the belief that unfortunate, as well as inconvenient, pregnancies can occur. To alleviate what they see as a problem, they feel abortions should be allowed. After a while, our government agreed and we got Roe v. Wade. This is kind of the result of the feminist movement which, in part, advocated for women to gain more control over the whole birth thing.

While I find portions of the feminist movement spot on and good (such as the fact that women CAN do a lot of things like men can and should get paid the same to do the same work), but this is where things get a bit dodgy. For one, what does it mean to have control over one's reproductivity? Does it necessarily lend itself to the ability to terminate unwanted pregnancies or children? Does it necessarily mean that women should take a pill that effectively eliminates (sort of) their ability to have children until they desire? Does it have to mean that children are a burden and should be prepared for as one prepares to do something burdensome? You know, with a big sigh and the pulling up of one's britches as you dig into the life of parenting.

I think it is in the control of reproductivity where we have gotten confused and off-track. This is also tied in the unfortunate tendency of certain feminists trying to advance women by making them into men. Let me explain:

When I say that some feminists try and make women into men, I mean that they try to eliminate ALL distinctions between the two sexes. Is it really so bad that men and women ARE, in general, built differently? Their development is divergent, it makes perfect sense to insist that men and women are different creatures that lend themselves more towards certain things than others.

Men hunted because they were built for it, and women cooked because SOMEONE had to. It was not necessarily oppression. Just because some men have used it as such does not mean that's how it started or how it ever should have been. Women did "women's work" because the men had work of their own to attend to. Men passed down their "man skills" to their sons and women passed their "lady skills" to their daughters. This was not done with the intent of placing a glass ceiling over the life of their progeny, but to keep people going and to help them know how to do so.

Nowadays, it is quite true that this distinction is far less necessary. But, is that a completely good thing? The old shape of society tied men to work in such a way that, their not working eliminated their worth as a person. Even a woman who works will consider her husband (though not always) a deadbeat if he is not working as well. For whatever reason, whomever works outside of the home forgets that the home is its own work and is just as honorable. For years, it was just ungrateful men who took their wives and their wifely duties for granted. But not, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to consider her husband a deadbeat for not having a job. I could be wrong about this, but I get the feeling that, even if they are working and make enough for the whole household, a woman desires for her husband to be working, too. There is something odd about a man sitting at home and being with the kids all day. Is it a bad thing? No, but it is still treated as such because people cannot seem to get past this idea of being in the home as being the same as being in a prison.

Let's be real, when has a woman throughout the whole history of mankind been chained to the kitchen? When you go to someone's house, where the traditional mold is in place, does the house more reflect the woman, or the man? If you mess up the house, who is more likely to beat you? The entire home was the feminine domain and it was an incredibly important job. The entire early childhood of every child depended on the women folk (and let's keep in mind that families were less fragmented). The village raised the children, but a lot of preliminary and extra work was done by the mothers, grandmothers, and elder sisters of said children. Did this mean that mean could not do such things? No. But, it also does not mean that the person at home is doing nothing, no matter who it is. Both parties, truly, are at work. Just because it is not work as we seem to recognize it today, does not mean that it isn't work and certainly does not mean that it is worthless. Let's get that out of our heads, now.  It is ruining families.

That said, there are things to be said for the traditional model, like it was done with some thought to natural law. In general, women are more attuned to the whole child-raising thing. There are hormones and various other things that are not conscious to the woman, that lead them down the road of desiring motherhood. Fatherhood, has always kind of been less like that. There are genetics involved that make men kind of want to do it with every pretty lady, but we can say that men become more into fatherhood (if things are going well) once the child is conceived. Think about every cute pregnancy movie you have seen where the father is a daft, affable fool who just wants to help his wife.

Why would we take pictures of us next to our significant other's bulging belly? That isn't terribly sexy by today's standards. Then again, today EVERYTHING has to be sexy, but that's for another post.

Is it sexist to say that one sex/gender tends to be more attuned to certain things than another? No, it is simple observation. Is it bad to recognize that some children are naturally better at somethings than others? Is it bad to note that some people can do almost everything well, while others cannot? No, it just makes them different, and all of it is beautiful. Please, let's revel in the differences between men and women.

That said, it is OBVIOUS that each sex/gender is going to have exceptions. Should the exceptions be attacked? No. Since our society is supposed to be freer, people should be able to make such choices. If someone wants to be a mother sooner rather than later (when it is healthier to do) is she necessarily throwing her whole life away? Even if they never got to do everything they dreamed of doing as a child, is having provided someone with a life and helping them grow a waste? Where are our priorities?  Is not a quality life better than one filled with crap that probably won't make you happy? Have we not learned from movies like CLICK!?

Alright, so I digress and got a bit silly. My point still remains. If men and women were supposed to be exactly the same, it seems like both should be able to get pregnant, instead of just one. Seahorses (horsi?...i wish) live like this. There are plenty of asexual species with little individuality (just as there are many species who sex that have little individuality).

As it is, men and women are different. Let's celebrate that.

Now, I went through all of that to get here. Woman are the ones who can get pregnant. Women are the ones who have a certain level of oneness with the child before it can enter the world as a visible child. She shares her meals, anguish, and womb. The child is literally two in one, but only the mother gets certain privileges.

This makes me think of a Bill Cosby joke. He talks about raising his boy and the boy gets really good at football. The father, of course, taught the boy all that. But, when the big moment comes and the son is under the spotlight, all he says is 'hi, mom.' The father is important, in a different way, but kids tend to be more attached to the one whose breasts they suckled and who, more often than not, held them.

In all previous ages, the mother was the one who was there more often. Now, it can be the opposite, and should the man be penalized for that? I think not, that is TRUE SEXISM.

That still isn't what I want to say though. Brace yourselves, it is going to get worse...

Let me get back to what I started with, the idea that pregnancy can be a punishment. How can life be a punishment? Your body producing another human is terrible and ugly? How far we have fallen.

Pregnancy is natural and produces the greatest good most humans can think of: simply being alive. We need to change our thinking on this. Treating children as oppressions is not going to end well for anyone.

Do we really want women to have control of their reproduction? Yes and no. We need to stop acting as though reproduction is a one person thing. That's what we have done by separating sex from its natural consequence (in the sense that it means a result). It is simply about pleasure in our culture, the baby is an accident more often than not (at least that how it seems to be treated). We have forgotten that the pleasure part is probably (even on a natural, evolutionary view) there so we WILL procreate. The pleasure is not the most important part, as wonderful as it is.

We need to bring the man and the woman together to truly control reproduction. The Church has a method, it is called Chastity. Chastity is not just abstaining from sex. It is an entire system that engages all people. Nothing is truly private. How you do things in private are going to reflect how you do them in person. This is a simply truth.

If you are participating in infidelity, the family you leave behind, the woman you do it with, and even your social circle are affected. Particularly, when you get found out. When it is exposed, you see the effect of your once private actions. Things come out into the light eventually, why spend time hiding things in the dark? Your actions are going to make you treat your friends, children, and wife differently. Don't bring up excuses for your actions. There's always a reason for an action. Let's take some responsibility.

Chastity is found in fidelity, discipline, and love in its truest sense. The desire for the betterment of the beloved. You give up something you want for the sake of something even better.

In the world of chastity, a child is a gift, a reward. It is as the child should be. Behavior and the like are not what the child ARE, the little human animal does not yet know the way to be and must be shown the way. The child is a story that is just beginning. Nothing is yet set in stone. The child represents possibilities and those can be good things! Why are we so cynical? Why is a bit of trouble so terrible for us?

Forgive me, I am passionate about life and its goodness. I am someone who has suffered greatly in my own way, but can you not look at the sky and be lifted just a bit? Lift up your eyes, humans can be so much more! Why should we allow what is imprinted on our DNA dictate everything about us? Where is our choice? Liberals, who are often pro-Choice, tend to contradict themselves when they assert that people are born a certain way. There is no choice in that universe, how can you say you support choice? People aren't even allowed to choose not to engage in all of their desires without being accused of not being true to themselves.

Who are we to say who someone is, we silly, half-hearted creatures? We can only say who they are to us, and nothing more. Who they are is going to be up to them. We can only say who someone was in retrospect. You have to take the whole body of work. You can't stop at that one, awkward, experimental album. You can't stop with that loss in the NBA Finals. Fall down seven times, stand up eight. That is what makes us human, we are not stuck being what we were born as. A dog will always be a dog; a man who behaves as one, need not be.

So, I say we learn to use our choices properly. Law in no way inhibits one's choice. Otherwise, there would be no murders, thievery, or deception under oath. Making abortion safe and easy is not helping the women who get them (as a sidenote: most abortions are not done because the mother is in danger physically). It is crippling them. Making them unable to make choices. It gives them some license to be less careful because it views something they should be able to cherish is a problem to be solved. Pregnancy should be a joy, whatever the inconvenience. New life should be loved at all costs!

Teach our children how to use their bodies properly, teach them that they hold the power to give life and they should be careful. Be disciplined, learn charity. Know that it is beautiful, silly, powerful, and dangerous. Know that we have to make tough choices to refrain from certain actions for the sake of wisdom.

Alright, I am off my soapbox. The point is, the Church is right about what would solve the whole problem. It is the Church that is for choice and affirms that we are free. We are not a system or stuck in a system. We have choices to make.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Refuting What I Deem As Silliness Part 1

I know, it's another one of THOSE posts. I'll try at least to be brief, but the general lack of "mind" the post-modern (or modern, depending on whom you speak with) displays is astounding. I saw this today:

This sort of thing makes me, sometimes, irrationally angry (to borrow a term from a friend) because it recognizes no nuance and clearly doesn't understand what the Church teaches. I mean the Catholic Church (which is more than just the Latin Rite by the by), because Protestants are more scrambled and less unified, so their answers reflect this. All of these points made by whomever wrote this are, in fact, refutable. They are VERY refutable. So, I will just go through each one and attempt to do just that.

1. If Jesus did not mention a subject, it cannot be essential to his teaching.
First of all, this is actually a fairly silly way to look at religious teaching in general. Lots of specific cases are not mentioned, because it is already hard enough reading Leviticus as it is (or any deep holy book, really). Can you imagine if the Bible had actually come down from the sky in fullness with a full summary of everything mankind would have to deal with past, present, and future? That would be a book big enough for me to climb and far too large for me to make out the words but from space. It would be as insane to conceive of as my hyperbolic description of it was. I, honestly, have no idea where that came from.

Christians, specifically Catholics and Orthodox, do not believe that about the Bible in the least. The idea is that the books of the Bible were written by authors inspired by God who used them as a vessel to communicate with people through words. These books were then gathered and compiled by equally inspired people who put them in a certain order after lots of thought, prayer, and discussion. Remember, Tradition predates the Scriptures. Scripture is necessarily the product of Tradition, the people would still have believed as they did, even if no one thought of writing anything down. This is true of both the Old and New Testaments. Also, please note that, just because they were not as scientifically or medically advanced as we are, doesn't mean that they are ignorant nor stupid. Acting as though the compilation of the Bible was done haphazardly done by idiot ancients is a slap in the face of history and pays little respect to the people who got us to where we are now. No one would be here without the ancients, so it is about time we showed a little respect and decorum.

So, since the Bible is not a book that was written covering every possible scenario (as it did not fall from the sky in a perfect form) we have to use what we learn from the Bible and Tradition to figure out how to approach various problems that arise in different epochs. The issue that this picture is talking about is Gay Marriage, because that is one of the hot button issues of the day, but thinking that no direct mentioning of homosexuality or various other sins means it isn't essential to his teaching is silly.

Remember, when Christ was on Earth, his first mission was to those who would already understand what he was talking about. If he showed up in Greece or Meso-America, the concepts of sin and repentance would have needed explanation. I don't mean that these people did not right from wrong, they did mostly, but the Jewish understanding of such things was actually rather revolutionary as most ancient religions just said that the world was simply the way it was. Jews and later Christians actually placed blame somewhere other than chance or the gods. Humanity was at fault for our current state of affairs and it was due to our ancestors committing foolish acts that brought sin into the world. Back then, that was entirely revolutionary.

People have trouble thinking in those terms, because they have heard or, rather more often, misheard what sin and redemption are in Christian terms. The Western World is a product of the Christian beliefs that their ancestors accepted and developed. What we have now, that other countries are just getting to, are a result of that background.

Anyway, Jewish theology and religion, as it developed, looked less and less like the religions that it had sprung up around. There was something quite odd happening with those people and Christ came to the people who would better understand and receive his message first. It is hard for him to dialogue with people who have different definitions for different terms.

So, the next question was what was Christ's message? Well, it appears that his focus was on repentance, learning to love God with everything, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is, arguably, one of the reasons he hung around the "sinners" of his contemporary Jewish society. Those were the people who really needed his message. He himself says this a few times. He came for the lost, not those who had an okay grip on things.

If those things were his focus, and we can admit that not every possible problem that will arise would necessarily be addressed, then we have to realize that, in calling for repentance, Christ was telling people to "Sin no more." His people, the Jews, had a true concept of this, one that the rest of the world was soon to receive. They had many laws that had been passed down way before Christ was born, and he would (besides the fact that he was God) have known about these laws. He tells people that he came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. Does that sound like someone who is going to encourage people to do something believed to be a sin?

Now, about Leviticus (and Deuteronomy). I want to reiterate that the Bible was not compiled as books just popped out there. There was discussion, argument, etc. Just because people more often held mystical beliefs back then does not mean they were meatheads, though some SURELY were. The books (remember the Bible isn't just ONE BOOK, it is many) were written and placed in a certain order with a purpose. The Bible is also filled to the brim with many a literary genre. Not understanding this fact will not let you understand what the Scriptures are, nor what it took to compile it. The entire Bible is not meant to be taken literally, that is a fallacy that many Christians early on and many Protestant ones have fallen into (though it is worth nothing that their usage of literalism is selective).

Leviticus is a book of Law for the Hebrews as God's first people. It drags along with various stipulations, many of which are repeated and elaborated on in Deuteronomy. There were many specific rules that were all a part of helping the Jews be set apart. A notion Christians would later take as being a City on the Hill.

However, there are also many laws that were in Leviticus that were not simply laws for the Jews, they were natural laws, such as those involving sex being both procreative and unifying, something naturally lacking in homosexual relationships throughout all ages. Current homosexual erotic relationships have to have some money to conceive a child in unconventional ways or adopt in order to do something that will usually happen naturally in an heterosexual union (preferably in a marriage). Before we go on, let's note here and now that I am not saying that homosexual erotic love is not a reality or that what the people feel isn't real. That isn't even what the discussion is about. We feel lots of things, but that does not mean that we have to act on said feelings or, even more, that these feelings are what define us as human persons made in the image of God. The fact simply is, naturally speaking, homosexual couples cannot have children. (notice I don't blanket it on all those with SSA because some get into heterosexual marriages and conceive children that way)

That fact is a natural one and irrefutable. The reason why the Church still follows the Ten Commandments, but not all of the laws of Leviticus, is not because they just wanted to pick and choose like many people have desired to do through all ages, but rather because they are rooted in reason. Natural Law is all that we can deduce about proper conduct just from using our reason. Thus, murder etc. are wrong. So, in the Church's eyes, homosexuality is disordered because it takes the good of sexual desire and misaligns it. Everyone is aware that people can become infatuated or fall in love with things that it would be inordinate to be in love with. This is further tied to the fact that sexual congress is, on even an evolutionary level, used for the production of children. Other uses for sex evolved, but the core of it is still in passing on genes to a new generation and raising them up. That is the first and most important aspect. Homosexual congress clearly does not line up with this, and so must be disordered in some way. (Christians go further in the discussion of Chastity, but that is for another blog)

For a really good succinct explanation of why Catholics don't follow EVERY law in Leviticus go here:

A final note in this line of thought, Christ came to enhance our understanding of the law and often did things that the strict Pharisees disagreed with but, because of who He was, he was able to better define the law into the spirit behind these laws. (also, some of those laws were matters of discipline more than matters of sin. Is everything that is against any set of laws necessarily a sin? No.)

Now, my final point is this: the Bible, as I have shown, was not dropped in a complete form upon the heads of unwitting Jews. The same thing is true of the New Testament. The writers of the Gospels, which chronicle important aspects of Jesus' life in a condensed fashion, did not write those full accounts down until they were fairly old. It was done to combat heresy a lot of the time. Read the beginning of Luke to see this (he tells the dude he is writing that these are the really big points that happened so he knows the truth of the eyewitnesses).

Also, note that the Gospels were not biographies in the sense that we think of them now. They reported the facts, but focused more on a person's essence than reporting everything in supreme detail. The disciples likely took notes while Jesus was their rabbi, but it is obvious enough to know that those notes would be different, because different people remember and focus on different things. The points where they agreed on were probably the most essential, and one of the most essential parts of Christ's ministry was telling people to turn away from their sins. He told the woman at the well, who had been treating marriage like a hobby (joking), to go and sin no more. Turn away from that life.

So, what does that mean? Well, it means that every single, word-for-word, instance of Christ teaching or rebuking something is not going to be recorded and the goal of the Gospels was not to uncover every single stone. It was, instead done to show what was witnessed and done in a more condensed fashion than some of the biographies we read today. That said, what biography is going to be word-for-word, action-for-action, complete? People are going to remember different things, forget things, etc. Expecting ALL what Christ said and is foolish. A couple of the Gospels even have verses where they claim that Christ did this and many other wonders. They clearly saw more, but did not want to write for that long. They didn't have computers then, you guys!

Now, to wrap this up, here are the major points:

1. The Bible is not believed to have suddenly appeared in perfection with all questions answered. That is simply an improper way to view scripture.

2. You need to properly understand (though I am not perfect at this myself) what Christ's message was and take into account that the first people he brought it to were people with concepts that they could readily attach to what he was saying (though, again, done imperfectly. The disciples were often like WTF, Jesus?) Christ message wasn't simply a lazy "love" that accepts everything people do as okay, but rather a turning a way from such thinkings and learning to truly love. Abandoning sin and learning to live as we should. It is a message of the complete alteration of the self into what it is suppose to be. If you think Jesus was just like, be nice and "love" everyone, you have not read the right scriptures.

3. Understanding how the Bible was compiled, respecting the ancient compilers, and learning to distinguish between laws that really had to do with a man's soul and those of discipline are essentially to understand any of the Church's view on things. Christ did things that were "anti-Sabbath" but simply redefined them to help the people understand more. We know that fish does not ruin your soul, and neither do your clothes. In fact, in the words of 'Ye, "the prettiest people do the ugliest things." Many of those laws were not essential to the salvation of the soul. So, the Church had to form a new understanding with the advent of the Holy Spirit. (see: the Circumcision issue in the NT)

4. Natural law is often used by the Church to determine what is ethically acceptable or what is in proper order to its purpose etc.

5. Expecting every single word of a two year period to be exactly written down shows a misunderstanding of what Scripture is and a misunderstanding of what it is to be human. The Church wasn't expecting every single thing to be written down, but instead used what had been traditionally taught to see what Scriptures were inspired or not. Every single thing he addressed is not likely to make it into the writings, but a lot of really big important stuff is.

That's all I have for now! This is gonna be a multi-parter!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Secular Law and the Christian

I would like to preface this post with the following: the United States was a secular government from its conception and the whole "under God" thing in the pledge and on our money was the result of an attempt to separate the US from Communist Eastern Europe. Additionally, most of the Founding Fathers were deists and did not believe in God truly interacting with His Creation. Franklin and Jefferson are prime examples of this.

Logically speaking, this means that what the Church says about anything does not matter to the American government, right or wrong. Most of the governments of the Western world are of this slant.

Now, here is what grinds my gears: As Christians, we are called to be in the world but not off it. We are also told to live justly under the laws set before us by secular governments we live under. So, whatever the laws end up being, we are to abide by them.

Here is the next issue, the United States in a Democratic-Republic where everyone is supposed to get their voice out there through various government officials. Whenever we vote, it is with the hope that, if our person gets elected, they will help steer our government in a direction we find desirable. For many liberals, this means that the Democrats need to be in power while most conservatives think that the Republicans need to be in power.

Whomever you believe is best suited to run the country is a decision that must be made based on one's beliefs, convictions, and conscience. As a Catholic, if you are as faithful to the Church as we all hope to be, this will put you into several binds.

First of all, you cannot vote in favor of things you find dubious or against your conscience. That would be ludicrous. Many people will do this out of pressure from the outside and internal struggles, but that really is not what is best for the soul. We are at our best when I hearts, bodies, minds, souls, and spirits are in proper relation to each other. People may disagree on what this relation is, but the fact remains that human happiness and health are connected to this fact.

The next bind comes in the fact that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, to love God with all our heart. The question is, what is it to love one's neighbor? The Ten Commandments give us a good starting point, and we can relate back to them in an effort to choose rightly, but there is still going to be a tension. Part of loving is being merciful and helping the oppressed. Part of loving God is going to be deploring sin and doing one's best to (with God's grace) rid one's self of sin and to help others, whether or not they are striving to do the same, do the same.

So, when it comes to our political practices, like voting, we have a lot to consider. These decisions should and will weigh heavily on us.

Now, let's look at a few hot button issues: abortion and gay marriage.

With abortion, we are clearly defending the right of an innocent, at least in our minds and hearts this is how we feel. To our opposition we are depriving a woman of the right to choose having children. No matter what, I know I will always vote against it, but I now would like to address the charge that we keep women from choice.

Pro-Choice is a misnomer and, as Sartre would say, a sign of an inauthentic life. The fact is, we are free no matter what the government says or does, right or wrong. A law being put in place that prohibits something no more deprives you of choice than parents telling their child they cannot date. Whether it is done in secret or with the full blessing of the law or one's parents. The choice will always remain, a law certainly does not change that or free-will is not a real thing.

Legislation disallowing abortions would make the decision that much harder, but it does not eliminate the possibility. Surely, most of us have been human long enough to realize that, in the very least.

This argument can be brought up with birth control as well. We will vote against or struggle against things that force us against our Church, but it does not eliminate the ability to choose to use birth control.

By the by, insurance being provided by employers is not, in fact, a right guaranteed by the Constitution. It is a wonderful, helpful privilege. Not all employers even provide that. I worked a full-time job at a small car shop for a full year and we had no insurance. We were on our own.

Now, for gay marriage. Christians are going to tend towards voting against it because we believe that ENGAGING in homosexual behavior is a sin. The attraction itself is uncontrolled and attraction itself is so complex in how it is formed it is foolish to blame someone for those inclinations. You are not condemned for having the inclination (and please do not site Jesus using hyperbole to counteract this).
However, choosing to engage or add those sorts of sexual relationships to your life is an offense.

This is still a sin, whether or not you are a part of the Church. In our view, these laws stem from natural and divine law, and it applies to all. So, that means we cannot show support for certain lifestyles. Don't get me wrong, this does mean we show hatred and do not love those engaging in said lifestyles, we just cannot give our blessing to it. It is great that you are happy, but we have something that will actually give you the happiness you look for. It is found within God. It takes a long time to grow accustomed to the fruit and life of Heaven, but it will be far worth it. Everything is much larger on the inside of the Church than you think. But, we have to be prepared to give things up.

So, I cannot vote for gay marriage as gay marriage. For the Christian, there really is no such thing. It is affirmed in the New Testament and evident in natural law that the primary purpose of a marriage is to sire and raise the next generation. People with natural inhibitors to this aspect of marriage, like those who cannot conceive, can still live in a holy marriage and are likely excellent candidates for adoptive parents. They may not be able to have children that are of their own blood, but they can certainly benefit children who are not.

The fact is, gay relationships are, naturally speaking, a dead-end. If the wording troubles you, think of it this way: for humans to be born, both the male and female must be united (egg and sperm), so it follows that naturally homosexual relationships will not produce progeny. They cannot naturally do so. We do have technology that can change this, but it is technology that I worry objectifies people more than anything. It is nice that someone can donate sperm to couples who cannot conceive, but there seems to be an underlying danger there. There are people who donate sperm often and have a bunch of children they do not know about. There seems to be something wrong with that picture. Sure, we are use to women raising kids on their own, but that is not the ideal. Also, using someone else sperm or egg seems to be bringing a third person into what is supposed to be a union of two.

Anyway, it is not something we can advocate. However, I think, since our government is secular and the Church and State are supposed to be separate, that civil unions should have similar rights to marriage. I am not married, so I am unaware of what the rights are, but I am plenty aware that those unions do not, in the Christian view, constitute what marriage truly is. This fact is why many Christians vote against gay marriage and that is not a bigoted or hateful view. I tired of people approaching such discussions with a chip on their shoulder and deeming anything they don't agree as hateful. It makes no sense, and I feel as though we can at least be sensible and just in such discussions.

So, the Christian is stuck between a rock and a hard place. We are citizens of the City of God, but we still live in the secular, post-modern world. We have to stand for our beliefs and live them out, and this seems to require us to get spat at and called hateful because we do not wish to condone choices that are actually more harmful to a person than they realize. It is as the Gospel said, is it not?


Monday, May 21, 2012

Bl3nding and The Iron Giant

I am currently listening to a song by the artist formerly known as Ton3x. It's called "Bl3nd" and appears on one of his last gospel records, before he completely gave into secularism. He now goes by B. Slade and still makes great music, but I feel like something is lost in it.

In any case, that is not what I want to focus on. I want to deal with the philosophical implications of this song. The message of the song is fairly simple: just be yourself and love yourself. It is a common message we hear these days, and there is a certain amount of truth in the idea. Don't worry about if you stand out a bit and don't spend your life just trying to blend in with people and losing yourself in the process.

I find that my reaction to this philosophy to be quite mixed. I do believe that you should be who you are and love yourself (doing so will surely be useful when you have to learn to love your neighbors and love the Lord Our God). You were created to be who you are.

I find the conflict I have about this philosophy is that it is one that necessary begs the question, a common logical fallacy. Unlike my wonderful girlfriend (hey, hannah), I would rather thoughts be followed to their logical conclusion than to just be rhetorically wonderful. This isn't to say that I do not enjoy good rhetoric, I just would rather be told the truth even if it is done terribly. Also, this is not an indictment on Hannah, she just is not as staunch about such things as I am.

So, what is the question that is hanging behind this "be yourself and love yourself" philosophy? It is probably more than one, but the most obvious one to mind mind is this: How do you know who you are? With this thought come others like: 'how do I know when I am being authentic?' 'What is it to be authentic?' The list, honestly, could go on for miles.

This question is especially important for the Christian. What does the Faith teach on the matter of who we are? There are some quick and dirty answers, like the fact that we are created in the image of our Creator, we are to love others and love God, and meant for connecting with our creator through worship.

However, there is a flip side to all of this, and that is the doctrine of the Fall. Adam's felix culpa is an event that shook the entirety of Creation in the view of the Church. With mankind's Fall, the entire game changed and suddenly things were not as they should be. The risk of having to cast mankind from Paradise was a very real thing from the moment we had the life of our Creator breathed into us. When mankind became mankind, however the creation process went, there was always that possibility that the silly creatures we are would ruin what was already Good.

Laying aside issues like the idea that the goodness that we can achieve now is of stronger stuff than the original paradisal good, it can be said that the fact that we call it the Fall indicates that we are not as we should be. Indeed, from a Christian point of view (inherited from God's original chosen, the Jews) it seems important to note that the entire story of all history is highlighted by God's attempts to restore humanity to its rightful place and relation to Himself.

I have heard it said that the whole story of mankind's redemption, with the climax being the Cross, is a story of mankind recovering from a terminal illness that only recently, in relation to our universe, was able to be fully cured.

Taking that metaphor a bit further, a sick person is not as they should be. Whatever sickness a person may contract in this life, it is a sign that something within the body has gone awry. Something is horribly wrong. A psychological disorder signifies damage to the brain and the soul and requires treatment to get it out. There is a reason Christ is also referred to as the Doctor of Our Souls.

So, as I have laid out just now, humanity has the illness of sin that is the world's worst Sexually Transmitted Disease. We pass it to our children, whether we like it or not, and try to fix it in various fashions (human and supernatural).

Now, I want to go back to the "be yourself, love yourself" philosophy. I have admitted that there is a lot of truth in the philosophy, but that it ultimately begs the question. I also think it is apparent, from what I have said about Christian belief on the state of mankind, that we truly are not ourselves yet. A healthy man does not need a doctor, but a sick one certainly does. The existence of evil itself and the misuse of our free will is constantly affirming that we are sick.

Christians believe that Christ is the cure to this sickness (being Catholic, I believe this "Christ Medicine" is administered through the various established sacraments) and, as I have said, the fact that we are sick means things are not working as they should be. So, if you tell someone to be themselves, what are you really saying?

In our society, this is usually used to sweep our various faults under the rug. At least, that is how it seems to me. I mean, the way our society says we should love and accept ourselves seems to glorify the faults. My father is a prime example of this, for he is known to say that he is simply the way he is and that's it. He leaves no room for growth. It saddens me that he has blocked himself in that way, but it is his choice and there is little that I can do about it.

This way of thinking reeks of materialism and fatalism, and I am not referring to the materialism of the mall rat, I am referring to philosophical materialism. The philosophy that claims that everything that there is is nothing but the physical world. A tight circle for many a madman. The logic in it is sound, until one realizes that it keeps you from even thinking or believing because there is no you. But, I digress.

Here is the point, materialism and fatalism both mean that there is no choice in the matter on who a person is. They are simply what fate, genetics, or whatever factors made them to be. They leave no room for choice and, as a truly Pro-Choice person (I'll explain this in another post), it confounds me and makes me shake my fists in indignation.

I believe in choice, which is to say that I believe in free-will. Anything that negates the fact that I have a say in who I become or what I become is repugnant to me. It is, quite simply, an abhorrent and sick idea to me. It is the height of foolishness.

That said, I was very much influenced by the movie "The Iron Giant" as a child. The theme of the movie was simply 'you are who you choose to be.' The giant was actually built as a weapon but, when he discovered himself, he did not wish to be a weapon. In a pivotal scene in the movie, the giant sacrifices himself to save people. The scene always brings me to tears. It's valiance in the purest form I may have seen.

This is what I am trying to hammer home, our bodies, genetics, upbringing, or whatever affect us, but ultimately it is going to be our choices that determine the sort of life we lead and who we become. The self is actually quite fluid, people can change if they so choose. This choice does not have to be conscious either. People who, say, become Goths may take on that persona consciously or they may be sort of pushed towards it by their reactions to various circumstances. I saw a woman who hates the color white so much that she could now have her wedding dress be white. She uses her tattoos and dark clothing to make herself stand out. Upon further inspection, it was shown that she started doing this as a reaction to how the popular kids treated her. Her current state was the result of conscious and unconscious choices. She created who she was in the moments that I saw her on this crazy wedding show my sister had on.

As I have stated, as a Christian, I have to accept that we are not as we should be, and the whole start of the Christian journey of recovering is the conscious choice to trust the Creator, and the Church He left for us, to heal us and help us recover ourselves. The problem I have with the beautiful song that prompted this craziness is just that it is likely steeped in how the world views the self. I was born this way, so you can't tell me it is wrong, is the mantra we hear worshipped so much these days. I am not responsible for how I have turned out, so just let me be. This is all false thinking and belief; and, it is actually quite dangerous for the mind. I won't go into those dangers, because this is already too long.

Who we are cannot really be decided until we die. That's my conviction, until we are in eternity, we will not know who we really were. The difference between a good man and an infernal one is not decided until the judgement. We still have many choices to make, so we should worry less about whether or not we stand out (be that a good or bad thing) and more about how we are living. How you live is a reflection of who you are, at least in those moments. Nothing is set in stone yet, so if you are someone you never wanted to be, stand up and change. I leave with a quote from one of the most influential Michael Jackson songs in my life:

"If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change."

This world's salvation begins in the changing of mankind's collective hearts.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Rightness, Wrongness, and Respect

I was reading an interesting blog about a recent conference that Baptist Christians had to address the issues of the objectification of sexuality and other relavent issues in that vain (such as whether or not the idea of a Convental Relationship to homosexual relationships).

After the article, there was one comment that said the writer of said comment had converted to the Universalist "church" where respect for people and their beliefs trumps the desire for rightness or wrongness.

As per usual, I disagree with the sentiment expressed. Rightness and wrongness should not be secondary, or be trumped by, respect. These things are not mutually exclusive and there are some very obvious problems with trying to put respect before rightness and wrongness.

Here is my point, would you rather someone correct you in a disrespectful manner or let you continue to do wrong out of respect? Respect is important yes, but rightness and wrongness are inherently more important. They have to be, if only because showing respect is considered the right way to relate to people. I, of course, think there is more to it than that; but, respect itself has a value conferred to it by the ideas of rightness or wrongness. Rightness and wrongness gets their value conferred from an even higher level, the human mind and the mind of God. God and humans think it is important to be right or wrong, but all virtues or proper ways of behaving are subordinate to rightness or wrongness, something that could also be called morality.

Personally, I would rather be corrected in a poorly done fashion than continue to do things wrong. Think about doing a problem in mathematics, the rightness or wrongness of your approach is going to determine if your answer is correct or not. It would be ill-fitting for a teacher of mathematics to let his or her students just figure out their own way of doing the problem when there is a correct or right way of doing the problem. If they did allow such things to happen, they would likely get a plethora of incorrect answers with a multitude of paths chosen to get to these "answers."

Morality is much the same way because there is some sort of standard of behavior to which we feel we must adhere. In general, if you examine the written moral codes from ancient times that we still possess, the ideas of morality were not extremely varied. The differences would tend to be found in which immoral behaviors will be tolerated and which ones would not. In Ancient Greece, pederasty was tolerated. It appeared at though the boys involved got an education and the ability to advance themselves through that system, so the sexual aspect of it was tolerated. It is more than likely that a lot of people were squeamish or felt as those the sexual aspect of pederasty was plain wrong. However, it was allowed to go on for a number of years.

One can also look at the idea of marriage. All cultures agreed that man and woman should be joined together. They differed on whether marriage was eternal or more like a contract. They also differed on how many wives or husbands was allowable. However, the underlying rule was that men should not have just any of the areas women when he so desired. Sleeping with another man's wife was considered a transgression. This all counts for any man or woman who is having sex with one other than their spouse.

So, it is clear that there is an underlying morality to everything, even if different cultures may have weaknesses or simply allow for certain reproachable behaviors to go on for whatever reason. Tolerating behavior is not the same as assenting to its correctness. Ours is an age where the word tolerance is tossed about and essentially stripped of this meaning. It is most often used by what most people would call the far-left in political terms. These are the more liberal people who consider themselves champions of freedom. In the political realm, this means that they push for legislation that will challenge the status quo and give marginalized people fairer share of things.

Liberals in any age have often helped move society into profitable directions, but that does not mean that they cannot be wrong. What is forgotten is that not all change is desirable or good, and that the natural human condition is freedom. As Sartre would likely say, these people are not living authentically. Changing laws in a nation can be a good thing, but it can also be simply a way to assuage one's conscience when engaging in actions that could be considered deplorable. One such example is abortion, but I cannot go too deeply into that issue for the sake of keeping things on track. Suffice it to say that, even in that incendiary topic, laws in a nation are not necessarily just nor are they necessarily correct. In fact, law does not actually eliminate choice in any sense, however strict or tyrannical a law may be. There is such a thing as defiance, whether it is occurring in a sit-in or in a battle with guns.

Morality is not that easy, it is not that cut and dry. Morality can only exist in a world where people have a choice. If all of these behaviors were simply instinct imprinted on us in birth and assuming we did not have the cognitive capabilities that we have, then all this conversation is moot. Choice is what makes humans human. If choice is not, in fact, possible then nothing that is discussed has any meaning or bearing on reality.

The truth is, people will always do what they choose to do; their want of what they choose is an irrelevant issue. People will make choices, and that is simply how it is. Outlawing something and putting strict penalties for getting caught doing something does not eliminate a person's freedom, mentally or physically. Even if being incarcerated pushes a person's physical and mental freedom aside, the inmates still have a choice in how they are to conduct themselves. All actions have consequences or results that stem directly from the choice made. Let us face facts, the law only places restrictions on possibilities, and does not clash with a person's freedom. They can never fully lose their freedom.

So, to recap: Law does not eliminate freedom, it just makes the decisions more difficult than they might be otherwise; and Rightness or wrongness are more important than respect. Respectful delivery of praise or admonishment is, of course, desired; but, it is not explicitly necessary. Some people simply do not show respect to those they believe are in the wrong, and that probably is a failing on their part.

In any case, I would like to get this back to the Christian worldview.

When one reads the Holy Bible, one will have to note that people are making choices left and right. Jonah chooses to flee his vocation, David chooses to kill Uriah for the prize of Bathsheeba, and the Pharisees chose to hand the Christ over as if he were some criminal. All of these acts were acts of disobedience, a lack of charity, coveting, and the like. God gave the laws in a direct fashion, but having a law does not mean it is actually obeyed.

That said, the author of the comment clearly believes that respect is a good or right mindset to possess. So, he/she clearly does believe a certain kind of rightness is necessary. Let it be known that I agree that respect is good and useful, and more likely to bring people to the Church. However, I cannot say that I would rather trade respect for Truth or rightness or wrongness.

If people were disrespectful and yet speaking truth, it would be far more beneficial than stepping on eggshells and not correcting someone that needs to be corrected. Part of the Christian life is to admonish one another. While one can do this to people outside of the Church, the ones inside the Church are the more obvious and necessary ones to notify of their wrongdoing, being asked to repent. The Church is meant to be one in mind, Faith, and a multitude of other things. Correction from within the ranks are, therefore, necessary. This being done in a charitable and respectful fashion is preferred, but will never preclude the possibility that correction is done in the exact opposite fashion. Though that may push a lot of other people, it is preferred that truth be spoken. The person who does not do well with the task of correcting someone, still needs to work on themselves obviously. But, being right or truthful is a good trade off.

To finish off this longer than planned blog, I will say this:

The Greatest two commandments are "Love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind," and "Love your neighbor as yourself." People of our age seem to forget that love is not necessarily describing a feeling. In fact, love properly described is more akin to action than flowery feelings. Most people who have joined the Christian life have to learn that doing actions that express those two commandments has the effect of producing proper feelings towards themselves, others, and God himself. Consider that period of empty feelings to be the crawling phase of the walk with Faith; as one grows, one will be better able to feel the proper feelings that go with the action in question.

The same can be said with respect. It takes practice to properly respect others and behave in a right and just manner. People who cannot do this need to be borne with patience and charity, which will contribute to the virtue of all involved. Let us not lose truth in our scramble to express understanding and respect. Respect is important, but not at the expense of truth. This is why people have fought and died defending truth. Men have fought and died defending their honor, but that honor and respect is usually given in response to what the man does in relation to the truth and rightness. Respect cannot come before rightness or wrongness. It has to be determined that someone is right or wrong before any sort of correction can be shown in any manner, let alone a respectful manner.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Getting Clobbered By Someone Who Is Clobbering Bible Clobberers?

That is a most ridiculous title...

Anyway, I came across this today:

It uses the understanding of the Greek etc. of the Bible to show that homosexual relationships are not condemned biblically. The author goes through and shows how most of the verses that are used to condemn homosexuals by Bible Bashers are not referring directly to consenting homosexual relationships, but the abnormal forms of those relationships. Judging from the translation, this is a reasonable assertion to make. The point about Paul using the word physikos from which we get the term physics in Romans 1:26-28. The author of this insightful post makes the logically valid point that this term is referring to how the whole of the universe and Creation are to act as they were made to. This is true, Creation is supposed to behave just as God created it to. However, the author goes too far in reasoning that it does not mean that homosexual relationships (even consensual ones) are acceptable under this proper understanding of the word.

Here is the issue with this jump in logic, it completely forgets the doctrine of Original Sin and the general feeling of even the Pagan world that things were not right on Earth. Humans throughout the ages have found that they tend not to feel as though the world is as it should be. There is something written on our hearts that tells us something is not right with the state of the world or ourselves. In other words, humanity seems to have this incredibly odd notion that humanity is supposed to be something higher. Sure, we are the "political animal" (Thanks, Aristotle. *wink) or the "reasonable animal," and that seems to elevate us above our animal relatives. It does, in fact, do this. When other apes, killer whales, or bottle-nosed dolphins begin to capture humans and study them, there will have been a paradigm shift. That has not occurred, however.

Humans are different than the whole of the animal kingdom, but still have this feeling that they are not where they should be. This, according to a quintessential Christian (and I hate to say this terrible word) dogma, is a direct result of some sort of catastrophic Fall. That is The Fall, ladies and gents. The whole Genesis account of it is something most everyone knows because the Western World continued to exist due to the Church and this was a Church teaching. Results of The Fall, Adam's "Happy Sin," include enmity between men and women, mankind and the natural world, and that whole stain of Sin all of us are born with (excepting for Our Blessed Mother's pre-Birth salvation).

The doctrine of The Fall lets us know that the whole of Creation is not as it should be. In particular, Mankind is not as it should be and this has had ripple effects since that point in pre-History. Sometime after we became mankind, however it ended up happening, we failed to live up to what our natures were created to live up to.

Pushing aside the fact that The Fall made many things possible that were not possible for us before, such as bravery, let us not forget that it was still a dreadful mistake that ended up in our Creator, God the Father Almighty, had to send His only Son to save us. All of human history since that time is a story about how our Father's love is calling to us, though we prodigal children often run away from his voice for shame, fear, or anything that catches our fancy. The point is, The Fall was a bad thing that God had to turn to good for the sake of allowing us to have our own wills. Free-will is also important to what I am trying to illustrate, but I will come to that later.

Now, being such that Creation has fallen as a result of our actions, what conclusions can properly be drawn from such a notion. Let's try this: 1. Both Creation and Mankind as a whole are fallen. 2. Being fallen refers to a state of affairs where a creature or created thing is not behaving as it was intended to behave. 3. A creature or created thing that is not behaving as was intended is doing so against its own nature. 4. Creation and Mankind as a whole are not behaving as they were intended to. 5. Therefore, If Creation and Mankind are not behaving as they were originally intended, not all of what is now "natural" is indeed natural. (underlying assumption: some of our behaviors are in accordance with our natures.)

All these lines of thought flow logically. Now, it takes an acceptance of Original Sin, something one of my favorite writers, G.K. Chesterton, states is the most obvious and provable aspect of the Faith. People have some odd notion that we are supposed to adhere to some invisible standard, otherwise--as C.S. Lewis would say--quarreling as such cannot exist or make any sort of sense. Since we feel as though our fights about various infractions on our or other's parts make sense, then there is a standard we must be appealing to.

Accepting all of this, and accepting my first premise means that you necessarily must come to this conclusion. Another premise that could be placed before my first premise is that we are created creatures. If that isn't the case, then none of the rest matters and we can behave as we wish (as if laws mean we won't). What I mean is that we truly can say that we make our own meaning and the like; you know, that whole--dare I say it--dogma of relativism: all truth claims are relative...except for this one (can you say arbitrary?)

Assuming all of these, because one has to have a base or standard to reason from, not all of our currently natural actions or thoughts are what we were intended for. Essentially, our free will allows us to misuse our bodies, minds, souls, and the entirety of the Earth. God could, realistically, override our wills if He so chose. However, it appears as though He chooses to refrain. Otherwise, evil does not exist, as we believe that God is wholly good. Indeed, God is the ultimate good, God is Love itself!

Now, here is the line of thought to take on: how do we know which behaviors are against our original natures? This is an incredibly important conversation that humans have always sought after, even if they did not realize that they were, in some fashion, acknowledging Adam's "Happy Sin." Pandora's box, every pagan myth that tries to understand the ills of our world recognizes that things are not as they should be. So, how can we figure out what things are bad and which ones are not? Trial and error is one way. For instance, you only get to see your friend poke a Grizzly Bear once before you realize that bear poking really isn't for mankind.

Thankfully, we do have some tools to help us understand our world: reason and, later through the Church, science as a discipline. In the pre-Christian world, it was simply reason. Philosophy was born out of this need. Science stems from natural philosophy really.

It was reasoned by many cultures that homosexuality was off somehow. The author of the article I am refuting says that men believed the whole of life was contained in male sperm. This is probably true for a lot of cultures; after all, we could not understand the womb back then as we did not have the proper tools. It was a reasonable thought process, however misogynistic. Logically speaking, a woman does not get pregnant until a man gives his sperm to her and the baby does, in fact, incubate in its mother's womb. So, maybe there was superstition regarding this belief, but that does not mean it is a reasonable position to take given what they had. Let us, post-Modern/Moderns stop acting as though we invented reasoning and the ancient world was full of the dumbest humans ever. Every age has dummies (see: The Jersey Shore. How much spray tan can one apply to one's body without dissolving into nothingness? No one knows, I think The Jersey Shore is secretly a documentary that is attempting to understand that conundrum).

If you can admit that men form their dogmas or beliefs from reason, life experience, and any possible transcendant experiences (In the universe, as painted by my argument, the latter are allowable nay probable) then we are ready to continue down our path.

People throughout the ages, through intuition, reason, and experience, have attempted to figure out just how to live. Many wrote about it, but originally this sort of knowledge was passed down orally.

Speaking of oral tradition, that is exactly where the entirety of the Christian Scriptures (both testaments) comes from. Without that prior tradition, there would have been nothing to inform the God-inspired writers of this Holy Book. With or without writing down what was believed, the people of Israel (initially) and later both Christians and Jews would have had their Faith imparted solely through tradition (I exclude the other Abrahamic religion, Islam, because I am fairly sure the Quran is believed to have come down in its complete form. I could be mixing up facts as it has been a while since I engaged Islam).

So, what does all of that mean? It means that the Scriptures are still Holy and still useful for living within the Faith (Jew or Christian), but this is not the only source of true doctrine. Doctrine, in fact, produced the Scriptures. Every book of the Bible is inspired by God, written by men and then compiled into the more cohesive Holy Bible (I'm veering back to the Christianity part). The Bible itself comes from the Church, and would not exist without it.

The fact that the Bible was compiled over a series of councils throughout history and written by God-inspired men is an important to remember when discussing scripture. This is because the Bible was not compiled for the uninitiated. It can help others convert, but it is primarily a book for the faithful. My patron saint, St. Augustine, converted after consulting the Scriptures, but he had to come to a place where he desired to and that means you're already practically in the door of Faith.

So, the Bible is for those within the Church. It has to reflect the teachings of the Faith and that was passed along orally by eyewitnesses initially with some supplemental writing (like the Epistles of the New Testament). Thus, all of the writers of the Bible are working within the realm of the Faith. They are speaking to the faithful, to the various branches of the Church that popped up after Christ's death and Resurrection.

The epistles in particular were written in response to specific issues that arose within the early Church. The same can be said of the Gospels because one good way of fighting heresy is having the essentials within grasp (see: the prologue of Luke's Gospel). Now, does that mean that these issues do not apply for today's Christian? Not at all. After all, there really is nothing new under the sun. Heresies come in and out of fashion just like ridiculous clothing. Heresies even take on different forms, appearing as lambs but hiding a wolf beneath.

Here is the point, Paul may not have mentioned other specific homosexual behaviors for many reasons. The author of the document I am rebutting makes a good point. It is logical to say that, just looking at the Scriptures, the Bible is not always specifically condemning consensual homosexual relationships between two adults. That is a logical conclusion, and this author must be applauded for it (I really should look up the name, but I got in the zone). He is very much right within a specifically Protestant context, which raises the level of Scripture to untold heights. Sola Scriptura was a common battle cry for Protestants during the most turbulent parts of the Reformation and has continued to be one today. Unfortunately, Protestantism (even though trying to count all those churches under this banner is actually quite difficult) has fallen victim to several heresies. It probably is not a new one. I am sure other faithful adherents of Christianity and Judaism ran into a similar problem. It could not happen early on because there weren't generally agreed upon Scriptures yet.

Still, this idea of Sola Scriptura, translated "By the Scriptures alone," is set up for the failings that the author of that other post pointed out. If it is simply the Scriptures and everything must be taken literally, then it stands to reason that some homosexual behaviors seem to be permissible. However, his argument only stands without reference to Tradition and History.

As I have shown, the Bible came about over many years and had to be informed by Tradition. Even the earliest books of the Old Testament are a product of tradition likely written during one of many exiles. The belief that homosexuality, in general, was wrong is a traditional one and is not exclusive to any one religion or people. Many pagan cultures disapproved of homosexual relationships, though it is true many approved or at least tolerated these relationships. It is important to note that different ages, and different people have their own virtues and vices.

I realize the word tradition is liable to get a lot of people exiting this page en masse (if there are that many people), but everyone draws from some sort of tradition. Families have traditions, Science itself has a traditional way of approaching the physical world, and religions have traditions. Some things in a tradition are superstitious and some are not. Some things in a tradition are valid while some not. So, I am not under the illusion that tradition does not have its faults, but the knee-jerk reaction is completely unnecessary. Everything we have now was built off of previous societies and cultures. Humans borrow from each other all the time, and there has been an abundance of sound wisdom and reasoning throughout human history.

Here is another truth: people tend to agree on what sorts of things are evil, but tend to disagree on which ones are tolerable. This is another paraphrased nugget from G.K. Chesterton. Prime examples include the vices of cowardice and adultery. All cultures have said that those things are wicked and deplorable. Cowardice because it is only through bravery that we can get anywhere, and adultery because it necessarily disrupts families (polygamous or not).

Mankind has agreed that marriage is between man and a woman, for the purposes of starting a family. The family was the most important unit of life back then, really. Where they disagreed was on who was in charge, how many husbands or wives can one have, and whether or not in-laws are of the devil.

Similarly, there have been many cultures who disagreed with homosexual relationships. The tradition that Christianity and Judaism draw from are in agreement on this matter. Homosexuality is wrong, however people end up that way. The current teaching of the Catholic Church on the matter is that, actively engaging in homosexual desires is wrong, and not the inclination itself. This is the whole "love the sinner, hate the sin" notion that the author scoffs at. He cannot see how one can separate the sinner from the sin. That's fairly reasonable, actually; but, that does not make it a correct view. Viewing a person as a person first and taking into account what they struggle with is perfectly reasonable and perfectly possible. It is forgiveness for all, right? Murders, blasphemers, and the like can all be forgiven and accepted as a person beyond their faults and sins. Thus, the Church can realistically teach what it teaches on the matter. All can be forgiven if they ask for it and all can be loved even if they continue to do what is wrong. You liking them personally is of little matter. You can love someone and not like them, because love is not simply a feeling, it is action. So, the author is off base in thinking that sins cannot be separated from a person, if you are a Christian you know that it can be cleansed.

Think about this as well, having a desire to do something or attraction to someone does not mean that you have to go indulge in that desire. Similarly, sex before marriage is the result of normal, healthy desires that are indulged, in the belief of the Church, in an improper time and place for such behavior. There is a lot more depth to all of this, but just ask yourself this: can you honestly dislike/hate someone simply for their inclination to slap you in your face if they do not engage in it? Maybe, but you cannot do so reasonably. They have done nothing wrong. (I hear people turning to Matthew and finding where Christ said even the thought to do something is wrong. I think that is hyperbole, but we can't get too far off track.)

Leading us back to the point, it is a traditional view that homosexuality is against nature. Even religions who do not have a fall of man have had similar notions. From whence does this notion come? Well, let's look at the Natural Law; humans, are able to look at the universe and note that certain things follow from other things. All humans know that male and female copulation results (if all goes well) in a child. All humans know that, for the human race to persist, sexing must be done. Because it is kind of hard to get pregnant, a lot of sexing must be done.

That said, humans also noted that a homosexual relationship, whilst sharing a great many of the qualities that makes heterosexual eros so enchanting, cannot produce life. It was clear that man and female are to compliment each other and that life, which is a good gift, cannot continue without it. This does not say that the feelings of the homosexual couple are not real or valid, they just unfortunately go contrary to this Natural Law. It also stands to reason that those two types of relationships are ultimately going to be of a different nature in the end.

The nature of each is as follows: one produces life and the other must end where it is. Until very recently, it was not possible for a homosexual relationship to garner children beyond two kindhearted partners decide to adopt a child in varying circumstances. Now, with the help of sperm and egg donation and surrogacy, this can happen. This is nice for homosexual these days, if they have the funds to do such things, but it still does not erase that natural truth. We may not always have these technologies, and one day we may have to start from scratch. Thus, come to the same truth. A heterosexual relationship can produce life while a homosexual one cannot.

Since the two relationships are really a bit more different than most would care to admit this brings me to the next step in understanding what Natural Law says about this matter. This has to do with telos or the belief that things are made a certain way for a certain end. The fact that we and other animals produce with male and female pairs shows us that such sexual encounters are for species and cultural continuance. If we take that thought further we can see that sexual encounters have a certain telos about them. Human males and human females are necessary components and one cannot continue without the other. Their copulation ultimately has the natural telos of producing a human child. That is the ABSOLUTE end that sexuality seems to be for. The fact that it feels wonderful and can bring about further intimacy is secondary to this end. The Church and the Jews both upheld this notion. The "natural" and good use of sexuality is for the purpose of bringing forth children. Thus, it is unlawful or sinful (against natural law, which God necessarily set in place) to engage in pre-marital sexual relationships of any kind. It is sinful to engage in a sexual relationship that is necessarily going to be outside marriage, and even if that were allowed, cannot naturally produce a family. It is not simply about feelings, strong though they may be. That is why such things are condemned and that is where the tradition draws its conclusions from. Sex is for a certain end and, in a fallen world, we need to do our best to hold on to these better parts of our natures. So, using someone for sex is wrong, and (as per the Catholic Church teaching) purposely withholding an essential part of this sexual function is wrong.

If we go back to earlier in this longwinded document I am writing, there are connections being made. What does tradition's relationships with the Scriptures have to do with any of this? Well, for instance, the Scriptures had to written within a certain worldview which was passed down through tradition before it was written down. This means that all of those beliefs, whether they made the "final cut" or not, inform everything about what was being written. It is perfectly possible that Paul and other writers in the Bible felt that the people they were writing to knew that homosexuality in general is wrongheaded. Tell me, if you feel as though someone already knows something and you need to address more pressing matters, such as the male prostitution that the author of that other paper brought up, are you going to take the time to repeat that thing? You may, but probably it is something that is a newer tradition. For instance, the Eucharist was a new institution created by Christ himself. Many Jews would get the gist of it and Gentiles were no strangers to sacred meals, but the fact that the meal is believed to contain Christ's full presence was something new. It is something that needed to be insisted on, and therefore references to it litter the New Testament.

The truth is, things that are easily derived from natural law need not be repeated in an epistle that was written for the purpose of dealing with specific matters. That would be like your parents reminding you to wipe your behind after using the restroom every time you did it. When you are learning these things, i.e. being potty trained, it is necessary for them to drill you in these matters. If you are 35 it is quite simply annoying.

So, what I am positing is that a more logical conclusion regarding Paul and other Biblical writer's tendency not to mention homosexuality as a sin directly is more due to the fact that they were writing to people who understood a certain tradition (or in the case of Gentiles, likely understood natural law). They were more dealing with subtleties (read: specific issues). These works made it into the Bible because the the early Church fathers felt as though these books would stand the test of time. Surely some epistles or writings that were written and acceptable maybe dealt with someone only a Corinthian would worry about (idol sacrifice and meals surrounding that are not included). A good testament to this fact is that child prostitution is still a problem in the world.

We can now see that the Scriptures may not specifically state a sin, but that does not mean that we cannot figure out if something is wrong or misguided. I personally, think that sexuality is far more complex than the author of the other work thinks. It is not simply a matter of being "born" a certain way. That would negate free will and it forgets that environment has just as much to do with who we become as people. I grew with an abusive father, and I developed behaviors and patterns of thinking that were designed to help me cope with those issues. I reasoned, if I cannot do anything right, then I probably should not try very hard, and it has taken time to heal from things of that sort. This is not to say that we are not born with certain traits and inclinations, I am simply saying that nothing is set in stone as far as who we become. There can be issues that make it difficult or truly out of your abilities to do something you desire, but humans have a choice in how they will act. Aspirations are not the same as character. Character is formed by choice.

Finally, this is not saying that any person who is homosexual, whether or not they are practicing, is a terrible individual. It is simply saying that, homosexuals are not exempt from God's natural law, His commandments, and the like. If a homosexual person wants to become a Christian, a cross they will have to bear is celibacy. It is terrifying and horrible, I know, but we have been promised that, if we give up these things which keep us from God, we will be given something more in replacement, we will be restored. Our lives will be made brand new and, in the end of all things, we will find that giving up what we had to give up was worth it.

Blessings on you all, and peace be with you.


I would also like to note that I agree with him (his name is Mark Sandlin apparently) on the point that we should not be using our beliefs or our Scriptures, however they are formed, in a hateful manner. We should be humble and note that we have our own stains and things that we struggle with. The best thing to do is pray for and love people. If they decide to join our ranks, blessings to them, but this is not a light task. The paradox of Christianity is that upon losing our life we will find it. That means giving things up like ways of thinking, bad habits, and poisonous relationships. Again, blessings on you all.