Thursday, September 29, 2011

Poetry Session!

I know of far too many people that think this way...


You faith-based believers are vipers and scum!
You're evil, depraved, and unbearably dumb,
You're hypocrites, hotheads who hate girls and gays,
You want oppressed workers and twelve-hour days.
You're bigots and blockheads and bastards and fools
Who want brainwashed children and God in our schools,
You're killing the earth and polluting the air,
And pass warming off as a fraudulent scare!
You put fetal tissue above women's rights,
Neanderthals, dinosaurs, loathsome dirt mites! 
And you dare to judge us! Now listen, you snot!
Matthew 7:1! Judge ye not, judge ye not!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Theology of Smashing Liturgical Guitars

Any guitars and other instruments improperly used for liturgical purposes should be smashed. And those who perform such meritorious acts should be granted an indulgence for their zealous and holy work.
Musical instruments during liturgy should reflect the divine element in the Mass. In his 1903 encyclical Tra le Sollecitudini, St. Pius X writes concerning Church music: “It contributes to the decorum and the splendor of the ecclesiastical ceremonies, and since its principal office is to clothe with suitable melody the liturgical text proposed for the understanding of the faithful, its proper aim is to add greater efficacy to the text, in order that through it the faithful may be the more easily moved to devotion and better disposed for the reception of the fruits of grace belonging to the celebration of the most holy mysteries.”
In other words, Church music must reflect the reality of what actually occurs during Mass. Liturgical guitars detract from the aura of the divinity and majesty surrounding the Mass, and replace it with a more homely, community feeling.
But the Mass is not a mere community gathering. The Mass is quite literally the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. During this sacrifice, we are present at the Last Supper and the Crucifixion of Christ, where He offered himself to His Father to save us from our sins. He gives Himself to us to eat at this sacrifice. At this sacrfice, Heaven touches Earth. 
With this in mind, musical instruments at Mass should reflect this spirit of awesome majesty in the Mass. Organs, chant, High Mass music – all of these forms of music reflect and convey this sense of the divine. But a guitar does not and cannot reflect the presence of the divine. And as such, it has no place during the Mass.
I have no deep-seated hatred for the guitar. In fact, I like country music, and will happilly listen to a guitar around a campfire or at an informal gathering. But the informality of a guitar has no place in the formal setting of an orchestra. Why, then, do Catholics allow such instruments to be present at the glorious ceremony of Calvary, represented in the Sacrifice of the Mass? 
Christ’s parable of the wedding guest who was thrown out a wedding party for not wearing a proper garment, is instructive. (Matt 22:11-14) Dress, speech, and music not conducive to the wedding feast of the Lamb of God should be forbidden at Mass. Musical instruments that do not reflect the divine element of the Mass should be cast back into the outer darkness of the secular world, where they belong.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Religion, Atheism and Violence

A superficial examination of history finds numerous examples of violence wrought in the name of God or gods in every age. Religious wars, the Inquisition, the Aztec practice of human sacrifice – these are but a few of the many examples of where religion has been used to wreak havoc in society. Atheistic apologists argue that no one would kill for a lack of belief - so religion is therefore more of a cause of violence than atheism.
But this belief is simplistic and foolish. The practice of the Christian religion, on the whole, has saved countless lives throughout history. (Note that I write the Christian religion. All religions are not created equal.) And atheism’s short existence has already caused the death of millions.
Christianity brought hope to a world that was mired in war, slavery and sin, civilized barbarians that wrecked an empire and destroyed her culture, kept Europe from destroying itself from infighting, and gave Europe a common bond that facilitated her rise to power.
And today, Christian charity is everpresent; religious charities and foundations abound, and missionaries still attempt to bring civilization and healing to troubled cultures.
Atheism only came into its own in the 20th century. Every culture in history prior to the 20th century has been religious - atheism was not around to influence society for most of human existence!
So the 20th century is the only century in which we can assess atheism’s effect on history. And the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history. (To be fair, there were a LOT more people to kill.) Strikingly, however, the great perpetrators of this violence were often atheists. Mao, Stalin, Lenin, and Pol Pot are merely the best known of the many atheistic leaders who murdered their own people without compunction.   
(And I am not counting the Nazis, who were certainly no friends of organized religion. Nor am I counting Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, who emblazoned the slogan “No Gods! No Masters!” on her newspaper and whose organization has killed millions of unborn children.)
Richard Dawkins and other atheists claim that religion is responsible for the deaths of people, while atheist leaders do not do so because of their atheism. This is nonsense. This high incidence of atheist murderers is not coincidental. There is a concrete reason why atheism is destructive.
There is no rational reason for human beings to be good without religion. Human beings act in their own self-interest. Without the check of God or a moral code, there is no penalty for megalomania and violence. And a man who believes in nothing but getting his own way will stop at nothing to achieve his own ends.  
Atheistic apologists claim that evolutionary biology has evolved human nature into a state that promotes morality. (At the same time, they reject sexual morality entirely.) Humans will be nice to each other, because they are hard-wired to do so by evolution.
In this view, morality is a lie that humans tell themselves to mask the “truth” that there are no rules. And anyone can break those rules if he or she recognizes the “truth” of moral relativism and nihilism.
A “moral” atheist is powerless in the face of a moral nihilist. If only the fittest survive, as any atheist who believes in Darwinian evolution believes, then a nihilistic, charismatic genius can kill solely for the purposes of enhancing his or her own power.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why Poetry?

Longtime readers of my blog will notice that I post a lot of poetry – and not all of it is good. Many of you probably wonder why I torment your eyes with doggerel. There are several reasons why I inflict my work (and up to this point, my poems have all been original) upon you.
First, I am a shameless narcissist. Most writers are narcissists, to some extent – anyone who writes, on some level, does so because he or she is proud of and loves to see his own work, and wants to share it with others. The artist cannot resist the sight of his own work, even if others cannot understand or appreciate it.
Poets tend to be even worse than prose writers about narcissism. And I am no exception to that rule.
Also, I love to write poetry, and know that I will actually write poetry if I am forced to. I have a million ideas swirling around my head – ideas that need to be developed. Under normal circumstances,I would rarely write my ideas down. But because I need to write for my blog, then I now have the self-imposed obligation to write poetry.  
There are two serious reasons why I post poetry. 
This is a blog on cultural issues. Poetry is in some sense the pulse of culture. Proper poetry comes from a strong and virtuous culture. Virgil during the Augustan Era, Tennyson during the British Empire are two examples of this.  
Bad poetry signifies a culture in decline. I defy anyone to look through a book of modern poetry and understand the poems that are written within.
At the very least, I can claim that my poetry has meaning. My poetry, technically unsound though it might be, expresses something related to reality. Many of my colleagues do not express anything at all in their “poetry.”
In a way, my poetry postings are part of my (admittedly feeble) attempts to help others understand that poetry is meant to convey truth – and that poetry that does not do so reflects a declining and diseased culture.
The other reason is because poetry can affect people for the better. A good poem with meaning can inspire and shape men and women for the better. Descriptions of various aspects of history are beautiful, and help others to better see the beauty present in nature and reality.
Our culture is currently shaped by music. Popular songs and music videos shape our understanding of life, happiness, parenthood, pleasure, and love. Music has, in effect, become what poetry once was. But the spoken word is still important and can still inspire many - and it is important to remember our roots.
As such, it is my hope that the poetry I post will provide insight for those who view it. I do not make a claim of masterwork, of course. But what I have to offer, I freely give, if you are willing to read.
And God willing, one of you, more skillful than I, will be inspired to write your own poetry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do You Want to Be Healed?

Let’s assume, for a second, that a person could be stripped of every fault her or she possesses. Every sin, inclination towards sin, every temptation – purged forever. Only perfection and virtue would remain.
What rational person would refuse such a process?
But imagine that that process involved purging oneself of all thoughts and temptations leading to evil behavior. Imagine that every bad friend, every sinful haunt, every dirty thought would have to disappear entirely.

Given so stark a choice, many of us might like to think we would choose the honorable path. And perhaps some of us would, if we knew we faced that choice.
But that is exactly the choice each one of us is faced with every day of our lives. And very few of us actually take that path.
The terrible truth is that men and women often do not want to be healed. Evil is familiar to us. We would rather choose the familiar surroundings of our sins than explore the great and wonderful unknown of the virtuous life.
Many of us would rather choose the familiar and tawdry iniquity of pornography and romance novels than experience the joy of a relationship with a real person of the opposite gender. Many among us would rather mindlessly watch vapid television programs and dream of doing great things rather than go out and actually serve God through volunteer work and prayer. We would choose to hang out with our buddies rather than meet new and virtuous men and women. And the list could continue indefinitely.
In order to truly follow Christ, one must make a radical effort to follow Him completely, no matter what holds him or her back from doing so. That often means purging ourselves of things – even morally harmless things – that keep us from loving God.
As Christ says: “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell fire." (Matt 18:9) 

While our eyes or hands may not directly be keeping us from God, our choice of friends and our familiar ways of life may well be doing so. If it is necessary that we must purge comforts and pleasures to become a virtuous person, than we should – indeed we must – do so. Christ demands our full and undivided allegiance. Will we answer His call?
Christ will offer healing to all who want it. But that assumes we wish to be healed. He will not heal those who wish to remain in their own sin.
Do you want to be healed?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The 6th Proof for the Existence of God

Move over, St. Thomas Aquinas! I have discovered another way for proving the existence of God, which I call the “6th way.” The 6th way is the proof of the existence of God through foolish men and women.
This is the 6th way, in syllogistic form:
·         Some people are fools.
·         Darwinian evolution dictates that faster, smarter, or more intelligent members of a species are better able to pass on their bloodline than lesser species.
·         Thus, fools, who lack the trait of intelligence, should not be able to pass on their bloodline.
·         But fools are clearly able to pass on their bloodline, as can be seen by the large number of fools in this world.
·         Darwinian evolution would seem to dictate the contrary.
·         Since Darwinian evolution is true, some element or force must exist that allows fools to pass on their bloodline.
·         But that element or force cannot be natural, because Darwinian evolution is the highest expression of the natural.
·         Therefore some supernatural element must be keeping fools alive and able to reproduce.
·         That supernatural element is what we call God.

 QED. Perhaps I should write my own Summa…

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Gift of Reception

It is said that it is better to give than to receive. This may well be true. But it is very good to receive. And indeed, it is necessary for Christians to be able to graciously receive the good gifts God and others give us to be truly Christian.
Reception is a key component in the Christian life. We ask God to “give us this day our daily bread” in the Our Father. Christians receive the seven sacraments. Christian married life is built upon mutual gift and reception between two partners. These and many other aspects of Christian life depend upon humble receptivity to the gifts God has given us.
But often, we are too arrogant and stubborn to receive help from others – help that may enhance our spiritual growth.
On first glance, this statement may seem ridiculous. Who doesn’t love gifts or presents? Everyone loves to receive things. (Well, almost everyone.)
But oftentimes, we refuse to accept the assistance that people offer. Rarely, perhaps, do we refuse gifts of money, or material things. But the prayers that other people offer, the advice or words of comfort that other people give, the helping hand that others offer – these are gifts which we would be wise to accept, but often laugh off as pointless or worthless.
Instead, we often prove unwilling to share our burdens, bearing them in stubborn silence. Our refusal to accept the help of others reflects a kind of spiritual pride. And our pride harms both us and those that seek to help us.
I remember for the longest time how I hated to receive help from anyone. Even simple offers of assistance, such as help lifting a heavy object or tutoring in bad areas in school, drove me up a wall. I wanted to help others – but I refused to accept any help for myself.
This, of course, was foolish. What if everyone was like me, and refused to accept any help given? No one could give any help of any kind to anybody. And the world would be a poorer, less generous place as a result.
But I am still tempted to “go it alone” often. And I know many others who suffer from the same difficulty as well.
Human beings sometimes need the help of others. We cannot bear our own burdens alone, all the time. Even Christ was humble enough to share His cross with Simon on the road to Calvary. We too must be humble enough to accept the gifts that others are gracious enough to give.
What good would the virtue of generosity be if everyone proved unwilling to receive help? Without the humility of reception, generosity could not exist.
Sometimes, the greatest humility is that of recognizing our own frailty and imperfection, and letting God and others help us in our times of trouble.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Snow White Syndrome"

Disney is a very helpful indicator of problems in cultural values. This popular song from the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a prime example of cultural illness:
Some day my prince will come,
Some day we’ll meet again
And away to his castle we’ll go
To be happy forever I know…

Some day when spring is here
We’ll find our love anew
And the birds will sing
And wedding bells will ring
Someday when my dreams come true.

My apologies for inflicting that song upon you, dear readers. But this Disney song perfectly displays two peculiar types of foolishness that many females suffer from. Combined, these types of foolishness can be termed “Snow White Syndrome.” 
The first is the belief of many women that a handsome, flawless prince will sweep a woman off her feet and love her forever. 
The problem is, very, very few men are actually the handsome princes that infatuated women believe them to be. Men, even good and honest men, are imperfect creatures, who sometimes fall into sin and error. Men will sometimes fail women and bring pain to them. And women who believe otherwise are bound to be disappointed.
This tendency is based upon a common trait in women. Men tend to fall in love with women as they are. Women tend to fall in love with an idealized version of men: what they think men will turn out to be.  
This phenomenon does serve a purpose. It is part of the power of a good woman to be able to influence her chosen man for the better. The ability of woman to “see” what a man can be, properly utilized, allows her to help her man become a better person.
But every gift, misused, becomes a curse. And the tendency of women to idealize men, divorced from the understanding that it is woman’s role (and indeed responsibility) to make the man a stronger and better person, leads to disaster.
The second and related error is that many women accept the “happily ever after” myth that Disney and so many other entertainment venues provide. Often, women believe in the fantasy that their lives will be perfect after they find “the one.” This is an even more dangerous delusion than the first.
Any relationship requires a LOT of work to build and strengthen. Marriage takes even more work to develop and maintain. And there will be bumps along the road in any marriage. There will be strain, disagreement, and discord in even the best of relationships. To believe otherwise is self-delusion. 
The "happily ever after" notion does great harm to those who are credulous to believe it. Women who expect everlasting bliss after finding "the one" are bound to be disappointed – and their relationships will suffer as a result.

Note: Read the editor's note in the comment section.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reflections on the Ending of Romantic Relationships

Man and woman, once joined in a relationship, are not meant to be separated. Once entered into, the relationship between one man and one woman should grow and deepen until death separates the two partners. Marriage recognizes the unity between a man and a woman which begins during the period of courtship. Breakups are, in a sense, unnatural.
But sometimes, breakups must happen for the good of one or both parties in a relationship. Perhaps because one party is not ready for a serious relationship; perhaps because two partners are fundamentally incompatible; perhaps because families or friends pose difficulties – there are numerous reasons why a breakup may be necessary.
But although a breakup may be necessary, that does not mean that it will be pain-free. Whenever any relationship where two people care or cared about each other is sundered, pain will result.
Although they are never fun, the pain of a breakup – for both sides – can be eased if common sense is exercised. (Unfortunately, due to high emotions, common sense is the first thing to be tossed during a breakup.)
I make no claim to “expert” status in the art of the “clean” breakup, as anyone who knows me well could attest. Still, however, I learned several valuable lessons from my experience, which will hopefully prove helpful to someone in the future. What I have learned through bitter experience, I share:
1.     Never demean the person you are breaking up with – to his or her face or behind his or her back. In condemning your former partner, in many ways you condemn yourself for your choice of your partner. If your former partner hurt you, criticize the action, and do not personally retaliate against your attacker.
2.     Be firm when you are breaking up. There’s often a tendency to be too gentle and not want to hurt the other person. But a lack of firmness leads to false hope and confusion.
3.     Be gentle with the other person when breaking up. There is the tendency to want to hurt the other person and to blame the other person for every mistake made over the course of a relationship.
4.     If the breakup is not mutual, the initiator of the breakup should explain the reasoning behind the breakup to the best of his or her ability.
5.     Acknowledge what you did wrong, without exaggerating or taking all the blame. Very few relationships end through only one person’s fault (despite the all-too-common temptation to believe the contrary). Indeed, often there is no fault at all – two people may have been called by God to date for a time, but not forever, and the circumstances came about for a breakup.
6.     Friends are helpful – indeed, vital – in dealing with a breakup and the aftermath.
7.     Pray for the other person’s healing – and your own healing. Both parties need healing after a breakup. The destruction of a serious relationship causes a lot of pain.
The fundamental theme is balance. One should be respectful so as not to harm the other, while at the same time be firm so as not to breed false hope.One should acknowledge his or her own misdeeds (assuming any existed), while at the same time being willing to forgive the other's misdeeds.  One should never attack the person, while at the same time patiently bearing any attacks that may be made.
(This advice holds true for both men and women. Females often find it harder to compartmentalize like men, making breakups tougher on them, generally speaking. But generally speaking, these same rules apply to both genders.)
I do not claim that a Christian breakup is easy. Human nature makes it easy to blame the other person for the pain caused by a breakup. Nonetheless it is indeed possible – and something to be strived for. We as Christians are called to do what is right, not what is easy.
God heals all wounds, if we let Him heal us; time erases evil memories, if we are willing to let go of them. Even the pain of a broken relationship can be turned to His greater glory, if we let Him transform us.
Even breakups have some role to play in His master plan. And if we cooperate with Him by treating the other partner with dignity, we will heal faster and be better prepared to accept and embrace His future plans for us.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The State of Modern Manhood?

I was present at a friend’s party about five years ago. The host’s family had a son who was mentally handicapped. The handicapped son saw a lovely young lady at the party, and thought she was attractive. In the way of males, he set out to win her heart.
So he walked up to her, and his exact words were: “Hi, I think you’re pretty. Let’s have sex.”
He repeated the same statement – multiple times. Coupled with his later complaint that “no one would ever have sex with him,” his statement was unsettling. 
He didn’t know any better, of course. But if he were not mentally handicapped, I (and everyone else there) would have decked him. These things are not said in polite society.
But his words reveal a fundamental truth about the nature of male sexuality today. For what that mentally handicapped man was willing to say, many (if not most) males inculcated in the culture of pleasure think in their heart of hearts. Instead of seeking communion with women in marriage and in strong relationships, men instead seek the empty pleasure of casual sex, and order their lives around that pursuit.
The actions of men, although perhaps more subtle than that of my retarded (I use that term only in the technical sense, not as an insult) friend, reflect that misbegotten attitude.
Go to virtually any men’s locker room, any sports bar, any guys’ hangout – and you find this attitude expressed and acted out. Sex is treated as a measure of manliness (the more partners, the better) rather than a relationship of communion between a man and a woman.
This attitude is destructive to society. A society where men objectify women for the purposes of gratification is fundamentally diseased. Rather than respect and appreciate the beauty and dignity of womanhood, men today denigrate women. Women, seeing this lack of respect (caused in part by society’s adoption of feminist causes), retaliate in kind.
A relationship which is meant to dignify and fulfill both men and women instead degrades both men and women. And the harmony between the sexes, as created by God, is poisoned, to the detrminent of men, women, and society as a whole. 
The thin veneer of politeness and civility that males are forced to exhibit in “polite society” towards women far too often covers the lust that lies beneath that veil. And the fruits of this attitude are rotten indeed. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

The “Personally Opposed” Canard

Many politicians, when discussing the abortion question, claim that they are “personally opposed” to abortion, while at the same time supporting “abortion rights” in practice, due to so-called concern for women’s health.
This is perhaps one of the most inane and shallow arguments ever constructed. A similar claim could be made for murder or rape: “Well, I am personally opposed to rape, but I support giving rapists the right to practice their predilections.”Very few people would support that argument.
Personal opposition to any behavior counts for nothing if a practical policy of support for the behavior is justified. If I am “personally opposed” to theft but let someone get away with the crime of stealing, I am effectively condoning theft. Similarly, if I am “personally opposed” to abortion but seek to protect a “woman’s right to choose,” I am in practice encouraging abortion.
The only way that the “personally opposed” argument is justifiable for a behavior is if that behavior is truly one of personal preference, rather than a matter of moral law. I can be “personally opposed” to body piercing, while accepting the right of a man or woman to allow himself or herself to be pierced.
But if abortion is considered merely a matter of personal preference, then the abortion issue is already decided. For if abortion is a matter of allowing a woman to make a personal choice to undergo a distasteful procedure, than it is the right of the woman to do whatever she wants with her body. Distasteful medical procedures (to some) such as plastic surgery and tattooing are not forbidden under the law.And pro-abortion advocates claim that abortion is a matter of personal preference, just like the others.
But pro-life advocates claim that abortion is murder. Murder is forbidden under the law. Under this definition, one cannot be “personally opposed” to murder and accept it in practice.
By professing “personal opposition” to abortion while protecting abortion via law, politicians have taken the side of the abortionists.
The “personally opposed” argument is used by politicians who wish to justify their support for abortion while at the same time cynically claiming the moral high ground on the issue. Even worse, most people are willing to let the issue pass without much thought.
The claim that abortion is murder is a serious charge – one that must be resolved before ANYTHING is decided regarding the abortion question.
If abortion is murder, then it should cease immediately. If abortion is the mere removal of fetal tissue, then there is no point in hindering it. If there is debate over whether abortion is the taking of a human life or not, then politicians should err on the side of life.
But “personal opposition” and practical support for murder is not an option that even politicians would countenance if challenged. Why, then, do pro-life advocates allow them to get away with it?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

First Principles and Politics

In a previous post, I discussed the concept of first principles. It is time to explore the implications of first principles in relation to important ideologies.
There are three major political ideologies competing for the political soul of America: conservatives, libertarians, and liberals. Each of these groups has a different set of first principles – which shape their arguments.
The first principles of these political positions are actually fairly simple.
A libertarian’s first principles are that men should be free of government restraint to the greatest extent possible and that “individuals have the sole right to exercise dominion over their own lives.”
A liberal’s first principles are that human existence can be improved by societal or governmental intervention, that men are malleable, and that truth is unknowable and in flux.
A conservative’s first principles are that government should not interfere in traditional institutions such as the family and religion, that men are prone to error and temptation, that traditional institutions are necessary to properly form men, and that there is knowable and unchanging truth.
(There are many different shades of these political ideologies, which I could not hope to cover in one blog post. I am merely outlining the first principles of the most common political ideologies.)
These first principles color every aspect of political thought. And the policies of these political groups are different because the first principles of these groups are so different. 
This is why debate between different political groups is often rendered impossible. Different political groups hold radically different beliefs about human nature – beliefs which shape every policy they make and every proposal they offer. Their first principles are so deeply held that nothing can shake them. And entrenched belief in these first principles renders understanding of other poltical beliefs impossible.
British political theorist Lord Acton wrote: “Politics come nearer religion with me, a party is more like a Church, error more like heresy, prejudice more like sin.” His words could be said by a great many people today. Politics is the new religion of modern society. The “belief” in government and politics as a quasi-religious force is omnipresent in modern society.
And the “beliefs” of this new religion, the particular first principles of different ideologies, are so deeply rooted in the minds of many that honest debate and thought is rendered impossible, and “debates” devolve into shouting matches and mockery.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Poetry Session!


He stands, defying God and Church
Pope self-proclaimed, from lofty perch,
Demanding God conform to his
Perception of who the Divine is.
Half-truths he weaves for foolish men
Ensnaring all those whom he can,
Explaining, but with meanings altered,
Revealing sweetly untruths uttered.
A following he soon attracts,
With these then he the Church attacks
Accusing Her of false instruction
He himself spreads truth’s corruption.
At length his followers realize
They have been duped with foolish lies.
Men who revered and praised his name
Return abashed from whence they came.
Forsook by men, forsaking God
He feels the lash of divine rod,
Deserted, stripped of every mask
Men take the man at last to task.
Then he, first and last of his line
Drops dead defying Christ divine.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Perfection of Profession

Christians are commanded by Christ to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matt 10:16) But often Christians seem to possess the innocence necessary to be holy, but lack the wisdom. And as such, our efforts to evangelize and spread the truth of the Faith are severely curtailed.
Christians are supposed to be in the world, but not of the world. This means that Christians are not to adopt worldly desires. It does NOT mean that Christians are supposed to ignore the world altogether.
It also does not mean that Christians can afford to be lazy in their chosen professions. Christians must strive for technical perfection in every act that they do - including work. But too often, it seems, Christians in certain industries fail to seek this perfection in what they do – with dire results.
A perfect example of this trend is in the film industry. Christians often make films with wonderful messages, but too often force these moral values into a movie with awful execution. (The Passion of the Christ is a rare exception.) And the awful execution detracts from the power of the movie.
The movie Fireproof (yes, I know it’s a Protestant movie) is a prime example of this. The movie had an incredible message: fidelity and mutual respect must be shown between two partners in order for a marriage to work. But the dialogue was so ridiculous and stilted that it distracted from the message of the movie. The film came across as a good film that could have been great - if it were better made.

By contrast, Hollywood shows very slick, well-crafted movies with little to no sense of moral values. The plots of these movies may have no redeeming qualities. They often develop anti-Christian themes, and the characters may blaspheme and reflect moral sterility. But the very slickness of the films makes them enjoyable to watch - even considering the terrible content within.
The best message in the world will not suffice if it is presented poorly. While we must see the face of Christ in all people, that does not mean those we are called to evangelize will do the same. Many will not see the gem of truth buried under a sloppy guise.
Very few people will watch a badly done movie, mo matter how striking the moral message contained within. Very few people will eat an inedible meal, no matter how generous the intent of the cook. Very few men will listen to a badly presented speech, no matter how important the ideas within. Poor presentation will ruin the substance of even the greatest argument. And so on and so forth.
The converse is also true. Skillful rhetoric can mask a speech which contains nothing of substance.  Appearance does indeed matter!
And this is precisely the problem. A Christian must seek to be the best that he or she can be – in every aspect of life. Morality is most important, of course. But technical perfection is also vital. And technical perfection is often dismissed as unimportant - "it's the thought that counts" is a common - and dangerous - platitude.
It is true that “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful,” as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said. But that does not give Christians an excuse to be technically lazy or incompetent. Fidelity to God demands that we perform the tasks allotted by God to the best of our ability.
The parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) reveals the dangers of wasted potential that God give us. We may well not be successful in reaching others – but we must develop our efforts to the best of our ability so that we have the best opportunity to do so. If others fail in understanding the truths of the faith, it should be in spite of our efforts, and not because of a lack of them.
So we, as Christians, should develop all our abilities to the best efforts. The souls of others may well depend upon our diligence.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Catholic Teaching: All or Nothing

So-called “cafeteria Catholics” believe that they can pick and choose from the teachings of the Faith, accepting certain doctrines and rejecting others, while still remaining Catholic.
This is a foolish belief. One cannot pick and choose among the doctrines of the Faith. To be a true Catholic, one must follow all the teachings of the Faith, or follow none at all.
For the Catholic faith is not like a Jenga tower, where pieces can be removed and the tower will survive, so long as the basic structure remains. It is more akin to a log cabin. Remove one post, and the cabin collapses.
The truths of the faith are interconnected. They support each other; they cannot stand without each other.
For example, the doctrine of original sin directly ties in with Christ’s death on the cross, which connects with His Resurrection, which leads to His divinity, which leads to – the list could go on indefinitely.
This is merely one example of the reality that every truth of the Faith is linked.
This is a major reason why heresy was and is so strongly opposed by the Church. Remove one element from the Faith, and the Faith changes completely. One cannot be a faithful Catholic unless he or she believes and follows ALL the teachings of the Church – without exception.
The Church is wiser than those who fail to make the connections between different doctrines and dogmas of the faith. She sees the connections linking the truths of Christianity, which duller humans fail to observe. And Her wisdom is manifest in Her survival through two thousand years of persecution, hatred, and heresy. Since her beginning, She has held to the same, unchanging truths, despite fierce opposition from many within and without the Church. And She has survived, while Her challengers have faded into obscurity.
Those who attempt to defy one teaching of the Church are in reality denying them all. And those who do so effectively sunder themselves from the bosom of the Church.

Monday, September 5, 2011

On the Hatred of the World

It is a peculiar fact that one of the surest signs of goodness in this world is the hatred of evil men.
This statement may seem harsh and cynical – but it is demonstrably true. Evil people always hate those who exhibit goodness. The greater the good that exists in a person or in an institution, the more hatred that evil people will spew at that good person or institution.  
For the devil hates what is good, and inspires the same hatred for what is good in his followers (those in persistent mortal sin). And this rabid hatred of Christianity – what Chesterton termed “the halo of hatred around the church of God” – is a sure mark of its essential goodness.
The world has tried to stamp out Christianity since the birth of Christ. Herod attempted to kill Jesus while He was still an infant, and Jesus was persecuted for His beliefs throughout his ministry. After Christ ascended into heaven, Christianity was opposed by  Jewish leaders who persecuted Christians. The Romans followed, and since then the Church has had to fight off enemies from without – constantly.
And of course, divisions rending the very heart of Christianity have also plagued the Church from its origins. Men who claim to be Christians and seek nothing less than the destruction of the Church are everpresent in the history of the Church. (i.e. heretics and Modernists)
Brutal forms of persecution, including torture and death, still occur even in our “modern” age. In countries such as North Korea, harsh punishments, up to and including death, are meted out to those who seek to follow Christ. Martyrdom will never cease as long as Christianity exists.
Persecution in “free” countries comes in forms more subtle than martyrdom, but it does happen. The scorn and mockery of cultural elites who take up positions contrary to the law of God is omnipresent in “free societies.” Immoral figures in society flaunt their evil behavior and taunt those seeking to live a Christian life. And the forces of "tolerance" demand that every voice be heard - except the voices of Christians, which they do their utmost to silence.
Every Christian is called to die to self entirely and to follow Christ, no matter the cost or the opposition. And every Christian who faithfully attempts to live out this calling will be opposed in this mission by those who seek to thwart God.
Our Master warned us of this phenomenon. He said to His apostles: "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you." (John 15:18)

And so, indeed, it has. And the better men and women we are, the more hatred we will experience. Hopefully, we will bear this hatred as a badge of honor.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Is Hell Compatible with God's Mercy?

Many “modern,” "progressive" Christians reject the notion of a Hell (except for men like Hitler, of course!) as being incompatible with a loving God. They argue that an all-merciful God would never permit His creatures to suffer forever. 
But Hell is far from a cruel and mean-spirited punishment inflicted upon innocent or mildly evil humans. In reality, it is one of the greatest signs of the mercy of God.
God cannot let anyone enter heaven defiled by sin. Heaven is a place only for the perfect, because only the perfect would wish to see God, revealed in full power. The imperfect soul would be too aware of his or her imperfection to enjoy the presence of God, unveiled in glory. Quite literally, those in a state of sin could not bear to be present with God in His infinite majesty.
God also created man with an immortal soul. He destined us for eternal union with Him – and He created every single human being towards that end. He gave each and every human the gift of immortality, so that we could enjoy eternal union with Him forever.
God never takes back His gifts. When He gives to His creatures, He gives freely and without restraint. As Scripture states: "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29) God cannot take back the gift of immortality from His rebellious creatures.

But all gifts become curses to those who reject God. And a person who has rejected God completely is saddled with the burden of living forever in a miasma of hatred and pride.
That soul cannot enter heaven, because he or she would not be happy there, in a place where God is forever praised and he or she is not. The soul cannot go to Purgatory, because he or she refuses to be purged of his or her sin. The soul cannot remain on earth forever once the body dies.
So where does the hardened soul go?
In his mercy, God created a place where a soul that rejects Him could go. That place is Hell – a place completely lacking in love and mercy. It is a place without the presence of God – which the hardened sinner demands.
The absence of God is what the rebellious soul demands above all else. The rebellious soul sets himself up in the place of God.  Strange as it is to say, the rebellious soul is "happier" in hell than heaven - for his will is done.
The rebellious soul chooses Hell over Heaven.
Many people ask why God would create a place where only misery and hatred exist. The terrible truth is that God created such a place precisely because many of His creatures have chosen that place for themselves. And God will not force them to do otherwise. His mercy is too great for Him to force Himself upon us.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Poetry Session!

This is a fitting poem to close out this week's posting. It was written for two friends of mine - and it describes them very well. It also describes what a married relationship SHOULD be like.

One here stands, a lonely pillar
Strong and straight and smooth and tall,
Firm as statue’s stone, yet stiller,
Bearing, lest the temple fall.

One there stands, a lovely lily,
White yet red yet blue yet all,
Blossom beauteous in the hilly,
Flower feeling for its call.

One sees one, and one the other,
Two see one, both find a lover.
One steps forward, one responds,
Two engage, and then the bonds.

One steps forth, and joins the union
Three made two and two made one,
 Love unending in communion,
‘Til the day when all is won.