Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why Does Gray Matters Exist?

It’s now been over nine months since Gray Matters began. I’ve posted over a hundred times, and spent countless hours blogging, editing, re-editing, and agonizing over posts.
I often wonder why I started Gray Matters in the first place. I stopped blogging for a time in November and December, discouraged that no one seemed to be reading my work. (Tip: NEVER look at your blog stats if you can help it.) And even now, I still wonder why I put so much time into blogging - even though I already know the answer.
There are four reasons why this blog exists. Some are incredibly arrogant, others less so.
The first and most arrogant reason is the illusion of influence. All writers are narcissists. Seeing that even a few other people come to your blog to read YOUR material is an incredible ego-boost.
The second is also arrogant. Many people blog as a sort of diary, to let out what they are thinking. I often find that to be the case with these posts - they serve as outlets so I can bounce my thoughts off others.  
The third reason is practical. This blog serves as practice for my future endeavors, since I firmly believe God is calling me to be a Catholic apologist. An apologist needs to learn to articulately express his faith to others in a coherent, articulate, and interesting manner.
But when all is said and done, I blog for one very important reason: to help readers come to know Christ and the Catholic Church better.
My goal in life is to help lead souls to Christ, as the rather melodramatic blurb at the top of Gray Matters indicates. If just one Catholic reads the musings on here and learns something about his or her Catholic Faith, or if one non-Catholic stumbles across this blog and comes to a better appreciation of Catholicism, then the long hours spent blogging are worth the time and energy spent on them.
It is my fervent hope and prayer that these rants and ramblings help you, dear readers, to understand Christ better. God grant this may continue to be so.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spiritiual Clarity

Spiritual clarity is a terrifying thing.
To know - know - that you have fooled yourself for years, that even now you still stubbornly resist God's plan for you.
To know that you are the author of all your sufferings, that those you blame for your faults and injuries are guiltless.
To know what you are, to see all your myriad faults laid bare before you.
To know that you are young, that you can still heal and be healed, To know that you have been given a gift, to catch the faintest glimpse of what you are called to be, that you must embrace that gift.
Light, after years of darkness, is terrifying. Antiseptic burns the wounds it helps to heal. Whatever this is, it hurts, and hurts like wildfire. Pray God I can bear it and withstand the test.
Please pray for me - I rarely ask your prayers, but need them now, and need them badly. God bless you, dear readers.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Feminized Society (Part 3)

Society is rapidly reflecting increasingly feminine traits. In previous posts, I have examined why society is feminizing, and the positive impacts of a feminized society.
While a feminized society possesses several advantages, it also carries with it major disadvantages as well. The disadvantages of a feminized society are numerous:
1)  A vacuum of leadership is often apparent in feminized societies. Because women are more social than men, they often rely on groups to make decisions. Men, by contrast, are generally more individualistic than women, making decisions with less consultation. Decisions are made by committee more often in a feminized society.
Decisions made by committee are often compromises that placate the majority rather than cut to the root of a problem. A feminized society often ends up failing to make critical, painful decisions, reflecting a dearth of leadership.
2) Women tend to be more easily swayed by emotion than men in making decisions. For women, emotion and logic are much more unified than in men. Women make more emotionally based decisions than men. 
This means that logic and rational argument in the politics and discourse of a feminized society are frequently superseded by emotional rhetoric – a trait easily observable in modern politics. (This does NOT mean that women are dumber than men – a point I have gotten into nasty arguments over).
This also means that logical leaps and even contradictions in political thought become more pronounced, producing, for example, situations where fetal homicide laws and abortion laws exist simultaneously.
3) Women tend to be less analytical and more intuitive than men. This means that women are less likely to think over the consequences of their actions. When society adopts these traits, it leads to a society which makes snap judgments, rather than relying on careful analysis of a situation.
This overreliance on snap judgments also results in situations where only a few solutions to a problem are considered – in government and in societal behavior.  
4) Women seek to “protect the helpless” more frequently than men – at any cost. Expensive social programs tending towards care and concern for everyone may be increasingly adopted, irrespective of whether or not they are effective, simply for the sake of trying to do something about allevaiting suffering.
This tendency leads to spending problems, because a society which cannot control spending on social programs is liable to eventually go bankrupt.
Also, some of the positive elements of a feminized society have problematic consequences. For instance:
1) The fact that a feminized society is comparatively gentle means that society is less willing to punish wrongdoing, and more willing to tolerate it.
2) The fact that a feminized society is less violent means that governments are more willing to appease “bully” countries, rather than stand up to them.
This is not to say that a feminized society is evil. However, a feminized society clearly has many downsides.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Falsity of the Sexual Spectrum

Attitudes towards sexuality seem to fall on a spectrum. The two “extreme” positions on the spectrum, so to speak, are the Catholic view towards sexuality and the permissive view.

The Catholic view of sexuality posits that sexual behavior is for the dual purpose of procreation and unity. Any attempt to separate these two ends of intercourse is inherently destructive.
The permissive view of sexuality holds that sexual behavior is for the purpose of pleasure only. Any act between two consenting adults or beings (including polygamy, S & M relationships, and bestiality) is acceptable sexual behavior, because the only thing that matters in a sexual relationship is the pleasure of one or both individuals having sex.
Modern society appears to adopt a view of sexuality in the middle of these two extremes: for example, it accepts contraception yet condemns bestiality. However, this "middle ground" of modernity when it comes to sexuality is an illusion, because it uses the logic of the permissive view of sex to justify behavior such as contraception, and therefore leaves no logical defense against ever more shocking radical forms of sexual behavior.

Most people attempt to straddle the two extremes. Some believe that contraception is okay, yet refuse to accept extramarital sex. Others hold that homosexuality is acceptable, while polygamy is wrong. Still others believe that polygamy is acceptable, while bestiality is depraved.  

But logically speaking, if the premise is accepted that it is acceptable to thwart the biological purpose of sex through contraception, then the basic premise of the permissive view of sex must be granted.
For if sex is fundamentally about pleasure, than any measure taken by one or both partners to seek pleasure in sex is surely acceptable. Any opposition to things such as homosexuality, polygamy, and bestiality becomes hypocritical, because if these elements make people feel pleasure and are acceptable to two (or multiple) partners, than they are a positive good.
Since hordes of people accept the notion that contraception is permissible, they have no logical defense against the defenders of gay marriage and other sexual perversions.
The gradual erosion of sexual morality, where abortion, gay marriage, and other sexual "rights" become increasingly accepted and even entrenched in modern society, indicates the failure of a "middle way" when it comes to the sexual spectrum. 
Logically speaking, the only consistent views are the Catholic position and the permissive position on sex. Any attempt at a middle ground between these two views is, in the long run, impossible.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Margaret Sanger Interview

Legendary newsman Mike Wallace recently died. His death led to the finding of this interview with Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. The interview is incredibly interesting and worth a thorough viewing. Here is a link to the full interview (set aside about 25 minutes for a full viewing):
Several things struck me about the interview.
The first was that Sanger was making the EXACT same arguments that the modern political left is making today - on a host of topics. Overpopulation, the purpose of marriage and of sexual intercourse, the nature of love, divorce, the nature of God and sin – all these issues came up. And Sanger trotted out views that could be parroted word for word by modern liberals. (Wallace challenged these views – but later generations of journalists adopted them.)
The second was the intense anger Sanger displayed when discussing the Roman Catholic Church. Sanger specifically named the hierarchy of her Roman Catholic Church as her biggest enemy. She even snapped at one point: “They’re celibates! They don’t know love, they don’t know marriage, they know nothing about bringing up children or any of the marriage problems of life, and yet they speak to people as if they were God!”
The third was the fact that Sanger dodged many of Wallace’s questions and probes. “I don’t agree” and “I haven’t heard of that” were common phrases out of her mouth. At one point, she adamantly denied she had made a statement that she had made to Wallace’s own reporter.
But the final and most interesting part was right at the end. For Wallace asked about Sanger’s children and grandchildren. For a woman that showed such hostility to children, (she even said that bringing children into the word was a “sin”) she loved her own. And she exhibited obvious love for her eight grandchildren, despite her railing against children.
The interview confirms that Sanger was a ruthless enemy of the Church, and even an eneny of the human race. But even the worst of people retain touches of their humanity. Make no mistake, I believe Sanger to be one of the worst human beings ever to have walked the earth – on the level of Stalin or Hitler. But even the worst enemies of Christianity are human.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Those Pesky Christians and Premarital Sex

Christians are often portrayed as killjoys who take the fun out of sex, because modern society blares the joys of an unrestrained sex life 24/7 from every media outlet imaginable. Since Christianity allows sex only under the auspices of marriage, Christians are mocked by a world which views virginity and marital fidelity with contempt, and maligned as “hating sex.”
But, Christianity, far from demeaning sex, actually celebrates sex as a joyful, beautiful act (See the Song of Solomon). In fact, it is precisely because Christianity treats sexual union with such reverence that it forbids premarital sex.
Ironically, comedian Stephen Colbert described the Christian view of sexuality in a crude but accurate manner , declaring on a recent show: “Sex isn’t two drunk strangers getting their freak on at closing time. It is the mystical union of two people inspired to create new physical life while God adds a soul in a divine an ineffably beautiful three-way.”
Of course, Colbert was mocking the Christian view of sexuality. Sex is viewed by most people in modern society as a pleasurable itch for any two consenting adults to scratch, and little else.
But sex, for Christians, is more than a mere pleasurable biological urge that can be fulfilled by any two random people. Sexual union, as understood by Christians, is a participation in the unitive mystery of God. The unity between a man and a woman reflects the unity of the Trinity. During the act of sexual union, a man gives himself completely to his woman, and the woman gives herself completely to her man. Both man and woman are completed in a joyful union – the two literally become “one flesh.” (Mark 10:8)
But outside of marriage, this joyful unity cannot be achieved. Only when a man and a woman have vowed themselves fully and completely to one another before God is such a union possible, because God must be present before two people can fully give themselves to one another. As Christ states: "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Mark 10:9)
Outside of marriage, sexual union is a lie. Two people say with their bodies that they love each other completely and totally – but they have not vowed fidelity to one another before God. And couple engaging in premarital sex can choose to "back" out of their love at any time through breaking up - and more often than not, do so. 
The physical world reflects the material world. Every holding of hands, each embrace, every kiss passed between a man and a woman in a relationship is a sign of the love and the unity which that couple shares. Sexual union is the sign of the ultimate union between man and a woman, where they give themselves fully to one another. Premarital sex destroys that assurance, by treating that bond casually.
The results of premarital sex are predictable – shattered relationships and a rise in societal discord between men and women. Men and women learn to distrust each other, because they lie with their own bodies.
So it is not because Christians despise sexual intercourse that they forbid premarital sex. Rather, it is because they treat sexual union with incredible honor, and recognize it for the glorious act that it is.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why Do Women Post Pictures of Themselves?

I often used to wonder why many girls felt compelled to post pictures of themselves posing on Facebook and other social media sites. While there is no way I will ever fully understand the complexities of the female brain (as if any male could!), there is a rather simple answer to this particular question.
Women who post pictures of themselves seek affirmation. Women were designed by God to reflect God’s beauty in creation. As such, many women feel the need to be told they are beautiful, because they (subconsciously) seek to affirm the fact that they are truly reflecting God’s glory, as they were made to.
Accordingly, women put themselves on display, so to speak, offering themselves up to the eyes of others to judge their beauty. Some adorn themselves with jewelry, some change their hairstyle and clothes, some go out dancing or to bars. Some go to the awful extreme of making YouTube videos asking people whether they are ugly.
And some do so by posting Facebook pictures. Single young ladies are especially prone to this behavior.
But this female craving for affirmation is exhibited in other states of life as well. Nuns, as “brides of Christ,” make themselves beautiful for their Divine Lover through prayer and service to Him. The married woman offers the gift of her beauty to her husband, seeking his approval of her beauty.
How should men respond to women’s craving for affirmation? Very simply. Men should affirm women by treating them with respect, by always affirming the beauty of women (WITHOUT leading them on), by acting honorably and chivalrously at all times. Husbands especially must always affirm the beauty of their wives, whom they have a special duty to cherish and protect.   

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Intolerant and Proud of It!

Tolerance is one of the buzz-words of modern society. The Urban Dictionary defines tolerance well: “The belief that it doesn’t matter what race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation a person is, as long as they never, ever disagree with you, and as long as that religion isn’t Christianity."
Americans must accept abortion, or gay marriage, or whatever else the ruling class wants – all in the name of the god of tolerance.
Those who preach tolerance are full of baloney, of course, and practice their creed about as frequently as they follow their own advice on climate change.
But there is something more than mere hypocrisy at work with tolerance. The premise of toleration for all is completely flawed.
Sometimes, of course, tolerance is a very good thing. Tolerating other races is good. Tolerating other faiths is good.
But tolerance is sometimes simply idiotic, and intolerance is often necessary.
Some actions, such as rape and child murder, simply cannot be tolerated, because they are destructive to other people. Tell a rape victim that she should tolerate her attacker’s proclivities, and see what kind of reaction you get. Try telling a mom whose child was murdered by some psychopath to tolerate the man's urgings, and observe the mother’s reaction (from a hundred miles away).  
Similarly, some policies simply cannot be tolerated, because they are destructive. I cannot tolerate abortion, since it is child murder. I cannot tolerate gay marriage, if such an institution will lead to the destruction of society.
I cannot tolerate what I believe to be wrong, if I have a shred of manhood. And I will fight what I believe to be wrong with every part of my being.
Am I am intolerant of wrongdoing and stupidity? Absolutely! And I am proud of my intolerance.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Questions for Atheists

I often hear atheists make the claim that religion makes its followers unhappy, dumb, and dull. Atheists wish to save Christians from these evils by enlightening us dull religious fools with the truth - the truth that there is no God.
Whenever I hear this claim, I wonder if they have met any of the Christians I know. For all the Christians I know are incredibly happy, exciting, smart people. And the more fervently they live their faith, the happier they are.
I have several questions for atheists:
Would you have us be happy? But we are already burning with happiness, the depth of which you could not possibly fathom.
Would you bring us excitement? But we are already thrilled beyond comprehension, staring into the mystery of the eternal.
Would you have us be free? But we would not trade obedience to the “rules” of Christianity for all the “freedom” that you offer us. Our adherence to those rules brings us joy, and if it is slavery, it is sweet slavery indeed.
Would you enlighten us with truth? But we are already filled with a wisdom beyond human comprehension. If this be madness, we would rather experience that fantasy than humdrum reality.

The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis put this argument into the mouth of a fictional character, in his Narnia story The Silver Chair: "Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan Himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playinga game cam make a playworld that licks your world real hollow."

If our faith in God be madness, we embrace it willingly, and would not barter it for any price.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spiritual Parasites

I got infected with a nasty parasitic skin condition a while back. I started uncontrollably itching all over my body. Eventually, the pain became unbearable, and I had to figure out some way to get those parasites out of my skin.    
My mom, being my mom, found a bunch of natural remedies for my skin, and suggested I use them to get rid of the parasites.
Well, I did try them out. And those natural remedies hurt like wildfire! I took several long bath in those natural remedies, and it felt like my skin was burning.
But that  prolonged treatment eventually got those parasites. And I was very glad not to be itching anymore.
Reflecting back on the situation, my skin condition bears a strong resemblance to the spiritual life. For parasites can be likened to sin sin many ways.
Sin is nasty and incredibly parasitic. Very few Christians mired in habitual sin actually enjoy the sins they commit. We hate them, but can't get rid of them through our own efforts. Sin eats away at us and burrows into us, just like parasites, and causes us ever-growing pain. We can't simply ignore them and hope they disappear, because they will run rampant and eat us alive.
Left unchecked, habitual sins run wild and destroy us – just like parasites. And as long as we remain in areas that contain the parasites (i.e., nearer occasions of sin), and avoid seeking healing, the parasites will remain in our system – and grow steadily worse and more destructive with time.
But the remedy for spiritual parasites hurts as well. It hurts to let go of sin! It hurts to pray for forgiveness and seek that forgiveness our of others. It hurts to go to confession and admit our faults. Sin may be terrible indeed, but at least it is familiar and even confortable to us.
That gnawing temptation - that desire to constantly stratch the itch of our sin and avoid being healed - is always there. Many of us would rather remain in our sin and perpetually undergo the suffering that entails, rather than fix our sin once and for all. 
The feeling of freedom that ensues once we get rid of sin is incredible indeed. It is far better to be free of sin than mired in it. But the initial steps to removing our sin are painful indeed - and too painful for many to undertake.
If we would be truly free, we need to utilize the spiritual remedies God has given us, painful though they might be, to rid us of our spiritual parasites. And freedom from spiritual parasites is incredibly joyful, indeed.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Power of the Weakness of Christ

Tonight is Holy Thursday: the first night of the Holy Triduum, the holiest time of the Catholic year, and the commemoration of the Passion of our Lord.
This is indeed a fruitful time for spiritual reflection. One of the most striking things to consider during the Holy Triduum is how it shows the weakness of Christ – and how Christ's weakness is the source of His true power.
The weakness of Christ was never more evident than during His passion and death. Christ, after celebrating his last meal with His disciples, was betrayed by one of them, abandoned by the rest, and given a mockery of a trial. He was forced to undergo excruciating torture and death on a cross, and crucified between two thieves in ignominy.
And yet, in the midst of Christ’s weakness is revealed His incredible power. He healed the ear of one of his attackers, in the midst of being taken away by hostile foes. He prayed for His enemies on the cross, comforted His mourners, and converted a condemned man dying next to Him. Even one of his executioners was forced to admit: “This man was truly the son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)
To reveal His the fullness of His power on Easter Sunday, Christ chose to suffer through the agony of Good Friday. Jesus' power was revealed by His weakness.
The incredible power of the weakness of Christ is at the heart of Christianity. Christians have been, are now, and will be scorned by the elites of the world. Christians appear frail and impotent when compared with those the world considers powerful and important.
And yet, in that weakness is our strength as Christians. Like Christ, Christians witness best when  stripped of everything but their love for Christ. The beauty of Christianity shines most when surrounded by the hatred of the world. The power of Christian love is most clear when it overcomes the pomp of earthly rulers. It is for this reason that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
Have a blessed Holy Triduum, dear readers.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Love Me Like My Dog?

So I was feeding my country music addiction today, and a new song came over the radio. This song perfectly illustrated a point I was trying to make in an earlier column about the nature of Christian love - and so I share it with you.

The song is not serious, of course. But it still contains some rather uncomfortable grains of truth.
Love is often confused with dog-like attachment. When people say that they love someone, what they often mean is that they have a strong positive emotional attraction for that person. Love is merely emotional attachment, and when that emotional attachment dies, that love becomes non-existent.
But real love – Christian love – is more than mere dog-like attachment or a storm of emotion. Christian love is the burning desire for the good of the other person, combined with the action necessary to translate that desire into reality. It is the love illustrated by Christ on the cross, burning with so much love for His creatures that He, Lord of heaven and earth, allowed Himself to be slaughtered by those He made.
I have written elsewhere that God does not love us with the senile love of a doting grandfather, but with the burning fire of a lover. But the love of a lover is more than mere uncritical adoration. The love of a lover is all-consuming, demanding the ultimate perfection of the other.
As the great Christian writer C.S. Lewis writes in the Problem of Pain: “Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost: but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved… Of all powers he forgives most, but he condones least: he is pleased with little, but demands all.”

And Christ demands that His love be embodied and reciprocated  by His creatures. We must share with our fellow creatures the same love our Master has for us - passionate, joyful, all-consuming, willing the ultimate good of the other.

Christ demanded this of His disciples at the Last Supper, declaring: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34)

This love demands incredible self-sacrifice. Christ gave Himself up on a cross for our sins. We must be prepared to give ourselves entirely for our fellow humans in the same fashion, if it be God's will.

Christ gaveHimself entirely to us through his sacrifice on the cross - and he demands our undivided love in return. We must give ourselves entirely to Him and His creatures, as He did for us.

 Love demands no less.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Moral Evil in History

Social conservatives and social progressives alike seem to think that rampant homosexuality, contraception, abortion, sexual immorality, and other issues of the modern age only arose over the last hundred years or so. Moral evil is thus portrayed by its defenders as a sign of the progression of civilization, and treated by its opponents as something new and un-heard of.
They are wrong. The ancient world was rife with infanticide, human sacrifice, homosexuality, and a host of evils. And these evils were largely defeated by Christianity, and have only recently arisen again in force.
Moral evil was rampant in the pre-Christian world. The Carthaginians used to throw babies into fires as human sacrifices. The Romans used to leave babies outside to starve to death. The Greeks celebrated homosexual relationships and concocted potions to prevent conception and kill unborn children. The Jewish people were a rare exception in the ancient world – more accurately, THE exception – in not accepting these evils as normal.
When Christianity came into the world, Christians fought these evils, knowing them to be incompatible with the law of God. And they largely succeeded in ridding the culture of these vices. They existed, but were treated by Christian society as the perversions they were. 
But in this modern age, vice is celebrated as “progress” and “liberty” from the forces of oppressive and outdated Judeo-Christian morals. And Christians have forgotten their roots, and are unaware that this battle has already been fought and won by their forefathers in faith.
Modern morality represents a retreat back to the forces of barbarism and pagan nonsense that Christianity overcame in ancient times, not a path to progress.
Nor is the modern world necessarily undergoing an inexorable march to moral depravity. Christians won the battle over the forces of barbarism in ancient times. We can do so again.