Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Abortion and Christian Charity

I was praying at an abortion clinic last weekend with a group of friends. As sometimes happens, we were yelled at by a passerby while we were praying.
An irate man yelled at us as we were praying (somewhat more politely than most, I might add – no expletives were used). He adopted the familiar tactic of accusing pro-lifers of not caring for women: “So you really want to help these women? Then you need to provide free day care for them for the rest of their lives! These women will never see you after today, and all you are making them do is feel bad. You…”
At this point, the man stopped. I don’t know whether someone talked to him, or whether he just got disgusted that we didn’t drop everything, stop praying, and listen to him.
But I badly wanted to speak to him. For he was wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong! But his lie contains a grain of truth.
I’ve written on this topic before, but it bears repeating. The Church does care for women in danger of abortions, if the women are not too proud to ask for help. Pregnancy centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies – caring for the poor and disabled is a Christian way of life, that faithful Catholics do practice.
But his statement should be reflected upon by us Catholics, who are often lax in providing charity to the poor and downtrodden. Catholics – especially young Catholics – must know how to help women in danger of obtaining abortions if the opportunity arises. We must know where they can go for help. We must be prepared to give of our time, our resources, and even ourselves, if need be, in order to help women in need.
College students cannot, of course, pay for free day-care, or adopt children, or make massive monetary commitments. But youth is a time of energy, not to be wasted. We may not have the money to give to the poor – but we often do have the time to volunteer at pregnancy centers and food banks. We may not have the means to give monetarily to charity – but we usually have the means to show charity to our neighbor.
Youth is no excuse for lack of charity – it is a time of action, as well as a building block of future charity. And charity, our Christian duty, can potentially save lives and souls.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Nature of Self-Gift

I was at a meeting where the subject of self-gift came up. I did not speak because I have a penchant for silence at group meetings. But I wanted to speak, and here is what I wanted to say:

When you give of yourself, you must give fully, completely, without restraint or hesitation.
You must give, knowing your reward will be the indifference and callousness of those you serve.
You must give to all who ask, knowing those you turn to will spurn your gift and mock your generosity.
And when you are spent, and you fall and are too exhausted to rise, then you must get up and give yourself again, and again, and again, until you have taken your last breath.
That is how Our Master gave to us; that is how we must give to others.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Your Daily Dose of Awesome

To my faithful readers: 
In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, I offer you this glorious comeback whenever you find yourself on the losing side of an argument. 

Have a blessed day!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Forgiveness and the Insoluble Riddle

I usually try to answer the unspoken questions other people have about important topics on this blog. (How well I do is for you and God to judge.)
Now, I ask you to do the same for me.
I’ve never learned to forgive – myself OR anyone else for major mistakes that they are not sorry for – or when they or I have done irreparable harm to another. EVER.
Oh, sure, I understand the problem with “eye for an eye” justice, and technically, I’ve never actually retaliated when someone has done me injury. And I do forgive other people for their faults, if forgiveness means allowing individuals to get away with faults scot-free. 
But such "forgiveness" is merely intellectual. In my brain, all is forgiven; in my heart, all is not. And though I will rarely if ever say anything out loud (and certainly NEVER to the offending parties), the burning anger at what I have done wrong and those who have done me wrong never, NEVER stops. Time may heal the memories of others, but it only sharpens mine.
Forgiveness is central to Christianity. Christ commands us to forgive, “seventy times seven” (Matt 18:22) times. And not just in our intellect, either. We are called to give each other entirely to each other, to forgive each other entirely. Christianity is not a faith of half-measures. We forgive or we cease to be Christian.
I hate insoluble riddles, at least those riddles I know are solvable. And I know other people have solved the riddle of forgiveness, because I see their joy at having done so.
But I can’t solve this one on my own. Any help? And certainly, please keep me in your prayers; you are in mine. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Family Research Council Shooting and a Rant on Hypocrisy

I try to avoid politically-oriented rants whenever possible. But the recent shooting of a guard at the Family Research Council has me riled – not at the shooter, who simply took the campaign against “hatred” to its logical conclusion from a secular perspective, fighting fire with fire. The architects of the shooting – the heads of the same-sex marriage lobby – deserve to be called out for their hypocrisy.
The heads of the pro-gay marriage movement has waged a vicious “hate” campaign against anyone that dares to oppose their position. They claim that supporters of true marriage are responsible for violence, bullying, and a host of other social evils. They complain incessantly about homophobia and oppression and intolerance and a host of other politically correct evils.
And now one of their followers tries to break the chains of this (phantom) oppression by trying to strike a blow against a “hate group,” and they decry the violence. Not buying it.
The architects of chaos merely reaped what they sowed. From Dan Savage spewing vitriol to loony mayors screaming about “hate chicken,” the generals of the same-sex marriage movement created an atmosphere of fear and terror which caused one of their followers to snap.
I’d like to believe this incident will cool down the overheated rhetoric and the talk of “hatred.” But I’m not very hopeful. Within a week (if not before), this incident will be buried, and the rhetoric of hatred will continue. And the hypocrisy of accusations of conservative groups “spreading hatred” will endure.
Speaking of hypocrisy, supporters of same-sex marriage claim that advocates of a Judeo-Christian view of marriage are hypocrites. They are absolutely right. It is indeed hypocritical for people claiming to defend traditional marriage to get divorced, commit adultery, and use contraception. This is NOT a reason to purge the true definition of marriage, but rather a wake-up call for married individuals to live faithful lives.
But the supporters of gay marriage should acknowledge their own hypocrisy. Their tolerance only extends to their own opinions; their love only for those they support. They claim to decry hatred, but their hatred of their opponents is palpable.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Religious Authority and "Forcing Religious Views"

Religious authorities (such as the Catholic Magisterium) are often accused of forcing their members to believe in specific religious teachings. They are also accused of seeking to "force" their views on others through political means.
In modern America, the first argument is wrong, and the second argument is a characteristic of the political process.
Religious authorities do not and indeed cannot force anyone to believe ANYTHING in modern America. Individuals are free to accept and reject the teaching of religious authorities as they wish.
The concept of force necessitates that one is impelled to do something by an external power. And religious authorities do not possess external means to impel obedience.
The “force” applied by churches is merely the threat of a) the social stigma of leaving a particular institution and b) future punishment in an afterlife. In a purely material sense, the force applied by churches on their members is non-existent.
Religious authorities can, however, assert that there are consequences for specific actions. They can and do claim that there are penalties, meted out by a supernatural power, for certain behaviors. But they actively cannot compel people to remain in their faith.
Those who wish to leave a specific church are perfectly free to do so in America, and face no penalty for doing so.  
This would not have been true years ago, when religious authorities and states were more unified. The Inquisition tried individuals and handed those it judged guilty over to secular authorities, for them to be dealt with accordingly. Protestant Geneva linked state and Church in a theocratic body, harshly punishing those it deemed malefactors.
In modern democratic states, the only way religious authorities can “force” anyone to do anything is to lobby the government and “force” their views on others through the political process. 
Governments can force individuals to do things or face penalties through its police power. If certain laws are not obeyed, the government can jail individuals or fine them. 
It is a clear misunderstanding of the word "force" when people claim that religious authorities “force” people to obey certain rules and believe certain doctrines. (And it is ironic from the same people who also claim that 98% percent of Catholic women use birth control and disobey the Catholic Church’s teachings!)
The complaint about religious authorities using “force” is in reality a complaint that secular views are not actively being “forced” upon others through the political process. The remedy for secularists is simple – gain political power!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Reflecting on Two Tragic Shootings

Two recent shootings – one in Aurora, Colorado, the other at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin – have sparked consternation and soul-searching.
Two points about these shootings are especially interesting.
The first is a simple question: why is the media publicizing the names of the shooters and revealing every aspect of their lives?
Many serial killers crave attention. Senseless, violent acts like mass shootings are a way for lazy, morally challenged individuals to gain their 15 minutes of fame.
By poking into the lives of killers, the media and the consumers of the media play their game. Narcissistic killers become famous and draw innocent individuals into their twisted psyches.
Curious humans want to know why people who inflict horrible pain on others “go bad.” We want to explain the unexplainable, to fathom the unfathomable.
But in trying to delve into the mystery of evil, we encourage the narcissism of lunatics.
Narcissistic killers seek attention; let us starve that desire. Consign the names of lunatics to oblivion, and praise instead the heroes who inevitably arise during these tragedies.
The second point is more important. After horrible tragedies, people often declare that the depth of evil displayed shakes their faith and even belief in God.
But the evil of others should never result in a loss of belief in God. God is good, but He gave His human creatures the gift of free will. All of us (except Mary) choose evil; many even choose great evil.
But human evil should not shake our belief in God. We may misuse our gift of free will – that is hardly His fault! Our lack of goodness is no excuse to disbelieve in God’s!
Mass shootings are tragedies. It would be an even greater tragedy if deranged individuals could take away He who brings greater good out of tragedy, by destroying our belief. Their failure should not be ours.