Tag Archives: Faith

We Are Not to Worry. But What Does That Mean?

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God is in control.    God is my co-pilot.   God is the navigator.   Not my will, but Your will be done.

I was reflecting on the Gospel reading from this last weekend:   Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 24-34.

I won’t quote it all here, but among the text are a couple key quotes:

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

The Bible is an amazing thing, because it is all true and authoritative, but at the same time it is quite easy to take things out of context and in isolation.    The Bible has counterbalancing messages throughout.   One of the classic examples is the admonitions to feed the poor, and then Paul’s statement that says that if a man doesn’t work he doesn’t deserve to eat.   It is easy to pick one side and dig your heels in and apply that to everything, when in fact Jesus is talking about the less fortunate poor who either can’t work or would likely desire to earn a wage if offered, whereas Paul is focused on a community of able-bodied people who all need to do their part.

After Mass this last weekend a friend of mine, who knows I scrutinize finances and try to make sound financial decisions and plan for the future (and he is the same way), smirked a bit when asking me “how’d you like today’s Gospel?”    I could tell he was tweaking me a bit, and we engaged in it.   He was conflating “planning” with “worry”.   I disagreed with him, and I think by the end of our talk he was agreeing with me.

I think to read Jesus’ words here as some instruction to forego any and all planning is not only incorrect, but it’s actually counter to what He’s trying to get people to do here, which is to not worry, as in don’t be anxious.

My friend, as we talked, had the personal revelation that his planning is his way of actually not being anxious.    I agree with that.   Perhaps more important, good planning will help your loved ones not have to worry as much.   If I didn’t plan for the future, and didn’t have my affairs in order, it would cause grave headaches for my loved ones if something happened to me.   Stress, anxiety, and probably a bit of exasperation and anger would follow.

I always remember a personal example from our Homeschool group.   My wife was getting frustrated because they would schedule events and then they wouldn’t plan them.    The leader of the group at one point remarked about how they didn’t need to because the Holy Spirit just made it all come together at the end and somehow, some way, the events turned out fine.    While maybe this was true in its literalness, my wife’s observation was that she and a couple other moms always did 90% of the work because they would have been utterly embarrassed had everyone showed up to nothing.     So these three moms ended up feeling like they had to continue taking on this burden while the others extolled the wonder of the Holy Spirit bringing it all together.    There was finally a push for some structure and reorganization in the group that led to some rifts, unfortunately.   I guess my point is, if you think you’re living the gospel by not worrying, but your lack of attention in the name of not worrying leads to the anxiety of others, then you are not properly disposed to what you’re being called to do – in my opinion.

We Christians have struggled with this balance forever.  We are in constant conflict with the opposing ideas of the necessity of what we do versus what that means about our trust in God.    One can actually take this all the way back to the heart of arguments about predestination.

Here’s how I see it:   You should plan for the future and plan for contingencies.   We should do what we feel we need to do in prudent and responsible ways.   This is not lacking trust in God.   In fact, God is likely calling us to do some of these things.    But planning and taking action should ease your mind, and not burden it.    If you are not able to do everything you would like to do, but you are doing what you can, then you need at that point to not worry and trust in God.    If you are moving past prudence and trying to outsmart God by being ready for everything imaginable under the sun by relying only on your own wisdom, then you are trusting in yourself and not in God.   If you’ve planned for X and the unexpected Y happens, you need to trust that God will help see you through – or that this suffering has a greater purpose.   If you are obsessed with perfection, you need to relax and trust in God.

This covers a lot of areas, from finances, to married life, to health, to raising kids, and so on.   One should try to make good health choices.   That may mean you’ve decided to eat in a certain way, avoiding some foods not because they bother you physically but because you’re trying to stay healthy.  But at the same time if you are traveling or visiting and the food choice is not to your general health standards, and you become obsessed with the idea that eating that burger patty is going to take 2 years off your life, then you are not in balance.   That’s worry and anxiety and something of a lack of trust.

If you feel like a store of food and water is a good idea and you take some measures and you sleep well then that’s a good thing.    If you wake up every morning wondering what you haven’t done in the event that X, Y, or Z happens and you are never comfortable with what you’ve set aside or stockpiled, then you are out of balance.

My wife and I actually were talking on Saturday about the responsibility of raising kids.   The discussion turned to her concerns about them becoming godly persons, their salvation, and everything we may not be doing to make that happen.    I was agreeing that we need to do everything we can, but we’re humans and we will fall short and at some point we need to simply ask God to fill in for our deficiencies, and that He is not going to abandon them to the wolves just because we forgot to do this thing or that thing in the overall formation of their faith.    It was almost as if that Gospel reading on Sunday was for us.

So, you see, I may be a planner, but I’m really not a worrier.   My wife is.   I’m not speaking out of turn here – she’d say the same thing.   In fact, she may well say that I don’t worry enough, and I say she worries too much.   We’re both probably right.

If you do absolutely nothing, then that certainly can be trust in God.   But you should also assess whether or not it’s just simple laziness, and whether your lack of concern is affected others.   It could be argued at times that I am lazy.

Finally, I offer my preferred analogy of our participation in life with God.    It’s fine to recognize that “God is in control” as long as you don’t use it as an excuse to eschew your obligations.   I’m not the biggest fan of that phrase, not because I think it’s false, but I think it’s a bit misapplied to our purpose.   God is ultimately responsible for everything we are – He created us, has granted us our very life, has given us our abilities, and has single-handedly opened the doors of heaven to us.    He has all the power in the Universe to control every aspect of our lives.   But that doesn’t mean he exercises that power over all of our thoughts, words, and actions.   He doesn’t.   It doesn’t mean he moves us like pawns on a chess board, maneuvering us through every situation, while at the same time maneuvering those around us.    He may well intervene on occasion because He loves us, but the very fact that some of us end up sick or injured, or dead, is self-evidence that God allows things both in and out of our control to occur that bring with them certain undesirable outcomes.   I acknowledge that God is ultimately in control to the extent He desires it, and that he has the power of full control to the extent He exercises it.    He is also a navigator, but not necessarily “the” Navigator at all times, since we have a say in the direction we go.

The co-pilot analogy is also lacking a bit, since it sort of relegates God to a secondary back-up position in our lives.   I know that “co” can mean partnership and equality, but that’s usually not how co-pilots are referenced.   There is a pilot and a co-pilot.    It may be a better analogy to say I am God’s co-pilot.

I prefer the Navigator analogy, but with a twist.    If you imagine a ship with two rudders, one large rudder for large-scale directional movements and one rudder that allows quick reactionary movements along the broader path, I see God as the Navigator of the big rudder and we are navigators along the path we’re on.    I think God moves us directionally where we are to go.   I think we need to trust and not be anxious about that direction.    But that doesn’t mean all is clear sailing in a straight line.   We may need to navigate some rough waters or around islands or icebergs and what-not as we follow our path.   We can still crash on the path God sends us if we aren’t doing what we are supposed to be doing.   We have responsibilities to uphold to ensure that we get where we are intended to go.    And even that smaller rudder can ultimately change our direction if we continually push it in opposition to the big rudder.    God makes it difficult for us to move off the direction He has chosen for us, but not impossible.

So, don’t worry about planning.

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Ninevah90 Warning

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I made a comment on another blog I was a bit wary about.   I dared question whether or not it is wise for everyone to jump right in and do the Ninevah90 program.

The response I received was actually not what I expected.   I expected to hear why everyone should be able to do it, and that not embracing it fully is a sign of weakness, which is all the more reason why you should do it.    But I received a lot of agreement.

Basically, what I said about it is that everything there is good.   I have no issues with anyone doing it.    But it’s also a LOT.    Depending on where a person is in their spiritual journey, it could be utterly overwhelming, and perhaps even counterproductive, to try and do it all.   We humans are fickle creatures, and some have a tendency to become demoralized and give up on the whole thing if we fail to do every last thing.   I suggested that, at least for some, it may be a wiser course to stretch yourself, but still make the additional devotions, prayers, and activities achievable.

I was happy I received such agreement in one respect, but then I got nervous about whether or not i was just encouraging an attitude of copping out…

The following is a follow-up comment I made, that I thought I’d reproduce here.

“I wanted to make sure I clarify my comment a bit. I guess I’m just a strong believer in proper balance. And I think we all get out of balance at times one way or the other and need to constantly self-correct.

In no way am I saying that nobody can take on the full Ninevah90 program. Nor am I saying one should easily or simply dismiss it because “it’s too hard.” Nor am I saying that we shouldn’t constantly challenge ourselves to do more than we are currently doing… to take that “Next Right Step” in our spiritual growth.

What I am saying is that we are all in different places on our spiritual journey, and we all have different responsibilities in life that we cannot disregard or replace with another time consuming activity, whether it is a holy one or not.

As an example, a friend of mine – a wonderful and committed Catholic – at one point in his spiritual life thought it was a good idea to try and do everything he read that other saints did. And he was demanding his family do the same. All were good things in and of themselves, but the sheer volume of things he was doing, and in turn asking his family to do, became a real stress and caused problems in the family: Hours of adoration, hours of volunteering, hours of prayer, attending this function and that function… My observation was that I thought I fostered a better relationship with my kids and family by simply being at home and talking with them or playing a game with them. Yes, we also incorporate prayer and other spiritual devotions into family life, and I am not saying we can’t do more – we certainly can. But he was not in balance, and I could imagine even the good Lord was saying “the saint you are trying to emulate was single and a monk. You can’t do what he did – go spend time with your family.”

The Ninevah90 thing is very good, and it’s a great challenge to take upon ourselves what we can handle, and perhaps that one thing more that we feel we may need to help have God lift us up to accomplish it. That’s the next step. But if one tries to leap over a tall building in a single bound from where they are now, there is a risk that you end up a spot on the sidewalk.

I’ve already seen someone on my Facebook page lament that already on Day 3 of the program, he is undergoing a lot of spiritual warfare. I have no idea what that means, and it may very well be a true statement, but I couldn’t help but think “or maybe you just took on too much.” If he’s truly being attacked in unforeseen ways, he needs my prayers. If his view of spiritual warfare is that he doesn’t have enough time in the day to fit everything in, then I’m afraid no amount of prayer will create additional minutes for him. But hey, I could be wrong.”

I’m reminded of some of the criticisms about Catholics by some other Christians about “piling up words.”   While this criticism is usually in response to devotional prayers, such as the Rosary, and is completely unfounded, there is nevertheless a risk that some people just believe that piling up devotion after devotion after devotion makes them more holy.    We risk getting out of balance.   The proper perspective of any devotion is that we are in a relationship with God, that we are participating in the work of salvation that He alone made possible, and that we are being His hands and feet to the world around us.    If we just do a bunch of stuff in order to satisfy all the daily requirements of a program and somehow think we’re now a better person for it…  well, there may be some truth to that in terms of a better understanding that you can do more, and forming good habits.   But it could also become this obsessive action that erroneously leads to a belief that you’re working your way to heaven.

So, whatever you do, make sure your life is in balance, and make sure you know why you are doing it and why this is an important thing.

 

Facebook Debate Review

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Over the weekend, a Facebook friend of mine, a Deacon, made the following post:

“I was saddened this morning to see how a young lady who went on mission trips with <our> parish and was confirmed, posted yesterday pictures of her supporting Planned Parenthood.    I know that she is unaware of the truths of abortion mill that they are running and how they are murdering children.   I am praying that she finds out the truth.”

As one might imagine, this was met with the full gamut of potential responses, from those in complete agreement with the sentiment, to those who felt he was shaming someone publicly, to those who thought they were being condemned for ever having gone to Planned Parenthood for any reason.

Every now and then I like to break down posts and comments.   Today, I’m going to do that.

My commentary:     This may be, broadly speaking, a sort of shaming.   No names were provided, but there were some details that could be identifying in nature.   There is an acknowledgment that the person may be ignorant of the truths about what Planned Parenthood engages in.    I don’t think the post is out of bounds, as it is right and appropriate to rebuke people engaging in sinful activity, as long as it is done with charity.   I do think, though, that the reference to the Parish should have been left off.   It immediately identifies the person as local.   Had he left it at just someone who he knew had been confirmed, and had gone on mission trips then in the minds of readers it could be just about anybody.

The first back and  forth was as follows:  

Responder 1:  I’m saddened that you would put it out on face book rather than talking to her personally.

Poster: I am more saddened that she would post a picture first without talking to me so that she was well informed.

Responder 1:  But you are the adult here.

Poster: She is an “adult” as well, and “adults” should know that planned parenthood’s main revenue is from abortions.   Period.   Too bad so many people are misinformed when it comes to that.

Responder 1: I guess I’m not OK with shaming on Facebook.   A private conversation with some give and take seems more logical.   As for the adult part, well I guess the older adult should set the example.

Poster:  No give and take on that subject – abortion is the murdering of a child – it only is a choice of life or death – and I do set the example of standing up for life.

My commentary:   I can actually see points on both sides here.   I actually agree that the preferred initial approach would at least have been to ask the person in question whether or not she was aware of Planned Parenthood’s activities.    Perhaps even ask outright if she supported abortion rights (in private) to see where she stands.    And as I mentioned, even if one chooses to use this as an example for public consumption, care should be taken to use it as a teaching example, while minimizing the risk of revealing who the “sinner” is.    Also, saying there can be “no give and take” on any subject I think is wrong-headed.   One can know with certainty that they stand for what is good and true and still have a give and take with respect to a discussion.    Give and take does not imply compromise – it can imply trying to have a reasonable discussion so you can gain trust and figure out exactly where they are.    To should someone down will do no good.   I don’t think “give and take” means what he thinks it means.

Having said that, it’s a ridiculous assertion that it is completely out of bounds to make a public statement about something that someone else willingly posted in a public manner, and it’s all the more ridiculous to say that you need to treat another adult with kid gloves just because you’re an older adult.

Responder 2: How is that shaming someone?   He stated facts without naming her.    And if she believes PP is such a great organization, why would she be ashamed at all?

My commentary:   Generally agree, with caveats as already stated.   Though, I will say that it would be possible for someone to still feel good about their own support of PP while feeling a little offended by being called out by a member of the clergy, essentially, as a supporter of murder.   It may be true, but there may have been a more charitable way to go about it.

The next responder’s comment will be necessarily broken up into multiple parts.

Responder 3: As a young adult, my mom took me to Planned Parenthood to receive regular health screenings.   Does this mean I am damned for life?

This doesn’t make any sense at all, which tells me it’s an entirely emotional response.   As for the source of the emotion (either guilt, or simply an inability to accept that just because an entity does some “good” it cannot erase the evil nature of it).   For one thing, nobody anywhere said anything about being damned.   And the phrase “damned for life” makes no sense at all.   You are not damned for life if you’re damned.   You are damned for all eternity.   Which means ALL of us should be doing everything we can do to make sure we’re right with God!   Eternity’s a long time.   Finally, just because you went to PP at some point to get assistance, depending on what it is you did there, there may be nothing morally wrong with it.   If you got some check-up or general health screening, especially if you were ignorant of the other things they do, then there’s not a problem.

Unfortunately, this is why many turn from organized religion because we all judge versus support our own.

She may be right that we all tend to judge.   But the “thou shall not judge” thing is also misapplied.   The entire context of Scripture makes it clear that we should judge what people are doing from the perspective of discernment, correction, and aiding in another’s salvation.   It is not an act of love to allow one to persist in sin.  It is an act of love to correct it.   However, on the flip side, many people do not convey that correction in a charitable way.   And flipping around again, many will be corrected charitably and will see it as an act of hate because they feel they should just be “accepted.”    We “support our own” in the faith by trying to get them to heaven.    When we see error, it can be a tricky balancing act to try and figure out how to go about correcting that error, for that person’s own good.    It is not an error of organized religion that we sometimes fail to act in charity.   It is a failure of people, in general.   But those who persist in sin after receiving correction cannot be “supported” with respect to accommodating that sin.   Yes, we still need to love them, but that doesn’t mean what they think it means, often enough.

Knowing God does not judge, the message that is being forced onto us from our church leaders is disappointing.

Um…   God doesn’t judge?    Then who does?    Is there no hell?    This is the epitome of relativism.   Only are we not to judge anything anybody does as right or wrong, but God doesn’t even do it, apparently.   This is dangerous thinking.

I miss the days of feeling welcomed to church versus hearing how horrible we are because we may not attend every week, don’t dress appropriately or may support Planned Parenthood for many of their other services that help millions of people.

My commentary:   Oh, where to begin.   First, I would be curious to know exactly how this person was made to feel like she is a horrible person.   It is possible that an uncharitable approach occurred, in which case that is problematic.   But I have an inkling – maybe more – that this person heard a perfectly charitable reminder about the importance of weekly Mass attendance, the importance of modesty in dress, and felt personally offended because she was unwilling to look inward and consider what was said with humility.    Now, I don’t know her and can’t know that for certain, but what I do know is that there are many people out there who react that way even if she is not one of them.

The other irksome argument about the good the argument about pointing out the good things about Planned Parenthood is the willingness to just turn a blind eye towards the evil that they do for the sake of the good.   Not to mention, many people put contraceptive services in the “good” column.   They aren’t.

But more to the point, at the heart of all these protests in favor of Planned Parenthood is whether or not there should be federal funding for it.   So, if you feel that strongly about PP, then write them a check or use their services, or volunteer for them.   But don’t ask me to fund an organization that doers evil things.

 

Anyway, there’s actually more, and I could go on.   Maybe I’ll continue this with another post if I feel like there’s enough worth talking about.

 

The Climate Change Pope, Part 3

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I’ve spent a couple blog posts giving the background on why I believe the Pope is wrong about climate change.   Let me start this post by stating my areas of agreement with the Pope.

  1. I am not deligitimizing the overall, general issue of stewardship of God’s creation.     I am not suggesting the Pope has no authority in this area, nor that he should be silent about these concerns.   I am not even saying that the Pope has no right to an opinion on whether or not human-caused global warming (or climate change) is real.    He, as does every person, has a right to an opinion.    As Pope, he has the obligation to instruct the faithful.   More generally speaking, it is proper and correct to challenge all of us as to whether or not we are striking the proper balance between respect for human rights and progress and respect for God’s creation.
  2. There should be many things that we see that should not be particularly debatable as either a good thing or a bad thing in the realm of stewardship of the earth.   Dumping of toxins, breaking the law, leaving a plastic bottle in the woods – some are clearly more serious than others, but all are wrong.   The Pope is correct to suggest that knowingly doing something that is harmful to the planet is sinful.    This statement is not Gaia-worship, it is a simple acknowledgment that we have a responsibility we need to take seriously to keep this planet as healthy as possible, because God made it good, and also because it’s in our best interest to do so.    No matter how pro-capitalism one might be, this should not be debatable.
  3. Consumerism is a somewhat strange word, but we should all be able to agree that, while the economic system is not inherently problematic, the human conditions of jealousy and greed are.   You can point to any economic system ever put in place anywhere, and you will have one thing in common:   greedy people will find a way to take advantage of other people, and will exploit the system to their gain.    I personally believe that the Pope is often a bit too hard on capitalism, as if the system itself is flawed.    Compared to any other system devised, I actually thing it produces the most superior of moral outcomes – you earn what you deserve (generally speaking) and it forces allocation of resources in the most efficient way for a thriving economy, which benefits everybody.     Clearly, there are shortfalls, as will be the case with every system, and we continue to try to create the perfect variant of a social-capitalistic system, which will never happen.   But having said all that, it is certainly worth noting the personal pitfalls of this system.   Capitalism does offer the opportunity for great wealth.   That’s not bad, but is the question is why is that wealth being pursued?     It’s one thing if natural interests or a great idea that can add to the quality of life of others is the reason for the pursuit.    It’s also another thing if an opportunity exists to make your life better without sacrificing other good things (God, family, etc.).   It’s quite another if the drive is purely materialistic, and the time and effort is sacrificing time and energy on more idealistic pursuits.   This is where capitalism, while not bad in and of itself, can be a source of temptation for those who may have a personal weakness in the area of covetousness or greed.    This goes hand-n-hand, then, with the stewardship of creation.   Most Corporations are good, all of which are filled with working people – I hate the generalization of all Corporations as somehow innately evil. This doesn’t mean that greed cannot infect the principal owners/board members of an organization.    As Christians, we can both believe in the goodness of capitalism while speaking out against environmental injustices when they happen.
  4. There are grey areas in the area of stewardship that can be legitimately debated.    Is it immoral to build a factory that will employ people who will be able to provide for their families if it means the endangered snail darter will be at serious risk?    Is it immoral to shutter the entire project, causing community disruptions, lost jobs, and so forth because of an overscrupulous view of stewardship?    Good and honest people will disagree on the moral high ground here.   Perhaps there is a middle ground that makes sense.    One thing is almost certain – not everyone will agree, and it’s almost impossible to say that one side is sinning and the other is not.

So, I think the Pope makes many great points, and challenges us to make sure we are not letting politics steer our religious or moral obligations.    However, where I do take issue is moving from the moral directives to a much more specific proclamation of what our obligations are as a world community, as governments, and as individuals in response to the threat of human-caused climate change.

It is one thing to take a position that dumping a known toxin into a river is a sinful action, and it is quite another to suggest that driving a car is a sin if the option of a bus is available.   If the moral instruction is based on a belief that fossil fuel use is causing destructive warming, it is understandable why that instruction takes place.   But if that underlying premise is false, then the moral instruction is also false.    Put differently, if I do not accept the science-based premise that leads to a particular moral instruction on the basis of that scientific premise – not on simply obstinate grounds, but on grounds of experience and research and (to the extent possible) unbiased human reasoning – then am I obligated to accept the moral instruction that is a response to the flawed scientific premise?    This is different from just saying “I studied the Bible and I don’t believe in Purgatory.”    That is not a scientific question that leads to a religious doctrine.   So, I am not saying that whatever I don’t accept I don’t need to listen to.  In fact, I accept that the moral issue of stewardship is an obligation on my part.   It is the specific nature of this issue that I have a problem with.

One may simply ask, “What’s the big deal?”    Well, it is a big deal, actually.    If the Pope gives moral authority to governments, the UN, and other secular organizations on this issue, it sets the stage for a much more aggressive response with the justification that the Vatican is on board.   I think the Pope, in his own way, has this vision of the goodness of they types of choices that will be made – people just decide to buy fewer things, drive less, think about the environment more, and participate less in the types of things that will drive climate change.   Governments will do reasonable things that benefit everyone.

There is good there, and the good things are the things we should do anyway, irrespective of climate change.   But going beyond personal choices, everything else is problematic even if the theory is correct.   And if the theory is wrong, then everything else is horribly flawed. Governments will tax – inefficient, and a displacement of resources that can help people.   Governments will regulate and restrict production, will deviate resources to unnecessary and expensive areas, and will be an overall drag on growth and incomes.   But far worse will be the continuation and escalation of social engineering:   (a) abortion on demand will continue, be promoted as a good, and will escalate in the areas of the world where it has yet to gain a foothold; (b) people will be encouraged to outright “fear” having children, further encouraging use of contraception,  (c) personal property rights and use of property will continue to be diminished and attacked, and (d) marriage will continue to devolve into an institution of self-happiness rather than as an institution of rearing the next generation.

Now, the Pope doesn’t want fewer children via an increase in abortion and contraception.   And he would condemn that approach.   But the secular world doesn’t care what the Pope thinks, except when he thinks something they can use to advance their agenda.   While it should not be the case that the Pope should never speak pastorally or on social justice issues due to the risk of progressives selectively choosing the words of his they want to use for their purposes, neither should the Pope dismiss or ignore the fact that this reality exists.   He should understand the consequences of his instruction, and at the very least make it clear that when he speaks of these things, he condemns absolutely a number of the human “solutions” or agendas around this issue.

He should, in my opinion, also not speak so absolutely about the truth of climate change as a result of human activity, but instead focus more generally on environmental stewardship and our moral responsibility.

Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays?)

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I took an extended vacation from work (and blogging) over the Christmas and New Years holidays.    I sincerely hope everyone has found joy thus far in the Christmas Season.   Also, as a reminder, in our Catholic faith the Christmas Season begins on Christmas Eve – and it doesn’t end the next day!

I love Christmas.    I encourage everyone to find time to continue to celebrate this season through Saturday, which is the end of the official celebration of Christmas (the baptism of our Lord).    Keep in mind that we have not yet celebrated Epiphany, which is really the feast celebrating the first time representatives outside of the Jewish world met our new King.

It’s really easy to forget to continue this celebration because we all start off the New Year, we get back to work, and life resumes somewhat back to the normal that it was in the days preceding Christmas.    Keep it up!

Since I took a break, I have not had my follow-up on the Pope and Climate change.   There will be one, if not two, follow ups to that post.    I not only believe it is an important topic, but it has always been a scientific topic of interest of mine, and so I will be spending time on it, both from a scientific perspective but also from a faith perspective.

In the meantime, I wanted to just place a few thoughts down regarding the annual weirdness around whether or not people should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or anything else.

I find the whole thing an odd mixture of political correctness, and also a sincere recognition that not everyone believes all the same things.   So here is a litany of thoughts on the subject:

  • Christmas is on the calendar. To not mention the word at all, or to be unwilling to wish someone else that you know celebrates Christmas is simply stupid.   We wish people a good Memorial Day or Labor Day whether or not we actively celebrate the meaning or intent of that day (most of us really don’t.   Maybe some of us do on Memorial Day, and fewer yet could even come up with an explanation as to how Labor Day came to be and why.   And yet, none of have any issue wishing each other well on those days.   That’s because there’s no religious association attached to it.   Well, for those people who are not believers, it still doesn’t negate the holiday itself, even as a secular celebration.   So there should be no issues with wishing anyone a Merry Christmas, but even if you want to be sensitive to the matter of religious affiliation, if you know someone religiously or culturally celebrates it, just say it.
  • We’ve reached the point where wishing people a Merry Christmas almost feels like you’re taking a stand on something. That bothers me.   I say it because I want to, but I, too, have been browbeat with the political correctness to the point where it somehow feels bold or courageous to wish someone a Merry Christmas.   I hate that feeling.   It’s messed up.    Further, people who read an e-mail that says “Merry Christmas” probably feel like the person sending it just took a risk of offending people.     That’s even more messed up.
  • Having said all that, I don’t have anything really against “Happy Holidays,” under certain conditions:
    1. If someone has no idea whether the people they are addressing are believers, celebrate Christmas, or are Jewish, Muslim, or anything else (and there is a more than reasonable chance that the situation exists) then see nothing wrong with a generic salutation.
    2. If I know with certainty that someone doesn’t celebrate Christmas then I would give them a generic salutation. I would have no issue with talking about my own faith or celebration of Christmas, but in this situation why would I purposely wish them a happy celebration of something they don’t celebrate?   While I may wish in my heart they did celebrate it, it would be somewhat pointless outside of any other evangelization effort.   It would be like wishing someone in another country a happy US Independence Day.
  • If I make the mistake of wishing someone a Merry Christmas who doesn’t celebrate it, the appropriate response is “Thanks.” Don’t be a jerk.    It is also appropriate, in the case of someone you may be running into more often, to clear up the misunderstanding charitably by saying, “Why thank you.   Just so you know, though, I don’t celebrate Christmas but I certainly hope you have a Merry Christmas.”    There’s nothing wrong with that response.
  • If you are a Christian and you know that someone celebrates Hannukah, then wish them a Happy Hannukah, for crying out loud. It is not against your Christian religion to acknowledge someone else’s celebration.   I’d say the same thing about Kwanzaa, but I’m still convinced that’s generally made up and I know of nobody who actually celebrates it.   But for the five people that do, if you find them, then by all means extend a Merry Kwanzaa, or whatever the appropriate greeting, is.
  • The most annoying thing to me in this whole thing is that a number of good Christian people now seem scared to wish anyone a Merry Christmas. It’s one thing to take some precautions around more general audiences, or in uncertain situations.    But if you are a Christian, and I know you’re a Christian, and you know I’m a Christian, and you wish me a “Happy Holiday” then I want to whack you upside the head.   You have now officially conditioned yourself into being in “safe” mode and you aren’t even thinking about it.

 

In the end, does it all really matter?   Well, yes and no.   What clearly matters most is what’s in the heart and what your intent is.    Some people, in my opinion, turn this a bit too much into a war against political correctness, while some do go too crazy on the political correctness.   And there are tons of ancillary issues around Christmas that lead to all of this – arguments about displays on public property, songs sung in schools, etc.    But most people just want to wish people well, and we should recognize that.    But that doesn’t mean we can’t push back when we reach the point of silliness.    It’s good to not get overly dogmatic about things, but it’s also good to stem the tide of cleansing Christmas from Christmas.

Keep Your Gender Neutrality out of my Hymnals

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As many hymnals in Catholic Churches throughout the land moved to gender-neutral references to God and man, often in ridiculous machinations, I always sort of thought that this was simply a feminist-driven scourge.   And it probably was, for the most part.  From the first moment I saw lyrical rewrites that created clumsy text for no reason other than gender-neutrality my reaction was one of disgust.

Some of the worst offenses result in ridiculously clumsy sentences, referencing God.    Instead of “Bless the Lord, His mercy extends forever…”   (or something like that, I made that up) we now have to deal with “Bless the Lord, God’s mercy extends forever…”    Which may not seem horrible, but now add line after line with masculine pronouns getting substituted with “God” and anyone who argues that this is easier to sing, and more linguistically correct, is an idiot.   It’s not.

As I was thinking about this blog and fumbling around the internet, I actually found this ridiculous “how-to” site on how to be as inclusive as possible:    https://eireinei.com/2013/08/28/5-tips-and-tricks-for-being-gender-inclusive-in-worship/.    What a bunch of progressive poppycock.

I occasionally sing and play piano at Church.    I am NOT a person who demands nothing but old hymns and pipe organ, with Gregorian Chant and Latin leading the way.   I appreciate all that, but unlike folks of a more Traditionalist bent, I am perfectly fine with contemporary hymns and instruments.   In my opinion, the key questions are (1) is it done well, (2) does it detract in any way from Mass, or draw attention away from the true point of the Mass, and (3) are you “performing” for your own sake or are you assisting at Mass for the purpose of praising God?    These are fair questions to ask, and I think people have a flawed idea that if you play certain instruments or certain songs, it is impossible to answer some or all of the above in the right way.    I dismiss that as nonsense, but I can at least see the concern.

But just because I may be more flexible in this area than some of my devout friends, it doesn’t mean I’m a liberal progressivist with respect to Mass.    Music style certainly does have the question of sacredness around it, but ultimately it is still about preference.    Gender neutrality has an agenda behind it.

As I mentioned, I used to attribute the agenda to an overinflated reaction by feminists who aren’t smart enough to realize that God is, in fact, a Spirit and not a man or a woman.   But we follow the lead of Jesus by using the masculine pronoun.    I’m unaware of anyone on earth who knows God the Father (gasp!   Another masculine term!) than Jesus the Son.    If feminists want to get all worked up and be overly sensitive to how Jesus references God then goody for them, but leave that out of my Church.   Outside of references to God are masculine references to humankind (mankind, man, men, brothers, etc.).    Anyone with a brain should understand that general references in the masculine are, in fact, intended to be gender neutral and encompass all women as well.   In fact, I refuse to believe the majority of people “offended” by this non-inclusiveness don’t actually know that.   Which means that you’re either stupid or you are purposely finding offense where none intended for reasons of politics or some other agenda.   And that has no place in worship.

More diabolical is now the realization that it goes beyond a purely feminist response, and actually goes further to the idea that there should be no such thing as gender, period.   For any of us.   That it’s all a mindset and transcends our physical nature.   This is purely an abandonment of the goodness and purpose of creation itself.  This goes beyond mere politics, offense, and some agenda of a misplaced sense of what male/female equality means.   It is a direct challenge to God’s entire purpose in the creation of man ç (inclusive).    If for no other reason than to ensure that our church is in no way a part of this movement of evil, it is time to abandon gender-neutral hymnals and get back to the original lyrics.

Note:   I have no issue with writing well-phrased music lyrics that include feminine references where appropriate (e.g. brothers and sisters).   It’s not problematic when it flows well with the music and is natural.    My concern and issue is when we are doing this out of some overzealous and incorrect attitude of what it means to be inclusive, especially when it erodes the quality of the song.

And yes, I find the change from “let me walk with my brother” to “let us walk with each other” to be the epitome of stupidity.    Had it been written that way to begin with, no issue.   But to feel we needed to change it so nobody feels left out is moronic.

The Power of the Purse – Use it

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While this occurred in May 2016, I only recently became aware of action taken in Tennessee where Republicans finally grew a spine and used their brains to fight against anti-Christian and immoral social progressivism.

We often get myopic about how we can combat the things going on around us, leading to a feeling of helplessness and despair.   While we all know that we can pray and trust in God, we often act as if that’s an afterthought rather than our first line of defense.    God works in strange ways and in uncertain timelines, so us mere humans can sometimes get the feeling that our prayers are not heard if they are not immediately answered.   It’s a somewhat natural reaction, which is why faith and trust are often sheer acts of will as opposed to nice and comfortable emotional joyrides.   I sometimes contemplate the little chicken-and-egg type of sayings, like “I pray because I trust.  I trust because I pray.”   Well, which is it?    It’s both, of course.   I sometimes wonder if the very reason for a seemingly unanswered prayer is either because I didn’t trust enough that God would or could grant my request, or if He needs to test me by fire a little bit – force me to continue to trust even without getting exactly what I want.

So, while it is certainly fine that relying on prayer is a welcome myopia, at least as one of the actions we need to take, we often fail to use our brains in finding other ways to make a difference.

Let’s focus on some of the social issues around us and how we seem to never gain any ground – and in fact we always seem to lose ground.    Whether it’s abortion or same-sex marriage, or whether it’s the new pet of the progressive left, transgender issues (or definition of what gender is, period) we seem to really rely on elections, laws, and Supreme Court decisions.    If we lose an election at the federal level then, well, there’s nothing we can really do.  Worse yet, there seems to be this reluctance to actually stand up for anything when we do have the chance to do it out of some fear of losing power.    We continue to trade moral issues away out of some argument that this will preserve our power so we can do good in other areas.   It’s not exactly the wisdom of Solomon.   It’s the fear of a miser.

Lawmakers in Tennessee disagreed earlier this year.   And it’s a great example of using the power you have to impact behavior.

Here is a story on the subject:  Link to article

Notably, from the article, the bill

Bans UT from spending state funds “to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns, to promote or inhibit the celebration of religious holidays, or to fund or support Sex Week,” most of which had already occurred.

What happened here is that the UT-Knoxville “office of diversity and inclusion” went off the rails of what they consider to be diverse and inclusive.   Which isn’t particularly surprising.    Many of these kinds of offices in Universities (as well as corporate America and government offices) long ago went off the rails.    And until now most of the response has been “if you don’t like it, don’t go there.”   Fair enough, but it’s also hypocritical.   These are entities that receive public funding (i.e. tax dollars) and the people making these arguments would be the first to go apoplectic if someone on staff uttered the words “Merry Christmas.”

The office of diversity and inclusion apparently believes that banning all gender-specific pronouns like “he”,”she”,”him”, or “her” so as not to offend anyone struggling with gender identity.   They also picked and chose acceptable and unacceptable religious holidays to make any sort of reference to, and they hosted what can only be called a completely offensive and inappropriate “Sex Week.”

So, the funding arm of the state Congress in Tennessee finally grew a pair and said “enough.”   All funding to that morally bankrupt department goes to actually helping minority students pay for school.    It was the right move, and a good move.   One hopes that either this entire office goes away completely or it rediscovers its actual purpose – which is to actually promote real diversity, encourage dialogue – not just liberal mantras – and be fully inclusive (including Christians and those who want to use boy pronouns to talk about boys.)

I hope this helps set precedent and embolden other legislative bodies.   We can push back – we don’t just have to accept cultural decay.   We might not be able to do it everywhere, but we can do it in a lot of places.   It’s time to use all the tools at our disposal.