Thursday, March 15, 2012
If you are reading this post, then that means that just like a vast number of all Americans the word "pornography" got your attention. Our country is porn saturated from every angle. Internet ads, television, print, we are a sex obsessed nation. There are articles that you can read here and here on the dangers that pornography has on our society at large and also the physiological changes that it takes on the brain. This is a major problem that is destroying families inside and outside of the Church. In fact, Christianity Today reported in 2008 that 70% of all American men ages 18-34 view pornography at least once per month. This does not even take into consideration the degrading nature of pornography and the effects on the women themselves
Taking all this into consideration, wouldn't it be wise and in the best interest of our country to crack down on pornography and the viewers? I mean, if it is that much of a cancer in our society, then it needs to be removed, taken down at any cost, right? This is what Rick Santorum is saying:
‘Vigorous’ Santorum crackdown may catch Internet porn viewers with pants down.
So is this right, or is this wrong? From my perspective this is wrong, but why? Why wouldn't we want a control on such a blight in our country? The main reason is quoted in the article: If elected, [Santorum] promises to “vigorously” enforce laws that “prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier.” The real question should be, is the government the best option we have to cure the tide of pornography in our nation. The answer is a resounding NO!
The First Amendment to our United States Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." For this conversation, I am focusing on the freedom of speech portion of the amendment. What the evangelical/Christian right has failed to recognize is that our republican form of democracy government is a heartless, soulless entity which takes on the nature of those whom we elect, however those whom we elect must act on behalf of the entire public to protect their rights and freedoms. As much as I dislike to agree with the likes of Larry Flynt, the infamous publisher of Hustler magazine, I must on this issue. The problem we have is not that there is pornography published by the truckload, nor is it the fact that there are hundreds of new sites every day being opened up on the internet. The problem is with us as a country and our internal moral compass....but that is another subject I shall address later.
I think we really need to take a look at what has happened in the Conservative movement in general over the past 45 years or so, beginning in the mid 60's. Our country has gone through a vast metamorphosis. No longer do we see people remaining chaste until marriage, or after marriage for that matter. The sixties issued in the era of free love and sex along with contraception and legalized abortion. After that we have seen the divorce rate skyrocket to the point that over 50% of marriages in the United States are a failure. Now the far right could see what was going on and I would agree with their assessment of the danger to our society, the problem I have is how they have sought the fix.
Looking for a quick route to move away from the social ills of our time, the far right conservatives decided to get involved in the political arena and you then saw the likes of Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and other organizations maneuver their way into the GOP to change the party into one that would stand for truth, family values (ugh...) and the "American way". The problem is, it didn't work...and it wont work. Now the GOP is viewed as a party for religious extremists who are trying to get elected in order to use the governmental and legislative system to further their moral code of ethics on the country. '
There are two basic problem with this strategy: The first flaw is that it is impossible and I would say immoral to try to use governmental or legislative meant to further your agenda. The reasoning behind this is quite simple. If it is legitimate for the far right to use legislative means to further their moral agenda, then it is perfectly legal and within bounds for the far left to use the same means to further their agenda. What you then wind up with is a continual power grab to see who can garner the bigger hand on the rope to FORCE their agenda on the remainder of Americans. Sound familiar? That is EXACTLY what is going on in Washington now. The second flaw is that neither party is able to recognize that what both ends are trying to do with the legislative system is out of bounds. The desire of every American is freedom. Freedom to participate and live their lives how they want (yet I would argue that they must also be willing to accept the consequences for those actions). Freedom means the ability to recognize that the actions you take effect other people than yourself, yet you have the right to carry through with them to their final end.
I know that from the point of view of many Christians, this may sound "liberal", but in this sense, God is liberal with us. Our walk with Christ is set with boundaries and hedges along the way and we are never forced to walk that road. God doesn't bop us over the head when we disobey his plan for us, instead he woos us back from our hearts, from the law that he has written on our hearts. This, I would say is the answer to not only the pornography issue that our country is suffering from, but the other addictions that we all are wrapped with.
There is no quick fix. There is no way to legislate our way to morality. That would be the easy way out. What we a Christian are really called to do...as the Church is to serve others. Take these people out in the community and don't legalize them...don't preach to them....LOVE THEM! HELP THEM! FEED THEM! CLOTHE THEM! It is in this love that people will find what they aren't finding in the false medication of the world. While this isn't a quick fix that we are looking for, it is a fix that will stick because it is then and only then that people allow themselves to be transformed from the inside out.
I don't know about you, but when I want change, I want people to change because they want to change and they have been driven by themselves to change. Laws don't work anyway. You can make pot, alcohol, porn all illegal, it doesn't matter because when people want to find the stuff, they will find it. You haven't done anything to change their hearts....you have just made it harder for them.
Having said all this, I also make a statement that one of the fastest growing segments of pornography is child pornography. There is a huge difference between an adult who chooses to perform and make this their livelyhood, but there is something much different with a child who has been captured and is being taken advantage of by an adult and an abuser. This cannot be accepted under any circumstances. These are precious souls who have had their childhood and innocence stolen from them and many will suffer irreparable harm. I know that in this issue, these perpetrators must be caught, they must be held accountable for their crimes...and I am wise enough to say that I don't have all the answers, but I know that they are out there. There are ways to catch these perverts without giving up our liberties and turning into a police state where our liberties are dolled out to us like an entitlement program.
At least that is the way I see it.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
What happened at that point is that he had been accused of some inappropriate actions toward one of his employees. At that point, his order and the Bishop pulled him from public ministry until the investigation has been completed and the truth could be found. Now no process is perfect and I can understand that after the scandals of the past 10 years in the Church, there is an increased and potentially overstepping of some boundaries that have been set in place. There are some, like former "Father" Corapi who complain that in the new system, the Priest is judged too soon to be guilty and if they are not, then there are reputations that are irreparably broken and tarnished and I can see that. But I see other things in this situation.
Several months ago I finished a biography on St. Pio of Pietrelcina. If you are not familiar with this Saint, I would highly recommend that you do some reading on this man and his life. Early in his life, St. Pio was given the Stigmata by our Lord and for years there were many Bishops, and others in authority that did all they could to keep St. Pio out of ministry. Many claimed that he was a fraud, possessed by demons, a charlatan and many conspired against him even taking it to the Pope to have him sent to a remote monastery away from the public. St. Pio knew what he was going through was not fair. He knew it was an attack, but he reacted in quite a different way than what we see with Fr. Corapi...he accepted it. Padre Pio realized that when he took his vows as a friar, he submitted himself to his order and he was not about to raise up because his rights were being violated, or because people didn't understand him. He accepted the fact that he may spend the rest of his life in a remote monastery and he was willing to accept that. That, unfortunately is not what I see or hear in Father Corapi's statement.
I came Home to the Catholic Church after spending the majority of my life in the Charismatic/Nondenominational church and I grew up with the fall of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and all the rest. I remember Jimmy Swaggart leaving the Assembly of God denomination because "his ministry could not survive without him" (my paraphrase). This arrogance always bothered me and it bothers me now with Father Corapi. When you are ordained a Priest, you are ordained a Priest forever and that will not change. What I see and hear is not about submission and humility at all, but rather self defense and egotism. This is at stark contrast to the experience of St. Pio which I described earlier. Father Corapi would be well to learn that God is his vindication and that he has committed himself to submission of his superiors....even if they are in the wrong and even if he never spoke in public again....EVER.
This saddens me, but it doesn't shake me. When I came into the Church I remember one of my good Catholic Friends told me "Beware the cult of Personality." So I now tell my Catholic friends the same. Father Corapi is a person with a huge personality. He spoke and taught the truths of the Church, but now he has left...but the Church remains and so does her teachings. My faith is not in any Priest, but in Christ and the Church he established. I pray for Father Corapi that he may find his way, but in the meantime, I will remain with The Church.
Friday, December 17, 2010
In the Prophet Micah we read:
"But you Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is of old, from ancient times." Micah 5:1.
What was the significance of Bethlehem? I think to fully understand the significance, you must first parallel the books of Genesis and John. I don't want to take a whole lot of time on this one issue, so I will just give a 30,000 ft view for now. In Genesis we read of God creating the world as we know it and through one man and one reason, the entire human race was polluted with sin through the disobedience of Eve then Adam. How did this occur? Through the eating of the forbidden fruit.
In John 1 we see a huge parallel to Genesis as the two books even open with the same verbiage: "In the beginning...." What is going on in the Gospel of John is the beginning of the "re-creation". What man lost in the fall, God is restoring through His one and only Son. As the woman (Eve) introduced sin to the world, the new Eve (Mary) restores the Grace of God to creation. And just as sin was introduced to mankind through the eating of the forbidden fruit, so our redemption comes through the eating of a new fruit...the Fruit of Mary's womb: Jesus.
Now if you are a non Catholic Christian reading this, right now you are a little taken aback, but I encourage you to continue reading and following my train of thought. This thought is not just mine and something that I pulled out of my ears, but rather this has been the teaching of the Christian Church until the time of the Reformation.Any person doing any search on on any search engine can do a search for "meaning of Bethlehem" or "translation of Bethlehem" and you will come up with a quite amazing translation. Any guesses? Bueller? Anyone? The meaning of Bethlehem is "House of Bread". So imagine this. Our Lord Christ is born in the House of Bread and is further more lade to rest in a manger: a feeding trough. The symbolism here can be mind numbing because from the very birth of Christ we see a precursor to the Eucharist and Christ being our Spiritual food.
Taking this into consideration even builds a stronger meaning for John 6 where Jesus tells his disciples that His Body is real food and His Blood is real drink and it's fulfillment at the Last Supper. Remember, Jesus takes the bread, breaks it and He then tells his disciples: "This is my Body..." We can again see this prefigured all the way through the Old Testament, especially in the Passover. The plan of The Father throughout time has been for us to draw spiritual nourishment through the mystery of the Eucharist. Also notice that as man fell through eating the fruit off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we are saved through eating the fruit of another tree. The tree this time however was a Cross to which the fruit was nailed.
As we move through this Christmas season, draw close to Christ...draw your nourishment from him. He is the Bread of Life.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I noticed a week or so ago that you had posted a question on Adam and Eve and the historical authenticity of the account in Genesis. After that you posted another question regarding Original Sin. I briefly looked over the posts, however I have little time to sift through hundreds of comments (as I have a full time job with a wife and 3 adopted daughters) so please forgive me if this is repetitive in nature with some of your other comments.
The creation account was one of the first issues that I had to deal with upon my arrival as my entire life I had been taught a literal seven day creation cycle. This theory, quite honestly, does cannot be squared with scientific evidence, and I now hold to an old earth theory: millions of years. I do think that science and religion can both work together as is exemplified by this quote from Pope John Paul II: "Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." So in short, do I believe that the Creation account is literal, word for word? Probably not. There are many reasons that I hold to this but one of the main reasons is that to understand the creation account, you must understand how Hebrew history was written. I am not a student of Hebrew history, but I do know that their history was not written linear as our western history is written and as we are used to reading. Their history was written in much more of an elliptical method, to explain concepts and ideas rather than to delineate events when and where they happened. Having said that, I do believe that as the story may not be literal in all its details, we as humans did descend from one woman and one man. Now whether their real names were Adam and Eve....doubtful.
"A God we can understand is not a God we can worship". We do not know why God created man, but we know that he created man to be with Him and we don't know why God chose the methods that He chose. We read in Genesis that God breathed life, his very spirit into that first man. Therefore Adam, while not Deity, carried the life and spirit of God within him. But there is something more that God gave Adam: the freedom to choose. My belief is that while God wanted to be with man and created him for that reason, God also wanted man to CHOOSE to be with Him. He did not want humanity to be pre-programmed robots to do his will. When Adam and Eve (for lack of a better term) chose to disobey the directions given, it was not just disobedience that occurred, the took the option to willingly violate the covenant that was made between their Creator and themselves; The Creator that literally breathed his own life and spirit into them. What happened at this point was something more than we can understand. I believe that there was a basic spiritual connection between Creator and created in a way that we do not and cannot understand and the rebellion in which they partook severed that connection.
What we know about God is that He is Spirit: all powerful, all loving, all caring yet pure and holy. His very essence cannot inhabit the same space as rebellion and what we would call sin. At the point that Adam and Eve disobeyed the Almighty, they "fell out of Grace" with God. What we know from that point on is that just like humanity passes down hereditary illnesses, we also pass down spiritual illnesses and from that point on, all humanity would be born with a spirit that was wounded and broken....not turned toward God. This doesn't mean, as Calvinism would teach in the doctrine of Total Depravity, that mankind is evil, but that our souls are stained with what we would call "Original Sin". Original Sin, you see is not something that we have, as sin cannot be measured or weighed. Rather, Original Sin is something that we are born WITHOUT. It was explained to me that it is much like a baby born without eyesight laying in the nursery. When the doctor comes in and checks on the baby, it is determined that a simple salve would return the eyesight to the child. And through the mystical sacrament of Baptism, this is what occurs to us as Christians. Baptism is not just a symbol, but in a very real, spiritual sense, that water washes returns us into Grace with our Creator and opens our spirits to his calling.
For millennia through the Old Testament what we see is that God took that original covenant that he made with Adam and Eve (through the shedding of the animal to clothe their nakedness) and slowly expanded it from a couple to a family (Noah and his family), to a tribe (Abraham and Sarah) and finally to a nation ( King David). Throughout this time we see God setting up the guidelines by which he could have a people that belonged to him, which he has wanted from the beginning of time. He has always wanted a people that could be His, without spot or blemish but unfortunately, these people were unable to live up to His standards; and this was part of His plan. He knew His creation from the inside out and He knew they would fail miserably over and over and over again.
I read your quote about how the Incarnation was the most beautiful story of all time....or something to that effect and I would agree with you. When you consider that God (which is inconceivable to us) placed Himself in the form of a man, Christ Jesus, that is almost too much. But to go even further to say that this Man who was very God Himself, would take upon himself the very punishment that was due all humanity for our failure to keep the Law, that is almost unfathomable......ah but by faith.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
In the light of the news this week that Westboro Baptist Church is taking their court case all the way to the US Supreme Court, I thought it would be an appropriate time to talk about what the Bible ACTUALLY is---and what it is not. And what about all these cliches that Christians throw around? What does it all actually mean?
Let's get some definitions out of the way at first. What is meant my "The Word of God"? Did God actually write it? The Sacred Scripture was written by men, but by men that were inspired by the Holy Spirit. What we as Christians believe is that God, through His Holy Spirit directed these men on what to write. Why written? Throughout all history, religions have been passed down by two means: oral traditions and written Scriptures. The two have worked together to bring the fullness of faith to His people.
First, let's look at the historical background of Scripture. The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is a history of the Jewish people and how God revealed Himself to them over several thousand years, from the beginning of time until the time that the Hebrews were returned to the Promised Land after their exile. Right off, what many people fail to recognize is that to fully understand the Old Testament you must correctly understand Hebrew literary style and Jewish History. When you look at this, what you find is that the Old Testament was not written in a Western mind's eye and there is tons of symbolism in the Old Testament; therefore, it cannot be taken literally: word for word. As an example: Was the earth created in 7/24 hour days? I don't think so. Hebrew history was written in very much an elliptical method, to describe concepts and ideas, not definite periods of time. So I personally side with a very old earth science. Millions of years? Billions? It is all within possibility. In our current western culture we are so used to writings that describe things in a literal chronological time period and this is not the case with the Old Testament.
So what is the purpose of the Old Testament? As Christians, we believe that there are numerous purposes, but the primary purpose to the Old Testament is that is draws a picture for us--a structure so to speak. Through the Torah, we can see the order in which God wanted to set for His people, a people that were to be set apart for Him. He knew, however that these people would never be able to live up to the standards he set. We can see how God hates sin and how it must be purged from our lives. The Old Testament is not just a historical book, however...it is a foreshadowing of things to come--most importantly the coming of the Messiah when the Law of God would be brought to completion.
The validity of the Old Testament is held by the Jewish faith and lasted throughout the centuries and into the time Christ. The Tanach is broken down into two parts: Torah--The Law and Nevi'im--The Prophets all of which are almost identical to what Christians call the "Old Testament". During the time of Christ, this was Scripture, and is referred to multiple times in the New Testament.
What is very interesting about the New Testament is several things. First of all it is the history of the Christian Church and it appropriately begins with the birth of Christ. Secondly, there is very little that is actually devoted to the life of Christ and if you read through what Christ actually taught, we will see that Christ never did actually write anything personally and neither did he command anything to be written. What is also interesting is that he never did denounce the Tanach, nor did he say it was invalid. It was several years after his ascension when the apostles began to write of his teachings and we believe that the earliest writings of the New Testament began somewhere around 55A.D. with the book of Mark being the first book. As Christianity was spreading throughout the known world, the Apostles of the Church would send written letters to the fledgling Christian Churches to instruct them in their new found faith. these letters were meant to build their faith under severe persecution, to correct errors in doctrine and to teach the leaders of the local Churches. Over the next several years, there were many books that had been written, including many of which which we don't have or recognize as "inspired". The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of Philip and several other are most of them. But what happened to them? Why weren't they included?
From the time of the ascension of Christ until the late 4th Century (approximately 400 years) there was NO "Bible". Teachings were taken from the Old Testament and also from these smatterings of writings. It wasn't until 393 A.D that the Council of Hippo declared which of these books were actually inspired, and the decision was repeated in 397A.D. and 419A.D. at the Councils of Carthage. At that point of history, it is of important note that there was only one Christian Church in existence: The Catholic Church. Under the leading of the Holy Spirit these men determined the books that would be included in Holy Scripture. It is also interesting to note that the Old Testament that was canonized included 6 additional books in the Old Testament: 1&2 Macabbees, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, Wisdom and Baruch. These books along with portions of Daniel and Esther were removed after the Reformation. Why?--that is another long story.
So what does all that mean to us today? What it means is that the Bible is a "family book". It is a book that is designed to speak to the people of God and to inspire faith and to draw us closer to God. Unfortunately, many Christians today have taken this book and have used it as a sword to the world. They put it on poster boards and bumper stickers as if the simple quoting of these verses to non believers as a magic formula will automatically change their minds and draw them to Christ. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. If I were to give a word of wisdom to Christians, I would say one thing: Don't quote Scripture to non believers. Why? The majority of the time, for people that are not Christians, Scripture is useless; it means nothing to them. Yet we quote it as if we know more than them and are superior to them. At the same time you are quoting Scripture, you are lying on your expense reports, cheating on your wife and beating your kids. Living your life in the manner of Christ and showing ALL PEOPLE the love and respect of Christ will do so much more for anyone than trying to preach Bible verses at them. As with any rule, there are exceptions and there are times when Scripture is appropriate..and for those times, you should always be ready and willing to use it, but always with love and respect.