Thursday, March 27, 2008

Brady & the Bunny

Pa-Pa and Grandson Brady at Easter!!

It Takes 2 to Tango!

Here's a piece from "Stoplight", those wonderful people that gave us the season of "Tossmas" a few months back.

This one deals with the interesting problem of activism and a school's attempt to deal with it.

Here's the link:

The Creeping Crud of "Mercy Killing"

For years we've heard of the "right of a person to die." This assault on the dignity of human life comes from the mistaken notion that our lives belong to ourselves and not to God. Further, it allows us to be the arbiters of what a "life with dignity" is and what it isn't regardless of the truth that all human life is "dignified" because all men and women live in the image and likeness of God no matter what their condition.

Now come the Europeans, those great arbiters of culture towards which our progressive brethren tell us we should aspire. The latest from Belgium is that teenagers should be allowed the "right to die" just as adults. Belgians currently allow the "right" to anyone who is 18 or older.

Let's recall the slippery slope that has brought us to where we are. First we had the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy in the first 90 days for urgent reasons. Then that right was extended to the entire pregnancy for any reason (with some restrictions in the last trimester). Then we graduated to allowing abortions in which the baby was partially delivered before ending life. In Europe, Belgium in particular, genetic testing is frequently done in utero and babies who are found to be genetically "inferior" are aborted.

On the other end of the life spectrum, we have witnessed the emergence of the mercy killing movement, spearheaded by Dr. Jack Kevorkian which helped people die who had determined that they did not wish to live for one reason or another. This right has been legislatively defined in some jurisdictions but not in others. In Europe, the "right to die" has been more clearly defined in law. This "right" is now being proposed to extend to teenagers.

My point is simple: Once human life is viewed as a biological accident and no longer seen as a gift from almighty God, who lives and who dies becomes a purely arbitrary decision.

My intuition on this tells me that this is nothing more than the logical endpoint of the separation of sexual activity from procreation and the corresponding breakdown of the family structure. I suppose that this would be the subject of another article had Pope Paul VI not covered so brilliantly in Humanae Vitae.

Interestingly, in Belgium it is very difficult to have your dog put to sleep when Fido's quality of life is diminished by age or infirmity. Things are much easier to do to humans than to animals. That kind of tells you a lot about Europe, doesn't it?

Here's the link to the article on teenage mercy killing:

Here's the link to Humanae Vitae:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Liberation Theology of Any Color is Dangerous Business

Recently, Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) connection with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright has swamped the news. At issue are comments made by the Reverend Wright concerning the United States of America and its alleged corruption. According to the Reverend Wright, the United States is a flawed and evil institution and has been so from its start. Our nation was founded on the backs of an exploited people (the Indians) and maintained through the toil of others so exploited (the black slave population). Anything that can be positively stated about America is poisoned because of the evil manner of the country's founding. Further, this problem cannot be rectified until the oppressors are overthrown, in this case all white people, who share equally in the guilt of those who founded the nation. In fact, some of the Reverend Wright's comments go so far as to impute the guilt of the white man all the way back to the foundations of western civilization.

I'm not going to discuss the implications that this has or may have on the Obama presidential campaign. Further, I don't really want to spend much time on the merit or lack thereof of the Reverend Wright's comments except to say this: They are very consistent with a philosophical and theological construct called "Black Liberation Theology," hereinafter referred to as "BLT."

Wikipedia has a nice summary of BLT. It says, "BLT is theology from the perspective of oppressed people. It seeks to interpret the gospel of Jesus against the backdrop of historical and contemporary racism. The message of BLT is that the African American struggle for liberation is consistent with the gospel--every theological statement must be consistent with, and perpetuate, the goals of liberation.

"This theology maintains that African Americans must be liberated from multiple forms of bondage—social, political, economic and religious. This liberation involves empowerment and seeks the right of self-definition, self-affirmation and self-determination.

"Methodist James Cone is still considered its leading theologian, though now there are many scholars who have contributed a great deal to the field. One of its major concerns is with the historic and present racism in "Western civilizations" (especially within Christendom) and the ways in which Jesus urged his disciples to seek freedom for all people."

BLT's philosophical and theological roots are in Liberation Theology, a theological movement that developed in Latin America and is represented by theologians, Leonardo Boff, Juan Luis Segundo, and Gustavo Guttierez. Politically, it has strong support from Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega and others.

Liberation Theology (or LT) was initially developed in the mid-1950s as a way for the Church, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, to address what were perceived to be injustices within the social order of South America. The liberation theologians began to develop a theology of activism that mandated social change over the internal relationship of the believer to God.

Eventually, LT began to adopt a Hegelian/Marxist world view in which it saw the world divided into two camps, the oppressor and the oppressed. The oppressors were generally white Europeans and the oppressed were indigenous peoples who were held down. As was typical with Marxist theory, many of the oppressed were allowed to rise to a social level where they enjoyed many of the benefits of the oppressors, but lacked the power of the oppressor. We would call this a "middle class" and a Marxist would call it the "bourgeoisie."

LT theologians tried to redefine Christianity to fit this socio-political viewpoint. The Bible became viewed as a book written by men who had defeated and subjugated others. The Bible was the book written by the "winners" at the expense of the "losers." In this context there was little room for "inspiration". The best one could say is that the Bible could best be understood as a reflection of man's understanding of God in the social setting in which he found himself at the time.

The Bible and theology were further influenced by "materialism." In the context of LT, "materialism" refers not to the desire to possess lots and lots of stuff. Rather, it refers to the foundational principle that all that is knowable in the world is in the world of "matter." The supernatural is unknowable to us. Notice how problematic this is to a traditional understanding of theology.

Because of this change to the foundations, LT developed a new theological base. Sin ceased to be primarily something that a person did that was an offense to divine order and became something that was done against the community. Further, sin was seen as an offense that led to the subjugation of another.

The endpoint of theology changed as well. In traditional theology, the end-point is the knowledge and love of God in the life of the believer, ultimately leading him (or her) to heaven. LT holds none of that, adopting the Marxist notion that concepts such as "heaven" and "hell" are created by man to encourage the submission of oppressed people.

As the nature of sin and the endpoint of theology changed, so, too, did the nature of Sacraments. Sacraments did not exist as something given to the Church by almighty God for the purpose of sanctifying the faithful. Sacraments were signs that were developed out of the lived experience of the Church and have been used in the past as means of oppressing the powerless. The LT theologians sought to re-frame the Sacramental theology of the church in a way that brought it into line with this new view of oppressor versus oppressed.

This is, of course, a thumbnail description of liberation theology and it could be argued that I am making a caricature of the movement. Maybe so. However, what I am trying to do in this article is provide a very rudimentary framework for understanding BLT and its theological predecessor LT. Why? Because in the case of the Reverend Wright, I believe it is insufficient to simply decry what he has said. I think it is more important to understand the philosophy on which he bases his comment.

First, the Reverend Wright believes in what is, essentially, a Marxist philosohpy that divides the world into "haves" and "have nots."

Second, he believes that the "haves" will use whatever means are necessary to keep the "have nots" in their place, or allow then enough of the benefits of privileged life to keep them mollified.

Third, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is, primarily, a Gospel of social liberation that has been perverted by the "haves."

Fourth, that same Gospel is not a divinely inspired revelation from God Almighty. Instead it is the testimony of those who have power and have won the struggle for control over the early Church.

In short, in following the teachings of BLT, the Reverend Wright is a misguided soul who has sacrificed the Gospel of Christ for a false gospel, a gospel of BLT, a gospel which is founded not on the love of Christ, but is founded on hate and division, power versus powerlessness, "haves" versus "have-nots". It is truly a sad situation and one that deserves the prayers of all Christians.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Shifting Tide of Modernist Revelation

Recently in a Christian Education class, I commented on the importance of the doctrine that states, "Divine revelation ceased with the death of the last apostle." Roughly, this means that there can be nothing new to the faith following the death of the last apostle. Faith can be clarified and more precisely defined, as the councils of history have attempted to do. What cannot be allowed to happen is a new revelation.

So here come the Modernists who state that God continues to reveal himself in new ways to his people in each generation. What this means is that there is no stable, unchanging core of faith and that faith is a culturally-determined phenomenon. More to the point, it means that faith is something that is man-defined, something we discover anew for ourselves in each generation.

Nowhere has this dangerous notion been more evident than in the discussions surrounding human sexuality. The Christian Tradition from the Bible to the Fathers to today is that the purpose of sexual activity is primarily the begetting of children and is to be exercised within the state of Holy Matrimony. Modern Christian thought has totally stripped human sexuality from its primarily procreative function and made it, primarily, a form of personal expression. This self-expression can be exercised within any life context and in any consensual circumstance. Granting the Modernist premise, then any attempt to stifle sexual expression or restrict, is a serious violation of a person's right to express themselves. A brief glance at the modern world will show the results of this thinking.

What prompted this discussion was a statement by the Brazilian Episcopal Bishops in which they said that Biblical passages against homosexual behavior are not relevant to the modern discussion. The statement is about as clear an example of the intellectual flaw and spiritual disease of Modernism that I've seen in a while and the link for it is here:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Fourth Sunday in Lent

The Holy Gospel is written in the 6th chapter of Saint John, beginning at the 1st Verse.
Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet. that should come into the world.


Today, on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, we set aside the violet of the season and put on the color Rose. This gentle shade reminds us that we are more than half way through this great season of penance and preparation. In the United Kingdom, today is also Mothering Sunday. Those who live in Great Britain and Ireland observe this day much in the same way that we observe Mother’s Day later in the year.

But Mothering Sunday did not start out as a feast of roses and chocolates, of Hallmark cards and fancy lunches. The origins of Mothering Sunday are tied directly to this Fourth Sunday in Lent.

On this day, we begin with a happy Introit. The original Latin word is laetare and we translate it rejoice. In the middle of our Lenten fast, the church calls us to rejoice with Jerusalem, the mother city, the city which will be the site of our redemption. Jerusalem, the mother city of the Jews, has served as the model for the Church, which is truly our mother. Tomorrow we will return to the pentitential violet. Next Sunday, we will cover our crosses and statues, we will say goodbye to our festive, Glory be to the Father, we will begin our solemn walk with Jesus to the Cross. But today, while our vestments bear the gentle shade of the rose, let’s reflect for awhile on our mother the Church. Let’s look at the characteristics that mother Church shares with mothers everywhere.

The first characteristic is that mothers give life to their children. In a very real way, none of us would be here today without our mothers. For nine months, she carried us and fed us and, eventually, delivered us from the security of the womb into a bright, unknown world. Just as a mother gives life to her children, so the Church gives life to us through the Sacrament of Baptism. In that Sacrament, where water is poured on the head of an infant, or in some cases an adult, we are cleansed from sin and brought into a new life in Christ. We symbolize that new life by clothing the baptized in a white garment, a garment that shows that we are clean and freshly born. Just as a mother gives life to the child, so the Church gives life through Baptism.

Mothers also make sure that their children are fed and that their physical needs for nourishment are attended to. So it is with the Church. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Church provides the Body and Blood of Christ, under the appearances of bread and wine. This gift of the Eucharist satisfies our basic need for food and it stands as a constant reminder of the compassion of Christ who, seeing the multitudes on the mountain, fed them from just a few loaves and a few fish.

But mothers do far more than tend to the physical needs of their young. In addition, mothers also seek to nurture the spirits and minds of their children. They read them stories, they sing songs, they encourage their children when they are low, and they rejoice and play with them when they are happy. And the Church does this, too. We are nurtured by the spiritual grace that we receive from the Sacraments. Every one of the seven sacraments imparts a special grace, a special character upon all of us that gives us strength to stand up against the temptations of the modern world. In addition, like a good mother, the church tends to our minds and makes sure that we have a trustworthy guide through our lives. This is done primarily through the great gift of God’s holy Word, the Bible, and through the doctrine of the church as it has been set out from the beginning of Christianity. In both body and spirit, the Church provides for us her children with Word and Sacrament.

Finally, mothers will protect their children from harm. And so does the Church. After Jesus fed the multitudes in today’s Gospel, he commanded his disciples to go and gather up the fragments, so that nothing be lost. This is what the church does for us today and all days. The Church stands as a witness that all who are claimed by Christ in Baptism, that all who are fed by Christ in the Eucharist, that all of these are precious to the Church and are to be gathered together in love.

Here’s something interesting: Put a group of new mothers in a room and place their infants in another room that is out of sight of the first but within hearing. Let the moms converse and then have one of the babies start to cry. What do you think you will see? You won’t see the moms look amongst themselves to try to figure out whose child is in tears. Instead, the mother of the crying baby will almost instinctively respond to the sound of her child’s voice and she will go to sooth the baby. So it is with us and the Church. The Church, Christ’s body on earth, tends to you and to me in much the same way as the mother of a crying infant.

As we prepare to celebrate the coming feasts of Passiontide and Holy Week, when our Lord endured unspeakable horrors and unbearable torments, let’s today recall the unwavering love of our mother the Church, who calls us all to new life in Baptism, who feeds our bodies and souls in the Sacraments and in the Word, who desires that none us be lost, and who will provide us with a place of joy and refreshment now and for all time for all who believe.