Thursday, September 23, 2010

Christianity was forced on you?

The other day, I read a facebook friend's status that said in part "I had Christianity forced on me". I have been contemplating these words since and these are my thoughts that resulted.

The Christian faith is about hope and joy. When it is understood, there is no need to force it on anyone. With the faith, you are talking about a love so strong that countless people throughout history have been willing to peacefully give up their lives in witness to it. This type of response cannot be forced.

I do not claim that Christians never try to force the faith on people. However, there is no teaching in the faith that would lead someone to do this. Rather, it is quite the opposite. If we read the Gospels we will learn that Christ never forced Himself on anyone. He said what he had to say or did what he had to do and moved on. The people around him were free to believe and follow or not. As an example see John 6:66-68. Many of His disciples leave Him because they cannot accept what He says. He even asks his closest companions, The Twelve, if they also want to leave. The men He chose to establish His church were free to leave at any time. Why should it be forced on you?

Further still, when Jesus sends his disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of God he tells them how to respond to people who refuse to listen. He doesn't say, flog them until they believe. He doesn't say pester them until they give in. Rather in Mark 6:10-11 He says ..."leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them."

Until this particular facebook status caused me to reflect on this passage, I would have simply thought this was a "well, fine then" type of thing. I see it differently now. I believe the disciples would have expected to be judged by their results. How many souls did they win? As a result, they may have been disposed to keep coming at the people who rejected them instead of moving on.

So rather than "well fine then", I think in Mark 6:10-11 that Jesus is telling us, you do your part which is to proclaim the Good News. If someone accepts you, good. If not, rest assured, you have done your part. You can leave them be. He only holds us accountable for our part. So we do not need to desperately force this Good News on anyone. We must simply say what needs to be said and move on. Just like the Master.

These are just a couple of examples of how Christians are taught to respond to people who reject them. In the end, I guess what I am trying to say is that if Christianity was forced on you the problem was with the person not the religion.

Friday, July 30, 2010

I quit being political!

I was saddened to read this morning that Ann Rice quit being a Christian. Hers was a pretty powerful reconversion story on the surface anyway. As for myself, I read and enjoyed the Vampire Chronicles  in an earlier life. At some point I realized the inherent danger in immersing myself in those fictional worlds and gave it up.Whatever the case, I had at least some connection to Ann through her writing.

When Ann publicly told of her reconversion, like many Christians, it was uplifting for me. So for her to un-convert saddens me and her reasoning makes it all the more hard to swallow. I won't restate what she said. Instead you can read that here.

In the end it looks like Ann quit being a Christian because she couldn't make it fit her liberal ideology. I have long considered myself a political conservative. However, the more I allow my faith to take over and guide my life, the more I see how political ideology can pollute true faith in God. Christianity is far older than anything in the current environment of American politics. While I do admire many conservative thinkers, when I die I don't want to spend eternity in the Newt Gingrich vision. I am looking forward instead to the Beatific Vision.

Therefore, I quit being political. I had actually come to this conclusion several months ago, but with Ann's declaration I thought that I might make one of my own. I will no longer vote for and/or support political candidates nor embrace views based on any ideology other than Christianity. Rather, I will vote my conscience and support or resist political issues only after doing my best to form my Christian conscience by striving to understanding my faith, seeking to learn what God expects from me and praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit.

In the name of....Christ, I quit being political. Amen

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stuff my Mom taught me.

Rationalization and justification. I see the peril in approaching life like this. It seems that we can rationalize and justify just about anything in this day and age. I have actually seen an abortion provider call the work they do sacred, you can read it here. It is my fear that many, many souls will rationalize and justify themselves straight to Hell.

When I think about or talk about the many sources that have helped me to develop my faith and reasoning I will most assuredly site Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Arinze, our pastor at St. Joan of Arc, Fr. Ted. I would also site various writers both traditional and new media, for instance G.K. Chesterton and American Papist, Thomas Peters. Catholic Answers of course is a source that is always available, 24/7 and their podcast of the radio  show Catholic Answers live has really helped me to develop a deep understanding of the faith. But someone who doesn't get enough credit is my Mom.

As I think back on it, my mom is responsible for many aspects of my faith. With out question we went to Mass every Sunday. Don't even think about it, I was receiving the Sacraments while I was in her charge. We always prayed before meals and God was never anything to be ashamed of.

Teaching me that Satan was always there with slick packaging, may be the most important thing my mom ever taught me. Until this morning, I thought that I had come up with this independent of my upbringing. I don't remember much talk about the realities of evil around my house.

One of my soap box points is exactly this. The Evil One knows he cannot win. He knows he especially can't win of he shows us who he really is. So he spins it and makes it sound good.

I remember reading an interview with King Diamond, a self-proclaimed satanist and heavy metal artist. In that interview he said something to the affect that satanism wasn't about sacrificing goats or babies etc. It was about putting yourself first. About making sure you are taken care of.

Well, I remember relating this to my mom and saying something to the tune of "that doesn't seem that bad to me". My mom didn't go into the Theology of why selfishness is evil or anything like that that would have been over my 15 year old brain. She just simply relayed to me that Satan is evil. That Satan has made himself the sworn enemy of God. And that Satan wouldn't gain many followers if he showed them the realities of Hell. The only chance he has is to make you think that evil is good. He does this through rationalization and justification.

As I look back, I was at a cross roads that day. My mom could have let me go off on a path that would eventually lead to Hell if she would have been lazy and not wanted to take the time to correct me or if she would have rather not caused possible friction and argument or if she had been more concerned with affirming me in my error than in correcting that error.

So today I give thanks to God that my mom was there and I pray for the souls who read that same interview and didn't have my mom there to set them back on the straight and narrow path.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The argument for atheism

During my college career, I learned among other things, that if I took it upon myself to teach the subject I was studying, I would reach a deeper level of understanding of that subject. The teaching could involve other real people or just other people in my head. It really didn't matter, I just needed to approach it from the angle of the expert.

For those of you that know me, you know to some degree or another that I have had a "conversion" back to Catholicism. Born a Catholic, the "conversion" back was necessary because I lacked a fundamental understanding of the religion.

In order to grow in my knowledge of the faith I have taken to explaining and defending Christianity and Catholicism. To some degree this has been just in my head and to some degree in various public outlets.

Today, I was looking for arguments supporting atheism in order that I might rebut them. My only experience with atheism to date is the argument "you can't prove God exists, therefore he doesn't." Which I find amusing for many different reasons but will not list them here. In my quest for intellectual arguments ruling out the reality of God i visited the The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science Official facebook page. I mean, he is the renowned atheist of our times right. I must say I was looking for some good arguments to chew on to help me bolster my own arguments for the existence of God. However, I was woefully disappointed.

I found two things on this site. The first was The "you can't prove God exists argument." These intellectual atheist kill me. They wrap this argument up in "academic" language and believe that makes it valid and believable. I guess unfortunately, it does for some people and they loose their souls to it. They would have you believe that the randomness they believe in is more believable than a "magic man" in the clouds. I'm sorry, but I don't get it.

The second thing I found, I also expected, was attacks on the faithful. I learned something else in college. In my logic course I learned that if you have to attack me personally your argument is invalid. You would think that if you were going to try to convince someone that you are intellectually superior, you would at least read up on the academic rules for arguments.

I got nothing out of the experience because I do not find the argument "You can't prove God exists, therefore he doesn't exist" a persuasive argument for atheism. Additionally, I do not find "If you believe in God, you're stupid" to be a persuasive argument.

In the end, I find it far harder to believe that this thing we call existence is all just random than i do believing that it is a willful creation by a being that is far beyond our comprehension. The fact that this being is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob and that he sent his only begotten Son for the salvation of mankind is beyond the scope of this particular post. However, that it is what I firmly believe.

Just a note. Least their be any thought that I am proud of myself for my conversion back to God and my desire to know Him more and more, I know that my conversion and desire for Him are gifts of Grace from Him. I am thankful for these gifts and pray that I do not squander them.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Book of Judges and the Papacy.

I've been reflecting on the book of Judges lately. One recurring theme from this book is that in those times there was no king and every man did what he thought best. This seems to lead directly to the other theme which was that man kept falling into depravity and causing a divide between Israel and God.
I love looking at the Old Testament through the lens of Christ and the Church. I see this as a clear foreshadowing of the Papacy and the moral authority of the Magisterium of the Church. The connotation being that we need one clear leader to guide us in matters of faith and morals and not every person running around deciding what they think is best.
I wonder if any of my Catholic friends have made this connection as well and I wonder how my protestant friends interpret this.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What does the Bible have to do with me?

What can stories about a bunch of people a long time ago mean to my life? I have heard this and similar sentiments too often about the Scriptures. God wants to reveal things about himself to you through the Bible. I will tell you from my own experience, once I really got into it I could start to see how the stories applied to me. I first noticed this when I had been reading the books of history. The day that it first struck me I was smack dab in the middle of 1 Samuel.
A recurring theme throughout the Old Testament is that people who put their faith and trust in God are able to accomplish things that are otherwise impossible. Whether it is a woman well passed child baring age that was barren her whole life becoming pregnant, a foreigner who is in prison being elevated to the administrator of an entire country, or a few men defeating an entire battalion of a superior enemy. These are just a few examples; the Old Testament is full of stories which fit this theme.
The following is how I first saw these themes play out in my own life. We were having a major problem at work. We had spent several days on the problem and we were nowhere closer to solving it. The problem was beginning to spill over into my (and others) personal life. I was feeling anxious and was not able to focus on other aspects of my life.
To relate this problem to one of the better know Old Testament accounts, let me try to compare it to the story of David and Goliath. Most people know the basic tenants of this story. Goliath is a massive warrior who dwarfs all others. He taunts the Israelites constantly that they have no one who can defeat him in battle. David is not only much smaller but also is a shepherd rather than a warrior. David put all of his faith and trust in God and went to meet Goliath in battle. To say that David killed Goliath with ease is a major understatement.
That is how I felt with this problem. That there was no way I could track it down and solve it. There are just so many places this problem could have been. It could have been in our infrastructure, in our code, or as the result of something from the outside that was coming in and we had been unable to track down. Even worse it could have been some combination of these things. You see the problem was huge, Goliath like if you will.
I guess at first you could have compared me to the entire Israelite army. I was just trying to do it on my own. After all God has done for me in my life, it took me nearly a week to bring my problems to him. I went to bed one night with a prayer on my heart that I would be delivered from the feelings of anxiety and the overall obsession with the problem. I got up the next morning to face my Goliath and to say that I killed Goliath with ease would be a major understatement. I literally walked into work sat down at my desk and found a small typo that changed the face of the problem. I fixed the typo, and the problem dropped like a large man hit squarely in the forehead with a stone from a slingshot.
Least this sound like a dry account of some hum drum day to day activity let me assure you that when I solved this problem with such ease, I was immediately rocked with a feeling of awe at the blessing which God had bestowed on me.
What was God trying to reveal to me. I believe that He wanted me to learn that if I am faithful to Him and trust in Him he will deliverer me from my enemies just as he did time and time again for our Israelite ancestors in the faith. What does God want to reveal to you? Pick up a Bible and find out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Christian's view of death

Being concerned with the pro-life movement as I am and following news related to it I have heard some disturbing propositions posed by some critics of the pro-life stance. Actually two disturb me most. The first is that the pro-life mentality does not respect a woman's rights. That is so wrong, but I am not going to deal with that now, maybe later if I feel like it. But just to clarify, while the pro-life movement gets most of it's press with regards to abortion, it's much more than that. We value all life form conception to natural death so that includes among other things standing firm against euthanasia, assisted suicide, and any other way the culture of death would seek to invade our society.

However even more disturbing than the "woman's rights" lie is the supposition that Christian's are afraid of or somehow find death distasteful. Nothing could be further than the truth.

While we must acknowledge that there are different stages of maturity for a Christian. That being said, even an immature Christian realizes that one must die before entering Heaven. So, even for a Christian that still fears death for himself, he would find comfort in the death of another that they may be in Heaven. On the other hand a more mature Christian can accept and even embrace death for himself. In other words, finding death an uncomfortable thought is inconsistent with the Christian faith.

So there must be some other reason for our stance against the culture of death. There are in fact several. First and foremost, the 10 Commandments. The fifth states "You shall not Kill." A pregnancy ended by willful abortion is killing. A life ended because a person will never recover is killing and God forbid, a life taken because that life is a burden to another is killing.

Another reason that we stand against the abominations of the culture of death is that little thing in the Gospel about "Whatever you have done for the least of My brothers, you have done for me." An infant in the womb in danger of an abortion cannot defend itself. Actually, if you have seen an ultrasound of an abortion you will see the infant do it's best to recoil from the butcher's knife but to no avail. I for one cannot stand in silence while some would have us believe it a matter of the woman's right. When we speak up for the child in the womb, we are speaking up for the one who has no voice.

Those who are sick and dying are reduced to the least among us as well. They can no longer care for themselves and are dependent on others for even the most basic needs. They should be treated with the dignity due them as a child of God. Starving to death, dying of thirst, or being pumped full of enough drugs that the body shuts down is not dignified. Being cared for, and made as comfortable as possible, and not being left alone that is how we give dignity to the dying, who knows what God still has for them to do before he brings them home. If you are a Christian and have been suckered into to thinking that assisted suicide is good and dignified, I challenge you to pray about and meditate on the great good of redemptive suffering.

This is by no means a comprehensive listing and defense of the pro-life movement, rather it is a quick rebuttal to the claim that Christians fear death. While this post could go on, I think that my point is made. Please do not make the mistake of reducing the pro-life movement to a bunch of people who a scared of death.

Viva Cristo Rey!