While today “it is almost impossible to pick up a publication written by Christians of traditional strype that does not propose recapturing the culture, Christianizing it, as a project lying at the heart of the Christian faith,” Patrick says, it “was not,” and is not, “the business of the Church to offer morally improving criticism to those without.”
Of course, Christians must be aware of the culture around them to a certain degree. “The lives of Christians and the mission of the Church move within and use an existing culture, and the Church may impress itself on the face of culture, but culture is at best a circumstance, a means, and occasionally, an encouragement.”
“The point,” Patricks says (my emphasis), “is that reforming culture directly is never the business of the Church.”
I think C. S. Lewis understood this well, as he speaks of joy (Surprised by Joy) in much the same way that James Patrick speaks of culture. For Lewis, it is:
an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. . . . I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”
The same, I believe, can be said about holiness and the remaking of culture. Anyone who has experienced joy, holiness, or the fruits of a Christian culture “will want it again,” but we do not have power over these things. As long as Lewis meditated upon Joy and sought it out, it evaded him. It can only be experienced as the fruit of something else. As long as one sets out to be holy, he will not succeed, for his gaze is not upon God himself. As long as a Christian desires to “Christianize” the culture, he is not in the proper frame of mind.
“For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 32-33)
Karen Walter Goodwin offers a brief review of Colleen Carroll Campbell’s book My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, to be released on Tuesday, in which she “expresses dissatisfaction with ‘pat answers offered by both secular feminists and their anti-feminist critics.’”
She implicitly seeks a role in what Blessed John Paul II (in Evangelium Vitae)calls the “new feminism,” which the pope described as a culturally transforming feminism that doesn’t imitate models of male domination, but is inspired by the “true genius of women in every aspect of life and society.”
“Campbell,” says Goodwin, “aspires to help us discover for ourselves ‘the consoling truth too often forgotten in our individualistic age: that the pilgrim who seeks God never travels alone.’”
We will have the honor of hosting Colleen Carroll Campbell for a lecture and book signing on November 13.
The relationship between inmates and officers was cordial, rather than adversarial; prisoners called officers by their first names. The episode showed prisoners with a good deal of freedom to roam, whole families living together in communal areas with their own kitchens and bathrooms, and a rich variety of educational offerings, including vocational training and degree-granting programs, leading even to a doctorate.
This prison model is the reason, Rabbi Adlerstein believes, that “recidivism is about 20 percent less in Israel than in the West.” Isreali Supreme Court head Aharon Barak says, “The prison walls must not come between the prisoner and human dignity.”
Rabbi Adlerstein was deeply moved when he heard Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky address the inmates of Israel’s largest prison some years ago. He pointed out that “the sections on criminal behavior [in the Torah] make no mention of prisons. The Torah does, however, speak of how to deal with a thief.”:
According to the Talmud’s interpretation—and that is the only one that has legal teeth—a convicted thief can be ordered into a program of contractual servitude to pay off what he has stolen. For six years, he lives with a family. The law specifies that he must be treated as an equal. He must be given the same food, the same clothes, as his boss. If the two are travelling and find a room with only one bed, the servant gets the bad, and the master must sleep on the floor, because to do the opposite would be against the law. For six years, he is treated with dignity—perhaps for the first time in his life. People say ‘thank you’ to him when he helps. He picks up skills on the job. When he leaves, he is armed with self-respect and a resume. Who do you think is better off? According to our way, the criminal is not treated with a slap on the wrist either. For six years, he loses his freedom, which is punishment enough. And society gets back a whole person.
Aharon Barak concludes by reminding us: “An enlightened society is judged by the treatment of its prisoners.” How much are we, as a society, willing to uphold forgiveness as more than just a private value?
“Maurice Sendak,” says Russell D. Moore, “was, by all accounts, a lonely, misanthropic, cynical, homosexual atheist.” Yet, in an article he wrote shortly after Sendak’s death a few months ago for the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Touchstone, he praises him for ”all that he has to teach a church he never embraced.”
Sendak is the author of the well-known and beloved children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. While some say the book is too dark, Moore believe that Sendak “had a more realistic view of evil than many Christians do, at least when it comes to our children.” The story’s protagonist Max is sent to his room after telling his mother that he will eat her up. His room then turns into a forest full of “wild things,” and he does not return to his room until he becomes “king of all of the wild things,” or until he gains self control over his own “wild things.” Moore says:
Sendak . . . at least in his artistic imagination, recognized something the Christian revelation tells us clearly. Worse than what’s “out there” is the uncontrollable “wildness” inside of us, those passions and desires and rages and longings and sorrows within our psyches that seem to be even scarier because they’re so hidden, so close, and so much at the core of who we are.
The “wildness without” we at least know we have little or no control over, which is scary enough, but the “wildness within,” we hope we to be able to control, and when faced with our human weakness it is often unbearable. I often think of Fr. Luigi Giussani‘s “disproportion before the total answer” (The Religious Sense): “The more an individual is implicated in an attempt to respond to these questions [about the core of our being and the need for a total answer], the more he perceives their power, and the more he discovers how disproportionate he is with respect to the total answer,” and how disproportionate any response of his would be in the face of the mystery.
Taking the scariness of the “wildness within” a step further than Sendak, Moore points out that the reason it scares us so is because even our own self-control is ultimately not full control and ultimately not ours, but only insomuch as God gives it to us by grace. We cannot save ourselves:
The problem is, our kids know there are monsters out there. God put that awareness in them. They’re looking for a sheep-herding dragon-slayer, for the One who can put all the wild things under his feet. Until we can address, with gospel honesty, what scares our children—and ourselves—we can never get to the joyous wild rumpus of gospel freedom.
“The Word came into the world, and the wildness did not overcome it.”
Is the Catholic Church showing a sincere and admirable respect for the free will of individuals and encouraging personal responsibility or is she unnecessarily turning away her members who suffer a great degree of doubt about certain Church teachings?
Steve Shiffrin’s article at Mirror of Justice points to some of the many voices encouraging Catholics to leave if they don’t believe:
Placing particular emphasis on the gay marriage issue, John J. Myers, the Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, maintained in a pastoral letter here that Catholics who cannot assent to the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family “must in all honesty and humility refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they can do so with integrity.” Many reacted to the letter as if it were unprecedented, but I do not believe it is.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2006 here insisted that “If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.”
Finally, Jesus knew that even among the twelve apostles there was one that did not believe: Judas. Judas could have left, as many of the disciples did; indeed, he would have left if he were honest. Instead he remained with Jesus. He did not remain because of faith, or because of love, but with the secret intention of taking vengeance on the Master. . . . The problem is that Judas did not go away, and his most serious fault was falsehood, which is the mark of the devil.
I pray that I will be always obedient to Church teaching, for it is as important as it can be difficult. As Leroy Huizenga said yesterday, ”Benedict praised her [Saint Hildegard of Bingen] for this in a catechetical talk, now published in a collection of his reflections titled Holy Women, saying that ‘the seal of an authentic experience of the Holy Spirit, the source of every charism’ such as St. Hildegard received shows above all ‘complete obedience to the ecclesial authority.’”
Yet, still, this encouragement to leave the Church is troubling to me.
While the pope denounced Judas for staying while not believing, he also made a distinction in his Angelus message between believing and understanding. Quoting St. Augustine, he said:
Do you see how Peter, by the grace of God, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has understood? . . . He does not say we have understood and then we believed, but we believed and then we understood. We have believed in order to be able to understand; if, in fact, we wanted to understand before believing, we would not be able either to understand or to believe.
Many a Catholic—especially many converts, but cradle Catholics as well—who previously denied certain Church teachings, came to find out that the denial was based on a misunderstanding of what the Catholic Church actually teaches. But if it weren’t for the fact that these people stayed in the Church despite notunderstanding, let alone believing, it’s hard to see how they would ever have come in line with Church teaching.
How are those members of the Catholic Church who now reject Church teaching on contraception, same-sex relations, women ordination, etc. ever to come home again if we kick them to the curb?
“Synagogues are contracting,” says Barak Richman professor of law and business administration at Duke University, “and American Judaism remains ossified in organizational structures that may have made sense in the 1950s but currently are unable to address contemporary needs.”
The “organizational structures” he refers to are the rules that “America’s rabbis implement . . . that are squarely illegal and are well outside any reasonable First Amendment protection.”
“When a synagogue wants to hire a rabbi,” he explains, it confronts a tightly organized labor market. Individual rabbis are prohibited from seeking employment independently, and instead are required to apply only for jobs through their professional associations. If they act independently, they are expelled from their associations. . . . Their collective dominance allows them to pursue full-employment policies, extract higher wages than other clergy, and stifle innovation and entry from would-be entrants. America’s synagogues suffer as a result.”
In anticipation of Salvatore Cordileone’s installation as Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco on October 4 (the feast day of St. Francis), Marc Andrus, the Episcopalian Bishop of California, issued what could roughly be called a welcome letter. While he and Bishop Cordileone share views on reducing extreme global poverty and treatment of immigrants, the two remain sharply divided on the issue of marriage.
It is a bold move by the Vatican to send Cordileone, an avid pro-life, pro-traditional marriage activist, to the state’s most pro-gay city.
In response, Bishop Andrus insists to the Episcopalian faithful, “as I say in most of my blessings at the conclusion of the Eucharist, that ‘we make no peace with oppression.’ The recognition of the dignity and rights, within civil society and the Church of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered people, and of women are as core to our proclamation of the Gospel as our solidarity with the poor, with victims of violence and political oppression, and with the Earth.”
He encourages those Catholics who are unhappy with the Church’s stance on marriage to find a home in the Episcopalian church. “Some Catholics may find themselves less at home with Salvatore Cordileone’s installation and they may come to The Episcopal Church. We should welcome them as our sisters and brothers. Even as we welcome those who may join us and look for ways to work with our Roman Catholic siblings in the faith, we will not be silenced in our proclamation of God’s inclusion.”
When Eli Sagir showed her grandfather, Yosef Diamant, the new tattoo on her left forearm, he bent his head to kiss it.
Mr. Diamant had the same tattoo, the number 157622, permanently inked on his own arm by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Nearly 70 years later, Ms. Sagir got hers at a hip tattoo parlor downtown after a high school trip to Poland. The next week, her mother and brother also had the six digits inscribed onto their forearms. This month, her uncle followed suit.
“All my generation knows nothing about the Holocaust,” said Ms. Sagir, 21, who has had the tattoo for four years. “You talk with people and they think it’s like the Exodus from Egypt, ancient history. I decided to do it to remind my generation: I want to tell them my grandfather’s story and the Holocaust story.”
Some see it as a beautiful way to remember and honor those who went through so much suffering:
“To me, it’s a scar,” said Ms. Doron, who grew interested in the numbering while drawing blood from a tattooed arm in an emergency room. “The fact that young people are choosing to get the tattoos is, in my eyes, a sign that we’re still carrying the scar of the Holocaust.”
Ms. Sagir, a cashier at a minimarket in the heart of touristy Jerusalem, said she is asked about the number 10 times a day. There was one man who called her “pathetic,” saying of her grandfather, “You’re trying to be him and take his suffering.” And there was a police officer who said, “God creates the forgetfulness so we can forget,” Ms. Sagir recalled. “I told her, ‘Because of people like you who want to forget this, we will have it again.’ ”
Ever since 1803, all Germans citizens registered with the government as Catholics, Protestants, or Jews have paid a “church tax.” 8-9% of the individual’s income tax bill goes to the government, which holds on to the money for a little while before passing it on to the church of which he is a member. To us Americans, it may seem an odd way of operating, but it has been the system in Germany for over two centuries.
In 2007 Hartmut Zapp, a retired professor of canon law, filed a lawsuit against the German church. He wanted to continue taking part in Church activities, including receiving the Sacraments, without having to pay the church tax. He argued “that under Catholic doctrine, Church membership was determined by a person’s beliefs and not by a financial relationship.”
The verdict did not come until yesterday after the German Bishops issued a decree on Friday, pre-approved by the Vatican, that those who officially denounced the faith to civil authorities, would no longer be permitted to receive holy Communion or other Sacraments, hold office in the Church, have a Catholic burial, or be able to serve as Godparents, and they would need special permission from a bishop to marry in the Catholic Church. The Court disagreed with Zapp and backed the Catholic Bishops, declaring that there could not be partial church membership.
Conscious dissociation from the church by public act is a grave offense against the church community . . . Whoever declares their withdrawal for whatever reason before the responsible civil authority always violates their duty to preserve a link with the church, as well as their duty to make a financial contribution so the church can fulfill its tasks.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, the conference president, said, ”There must be consequences for people who distance themselves from the church by a public act . . . At issue . . . is the credibility of the church’s sacramental nature. One cannot be half a member or only partly a member. Either one belongs and commits, or one renounces this.”
He also added (something most articles on the topic have left out) that “each departure was ‘painful for the church,’ [and] that bishops feared many Catholics were unaware of the consequences and would be ‘open to other solutions’ . . . The Catholic church is committed to seeking out every lost person.”
Many are up in arms. The German media has termed the decree “excommunication lite” while others declare “Pay and pray!” with references to fifteenth-century sales of indulgences. More conservative denunciations of the decree deem it the “wrong signal” at the wrong time.
The decree seems, to me, not only completely reasonable but also quite just. On the one hand, why would a person who has truly renounced the faith want to receive holy Communion or have a Catholic burial anyway? On the other hand, the person who upholds Catholic doctrine should be encouraged to see the Church calling for deeper integrity of its faithful.
The tax system of the German government may not be the most ideal way to support churches; but, given the system, the truth of the matter is: to claim religious rights to the very church that one formally denounces makes very little sense indeed.
I have many friends who are non-denominational Christians. I even have a friend that is so non-denominational that he doesn’t even like to call himself non-denominational as a precaution lest the term unintentionally create another denomination. But multi-denominational?
“What I want to say,” Olsons insists, “is that I am anything BUT a dyed-in-the-wool, separatistic, sectarian Baptist. But I am a convinced and committed Free Church, evangelical Protestant and Baptist.”
Finally, however, I identify myself MOST importantly as a Christian. And I see myself as a member of the Great Tradition of catholic and orthodox Christianity. (By “catholic and orthodox” I mean affirmation of the substance, if not the language, of the ecumenical creeds of the undivided church.)
I am not quite sure to which undivided church he refers, and I am not sure wether he himself knows, as he states, “There is one true church of Jesus Christ throughout the world and across the ages. And it is visible. It’s not always easy to tell exactly who belongs to it.”
This one true church, he says, this “real Christian unity was not broken by denominational labels or even traditions. It is broken by anathemas and refusal of shared communion and rejection of real Christians’ ministries just because of differences of doctrine and practice.”
He seems to have a sort of kaleidoscope ideal of the universal church. If only we keep turning, the distinct colors will beautifully flow in an out, with ever-changing facets, forever revealing a new and stunning design.
If only we would let pastors of all other Christian faiths speak in our pulpits and let the faithful of all denominations take communion in our churches, we would be on our way to showing the “true ecumenism of the Spirit.”
“There is no reason in the world,” he continues, “why I as a Baptist cannot embrace and accept as equally Christian and have full fellowship with Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, Pentecostals, Episcopalians and Presbyterians. That doesn’t mean I think they’re right about everything or that our differences of doctrine and practice don’t matter. They can’t join my church without making some adjustments in belief about secondary matters of the faith. But so long as we agree about the essentials (which I have stated here several times before), we can worship together, serve together, celebrate communion together and accept each other as fully Christian in every sense.”
Yet, I am afraid that Olson’s good intentions for ecumenism undermine the very tenets of faith of each denomination he wants to unite. If members of other faiths would need to “make some adjustments in belief,” how can everyone accept each other as fully Christians “in every sense”?
Olson writes with an admirable sense of inclusivity that I see in many of my Protestant friends, but for the sake of all Christians, for the sake of each denomination, doctrinal beliefs must take precedent over the desire for inclusion.
Oh, and he “would draw the line at Unitarians or truly liberal Protestants or Catholics” . . . and Mormons . . . and other Baptist churches that “have turned their backs on the Great Tradition of Christianity and gone another way—led by their own individual thoughts and desires without regard to Scripture or orthodox Christianity.”
Especially in a time like ours, in the midst of a culture of death, it is all the more tragic when an expecting mother, an expecting family really, joyfully awaits the life of their child that does not make it to term. When so many lives are “unwanted,” why would God take away one that is passionately desired?
It’s a question that has been on my mind, this year in particular, as I have several close friends who have experienced miscarriages later on in their pregnancies, and one which Kyle Cupp, who lost his daughter three years ago today, grapples with daily.
While I cannot empathize with those whose “broken heart breaks open the meaning of every expression, every ‘How are you?’ and every ‘Hello,’ filling it with opaque sadness,” I do know that the very fact that each of these lives is wanted and grieved is itself a testament to a culture of life and a sign of hope.
One friend of mine, the father of one of these children who died before birth, told me that as they were planning the funeral, he had wondered whether or not to bring his (still young) kids with him. Some of his co-workers, he feared, would be outraged, considering it a strange form of child abuse or indoctrination to bring his young kids to the funeral of an unborn fetus. In the end, however, he decided that no matter what he could ever tell his children about the value and dignity of human life, nothing would teach them so directly as being present at the funeral of their unborn sibling.
Of course, all parents in such a situation must live daily with this loss, and we will never understand why these lives were taken. Nonetheless each and every one of these parents who mourns the loss of his or her child is a light of hope in a time of cultural darkness.
When we acquired Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine earlier this month, I was quite pleased, but a commentator’s question stuck with me. He said: “You know, it is amusing, but does it really contribute to a magazine whose ‘purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society’?”
My answer: Yes.
The very fact that Dr. Boli is amusing is indeed a contribution to the advancement of our purpose. Fr. James Schall’s thoughts in a recent article may shed some light:
Aristotle noticed that man is the being who laughs, animal risibile. He is likewise the being who is by nature a political animal. These two latter designations have a direct relation to man’s rational faculty. . . . Things are only amusing, however, if one can see relationships, incongruities, unexpected disproportions, and ironies.
Laughter is a sign of reason, indeed of elevated reason. It is witness to our ability to see relationships, to see what belongs together and what does not. Wit is a sign of high intelligence. Wit is in fact so powerful that Aristotle, in the Fourth Book of The Ethics, devoted a special discussion to its proper use. He saw its rule to be a moral virtue.
Humor, thus is an essential part of “a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society,” or perhaps better stated, a fruit of a properly religiously-formed philosophy. It is indeed the religiously-formed worldview, the belief that there is redemption for suffering, that opens one up to a true and free humor. Schall says: “That humor and wit are essential to our loves goes without saying. Laughter is an intimation of the joy in which we are created, a sign of the abundance of delight in the origin of our being.”
As Pope Benedict XVI says, speaking on Christian laughter, “We climb up the mountain of time, bearing with us the instruments of our own death. At first the goal is far distant. We do not think of it; the present is enough: the morning on the mountain, the song of the birds, the sun’s brightness. We feel we do not need to know about our destination, since the way itself is enough. But the longer it grows, the more unavoidable the question becomes: Where is it going? What does it all mean? . . . the fear rises within us that perhaps the whole of life is only a variation of death; that we have been deceived and that life is actually not a gift but an imposition. Then the strange reply, “God will provide”, sounds more like an excuse than an explanation. Where this view predominates, where talk of “God” is no longer believable, humor dies. In such a case man has nothing to laugh about anymore; all that is left is cruel sarcasm or that rage against God and the world with which we are all acquainted. But the person who has seen the Lamb—Christ on the Cross—knows that God has provided. . . Because we see the Lamb, we can laugh and give thanks. . . ”
Last night here in Manhattan, Father Leo Maasburg, an Austrian priest who was a close friend, spiritual advisor, translator, and confessor of Blessed Mother Teresa, shared stories and offered a window into the spirituality and life of the woman that Blessed John Paul II referred to at her beatification as “one of the most important figures of our time, one of the greatest missionaries of the 20th century.”
During the question and answer session after the talk, Father Maasburg enumerated what “Mother” had considered the six types of poverty that cause someone to be the “poorest of the poor.” The worst of these poverties in Mother Teresa’s eyes was the poverty of not being able to learn about and practice one’s faith.
Such poverty remains prevalent in Mother Teresa’s homeland as Alliance Defending Freedom chief counsel and executive director of global activities Benjamin Bullsays, “. . . a law designed to prevent conversions to Christianity in India is exhibit A for the truth that, in some countries, religion is but one more aspect of life controlled by government or ruthless factions that fear no government.” Bull says:
The law required those intending to change religions to provide a district magistrate with “prior notice of at least 30 days…of his intention to do so.” Failure to provide advance notice of conversion required a mandatory police investigation, prosecution, and sanctions. . . . all persons desiring to change their religion were listed in a public registry, scanned regularly by fundamentalist Hindu extremists that make it a daily routine to retaliate against, persecute, and even murder new Christian converts. And of course the public notice law did not apply to anyone changing their religion to Hinduism.
In Evangelical Fellowship of India v. State of Himachal Pradesh the High Court of the State of Himachal Pradesh ruled that such a law was unjust.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allies represented Evangelical Fellowship of India in challenging the law because it was being used as a cudgel to stop – through intimidation and fear – a potential flood of conversions to Christianity.
While the High Court ruled against the law, Bull says, “The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court where extreme pressure will be brought to bear by extremist Hindu organizations doing everything in their power to curtail the lowest Hindu caste from fleeing a life of religiously sanctioned poverty and degradation.”
“The victory in Evangelical Fellowship of India was [only] one step in a long and on-going struggle to win genuine religious freedom in India.”
I wonder if the Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allies have had a little help from Mother.
In the midst of both anti-Muslim and anti-Christian sentiments making their way through the media after the recent events in Libya, Yemen, and Egypt, Pope Benedict XVI offers hope for peace and unity, speaking to Catholics, Muslims, and visitors from Syria in his address to the youth in Lebanon this weekend.
To the young Catholics he said (my emphasis):
The Year of Faith, which is about to begin, will be a time to rediscover the treasure of the faith which you received at Baptism. You can grow in knowledge and understanding of this treasure by studying the Catechism, so that your faith can be both living and lived. You will then become witnesses to others of the love of Christ. In him, all men and women are our brothers and sisters. The universal brotherhood which he inaugurated on the cross lights up in a resplendent and challenging way the revolution of love. “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:35). This is the legacy of Jesus and the sign of the Christian. This is the true revolution of love!
Christ asks you, then, to do as he did: to be completely open to others, even if they belong to a different cultural, religious or national group. Making space for them, respecting them, being good to them, making them ever more rich in humanity and firm in the peace of the Lord. . . . Experiencing together moments of friendship and joy enables us to resist the onset of division, which must always be rejected! Brotherhood is a foretaste of heaven!
He encouraged them to read the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, which he signed on September 14th, saying, “This letter is also addressed to you, dear young people, as it is to the entire People of God. Read it carefully and meditate upon it so as to put it into practice.” He continued, encouraging the young to take responsibility for the future of their country:
I am aware of the difficulties which you face daily on account of instability and lack of security, your difficulties in finding employment and your sense of being alone and on the margins. In a constantly changing world you are faced with many serious challenges. But not even unemployment and uncertainty should lead you to taste the bitter sweetness of emigration, which involves an uprooting and a separation for the sake of an uncertain future. You are meant to be protagonists of your country’s future and to take your place in society and in the Church.
The pope directly addressed the Muslims present:
I should like now to greet the young Muslims who are with us this evening. I thank you for your presence, which is so important. Together with the young Christians, you are the future of this fine country and of the Middle East in general. Seek to build it up together! And when you are older, continue to live in unity and harmony with Christians. For the beauty of Lebanon is found in this fine symbiosis. It is vital that the Middle East in general, looking at you, should understand that Muslims and Christians, Islam and Christianity, can live side by side without hatred, with respect for the beliefs of each person, so as to build together a free and humane society.
And the Syrians:
I understand, too, that present among us there are some young people from Syria. I want to say how much I admire your courage. Tell your families and friends back home that the Pope has not forgotten you. Tell those around you that the Pope is saddened by your sufferings and your griefs. He does not forget Syria in his prayers and concerns, he does not forget those in the Middle East who are suffering. It is time for Muslims and Christians to come together so as to put an end to violence and war.
And, perhaps most significantly, after addressing each of these distinct groups of young people he invoked the name of “Mary, the Mother of the Lord, our Lady of Lebanon. From the heights of Mount Harissa she protects and accompanies you with a mother’s love.”
Why most significantly? Because while discussion of Mary is what divides Catholics and Protestants, it is she who unites Catholics and Muslims–so much so that on February 18, 2010, the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) became, “an official national holiday sanctioned by the Government of Lebanon. All public buildings, schools, banks and university are closed. The government has also encouraged private businesses to do the same.”
This “national Christian-Muslim Day” is “something that has never occurred before in the history of Christian-Muslim relations. The decision was confirmed two days later during a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Hariri in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. . . . Dar-al-Fatwa Secretary General Sheikh Mohammed Nokkari, one of the main promoters of the joint festivity, said he hopes that such a holiday would spread to other parts of the world, adding that it was fitting that it should begin in Lebanon, which the late Pope John Paul II had described as “a message of pluralism for the East and the West.”
“. . . again and again,” she said, “I heard the question, why are young people not interested in marriage? “Union[e]s libres” (cohabiting relationships) are on the rise as young people are getting married later or not at all, similar to trends we are seeing in other nations. The young are saying ‘sí a la familia, pero no al matrimonio.’”
I saw this trend, first-hand, pervading the barrio in Guayaquil, Ecuador where I lived. For many of our friends, men and women who are incredibly loving and committed to each other and their children—men and women who already have grown children and have been together for over 25 or 30 years—the thought of getting married had never even crossed their minds, let alone seemed necessary. For others, especially our Catholic friends with a deep sense of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, this cultural trend is a painful daily reality. A dear friend of mine, for example, desires deeply to be married in the Church to the father of her now-adult children, with whom she has spent most of her life, if only so she can receive Communion. Because he doesn’t see the necessity of marriage, and she does not plan to leave her family, she goes to Adoration often and attends daily Mass without being able to receive the Eucharist.
For the last few decades, the retreat from marriage has been regarded largely as a problem afflicting the poor. But today, it is spreading into the solid middle of the middle class.
The numbers are clear. Wherever we look among the communities that make up the bedrock of the American middle class—whether small-town Maine, the working-class suburbs of southern Ohio, the farmlands of rural Arkansas, or the factory towns of North Carolina—the data tell the same story: Divorce is high, nonmarital childbearing is spreading, and marital bliss is in increasingly short supply.
. . . In these respects, the family lives of today’s high-school graduates are beginning to resemble those of high school dropouts—with all the attendant problems of economic stress, partner conflict, single parenting, and troubled children—rather than resembling the family lives they dreamed of when they threw their mortarboards into the air.
While the decline in marriage seems to pervade both the lower and middle class in developed and developing countries. I am not so convinced by Marquardt’s argument about their being directly connected. She says:
Amid the conversations [at the international congress], I was reminded often of my mentor Don Browning’s important book, Marriage and Modernization, which asked, in part, what would happen when trends in widespread divorce and out of wedlock childbearing spread from the relatively affluent west to developing nations whose populations are already challenged by so many other forms of instability, including economic and environmental challenges and too often war, social upheaval, migration of displaced persons, or disruption arising from the activity of international drug, weapon, or crime networks.
I don’t see, though, how the divorce trends in the U.S. are bleeding into Latin American countries. The widespread out-of-wedlock childbearing of developing countries, rather, seems deeply intertwined with the very “forms of instability” that Marquardt names.
Yes, “the influences and tensions of values, social change, popular culture, and economic stress and opportunity transcend [national] boundaries,” as Marquardt says, and we certainly have a duty to uphold the institution of marriage in our own country, but I don’t think it is fair to suggest that we are dumping our middle class marriage problems onto poor developing countries.
Space is limited, so be sure to RSVP today to reserve your place.
Dawn Eden is the author of My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints (Ave Maria Press, 2012) and The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On (Thomas Nelson, 2006).
Born into a Jewish family in New York City, Dawn worked as a rock music historian, and worked on the editorial staff for New York City newspapers, including the Post and the Daily News.
When Dawn was thirty-one, she experienced a dramatic conversion to Christianity that ultimately led her to enter the Catholic Church. She has been invited to speak throughout the world, including at World Youth Day Sydney.
P.S. If you missed Dawn Eden on Catholic Answers Live last Friday, the interview is now online and can be streamed or downloaded here.
Jumping on the Christian music bandwagon of the week, I now direct your attention to chart-topping, evangelical rap artist Lecrae.
Since the realease of his new album Gravity on September 4, he has held three of the top five spots on iTunes’ hip hop charts, including No. 1 and 2. Time Entertainment tells us, “Lecrae is certainly no stranger to topping charts. In 2008 his album Rebel became the first Christian rap album to take the top spot on Billboard’s Top Gospel chart. It spent 78 weeks there.”
Not only is he topping charts, but “In 2005 he co-founded ReachLife Ministries, a resource center to ‘help bridge the gap between biblical truth and the urban context,’ according to the ministry’s website.”
Lecrae was raised by his mother and has lived in San Diego, Denver and Dallas, where he pursued the street life he idolized as a child, according to his website bio. But after adopting a new worldview [after his conversion at the age of 19] and committing to following Jesus, he started speaking and rapping in Dallas and volunteered at a juvenile detention center while creating his debut album, Real Talk.
“This week on Instagram,” Time says, “Lecrae pointed out the difference in his lyrics, writing, ‘Dear Hip-Hop, this didn’t happen because of swag, drug references, or stripper anthems. #Godisgood’”
I was amazed at arriving in New York a little over a month ago to find that, for such a big city, there are very few Catholic churches with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on more than just the first Friday of the month, and not one with perpetual Adoration (at least not that I have found thus far; if you know of one please tell me).
Perhaps my own concern for the matter has been somewhat hyper-sensitized after having been blessed with a chapel in my house in Ecuador where I was able to adore the exposed Blessed Sacrament every day as a missionary with Heart’s Home.
I wonder, though, how much this decline in sacramental devotion has to do, ironically, with a desire for the Catholic Church to succeed especially in a time of such hostility to orthodox Christianity and attacks on religious freedom.
An article posted at Roma locuta est helps to explain my point. The problem is parishes’ “extra curricular activities” at the expense of true devotion to Christ in the Sacraments and liturgy. Some excerpts:
Somewhere in the last half century, we have forgotten this basic movement of the soul, that essential exitus reditus after which St. Thomas Aquinas structures his theology. From God we have come (exitus) and to God we must return (reditus). I speak here not of secular culture: we all know it long ago has replaced God with humanity. Rather, we have lost this basic movement even within the Church. This has become increasingly clear to me over the last several years as I have watched various parishes add programming on top of programming while an emphasis on liturgy remains mostly unattended. . . .
I am a huge fan of education – it is, after all, my profession – and I recognize that one cannot love what one does not know. Yet I wonder whether all of the catechetical opportunities in the form of national speakers, musical entertainers, and Catholic comedians are replacing the basic life in faith offered in the Sacraments and even detracting from personal vocations. . . .
The . . . problem is the definition that these activities end up imparting to our sense of “authentic faith.” This is the problem of introverts-need-not-apply. “Faith” becomes defined not by one’s reception of the Sacraments and subsequent acceptance of the grace offer by the Church, nor is it defined by one’s life of quiet prayer and contemplation, but instead by the manner in which one is “involved” in parish life. . . .
The Catholic faith welcomes a wide variety of spiritualities, but none have been more grounded in history and tradition than those centered around quiet contemplation. However different St. Ignatius was from St. Dominic, or St. Francis from St. Benedict, it is clear that all of the great spiritual masters have mastered the art of quiet contemplation. Or rather, they have allowed the contemplative life to master them. If anything, there seems to be a primacy of introverted activity in the historical life of the Church. Every spiritual classic I have read insists that the highest form of prayer is one in which the soul is completely inactive,allowing God to do the work. The soul is simply called to rest. Yet the myriad of social engagements and educational opportunities that we find in the weekly Church bulletin seem to have more to do with our external involvement.
As St. John Vianney said: “If we could comprehend all the good things contained in Holy Communion, nothing more would be wanting to content the heart of man. The miser would run no more after his treasures, or the ambitious after glory; each would shake off the dust of the earth, leave the world, and fly away towards heaven.”
Dawn Eden, bestselling author The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On (Thomas Nelson, 2006) will be discussing her new book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints(Ave Maria Press, 2012) tonight on Catholic Answers Live at 7pm ET.
Born into a Jewish family in New York City, Dawn worked as a rock music historian, and worked on the editorial staff for New York City newspapers, including the Post and the Daily News. When Dawn was thirty-one, she experienced a dramatic conversion to Christianity that ultimately led her to enter the Catholic Church.
She will give a lecture and book signing here at First Things next Thursday, September 13. More details to come…
Our own Robert P. George shows his more personal side in an interview with America’s Kevin Spinale. Currently McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, George typically offers his thoughts on more intellectual matters. Here, he shares about personal prayer, family life, advice for young Catholics, vocation, and the reality of suffering.
How do you address spiritual desolation?
I think of Jesus’ prayer on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Mk 15:34]. Jesus is stating the first few words of a psalm [Psalm 22] that will end not with an expression of despair but with a profound expression of hope and trust in God. We are not in control. My great and dear and much missed friend, Father Richard John Neuhaus, used to say: “We have to remember that we are not in charge of making things turn out all right. That’s God’s job. We are in charge of being faithful. We are just supposed to be faithful. The rest is God’s part.”
How does your faith influence or sustain your academic scholarship and teaching?
The Second Vatican Council teaches that all of us, not only those called to priesthood and religious life, have vocations. The council stresses the importance of discerning our vocations and integrating all the different aspects of our lives in light of our discernment of what God is calling us to do. I view my teaching, my scholarship and my activism in the world of public affairs as part of my vocation. Faith plays an important integrating role in my life.
My life is sustained by faith. I need God’s help to discern what I should be doing and how to do it well. I need God in my life to apologize to when I fail. I need God as comforter and also God as challenger. I think that God challenges us to do more and to do better. It is in the light of God that we can see just how little we have accomplished, no matter how generously the world has showered its honors on us.
What aspect of Christianity or Christian belief most resists a rational account?
I think that the strongest, most mysterious and, in some ways, the most impressive aspect of Christian faith is that it challenges natural human emotions. Perhaps the most radical of all of Christ’s teachings is love of enemies. I would not say that love of enemies is contrary to reason. But I would say it is contrary to the natural emotions that we have, and so it challenges us in a fundamental aspect of our being, because we are not just pure minds. We do have emotions and we do have feelings, and loving our enemies is not only difficult, it just goes against the way we are made. To me, the fact that Christianity could make so bold and radical a demand is more evidence for the supernatural truth of Christianity.
How does the reality of suffering affect your prayer, your living out of faith?
It is a cliché but, nonetheless, I think it is true—that from the Christian point of view, suffering can only be accounted for as a great mystery. Christianity has a story about suffering. It is a very powerful and beautiful story, but it is a difficult one: suffering offers us the opportunity to participate in a small way in the redemptive work of Christ….With a mystery like this one can only enter more deeply into it rather than solve it. It is not meant to be solved.
What advice do you have for young adult Catholics maturing spiritually and intellectually?
My first bit of advice would be to attend to your spiritual life. Develop a strong interior life, especially when we are making educational choices and anticipating career choices. We have to discipline ourselves to maintain regular prayer, engage a spiritual director and examine the options for different kinds of spirituality—Ignatian spirituality or the spirituality associated with some of the new movements in the church like Opus Dei and so forth.… A lot of young people today will really be determined about jogging or going to the gym and staying physically healthy; we need to have the same attitude toward our spiritual lives.
Just kidding. Only $1522. And you’re paying for it!
Keith Riler has published a new Planned Parenthood article in the most recent issue of the UK’s Faith Magazinerevealing PP’s unusually high 99% correlation between its abortions performed and its government funding. Though it remains somewhat unclear in his article what exactly he means by this 99% correlation, Riler reports:
Planned Parenthood’s abortions are very highly positively correlated with the amount of government funds received by the company, at 99% correlation. … These results contradict the oft-heard wisdom that Planned Parenthood’s government support is unrelated to its abortion business. At 99% correlation, Planned Parenthood’s government funding and abortions are statistically one and the same.
PPGC [Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast] also trained its employees to create fraudulent and misleading patient chart entries so as to obtain reimbursement for services for which WHP [Texas Women's Health Program] and Medicaid would otherwise not allow payment. One notable example of this practice relates to PPGC policies for obtaining payment for abortion-related services. WHP, Medicaid, and some other government programmes do not allow payment for abortion-related services including “follow-up visits” after an elective abortion procedure. The following is a direct quote from a staff meeting memorandum given to clinic employees on 22 January 2009:
POST AB[ORTION] VISITS:
We must work these clients in! This visit is self-pay. Quote the self-pay price then ask if she needs any other services such as birth control. If she is interested, screen for WHP or Title XX and offer the WWE [Well Woman Exam]. If the client is getting on birth control make this the focus of the visit and put a note in the chief complaints that the client had a surgical or medical abortion “x” weeks ago.
If Planned Parenthood in fact defrauded taxpayers using “Post AB Visits,” then the correlation between Planned Parenthood’s abortions and government payments should be high because “post AB visits” must follow ABs (abortions). Statistically, it is hard to imagine that a 99% correlation between Planned Parenthood’s abortions and its government funding could reflect anything but a sustained and concerted effort. Such an effort would be illegal in many ways.
“When the 99% correlation is properly considered,” says Riler, “Planned Parenthood’s per-head abortion realisations increase to $1,522 per life, or $501.4m in 2010. . . Given that government payments are supposedly contraception-related, one would expect the contraception-funding correlation to have been higher. Not so.”
Among the survey’s findings: 63 percent of mosques conducted outreach activities in the past year, such as open houses for neighbors; 79 percent are involved in interfaith activities. Contrary to the perceptions of many, the overwhelming majority (70%) of Friday sermons are conducted in English.
The vast majority (88%) of American mosque leaders say domestic abuse should be addressed.A majority of mosque leaders (71%) agree that their mosque is working for social justice, andAfrican American mosques are even more likely (87%) to be active in social justice. What’s more, mosques compare favorably to other houses of worship in terms of social services. Surveys show that only 26 percent of congregations of other faith traditions are involved in providing some type of health programming, as compared to 45 percent of mosques. Only 29 percent of other religious congregations are involved in community-organizing activities, while47 percent of mosques are involved in these types of activities.
Hassaballa comments, “In the stories of Moghul and Moy, it comes out so very clearly how American these (and all the other) contributors are. In fact, these men are fully Muslim and fully American, and they feel no contradiction in being both. Indeed, some didn’t feel that way in the beginning, but in the end, they all come to that conclusion.”
As Amer Ahmad, Comptroller for the City of Chicago (my hometown), writes: “we [American Muslims] are made up of diverse, culturally-rich, and storied communities that are proud of our American heritage.” Jason Moy writes: “But for every nasty or disapproving look I received, I can think of a time when I was able to communicate to others the love I have for Islam. My colleagues knew of my faith and also realized that I was a normal dude who liked Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Lost, and video games.” Blogger and medical physicist Dr. Aziz Poonawalla remarks: “The simple truth is that America is the greatest Islamic country on the face of the earth, and as an American and a Muslim therefore I am doubly blessed.”
Perhaps these American Muslims have some reminders for the rest of us about how to be truly American:
A recent poll says that nearly 60 percent of Americans say they do not know a Muslim, and this lack of personal relationships that provide knowledge about Islam—along with a near-constant barrage of negative images and news coverage—has led to an increasingly negative feeling about Islam and Muslims. Yet, as co-editor of All-American Wajahat Ali writes in the introduction, “How do we get to know a people, really? Even in America, we often say, ‘Hey man, tell me your story.’ So, here are forty-five American Muslims telling their story.”
I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.
In Nick Clairmont’s article, he compares the more hostile reactions to this video to another “instance in which Nye was booed and walked out on by the audience at a lecture in Waco, Texas for stating (I kid you not) that the moon reflects the light of the sun and produces no light of its own.”
It is unfair, however, to compare creationists to those who believe that the moon produces its own light without defining which type of creationist Nye is addressing. A quick Google search for “creationism” reveals a myriad of definitions. Which kind is Nye talking about?
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states: “At a broad level, a Creationist is someone who believes in a god who is absolute creator of heaven and earth, out of nothing, by an act of free will…Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all Creationists in this sense.”
The Encyclopedia also offers, “a narrower sense of Creationism” which it sites as “the sense that one usually finds in popular writings (especially in America today).”
Here, Creationism means the taking of the Bible, particularly the early chapters of Genesis, as literally true guides to the history of the universe and to the history of life, including us humans, down here on earth (Numbers 1992).
“Creationists,” in this sense, “are strongly opposed to to a world brought on by evolution, particularly to a world as described by Charles Darwin in his Origin of Species.”
As he makes no mention of God in this video, it seems that Nye is speaking of creationism in the second sense, as a rejection of evolution. I would feel personally offended by the beloved “Science Guy” of my childhood if he were telling me that my belief in a Creator God (a belief that also allows for him to have chosen evolution as a means by which to create) was “not appropriate for children.” As it stands, however, I think Nye brings up a good point.
As Nye points out, evolution is fundamental to our understanding of the known universe. So sure, everyone has a right to believe whatever they want. However, if you reject science, you won’t succeed, and we as a society won’t succeed to the fullest extent.
If half of American society champions science as a god and the other half rejects scientific facts outright, we will be lost.