The Age of Chaos

calvin-cartoonThe one thing that the

presidential election confirmed is that we Americans are a very divided people.  Certainly, this is nothing new. There has never been a national consensus shared by all citizens.

The problem is that each side of the divide demonizes and hates the other.  Reasonable and respectful discourse is gone. Each side has retreated into their opaque and soundproof bubbles.  Attempts at peaceful compromise have given way to ideological war.

There is no sense of governing for the common good.

That is one of many reasons I refused to vote for either Clinton or Trump. I voted for a third-party candidate.  People who I respect tried to convince me that I was throwing away my vote. I get that. But I just could not in good conscience go along. If there had been a none of the above box, I would have checked it.

How did we get to this wretched state of affairs?  Not over night. It has come from a slow but steady loss of a shared values—especially moral ones.

The result is that we no longer have a common language to explain our positions. To have a reasonable and profitable debate, there must be an agreement of terms.

This is no longer possible, because Judeo Christian values and morality are no longer foundational to our culture.  Further we no longer have a common understanding of Natural Law Philosophy, as referred to in the Declaration of Independence statement:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Truth is no longer self-evident or shared.  Instead each individual person determines what is true.  Each person is a master of their own soul. God has no say in the matter. This leads to chaos.

    Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity. (The Second Coming.William Butler Yates)

A post Christian world without God is a world without order. It is a world of chaos. We orthodox Christians have lost the culture war.  In addition, our religious liberty is in danger. It is going to get harder to be a professed Christian who tries to live in obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

It is going to be difficult for parents to teach their children, for example, that same sex marriage is wrong, and that being male or female is not a social construct.  We will need strategies to survive in an age when Christians will be marginalized—if not persecuted.Rod Dreher has been promoting the idea of a Benedict Option. It is not a retreat from the world. It is a way to be in the world but not of it. He writes:

The Benedict Option is the term I use to describe this rising movement for a new Middle Age, a spiritual revolution in a time of spiritual and cultural darkness. The monk was the ideal personality type of the Middle Ages. Few of us will be called to the monastery, but all of us who profess orthodox Christianity are called to rediscover a monastic temperament, putting the service of God before all things, and ordering our lives — our prayer and our work, and our communal existence — to that end. We are going to have to recover a sense of monastic asceticism, and do so in hope and joy, together.

He has written a book, The Benedict Option.  It will be out in March. Pre-order here.

Posted in Culture Wars, Discipleship, Freedom of Religion, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Hollowing of Grief

Dad died suddenly just after 2 am on July 4th. Grief, I am learning, is an odd emotional state to be in. The moment thatgrieving-angel

I saw Dad on the floor, I knew that he was gone. In that moment my life changed.
It is not that I was consumed by grief. What does that even mean?

Since that moment, I feel hollow. Empty. In the first few weeks, I had panic attacks. C.S Lewis said, after his wife’s death, No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  Until I experienced it, I had no idea what he was trying to convey.

But that is the thing. It is impossible to really understand grief until you experience it. To be honest, I didn’t expect to really grieve. Dad was eighty-eight and frail. It was not really unexpected. Grief came as a complete surprise.

One of the first thoughts that came to my mind was that grief is hollowing. Strange thought that. Strange feeling.  My faith, I always thought, was too much in my head and not enough in my heart. I prayed desperately for that to change. But if my faith had not been so grounded in my intellect, I would be experiencing a major crisis of faith.

God it seems has a strange way of answering prayers. It seems that all these years of studying, have prepared me for this particular time in my life.

I have not been able to feel God’s presence at all. Not in prayer. Not in Church. Not even in the Eucharist.  But I am not experiencing a dark night of the soul. Weird. There is no wrenching doubt. There has not been one second of wondering if God exists.

I can not explain it. I can only be thankful.

Taking care of my Mom is hard. Without faith–without God–it would be impossible. She is not an easy woman in the best of times. Now she has lost her love of 64 years.

Oh and did I mention that when he dropped dead, he slammed into my mother and broke her shoulder?  It was a nightmare for the first four months. But then it is when I am at my weakest that God gives me the grace to deal with the situation.

Although I can not feel his presence, He is there after all.

Posted in God, Suffering, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Goodbye 2016 and good riddance

Well 2016 was a heck of a year. The elections primary and general were just plain weird. I was a #never Hillary and #never Trump voter.  Our ruling class has descended to the bottom of the sewer.


Along with our culture.

But it is over. And Christians know to not put our trust in princes.

Christian hope, however, is not souped up optimism. We will see what a Trump presidency brings.

I doubt that 2017 will make it easier to be a Christian. It is probably going to get rougher.

But the last few months of 2016 have been rough going for me and my family–especially Mom.  Dad literally dropped dead on July 4th at am in my house (he and Mom came to live with us in September of 2015). It is my first experience of grief. I had no idea.

I had promised Dad, just before he passed on, that I would start up this blog again. The re launch was supposed to be early July. I just couldn’t.

But my favorite Deacon made me promise that I would begin today. So here I am.

A blessed Christmas and New Year to all.

Posted in Other, Politics, Suffering, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Gay Marriage Bullies: Irish Edition

Ireland has been post Christian for quite some time. It is a society that barely has a shamrock-rainbowremnant of even cultural Catholicism left.  Yet I still find this shocking.

To see how straitjacketed the debate about gay marriage has become, look no further than Ireland.

There, on 22 May, there will be a referendum, with voters asked to say Yes or No to amending the Irish Constitution so that marriage will be redefined as a union between ‘two persons without distinction as to their sex’. Sounds good, right? An opportunity for an actual electorate to have a debate and have its say on the future of marriage? Not so fast.

The run-up to the referendum has been about as far from a fair or open debate as it’s possible to get. One side in the debate – the side that is critical of gay marriage – is demonised daily, treated virtually as heretics, almost as criminals. It’s accused of causing psychological harm, branded as ‘hate speakers’, and frequently forced to make public apologies simply for expressing its belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. And as a writer for the Irish Independent says, ‘It’s not a debate if one side can’t speak’. The public discussion before the Irish referendum has not been a debate, she says – it’s been ‘a Two Minutes Hate’ against anyone who doesn’t think gay marriage is the greatest idea ever.

Pretty much the entire establishment in Ireland, aside from the increasingly uninfluential bishops and priests, backs gay marriage (giving the lie to the gay-marriage movement’s depiction of itself as a beleaguered minority bravely battling The Man for its civil rights). From the prime minister, Enda Kenny, to the vast majority of Dail Eireann, to pretty much the whole media – most notably the Irish Times, voice of the minuscule cultural elite in Dublin that sets the moral and political agenda in Ireland – every person with power is rallying for gay marriage. And barely a week passes when they don’t demonise the other side, the smaller, less powerful side, the side which, in opposing gay marriage, is apparently harming citizens, causing violence and, worst of all, jeopardising Ireland’s political future.

As with all heretics in history, Ireland’s opponents of gay marriage stand accused of directly harming the public. So last month, thePsychological Society of Ireland issued a dire warning that the propaganda of the anti-gay marriage camp could ‘impact detrimentally on people’. PSI said it is ‘seriously concerned’ that this lobby’s claim that traditional marriage is better than gay marriage, on the grounds that a mother and father make better parents than two people of the same sex, could have ‘far-reaching implications’. It chastised opponents of gay marriage for promoting ideas that ‘run contrary to the positions of professional bodies’ – that is, for daring to defy the new priests: the expert class – and said their words could wreak mental and moral havoc.

As one news report summed it up, PSI thinks that ‘the debate itself [my italics] carrie[s] the potential to have detrimental effects, both psychological and emotional, on adults and children’. So discussion is dangerous; positing a view that runs counter to the elite’s outlook could cause emotional damage. It’s remarkable how much the authoritarian boot has shifted: once it was those who denied Biblical truths who were accused of doing moral harm to citizens; now it is those who cleave to Christian views and doubt gay marriage whose words, whose desire to have a debate, are depicted as dangerous, warping things.

Ah. The glory of the new “tolerance”

Why is the gay-marriage movement so intolerant? Despite winning the backing of almost every powerful figure in the West, from Barack Obama to David Cameron, from Apple to Goldman Sachs, and despite being turned by the media into the great unquestionable, almost sacrilegious cause of our age, still gay-marriage activists hilariously fancy themselves as underdogs and, worse, seek to shush or shame out of existence anyone who opposes them. In the words of the American journalist Damon Linker, the gay-marriage movement seems curiously hell-bent on ‘stamping out rival visions’. Or as Reason magazine said in relation torecent intolerant activism by American gay-marriage campaigners, it seems some are ‘not merely content with the revolutionary step of removing state discrimination against same-sex couples’, but also want to ‘use state power to punish anyone who refuses to lend their business services to wedding ceremonies they find objectionable’.

What’s this all about? Why the illiberalism, the intolerance, the ugliness? It’s because gay marriage is not really about expanding freedom at all. Rather, it represents the emergence of a new, post-traditonalist morality, an attempt by at-sea elites across the West to redefine themselves and their moral missions through the gay issue. Gay marriage has become the favoured means through which our rulers, feeling ever-more detached from their old moral worldview, are institutionalising a new, pseudo-progressive, seemingly consensual morality, based, not around the old ideals of family, commitment and privacy, but around the new po-mo values of relativism (all relationships are the same), non-judgementalism (who are we to say that a mum and dad are better than two mums?), and illiberal liberalism, the central political outlook of our times, which under the guise of building a new liberal consensus seeks to censure and punish anyone who deviates from that consensus. The reason the elites, from the political classes to the influential opinion-forming set, are so instinctually hostile to criticism of gay marriage is because they have invested their very moral rehabilitation, their future political and moral legitimacy, into this issue more than in any other. And thus no ridicule of it can be tolerated. For if you knock gay marriage you are not only knocking gay marriage – you are upsetting Western elites’ efforts to establish a new morality that simplistically distinguishes between Us (good, kind, liberal backers of gay marriage) and Them (the old, the religious, the outdated, the Other).

Ireland captures this perfectly. The reason so many in the political and media classes want, or rather need, the amendment to the Constitution to pass is because they think legalising gay marriage will help rejuvenate Ireland in the twenty-first century. Theminister for children said that if Ireland doesn’t legalise gay marriage, it would ‘send out a bad message internationally’. Or asprime minister Kenny put it, passing gay marriage will ‘send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland has evolved into a fair, compassionate and tolerant nation’. Read the entire article here.

Sure. Ireland is”a fair, compassionate and tolerant nation”. Unless you are an orthodox Catholic.  Then not so much.

St. Patrick pray for Ireland once the land of Saints and Scholars.

Posted in Religion vs State, Same sex Marriage Gay agenda | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Standing Up to the Bullies

Our Bishop is standing form and supporting our local Catholic High School (see the posti-stand-with-the-catholic-churchbelow) in rescinding a job offer to a man who is in a same sex relationship.  The Bishop released a statement:

While we respect all persons and civil law in regard to civil unions, the Church teaches based on natural law, Scripture and the Church’s 2,000-year tradition that marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman. The Catholic faith is central to our mission as a Catholic school and is an exercise of religious liberty. To deliver on that mission it is our expectation that staff and teachers support our moral beliefs as they are the models of our Catholic faith. Read it all here…

Amen. But I doubt that this is the end of it.  The bullies will not accept that the Catholic Church has the right to hold fast to the faith which has been passed down from the Apostles for 2,000 years.

Sigh. Some of the students staged a walkout at the high school.  I don’t think this is a reflection on the school. Most likely it is that they and their parents have bought into the culture.  I just think that we need a new approach to teaching Catholic morality.

Rod Dreher, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, believes that those who oppose orthodox Christian teaching are not interested in understanding why we just can’t go along:

Similarly with Christianity and its sexual ethic, both regarding homosexuality and heterosexuality. It is clear to me that almost nobody on the modernist side is interested in understanding why Christianity teaches what it does, and why it’s important to the orthodox to hold on to this. You can see it in the style of argumentation from the other side. They are fond of saying, “Well, once upon a time you changed this thing, so why can’t you change now?” It never seems to cross their minds that a thing that was once changed might have had separate grounds for the change, or that maybe the thing that was changed ought not to have been changed, because it had deleterious consequences.

Rather, the idea is: “You ought to change this thing, and I don’t see why you can’t come up with the rationalizations to do it.”

This strikes me as very, very American: decide what you want to do, and come up with the rationalizations later.

Some of us, believe it or not, still believe ourselves bound to an authority outside the Self. I don’t expect you to agree with us, but I do expect you to try to understand why we think the things that we do, and in the way that we do.

Actually, I don’t expect that at all anymore. It’s pointless. It always was. The media set the terms of the debate a long time ago. 

Do read his entire post. It is well worth it.

Posted in Bishop Pates, Catholic Church, Culture Wars, Homosexuality | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The War on Churches on the “Wrong Side of History” Comes to Des Moines

From KCCI, our local CBS affiliate:

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa —A local man said he was denied a teaching job because he is gay.Tyler McCubbin said the Dowling Catholic High School president made him an offer, but later revoked it based on his sexual orientation.

No. No. No. The offer was not revoked because he is gay.  Sexual orientation is not a sin. Acting on it is. Catholic teachers are expected to strive to live according to the doctrines of the Church.

If it could be assumed that Tyler McCubbin, as an unmarried person, was living a chaste life, no matter his sexual orientation, he would not have been denied the position.

But that is not the case. He is engaged to a man:

Tyler McCubbin said the Dowling Catholic High School president made him an offer, but later revoked it based on his sexual orientation. With a few clicks online, anyone can see McCubbin is in a same-sex relationship. “I said, ‘Yes it’s true. I’ve been engaged for almost a year now.’ And they said, ‘Because of that, we can’t offer you the contract,’” McCubbin said. Read more here…

Teachers at Dowling have to sign a contract which includes specific language that outline the expected code of conduct in accord with long accepted Church teaching. 

Surely McCubbin knew that he would have to sign a binding contract . Was he going to sign it anyway?  Further he must have known that the background check would include social media sites. What did he think was going to happen? At a Catholic School.

Yet McCubbin says that he is heartbroken.

“What’s so shocking is in an institution where they preach tolerance and love and respect for everyone, no matter what your background is, they don’t uphold to those teachings,” McCubbin said.

This young man simply does not understand what, according to the Church, real love is.  It is not love to leave people in sin. It is not love to say that it is possible according to 2,000 years of Christian teaching, for same sex couples to enter into marriage.

Christian love does not affirms us in our sinfulness. It calls us to let Jesus free us from the slavery of sin. Yes we are called to love others–even our enemies. That is unconditional love. But that does not mean that we are called to approve of their actions.

Love can’t be divorced from Truth.

This is all so deeply sad.  But there truly is a war on religious freedom heating up. It is spreading faster than a wild fire on a parched prairie.

State Attacks Church in San Fancisco

Rod Dreher posts on the culture wars here

We can’t say we haven’t been warned:

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you,‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me. John: 15:18-21

But we have reason for our hope. And we know the rest of the story. He is Risen Alleluia!

Posted in Catholic Moral Teaching, Culture Wars, Homosexuality | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

He Is Risen!

Happy Easter! Yes I know that I am a bit late. But it is Easter until Pentecost, and this is Resurrection Raphaelmy hectic time of year.

Easter Vigil at our parish was just beautiful this year. The best ever. I think that it is because our new Deacon intoned the Easter Proclamation this year. I still have goosebumps.

It was also, as always, wonderful to witness adults and older children being baptized and confirmed into the Church. It is such a privilege to walk with people on their spiritual journey.

That said most people don’t realize what goes into preparing for the Easter Vigil.  But it is worth it. I am exhausted but in a good way.

It is a bit weird though. I really thought that I had flunked Lent. Didn’t feel transformed. But  then Easter came, and I am almost overwhelmed with a sense of peace .  God must have been working on me anyway.

O death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?  Christ is risen and life is freed, Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep.  To Him be glory and power for ever and ever.  Amen (St. John Chrysostom)

Posted in Catholic Church, Easter, Liturgical Year | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Belief-less Christianity

John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister,  thinks that is perfectly reasonable to not believe in jesus_facepalmGod and remain in ministry.  (H/T Real Clear Religion)

How can you call yourself a Christian, let alone a minister?!”

I get asked that question frequently and the questioner is hostile more often than not. Still, I like to answer it if I believe the questioner is sincere.

Though I self-identify as a Christian and I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I raised eyebrows a few years ago when I posted an article on my website about how my personal beliefs don’t align with those of most Presbyterians.

For example, I believe that:

  • Religion is a human construct
  • The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
  • God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
  • Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife

In short, I regard the symbols of Christianity from a non-supernatural point of view.

And yet, even though I hold those beliefs, I am still a proud minister. But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian. Read more…

He thinks that Christianity is a culture, and not a belief system. We are people of the enlightenment–not the dark ages.  Twenty-first century culture, dontcha know, transcends 2000 years of Christian witness. And scholarship.

Well I certainly agree that Christianity is not a mere belief system. To be a Christian is to profess Jesus as Lord and Him crucified. It is to know that Jesus is Truth incarnate.

I really can’t understand his reasoning. I mean why bother. If you truly believe that God is just a symbol (what does that even mean), and that the Jesus presented in the Gospels is just a legend why remain in ministry?  You don’t have to belong to a church to be involved in social justice issues.  You can sleep in on Sunday morning!

I guess he wants the trappings and rituals, without the cross.

Related: This UCC minister says he believes in God–but not really.

Posted in Anti Christian, Christianity, God, Heresey and Dissent, Jesus Christ, Protestant | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I’d Rather be in Italy

Sorry for not  blogging. But. This is my busy, stress filled time of year. It is timePainting white wall with green paint to wind down the preparations for those who decide to come into the Church at Easter Vigil. 1st Communion is just around the corner.

And my favorite deacon decided that this would be the perfect time to get our house painted. Never mind that we could have gone on a first class trip to Italy for what it is costing us. Never mind that my house is turned upside down. We have to refinance our mortgage right this minute. Trust me when himself decides that now is the time…Well now is the time. No argument. Hey I have learned a thing or two after almost 42 years of marriage.

Any way we have a lot of work–especially painting and wall repair– to do.  We have to hire professionals; we just don’t have the time. Besides if you think that I am going to let my husband  anywhere near our very high ceilings at his age, no matter how spry he is, you and he are nuts.

Hey we usually move when it it is time to paint and do maintenance–usually after 5 years. We have been in this house nearly 18. So. I guess it is time to paint.

I am supposed to avoid stress. Yeah. Right

I would rather go to Italy.

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The Tragedy of Moral Relativism

“Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is moral-relativismoften labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”  Pope Benedict

David Brooks has an opinion piece in (of all places the New York Times), where he points out the grave consequences of the moral relativism of our culture. (H/T Rod Dreher)

Roughly 10 percent of the children born to college grads grow up in single-parent households. Nearly 70 percent of children born to high school grads do. There are a bunch of charts that look like open scissors. In the 1960s or 1970s, college-educated and noncollege-educated families behaved roughly the same. But since then, behavior patterns have ever more sharply diverged. High-school-educated parents dine with their children less than college-educated parents, read to them less, talk to them less, take them to church less, encourage them less and spend less time engaging in developmental activity.

Interspersed with these statistics, Putnam and his research team profile some of the representative figures from each social class. The profiles from high-school-educated America are familiar but horrific.

David Brooks, sounding like Pope Benedict,  calls for a return to a common moral order:

But it’s increasingly clear that sympathy is not enough. It’s not only money and better policy that are missing in these circles; it’s norms. The health of society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens. In many parts of America there are no minimally agreed upon standards for what it means to be a father. There are no basic codes and rules woven into daily life, which people can absorb unconsciously and follow automatically.

Reintroducing norms will require, first, a moral vocabulary. These norms weren’t destroyed because of people with bad values. They were destroyed by a plague of nonjudgmentalism, which refused to assert that one way of behaving was better than another. People got out of the habit of setting standards or understanding how they were set.

Next it will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires? Read more…

Returning to a common moral order is not going to be easy. But it is good that the consequences of diversity and radical individualism are being discussed outside of the church.

Perhaps, in the long term, the culture will turn away from the chaos and real harm that relativism has created.

Posted in Moral Theology, Pope Benedict XVI, Truth, Virtue | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment