Thursday, April 16, 2009

Caving In

I just ran across this while reading some new blogs.

It makes me sad that we have come to an age where people don't seem to recognize the importance of anything anymore. Catholic universities are willing to set aside ancient teachings to join the popular crowd, or hide the name of Christ so-as not to accidentally offend someone who does not believe in Him.

America has its founding in the idea that all men are created equal. That does not mean that all ideas are created equal, nor all lifestyles moral. We are free to practice any religion we choose; we are not guaranteed a life free from religion, nor a right to never be offended. If you want to know how rare our actual rights are, take a walk through history, or areas of the world not dominated by Western thought. If you think you are being oppressed by religions in this country, take a look at what happened to Catholics in England after Henry VIII, or to Christians attempting to practice their faith in Egypt or Saudi Arabia today.

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. - Joshua 24:15

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Notre Dame is Important

There has been a lot of angry sentiments lately over the invitation of President Obama to speak at Notre Dame's commencement and receive an honorary doctorate. Pro-life individuals are upset because President Obama stands in direct and unapologetic opposition to Church teaching. Pro-choice people are upset because they can't understand what the big deal is and think that it is just to attack the president. If I may, I would like to offer a thought to those who feel that President Obama should be allowed to speak at commencement.

Imagine, if you will, that a local chapter of PETA is having their yearly banquet. It will be a time to recognize the work that has been accomplished recently and get excited about what is on the horizon. The banquet will have a keynote speaker and dedicate about one-third of their time to that speaker. The speaker is chosen purely at the discrestion of the chair of the banquet committee.

As the banquet nears, the keynote speaker is announced. It is a famous businessman, who is very popular and influential in the local area. His charismatic ways will get everyone excited and ready to do their best for next year. However, it is also well-known that he owns several food plants in the state, keeping animals in small pens and butchering them.

Naturally, several members of the PETA chapter, as well as some in the wider world of PETA, are upset about the choice of keynote speaker. They send notices to the committe chair that they don't like the selection because his views conflict with their own. The committee chair is unapologetic. He is very proud to have such a distinguished individual at their banquet and refuses to find someone else. Besides, this will be the perfect chance to show people that PETA is willing to have a dialog with people of differing viewpoints. He does not mention that no one else will be allowed to speak while the businessman is present.

Undeterred, the upset members put together a petition to show the committe chair that a lot of other people are angry about the selection too. Members of the national board voice their opinion too, but stop short of throwing out an otherwise very useful PETA organizer. Other people get angry at the first group because they think that it is an attempt to smear the popular businessman, who is even now saying that he wants more ethical treatment of animals. He hasn't done anything to change his operation, of course.

Now, back to the point. If this dispute seems ridiculous, that is only because of the double-standard with which we have learned to ignore. It is okay for people to demand that their view is respected. It is laudable to state your opinion clearly and often, even to the extent that someone is embarrassed or loses their job. That is, unless, your view is somehow connected to your faith. Then, you are marginalized and demonized for being "close-minded."

A few thoughts on acceptable behavior:
  • It is perfectly acceptable for an individual, or group, to express their dissatisfaction on any subject, provided they remain respectful.
  • It is perfectly acceptable to state that someone should not be given a platform to speak at an organization that has differences with that individual.
  • It is acceptable to declare that you are distancing yourself from an organization that is unable to determine whether it is more important to be popular or steadfast.
  • It is acceptable to boycott the event to demonstrate your displeasure.
  • It is NOT acceptable to stage demonstrations at the event itself. The person might stand against you in everything, but they are still due respect.
I hope that clears things up a bit. I recognize the analogy is not perfect, but if you wish to leave comments on it, please do. Also note that I am neither for or against the many aims of PETA.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Get With the Times

I've been hearing a lot of commentary lately from the media and public forums about the standings of the Church. Newsweek ran a few articles in the past month proclaiming the fall of Christianity, others profess loudly that the Church is outdated, or that it needs to adjust to our modern age.

Frankly, I'm tired of it. It would seem that many people do not understand the basis of religion. The purpose of a religion is to hold people to a standard and to remind them that there are things that do not bend to their likes or dislikes of the moment.

From the way that I hear arguments on the subject today, people believe that they are the first generation in history to recognize the teachings of the Church as difficult to live out in our lives. They somehow have gotten it into their heads that the purpose of religion is to make them feel good, or to entertain them and reassure them that they are good people. Let's be perfectly clear: Christianity has always been a difficult path to walk. This was true in the first century, the middle ages, the renaissance and we should expect nothing different today. There are very, very few who do exceptionally well in it; we call them saints.

Many arguments, if you push them further, lead to the statement that they don't like the Church telling them that they can't do, or forces them to do some action or another. Again, let's be perfectly clear and honest on the subject. The Church does not, and cannot, force you or restrict you from doing something. When was the last time a member of the clergy broke into your house and threatened you for committing a mortal sin? Any sin? What rights of yours were stripped away? Were you imprisoned?

At this point, I'm guessing people will say that they're told they're going to hell, or that they couldn't receive a sacrament until they'd been to confession and repented of their sin. Yes, you might have been told that you're going to hell if you don't repent. Please understand, it brings the Church no joy to tell you this. A true Christian wants you to get to heaven as much as they want to get themselves there. We are not graded on a curve, or against one another, but against the measure of right and wrong. By reminding you of your sin, the Christian hopes that you will repent of it and be saved.

Our generation needs to remember that something does not cease to be a sin simply because the majority of people cease to believe it is one. Our Church is not a democracy; the trends of the day should not sway teachings that are to be the very declaration of truth. We should also recall that the Church does not have the authority to reverse the moral law. God does not take a vote when He declares His law and, once declared, it is not open for debate.