Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Libertarian Crusade

My latest webzine home page offering is at my website, The Catholicist Nation. I invite you to look it over and see if you see the same things I do when an individual rips into government for being so, well, so evil.

I'm kind of excited about this issue, because for the first time I put in a neat media tool: a scene from the film V for Vendetta. It's about four minutes long, and it adds the whole vibrant visual dynamic to the site. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Next Culture Warriors

Went to see Jesus Camp last night. After seeing what the film was about, I wanted to see what the filmmakers' take was on evangelical Christianity. It was not surprising to see it assembled to highlight many of the things considered extreme to those who reject the idea that Jesus is the only way to be saved.

I can't deny that much of what I saw among the ministers and the children they influenced was disturbing. The reason it was disturbing was they did many of the things the secular world fears in anyone, here it was just slathered with God language and Christian rituals. Children are trained to fight battles for the Lord, and they were inexplicably subjected to all kinds of emotionally wrenching activities.

After I left the theater, I so much wanted to ask any of the other 20 or so who were there, "Was that disturbing to you?" If they're reasonably seasoned Catholicists they'd certainly say yes, but this was my next question:

"Why was that disturbing?"

What do you think they'd say? I'd presume it would be something like this, tell me if I'm wrong...

"It was disturbing because those ministers were brainwashing those kids. That they were doing crazy things like praying over the microphones. And worst of all, they were being indoctrinated to make America into their brand of Christianity, intolerant and narrow-minded. The fear is in how far they'd go to force that stuff on everyone else. They were making those kids into warriors!"

True enough. My question is, why is what the secularists desire any less intolerant?

As it is, this film was really just a vibrant exposition of the raging culture war. Both camps are battling it out, and this couldn't have been more demonstrated but in the closing radio show conversation between the children's leader of the church whom we'd already seen quite a bit of, Becky Fischer, and a talk show host who'd peppered the film with his on-air commentary, Mike Papantonio. Fischer had her things to say about how the country should be, and Papantonio had his things, and ne'er the twain did meet.

It's just more posturing in the culture war. It's the secular there's-got-to-be-a-separation-of-church-and-state crowd on one side, and there's there sectarian God's-got-to-bring-about-a-Christian-Nation-revival-across-the-land folk on the other.

The fact is they're all in the World, each with their own God clubs. Christian Mike Papantonio's God club is just as intolerant as Christian Becky Fischer's. They both have to shout at each other so loudly because they fear their proposed form of sin management just won't do the job they need it to do. No wonder...

It can't. Government likes to convince people it is their salvation, but it can only condemn. Condemn, prosecute, convict, sentence. It's what its minions also do-- it was rife throughout the film. Everybody condemning everyone. Very disturbing indeed, especially when it's all you've got.

The ironic thing is that condemnation is actually a very good thing. But it is only good when it drives people into the arms of the One who loves-- the One who can free them from the oppression of their condemnation.

Yes, yes, that is Jesus, but not the Pentacostal Jesus. Not the Tolerant Jesus either. Not Anyone's Jesus, not even mine.

Has anyone thought about asking The Jesus? The One who is the way, the truth, and the life? Has anyone thought about asking Him whether or not we should be involved in politics? Believe it or not, you'd get an answer. And it isn't the Pentacostal one, and it isn't the Tolerant one either.

Do you ask Him? And then, even more amazing, do you do what He says?

Some more on the Culture War is here.

And some of the Jesuses are here.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Nobel Rescue Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this past week, and it went to Muhammad Yunus. I'd never heard of the guy, but I had heard of his organization. In fact, about seven years ago I was so intrigued with what it did that I made an assignment out of it for my Economics students. I've been using it ever since to teach the foundation that must be in place for an economy to work.

His organization is Grameen Bank, and it makes "micro loans" to poor people. Since the dawn of time richer people have been handing out money (loans, gifts, whatever) to poorer people, yet we still have poor people, now umpteen millennia later. What Yunus and the bank realized was that the recipients of such magnanimity were doing certain things that kept them in poverty. The people the bank aids are not just poor, they suffer in the most abjectly horrific conditions imaginable.

Yunus tried what he thought was something new. He went about identifying those things that kept them in their dire destitution, and then made a list of "Borrower's Rules" that his clients were required to follow if they wanted the loans. Some of those rules include things as simple as making sure the community is planting enough crops for the year and securing safe drinking water. But others were about commitments to hard work, working together, maintaining discipline, using resources for the benefit of all.

Wow. Sounds a lot like the Law. Hmm. Not so new after all.

What struck me about this seven years ago was that it wasn't at all the small rectangular strips of green paper that made the difference. It was the behavior of the people. In other words, this is just not rocket science: People are poor because they don't do what is right--they don't treat each other right. We can blame all the exploiters we want, but if exploitees are sinners too, they perpetuate their hell.

What strikes me about all of this now is the answer to the question, "Why are people in that condition to begin with?" Seeing what the Bible says about how much God wants to provide great bounty to any who simply ask Him, and indeed how much that actually is for those who do ask, it still floors me that anyone still labors under the misapprehension that man trying it all on his own can actually do jack for keeping people out of destitution.

This is why I think the Nobel Peace Prize is more like the "Nobel Rescue Prize." Really, the reason one would do something so magnificent as to win such a prize is because a whole bunch of other schlubs have been jerked around, and said magnificent person has stepped up to rescue them from their predicament.

"Hey, there's a big ol' war going on over there! Look at that! Lots of people getting slaughtered! Oh the humanity! But wait! There's someone riding a white horse plucking some of the victims from the carnage! Let's give that man a prize!"

Ergh. How about just doing what it takes not to have the war to begin with? How about just exposing the machinations those powerful people who get people riled up to act on their belligerence, and then after the war's been raging a bit and a few buckets of blood have been spilt, they step up to fix things to show how much they deserve an award. How about just doing that?

All you have to do is ask the One who is Peace. It's just not that hard. But ya gotta ask Him.

Needless to say, when the Nobel Prize was announced and the press ran with it as it typically does, I heard a lot about Muhammad Yunus. That's cool. It's great he did nice things for people. But I didn't hear a word about the One who'd not only do nice things for people, but He'd love them as well, so much so that they couldn't be poor at all. Ever.

Who is that? If you really want to know, here are some thoughts about Him.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

No Kidding - Roman to the Core

Have you seen this? It is a photograph featuring U.S. President George Bush, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts leaving St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington D.C. where, every October before the Supreme Court begins its term, they hold the "Red Mass."

This particular picture is dated in 2005 (and exhibited on the White House's own website), but I'd first heard about this event just recently after its 2006 service, having no clue that it had been held every year for the past 50 years to honor those in the legal profession. I'll say. There's the law right there. Apparently some form of it has been held, however frequently, for eight centuries.

There it is. Roman prosecutorial preeminence in all its glory. There they are. The highest ranking law enforcement officials in the World (at least the most visible ones), all together, celebrating their authority to kick the behinds of anyone who jerks them around.

It is called the Red Mass supposedly because of the color of the papal judges' vestaments. I can think of another reason it has that sobriquet. I just can't think it doesn't have at least a little to do with all the blood these officiants must spill to carry out "justice."

And as much as I see what the World is really about, it still just floors me that so few see this and can make even the teensiest relevant comment about it. Oh some say, "Harumph, separation of church and state, blyeahh..." Does everyone know this and still they shrug? Have I just been paying so little attention all these years?

I'm not for two seconds saying a thing against it. It's what they do. I just wonder why so few know it, and also know Christ, and touch people with the Kingdom in light of this horror? Do so many have no clue? Do they have a clue and just don't care?

Ahh-um. Doh. Forgot. They are all a part of it to begin with. What was I thinking.

Is the U.S. merely the contemporary manifestation of expansive Roman hegemony?

No kidding.

A bit more on this concept is here.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Andrew Sullivan is Certainly a Fine Writer

On the cover of the latest Time (October 9) is a chimp and a baby with the feature "How We Became Human." The idea is that since our DNA is 99% similar, us humans had to have made some evolutionary baby-step from apes. Okaaay. They do offer the gratuitous, "Well, we are different, too, in some ways." Interesting, though, how dogmatic the Darwinists are.

Which leads me to Andrew Sullivan's essay, which is a mere couple of pages after the ape-human story. He says lots of nifty things about Christianity and philosophy and some of those particularly thorny questions of life like "Who is God, really?" and "Does faith really mean anything?"

What I see is Time hedging its bets, saying, "Hey, we're really certain about this evolution thing, and that's because, well, we're the ones who really know, being scientifically-minded and all. For all you religious types, we just want you to be assured that if you get your faith thing wrong, that's okay because we're all on this voyage toward that land called 'Truth.' So we do admire you for your most earnest quest. You just keep on doing your thing there, and, yeah, good luck with that."

The key thing I wanted to point out is the quote from German playwright Gotthold Lessing that Sullivan approvingly cites at the end of his piece: "If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand, and in his left hand only the steady and diligent drive for truth, albeit with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process, and to offer me the choice, I would with all humility take the left hand, and say, Father, I will take this-- pure Truth is for You alone."

Oh my how Catholicist this is. How pukifyingly so.

The fact is (yes, I can be certain of this), God wants us to have what is in the right hand. To see it, taste it, revel in it, envelope ourselves in it, rejoice about it. He gives it to us in the person of Jesus Christ who is Truth Himself. To pick the left hand is to brashly defy--with a "humility" that is merely disguised as pride--a God who loves so much as to share Truth with those He loves. Really, what meaning is there in life if we didn't have that Truth?

The seasoned Catholicist-- who in his empty soul does know the abject despair of life without Christ-- thinks all he has is the search. He likes what is in the left hand because it gives him a convenient out when he jerks someone else around. He cheers when anyone asserts all that counts is being "on the way" there, because the jealousy towards someone who actually knows Truth is too unbearable. How much the Darwinist seethes over the genuinely enraptured Theist!

Here's the kicker: Who's to say that when we choose what is in the right hand, we don't then embark in the most joyous, thrilling, enchanting journey of discovery there is? Having Jesus does not mean we just sit together in a bare white room for eternity twiddling our thumbs. To take liberties with C.S. Lewis in his essay "Weight of Glory": Choose the left hand and you may certainly make mudpies forever and ever, quite humbly so I might add. Choose the right hand and get a holiday-at-sea with the most wonderfully devoted and engaging Host there is. Forever and ever, I might add.

Andrew Sullivan is a terrific writer, composing grand pithy operas to Catholicist Nation glory. But if you actually want to thrive in the Kingdom and not just "survive" in this civilization, then there is no question about it, you'd choose what's in God's right hand.

Oh yes! And make sure you're picking the correct right hand! I think the Darwinists are certain they've picked that right hand, but they haven't picked God's. Be careful telling them that, because they may punch you.

For a bit more on knowing Truth, go here.

Who is Truth?