Sunday, August 14, 2005

To What End

To steal a word from my days at Texas A&M I was cogitating the other day concerning the faith in general and why I remain a member of those who seemingly keep themselves beholden to rules of conduct even when impulses urge (scream) to follow another path. I was contemplating as to whether all this is worth it or not. For those who are more theologically minded I did not doubt the faith but rather wondered if it was worth the effort. I am sure that for many people this is a situation that they find themselves in on many an occasion.

It seems that in figuring on this simple proposition there are many things that pass by the synaptic corridors. The first is of course of the lower passions that are yet ungoverned by reason who exclaim with all their might that man is no more than a animal that walks upright. These passions claim that it is of the natural order that I indulge myself in all the base urges that they can extrapolate from their emotionally charged stew. While in theory this is the easiest internal argument to win it is, oddly enough, the one that requires the greatest will power to overcome. The ease in discounting this urge is found in the simple yet profound definition of man given by the ancient Greeks. Man is not merely an animal but is rather a "rational-animal." The addition of a single word inserts a chasm of infinite distance between us as man and the most intelligent of the beasts because only man is rational. Rationality gives man one thing that dashes the hopes of the base passions that man (I) will indulge in their whimsical urges - freedom. While the true definition of freedom is lost on the current generation of people in western civilization (which is to be a later topic to be taken up) I can say with the whole of my rational being that I am able to choose the moral good and am not bound to follow my impulses as if I were a dog, cat or duckbilled platypus.

Another portion of my person claims that the faith is just too hard to maintain and that it seems to be unaccepting of modern issues and that Christ placed the bar so high that it is impossible to attain His set goals. But, of course I then go back to thinking of more rational things because all in all these arguments against the faith are really just bi-products of my own sloth. However, not conforming to the times is a legitimate argument until one realizes that truth is truth and is not subject to time or culture (this too will be a topic taken up at a later time). So, in effect there points are pointless in and of themselves.

When all the little arguments have been exhausted and all of them have been found wanting there still remains the old faithful question that has been around since time immemorial. What if God doesn't really exist? But of course Paschal has the answer to that one. And as anyone knows the betting man always chooses to believe that there is a God because it is the only sure bet around and the consequences are dire. But more importantly there comes a time in a persons journey of faith that to deny the truth of God and the faith is no longer an option because aside from being able to prove to ones self that they are doing the greater good or following the higher path there is something else that motivates their perseverance in the faith. To fall away from the faith would be to fall out of love with the Lover himself and once one has experienced the love of God in their lives - not some trite emotional experience sold by televangelists - then to permanently turn away from Him would be as clawing out ones veins. There comes a point where you just know and when that point is met there is nothing (save ones self) that can separate you from God. For those who do not know of what I am speaking I urge perseverance in the faith and in time you will understand because you will know that God is Love and that Love is in it for you alone.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Papist Politicians

At the inception of this country long before the revolution there was a sense that people could come here from the old world to the colonies for the sake of religious freedom. Of course this only applied to those who were not of the Catholic faith. The bias against Catholics caused the foundation of the colony of Maryland. Yet, even then, eventually the Catholics were outsourced from Maryland to other places in the Northeastern part of the future United States. Even until the end of the Civil War there were places where Catholics could not legally live. There was a political party devoted to anti-Catholicism and there were times when being a Catholic separated you from getting a meaningful job or insurance. One of the primary targets of the KKK was all of the insidious papists. Today, after the civil rights movement one would think that something was different.

Unfortunately it seems that when it comes to anti-Catholicism in the United States not too much has changed save there are no signs in store shop windows stating that Catholics need not apply. This can be seen widely in the hype surrounding the appointment of Judge Roberts to the Supreme Court. It seems that it is still not considered to be very American to hold a high office and be a faithful Catholic.

Most of us thought that we were past the days when Catholic politicians would have to claim that their faith would not effect their judgment in their capacity as a public servant. However, those days are obviously not behind us. It could be said that it is a direct result of our nation abandoning its governmental system of a Republic for a more democratic form that has brought rise to this problem once again. In a republic we in effect elect our rulers. There is no real direct correlation between what the people necessarily want and what the politicians decide to do. This is because a pure democracy is “mob rule” and the masses are truly not able to rule themselves. Some may find this statement crude and defamatory to the average person, however, when the average person cannot tell you who the Vice President of the US is, then it is a valid point to state that the Republic form of government saves the people from themselves.

In any case, the relation with my point is that as the people feel that it is their right to determine their own course they feel that their freedom is violated by a politician voting for truth over what they desire. However, objectively it is necessary for the ruler to go against the will of the people when it is for the good. This is at root a problem with what is a common error in the United States and that is the confusion between license and freedom. This I will discuss in at a later date but it seems to be the root of most of our problems in the western world.

In effect this problem with individual license and freedom is brought to bare when a Catholic (a faithful Catholic) is elected or appointed to public office because this person knows that his role in the government requires him to go against the will of the people at times when the good is at sake. Due to the fact that some of the political forces of today exploit the modern subjectivism that is found “in the air” there seems to always be a reaction to a faithful Catholic seeking and attaining high office.

Some would argue that this may not be completely so because of some figures in the United States are Catholic such as Justices Thomas and Scalia and the former President Kennedy and the previous presidential candidate Senator Kerry to name a few. However I would contend that the struggle to appoint the two justices to the Supreme Court and their constant criticism is directly related to their Catholicism. President Kennedy and his family were among those Catholic politicians that were the first to, in a sense, renounce their faith in favor of their political office and most modern Catholic politicians like John Kerry et al are perfect examples of “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose their beliefs based upon the changing winds of polling data.

It is the hope of faithful Catholics that there will be a number of politicians who are Catholic that stand up for their faith even at the risk of their own careers. Perhaps soon we will find a politician who will stand as a martyr to the faith not in the spilling of their blood but in the loss of political capital. To compromise the faith for the sake of power is a troubling situation that some people find themselves in due to their choices. It is my hope that they will begin to choose the faith or else they may, in the end, find themselves associated not with a donkey or an elephant but with the goats at Christ’s left.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Faith by Fear

We have all seen the images on television of the young man eating the bucket 'o grasshoppers and the attractive young lady who has a fear of heights cajoled to scurry across suspended trusses to the ticking of a time clock. But, with each fear presented there is a prize of green waiting at the end of a successful day on the stage of popular reality shows.

I find reality shows to be interesting for the sake of them being oxymoronical. How can something be so real if it is staged and scripted and exposed in any way with the participants knowing what is transpiring? Even the Truman Show could not claim complete reality because only Truman did not know that he was in the bubble. However, when it comes to faith we all know that we are in the bubble.

Being in the faith bubble is not a bad thing in and of itself. This is not bad because it is only God himself who is looking in with a piercing view of love upon his beloved. If all had this image of God then I am sure that the detractors of religion would either not be or they would be much less. In fact, one of the problems is when this loving God is replaced with the fear of death in the fiery scene of the eschaton.

I was watching a popular televangelist who was explaining once again how these are the times that are being described in the biblical accounts of the so called "end times" (even though many a person has done this in every age since the time of Christ until now) and I noticed that his formula was typical but I had never really thought about it very long until now. I noticed that as he preached with the fervor and technique of a well trained orator his message was simple and hackneyed. "Repent, the end is near." When I think of this I usually imagine a bum on the streets of New York who has too much Agent Orange in his system, not a well educated man with $250 ties and $150 shirts. At least with the bum in New York there is a level of honesty and ignorance that cannot be confused with a ministerial bottom line.

The end is near, the end is near, the sky is falling, the sky is falling yelled Chicken Little. At the end of the sermon of doom where nuclear holocaust in the Middle East was foretold there was the typical altar call. "Come to Jesus and you will be saved of all this." As an aside, I am always amazed that people are so desperate to believe in anything that they still fall for this line of preaching.

This type of ministry is very much like the fear based reality shows. You are presented with a particular grotesque event and if you survive then you will receive a reward. The difference is that with the reality show it is by ones own will but the televangelist states that the way to overcome is to come to Jesus and you will be saved. Of course in some sense this is true. Jesus is the salve that heals all wounds and will ward off sin and death. This I do not dispute, but I dispute the utilitarian use of Christ.

Faith based upon fear is not faith at all. If a person is a member of a religion to escape anything save sin then it is dishonest or merely an emotional response which is not a sufficient reason to believe in anything. For this I do not fault the church goers but rather the pastor who makes a buck off the fears of others. In my estimation this is no different than the snake oil salesmen of previous generations.

Faith in God is really a response to His love. The believer must ask himself this question. Does he believe because of what God can give him or does he simply believe because God is true? This question when answered and investigated honestly will be a good measure to the person’s faith. Does he love God because God will save him or does he love God because He is God? These questions can sift through the sandy ground upon which most religions base themselves and can help to bring strength and surety to the faith of the believer.