Thursday, November 16, 2017

Men and Ms Behavior

Ailes, Weinstein, Bush41, Moore, Franken, and the list goes on.  An epidemic of sexual assault allegations continue to permeate the evening news.  Most of these incidents apparently took place years ago, but the accusations have recently boiled to the surface now that the victims feel more comfortable speaking in numbers.  I can only imagine many more celebrities are nervously reexamining their past actions, hoping no accusers comes forward.

What does all of this say about our society, I ask rhetorically?  Are all men just naturally crude?  Maybe most of us think these things, but do not act for fear of rejection or getting out faces slapped.  Is the definition of sexual assault somewhat fluid?  Does current publicity bring to mind past incidents that may have been ignored at one time, but now seem out of line?  With all of the “me too” proclamations on social media, will some women begin to wonder what is wrong with them if they have never been sexually assaulted?  These are just thoughts that cross my mind. 

Gene Simmons, of KISS fame, created some controversy when he suggested that women invite trouble by the way they present themselves.  He is quoted as saying, “Women have a choice.  They can dress in potato sacks, (but) as soon as they pretty themselves up with lipstick, lift and separate them and point them in our general direction, they’re gonna get a response.”  Let me preface this by saying in no way do I excuse sexual assault in any way, but I think Simmons has a valid point.  When women present themselves in a provocative manner, men are going to react, maybe not in action, but certainly in thought. 

The latest accusation against Senator Al Franken comes from a woman whose bio includes modeling for Hooters and Fredericks of Hollywood.  She also appeared nude in Playboy magazine.  This future senator, with whom she was appearing in a USO show, forcibly kissed her eleven years ago.  Now he finds himself the target of a sexual assault allegation by a woman who sexually exploited her own body for attention.  What he did was certainly wrong, but she should not be surprised if a morally depraved man succumbs to her seductive prior behavior.

Women need to understand how men think.  Men with a strong sex drive are easily stimulated by visual images.  Most men exhibit enough self-control to maintain decorum, but morality in our society has deteriorated to the point where crude behavior is more commonplace.  We hear so much about it today because certain individuals in prominent positions have been allowed to get away with it for years.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2521):  Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance.  Modesty protects the intimate center of the person.  It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden.  It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness.  It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

More Political Incorrectness

Last month, I wrote about people intentionally looking for ways to be offended.  To illustrate my point, several news reports jumped out at me recently.   One involved the removal of a Dr. Seuss mural because some element of his stories might be considered racist.  Apparently one of his stories has an illustration of a Chinese character with slanted eyes and wearing a coolie hat.   Another report involved a racial stir on the Michigan State campus when someone found a lost shoestring that appeared to be in the shape of a noose.  In Detroit, a firefighter was fired for bringing a “racially insensitive” watermelon to a predominantly black firehouse.

Why are people suddenly so sensitive?  Our society has adopted a victim mentality.  Perhaps it starts with the first exposure to political correctness where no child is allowed to have hurt feelings.  Everyone gets a participation trophy.  In the real world, finishing second, third, even last once in awhile is okay.  True success has its rewards. Occasional disappointment is healthy.  We lose appreciation for what we have without sometimes experiencing loss. 

Today, people look for ways to feel oppressed.  The offender is often sent to sensitivity training.  Instead, many of those feeling oppressed need to be desensitized.  We should not let others control our feelings.  Even if someone intentionally casts disparagement your way, so what?  It doesn’t change who you are.  Responding only gives credence to their negativity.  Whether you are an ethnic minority or the President of the United States (or both), someone will disrespect you.  Don’t feel the need to acknowledge them with a response every time.  Is intentionally displaying racial intolerance ever acceptable?  No, but do accept the fact that some people will always be reprehensible.  Rise above them.  Loud protests appear to them as justification for their bigotry.  I believe true bigots are a few and far between, but you would never know it by the notoriety they get. 

We all fall into certain stereotypes.  Regardless of our ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, occupation, gender, age, size, birthplace, or social status, we will all occasionally find ourselves the object of a disparaging remark.  Some people are just contrary.  No matter what position one takes, others will find fault with it.  Not every person who makes a racist remark is actually a racist.  Some are simply idiots who seek attention by saying something outrageous.  I suspect most idiots who go around painting swastikas never passed a world history exam in their lives, and have no real concept of the hatred it symbolizes.  They only want attention by spewing their venom.  Eliciting a terse reaction is exactly what they want.  Treat them as any other criminal without giving voice to their sick agenda.

Think about why these discriminatory stereotypes exist in the first place.  When it comes to racial profiling, skin pigment has little to do with it.   Diminished respect for human life has permeated our society.  Do not underestimate the toll abortion has taken on the importance of the family unit.  Young African American males often grow up without a good paternal role model in the home.  Without it, they seek belonging elsewhere, often on the streets where violence is rampant.  

When police officers overreact in these neighborhoods, it is prompted by fear, not hatred.  Their fear is real and justifiable.  They have families and want to go home to them when shift is over.  They do not owe anyone a fair fight.  Unfortunately, innocent people sometimes get hurt.  Until we regain respect for human life, for family, for one another, and for God, our polarized society will continue to deteriorate. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Our Street Gang Mentality

Kids in the hood know not to look just anyone in the eye on the streets.  It could get you killed.  That is the world we live in today.  Attack anyone who may confront you whether intentional or not.  People seek out anything they can find offensive in some way to justify attacking the source regardless of original intent.  The offense need not be personal.  It could have affected ancestors living in different times under different circumstances.  What seems odd is the fact that it may take years or centuries before some group decides they are being offended. 

Athletic teams with ethnic mascots have come under fire.  The University of Illinois was pressured to eliminate their long revered American Indiana mascot.  The Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins have also been criticized for their names and logos.   Team nicknames are chosen to instill pride rather than ridicule even if logo caricatures may seem exaggerated or stereotypical.  I am not saying some might find them offensive, but are people so insecure that they must make it an issue?  How long before an animal rights group decides the Detroit is insulting Lions and Tigers?

Now we find ourselves removing confederate memorials.  Okay, but the Civil War has been over for quite some time.  Why now?  Removing memorials does not change history or remove hatred.  If we refuse to remember anyone who once held an unpopular belief, few memorials will remain.  Perhaps they should have never been erected in the first place, but they are now a part of history.

As I write this, Hurricane Irma is devastating much of the southeast with damaging winds and flooding.  During such disasters, much is made of people of all races banding together in a show of brotherhood.  In times of crisis, we tend to forget all that divides us.  Could it be that all of our gang-like confrontations come about because we have life too easy?  We wonder sometimes why God allows such tragedies to occur.  Do we need natural disasters to keep us aware of our frail humanity and our dependence on one another regardless of our ethnic circumstances?  Is it possible that as life becomes more laid-back, that tensions among us arise?  What in our nature impels us to seek an enemy whether real or imagined?  We have all heard the old saying, an idle mind is the devils workshop.  How true it seems to be. 

On Sunday, September 17, we hear this reading from Sirach:

Sir 27:30—28:7

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD's vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Wanting what I need

My first encounter with a gentleman in RCIA class today was interesting.  I told him at the beginning that despite his lack of understanding the Catholic Church, that I would learn as much from him as he would learn from me.  I wanted to encourage him to challenge me, ask me questions, and not to be afraid of insulting me.  I told him that I would not know the answer to every question he asked, but I would find the answer, and thereby have a learning experience myself. 

He expressed the notion that belonging to a specific church was not a necessity for him.  He was there primarily because his wife, a fallen away Catholic, was coming back to the faith and wanted their marriage blessed.  It seemed as though he wanted to be married in a church, not necessarily THE Church. 

We talked some about the apostolic roots of the Catholic Church, but to him, all Christian churches were pretty much the same.  It was just a matter of which style of worship suited the individual person.   In an attempt to get our point across, I showed a DVD called, “Why do I need the Church?” from the Symbolon series, by Doctor Edward Sri.  The segment focuses on why the Church is of Divine origin, necessary to safeguard the message of Jesus Christ while provide a source of grace through the sacraments.

In the discussion that followed, the man said all he heard repeatedly was, “you need, you need, you need.”  He said the Church should be something you WANT, not just something you NEED.   I replied by saying, "I want a cheeseburger.  I don’t necessarily need a cheeseburger, but I do need nourishment.  I can want something not realizing that it may be something I also need."  If we are continually motivated by wants, we may not be aware of our needs.  I don’t know whether he really accepted my explanation, but I hope it made him think.

After the session was over, I continued to ponder our conversation.  If we continuously get what we want, we can lose sight of what we need.  If I get a cheeseburger whenever I want a cheeseburger, and a pizza whenever I want a pizza, I don’t ever think of what I actually need to sustain my life.  The only way to consciously be aware of the necessity of nourishment is when we are hungry.  Isn’t this precisely why we as Catholics are encouraged to fast and abstain at times from what we want?  This hunger makes us aware of our fragility and dependence, and to be honest, I had not thought much about fasting lately. 

I don’t know whether our discussion got through to the gentleman in our RCIA session, but it brought some clarity to my understanding why we need to occasionally deny our wants.  If we never find ourselves wanting, we will lose awareness of our needs.  When we unwittingly ignore our needs, whether they be physical or spiritual, death will eventually follow.  If we are aware of our needs, the wanting will follow.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I Surrender

If the Catholic Church is the true Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself, why is our faith such a hard sell when it comes to converting our separated brethren?  This fact has always frustrated me, but actually, I can understand. 

Last Sunday, I stumbled upon two videos.  The first was a Facebook posting by a Protestant friend showing a man being baptized in a local non-denominational church.   The baptismal pool was beautifully constructed, large enough to accommodate at least a half dozen people.  In the pool were the candidate, two witnesses, and the preacher who was shouting praises to Our Lord.  All were nicely dressed, shirts and ties.  After proclaiming the Trinitarian formula, the gentleman was submerged while supported by the two witnesses behind him.  Watching this man in tears coming to Christ was extremely moving, an emotional experience for all present.

Later that evening, I happened to see an old youtube video of singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson telling how he came to write one of his most famous songs called Why Me Lord.  He spoke of a profound religious experience he had at evangelist Jimmy Snow’s church where he uncharacteristically answered an altar call and turned his life over to Christ.  His testimony and the beautiful song born of the experience was very touching.

We often hear these emotional stories where individuals publicly come forward to answer Christ’s calling, something that may seem foreign to us Catholics in our liturgical worship.  It should be no surprise that those so moved by these impassioned encounters would be inclined to this type of relationship with the Lord.  Lacking understanding of our liturgy, the Mass might seem unemotional and incomprehensible to them.  Whereas Kris Kristofferson’s conversion came unexpectedly on the spur of the moment, Catholic conversion typically takes place after much introspect and study.  

Even though we Catholics share a much more intimate encounter with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, our emotional reaction may pale when compared to the tearful joy one feels in witnessing a spontaneous acceptance of Christ.   As human beings, we have a tendency toward seeking comfort even if it means compromising on truth.  To go beyond simply have that friend in Jesus, a person must have the curiosity and desire to delve deeper into that relationship, even if it means sacrificing that comfortable feeling of presumed salvation. 

Catholic apologist Tim Staples made that leap.  He answered an altar call as a young man and felt all of those intense emotional feelings in accepting Jesus as his savior.  Yet, through the prodding of his Catholic friend, he came to realize that accepting Jesus is more than a one-time act of the will.  Following Jesus fully means listening to the Church He established.  I can understand why many of our non-Catholic Christian friends seem to have a closer relationship with Jesus than we do.  Emotion and comfort are strong motivators.  At some point, we all need to reach beyond our comfort zones.  Accepting Jesus as our personal Savior is easy.  Completely surrendering to His will is the hard part. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

95 Theses + 500 Years = Countless Denominations

On October 31, 1517, a Catholic priest named Martin Luther allegedly nailed his 95 theses on the door of All Saints church in Wittenburg, Germany, thus beginning what is known as the Protestant Reformation.  With the 500th anniversary approaching, many of our Protestant brothers and sisters will be marking this event in a celebratory manner.  As Catholics, we need to prepare ourselves to understand Luther’s revolt and what happened in the aftermath.

This past weekend, our little town enjoyed our annual Mint Festival, culminating in a Sunday afternoon parade.  One of the parade floats was sponsored by the local Lutheran church.  Upon it was a mockup of the church doors in Wittenburg  commemorating Luther’s protest.  On each side of the float were four placards.  They read as follows:

95 Theses Equals 3 Facts
   Faith Alone – Not By Works
   Grace Alone – God’s Grace
   Scripture Alone – Only the Bible

The parade passed in front of our Catholic Church and I could not help but think that some sort of response was needed.  As Catholics, we have a responsibility to share our faith charitably and to educate our own.  Here was a Lutheran church boldly displaying as fact, at least two statements that are inherently problematic.  Our challenge is to present Catholic truth in a non-confrontational manner, out of love for our fellow Christians.  (1 Pet 3:15)

I am not going to address the second statement about Grace Alone because without added context, I do not see any disagreement.  All goodness comes through God’s Grace.  Let me begin with the third Protestant belief displayed on the float. 

Sola Scriptura, the belief that the Bible alone is the sole rule of faith, is what remained after Luther rejected the Oral Tradition and Teaching Authority of the Catholic Church.  Most Protestants believe the Bible is all they need to live a Christian life because all truth is contained within.  To some extent, that is true.  The problem comes when that belief leads to the rejection of any inerrant magisterial authority external to the Scriptures alone, especially since the establishment of that authority by Jesus Christ is prescribed in those very Scriptures.

Perhaps the most ironic problem with Sola Scriptura is that we would not have a Bible without the teaching authority of the Church.  Bishops of the Catholic Church had to decide which of the many disputed early Christian writings were indeed God-breathed, and therefore could be read at Mass.  Prior to the Council of Carthage in 397 AD, the Epistles of James, Jude, Barnabas, Clement, Second Peter, Second and Third John, Hebrews, and many others were disputed.  Some early Christians accepted them as Scripture, and some did not. 

Without a Divinely-instituted inerrant Authority to determine the canon of Scripture, we could not know with certainty that the Bible contains only the inerrant Word of God.  The Bible is simply a collection of early Christian writings that Bishops of the Catholic Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, determined to be inspired by God, and therefore, became the New Testament.  To accept the Bible as the sole rule of faith while rejecting the infallible teaching authority of the Church that determined its table of contents is untenable.  Now some Protestants may claim the Church had the authority in early Christian history but eventually went off the rails. This too is impossible if one believes what Scripture says.  Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide His Church, and said the gates of Hades would never prevail over it. (John 14:26, Mark 13:11, 1 Tim 3:15, Matt 16:18)

Once the Divinely established authoritative Church is denied, understanding of Scripture is left to personal interpretation.  Theological disagreements abound, and become fissures in Christianity.  The resulting divisions are thousands upon thousands of Protestant Christian denominations, many with differing beliefs and no ultimate authority to unify. 

Let us move on to the first proclamation on the Lutheran parade float.  Scriptural quotations referring to the necessity of faith apart from works are addressing a particular controversy for early converts to Christianity.  Did the Gentiles need to follow the works of the Mosaic Law, and specifically, must the males be circumcised?  When Paul declares that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law in Romans 3:28, he is saying that Old Testament Mosaic laws can not bring salvation, whereas under the New Covenant, salvation comes from faith working through love. (Gal 5:6)

The Bible contains many references to the importance of what we ourselves must do to be saved.  When the rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to be saved, Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. (Matt 19:16-17)  The importance of doing corporal works of mercy is explicitly evident.  Those who do not will go off to eternal punishment. (Matt 25:31-46)  The most explicit refutation of the faith alone argument is in James 2:24 where he says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  Here, James is referring to corporal works. (James 2:14-26) To be clear, Catholics do not believe we have to work our way to heaven.  Our faith is manifested in good works as we follow in the footsteps of Christ.