No News is New

A Catholic view on old heresies in the news

Month: September, 2013

Freedom From Intolerant Atheists

This remake of “Amazing Grace” by Jaclyn Glenn prompted me to think about Atheism and what it means.  In particular, I thought about the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and their efforts to make the world a religious free zone.

First, some background.

Each person defines their life by how they consider themselves.  I consider my core characteristic as Catholic, but some choose Banker or Mother or Birdwatcher.  Indeed, some might even consider their defining characteristic as Atheist.  There is a positive ascription of identity that both drives and describes each individual.

Most of the Atheist and Religious people I know don’t use their religion or lack there of as a main characteristic.  However, the Atheists I know who do use their lack of religion as a distinguishing feature of their lives usually also employ Science as an antithesis to religion.  I personally think science and religion are complementary, but it’s fairly clear that the above songwriter thinks they are mutually exclusive.

Fr-George-lemaitre

In the video it came up as enlightened science verses murderous religion.  Well, let me misquote Master Yoda on that, “When two thousand years old you reach, look as good you will not, hmm?”

But back to the point, if the Freedom From Religion Foundation receives their wish, it would create mandatory discrimination against those who classify themselves as “Religious”.  In a society with no expression of religion, those who identify as Atheist, or Butcher, or Baker, or even Candlestick Maker could all express their individual identity and be recognized publicly for their values.  However, those whose core identity is Catholic, or Buddhist, or Shinto would not be permitted to display who they are or have public recognition of their core values.

It is amazing how well our society tolerates others.  For one example: Catholics, however poorly we live up to the ideal, at least pay lip service to the idea that homosexuals, “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”  I think it would be fair to ask for a similar détente from Atheists.  If we let the rainbow flag billow in the wind on federal buildings, so too should Atheists let the papal flag billow.

Papal-Flag

To do otherwise is intolerant of those with a proclivity for faith.  We should recognize all in our society, and that includes having 10 commandment monuments to recognize those with the Judeo-Christian faith tradition.  Our beliefs deserve expression just as much as the next guys.

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Sad story of 6 year old rejected by mother.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/argentina/10339296/Six-year-old-becomes-first-transgender-child-in-Argentina-to-change-identity.html

To begin the discussion of this article, it is first important to recall what a 6 year old is capable of.  From the PBS website for child development (see also the subpage on science, and social and emotional growth):

  • “Shows ability, though not consistently, to support claims with evidence”
  • “Recognizes that a living thing has needs and that those needs must be met if the living thing is to survive”
  • “Begins to recognize that each living thing goes through a cycle that includes birth, growth and development, procreation and death.”
  • “Scientific discovery for children this age is affected by their tendency to straddle the world between make-believe and reality.”
  • “start to display an increasing awareness of their own and others’ emotions and begin to develop better techniques for self-control.”
  • “Sense of security is reliant on relationships with close adults.”
  • “Describes self based on external characteristics, such as physical attributes, name, possessions and age (e.g., says, “I am six and I have brown hair.”). Often evaluates own abilities highly (e.g., when asked if he is good at painting, he looks somewhat mystified and says, “Yes, I am a good artist.”); such evaluations can be inaccurate or based on limited views. Copes poorly with failure and does not take criticism well.”
  • Mature understanding of sexuality and sufficient reasoning to make complex sexual decisions.

Oops, that last one isn’t on the PBS website, but it is implicit in the news article.   Apparently, instead of correcting her sons mistaken notion about his masculinity when he first “started talking” (according to the article), the mother reinforced this view.  Instead of teaching her son to love his body, she taught him to reject it.

keep-calm-and-love-the-skin-you-re-in

This Gnostic like rejection of the physical world as exemplified in ones own body is bad enough, but to not correct a child who still “straddle(s) the world between make-believe and reality” seems more like abuse than acceptance of a non-standard identity.  Like never telling the child that the Easter Bunny is just a story and going along with it for their whole life, even so far as getting the government to release a statement as to the Easter Bunny’s authenticity.  How cruel!  Children at this age say all sorts of weird stuff, that doesn’t mean we should accept what they say as truth.

I don’t mean to imply that gender identity needs to be correlated to specific roles or colors.

I love a good pink tie.

I love a good pink tie.

But rather I mean that male is good.  Female is good.  We shouldn’t reject our own bodies, our own selves, and instead we should love ourselves.  We need to be who we are, and no one else.  Because of the unity between body and soul (after all, one is a singular person, not two parts stuck together) our body tells us something about our soul.  To reject this boy’s body and to go along with the fictional story that he’s really a she is to reject this boy’s person.  For a mother to reject her own six year old is quite a wicked event.  Sadly, by rejecting this boy’s masculinity, she does just that.

The Oloja of Oja talks marriage.

http://sunnewsonline.com/new/entertainment/dejumo-lewis-turning-70-is-like-starting-a-new-life/

Recently a famous Nigerian TV star, Dejumo Lewis, gave an interview with The Sun.  If you don’t know much about Nigerian TV and Film, it’s the latest Bollywood.  Anyway, the section on marriage was interesting from a study of heresies.  It is quoted below, but please follow the link at the top for the whole story of his life.

Dejumo got married to his wife on April 18, 1970 and together they have several kids. However, he revealed that after 29 years of marriage, they parted ways and ever since he has remained single.

“If we were still together we would have celebrated our 43rd year. She moved out on October 9, 1999. I haven’t remarried formerly because in the Catholic Church you can’t remarry as long as your partner’s alive and that’s one of my criticisms of the church. This is because priests are supposed to be celibates and so they don’t have any idea of what marriage is except what theology or dogma tells them and that’s what they preach from the pulpit all the time.

“It’s totally wrong and if you apply for annulment it takes years. For a man who has been used to marriage and all the good things that marriage brings, it’s not easy. “How do you expect the man or woman to be celibate? By leaving the seminary in 1968 I had rejected celibacy so it’s wrong for the church to impose celibacy on me at my age. I consider it erroneous for the church to impose celibacy on me because I had rejected it in 1968 over 45 years ago.”

From this quote, we can find his misunderstanding about the nature of marriage, and hence his opposition to the Church’s view on marriage.  In regards to marriage, it seems he sees marriage predominately as a sexual outlet.  His complaints lay not with the nature of marital love, but that he’s celibate.  Looking at the nature of marital love can help illuminate why they Church teaches remarriage is adultery.

Marital love is different from all of our other loves.  Family is a love we are born into, friends might come and go, but marital love is a choice to elevate an earthly love into divine love.  Marriage is a sacrament in part because it confers upon us deifying grace — the grace that helps configure us more closely to the divine life of God.

It does this in a couple ways.  First, God is unchanging, so this love is a permanent commitment.  We must be as unchanging in our resolve to love our spouse as God is unchanging in his resolve to love us.  I sometimes wonder if some Protestants acceptance of divorce is a result of some Protestants belief in the Great Apostacy.  If God can so easily abandon his body, the Church, then I should be able to abandon my body, my spouse.

Next, we see the way God’s own life works when we live out our marriage in sex.  The love that proceeds from God the Father and God the Son is so real he is eternally personified in God the Holy Spirit.  Similarly, the love between a husband and wife is so real it is personified in the children.  The Catechism calls the mystery of the Trinity “the central mystery of Christian faith and life”.  When we become married we are blessed with a special share in that central mystery.  Sex is not simply about having a good time, but it is meant to be a consummation of the deep love between two people, and because that love is so deep that love is always open to the possibility of becoming personified in a baby.

The love of two people enfleshed.

The love of two people enfleshed.

This is the theological high we must come down from to enter into the messy realities of life.  And here is the place for annulments.  If it is discovered that one day, two people who thought they were married were discovered to actually never have been married, then those two people would be free to marry whomever they desire, having never been married before.  The easiest way for this to occur is for people to either not know what they are getting into or for two people to be forced into marriage.  If two people “married” who had no intention of fully loving the other in such a deep way that a baby might be formed, then they never would have been married in the first place.  If a shotgun wedding occurs for the sake of baby yet to be born but without full consent, then they never would have been married in the first place.  These are some reasons why annulments can take place.  Sometimes we fail to understand the commitment we are making, or sometimes we are forced into making commitments.  In neither of these cases is a commitment actually made.  A person who receives an annulment and then marries doesn’t have a second wedding but a first.  Only if a spouse dies can that permanent commitment end, because the persons life has ended.  In these cases there might be a second or greater wedding.  Mr. Lewis is correct that an annulment process might take years, and in addition an annulment wouldn’t be granted if a marriage had taken place.  An annulment isn’t a “Catholic Divorce”, and isn’t declared if there was a marriage to begin with.

Mr. Lewis is bothered by this because he has a hard time remaining celibate (“it’s not easy”, which is true), but it is not the clergy that came up with the rule that one cannot divorce, it was that hippy Jesus:

hippy-Jesus

“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”  To reject the Church teaching here is to reject Jesus himself.  Understanding deeper what marriage means helps us to understand why Jesus isn’t being a buzz kill, but rather aiding our sharing of God’s spirit of love.  To be marriage, it must be a total gift of oneself — the highest and greatest offering we can make to another: our complete self.  Our complete self includes our future, “as long as we both shall live”.  The “imposition” of celibacy was not something the Church is doing to him externally, but is a result of an internal promise Mr. Lewis made to his wife.  He asked “How do you expect the man or woman to be celibate?”, and I answer, “I expect you can succeed in not having sex with anyone except your wife because that is precisely what you promised on your wedding day”.

"Don’t say, 'That’s the way I am – it’s my character.' It’s your lack of character. Esto vir! – Be a man!" ~ St. Josemaria Escriva

“Don’t say, ‘That’s the way I am – it’s my character.’ It’s your lack of character. Esto vir! – Be a man!” ~ St. Josemaria Escriva

A tragic fall to heresy.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/church-dumps-rebel-priest-20130920-2u5jp.html

This article talks about a an ex-priest.  The article is non-chronological, so I’ll discuss the issue in chronological order and some of the important heresy related ideas.

It appears that the priest was laicised because he believed it is possible for same sex couples to engage in marriage and that it is possible for women to be priests.  Both of these misunderstand the nature of male and female, which is one of the major errors of our day.  The core of both heresies held by this ex-Catholic is that male and female are interchangeable, the feminine is no different from the masculine.  Hence male and female aren’t necessary categories for understanding the Sacraments of Marriage or Holy Orders.

Postgenderism as expressed in the TV show Vexed.

Postgenderism as expressed in the TV show Vexed.

In the extreme it means no longer being able to recognize the difference between male and female.  From The Dialectic of Sex, “[The] end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself.”  I have reservations about this former priest going all the way into postgenderism and the elimination of all distinction, but he does make the first steps in that direction.

This is heretical because it is a type of dualism that divides the body from the soul.  The body is no longer the instantiated soul, but something set off from and divided from the soul.  In this mindset, the body becomes a lesser thing than the soul, and one might therefore see how the Church would be opposed to such a denigration of the human person as a whole.  Creation is good and sanctified by God himself who stepped into creation.  Jesus shows us the value of the material world by existing as a person, in a physical body.  To deny our physical bodies is to deny the value of the physical world.  To say our masculinity or femininity is not part of who we are as people is to reject the meaningfulness of our physicality.

Humans come in two flavors: Male and Female.

Humans come in two flavors: Male and Female.

Hopefully there are no priests who deny the value of so great a good as matter.  The fact this ex-priest denied that good by denying the good of male and female bodies shows how rightfully he was laicised and his abilities to effect the Sacraments curtailed.  It is not good to have a pastor who is so far astray himself.  Catholics have a right to authentic Church teaching in the Mass, and this man was unrepentantly no longer doing that.

body-of-christ

In addition, this now ex-preist was not satisfied denying the physical world, he proceeded to deny Jesus himself.  As St. Joan of Arc proclaimed, “About Jesus Christ and the Church I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”  To continue to give homilies and say Mass was to deny the authority of Jesus Christ as expressed through his body, the Church; which took away those privileges in the laicisation process.  The willful denial of Jesus Christ is a very grave matter, because it cuts to the quick of Christianity.  Why masquerade as a Christian if one denies Christ?  The Church codified this rejection of Jesus in an excommunication, so he might more clearly see where his actions were taking him.

St. Mary MacKillop, pray for us.

St. Mary MacKillop, pray for us.

Far from being excommunicated like St. Mary MacKillop, for false allegations of alcohol abuse; This man was excommunicated for something he admits is true: denying the Church.  His disdain for the Body of Christ oozes through when he says, “In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such trust and respect”.  I could understand a non-Catholic or badly formed Catholic thinking such things, but someone with his education should understand how big a deal it is to be cut off from the Jesus Christ himself.  It goes to show how far he has fallen theologically, and it is quite tragic that even the dramatic step of excommunication cannot reawaken his understanding.  It is a pitiable man who leans so firmly upon his own thoughts that he is no longer held up by all the hands of those before us — the continuity of believers. Such a person is bound to fall because we are designed to live in communion.

The communion of Saints

The communion of Saints who have gone before us.  I want to be like them!

Dear Reader, to close, please pray for Greg Reynolds: that he might learn how wonderful our bodies (both female and male) are, and thereby return himself to Christ present on this earth in the communion of his followers.

Is Islam theolgically more violent than Christianity?

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/24/us-kenya-attack-idUSBRE98K03V20130924

mall

With great relief I can write that it appears the hostage situation in Kenya is over.  Sadly, at least 62 innocent people have died.  Because of the reports that those reciting the Muslim creed were set free, it seems appropriate to look at whether the differences theologically between Islam and Catholicism lend any more violence to Islam.

By looking at the distribution of violence, we can learn about one possible aspect of it.  The National Counterterrorism Center gave a 2011 report suggesting that extremist Sunni Muslims commit 56% of all terrorist violence and 70% of all terrorist related deaths.  Also in the report is that Muslim countries had the largest amount of attacks involving more than 10 deaths and that attacks on Christians dropped 45% since 2010.

Against this backdrop of information, we can see that the violence is predominately Sunni Muslim against other Muslims.  To help fill in the background, of the two major sects of Islam, Shias are more like Catholics and Sunnis are more like Protestants.  I say this because Shias and Catholics both believe our clergy to be divinely guided in determining the truth.  There is a sense of certainty about the truth that Protestants and Sunnis don’t share.  This works out in such a way that Shia have a stronger hierarchy than Sunni, just as Catholics have a stronger hierarchy than Protestants (of which some denominations have no hierarchy at all).  Also, Shia have an sort of intercession of the saints (limited to 14 “saints”, but still…) whereas Protestants and Sunnis don’t.  There are also many foundational similarities between Sunnis and Shias just as there are many foundational similarities between Protestants and Catholics.

From this perspective, the initial violence between Sunni and Shia can be seen as similar to the initial violence between Catholics and Protestants.  Because it took 1500 years for the Catholic-Protestant split to occur, it was much more bloody than the split between Sunni and Shia, who split almost immediately after Muhammed died.

The counterterrorism report suggests that most violence is within Sunni majority communities, but it doesn’t tell us if the deaths are predominately Sunni or Shia.  There is no substantial history of interdenominational violence among Protestants, so I would guess that what we see with the Sunni’s and Shia’s is similar: A majority Muslim community is beating up on a minority Muslim community just as majority Christian communities would beat up on minority Christian communities after the Protestants split from the Church.  This fits well with the fact Afghanistan and Iraq both have large splits in their populations and face the largest amount of attacks and deaths.

Sunni are light green, Shia are dark green

Majority Sunni are light green areas, Majority Shia are dark green areas.

This is not to suggest these branches of Islam were always at war, rather it is to suggest that Islam is no more inherently violent than Christianity.  Even in the 1920’s there was still Anti-Catholic violence going on in America, which was 400 years after the split in Christianity.  For there to be intermittent violence in 1400 years of split between Sunni and Shia makes sense against this comparison.

Ballot1

Hence, from this very limited comparison, I find no reason to assume Islam is theologically more violent than Christianity, even if current Islamic practice is more violent than current Christian practice.  I am, however, open to be proven wrong.  I’ve looked at parallels between Islam and Christianity and how they have coped with internal heresy to come to this conclusion, and any analogy so broad is bound to have errors.

The Freedom to not look at Porn.

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Society/article1317209.ece

receptors-in-addiction

This article discusses one of the recurring findings of modern science, that pornography’s impact upon the brain is similar to the impact of substances (drugs & alcohol) upon the substance abuser.  What that means is that the freedom of the user can become a slavery over time.  Merely to approach the baseline of normal one might need to continue using.  This consequence of regular pornography use is one out of many the reasons the Catholic Church finds pornography sinful.  One way to understand the morals of the Church is to understand that the breaking of those morals (a.k.a. sinning) are actions that limit our freedom.

We can see how important the moral law is to our freedom when we understand the context it was given in.  The Isrealites just left Egypt, and had crossed the Red Sea, and then God gave the law to them.  It would be foolish for God to make a people free only to enslave them to a law, but it makes perfect sense to prescribe a law which might help ensure their continued freedom.

If what I'm saying is confusing, I suggest watching "The Prince of Egypt", put out by Dreamworks in 1998.

If what I’m saying is confusing, I might suggest watching “The Prince of Egypt”, put out by Dreamworks in 1998.

One aspect of that law given around 1400 BC (an approximate time for the life of Moses, which is closer in years to Jesus than we are!) is that we should have right sexual relationships (cf. the 9th commandment), and pornography corrupts that sexual communion by changing brain chemistry.  The result is can be an addictive need for pornography, which progressively narrows the freedom to make choices in regards to sex down to only a screen.  When we don’t cherish our sexual freedom make the appropriate choice of monogamy, we can loose our sexual freedom.  Pornography, which is so easily available, accelerates this loss of freedom, but any misuse of our sexuality starts us down that path to sexual enslavement (and I’m not referring to the kinky kind of enslavement).

By understanding that the Church desires we be free people, we can understand why she says we shouldn’t use pornography.  It’s not out of a desire to be conservative or old fashioned, but because she loves us so much that she desires our freedom.

In this we re-imagine our freedom to understand it not as a freedom to do as one pleases, but the freedom to keep ourselves from enslavement.  My understanding is that during the Enlightenment the modern idea of freedom took hold, a freedom to do as one wishes as opposed to doing what is necessary to keep our freedom of will.  The Enlightenment changed the implicit meaning of freedom from having a freedom of will into having a freedom of body.  I can’t seem to dig up where I found this factoid, so I could be wrong here.

Internal Dispositions and Refraining from Babies

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/melanie-mcdonagh/2013/09/why-does-david-attenborough-only-blame-the-catholic-church-for-overpopulation/

Overpopulation has many different bits to talk about, but this article makes me want to focus on one, Contraception and Natural Family Planning.

One of the aspects of materialism is that we reduce our physical actions to meaninglessness.  Outward actions become no indicator of interior intent.  When our world is seen materialistically, there is no interior difference between the latest scientific form of birth control and the rhythm method, all that is different is the degree of effect.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Because the goal of Catholicism is communion, it should come as no surprise that the Church teachings on sex inside of marriage are based upon her understanding of communion.  There are two basic and common approaches used by science to avoid pregnancy: separating spouses and destroying health.

Condoms, cervical caps, and so forth are all used to separate one spouse from another.

Not exactly a good example of "sexy times"

Not a good example of “sexy times”

By separating spouses, these methods betray the unity of the marital act.  The subtext of the action is “I need my space; we can be intimate, but not wholly intimate”.  Just as the sheets covering the heads in Magritte’s “The Lovers” betrays the intimacy of a kiss, so too do barrier methods betray the intimacy of sex. The canard is that Orthodox Jews can only have sex through a hole in a sheet, but the truth is that modern people have sex with a sheet covering the one bit that even in myths Orthodox Jews would leave uncovered.  Irony abounds.

The common alternative science offers is the destruction of a healthy body part though methods like the pill, vasectomies, or tubal ligation.  In these methods the spouse has part of their body destroyed or distorted.  This is much like Body Integrity Identity Disorder, a.k.a. apotemnophilia.  In this disease people don’t feel right unless they are not whole, so healthy body parts are sometimes removed to make the person feel better.  In a similar way, healthy body parts are made to be unhealthy or removed so that pregnancy might not occur.  The subtext of the action here is, “I love you, but not your fertile part”.  A certain portion of the spouse must be done away with before sex can commence.  The rejected bit removed or temporarily disabled so that the spouse may be loved.  This is not love, since love embraces the whole person.  It violates communion with a person to not seem them holistically.

These two main approaches of science contrast with the one “Church approved” approach of science, that of Natural Family Planning (NFP).  In this approach, knowledge of a woman’s fertility is used to time sex so that pregnancy is achieved or put off.  This is not your grandma’s rhythm method, but modern science applied in real life to achieve results on par with the other mentioned scientific methods of postponing pregnancy.

Effect-NFPvsContra

At root, this method is derived from the fact that no one, not even married couples, are required to have sex.  To force a spouse to have sex is rape, and there is no place for that in civilized society.  So a couple may always choose to refrain from sex when a woman is fertile.  This method uses the knowledge imparted by science to determine when a woman is fertile, and applies that knowledge to the decision making process about sex.  Sex, when it takes place, embraces the other person in their entirety without a barrier and without destruction of healthy body tissue.

Externally the effectiveness is similar, and if that was all that was looked at NFP would just be another method of contraception.  However, in regards to contraception it is not postponing or avoiding pregnancy that the Church has a problem with, but rather how the method effects communion between two lovers.  What the Church teaches is wrong are those methods which break down communion and fellowship, not those methods which stop pregnancy from occurring.  To reject a healthy wife in favor of disabling her fertility, or creating separation between people in their most intimate moments of love, these are what the Church disapproves of because these are actions of people not maximally open to communion and love.  Natural Family Planning is the only scientifically devised method of birth control that retains respect for the communion of husband and wife, and that is why the Church is in favor of it while opposed to other methods.  Catholicism practiced at its best is laser focused upon increasing love and communion between people, and so love is the standard by which scientific techniques are judged good or bad to practice.

useless

Morality & Pastoral Care

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1303971.htm

It is a challenge to always stand aloof from the ideologies of every age.  Pope Francis touches on this when he says “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent, … The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”  Here he is confronting the ideology of nominalism and how it has impacted Church teaching.

Recall that nominalism is seeing each personal action and decision as unique and standing alone from others.  It is a false but common belief that there is not a “type” of human that we can live up to, but rather a collection of humans obeying a collection of (usually arbitrary) rules.

When Church leaders fail to focus on the universal aspect of humanity, they can sound like they are beating up on particular sins of particular people, and this can disenfranchise those people.  While educating consciences as to what breeds communion and sows disharmony is important (and so discussion of particular sins has its place), it is only secondary to understanding that the goal is living a life in communion.  Making that first step of turning towards communion with our fellow pilgrims on this earth and turning towards communion with God is what Christianity is all about.  If we make following the detailed working out of communion more important than the communion, then we’ve slipped into a Pharisaic understanding of God.  We turn the law into a God and worship it, rather than seeing the law as a tool to guide our understanding of how to achieve communion.

This is not meant as an excuse for those with uneducated consciences to keep having uneducated consciences, but rather a reminder that our consciences are all deficient in one way or another.  We have a continual obligation to keep on further enlightening our consciences with the teaching of the Church; but one becomes a Christian when they decide to start loving, not when they have completed that journey and love perfectly.

judge-others

Man = Brewery

http://www.philly.com/philly/health/Mans_body_brews_its_own_beer_gets_him_drunk_without_drinking.html

Here is some happy news about beer.  Apparently brewers yeast sometimes survives the stomach and sets up a brewery in the gut!  While a sin to be a drunkard, it is a heresy to reject the joy of alcohol.

pint-pipe-cross

We enjoy our alcohol so much, we even have blogs devoted to it!  In Catholicism, we know “a joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one” (St. Philip Neri) so we have constantly been fighting off excessive rigorism to keep the heart joyful.  The vast majority of the heresies, especially the old ones, tended to be very severe in practice (Pelagianism, Donatism, Albigensianism, etc.), and it’s nice to know we have a long history of being relaxed about simple pleasures of life.

Which brings me to one of my favorite Bible verses, Proverbs 31.  Most Christians know this as the proverb about the good wife, but it is also about good drink:

Give strong drink to anyone who is perishing,
and wine to the embittered;
When they drink, they will forget their misery,
and think no more of their troubles. (verses 6-7)

So remember the next time life feels overwhelming, a pint or two to ease your troubles is God’s prescription, but please don’t abuse the medicine.

Germany: where one can be any religion as long as one is atheist in practice.

http://www.wnd.com/2013/09/all-outdoor-christmas-decorations-banned/

The heresy in this article is focused around the following sentence by Social Democratic Party Councilor Martin Becker: “Why should religious festivals be celebrated in public?”  This brings us back to the mystery religions and Gnostics which flourished during the Pax Romana.

A central focus of both the mystery religions and gnosticism is that there is a secret knowledge about faith that is held back from all non-believers.  Scientology is a good modern example of a faith where the truth of their beliefs are slowly revealed over time.  Masonry is another, where each degree progressed grants access to more of the organizations beliefs.

Some see all religion in this same way.  Faith is a secret matter between God and his believers.  From this mindset, it is easy to think there is no reason any religious act should have any component of publicity.

Christianity (as well as Islam and some other faiths) stands in sharp contrast to this.  While in the early years of Christianity it was necessary to keep some secrets (such as the Sacrament of the Eucharist) from unbelievers, this was done out of fear of persecution rather than as a necessary component of faith.  The command of Jesus was for Catholics to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all that Jesus taught.  All of the Church teachings are public, right on the Vatican’s website.  While priests are taught more in-depth (roughly 7 years of schooling, similar to a medical doctor), they are not taught anything different from what the laity are taught (again, similar to a doctor).

This transparency of belief is to be lived out in transparency of life (we aren’t dualists, so belief and action are intertwined).  Our belief in God is the bedrock of who we are, the core definition of ourselves: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  The other aspects of our identities become subsumed into our Christian identity.  To not live out ones faith in a public manner would be equivalent to not living out ones gender or race in a public manner.  Our belief is expressed in our actions.

Next on the legal chopping block, gender reveal cupcakes.

Why should gender of a child be celebrated in public?  Is it time to ban gender reveal parties?

It is a bold claim to state Christian belief is as foundational as gender or race, so let’s look deeper at that claim to see why Christians believe it to be the case.  We believe we have life as a gift from God.  In our sin, we reject God, the source of our life.  Therefore, because we cut ourselves off from the source of life in our sins, we deserve the natural consequence of that, which would be death.  If one cuts a river off from the spring that feeds it, the river dies — so too with our life, we die if we are cut off from the source of life.  Jesus came to fulfill our naturally required death and to therefore restore us to life.  By becoming one person with Jesus, he partakes of the death we deserve and we partake in the resurrection has brought about.  As St. Augustine wrote, “Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself.”  The Christian and Christ are made one.

If we are one with Christ, to conceal that oneness would be similar to concealing other core parts of who we are.  Shall we hide wedding rings as we are also made one with our spouses?

Out of concern for non-married people,

Out of concern for offending single people, “Why should marriage be celebrated in public?”

That Christianity is such a core aspect of identity exposes one of the dangers in confusing freedom of religion (where one can be any religion or none at all, and express those beliefs openly) and freedom from religion (where one can be any religion or none at all, as long as one only expresses being none at all).  We should all have a right to express who we are and how we define ourselves, whether that identity be Christian, German, Gay, or Construction Worker — we should be free to express how we define ourselves.  To be forced to conceal our identity out of concern for others opinions is a dangerous precedent to set.

The only acceptable haircuts in Germany.  Oops, I mean North Korea.

The only acceptable haircuts in Germany North Korea.