Being Clear on Religious Liberty

Indiana passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which is fundamentally the same as the federal RFRA and the RFRA’s in force in 19 other States – and liberals went ballistic. Given the rapidity with which the outrage spread, I can only presume that it was all orchestrated – liberals, at any rate, not being given to doing anything until they are so ordered by the liberal leadership (no liberal wants to get out in front just in case the Party Line turns out to be different from personal opinion). As to why it was orchestrated – I figure that the left is trying to gin up its base for 2016 and this is just the start of it, and as Democrats have zero chance of winning Indiana in 2016, it makes the perfect target for liberal slander and hatred. Expect more and more of this sort of manufactured outrage as time goes on – Hillary’s only chance (other than the GOP nominating Jeb) being people upset over nothing rather than paying attention to what is happening.

Still, there is an actual issue here. Liberals are attempting to frame it as a replay of Jim Crow – the RFRA, it is alleged, will allow a “straights only” lunch counter and this will be a horrific violation of homosexual rights. The truth, of course, is completely different. The purpose of RFRA is not to harm anyone, but to protect the rights of a minority – in this case, a religious minority (orthodox Christians). Jim Crow was different – that was laws which required the treatment of non-whites as second class citizens by all and sundry. RFRA is just a way out if someone tries to get someone to do something in violation of their deeply held religious beliefs. It would not allow me, if I were a baker, to refuse to serve homosexual customers – it does excuse me from participating in a same-sex wedding by making the cake which will be consumed at that wedding. If I were a baker – and being that I am Catholic – you could get just about anything you want form me…but you couldn’t get a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. There are other sorts of confections you couldn’t get from me, as well…I probably would not want to bake a cake which, say, proclaimed some dogma of Christian Science. You just want a cake – you got it; you want a cake which requires me to sin: it ain’t happening.

And that is all RFRA does – it allows me to not do something for you. If I am not doing something for you then I am also not doing anything to you. I am not violating your rights by not providing a service. In fact, if you were able to compel me to do something for you, then not only would you likely be violating my religious beliefs, but you’d also be forcing me into involuntary servitude…and slavery is explicitly prohibited in our Constitution.

I would never dream of asking someone to do something against their conscience. I’d never ask a pacifist to serve in the army. I’d never ask a Jew to provide me a ham sandwich. I’d never ask a Muslim to sell me some wine. It is just plain and simple courtesy that I do this – it would be the height of arrogant oppression if I were to demand that everyone do for me as I wish. We do live in a pluralist society – in the United States there really are all kinds of people and the only way such a society works is if everyone respects everyone else. Doing it any other way just leads to anarchy, oppression, a disintegration of the ties that bind and a risk of complete societal breakdown.

Live and let live – wise words to live by.

The Limits of Tolerance

Back during the whole Charlie Hebdo event, a lot of people were defending Charlie on the grounds of free speech – I took a bit of an exception to that. Even though there was no justification for the murders, I still felt that it wasn’t appropriate for anyone to insult the deepest held beliefs of others. To be sure, Free Speech – but I’m not quite sure that our ancestors at Lexington and Concord were thinking, “if I die here today, at least people will be free to be vulgar and rude like no tomorrow”.

To make myself clear, I do believe in a very broad definition of free speech – but back in the days when men were a bit more like men, if you offered an insult to another man who had an ounce of manly virtues, you’d be called out to the dueling field. In other words, if you did decide that insult was your way of working, then you were required to put your life up as security…and if you didn’t, then you’d be known not just as vulgar, but as a vulgar coward. The historian Will Durant noted that men in 18th century England commonly carried swords – and this he identified as the place where England’s reputation for good manners developed. Knowing that the other guy had a sword and could run you through enjoined a cautious courtesy of speech. Eventually, it became ingrained into society – you just didn’t say certain things unless you were willing to fight about it.

For someone to sit safely behind soldiers and police and hurl insults right and left is not an act of liberty – it is not an act of bravery; quite the contrary…it is the act of a coward. It is to demand that other, rougher men protect you while you throw vile insults around. Man up – or manner up. Pick one.

I bring this up because the television show House of Cards has decided to get very insulting:

We’re barely into Lent, and Hollywood is already spitting on Jesus Christ on the crucifix. Netflix released the entire third season of the incredibly sleazy D.C. drama House of Cards on February 28, and in its fourth episode, as Kevin Spacey’s loathsome Frank Underwood character has schemed his way into the presidency, he wanders into a Catholic church.

The local bishop preaches to him as a friend that he’s supposed to love God and love his neighbor. Underwood proclaims that he understands the vengeful God he sees in the Old Testament, but doesn’t understand why Jesus would let someone kill him. Underwood asks for a moment alone to pray. Then he sidles up to the crucifix – just a few feet above his head – and mutters most cynically to God the Son.

“Love….that’s what you’re selling? Well, I don’t buy it!” Then he spits in the face of Christ…

This is free speech? This is an act of bravery? This is why men and women will sell their blood on a battlefield? I don’t think so. Now, the character spits in the face of a statue of Our Lord for one reason, only: spitting in the face of a depiction of Mohammed would get him killed. This is quite a lot of cowardice – cowardice in that the creators of the show are hiding behind the rougher men; cowardice in that the creators of the show only insult where it is safe to do so; cowardice in that if we Christians complain, the popular culture will condemn us for daring to be offended.

How much more of this are we Christians supposed to tolerate? Are there absolutely no limits? At least as far as we are concerned – because we know where the limit is: can’t do this with Muslims. I agree they shouldn’t do it with Muslims – but that is because I am trying, in my own weak way, to be a Christian gentleman; and such don’t offer insult. How much of a citizen of this Republic am I when my most deeply held beliefs can be held up to scorn? Do I not pay my taxes? Did I not serve for four years in our Navy? Did not my father and grandfather serve in war? Am I that much of a social nothing that you can do with me as you wish?

There are at least 100 million people in the United States who actually, sincerely believe as I do – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We are the backbone of this nation – we are the descendents of those who built this nation up from nothing. We have poured out our blood and treasure for this nation for more than 200 years – and I think we’re worthy of at least this much respect: don’t insult us. Dislike us all you want. Disagree with us till the cows come home. Be whatever you want to be – but don’t go out of your way to insult that which we hold dear. This is the common courtesy all human beings owe to each other.

Evil Religion?

A Salon article about the evils of religion – the usual sophomoric yammering, but this passage caught my eye:

…The Second World War is no better, perhaps in respects far worse, although more complex. Two thousand years of anti-Semitism by the Catholic Church and four hundred years by Protestants had to have an effect and be a causal factor in the persecution and killing of the Jews…

And yet, for all that 2,000 years of Catholicism and 400 years of Protestantism, no one had quite got around to lining up the Jews and massacring them until none were left. I hate to break it to you, atheists, but the only sort of person who could build an Auschwitz is someone alienated from God. You see, while Hitler was, indeed, baptized a Catholic, the best historical analysis of his life indicates that he probably stopped going to Mass shortly after he was confirmed at the age of 15 – and that he only did the confirmation to please his mother. Hitler turned 15 in 1904. He started oppressing Jews 29 years later – that is a bit of water under the bridge. During that 29 year period, Hitler became convinced of a lot of very stupid things, all of which were in direct contravention of Christian dogma. To some how say that the Christian dogma he rejected was the foundation for his un-Christian beliefs and actions is absurd.

The reason progressives, atheists and the like are often on about how Christian anti-Semitism was the precursor to the Final Solution is because they dare not face the truth: Hitler was a product of the Enlightenment. The whole concept of tearing down religious dogma and setting in its place an appeal to science and the complete autonomy of the individual in determining morality is the bedrock of modern thought. But what if the science being appealed to is nonsense? And what if the autonomous individual decides that something horrific is morally licit? Where does the progressive atheist turn to for redress? No where. He’s rejected the only thing which can keep things on an even keel: religious Authority.

I can hear atheists getting mad – Hitler believed nonsense such as Social Darwinism and in eugenics. Yeah? So, what? When Hitler was developing, those ideas were Settled Science. They were rejected by the Church, but no progressive back then paid any mind to what the Church had to say. In fact, in my view, the only reason things like eugenics have gone by the wayside is because of Hitler – when he tore the lid off and showed what can be done by a man who rejects all religious authority, the result was so clearly bad that people had to change their tune, at least to some extent. Here in the 21st century we are getting back on the eugenics bandwagon with some advanced thinkers holding that we should kill “defective” children after they are born.

To get away from Hitler on this – Lenin and Stalin were also people who rejected religious dogma and were determined to act upon science. Seriously, folks: when Lenin and Stalin were butchering people in great, big, bloody batches they were convinced that rock-solid, indisputable science demanded it. And plenty of people agreed with them – and I’m not talking just about communists, I’m talking about supposedly wise and kind progressives in the rest of the world. To be sure, such people weren’t writing articles saying that poor peasants should be sent to slave labor camps to be worked to death – but they were writing articles saying that poor peasants were backwards and needed to be brought into the modern world. Can’t just leave them alone – and don’t appeal to some worn out, religious dogma about the sanctity of human life. We’re building a new society here, folks! Sure, its sad that some have to suffer – but think of the benefits future generations will reap! Talk like that was common on the left while Stalin was murdering 2 to 7 million people in Ukraine (for comparison – in the 300 odd years of the Inquisition, about 400 people were done in…Stalin murdered those Ukrainians in just a few years; some how or another, those who reject religious dogma seem capable of killing far more people, far more quickly, then even the wost religious bigot who ever lived).

Anti-religious folks are often on about how bad Christians are. I plead guilty. Here I am, a baptized Catholic who goes to Mass and confession on a regular basis and I’m often greedy, mean, dishonest and foolish. That’s me with the lid on – the lid of Catholic dogma. I can only shudder about how I’d be without it. And that’s the thing – Christian people aren’t perfect they are just, on average, better than they’d be without Christianity riding herd over them. Another thing our non-religious brothers like to say is that they are fine and decent people without religion. Well, you might not be as good as you think you are. You see, if I’m in good health and have sufficient wealth and no one is irritating me at the moment and I then say a kind word to someone, then I really haven’t exemplified moral excellence. In fact, I’ve done nothing of note, at all: there was nothing else I could possibly do in such circumstances. But if I’m ill and poor and I’m being very much irritated by my brother and I say something nasty – what, then? Well, a lot of people would excuse that in themselves. Trouble is, there’s still no excuse for it. My job, as a fellow human being, is to be kind to everyone – no matter how lousy they are – even when I’m in the very worst condition. Unless you are doing that, you really aren’t being all that swell a person. I’ve a long history of interacting atheists and progressive types who reject religious dogma: I have not found among such people a lot of love of fellow man. In fact, I often find a cross, bitter person who can’t put up with any opposition. This is not to say I’ve never found such a person who wasn’t nice – I’m just saying that I haven’t found that such people are paragons of virtue. Meanwhile, more times than I can count a Christian has done me a good turn simply because Christ commanded that it be done. You can take your chances on the atheist is having a good day, or you can work on the assumption that the Christian can be called to his duty. I take the latter as more likely.

My main point here is that without an absolute, indisputable standard of right and wrong, things will be messed up very badly. And an absolute standard requires belief in God. The crucial things must be either right or wrong because God says so – if you try to work it out any other way then no matter how well you construct your argument, it is as flimsy as straw in a hurricane. No one has to agree to it – and anyone is free to construct a different argument to justify whatever it is they want to do. I say we must not massacre people – and I say that because God has forbidden us to murder; that God uniquely created each of us for a purpose and it is not for us to decide when a person shall die. An atheist can say we must not massacre people – and another atheist can say, “why not?”, and the first atheist really has nothing to say. The second atheist can get his Science out (with charts, graphs, computer models and a consensus that 90% of scientists agree) and say that human beings are destroying the earth and we need two billion less people in order to have a sustainable environment and so two billion people have to die so the other five billion can live. What’s the argument against it? There is none – except to say that killing two billion people is wrong and must not be allowed; but that is an appeal to supernatural morality.

Errors there will be. People will get things wrong. For instance, many of our Muslim brothers are getting things wrong. ISIS is especially getting it wrong – but only a Christian, Jew or a Muslim who has got it right can really oppose what they are doing. What is the atheist argument against ISIS? That because ISIS does it in the name of religion that they have got it wrong? Suppose ISIS started saying they were chopping off people’s heads in order to reduce population pressure on the environment in the Middle East? Once again, only an appeal to God’s law allows us to firmly and without equivocation say that ISIS is wrong and must be stopped – and as we see, those most convinced of the existence of God and His laws are most firm in desiring ISIS be destroyed. Our more progressive, non-believing people are less convinced that there’s anything to be done – more likely to find excuses for their actions rather than craft plans to get them to stop.

Our progressives and atheists will keep working for the day when religion is no more. They will lawsuit and regulate and insult in the hopes that on one, fine morning in the future no one wakes up and says a prayer for the day. The trouble is, if they ever get to that happy event, they’ll find that some people have come up with rather interesting ideas, and they’ll have no defense against them.

Fight or Die

In light of the cowardly way we ran and hid in Boston when two terrorists were loose; given the reaction of the British crowd to a soldier being massacred by two Muslims in Britain; as we watch the Swedes endure day after day of Islamist youth on a rampage, I’ve come to a conclusion.  It was neatly solidified when Walter Russell Mead quoted In Flanders Fields in his Memorial Day column:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Mead correctly points out that the poem does not call for us to feel sorry for the dead, but to carry on their fight.  Mead was more of a mind to remind us not to just pity, but to remember and to honor what the dead fought for.  For me, its a slightly different take.  As a person who had read libraries of history with a definite concentration on military matters, I remember all of the men of our civilization who have fought.  To me, any man who took up arms in his nation’s cause and who did his duty honorably and nobly is worthy of my respect and remembrance – and my best efforts to see that what is right and good in our civilization is defended.  Of course those who died for my nation hold pride of place in my heart and mind, but I spare a thought, from time to time, for those British who died for King and Country; those Russian who bled for their Tsar; those Kaisertreu Hapsburg soldiers who faced hopeless odds at Sadowa.  All of them stood forth and did their duty as men, as Christians and as citizens of our common civilization.

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Happy Easter!

He is risen, indeed:

At daybreak on the first day of the week
the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus
took the spices they had prepared
and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb;
but when they entered,
they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were puzzling over this, behold,
two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.
They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.
They said to them,
“Why do you seek the living one among the dead?
He is not here, but he has been raised.
Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee,
that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners
and be crucified, and rise on the third day.”
And they remembered his words.
Then they returned from the tomb
and announced all these things to the eleven
and to all the others.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James;
the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles,
but their story seemed like nonsense
and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb,
bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone;
then he went home amazed at what had happened. – Luke 24:1-12

Habemus Papam Franciscum

I am delighted with the new Pope – seems a solid, bell-ringer of a priest sort of man; someone who is determined that Catholics from highest to lowest will get down and dirty and do the work of the Lord for the least among us.  Of course, some people were surprised to find that the new Pope is, well, Catholic – saw shocked-sounding headlines pointing out that Francis is opposed to abortion and gay marriage.  Tomorrow’s shocking news:  he believes in the Trinity and that Jesus suffered, died and was buried and on the third day rose again.

Liberals can find some comfort in the fact that Francis doesn’t exactly have a love affair with capitalism – though they’ll be less pleased to find that, apparently, he condemns it as “neo-liberalism”.  But on the whole, Francis’ clear adherence to Truth is going to be a stumbling block for liberals.  So much the worse for them.

I have some hopes for the new Pope, which I won’t give word to now:  better to just see what he does and comment on it on a case by case basis.  Fortunately, the government of the Church is not my office so its not up to me to figure out how to carry out God’s will while shepherding 1.2 billion people.

Discuss this and any other issues of religious nature.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a good New Year.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.
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