Wednesday, April 30, 2014

When God and Caesar collide

On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014, I had to do something I never imagined I’d have to do: kick beggars off of church property.

A Hispanic woman and her two children were standing at the exit of our parking lot on the driveway median, mooching from the parishioners as they were driving out. Our pastor, Fr. George, is a lovely man, very good-humored and self-effacing. But you don’t want to be within fifty feet of him when he needs to delegate something, because he’s likely to grab the first unwitting soul available. He was discussing the issue with Bret, the Grand Knight of our Knights of Columbus council, when I stepped out of the church and went over to greet them.

“Ah, hello, Tony!” Fr. George exclaimed. As he reached out to give me a perfunctory handshake, he continued to speak to Bret: “Here we are, then; Tony can do this!” Herding me away from Bret and the building, he pointed out the beggars to me. “Go over there and tell them they cannot stand there; it’s illegal and dangerous. Make sure they leave.”

Moving the family on was fairly simple: I simply put my most pleasant face on and requested that they leave. And as I was walking back, one of the children, who unseen by me before had gone up to the church and was now walking back to the family, asked me, “Sir, do you think we’d be able to talk to someone at the church tomorrow at nine o’clock?” Yes, I agreed, someone should certainly be there.

Nevertheless, the irony of bustling poor people away from Christ’s church rather than bringing them in was too obvious. I can hear Jesus say, “I was hungry, and you gave me the bum’s rush” (cf. Matthew 25:42).

Monday, April 14, 2014

What the Bible says about slavery

Discourtesy of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason
and Science.
New Atheists have a tendency to ask questions about Scripture and Christian belief they intend to be purely rhetorical but which reveal defects in their knowledge and assumptions. Case in point: Mira Sorvino’s  set of “rhetorical” questions about the lack of a passage in the Bible stating positively the evil of slavery.

Precisely because the questions are intended to be rhetorical, the New Atheist isn’t looking for an answer — it’s supposed to be a slam-dunk “gotcha”, and anything you say is mere thimble-rigging, a pathetic attempt to rationalize an obvious error. Moreover, the proper response requires something of a full history lesson, for which many people have no patience … especially if it challenges cherished myths about ante-Internet European history.

That the Bible was never intended to be treated as the sole infallible source of Christian beliefs is not a sufficient answer in itself. To understand where the defect lies, first ask yourself this question: How, after thousands of years in which the propriety and naturalness of slavery was taken for granted, did the West come to believe it wrong? I’ll give you a couple of clues: 1) It had nothing to do with the rise of the scientific method; 2) it also had nothing to do with the Renaissance and the so-called “Enlightenment”.

It’s very tough for Americans to remember that we were almost the last of the modern First World countries to abandon slavery, and then only as a byproduct of a horrific struggle that decimated a generation of young men. It’s tougher to remember that people convicted of felonies can still be forced to work by the state, as a stated exception in the Thirteenth Amendment, or that international treaties still conditionally allow forced labor by prisoners of war. But only history wonks like me know that, from about 1100 until 1492, slavery as we understand it was all but dead in Christian Europe, hanging on mostly in the borderlands between the Christian and Moslem worlds.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Catholic Pharisees and the sin of rash judgment

The most dreaded implement of the Internet Inquisition:
the comfy chair. (© 1970 Python (Monty) Pictures, Ltd.)
That the accusations came in on a post dedicated to shoring up the tradition of worshiping on Sunday was bizarre as the accusations themselves. Said Kelly Lexy:

You seem to be an adherent to the Novus Ordo sectarian community. That is bad news. That means you are pro-abortion and a supporter of the engagers of the Sin of Sodom. …
One must say that you are obstinate. You are familiar with the sedevacante position [Indeed I am, especially with its similarity in flaws to Protestantism]. You have a familiarity concerning the heresies of the post-Vatican II claimants to the papacy. Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation: the heretics you promote reject this Dogma. …

If you’re at all familiar with my writings of the last five years plus, the statement that I am “pro-abortion and a supporter of the engagers of the Sin of Sodom” must have had you howling with either rage or laughter. The bit about baptism is a bit trickier; let me just content myself for now with saying that this is willful misinterpretation of Pope Francis’ words on the part of Ms. Lexy.[1]

When I denied her charge and told her she’d committed the sin of rash judgment, she doubled down on it: “Your false religion recognizes pro-abortion politicians as having a  good standing. Your false religion celebrates the sodomites since you have sodomite ‘masses.’ You are therefore pro-sodomite and pro-abortion since you are in communion with this evil and all such persons. You are an apostate.”

Not even Bernardo Gui — the real Bernardo Gui, not the cardboard-cutout antagonist of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose — would have brought me to trial under such specious reasoning. In any event, since the inquisition is defunct and has been for a very long time (even in Spain), I’m not worried about an auto-da-fé just yet.