November 26, 2012
Christianity, God, Jesus Christ, President Obama, religion
Barack Obama, Christianity, God, Hollywood, Jamie Foxx, Jamie Foxx and Obama, Karl Marx, Obama, Obama as Christ-Figure, Obama as God, Obama as lord and savior, President Obama, United States
Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Cropped version of File:Official portrait of Barack Obama.jpg. The image was cropped at a 3:4 portrait ratio, it was slightly sharpened and the contrast and colors were auto-adjusted in photoshop. This crop, in contrast to the original image, centers the image on Obama’s face and also removes the flag that takes away the focus from the portrait subject. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I would hope that actor Jamie Foxx was kidding when he referred to “Our lord and savior Barack Obama” in a speech that was greeted by loud cheers in his audience. It seems, unfortunately, that he was serious. Mr. Foxx is merely a symptom of what has been wrong with Western Culture since its rejection of Christianity, a move, at least in the United States, that is most evidence in Academia, Hollywood, and the news media.
G. K. Chesterton said that a person who believes nothing is willing to believe anything. American society, like Europe, has tried to relegate religion to the private sphere, a move that historically makes no sense given the traditional truth claims of religion as well as its worship practices. Once that move took place, beginning at the Protestant Reformation and continuing through Westphalia and on to the Enlightenment, it was only a matter of time that two of the great monotheistic religions, Judaism and Christianity, would be rejected–first by the intellectual elites and later by the common people. Intellectual elites have already rejected Christianity, and a significant number of academics are atheists or agnostics. Many Hollywood actors are atheists or agnostics–among major actors, atheists and agnostics form the largest percentage of actors compared to those from various religions.
The human being requires the transcendent. Thus, stripped of traditional religion, people sought for transcendence in the secular world. Some people, such as the Romantics and the American Transcendentalists, sought transcendence in nature, sometimes deifying nature itself in a form of pantheism. Others, such as Karl Marx, secularized Jewish (in Marx’s case) eschatology, offering a secular salvation through the rebellion of the proletariat over the bourgeois on the way to a “classless society.” Most African American leaders remain religious and believe in God and hold so a theologically conservative version of Christianity. However, their churches have, in general, become so politicized that the political becomes confused with the transcendent, and salvation becomes secular and economic rather than a redeemed community living forever in Christ. Hollywood and academia generally search for salvation in the political and economic order. Mr. Obama becomes the “New Christ,” a secular savior who shall deliver the groups academics and Hollywood types consider as deserving special privileges due to past discrimination–African Americans, Hispanics, and women, at least those women who accept Hollywood’s chosen version of feminism. The adulation of Mr. Obama by people of every race bordered on idolatry in 2008; now Mr. Foxx makes it official–Obama is Christ, Obama is God and the savior of the specially privileged groups the left sets aside for special treatment.
Such blasphemy dishonors God, dishonors Jesus Christ, the true Lord and Savior of all, through whom all things were created and are sustained–as St. Paul said, “in Him all things consist.” In Christ the infinite entered the finite; God became man. To worship an ordinary man as the new Christ, as “Our lord and savior” will inevitably disappoint. No socio-economic order can bring human salvation. Much human misery results from sin, and that is a matter of the human will. Mr Foxx is at least honest enough to admit he worships Mr. Obama–would that some of his other adulating fans admit that they worship Mr. Obama as well. The claim of Mr. Obama as lord and savior should be sickening to anyone with an ounce of wisdom, but wisdom is sadly lacking in our degenerate culture. Mr. Foxx helps conservatives who feel such a sense of anomie at Mr. Obama’s re-election to understand why they have this feeling. Even John F. Kennedy was not so worshipped. Now Mr. Obama should be reluctant to take on the burden of being God. Perhaps he should gently tell his followers that “I am only a man; worship God.” Yet I wonder if he believes in a deity given that such does not seem to be a precondition of being a member of the United Church of Christ. Even if he does not believe in a transcendent deity, Mr. Obama could disabuse his followers of deifying him–unless, of course, he agrees with them. In that case, the United States is in more trouble than the worst nightmares of conservatives.
August 24, 2012
Christianity, Free Will, God, Heaven, Hell, justice, religion, Theology
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Bible, Catholic Church, Christ, Christian, Christian Creeds, Christianity, God, Hell, judgement, mercy, moral teachings of the Church, possibility of Hell, religion, Santa Claus
Икона “Страшный суд” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today many people desire a God who is nonjudgmental. This God will not judge anyone for their behavior. Even if He does judge, He always forgives, whether or not a person is repentant. He never condemns any act as intrinsically wrong. If the Bible or church teaching that something is essential for salvation, this God says, “Religion gets in the way of a relationship with me. Be spiritual, not religious.” This God demands no religious duties. This God is easygoing when it comes to moral rules. For this God, Hell is an impossibility. All people will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.
One of the amazing facts about contemporary America is that some people will actually worship a deity like the one described in the above paragraph. This pusillanimous being is as worthy of worship as Santa Claus dropping down a chimney. A God without judgment is no God at all. He can be merciful–and mercy only makes sense in the context of judgement anyway.
If God is our Creator, it is reasonable to suppose that He would reveal Himself to man, not only though natural revelation but also through special revelation. He would have further reason to reveal Himself if human beings are fundamentally flawed. Now human beings are fundamentally flawed–it does not take the mass killings of the twentieth century or the conflicts of the twenty-first to see that this is the case. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in his Gulag Archipelago:
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.”
God would, if He is the personal God in which Christians believe, provide information essential for deliverance from this flawed state. For Christians, God reveals Himself in Holy Scripture (in Roman Catholic thought, through Holy Tradition as well). Both sources of authority for Christianity reveal a God of both judgement and mercy. God holds people responsible for both their moral and religious lives. Humans all sin–they all do things morally wrong–sometimes not knowing an action is sinful, sometimes being controlled by a force such as lust, and sometimes they plan to perform an action they realize is wrong. All sins are forgivable under the condition of repentance. An obstinate lack of repentance yields the judgment of God, and Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition make is clear that God will allow those who wish to sin to keep to themselves. It is not as much that God withdraws from them–He allows them to withdraw themselves. Since God is the source of all being, goodness, and happiness, their state can only lead to misery. Saying to the sinner, “THY will be done” is a form of judgment, for it says that the sinner cannot live in the presence of God. The attitude of rebellion against God can be fostered by a rebellion against the moral law (which is a subset of the natural law that is available to all people who are able to use their reason). Rebellion against religious limitations, especially against the “scandal of particularity” of Christianity, can also influence someone to stop following God’s revelation to man.
The Church sets theological limits through the Creeds, short statements of belief that summarize the fleshing out of Scripture via Holy Tradition. There are certain beliefs Christians must affirm–if a Christian openly denies these key beliefs (the bodily resurrection of Christ, for instance) and teaches that error, he is liable to be excommunicated. This does not imply he is going to Hell, but the attitude underlying heresy, a pride that refuses to submit to the Church’s teaching, may reflect a character that would not enjoy being in God’s presence.
Holy Scripture and Tradition also make moral demands–no one can keep them perfectly, and they are challenging. “Love your enemies” is almost practically impossible to follow, though some Christians have done so. Avoiding hatred, envy, spite, jealousy, and excessive anger are imperative on the Christian, but no one avoids practicing at least one of these flaws at some point in one’s life. The church states that abortion and active euthanasia as well as physician-assisted suicide are morally wrong–and there is an arrogance to the claim that “I have the right to determine the time and manner of my own death.” Such arrogance is spiritually dangerous. The refusal to follow the Church’s sexual morality can occur due to weakness–or someone may be sexually immoral on purpose yet realize it is wrong. There is spiritual hope for such individuals. But God’s judgment may fall upon those individuals who say that “wrong is right” and “right is wrong” concerning the Church’s sexual ethics. This also reveals an arrogance, a refusal to submit to legitimate authority. Such arrogance may result in God’s judgment in the sense that God may allow those people to do what they will on their own. I am sure He will always be open to receiving them, but they, due to their free will, could decide to eternally reject God. “The doors to Hell are locked on the inside,” said C. S. Lewis.
The Christian God is worthy of worship not only because He is Creator of all things, but also because He is our ultimate judge. He is also a God of mercy–but mercy extends to those open to correction and repentance. Others will refuse to receive such mercy, and God’s judgment is to allow them to live in such a state in their own world–that is, Hell. I personally do not want to worship Santa Claus. God in His glory, justice, and mercy is the only being worthy of worship.
July 2, 2012
Christianity, Puritanism, religion, United States of America, war
American Civl Religion, Christian, Christianity, National Anthem, Nazi Germany, Ronald Reagan, Second Great Awakening, United States, Woodrow Wilson
English: The United States Esperanto: Loko de Usono sur la terglobo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If I said there was a country in which during church services, church members sang tribute to their nation, carried flags in processional, celebrated national holidays, sang patriotic songs, praised soldiers as war heroes for the native land, honored soldiers in uniform who came to church, of what country would you think first. My first thought would be of Nazi Germany, where civil religion was a way to honor the Nazi state and show loyalty to the Fatherland. Hitler hated Christianity but was willing to use it for his advantage and to stir up patriotism in the German people, especially in gaining help for the war effort. Worship of God was closely tied to worship of the nation-atate of Germany.
The United States, however, is similar to Nazi Germany in the sense that civil religion is a powerful force in American society. It first role with the coming of the Puritans in the seventeenth century, who envisioned America as specially blessed by God, “a shining city set on a hill.” That passage was quoted multiple times by Ronald Reagan. The idea was originally that America would set an example of Christian government to other nations of the world. That idea was reinforced by the Second Great Awakening at the end of the eighteenth century, American Civil Religion grew with the notion of Manifest Destiny and the rise of the American Empire after the Spanish-American War. This was tied in to European ideas of empire, of spreading “Christian civilization” throughout the world. That idea became more dangerous with Woodrow Wilson’s notion that the United States has a duty to spread democracy throughout the world. Thus, “Christianity and Democracy” should be the key words used to describe American Civil Religion. Instead of one’s land being considered a gracious gift of God, and the state ordained by God to punish evil-doers (as St. Paul put it), the nation-state became an object of reverence that rivaled God. American flags are marched in procession in churches along with the cross and are placed close to the altar at many churches. National holidays are celebrated such as Memorial Day and July 4, with hymns and the National Anthem played and/or sung. Soldiers returning from war are treated like Catholic saints. Sermons focus on the greatness of America and how “Christian” America has always been, despite scholarship that shows this was not the case in early America, not even in the case of the founding Fathers. Some churches are openly supportive of wars, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Church members dehumanize the enemy and call on America to “go over there and kick their a….”. Church members often support every American military adventure, claiming that God is on America’s side, ignoring the one million Iraqi children who died due to sanctions and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed in the Second Iraq War. Only American lives are held precious by God.
The similarities with the Nazi German state church are striking. The state is venerated almost to the point of adoration. The United States flag, which has no business being inside a church sanctuary, is held in reverence almost as much as the cross. If ministers had any integrity and put loyalty to God first, the would take all national flags out of the sanctuary and not celebrate a national holiday as a Christian holiday. That may be too much to ask of American Christians, too many of whom buy into American triumphalism and silly theories such as Premillenialism that help to poison America’s policy toward the Middle East
Worship of the state should be decoupled from worshiping God. The church should pray for “all Christian rulers,” as the Anglican Prayer Book says, but not make the nation-state into an object of reverence. Traditionally it was one’s ancestral land that was worthy of veneration, not the nation-state abstraction. “Honoring the emperor< as St. Peter puts it, does not imply semi-worshiping the emperor, as the early Christians recognized when they refused to pray to the genius of the emperor. If only contemporary American Christians had the same level of wisdom.
- Civil Religion (everydaysociologyblog.com)
June 29, 2012
academia, Cheating, Colleges and Universities, Ethics, Higher Education, religion, United States of America
Cheating, Christianity, colleges and universities, Education, Ethics, High Schools, Higher education, Morality, Relativism, Religion and Spirituality, Second Great Awakening, Secondary Schools, Undergraduate education, United States
Ethics class (Photo credit: aditza121)
Students cheating in school is not a new thing, but it has become an epidemic in recent years. The Internet has made cheating easier, with thousands of term papers students buy and pass off as their own work. Cell phones are now used by students to get answers from their classmates or to look them up on a website. What is most surprising is how many students see no moral problem with cheating. Sometimes irate parents will visit a high school principle or college dean and complain that their child did not cheat, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly against the student. Is it any surprise that there are so many scandals in business and in government? Children are emulating the values of their parents, who reflect the terrible trend in American culture to want something for nothing.
The rampant relativism to which students are exposed on television, by celebrities, by the media, in the K-12 school system, and in colleges and universities makes it easy for students to become subjectivists on ethics. “Whatever floats your boat” or “Whatever I think is right is right for me and whatever you think is right for you” becomes the mantra of many students today. The most dogmatic relativists are as closed-minded as any religious fundamentalist. The fact that they become angry and try to cut a professor off when he argues against subjectivism reveals that they only want their views to be heard. Apparently the position held by the professor and by other students that everyone, including the professor, has the right to speak his mind has not sunk into these students.
I am at a loss to determine how to get beyond the impasse of relativistic propaganda in society. When the United States accepted a traditional Judeo-Christian ethic, as it did from the Second Great Awakening in the late eighteenth century through around 1963, one could argue from a common morality held by the vast majority of Americans. With the decline of Christianity and the proliferation of different religions and cultures, one could try to find common values between them–and between deeply devout people of all major religions much commonality in moral beliefs is present. Radical secularism, agnosticism, and atheism can try to develop a non-relativistic deontological or utilitarian system, but other secularists who desire to do what they want without restraint could say, “Okay, there’s a common morality needed for the good of society, but I don’t care about the good of society. There’s no God to stop me from being a self-centered ass. So that’s what I’ll be.” Without transcendent meaning, how strong is the force of the “ought” in ethics (I am borrowing this point from George Mavrodes). Students may intellectually believe in some kind of deity, but the secular relativism they have been taught from kindergarten onward has already sunk into their psyche. This fact, along with the inherent immaturity and selfishness of youth, make for a combination that will inevitably result in rampant cheating. I have had students of all grades brag to me about how they successfully cheated in school. It is a matter of pride to them. It is a matter of shame to American society that its cultural rot since 1964 has destroyed any notion of transcendent meaning (beyond trying to find it through pleasure), has promoted self-centeredness, has promoted “success” by any means necessary, and has lied to people by telling them they should be proud of their accomplishments even if they did not earn them. With churches catering to the relativist, postmodern young person without trying to correct their relativism, all that results is high recidivism and young people who leave church with the same twisted values they previously had accepted. Without a large-scale religious revival, which I do not see coming in the United States, growing irreligiosity will cause societal destruction in the U.S.–Europe had enough residual tradition to withstand falling into chaos when Europeans gave up on Christianity, but how long will that last? I expect more cheating in the future by students. Some will get caught, most will not care unless they are caught (and even then for selfish reasons), and the shred of integrity left in the American educational system will be threatened.
March 10, 2012
Anger at God, Atheism, Catholic tradition, Colleges and Universities, Ethics, Leon Kass, medical ethics, religion, Richard John Neuhaus, Roman Catholic Church
Ethics, Hans Jonas, Hastings Center Report, James Gustafson, Leon Kass, medical ethics, Paul Ramsey, Philosophy, Religious Ethics, Richard John Neuhaus, Roman Catholic Ethics, Secularization
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A few of my medical ethics students (not by any means the majority) object to my including such a large component of religious ethics in my teaching. Such an attitude is not surprising–it is another instance of religion’s increasing exclusion from public life and debate (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus‘ “naked public square,” but it is nevertheless disturbing. The founders of the great Hippocratic tradition of medicine (and ethics) were Pythagoreans, and their thought cannot be understood apart from Pythagorean mysticism. Roman Catholic scholars were producing texts in medical ethics as early as the seventeenth century, and taught medical ethics as a university course long before the contemporary bioethics revolution began in 1966. Roman Catholic concepts such as the principle of double effect and the ordinary-extraordinary care distinction have become a part of the ethical vocabulary in medicine.
In addition, Protestant scholars, such as Paul Ramsey and James Gustafson, have made important contributions to medical ethics. Jewish scholars, such as Hans Jonas and Leon Kass, have also contributed to the field, with Professor Kass serving as the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics during the Bush administration. Muslim scholars are beginning to be published in both mainstream medical and in medical ethics journals. At a practical level, understanding diverse religions is important for any health care provider.
The terms of the debates over key bioethical issues such as abortion and euthanasia cannot be adequately understood without understanding the religious arguments involved in these debates. I am not denying the possibility of a consistent secular ethics; I am saying that, as a matter of fact, de-emphasizing the religious aspect of medical ethics is irresponsible, period, and would be more irresponsible for me from a scholarly/teaching point of view.
What is more disturbing than students’ attitudes, which may be as much due to lack of exposure to alternative views (especially for those students who are “rabidly secular”), is the increasing exclusion of religious points of view from medical ethical debates. This exclusion is not absolute; journals such as the Hastings Center Report occasionally publish articles from a religious perspective, as do some other journals in medical ethics, but this is becoming increasingly rare. The false Enlightenment assumption that religion is only a private, subjective matter is part of the problem. Such a view reveals utter ignorance of the function of religion in personal behavior and in society. As one of my teachers at UGA once said, “I would never be such a damned fool as to claim that religion is only a private matter.” He was a liberal Protestant and not a raging Fundamentalist, but he understood the function of religion to be inherently social. He also understood that religions make claims about reality, and such claims can be broadly tested against human experience in general, although there will always be an element of faith and of mystery in religion.
Increasingly, I find a small group of students who could be called “misotheists”–they hate God or at least the notion that any Creator exists. Since these are mostly science students, I would guess they were encouraged to believe such things by some of their science teachers, as well as by the strict methodological atheism of modern and contemporary science. Far too many science teachers make sweeping metaphysical claims regarding religion being a superstition and claim that such a view is “scientific.” Of course this is really the philosophy of “scientism,” the view that science can explain all reality and that any reality claims that go beyond a mythical “scientific method” are, by their very nature, not part of reality. Such a view needs to be justified by argumentation, but neither the scientists who accept scientism nor students are willing to present arguments–their hostility to religion is palpable. Other students (and atheists and agnostics in general) are angry ex-religious people who have rebelled against, perhaps, a harsh religious background (or maybe they just want to get laid and don’t want any religion to get in their way). Since misotheism is, like scientism, an emotionally-based position, there is no rational way to get most people who hold such views to think them through.
I admit I’m frustrated. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a religious believer who teaches in a college or university. They follow the logic of the eighteenth century Enlightenment, adopting not only its positive side (toleration for different points of view) but also its negative side (the total secularization of the academy). Even in religious schools, the logic of the Enlightenment leads many faculty be be atheists or agnostics and to minimize the role of religion in public life. It is sad that this attitude has spread to future health care providers.
February 27, 2012
academia, Academic Freedom, Colleges and Universities, conservatism, Freedom of Religion, politics, religion
Barack Obama, BarackObama, Gender, liberalism, Marxism, Obama, political correctness, politics, President of the United States, Race-Ethnic-Religious Relations, Racism, Sensitivity, Sensitivity Training, Tom Tancredo, United States
I am utterly sick of sensitive people–not those “sensitive” in a good way, but those people who are professionals at being offended in order to get their way or get money. Those after money are only different in degree than someone who points a gun at someone and says, “Hand over your money.” Discussing certain issues is taboo at many colleges and universities due to the intimidation and (sometimes) violence of the left. Consider what has happened to conservative speakers who come to college and university campuses. While some are treated with respect, others have been shouted down or threatened physically (as Tom Tancredo was treated a few years ago at UNC-Chapel Hill, when a brick was thrown through a window by a thuggish group and
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his talk was cancelled for the sake of everyone’s safety). In other cases, academics have lost their jobs when they criticized the politically correct mainstream–I know one personally. Most of them have either gotten their jobs back or been given a settlement since, thus far, the courts have respected freedom of speech. That could change in the future as Mr. Obama‘s appointments pile up in the federal judiciary.
Stifling discussion of controversial issues or only allowing one side to express itself does not allow room for learning and discussion. Some of the most productive class discussions I have experienced are when I bring up controversial topics or express “non-politically correct” positions. For example, I am morally opposed to abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Usually I am the only person in class holding that positions, and students are free to argue with me (and they do–vehemently). I learn something from their arguments and hopefully they learn something from mine. What if some “sensitivity Fascist” had said that my position on abortion should no longer be part of the “public square” because it offends some people? Since when did college and university students gain the right not to be offended. I do not mind the Marxist professor two doors down from me expressing his views to his classes as long as students are free to disagree and are not penalized for their positions. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and if Marxist positions can be presented, so can conservative positions in economics, morals, philosophy, and/or religion.
There are so many issues on which this nation is deeply divided–sexual ethics, racial issues, gender issues, issues regarding the role of government in combating poverty, issues surrounding health care. If discussion is halted just because someone is “offended,” this only serves to increase resentment on the part of those who disagree with the position of the professional sensitive person. We become even more divided and angry at one another. The best way for the culture war to become a true war rather than a war by means of language is to stifle discussion.
If “sensitivity training” really dealt with bad behavior, I suppose there would be no problem with it–men and women are wrong if they are in a supervisory position and request sexual favors from an employee before they promote that employee. That is unethical and illegal, and it should be. If someone constantly tells sexual jokes after being warned not to several times, that is bad behavior that can and should lead to termination from a job. But a man who is of equal rank in a company to a woman surely has the right to ask her out unless the company forbids inter-employee dating. Often a woman really will have plans on the day the man wanted to go out, so he will ask her again. Now if she says no then, if I am not mistaken, society generally says “two time’s the charm” and the man should not ask her out again (although there are men who married women whom they asked out many times–and they remain happily married). If some professional sensitive woman whines about sexual harassment when a man asks her out in a nice way on a date, this is oversensitive behavior from someone who either hates men, is a psychopath, enjoys hurting people, or wants easy money. Have some common sense, folks!
Racial issues have become so sensitive that many people won’t talk about them lest someone be offended. I do not deny that there are racists in our society–every society has them–and that sometimes racists will discriminate against those of a different race. When the race card is overplayed, however, in cases in which it is unwarranted, eventually any racial incident comes across as “crying wolf” and genuine incidents of racial prejudice may be unnecessarily ignored. When any criticism of Mr. Obama’s policies is labeled “racism,” that ignores the fact that many people disagree with the President’s policies–including some who voted for him. I do not hate or even dislike Mr. Obama, but I disagree with a number of his policies–and that does not make me a racist. I am a conservative, so of course I will disagree with Mr. Obama on some points. What else would you expect?
Liberals gain their power by playing on the sensitivity and resentments of people. They play up the envy the poor have for the middle classes and the wealthy. They emasculate man by calling any comment “sexist” that does not fit their radical feminist agenda of changing human nature, either by denying differences between males and females or trumping up “female virtues” as superior to “male virtues.” Those positions are self-contradictory, of course, but to the liberal, especially to the “postmodern” liberal, coherence is not a truth preserving condition.
As outspoken as I am, I keep some positions to myself, not because they are wrong, but because I know there would probably be a professional sensitive person in the audience who would misrepresent my beliefs–knowingly. On religious and moral issues I am more outspoken. Political issues are not values free, but they are contingent matters about which people even of similar world views disagree, and I must pick my battles. But I have grown more outspoken over the years because I am sick of a false, hypocritical “sensitivity” stifling discussion, especially of conservative positions, on issues important for the good of society.
February 7, 2012
abortion, bureaucracy, Catholic tradition, Freedom of Religion, Health Care, religion, Roman Catholic Church, The American Left, totalitarianism, United States of America
abortificants, abortion, anti-Catholicism, Anti-Christian Bigotry, anti-religious bigotry, artificial contraception, Barack Obama, Catholic Church, Department of Health and Human Services, Faith-based, Freedom of Religion, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Obama, Roman Catholic Church, totalitarianism, United States Department of Health and Human Services, United States of America
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The United States Department of Health and Human Services mandated that employers offer health care insurance to employees that includes payments not only for standard birth control, but also for abortificants. Faith-based organizations are not exempt from this mandate. The Roman Catholic Church is resisting this mandate, as well they should, and since abortificants are also paid for, all faith-based groups who oppose abortion are being forced to violate their beliefs. I have no doubt that the social democrats and socialists who read this post will disagree, which is their right. What about the right of a faith-based organization to establish employment benefits in line with its beliefs? H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., a bioethicist and physician at the Baylor College of Medicine, has argued for ideological pluralism in health care choices. That is, if someone accepts abortion, she can buy insurance through a company that accepts abortion. Roman Catholic groups could have what Engelhardt calls “Vaticare” or something like that. Now Engelhardt is a Classical Liberal who is consistent that pluralism be respected. What the government is doing is the equivalent of telling “Vaticare” or similar organizations that their beliefs be damned. The government will now tell you what to do, and if you don’t like it, suck it up. The result, if this rule is not overturned, will be a mass closing of faith-based organizations that help a significant number of people.
Although Mr. Obama has tended to be a friend of Wall Street and warmongers, his ideological roots are strongly Marxist, and, I would claim, totalitarian. The fact that he is no more totalitarian than Dubya does not change the fact that Obama desires as much power as did Mr. Bush. Regulatory agencies have been one way that government can gain power without legislative approval. Congress should establish a conscience clause in the health care bill in order to allow for faith-based organizations to offer insurance to their employees consistent with their own beliefs. To do otherwise would be another step toward a “social democratic benevolent” dictatorship that the most radical on the left wing desire. Although this is by now a tired cliche, it remains true that freedom of religion was never construed by the founding fathers to mean freedom from religion. I am pleased that Eastern Orthodox Bishops (The Council of Canonical Orthodox Bishops) as well as conservative Protestants have joined the effort to reverse this rule change. I hope they succeed.
January 28, 2012
academia, Academic Freedom, Christianity, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), homosexuality, National Association of Scholars, religion
academia, Anti-Christian Bigotry, Christianity, Circuit Court, Counseling Programs, Eastern Michigan University, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, homosexuality, Jeffrey Sutton, Marion Montgomery, National Association of Scholars, United States, United States Court of Appeals, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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Julea Ward, a graduate student in the counseling program at Eastern Michigan University, was expelled from the program. She had referred a homosexual client to another counselor since she would have been in the position of affirming the client’s sexual orientation as being morally acceptable, something that Ms. Ward did not accept due to her religious beliefs. Although the counseling program has a non-discriminatory policy on “sexual orientation,” there were procedures in place for a student to refer a client in case of values conflicts. Instead the university’s counseling program showed its intolerance for traditional Christian belief on the moral unacceptability of practicing homosexuality.
Ms. Ward sued, and the initial court ruling was in favor of the university. However, today a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court’s ruling. In his opinion, Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton made it clear that tolerance is not a one-way street, and that the university was punishing Ms. Ward for her religious beliefs.
This marks a significant victory for freedom of speech and freedom of religion in academia. Many academics are products of the mindset of the 1960s, with its transvaluation of values and its support of positions inimical to those of traditional Christianity. It is far to say that many academics hate traditional Christianity and traditional morality concerning sexual ethics. Such vitriolic hated expresses itself in intimidation and sometimes dismissal of students and faculty who disagree with the “New Puritanism” (as my late friend Marion Montgomery called it) in academia. Often, when people like Ms. Ward fight back, they win in court (though with the radicalism of Mr. Obama’s appointees this may change in the future). Traditionalists in academia, both among faculty and students, should, of course, pick their battles, but when it becomes time to fight, they should fight aggressively. There are organizations such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the National Association of Scholars (NAS) who lend support for academics unfairly treated due to dogmatic ideology in academia. These organizations give hope to faculty and students who face discrimination, and the Sixth Circuit Court ruling today is a breath of fresh air.
December 19, 2011
Christianity, God, National Football League, religion, Richard John Neuhaus, United States of America
Christianity, God, National Football League, NFL, Tim Tebow
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Denver lost to New England yesterday, which is no surprise given that the Patriots are an excellent team. Yet when I read sports stories about the game, they focus on “a lack of Tim Tebow‘s heroics” as if a quarterback known for leading fourth quarter comebacks will be able to lead one every game. Even Joe Montana, who was one of the best quarterbacks ever, who (to my disappointment!) led the 49ers over the Bengals in the Super Bowl by a last minute drive, did not always succeed in a fourth quarter comeback. I do not remember the press complaining then. Why is there so much hostility, among members of the press and among some NFL players, to Tim Tebow?
Religion, specifically Tim Tebow’s open Evangelical Protestant faith, is the source of most of the hostility. Although many NFL players are public about their Christian faith, to American secular society Tebow seems, to the generally secularist media and to those NFL players who are either secularist or outside the Christian tradition, to take his faith too far. I have mentioned more than once on this blog the late Father Richard John Neuhaus‘s reference to the “naked public square” in which religion, specifically Christianity, is eliminated from American public discourse and relegated to a private realm. No scholar of religion in his right mind believes that religion is a private matter, since a religion scholar realizes the public implications of being religious. Only a fool can ignore thousands of years of history and his own common sense and say that “religion is just a private matter.” Even John Locke (1632-1704), the epitome of a Classical Liberal thinker, did not go that far.
Today those who relegate religion to the private sphere are usually hostile to religion in general. Ironically, they are not as hostile to Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam as they are to traditional Christianity, perhaps because of the strong influence of Christianity after the Second Great Awakening at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, on American culture. This strong influence continued until around the mid-1960s and then slowly began to wane, especially among the intellectual classes and among other opinion leaders. Sportscasters in the past tended to be a bit more traditional than most other journalists, at least from my reading, but that is no longer the case.
Tim Tebow has violated the fundamental rule of secularists–he not only discusses his Christian faith openly, but he does it often. He may well connect his abilities to God–there is nothing wrong with that–if God created everything, all abilities are gifts, whether the gifts be carpentry skills, medical skills, teaching skills, or football skills. If Mr. Tebow said he has special favor from God for being religious, and therefore his team wins because of God, that would be going too far–but as far as I have heard he has not said those things. Too much has been read into his statements by the media and by some NFL players. Mr. Tebow has every right to express his Christian faith, just as other players have a right to express whatever their faith (or lack of faith) may be. To condemn Mr. Tebow for being so open about his Christianity is a form of unjust discrimination against expressions of Christian faith. It is wrong, and members of the media need to control their snide remarks concerning Mr. Tebow’s faith–or at least admit that they are editorial comments. I doubt that a Muslim, a Hindu, or an Orthodox Jew would get the same treatment from the media, even if a football player who adhered to these religions was open about his faith. I may be wrong on this point and am open to correction. From my impression, as American society continues to go the European route of secularization (as evidenced by a sharp drop in weekly church attendance in the last ten years), secularists are going all out to try to shame Christians to stop them, or at least slow them, from expressing their faith in public. It is sad that such hostility has now extended to sports journalism and to some of the players in the NFL.
November 8, 2011
Afterdeath Communication, Christianity, God, Life after Death, religion, survival of death
After Death Communication, Christian, Christianity, God, Monroe Institute, Out-of-body experience, Rhine Research Center
This past Saturday I spent a day at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina. Paul Radamacher, Director of the Monroe Institute in Virginia, played some CDs designed to induce expanded consciousness. That expanded consciousness might be as dramatic as an out-of-body experience, or it could be a slight time distortion. My own experience was of near timelessness–in the last session, which lasted 45 minutes, I felt as if only a minute or two had passed. It was similar to waking up after anesthesia, but I did not fall asleep during that final session (I cannot say the same for the others!). The sense of relaxation was such as I have never felt before. My wish was to be able to talk with my friend Karen B., who died in May of 2010. So I prayed that “With Thy permission, God, could you allow me to see and talk to my friend Karen today?”
Although I did not have an experience of Kar during the sessions, I did have a dream that night. I was walking beside Kar, and I put my arm on her shoulder, which was strong, muscular, again (she had been an athletic woman). We sat down, I looked into her eyes, and she talked about her friends who still lived–I do not remember the content of the conversation, only her love and concern. I prayed, “God, why must she stay dust–could You keep her this way and bring her back to earth?” Kar looked at me with a look of such love and concern that it felt as if my grief was breaking her heart. It was a sense of unconditional love engulfing me.
I do not know whether my experience was just a dream or an actual visitation by Kar. All I know is that I felt comforted when I awoke, and I was thankful to God for allowing such an experience. Mass was especially meaningful as I contemplated the resurrection of the dead.
One question about methods of “expanding consciousness” is whether they are compatible with Christianity. I would say that they are as long as they do not lead a person away from orthodoxy and as long as a Christian is only using the experience as a means to an end rather than as the end itself. Some people worship the experience or the method of gaining the experience, and this is a form of idolatry. No one should boast about a transcendent experience, but instead use it to build the faith of those with doubts, and in the case of my experience, to give comfort to those people bereaved of Kar and to those people in general who have doubts about an afterlife. Any transcendent experience is a gift of grace by the permission of God, and God should be praised and thanked for His precious gift. Experiences should also be tested by the light of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason to make sure that they are compatible with the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. With these precautions in mind, I would recommend the Monroe Institute’s programs or other programs for “expanding consciousness” for traditional Christians as long as they are used in the proper way, and with the realization that any transcendent experience remains the gift of God’s grace.