Review of Mary Grace, The Communion of Saints: Talking to God and Grandma (Phoenix: Tau Publishing, 2013)

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Communion of Saints

Communion of Saints (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

I had looked forward to reading this book since I am interested in the interface between faith and parapsychology. Since the doctrine of the communion of saints is the only major Catholic teaching that could be used to justify communication with the dead, I was interested in reading what Ms. Grace had to say.  For the reader’s information, I am a member of the Anglican Catholic Church, a conservative continuing Anglican church.

Unfortunately, the book was disappointing. If it had focused exclusively on the issue of the communion of saints and communication with the dead, it would have not only been shorter, but it would have been a stronger book. Ms. Grace used the book as a means to push her various theological agendas that are not in accord with Roman Catholic teachings. She affirms that all people are part of the communion of saints, which, contrary to what she states, has never been the teaching of Holy Scripture nor of the Church Fathers. It is possible that all people might be part of the communion of saints eventually, as von Balthasar notes, but it is also possible that some people obstinately reject God. To be a saint is to be set aside–Grace is quite correct is stating that the New Testament teaching is that all Christians are saints. The church also affirms this teaching, but it also affirms the belief that some Christians have sacrificed so much for God and their fellow human beings that the church as a whole can affirm that they are currently enjoying the Beatific Vision. That is not an elitist view, but it sets examples for us to follow. Nor does it deny that even the saints sinned–we are all sinners, despite Ms. Grace’s disclaimer in the book.

Ms. Grace supports a revision of the church’s holding that homosexual activity is sinful (the church has never said that the orientation itself is sinful). She also supports the ordination of women to Holy Orders. These are not matters for her to decide, and given that these involve essential moral and doctrinal teachings of the church, they will not change. The majority of the world’s Roman Catholics support both these doctrines–liberal American and European Roman Catholics do not have the right to publicly dissent from church teaching. Heresy is cruel since it can lead a person to rebel against God. It is out of love that the church sets boundaries to legitimate belief, and while theological speculation is allowed, open and public disagreement with the teaching of the church is (and should be) condemned.

Relating to her view of the afterlife, she holds that the Christian vision is for a non-physical existence. While I Corinthians 15 can be interpreted that way, it would be highly unusual for Paul, given his Jewish background, to de-materialize or de-physicalize the resurrection. Paul uses terms like “flesh” and “physical” to refer to the sinful, fallen part of nature. His affirmation of the renewal of all of nature in Romans 8 is not consistent with a total spiritualized resurrection. When Paul uses the term “spiritual body” in I Corinthians 15, he means “a body under the total control of its spirit.” He does not mean a non-physical, a non-material, or a non-physical body. Ms. Grace selectively quotes from the Christian tradition and ignores the statement in the Apostle’s Creed, “Credo in resurrectionem carnis“–“I believe in the resurrection of the flesh.” Even Ms. Grace’s mother appeared to her in material form, in the form of a warm, solid, physical body. Glorified flesh is still flesh. While there may be a non-embodied intermediate state between death and resurrection, full human identity requires a body–I would refer the reader to the works of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Gilbert Ryle, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty on the necessity of a body for full human identity. The soul is the “form of the body” (forma corporis), as Aquinas puts it–the body is for this soul and the soul for this body. A Platonic or Cartesian soul has no place in Christian theology.

Now as far as communication with the dead, the Catholic Church has traditionally been open to scientific study of phenomena such as electronic voice phenomena, apparitions, and other putative means of contact with the dead. It does accept the traditional strictures against mediums. That may well be a belief that the church would consider revising, but only after much study and much more scientific evidence comes in. Bishop Pike‘s statement that the Hebrew Bible’s condemnation of mediumship was only a power play by the Jewish priesthood is historically inaccurate. The problem was that mediumship was closely associated with Canaanite pagan practices. Issues concerning mediumship today include whether (1) mediumship can be decoupled from paganism and New Age pantheism, (2) whether mediums can avoid spiritual pride, and (3) whether the medium has the gift of discernment to distinguish between genuine communications from the dead and communications from demonic entities.

My own view is that if a loved one who has died comes to comfort the living (after death communication or ADC) that is almost certainly legitimate. The use of meditation to contact the dead is a matter for the church to decide–if practiced carefully and in line with other teachings of the church, this might be acceptable. The church rightly takes its time on such matters. As for mediums–if they are mediums out of love for others and wish to comfort them in their grief by putting them in contact with their loved ones, there is a possibility that the church might eventually change its mind on mediumship. However, that is unlikely given the great potential for abuse concerning a realm about which we know so little. My hope is that theologians would at least discuss these issues. Mary Grace’s book, while well-meaning, will likely drive those who are theologically orthodox away from discussing mediumship given developments in parapsychology–and this would be an unfortunate result indeed.

The Brave New World is Here

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DSC_0005

DSC_0005 (Photo credit: Oddtwang)

Drones fill the skies, helping the government to spy on American citizens. States and municipalities can track through traffic cams and other devices where Individual Americans travel. The U. S. government has records of phone calls and internet records. Corporations routinely mine personal data in order to market their products. The distinction between public and private life has eroded, as has any distinction between secret life and private life.

All concentrations of power are dangerous in the contemporary world in which surveillance equipment has advanced to the point that anyone in power could theoretically invade any portion of a person’s life. the rise of federal power as well as the rise of corporate power has led to a centralization of information about people that should frighten even the most cautious individual. This is not a conspiracy, but a natural result, in the case of corporations, of the desire to make more profit by more efficient marketing, and the desire of government officials to gain greater power. In a utilitarian culture, all that matters to many people are the end results–if spying on people yields more profit, the greater profit is worth, so companies believe, the cost of privacy violations.

No human society can survive without some barriers between public, private, and secret lives. All of us, whether or not we admit it, have quirks about which we would rather others be ignorant. The Internet‘s “closed groups” were meant to allow people with various quirks to talk to like minded people, but the Internet is a public forum, and ultimately anyone can get information that a person does not want shared. With the veil between public, private, and secret shattered, trust between people is eroded, and ill will between people spreads like cancer.

There are times I wish I could live like a hobbit in a hole, living a simple life and not having to deal with the complexities of contemporary hubris. Technology can be a good thing, but too often human pride, lust for power, and lust for money corrupts the use of even the best technologies. Unless there is a collapse of civilization–which I certainly do not want to happen–I see no practical solution to the erosion of privacy in contemporary society. All the laws and regulations in the world will only slow, at best, what has been a freight train full of new ways for governments and companies to spy on people. The Brave New World has arrived. Are you satisfied with it?

Sometimes S… Happens: The Trayvon Martin Shooting and the Zimmerman Verdict

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Criminal trials concern the guilt or innocence of a person who has broken state or federal law. The defendant is considered to be innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution’s responsibility is to convince the jury through the evidence at hand that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A verdict of “not-guilty” does not imply innocence; it means that the jury did not find there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the defendant.

This is basic law that the liberals who claim that the George Zimmerman verdict was about racism miss. The issue is not the race of the defendant or of Tra

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman (Photo credit: ChrisWaldeck)

yvon. Martin. The issue is not whether the killing of Mr. Martin is a tragedy–obviously it is a tragedy. A young man’s life was taken–that is always a tragedy whether it occurs in China, England, the United States–anywhere. Two paths crossed that led to disaster and pain for the family of the deceased. Mr. Zimmerman, who does not seem to be a sociopath, has a conscience–and he will have to live with what he did the rest of his life. The issue in the trial was whether Zimmerman met the criteria for Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law.” The defense failed to show this, and thus the only responsible verdict for the jury to reach is “not-guilty.” In a different state with different laws Mr. Zimmerman may have been justly charged. Given Florida’s law, the trial of George Zimmerman became a Soviet-style show trial that thankfully did not lead to a miscarriage of justice.

Personally I find Mr. Zimmerman’s actions before the shooting overly-aggressive and reckless. He kept following Mr. Martin when the police told him to stop. He left his car, thus making the situation more volatile. I think he realizes now that his actions were wrong–but if it is true, as multiple witnesses said, that Mr. Martin (who was not the saint the media portrayed him to be) began to pummel Mr. Zimmerman so that Mr. Zimmerman believed his life to be in danger, Zimmerman’s firing the fatal shot was not legally wrong.

The mainstream media’s race-baiting, and in one network, an edited audio track, are unethical actions that only stir dangerous passions. Mr. Sharpton’s usual agitation came into play–and his stirring up the pot of hatred arguably led to the brutal murder of an Orthodox Jewish man in New York a number of years ago. I would not have thought any differently about the case if it had been a white man that Mr. Zimmerman killed. The left is truly racist–in its labeling of Mr. Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic,” and in its continual exploitation of African Americans for its own agenda.

The left is obsessed with race–they see it everywhere, in every incident involving an African American. The American left treats African-Americans like children. Instead of allowing self-improvement, liberals supported a nanny state that only made African Americans more dependent. Liberals support abortion which, as a percentage of race, kills more of the African-American unborn than in any other group. Some wealthy liberals enjoy their gated communities while the poor blacks they have exploited to gain more power suffer and die under incentive-stifling liberal programs. By stirring up African Americans in cases such as the Martin case, liberals fuel the racial divisions that help keep them in power. Liberal academics get a good feeling of superiority in supporting “social justice” (i.e., socialism and the automatic assumption of guilt of anyone in a Zimmerman-like case).

Mr. Obama’s behavior has been particularly poor. His taking a side in a legal case was unethical. People complained when Mr. Nixon declared Charles Manson guilty–now liberals prefer to support Mr. Obama’s irresponsible actions. If the rumor is true that justice department officials engaged in anti-Zimmerman protests, most likely under at least tacit White House approval, the Administration has engaged in obstruction of justice.

Now there is a cry among liberals to try Mr. Zimmerman under federal civil rights laws. That may well happen–and then the result of the show trial might be a subversion of justice.

Sometimes s… happens. As a former EMT, I know how easy it is to be on a bad call–many little things add up to disaster. Police officers tell me the same thing. The Zimmerman shooting of Mr. Martin is similar–too many bad things happened, bad decisions on both sides, that led to a horrific tragedy. The Martin family can take action under civil law if they wish, but a federal criminal trial would mean double jeopardy (and while I understand why the laws were passed, it is cases like this that are politicized that reveal the injustice of those laws).

Mr. Zimmerman may have had character flaws that led him to a tragic decision to keep pursuing  a young man in his neighborhood. But his decisions, as bad as they were, were not violations of Florida law. Thus, the jury did the just and honest thing. Bless them for not yielding to public and media pressure.

(Im)moral Monday in North Carolina

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Location map of North Carolina, USA

Location map of North Carolina, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a strange phenomena in America when people hell-bent on supporting murdering the unborn protest on what they call “Moral Monday.” Initially these protests involved the usual suspects from the Left protesting budget cuts and districts set up by the Republican state legislature. The latter will not change due to the recent (and finally sensible) U.S. Supreme Court ruling lifting some of the unfair restrictions of the Voting Rights Act from the states (especially the Southern states). The latter–well, to the left, any cut in government is intrinsically evil. It is the protests against the restrictions on abortion passed by the North Carolina senate that I find particularly ironic.

Any law regulating abortion clinics has been opposed by the pro-abortion lobby despite abuses that occur that have physically harmed or caused death to some women having abortions. This gives the lie to the pro-abortionists’ claim that they are concerned about women’s health. Their actual concern is their own selfishness, a selfishness and pride so perverse that it leads them to think that babies are “parasites” (as two of my students once put in) and that murdering them is just another form of birth control. The shrillness of the voices at Monday’s protests were ear-splitting, far worse than the shouts of any Fundamentalist preacher. The pro-abortion crowd at the protests were Fundamentalists, with their religion being abortion, and the worship services of their religion the sacrifice of innocent life on the altar of selfishness. In the past I have tried to be careful to separate the position from the person–no one is wholly evil, since even the most evil person in the world is still a creature made in God’s image. However, when I saw the shrill protestors on the news yesterday supporting the destruction of unborn life in the name of the “health of the mother,” I was hearing the voices of evil.

What makes the situation worse is North Carolina’s RINO governor, Pat McCrory, refuses to sign a bill putting any further restrictions on abortion. That is so typical of the Charlotte country-club Republican crowd–and it is nauseating to see. In addition, where was there any coverage in the news on the pro-life position? I thought the WRAL reports were so one-sided as to constitute advocacy of the pro-abortion side–but this is typical of the mainstream media.

Pray for the unborn, for the millions murdered in the name of convenience, for the people who commit the terrible crime of abortion that they might repent, for a country so twisted and selfish that it has allowed the atrocity of the murder of the most helpless and innocent of its citizens. Pray for those who “call evil good and good evil,” who call the immoral moral and the moral immoral. May God strengthen the forces who fight the darkness of the Culture of Death.

U. S. Interventionist Policy a Failure in Egypt

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Topographic map of Egypt. Created with GMT fro...

Topographic map of Egypt. Created with GMT from SRTM data. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The naivete of U. S. politicians in foreign policy has always amazed me. From FDR and Truman’s beliefs that “Uncle Joe” Stalin could be reasonable to the Iraq War to the current disastrous interventions in the Middle East, the U. S. has taken bad situations and made them worse. Egypt is a case in point. Mr. Obama (as was Mr. Bush) were naive to believe that the Middle East could support a Western style democracy. Whenever something like a democratic system is instituted, Islamist governments have been elected. U. S. support of the (just ousted) Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt was especially egregious.  Thankfully Egypt has enough moderate Muslims who are also backed by the Christian minority to make a difference–and they have. True, the Egyptian Army instigated a coup to force Mr. Morsi out of power, but there seemed to be little choice when Mr. Morsi (true to his principles) did not give an inch on power sharing. Now Mr. Obama, also consistent with his disastrous policy to intervene in a sovereign state’s affairs, including giving military aid to the rebels opposing Former President Mubarak, is condemning the Egyptian military’s action and calling for a full restoration of civilian rule, The United States should stay out of Egypt’s internal affairs. Even before Mr. Nasser’s rule, Egypt was struggling against the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and this allowed a large class of moderate Muslims to flourish. To back the Muslim brotherhood militarily (as the U. S. has done in the recent past) and financially (which the U. S. has done until the current coup) is a foolish and short-sighted policy. It has led to vicious persecution of the Coptic Church and of other Christians in Egypt. It has led to more hatred of the United States in Egypt. Mr. Obama’s glow in Egypt has dimmed with the crowds opposing Mr. Morsi holding up anti-Obama signs and signs criticizing U. S. Ambassador to Egypt Patterson. It is as if the United States is hell-bent on acting against its own interests.

The United States should abandon its interventionist foreign policy in Egypt (and elsewhere, especially Syria). It should let the Egyptians deal with their own problems and stop providing financial support to Islamist groups. It should humble itself and stop its arrogant stance of “The U. S. knows best, and darn it, you’re going to go along with it or else.” Only then might the United States gain back the respect it has lost in Egypt and elsewhere.