Category Archives: Social Commentary

Southern Hospitality

So this week I am in Mississippi, visting my wife’s family. It is always such a culture shock for me to make my way to the south, because as a native Californian, there is so very little I have in common with the people down here. You see, where I am from, to say “Yes Sir” is almost insulting. Here it is an insult not to. Where I am from, it is very uncomfortable to talk about your faith, where as here in the south it is the standard conversation. (Well, at least right after sports!) It is a different world, and I feel alien here. The funny thing is, I have lived here before and have never been able to acclimate, it’s just not in me.

There is however something deeply comforting about the south, and that is the simple, decent respect that everyone gives one another. They may call it “Southern Hospitatiy”, but I prefer to think of it as human decency. You see, where I am from, it is perfectly acceptable to completely ignore the gas station attendant. Here, it is far more normal to begin a conversation with them. This small change is not so small at all.

 Human decency is not so much about the big issues like abortion or euthanasia. It is about the reality that every human person is just that, a person. It is accepting the reality that though you may not know the person standing in front of you, that person has a life and being that is all his own, and given him or her by the grace of God. It is about seeing the divine spark in every single person you cross paths with.

This is the difference I feel in the south. Yes, there are still class barriers, just like everywhere else. Yes, racism may still be an issue sometimes. Yes, there are the haves and the have nots. Under no circumstances however is it socially appropriate to deny the humanity of another human being. It may not be enough, but I think it is a great step indeed.

 We could all use this lesson, especially those of us who populate cites, where this seems to be the first nicety to go. I am the first one to say that being “nice” is not always a good thing, but for most of our daily interactions, it sure would be a great start.

What does this mean in our lives in faith? How deeply do we really see into the humanity of other people? It is a question that plagues me often, and worries me greatly.

I have an exercise I often do when I’m out driving around, or walking in the mall to help me with this. I try to mentally delete everything I see but the people. So if I’m walking down a city street, or shopping in a store, I try in my mind’s eye to make everything but the people disappear. We small beings are truly beings of light, and so I invision everyone around me this way. I try to delete their cars, their houses, their clothing. I try to delete every single thing that could get in the way of their basic humanity, until all I can envision is the bright light that every human being is, walking around. It’s kindof like the movie “the Matrix”, and it makes me a little dizzy.

This little exercise of mine is to illustrate a single point. Our nature as spiritual beings, made in the image and likeness of God is the only true reality we have. It is so easy for all of us to see only our masks, and never actually look into our true natures. We see only our likes and dislikes instead of seeing our brothers and sisters.

So all told, maybe I’m not an alien down here. In fact, I’m fixin to grab myself some ham and black eyed peas, so ya’ll come on down and fix some up for you too.

Supreme (Court) Frustration

I have been pretty quiet over the last couple weeks, I just haven’t been inspired to write. It’s not that there haven’t been issues to write about, I just haven’t felt that there was anything that I really needed to say.

I do however feel it is my duty to write something about the decision rendered by the Supreme Court on the HHS mandate. That is not however a very simple task. I’m not a lawyer you see, and neither am I a political man. In honesty, I never really see myself as having an option to be politically minded due to the great evils in our nation that I am required by my conscience to vote against. I can’t really sit back and be thoughtful about the economic recession for example, because I have to vote against the holocaust of abortion. This puts me well out of practice for this kind of task.

I should say right up front that I do not believe the federal government should have this power. I hold to the idea the founding fathers had that no greater power should do what a lessor power can do for itself. I feel the Supreme Court was designed to protect the people from a large federal government, and that it has failed miserably in that duty, especially by allowing so much law to be passed under the commerce clause. In fact I find it shameful they have allowed so much power from the states and counties of this country to be handed to the larger and less trustworthy federal government.

All that baggage aside though, I realize that this Supreme Court decision is a landmark one, and as it directly deal with Catholic issues, I know that I must weigh in with my small voice. I have purposefully not read any other opinions on this matter, so any similarity with other thoughts is not intended.

I think there is no job in this country I would like less that to be on the Supreme Court. It is such a bad job, that I think I would actually prefer even being President to being on the Court. And that is really saying something, because I would never, ever want to be President. Let’s take a serious look at what the Court actually has to do here. Their task is to lay aside any and all personal reservations, and do their absolute best to follow the letter of the law as it relates to the Constitution. I’m not saying that’s what they do, but that is what they are supposed to do.

That is why I’m not disappointed in Roberts here. At first blush, I admit I was really pissed off, I had really hoped that this would just end this problem once and for all. All the other conservatives on the Court voted against it. And then I had the sense of betrayal as I found out that it was Roberts that was the swing vote here. Dangit, I thought this one was going to be on our side, and I felt he flat out left me hanging.

Then I actually took the time to read what he said. Check this out.

“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

In other words, “America, this is your idea. It’s not my job to tell you you aren’t allowed to push your car off a cliff if that’s what you really want to do.” So while at first I was downright ticked off that this decision didn’t go my way, I have to admit, he’s right. It isn’t the Court’s job to protect us from our own stupid mistakes.

Now I’m going to pass on whether or not this is an issue against religious liberty, as that was not what was brought to the bench. Neither am I going to get all pissy because the Court decided that since the law called it a “penalty” and not a “tax” that it doesn’t go against the Anti-Injunction Act, yet at the same time the Court held up the power of mandate because it WAS a tax, and Congress has taxation rights. Yes, only a lawyer could get away with such double talk, and I’m sure in their minds that makes perfect sense. (It of course, makes no sense at all.)

The real issue here is we have made our bed, and we have to sleep in it. We can’t really expect to allow this kind of nonsense pass through Congress and expect the courts to save our tush for our stupid mistakes. We have to fight this from the ground, and fight it with all of our might, at the very least, until we are allowed to follow our Catholic consciences within our Catholic institutions.

Personally, I would like to see the whole health care plan go out the window, but that is because I just don’t see health care listed in the constitution as a federal responsibility. (Remember? No greater power should do what a lessor power can do for itself?) If such laws are needed, I just don’t feel it’s the federal government’s responsibility to enact those laws. I do however take great issue with the idea that they can sweepingly violate so deeply the 2000 year old moral conscience of the Catholic Church. I think it is flat out evil. So we must continue to fight this, continue to write letters, continue to make this the main issue. We can’t let this just slide by, as it the first step of many, that must necessarily end with Catholics being martyred in the public square.

The Catholic Church Hates Women? (Ordination of Women)

Yesterday I spoke about how some people view the Church as being anti-women, and I focused on their charge that the Church’s ban on birth control was somehow aimed at the oppression of women. In other words, this is a two part article, so if you want to read the first, Click Here.

Moving on, the second great issue for those who hold this view, is that since the Church “refuses” to ordain women to the priesthood, it is clearly sexist, chauvinistic, and morally corrupt.

At first blush, I can see their point. It does strike one as odd doesn’t it, that the Church would decide somehow that women are not fit to the task? I think a dang good answer as to why this is the Church’s teaching is in order, and it better be a really, really good answer. Anything less would seem to prove their point entirely. In fact, I almost wonder if there IS an answer good enough to do this accusation justice. Those opposed to the Church have raised a truly dangerous issue, and we had better not shirk it if we are to keep our dignity not only as religious, but as egalitarian, freedom loving human beings.

Let me spell out their position as I see it, and I must admit, it is not an unfair assessment. It is not just about women having the ability to preside at Sacraments, although that is certainly part of it. It is really about authority. How can the Church completely deny women leadership in the Church? Look at Vatican II, and what you see is a room full of men. Sure, they might have had a few prominent women in the background as advisers, but let’s face it, Vatican II and every council before it has been dominated by men. Every diocese is headed by a man, every parish by a man. Sure you may have women here and there in leadership roles, but they all answer directly to a man.

A couple of hundred years ago, this might have seemed entirely natural, but in the modern world, the Church is the most patriarchal institution in existence. Sure, I know there have been women who have really shaken things up, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Sienna, Joan of Arc and Therese of Lisieux come to mind, but in honesty, these women were flashes of femininity in a masculine world. They are by no means the norm.

Holy Spirit guide me, as I am walking on shaky ground.

I cannot pretend to have all the answers here. I cannot even promise that I will give good answers. All I can do is share what I have found to be true, and hope that it all makes sense when put together. I see three main issues with the ordination of women; complementarity, sociology, and divine mandate.

What the heck is complementarity? Is that even a word? Well, let me try to say what I mean. Men and women are different. Well, not just that, I also mean we are the same. That makes no sense, I know, but bear with me. Men and women are equal in dignity, but different in nature or kind. We are totally equal, men are not better then women, and women (excluding my wife) are not better than men. We are completely equal. All of our traits have value that the world cannot live without. We are not however, the same. (surprise, right?)

Let me explain. When my first daughter was born, I was downright jealous. The whole pregnancy I just felt uninvolved. Yes, I helped pick the crib, and painted the nursury till the odd hours of the morning. Yes, I would sit there while my wife was sleeping and feel my baby kick inside her, and would sing her my favorite jazz standards in hopes that she would know my voice. In the end though, it was all her. I had no hormones to help me along, I just felt isolated. I am glad to be a man, but I would have loved to have had that closeness to my child.

It got no better when she was born. My wife loved her immediately, like she knew her. All I could see was a slimy blueish purple thing. I cooed and tickled and held my child all night, but it was never the same as when my wife would hold my child to her breast and feed her. I wanted that, but that’s just not what I am. I’m not a mother. I can’t be, I have other roles I must fill.

I have little doubt that my wife feels the same when I throw my kids in the air, and tickle them till they can’t stand it. When I pick them up and throw them in the pool, she knows that’s just not who she is. That’s my job. I know my wife knows the difference, as she often tells my children, “You just wait till your father gets home!”

We are different, and this difference carries on throughout our lives. We have natural roles we fill, and while they are not the same, they complement each other. Yes, they overlap. I can be nurturing, and she can be firm. I can wash dishes, and she can bring home the bacon. But the biology is ever present.

That brings me to sociology. Most women don’t want to be the leader, it’s not really all that feminine. I can feel you getting your rotten eggs and tomatoes ready to throw at me, but hear me out, I swear it’s true. I’m not saying that women aren’t leaders, they often are in many areas of their lives, but in the end, a woman feels safest and most secure with a man who values her person and opinion in charge.

Again, my marriage. My wife is extremely capable. She doesn’t need me any more than she needs her computer. Sure, it’s nice to have around, but it isn’t necessary. A little extra cash is hardly worth the trouble of putting up with a stinky, hairy man. She can hold a job, take care of the kids, cross stitch a masterpiece and cook dinner all at the same time. A man like me must seem like a useless appendage. Except I’m not. Not only that, but she defers to me. Don’t get me wrong, she makes most of the day to day decisions, but when the going gets tough, she wants me to listen, be the one to make the choice, and take the responsibility. It’s just more comfortable for her.

This is natural femininity. I’m sorry, but you just don’t see this kind of femininity present in female CEOs or world leaders. I’m not saying they are not competent, I’m just saying they are not a fair representation of what the normal, feminine woman is. In fact, you will often see these women dehumanized in the media for this very reason, their femininity is outside normal levels. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t vote for them, I have, and if they are the best candidate, I will again. All I’m saying is that is not the norm. If you need proof, walk into any non-Catholic church, and you will probably see a man as pastor, because that is just comfortable socially. I can think of very few female pastored churches with a sizable congregation, it just isn’t as comfortable for the normal human being.

Let me repeat, I am not saying that women are incompetent, or should stay at home barefoot and pregnant. I am simply saying that natural femininity is fundamentally giving and nurturing, and that is by nature most important in a more private sphere, within a community and most importantly, a family. This is a great thing. We have this really nasty tendency as humans to think that the guy up front is the most important, the one who has the greatest impact on the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. The values instilled one on one are always greater than a speech given to many. Men are designed to affect many people in a small way, women are design to affect a few people in a way so massive, that it reaches down through the generations. Femininity may be more behind the scenes, but it’s also way more powerful.

I am getting long winded, forgive me, but I want to do this justice.

Lastly, and most important, we have a divine mandate. We often think that the Church just made up this idea that we should not have women priests, and that is that. We couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Church is stuck with what it is given. Some belief systems can change with the times, the Mormons for example decided that they can no longer have polygamous marriages, so voila, now it is so, and multiple wives are out of the question. For Catholics, we received what we call a “deposit of faith” from the apostles, and those things cannot be changed. Now not all of our practices are part of the deposit of faith, a celibate priesthood is not, for example. The core teachings of Jesus that he taught the apostles are to be held dear though, and at all costs. We can never back down from this wellspring that is our faith. To back down on one singular teaching is to back down on them all, and means complete separation from our roots. Trees without roots are dead, and praise the Lord, we are still alive.

One of these teachings, albeit minor in comparison to something like the Trinity, is the reality of a male priesthood. Jesus was revolutionary towards women. He treated them differently then any man before Him. He treated them with honor and respect at all times, even if the woman He was speaking to was a prostitute or a Samaritan. Christ brought along the first feminist revolution, and it rocked the world. In fact, many of the early churches were houses, funded, and primarily occupied with women. Many of Jesus’ closest and dearest friends were women. His own ministry was entirely funded by woman, and you better believe feeding twelve grown men for three years wasn’t cheap. Heck, the most important woman ever to grace the planet was His own mother. He knew her as no other did, walked by her side, and knew she would not only outlive Him, but would personally mother the entire Church as it grew.

But he did not make any one of them apostles, even His most perfect mother. It was simply not something He decided to do. I don’t know why, I’m not Jesus. I would guess all the reasons I have written above, but I’m not really sure. Maybe he felt women were too holy to be bishops? After all, in His kingdom, “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Maybe He was elevating them in some way, I have no idea.

That is however, what He did, and we can’t change that just because times have changed. If He who had the ultimate foresight chose not to do so, then neither can we. All of our reasons pale in comparison to this basic fact.

If Jesus didn’t do it, then we can’t argue.

So we are left with a challenge. In this male run Church Christ gave us, how can we ever bring the feminine perspective to the fore? How can we make sure that the feminine, nurturing, holistic values of women are ever present in our faith and its teaching? Well, I have to openly admit that many leaders in the Church through the centuries have not always met this task well, there is little doubt that the Church is an imperfect, human institution. I will also say that through the grace of the Holy Spirit, it has continued to  make these feminine values a core part of its teaching despite its male structure.

There is a reason that it is called Mother Church!

I have one last thought. There is one woman who can model all of this in a way that is absolutely perfect. The Blessed Virgin was not boastful, never got on a soapbox, never tried to change the world. She did just what she was made for, and that was to teach her Son, to love him, and to support Him throughout His life with her love and her fidelity. All of her life she lived to do one thing, and that was point to her Son. Because of this perfection, she is Mary most Holy, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the one true and perfect thing that God ever made. It is she who is the Queen of Heaven, and Mother of the Church. No one can teach mankind how to love better than a woman, and there is nothing more important to learn. It is not taught best from a pulpit, it is taught best in the loving itself.

Femininity is very powerful indeed.

The Catholic Church Hates Women? (Understanding Birth Control)

I have the pleasure of spending time with many college age men and women. I have always enjoyed this age group more than any other. I love their inquisitiveness and their idealism. I love that they look so deeply into the meaning of things, searching for lessons they can take forward into their lives.

So when last week, one of these friends of mine came to me to share some dialogue he had been having with a friend of his, I was more than happy to hop in and take a look. His friend seemed to think that the Church was anti-woman. He had responded very well, and I was very proud of him for not backing down against such ignorance. He stood up and did his best to defend himself and the Church we hold dear. May God fill our parishes with such bravery.

There is however the issue of the Church being “anti-woman”, and I thought it might be worth talking about.

After much browsing the internet, that be all end all of information, it seems that for those making this argument, it comes to two main points.

First, there is the issue of birth control. It’s amazing how often this rears it ugly head. Somehow, because the Church thinks pumping a woman’s body full of chemicals so that it will not function naturally is a bad idea, it must be against women. If I said we should pump Chesapeake bay full of chemicals so it couldn’t function naturally, there would be a riot. (I am often amazed at hypocrisy, but never surprised. It is so often the same people who want to save the earth and eat organic that want to keep killing babies and pumping women full of chemicals, messing with their natural feminine hormones. Go figure.)

But let’s get back to topic. Those who hold this position say that birth control liberates women, and the Church by its position against birth control is therefore stifling them. Birth control liberates women? How? Now they can rock it like porn stars? Sleep with every guy on the block? Doesn’t sound all that liberating to me.

Have you ever noticed that it always comes back to sex? We must be able to have sex, and dangit, we need to have as much as we want. Now I’ll be the first to say that sex is a very good thing, but what they call liberating, I call slavery. I can’t believe that I live in what is probably the first generation in history to be surprised that you can have a baby from sex.

Let me draw a parallel. I love food. Put a dab of blue cheese on a steak and I’m in heaven. I also am very fond of watermelon. I can eat a whole one in one sitting, seeds and all. But if you were to say that I could eat a pill that would allow me to eat steak and watermelon all day long, and never gain a pound, I would say you have missed the point. First, chemicals are not the proper response to gluttony. More importantly, why the heck would I want to? It’s way out of the ordinary to want to do nothing but eat all day.

C.S. Lewis put it even better, allow me to paraphrase. Imagine you walked into a town and there was a big show. The whole theater was packed to the brim. So naturally you want to go in to see what all the fuss is about. There on the stage you see a man standing next to a table with a drape over it. Now imagine that he slowly pulls back the cloth to reveal a steaming plate of mashed potatoes. The crowd goes wild! Men are hooting and hollering, women are drooling, this really has everyone’s attention. There are only two conclusions you could draw from this. Either 1) There is a severe famine in town, or 2) these folks have a serious food disorder.

That is exactly what we do. We pull back the curtain to show sexuality, and everyone hoots and hollers, but there is no famine here. In fact, there is more sex going on than ever before. This is just disordered. Sex is great, but it’s not so great as to take over the rest of who and what we are. Yet we use sex to sell everything from tires to soap, and it works.

This is supposed to be liberating women? Thanks to this national disorder, we have more porn than ever before, girls are uploading nude pics online from the comfort of their bathrooms, and women are left emotionally alone as the curtain closes on yet another one night stand. Teen pregnancy is ever on the rise, the single mother is a cultural norm, and children are killed by the millions through abortion. (Birth control didn’t help much there did it?) There is nothing wholesome or good going on here.

In fact, I find it insulting. How this group of people get by, saying they are helping women when they are really dragging them through the mud, is criminal at best.

If you are really looking for quality birth control, I have one time tested method that has only failed once. (and it works for men AND women!)

Abstinence.

The other issue these folks who feel the Church is anti-women get into, and this is the really hot one for them, is the Church’s inability to ordain women to the priesthood. That post can be found here.

 

Never Forget

I am a patriot.

Now that doesn’t mean I feel our country is the greatest nation in the world or any of that nonsense. We have our problems, and those problems are very real ones. I have often commented on the slow steady decrease of morality in our nation, I’m not all that happy with how our government runs and I think we have real cultural problems that need to be addressed. I don’t think that we are automatically better than anyone else, though I must concede that I’m glad I don’t live in Cuba or Iran. I think we have great things going for us, and I have little doubt that other countries do too.

Even with its problems and issues though, this is my home, and I would never want to live anywhere else. I always enjoy visiting other countries, but a big part of that enjoyment is knowing that I have my own to go home to.

So I want the best for this nation, and when I critique its people or culture or government, it is because of my deep love for it. I was a Boy Scout in the USA, I was student body president in the USA, I got married and had my children in the USA. I love my home, and would fight tooth and nail for her.

Today, Memorial Day, we remember those who have fought for our nation, especially those who have died doing so. For me, some of these were family. My great-great grandfather lost his leg in the civil war, but far deeper was the loss of his brother. My great uncle died the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. So much war to keep this land of the free, so much pain and death. Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, and the list goes on. Good men are lost, and the cost is so high that I sometime wonder if its worth it.

I remember when my younger brother was in the Navy, I was so scared that he would be sent to the front lines, and I would never see him again. I love my brother so much, and I just can’t imagine how deep that loss would have been for me. I worried over his safety every day, and prayed that the Lord would let him come back home.

I know that it is worth it. I know that the protection of our country is deeply and immensely important. But I would be lying if I said that I thought it was no big deal. Quite the contrary, it breaks my heart every time I see a coffin draped with a flag.

I can see that I am just rambling about my feeling without coming to any real conclusion. I don’t really think there is a conclusion to come to. It’s hard, and that is what it is.

So for our brothers who have died in the defense of this nation, our home, I thank you, and I salute your bravery. Pray for us, we need your prayers.

For those who have been left alone, may God give you strength, and may you find support in those who love you and are near to you. May your sacrifice never be forgotten.

For those who are at home filled with worry over the ones they love being far from them, I cannot give you words that can console. I can give you my thanks for your heroic bravery, and thank you for sacrificing so much to protect my family.

And for those men and women out there serving, I salute you. Come back safe and sound, and with God’s speed.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
-General George Patton