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Friday, June 24, 2016

The Right To Bear Arms: One Christian's View


"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."--The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

Many people simply refer to this text, and any discussion of the regulation of firearms simply ends. I'm not going to do that, because 1) a Christian worldview demands more careful reflection; 2) there is nothing sacrosanct about the Constitution itself, that is, it isn't a religious text, or sacred object, no matter how good or correct we think it to be; and 3) we have new challenges that the Founders could not have foreseen. 

One of the great strokes of genius in our founding and its documents is the separation of powers. More than this, that the Constitution does not enumerate all the rights individuals may have, but rather limits what the government may licitly do with respect to the individual. The US Constitution limits the federal government with respect to the people. In a time when participatory governance was new in the modern world, the United States articulated it fully, and most successfully. Therefore, we cannot dismiss procedural concerns in pursuit of highly desirable goals, because in our system and sensibility, correct procedure both denotes and confers legitimacy.

However, it must be said that with respect to firearms, obviously we do not live in a time when relatively small groups of citizen-soldiers could overthrow the government. It is very likely that the insurrection that gave birth to our country could never be repeated. Also, it appears to me that the highly contingent nature of political authority conceived of by the American founders owes more to John Locke and Thomas Hobbes than to the Church and to the Bible, and in that manner, could be contrary to the common good in its very conception. Of course, having been founded after the Protestant rebellion, some of that pluralism, in evidence right in the First Amendment, is not surprising. This doesn't mean that the whole project is useless, or that no rights of self-governance or self-defense exist. It does, however, mean that conceiving of the right to bear arms in this absolute, insurrectionist sense is incompatible with being Catholic. Why do I say that? Because the state has a more expansive role in the promotion of the common good than a tax revolt over 3 pennies would seem to allow, to put it somewhat crassly.

I do believe that federal regulation of firearms can only be done in furtherance of local and state objectives, in terms of legitimacy. I also believe in the judicious use of force in self-defense. Where I part ways with the "vigilance culture," if you will, is my relative estimation of how pressing a need for lethal self-defense actually is, and my assessment of the costs of exercising that right is, in terms of accidents and suicides. In my estimation, it is highly imprudent for most people to carry a firearm for personal and home defense. Most of the regulations concerning the exercise of this right under discussion seem prudent for the good of all people, with the possible exception of those involving watch lists, that have no accountability to anyone. Waiting periods and training requirements, as well as extensive background checks, seem like an acceptable circumscription of such a grave right. The people still retain the right of self-defense, should it ever arise. I don't believe that most people who choose not to use a firearm are irrationally afraid of them, or any such thing. In fact, it is the "vigilance culture" which has, in my view, taken insufficient account of how misuse and also advancing technology of firearms poses a threat to the common good.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jesus Wept

John 11:35. The shortest verse in the Bible. You may have known that. What you may not have ever pondered is how weird the situation is. Jesus knows Lazarus is ill; he stays where he is. He waits for Lazarus to die, then goes down there.

Why? Lots of answers in the grand scheme suggest themselves, but not in the moment. You can understand why Jesus gets questioned about this from even those who know he isn't just some guy from down the street.

It's absolutely true that the just will get it all back at the resurrection. What great faith! But Jesus has even bigger plans. He knows exactly what he's going to do.

It's in that context that Jesus wept.

"He's in a better place" might be true, but it's beside the point.

Death, sorrow, and all the rest may be here, but they don't belong. So much so that the Master of life and death cried. If he were not God in the flesh, we might say he "ugly-cried." He couldn't abide it for one second. If you can't "get over it," you're in good company.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Good Points

One of the best in the business. My teacher. Everyone from young children to the learned and aged has been benefiting from Dr. Nguyen's good gifts, and this is a good example.

For my part, I think that if the sacred pastors want to say, "Catechesis is really poor, and puts people at risk of ending up in some painful situations," that's what they should say. It is undesirable, to say the least, to cast doubt on the efficacy of the sacraments, even unwittingly, in the name of compassion.

Lord God, by Your Holy Spirit, help us all to discern truth from error, that we may enter boldly and unstained into the wedding feast of the Lamb. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, June 20, 2016

I Do Care About The Children After They Are Born, So...

I'll continue hammering the Democrats, and anyone else who thinks this is a real argument for killing defenseless human beings in the womb.

If you're not able to grasp the basic argument, you might be right about dozens of other affronts to human dignity, but your moral authority over me is exactly zero.

Just so we understand one another.

Happy Birthday, Tim Dukeman!

You make my social media feed interesting, that's for sure. I can't decide if you are crazy, or just willfully provocative. Believe it or not, I like that.

Holy Mother Church is still waiting for you. I will certainly gloat when we get Russell Moore. And we will. Resistance is futile.

In other news, you need someone to your left who is not insane, and not Alan Noble. Excuse me, Dr. Alan Noble. I'm happy to help.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Thought On Baptism, And Scripture Alone

Let me be direct, and brief: you can't settle the question of whether to baptize infants or not from Scripture alone. Strictly speaking, Scripture doesn't "say" anything. All appeals to Scripture are appeals to an interpretation of Scripture. Once you get past all the impressive citations of particular passages, it's an unwinnable argument, from either side. Bad faith and theological-dogmatic relativism are the most obvious results.

This is very simply why we have a Magisterium in holy mother Church, and why said Church claims to be the one Christ founded, because it is. It is reasonable to believe such because that which all Christians hold in common despite their divisions cannot be accounted for without the authority of the Catholic Church. And such an authority, so visible, and so constant through these many centuries, must be divine, if we grant that God has spoken at all.

There does need to be an acknowledgment that the paedobaptist--despite his efforts to distance himself from that Church he denies--is reliant on her teachings and practices, even unwittingly. In saying this, I do not intend to indicate that I think credobaptism is correct; on the contrary. Baptize your babies as soon as you can, and the Church is happy to help. I simply want the baby-baptizer to admit when he is relying upon apostolic tradition. (Or Tradition.)

For my part, paedobaptism doesn't fit in a monergistic system at all. That is, a system where only one actor does the work. It is a relic of sacramentality, of enchantment, you might say. A good Presbyterian may add whatever qualifications he likes, or denials. When he baptizes his infant children, he harkens back to his Catholic roots. Also, the very nature of a sacrament, while testifying to divine gratuity, also testifies to co-operation as strongly. The consistency of the radicals in their total rejection of all things Roman Catholic, bears witness to that.

Perhaps some attempt to carve out middle positions that never existed, because the sting of "heretic" is too much to bear.

Leap of Faith

I've blogged about this Kenny Loggins album before. But I had a new reason, when Spotify took one of the tracks off the album. I was kind of mad. Anyway, I went to iTunes, and sure enough, if you want the song, "If You Believe," you must buy the whole album. So I did.

I'm not given to fideism; that is, to believing without a reason or reasons, so it seems odd to draw insight and titles from pop singers, and angsty Lutheran philosphers. And Kenny won't be everyone's cup of tea. He was always on the sentimental side, and this is the last album he did that was conceptually (and theologically) coherent. He got New Age-y after this, and that won't do anyone any good. Still, this album is pretty great, 25 years later. [Yikes!--ed.] Yeah.

Anyway, aside from the insightful greatness of "Conviction Of The Heart," I was struck by a few lines from another song called, "Now Or Never." He sings in part: "And tell him that love is why we're alive/That's what I tell the world I believe/So why can't I listen to me?" There's a struggle worth having, a struggle worth winning.

We recall that agape or charity is the highest love, and it's a gift from God. Indeed, it is one of the theological virtues, along with faith, and hope. So we can be led astray by the way we or other people use the word, "love," but all human loves, if they are true, lead and point to the divine love, which makes us friends with God.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Stations of the Cross

Act of Contrition: O God my Redeemer, see me here at your feet. From my deepest heart, I am sorry for all my sins, because they have offended you, whom I should love above all things. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, have mercy on me, a sinner! Amen.

First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death

Dearest Jesus, help me to rejoice in suffering unjustly, or when I am reviled, remembering that you suffered likewise.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Second Station: Jesus Carries His Cross

Lord Jesus, when I suffer, grant me the grace to see that I have a small part in your cross, and thus, that I have cause to rejoice.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory Be.

Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time

My Jesus, the weight of my sins has thrown you to the ground. May my love and compassion grow along with my pity, ultimately for my good, and your glory.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother 

Lord, it pleased you to console your Mother most holy. Console us as we await your final vindication. Grant us also grace to ponder the mysteries of our salvation.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory Be.

Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Carry the Cross 

Lord Jesus, Simon was an ever-present help in time of trouble. Help us to gratefully accept help, and to give it to others in turn.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Veronica could only do this small thing, but with it you were well pleased. Grant us also the grace to do small things with great love.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Seventh Station: Jesus Falls a Second Time 

Merciful Lord, once more, our guilt pushed you to the ground. Grant us grace to lessen your burdens by our obedience.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Eighth Station: Jesus Comforts the Daughters of Jerusalem

Lord, we know you have always kept a faithful remnant for yourself, even in the darkest days. Raise our eyes, that we may endure to the end.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Ninth Station: Jesus Falls a Third Time

My Jesus, my sins have weighed you down again. Forgive me, and bid me follow you once more.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments 

Jesus, you were stripped of even the pretense of dignity. Help us to take your part when we are unfairly reviled.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross 

Dear Jesus, my sins have driven the nails into you. Grant us grace to obey, and somehow bring you consolation.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Lord Jesus, by dying, you destoyed our death; by rising, you restored our life. Help us to rejoice at your preaching to those who died in the bosom of Abraham.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Thirteenth Station: Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross 

Lord, finally, you received the tenderness you deserved, from Joseph of Arimathea, and your Mother. May we like them handle you with tenderness in our hearts.

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

Lord, your sleep became one of victory, when you rose from the dead. Help us to prepare our hearts to meet you in glory. 

Our Father...Hail, Mary...Glory be.

I hope this helps you in your spiritual journey!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" Was The Most Fun I Ever Had Doing Political Activism

That was several years ago. Do you remember it? Though some of the organizing energy doubtless smacked of crass opportunism, (this was Mike Huckabee, after all) I did it. And I'm not entirely insensitive to the Christian criticism that it was unnecessarily combative toward the so-called "gay community." But I went, and I felt better about it as it went along. I want to live in a country where, if it must be pluralistic, we can still take the risk to live and believe what we will. We may offend people--and Heaven knows I don't actually enjoy it--but this is America, and it's time for some progressives to put on their big-boy and big-girl pants (and the other identities, if you like) and just deal with it.

Especially in light of their willingness to hire homosexuals (and others) while steadfastly maintaining a Christian identity. Firing up the grills on a Sunday, no less, to feed those affected by the Orlando tragedy, and dozens of other things, shows any sensible person who is not a fascist that if these folks are "anti-gay," the word has no meaning.

And that means, hand-wringing, "forward-thinking" evangelical, I will not apologize for chicken sandwiches. I don't need to. If I can't muster the courage to defend Mr. Cathy, maybe I don't have the courage to speak the truth in Christian love at all. Maybe it can be done even better than he did, but I know it can be done worse, and there is no reason to disavow Christians who say what Christians have always said about sexuality and marriage. You will not find the magic way of not offending sinners. You are not special. You will bear the cross. If you don't, actually, you may not be following Christ at all.

This of course doesn't give me the right to be a jerk on purpose, and honestly, I am pretty good at that. Still, I can't promise I won't offend. I can't say necessarily that the fault will be mine, if I do. I might well be tired of over-the-top rhetoric on every side, but I am also weary of Christians who do everything but tell the truth. I just sense an awareness that I'm still that guy, naming cowardice for what it is.