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Thursday, April 07, 2016

I'm Ready To Be Happy

I was talking with God last night, and I remember saying, "I'm ready to do Your will, O God, because I'm ready to be happy." I know that God is my happiness, not as merely a fact that I recite through gritted teeth as I desire something else, but as my desire. I don't even know what I'm saying, but I know it's true.

You might be one of those people who sins, not because of any great malice in the doing, but because happiness scares you. Love scares you. The unconditional kind. The kind that changes whatever it touches into itself. If so, you will eventually say, "I'm ready to be happy," because the sorts of people who say this start out telling God that He's obviously a lunatic for even bothering.

The plain love-drenched truth is that no matter what happened to you from the beginning until now, whatever has kept you from your destiny in God is a lie, and built on a lie. Maybe some of us need to re-think that clever definition of grace as "undeserved favor," however true it is. Wounded people say, "I don't deserve it" out of fear, and self-hatred. Forget deserving. If God loves you, stop looking for the fine print.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

"Life Begins At Conception" Is Not A Religious Claim

I think it may seem so, because the ethical system from which a person might claim this is fully consistent with a supernatural worldview, (and the Christian one) and many people who make the claim are Christians.

It's a funny thing about our public space today: people find it easier to assess and dismiss others, rather than engage their arguments. I'm the worst at this. If I don't like someone, it's really difficult to engage in a meaningful way. I'm still learning.

 The full claim as an argument would be something like, "Human life begins at conception. It is morally wrong to take innocent human life at any stage of development. Therefore, governments around the world should enact laws prohibiting the taking of innocent human life at any stage of development."

If someone makes a claim that abortion is morally acceptable in some circumstances--while conceding that abortion ends a human life--accompanied by the claim that the aborted fetus is a "clump of cells," no more entitled to protection than one of your fingernails, then it has become a utilitarian argument. Human life is valuable insofar as that life is useful to someone else, or perhaps to themselves. But that view, you'll notice, views people in terms of their capacities, not because of an inherent dignity they possess, irrespective of their capacities. The respective philosophical positions, and the ethics that flow from them, should be the matter up for discussion.

A specifically Christian claim along the same lines would be, "Human life begins at conception. It is morally wrong to take innocent human life at any stage of development. Therefore, governments around the world should enact laws prohibiting the taking of human life at any stage of development. Moreover, since Jesus Christ became man as a part of his good news of salvation and eternal life with God, He reaffirmed the inviolable dignity of the human person. Anyone who, without repentance, participates in the taking of innocent human life makes themselves liable to the judgment--in body and soul--of eternal fire, and permanent separation from God."

You see the specifically Christian elements there: eternal souls, eternal life, communion with God, the resurrection of the body, and/or hell. You don't see those supernaturally revealed elements changing the basic ethical argument all that much, or at all.

The Audacity Of Hope: Prologue

I have always wanted to read this book. I have a complicated relationship with President Obama. As many of you may know, I cast my vote for him in 2008. I remember the speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 that launched him as a political superstar. Two years later, at a march on Washington to bring the nation's attention to genocide around the world, I heard Obama speak. I predicted after that speech that he would be our president. We will always be at a variance over abortion and other moral issues, such as the meaning of marriage, and increasingly, religious freedom. My disagreement with President Obama has never been personal. Indeed, I could say in some sense that I like President Obama. I've been at times very critical, and even downright mad, but I feel differently on that level than most people.

It might be my undergraduate training in political science. Politics in America is like a brotherhood; when the sides aren't fighting, most folks have a deep respect for the other, an awareness of the hardships of trying to succeed. And there is a built-in institutionalism to the study of politics. It pushes one away from the extremes, even as great passion has pushed one into politics in the first place.

What we see today is, as many have called it, an anti-politics, a fury with the political class that is reflected in the campaign we're seeing now. In this way, I consider myself very much a creature of our institutions, and proud of that fact. Anger that doesn't issue forth in ideas is just anger, and as I've said before, I don't feel an obligation to respond to it, or respect it.

One specific line in the prologue caught my attention. Obama writes, "I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." I have seen this line--without the bit about being new on the scene--used several times on right-wing internet sites, to push the idea that Obama was some sort of Manchurian candidate. He goes on to say that he knows he's bound to disappoint some of those people, if not all of them, and he hopes to retain the center of his philosophy, even as he advances. By all means, disagree with any or all of that philosophy. I must say, however, that I am ashamed at the extent of the twisting and deception by his opponents. I wonder to what extent I have fallen for those distortions these roughly 8 years?

Fair to say that if you hate Obama, this series of posts may not be to your taste. I want to know what I missed, in the time of being too undisciplined to really listen.

On another note, I remain deeply thankful that two young African-American girls (now young women) think that their father being president is perfectly normal. Because now it is. And we'll be unable to calculate how valuable that is, to generations we have yet to meet.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Every Land, Every People

It's hard not to be overcome with paschal joy. Jesus rose from the dead; whatever reasons I have to be downcast just don't compare. Joy is different than a momentary feeling of happiness, or pleasure. I can remember watching the Cardinals win the World Series in 2006. For a split second, I thought I had never been so happy in my whole life. But it was part of a second. The next few seconds and minutes and hours were much like the seconds, minutes, and hours before. No new reality had been created. Something reminded me--whatever it was--that it's only baseball, and in the grand scheme, baseball isn't that important.

Let me emphasize that I love baseball, and specifically Cardinals baseball, more than you do. I see different things when I watch a game, that more than likely, a casual observer would not see. I say this so you understand that I'm not getting spiritual in contrast to a thing I'm indifferent about. At some infinitely lesser level, I live and die with the Cardinals. Still, take away the Cardinals, and I'll move on. Take away the Mass I attend each day, and I would have to say you have taken life from my body and soul.

If there is any part of you that believes likewise, may that part increase. It wasn't long ago that I went to Mass because I was afraid of the devil. I was afraid of my weakness before numerous temptations. Now, however, I seem to see the Lord literally drawing people to Himself, and I am a witness. The paschal mystery is the only reality of love in this world. Other loves are a copy--great as they may be--or a fabrication.