Saturday, September 05, 2015

I Don't Have "Straight Pride"

I don't consider myself straight, as we understand the term. I confess that marriage was made for one man and one woman, alone. If I call myself "straight," all I'm telling you is that my tendency, for good and bad, would be to have sexual relations with women. If I have another category "gay," I'm validating homosexual relations on equal terms, without meaning to. Then the issue becomes like sports teams, like the Red Sox and the Yankees. You have your team and culture, and I have mine. We do this all the time in politics; we get really tense and passionate when we think the others want to take the little parcel we've carved out for ourselves. We're just animals, after all. We fight the hardest when cornered.

This reality about marriage is not supernatural as such, but it fits with a worldview that accepts, and even suggests, that such things which would not and could not be known by reason alone have been revealed. I won't hide that from you.

Still, it stands to reason that things we might consider supernatural truths at first thought could simply be natural truths that are repeated. Why would a God who's allegedly revealing things beyond human reason repeat things that are within our reason's grasp? Because we need to know those things, and in general, we are stupid. Consider humbly if you would that perhaps the "sheep" motif in the Bible is not really a metaphor at all.

I don't argue against gay marriage, or any other thing, from fear. I am afraid of some of its advocates, though. Even a virtuous society needs to be free enough for people to be wrong, and maybe find a better way later on. People stomping around screaming, "Bigot!" at every opportunity doesn't exactly remind me of the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Definitely not the brave. But that stands to reason, too. Even relatively nice people like Conor Friedersdorf need to continue insisting they are on "the right side of history." If people stop marching and yelling for 5 minutes, they might realize they've been running from some things, and they might hear the still small voice. We can't have that.

Rafael Nadal

The 14-time major champion was defeated in 5 sets at the US Open. His world ranking has dropped to 8, despite being considered one of the informal "Big Four" (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Nadal).

Before you get all misty about what he once was, consider that he owns a 33-10 head-to-head match record against Roger Federer, widely considered the greatest of all time. Nadal has won the French Open 9 times. 9. Nobody ever has won more than 7 at any major tournament. Stew on that for a moment.

Indeed, the 33rd-ranked male player in the world had to play the match of his life in order to prevail. That is greatness. At times, losing makes it easier to see than winning.

The time may be drawing to a close for he and other greats who came on the scene at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Yet I'm sure the victor would echo what another man said upon upsetting Federer some years ago, when asked about Federer's alleged decline: "I wish I could decline like that."

Friday, September 04, 2015

Go Rest High On That Mountain

I found out that a friend from high school succumbed to drugs and alcohol. I didn't know him well at that time, but a few years ago, he worked for me as a personal assistant. It was already starting to grab him then, but his fundamental goodness shined right through. I think he came to regret letting the drugs make him let me down. I just hope I did enough to encourage him in the love of God.

Addiction is horrible, because once you are physically addicted to a thing, it's even stronger than what you want. People may have long ago decided that they couldn't fill that emotional hole with a substance, but they can't get out. It takes a ton of support, prayer, and a mighty effort.

Maybe the hardest thing while watching it happen is not taking their failures as people too personally. They will have to account for those things once they get clear, but there is no amount of anger that will make it work. And if you're not careful, you'll poison your own soul with that anger. It's one of those times where we need to recognize anger as sadness, and just be sad.

People are crying out for love. That's how it starts. The booze or the pills don't judge me, or tell me I'm not good enough, people think. Then they're stuck.

The truth is, even if a friend, parent, or lover wounds us somehow, that hole in ourselves is too big for any person to fill. It's the reality of existence. What is my purpose? What's this life for? Does it matter? The highest love is the kind that makes us friends with God Himself. It's the kind that makes people forgive killers, rescue enemies from burning buildings, and so forth. But all the other loves come from God, too. God is Love.

I'll miss you, Brett. Here's hoping we can laugh again together.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

5 Thoughts For Today

5. It's like Goodell went, "I mean, nobody really likes Tom Brady, anyway, right?"

4. "Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence!"

3. Always wear a helmet when riding a bike. Any bike. Anywhere.

2. Seriously, though, helmets. In other news, does anyone know why we don't spell it "helment"?

1. Nothing says "We take sin seriously" like a paltry opportunity to unburden yourself of it once a week for 45 minutes on a Saturday. Yes, it's changing in many places, as well it should.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

I Walk The Line

If you're in the business of telling the truth, it can be a funny thing. Most truth-tellers are the sorts of people that have the obvious staring at them, and at least it appears no one else has noticed. He takes no special note of those who have a vested interest in keeping things as they are; he has a higher obligation.

If you didn't know, I believe I am one of those people.

The unique challenge is that an even higher obligation exists: to love as God loves. These things are closely related, of course. You can't love anyone by telling them lies, even comforting ones. Jesus is Truth Himself, so when you speak the truth, you are leading someone to Jesus.

Still, we can be so fond of "telling it like it is" that we believe our own hype, that somehow the world needs us, and our special brand of frankness. Dear friends, we could be dead in the next few moments. Every time I see a sad post on social media about a sudden death, I am reminded. It is simply foolish to believe that any order we can bring to disorder, any fight that we can make against the forces of evil, really has anything to do with us at all, ultimately.

In light of this, how silly does a man look, when he has already risen above where his talents would take him, by the mercy of God, and he wastes that precious platform chattering about others' failure to meet his arbitrary standard of reasonableness or sanity?

If I had a chance to meet the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, (D, MN) I might have known he was one of the most liberal elected officials in the US. I may have been given an opportunity to share with the Senator where his philosophy transgressed the moral law. Maybe. If he asked me outright. In that unique encounter with an actual person I am meeting for the first time, my slapdash opinions about his politics would take a backseat to at least trying to know and love this person in the best way possible. We think small talk is a waste, but it isn't. It's not only a way to build trust, it's a way to receive it. Anyway, were I to behave as though Paul Wellstone were waiting for me and my brilliance, I doubt we'd talk long.

 What do we do if a person makes a career of this arrogance? What if the truth-teller becomes intolerable? Never forget: even now, we walk the line of friendship and challenge. Some care nothing for friendship.

Monday, August 31, 2015

I Can See Clearly Now

I know a few people that could be characterized as "bad guys." Fairly bad, violent criminal histories. I wouldn't necessarily say that I have an abundance of warm feelings at any one time, either, and I suppose that is precisely the point.

Sure as the summer day is long, I'm telling you, I can see underneath it. We don't mean to deny that any of the stuff is truly heinous, and said person won't be held accountable by God, but if you have the eyes to see a person's true destiny, you can begin to pray for them to receive it, to be reconciled fully to God.

I realize now that I can profess anything I like, but the true test of whether I believe God is love, or that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself is, could I see my greatest enemy on Earth, the one who's done me the most harm, in the Confession line behind me, and be happy?

That's tough. That's not a human thing; you can't conjure that up in yourself. And every day, we face the challenge of people sinning against us, and remaining in the anger and hurt of that moment, or seeing eternity for what it is, and choosing that for them instead. That's love. I may or may not ever have a warm feeling toward someone, but if I choose their highest good today, I have loved.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's Not "Totally Unexpected"; It's Obvious

Did you hear that story of Robin Rinaldi, who gave up her wedding vows for a year? Do I need to tell you what happened?

There was the story of a pastor who decided to try atheism for a year. Guess what happened.

Each time, modern secular "forward-thinking" society nods its approval, and also professes surprise. I'm going to say that's mostly dishonest. They have always known of the intimate connection between profession and action; that's why Cranmer changed the liturgy; that's why Comte founded a "church."

We actually have this foolish notion first of all that all possible choices we make are value-neutral. The other part is that we think they are on equal footing. If you express revulsion and disgust at a murderer, he'll disgust you further when he says, "Hey, don't knock it until you try it," but he's got a point. We become like what we do.

Grace doesn't really allow Christians to say, "Fake it until you make it" to a person struggling with faith, but really, it is wise and good to continue doing what believers do, even if it doesn't seem honest. The fact that what we profess is supernatural doesn't change the fact that we're whole people. And we're animals, in a real sense. We have habits. We should not expect that a broken habit attached to a profession will allow that profession to remain for long. If you stop going to church, you will be an unbeliever, quite apart from the consequences of that one error.

I think of a couple people who now profess to be atheists or agnostics, and I think that we may not have distinguished between a difficulty, which is an intellectual problem, which can be helped by having smart people around, and a doubt, which is an act of the will. For instance, take that instance in the Gospels, where in one place it says the two thieves hurled insults at Him, whereas in the other, one did, but one professed faith and received the promise of eternal life while he died alongside Jesus. I could find a thousand of these, and I might say, "Yes, I can see why this could be troubling for the inquirer; let's find the answer" without ever thinking, "They lied to me! Sod it all, I'm going to the bar, and the gentlemen's club. See you in two weeks!" Doubt is a habit of soul; it's not cured, or even helped, by answers. Its root is pride, which is why the end of the definition of "heresy" in CCC, 2089, says, " obstinate doubt concerning the same." In any case, develop human habits that fit the habits of soul that you want. Then maybe ask if what you think you want is really what you want.

You've probably met a 3-year-old who asked about a thousand questions, all in that same form: "Why?" She probably just wants to know that you care. It's adorable, even if it gets annoying. But I'm sure we've seen that guy in a public meeting who stands up and says, "I want some answers!" He doesn't want answers; he wants us to know he is mad, and he wants to be taken seriously. I wonder how many of these "atheists" on the bestseller lists are really just like this guy? Don't be that guy.