Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Trial Of Faith

I guess I have always been that guy. You know, that guy who boldly proclaims everything as if it is as obvious as 2+2 = 4. I had an acquaintance tell me once that he didn't like a book I liked, because of its "conversionist" take on politics. I loved it; I love earnest, passionate people who are forced to change their minds. Of course I do; I just described myself.

I guess other people appreciate nuance in the conclusion of a matter. I don't like that; we can nuance a thing after we've made a decision about what's true. I can appreciate shades of gray after we know where each other stands.

This takes me far afield from where I wanted to go. In a certain way, I don't like being so certain about Jesus. So many people are hurting, and in their pain, they are crying out, "Where was God when all this happened?" If he is so good, why has he allowed something so bad? We've all been there before. It seems like only the people who have asked a hard question have any sort of credibility to say that they have a good answer. With all due respect, I don't want to hear about the goodness of God from somebody who hasn't suffered. I don't blame anyone for a certain kind of doubt in the face of pain and sorrow. Even if someone were crazy enough to believe that God was like a gumball machine you could put a coin in, and get what you desired, there is enough pain in this world to puncture that foolishness within the hour.

I believe, not as an irrational desire for certainty, but in Jesus Christ, the substance of that certainty. There is no "faith" that terminates in anything other than a person; it is not a nebulous concept; it is not a crutch for the difficulty of this life. Either Jesus of Nazareth is very God of very God who took on human flesh, and died and rose again for the life of the world, or the Christian religion is useless. Every atheist you know is right: you don't need religion to have a moral code. You don't need a religion unless it is true.

When I see the pain of my friends and family, I almost wish the truth about Jesus, the moral law, and heaven and hell were made up. It would be easier to tell everyone that they don't owe anybody anything, and that we're not sinners in need of mercy. The light of faith shines brighter than the desire for comfort, friendship, or pleasure. I know what I know, even if I would rather not know.
I sure wish I could take the doubt away. I wish I could take the pain away. In a certain way, I wish the final decision about everything were in my hands.

We’ve got to do our own wrestling. I’d say faith makes the pain worse. Faith tells us God is all goodness, all Love, and then death and sorrow makes you ask Him what in the world does He think he’s doing. With some reflection, that’s ridiculous. I can’t even remember what I had for dinner Wednesday, but I dare to put God on the witness stand? And yet, we do.

I heard James Taylor, of all people, say he’s not a believer, but he’s envious of those who are. Don’t envy me, James. Faith guides, but it doesn’t soften. If religion is the opiate of the masses, the real stuff is better. Not that I would know. But as one saint memorably put it, “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”

Faith is like seeing a train coming at you. You and your fellows are on the tracks. Only you can see the train. Move off the tracks. The others see nothing. They imagine in fact that nothing has ever come this way before, and never will.

Other people just want comfort for once; they’ve done suffering and sacrifice, and they want to try something else. The truth is, though, what matters is meaning. The suffering isn’t optional; suffer with meaning and purpose, or suffer without it, simply waiting to die.

I read somewhere that depressed people see things more accurately than some others of us at times. There may be truth in that; what if the doctors and counselors are inviting us to simply pretend we are happy?

I’ll tell you right now, I’m done pretending. If I am happy to see you, I really am. If I would rather stay in, that’s what I am going to do. I’m deeply grateful for those who have come to me, to chat and check in. I don’t want to go out there; out there, people pretend. Out there, they show up at funerals and other such scenes, and act like it’s all perfectly normal.

There’s no “fixing” me; I’m scared, broken, passionate, loyal, absent-minded, a little awkward, but a passable actor, from being out there so long. There’s no one else hiding underneath. If there were a “better me” I could be, I would be him. The truest truth in religion is that we cannot change ourselves, hard as we would try.

You might as well give to God all the broken pieces. I know you’re tired of pretending. I am.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

A Word On Sanctuary Cities And Immigration

It is profoundly immoral for the government of the United States to deport anyone whose only crime is crossing the United States border illegally. Ostensibly in defense of families harmed by people who crossed the border illegally to commit violent crimes, the Trump administration has initiated crackdowns against illegals residing in the United States.

It is my firm belief that orthodox Catholics of a conservative political persuasion here in the United States have accepted this grave violation of human dignity, because the prospect of a Democrat, and their hostility to human life in the womb, blinds these voters to the moral problem presented by Trump's immigration policies.

There may be an elected progressive somewhere who would aid an illegal immigrant who had also committed violent crime, and I do not support the use of sanctuary cities for that purpose. Yet for the misdemeanor of crossing the US border looking for a better life, I would stand with an immigrant and defy the federal authorities, because ICE is currently under orders in that respect which violate the natural law, and the natural rights of human beings. If ICE returns to a more humane focus of arresting and deporting violent felons, there would be no reason to defy them. Crossing the border illegally as such is morally on the order of a traffic ticket, in my opinion. Most high profile cases of murderous immigrant trespassers have as the salient fact that they are also killers, not simply that they cross the border illegally. It is not that those of us who dare to question the "holy" Trump administration believe that the nation should not be governed by laws; rather, I believe in this case that the administration's erstwhile defenders simply lack proportion in justice.

We do not have to choose between the good of outsiders, and the good of ourselves. We are however invited to consider that those outsiders and neighbors are themselves people made in the image of God, even when such people tragically choose the path of crime and violence. I do continually ask myself in my thoughts how much of the anxiety about immigrants is due to the skin color of those who cross the border. The president did not refer to any of the Scandinavian countries as "shitholes," to borrow the notable vulgarity. There is no anxiety about bands of white Canadians crossing the northern border. There is plenty of anxiety about the fact that 40% of the US population will allegedly be nonwhite Hispanic by 2050. You'll have to pardon me on this one; I'm just "telling it like it is." And I'll leave you with this: Is America based upon a set of ideals, or an acceptable set of racial categories?