Friday, March 20, 2009

Christian Insults

Today I was pointed to a discussion about Obama's appearance on the Tonight Show.

I won't relate to you the story on that, since you can just click on the link above. What I'm more interested in at the moment is part of the discussion in the comments below the story.

One person called Obama a "stumblebum." Another person chastised her, and said she was being "unChristian." This immediately brought to mind a chapter of the Bible. I commented (with a few more typos) as follows:

I have to laugh at the idea that calling a man who supports evils like abortion a “stumblebum” is a terribly unChristian thing to do.

Let me quote someone who once addressed leaders who were not fulfilling their duties:

“You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” [Matthew 23:27]

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” [Matt 23:33]

Ah Jesus, worst Christian ever…

(Not that I’m saying we should be be eager to be insulting, but we also might not want to react too harshly when someone is insulting in an appropriate context.)

I was afterwards rebuked and told there is no appropriate context for insults, unless you are Jesus, and thus the judge of men. This is certainly a strong point, but I'm not sure I fully agree with it.

In this blog's comments I list some quotes from Saints calling people things like, "beasts,", "fools," and, "mad women." I think that examples like these are fairly uncommon, but they still show that there may indeed be an appropriate context. It seems to me that such insulting language is reserved for those who are clearly and objectively transgressing the moral law and leading others to do the same.

March 21 edit: I think I've found a missing piece of the puzzle. These insults are mostly intended to instruct the listener, to impress upon them the gravity of the crimes of the insulted party, so that the listeners do not follow their example.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

I forgot that today was St. Patrick's day until one of my co-workers mentioned it.

This is strange, since St. Patrick is one of my favorite Saints, my co-worker isn't Catholic, I'm at least a quarter Irish, and I even spent some time last night thinking about buying a St. Patrick statue. But I guess there's a difference between loving someone and remembering days associated with that person, as many forgetful men can probably attest.

I realized, this morning (after my co-worker reminded me what day it was), how much I owe to St. Patrick, and how glad I am that God's grace motivated him to do such great things. His immense accomplishment, converting all of Ireland to a zealous Catholic faith, is amazing, and has had a great impact on my life.

My faith comes from two paths. I first learned to be a Christian through my father. He is a good Protestant pastor. As I received my faith from him, he received it from his father. His father was born an Irish Catholic, but he left the Church to marry my grandmother. Still, his faith in Christ was first given to him by the Irish, who owe their faith to St. Patrick.

But it took a second Irish family, my wife's family, to lead me fully into the Church. Without the influence of my wife and her sister I'm not sure that there would have been much chance for me, the pastor's son, to become Catholic. So, to St. Patrick and the faithful of Ireland, I am doubly indebted.

I delight in knowing that Christ's work on Earth did not end when he ascended into heaven, that his story is not just the one in the Bible. Christ's life story continues, and it can be seen in the good that is done by his Saints. How thankful I am that Christ, through St. Patrick, evangelized Ireland.

Pope vs. Condoms in Africa

As happens every time I can remember, the media has once again sided against the Catholic Church. Now, as the Pope visits Africa, they are attacking his stance on condom use in the fight against AIDS/HIV.

Here's a portion of the story I saw on PBS:

Pope Claims Condoms Worsen AIDS Crisis

The interviewer's slant isn't that strong in this particular segment. The part this page doesn't show is that much more time was spent hearing from some restaurant that distributes condoms in another African country.

The first comment on the story read in part:
"As leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope has a moral duty and obligation to ensure followers are educated and lives are saved from HIV infections and AIDS deaths! Around the world, condoms are seen as a necessary requirement for engaging in sexual activity. Promoting condom use has not and does not promote promiscuity... The Catholic Church is promoting practices of abstinence and fidelity, which are widely known to have a high failure rate and allow more HIV infections!"
-Bradford McIntyre
My response follows:

The Pope has a moral duty to do what he is doing. He is teaching the consistent teaching of the Church. It has taught this for nearly 2000 years.

It is certainly a hard teaching to understand, and a hard one to follow, but that does not make it a false teaching.

People should not be so quick to judge the very institution that has passed on the fundamental idea, taught by Jesus Christ, that every human life has value. Without this idea, which has been implanted in the heart of Western society by its Christian past, we would not care at all about the fate of the Africans.

But, sadly, we have rejected so many other teachings of Jesus, and only the Pope continues to teach them clearly.

The Pope certainly would not deny that condoms can prevent AIDS infections. The problem is that they often fail, and they also contribute to a general promiscuous culture which really only makes the problem worse in the long term.

They are certainly not the only factor, and may not even be the primary factor, which is why abstinence education can not stand on its own. It needs to be a part of a far more comprehensive solution.

The other commenter was right, to an extent, that condoms themselves don't cause promiscuity, but he is wrong in thinking that they do not contribute to promiscuity. They are just one of many contributing factors, and we need to address them all to see real success, but success can not be found by abandoning our morals.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mormon Visitors

My friend recently invited some Mormon missionaries (who probably ambushed him) over to give us "lessons." This was something I'd been kind of waiting for since I moved to this Mormon filled region of the world, wanting to get some real life practice in apologetics.

Sadly, it's really hard to discuss matters rationally with them since they always go back to their testimony: "Well, if you read the Book of Mormon, and pray about it sincerely, the Holy Spirit will let you know it is true. I have done this, and I know it to be true."

So, we're stuck in a land of subjectivity. But perhaps there is some hope for seeds of rational faith to be planted. I don't know.

I already have better-than-average knowledge of Mormonism, but I want to know even more, so I'm researching the subject. I'm reading a book called Inside Mormonism, and I found an interesting website:

If you look long enough on the site (or just go to No More Penalties on this page) you can even find evidence on this site showing the connection between the original secret Mormon temple ceremonies and Masonic rites. I'll note some briefly:
Morgan revealed the oath that Masons took in the "First Degree" of their ritual: "...I will... never reveal any part or parts, art or arts, point or points of the secret arts and mysteries of ancient Freemasony... binding myself under no less penalty than to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots..."
Now compare that to:
In Temple Mormonism, published in 1931, p. 18, we find this information concerning the Mormon ritual:

"The left arm is here placed at the square, palm to the front the right hand and arm raised to the neck, holding the palm downwards and thumb under the right ear.

'Adam—" We, and each of us, covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this, the first token of the Aaronic prieshood, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Should we do so, we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots.'...

"Sign—In executing the sign of the penalty, the right hand palm down, is drawn sharply across the throat, then dropped from the square to the side."

Of course, this is has been cut from the current temple ceremonies, so it won't do you much good in an argument. Besides, making accusations like, "Your ceremonies are based on Masonic rituals," isn't a very charitable way to argue in a debate, and will just harden the Mormon against your position.

It may, however, be relevant if a Mormon brings up the pagan influence on certain Christian celebrations. Then you could respond, "Yes, the Church may have adapted existing celebrations to fit the Christian religion when it was converting pagan nations, but the LDS church originally adapted Masonic rites for use in its most sacred ceremonies, so what is your complaint?"

This makes the broaching the subject less of an offensive attack and more of a riposte. But a clever Mormon will counter that the Mason ritual and the Mormon temple ritual both date back to Solomon's temple.