Ten Cliches Christians Should Never Use

Christian Piatt’s list is awesome sauce. Here is a personal favorite.

6. “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?” As many times as I’ve heard this, I still don’t really know what it means. Why my heart? Why not my liver or kidneys? This also makes Christianity sound like a purely emotional experience, rather than a lifelong practice that can never entirely be realized. But yeah, asking someone if they’re engaged in a lifelong discipline to orient their lives toward Christlike compassion, love and mercy doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it.

via Ten Cliches Christians Should Never Use – Christian Piatt | God’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.

That right there is about the best definition of the Christian life I have ever read.

This One’s for You

Awesome, awesome post by Justin Lee.  No quotes.  Go to the site and read.

Ringing a Bell for Liberty

Archbishop Chaput holds forth:

The public discourse of Catholics needs to be guided by charity and respect for others, but above all by truth. The truth can be difficult, so we often want to soften its edges. But this just wastes time and compounds our problems. Candor can be uncomfortable in the short run, but it’s much healthier in the long run.

The point is this: We need to be frank with each other as Christian adults, frank in our public witness and frank in our own self-criticism. Again, we also need to be prudent and kind — but not at the expense of courage, and not at the expense of speaking the truth.

via Ringing a Bell for Liberty – Interview – National Review Online.

That right there is how bishops are supposed to behave and speak!  I was a bit proud of Chaput for doing speaking in a balanced manner.  Given the absolute mess here in Philadelphia left by his predecessors we need this kind of leadership.  He continues:

Christianity is a “political” religion only in the sense that it has wider implications than the individual. Christian faith is communitarian; it places both personal and social obligations on the believer. It requires certain actions. It’s never merely private.

Which is why this Fortnight for Freedom is kind of a problem for me. Mind you I don’t have any real objection to the protest itself since it is quintessentially American to act up and speak up for one’s rights.  And Americans have a right to do so!  The First Amendment is the first for a reason.  The Founders knew these rights were important.  Liberties are precious and ought to be defended vigorously.

But as the bishop said above, Christianity isn’t really about freedom or liberty in a larger sense.  As a disciple of Christ, I have certain obligations, specifically “charity, justice, courage, [and] mercy,” as the good bishop said. I have freedom in Christ, but I’m not free to do as I please.  The irony here is that the other side of this HHS mandate debate is also acting up about liberty specifically the fundamental issue of a woman controlling her own healthcare.   So when Chaput said this:

The central issue in the HHS-mandate debate isn’t contraception. Casting the struggle as a birth-control fight is just a shrewd form of dishonesty. The central issue in the HHS debate is religious liberty. The government doesn’t have the right to force religious believers and institutions to violate their religious convictions. But that’s exactly what the White House is doing.

I winced.  The entire reason the bishops are leading this charge for religious liberty is to resist the government mandating they provide contraception.  So how exactly is birth-control not central to this issue?  If the Catholic Church encouraged the use of contraception as good sexual ethics, would we be here right now?  Would the Church be lauding the government for supporting good morality?  I think we all know the answer to these questions.  So while I’m loathe to check Bishop Chaput, I’m going to follow his lead and say that claiming the central issue isn’t contraception is also “a shrewd form of dishonesty.”  Honesty demands better.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

The soloist who usually leads our other choir, Jaime, really tore it down Sunday. We made a joyful noise!

Fortnight for Freedom

The bishops in my church instituted a pitched campaign to resist the HHS mandate, as part of the overall healthcare reform known as “Obamacare,” requiring religious institutions to cover contraception to their employees.  The bishops teach that active contraception is wrong and argue that being forced to provide such violates the religious freedom of Catholics to practice their faith and live according to their consciences.  All this is par for the course in American politics. Our democracy is about a battle of rights, an ongoing fight about whose rights deserve protection and how.  If you are a constitutional buff, this is heady stuff and part of what makes this country great.  No guns, just words.

On the merits, this battle is worth fighting. Each side has a legitimate case to make.  And rights are at stake.  Make no mistake about it.  My problem has always been how the bishops have chosen to wage this battle as soldiers of Christ or as mere political prosecutors of war?

As a Catholic, this whole “Fortnight for Freedom” thing made me nervous. The timing of this battle, the vigor with which is waged, and the lack of compassion for our opponents once again demonstrates how myopic the bishops can be and how their credibility (and the Church’s as well) is withering before the rest of the country.  I am not alone in this view.  Here are the problems I see in a nutshell with trenchant humor from Jon Stewart to liven it up! Continue reading “Fortnight for Freedom”

Texas Republican Party Platform Calls For Repeal Of Voting Rights Act Of 1965

Numerous independent studies — including one undertaken by Greg Abbott, Texas’s Republican attorney general, who claimed there was an “epidemic” of electoral fraud —  have found voter identification fraud to be exceedingly rare. According to Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News, Abbott’s two-year investigation yielded 26 cases of alleged fraud, but two-thirds of those turned out to be technical infractions in which the voters were eligible to vote and their votes were legally cast. In all the fraud cases but one, the voters at question were black or Hispanic. All of them were Democrats.

via Texas Republican Party Platform Calls For Repeal Of Voting Rights Act Of 1965.

Voter ID laws are bullshit.

The Truth Erupts

Right now atheists seem to be all abuzz about Yahweh, a.k.a The Volcano God, in some weird attempt to discredit The One we Christians, Jews and Muslims worship today. Ask any of us monotheists if we believe God is a god of volcanoes and the discussion will be cut short by weird looks and lots of laughter.

Continue reading “The Truth Erupts”

Is It Real Son, Is It Really Real Son

Is it real son, is it really real son
Let me know it’s real son, if it’s really real
Something I could feel son, load it up and kill one
Want it raw deal son, if it’s really real.

–Method Man, Bring the Pain

“The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.”

–Rene Descartes

I get a lot of crap on Twitter from atheists who like to assume that they know reality and of course I as a Christian do not. “Trust your senses.” “You have belief and I have reality.” “Reality doesn’t require faith.” (That one’s my favorite!) And so on and so on, etc., etc. ad nauseum. It’s deeply ironic because they cover up for a distinct and clear lack of evidence for their claims. (I ignore specious “burden of proof” gambits designed to relieve themselves of their burden because opinions stated as fact require evidence. Period.) To illustrate why such a believe is a step out in faith, I quote from Chris Impey, atheist and cosmologist, writing in his wonderful book How It Began.

[Nick] Bostrom [futurist and philosopher] frames a logical argument based on three propositions, at least one of which must be correct. One: Almost all civilizations go extinct or destroy themselves before gaining the capability to create simulated creatures like us. That’s a gloomy option because we’re approaching that stage. Two: Almost all civilizations choose not to create simulated creatures, even though they could. That’s possible, but the $50 billion a year gaming market on this planet indicates a strong desire of humans to create and manipulate artificial entities. Three: Nothing is real, everything is an illusion, and we actually live inside a simulation.

Rebutting the third proposition is surprisingly difficult. Any simulation constructed by a far superior race wouldn’t be glitchy, as it was in the movie The Matrix. There’s no reason we’d know we’re simulated unless the creators wanted us to. Your conviction that you’re made of flesh and blood and free will is part of the simulation. Since it’s easier and cheaper to create computational life-forms than biological organisms, by the Copernican Principle there are many more simulated than real creatures. OK, this argument is more of a provocation than a serious suggestion, but it’s no more unfounded or illogical than the multiverse or hidden space-time dimensions [from theoretical physics and quantum mechanics].

Impey, Chris (2012-03-19). How It Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe (Kindle Locations 5596-5606). Norton. Kindle Edition.

I came to the same extremely disturbing conclusion after watching The Matrix. There would be no way to prove I wasn’t in one myself. Any “evidence” I employed to rebut the possibility could also be used to support the proposition that I am in fact in a power plant somewhere!  It didn’t matter whether we are or aren’t actually in some power plant. What matters is that the standard rules of scientific evidence are powerless to get us out of this quandary. Repeated “physical” demonstrations within a simulation simply reveal the simulation performs as expected.

Materialist atheists make an ironic choice in faith to believe no simulation or Matrix or Dream exists, and God bless ’em for it! Ironic because they have absolutely no evidence with which to support that belief. And that’s what many such fideisitc atheists can’t admit to: their faith.  And why I always have an impish little smile on my face when I read their quips on Twitter!

Let he who has ears to hear, let him hear…

Truth of Mythic Proportions

One of the problems I’ve had in the past with my Christian faith was myth. This is because I had always been unconsciously credulous in accepting the common wisdom that myth equals lie. And further that people who believed myths were credulous fools. Modernity is, after all, dominated by scientific (materialist?) rationalism. It made the myths of my faith occasions for scorn and even anger. Who could believe such drivel? The ancients were barbaric, backward fools! Why should we listen to anything they had to say? Even apologetic attempts to justify these myths by fundamentalists betrayed the insecurity these myths produced because of their lack of rationality and adherence to scientific truth. And so the indoctrination went.

Well, no longer.

Continue reading “Truth of Mythic Proportions”

Why I’m not an Atheist

(Version 3.0)

I decided to write about this because it makes Twitter much less of a burden. It’s too imprecise to express real ideas on a micro-blogging service more amenable to smart ass comments than smart ones, so I do so here. I borrowed heavily from John F. Haught’s book God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Great read. He summarizes my intellectual critique of The New Atheism or as I like to call it, The Church of No-God, quite nicely. Generally when I use the word “atheist” in this post, I’m referring to this group.

Let me make clear that this post is not written to make the case that atheists should be believers nor is it an attempt to denigrate them, their personal beliefs (unbeliefs?), or choices in life. It is neither an apologetic for my spirituality nor an attempt at evangelism. I’m writing to explain why atheism has proven problematic for me, nothing more, nothing less. Take it or leave it.

Finally, this post has been edited multiple times as my discussions with saner, less ideological atheist tweeples and further reading have informed my thinking.

For several reasons atheism for me is not, as William James put it, “a living option“:

If you care for an explanation, please, read on.

Continue reading “Why I’m not an Atheist”