Thursday, November 17, 2011

Truth in an incoherent world

The veritas before caritas meme has me in its grips. This afternoon as I drove home from work I was behind a car that bore a number of bumper stickers that were placed to express the car owner's worldview. One sticker on the top of the passenger-side rear window read "Banish hate" and on the other side of some indiscernible symbol, "Invoke love." Directly below this, on the back of the trunk lid, was a sticker that urged all who read it to "Be a voice for choice," underneath which it expressed the desire for "Every child a wanted child."

I took the latter bumper sticker to mean that unwanted children should be aborted. Now, I don't impugn the intentions of the one who sought to express her/his position in this way, but what incoherence! With Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, I am hard pressed to think of anything more violent than the destruction of a child in the womb of his/her mother. How is this eschewing hate and invoking love? While seeing such things is nothing new, I was astonished in the face of the incoherence I saw right in front of me. I consciously asked myself, "How does one live in such a confused human environment?" The answer, of course, is as a witness to the Truth, expressed as love.

As many people know, "martyr" is Greek for "witness." I recognize that in contemporary English there is a distinction between a witness and a martyr. To us a martyr, at least in Christian terms, is one who is killed for his faith. In his commentary on Revelation, theologian Joseph Mangina insists that being a disciple of the One who died and rose again is a "public confession of faith leading to martyrdom." He goes on to observe that for Christians today the relevant question is whether we see "martyrdom as an exotic relic" from the past, or if we see it as still relevant. It seems to me that far too often we are willing to make peace with the powers and principalities to safeguard ourselves from the negative consequences that inevitably follow from challenging them. This holds true across the ideological spectrum, indicating that even as Christians, whether conservative or liberal, we are far too willing to take our cues from ideologies instead of from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, like the martyrs past and present.


  1. Scott, I thought immediately that the person was supporting the Right to Life. I see what you are saying, though, and agree. Any news on the Cause of Servant of God Cora Evans? I spoke about her at class last night.

  2. Being a voice for choice typically means being what is euphemistically called "pro-choice," meaning pro-abortion.

  3. It seems we ponder alike. Truth is a variable. Subject to impact of life experience, education etc -- dependent upon the perspective of the individual within that moment of time. Interpretation of the Bible is also variable. I know this is likely to create a stir... But honestly, with all the Christian faiths out there... Is this a point worth arguing?

    Ideologies... Well, that is the ultimate promise of what we will receive when Christ returns. God's justice, God's judgement, God's love. Isn't this also what Jesus taught us to strive toward? A loving world?

    It seems people do strive for this... But differences arise from varying point of perspective and awareness, hence varying interpretation. Maybe this is what being human is all about... Maybe none of us are ever right or wrong... Makes me think of the song "Let it Be"

  4. I would say that the while the ability of people to grasp the Truth certainly varies, the Truth itself is not variable, or in any way relative, ultimately. People can and do interpret the Bible in various ways, individually, that is, ideosyncratically, and often quite recklessly. The Bible is the the Church's book. The interpretation of Scripture over time, beginning with the Church Fathers, is remarkably consistent, but certainly shows variation along with legitimate development in light of the Church's on-going, lived experienced.

    The promise of Christ has nothing to do ideologies, which are false ways of viewing reality, whether it is the ideology of Communism or laissez faire, "free market" capitalism. They are faulty precisely because they are not rooted in the Truth I sought to describe in this post.

    I categorically reject the proposition that nobody is "ever right or wrong." For example, people who advocate for the "right to choose" whether or not to kill a child in utereo, are wrong, even when they are well-intentioned, mistakenly believing themselves to be compassionate. While one's culpability for an act can be mitigated by one's intention, the morality of an act cannot be determined by one's intention.

  5. If the 'new world' after the second coming isn't the ideal world, how do you perceive it? Please recognize that I am in no way attempting to be argumentative -- but looking to entertain an alternate perspective.

    Point well taken about the 'right and wrong'. There are rights and wrongs -- 12 commandments are clearly indicative. There are many more inferred rights and wrongs.

    The Bible is the church's book. I never actually thought of it that way -- but I like it. My right and wrong line of thought was based out of determining what version of the truth is best. Specifically, how without a religious upbringing to acclimate toward, can a person be expected to choose a faith? I've found truth in the Bible... but now I look and Christian churches are interpreting differently. It's confusing at best.

  6. I appreciate that you're not trying to be argumentative, just as I am not. The "new heaven and the new earth" aren't ideal at all, but real, which is why we can participate, at least to some extent, in them even now, situated as were between the already and the not yet. I think it's just semantic issue: ideological is not the fulfillment of the ideal, but of an ideology, which ideal only in that it doesn't take its bearings from reality. Ideologies are the product of human ideas that fail to grasp reality in its totality, even though those who adhere to them think they do, even when they trangress reality in egregious ways.

    When one looks at the Church, which while made visible and concrete by it, is not strictly defined by the Catholic Church, there isn't that much different. When one starts to get into the sects, then that is a very different story. These interpretations can be dismissed because they are so far away from the how the Church has read certain passages and even entire books, like Revelation. So, someone, like David Koresh, or Joseph Smith, who comes a long and either questions revelation, or says, "Here's what it really means," and it falls outside of what I might call the hermeneutic range, it isn't really confusing at all. Just as all opinions are not of equal value, despite everybody having one, so all Biblical interpretations are not of equal value.

  7. It seems an unlikely juxtaposition to appreciate the impact of understanding the Bible accurately (responsibly) and then suggesting essentially any Christian church will suffice.

    Maybe it's right. This is what you suggest? Just find a church? (... I have no desire in entertaining cultish craze.)

    Might not be a bad idea... as long as you are correct.

  8. I certainly appreciate the reality... I sometimes feel as if the supernatural is a bit too real... and clearly appreciate the concept of being somewhere in between. What exactly do you mean by participate? Isn't this mostly beyond our doing?

  9. Any Christian Church certainly won't do in many ways and for fundamental and important reasons. This is not what I wrote or implied. However, if we look at Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and other more ecclesial Protestant churches, we share much in common (everything for the first 1,000 years), respecting as we do how Scripture has been read, understood, and interpreted throughout the Church's history, rejecting silly novelties, like the Rapture (to give one example), or an overly literal reading of a symbolic book like Revelation.

    Of course, in those rare instances when the magisterium has interpreted a passage definitively, then that is something I certainly I accept. It's important to keep our conversation in context and not extend it beyond the issue at hand. The essential issue was how to keep from being confused about what Scripture teaches, not why one should be a Catholic instead of, say, Orthodox, or Anglican.

    We participate in the Kingdom of God by our faith through baptism, our belonging to the Church, participating in the liturgy, which is heavily eschatological.

  10. Sorry, but historically all I have ever known about church may have been taught on planet Mars...

    Try to imagine. Growing up in many homes. Some parental figures are more trustworthy than others. The ones who are kind don't attend church. The ones who are abusive attended church on occasion -- though never long enough at any time to gain relationship or understanding. Before you know it, you are an adult. A lightning bolt of sorts strikes... possibly answering prayers (cryptic, but it will suffice). You now believe in God, Jesus and the Bible. But not necessarily all people... Those around you -- at work and activity -- don't attend church and honestly don't appreciate a similar concern for locating one.

    How do you find a church you can trust when your PhD is from Mars and there is no one left to ask?

    Honestly, I suspected there should be care assigned to choosing a good church. Some are easy to weed out. I respect your desire to end this line of question. In light of my perplexion, could you in some way shed insight toward variations between Catholic and Baptist? Even if only explaining the Catholic perspective of any difference. It would be a tremendous help. My time here is to learn. I have no interest in debate or controversy. I need help with facts.

    I've recognized I need a church... recognized the significance of church. When I try to interpret the differences through online search, I become lost in many unfamiliar terms. The Catholic Mass is foreign to me. I am reading and falling in love with the depth of meaning, the biblical associations of all that is contained within a Mass (and I cannot help myself but to love the Saints). --- Yet, A couple months ago I was reading a book on the Birth of Christianity... I am light years from moving beyond the book for dummies without help. I look up words such as magisterium and eucharist. Baptists use words I am familiar with -- making acclimation easier. Most importantly: I am looking for a good church.

    I appreciate any help you are able to offer. I respectfully end this line of question now.

  11. Having grown up LDS myself and so with a deep suspicion of the Bible, I find that an intelligent reading of Scripture is easy enough. As a Catholic deacon, I would encourage you to go to your nearest Catholic parish. Surely, they will have an RCIA program (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), which is the process for becoming Catholic. YOu don't have to make any commmitment up-front, you can just attend and listen, ask question. etc.

  12. I no longer need to ask out of context questions! This morning I found a local Catholic Church that is extremely active. Their website has a wider range of information compiled within it than I have found anywhere else to date (.... and I have been to many sites)! Ohhhh what a blessing. This is my church ... everything I hoped to find and more.

  13. Feel free to ask questions here anytime you want. Being "plugged into" a local community is far more important than anything else.

  14. I believe our posts had crossed in cyber space... Too funny.

    I'm not sure what it's like outside of my area.. Here, many of the Catholic churches closed d/t budget. This occurred possibly a year ago -- though may have been longer. The church I located was in a neighboring county. I had tried the local church but resouces seem to be drained. After 2 weeks, I still hadn't heard back about a RCIA program. My county shares 2 priests -- they travel from church to church. My area was recently affected by flooding as well. I am sure this contributed.

    I am quite happy though. Thrilled actually. The church I went to today is exceptionally active. They offer soup kitchens and collections for flood victims - numerous volunteer opportunities -- as well as the educational resources. And don't worry, I know it's not about 'filling a role' or 'playing a part'. From the outside looking in, this much activity seems to reflect the health of the church itself. Active participating members.

    I was looking for a good church -- but in my heart I was hoping to find a good Catholic Church. I think it happened.

  15. I have a couple quick questions:

    1) When I went to church, there were no nuns... I thought maybe the church was too small? So I went to look at pictures from other churches... no nuns. Where are the nuns? Not at church?

    2) I still need to attend the RCIA classes. Does this mean I cannot partake in the part of mass where you go up to receive the body and blood of Christ?

    3) Is there a prayer to be prayed for those in purgatory?


  16. Most parishes have no nuns. Yes, if you desire to become Catholic you need to go through RCIA. In the meantime, you should not receive Holy Communion, that will happen when you become Catholic. There are lots of prayers for those in purgatory. One can always pray a rosary for the souls in purgatory. Really, most of these kinds of questions can and are answered in RCIA


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