Monday, December 31, 2012

The Hypocrisy of Modern Moral Relativism

There's an old saying.  What's mine is mine.  What's yours is up for grabs.  The person who coined it was obviously a cynic, but the saying does capture the hypocrisy of the modern moral relativism.  Put basically, champions so-called "tolerance" demand that their views be accepted that even if a person disapproves of a view, he or she should respect the right of the individual to live in accordance with that view without being judged for it.

BUT, this champion of "tolerance" will not practice what he or she preaches.  This person will not accept the right of the individual who believes in Christian morality to live in accordance with that view.  On the contrary, he or she will quite harshly judge and condemn these views, trying to suppress them.

In other words, this so-called champion of "tolerance" is not tolerant at all.  Rather, he or she is trying to force through changes in morality while arguing that those following traditional Christian morality are forcing their views on others.

Since the modern moral relativist is arguing tolerance as a virtue.  He or she is obligated to live according to that virtue if this person is to avoid the charge of hypocrisy.  If, as they argue, people with unpopular stances should be permitted to hold these views and that we should all treat these views as equally acceptable; then it follows that they should practice what they preach, by tolerating the holders of traditional Christian morality when they are now unpopular with the political and media elites in this country.

Moreover, if they have a right to speak openly about what they disagree with on other views and expect to be treated civilly in doing so, then it is quite reasonable for those who hold conflicting views should also be treated with respect when they are open with what they disagree with.

But this is what they do not do.  Instead of tolerating the traditional Christians who speak out to defend their views, instead of treating them with respect when it comes to disputes on what is right, what we see is savage attacks and insults.  We see demonization of opponents.

Thus we see the proponents of modern moral relativism do not practice the tolerance they demand their opponents follow.

What becomes apparent from this fact is that the issue is not an issue of fairness at all.  It is an issue of trying to forcibly changing morality through intimidation and coercion, refusing to tolerate their opponents seeking to defend their views, and then blaming their opponents for the tactics they themselves are using (such as "forcing beliefs on others").

Since the definition of hypocrisy is, "the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more laudable beliefs than is the case," and the practitioner of modern relativism claims the standards of "tolerance" while refusing to grant any to views they oppose, it stands to reason that such a person is a hypocrite.

To avoid the charge of hypocrisy, such persons must immediately cease their slanderous attacks on the traditional Christian values and start… tolerating them.  They must recognize that they must give the same free and open practice of Christianity in the public square that they insist be given to their own beloved causes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Realities of America

Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Rev 3:2)

The Election results certainly were not good for the free practice of the Christian faith in America to be sure.  A majority of Americans voted in favor of a candidate who is noted for promoting things which people of good will must call evil.  It's a situation where Christians may be forced to choose between their faith and their livelihood – a choice no government has the right to demand of us.

However, now is not the time for recriminations.  Now is not the time for "Obama = Hitler" statements and Secession petitions.  What it requires us to do is to recognize that we cannot assume that America today is the Christian America we had in the past.

This fact requires professing Christians to recognize the realities of America and respond accordingly.  The fact is, a majority of Americans seem to fall into one of these positions:

  1. Christian belief and morality is an aberration and harmful to others.
  2. Christianity is all right for personal life but is not important compared to "real issues."
  3. Not liking what is being done, but does not want to "force their views on others."

In short we have a nation where the truths of reality are dismissed as having no place in America.  It has become an apostate nation.  America is now a mission territory and we have to approach it with this understanding.

The problem is:  Americans have a tendency to think of God as a sort of Santa Claus.  He may want us to be on the "nice" list, but His commands don't really have to be followed.  The mindset is extremely irrational.  You can't even put it into a logical syllogism.  It assumes:

  1. God is good
  2. A good God will not do an evil act
  3. Hell is eternal suffering
  4. Eternal suffering is evil.
  5. Putting people into Eternal Suffering is doing evil
  6. Therefore God will not cast people into Hell.

In other words, under this view, God may want us to act in a certain way, but we won't be sent to Hell for disobeying Him.  Well, maybe if someone is a mass murderer.  But surely not someone who "hooks up" on occasion, right?

The problem is, people overlook the fact that God has given us free will.  To be free to accept God means that one is free to reject God.  If one accepts the belief of life after death, then it is clear that people who do reject God will not be with God after the resurrection.  So where do they go?  Well, Heaven is being with God.  Hell is being apart from God.  Everybody has to go somewhere after all….

Consider what Jesus has said:

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

"Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.d 8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love." (John 15:4-10)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day,o ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’  Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.  Depart from me, you evildoers.’ "(Matt 7:21-23)

"Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." (Luke 10:16)

"If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector." (Matthew 18:17)

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:17-20)

What we can see is that Jesus has declared that how we act shows whether we accept or reject God.  But this is the teaching that Americans seem to want to ignore.  We see Jesus as a nice guy.  we see Him as a good moral teacher… even though people tend to ignore more and more of His teachings when they are inconvenient.  But we don't actually think that we need to change.

But we do.  The entire concept of repentance is a turning away from evil and turning towards God.  If we will not repent, we will not turn away from sin and we will not turn towards God.  The modern American concept of a relationship with God has been reduced to "Do what you want and then go do Heaven."

America has essentially forgotten the bad news: That all people are sinners living apart from God.  If we ignore that bad news, the Good News of Salvation is devoid of meaning.  If sin is meaningless, then nobody needs a savior.  The Good News is to repent from evil and turn to God, living as He commands.

So it seems clear to me that we need to realize that the missions are not far away in Africa and Asia.  The mission is right here.  Our neighbors, our families are the mission field.  God desires the salvation of His people, and has sent us to carry it out.

Regardless of what government policies may be enacted in the next four years, the next eight years, the next generation… we have a mission to re-evangelize America.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Modern Morality Leads to Tyranny (Part 2 of 2)

Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church.

—GK Chesterton


Before considering the last three steps, we should briefly discuss some of the principles of the thinking of the modern morality, that will explain the unjust laws that come from the proponents of modern morality.

It tends to reject the ideas of the existence of truth as independent of circumstances.  Everything is relative to times and circumstances.  It also tends to hold a view that everything progresses for the better.  Because things are generally better in a material sense, it means things are better in a moral sense.  The "oppressive past" has been replaced with a "freer" present and must continue towards an even more "free" future.

Such a view holds that even if one disagrees with certain behaviors ("personally opposed but…"), it should still be permitted "if it doesn't harm anyone."

The result of this is it tends to reject any restrictions except the "harm towards others."  The proponents will most likely object to comparisons to totalitarian policies on these grounds, because the totalitarian regimes did harm others.  The problem is, these proponents don't always recognize that harm is done to others.  They tend to think of crude Nazi tactics and think that because other "inconveniences" are not at that level, it isn't harm.

Moreover, there is also a tendency to think that certain views are "oppressive" and people who think in such a way should not be protected when it comes to those views.

The problem is, there is a contradiction in all of these views.  If one should tolerate other views, then it follows that it should be applied to views they disagree with as well as views they agree with.  The person who believes there are moral absolutes ought to be tolerated without harassment.  Instead, because their views are called "oppressive" it is acceptable to deny protection under the law.  This is the contradiction that creates tyranny in a free society.

With this in mind, let us consider the final three steps.

The Fourth Step: Passing Laws With the Belief They Harm Nobody

Attempted murder? It's not like he killed someone. This is a clear violation of my client's civil rights.

—Slimy Lawyer, RoboCop (1987)

Once people are elected or appointed to political office, they take their belief in only opposing "harmful" things in legislation.  If they see no harm in legislation, then they tend to support it.  This is how we can see lawmakers support the HHS contraception mandate or legalized abortion.  Because the reduction of sex to pleasure is accepted as a given, the only harm they can see is the issue of unexpected pregnancy.  The result is the creation of laws which makes access to contraception and abortion easier.  It is only the challenges to this assumption that is viewed as harmful.

Under the same reduction of sex to pleasure, such politicians can see no difference between traditional marriage between a man and a woman and a "homosexual marriage" between two people of the same gender.  So laws supporting this so-called "gay marriage" are seen as good, and opposition seen as harmful.

The result of all this is to create a set of laws that claims to champion tolerance, but actually refuses to consider the input of those who think differently from the lawmaker.

The Fifth Step: Denying the Validity of Challenges to the Law

"Are you lost daddy?" I asked tenderly.
"Shut up," he explained.

—Ring Lardner, The Young Immigrants (1920).

One of the more ironic arguments made by proponents of the modern morality is the claim that those who believe in moral absolutes are "forcing their beliefs on others."  It's ironic because these proponents are in fact the ones imposing their moral beliefs.  You may notice this with their mantras.  "Reproductive Freedom" for example.  Those who believe in moral absolutes are not supposed to push their beliefs on others, but the concept of "Reproductive Freedom" is invoked as if it were a moral absolute.

Thus the HHS contraception mandate is forced on people who believe it is wrong to give any support (moral or financial) to things they find immoral.  Because the concept of "Reproductive Freedom" is considered unquestionable, no challenge will be heard.

Like Step 2, the lawmakers try to explain away or deny the harm their law may do.  First they simply deny the validity of charges their laws do cause harm.  The unborn is denied human rights (Roe v. Wade was infamous here, arguing that since the Constitution referred to born persons, it meant unborn persons had no rights – an argument from silence.)  The reduction of marriage to a legally sanctioned sexual relationship is denied as a cause of damaging the traditional family as a source of the stability of society.  Studies that challenge this are rejected as "biased."

At the same time, however, it is argued that the harm they've denied can be justified for the greater good of the moral absolutes they deny.  Thus, even if the unborn is a person, the mother's "reproductive freedom" takes priority.  Whether or not "gay marriage" disrupts society, denying persons with homosexual tendencies the "right to marry" is making them second class citizens.

The problem is, these people claim that whatever does no harm to others should be permitted, but they make themselves both the prosecutor and judge as to what causes harm to others and whether those who are harmed actually matter.  Since this eliminates the right  to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances" (First Amendment), we can see this mindset goes well on the way to causing harm and becoming a tyranny.

The Sixth Step: Restricting the Rights of the Challenger

"They [The Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa] accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it."

PJ O'Rourke (quoting Sandinista official), Holidays in Hell

While in the Third Step, the proponent of the modern morality gets offended with those who challenge them, in the sixth step, the politician has the power to do something about it.  Because he or she believes that the challenger is guided by "harmful" motives (under the ad hominem attacks of "Homophobic" or "war on women" etc.) the politician can make laws that reduce the freedom of the challengers to speak out. 

Consider the Catholic Church speaking out on moral issues being accused of being partisan and being under threats to have tax exempt status revoked.  The Catholic Church has remained consistent on moral issues long before there was a United States of America, let alone a Democratic or Republican Party.

For example, in 1679, the Church condemned these propositions:

34. It is permitted to bring about an abortion before the animation of the foetus, lest the girl found pregnant be killed or defamed.

35. It seems probable that every foetus (as long as it is in the womb) lacks a rational soul and begins to have the same at the time that it is born; and consequently it will have to be said that no homicide is committed in any abortion.

Various Errors on Moral Subjects (II) [Condemned in a decree of the Holy Office, March 4, 1679]

From the year 1679.  That's not a typo.  Over 333 years ago, the Catholic Church condemned views being used today to justify abortion on the grounds that the unborn is not alive.

Moreover, in 1965 (8 years before the infamous Roe v. Wade), the Catholic Church condemned abortion in the Vatican II document Gaudium et spes:

For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes. (#51)

To argue that the Catholic Church is behaving in a political manner in speaking against the same sins they condemned before such issues were political indicates a really dangerous situation: That a government may decide what sort of speech is politically motivated or not politically motivated and may coerce the Church from speaking on subjects it deems "political."

Under such conditions, the Church cannot be said to have freedom of religion if her teaching of all people can be labeled "hate speech" or "politically motivated" or if her beliefs may be set aside as "unimportant" when it goes against government laws.

But the Constitution explicitly states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (First Amendment.  Emphasis added).

So we can see that laws made which ignore the First Amendment are laws which support tyranny against the beliefs that the nation were founded on, that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" (Declaration of Independence).

The Founding Fathers broke away from England because of these violations of unalienable rights, but now the lawmakers and courts can ignore these rights in favor of their own ideology.


Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy hypocrisy.

—Abraham Lincoln, Response to a Pro-Slavery Friend

Lincoln was prophetic here.  In the name of freedom, we are seeing the denial of basic freedoms to those who believe in moral absolutes and the obligation to live rightly.  Our Church can be coerced.  People who live in accordance with her teachings can be sued for refusing to provide services they feel they would be doing evil to provide.

To defend ourselves against this injustice, we have to ask people of good will to consider the harm that is done when people with this mindset get elected.

Considering the belief that society inevitably improves over time, unless people with an opposing view are elected, it is something that invites injustice in the name of this progress.  The views which threaten what is seen as progress must be stopped by any means necessary.

The problem with this assumption is not all perceived progress is progress.  People of this generation might be surprised, but there was a time when democratic processes were considered outdated relics and it was fascism which was the way to progress.  As we have seen in history, this view of fascism was premature and did not reflect reality.  Indeed, the practitioners of fascism had few brakes to prevent bad ideas that were seen as beneficial by the fascists.

The view today of no moral absolutes is the same.  If there are no moral absolutes, and the progress of society is seen as advances and declines solely on whether it moves towards or against a certain ideology, then there are very few restrictions against those politicians who feel threatened by challenges to their "defense of progress."

It is no hyperbole to say that this mindset, turned into law by politicians are heading into tyranny as the Founding Fathers understood it:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. (Declaration of Independence)

The question is what we are to do about it?

It may sound partisan, but quite simply, we need to consider this sort of mindset as one which disqualifies a person for government office.  A politician who believes that there are no moral absolutes and believes it is his views that must be followed to bring progress to the nation is more likely to push through laws they see as right without considering other perspectives.

A Politician who will not see harm done or seeks to explain harm away cannot be trusted to hear the grievances of those wronged and give redress.  The Politician who believes their opponents are obstacles is more likely to restrict people who disagree than people who believe there are moral absolutes which forbid them from doing wrong in the name of a cause.

In short, we need to elect men and women of character, who recognize that the government has no authority to mandate things beyond them.  When Obama was asked, "At what point does a baby get human rights in your view" (8/18/08), he replied:

"Well, I think that you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective. Answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade. But let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion, because this is something that obviously the country wrestles with. "

That kind of answer should be a disqualification to the voter of good will.  A politician who cannot answer the question on when a baby has human rights – and prove the truth of his answer should not be making a decision that abortion should be permitted.  We need to elect and appoint men and women who know they are limited and prone to evil and must answer to a morality above and beyond them. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Modern Morality Leads to Tyranny (Part 1 of 2)

Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church.

—GK Chesterton

As we see our civil rights in America eroded, some people have speculated on the cause.  Things like "Obama is a secret Muslim" or "Obama is a secret Communist" for example.  We hear similar things about media conspiracies.  The basic premise is that the reason our freedoms are declining because of some special efforts by some groups to bring down the country.

I think these things are distractions.  We don't need to bring conspiracies into the equation at all.  What we actually seem to have is that a certain influential group of the American population tend to think in a similar way and, when they receive political power, approach lawmaking in the same way they approach moral obligations.

In other words, we don't have a secret cabal of People against Goodness and Normality.  We have people who have bought into certain errors as a way of thinking and are making that thinking into the law of the land.  It has six steps.  Three which are concerned with individual morality and three in which the individual steps are made law.

Looking at the First Three Steps

These first three steps are the framework, reflecting on how certain individuals view morality and how such individuals view challenges to their moral views.  Such persons reject the idea that there are moral absolutes that may not ever be transgressed when it comes to such rules requiring them to restrict their behavior.

The First Step: Reducing Morality to Not Harming Others

The basic form of this modern morality is the concept that anything that does not harm others is permissible.  Thus drug use that is not harming others is permissible.  Fornication is permissible.  Also, the emphasis on harming others is important.  Under this view, we can be self-destructive so long as this destruction does not harm others.

We can see the roots for this kind of thinking in Utilitarianism.  John Stuart Mill describes the basic view as:

the ultimate end, with reference to and for the sake of which all other things are desirable (whether we are considering our own good or that of other people), is an existence exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments, both in point of quantity and quality; the test of quality, and the rule for measuring it against quantity, being the preference felt by those who, in their opportunities of experience, to which must be added their habits of self-consciousness and self-observation, are best furnished with the means of comparison.

If it causes happiness, it is good.  If it causes unhappiness it is not good.  However, we do see a early warning sign here.  The standards of distinguishing good and harm is arbitrary, and as society has moved forward in time have become more individualistic.  The individual is expected to decide for himself or herself what amount of pain is acceptable in the pursuit of pleasure.  The "habits of self-consciousness and self-observation" are replaced by the slogan, "If it feels good, do it."

The problem with this view of morality is it is too short sighted.  It focuses on the pleasure of the moment and ignores how long term effects of these behaviors can be harmful. 

For example, the loose sexual morality requires contraception to avoid pregnancies.  However, the laws of averages means eventually there will be unexpected pregnancies, and the demand for abortions.  Therefore abortion becomes classified under the category of "anything that does not harm others is permissible."  It's considered a minor inconvenience which should be legalized to remove consequences from sexual behavior as a pleasure.

But abortion does harm.  The obvious harm to another comes from the fact that the unborn child is a person.  Prior to Roe v. Wade, this was pretty much accepted as fact.  Only after the Supreme Court ruling do we see medical textbooks stop talking about this.  Moreover, in modern times, it is recognized that abortions cause mental and emotional harm to the mother who has an abortion.  But since this harm challenges the basic premise of modern morality, it has to be somehow removed from consideration.  This brings us to our second step

The Second Step: Denying the Harm Exists and Explaining It Away

The response of the modern morality is to either deny the harm exists or explain it away as less than the action defended.  Often it tries to argue both, leading one to ask, "Well, which is it?"  Either the harm exists or it does not.  If it does, it has to be acknowledged and dealt with.  If it doesn't, then why try to explain it away?

So we see people facing an unexpected pregnancy, denying the unborn child is a person; denying that such mental harm to the mother exists or explaining the harm away in the name of "a woman's right to choose."  But if the unborn child is a person, then the "woman's right to choose" is causing harm to others and cannot be permitted under modern morality.  So they have to deny that the unborn child is a person while also saying that whether or not the unborn child is a person, it doesn't outrank the "freedom of choice."

The danger is, this modern view of morality focuses on what the individual thinks, as opposed to what is true. So if the person decides they should not worry about the harm caused to another, they are deciding for themselves whether the harm done to another has any meaning.  As we will see later, when people with this mindset receive political power, their self-focused determination on whether those harmed have value or not will impact the laws they pass.

The Third Step: Shooting the Messenger

In a reasoned discussion, people would attempt to objectively consider the issues and attempt to discover the reality.  Behavior would then be changed in order to live in accordance to what is true.  Unfortunately, in modern times we do not see this.  It is one of the greatest ironies that people who claim that beliefs in objective morality and absolute truth are labeled "irrational" and "illogical" when the response to people who challenge modern morality is to verbally attack them and make no attempt at refutation.

The denial and explaining away can be (and often is) challenged by rational argument, but people don't like to be shown to be in the wrong, and this leads to the third step: Hostility to those who point out the modern morality is causing harm to people. 

When it is pointed out that certain behaviors are NOT morally permissible and DO cause harm, there are no attempts at a reasoned refutation.  What we have instead is a lashing out at those who point out the behavior is harmful.

It works this way: People standing up for absolute morality creates a challenge that puts the follower of modern morality into a dilemma.  If what challengers say is true then it indicts the act as wrong and the person who performs the act must choose between renouncing the act or continue the act, knowing it is wrong. 

Very few people deliberately want to be evil-doers in the sense of the character Aaron in the Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus who dies regretting he had not done more evil.  Rather, many people are inordinately attached to certain behaviors and are unwilling to give them up.  They also don't want to be in the wrong in not giving them up.

So the defense mechanism begins.  But since the justification for modern morality is the individual decides that the act doesn't harm anyone in a way the individual considers important, they cannot defend their position as being right.  So what often happens is to avoid being wrong, they seek to denigrate their challengers, trying to portray them as being in the wrong.

This is why we see so many ad hominem attacks: "War on women."  "Homophobic."  "Judgmental."  These attacks make no legitimate claim against the truth of the defender of absolute morality.  It merely attacks the person who challenges this form of thinking.  It is as if they think if they can discredit the messenger, they can justify ignoring the message.

It's a sort of begging the question.

  1. If they were good people they would agree with [X]
  2. They don't agree with [X]
  3. Therefore they're not good people
  4. Why does not agreeing with [X] make them bad people?
  5. Because [X] is good.

[X] is the issue being disputed whether it is good or not, so to argue that people are not good if they do not agree with [X] merely assumes what has to be proven.

Once we get to the point where a person being good or not depends on whether he accepts the position of modern morality, it becomes easier to label the person who challenges modern morality as people who don't matter.  Once that label is bestowed, it will have relevance in a society which adapts the modern morality to law.


Now the first three steps are individually focused, but when numbers of individuals who share the same view group together, we can see political influence grow from them.  Voters who hold these views are going to tend towards supporting candidates that share their views ,or at least favor leniency towards the behaviors.  Members of the media who share these views are going to report things in terms of promoting the modern morality and denigrating the concept of moral absolutes.  Politicians who hold these views are going to pass laws which reflect these views of morality.

The next article will take a look at how we go from this individualistic view of morality to what happens when we elect people who hold to this view of morality.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reflections on Truth, Christian Morality and Challenges by Relativism

Relativism: the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

Absolute: a value or principle regarded as universally valid or able to be viewed without relation to other things.

Absolute Relativism?

Among some who reject Christian teaching, whether as a whole or in part, there is an argument offered that there is no absolute truth.  Therefore there is nothing to require us to behave in a certain way, as everything depends on perspective.  The problem is, people who argue this way create a self-contradicting argument.  The claim that there is no absolute truth, by the nature of its claim, assumes this claim is absolutely true – which cannot exist according to the claim.  The claim that everything depends on perspective assumes something which is true beyond all perspective.

The argument is faced by this dilemma:

  • If [There is no absolute truth] is true in all times, places and circumstances then there is an absolute truth.
  • If [There is no absolute truth] is not true in all times, places and circumstances, it means the claim is not absolute and there can be absolute truths.

The point is, everybody believes in some absolute truth (even if it is the claim that "there are no absolutes"). If they truly did not, they could not dispute anything.  The fact that we recognize that something is wrong indicates we believe there is something which is always true.  Once we recognize that, we can question this kind of skeptic, "Why must we accept your claim to the absolute truth?  What is the basis for it?"  Once we have a recognition that absolute truth does exist (in some form), we can inquire what is the truth when there are different claims as to what the truth is.

Now this is a crude form of relativism which subconsciously assumes what it tries to refute.  Mostly it is claimed in such a bold statement by people who have more enthusiasm for their position than reasoned consideration (in other words, don't assume all relativists think this way).  However, even more restricted forms of Relativism hold to assumptions that cause problems for those who assert them.

Moral Relativism

Let's look at a popular claim made by some who reject Christian moral teaching: That there are no moral absolutes.  Some supporters of this claim think it gives them an escape route because the claim is a claim to truth outside of morality – it gives them an opportunity to make an absolute statement that is not a self contradiction.

We can however show that such a view is not actually believed in an absolute way by the proponents by the behavior of these proponents.

  1. If there are [No Moral Absolutes] then [everything is permitted] (If A then B).
  2. Not [everything is permitted] (Not B)
  3. Therefore there are not [No Moral Absolutes].  (Therefore not A)

The major premise points out that if there are no moral absolutes, then everything can be legitimately done in at least some circumstances.  That would mean in some circumstances it is permissible to rape or commit genocide or to own slaves.  If these things are never permissible, then we have shown that there are at least some moral absolutes.

Once we have shown this, it becomes clear that the dispute with Christian moral values is not a denial of moral absolutes, but rather a claim that some Christian moral values (usually concerning sexual morality) should not be binding.  That claim, however, must not be accepted at face value (that's a logical fallacy called ipse dixit [literally ‘he himself said it’]).  Just as Christianity offers justifications on why its moral teachings are true, those who reject Christian morality must also offer justifications on why their claims on morality are true.

Common Logical Fallacies Used in the Attack on Christian Morality

However, that is exactly what is not done.  We either see the ipse dixit claim, giving us no rational cause to accept, or else we see them offering tu quoque or ad hominem fallacies.

For example, when Catholics speak against the current restrictions on religious freedom in America, some reply by bringing up medieval history when some believed that a minority religion could be restricted.  That would be a tu quoque (literally 'You also!') attack, because a person behaving inconsistently does not mean what is said is false or that the past behavior of some justifies the current behavior of others).  If you think it was unjustified then, it is certainly something that cannot be argued to be justified now.

An example of the ad hominem (literally, 'against the person') would be the people who use terms like "homophobic" or "war on women" or "extreme right (left) wing" and the like.  It attacks the person making an argument and tries to indicate that the person has a repugnant quality, therefore what he says can be rejected.  For example, if I attempted to argue that "People who support moral relativism are a bunch of stupid liberals," this would be an example of the ad hominem attack, because that label does not disprove the argument.

What it comes down to is that the current attacks on Christian morality are not based on a rational, logical argument but rather a set of assumptions which, when examined cannot stand.  Thus these arguments cannot be said to refute Christian morality because the premises are not true and you cannot have a proven conclusion if the premises of the argument are not true.


Of course, it does not mean that because an argument is fallacious that a conclusion is automatically false (for example.  "All 2s are blue.  All 3s are brown.  Therefore 2+3 is 5" has false premises , but 2+3 is 5).  However, showing these attacks against Christian morality do not prove what they claim allows us to say that the justification for Christian morality still stands, and perhaps people should consider what those justifications are instead of claiming ipse dixit that Christian morality is false.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Movies Worth Watching Before November 6th

As we get nearer to election day, I've found certain movies resonating with me because they remind the viewer that the obligation to do what is right calls people to make a stand in the face of government intrusion – even at the cost of mistreatment.

Three that come to mind are:

  1. For Greater Glory
  2. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
  3. A Man for All Seasons (Both the 1966 movie and the 1988 Charlton Heston version are well done)

In all three movies, we see the theme of a government which behaves in a way that people of conscience cannot accept.  In all of them, we see characters who are told that if they just "compromise a little" and accept the government intrusion, all will be well with them.  In all of them, these characters make the decision that stands up for doing what is right and suffer the consequences – consequences the government has no right to impose because the government had no right to create such laws in the first place.

Another good movie is After the Truth.  A German movie from 1999, it takes as the premise, What if the infamous Nazi Doctor Josef Mengele came back to Germany to face trial with the intent of justifying his position?  The trial points out that the callous Nazi medical experiments and euthanasia did not arise in 1933, but before with German doctors questioning whether a human life is really worth living in the case of the insane or the deformed.  As the movie progresses, we see that Mengele's positions are not born in the extreme ideology of the Nazis, but instead can be found in the assumptions of pro-euthanasia and pro-abortion supporters – that some life is not worthy of life and should be ended.  When we realize that some people in modern society who are definitely not Nazis have a similar mindset and are promoting these things in the name of "compassion," it makes one realize that evil is not simply done by tyrannical regimes, but also by governments and individuals who think their ideas are "merciful."

I think in all of these movies, we should be brought to asking why such government injustices were permitted to go so far as they did that they ended up doing such injustice.

Of course the members of the government in each movie have their own responsibility, but every one of us should be asking questions about governments and individuals who make policies that force or encourage people do do wrong and to ask questions about what it means when a government makes use of its power to coerce people who say "I will not comply with this evil."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Demagogues: American Morality by Mob Rule over Reason

Demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.

Psalm 29: If a wise person disputes with a fool, there is railing and ridicule but no resolution.

Christianity, to be precise Christianity that believes the moral commands have divine authority and are not merely customs, receives a lot of flak from a certain portion of the Western World, especially in America.  A certain segment of the population essentially denies some or all of the moral law as having authority. The portion of the moral law this group rejects is labeled as being nothing more than an innovation imposed on everybody by a small minority.  Those individuals who object to changes in the law based on this allegation are attacked as intolerant.

This allegation is that it is based on the claim: "There is nothing wrong with [X].  People who think there is something wrong with [X] are pushing their beliefs on others."

It rather reminds me of the definition of the term, Dramatic Irony:

a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.

It is irony because the claim that "There is nothing wrong with [X]" is itself a statement of belief on morality.  Moreover, the disapproval expressed against people who "push their beliefs on others" is also a statement of belief on morality.  If pushing beliefs on morality on others is wrong, then it follows that condemning people for not sharing the denial that [X] is wrong… are wrong.

If [no values should be pushed on others] is absolutely true (true in all situations, times and places), then it follows that [tolerance] is a value  that cannot be pushed on others, because tolerance is seen as a value in modern America.

However, if one wishes to deny that tolerance cannot be pushed on others, that means that some values can be insisted on for all times, places and situations.  That means the person who wants to include the values they prefer and exclude the values they dislike must show the basis of their claims as to what criteria determine absolute values from mere opinions.  Otherwise these champions of "tolerance" are being hypocritical.

In a reasonable world, when there are differences in moral views, discussion and exploration into what moral views are true, and people of good will would all seek to follow them.

But this is exactly what doesn't happen.  Instead we see an assertion that [X] (such as abortion, homosexual acts, or contraception) is morally good or at least neutral.  When that assertion is challenged, the response is not a reasoned defense, but instead an ad hominem attack which accuses the questioner as being judgmental or bigoted.

That isn't a defense of the assertion or a refutation of the challenge.  That is merely the act of a demagogue, who seeks to sway the population by appealing to desires and emotions, committing distortions to sway the audience.  The person who attempts reason is usually mocked or attacked (verbally or sometimes physically).

Now consider who acts like a demagogue?  is it a Pope who speaks about how certain acts are contrary to what God calls us to be and are harmful to us if we practice these acts?  Or is the demagogue the person who spews out slogans like "War on women!", "Homophobe!", "Right Wing Extremist!" and the like?

The people who say it is the Pope who is the demagogue are a large portion of the problem in America today.  The rest of the problem comes from the people who accept what "feels" right without asking what is true.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Propaganda in America: "Cutting Down the Laws"

The Short Term Danger

As we get closer to the elections, it is alarming to see just how many people are being taken in by propaganda set forth by the Obama administration.  There are actually a large amount of people who believe that the dispute over the HHS mandate is actually an attempt by religious groups to prevent people from using contraception.  People have used dishonest labels, such as the "War on Women."  They accuse us of trying to force our beliefs on them.

The facts are different.  Prior to the HHS mandate, self insured employers were not required to offer coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients.  Employers (religious organizations or individual business owners) trying to be faithful to their beliefs had this option to do what they felt obligated to do.

What the HHS mandate does is to mandate all insurance (including the self-insured) to provide contraception and abortifacient coverage or else be fined $100 per employee per day.  If you're a small business owner hiring 10 people, that's $1000 a day in fines.  In larger Catholic institutions, it adds up to millions of dollars a year.

It is funny, isn't it?  Christians who run businesses or hospitals or colleges must now offer coverage for activities they call evil or be forced out of business.  They're the ones accused of forcing their beliefs on others.  Meanwhile those people who demand that employers cover their contraceptives and abortifacients are called the victims.

The Long Term Danger

The evil done in this particular incident is dangerous enough in that it flagrantly violates the constitution while people who are oppressors portray themselves as victims, but there is a long term danger as well.

The Long term danger is that, if the government propaganda is allowed to go unchallenged, we we are seeing a large portion of the nation who can be deceived into thinking a violation of the Bill of Rights is in fact a new freedom.  Precedents are being set which can be used by any future government, conservative or liberal, to overrule the conscience of any group which is inconvenient.

Now many of the deceived may think that this is alarmism.  They may think that since we are not seeing the tactics of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or modern China, that there is no danger here of the loss of civil rights in America.

However, America doesn't need concentration camps or gulags to restrict our freedoms. Right now our government can inflict fines for non-compliance if this is allowed to stand… fines that can force any person or group out of business who refuses to comply with the desired policy.

I won't say we are becoming Totalitarian mind you.  That would require deceiving the population a bit more to thinking that it is better to entrust all power to a regime with an ideology which a large enough percentage tends to sympathize with. 

No, right now, we are in danger of moving from a Republic based on the safeguards of protecting freedoms to an authoritarian government which takes away some of our freedoms in the name of "bettering" people in some way or "protecting" freedoms from an alleged threat.  Right now this so-called threat is organized religion, where attempts to defend religious beliefs is portrayed as "forcing beliefs on others."  To "defend" the country from that "threat" the government claims that religious individuals must comply with  state demands.

But once they get you to accept that belief that government impositions over the Constitution are necessary, it becomes easier to eliminate other constitutional hindrances to their power.


I think a good way to conclude this article is to quote from the 1966 movie, A Man for All Seasons:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Many people out there may have hostility to Christianity in general or Catholicism in particular.  I have even seen some go so far as to say that it should be destroyed to "protect" people.  One hopes these types are merely a minority of uninformed radicals.  But even if the reader should be opposed to us, you should be careful as to what conveniences you support to oppose us.

Otherwise, once you cut down all the laws, will you be able to "stand upright in the winds that would blow then?"

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Cart Before the Horse: Accusing the Church of Political Motivations

It is not that his Church tyrannously claims the right of forbidding to him a freedom allowed to others.  [The Catholic] must not say "My Church forbids it" – that is inaccurate.  What he must say is "God forbids it and my Church fortifies me in that belief."

—Msgr. Ronald Knox, The Beliefs of Catholics (page 158 Image Book version)

One of the real problems in America and the rest of the Western world is that the concept of democracy tends to override everything, and the view that everything has a political motivation.  The result is nowadays, instead of religion being viewed as some form of relationship with God, religion is seen as misogynistic, homophobic, autocratic… basically whenever the Church must say something is contrary to how a person who professes to be Christian must live, the response is to accuse the Church as having a malicious intent.

This sort of mindset plagues certain dissenters within the Church and ideologues outside the Church alike.  They see the disliked Church teaching as being politically motivated by people who must be intolerant – otherwise they would think like the dissenters and ideologues.  When the Church must condemn certain behavior as being outside what is part of being a follower of Christ, the result is to accuse the Church of meddling in politics.

This sort of view entirely misses the point of the Church's mission of evangelizing the world.

The Catholic Church has been around far before there was a United States of America.  It was established in the first century AD, a time when Europe was divided between the (relatively) civilized Roman Empire and the barbarian tribes of the North.  The Church condemned abortion then too.  They condemned use of medicines to artificially prevent conception.  In fact, while the Church teachings have become more refined in response to the innovations of technology, the basic premises have not changed.

The first century document, The Epistle of Barnabas,for example, states:

Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born. (Chapter XIX)

It should be noted that this document, which shows the Catholic belief existed at this time, was far before the creation of the United States in 1776 (or 1787 if you want to count the implementation of the Constitution as the beginning), the establishment of the Democratic Party about 1800, the formation of the Republican Party in 1856.  In fact the Catholic teachings on these subjects existed far before Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire.

The point of the above is not to make use of an argument from antiquity fallacy (this view is older therefore it is true).  Rather, it is to show how foolish it is to claim that the Catholic teaching and the actions of the Pope and Bishops are politically motivated when they remind us that modern attempts to legalize evil are still contrary to what God tells us to do.

When the Church does speak on issues which are "hot button" issues in the political sphere, we need to remember that her motivation is not to get a Republican in the White House or to pass a liberal agenda (the Church has been accused from both sides).  When the Church teaches, her motivation is to be faithful to Jesus Christ who commanded the Church to go out to the nations.  This includes warning the people of all nations to turn from evil and seek to good.

Some may deny that Christ established the Catholic Church, and we can't help it if some refuse to accept her teachings.

But it is foolish to claim that just because these opponents may be politically motivated, that the Church must be too.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Is the Ryan Abortion Position on Abortion Contrary to Catholic Teaching?

(Edited 10/13/12 to fix a statement that could be misinterpreted as saying Ryan's position is absolutely wrong)

One of the aftermaths to the Biden-Ryan debate is the argument that the position described by Ryan is also contrary to the Catholic teaching.  Some pro-lifers seem to take the view of a plague on both your houses, while some liberal Catholics argue that since neither candidate holds a Catholic position, they are free to vote for whoever they want.

In light of my last column which pointed out the despicable conclusions that follow from Biden's views on abortion, I figure I should also offer comment on what Ryan described as the Romney/Ryan view on the subject.  I must admit that, at first glance, their views hardly seem ideal when Ryan says:

Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

According to some Obama supporters and some pro-lifers, Ryan seems a problem here.  If the fetus is a human person from the moment of conception, it follows that the protection of that human life is not removed in the cases of any of those exceptions.  In the Catholic teaching, "One may never do evil so that good may result from it" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1789).  The good sought is the protection of the mother.  The evil done is the deliberate killing of the unborn child.  Since we may never choose an evil means to achieve a good end, it may seem the Ryan position is not compatible with Catholic teaching.  We Catholics cannot – and should not—deny the fact that abortion in any circumstances is impermissible.

The teaching of the Church has made clear our obligations when faced with a voting choice where neither party is fully pro-life.  In speaking on such laws, Pope John Paul II has said (Evangelium Vitae #74)

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

Now, since it is impossible at this time to overturn the unjust Supreme Court decisions on abortion, we can make a case that the Romney/Ryan position falls under this criteria.  When faced with  a president who feels that abortion should be legal under all circumstances, the Romney/Ryan position is definitely aimed at limiting the harm done by legalized abortion.  Since Ryan's position is well known in opposing abortion, his position on the limiting abortion to rape/incest and the life of the mother can reasonably be considered to lessen the effect of an unjust law and is not cooperation with an unjust law.

We need to realize the difference though between choosing a lesser evil willfully compared to tolerating the effect of a lesser evil.  We are simply not allowed to choose to do evil.  Because Ryan is not saying he supports abortion rights in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother, and his rating with the National Right to Life Committee is 100% and his rating with NARAL is 0% it seems safe to assume that Ryan is not advocating some form of abortion rights, but is rather trying to limit abortion as much as he thinks he can.

So I believe we can say that his position is not one of dissent, but one who recognizes his Catholic obligation to save innocent lives and is seeking to limit the evil of America's unjust laws on abortion.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Biden the Despicable

During the VP debate, the question of abortion came up.  Biden had this to say:

BIDEN: My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who -- who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to -- with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a -- what we call a de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the -- the congressman. I -- I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that -- women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere with that.

Now, to translate the term (the Washington Post didn't understand what was said in transcript), De fide means:

(A matter) of the faith.  Essential to the faith and based in revelation. A doctrine proposed de fide in an ex cathedra fashion is said to possess the highest degree of certainty of truth and must be believed by the faithful.

Bretzke, J. T. (1998). Consecrated phrases: A Latin theological dictionary: Latin expressions commonly found in theological writings (electronic ed.). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

So Biden, by saying he recognizes the Church teaching on abortion is de fide, he is stating he knows the Church teaching as true and must be believed by the faithful.  So what does the Church say on abortion?  Well the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

So here's the problem for Catholics supporting Obama and Biden.  Biden has declared he believes the unborn child is alive and accepts the Catholic teaching that life must be protected from the moment from conception – yet he refuses to protect that unborn child from abortion.

What should we think of a man who entirely refuses to save lives from a government who declares it is allowable to kill them?  The word despicable comes to mind.  So does cowardly.  Also, hypocrisy fits. 

As we come to the elections, the Catholic voter must consider what it means when the Vice President says he believes the unborn is a person and still refuses to lift a finger to save their lives.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Big Bird and German Catholics: Morning Musings on Propaganda

Propaganda: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

There's an old lawyer joke out these.  When the Law is on your side, hammer on the law.  When the facts are on your side, hammer on the facts.  When neither is on your side, hammer on the table.  This statement comes to mind watching the current political atmosphere after the first Obama-Romney debate, where people on both sides think Obama lost.  What's the biggest thing being argued after the two candidates debated economic policy?

Big Bird.

That's right.  Disagreements with Romney's proposals on cutting spending are reduced down to the easy to remember but misleading slogan "Save Big Bird" with the implication that if PBS gets cut, Sesame Street will be cancelled (the logical fallacies appeal to fear and appeal to pity).  Never mind the fact that Sesame Street could stand on its own as a franchise.  It exists in over 20 countries, has depended on licensing arrangements for funding since 1978 (68% of funding comes from merchandising).  If PBS funding was cut, there would probably be a bidding war for Sesame Street among various networks out there.  Not to mention over 40 years of programs which could go into syndication.  The show is in no danger if disappearing regardless of what spending may be cut by the government.

The point is, the fact that Romney mentioned PBS as a targeted cut with a throwaway line about Big Bird is being turned into a piece of propaganda.  A vote for Obama is a vote to save Big Bird from Romney.  It has nothing to do with the issues of the election, and in fact is used as a distraction from other issues.  In other words, It's dishonest and calculated to elicit a certain view.

In other news, with an issue which is uniquely German, we are seeing media headlines which claim German Catholics that the Catholic Church is demanding Catholics pay taxes or be denied the sacraments.  It sounds horrible and makes the Church sound greedy.

It too is propaganda.  The situation in Germany is unusual.  After the kulturkampf, Germany offered compensation for the confiscation of Church properties, through a percentage of taxes… taken from Catholics.  See, in Germany, if you are a declared member of a religious group, the government automatically deducts taxes which is given to that religion.  It happens whether a person is a Catholic, Protestant or Jew.

The only way to avoid such taxes is to formally declare that you do not belong to any religion.

So here's the problem in the view of the Catholic Church.  We have some people publicly denying their affiliation with the Catholic Church for material gain – and still expect to benefit from membership with the Church.

The Church says no.  Jesus told us, in Matthew 10:32-33, that:

Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.

It's not about the money.  It's about people publicly denying their faith.  This bizarre situation arises because the German government is intrusive with this system of taxation and some people respond to it by seeking tax relief through denial of the faith.

But we are not permitted to deny our faith.  Many Catholics have been martyred over the centuries by refusing to deny the faith (If you haven't seen it yet, I strongly recommend watching For Greater Glory).  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out (#1789): One may never do evil so that good may result from it.  The Catechism says:

1816 The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.”82 Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”83

So what the Church is doing in barring those Catholics who officially claim no religion from the sacraments is reminding them that this is a failure to bear witness to the faith which is necessary for salvation.

Unfortunately the media is not discussing this aspect.  Instead it is playing up the "obsessed by money" aspect.  It's dishonest and calculated to elicit a certain view.

Propaganda makes easy to remember slogans.  But easy to remember slogans are not always true.  All people of good will should consider the truth behind the slogan.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Church and State


If one wants to be consistent in arguing the "Separation of Church and State," reason requires that we point out the fact that one cannot keep the Church out of the State without keeping the State out of the Church as well.  The problem is this is increasingly ignored by the Federal Government.

Christianity, in following Christ's command to “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:17) recognizes that the State has certain areas of authority granted to it for the common good and the protection of the people and that the people are required to give obedience to the authority in these matters.  However, Christians are also required to give obedience to God in matters which concern Him and the State has no authority to oppose or interfere with these commands.

Thus the state can pass laws which provide for the protection and benefit of the population.  For example, it can collect taxes (though not excessively) to make it possible to carry out its duties.  It can set traffic laws for the protection of the people.  There is nothing sacred about driving on the right or the left side of the road, but the government mandates one to avoid the danger of head-on collisions.  The government can set laws concerning military service for the defense of the nation.  There is nothing unreasonable about this as a general principle, though one can certainly judge how the state carries this out (such as a fair conscription in times of national emergency vs. an arbitrary "press gang").

However, the state does not have the authority to mandate what is to be morally acceptable. nor to force religions to participate in things that they find morally repugnant.  The state cannot justly compel Jews and Muslims to eat Pork, nor to force them to provide it for others for example.

The State Cannot Pass Laws outside its Competence or Area of Authority

In Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, we have an exchange between Thomas Cromwell and St. Thomas More concerning King Henry VII and his Act of Supremacy declaring him the head of the Church in England.  Thomas Cromwell attempts to reason that since More does not know the state of the souls who did sign and he does know he has a duty of obedience to the King, he should therefore sign his assent to the Act.  However, St. Thomas More points out:

Some men think the Earth is round and others think it is flat.  But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round?  And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it?  No, I will not sign. (Page 133).

St. Thomas More's point is a good one.  There are some things the state does not have the authority to declare. Regardless of what the State declares, if it is contrary to what is reality, such a law is meaningless and is nothing more than the state trying to tell people what to think or to do… tyranny.

The State has No Authority to Compel Compliance with an Unjust Law

Let's take another angle.  In the (admittedly mediocre) movie CSA: Confederate States of America, one of the premises is that the victorious South, in attempting to bring the conquered North into its way of life, creates a quandary.  A reconstruction tax is to be imposed on the conquered Northerners.  However, this tax can be avoided by the purchase of a slave.  It leaves the northerners with three choices:

  1. To purchase a slave.
  2. To pay the ruinous taxes.
  3. To leave the country.

The movie shows that the intent of the law is for people to choose option #1 to remove a cultural barrier between the North and the South.  Most Northerners do choose option #1, with a minority choosing option #3.  The viewer is supposed to recognize that all three of the choices are unjust.  Slavery is wrong, and the person who recognizes it as being wrong should not be forced into ruinous taxes or exile.

Both Violations Exist in America in 2012

It is interesting that people can see the problem in the movie, but not see that a very real version is happening right now in America.  With the HHS mandate for example, employers with religious beliefs that tell them that contraception and abortifacients are morally wrong are put in the same quandary.  Failing to provide contraception/abortifacient coverage in their health care plans results in a fine which can equal $100 per employee per day.  It is estimated that the Evangelical owned "Hobby Lobby" could potentially have to pay up to $1.3 million dollars a day for refusing to comply with the HHS mandate.

In other words, the company has these options:

  1. To comply with what they believe to be immoral.
  2. To pay ruinous fines.
  3. To stop doing business in America.

Christians are not Imposing their Beliefs on Others when they Defend their own Rights

Now the examples of A Man for All Seasons and CSA bring out two important facts.  First, that a government which seeks to mandate what is morally acceptable has no authority to do so, and second, when it seeks to coerce acceptance of such a mandate, it is behaving tyrannically and exceeds its authority.

Remembering this is important where supporters of the government's policies are labeling Christians as being intolerant and imposing views on others.  The First Amendment points out:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So the employer with religious beliefs which tells him or her that providing insurance coverage for contraception or abortifacients is wrong has the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances in regards to the interference with the free exercise of religion.  The government does not have the right to restrict these freedoms.  Religious believers have the right to object to and challenge the HHS mandate and do not impose their views on others in doing so.

Nor do we impose our views on others when we seek to instruct voters as to why certain government policies are unjust and seek to encourage the passage of laws that overturn the injustices.  Our nation was founded on this principle, as stated in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The irony is, it is the religious believers seeking to defend their rights declared in the Declaration and the Constitution are unjustly accused of violating these rights, while those who do or favor the actual violations are treated as the victims.

Our objection to the unjust Laws, Mandates and Court Rulings is not out of opposition to the democratic process, but is out of opposition to the imposition of something the government has no right to impose in the first place and has no right to coerce our compliance with unjust sanctions.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fifth Anniversary Post: Lincoln was Right

In my first post, written September 22nd, 2007, I quoted Abraham Lincoln who had written:

Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy hypocrisy.

In that post I had written about my concerns that America was in danger of passing unjust laws in which "the just who are constrained and the unjust are free."

Fast forwarding five years to today, September 22nd, 2012, it is no longer a theoretical question about the danger of passing unjust laws.  They are now passed, and the fate of the First Amendment is much more dubious than it was when I first wrote.  The propaganda of the current presidency and his supporters are in fact blaming people who are trying to defend their religious freedom for "imposing their views on others."

I find that curious.

The Catholic who believes abortion is wrong and uses his or her rights as an American citizen (freedom of speech, the right to vote etc.)  regarding this moral conviction is told he or she is "imposing views on others."  The atheist who believes abortion is a right and uses his or her rights as an American citizen to expand the legality and reach of abortion is praised for "protecting freedom."

Both the Catholic and the atheist in this case are acting according to what they believe.  But one is vilified for doing so and the other is praised.  One is harassed when speaking while the other is protected.  This is an arbitrary application of law, of media reporting calculated to favor one group and denigrate another.

I believe Lincoln was right.  America is a nation where there is a pretense of loving liberty, but no longer an actual love of liberty.  It is the alloy of hypocrisy to praise freedom when the HHS mandate is telling religious institutions that their schools and hospitals must choose between going against what they believe God commands them to do and being fined/taxed out of existence.

People of good will should think about that.  On one hand we have the the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

On the other hand, we have a government prohibiting the free exercise of religion by telling religious hospitals and schools that they must pay for insurance coverage for abortifacients and contraception – even if these hospitals and schools think it wrong and refusing to consider the petitions for the redress of grievances.

When the Church (and other denominations) speak out on this, it draws the accusation of "violating the separation of Church and State" and potential legal sanctions.

So we see again Lincoln's point.  America claims to love liberty, but is willing to set it aside when seeking to suppress someone who takes a stand and says "What America is doing is wrong here."  That is "the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more laudable beliefs than is the case" as the Oxford English Dictionary defines hypocrisy.

The sad thing is, once the principle is accepted (which at this time seems to depend somewhat on the results of the November 2012 elections and the Supreme Court challenges), it becomes easy for any future government to use this to their own ends.  It doesn't have to even be the scenario of Obama who makes the United States into a dictatorship.  A future presidency could take the premise Obama established and use it to further his or her own ends, using the force of government to silence opponents.

So with this in mind, what are we to do?  The individual Christians seems weak.  The Church is attacked in a way that seeks to silence her.  The courts seem indifferent to these violations.  The government is actively involved in promoting this violation.  Are we doomed to suffer the violation of religious freedom?

At a time like this, I am reminded of the words of St. Augustine:

God therefore does not command impossibilities; but in His command He counsels you both to do what you can for yourself, and to ask His aid in what you cannot do.

Augustine of Hippo. (1887). A Treatise on Nature and Grace (P. Holmes, Trans.). In P. Schaff (Ed.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume V: Saint Augustin: Anti-Pelagian Writings (P. Schaff, Ed.) (138). New York: Christian Literature Company.

We need to both pray concerning what is outside of our control, and do what God wants us to do.  We can't hide in a bunker and complain loudly about bishops being at fault because we're still under fire.  All of us who profess to be Catholics have a role to play.  It might be something like informing people on a national scale, but it also might be a matter of informing a co-worker who speaks about the so-called "war on women" how things really are.

God does have a role for each one of us to play.  We do have the free will to cooperate with God or to ignore that role He calls us for.  However, we must remember that God doesn't always use spectacular miracles to make His will known.  Sometimes he calls on the little people – like how he called a collection of tax collectors, fishermen and the like to bring His message to the whole world.

How far would those twelve men had gotten if everyone else in the Church had, instead of taking part in the mission of the Church, instead sat around and complained about how terrible these Apostles were for not getting more done?

In 2007, I don't think anyone foresaw this coming.  Now that it is here, we have to remember that all of us: Catholics, Protestants, non-Christians, non-believers – all people seeking to do right – need to make a stand against a government which is choosing to do wrong.

If we don't, the words Cardinal George uttered in 2010 will be prophetic:

"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Logic That Discredits a 'Gay Marriage' argument

In the news, there have been some cases of the media or activists taking offense when a high ranking official in the Church points out that if homosexual 'marriage' was permitted, there was no reason to deny polygamy and incestuous marriage between consenting partners.  The result is to watch the supporters of so-called 'gay marriage' hit the ceiling as they angrily deny such a claim, while accusing us of saying hateful things.  How dare they say homosexual relationships are the equivalent to incest and polygamy?

Well, they didn't make that comparison.  These were not statements of moral equivalence.  Nor were they examples of the "slippery slope" fallacy (which argues if X happens, then Y and Z must also happen). 

What the cardinal and the bishop did was to employ the logical tool of reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity).  This tool shows that the consequences of taking an argument to its logical end are so absurd or offensive that the argument itself must be rejected as absurd or offensive.  (The reductio can sometimes be confused for the slippery slope, but the two are not the same)

The reductio can be broken down this way.

  1. IF a person accepts the claim that feelings of affection between people, able to give consent, are the only necessary conditions for marriage (and those who insist it is intolerance to claim that marriage between a man and a woman is the only valid form of marriage)
  2. THEN any similar feelings of affection between people able to give consent must also be granted the right to 'marry.'
  3. THUS absurd results like polygamy and incestuous marriage must also be accepted for the same grounds "gay marriage" is accepted (that is, you can't accept one and deny the other without being arbitrary).

"Sorry dear, I'm leaving you and marrying our 18 year old daughter… we love each other and it is bigoted of you to try to restrict who we can marry."

The point is NOT to say "homosexuality = incest."  The point is this argument for so-called "gay marriage" cannot exclude incestuous marriage and polygamy as well.  Since the angry reactions show us that even supporters of "gay marriage" are offended by this comparison – an indication that the consequences of taking the argument to it's logical end are absurd or offensive, it follows this argument to justify "gay marriage" is absurd (or else opponents of incestuous marriage are "incestophobic.")

Far from being a comparison of "gay marriage" and polygamy or incestuous relationships, this reductio ad absurdum points out that this argument put forward to defend "gay marriage" actually also justifies behavior that goes too far even for the supporters.  If the supporter of "gay marriage" wants to accuse us of 'homophobia' because we believe marriage should be between a man and a woman only, then the supporter of polygamy or incestuous 'marriage' can accuse the person who wants to limit marriage to two people who are not related to each other can also be accused of intolerant bigotry.

So here is the problem for those who attack the Catholic Church as "intolerant" because she defines marriage between a man and a woman only.  Because they recognize the openness to possibility of life as one of the requirements of marriage and the unity of two people as another, it is not intolerance that marriage be made up of only two people and between a man and a woman.

BUT, for anyone who claims that it is only the affection between people that is the basis of marriage – and therefore homosexual "marriage" should be allowed IS bigoted if they refuse to allow other unions which fall under this criteria.

Remember, by expressing outrage at this claim, the proponents of "gay marriage" have already demonstrated that they find the possibility of polygamy and incestuous "marriage" offensive by being outraged at what the bishop and the cardinal have said.  So their dilemma is:

  1. Either they tolerate any sort of relationship which can be justified by the reductio ad absurdum
  2. OR they must justify why they can draw the line to exclude these things and still rationally support "gay marriage."

Maybe that's why supporters are so prone to hurling ad hominems instead of explaining their position?

Monday, September 10, 2012

TFTD: Meaningless…

If a person believes in God in a meaningful way, it is reasonable to expect that this person will seek to follow the teachings of God to the best of his or her understanding and ability.

If a person believes in Christ in a meaningful way, it is reasonable to expect that this person will seek to follow the teachings of Christ to the best of his or her understanding and ability.

If a person claims to be a Catholic, in a meaningful sense, it is reasonable to expect this person to recognize that the Catholic Church was established by Christ and teaches with Christ's authority, protected from teaching error on issues necessary for salvation.


If one rejects the teaching and authority of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Church Christ founded, such a person cannot claim to be a faithful Catholic in any meaningful sense of the term.

Once we realize this, when we look at the claims of those Catholics who deny the commands of God and Jesus Christ and/or the teachings of the Catholic Church are binding, what they claim to profess… is pretty meaningless.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

TFTD: Church Teaching NOT Up for Grabs

"Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

(Luke 10:16)

I came across an opinion article from a badly misinformed writer on the conflict among Catholics during an Election year.  The annoying part of the article read:

Beyond secular politics, polarization in the church also includes tension about such things as the new Mass language, the ordination of women, the role of nuns, contraception, the nature of the priesthood and the role of laity. The very nature of the reforms of Vatican Council II is up for grabs. Inspiring leaders with vision and courage are sorely lacking.

That would be incorrect.  The nature of the reforms are not "up for grabs."  We need to recognize that the Catholic teaching is not an issue to be debated or voted on.  it is not something that would be changed if only the Church would bring in liberal bishops.  The truth is, faithful Catholics believe the Catholic faith was established by Christ with authority given to the apostles and their successors – the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him (the Magisterium).

Basically, when there is a dispute over the proper interpretation of Catholic teaching, it is the Magisterium which has the authority to determine what is in keeping with the Catholic faith and what is not.  Not some modern theologian.  Not some married couple who decide they don't want to follow the Church teaching on sexual morality.

Not even a deceased cardinal who took positions on morality which were dubious at best has the authority to change the teaching on his own say so.

What we have in America is not a case of  "Inspiring leaders with vision and courage are sorely lacking."  The Bishops who stand with the Holy Father and teach the message of the Church can indeed speak out with authority.  Those members of the Church who contradict the consistent teaching of the Church have no authority whatsoever for their position.  The ex-priest promoting priestly marriage, the liberal politician supporting abortion, the businessman who tries to distort the Catholic position on social justice, they do not.

it is important to recognize these truths.  To be authentically Catholic, one must remember that the doctrinal and moral teachings cannot be reversed and they are not mere opinions of the Pope and bishops.

Like it or not, those people who disagree with the teaching of the Catholic Church are, according to what follows from the Catholic faith, in conflict with God.  If a person accepts the authority of the Church as coming from Christ, they need to be faithful to the teaching of the Church as coming from Christ.  If one rejects that, it is pretty foolish to remain within a Church which claims it as true.

So let's stop the nonsense of the Church teaching as being "up for grabs."  Those who remain faithful to the Church teaching will be faithful to Christ, while those who deny the Church teaching will be denying Christ.  This is not political debate, but recognizing the truth God calls us to live.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Propaganda and lies: The Lie that Will Never Die

I see the usual comments following a news story about the Catholic Church – the Church is equated as being the biggest promoter of pedophilia.  It seems to be especially growing today with the American bishops taking a stand against the HHS mandate, abortion, gay "marriage" and other issues popular with one of the political parties but run counter to what the Catholic Church teaches.

In fact, it seems to be the modern version of Godwin's Law.  The modern version seems to be:

The longer an internet conversation goes on, the probability of someone invoking the Inquisition and the Abuse scandals approaches 1 – especially against someone who is defending the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

Some people may be wondering when this gross misrepresentation will die.  Most internet comments show a grossly misinformed public who believes that the Catholic Church, as a matter of official policy from the Pope down, deliberately tried to hide the abuse scandal, and a person might be thinking, that these people can't be uninformed idiots forever.

Unfortunately, they can.  History is full of gross misrepresentations about the Church.  The claim that the Church executed millions of people during the Spanish Inquisition, the claim that Pope Pius XII was pro-Nazi, the claim that the Church is anti-Science, etc.  The facts which show that these gross generalizations and so-called "common knowledge" are inaccurate can be easily be verified – but they are repeated nonetheless.

Just like these gross misrepresentations (some people actually claim over 100 million people were killed during the Spanish Inquisition– which would have been more than the population of Europe at the time), we'll hear all sorts of gross misrepresentations of how the abuse crisis was handled.

Of course in both the Inquisition and the abuse scandal, things were done that should not have been done and some bishops in the Church failed to shepherd the flock as they were obliged to do.  Catholics have no obligation to defend either the Inquisition or the way some bishops handled the Abuse scandals in their dioceses.  In fact we should not.

Rather, we do have the obligation to refute the gross misrepresentations which make it sound as if the brutality of the Renaissance era and the failure to protect the innocent children in modern times were due to a willful decision by the Catholic Church as official teaching.

These things shouldn't have been done , so nobody should try to justify wrong done.  But when someone acts as if all priests are abusers, they make the same kind of statement as "All Muslims are terrorists" or "all Hispanics are illegals" or "all Blacks are violent criminals."

Yes, some priests did abuse – and I pray we root them all out.  Yes some Muslims are terrorists.  Yes some Hispanics are illegals.  Yes some Blacks are criminals.


Not all of them are, and it would be unjust to label the whole because of individuals who do these things, or to claim that only these groups did these things.  There are atheist terrorists, Chinese illegals and white violent criminals, after all.

The attack on the Church (or the other stereotypes) is an example of the fallacy of the undistributed middle, drawing a universal conclusion from a limited group:

  1. Fr. Smith is a Priest (A is part of B).
  2. Fr. Smith is an abuser (A is part of C).
  3. Therefore priests are abusers (Therefore B is part of C).

The problem of course is that pointing out that A is related to B and C says nothing about how B is related to C.  In fact, there are several areas where the argument is flat out false, which can be shown in a Venn diagram:

Where allegation is false

If A = [Father Smith], B = [Abusers] and C = [Priests], the shaded part of B shows abusers who are not priests, while the shaded part of C shows Priests who are not abusers.  The point is, you can't argue from the fact that some priests were abusers that all of them are.  Nor could we say (if A = Bishop Smith, B = Those who cover up and C = Bishops) that the existence of some bishops who failed to report means the whole Church is guilty.

But this is the argument which is used to claim child abuse is  solely a Catholic issue and to argue that the whole Church is guilty.  I have seen countless times where some people try to argue that abuse is mainly committed by Catholic priests and that religious persecution is solely the provenance of the Catholic Church, when in fact instances of abuse within the Catholic Church is at similar rates to that of the Protestant churches and both are far less than in the Public School system.

This isn't a tu quoque argument made to excuse the Catholic Church.   Far from it – even if there had only been one case in the history of the Church, it still would have been one case too many.  Likewise, the existence of the excesses within the Inquisition is something that should sadden the faithful Catholic.  The point is, the claim that these things were exclusive to Catholicism is a lie.

Catholics need to remember never to give the impression of indicating that abuse is unimportant or sometimes not the fault of the abuser (as Fr. Groeschel regrettably did) when defending the Church from the growing myth.  Non-Catholics of good will need to realize that the rhetoric out there is grossly unjust in seeking to insinuate (or directly claim) that the sins of some priests who abused and some bishops who concealed does not indict the whole Church, nor that the Magisterium chose to make concealment an official policy, and to make that charge is as repugnant as the claim that all Blacks are violent criminals because some were arrested for violent crimes.

All people are called to seek out the truth and not to continue to repeat old charges without verifying the truth.