Showing posts with label religious freedom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religious freedom. Show all posts

Monday, June 5, 2023

It’s Iimi! A Final Exam

It’s the last day of finals, and Iimi is giving her Oral Logic Presentation on the topic of boycotts. But Ms. Baculum, having some plans of her own, decides to turn it into a discussion that catches Iimi unaware. 

 


Possible trigger warning: Two panels in this comic (pages 16 + 17) involve blood and injury and might trouble sensitive viewers.






















Post-Comic Notes:

Regarding the last panel, I myself have lost a leg, though under different circumstances (gangrene, not an accident). Ms. Baculum’s dealing with it will be informed by my own experiences. 


As for recusancy, To learn the basics, see this ARTICLE.

A paywall-free article on the report Iimi references can be found HERE.

The text of Queen Elizabeth I in enacting the law of recusancy can be found HERE.

 

The Washington Post article Iimi refers to on attitudes towards transgenderism is locked behind a paywall. But the information from the poll can be found HERE.

 

Let’s talk further about the legality of recordings in the story.

 

Until it became national news (the referenced story is here), I had no idea that the girls recording the teachers in class was illegal. RESEARCH confirmed that it’s a misdemeanor for non-students and a disciplinary act for students in California. Because Anne Baculum was created as a character with moral integrity, I’d probably have written the story differently rather than portray her as doing something unethical. Thus, it became so rarely enforced that older teachers forgot it, and newer ones didn’t know it.

 

Likewise, Iimi’s parents would have given her other advice than they did. So, the TL:DR of it is, they didn’t do wrong. I just messed up in portraying what was permissible.


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Quarantine and Religious Freedom: A Reflection


I’m sure we have heard of the infamous case in Kentucky where the police took down license numbers of people attending religious services—with critics reporting that the people involved were sitting in their cars and not in their pews. Depending on what sources you read, it might indeed a heavy-handed response, especially considering how judges are treating the invented “right” to abortion supersedes the need to practice quarantine. Given that the freedom of religion is actually in the Constitution, there’s certainly reason to object to how justly the laws are enforced. However, there was more to the story. Some 50 people happened to be inside the Church, in addition to those inside their vehicles… a fact that critics did not mention.


Combined with selective reporting, we also need to consider the fact that there are some rather stupid conspiracy theories going around right now. I’ve seen sites imply that the restrictions on religion is a politically motivated attempt to eliminate the freedom of religion. I’ve seen arguments that try to equate the Kentucky action with the Nazi persecution of the Jews. The common phrase I’m seeing is “This is how it all begins.”

I would like to point out the existence of the Fallacy of False Analogy. This fallacy compares two events and draws a common conclusion between them when, in fact, the differences between the two events are greater than the similarities. So, the attempts to compare the Kentucky case with the Nazis overlooks a huge difference: That our quarantine is aimed at stopping the spread of a disease that has killed ~26,000 people in the United States (~127,000 worldwide) and spreads more widely and quickly than the flu, while the Nazis were looking to turn the population of Germany against a scapegoated minority. That is a huge difference in motivation, with the similarity of “government targets religious believers” being drastically different in tactics. The two are not similar, and it’s insulting to those actually suffering from persecution to suggest it is.

Of course, the freedom of religion is a Constitutional Right. But all rights must be practiced in prudence. In times when the close gathering of persons does harm, the state does have time to make certain that those who will not self-isolate will not harm others from their lack of prudence. But the state does not have the right to take unreasonable measures. Whether or not attending a parking-lot church service from within cars depends on how cautious the participants are.

If the state exceeds its authority (and I must say I don’t think highly of that action in Kentucky) then it must be opposed in a just way (i.e. not endangering others while doing so). The Catholic Church has policed itself with prudence in the past and strives to do so now. So, any attempts to protest the state must take this into account.

But let’s face it. Plagues are passing things. Eventually they do burn themselves out. The question is how many people die before a vaccine is discovered or it stops spreading? The interest in defending life requires us to avoid needless risks in catching it or spreading it to others. The Golden rule requires us to do unto others as we would have them do to us. Want to avoid having some idiot spreading the disease to you? Don’t act in a way that would risk exposing others if you unwittingly carry it. Since the fatality rate seems to currently be 4.25% of the number of cases (the flu has a death rate of less than 1%), and because people are contagious before they know they have it, prudence and prudent application of laws must take this into account. Even if we don’t catch a fatal case ourselves, we could pass it on to a stranger… or a loved one.

So, in dealing with the quarantine, let’s consider the consequences and how our own actions might affect others. You might think that’s obvious, but people do have a tendency to think that it can’t happen to them or that if it does, it will be minor. They have a tendency to think in terms of themselves and not others. Unfortunately, that’s the way of fallen human nature.

Catholics in their moral teaching considers the harm to others in the commandment, Thou shalt not kill. We don’t get to risk others just because we don’t happen to feel sick. But we’ll always have somebody who’s insensitive enough to think that they’re not sick enough to need to stay home. Or someone scrupulous enough that they’ll think that they’re not sick enough to justify staying home. When the Church teaches that people should stay home when sick, these people invariably show up when they shouldn’t. Then—when the Pope and bishops suspend the public celebration of the Mass—people complain when the Church makes staying home mandatory.

Real attacks on religious freedom do need to be addressed. But sometimes what we call attacks may turn out to be the government dealing with idiots. Let’s keep that in mind and not become martyrs in our own delusions, claiming we are persecuted if it turns out we are merely being cited for endangering others.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

On Objecting Celebrities, Hypocrisy, and Charges of Intolerance

In recent days, we’ve seen Bruce Springsteen, Brian Adams and Ringo Starr cancel concerts in states which have religious freedom laws. The argument used is that they object to intolerance (or a similar descriptor) in the law and will not give concerts there so long as these laws exist. Putting aside any questions of sincerity [*] some have raised, what we have is a moral argument. These musicians believe that something is morally wrong and refuse to play where people could misinterpret their actions as supporting something they believe is morally wrong.

But their action is ironic. The laws they protest are laws aimed at blocking legal action targeting Christians for refusing to take part in something they think morally wrong. In other words, sincere or not, to oppose religious freedom laws they appeal to the same moral argument that these laws protect. That leads us to the problem: Why are these laws seen as necessary? Because recent laws and judicial activism refuse to accept the right of religion to conscientious objection. Activist judges and lawmakers claim moral obligation in religion is discrimination against people who reject moral obligation in religion. Such actions result in governments dictating to the Church what religious beliefs they can hold.

Performers rights

Activists justify their actions through false accusations and misrepresentation, accusing Christians of bias and hatred against individuals committing acts their religion teaches is wrong. They invoke the infamous segregation laws in American History, conjuring up images of “Whites only” businesses. The problem is, nobody asks whether Christian businesses want segregation type “rights.” Activists assume this link exists and accuse Christians of “bigotry.” But if bigotry is not our motive, then the charge is false. Yes, I am sure activists can come up with examples like the Westboro Baptists and Christians who think that Christian teaching justifies mistreatment. But it does not follow that all Christians support the actions of extremists. 

People need to investigate why Christians believe certain actions are wrong, not assume that bad will is the only possible motive for their beliefs. Assuming bad will on the basis of a few extremists is just as bigoted as assuming all Muslims are terrorists or all African Americans are felons—it assumes that the worst behavior by some proves guilt by the whole. Only when one proves that a repugnant practice follows directly from Church teaching can one accuse the Church of bigotry.

I won’t talk on the teaching of non-Catholics here. That would be speaking outside of my area of knowledge. My concern is for defending the Catholic understanding of moral responsibility, under attack from a number of opponents—generally revolving around sexual morality. The Catholic teaching on sexual morality starts with a proper understanding of what sexuality is for. We believe God designed the sexual act as part of a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman, open to the possibility of the transmission of life. Actions which violate this design are a misuse of the sexual act.

When the government tries to coerce Catholic institutions and businesses into providing services or hiring people that go against their moral obligation to pursue good and oppose evil, the government is violating our religious freedom by trying to dictate which of our beliefs are allowed or forbidden. But since the Constitution technically forbids government interference in this way, they accuse us of intolerance, claiming we discriminate against women or people with same sex attraction. Since certain forms of discrimination are forbidden and repellant, the tactic is to use the Guilt By Association fallacy—arguing that our religious beliefs are the same as racial prejudice.

Proving our “guilt” (which we deny) means the government has to prove prejudice exists. Accusing us of prejudice is an unproven charge. Believing an action is morally wrong is nothing like hatred of a member of an ethnic group because of his skin color. Believing objective truth exists and believing people must live according to it is not bigotry. If activists believe we are wrong, then let them prove it and offer proof for their own beliefs of right and wrong. If anybody looks, they can find explanations for what we believe and why we believe it. But people who oppose us think it is enough to say “You’re wrong!” to us, while demonstrating they have no idea what we believe or why.

If we are angry, if we dispute you in Facebook or on forums, we act because we resent people telling lies about us and our beliefs. We do not hate women or people with same sex attraction. We do not discriminate against them. We believe certain actions are wrong and try to live according to those beliefs. We oppose mistreatment of people who do wrong. Pointing to how law worked in the Middle Ages and Renaissance indicts the whole world, not just Christians of the time, and has nothing to do with what is good or evil. Elites certainly cannot equate our behavior with religious intolerance in the Middle East.

Denying our right to do as we ought before God (remember, we deny that the “But what about…?” accusations apply to us) is not defending civil rights. It violates our civil rights as Americans. When celebrities and businesses institute boycotts trying to force us to change, they are the ones guilty of what they accuse us of doing. They literally saw off the branch they sit on, invoking the freedom they attack.

They should consider this well. Once they attack the laws designed to protect the right to refuse doing something morally wrong, they’ve removed the laws that protect their own moral concerns. Then they’re at the mercy of a government with no sympathy for their objections. Think about it.

 

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[*] For example, these musicians gave concerts in countries where homosexuality is illegal. Questions about why they didn’t take a stand there go unanswered.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Quick Quips: Rush to Judgment Edition

Claiming a person chose wrong and chose so out of malice is a strong accusation. We must prove the accusation is true before we look for motives why the person acted in a certain way. If we don’t give proof, then our charge is not proven and all our speculation on motive is meaningless. This is why so many news articles and blogs aggravate me. People assume wrongdoing, then make wild accusations over why wrongdoing occurred. Here are some examples from the past week.

Struggling to Pull Defeat Out of the Jaws of Victory

The Vatican released Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Lætitia, today. From what I have read so far (about halfway through), it is an excellent document which explores the meaning of marriage and family before considering the cases of people at odds with the Church teaching. The secular media is remarkably subdued, mostly keeping quiet about it. The text contradicts the predictions or accusations made about “opening doors” to changed Church teaching. Even one of the most notorious anti-Francis Catholic blogs posted a relatively subdued article about this Exhortation.

Even so, certain Catholics, unwilling to surrender their preconceived views have tried to portray this as leaving doors open to error—only disagreeing on whether this was good or bad. Despite the fact that there are no soundbites which sound shocking when taken out of context, some try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by saying certain concepts might be interpreted as leniency and saying “It’s not the fault” of those who are at odds with the Church. That’s a far cry from the cheers or wailing over the synod critics who were certain the Pope would open doors to “same sex marriage” and “Communion for the divorced and remarried,” but they’ll take what they can get.

I must ask: At what point do such people realize they have seized their position so irrationally that they can no longer see reality? If they assume a claim is true and then impute bad will to the Pope, they do wrong in not investigating the truth of the matter.

The Papal Invitation that Wasn't

Perhaps because the media and dissident Catholics can’t spin Amoris Lætitia into screaming “POPE CHANGES CHURCH TEACHING” headlines, they latched on to another headline. Now we see the media talking about the Pope “inviting” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to the Vatican. The Facebook Catholics started arguing about the fact that Senator Sanders is pro-abortion, pro-same sex “marriage,” and pro-socialism and whether it was an endorsement of his politics.

As it turns out, Sanders wasn’t invited to speak at the Vatican and he wasn’t invited by the Pope. One Bishop Sorondo invited him to a conference at the Vatican on the 25th anniversary of the Papal encyclical Centesimus annus. Sanders may or may not meet the Pope while there, but he wasn’t invited for the purpose of meeting or speaking before the Pope. In fact, there’s some question about whether he should have been invited. In other words, the things that would have made the story newsworthy did not happen.

Religious Freedom is Slavery

Earlier this week, while driving to work, I listened to NPR on the radio. In this segment, they interviewed a self-identified “Christian baker” from Mississippi about the just signed religious freedom law. This baker said he didn’t feel threatened by lawsuits and prosecutions aimed at Christians. He said he saw his job as “baking cakes” and not judging who was "worthy to buy” them.

That’s not even remotely the problem here. Christians who feel the need for religious freedom laws don’t want laws giving them excuses to arbitrarily shun people. They want protection from forced participation in something their religion calls morally wrong. The past seven years gave us growing encroachment on religious freedom. People have lost their jobs for supporting the traditional understanding of marriage.

Business owners involved in weddings get sued, fined and prosecuted for refusing to take part in “same sex weddings” or hire a person openly flaunting their contempt for the religious teachings of the denomination they work for. The Supreme Court refused to hear cases about this. Christians who believe they would do wrong by participating want protection from unjust legal action.

To call this concern “homophobia” or “intolerance” is an ad hominem attack against these people. The accusations do not refute these conscientious objections. They merely assume they are wrong and then impute a “motive” for why the person holds them. CS Lewis once spoke about assuming a person was wrong and then jumping to the argument of why the person went wrong.

The problem is that before you can psychoanalyze why a person went wrong, you have to show where he is wrong. In other words, holding that a person is a  homophobe because of his holding position X is jumping the gun—first you have to show that the person is wrong about position X before using terms like “homophobe” to explain why he holds a “wrong" view.

Conclusion

People must investigate whether a claim is false before speculating over why a person holds a false position. Speculation over why the Pope is changing Church teaching, the motive for Bernie Sanders' invitation to the Vatican, or why people in Mississippi are bigots, is pointless if the Pope didn’t change Church teaching, if Sanders’ invitation was wrongly given or if religious freedom supporters aren’t bigots.

Avoiding false witness or rash judgment means we investigate what is true before falsely accusing people of bad will. Investigating first means we just might have meaningful discourse over right and wrong instead of wrongly accusing people of wrongdoing.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Christianos ad leones! Once More, Here We Go Again

From the first century AD to the present, harassment and persecution of the Church by government or cultural elites have followed a pattern:

  1. Accuse the Church of obstinately clinging to an unpopular teaching out of hostility and bad will.
  2. Attack the Church, using a false accusation as justification for unjust treatment. 
  3. Offer to relent if the Church will cede a part of the obedience owed to God to the state.
  4. When the Church refuses, increase the attacks and use that refusal as “proof” of unreasonableness of the Church and justification for continued mistreatment.

Sometimes these attacks have been overt, cruel and barbaric. Sometimes they masquerade as enforcement of an ordinarily good law but is misapplied. But regardless of how it is done [*], the State using these tactics is abusing its authority and often betraying the principles it was established under. In most circumstances, the Church in a region has two choices: To endure the persecution while trying to convert the persecutor or to capitulate to the State and consent to doing evil or having evil done in her name. The goal of the state is to force the second option. The call of the Christian is to choose the first option.

In the 21st century, the political and cultural elites of America seems determined to continue this cycle. No, it’s not brutal like the overt attacks on the Church in past centuries. Instead of arenas and wild beasts, it is courts and lawyers and instead of executioners and gulags, it is fines and lawsuits. But the end result is the same: The state usurps the power to compel the Christian to give support for what his religion calls evil. In doing so, America betrays the values she was founded upon. The explicit forbidding of the government to pass laws which interfere with the free practice of religion without a compelling interest (meaning vital for the safety of the country and with the least interference when proven compelling interest exists) has been perverted to the point that the state claims the right to coerce religion into abandoning whatever moral teaching is unpopular with the political and cultural elites.

We see this most recently with the vetoing of (and refusing to enforce) laws that seek to protect the freedom of religion from harassment by the state. The term Religious Freedom is put in Scare Quotes and portrayed as discrimination. The goal is to portray Christians who invoke their constitutional rights of freedom from state coercion as if they were calling for the right to mistreat people they dislike—a charge which is entirely false and one that makes use of the antics of a tiny minority to stereotype their behavior as the behavior of the whole group. In any other case, that tactic would be considered gross bigotry (for example, stereotypes like: all Muslims are terrorists, all blacks are felons, all Hispanics are illegal aliens).

The fact is, the Christian must do what is right before God—which is vastly different from the antics of the Westboro Baptists or suicide bombers—and what is right before God also means seeking the true good of our fellow human beings [†] even if we are harassed or persecuted for doing so. That is why we reject the charges against us. Our teachings and moral obligations are not based on the hatred of the sinner. If that were the case, we would have to hate ourselves as we believe we are all sinners in need of a Savior. People ma call us bigots, but that is nothing more than slander aimed at vilifying us for speaking against the popular vices of a society. Our Church absolutely forbids us from interpreting God’s commands as justifying mistreatment of the sinner [§].

So society has a choice to make. It can choose to try understanding the what and why of Church teaching and thus discover that the reason for our teaching is sound. Or it can choose to ignore the obligation to search for the truth and speak falsely against us. But if America should choose the latter option, she should consider this. The harassment of the Church and denial of religious freedom is ignoring the principles of the Bill of Rights. If society should decide that they are justified in ignoring one part as not being important, then they will have nothing to say if another group should use the same reasoning to suppress a different part of the Bill of Rights on the grounds that they don’t think it important.

I’ll leave you here with a section of dialogue by Dr. Peter Kreeft to consider:

‘Isa: But the main argument, the simplest argument, is just this: if no moral values are absolute, neither is tolerance. The absolutist can take tolerance much more seriously than the relativist. It’s absolutism, not relativism, that fosters tolerance. In fact, it’s relativism that fosters intolerance.

Libby: That’s ridiculous.

‘Isa: No it isn’t. Because … why not be intolerant? Only because it feels better to you? What happens tomorrow when it feels different? Why be tolerant? Only because it’s our society’s consensus? What happens tomorrow, when the consensus changes? You see? The relativist can’t appeal to a moral law as a wall, a dam against intolerance. But we need a dam because societies are fickle, like individuals. What else can deter a Germany—a humane and humanistic Germany in the twenties—from turning to an inhumane and inhuman Nazi philosophy in the thirties? What else can stop a now-tolerant America from some future intolerance?—against any group it decides to oppress? It was Blacks in the Southeast over slavery last century; it may be Hispanics in the Southwest over immigration next century. We’re intolerant to unwanted unborn babies today; we’ll start killing born ones tomorrow. Maybe eventually teenagers. They’re sometimes “wanted” even less than babies!

Libby: You’re getting more and more ridiculous.

‘Isa: Then answer the question: Why not? That’s the question. We persecuted homosexuals yesterday; today we persecute homophobes; maybe tomorrow we’ll go back to persecuting homosexuals again. Why not, if morals are only relative?

 

 Peter Kreeft, A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 98.

 

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Christianos ad leones = latin for “The Christians to the Lions!"

[*] A common logical fallacy used here is the fallacy of relative privation, which claims that because your injustice is not as bad as another injustice, it is not injustice at all.

[†] The true good and the popular vices of a society being incompatible.

[§] At this point, someone will point out the punishments in past centuries as a “proof” against my claims. But that is to miss the point. In societies which had less developed forms of government, such practices were not distinct to one religion or culture. I don’t deny that some Churchmen in authority focussed too much on the civil punishments for sins that happened to be crimes as well, but you will never see the formal Church teaching state  that being merciless is good.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

When Law is Based on Logical Fallacies: Christian Bakeries and Begging the Question

After Obergefell, we all knew this was going to happen but we hoped it wouldn’t. An Oregon bakery who refused to provide a “wedding” cake back in 2013 for a lesbian couple because of a religious belief was fined $135,000. The basis of this decision is that the couple who runs the bakery “unlawfully discriminated” against the plaintiffs. Reading the articles on the topic and the comments down below said articles, the widespread belief is that the bakery deliberately discriminated against the couple on account of their sexual orientation. So, that is the assertion to be proven.

The problem is, nobody attempts to prove the charge that discrimination and bigotry were the motive—the fact that the Kleins opposed "same sex marriage" is seen of proof of bigotry. Any other possible motive such as Christian moral ethics is automatically rolled back into the original charge of discrimination. The only way that one can avoid being guilty of bigotry in the eyes of the law and the media is to support “same sex marriage."

I imagine Aristotle would be appalled. What the government is operating under is nothing more than the begging the question fallacy. A principle is assumed to be true when it actually needs to be proven. Thus whatever action is done, it is assumed (but not proven) to be done on account of that principle. Aristotle put it this way:

[W]henever a man tries to prove what is not self-evident by means of itself, then he begs the original question. This may be done by assuming what is in question at once; it is also possible to make a transition to [40] other things which would naturally be proved through the [65a] thesis proposed, and demonstrate it through them, e.g. if A should be proved through B, and B through C, though it was natural that C should be proved through A: for it turns out that those who reason thus are proving A by means of itself. This is what those persons do who suppose [5] that they are constructing parallel straight lines: for they fail to see that they are assuming facts which it is impossible to demonstrate unless the parallels exist. So it turns out that those who reason thus merely say a particular thing is, if it is: in this way everything will be self-evident. But that is impossible.

 

[Aristotle, “ANALYTICA PRIORA,” (64.2.25–65.1.9) in The Works of Aristotle, ed. W. D. Ross, trans. A. J. Jenkinson, vol. 1 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1928).]

In other words, with all the cases that allege “discrimination” against same-sex couples, these cases assume facts that have not been proven and all the examples cited as “proof” depend on the claim being proven true—which it has not been. In other words, instead of our legal tradition of “innocent until proven guilty,” this begging the question stands it on its head, making the Christian business owner “guilty until proven innocent."

What is happening here is very much akin to what St. Justin Martyr spoke against in the 2nd century AD:

For from a name neither praise nor punishment could reasonably spring, unless something excellent or base in action be proved. And those among yourselves who are accused you do not punish before they are convicted; but in our case you receive the name as proof against us, and this although, so far as the name goes, you ought rather to punish our accusers. For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (Chrestian) is unjust. Again, if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment. (First Apology, Chapter IV).

Like 2nd century Rome, people assume from the fact that a person believes that a marriage can only be between one man and one woman as “proof” of his being a bigot without investigating into his motive for acting. Let’s restate that to show the injustice: Instead of investigating each individual accused to see if charges of wrongdoing are valid, the Christian is presumed to be guilty. Like 2nd century Rome, we have made Christian belief a crime where the only defense is to renounce that Christian belief. In effect we have a situation here which is remarkably similar to Ancient Rome—where those who refuse to follow edicts they believe to be morally wrong can be punished for doing so in spite of the fact that the Constitution recognizes freedom of religion as a right the government cannot violate.

Even an anti-Christian should recognize this: once we accept this as a valid tactic to use against those we dislike, it becomes easy for others to use it as a tactic against their enemies, using the same fallacy and the same injustice, unless one rejects expedience and requires judgments to be based on justice—instead of using the legal system and bureaucrats to punish those who are unpopular.

This is the danger of making begging the question into a precedent to judge Christians who say “I will not do what goes against my obligation to know, love and serve God.” If you will not listen to our moral objections, then at least behave rationally and realize that justice must be based on proving intolerance in each case and not merely assume that the belief is based on intolerance.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"...To Which All Are Compelled To Assent..."

(See: Failing to Make the Moral Case for Marriage | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views)

It has been a common tactic by those dissatisfied with how the bishops are handling the case of the judicial diktats against our religious obligations is to accuse them of retreating from the moral teaching of the Church to the issue of religious freedom. The argument basically runs along the line of saying that the point of religious freedom has failed so far to persuade people and uses the hypothesis contrary to fact to claim that things would be different if the bishops would just make their case to the morality of the issue.

I think that such an argument, while it recognizes that we need to keep in mind the big picture of the culture war we are in, tends to miss the point about the current battle we are in, assuming a “one size fits all” approach to our opponents. The problem is, as I see it, we are facing an opponent who believes that our moral beliefs are rooted in ignorance and intolerance. In other words, they believe our religious beliefs themselves are “immoral.” As a result, they will not listen to explanations about why certain actions are always wrong—if we don’t share their views, we are just seen as trying to “explain away our bigotry."

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Contra Gentiles, wrote about the problem of disputing with groups who reject our sources of authority for assessing the truth, pointing out that we need to start by appealing to where we agree:

it is difficult to refute the errors of each individual, for two reasons. First, because the sacrilegious assertions of each erring individual are not so well known to us, that we are able from what they say to find arguments to refute their errors. For the Doctors of old used this method in order to confute the errors of the heathens, whose opinions they were able to know, since either they had been heathens themselves, or had lived among heathens and were conversant with their teachings. Secondly, because some of them, like the Mohammedans and pagans, do not agree with us as to the authority of any Scripture whereby they may be convinced, in the same way as we are able to dispute with the Jews by means of the Old Testament, and with heretics by means of the New: whereas the former accept neither. Wherefore it is necessary to have recourse to natural reason, to which all are compelled to assent. And yet this is deficient in the things of God. [Sum. Cont. Gent. 1.2]

We are dealing with a Court of Law which seems bent on denying that laws based on the Judaeo-Christian moral beliefs have any constitutional standing—and therefore such laws affirming the nature of marriage as between one man and one woman are considered a violation of the so-called “separation of church and state.” Under such (spurious) principles, government employees and business owners are denied the right to refuse to do what is contrary to their moral obligations in the eyes of God.

So, we have to start with a common reference. Because the Constitution is being held up as the standard to which these attacks are being made. The argument is that laws against “same sex marriage” violate the rights of a segment of the population, so that is where this particular battle has begun, and we have to address the attacks being made there. It does make sense to appeal to the people of good will who may not recognize the truth about sexual morality but do want to seek the right thing. Of course, we cannot stop there. We have to show why our teachings are true. But first we have to get them to listen.

St. Justin Martyr recognized this concept when he wrote his First Apology. In writing to the Emperor, he started by appealing to the shared value between Christianity and the Stoics—justice and doing right:

Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honour and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions, if these be worthless. For not only does sound reason direct us to refuse the guidance of those who did or taught anything wrong, but it is incumbent on the lover of truth, by all means, and if death be threatened, even before his own life, to choose to do and say what is right. Do you, then, since ye are called pious and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning, give good heed, and hearken to my address; and if ye are indeed such, it will be manifested. For we have come, not to flatter you by this writing, nor please you by our address, but to beg that you pass judgment, after an accurate and searching investigation, not flattered by prejudice or by a desire of pleasing superstitious men, nor induced by irrational impulse or evil rumours which have long been prevalent, to give a decision which will prove to be against yourselves. For as for us, we reckon that no evil can be done us, unless we be convicted as evil-doers, or be proved to be wicked men; and you, you can kill, but not hurt us.

 

[Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin” Chapter II, in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 163.]

However, just because we have to start there, in this battle, does not mean we have to remain there. St. Justin Martyr started his defense of Christianity by pointing out that justice forbids punishing a man just because he is a Christian, pointing out that punishment must only be meted out for the wrongdoing. He establishes this point before attempting to show the righteousness of the Christian faith. He knows that Christianity, as a persecuted religion, has no standing in the eyes of the rulers of the empire. 

I think it is safe to say that in the eyes of lawmakers and judges, Christianity has no standing, and its teachings—or, rather, the misinterpretations of Christian teachings—are seen as repugnant. So, we must start with the values they claim to recognize (in this case, the Constitution) and show that the actions they are taking go against these values. St. Justin Martyr would point out that if those who he addressed refused to do what was just, they would betray what they stand for. Ultimately, that is what we must do when those in authority are hostile to us. We must point out that if they truly value the Constitution, they must respect it when it comes to the freedom of religion, and not treat our religious obligations as contrary to the Constitution.

As St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out when it came to using reason, this is deficient in the things of God. Likewise, merely reaching out to them at the level of the Constitution is deficient. We do need to go beyond the issue of the Constitution when it comes to preaching the Gospel and explaining why we must avoid certain acts. The Church does do this. But I think that the people who charge that the bishops are “retreating,” need to realize that those who refuse to listen to our teachings must be reached out to in ways where they might listen.

If they don’t (and it happens—there’s a reason that we refer to St. Justin as “St. Justin Martyr”), then it means we will have the harder task of evangelizing under a soft persecution, where the courts and lawmakers determine that they can set aside their laws arbitrarily. But, we certainly should reach out to people of good will beginning with the grounds they have in common with us. If we don’t, then we will be retreating.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"Those Who Cannot Remember the Past..."

The old quote of Santayana goes, Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. That certainly seems to be the case here where, in the name of equality, the secular society has invented virtues for itself which matches what they think their society should be. Historically speaking, whenever a society identifies with their self-invented virtues, they tend to be very hostile towards groups that exist within their society which already has virtues they refuse to give up. In fact, such groups tend to be viewed as the enemy of the state and are targeted because they refuse to surrender their beliefs.

Once upon a time, America recognized the freedom of such groups to do what they felt morally obligated to do and limited the power of the state to dictate behavior that went against the moral obligations of the person. In short, when a religious group held, “I must not do this,” the state recognized that it had no right to force a member of this group to do what he believed was morally wrong. This was in contrast with other nations where the government could compel membership in one religion and forbidding membership in a different one (the State Church of England for example), or the attempt to control a religious denomination’s schools and appointed ministers (the Kulturkampf of Germany). To drum up support for the attacks, the state would focus on the behavior of members of the Church who were living scandalously and seek to transfer the disgust over their behavior into an indictment of the whole Church.

America recognized those behaviors by government as something condemnable and, even if a majority of the population disapproved of a religion, it never directly sought to control what religious behaviors were acceptable, dictating to the Church what beliefs could be followed or not. That’s why what is happening to America today is so tragic. In seeking to promote certain “virtues,” the government is seeking to force the disagreement by members of certain religious bodies out of the public square and into a ghetto of “freedom to worship.” But Freedom of Religion ≠ Freedom to Worship.  Freedom to Worship is part of the Freedom of Religion, but the Freedom of Religion is far more than worship.

America has a rather ugly tendency nowadays to deny the freedom of religion to individuals who run a business or work for the government. Such people are told that their wish to refuse to do certain things that they believe are morally wrong is a violation of the civil rights of others. To justify their position against religious freedom, people dredge up the segregation in the South, with the “Whites Only” establishments, separate drinking fountains etc. It is argued that the religious faith of business owners and government employees that forbids them to do something is the same motive used by segregationists to bar non-whites from their establishments.

But this is a false analogy. The appeals to religious freedom by the business owner or government employee is not rooted in a prejudice against a certain subset of people. It is rooted in the belief that We may not participate in something we believe to be morally wrong—not at all the same thing. That is apparent by those targeted businesses which say they are perfectly willing to serve a person whose moral behavior they believe is wrong in the normal course of business—but they are not willing to have their business cause scandal by appearing to approve of something the business owner thinks is morally wrong.

In other nations, priests and even bishops were imprisoned or even martyred because they would not compromise with what was wrong—a virtue widely recognized even here except when it comes to the Catholic Church living that way. Then it is labeled as a case of being “rigid” or “bureaucratic” or “hateful.” But that is just propaganda aimed at encouraging people to think of the Church as harmful and needing to be opposed.

America claims to remember the lessons of history. Yet the behavior exhibited here shows that our nation seems to be doomed to repeat the mistakes other nations have made—mistakes it spoke out against in other contexts.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Propaganda and Lies: Portraying Christianity as Malicious

Propaganda:  information of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular or point of view or to misrepresent an opposing point of view.

With the Supreme Court ready to hear arguments on Tuesday concerning the “right” to “gay marriage,” there is a real push to portray Christianity—or at least those denominations who have not caved in on the issue of saying marriage can only exist between one man and one woman—as enemies of the state who have to be opposed for the “public good.” To hear the rhetoric used, one would get the impression that it is the Christians who are trying to impose their beliefs on others.

But if one actually went beyond the rhetoric and loaded terms, one would see that the ones actually seeking to impose their beliefs on others are the ones who are taking Christians to court with the intention of forcing them to do what they believe is morally wrong. What we are actually getting here is the attempt to force Christians to either accept “same sex marriage” as morally the same as marriage between one man and one woman, or be targeted by lawsuits, loss of business and loss of jobs. It seems it is only a matter of time before those people who refuse to go along wind up being prosecuted.

When one actually looks at the accusations which are being made against Christians, it is clear that these charges have no basis in fact, and are instead logical fallacies which are aimed at swaying people emotionally and intimidating the people they disagree with.

The fact is, we deny the charges that we have hatred for people with same-sex attraction. While I am sure you could dig up some individual who does hate them using all the offensive words that makes a perfect soundbite, we would deny that his hatred is caused by Christian belief. There are always extremists out there. There are always lawbreakers out there. But in every other case, people recognize that the extremist recognizes the whole. A person who claimed that all African Americans were felons, all Hispanics were illegal aliens, or all Muslims were terrorists would be denounced as intolerant. However, when a person argues that “all Christians are homophobic,” they are making the same gross stereotypes that they would condemn in every other case.

Christian teaching on sexual morality is not arbitrary. It is not made with the malicious desire to “persecute” people with same sex attraction or women or the divorced. It is made with the intention of showing people how they must live if they would seek out what is good and avoid what is harmful. We do believe in God, and we do believe His commandments are designed to move us towards what is good for us and away from what is harmful. In terms of sexual morality, the concept of the sexual act is not recreational, but aimed at the creation of the family—both in procreation and in furthering the bond between husband and wife. The family (mother, father, children) is the basic unit of a society. New individuals are born, raised with the values needed to hold society together, and then pass them on to another generation. Actions that distort the purpose of the sexual act are called sinful—not because some prelate dislikes them, but because they destroy the entire purpose of the sexual act.

Thus the Church condemns many acts that go against the true purpose, from the acts that few people recognize as harmful any longer (such as masturbation or fornication) to the extremes like rape and necrophilia that no sane person denies is evil. The morality of sexual acts is not changed by time or popular opinion. If God has said some act is wrong, then it is wrong, even if modern TV portrays it as if nothing was harmful about it. The Church condemnation of acts has nothing to do with hatred of people. On the contrary, it is based on the concern for the well-being of the individual who does them.

Some people try to challenge this assertion by labelling it as “imposing values or beliefs on others.” That’s pretty hypocritical however. If imposing views on others is wrong, then people should stop trying to impose their views on Christians. But if people think that some actions have to be opposed then, recognize that we have the same right. (See HERE for an expanded view on the subject). After all, isn’t the idea that “same sex marriage” should be allowed a value or belief?

The truth of the matter is that the the people seeking to portray Christianity as “pushing their beliefs on others” or of “hatred” are actually guilty of that accusation. Right now, it is the proponents of “same sex marriage” who are trying to impose their beliefs on others, and show a virulent hatred of Christians who stand up for their beliefs (look at the forum comments for example). 

Trying to coerce our businesses, schools and hospitals into accepting same sex attraction as normal is not a defense of civil rights. The freedom of religion is a civil right. (read the 1st Amendment). This coercion, using propaganda and false statements to make our beliefs appear to be malicious is an attack on civil rights. No Christian—except perhaps for an extremist—intends to deny people with same sex attraction the right to goods and services that are available to any person. But Christians who believe that certain actions are morally wrong will not take part in anything that gives the impression that they support it. So we won’t recognize “same sex marriage” or abortion or divorce and remarriage. This refusal is not based on malice. It’s based on a belief that we must do good and reject evil—and help the people trapped in the evil to understand why it is wrong.

To twist the truth so as to make people believe something that is not true is to speak falsely. When a person knows they are speaking falsely, that is a lie. We Christians deny we bear any malice for the people who commit the actions we must call sins.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Idol Worship 2015

“I die the king's faithful servant, but God's first.”

― St. Thomas More, before his execution.

When I read about the accounts of martyrdom in the early history of Christianity, one constant theme comes through. A group, holding unpopular views, found itself hated by people who misunderstood and misrepresented their teachings. The response of the government officials was not necessarily aimed at exterminating the individuals. It was aimed at using coercion to bring these people in line with the commonly accepted behavior. The pagan governments did not care about who these Christians worshipped, so long as they were willing to accept the edicts of the governments. Magistrates would try to persuade the Christians to just burn a pinch of incense to the Emperor or some other god which the state saw as a symbol of accepting their authority. If they refused, tortures were used to “persuade” compliance. If that failed, execution of the Christians would follow.

Christians to the lions(“To the Lions with the Christians!” An Early Example of the Need for Religious Freedom)

But the problem was this. Christians were perfectly willing to be loyal citizens, obeying the lawfully established magistrates, paying taxes and so on. But they were not willing to give to human beings the authority which belonged to God. This means when a human ruler demanded obedience that exceeded his authority to demand, the Christians felt obligated to put their obedience to God first. In other words, Christians recognized that the state did not have the moral authority to command a Christian to do something they believe to be morally wrong or to forbid them from complying with what their religion compels them to do. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this as:

2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” “We must obey God rather than men”:49 (1903; 2313; 450; 1901)

When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.

It is a good balance. On one side, the Christian cannot do what he or she knows is morally wrong. But on the other side, just because the government may overstep their authority on some areas does not give one free rein to disobey everything. Unfortunately, the overstepping Government often considers itself able to do whatever it has the force to compel, and seeks to target those who will not obey them in matters they have no authority over.

St Margaret V+M(Often the Ultimate Result of Putting Obedience to God First)

Thus, we had the first conflicts with Church and state. The state demanded that they be given the highest level of obedience and any other loyalties that an individual might have would have to be subject to the demands of the state. To disagree would be considered treason. During the centuries, governments have changed, but the basic assumption of the state was that religion had to be subject to the state and whoever would not conform was an enemy. Followers of the Christian faith thus found themselves targeted.

Anti Christian sign in Federal Plaza Chicago Andrew Ciscel(“To the Lions With the Christians”—Modern Version)

We pride ourselves today for standing up for freedom, and thinking we would never support things that the ancients did. But when you think of it, the fact is that only the types of idols and the means of coercion have changed, while the existence of idols and coercion remains. Nowadays, the idols people demand worship over are causes, not statues. Nowadays, the penalties are lawsuits and prosecutions, not torture and executions. But when you think about it, the attitudes are the same. The state and the populace demands that the civic values be put first, and only those religious beliefs that do not come in conflict with these demands are tolerated. Thus people have no problem with Jews and Muslims refusing to eat pork. They don’t care if Christians believe in the Trinity. But once the beliefs of a religion require a Christian to say “this is wrong, and I will not do it,” and all feigned tolerance for religion disappears. They want them fined, sued and prosecuted just as much as the ancients wanted them tortured and executed.

Of course, they never come out and say such things directly. Usually, they try to say Christians are hateful people. In ancient times, they were “enemies of humanity,” and accused of committing orgies and cannibalism and poisoning the aqueducts—all of them false. In modern times, they’re accused of intolerance and hatred—again, all of them false.

In the Second Century, St. Justin Martyr could write to the emperor of the time (Antonius Pius) and say:

But lest any one think that this is an unreasonable and reckless utterance, we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated, and that, if these be substantiated, they be punished as they deserve; [or rather, indeed, we ourselves will punish them.] But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you, for the sake of a wicked rumour, to wrong blameless men, and indeed rather yourselves, who think fit to direct affairs, not by judgment, but by passion. And every sober-minded person will declare this to be the only fair and equitable adjustment, namely, that the subjects render an unexceptional account of their own life and doctrine; and that, on the other hand, the rulers should give their decision in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy. For thus would both rulers and ruled reap benefit. For even one of the ancients somewhere said, “Unless both rulers and ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.” It is our task, therefore, to afford to all an opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings, lest, on account of those who are accustomed to be ignorant of our affairs, we should incur the penalty due to them for mental blindness; and it is your business, when you hear us, to be found, as reason demands, good judges. For if, when ye have learned the truth, you do not what is just, you will be before God without excuse.

 

[Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” Chapter 3, in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 163.]

In other words, St. Justin Martyr called on people to not assume Christians were guilty of allegations simply because they were Christians. He didn’t deny that Christians could do evil (and said those who did could be punished), but he denied that a Christian who lived according to the faith would be guilty of the accusations made.

In modern times, the same situation applies. We too can ask the modern persecutors to investigate the charges of against Christian moral teaching and see if they are motivated by hatred or not. We too can ask that people investigate and follow the truth to avoid having to appear before God without excuse. But like then (he was called St. Justin Martyr for a reason—being flogged and beheaded in AD 165), society prefers to repeat the false charges to justify their hostility. Because if they actually investigated the charges, they might be required to recognize that the accusations were false and perhaps there is more to the Christian belief than people think.

They might learn (like the pagans of Rome eventually did) that once they looked past the false accusations, that the Christian teachings were true, had good justification and needed to be followed by people of good will seeking to do what was right. Then of course, they’d have to change their ways and live according to what was right. That’s probably why people are more willing to believe the false accusations—because it feels easier to attack the messenger than to turn away from sins and resist inclinations which lead one towards sinful acts.

The culture wars of today are ultimately a case of the world demanding that it be obeyed in everything vs. the Christian which says that a government must be obeyed in some things, but not when it goes so far as to infringe on changing what is good and evil. Our history of totalitarian governments of the 20th century are proof that what a government decrees can be evil. Governments have shown that they cannot be trusted to consistently make good decisions in terms of what one must do (consider for example, the Supreme Court defended laws supporting slavery and segregation.

But, like the first centuries that Christianity existed, there are governments who insist that Christians recognize the idols that the state or the society accept but we know are morally wrong. We cannot bow to those idols, whether this is the literal sense or in the sense of accepting laws that try to legitimize what we know is morally wrong.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Contradiction and Hypocrisy

Remember the old and oft refuted argument of “If you’re against X, don’t do X” that was so often invoked to attack opposition to things like abortion and same sex marriage? (For example, “If you’re against abortion, don’t have one!”)

It was easily refuted by plugging in things that most people recognize as wrong:

  • If you’re against slavery, don’t own a slave!
  • If you’re against rape, don’t rape anyone!
  • If you’re against murder, don’t murder anyone!

The fatal flaw in the argument is that some things can never be done, so to argue that a person who opposes something as wrong, simply shouldn’t do it while everybody else does is to make a mockery against any person who ever stood up against evil in a society (“If Martin Luther King Jr. was against racial discrimination, he shouldn’t discriminate against a person of another race!”)

But now, in addition, we’re seeing that people who make these arguments of “just don’t do it" conveniently ignore them when someone tries to apply it against them:

"If you’re against participating in a same sex ‘wedding' then just don’t… Oh, wait—you have to do that anyway, you bigot!"

Once again, those who try to work against religious freedom contradict themselves:

  1. If the “If you’re against X, don’t do X” argument is true, then you can’t force Christians who oppose same sex “marriage” to participate in it because, hey, they’re just doing what you said!
  2. But if the “If you’re against X, don’t do X” argument is false, then you have to recognize that people have the right to morally object to something they believe is wrong.

Christianity recognizes that the “If you’re against X, don’t do X” is flawed, so it does not contradict itself nor practice hypocrisy in making a stand against things it calls “evil.” However, the person who preaches “tolerance” have caught themselves in a dilemma—if they apply their own argument universally, they can’t coerce Christian business owners to do what they believe is morally wrong. But if they recognize the argument forces them to accept something that they think is morally wrong, then they have to start asking what determines moral right and wrong, and follow that search to the end.

The Christian can and does stand up for what is right, whether or not society approves. There are no moral contradictions in their stand. But there are huge contradictions in the whole approach opponents of religious freedom are taking, and these contradictions are arbitrary infringements aimed at forcing people who disagree with them to comply against what they think is morally right.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

TFTD: Self-Contradiction by Opponents to Christianity

So, the backlash against Indiana’s Religious Freedom law continues to grow, and one wonders whether things will spill over into violence soon against Christians. The media, with backing from some politicians and some businesses are treating the entire affair as being intended to allow free discrimination against people with same sex attraction—never mind that they are merely making a circular argument that assumes discrimination instead of proving it intends discrimination.

But as I read the news articles and the comments, I am seeing what is amounting to several huge self-contradictions that, when explored, makes these protestors out to be huge hypocrites. Here’s the problem.

  1. If nobody should be allowed to force their views on others, then nobody should be allowed to force their views of same sex “marriage” on Christian business owners.
  2. If it is acceptable for the law to make demands based on moral beliefs (by banning “anti-gay” discrimination), then it is acceptable for Christians to make law based on the demands of their moral belief.

See the problem here? If relativists try to define the issue the first way (“forcing views on others”) then they are obligated to avoid forcing their views on others, and they cannot try to compel Christian business owners to cooperate with their view that “same sex marriage” is morally acceptable. But if they try the other tactic and claim that they have the right to pass laws that say Christians must cooperate with their beliefs of right and wrong, then logically Christians have the right to pass laws based on their own beliefs of right and wrong.

No matter which universal they stake claim to, Christians can point out they are being hypocritical in their enforcement of it because it is being applied in such a way as to exclude those the protestors disagree with (the Christians), whereas, if opponents of Christianity applied those principles across the board, they could not condemn Christians for behaving as they do without condemning themselves as well.

However, Christians can’t be accused of approaching these two concepts with the same self-contradiction simply because we don’t hold them in the first place. The Christian view is not based on the idea of freedom to behave as one wants, but the freedom to behave as one ought. Anything that blocks a person from doing what is right or forces them to do what is wrong is a violation of that freedom. Because the concept of family as husband, wife and children passing on the values needed for the society to continue from one generation to the next is a building block of the society, the law can be justified in defending it. Things that harm that building block of society by tearing down the things that make it possible to continue society to the next generation need to be prevented and the law is reasonable in using just means to prevent them from destroying it.

So (simplifying greatly), I would say that the Christian moral teaching would hold this principle with no self contradiction:

  1. No law should prevent a person from doing what they believe they are morally obliged to do unless that belief causes actual harm to others or the breakdown of the common good (taking another life arbitrarily comes to mind here, as does attacks on the traditional family, committing violence against others without just cause).
  2. No law should force a person to do what they believe is morally wrong to do.
  3. Laws should promote the common good and protect the family and individuals from those who would actively seek to harm others.

Such a concept on law would not only protect the Christian, but the non-Christian from being forced to do wrong, it would protect society from individuals or groups who claim they have the moral obligation to murder or steal etc. It recognizes that real right and wrong do exist and seeks to make laws that makes it easier to do what is right, and put restrictions on wrongdoing that disrupts society.

No contradiction, no injustice. That’s the difference between the consistent Christian view and the self-contradiction of the inconsistent view of modern Christianophobia that pretends to be in favor of “rights” of all—except Christians.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bellwether of Persecution

I thought this was america

bellwether |ˈbelˌweT͟Hərnounthe leading sheep of a flock, with a bell on its neck.• an indicator or predictor of something: college campuses are often the bellwether of change

I remember my youth in school and what was taught to us about America. How we were a free country and that the government couldn’t do, or force us to do, bad things. We were told how people came to America to escape places that treated them unjustly. As I grew older, I realized that this was a “rose colored glasses” view of things. That our country could and did wrong over the past 200 years. But throughout my transition from growth to adulthood, it was still recognized that the Declaration of Independence was still meaningful when it said:

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.

We were told that the Bill of Rights were essential rights to all people and that our Founding Fathers were determined to protect the people from the abuses from a government, acknowledging that there were certain things that the government had no right to do.

Right now, America has a system where laws which were based on this understanding are subject to being reviewed by courts that are free to throw out those laws which the judges happen to disagree with. The term used is “finding the law unconstitutional,” but too often, this is a code word for an arbitrary decision that reflects the political views of the judges without concern with actual concern for justice or law. This is the case when a few judges have ruled that the understanding of marriage as being between one man and one woman is “unconstitutional.” Based on these rulings, people with religious beliefs that forbid them from participating in what they think is morally wrong can be forced to choose between their business and their beliefs—something the government had previously been seen as having no right to do.

Take a recent case of a Washington florist. The judge ruled that the florist’s religious beliefs, which forbade her from providing flowers to a same sex “wedding,” was illegal from the time that Washington legalized it. Think I’m using unreasonable rhetoric? Think again. Look at what the judge (Alexander C. Ekstrom) said:

"Stutzman is not a minister, nor is Arlene’s Flowers a religious organization when they sell flowers to the general public,” Ekstrom wrote. “Stutzman cannot comply with both the law and her faith if she continues to provide flowers for weddings as part of her duly licensed business.”

The judge has baldly stated what we have been warning of for years—that a person with religious convictions can be forced to choose between business and faith (Stultzman has decided to stop doing any weddings).  Basically, what we have is this: if a law is passed defending our religious freedoms, it is ruled as unconstitutional. When a law is passed which infringes on our religious liberties, it is seen as acceptable and those who invoke their first amendment freedoms are told that it doesn’t apply—the courts continually reducing who has religious freedom to the point that a church itself can (thus far) be protected from government interference, but the institutions that church runs or the individual practitioner is not.

Decisions like this make much more chilling a recent event where lawmakers urged Archbishop Cordileone to change his policy insisting that teachers in Catholic institutions actually act—Catholic. With legal precedence like this, we can expect the judges to be more likely to side with the laws infringing on our religious freedoms. 

While such things are more benign than in other countries and other times in how they try to coerce compliance with religious beliefs they oppose, these rulings are in the same spirit as the persecutions of the past. Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints describes for us the case of St. Sadoth:

The second year of the persecution, king Sapor coming to Seleucia, Sadoth was apprehended, with several of his clergy, some ecclesiastics of the neighborhood, and certain monks and nuns belonging to his church, to the amount of one hundred and twenty-eight persons. They were thrown into dungeons, where, during five months’ confinement, they suffered incredible misery and torments. They were thrice called out, and put to the rack or question; their legs were straight bound with cords, which were drawn with so much violence, that their bones breaking, were heard to crack like sticks in a fagot. Amidst these tortures the officers cried out to them: “Adore the sun, and obey the king, if you would save your lives.” Sadoth answered in the name of all, that the sun was but a creature, the work of God, made for the use of mankind; that they would pay supreme adoration to none but the Creator of heaven and earth, and never be unfaithful to him; that it was indeed in their power to take away their lives, but that this would be the greatest favor they could do them; wherefore he conjured them not to spare them, or delay their execution. The officers said: “Obey! or know that your death is certain, and immediate.” The martyrs all cried out with one voice: “We shall not die, but live and reign eternally with God and his Son Jesus Christ. Wherefore inflict death as soon as you please; for we repeat it to you that we will not adore the sun, nor obey the unjust edicts.”

Whether the governments would have us worship the sun, burn incense to the emperor or give our acceptance of “same sex marriage,” we must not obey what is unjust or forces us to go against what God commands. It may only cause us overt persecution or it may cause us hardship, perhaps legal action, but we need to be prepared for being called on to make the choice—for God, or against God. It might not happen to you or personally, but Our Lord did warn us that we must accept this:

The World’s Hatred. 18 If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,* because they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’ (John 15:18-25)

And so, we must prepare for darker times, which continue to come faster than I expect. We must prepare to continue to carry out our mission. As Cardinal George said, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” None of us want to die in prison, let alone the public square for the faith. But if it does happen by death or by lawsuit or by imprisonment, we must respond in love, blessing and praying for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44) and seeking to convert them. This is true, whether persecution comes from unjust judges interpreting unjust laws or whether it comes at the hands of fanatics like ISIS.