Thursday, December 9, 2010

Atheism and Miracles: Is It Really About Evidence?

Miracle, Fluke, or Not Enough Data?
My friend, Dave Armstrong, whose Catholic apologetic books we sell at Nineveh's Crossing, maintains a very active apologetic blog at Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. The link you just passed, connects to Dave's report of an interesting ocassion when he was the guest of 15 atheists who tried to poke holes in his Catholic thinking. I guess it was a friendly dialogue, and not a typical angry debate as such occasions seem often to be.

The center of their discussion was whether or not miracles have occurred in the past or can occur.  In particular they were discussing the Resurrection of Christ. This particular group, and one person in particular (DagoodS) found it difficult to discuss the plausibility of miracles because the group defined a miracle as an event that defied or broke the laws of nature.  Dave pointed out that unless the group could get off it's "no miracles allowed" mind-set, there was no chance to have an intellectual discussion regarding the possibility of miracles. That is, the firm bias of "miracles are impossible" prevents any intellectual investigation into the possibility of the same. It's like saying, "I choose not to believe in it, therefore it doesn't exist." My anti-Catholic children will say to me, "That's not what I believe" ... as if their ability to believe or not was the criteria for reality.

The Atheists' Beef with Miracles

DagoodS put his "beef" this way. I'm editing to pull together his salient comments:
As to naturalistic presupposition [regarding miracles]…I agree that is a difficulty for the [Christian] apologist to [objectively] discuss the Resurrection. Alas, it is part of human make-up. We all have biases. As a naturalist, I am going to look for a natural explanation. As a theist, [the Christian would look] for a supernatural explanation.

Many apologists...appear to claim the evidence (for the Resurrection) is sufficient to ... convince a naturalist. In those situations I try to explain why the evidence is not enough. Why we have legitimate (often un-addressed) concerns regarding the evidence claimed.
If I can interpret and expand for DagoodS (he can correct me):
Producing evidence in favor of miracles is not sufficient because the atheist will have legitimate concerns about the evidence. 
Of  course this is short hand, but is it the whole argument? Because it sounds like DagoodS is shutting the door before there's even a knock on it. It sounds like this:
Any evidence presented in favor of miracles would be illegitimate because the evidence is flawed...and we don't even have to test the evidence to know it's flawed.
Such is the character of prejudice and fallacious argumentation. The fallacy has two names in material logic: (1) Ignoring the counter evidence, and (2) Denying the counter evidence. Under the color of logic the atheist claims "I don't see it, therefore it must not exist."

Ah, there is the rub...and the solution.

Miracles and the Laws of Nature
The problem atheists have with miracles should be the same problem Christians have with miracles. The common definition is fallacious: An event that breaks one or more laws of nature.  Such a definition, if not pure arrogance, is a fallacious assumption. What follows in an explanation.

Let's start with one of Dave's favorite priests, Fr. John Hardon. In his Modern Catholic Dictionary (Eternal Life Publishing, 1999) he has this definition:
MIRACLE. A sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing at least the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or testify to someone's sanctity.
I don't expect atheists or skeptics to accept Fr. Hardon's definition. I provide it here for Catholics to help them see the fallacious nature of their definition. To understand why the common miracle definition is wrong, let's parse Fr. Hardon's definition. Note he says, a miracle is:
  • Something that is "sensibly perceived." That is, a miracle is not a vision or a dream that one or only a few see. A miracle is something that is commonly witnessed by everyone present at the time.
  • Is an "effect" - that means it is physical, not an "affect" which refers to the psychological state of a person.
  • The event or effect surpasses our understanding of the powers of visible  nature. That is the miracle APPEARS VISIBLY to contradict the laws of nature.
  • It is produced by God (not mankind)
  • It has a higher moral purpose. It's not just eye-candy or entertainment.
The important concept in Fr. Hardon's definition that applies to the current issue, is that the miracle visually appears to break the laws of nature.

Knowledge

As physicist (in part) and a Christian (hopefully, not in part) I have never believed that miracles need to break a natural law. The concept of "breaking a natural law" is that a contradiction has occurred. Natural Laws, however, are understood to be immutable and not exist in contradiction with one another -- something cannot be both TRUE and FALSE. Science would look at an apparent contradiction in nature and call it a paradox. That is, we just don't have all the knowledge about what is happening. Until we have most of the data we might call the event a phenomenon...and theologians and people of faith might call the phenomenon a miracle.  I submit, therefore, that miracles, which happen in the natural world, are paradoxes, not contradictions.  (BTW: The term contradiction is used in logic, for propositional statements that, to our thinking, are both true and false at the same time. )

In other words, when we "SEE" a contradiction we are mistaken, it is a paradox. The laws of nature cannot be broken, but they can be misunderstood.

Worlds in Collision

My thinking about miracles is informed by Worlds in Collision, a controversial book by Immanuel Velikovsky, in part, about the Plagues of Egypt (Moses). Velikovsky hypotheses that the miracles of the plagues were actually the natural result of Earth's collision with the tail of a comet. He explains them all as paradoxes. That does not make them less miraculous.

Another example is the fictional (but logical) account of the protagonist in "A Yankee in King Arthur's Court" who knows a solar eclipse is about to occur and uses it to his advantage. But such an event seems like a miracle or magic to the less knowledgeable characters around him.

Then there are the scientific and mathematical discovers of physical dimensions beyond the three physical dimensions (length, height, and depth) and the thing we call the dimension of time, although we can only perceive a dot along the time line, and not a full linear dimension as we do a ruled line on a piece of paper.  We cannot directly perceive the ten dimensions of space, but String Theory suggests they exists for certain mathematical and scientific observations to be true. Take for instance the spectrum's red-shift observations of deep space objects that indicate the objects are moving away from us a tremendous speed.  That movement is not in the three dimensions of space as we perceive it, but is on the surface of a 4th-dimension that is ever expanding. We see the effect but we can't see the dimension.

The existence of this 4th-dimension easily explains how Christ can seemingly appear to walk through a wall in the Upper Room, or how the Apostles and Christ can be appear to be transported instantly from one place to another. Or how the Red Sea is apparently parted. In all of these instances the laws of the natural universe are not broken, but rather we are allowed to physically experience what is always there. It's as if I go from bright sunlight into a dark room. For a while I can see nothing, until my eyes adjust, and then I see everything that has always been there. It's not a miracle. Things do not suddenly appear out of nothing.

All such "miracles" do violate our current understanding of Newtonian three-dimensions of space and time, but they obviously don't need to violate the laws of the universe when completely understood.

Monkeys and Witchcraft

This throws a monkey wrench into the atheist's arguments about needing "legitimate" evidence to "unanswered questions." In effect the atheist is demanding omniscience of the universe of knowledge. He is claiming to be, ironically, God. He/she is either claiming to know all or are expecting God to provide all knowledge. But that is something he/she will never have (unless they are "lucky" enough to get to heaven). Arrogance that they are important enough to have such knowledge cuts them off from God, who demands that we trust him for what our  minds are too small to understand. "Now we see through a glass darkly." Their illogical demand to be "god-like" in terms of knowledge (either now or at sometime in the future) cuts them off from the revelations that only faith and inform them about.

Did you see the "typo?" It wasn't. That last "and" was to be a "can". (See what mistakes and knowledge can impart?) Something does not make sense (like my last sentence) until new data is provided (it's a "can")  suddenly makes sense.  All human history is filled with such examples, especially in the history of science. What mankind thought was witchcraft of the 18th century is today "modern medicine" or "medical miracles."

Thus, the atheist, by his claim of of omniscience (there IS no God), and by his demand, "I need to know all to believe,"  errors on two fronts.  If he's honest, he "knows" he is not perfect, and that he is fully capable of making a typo.

Science Assumes Order

This leads "naturally" to the role of Christian Faith, without which few scientific discoveries would have been possible. Faith is irrevocably tied to scientific discovery because science assumes there is a natural order, to be discovered. The universe is not random or chaotic.  That order fulfills a mystical purpose is the scientist's assumption. That supposition allows science to use syllogisms to construct hypotheses, and then use logic to test them. The correct syllogisms lead to constructive universe, not a destructive one. Without faith in a higher entity that designed and maintains the order, there is no purpose of the universe, and thus no order.

Atheists are Logical Cowards

But we are sidetracked by all this talk of the need for evidence. What is really going on is this: Atheists hide behind the color of logic and evidence for fear of confronting the moral code of a just and gracious God. Atheism is a cowardly way to avoid natural law -- the natural moral code -- of the Creator. It's really not about evidence. Thus, the atheist isn't saying, "There are no miracles." or "There is no god," as if he was omniscient on that point. But he can say, and he has full right to it:  "There is no God -- Whom I will obey." Ah! Now that's evidence that makes logical sense.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Books Are IN

I can't write much, there's too much to do. I have over a hundred books to ship tomorrow -- pre-orders for what finally arrived today. My video editing salon smells like a printing plant. Although packed in 139 boxes the 2,500 copies of WHAT CATHOLICS REALLY BELIEVE are still drying, after a 6 week journey by rickshaw, container ship, rail and truck -- from Malaysia to Michigan.  I conceived this book over three years ago, and I'm thrilled with how it came out. Thanks to Dr. Ray for helping it become a reality. It's the best looking and most readable educational book about Catholicism available anywhere. You bet I'm biased. See our inside the book and our specials HERE. Please tell your priests and religious education directors that we offer 50-60% discounts for quantity purchases for students. We ship around the world. Tomorrow I have orders going out to Australia, the UK, and San Juan, and there are already three copies in South Africa.


First Skid Off the Overseas-Transport Truck
 


Boxes stacked in the video edit salon -- warehouse is full.

WCRB Ready for Fulfillment

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In Praise of Being Alone - Tanya Davis

Tanya Enjoying Being Alone
Here's a great video in praise of being alone -- not hooking up, not being married, not joining a religious order -- but being alone. Years ago I wrote an article titled "Eight Reasons for Being Single". It was in defense of being celibate, whether lay or religious, it doesn't matter. I'll post it under the video that is really wonderful to watch. It features poet Tanya Davis, who reminds me of our daughter, April... also a poet. The production is very good, as well. Enjoy.



YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs

Eight Great Reasons To Be Single and Celibate
Written in 2002 and published on Catholic Exchange
Copyright 2002, © Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D.

A recurring objection to the Catholic priesthood is the requirement of remaining single and celibate. Our culture tends to look on singleness as a curse rather than a potential blessing. To bring some balance to the dialogue, here are eight great reasons to be single. As a Catholic you’ll find some of these reasons interesting, if not ironic, because they do not come from the pen of a celibate Catholic theologian, monk, or priest cloistered in a Mongolian monastery. Instead, they come from a Protestant-Evangelical minister, John Piper in his book RECOVERING BIBLICAL MANHOOD AND WOMANHOOD. John is married to Noel and together they have four children.

1. Marriage in not the final destiny of any human being.

Christ reminds us in Mark 12 that in heaven there will be no marriage, but we will be like the angels in heaven. If our ultimate goal is heaven, as opposed to marriage, then we must see that our ultimate state is as an angel who is not married.

2. Jesus Christ, the most fully human person who ever lived was not married, and he never once had sexual intercourse.

Modeling our life so completely after Christ’ singleness of life and purpose...in the words of Luci Swindoll “leads into a wide world of wonder and freedom and joy and love.”

3. The Bible celebrates celibacy because it gives extraordinary opportunity for single-minded investment in Ministry for Christ.

An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs —how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world —how he can please his wife.

An unmarried person cherishes his or her freedom for flexible scheduling and for the ability to take risks that you could not take if you were a husband, wife, mother or father. The single life-style enables one to get the most out of the time God gives for His work. One missionary said, “One of my chief delights is that I don’t have to fit my ministry around a family schedule. I don’t have to be home at a certain time each night. My time is the Filipinos’ time.”

4. The Apostle Paul and a lot of great missionaries after him have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of God as Jesus. (c.f. Mt. 19:12)

Ada Lum, a single woman working with an Evangelical mission in S.E. Asia tells of sitting next to a nun while flying from Rome to Munich. Ada was impressed by the youthful enthusiasm of this nun who had been in the mission fields of the Philippians for 30 years and spent part of that time in a political jail. For the first time this single Evangelical missionary, who had considered marriage, saw the plain gold ring that most nuns wear, inside of which was inscribed, “Wed to Christ.” To the Evangelical the concept was new and exciting. Imagine being married to the creator of the universe.

5. The Apostle Paul calls singleness a gift from God.

“I wish that all men were [single] as I am. But each man has his own gift from God." (1 Corinthians 7:7) Although God created all of us for relationships we can have many healthy and fruitful relationships without marriage.

6. Jesus promises that forsaking family for the sake of the kingdom will be repaid with a new family, the Church. (Mark 10:29-30)

Singles have discovered the hundreds of family members in the body of Christ. April, our single daughter who is now 28, always wanted to have a lot of children. She thought she could only do that through marriage. But April is not married, yet she has a rich relationship with 20 children that she nurtures and calls her own where she teaches elementary school. We are regularly inundated with pictures and stories about “her kids” which have in turn become our grandchildren.

 7. God is sovereign over who gets married and who doesn’t. And He can be trusted to do what is good for those who hope in Him.


The Psalmist says, “no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11). Ann Kiemel Anderson wrote this poem: Jesus -- if this is Your will -- then YES to being single. -- In my deepest heart, I want to marry, -- to belong to a great man -- to know that I am linked to his life -- and he to mine.-- following Christ and our dreams together.-- But you know what I need.-- If I never marry, -- it is YES to you.

8. Mature manhood and womanhood are not dependent on being married.

We are either man or woman by nature. God gives us sexuality and a temperament to match. Who we are is based on his creation, not on our vocational decision. We are not made more fully man or woman by being married, or having sex, or having children. Your role as a single person is different than as a married person. But, don’t confuse your role with your sexual identify. Regardless of marriage, you are a full creation, with unique and particular passions, gifts, skills and talents. God, through Christ and the Church, has promised you a full life. All you have to do is respond to his call and say yes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yoga Jesus

Yesterday I recevied this comment from a person who had heard about our new book "What Catholics Really Believe" on the radio, checked out our website, and wrote us the following:
I...thought the book was just what I should get for a family member who has very little understanding of the faith.  However, the picture on the front is just too weird for me to consider buying it.  It reminds me of the pictures that the yoga people have of their "saints".  The picture of Christ that you chose has that same look.  I'm sure the book is great but the cover is a turn off.
I wrote back:
Thank you for your opinion.  You might consider that the yoga people adopted pictures of their leaders that purposely looked like Christ because he was so revered.
Of course I don't really know this. Other responses later came to mind:

a. "But you know that the picture on our book is Jesus. Right?"

b. "If Jesus looked like Uncle Fred whom I hate, would I also hate Jesus?"

c. "Do all men with long hair and a beard look the same?"

d. "Jesus and Yoga masters do have somethings in common... they're Eastern mystics who didn't have a razor or many friends who were barbers. 

Then, I wondered, what if this person is right and if all the Yoga masters looked like the cover of our book. That would be, ah, strange. So, I decided to do an image search on Yoga Masters, and came up with the images below. I suppose some people would see a resemblance. Which looks more like Jesus?

And what if our book cover looked so much like Yoga masters that Yoga people started buying it and reading it? Would that be bad? Would we get sued for impersonating Yoga Masters? I can see the headlines now: "CATHOLIC PUBLISHER SUED FOR DEPICTING YOGA MASTERS AS JESUS... OR THE OTHER WAY AROUND...THIS REPORTER ISN'T SURE."

Ah, but then I found it. Yoga Jesus... in marble no less. Yep, that's Jesus alright. Well, okay, it's just a statute for you iconoclasts out there. It's not REALLY him. The website that has this picture claims:
The final marble statue which is of Jesus just arrived last week from India. Our line of masters or gurus is 5 deep (Jesus, Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Yukteswar and Paramhansa Yogananda) and Jesus holds pole position as you can see from Yogananda’s comment above. He is viewed by Yogananda devotees worldwide as a great Master of yoga.
Okay, so, I suppose this does look like Jesus. 

GUILTY!

Let's buy these books and save all these Yoga masters.










Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Pope, the Palins, and the Pursuit of True Happiness

Kathryn Jean Lopez in the National Review threads common themes from the Pope, the Palins, George Bush, Dan Quayle, the Pill, the Condom, and Katrina. Thank you Ms. Lopez, great thinking, great writing.   It's HERE.

Considering the backdrop of eternity somethings are probably not coincidence. One of those might be the release on the same day of Peter Seewald's long form interview with Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World, and Palin's American By Heart.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Book - Three Years - BEAUTIFUL!

2,500 copies of our new book WHAT CATHOLICS REALLY BELIEVE is in boxes in a shipping container somewhere in the Pacific Ocean aboard the container vessel NYK Argus v.49E42 headed for Los Angeles. Then it's customs and transport to Michigan for warehousing and sale. A few dozen preliminary copies are being sold to some anxious customers and sent out to reviewers and our wholesale customers as samples. 

This unique volume, three years in the making, has the following features:

  • Edited for early teens through senior adults
  • Full dialogue text from Dr. Ray and Fr. Fete's television series.
  • Study questions for classroom or home study use.
  • Comprehensive Answer Guide by apologist-author Dave Armstrong , one of the most accessible writers in America today.
  • 127 Full color photographs by Fr. Gene Plaisted, OSC, of topical stained glass windows from churches around the world.
  • Ecclesiastical approval for publication was granted by The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, May 20, 2009.
  • 52 Sidebar definitions of often misunderstood terms
  • Flex-binding, that allows the book to lie flat on a study table
  • Comfortable size (8.5" x 6.5") and unique flexibility for holding in hands
  • Table of Contents with color keyed page-edge tabs.
  • Each unit is shrink wrapped to guard against cover wear and moisture.

Monday, October 4, 2010

NATURAL LAW and then there's "natural law"

Just got my absentee ballot for the November election. If you're over a certain age in MI you don't have to stand in line for an hour to vote. I plan on voting next week. As I scanned the ballot I saw a few candidates for the NATURAL LAW party.

Now, if you've read much of my stuff, you know I'm a Natural Law kind of guy. But I had not idea that the practical applicaiton of "natural law" could be perverted so much until I read this on Wikipedia:

The Natural Law Party (NLP) was a United States political party affiliated with the international Natural Law Party. It was founded in 1992 and mostly dissolved in 2004. Leading members of party were associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, leader of Transcendental Meditation movement. 
I think I see where this is going.
The party proposed that political problems could be solved through alignment with the Unified Field of all the laws of nature through the use of the TM-Sidhi program. Its other policies were uncontroversial. 
This is funny stuff. Who wrote this? SNL?
"Natural Law" referred to "the ultimate source of order and harmony displayed throughout creation."
I like that. Catholicism is based on Natural Law... but this isn't the same. The question is how do you know what those natural laws are?  
Harmony with Natural Law could be accomplished by the practice of Transcendental Meditation and more advanced techniques. Due to scientific studies of these techniques, it considered this to be a science-based approach. 
The NLP proposed that a government subsidized group of 7,000 advanced meditators known as Yogic Flyers would lower nationwide stress, reduce unemployment, raise the gross national product, improve health, reduce crime, and make the country invincible to foreign attack. Hagelin called it a "practical, field-tested, scientifically proven" solution. 
Unbelievable. But it gets better. 
TM would be taught to the military, to students, in prisons, and to ordinary citizens. Hagelin predicted that implementation of the program would result in $1 trillion in savings from reduced costs for medical care, criminal prosecutions and prisons, national defense, and other government expenses.
Catholicism would do this if everyone just went to confession once a year.  Just teach people to live a morally chaste life and you've got it. Anybody got any ideas on how to do that? .... don't tell me, TM.
Slogans included: "Only a new seed will yield a new crop", and "bring the light of science into politics". Catchphrases included: "prevention-oriented solutions" and "conflict-free politics".
Love that last one, "conflict-free" politics. Would it really be politics, then?
LITURGY TO CULTURE

I have given up trying to articulate my many thoughts on this topic... at least until the mind melds in such a way that I can make sense. In the meantime, my good friend and editor a Catholic Exchange, Mary Kochan, sent me a link to an interesting and well written review of sociologist PHILIP RIEFF life work by David Lewis Stokes. I'll quote a bit then give you the link:
In antiquity the ideal of what it was to be truly human was to become either hero or sage. In the Middle Ages it was to become a saint. In our own time the best we can hope to become is — well-adjusted.

By the end of the 19th Century Jesus had ceased to be an apocalyptic rabbi or the God-man, and had become our primary therapeutic figure: Jesus is now the One who cares.
In 1965 Rieff’s “Triumph of the Therapeutic” was received as the work of a brilliant and urbane sociologist. Now with the posthumous publication of “Sacred Order/Social Order” — a three-volume meditation on art, history, religion and culture — we find ourselves confronted by a contemporary Jeremiah, who doesn’t hesitate to pronounce our most cherished cultural orthodoxies as “deathworks.” Rieff is a prophet of such subversive power that he’s sure to be sentenced to our equivalent of being hanged, drawn and quartered: He will be catalogued, shelved and ignored.
Whatever our own fate, we do well to commend Rieff to God. But may his soul, at least for the time being, never rest in peace.
Rieff's Search for a Way Beyoond our Therapeutic Culture

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nine Principles of Loving Discipline for Parents


by Dr. Ray Guarendi

Here are nine principles of loving discipline to remember and practice. They are sure to improve your home life.

1. Discipline is love in action. Loving Discipline is teaching at the most gentle hands a child will ever experience—a loving parent's. Discipline now, and the world will not have to discipline your child later.

2. Good discipline is grounded in good sense. It always has been. It always will be. New and improved parenting theories are new, but aren't always improved, and sometimes, are much worse than time-tested methods.

3. Good parents make mistakes and learn from them. Disciplining in fear of mistakes only erodes your self-confidence; and self-confidence is crucial to taking the hard but best stance.

4. Strong discipline isn't complicated.  It's founded upon a few basics, and the will to persevere with those basics. Discipline is easy, if you're willing work hard at it.

5. Discipline is action, not talk. Discipline with consequences, and you'll discipline less. Discipline with words, and you'll discipline more. Action discipline leads to calmer and quieter discipline. Wordy discipline leads to louder and meaner discipline.

6. All discipline interacts with a one-of-a-kind object—a child. Some kids require one-tenth of the average amount of discipline. Some kids require ten times the average. Regardless, good parenting is parenting up to the very level required. Do what it takes for as long as it takes. Your child deserves no less.

7. Kids are built to misbehave. It's in their essence. It's who they are. Expect misconduct for years. Expect to discipline for years. Time will reward you and your children.

8. Humans resist discipline—some a little, some a lot. Children are just better at resisting discipline than most. It's a fact of human nature what we often fight what is good for us. Resist your child's resistance. As he matures, he'll better understand and accept.

9. Good parents are misunderstood. Really good parents are really misunderstood.  No longer is it only the children who question and accuse good parents, now it is other adults who should know better. Strong parents face a lot of opposition these days. Not because they are wrong, but because they are right. Stand strong. Reality always wins and it is on your side.

-----
The BETTER PARENT DVD
Dr. Raymond Guarendi is a father of ten, a clinical psychologist, author, public speaker and Catholic radio talk show host. These "Nine Principles of Loving Discipline" are the basis for Dr. Ray Guarendi's 90-minute comedy television special, "You're a Better Parent Than You Think" presented before a S.R.O. crowd at a Catholic Home School Conference. The DVD version of the special, along with Dr. Ray's other parenting resources, can be ordered at http://www.DrRayDVD.com which features a free booklet plus a 20% discount on Dr. Ray's Television Special Packages. You can also call Nineveh's Crossing for a catalog of Dr. Ray's parenting and Catholic apologetic books, CDs, and DVDs — 877-606-1370.

Monday, September 20, 2010

2. Culture is Made Up of Repeats

We had just docked our sailing ketch at a Great Lakes village in the North Channel of Ontario. A local businessman we had known from a previous cruise was sitting in our cockpit visiting. Since our last visit to the area we had become Catholic and I asked John if he knew where the local Catholic Church was so we could attend Mass the coming Sunday. He chuckled and said he should, since his mother had been the organist at the parish his whole life. When we suggested we attend Mass with him the next day, a Sunday, he shook his head and said. "No thanks. It's too boring for me. It's the same thing, every Sunday, nothing ever changes."

We did go to Mass the next morning. John's mom was at the organ, but, of course, John wasn't there.

John's complaint is similar to what Pam and I heard growing up as Protestants. As Evangelicals we were proud that our church didn’t keep repeating the same boring service Sunday after Sunday like Catholics did with the Mass. Or so we had been told. Had we known that Mass was usually celebrated everyday we would have been surprised seven times over. No, our worship was much superior, we didn't have any of that mind-numbing liturgy, we had (drum roll, please) an "Order of Service."

Ironically, the "order" never changed. The order consisted of: a hymn, the pastor's prayer, another hymn, a responsive reading (from the back of the hymnal), special music, the offering, a sermon, a final hymn, and a closing prayer. As youth we jokingly called this the Free Methodist liturgy. But it was not liturgy, even thought there was a pattern that was repeated — religiously. 
We rationalized that although the order was the same the hymns, prayers, Scripture, and sermons always changed. Little did we know how much more there was to liturgy.

As Catholics, the liturgy is not just the order of the various events in the service but the repeated use of gestures, smells, tastes, and the repetition of physical actions like standing, sitting, kneeling, bowing and genuflecting. Altogether the Catholic liturgy is a barrage that stimulates all six of our physical senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and balance.)

Culture originates and develops from the repeated public practice of individuals. So both our Evangelical and Catholic experiences in regular public worship, have a profound effect on culture, simply because the patterns are repeated, and the content within the patterns is true.

To the extent that we repeat ritual actions and words in Christian liturgy the associated values naturally and organically seep from us and becomes part of the larger culture. We bow to Christ out of respect, and we nod our respect to those in secular authority over us. We eat and drink Christ's body and blood with great reverence, and so during a regular meal we act with careful reserve and respect to others eating with us. Proper etiquette in society has as one of its sources the rubrics of the liturgy. In Mass we repeated learn to sit quietly and listen, which prompts us to sit quietly and listen to our boss, or parents, or spouse. When we repeatedly enter God's house we don't run or yell, but control our actions out of respect for someone greater than we. So, we get in the habit of acting the same way when we enter a place of business or another person's abode.

Thus, the more we are exposed to the on-going repetition in liturgy of the sights, sounds, words, actions, smells, and actions toward God, the more likely we are to repeat the same in our daily live with others. And the more Catholics (and other Christians) do such things, the more we repeat them for others to see and hear. In that way repetition creates a culture that comes from our experience in the liturgy.

 ----------

Photo Copyright, Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS, used with permission, taken at Assumption Grotto Catholic Church Detroit.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Liturgy to Culture: 1. LIFE IS MADE UP OF FORMS


There is a direct correlation between what individuals and groups do on a repeated basis, and what the culture of the society becomes. 

If people in a metropolis repeatedly drive their cars to and from work at the same time of day, then as a metroplex society we learn to tolerate a culture of traffic jams. That along with the daily inhaling of vehicle exhaust and the honking of horns, create a fast-paced and high-strung culture.

In rural society similar but different regular events create a different culture. There slow moving hay wagons, beet trucks that dump their loads, and cattle crossing the road combine with the inhaling of organic smells and mooing of bovines to create a mellow culture.

Two families lived across the street from each other. The Libbys, like "freedom" loving people everywhere, never went to church on Sunday mornings but spent the time polishing their new Vette. But the Lentils, like clockwork and peas in a pod, were in the habit of putting on their Sunday best clothes and at 9:45 AM on Sunday mornings piled into their faded blue van and headed off to church. Of course, after a few years the Vette started to lose it's luster, the elbow grease started to mix with arthritis, and the Lentils kids seemed to do better in school and get the better jobs. The Libby's starting to go to church, too.

What we do on a regular basis, for whatever reason, can become the form and the habit of our life. When we do those things in public for others to see, we perform a "liturgy" which broadly defined is a public service, duty, or work. If we perform those liturgies on a regular basis that result in long-term desirable results, we create patterns and forms for others to follow. Our liturgy creates culture.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Anne Rice's "Christianity"

This is my third post in a row about Anne Rice and the conversation about her relationship with Christ and Christianity.  This is a short discussion on linguist fallacies, with quotes from Anne Rice's website and links to a few other things.

I find this topic intriguing because as a part time logician the use of words is critical to good communication. Misusing words, or misunderstanding the words used, results in a slew of linguistic fallacies. The fallacies that most often confuse the debate between Catholicism and Protestantism are equivocation, distinction without a difference (what I call difvocation); and strawman. But Anne Rice has succeeded in using the same with Christian milieu in general and not particularly one institution toward another. She's lumped them all together. Which is easy to do considering the fallacious nature of so much of the communication in Christianity, even out of the Catholic hierarchy.

Equivocation occurs when the same word is used by two parties but the two parties have underlying definitions that are different. When an Evangelical Protestant claims to be "saved" it means something much different to a Catholic, who would reserve the term to mean their arrival for eternity in heaven. The term comes from the concepts of "Equal Vocalization".

Difvocation is the opposite of Equivocation. I coin it from the concepts of "Difference in Vocalization." When two different words are used but they have essentially the same meaning, but two or more parties claim there is a difference, there tends to be an argument over nothing.

Strawman is when an opponent raises an objection to someone or something by citing a false claim about it, and then striking it down. The argument is not real; it is made of straw.

All three of these fallacies are evident in the statements below that Anne makes. And when Christians and non-Christians try to interpret what she says, more of the same miscommunication occurs. Or worse, just because someone else is confused doesn't mean we need to politely respect their ignorant and misinformed opinion. Why should anyone be tolerant of evil or ignorance? Doing so is like asking people to put on blinders to be led around by the blind. (You don't want to act superior, do you? This person is blind, don't make them feel bad just you can see. Be humble. Pretend you're blind, too.  It's okay to fall down and hurt yourself; think how the blind person feels.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I like this woman, her romantic instincts, her boldness, her writing, and her marketing savvy -- a lot...to say nothing of the fact that she married a man named "Stan." She can't be all that bad.  I think, however, she's instinctively brought to the forefront a fabulous marketing scheme that has involved both her old fans, her confused fans, and her Christian fans. She's better at marketing her own books than her publisher, I think. And at the forefront of that expertise is controversy.

But the mistake she makes, in the long run as a writer, is that she has scarified honest communication about truth for hype. She is ultimately, as all authors are, most interested in what is true. If she doesn't seek truth in her writing, readers will stop reading her. Thus, she has herein stumbled. What I discovered in my own research and is revealed in The Moral Premise, applies to all story telling, not just movies. Perhaps she doesn't realize this at first, but eventually she must. I hope.

Anne's Statements Regarding Christianity as Posted:

For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten ...years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
07/28/10

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
07/28/10

My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.
07/29/10

I quit Christianity in the name of Christ on this page so that I could tell my readers I was not complicit in the things that organized religion does. I never dreamed others would be so interested, or that they would feel the need to talk about their own religious struggles. But they do. And the public conversation on... this is huge, and I think important.
08/08/10
A Bit of Analysis:

First, her beef is with organized religion, which is different than her persistent claim to still be a follower of Christ. She says "I quit being a Christian" and then says "I am a follower of Christ". This is difvocation. There is no historically difference; nor is there today in the usage of those two words/phrases. She can be justified (to some degree) in saying, "I quit being a named member of any organized Christian body, such as the Catholic Church." Even most of us in the Catholic Church can understand that sentiment, although not for the reasons she later states. I've had my run in with bishops and find some egomaniacs and not worthy of the office. But that doesn't seperate me from being a Christian, or a member of the Church. Because Judas was an Apostle did the other 11 leave Christ? (Well, shortly there after ten of them did leave Christ, for a time, but that had nothing to do with Judas. Indeed, In John 6:66 we read that many left Christ... but that had to do with protesting the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of communion. )

Second, let's take the terms "anti-gay," "anti-feminist," "anti-life," and "anti-Democrat." [I'll leave "anti-artificial birth control" and "anti-secular humanist" for another time. There is less misunderstanding of these latter terms, although what I say next may apply to them as well.] These are examples of equivocation, or can be. Being gay or homosexual can refer to a person's moral disposition (in theological terms concupiscence) or it can refer to an active life style lived without remorse. The Catholic Church is pro gay in the first definition, but anti-gay in the latter definition, just as it is loving and embracing of all sinners who recognize and seek redemption from any moral weakness.

The same can be said of the other phrases, but perhaps with some clarifications. There are as many different kinds of "feminism" as there are pant-suit designers. (Fewer every year.) A feminist in the classic sense is anyone that considers women equal to men in intelligence, ability, and dignity. Jesus Christ fits that mold. Jesus was a feminist. He talked with women and protected them when no other man would.  There are "radical feminist," on the other hand, who think women are the same in their primary physical characteristics and should have masculine physical identities, including he "right" to use urinals. I don't think the "Christians" Anne is upset with have a corner on the market for being for the former or against the latter. Women are different from men in primary and secondary gender characteristics and both should be celebrated for their values to each other and society.

With regard to the "anti-life" and "anti-Democrat" designations, I cannot guess what she means, but it seems the same sort of identifications and linguistic fallacies apply.

In short, there are very specific group of people, perhaps true bigots, whom she is upset with, or whom she seems to be upset with, and to make such general statements seem out of her character.

All of her statements, however, do easily embrace the strawman fallacy, and that this is so obvious is probably the reason Christianity Today published a short interview with her without comment. The confusion of terms and identity is gross, not subtle. She criticizes perhaps the Catholic Church, but she over generalizes (another fallacy) all of Christianity, with it tens of thousands of belief systems. Certainly there are Christian organizations who believe as she would want them to believe, who call themselves Christians and a part of Christianity. Yet, she rejects them as well. Very strange behavior for an author. Who knows maybe this will start yet another Protesting denomination, the Church of Anne Rice.

It is a false understanding, and therefore a "strawman argument," to say of Catholicism that it is anti-any human being, and particularity "anti-life." It's easy to say that the Catholic Church does not endorse a number of planks in recent Democratic platforms, especially in regard to abortion and artificial birth control. But there's no general logic (as she claims it) that applies to the concept of being Democrat.

Oh, one more -- "anti-science." Dang this is strange. Catholicism (and thus Christianity) established science. What many of us Catholic scientist types object to is how many in the science community have become political and irrational, throwing out the scientific method and ignoring clear scientific evidence that refutes their political agenda. Last I checked the Vatican was the only established religion that has a working cosmological observatory. And the hosts of world-renowned Nobel prize winners who were Catholic is astonishing. Indeed, Christian's who are scientists have an discover advantage over atheists. The atheist believes in random disorder, and the Christian believes that the universe follows an understandable order and structure imbued by benevolent intellignece. When a scientists makes a hypothesis to test, he or she assumes an order that can be known. By definition every scientists that makes a hypothesis based on past patterns and knowledge is proclaiming there is an intelligent design(er) to the universe. To discard the benevolent intelligence behind nature is to make one incapable of forming a hypothesis.  Q.E.D.

Moral Relativism

That Anne is embracing moral relativism is almost too obvious to even mention. If she is a follower of Christ then she either must follow what Christ taught which included a number of charters to individuals to lead a Church infallibly. That she certainly does not understand. It may well be that she's hanging around with, was hanging around with, a lot of protesters in both the Protestant and Catholic resistance. Such friends can be very confusing.   Pray that she sees, and begins to understand the difference between what people do, in the name of Christ (as she is even doing), and what Christ has commanded in the infallible charter He gave his Apostles that those that followed.

Anne, there's a huge difference between what people of "faith" do and what the Church infallible "teaches." The biggest mistake you can make is saying, "I love Christ and guess what, He taught exactly what I believe."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Anne Rice, Catholicism, and Dave Armstrong's Defense

Is Anne just a marketing genius, or has senility set in. And yet the juxtaposition of vampires and Catholicism has some intriguing and "novel" possibilities.

Last week when the news broke about Anne Rice "leaving Christianity but still embracing Christ," I wrote that I thought someone had hijacked her Facebook blog. We had enjoyed all three of her post-vampire Christian books and I had read some of her vampire fare. And the announcement and other words attributed to her do not sound rationale.

For you that don't know, Anne Rice is the popular author of "The Vampire Chronicles," and other such books from which several successful motion pictures have been made. She's a master at marketing as much as writing, with a personal staff larger than her publisher employs on her behalf.

A few years back she returned to the Catholicism of her youth. Her re-conversion made headlines in both vampire and Catholic/Christian circles. After her re-conversion she swore off writing vampire novels although she still justified their promotion because they honestly chronicled her journey in the dark looking for the light. Indeed her later vampire stories are about her vampire protagonists searching for redemption, something they cannot find by virtue of the story genre to live eternally as the damned. They are cursed monsters needing salvation. Viewed from that perspective there's value in Anne's books that came out of her period of atheism.

SIDEBAR - CATHOLICISM, VAMPIRES, AND ZOMBIES

The juxtaposition of Catholicism and vampire lore has some intriguing story potential. I've been involved as a consultant on a movie project that examines the "origin" and eventual redemption of vampires one step further than Ms. Rice's effort. The movie effort attempts to correlate the vampire's thirst for blood with the Christian's thirst for Christ's real presence in the blood of The Eucharist. The image of a vampire drinking human blood in search for life -- juxtaposed with a Catholic drinking Christ's redemed blood in Mass seeking eternal life, is poignant to say the least.  In John 6:53-56 we have these shocking words of Christ:
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (Jesus)
So shocking was this teaching that many of Christ's followers left never to follow Him again (John 6:66). Historians suggest that Jewish law which forbade eating meat  that was bloody, was the reason so many found this teaching repulsive.

It's not without purpose that Vampires (human blood suckers) and Zombies (human flesh eaters) are the two most popular horror genre in film. There are a lot of confused Catholics out there looking for meaning to the ritual of the Mass. Catholic teachers have done a poor job explaining it so it's up to filmmakers, I guess.  

Allow this sidetrack to continue for another paragraph. Jon Springer is the Catholic horror filmmaker form St. Paul, MN. Back in 2003 he produced a short B&W film called LIVING DEAD GIRL. The film begins with the typical zombies going crazy, biting people, and turning them into the living dead, walking around town looking for another human to bit and spread the curse. But then, this particular zombie girl comes upon a strange man standing on the street corner. It's Jesus. She attacks, taking a bite out of his arm. She, rather than He, falls to the ground. And a moment later she's resurrected as back to normal, healthy human, again. The message is clear. Society, in general, is like the living dead. But when we take a bite of Christ, and make him (literally) part of our life, we find life. It is Christ's flesh and blood that gives life.

BACK TO SCENE - ANNE RICE AND DAVE ARMSTRONG

Anne followed her re-conversion by three wonderful Christian books. "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" was her first person telling of 7-year old Jesus' trip with his family from Egypt back to Roman occupied Galilee. "Christ the Lord: Road to Cana" was the first person telling of 32-year old Jesus' beginning of his public ministry.  Both are great reads, I recommend them, highly. During this time Anne also wrote a personal book about her childhood as a Catholic youth in New Orleans, her lapse into atheism with famous husband and intellectual Stan Rice, and then her reconversion to Catholicism. It's titled "Called Out of Darkness". The book is most valuable for her description of Catholicism through the eyes of a young girl in romantic and mystical New Orleans.

Then, suddenly it seemed, a week ago, Anne announced that she's given up Christianity and the Catholic Church... but she still loves Jesus Christ. (Huh!?)

Her reasons were the typically, trite, irrational tripe about being fed up with hypocrites and transferring their misguided comments and lifestyles on the whole of Christian thought and philosophy.  Or, in her case, misunderstanding Church teaching about loving sinful persons at all costs but hating the sins that such persons commit. Anne's son is a gay homosexual author. And as she should, she loves her son. But she can't seem to separate the sin of humankind from the teachings of Christ and his Church. Or, as Dr. Ray Guarendi says in his popular DVD, WHY BE CATHOLIC? the scariest religious position today is not the atheist, or new age, or other fringe groups, but the mainstream Christian who says, "I love God, and he's just like me."

Now, this is a "smart" woman, or so I thought. Well, upon her "anti-Christianity" announcement (or "deconversion") , the blogosphere was awash with stories, praise, condemnations, Monday quarterbacking, and debate about this "turn of events". Especially of interest is the strange and irrational reasons this celebrated author gives for rejecting Christianity but still embracing Christ. Frankly, I still think her Facebook page has been hijacked (because I expect more intelligence from her), but evidently she appeared on The Joy Behar Show in person to discuss this whole thing. (Joy Behar... makes "sense.")

ENTER DAVE ARMSTRONG

Dave Armstrong (and wife, Judy), is a friend(s) and author of a number of fine books on Catholic apologetics that I sell on Nineveh's Crossing, and one I'm editing for publication. Dave was not familiar with Anne Rice, but he caught wind of her "reasons" for "leaving Christianity" and... well, Dave can't turn down an easy Internet post when Catholicism can be defended. (It'll be a chapter in a future book of his, no doubt.) His website was perhaps the first Catholic apologetic website in the world (goes back to the mid-1990s), and he's making a writing career out of the fodder. Dave's writing is thoroughly organized,  accessible, smart, and relevant. I've hired him several times to write material for Nineveh's Crossing (our study guides all have his touch).

So, Dave did his usual thorough job at refuting the several irrational arguments against Christianity and Catholicism that Anne takes, and posted a thorough defense of Catholicism and Christianity on his blog. . You can read his initial blog entry in a post titled: The Deconversion of Novelist Anne Rice: Straw Men, "Baby/Bathwater" Mentality, Sexual Liberalism, and an Irrational Held, Apologetics-Free Faith   LINK HERE

Then the drama sets in. Anne reads Dave's post, or part of it, and writes on her Facebook blog:
Here's a rather critical, and well written discussion of my leaving organized religion for Christ. 
And then she gives a link to Dave's post (as I have give you above)

Within 24 hours Dave is besieged by comments (pro and con) on his blog,  as is Anne on her Facebook page. Dave has posted some of the comments at his post: Anne Rice's Facebook Followers Irrationally and Intolerantly Attack Yours Truly for Criticizing the Lack of Adequate Reasoning for Her Deconversion.   LINK HERE

All of this I'm very happy about... for Dave and for Catholicism. There's nothing like controversy to get people thinking or talking about what is true.

And there's nothing like Dave's very clear, easy to read defense of the faith. I can only hope that Anne (and thousands of others) take Dave's arguments to heart, and perhaps read a few of his books. All of which are on sale (15% off) at Nineveh's Crossing, naturally. HERE: http://www.ninevehscrossing.com/DALibrary.php 







Best to all of you.

Stan

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Anne Rice's Blog is Hijacked

Anne Rice's blog's claim of her "deconvesion" from Christianity is one of the most stupid explanations of not being something I have ever read. She claims she's done being a Christian and at the same time saying she loves Christ. It would make sense if she'd disclaim and trash the hypocrites in Chrisianity, but that is not what these posts are saying.  It's as if someone has hijacked her blog.


I have read a great deal of her writings both before and after her reconversion to Catholicism. And nothing in these recent posts of hers makes any logical sense. It's almost as if she had someone close to her write these posts who is totally ignorant of Christian doctrine and most of all Catholic teaching and wants to lash out.   I heard recently that she was bedfast with illness. Perhaps her her delusion or incapacity someone is taking advantage of her blog. Time will tell.

For anyone of her "intelligence" to create such obviously inaccurate strawman arguments is childish if not adolescent. She's lauded for her research in the many books she's written. So, it's hard to figure that she's done no research into Christian or Catholic teaching before she came back to it.  Is she so dumb as to listen to "Christians' on the fringe and embrace their ideology as if it was an accurate reflection of Christian or Catholic theology?

If you claim to love Christ, Christ says "You will obey me." Christ also said to his Apostles, the first Church elders, "He who is against you, is against me." People have a choice, they can choose to follow God's will as expressed by the moral teachings of the Church Christ left in charge, or they can be their own little God. 

The quote most open to question, if it came from her at all is this:
I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.
As a simple critique, let's stick with Catholic Christianity since Protestant theology is all over the map on these issues.

Christianity teaches us to love gays, but not their sexual perversion. We are to love those that hate us. Christianity is not "anti-anybody" but it is "anti-sin."

The most renowned feminist (moderate, not radical) was Jesus. He gave women their status of equal value to men before Western laws did. Christianity is "feminist" at its core, as long as you eliminate the fringe of the feminist movement that think women should use urinals.

Christianity isn't against birth control when used naturally, but it is against disrupting the natural working of marriage and life. It is a contraction to be FOR artificial birth control and FOR life. Why? Because artificial birth control can induce abortions of an embryo.

Christianity isn't anti-Democrat, although it is against some of the planks in the current Democrat platform, like the right to abortion. But Church teaching steers far clear of anything that is political. It's just that politics and state laws sometimes infringe on the God given human rights and the dignity of life.

Christianity may be against "secular humanism" if by that term she is referring to a philosophy that expressly excludes God.  The Church is an articulate support of humanism in it s Christian form.

Christianity invented science. The Vatican is the only faith with an astronomical observatory active in research. It's the "secular humanism scientists" and their egos that dislike God that claim Christianity excludes science.  All the great science discoveries of the past came from practicing Christians and most of those were Catholic. And don't get me into the Gallieo controversy; that was a person thing, not a doctrine thing--dig below the surface to understand that.  Truth comes by FAITH AND REASON the Church has proclaimed all its existence. REASON includes science by definition.

And her final salvo, "I refer to be anti-life".  Right. Who really wrote this? Not anyone with a brain larger than a walnut.

Anyway, I don't want to take anymore time to do again what my good friend Dave Armstrong has done wonderfully.  Check out his detailed analysis of this with all the links you could want. GREAT JOB DAVE.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Entitlement Programs Need Some "Behavior Modification"

"Spend-Spend-Spend" is the mantra typically bandied about by fiscal conservatives to describe pro-entitlement liberals. The rationale often cited to justify entitlement programs is that it's the Christian thing to do. The government is simply trying to meet the needs of the disadvantaged, so the argument goes. Christians who are staunch Democrats argue that the rich have an obligation to house, feed, and care for the poor. It's what Jesus would do; and there are plenty of Bible verses and even Catholic social teaching texts to back it up. But keeping the argument at that shallow depth is fraught with logical fallacy and danger.

The situation government usually finds itself in reminds me of Dave Lewis Crawford's song "BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION BLUES" about a little girl whose parents drop her off at grandma's house for the weekend, and the kid is spilled rotten. One of the verses goes like this:
She'll have Cheese Puffs for breakfast
and Gummy Worms for lunch
She's gonna have chocolate cake for supper
Drink up all of that fruit punch
She can wear a hundred dresses
She can do her grandma's hair
She can run the remote control
And She can sit in any chair
She'll be princess for the weekend
Mom and Dad won't have a clue
You can imagine how to modify the lyrics for government spending.

I've heard that employment suddenly rises where unemployment benefits run out. Now there are some folks that are just unemployable. I have a friend that seems normal, graduated from a prestigious engineering school with honors, is kind, and smart. But he's mentally unstable and can't keep a job. But there are many who as long as there's a check coming in that allows them to be lazy, they will. And then there's the "help" in the form of cash that can be spent for DVDs, alcohol and lottery tickets instead of food. When a Child Protection Services agent enters a home to investigate child abuse, the first thing they look for is "food" in pantries and refrigerators.  "What is the priority in this home?" the CPS lady is asking. Is the home secure (is the roof patched), and are the inhabitants dressed in a clean, protective clothing?

Our little girl visiting her grandmas is like a lazy citizen running to the government for "help." The kid doesn't need help, she needs some behavior modification, which is just what she gets when the weekend is over.
It's a long short ride from her grandma's house today
Now she's got to get used to not getting everything her way
There'll be no cheese Puffs for breakfast.... 
She's got those coming home from grandma's
Behavior Modificationary Blues.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dave Armstrong's 150 Reasons I'm Catholic

I'm publishing a book; "Dave Armstrong's 150 REASON'S I'M CATHOLIC." We're months away from sending it to the printer. But I advanced the cover design because we need to print new "catalogs" (actually just a 3 fold brochure), and I wanted Dave's book in it. Rather than write a long post about this, which I would not have done until the book was out, Dave did it for me. So, H E R E' S DAVE.

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/07/150-reasons-im-catholic-book-covers-and.html

If you think the cover at right is strange, wait until you see the Protestant version... Dave has an image at the bottom of his blog.

Monday, July 5, 2010

FAMILY TIES Meets CARIAD in Lake St. Clair

We've been sailing in the Great Lakes out of Detroit for about 10 years aboard our 41-ft ketch FAMILY TIES. Our good friends Garrett and Lauren Meyers have their 41-ft sloop CARIAD nearby. And although we've been out in each others' boats, we've never had the boats out together. On Saturday Pam and I were flying out into the lake when my cell phone rang and Garrett announced he was sailing toward us on our starboard quarter. After a while we started taking pictures of each other with our iPhones.  We missed the shot of Pam fending off his boom when we got sort of close to each other.  Click on any of the images for a larger shot.





Canadian Navigator

Took some time Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon to do some sailing. We frequently dodge Great Lake freighters, one of the treats of sailing the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair.  As I entered the Lake yesterday, this is what greeted me. We've seen this ship often as she hauls cargo from the upper Great Lakes to ports in Lake Erie. This day she was headed for Toledo. Double click on image for larger shot of whole vessel. Click HERE for the ship's page at MarineTraffic.com and click on the Long./Lat. to see where the ship is currently located.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What Catholics Really Believe BOOK SURVEY

Would you help us by taking a survey about a book we are ready to print? We've been working on in off-and-on for 3 years. It's finally ready to go to the printer, but which printer and how many copies should we print? The responses to this survey will help us a great deal. Thanks. Click on the following link for the survey, and you'll also see samples of the inside of the book.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gomez Bodes Well For Los Angeles


This short blog has a deep arc, reiterating some recent sad events in my professional life, and ending in some hope, evidenced by the article accessible by the link in this blog's title.

Mentally, I came into the Catholic Church whooping and crying for joy in the fall of 1997, and formally and physically at the Easter Vigil 1998. The Honeymoon lasted until the late summer of 2009 when I was scandalized by the work of three bishops and their curia in an attempt by over 100 individuals under my leadership to produce a dramatic short movie for Christian television on a pro-life matter. The Honeymoon ended.

The experience heavily reinforced a conclusion arrived at in 2000 that it was the American Catholic bishops that were most responsible for the presence of abortion in the U.S.. There is a natural moral law at work that without correction and strategies biased in action the vacuum will be filled by the opposition. Had the bishops been characterized by backbone they would have long ago avoided what Cardinal Ratzinger and the Early Church Fathers describe as "mute dogs" who, to avoid conflict, let poison spread. It is a characteristic of shepherds that Ratzinger finds "repulsive". (SALT OF THE EARTH, Ignatius, page 82). I like Benedict XVI.

So, I have been more critical of American bishops and I am not their ardent supporter. I have stopped giving money to any diocesans based effort because I've seen up close the power hungry greed of their middle bureaucratizes, and I have a few letters from more than one bishop that speaks directly to or implicates the calumny that runs a muck in the offices of American bishops.

The most recent evidence of this is how the USCCB lately has FINALLY spoken out against the Obama Health Care efforts because of how it funds abortion. WAY too little, WAY to late. About 70 years too late. And we're suppose to think the bishops are moral leaders? I wish it were true.

So, I confessed my grave misgivings to one particular curia leader (whom I know to be conservative and pro life and working herself to a pulp for good causes) who works for Archbishop Gomez in San Antonio. She felt sad for my conclusions and then endorsed her boss as not fitting that unfortunate model.

Now, a couple months later Gomez is appointed to take over for Mahoney in L.A. ... and many of my conservative friends would love to see Mahoney disappear into the woodwork because of his lackadaisical action with respect to orthodox, pro-life, Catholic conservatism.

The linked article (click on the title to this blog) suggests entirely that may happen. Let's pray.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

J.W. Westcott II Launch


For years, at the Gregory Boat Basin on the Detroit River, our sailboat (FAMILY TIES) spends the winter on shore, under wraps just a few feet from the J.W. Westcott II and its sister ship and back up the Joseph Hogan. I think these are the only U.S. Mail Boats in history. A Westcott boat has been delivering mail-by-the-pail (on the end of a line) to commercial freighters and other vessels as they pass through the Detroit River or 115 years. So, it's been fun getting to know the owners and operators of these vessels. This year I happened to be down at the yard numerous times shooting a documentary for the owner of Gregory (Scott Gregory) of the ship-wrights as they change out the engines on Scott's 52-foot Hatteras. One day I walked over over to look at my boat to see how the covering was fairing in a recent snow storm. It wasn't doing very well, there were holes in the covering and I was down there next week with Pam to put a new cover on it. But the snow was pretty enough that I took some video of the river, empty slips covered with snow and ice, and the Westcott sitting next to us. Just last week I was down there again to record the techs as they lowered two, 1,800 pound engines into Scott's refurbished engine rooms. When we got done, Dan Miller (the yard manager) ran off to help launch the Westcott. I grabbed my camera and tagged along. The snow as gone and the sun was out. The next day Scott wrote and asked if he could be a clip of the Westcott launch on the Gregory Boat Company's Facebook page. I said yes, but didn't realize it would take me hours of editing. We'll it's done, and here's something to remember Detroit, the River, and a little history of a unique aspect of the U.S. Mail and the 115 year old J.W. Westcott Company, located at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge to Canada.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Terrorists Need to be Liberated From a Hellbound God


 They Need to Be Liberated From Their God

Times ONLine Article about Mosab Hassan Yousef 

SON OF HAMAS Book at Amazon.com


The Wall Street Journal -- Weekend Interview
Mosab Hassan Yousef with Matthew Kaminski 

The 'Son of Hamas' author on his conversion to Christianity, spying for Israel, and shaming his family

March 6, 2010

'I absolutely know that in anybody's eyes I was a traitor," says Mosab Hassan Yousef. "To my family, to my nation, to my God. I crossed all the red lines in my society. I didn't leave one that I didn't cross."
Now 32, Mosab is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder and leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Throughout the last decade, from the second Intifada to the current stalemate, he worked alongside his father in the West Bank. During that time the younger Mr. Yousef also secretly embraced Christianity. And as he reveals in his book "Son of Hamas," out this week, he became one of the top spies for Israel's internal security arm, the Shin Bet.

The news of this double conversion has sent ripples through the Middle East. One of Mr. Yousef's handlers at the Shin Bet confirmed his account to the Israeli daily Haaretz. Hamas—already reeling from the assassination of a senior military chief in Dubai in January—calls his claims Zionist propaganda. From the Israeli prison he has occupied since 2005, Sheikh Yousef on Monday issued a statement that he and his family "have completely disowned the man who was our oldest son and who is called Mosab."

For the past two years, Mosab Yousef has lived near San Diego, where he's kept a low profile out of concern for his security. The U.S. is currently weighing his application for political asylum, and until his confession to espionage and the publicity blitz that accompanied it this week, only knew him as the son of a terrorist who sometimes attends evangelical churches in California. The book is intended to launch a new life in America.

Mr. Yousef, whose large, engaging eyes sit prominently on an oval face, says he was confused for many years himself, and realizes many people will be as well. His family has been shamed and old friends refuse to believe him. The book, a Le Carréesque thriller wrapped in a spiritual coming-of-age story, is an attempt to answer what he says "is impossible to imagine"—"how I ended up working for my enemies who hurt me, who hurt my dad, who hurt my people."

"There is a logical explanation," he continues in fairly fluent English. "Simply my enemies of yesterday became my friends. And the friends of yesterday became really my enemies."
The first half of his memoir describes a childhood in Ramallah marked by close familial ties and the Israeli occupation. He describes a kind and unusual Muslim father who cooks dinner, treats his mother well, and cares for his neighbors. An imam trained in Jordan, Sheikh Hassan Yousef rises to prominence in their hometown, and in 1986—along with six other men including the wheelchair-bound cleric from Gaza, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin—forms Hamas at a secret meeting in Hebron. The first Palestinian Intifada—or uprising—breaks out the following year. Mosab did his part, throwing stones at Israeli settlers and army vehicles.

"Most people heard about Hamas after Hamas started carrying out terrorist attacks," he says now, speaking near his agent's home here in Nashville. "Hamas started out as an idea. Let's say a noble idea—resisting occupation." Those early clashes with the Israelis begat worse violence, and the cemetery near his house began to fill up with cadavers. Palestinians also turned on each other. A corrupt and authoritarian Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) sparred with the rising Hamas and other groups. All of them used accusations of "collaboration" as an excuse to torture and kill rivals or the weak.

Mr. Yousef traces his awakening to his first sustained exposure to Hamas cruelty. In 1996, he was arrested by the Israelis for buying weapons. He says he was beaten and tortured badly in custody. It was then that the Shin Bet approached him. He says he thought about becoming a double agent. "I wanted revenge on Israel," he writes. But when he was sent to serve his term at the Megiddo prison in northern Israel, he says he was more shocked by the way the maj'd, Hamas's security wing, dealt with other prisoners.

"Every day, there was screaming; every night, torture. Hamas was torturing its own people!" he writes. The Muslims he met in jail "bore no resemblance to my father" and "were mean and petty . . . bigots and hypocrites."

By agreeing to work with the Shin Bet, he got out of prison early. He says he was curious about the Israelis and fast abandoned his idea to become a double agent. Though he took money from Shin Bet and stayed on their payroll for a decade, his handlers in the early years didn't ask much of him. They encouraged him to study and be a model son. His code name was the Green Prince: green as in the color of the Islamist Hamas flag, and prince as the offspring to Hamas royalty.

During those quiet years he met a British cabbie in Jerusalem who gave him an English-Arabic copy of the New Testament and invited him to attend a bible study session at their hotel. "I found that I was really drawn to the grace, love and humility that Jesus talked about," he says in "Son of Hamas."
As a spy, Mr. Yousef wasn't fully activated until the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000. A few months before at Camp David, the late PLO chief Yasser Arafat had turned down the Israeli offer of statehood on 90% of the West Bank with East Jerusalem as the capital. According to Mr. Yousef, Arafat decided he needed another uprising to win back international attention. So he sought out Hamas's support through Sheikh Yousef, writes his son, who accompanied him to Arafat's compound. Those meetings took place before the Palestinian authorities found a pretext for the second Intifada. It came when future Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Mr. Yousef's account helps to set straight the historical record that the uprising was premeditated by Arafat.

Mr. Yousef tells me that he was horrified by the pointless violence unleashed by politicians willing to climb "on the shoulders of poor, religious people." He says Palestinians who heeded the call "were going like a cow to the slaughterhouse, and they thought they were going to heaven." So, as he writes in the book, "At the age of twenty-two, I became the Shin Bet's only Hamas insider who could infiltrate Hamas's military and political wings, as well as other Palestinian factions."

Mr. Yousef claims some significant intelligence coups for himself, and he says he isn't telling the world everything. Early on, he was first to discover that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group born during the second Intifada, was made up of Arafat's guards, who were directly funded by international donors. He says he found the most lethal Palestinian bomb maker and foiled assassination plots against President Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, as well as a prominent rabbi. He says he broke up cells of suicide bombers about to attack Israel. And he helped convince his father to be the first prominent Hamas leader to offer a truce with Israel.

His handler—a "Captain Loai," now retired from the Shin Bet—corroborated many of these stories to Haaretz. The paper said the Shin Bet considered Mr. Yousef "the most reliable and most senior agent."
Mr. Yousef strains to justify himself, but ultimately "the question is whether I was a traitor or a hero in my own eyes."

So we're back to why?

The motivation, he says, was to save lives.

"I'd seen enough killing. I was a witness to lots of death . . . Saving a human life was something really, really beautiful . . . no matter who they are. Not only Israeli people owe me their lives. I guarantee many terrorists, many Palestinian leaders, owe me their lives—or in other words they owe my Lord their lives."

He says he used his influence at Shin Bet to get the Israelis to try to arrest Hamas and other Palestinian figures rather than blow them up with missile strikes. He says he saved his father from the fate of Sheikh Yassin and other Hamas leaders whom the Israelis killed by secretly arranging to have him arrested. "I know for sure that my father is alive today, he still breathes, because I was involved in this thing," he says.

Mr. Yousef has some of the evangelist in him, even as he insists he is not a particularly devoted Christian and is still learning about his new religion. He wants Palestinians and Israelis to learn what he did from the Christian God.

"I converted to Christianity because I was convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love. I didn't leave [the Islamic] religion to put myself in another box of religion. At the same time it's a beautiful thing to see my God exist in my life and see the change in my life. I see that when he does exist in other Middle Easterners there will be a change.

"I'm not trying to convert the entire nation of Israel and the entire nation of Palestine to Christianity. But at least if you can educate them about the ideology of love, the ideology of forgiveness, the ideology of grace. Those principles are great regardless, but we can't deny they came from Christianity as well."

Mr. Yousef says he felt burned out and decided to stop working for the Shin Bet in 2006, against their wishes. He made his way to friends in southern California whom he'd met through bible study.
As the son of a Muslim cleric, he says he had reached the conclusion that terrorism can't be defeated without a new understanding of Islam. Here he echoes other defectors from Islam such as the former Dutch parliamentarian and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Do you consider your father a fanatic? "He's not a fanatic," says Mr. Yousef. "He's a very moderate, logical person. What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he's doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn't matter if he's a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God. I know this is harsh to say. Most governments avoid this subject. They don't want to admit this is an ideological war.

"The problem is not in Muslims," he continues. "The problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to."
These are all dangerous words. Of the threats issued to his life by Islamists, he says, "That's not the worst thing that can happen to you. I'm OK with it, I'm not afraid. . . . Palestinians have reason to kill me. Some Israelis may want to kill me. My goal is not to defeat my enemy. It is to win over my enemy."

Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Journal's editorial board.