Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who Cares?

I gave an Easter greeting to a non-Christian friend, who replied along the lines of "the resurrection is good for those how believe in it." The statement (not just by implication but confirmed by the speaker) is that the Resurrection is irrelevant unless you believe.

And yet, that's not true. The Resurrection is the reason to believe in the first place. It doesn't become relevant because we believe, but we believe because it is relevant, to all mankind.

Either the Resurrection happened or it didn't. If it did, then the implications are that Christianity is the true faith, and everyone can choose salvation (or not). If the Resurrection did not happen then "we are the most pitiable people of all" (1Cor 15:19).

So to me, the Resurrection is not merely a matter of "I believe" but "did it happen?". Rather than arguing belief, let's argue evidence (or lack thereof). Can we prove that the Resurrection took place? Atheists (and surprisingly most Catholics) will tell you "no, there is no way to prove it - it must be taken on (blind) faith." In a sense, that's true. We have no video of the event (and even if we did, someone would claim it was faked). However, if we go the route of "scientific" proof ew find we live in a very narrow world indeed.

Consider how you "prove" George Washington was our first president. We have oral tradition and written documents, but they could all have been faked. There is no way to "prove" any historical event, and yet be accept that things happened. The "proof" that's accepted is like that which we would use in a court of law. We look at documents by different eyewitnesses, compare their testimony, look for physical evidence that supports or contradicts, even if circumstantial. We examine motive and opportunity, and the character of witnesses.

First on the list would be the Gospels. Some would immediately discount them because the authors were "believers". Yet anybody who witnessed Christ alive after His death would of course be a believer. Non-believers can't offer any eyewitness testimony, so discounting the Gospels on the basis of the author's religion is not reasonable. I find the same sort of nonsense when pro-choicers tell me that they won't believe life starts at conception because the people who wrote are pro-life (e.g. they believe life begins at conception). Well, why would someone advocate a position they don't believe in? The authors' beliefs don't affect the truth of the statement.

The authors' motives and character, however, are important. So let's examine the motives and character of the Gospel authors. Are they bad people? What records do we have of what they did in life? They were recognized as people who helped the poor and downtrodden, who cured the sick and lived in poverty, giving what they had to help others. Hardly the type of person one would expect to pull one of the greatest hoaxes of all time. Motives? There was nothing to be gained on Earth by believing in the Resurrection. It meant a hard life of suffering, and generally ended in prison, torture and execution.

From this any reasonable person would conclude that they honestly believed what they were saying. But they could have been deceived themselves, right? In order to do that we have to suppose there was some group with enough power and influence to get Roman guards to abandon their post at the tomb, roll the heavy stone away, and secretly remove the body of Christ. Then they had to remain and somehow convince the Disciples that they were an angel. After that they had to spend 40 days imitating Christ so perfectly that His closest friends would not know it was an imposter and figure out a way to fake an ascension into heaven.

Who had the motive, let alone the ability, to do that? Certainly not the Romans, who wanted nothing other than to get back to the status quo. The Jewish authorities were the ones who arrested Jesus in the first place. The last thing they would want is for Him to continue to exist. A secret sect among the Disciples? We already examined their motives.

On this alone I would say there was enough evidence to convict Jesus of the Resurrection in a court of law. However, there's more. There's the little matter of an empty tomb. For both the Romans and Jews knew where the tomb was. If it were not empty it would be trivial to point to it and laugh at the Disciples. The lack of anyone claiming that the tomb was not empty is a strong indicator that it was.

Then there are the guards. Pilate had ordered them placed by the tomb. They were known, and could easily have been called upon to refute the Apostles' story and squash the whole nuisance immediately. Even if they fell asleep or were drunk, we still have to suppose the powerful secret society mentioned above. And even if they were asleep or drunk, that testimony would have gone a long way toward destroying the Christians (and I'm sure the Pilate would forgive them their dereliction in exchange for good testimony). We don't know what happened to the guards, but we must assume they either fled and never were found or their testimony was not helpful to the Roman or Jewish cause. Either way makes a case that supports the Resurrection.

Then there are the extrabiblical accounts of Christ and the Resurrection. From Flavius Josephus (37-97 AD), court historian for Emperor Vespasian:
"At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders." (Arabic translation)
I could go on and on, but I think I'll continue this in another post as it's getting long and it's getting late. Next post will be examining the opposing cases. Can we find evidence that the Resurrection did not happen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Church of the Holy Family

As you may or may not know, I was in Minnesota last week, for my wife's Grandmother's funeral. We had visited her in January, and had a wonderful last visit with her, and so while this was a sad event, our memories of our last time with her and the fact that she was a deeply faithful Catholic made the funeral a celebration of life.

I have a friend on plurk, Adoro te Devote, who lives in the twin cities, and each time I visit I always wish I could meet her in person, but it has so far worked out that there is no time to do so. I still hope to meet her "the next time." This time she did, however, recommend that we attend mass at either the Church of the Holy Family or St. Charles Borromeo while we were in town. We wound up at the Church of the Holy Family in St Louis Park, since it was less out of the way on the way to the airport. Of course it didn't matter, since our flight was delayed and ultimately canceled, but that's another story, and we didn't know it at the time.

The church itself is a beautiful old brick building. I have no idea how old, as both the "history" and "architecture" sections of their web site say "Coming soon!" Behind the altar is a beautiful tabernacle with golden angels kneeling on either side and a light behind it to drawn your attention where it should be. The stained glass window behind the altar depicts the Holy Family, with Joseph and Jesus working with carpentry tools. At the chancel is a large hanging crucifix with Mary and John looking up at Jesus, which you can see in the photo above. I took that with my phone when we arrived. I didn't take any other pictures because we had to leave to get to the airport so we could wait seven hours for our flight to be canceled.

As for the mass, I would have to say wow! A herd (gaggle? exaltation?) of alter boys (not servers, boys) came out, followed by acolytes, a lector, deacon and two priests (one was the visiting diocesan director of vocations). It was hard, with all the moving about, to count them, but we eventually settled on twenty two (22!) altar boys. Just about every act involved incense, from the preparation of the gifts to the readings - my poor wife has a bit of an allergy to incense, and had a headache by the end of mass.

The sign of peace was given before mass began, which prevented the usual disruption to the liturgy, and gave everyone plenty of time to greet all those around them. The Kyrie Eleison was sung in Greek and the Gloria, Agnus Dei and some other parts were sung in Latin. It was beautiful, and despite what people say, I understood what was being said, despite not knowing Latin or Greek. The homily was by the vocations director, and was naturally about vocations, and how to seriously discern ones vocation.

Although parts of the mass looked more like a school play, with vast numbers of altar boys milling about with candles and incense, the entire mass was performed with intense reverence. The priest was careful to use the pall at all times (the square that covers the chalice to protect it from dust and stuff) and to treat the consecrated species with utmost care and respect. Communion was offered by intinction (where the priest dips the Host into the Precious Blood and places it on your tongue), which I had never seen before. Of course this meant that nearly everybody (except a few die hards) received on the tongue.

Announcements were after the mass (and as far as I could tell nobody left), and the one I recall most was an appeal for volunteers to help with the parish's Lenten program to make meals for Feed my Starving Children. They were looking for 340 or so volunteers! After the announcements a gentleman gave a talk about the upcoming changes to the liturgy, with handouts and examples of the new language and what the changes meant. After that, people began drifting out. A majority of the congregation remained in their pews and prayed.

I have to say it was wonderful to see so many people so devoted to their faith, and a Catholic community so active and alive. According to the web site, the parish has steadily grown by almost 100 families per year. I can see why.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Loaves and fishes

A friend remarked to me the other day, regarding the miracle of the loaves and fishes, that she believes that what really happened was that when the people saw how some had food and some did not they shared the food they had brought, and that's how five loaves and two fishes "served" five thousand with twelve bushels of leftovers. The "miracle" was that Jesus caused their hearts to be softened, and they shared their existing food.

This is a "theory" I have heard many times, and I just can't abide it. First of all, it assumes people who followed Jesus just happened to carry around enormous amounts of food that they kept hidden from their fellow followers. It assumes that good people, interested in God's word and listening to the Messiah would not already be predisposed to sharing food with a hungry person - something that just about every Old Testament figure does without having to have Jesus "make" them do it (and something that people would do as a matter of culture in those times). It assumes that the sacred authors, who were familiar with scripture that distinguishes between God "hardening" or "softening" someone's heart and a true miracle, deliberately mislead us in this instance.

But even more than that, once we "explain away" miracles where do we stop? If we say "well, the sacred authors wrote that the five loaves and two fishes fed the five thousands, but I think it was just sharing" where do we stop? Do we say "well, the sacred authors wrote that Jesus cast out demons, but it was really just epilepsy?" Do we then say "well, the sacred authors wrote that Jesus raised the dead girl but she was just sleeping?" How about "well, the blind man wasn't really blind from birth?" Are we then to become the Pharisees? How about "Jesus wasn't really dead, just injured and he healed in three days." Perhaps Jesus didn't really do any miracles, but was a good talker. Well, perhaps then He didn't redeem us from sin.

If you can't believe that the one through whom the universe was created could create fish and bread when He wanted to, perhaps you just don't believe in the creator at all. If you're not going to believe that what was written is true (by authors who believed it to be true to the extent that they gave their very lives for it, by the way), just say "I don't believe" and be done with it. Stop trying to whittle away at the edges. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mark's Gospel Live!

On Friday our church hosted a performance of Marks' Gospel Live! by Rev. Joseph Morris. From the site:
Mark's Gospel LIVE is a solo performance, and has enjoyed over 200 performances throughout the US, UK, and Canada. All of St. Mark's characters are portrayed as the story is narrated right from the Biblical text. There are no other actors. It is not a reading or a talk. It is the actual words of the Gospel memorized and performed like story telling.
The performance takes about two hours, with a fifteen minute intermission between the two halves. Act I consists of the Gospel from the beginning up through the Transfiguration and Act II continues through the end of the Gospel. For the most part, the words spoken are the actual words of the Gospel, with a few asides to explain terms or scenes and a couple of inclusive language changes thrown in. Some parts of it are sung.

Rev. Morris told us it took him about four months to memorize the 15,000 words of the Gospel of Mark, which is the shortest, and also his favorite Gospel. The props he uses are minimal. A cloth becomes waves, a sail, a veil, a shawl, a burial shroud, etc. He is quite a skilled actor, playing multiple parts. His representation of the demoniac scared the heck out of most of the audience, and he had us all laughing with a description of the Pharisees.

There were several kids in the audience who seemed to enjoy it, although I think it was a bit dry and long for most kids to sit through. Ultimately, this is a one-man play in two acts. If you are in the frame of mind to enjoy that, the performance is wonderful. Several people came with expectations of something different (I'm not sure what, since the show was pretty accurately described) and said they thought it was too dramatic. For my part I enjoyed it, and would recommend it. My only complaint was that we sat somewhat off to the side, and since he is frequently running up and down the center aisle I spent most of the two hours craning my neck to the side.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The parable of the chores

It was put to me that Christians are actually all self centered. The only reason why we do good works is because we want God to give us stuff, ultimately in heaven. Heaven and hell are constructs to make us think we're going to get something, and since we are selfish and want goodies and don't want to be punished we do it.

I think the claim says more about the speaker than about Christians, and so I offer this parable.

Once there was a man who had three sons. One day he called his sons to him. To the first, he said "Empty the dishwasher, for it is full of clean dishes. And when you have done this refill it with this morning's breakfast dishes." The first son nodded and headed towards the kitchen.

To the second son he said "Go forth into the backyard and collect all the sticks which are strewn about there. For it is written in the manual, 'do not run over large sticks with the lawnmower, lest the blades become dull and chipped'." The second son nodded and headed for the back door.

To the third son, the man said "Gather up all the garbage from all the wastebaskets in the household. Gather also the kitchen trash, for it emits a foul odor. Take all these and deposit them in the garbage can and take it to the end of the driveway, where it shall be taken away by the sanitation truck." The third son nodded and began to travel about, collecting trash.

In his mind the first son was thinking "If I don't empty the dishwasher my father shall be angry with me and perhaps even punish me." The second son was thinking "If I pick up all these sticks my father shall reward me richly, perhaps even unto the purchase of that new video game I covet." The third son thought "If I don't take out this trash my father will have to do it. Because I love him I will take this chore upon myself."

Which of these sons is doing his father's will?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I've Been tagged

I’ve been tagged with a Lenten meme by Jeff Young at Catholic Foodie and Lisa at Franciscan Focus. I wonder if I need to tag 10 people, then?

The rules:
Those tagged will share 5 things they “love” about Jesus / Or why they love Jesus. Those tagged will tag 5 other bloggers. Those tagged will provide a link in the comments section here with their name so that others can read them.

  1. He is my perfect role model, and my hero.
  2. No matter what trails or tests I have, I know He has been there, and understands me perfectly.
  3. He is the alpha and the omega.
  4. He always forgives me, whether I deserve it or not.
  5. He taught me to pray.

I tag
Christie at Garden of Holiness
Paul Sofranko at Catholic Preachy
Adoro Te Devote
Owen of Drawn to Catholicism
Nod of Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Dear Senator Lautenberg

Dear Senator Lautenberg,

In your last communication with me you wrote "As you know, I am a strong supporter of reproductive choice." No, senator, you oppose reproductive choice. A choice implies that there is an alternative.

You not only voted to pay a million dollars a day to the nation's largest provider of abortions, you went out in the streets and publicly lobbied for that money. You have not spent, voted for or even proposed spending a dime for crisis pregnancy centers.

Suppose you said "I'll pay for your chicken dinner, beef is $25/plate." Could you reasonably say you were a strong supporter of "dinner choice?" No, you would be a strong supporter of chicken. Clearly you would want people to choose chicken, since you made it so much easier a choice than beef.

So call yourself what you are: a strong supporter of abortion. Anything else is patently absurd, and an insult to the intelligence of your constituents.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

PepsiCo responds

...with a canned email that shows they did not read what I sent them.
Thank you for contacting us to share your sincere concerns. Please know that we take very seriously the issues you raised. PepsiCo has a strong set of defined values we strive to live up to.

Unfortunately, there is some misinformation being circulated related to research techniques that have been used for decades by universities, hospitals, government agencies, and private companies around the world. These claims are meant to suggest that human fetal tissue is somehow used in our research. That is both inaccurate and something we would never do or even consider.

It also is inaccurate to suggest that tissue or cells somehow are being used as product ingredients. That’s dangerous, unethical and against the law. Every ingredient in every one of our products is reviewed and approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

We hope this information is helpful and reassuring. Thank you again for reaching out to us and allowing us to clarify the situation.
Note that they do not mention Senomyx nor their relationship with companies that do use fetal tissue. They merely claim they don't themselves use fetal tissue, which of course was not what I wrote them about. My reply to their email bounced, so I started the process again with another communication to the effect that their response was neither helpful nor reassuring. Let's see what they say...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Catholic butts

To all the "pro-choice" "Catholics" out there (especially in government office - you know who you are) I offer this post. I hear you say "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but..." or "abortion is a tragic thing, but..." and then go on to justify the continuance or even expansion of abortions in this country and the world at large.

Why are you opposed to it? Why do you think it's a tragedy? Because abortion kills a human being? Because human life is a precious thing and we shouldn't destroy it? OK, good answer. Now about that "but"... how can you seriously say the rest of that sentence?

Let's take other things that you are "personally opposed to" and see if you can add the same "buts" to those sentences.

"I'm personally opposed to rape, but... who am I to tell men what to do with their bodies?"

"I'm personally opposed to child abuse, but... we have to consider the feelings of the parent."

"I'm personally opposed to kidnapping, but... sometimes it's the best choice in a tough situation."

"I'm personally opposed to pedophilia, but... if others believe it's OK, they should have the right to do it."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Healthcare economics and abortion

Over the weekend I was listening to the Catholic Laboratory podcast. If you've never heard it, check it out on Facebook or iTunes. The host, Ian Maxfield, is in the middle of a great series of episodes on the science behind John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Great stuff!

The episode I was listening to was about IVF, a subject I've blogged about several times. Ian referenced studies by Professor William Ledger, from the University of Sheffield in the UK supporting government funded IVF treatments for women through age 42 as being "cost effective". I also found a study by Dutch scientists claiming government funded IVF was economically effective through age 44. From the (more recent) Dutch article (the UK numbers are consistent):

Evers, a fertility expert from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, based his calculations on figures for Dutch patients, but said similar calculations could also be applied to other developed countries.

Based on an average Gross National Product of 24,320 euros ($31,120) per person per year and an average life expectancy of 76 years, Evers found that lifetime contribution of every person to the Dutch GNP is around 1.848 millions euros ($2.36 million).

He then took away the average costs to society of that person, including childcare and education (640,000 euros), social welfare and healthcare (550,000 euros), and retirement benefits (420,000 euros) and found that the average net contribution of each person to GNP was 238,000 euros ($304,500).

Set against IVF costs in the Netherlands -- which are around 28,000 euros at the age of 35 and 49,000 euros at the age of 40, but rise dramatically to almost 600,000 euros at the age of 45 -- Evers found the treatment paid for itself up to age 44.

"This work shows that society actually receives substantial benefits from each baby produced via IVF, and simply looking at the costs of IVF without looking at the benefits is a false economy," Evers said.

"In addition, we have the joy of the couple in having a child and the benefits of a human life, which you can't simply deal with through this type of calculation."
Think about that for a minute. According to the calculations, each child that comes into the world is a net gain for the economy of about $300,000. By that token how the heck does a government justify paying for abortion and contraception?

Let's work the numbers the other way. Assuming the costs and benefits are similar in America (and I'd expect the benefits to be higher since the government doesn't provide as many public services as the Netherlands', and because we are a rich nation). For each baby aborted in the US, we can take $300,000 out of the US economy that would have been there had that baby lived. Since 1973 we have lost over 50,000,000 children to abortion. That's $15,000,000,000,000 (fifteen trillion dollars)!

Furthermore, as Michael Voris points out in his film "The Cost of Abortion", some of those aborted babies would be having children of their own, which, using US birth figures, would account for another 6.4 million children, or another $1,920,000,000,000 (nearly two trillion collars)!

That's $17 trillion dollars net gain removed from the US economy, and our tax dollars are paying for it! Wanna pay for universal health care? Wanna pay down the US debt? Wanna lower taxes? Wanna have a market for US goods and services? Wanna find a buyer for your house? Want a job? Then we need to stop intentionally shrinking our economy.


Straight from a Michael Chrichton novel, scientists in China are making transgenic human/cow chimeras. What the heck does that mean? A chimera in Greek mythology was a monster composed of parts of different animals. In the modern version, DNA from different species is combined to make a new creature of niether species. In this case, human DNA is inserted into cows to make an organism that has characteristics of both species. The goal is to make cows that produce human breast milk.

I can't begin to describe on how many levels this is just wrong (and I shouldn't need to). From a human rights standpoint this research is a violation of the dignity of the human person. From an animal cruelty standpoint, these animals are suffering (26 of the 43 animals created have died so far) and subject to various diseases and cancers because of messing around with their genetic makeup. While the goal of this research may sound good
The scientists behind the research believe milk from herds of genetically modified cows could provide an alternative to human breast milk and formula milk for babies, which is often criticised as being an inferior substitute.
the real reasons are more mercenary. The goal is not just to replace baby formula but to replace cow's milk in general.
“We aim to commercialize some research in this area in coming three years. For the “human-like milk”, 10 years or maybe more time will be required to finally pour this enhanced milk into the consumer’s cup.”

China is now leading the way in research on genetically modified food and the rules on the technology are more relaxed than those in place in Europe.
Aside from concerns of what effects this milk will have on humans, there is the risk of the genes "escaping" into the wild population, as has happened with genetically modified crops in the US.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Harry Reid says

Harry Reid (senate majority leader) says Republicans should give up trying to defund Planned Parenthood. He specifically says he will vote down any budget proposal that cuts their funding even if it shuts down the government of the United States.

So, what cause is Harry placing ahead of the welfare of the nation and the Constitution he is sworn to uphold? 97.6 percent of pregnant women going to Planned Parenthood are sold abortions while less than 2.4 percent of pregnant women received non-abortion services including adoption and prenatal care.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Remember my post Soylent Green? Well, I have more information. According to LifeSiteNews, the watchdog group Children of God for Life reports that the aborted fetal tissue is used to test artificial food flavorings used by several large companies. The company using the aborted fetal tissue, Senomyx, is partnered with Kraft, Nestlé and Pepsico. Two other food companies, Campbell Soup and Solae were also partnered with Senomyx, but have severed ties because of letters written by people like you and me asking them to stop.

And so I sent the following letters. Please join me. You can make a difference. You can copy these, or use your own words. You can send the letters online or on paper. Paper mail is probably more effective, but whether or not you send paper mail please take a minute to send it electronically. It just takes a minute and costs you nothing.
Dear ______,

I was shocked to find out that you are partnered with a company, Senomyx, that uses aborted fetal tissue to test its products. I am writing this letter to ask you to immediately sever all ties with Senomyx. My support for your company depends on it.

If you are unaware, Semnomyx is using HEK 293 – human embryonic kidney cells taken from an aborted baby - to produce their proprietary taste receptor-based assay system. They could have easily chosen COS (monkey) cells, Chinese Hamster Ovary cells, insect cells or other morally obtained human cells expressing the G protein for taste receptors to produce these assays, but instead chose to use cells obtained by the death of a child.

I urge you to drop all ties with Senomyx unless or until they change their methodology to an ethically sound one. I would appreciate a response.

The letters are for
Paul Bulcke, CEO
Nestlé USA
800 North Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91203
Nestle 818 549-6000
Email form: States of America

Jamie Caulfield, Sr.VP
PepsiCo, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
(914) 253-2000
Email form:

Irene Rosenfeld, CEO
Kraft Foods/Cadbury Chocolate
Three Lakes Drive
Northfield, IL 60093
Email form:

While we're at it, let's thank Campbell and Solae
Dear ______,

I was pleased to learn that your company severed ties with Senomyx, a company that uses aborted fetal tissue to test its products. I am writing this letter to thank you for doing the right thing.

This one goes to

Edmund M. Carpenter, Chairman
Finance and Corporate Development
Campbell Soup
1 Campbell Place
Camden, NJ 08103-1701

Mr. Torkel Rhenman Chief Executive Officer
4300 Duncan Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63110
Kraft Food:
Email form:

and the winner is...

BroJer (not pictured at right). However, the actual animal in Paul's attic turned out to be a raccoon, just as he predicted. That'll teach me to second guess him. The poll results are below. Thank you all for voting, and be sure to check out Catholic Preachy (which needs a new post, guys - hint hint) if you haven't already.