Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sorry Bishop...

I have heard the saying on the right not only from good hearted, well meaning Christians, but also from the pulpit, and from the USCCB itself one too many times. Not that they care what I think, but I need to get this off my chest anyway. The problem with the statement is not that it is false, but that it is a straw man. The implied (or often expressed) followup to the statement is that if you are not a communist or socialist, or if you are patriotic, then you don't want people to have healthcare or food. That is not true at all. Let's not confuse lack of support of a government program or political party be confused with a lack of wanting to solve a problem.

Sorry, but government-run healthcare, and in general federal government run programs are NOT part of nor are they even compatible with Catholic social justice. Let me explain.

The catechism defines social justice as:
SOCIAL JUSTICE
1928 Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.
and goes on to add
I. RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN PERSON
1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:
What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.35
1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity."37 No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother.
1932 The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."38
1933 This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us. The teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies.39 Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one's enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy. 
The problem with those words is they are very vague. What is someone's "due"? What rights flow from man's dignity as a creature? It is very easy to interpret those words, as many in the USCCB and in America, as supporting the notion of government run health care, government run education, unrestricted illegal immigration, government run welfare programs - in short a socialist state with nearly unlimited economic control. That is not what the catechism is saying at all.

To see what's really being talked about we need to go read the documents cited in the text above; in particular Pacem in Terris. I encourage the reader to read the whole encyclical, but here are some excerpts (ellipses where I have elided parts of the text for brevity's sake, I have emboldened certain key phrase you can read to skim over this):
Rights
11. But first We must speak of man's rights. Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health...
Rights Pertaining to Moral and Cultural Values
12. Moreover, man has a natural right to be respected. He has a right to his good name. ... He has the right, also, to be accurately informed about public events.
13. He has the natural right to share in the benefits of culture, and hence to receive a good general education...
The Right to Worship God According to One's Conscience
14. Also among man's rights is that of being able to worship God ... and to profess his religion both in private and in public. ...
The Right to Choose Freely One's State in Life
15. Human beings have also the right to choose for themselves the kind of life which appeals to them...
16. The family, founded upon marriage freely contracted, one and indissoluble, must be regarded as the natural, primary cell of human society. ...
17. Of course, the support and education of children is a right which belongs primarily to the parents
Economic Rights
18. In the economic sphere, it is evident that a man has the inherent right not only to be given the opportunity to work, but also to be allowed the exercise of personal initiative in the work he does
19. ...Women must be accorded such conditions of work as are consistent with their needs and responsibilities as wives and mothers....
21. As a further consequence of man's nature, he has the right to the private ownership of property, including that of productive goods. ...
The Right of Meeting and Association
23. Men are by nature social, and consequently they have the right to meet together...
The Right to Emigrate and Immigrate
25. Again, every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own State. When there are just reasons in favor of it, he must be permitted to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there....
Political Rights
26. Finally, man's personal dignity involves his right to take an active part in public life...
27. As a human person he is entitled to the legal protection of his rights,...
Much of it sounds an awful lot like the US Constitution. And if you stop reading the encyclical there you could erroneously come to the conclusion that Pope John XXIII. Sorry for the length of these passages. Same rules as above:
Duties
28. The natural rights of which We have so far been speaking are inextricably bound up with as many duties, all applying to one and the same person...
29. Thus, for example, the right to live involves the duty to preserve one's life; the right to a decent standard of living, the duty to live in a becoming fashion; the right to be free to seek out the truth, the duty to devote oneself to an ever deeper and wider search for it.
Reciprocity of Rights and Duties Between Persons
30. Once this is admitted, it follows that in human society one man's natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in other men; .... Hence, to claim one's rights and ignore one's duties, or only half fulfill them...
Mutual Collaboration
32. ... it is useless to admit that a man has a right to the necessities of life, unless we also do all in our power to supply him with means sufficient for his livelihood.
33. Hence society must...  provide men with abundant resources. ...
Sounds great so far... here's where it all goes south for the USCCB, globalists, etc.

An Attitude of Responsibility
34. Man's personal dignity requires besides that he enjoy freedom and be able to make up his own mind when he acts. In his association with his fellows, therefore, there is every reason why his recognition of rights, observance of duties, and many-sided collaboration with other men, should be primarily a matter of his own personal decision. Each man should act on his own initiative, conviction, and sense of responsibility, not under the constant pressure of external coercion or enticement. There is nothing human about a society that is welded together by force. Far from encouraging, as it should, the attainment of man's progress and perfection, it is merely an obstacle to his freedom.
The encyclical goes on like that for a while. There are a couple of other paragraphs that I would like to point out:
48. Hence, a regime which governs solely or mainly by means of threats and intimidation or promises of reward, provides men with no effective incentive to work for the common good. And even if it did, it would certainly be offensive to the dignity of free and rational human beings. Authority is before all else a moral force. For this reason the appeal of rulers should be to the individual conscience, to the duty which every man has of voluntarily contributing to the common good. But since all men are equal in natural dignity, no man has the capacity to force internal compliance on another. Only God can do that, for He alone scrutinizes and judges the secret counsels of the heart. 
Responsibilities of the Public Authority, and Rights and Duties of Individuals
60. It is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are recognized, respected, co-ordinated, defended and promoted, and that each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily. For "to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the performance of his duties, is the principal duty of every public authority.
I have a saying along those lines "there is no grace in paying taxes." We have come to a point where people think only in material terms. If we take money from the rich and give it to the poor, that is justice. But that is injustice. The rich man has not done a good act, nor has anyone. And the poor do not need our money as much as our care.

Let me make this perfectly clear. According to the principles of Catholic social justice, the duty of government is NOT to provide for the poor, but to ensure the rights and freedoms of its citizens to do so is respected. The role of the individual is to provide for the poor. Government programs walk over and inhibit the rights and duties of both the provider and receivers of material goods.

Thomas Sowell explains the false notion of social justice more succinctly and elegantly than I can.


Catholic social justice consists of caring for the needs of your neighbor. You, yourself, caring for the needs of your neighbor. Forcing everyone to pay money to a (corrupt) government in the hopes that they will be a moral force is folly, yet the USCCB and other well meaning but ignorant Christians keep fighting for programs like government run healthcare, then are "shocked" and dismayed to find out they have give up the right to life of the unborn and elderly. What exactly did they think would happen?

The USCCB support government programs to stop sex trafficking. Sounds good until you realize that they also receive the money and run some of the programs. Add to that the fact that they oppose border restrictions, ensuring a lively and continued source of sex trafficking and it begins to look less like social justice and more like self serving.

And as someone pointed out, each and every government dollar comes with strings that no religious value be attached to it. So far from preaching the Gospel and fulfilling the great commission to "make disciples of all nations" every time the USCCB endorses a government program rather than taking the initiative and enable Catholics to do the work privately, they restrict and opposes the only legitimate mission they have in the world.

So yes, I do want people to have health care and food. But unlike you I am will to do it myself and unwilling to take money from others by force to give to an organization which disrespects and degrades individuals. What are you willing to do in the name of social justice?

Monday, September 2, 2019

Thoughts on Mass Violence, Guns, etc.

Once again there is a mass shooting. Once again there are calls for more federal gun control laws. Why not? We've been told that the US has the most guns in the world, and that these kinds of things don't happen in other countries, and that the laws proposed are "common sense" and will protect us from this kind of violence, if it weren't for the NRA lobbyists controlling things. I'd like to take this opportunity to explore some facts.

First off, yes, the US does have more guns than any other country. Almost one third of the US population owns guns. Even here in gun-phobic NJ one eight of the population owns guns. But the US is not unique in having mass killings, or even mass shootings. In fact the US ranks 66th in mass shootings, and all of the countries with more mass shootings than the US have stricter gun laws, most of them already have the proposed US gun control laws. Also, anti gun groups outspend the NRA on lobbying.

Guns are involved in some 35000 deaths a year, most of them suicides. Of the 14000 gun involved homicides in the US each year, most are gang or drug related. All rifles account for less than 300 deaths and mass killings account for less than 200 deaths. In Chicago alone in the past weekend, more people have been shot in gang-related violence than in all the recent mass shootings combined. Why do the mass shootings make headlines and nobody talks about Chicago? Because the mass shootings happen to the "right" kind of people (rich whites) and the Chicago gang violence happens to the people we don't care about (mostly poor blacks). Yes, I'm bringing in the race card here, because it fits. If Chicago gang violence affected rich people at concerts and malls it wold make national headlines as well.

I'm not suggesting mass shootings are "ok" or we shouldn't care about them, I'm saying we should care more about the poor people being massacred in our inner city streets than we do about the slight risks of our celebrities and the upper class.

If the goal is to save lives, the laws should focus on suicides, gangs, drugs and hand guns. Yet NONE of the proposed gun laws address these issue at all. This excellent article points out that the following gun laws cannot affect the gun suicide rate at all:
  • Magazine size restrictions: You only need a magazine size of “one” to kill yourself.
  • Waiting Periods: Statistics do not show that people buy guns to commit suicide. They’re either use one they already have, or choose a different method.
  • Banning certain classes of firearms, such as semi-automatic rifles or handguns: You only need the most basic functioning firearm possible to kill yourself.
  • Tax bullets: You only need one bullet to kill yourself.
  • Blanket gun confiscation: Won’t work, and they admit it won’t work, except all those times when they don’t.
  • Mandatory gun confiscation of depressed people: Terrible, terrible idea, because it would only cause fewer people to go to the doctor for their depression symptoms, making the problem worse instead of better.
I will note "Red Flag" laws fall into this last category. More on them later...

Let's revisit the mass shooting problem for a moment. Of all the mass shootings I am aware of, the murderer either got his gun legally, passing a background check, or was unable to pass a background check and so got the gun illegally. None of them. Zero. Not one, bought a gun legally without a background check. Yet we're told "universal" background checks will solve the problem.

On the contrary, universal background checks ARE a problem. First off, they result in a de facto $100 tax per gun, meaning that they disproportionately prevent poor people from defending themselves (like the poor people in Chicago). Secondly, when implemented strictly, as in Washington state, they prevent safe storage of guns and gun safety. Thirdly, they have been shown to be ineffective.

Out of some 30000 people who failed a background check in the past few years, almost all of them have been mistakes (e.g. law abiding citizens denied their rights) and of the few cases where a felony was committed nobody has been prosecuted. The conclusion is that there is no evidence showing that background checks affect crime. Criminals do not purchase guns through legal means.

What about an "Assault Weapon" ban. The first problem is that there is no such thing as an "assault weapon." There is such a thing as an "assault rifle" which is strictly controlled in the US, banned in some states, and even in states where they are legal, purchasers must go through an 18 month federal process of background checks and paperwork. Assault weapons, on the other hand, are a made up political term which varies, but usually includes any gun which is popular, in order to ban the widest variety of guns. Also note that the US had a nation-wide assault weapon and "high capacity" magazine ban in effect for ten years. The result was that there was no decrease in crime or deaths. In other words, these laws provably do not save lives.

What about so-called "Red Flag" laws? Surely if citizens could point out the violent people in their midst and have their guns confiscated we would all be safer. No. First off, even without red flag laws, citizens can report to the police people who they believe are going to harm themselves or others, and the police are authorized to take appropriate steps. In the case of the most recent mass murder, for instance, he threatened a neighbor with a rifle and police were called. Ultimately nothing was done. Police couldn't find the man and it was not considered worth following up, apparently. In other words, existing laws were not followed.

Rather than saving lives, I am aware of at least one case in which red flag laws have killed people. It stands to reason, if you are a law abiding citizen, who owns guns to defend yourself from a home invasion, when police execute a non-knock raid in the wee hours, that you are going to think it is a home invasion. That kind of thing will get people killed, either by the homeowner mistakenly shooting police or by police shooting the homeowner. The way most of these laws are written they are a license to legally SWAT gun owners, with expected results.

To make matters worse, red flag laws allow victims' families to sue people who could have "red flagged" shooters, meaning that you can be held responsible for a coworker or neighbor who commits a crime, and also ensuring that the maximum number of people are falsely flagged. What happens when one is falsely red flagged? Well, assuming they are not killed in the police raid, they need to spend about $30000 in legal fees to get their lives and property restored (probably damaged, as various cases have shown), and of course the states' costs in all this come form the tax payers. No, red flag laws, apart from being unconstitutional, are a bad idea and will not stop criminals.

What changes will provable reduce mass shootings? First off, stop rewarding the murderers with fame and fortune. Almost every mass murderer has been a copycat killer, and many have even stated so in their manifestos. They see this act as their shot (no pun intended) at making a difference in the world and being remembered forever.

Second, get rid of gun-free zones, and allow national concealed carry. Some 98% of all mass shootings occur in gun free zones, and many of the murderers admit that the sought out a gun free zone because they knew they wouldn't meet armed resistance. The fact is that there are bad people out there, but the fact is that most people are good. Gun free zones will stop law abiding people from being armed because they follow the law. Someone who intends to kill someone will not be stopped from carrying the means to do so merely be a sign.

Despite propaganda (that's what it is) claiming that concealed carry will increase crime, people who carry concealed weapons for self defense are among the most law abiding in the nation - more law abiding than police. Why not let them defend themselves?

Of course mass shootings will still happen. These things will only reduce the number of deaths, not eliminate them. And as I have pointed out, mass shootings are a drop in the bucket. What can we do about the larger problem? Regarding suicides, while gun suicides are a large number, there is no evidence that removing guns affects the suicide rate. Even in countries like Japan, which has a very low number of guns, the suicide rate is higher than in the US; the methods simply change. I am not an expert on the issue of suicide prevention so I will not speculate as to the best way to reduce the suicide rate, but I will note that among faithful practicing Catholics the suicide rate is negligible. Spread the Gospel, folks!

As for gang and drug related killings, again I am not an expert, but I think if we enforce the laws, and protect whistle blowers it would help. Legalizing drugs would not. As I understand it, the gang problem is related to the breakdown of families and the lack of fathers. This in turn is actual racism, in the form of social programs that target minorities and encourage this behavior. Again I'll note that among faithful practicing Catholic families the divorce rate is negligible. Spread the Gospel!

Lastly, for people who claim that we should endure anything, give up any right, to keep people safe and save lives note that the one federal law that has been proven to save lives, more than any of these other laws, was the national 55 MPH speed limit. In addition, a national 55 MPH speed limit would reduce carbon emissions. Why aren't the gun hating, climate loving people of America pushing for that law?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Personal

I'm personally against global warming, but if someone else wants to make excessive amounts of CO2, that's their prerogative. I'm personally in favor of personal property, but if someone wants to embezzle millions, who am I to judge? I'm personally against slavery, but if someone wants to own another person it is their choice. I'm personally against rape, but if someone feels the need I can't impose my morality on them. I'm personally against murder, but if another person thinks it's ok, we need to realize we are not a nation of Christians only.

All of those statements are absurd, right? I hope you agree with that. The reason is that, regardless of our "personal" views, we see that there are victims. The victim may be future generations (in the case of global warming) or the poor, or lower castes, or women, or anybody, but there is a victim. The law isn't about imposing your opinion on someone but on protecting a vulnerable victim.

Yet too often we hear "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but..." with one of those excuses used above. Making abortion illegal isn't about imposing an opinion or a culture or even a Judaeo-Christian morality upon another person, it's about protecting a vulnerable person.

Many people will accept that it's not OK to have an abortion in the third trimester, because either they see the baby as "human" by that point or because the baby is "viable" at that point. Let's look at that more closely...

Viability

 Some people think that before the baby is "viable" it's OK to have an abortion because before that point it is the mother's responsibility to keep the baby alive, and a mother should not be required to do that. Reread that last part again. Would you accept the mother of a newborn, or a one year old letting her baby die because she didn't want to take care of it? The only way to justify a viability test for abortion is if we don't consider the unborn child a human being. For, as John Calvin wrote:
For the fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.
 If the fetus is not a human being then of course the argument is null and void. And so we come to reason number two...

Humanity

It is easy to look as a blastocyst and say "that's not a human being" because a blastocyst isn't shaped like a human being. Even the name doesn't sound like a human being.  However, we shouldn't judge by appearance. What do science and logic tell us?

Science tells us that the blastocyst is a separate independent organism, not part of the mother's body. It tells us it is alive. It tells us it is human, with its own unique human DNA. Sounds like a human being to me.

Logic tells us that humans beget humans, not non-humans. It tells us that, if a human being has rights, those right depend on it being a human being, not on it's abilities or dependencies. If it is OK to kill a human being because it is not currently conscious, it is also OK to kill a human being who is asleep. If it is OK to kill a healthy human being because it allegedly doesn't feel pain it is OK to kill a healthy human being to whom we administer anesthetic.

In short, although you may like to pretend that humanity depends on having such and such a level of development, there is no logical or scientific justification for it.

Meditation

Jesus says "whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me... whatever you did not do for the least of these you did not do to me." (Matthew 25). He calls us to give food and drink to those in need, to clothe the naked, welcome the stranger and visit the sick and imprisoned.

Who is the least among us more than the unborn? Is not abortion the refusal to give food and drink? Isn't abortion a refusal to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to visit the one "imprisoned" in the womb?

As Christians, our mission should be to make abortion illegal, not because we like to impose our point of view on others, but because it is our duty to protect the vulnerable among us.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Shame on you!

I love memes. Funny memes. So when the latest barrage of Joe Biden memes came out I was all in. But then came last Sunday. My wife and I both overslept, and so we missed the mass we like to go to. The alternatives were to wait and go in the evening, or go to a different parish. Although we like the masses as our usual parish, I hate going to mass at dinner time. It means that dinner will be late and rushed, and the whole day feels off because we haven't gone to mass yet. So we decided to go to mass at a different parish in the area where we had never gone to Sunday mass before, to the 12:30 mass.

The priest was one I really like, who usually gives good homilies that explain the readings. That Sunday was no exception. The Gospel reading was about the woman caught in adultery. He focused on the difference between shame and guilt. The Pharisees were not interested in the woman. To them she was someone to put to shame, in order to be used against Jesus. But Jesus wasn't interested in their political games, he was interested in the woman herself. He wanted to take away her guilt and bring her back into a right relationship with God.

It made me think about my memes, and specifically the ones about Joe Biden. What was my motivation? Did I want to shame him for touching women inappropriately, or was my object to effect change to bring him into a right relationship with God and with women? Would I rather see him damned or forgiven? And regardless of my motives, were my actions consistent with that, or was I a hypocrite?

I'm still processing this. On the one hand, I have no way to even contact Joe Biden, so nothing I do or say is going to affect him. On the other hand, I should at least pray for him, and I will. On the one hand, people should expose bad behavior, because there is no other way to address it. On the other hand, do we expose the bad behavior to bring the person and others into a realization that they should behave better, or do we do it to destroy them? On the one hand, he is a public figure and political speech has always used humor to bring across a point. On the other hand should things be that way?

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Christians must oppose Trump

I see this all over the place, articles like The Moral Confusion of Trump Christians. The gist is that Christians who support President Trump are hypocrites, morally confused, immoral, anti-biblical, you-name-it. There are so many ways to refute this, frankly, I am confused (about which way to show that this is ridiculous).

First off, let's look at the claims.
  • Trump is an immoral man, who has had affairs, divorces, etc.
  • Trump is a boorish person.
  • Trump is racist
  • Trump is divisive
  • Trump is anti-Christian values
Therefore anyone who votes for him or thinks he is doing a good job is not a "real" Christian, but is betraying Christ.

Is Trump what they claim he is?

First off, does he even exhibit these attributes for which Christians should allegedly avoid him?
  • Has he had affairs, divorces, etc.? Yes (well, the "proof" of affairs is circumstantial).
  • Is he boorish? Yes.
  • Is he racist? No. When asked to back claims of this people point to his immigration policy (enforce existing law) which is not racist, or that his economic policies favor one group over another (a dubious claim, given how minorities are thriving under his economic policies) or that he supports white supremacists (a lie).
  • Is he divisive? In the sense that liberals have distanced themselves from the rest of the country because they don't like him. But in terms of fostering division between people, no.
  • Is he anti-Christian values? Emphatically no. He has reinstated the Mexico City policy, reversed religious discriminatory practices and championed the pro-life cause.
Is he worse than the alternatives, in immorality?

Secondly, if we are to avoid supporting Trump, who should Christians support instead? Certainly there are third party alternatives, and I have posted quite a bit about them in the past. But the majority of people in the US fall into the "I must vote for a party that has a chance to win' camp. And that means if you don't vote Republican, you vote Democrat.

Who are the Democratic candidates who will be running against Trump, and do they align more with Christian values? Let's look at a few.
  • Kamala Harris claimed that Catholics should not be allowed to serve in government due to their bigotry. She believes in abortion up to birth, and with Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Kolbuchar voted for legalized infanticide.
  • Elizabeth Warren, aside from her vote above, lied about being a Native American.
  • Bernie Sanders, aside from his vote above, argues for socialism, directly against Christian teaching.
  • Cory Booker, aside from his vote above, defends his groping of a woman in college against her will.
  • Joe Biden, aside from his notable use of the F-word, is now the subject of multiple, well documented accounts of sexual harassment.
100% of these people are pro-abortion and in favor of Obamacare, with its restrictions on religious freedom (remember the Little Sister of the Poor). They may or may not have as much of a "shady past" as Trump but consider that, unlike Trump, their anti-Christian views are current, not in the past, and they defend those views as "right thinking" whereas Trump has never defending sleeping with a porn star (for instance) as the "right" thing to do.

Does it Matter?

What all these claimants seem to miss is that, unless Jesus (or Mary) is on the ballot, everyone we vote for will be a sinner. But we are not voting to say we approve of every aspect of their lives, we are voting to hire them for a job. When you hire a roofer, or a landscaper you don't choose them by whether they sinned in the past, but by whether or not they will do a good job for you. To the extent that you consider their moral character at all you might look at their current beliefs. We have a religion based on repentance and forgiveness. The criteria for a Christian to support a candidate is not "is the person saintly" but "will their actions in office advance or detract from Christian morality."

In that sense we can see Trump has clearly been on the plus side, especially as compared to any of the above candidates. As noted above, he restored the Mexico City policy, has rerouted money from Planned Parenthood to actual women's healthcare groups, has reversed or eliminated may religious discrimination policies, such as Obama's "weaponization" of the IRS against religious conservatives, the HHS mandate and others. He has welcomed Christians into the White House for prayer and council. He has spoken at and supported two Marches for Life. He prays publicly.

As Christians, we can disagree on Trump's immigration or economic policies (although I really don't see how, but that's another topic), but in general, even taking that into account, there is much more good there, from a Christian perspective, than not.

Conclusion

Christians should not oppose Trump. In fact, Christians should support President Trump. God help us if any of his opponents are elected in 2020. People claiming Christians who support Trump are morally confused are, well, morally confused themselves.

P.S.

To those Christians who oppose him on the grounds of wanting abortion to be legal, as a Christian I must warn you to consider your opinion on the matter. The Bible clearly forbids murder, and abortion, whether you like it or not, falls into that category, from a Christian perspective. If you think this is some new thing Catholics invented, consider the Didache, which was written by first century Christians (possible predating some of the New Testament) [emphasis mine].
2:2 Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not corrupt youth; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use soothsaying; thou shalt not practise sorcery; thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born; thou shalt not covet the goods of thy neighbour;
For those who want to fall back on "science", claiming that the ancients believed a fetus was a child but we know better, you need to rethink your source of scientific knowledge. If anything, we know now unequivocally that from the moment of conception (fertilization) the child is human (DNA tests prove this) is alive (exhibits all the activities necessary for life) and is an independent organism.

The only differences between that 1 day old blastocyst and that two year old are location and dependency. And nobody can argue that a mother has no obligation to care for a child dependent on her (well, people do argue that, but it's a ridiculous argument, and doesn't change the fact of the humanity of the child).

I make these statements not to win an argument but to save your souls. You will be judged by what you did not do for the least of these, thy brethren. Consider that thoughtfully.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Where is the Pope in the Bible?

The words below were posted by me in a facebook conversation. There are some references to other posts, which I leave in for context, but the crux of the post is why the papacy (and Apostolic succession) is Biblical.

I made my previous comments ("Protestantism is the epitome of un-Biblical") intentionally provocative because although Protestants are always accusing Catholics of not being “Biblical” but I can show you passages in the Bible to support everything Catholics believe. The same is, ironically, not true for Protestant beliefs. I do not say this to denigrate Protestants. They are trying to follow what they believe to be the truth, and some of them are living a more loving and moral life than I am for sure. But they are following the traditions of men, as set down by Luther, Calvin, etc.

But as I noted, all of this comes down to authority. For instance you quoted Matthew 26:26- as “proof” that the Eucharist is symbolic. I use the same exact same words as “proof” that the Eucharist is NOT symbolic. Your objections are that eating human flesh is a curse (the same issue the disciples struggled with) and if it were meant to by physical wouldn’t the NT have clearly stated/clarified such? Well, Jesus DID state/clarify in John 6, and the disciples would not accept it and left.

It all depends on your interpretation. Sorry, but the Bible does not “interpret itself.” If it did we would not have this division of Christians, as we would all be able to understand the Bible in the same way. As it is, the Bible contains many passages that appear contradictory, even in light of the entirety of scripture. If our understanding of the Bible differs, how can we decide who is right and who is wrong? You say “well that’s wrong because of ‘X’” and I equally vehemently say “you’re wrong because of ‘Y’”. We can point fingers and say "you're not reading it right" but in the end it’s either all opinion, or there is some authority we can look to.

The Bible says the authority for disputes between Christians is the church (Matthew 18:15-18). And not some invisible communion of all believers, as it would be hard to “tell it to” a community of all believers and have them make a definitive judgement. In Acts 15 we see the church, as a visible body of bishops deriving authority from the Holy Spirit, make a declaration on just such a question (more on that later).

So I thought a good place to start, to cut to the heart of the matter, is apostolic authority and succession.

You claimed, in your post that the Bible says nothing about Apostolic succession. The Bible does, in fact, say a great deal about Apostolic succession. First, let’s cover the specific example of Papal authority and succession, which will lead into the more general case of apostolic succession.

Even if this does not convince you that Catholics are “right” on this topic, I hope it convinces you that Catholicism is not un-Biblical. That is, you can say “I disagree with that interpretation” but the words and verses are there to support the Catholic position, which takes them exactly as written.

There is lots of evidence in the New Testament that Peter was first in authority among the apostles. Here’s a brief summary:

• Peter is mentioned more than all the other Apostles combined.
• Whenever the Apostles are named, Peter is listed first, even though he was not the first Apostle to follow Jesus (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13).
• Sometimes the apostles are referred to as "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32).
• Peter generally speaks for the apostles (Matthew 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41, John 6:68-69), and even speaks for Jesus (Matthew 17:24).
• It is Peter’s faith that will strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32).
• Peter is given Christ’s flock to shepherd (John 21:17).
• An angel was sent to announce the resurrection to Peter (Mark 16:7).
• John waits for Peter to go into the tomb (John 20:4).
• The risen Christ first appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34).
• On Pentecost Peter was the first to preach to the crowds (Acts 2:14-40). Peter worked the first healing in the Church age (Acts 3:6-7).
• Peter led the meeting that elected Matthias to replace Judas (Acts 1:13-26).
• Peter received the first converts (Acts 2:41).
• Peter declared the first punishment (Acts 5:1-11)
• Peter excommunicated the first heretic (Acts 8:18-23).
• Peter received the revelation came that Gentiles were to be baptized and accepted as Christians (Acts 10:46-48).
• Peter led the first council in Jerusalem (Acts 15).
• Peter announced the first dogmatic decision (Acts 15:7-11).

And I haven’t even mentioned the one test you thought I would (Matthew 16). So let’s look at why Peter should be so prominent.

Name

When Simon joins Jesus, Jesus renames him “Peter” (Petros or Kepha) which means “Rock” (John 1:42). This is not just a nickname, this becomes the name by which he is known. Why Rock? Aside from Abraham, who is referred to as a rock one time (Isaiah 51:1-2) only God is known as a rock, and in neither of those cases is rock a proper name. In fact “rock” was never used as a proper name in those days. Clearly something is going on. Jesus changes Simon’s name to a new name that Jesus invented. As you well know, a name change in the Bible signifies a change in the person’s role. Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, Jacob becomes Israel and Simon becomes Peter. You may also note Jesus calls James and John Boanerges, but that is a nickname applied to both, not a replacement for their names; they are still called James and John.

Later (Matthew 16) Jesus would reiterate this name change. The place where he does this is Caesarea Phillipi, which was located near a giant wall of rock. The location wold have been chosen to emphasize the importance of the name change. It was there Peter made his profession of faith: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Jesus told him that this truth was specially revealed to him, and then he reiterated: "And I tell you, you are Peter" (Matthew 16:18). To this was added the promise that the Church would be founded, in some way, on Peter (Matthew 16:18).

Office

Let’s look at Matthew 16:16-18:
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Now take a look at Isaiah 22:15,20-23:
Thus says the Lord God of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: …
In that day I will call my servant Eli′akim the son of Hilki′ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.
Jesus’ words in Matthew are clearly referring to the office of “Al Biet” (he who is “over the household”) in Isaiah. This was an office similar to Prime Minister or Viceroy in the Davidic Kingdom. Nor is this the only instance in the Bible where such an office was held. Consider Joseph in Genesis 41:40-44:
You shall be over my household, and all my people will obey your command. Only in respect to the throne will I outrank you.” ... “I am Pharaoh,” he told Joseph, “but without your approval no one shall lift hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”
The person who held this office had the authority to speak in the king’s name, to make rules and judge in the king’s name, and to be a steward of the kingdom when the king was away. The symbol of this authority in the Davidic kingdom was possession of the keys of the kingdom. Jesus is assigning this role to Peter. He gives Peter the keys of the kingdom and gives him the power to bind (shut) and loose (open), not just on earth, but in the heaven! This is a big deal!

Note that this person shall be a father (aka pope) to the people and shall be a peg in a sure place (e.g. the one who holds the others together). Note also that this is an office, not a one time thing. In Isaiah the office is transferred from Shebna to Eliakim. It does not end with Shebna.

This is also demonstrated multiple times throughout the New Testament. For instance, in Matthew 17:24-27 Peter speaks to the Pharisees for Jesus. Jesus informs Peter that “the sons are free” but not to give offense they will pay anyway… then pays for himself and Peter. In other words, not only Jesus, but Peter is exempt as being part of the household of the king.

In Luke 22:31-2 Jesus says:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”
In verse 31 “you is plural (Satan demands to have you (plural) that he might sift you (plural)” but in 32 it is singular “I have prayed for you (Peter) that your (Peter’s) faith may not fail; and when you (Peter) have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” Jesus shows that Peter has a special role among the Apostles. It is Peter who will not fail, and who will, after the turns back, support the others… kind of like… a rock.

In John 21:15-17 Jesus asks Peter “do you love me more than these?” (meaning the Apostles). He then reminds Peter that he is to “feed my sheep” and “tend my lambs.” Jesus is delegating his responsibility as shepherd to Peter.

Thus we have Jesus assigning Peter to an office (Al Biet) which is to be passed down from one to another. The office is holy in that it is assigned by God, and the person who holds that office is to be a father. Hence we call the Pope (pope is from papa, or father) “the holy father” not because the Pope is especially holy, but because his office is holy and that of a father.

Acts

In the interests of brevity I will skip a bunch of stuff, but note some examples of how Peter exercises his authority.
Acts 1:15-20:
In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus…. 
For it is written in the book of Psalms,
‘Let his habitation become desolate,
and let there be no one to live in it’;
and
‘His office let another take.’
Peter leads the group (of 120 people) to choose another bishop. They all understand that the office of bishop does not end with the death of the person holding the office, but that new ones are chosen as successors.

In Acts 2:14 ff. Peter again speaks for all the Apostles, addressing the crowd. Peter instructs them to repent and be Baptized. In Acts 5:1-11 Peter condemns two people to death (exercising his authority that whatever he binds is bound in heaven).

In Acts 15 Peter leads the Council of Jerusalem, where the church makes its first doctrinal declaration. Note that the council of bishops and priests (aka Apostles and elders) frames their decision as: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials...” - the church council speaks with the authority of the Holy Spirit.

So we see a visible church body, with offices of Pope (Al Biet), bishop (episkopos) and priest (presbyteros), which appoints new members to its offices, which claims the authority to make doctrinal and pastoral decisions in the name of the Holy Spirit.

For other examples of apostolic succession see 1 Timothy 1:6 and 4:14, where Paul reminds Timothy that the office of bishop had been conferred on him through the laying on of hands. Notice in 1 Timothy 5:22 that Paul advises Timothy not to be hasty in handing on this authority to others. This, of course, assume apostolic succession as a rule.

For more evidence we can turn to extra-Biblical sources. While these do not have the weight of Scripture, they are at least historical evidence that apostolic succession was practiced by the Apostles and by those on whom they conferred their authority. Here there are dozens and dozens of documents I could cite, but just to pick two:

Pope Clement I:
"Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier... Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry" (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).
St. Augustine:
“If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church’... [Matt. 16:18]. Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement, Clement by Anacletus, Anacletus by Evaristus...” (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412])
I could go on, but this, I think, is good evidence that both the Bible and history agree that Apostolic authority and succession are Biblical, and practices by the first Christians, and Papal authority and succession are Biblical, and practiced by the first Christians.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Opposite guns

More from the Opposites files:

Too dangerous for kids to have - causes them to commit violence.


Totally OK for kids to play - not violent at all.