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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Threats against life and against the consciences of those who say “yes” to life must be met with timely and unwavering action, in our families and institutions, and, yes, in the public square.

– Cardinal DiNardo, vigil of the March for Life, 2012

On Friday, at noon, there will be coordinated, nation-wide rallies in support of religious freedom.  The list of cities participating is available at Stand Up For Religious Freedom.

This is not a “Catholic thing”.  If one group’s rights are trampled, nobody’s rights are safe.  Our founders argued for religious toleration for all faiths, even though many of them were certainly strongly anti-Catholic.  They were wise enough to know that if one group can be singled out for repression, then the list may be expanded to include others.  It had happened in England; first, the Catholics were arrested, fined, and harrassed into emigrating or giving up their faith.  Next, it was the other dissenters: the Quakers, Puritans, and others who disagreed with a state-run church.  You may notice that a lot of these people fled to the U.S. to find religious freedom.

The media has painted this as “those crazy papists, again!”  Yes, anti-Catholicism is alive and well in this country, and many will be persuaded by the coverage to believe this is just a “stupid Catholics being unreasonable” thing that can be safely ignored.  It isn’t “just a Catholic thing”, but don’t take my word for it.  Dr. James Dobson has written a strong statement against compliance with the HHS mandate.  Chuck Colson, may he rest in peace, adamantly opposed the HHS mandate.  Many other religious leaders, Christian and otherwise, have joined in saying that all Americans must stand up and oppose this, no matter what you believe about contraception.

“Freedom of religion” does not simply mean that I can worship however I please, as long as I don’t let anyone know about it in public by my words or actions.  My freedom of religion does not end as soon as I say or believe something that the government deems inappropriate.  My freedom of religion is not contingent on my ability to afford a fine when my beliefs run afoul of what the government has declared legal.

But if my freedom of religion can be circumscribed this way, so can yours.

It’s an hour.  Get out there.  This Friday, at noon.

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I have an irrate commenter who is very good at verbosely rattling off President Obama’s talking points.  In short:

  • nobody is forcing religious employers to pay for contraceptives; the insurance companies will pay for them
  • it isn’t true that anybody is forcing anyone to buy contraceptives at all: you could just pay the fine/assessment/tax/whatever Obama is calling it this week
  • you people need to stop believing everything the bishops tell you

Hmmm.  I could make snarky comments about him, but I’ll just make a lazy post by copying my reply.

Ok, so here’s the HHS statement on its final ruling.  Yeah, that’s what I said it said, thanks.

You may note that it clearly states that all health insurance plans that do not qualify for an exemption must provide contraceptive services.  Even those who qualify for an examption and don’t provide contraceptives will probably be required, the statement says, to inform their employees about where to get contraceptives for free.

So, every Catholic school, hospital and charity will be required to provide contraception (because they don’t fit under the new, narrow definition of a “religious” entity).  Even parishes and convents that fit under the definition should be aware that HHS is already contemplating how to force them to promote contraception to their employees.  The so-called compromise only means that these institutions will be forced to buy insurance that, for “free”, provides contraceptives.  NEWS FLASH: when the hotel says the wi-fi and breakfast are “free”, they aren’t; you’re paying for it, they just add it to the room price.  When the insurance company says, “Sure, we provide contraceptives for free,” um, no, YOU’RE PAYING FOR THAT.

(And you’re happy that dioceses will be forced to buy insurance from someone else?  Why?  Adding the bureaucracy of an insurance company won’t make health insurance cheaper for the employees.  Is it because the government can bully the insurance companies more easily?  Or are you just anti-Catholic and want Catholics to please keep their unauthorized opinions to themselves, unless they’re standing in a church?)

And, holy crap!  how generous!, HHS has allowed that those institutions that do not fit under the definition but have objections can have an extra year to, as Cardinal Dolan put it, “Figure out how to violate our consciences,” as long as they prove that they even qualify for the extension.

The last time I checked, in this country, we do not generally give out rights only to those who can PAY THE FINES FOR THEM.  If you have to pay a fine for it, it ISN’T RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.  I am not interested in being a dhimmi in my own country, thank you very much.

Yes, I’m yelling.  Here’s my short version:

The federal government has a definition of what constituted a religious institution; this administration chose to use a definition that excludes most religious institutions.  Why?  Are they trying to drive religious institutions out of the public square?

If I pay for insurance that provides contraceptives, I am directly complicit in something I hold to be sinful, no matter how the accounting is done (this has nothing to do with paying taxes; that is a much more remote connection between my money and behavior I may hold to be immoral).  So, no, the latest “compromise” isn’t worth anything.

If I have to pay a fine to exercise my religious freedom, then my “right” has been reduced to a calculation of how much money the government can get out of me, money that the government will directly use to fund something I object strongly to.  And once I’m out of money, my right to religious freedom is gone.  Somehow, I seem to remember from high school government class that that is not how our Bill of Rights is supposed to work.  (But Obama was a Constitutional law prof; I’m sure he’ll tell us that, since he sees the Constitution as a living document, “bill” must be reinterpreted in the modern way, so it now means, “You get rights, and the government will send you a bill.”)

And if you think, “Well, I don’t care about contraception; I want it covered,” then please consider what else is legal that you or your church might object to funding: abortion, sex-change operations, and euthanasia.  If they force the Catholics to bow (and we are the largest single denomination in this country and our hospitals care for 1/6 of American patients), do you think they are going to stop here?

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Suffering

We don’t like suffering.  Therefore, we try to avoid it, quit literally, at all costs.

Which is the wrong thing to do, frankly.  Even if we could actually avoid all suffering (which we can’t), it would be the wrong thing to do.

I got started on this line of thinking while reading a book a friend lent me on learning to be more thankful.  (I’ll write about the book eventually; it’s good.)  The problem was, the book started with a lot of dramatic stuff about the very traumatic death of her little sister when the author was young.  Her sister was hit by a delivery truck in her farmyard, in front of the whole family.

Yes, this was truly horrible.  And, yes, nearly everyone’s first reaction at that point would be to do a lot of crying and yelling at God.

So many people, however, forget to quit yelling at God and let Him comfort us.  An acquaintance in college lost her mother to cancer, so she quit going to church.  In the book I read, the author’s family accused God of, essentially, not paying attention and letting their daughter be killed, so they quit going to church.  Plenty of other people I know or have read have said things in this pattern, “(Horrible thing A) happened, therefore I quit going to church.”

We usually accept that as a normal reaction (at least in this country, in this time), but should we?  (I shall refrain from commenting on the sad, sorry state of catechesis in this country, at least in this post.)

I once commented to a friend in a Bible study that angrily walking away from God when suffering enters our lives is like throwing away your life preserver for letting you get wet when you had to jump off the sinking ship.  Of course you got wet!  The life preserver keeps you from dying; there is no promise that you won’t get wet.  And if you throw the life preserver away when you need it most, you’re still going to be wet, but now you’re also going to drown!

So it is with God: He has promised to save us if we trust in Him.  He has NOT promised us that our lives will be pain-free.  Jesus died horribly on the cross, the only totally innocent man there ever was.  Mary stood there and watched her son be tortured horribly and die.  Who do you think you are to think God is going to only send you health and wealth, if He didn’t spare His own Son and the special woman He chose to be His mother?  I won’t even get started on the thousands of martyrs; they took suffering for Christ’s sake as a blessing and went to their deaths not just content, but joyfully and often singing.  Suffering didn’t drive them away from God, but closer to Him.

And yet, so often, we flee from suffering.  Our lives are generally very comfortable here in the U.S.  We sit in some of the most well-endowed houses the world has ever seen and make excuses for why we couldn’t possibly give more to the poor or sacrifice a job to stay home with our kids, because we can’t “afford” it.  Even our parish choir can’t be bothered to sing any “negative” psalms; frequently, the psalm for the day was supposed to be about God protecting us in adversity and our need to trust Him and praise Him anyways… and we get, yet again, “This is the day the Lord has made, we will be glad and rejoice.”  Nothing wrong with the second psalm, of course, except that the psalms about pain and trouble are scheduled to be sung in the normal rotation of things because we need to hear them.

What do you do when suffering hits, when you thought God always gives His children only good things?  When you skip the “Be near me Lord, when I am in trouble” psalms, where is your blueprint for what comes after the suffering?  Do you panic, wondering if maybe you aren’t saved, maybe you didn’t mean it enough when you came to Jesus?  Do you suspect you’re being punished by God?  Do you get mad at God and leave, because you think He broke His end of the deal?

In The Brothers Karamazov, there is a chapter called “The Grand Inquisitor”, which is about a story by the atheist brother that he tells to his younger brother, the novice monk.  After the story, the atheist demands of the monk how he could believe in a good God when nobles have their dogs tear children apart in front of their mothers for some minor infraction.  How, he demands, could the noble repent and get to heaven after that?  How could the mother embrace the noble in heaven and say she understands that God brought good out of her child being mauled to death by dogs?  How or why could a good God allow any of this?!?

The monk, distraught to the point of tears over the story, insists that we have to believe it is so.  God brings good out of the evil, always, even when we don’t see it or understand it.

The atheist replies angrily that he won’t believe it, because he can’t understand it.  (He’s a rather tormented character.)

When we were struggling through infertility, there was a lot of yelling at God.  “Why us?  Everyone else can have kids, even people who will just abort them, so why not us?!?”  Eventually, we decided we’d gone as far as was moral and available to us, and we adopted.  It took some time, but I can now say, “It wasn’t our Plan A, but it was God’s Plan A,” and I don’t have to grit my teeth so much when I say it anymore, either.  The pain fades, and I can see a little bit of what my suffering led me to.

I have four beautiful children so far.  If we hadn’t been adopting, they might have not found homes.

I can argue the Church’s position on IVF (in short: NO), and nobody can say (although, illogically, they still do), “Your opinion doesn’t count, because you don’t understand what it’s like!”  No, I understand exactly what it’s like; it sucks.  It hurts.  It’s hard.  Painfully.  Freaking.  Hard.  People won’t understand why you adopt instead of trying to force God to give you “one of your own,” and they will say stupid, hurtful things about adoption, even people you trusted.  But I now understand the beauty of the Church’s teachings on life, and I am in a position to be an unusual witness to them.

Being adoptive parents made us much, much more aware of the pro-life movement.  We’d always been pro-life, but not particularly involved.  We realized that our children were all being stalked by the culture of death before they came to us.  Whether it’s Planned Parenthood here or the One Child Policy in China, they all beat the odds just to be born and make it into the adoption system.  It is the most horrendous evil of our day that so many children in the womb should have to fear for their life.  And, like so many others, we were sort of ignoring it, until we looked into our children’s faces and realized that they could have just as easily been among the dead and discarded.

When we encounter suffering, we are forced to lean on God.  Often, this turns us in new, surprising directions.  The point is not the suffering itself, it is what comes of it.  Instead, we tend to focus on the suffering, endlessly rehashing it or claiming victim labels.  What we should be doing, rather, is taking what God gives us and asking Him humbly, “Ok, so what the heck was I supposed to do with this?  I am trying to believe You will bring good out of this; Lord, help my unbelief!”  Then we have to wait for the answer.  Even if we don’t see it this side of Heaven, the answer is in God’s hand.

Job rails against God for all his misfortunes, losses, and pain, but, ultimately gets through it to, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”  We can’t offend God by admitting we’re mad about the situation; He knows it already.  We can’t shock God with our howling sorrow; He’s borne that, too.  But we have to end the suffering with Job, all the suffering Psalms, and the martyrs: by praising God, whether or not we think we understand the suffering and whether or not things get better by earthly standards.

And there’s our blueprint.

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“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case.  It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”  — G.K. Chesterton

 

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

As Christians aware of our history (and I’m not at all sure that most of us are), we have frequently had cause to love the countries we live in while fighting their current stupidities or evils.  If we are aware of the histories of official government persecution or blind eyes to persecution (for Catholics, this would include Elizabeth I’s police state, the invasion of Maryland while it was still a colony, and repeated instances of the destruction of Catholic institutions and murder of Catholics in the U.S.); we certainly have grounds to expect the future might hold problems in a similar vein, prompting a pre-emptive promise to love our country, in spite of its failings.

And so, we come to the current “desperate case”:

In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences. 

— Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City

I am honestly horrified that the nation I have always loved has come to this hateful and radical step in religious intolerance.

– Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria

In spite of a “compromise” that still meant everyone would be paying for contraceptives and abortions (we’d just hide the accounting, and, no, really, this time we’ll put it into law, unlike that last promise we made to the pro-life Democrats who voted for the health care bill in the first place.  Really!), the HHS mandate is still a violation of religious liberty.

The Amish, who have religious objections to insurance, get an exemption from the plan.  They also, we learned while on vacation in the area around Lancaster, PA, get an exemption from Social Security taxes, since they don’t take the payouts, relying instead on their children and their own savings when they retire, which they don’t do very early.  (Gee, I’m not expecting to get a payout from Social Security, can I opt out of that tax and invest my own money, too?)

Catholics, however, do not get an exemption from the new health care law.  The only religious organizations exempt from paying for contraceptives they believe to be sinful are actual churches.  The definition specifies that the religious exemption is only for those organizations who employ and serve almost exclusively their co-religionists.  The school the church runs will have to pay for contraceptives.  The diocese that runs soup kitchens and counseling services will have to pay for contraceptives.  Heck, if your parish is considered a mission parish and is evangelizing a less-Catholic area and has a lot of non-Catholic participants at mass, you might not really be “religious” enough under the definition the Obama administration has chosen to use.  (Remember the howling about all the “the secretary shall define”, “the secretary shall decide”, etc. vagueness in the massive health care bill?  If it’s that huge, and still contains all this leeway, what are they hiding?  Well, here’s where it comes to bite us.  Just like the pro-lifers were saying all along.)

The lawsuits against the federal government are piling up.  Several major Protestant leaders have stepped up to support the Catholic Church (and I should note that Catholics aren’t the only church that has objections to contraception, although all the major Protestant denominations abandonned their bans on contraception by the mid-1900’s, starting with the Anglicans in 1930 at their regular Lambeth Conference).  There are multiple websites up to collect signatures against the government mandate, including StopHHS.

I seriously hope the U.S. government gets trounced in court… except that my tax dollars are being spent to attack my church and to defend this idiotic law.

And right now, while I love my country and am very proud of our troops, especially this Memorial Day weekend, I still feel about like some poor daughter having to haul her drunk mother home from the bar, yet again, to the jeers of the neighbors.  This is when you say, “My country, right or wrong,” and it makes your eyes sting with tears to think of how horribly, desperately astray my dear country has gone.

You grit your teeth, say it anyways, and pray that your mother and your country sober up and straighten out again, knowing that you’ll probably have to say it again under similar circumstances, even as you pray you don’t.

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Just so we’re clear, the Catholic Church is right: contraception is wrong.  It does not reduce abortions; contraception increases abortions.  It does not improve marriages by removing the risk of unwanted children, it destroys marriages.  No, contraception isn’t really contraception all the time: when the Pill fails to prevent ovulation, it prevents implantation of the days-old child by reducing the uterine lining, around 25% of the time.  Which means that women on the Pill, if we assume around a 1/3 chance of pregnancy (conception and successful implantation, the advice given in NFP that “if you haven’t gotten pregnant in three cycles, something might be wrong”), then women on the Pill, especially younger women, generally more fertile and sexually active, may be averaging an abortion a year.  And when the Obama administration says “contraceptive services”, they include post-sex contraceptives, which are large doses of the usual chemicals, which will either prevent ovulation or abort a just-conceived child.

But the issue isn’t really contraception.

I suppose I should start farther back, with Obamacare itself.  The pro-life movement was up in arms, crying that any government takeover of health care would end in taxpayer-funded abortions and contraception.  “Oh, what a bunch of worrywarts!” scoffed most of the bishops and many members of Congress.  In some cases, anti-Obamacare advocates were maligned as “anti-poor”.  We were assured, “Mandatory abortion or contraceptive coverage?  That’ll never happen!”

Well, your Eminences, welcome to the “never” your encouragement of Obamacare has created.

While I’m thrilled to hear that every single Catholic bishop in the U.S., along with a good many Protestant leaders, including people who suppported Obama, have issued statements against the contraception mandate, I’m a bit underwhelmed.  Abortion and contraception have been rampant in this country for decades, and the bishops and priests have largely failed to fight them.  It isn’t a moral triumph to finally acknowledge that you ignored people being killed or maimed after they’re dead.  Better late than never, but better on time.

But back to the mandate.  Contrary to our dying local paper, the problem isn’t that there wasn’t an exemption for houses of worship.  Actual churches would be exempt from the mandate, since they employ and serve almost exclusively people of their own faith.  The problem was that absolutely nobody and nothing else would be exempt.

Our local paper condescendingly allowed that if churches insisted on not paying for contraception for the women who worked in the parish office, fine.  However, the editorial went on, when the churches do “secular work” like taking care of migrants, adoption placements, hospitals, schools, etc., then they weren’t really churches anymore, and, thus, had no right to ask that their religious beliefs be respected.  They have to play by the secular laws when they do secular functions, “reasoned” the editors.  (Which takes us back to the Obama administration’s preference for “freedom of worship” instead of “freedom of religion”.  They aren’t the same thing.)

EWTN is suing the federal government, since they don’t qualify for an exemption, but they are adamantly opposed to contraception in general, and paying for it in particular.  Since the Catholic TV network is not directly controlled by an order or a diocese (there were power struggles with the USCCB trying to claim it, so it went private some time ago, although many members of the board are clergy), it wouldn’t even qualify for consideration of an exemption.  So, while they air programs explaining how contraception destroys marriages and is frequently abortifacient (and therefore murder), they would be required to participate in (i.e. pay for) an insurance program that offers free contraception to EWTN’s employees.  In Catholic moral discussions, we describe this as levels of “cooperation with sin”.  Just because you didn’t choose the evil, if you facilitated or encouraged it, you are still somewhat culpable.

I would note that EWTN has hit the nail on the head, when many bishops have missed a bit.  The problem isn’t that Catholic Charities or your local Catholic school (or any of the Protestant organizations or ministries similarly tied to denominations that do not approve of contraception) shouldn’t be forced to pay for something they don’t believe is moral.  Most bishops are clear that those types of organizations should not be forced to violate their moral principles in order to avoid massive, coercive government fines.

The problem is deeper.  I (and you, by the way), as a normal citizen, would be required to buy health insurance from a company that is mandated to provide certain services that I believe to be deeply immoral.  Today, it’s contraception and the early chemical abortifacients.  What comes tomorrow?

If Obamacare and the latest mandate stand, Catholic social services will shut down across the country.  Schools, hospitals, etc.  The Obama administration already yanked a federal grant for human trafficking assistance, because the USCCB (US Council of Catholic Bishops) office wouldn’t provide abortions to the rape and prostitution victims it rescued (never mind their excellent record of service spanning decades).  A number of local Catholic Charities adoption agencies (and, presumably, a number of other, smaller agencies with similar reservations but less publicity) have closed because they refused to call gay “marriage” a legitimate family arrangement and place children for adoption in such families.  The religious agencies are forced to shut down as unprofessional or anti-regulation, and the government increasingly gets to hand out the goodies of social services.

The alternate allegiance to the church that helped you is shifted to the all-powerful government.

All of this goes to emphasize the brilliance of the foundation of both the Constitution and Catholic social teachings.  In Church documents, we call it subsidiarity: the idea that issues should be dealt with at the lowest level possible, for reasons of efficiency, personal relationships, and proper power and responsibility allocation.  The government was never meant to be the all-powerful, omnipresent force in everybody’s lives that it has become.

Archbishop Chaput, as always, clarifies the problem.  It isn’t, he argues, that this mandate was ill-advised in an election year or poorly thought-out:

But it’s clear that such actions are developing into a pattern. Whether it was the administration’s early shift toward the anemic language of “freedom of worship” instead of the more historically grounded and robust concept of “freedom of religion” in key diplomatic discussions; or its troubling effort to regulate religious ministers recently rejected 9-0 by the Supreme Court in the Hosanna Tabor case; or the revocation of the U.S. bishops’ conference human-trafficking grant for refusing to refer rape victims to abortion clinics, it seems obvious that this administration is – to put it generously – tone deaf to people of faith.

I’m guardedly optimistic that the USCCB has decided to reconsider what else they’ve supported when they’ve embraced Democratic politicians for their social programs but ignored their other positions.  If we’re only going to defend the rights of religiously affiliated organizations to have conscience protection, though, we’re missing the point again, and we’ll be discussing the next “surprising” anti-Christian piece of regulation shortly.

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I’m sure everyone’s heard the brouhaha by now.  A giant “community center” (to include a mosque) is to be built within blocks of Ground Zero.  There is no nearby Muslim community to use the gym and other facilities.  Survivors and family members of the victims of 9/11 are upset (understandably so, I would say).  Various New York politicians are tripping over themselves to remind everyone that it is perfectly legal.

Except, as usual, they’re arguing against almost nobody.  The main argument isn’t that it should be illegal.

It should be unthinkable.  Especially if, as the imam claims, the community center is to promote understanding and peace between Muslims and the rest of the world.

Really?  So, you named the project after a mosque built as something of a victory monument in Muslim-occupied Spain?  That’s supposed to give me a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling about Islam?!?!

Oh, wait, that’s right: most of the Western world has completely forgotten its history.  I had a shocking conversation with some relatives of my husband (overseas missionaries, no less) who had absolutely no idea what had happened to the basilica of Hagia Sophia.  Tonight, Glenn Beck at least referenced the incident, although he mistakenly described the new mosque as being built on the church’s ruins (it wasn’t; they just slapped some minarets on it).

And just for questioning if the location of the proposed mosque is sensitive to the memory of 9/11, people are being called racist and bigoted.  Muslims are writing articles for the paper about how they worry about their children’s future in this country.

Well, look on the bright side: at least you aren’t a Christian with a Bible in Saudi Arabia.  Fr. Pacwa on EWTN just mentioned (ok, I’m weeks behind on the dvr) that two Filipino women had their heads chopped off recently for having a Bible.  Not preaching, not praying in public, just having a Bible in the country.  The many Filipino workers (mostly Catholic) in Saudi Arabia are forbidden from having a rosary, a Bible, or any prayer books.  People have been arrested for having private prayer meetings inside apartments, quietly, with all the curtains closed.  There are no Christian churches in Saudi Arabia.

There is a mosque in Rome.  There are areas of London where the police refuse to enter, allowing sharia law to rule.  The U.S. military has Muslim chaplains.

Somehow, I don’t think the Christians are the ones prohibiting free exercise of religion.

Back to the name.  The new community center was to be called Cordoba House.  (They changed the name when people started pointing out the associations.)

Doesn’t ring a bell?  Here’s a hint: does “cordoba” sound like an Arabic word?  Do you associate it with the Middle East… or Spain?

Cordoba, Spain was the site of the church of St. Vincent, started around 600 AD, partially built with stones and columns from an earlier Roman temple.  When the Muslims conquered Spain, the church was bought and reworked as a mosque.  Cordoba was the capital of Al-Andalus (the Muslims’ name for occupied Spain), and the mosque complex was within the caliph’s palace.  The main hall was used not just for religious training, but for the operation of the law within conquered Spain.  Thus, the mosque was not simply a religious building, but the heart of Muslim Spain.

When the Christians retook Spain, they turned the mosque into a cathedral.  This summer, calls escalated for the bishop to allow Muslims to worship in the building again.  (The article fails to tell you much.  Some of the comments are just sad.  “But we’re all God’s children!” people gush.  Great.  Tell the Muslims that.  Tell the beheaded Filipinas that.  Tell the dead wives and daughters all across Europe and now the U.S. who were killed by their fathers or brothers for disgracing the family by being too Western.  Hagia Sophia is not a this-for-that deal: it is an example of how the Muslims cry about fairness and sharing when it benefits them… but never when it benefits Christians whose churches were seized.  Christianity is not about gushy, “I just love everyone!” mush; it is about truth.  If I love you, I will tell you where to find Truth, not just smile and wish you, “Have a blessed day!” as your father chops your head off because you’re wearing blue jeans.  And then wish the father a blessed day, too, without being judgmental, of course.)

Several people have argued that the mosque near Ground Zero is simply following in the tradition of Muslims building mosques on the sites of their conquests.  The name, the location far from any Muslim community, the lack of sensitivity to 9/11, the anti-American statements of the imam, the mysterious funding trail (which, like the money trails of various radical mosques and madrassas around the U.S., is probably going to lead straight back to the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia), etc. all seem to argue for the point that this is a victory monument.

Arguing against, we have only the word of the imam, who says he just wants to promote understanding.  Of course, he also said that he wants to bring sharia law to America and that America is worse than Al Qaeda.

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A number of people, both in person and via comments, who have disagreed with various things I’ve said over the years have ended the argument (or occasionally started the argument) by allowing that “everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

Really?  Gee, thanks.  I feel so much better.

It’s treated as if the person saying it is being polite, when, in fact, it seems it is the farthest thing from it, because what is really being said is, “You have no reason, no feeling, no logic, no fact, nothing to support your argument, but I, in my magnanimity, forced to share the globe with such a troglodyte, will grant that you may have an opinion.”  Or, simply, that the person saying it strongly disagrees with you, but doesn’t feel like having a reasoned discussion on the subject, so they’ll just insinuate that your position has nothing but your “right to an opinion” to support it.

I don’t generally use the phrase.  I prefer to argue to the truth, or at least to a well-earned impasse (amiable, if possible).  Although we all obviously have a right to an opinion, not all opinions are equally correct.

I’m not talking chocolate vs. vanilla ice cream.  Some opinions have deadly consequences (“I’m personally opposed to abortion, but don’t think anyone has the right to condemn it or talk anyone out of it,” is a popular one), and need to be argued.  Heck, even a bunch of lesser ones could use some arguing, instead of the brush off of, “Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.”

Standing around on the soccer field sidelines, I got sucked into a discussion on religion.  At first, I got the impression the man was trying to proselytize me.  Then, when I commented that I was Catholic and argued some Scripture with him, he dropped the “checking to see if you’re saved” conversation and commented, “Oh, I used to be really anti-Catholic, but I listened to Joel Osteen, and he really blessed me, and now I accept that everyone is ok.”

I looked at him, at something of a loss for words.  His position was that everyone was “ok.”  Everyone who claimed the title of Christian was one.

Uh, no, I started out, for example, Mormons say they believe in Jesus, but they believe that he was the son of a sexual relation between God (who was just a deified good guy from another world) and Mary.  The words have to reflect reality, or they don’t believe the same thing we do when we say those words.  Jehovah’s Witnesses, as I understand it, believe that Jesus was really the Archangel Michael, he didn’t truly die on the cross, and God is not a Trinity of persons.  They say they are Christian, the Mormons say they believe in Jesus, but they are far, far outside what Christianity has always professed.

I would honestly have had more in common with this person if he had still been anti-Catholic.  That way, we both at least would have agreed that there is Truth out there to be found and argued for.  The pro-abortion Presbyterians and the pro-life Catholics can’t both be right.  The mainstream Trinitarians and the anti-Trinitarians (the word “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible, so it must be a false belief!) can’t both be right.  Those for and against women’s ordination, gay marriage, sola scriptura, and whether or not the Bible is actually true or just a holy myth can’t all be right.  Smiling and saying that we’re all entitled to our opinions is false irenism (irenicism sought to establish a sort of lowest common denominator among Protestant sects after the Reformation, when it quickly became obvious that sola scriptura wasn’t working, since Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli (and their respective followers and offshoots) rapidly fell into sharp disagreement over a variety of issues.  Pius XII in Humani Generis (see para.11 and on) called this a “false irenism” because it failed to call error as error and truth as truth, in search of a “can’t we all just get along” middle ground).

A while back, I was in an ecumenical Bible study with three couples: us (Catholic), my DH’s Academy roommate and his wife (Southern Baptist), and some lovely British expatriates (Anglican).  I have absolutely no doubt of the sincere Christianity of anyone in that group.  One night, however, Mr. Brit commented something like, “Well, it doesn’t really matter, since we all believe the same basic things!”  Mrs. Roommate and I had recently had a discussion about the debate within the Southern Baptist Convention about the inerrancy of Scripture, Baptist vs. Catholic understandings of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, and a few other major issues.  We looked at each other and both said, “Um, no… no, we don’t, actually.”  She and I had come to a better understanding of each other’s positions and beliefs, and we still disagreed on some fundamental issues.  We both acknowledged that there was a right answer, but, apparently, neither of us was going to convince the other of our position at that time.

I’d rather honestly say, “No, we don’t believe the same things, but I can work with you on specific issues, and we can always pray together, especially for that day when ‘all will be one’ as Jesus prayed.”

So, please don’t bother telling me that I’m “entitled to my opinion;”  I got that right from God giving me a free will, not from some other person.  Frankly, I’d rather you just tell me you think I’m wrong and why you think so; then we can have a discussion that might bear some fruit.

I also received from God (as we all did, whether we listen or not) the urge to seek Truth.  Turning that urge off, to settle for “sort of ok, kinda mostly true” is more of a betrayal of peace than daring to call something wrong.

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