Author Archives: anotherepigone
“Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.”
These words of Jesus, in Luke 19:42, are as poignant and as applicable to our world today as they were to the city of Jerusalem, when Our Lord wept over it before His passion.
Our world is embroiled in war and violence. Truly, despite the lack of formal declarations, the whole world is at war. Pope Francis, in reflecting on the same verse of scripture, preached that God weeps over the worldwide violence of today, for which “there is no justification”.
The Church herself is no stranger to war, no stranger to violent men slaughtering her children, to forces plotting to destroy her. In fact she has rarely (if ever) been without such threats. But with each generation, the people of God must face anew the violence of the world, however it manifests.
We shouldn’t fear for the Church in such times. Our Lord’s promise has been proven good through more terrible times than ours, and time and again the bride of Christ has been upheld, even when the odds were against her. Instead, we should look to our own souls, and the work with which God has entrusted us in our broken world.
In an interview published on November 13th, 2015, the same day as the terrorist attacks in Paris, Canada’s new defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, said that Canadians have no need to fear ISIS.
“ISIS is a threat, no doubt about that. Should we fear it? No. The Canadian population should have full confidence in all the security services to keep us safe.”
In terms of our physical safety, the statement was a bit dubious even before France – a far more powerful country than Canada – was powerless to stop a multi-pronged attack on their capital city. After all, it was only a year ago that a lone ISIS-inspired drug-addict with a gun breached the security of our parliament buildings and nearly reached our cabinet.
But in a sense, the defence minister is right.
Our Lord says in Matthew 10:28, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
If we in the West truly believed our Lord’s words, we would fear our own sins, rather than temporal murderers like the Islamic State.
In a recent article, Marc Barnes of BadCatholic wrote about the essential role of theology in the fight against ISIS. He points out what has been increasingly clear – that our political leaders, and secular society in general, have little understanding of the Islamists they face, and no capacity to challenge the source of the issue; bad theology.
This really gets at the heart of the issue for Catholics. Where our nations can only fight and destroy human beings, as Christians we can fight against sin and error using the weapons God gives us. His Holy Spirit, working through us in love for our enemies, and in words and deeds filled with truth and charity, will defeat the world and the devil. We are not necessarily called to wage war physically (though we may well be), but we are all called to fight in the great battle which the Church Militant fights through all time; the battle for the salvation of souls, both of our own and others.
Whether it’s in combat with our own culture of death, or the one in Syria and Iraq, we need to engage that culture with Truth and Charity. And in prayer, we must continue to lift up our world and plead for conversion, in our own hearts, in our homes, and for the conversion of Muslims.
In recent weeks, a Toronto United Church minister stirred up a surprising amount of controversy with her new book, and possible firing from her church. Although she’s a minister in the allegedly Christian United Church of Canada, Gretta Vosper has been an open atheist for years.
Leaving aside the implications of this whole story for the rapidly-dying United Church, I want to address the topic of her book, since it’s currently in the public eye.
You might think that a former Christian who no longer believes in God would be trying to convert Christians to atheism, and Vosper is, but in a particularly sneaky and nonsensical way. Apparently, she’d rather change Christianity into atheism while still calling it Christianity.
The book is called “With or Without God: Why the Way We Live Is More Important Than What We Believe,” but perhaps a better subtitle might have been “Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One.” Despite the somewhat novel element of the atheist minister, the worldview being proposed is hardly original. I feel like there must be thousands of books that have been written on exactly the same topic; that oh-so-trendy idea that being a Good PersonTM is more important than believing what is true. I’d be surprised if another one isn’t published before I finish typing this sentence.
Cashing in on Ignorance
Although books (and movies, and blogs, and youtube comments) of this kind thrive on controversy, there’s typically little originality to the arguments or conclusions they contain. To me, the only thing shocking about this poor woman’s idea is how some people actually take it seriously.
I can’t be the only one who sees a slight contradiction in writing a book about your beliefs, when you believe that beliefs don’t matter. Why not just sell a gold-plated book promoting asceticism? Or maybe some leather-bound PETA pamphlets?
Obviously Gretta thinks my beliefs are pretty important, if she went to all the trouble of writing a book just to change them. Or, is it a little more likely that she knows her writing is meaningless, but that many people will buy it unquestioningly?
Being a Good Person
Just being a good person and never worrying about what that means seems super simple and very practical… until I meet someone who doesn’t believe the same things I do.
As it turns out the world is a bit bigger than my local community center (aka United Church) and if I go outside, I’m going to meet someone who disagrees with me on how to be a good person. If I go far enough outside, I’ll meet someone who thinks that the way to be a good person is to kill me. And the same is true for anyone. Somehow, I highly doubt Ms. Vosper would approve of an ISIS terrorist killing her for not believing in Allah, yet it’s either that or admit that his beliefs matter.
I really think that the current fashion of pitting of belief and action against each other is in some sense an outgrowth of the protestant heresy of sola fides, which does the same thing, only exalting belief and claiming that actions are inconsequential. From one error, others tend to grow and multiply. The United Church of Canada is perhaps the perfect illustration of the results of this heresy, giving license to every moral whim of modern society, and putting the good ol’ Christian stamp of approval on it.
Fulton Sheen once said, “if you don’t behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.” And this is why we need to believe what is true before doing what is good. If we accept the idea that beliefs don’t matter and just strive to be “good” with no definition of being good, we will quickly and inevitably believe whatever justifies our actions.
In Luke 16: 1-9, Jesus tells an extremely interesting parable, about a dishonest manager who is caught wasting his master’s money, but finds a clever way to come out ahead even when he loses his position.
This parable can be very confusing at first glance, because it appears to praise the dishonest manager for squandering even more of his master’s wealth, for his own gain. The master whom he defrauded commends him “because he had acted shrewdly,” and Jesus comments that “the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
When the manager realizes that his life as he currently knows it is about to end, he makes use of everything he has in that present position to prepare for his future. What the disciples were meant to take from this, and what we need to take from it, is that we need to come to a similar realisation about our current state of life.
Our life on this earth will come to an end, just like the manager’s comfortable position. While we have the opportunity, we must be shrewd with the resources available to us to prepare for our future home.
When we look at state of the world, particularly in the ‘culture wars’ going on in modern society, it’s clear that Our Lord’s words still ring true. Those who advance an agenda of moral relativism, hedonism, and license are eminently shrewd, and they use the means available for gain at every opportunity. The result has been a stunning transformation of society.
Being Spiritually Shrewd
In light of recent events in the United States, a lot of people are thinking about how to react, and how to fight back. If we want to serve God in modern society, and evangelize our culture, we need to consider some ways of being spiritually shrewd.
Being shrewd means having good judgement, making intelligent choices, doing what is most effective for our goals. If we want to be spiritually shrewd, we need to stop putting too much emphasis on the worldly battleground, because that is the arena where our enemy invests his strength. It doesn’t take a military genius to tell us that we need to fight where we are strong, and our enemy is weak.
4 Ways of Being Spiritually Shrewd:
1. Love your enemies
Perhaps Our Lord’s most controversial and hardest teaching. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
For a long time, Christians have had it easy in western nations. Being Christian has often been the way to be honoured and respected in society. Now, the tables have turned, and if you live a Christian life, you are certain to be hated for it. Lets rise to the challenge of being real Christians, and be tenacious in loving our enemies. This means not just praying for them (though it does mean that), it also means loving them in action. It means actively looking for ways to wash the feet of our betrayer, as Christ did.
2. Offer up your sufferings
All of us who strive to live the faith publicly have, and will continue to suffer for it. This is the reality of our calling, but God makes suffering a blessing for us. This is part of the wisdom of God, which is “folly to those who are perishing.” But it is in this way that God allows us to unite ourselves to Christ.
“For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps.”
3. Carry out your Christian witness all the more, when it contrasts with the culture
Whenever the culture moves away from God, the need for people to return to the Church becomes more apparent.
If our society no longer respects the rights and dignity of all human beings, then let us take courage in the fact that our unshakable respect for those values will become more obvious, and attract people back to the faith.
4. Become more detached from the cares and concerns of the world
If we no longer have the opportunity to live in a society that honours the human family and offers protection and help to it, let’s take the opportunity to detach ourselves from the luxury of that help. God’s grace has always been sufficient for us and our families. Let’s take the opportunity to show that the human family doesn’t need a government or court’s permission to exist and thrive.
All of these are simple (but not easy) ways to take the defeats that the Church and her members may suffer in the world, and turn them into victory. Although we know Christ has won the final victory already, in our time on earth we must be willing to work out our salvation and make disciples, despite the sorry state of the world. God knows we can never be shrewd enough to outsmart the demonic intellect of the enemy, but he gives us all the means to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”, and to overcome the world by his grace.
I sat down today to write a blog about pornography, and it just so happened that society is providing me with an incredible reminder of why I need to. On the day I’m writing this there are two porn-related stories trending on social media. Ostensibly, they are unrelated, but I don’t think the connection could be more obvious if it was written across a two-by-four smacking us all in the face.
The first story is about former playboy model Holly Madison, who talks about her deep misery and suicidal thoughts while working in the playboy mansion. “Would he even miss me? No, I was certain I was just another warm body – as we all were. ‘Just another blonde,’ I could hear him say.”
Second story? A porn site using crowd-funding to shoot porn in space. I won’t link to it, but suffice to say it is getting huge support.
Pornography, in so many ways, truly is the sin of our time. It’s perfectly designed for our lazy, entitled culture. It’s so easy to find, so easy to hide, so easy to rationalise. It’s so easy to say that this sin hurts no one, that it just makes people happy. But that’s not the reality.
I titled this blog after a song, whose lyrics hit me hard on this topic. The song, “XX (City Grave)”, by Silent Planet, captures the viewpoint of a human trafficking victim, with the band’s signature, raw, emotionally-intense lyrics.
Given that the vocal style of this band may not be to everyone’s liking, let me quote it here (the lyrics are well worth the read). The footnotes are also directly from the lyricist.
This injustice renders my thoughts ineffectual. Forgive me, Lover, and forget my sullen face. Privilege brings us to this place of human currencies. (We) buried our sisters in a glass display, only to evaporate to a toxic skyline – underneath we sell off the bodies.
My body became a graveyard where they buried thirsty souls. Show me your righteous leader; I’ll show you the bullet holes. The preacher[i] with the parched tongue and the “God” that he controls: “Shake off the sin! Shake off the sin!” And spit out your cacophony of lies.
I’ll climb through your screen and bleed out the image you left in me.[ii]
But God, are you a man? Then how do you see me? From where you sit up in heaven[iii], looking down on my hell. My body chokes back.
“I have nothing to draw with and the well is deep – where can I get living water?”[iv]
Enslaved in the “Land of the Free”[v] – my prison is our wedding bed where you left me for dead. You’ll leave us for dead. Apathy was our anchor to a digital sea[vi] where you drown in the comfort of our complicity.
Can Love save me? Will Your wrath avenge us?[vii]
i. Our sister’s captor; Several famous pastor types – names omitted for legal reasons
ii. Sex slaves forced into pornography, speaking back to our collective male gaze.
iii. Psalm 115:3; 139:8
iv. John 4:11
vi. Thrice, 2007
vii. Deuteronomy 32:35
There’s a very clear message here. Our apathy, if we consume porn while convincing ourselves it’s hurting no one, is enabling the victimisation of numerous people.
Human trafficking is a vast, global epidemic, and it is fueled by pornography and its related businesses – notably strip clubs and prostitution (both legal and illegal). And not all victims are trafficked. So many women are taken advantage of due to poverty, drug addiction, or other desperate circumstances, and abused horribly by the porn industry. There’s no escaping the fact that every dollar a pornographer makes contributes to abusing more people.
The Parallel Victims of Pornography
When digging a bit deeper into the lyrics of this song, I began to notice something else – hidden, but incredibly expressive.
There are several sections of this song which, in various ways, express the misery and victimisation of both the sex slave and the porn user.
The first example of this that I noticed, was the line, “But God, are you a man? Then how do you see me? From where you sit up in heaven, looking down on my hell.” At first read it’s clearly a despairing question from the trafficked woman, horrifically abused by men, to the God-man, Jesus. But it also equally expresses the self-realisation of an addicted man, reduced to an empty shell scrolling through images, compared to all that a man should be.
Then there are the two lines about burial: “(We) buried our sisters in a glass display,” and “My body became a graveyard where they buried thirsty souls.” What it expresses, to me, is the spiritual death caused by porn. The “thirsty souls”, thirsting for the truth and love of God, are buried instead in addiction and self-centeredness.
What Can We Do?
Pornography can be an overwhelming addiction in the lives of many people. With the way it now pervades society, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, to feel like it’s useless to fight. But again, reality isn’t as things appear. There is always hope, and in fact certainty of defeating a porn addiction in the grace of God. As someone who was once an addict, I know that God can provide the strength to carry on, and build a life without porn. With repentance, and Confession, he can make the broken whole again.
In the fight against human trafficking, there is also good work being done to free slaves, and stop those responsible. Just one example is the heroic team at Operation Underground Railroad.
If you’re struggling with porn, remember that you’re never alone. I and many others are praying for you, and God is there to lend his strength. Believe in Him – His truth will set you free.