Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Question: Is it a sin to masturbate?

AnswerThe short answer is "yes". Here's the long answer!

There's a pretty simple way to figure out if a sexual thing is regarded as sinful or not in the Catholic Church.

Sex is supposed to be open to life (make babies) and be a sign of love. By Love here we mean committed, lifelong love- not just some potentially fleeting emotion. So in other words, married love. the pleasure is a bonus- it's good, and within moral sex trying to maximize pleasure is good, but you can't have it without the other 2 things!

If either of those elements are missing, then the sex is considered immoral. So for example, premarital sex is immoral because it lacks the sacramental commitment. Birth control is immoral because it closes the sexual act from the possibility of making life. Masturbation is immoral because it is neither loving nor is it open to life.

Typically when someone masturbates, they are imagining a woman, or looking at porn, or something like that. What happens is that something that is supposed to make you more loving to the opposite sex makes you more selfish instead. Studies show that guys who look at porn treat women worse than guys who don't. When you masturbate, you are hard wiring your brain to use women for your pleasure- and this hard wiring can take years to undo, even after you are married and trying to be pure! That's cause your brain teaches itself how to get pleasure, and literally lays down the paths, and creates habits. So there are married men who can't have pure sex with their wives, but need to look at porn to get turned on first!

The rush of pleasure you feel when checking out a woman is a hormone called Epinephrine. Epinephrine is good, because after the rush there is stress relief, and because again it hard wires your brain to think that whatever you are looking at is the most beautiful. So in married life you would find your wife more and more attractive! but if you look at porn, you will compare your wife more and more with porn stars, and thus find her less and less attractive.

But like other drugs, Epinephrine is subject to the 'law of diminishing effects'- in other words, you need bigger and bigger doses to have the same outcome! So a guy looks at soft porn- say "Maxim magazine"- and gets a small high. Eventually Maxim is not good enough, he needs playboy or some Internet video or something. And he gets addicted, because he gets this rush and stress relief, and learns to cope through self indulgence!

Moral of the story? Just like you should not do any drugs, because they draw you in deeper and you may eventually get addicted, so you shouldn't masturbate or look at any porn because it draws you in. Porn addictions are one of the number one causes of divorce!

Something I should add to this- put homosexuality into the equation of moral sex. Even if it is a sign of committed love (it cannot be part of sacramental marriage, but let's assume for a minute...) Homosexual sex is by it's nature not open to life. Therefore it is intrinsically (by it's nature) sinful. This is why homosexual marriage is impossible for Catholics. Marriage is a sacrament, and sex is a sacramental- it is part of the sacrament. If Catholics allowed for homosexual marriage they would be taking something that is intrinsically sinful and calling it 'holy'. That would be sacrilege! It would be like saying that looking at pornography was part of the sacrament! And the Church cannot change her teaching on homosexuality, any more than it can change it's teaching on any other matter of faith and morals. After all, if it could, what authority would it have? When everyone else changes their mind, the Church remains consistent.

However, some people take this as a sign of hatred from Catholics to Gays. This is not the case- Catholics must fight genuine homophobia. (Although labelling every viewpoint contrary to that of the homosexual community homophobia is, I would say, homophobophobia...) Catholics do not 'hate' gays any more than they 'hate' heterosexual unmarried people, or married people using contraceptives, and Catholics who are divorced but not annulled.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why does God want us to Love Him?

The way I look at Gods love is like this-

Love is by its very nature creative. At an authentic level, even sinful humans will sometimes create, just to create. Paint a painting or write a song. But then, if we are pleased with what we created, we want to share it with other people.

Then we go and create other humans. Now obviously part of that is because the process is pleasurable itself. But take a look at my kids. They are pretty cute and nice and easy to love, but at the end of the day they are a lot of work and self sacrifice. If I had kids because of what I thought I would get out of them- love and affection and companionship, say- then I would quickly discover that a baby can't meet my needs. Most people know that ahead of time, but have kids anyway. Because they want to give their love to someone else!

So I think God created us for very similar reasons. He loves to create, and wanted to have someone who would rejoice in his creation, and someone he could love. He gets nothing out of the deal- just a lot of work and sacrifice. But it is worth it anyway, because love just wants to give of itself.

I think we make a mistake when we try to evangelize or encourage people to have kids or figure out why God does what he does- and that is that we assume that the only reasons for doing things are selfish reasons. So we try to compel people to Christianity or to have families by telling them what they will get out of it, when in reality it's a no brainer to realize that the sacrifices are huge. We have to appeal to a different part of people- the part that is self giving, or capable of love. Because that is what it is really about!

On a different note, I think people make the smae mistake when determinning their vocation- they look at it from a selfish perspective, and most people, selfishly, want to get married. But people who get married for selfish reasons will often get divorced for selfish reasons. It's funny that we keep acting like it is OK to get married considering only what the other does for you. I also think that this is the danger in immature (high school) dating. You commit only until you no longer get what you want out of the relationship, then the commitment is no longer binding. Rather than train you for marriiage, this trains you for divorce!

God lacks nothing and is not at all selfish, so he can't have wanted to make us because he wanted something for himself. Rather he made us because he loves to create and loves us!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why did God create Free Will?

The thing that sets us apart from the animals is not just our intelligence, or opposable thumbs, but also our free will. Without free will, there is no such thing as virtue. We might speak of a dog being 'courageous' or 'loyal', but really the dog does not (I expect) sit back and deliberate about what he's going to do- he just does it. We as humans can actually choose whether we are going to be courageous or cowards, loyal or traitors, loving or hateful, joyful or self pittying, hopeful or despairing, etc. This is the very thing that gives humans dignity beyond that of animals. We were created in the image and likeness of God, and God is love.

But real love is not a feeling or even consistent affection, but it is a choice. I think God gave us free will for much the same reason that I would prefer to think that my wife has chosen me then to think that I somehow forced her to 'love' me. I think that it is interesting that in Aladin the Genie cannot force Jasmine to love Aladin, and similarly in Bruce Almighty, Bruce cannot force his girl to love him. It's like there is an understanding that to do so would be a violation of that persons diginity, and actually it would not make sense. It would not be what people actually know that love is.

So without free will, we would be little more than intellignet animals. We would still be subject to our emotions, or some other guide, and would not be able to love. God saw that to make a world where genuine love was possible, He had to allow that the opposite, the rejection of love, (sin) was possible.

There is also the question of why God does not put limmits on our free will. After all, what loving all powerful Father would sit back and let some one rape his daughter- yet it seems that God allows this, and many more things, daily. But then I wonder- If I was all powerful, I feel like not only would I not allow someone to rape my daughter- I would not even allow them to lust after her! I would not allow children to call my son names. And I would never allow my child to steal.

God must have deemed that to make love possible, he would have to make sin possible, and I expect he would give man the full range of possibilities within physical restrictions. I think what God wants is for us to choose to love- and this includes responsibly creating laws and a culture which discourage and limmit sin.

If the whole purpose of life and our existence is love, and love has to be chosen to be love, that kety actually, surprisingly, makes sense out of a whole host of existensial questions.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What is wrong with using graphic images to fight abortion?

Warning: This blog entry contains links to images and video that may be disturbing.
Question "Why would you want to silence the last voice for the unborn?"


That is how the question was actually put to me when I made negative comments about a video posted on Facebook by members of CCBR (Canadian Center for Bio ethical Reform).

A bit of preamble first. Please note the disclaimer at the top banner of my blog- I am just stating my opinion here, which I think is important to state, but I am not speaking on behalf of Catholicism or any of the institutions I work for.

CCBR runs a program called GAP- genocide awareness project, wherein they show graphic images of aborted fetuses typically on university campuses, although they also have a truck which drives around the streets of Calgary, and, evidently, they have now expanded to High School Campuses. In recent years they have received a lot of media attention as they have faced off with school admin, police, and local church authority on whether they should be permitted to show the images.

I consider many members of CCBR to be friends- notably Stephanie Gray, Jojo Ruba, and Ruth Lobo (who was recently arrested for protesting at Carleton University). All of them are intelligent, attractive, articulate, gracious, and genuinely faith filled people who I have no doubt are seeking the Lords will. (I think Stephanie bears a slight resemblance to Sweet Pea from Veggie Tales) All of them are much more competent to debate than I am, and could easily dismantle this article with the precision of a lawyer. I would love to challenge Stephanie Gray to a debate, but I am sure she would turn me down, as she has taken on much bigger contenders. But then I could say that she refuses to debate me! (It should be noted that since this entry was first posted, Stephanie has called my bluff and challenged me to a debate. I considered it, but in then end it was me who chose to refuse. I may be accused of cowardice, but I'm OK with that. I am not confident that debating Steph would be fruitful!)

I used to think that what they were doing was fantastic- in fact, I even considered volunteering to drive the truck for them! I had them in as guest speakers in some of the venues that I worked, but then one day Bishop Fred Henry refused to endorse them, as he did not agree with their methods. Which essentially meant that if we got them in, it would appear that we thought we knew better than he did what to do. And so the majority of Catholic venues- Churches, Schools, etc- opted not to have them speak or teach.

I was looking for a loophole. I thought, what if we staged a debate, wherein I took the Bishops side? I knew full well that I would get demolished, but we could at least present it as though it were balanced. (this is by no means false humility. Anyone who knows me, and knows Steph or Jojo will readily acknowledge that they are way out of my league!)

The debate never happened, but it got me thinking- what was the Bishops side, and how would he argue it? And lo and behold, I convinced myself that he was right and they were wrong! I began challenging them on various points, and despite CCBR's aforementioned brilliance, I have not been satisfied on many of them. In time I grew to believe that not only was their actions inappropriate, but they were in fact counterproductive. I have been reluctant to share my opinion publicly, in part because I am always suspicious of my own opinions, and in part because I like the people I know in CCBR, in fact I admire them, and while I know that the senior members will be able to debate with me without straining our friendship, I also want to be friends with the younger members, and they probably won't like what I say. But I find that when they post something on facebook, all of their allies quickly congratulate them, and the many people I have spoken to who agree with me remain silent, as I do. (Maybe it's a personality thing? The more outspoken you are, the more likely you are to support CCBR, the less outspoken you are, the less likely you are to speak out your objections?)

Enough preamble. Here are my arguments for why I am opposed to what CCBR does.

Though CCBR is an extremist fringe of the pro life movement, it's actions portray the illusion that the whole pro life movement agrees with their tactics. Thus if CCBR's tactics are viewed as nasty, the whole pro life movement will be viewed as nasty.

CCBR's stunts have garnered a lot of media attention. They are the most vocal component of the pro life movement, thus in the minds of many they are the pro life movement. This is destructive, for the same reason that people who predict the end of the world or burn the Koran discredit Christianity, or people who blow up airplanes discredit Islam.

CCBR discredits Pro Life, and by extension, discredits Christianity, making us all look nasty and condemning.

Overstating your argument makes it easier to refute.

If you want to defeat your opponent, set him up like a straw man. Make his arguments a ridiculous absolute, or so radical that it is easy to refute. Then you don't have to address the actual issue. This method is used very readily by Richard Dawkins.

CCBR does this to the pro-life message by calling abortion 'genocide'. Every thinking person knows that it is not in fact genocide. CCBR will drum out a definition of genocide from somewhere that abortion meets- something about systematically killing all the individuals in a particular demographic. The difficulty is that how most people define genocide, and I presume how most dictionaries define it, includes that there is an attempt to eradicate that demographic. Obviously pro-choicers do not intend to exterminate unborn humans.

If the message of CCBR is equated with the message of all of pro life, then by simply refuting the 'genocide' argument people will think that they have defeated the pro life argument. People will not be debating abortion, but semantics and tactics.

When a vegetarian tells me, 'meat is murder', I consider it laughable because it is too extreme and does not address the real issues. If they said "McDonalds is Genocidal" because of its use of Beef, I would not hear them out. But if they demonstrate that KFC is cruel to chickens- well now they have a point, and I will listen, and may even avoid KFC.

Likewise, calling abortion genocide when everyone knows its not makes your opponents think that if your opening line is so irrational, then likely the rest of your arguments are too.

Incidentally, genocide not only would be a cause for just war, and would necessitate it. We have a responsibility to fight genocide, with violence if necessary, and the UN agrees. Calling abortion genocide incites violence.

There is a difference between using a graphic image to fight abortion and using a graphic image to fight the holocaust, racism, and drunk driving.

Lets concede for the moment that there are circumstances where using graphic images is appropriate and effective. Lets ignore the argument that the images used by CCBR should be rated "R" by movie standards, and thus should not be posted where minors can see them, much less plastered on the side of a truck or brought to a high school without admins consent.

CCBR will often point to other cases where graphic images were used to make a point, that most people will agree was justified. Here's the problem. Seeing those graphic images of aborted fetuses feels to me like being punched in the face. Even though I am somewhat desensitized to them, having seen them a lot, even while writing this I went to their website for a moment, and had an instant emotional reaction.

I cannot imagine what a girl who had an abortion feels. CCBR will likely argue that it is not about feelings, but about fact. That's nice, but feelings motivate people, more than facts, and every one in marketing, media, and politics knows this. Get the heart, the mind will follow.

Those others mentioned- don't they feel punched? Maybe. But I think most people think they deserve it. Picture a Nazi in your head. Now picture a member of the KKK. Now a drunk who refuses to hand over his keys. Now a girl contemplating an abortion. One of these things is not like the others! 3/4 of them, I want to punch in the head, and I think a good number of people would congratulate me for doing so. But to the girl, I want to show compassion, I want to console, to forgive, to help her to forgive herself, to give her help.

Prolifers are perceived as people who want to punch girls considering abortion in the head, while planned parenthood and its affiliates are seen as people who want to help and console them. This is why we are losing the culture war! Remember that our long term goal is not to 'save one baby, and it's all worth while.' Our long term goal is to change our culture. Portraying ourselves as nasty extremists is counter productive.

When rights are abused they are diminished.

Recently a page walked to the center of the floor during a throne speech, holding a sign that said 'Stop Harper". She was, of course, escorted out by security. While many congratulate her brazenness and creativity, ( I thought it looked like an immature stunt, but anyway...) it begs the question- how far does the right to freedom of expression extend? What if everybody with an agenda did that? It would be impossible for our government to function, and it would shut down. And so when people lack a proper sense of decorum, when they will not police themselves, laws have to be made to force them. Imprudent use of freedom of speech results in diminished freedom of speech.

Universities and others are scrambling to find a way to stop CCBR from disobeying their statutes. When they find that they have no legal case, they are forced to make laws to ensure that it won't happen again. If CCBR will not respect legitimate authority, then why should Falun Gong or polygamy groups or men who love boys groups? Why shouldn't they all show up with posters rated R at High Schools to communicate their message? Obviously we cannot allow that, so we're going to have to make laws to stop it. There are already universities who will not permit a club that has a mandate of making abortion illegal. If we portray ourselves as defiant intellectual terrorists, perhaps someone will make a law that pro life groups are not permitted.

People don't listen when you shout.

Ever have someone shout something at you that you disagreed with? What happened, did you change your mind? You ever see 2 people debating, and one was shouting and in the others face, while the other remained calm? Who did you think was right?

Again, we're prompted by feelings. If you yell at me, I will become entrenched in my opinion, and if you yell at others, I will take the position opposite yours just out of spite... without even realizing it! CCBR knows this well. They do a fantastic job of training their people to be gracious, even when being yelled at, threatened, chanted down, insulted, etc. This is where they are most effective. People witness this, admire them, and think they are right.

The problem is that when all you see is the truck, or the pictures at university, or on the newspaper when one of them gets arrested... you don't see them being articulate and gracious, you just see a picture that yells!

What Saint would stand with you?

To me, this is really the strongest argument, although it will not resonate with everyone. I have made it my goal to be a Saint. As such, I try to imitate the saints of the past. Saints pray, so I try to, Saints do not overdulge and gather wealth, so I try not to. I am by no means anywhere close, but it gives me a compass anyway.

So I ask myself... what saint would have stood at a GAP display? Knowing what I know of their personalities... I think people could raise some pretty good debates about characters like John the Baptist, Joan of Arc, Damien of Molokai, Francis Xavier and Dorothy Day (who was not actually canonized and likely won't be for those very kind of reasons...). In my opinion, none of them would stand at a GAP display.

And niether would Christ. CCBR loves to answer the "Would Jesus use graphic images" argument by saying "He already did" and showing an image of Christ crucified from the Passion of the Christ. But I think they are confusing Jesus with Mel Gibson, who has also done some things that I think were discrediting to Christianity. At any rate, I think we would all agree that Jesus did not die on the Cross in order to create a graphic image, but rather his death happened to be graphic, and that is a very different thing. And the message that his graphic death communicated was not 'look how bad your sins are' but 'look how much I love you.'

Jesus could certainly be harsh, don't get me wrong. He was very harsh towards the pharisees and lawyers and the rich, and so on. Interestingly, those are the very same people that John the Baptist, Francis Xavier, Damien of Molokai and Dorothy Day fought with. None of them, from what I know, were harsh to prostitutes, or people married outside the church, or addicts, in short, the lowly sinners. I think girls who have abortions fall into that category- the kind of people Jesus was not harsh with, but would sit down and eat with.

When I consider the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus does not stone her, but tells her to sin no more. I think CCBR has more in common with the pharisees than with Christ in how they treat sinners.

CCBR is undermining the good work of other groups.

This is my concluding thought of the longest post I have ever written.

CCBR often objects that I cannot actually demonstrate that their work is counterproductive- that I rely a lot on anecdotal evidence and suppositions, and I don't have any stats or evidence to back up my opinions. However, neither can they prove that in the long term they are changing our culture. Frankly, I think the burden of proof is on them- after all, they're at it full time!

None the less, I intend to create a survey, which will hopefully use unbiased language, which can be distributed online so that people can anonymously weigh in and give their say as to whether CCBR's tactics are effective. At least then we can have an opinion poll! It would rely a lot on the integrity of those taking the poll, but it would be interesting! Check back here to see if I got around to it.

Meanwhile, let us agree that CCBR may be effective, it may not be. Other prolife events are suffering because of them. CCBR (and like minded people) have hijacked events like the Life Chain in Calgary and the March for Life in Edmonton. Because they see their tactics as the most effective, they refuse to leave them, even though other people will not support those events because they do not want to be associated with the graphic images! I have anecdotal evidence for the Life Chain and 40 days for life event, of people not wanting to go if the images are there. But more importantly, the Alberta bishops did not attend the March for Life because of the images, as reported in the Western Catholic Reporter.

Prolife groups have also commented that people are no longer giving to them, because though they are not the ones putting up the images, the association is made and people want no part in it.

My last argument is that they are tying up resources that could otherwise be used for things that are effective. Money, for example, from donors. If they were not giving to CCBR, presumably they'd be giving to either pro life or evangelistic or humanitarian causes.

But more importantly they tie up human resources. I am not exaggerating when I say that Stephanie Gray and Jojo Ruba are two of the most logical and articulate voices I know for pro life and other causes. But they are so dedicated to their tactics that they refuse to speak without them. As a result, Catholic schools and other institutions in deference to their bishops cannot bring them in! It is unimaginable the fruits that they could bring if they went on a speaking tour to Catholic High School religion classes. And despite the depiction in the video, Catholic schools are becoming increasingly powerful allies in the fight for truth, and faithful Catholics should be looking to strengthen and work with them rather than to attack them.

I pray daily for an end to abortion and an overturn of the culture of death, and often I pray specifically for CCBR that they will do good work that will bear fruit. Let's pray that they have the humility and wisdom to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit!

As an after thought, I'm always challenged to come up with something that does work. Here's what I think-

1. Evangelization is more important than fighting abortion, and more urgent, so focus on that primarily.
2. 40 days for life seems very effective to me, so that's another good idea. What does Abby Johnson think of graphic images?
3. I think CCBR is kind of like green peace- big stunts to get attention, but does it work? Incovenient Truth worked way better. I know people are trying the documentary route- seems like a good idea!
4. Get Jojo and Steph into the schools! If they stop breaking rules, I bet they can get in!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why doesn't God destroy the Devil? Why would he allow people to go to Hell?

question Why doesn't God just wipe out the Devil? Is he powerless to do so? Or does he want him kicking around? Why does Hell exist? If you can believe that something as complicated as God can exist without being caused, then why can't you believe that something much simpler, the universe, could?

I don't know the technical answer to this, but here's an interesting thought- which actually addresses all of the questions above. (These questions were taken from the comments on previous posts.)

I believe the fact that God is existence makes sense of this. When asked His name, God said "I AM". Basically, He is existence. This is the problem with asking things like "Does God exist" and "How can God exist without being Created". Existence can't not exist, and existence can't be brought into existence by something else- that's just the nature of existence. People could argue that existence does not have the qualities otherwise attributed to God, but that would be a pretty convoluted debate. For the sake of moving forward, God is existence.

Now God is also love. Out of Love, God brings things into existence. Above all He brings immortal creatures into existence. Because He loves them, He creates them immortal- so they share in his nature and never die or cease to exist. This is unique in that it is only true of spiritual beings- humans and angels, essentially.

Once God creates them immortal, though, this becomes their nature. So for them to cease to exist would require a willfull act on His part. But He is existence, and He is love. So for them to cease to exist, He would have to stop loving them- which He cannot do! (When people say God is all powerful, He is still bound by His nature. He cannot cease existing, contradict himself, or stop loving.)

However, even while God creates us such that we exist forever, he does not force us to be in a relationship with Him. He only invites us to. Force would not be love. We may not realize when we reject Him what we are doing, but we effectively do choose Hell, because Hell is eternal existence apart from He that is everything good. Theoretically it is always possible for us to choose God- even after death, but our twisted nature prevents us from doing so. Like people who refuse to forgive or accept forgiveness- the one preventing them is themselves, not others, not God.

It would be more pleasant not to believe in Hell, but that's backwards reasoning. People often refute the idea of God by saying 'If there was a God, God would be thus. God is not thus, therefore there is no God.' I find the evidence for God too strong, so I go the other way. "God exists. God is not thus. Therefore, I must be worng about what I expect God to be."

One other note on this. We expect God to be like a really saintly human. We emphasize his Goodness and Mercy. These traits are real, and we humans only have them in so far as we participate in the nature of God. However, we should not forget fear of the Lord. This was emphasized hugely in both the Old and New Testament, and in the Early Church and throughout history. We have forgotten that God is Justice, and we must fear and respect Him. Muslims and Jews fault us for calling God Father, and overemphasizing his compassion, without recognizing that He is God.

We mustn't create God in our own images!

I'm a Wiccan. What do you think?

The thing that keeps me going back to Christianity is two fold. One, the firm conviction that Jesus really did rise from the dead. I think the historical evidence for this is fairly difficult to refute, from eyewitness testimonies to physical evidence like the shroud of turin, to the fact that there was no evidence to the contrary, that is, no corpse of Christ which could be presented to say "no he didn't", even though there were a lot of people denying it even at that time. And the testimonies are written in a very historical form, shortly after the events. They do not have the mythic elements you would expect if someone were making this up.

The other reason is because of the teaching authority. I do not believe that people could guess at spiritual truths with any hope of accuracy. I think the only way we could be right is if God revealed Himself to us, and ensured that we could not go wrong. The reason there are so many religions in the world is precisely because there are so many people attempting to guess at truth. But in order for God to reveal the truth, there would first have to be a god who cares about us enough to do so. Interestingly, only the monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) even claim to have been revealed. Everyone else- Hindus, Native Spritualists, Wicca, etc- are just guessing.

That said, it would be pretty ignorant to declare Christianity true and all others false without demonstrating that it is. But if I could convincingly demonstrate that Christianity were true and nothing else was, I would be a remarkably gifted man. I don't think I can do that to most peoples satisfaction, even my own. But I have convinced myself that it is the most likely thing to be true, and have thus chosen to believe it.

So starting from the basis of Christianity being true, there are many things about Wicca that I think are not only wrong, but dangerous. For one, Wicca does not appear to have any real moral base, asside from "an it harm none, do what ye will". This sounds great, but it begs the question when it comes to issues like abortion, just war, divorce, pornography, self indulgence, accumulation of wealth, infidelity etc. It does not define the sanctity of life or love or sex, or our social obligations to one another. I think there is a higher morality. There is objective good and objective evil, not just 'positive and negative'.

Secondly, Christianity affirms that there is one God, and we should worship no others. The majority of Wiccans worship at least 2 gods, niether of which can easily be said to be the one God that Christians worship. The problem is that if Christianity is real, and there is only one God that we must worship, but Wiccans worship 'gods' who are not figments of their imagination, then who are the gods? In the Old Testament, idols were either just madeup, or they were demons. This belief was still held in the New Testament and early church. In fact, the Greek god Pan, with goat legs and horns, became the image for Satan. I notice that though most Wiccans would not like to say that they worship Satan, as they do not really believe in an evil being like Satan, they do worship a horned God, someimes called Pan. As for Goddess worship, this was considered a very dangerous cult in the Old Testament. So what if Christianity is true, but so is Wicca? The implication is that Wiccans are worshiping demons, and not the true God.

The last thing is the use of magick. Fortune telling, contacting the dead, etc, were expressly forbidden in the Old Testament. There is actually a witch in the OT, called the witch of Endor, who contacts the dead. In the New Testament there is a magician, known to history as Simon Magus, who could also be said to be a witch, as it does not appear that he was merely an illusionist. Simon, when he saw the power that the apostles had in the name of the Holy Spirit, attempted to purchase the power. He did not understand that you cannot purchase the Holy Spirit, and as a result to this day the purchase of holy or blessed objects is known as the sin of simony.

Anyway, Christianity does not say that magic does not exist, but that it is forbidden. There is power, but God has not granted us the authority to use it. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya with Renewal Ministries on a mission. The leader of our group, Peter Thompson, had previosuly been on a mission where he prayed for a woman who had gone to a witch doctor who had done magic on her. The woman had remarkable demonic manifestations. You can see his testimony here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWkvjniU6jM.

There are countless other stories where demons get involved because people get involved in occult practices. (I think it is interesting that in the Salem Witch trials, which I by no means condone, the girls who started it all had been involved in fortune telling, and suddenly began manifesting demonic activity, which triggered the whole thing).

The question I think you need to ask is this. Did Jesus really rise from the dead? If so, what does that imply about his teaching? If he is God, and God has forbidden the worship of other gods and the use of magic, then do we dare to do what he has forbidden?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Do we have to believe in the Devil?

I was watching a re run of Criminal Minds and in it, they say that if you believe in God then you must believe in the devil. It is part of the Catholic teachings. We are taught that the devil was one of Gods closest angels but his intentions were in the wrong place. He tried to over through God but instead of coming out on top he was cast out of heaven and sent to hell. So therefore if you believe in God do you have to believe in the devil?

I do believe in the devil and that he really does exist but my guidance counselor at school who is also a nun doesn't. When I was in the darkest point of my depression I talked to her because I felt that I was being watched and followed by something evil and that I would occasionally hear voices talking to me and telling me to do bad things. Don't worry I no longer feel or hear anything evil around me. So while I was talking to our counselor she mentioned to me that she thought I might be I guess a little crazy. She then proceeded to tell me that she believes in God and the good but she doesn't believe in the devil and evil. Which strikes me as weird and almost wrong. But I could be wrong. She's a nun so she would obviously have to believe in God but I just think that she should have to believe in the devil. For me I think that you can choose to not acknowledge evil but still know that it exist.

Answer Yes, Catholics are supposed to believe in the Devil. The thing about Catholicism is that it is a whole package- if you believe that the Church has authority to teach, than you believe what it teaches. If you don't think it has authoity, than why be Catholic?

The Church leaves a lot of things open to debate- as in, she does not have a clear teaching on many things. But she is clear that there is such a thing as the Devil, and Demons. Many people do not want to believe in the Devil, or Hell, because those are so unplesant to think about. I have to be honest, if I could drop Hell from my set of beliefs, I would! But then the Church and the Bible would be wrong, so I would not know what to believe.

There are some people who don't belive the holocaust5 happened. And I think most people like to live their lives as if people today are not dying of starvation. But just because something is unpleasant to think about, does not mean it isn't real. Many times it means that we have to do something about it!

Many Catholics pick and choose what they want to believe, and hold their own opinion up as if it is higher than that of the Church. But the Church has taught the same stuff for 2000 years without contradiction, aparently because she is inspired by the Holy Spirit. I for one am glad that there is an authority out there, so I don't have to guess about everything. It's funny that people who know nothing about science will choose to trust a scientist, but people who know nothing about religion still think their ignorant opinion is more likely correct that the experts, the Church!

As for the voices you heard- on the one hand, demons are real, and possession is real. In face, almost every diocese still has an exorcist! But if you were to call an exorcist, he would first want to eliminate the psychological possibilities. Knock out schizophrenia first, then look at the spiritual. It can be potentially dangerous to start wondering if you are posessed. Interestingly, the Devil gets stronger power over us as a result of our fear and our fascination in him. It is much better to just keep going to God, and think about God instead!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why are we Christians and not Jews?

Question Today someone asked me a question and I didn't really know how to answer. Jesus was the King of the Jews, so why do we believe in Catholicism rather being Jewish? I know it has something to do with how the Jews forsoke the Lord, but do you have any more in depth knowledge about this?

Answer The Jews were the original chosen people. God made a covenant with them. A covenant is like a contract, except instead of an exchange of goods it's an exchange of persons. Marriage is an example of a covenant. So God said to them "I'll be your God, you be my people. I will do the following, and you can do the following" (10 commandmants). But the Jews did not live up to their side of the bargain. Again and again God sent them prophets to say "Listen, guys, get on board. Stop worshiping idols. Stop supporting unjust economic policies." So by analogy, it's like God was married to them, but they were being an unfaithful spouse. Over and over God used that kind of marriage language, notobly in Ezekiel, and he even told Hosea to marry a prostitute to show an example of someone being faithful to an unfaithful spouse like God was doing.

Well, part of the deal with the Jews was that one day God would send them a king, and he would be in the line of David (their greatest king ever) and he would rule forever. This was the culmination of the covenant. But rather than accept it, the Jews rejected and killed their Messiah! This is why Jesus always said things like "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." When they rejected him, they basically rejected their covenant with God! But God still remained faithful- he made the covenant binding, and said "Alright, if the Jews don't want it, we'll fling open the doors to everyone, including the Gentiles." (Notice the analogies Jesus makes to a wedding feast and those who were invited don't attend?)

So basically, the old covenant was broken, but God made a new one. Jesus sealed the deal by dying for us. That's why he said "This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant." And on the cross he said "It is finnished" or better translated "It is consumated". When we recieve the Eucharist, we recieve Gods gift of himself, and we become the new covenant people.

So... the short answer is that we are not Jewish because when Jesus came he was a total game changer. The covenant with the Jews was destroyed, and a new covenant was made, and we are part of the new covenant. (That's also what is meant by "Old Testament, New Testament"- like last will and testament. We are the inheritors now of Gods offer because the Jews wouldn't take it.)

It's interesting too, because the Jews no longer can fulfill their part of the deal. They had to offer sacrifices in the Temple, but the temple was destroyed shortly after Christ, marking the end of the whole deal. This got described in the book of Revelation as the destruction of the "Whore of Babylon", because 'she' had been Gods unfaithful spouse.

You should know that alot of people don't like to address this stuff, in case it sounds like anti-semitism, but once you get this it makes sense out of all kinds of Bible passages!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why can't women be priests? (2)

I was doing some more thinking about this subject, and thought it'd be intesting to put it into a 'platonic dialogue'- so called because Plato used this technique to make his points. It allows you to better express the two opinions.

Rob Why can't women be priests? Isn't that sexist?

Ben The Catholic Church does not have the authority to ordain women. Jesus only ordained men, not women, as apostles. He has never told us to do otherwise.

Rob Jesus only ordained men because in his day only men were credible as leaders and speakers- no one would have listened to a woman.

Ben So, then, if I could argue that men are more credible today than women, would that make it OK to only ordain men? Because it does seem when you consider who the best paid actors are, or musicians, or the most powerful politicians, notably in N America, that despite the fact that these things should dirrectly reflect peoples choice, men come out on top.

Rob That's because our culture remains sexist. As Christians we need to take a stand against sexism, and change our culture.

Ben Would you say that sexism is a 'social sin', and that participating in it or reinforcing that culture is a 'personal sin'?

Rob Uh, yeah, I think so....

Ben Well, by your argument, Jesus only ordained Men to go along with the sinful culture of his day. That means he participated in sin. Is taht what you are saying?

Rob No, of course not.

Ben Then it follows that Jesus must have had some other reason to ordain only men.

Rob Then why did he?

Ben I don't know. Maybe because men and women are inherently different. Maybe because men better represent Christ, who was a man. Maybe the roles actually compliment the genders, but illustrating their differences.

Rob It still seems like a sexist policy to me.

Ben Maybe so, but Jesus himself started it, and has not given us the authority to change it. We may not fully know or understand his reasons, but he is God, and the Church does cannot change what God instituted.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Will people who commit suicide go to Hell?

Question I have a question that I've been holding onto for a while. I remember a while back at camp, when it was the 'question' part of mass, someone asked if suicide was wrong, and Father Paul said that yes, it was the worst sin you could ever commit. I'm not suicidal (not even close!), but I've had a couple thoughts about that. Like, if someone had lived a good christian life, but they struggled with depression or something, and couldn't see any way out other than suicide, would God send them to hell just because they weren't thinking clearly? To me, it doesn't seem to make sense. I've had some issues with depression, and I know how it can really cloud your mind and twist everything around, and I don't think God would do something that horrible to someone who just wanted an escape. what do you think?


Suicide is what is called a 'grave sin'- this means that it is a very serious sin, that if other conditions are in place, would make it a mortal sin. A mortal sin is a sin so serious that it cuts off your relationship from God. If you die in a state of mortal sin, you go to Hell. Of course suicide is not just a grave sin, but one that kills you as well, so it may be one that sends you straight to Hell.

In order for something to be a mortal sin, though, 3 conditions must be met. 1. It must be grave matter. 2. The person sinning has to have full knowledge of what they are doing. 3. The person sinning must have full control over what they are doing. (Full consent)

So if someone is intoxicated, or depressed, or something, they may not have full knowledge and full consent. Like you said, depression can 'cloud your mind and twist everything around', so while suicide would still be a grave sin no matter what, it may not be mortal sin. So probably not everyone who commits suicide goes to Hell. What we have to remember is that God is merciful, way more merciful than any of us would be, and that He sees all the details of the situation. So what we have to do is entrust people to his mercy.

Incidentally if you or anyone you know is ever considering suicide, the right thing to do in that case is to get help, even if it means compromising your friendship with the individual!