Thursday, January 23, 2020


There once was a colony of caterpillars who lived in a tree.  Every day they would creep around on the leaves, eating the leaves, and watching out for birds.

One day a butterfly came and landed among them. The butterfly had huge beautiful colourful wings, could fly, did not have to crawl around and stay in one tree all the time.

The caterpillars said “Wow, butterfly, you are so beautiful and amazing!  We really admire you for being so wonderful!”

But the butterfly said “Don’t you know?  You are all meant to be butterflies!  This is what you were created to be!”

The caterpillars said “How is that possible? You are so beautiful and nimble and light, and we are so clumsy and ugly and slow!”

The butterfly said “You were made to be like me. You must wrap yourself in a cocoon for a few days.  That’s where you will be transformed, and you will emerge as butterflies!”

Then the butterfly flew to another tree, to tell more caterpillars the good news!

The caterpillars argued amongst themselves. Some said “It’s impossible- he was lying to us. We will never be anything more than caterpillars.”

But others said “We believe him!  If we go into cocoons we will emerge as butterflies!”

This group began calling themselves ‘The Butterflies’ because they believed.  But when it came time to go into cocoons, they said “Wow… that’s a big sacrifice. We wouldn’t be able to do anything caterpillar ish for several days! It’s scary! It looks like work!”  And so they decided not to go into cocoons.

From that day forward, there were the caterpillars who did not believe, and the caterpillars who did, who called themselves butterflies, but remained exactly like the other caterpillars anyway.

The end.

4 analogies for what it means to be a Christian

Run the race.

The Bible describes the Christian walk as like a competition.  We're are all working towards a goal, the goal being heaven or sanctification, a reward for our good works. Jesus said;

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

So the road to life is a struggle, it's work, it's "Take up your cross" and "Count the cost".

St Paul puts it this way;

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. ... Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.

Also in Hebrews 12:1-2

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

I'm kind of drawn to this language.  There is a tradition in the Christian church, where if you've got some vice-  you know like you lose your temper, or your greedy- you practice the opposite virtue. So if you're greedy, practice generosity. If you're impatient, practice patience.  Every vice has an opposite virtue, and the virtue is like a muscle, where the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes. A person with strong character is called 'virtuous'. A weak person is called 'vicious'.  Come up with practical things- make a plan.  Exterior discipline leads to interior conversion. If you're lazy- counter it by setting an alarm and disciplining yourself to get up a get working, and not give yourself a break until you accomplish a goal. you don't become an Olympic athlete without work. You don't become a disciple of Christ without work.

In this way, the Christian walk is about striving, about pushing yourself, to be holy.

Right about now the Calvinists reading this are freaking out. They'll tell you that the heresy I'm spouting is called "Pelagianism".  See, the run the race analogy is scriptural... but it's incomplete. It implies that you earn your salvation through working hard enough.

The truth is, all Christians agree that we saved by grace-  grace meaning the free gift of God, something we cannot earn.

Ephesians 2: 8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.

To explain this we have a courtroom analogy.  God is a just God.  God warned us that "The wages of sin is death." (Rom 6:23).  So if we sin, the consequence is death, not just physical death, but spiritual death- Hell. This debt needs to be paid. But it get's paid by Christ in our place, so that if we accept his  Sacrifice, he takes our place, gave his life "as a ransom for many" Mark 10:45, so that "all those who believe in Him may not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).

So the analogy is that God, the just judge, sees our sins, and declares the just consequence to our sins is death.  But then he leaves his post as the judge, and comes and advocates for us, and pays the price Himself. and so he redeems us from the consequences of sin.

I think both the run the race analogy and the courtroom analogy are helpful, and true to a point- but they are also both flawed and incomplete. For this reason God gives us other analogies.

He tells us that we are his adopted sons and daughters.  In both the striving and the courtroom analogy, it creates a sense of legalism which God is bound to, and the sense that our perfection is the most important thing. We are trying to be perfect slaves.  But God wants to adopt us as children.

John 1:12-13
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

This is a different image.  When we say that God redeemed us by his grace, we see that we are adopted.  If I were to die, my vast wealth would be divided among my 5 children. But if I adopted a 6th child- they too would inherit their share of my wealth. So because we were adopted as children, we get to inherit the kingdom of God. and this depends entirely on grace.  You can't earn sonship by being a really great slave.

But it seems to me the analogy God uses the most for his relationship with us is of marriage. In the Old Testament he talks about Israel as His bride, and when she goes after other Gods, he even says she's acting like a whore!  In fact he makes one of his prophets, Hosea, marry a prostitute, just to illustrate this point.  Yet he remains faithful.

In the book of Revelation, it ends with the 'wedding feast of the lamb.'  This is why the Church is called "The bride of Christ", and why we always refer to the Church as "she".

When I asked Catherine to marry me, I didn't actually ask. I made a list of all my wonderful attributes, and of all the wonderful things I had done for her, and informed her that she was obligated to marry me, because I had earned it. Imagine my surprise when she rejected me!  I was bewildered, because I was such a great guy, and I was entitled to a relationship with her!

My friend took me aside, and explained that the logic of love is the logic of gift.  If she chose to love me, it wasn't because I deserved it, but because of her goodness. No matter what I did, I could never earn her love.

Anyway, having learned my lesson, I went back to her and asked her properly if she would marry me, and she agreed. But then things got awkward. On valentines day, I didn't get her a present.  I ignored her birthday, didn't help out around the house, didn't show her affection. When she confronted me on it, I explained to her that love is a gift, and she chose to give herself to me, so why was she demanding that I earn her love?

That didn't go so well.

My friend had to explain to me that in a marriage, the agreement is to love each other. So doing all those good things for my wife don't earn me her life, but it is what it means to love her.

This is my favorite analogy for our relationship with God. On the one hand, I don't deserve to be a Christian- it only by God's grace that He gives Himself to me, and so I give myself back. On the other hand, the response of love to love is to love others. 1 John 4:19 "We love because he first loved us".

1 John 4:20
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

So the race analogy and the courtroom analogy are helpful to understand aspects of our faith, but at the end of the day the logic of Christianity is the logic of love.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Jesus is for Losers

Believe me, I know what it means to be a loser.
When I was in middle school, I was a loser. Like, the biggest loser. You know those kids who nobody likes, their just to weird, everybody knows they are a loser? Those kids thought I was a loser! It's not that I didn't have any friends. I had two friends- but they were both imaginary. And they never played with me, they only played with each other. I remember in grade 6, my teacher, Monsieur Choquette, was getting mad at everyone for something. You know when your teacher is getting mad at you for one specific thing, and then the start throwing in every other bad thing you or some other student might have done once into their lecture? Suddenly he changes the thing he's mad at, and he starts saying "And why doesn't anyone like Peter? I think he's a nice guy..." I was like- wait, what? When I was in middle school, my family moved to an upper middle class neighborhood in South Calgary. The year was 1990, and in those days everybody had to wear just the right clothes- Guess Jeans or Levi’s 501, Doc Martens or Vans for shoes. I tried so hard to fit in! I remember going shoe shopping with my dad and begging him not to buy me Reeboks, because those shoes were not cool anymore. Though they would have been a step up from my Zellers brand Bullet shoes. Instead we bought Vans, and I finally had something cool to wear to school! Imagine my frustration when I went to school and discovered that my Vans had black lining on the soles. All the cool kids had Vans with white lining. My classmates made sure to point this out- repeatedly. Or when they noticed that my Jeans were “Spider” brand. I went home that night and reasoned that the brand name really wouldn’t matter if no one could see it- so I just had to rip off the label, and I’d be fine. But under the “Spider” label was another label which said “Alley Cats”- and that one would not come off. All the cool kids would stand around in a clump before school and at recess. There was only really one group of cool kids, and it consisted of about ⅔ of the kids. There were smaller groups of nerdy kids- academics. But I didn’t hang out with any of them because I didn’t want to be seen as one of them. Then there were the loners. Like the kid everyone called Mario, who always wore Mario themed clothes. One day all the cool kids swarmed him, and started chanting “Mario, Mario!” To get away he tried to climb a chain link fence. The tall kind, behind the baseball diamond. He just sat there at the top while all the cool kids mocked him, wishing he had a Mario Tube he could escape through… Of course I joined the mob of bullies, so I could fit in. Then there was Joey Oberhoffner. We’d always sing “Joey O, Joey O….”, to the tune of the guards in the Wizard of Oz. He always wore the same turquoise pants. He insisted he had three pairs, but we never believed him. But see those kids, they knew that they were losers. I kept trying to fit in with the cool kids, so I’d try to be discreet- sneak up on the cool kids in their clump when they weren’t looking, and then just stand there as if I were an accepted member of their group. The cool kids called me a follower, and the losers tried to persuade me it wasn’t working. I remember one day I approached the group of cool kids, who seemed unaware that I was coming closer. Until suddenly like a flock of birds they moved 12 steps away from me and all turned to look at me and see what I would do. Only one kid stood beside me- a kid we called “Donut” for reasons that were never made clear to me. Donut looked at me and said in an extremely sarcastic tone “Will you be my friend”? I quietly walked away while they laughed, but I quietly resolved that I would just hang low for a bit, let this blow over, and in a few weeks I would sneak back into the pack. I wanted so badly to fit in, and now as an adult I still feel the pressure to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. But as a Christian I need to remind myself that this is not what life is about. After all, Jesus is for losers! I don’t just mean that he’ll like me no matter how fashionable I’ll be- although of course that is true. Even if I am a failure at all the things that matter to people in this world- fail to secure a good education, fail to purchase a nice house, fail to get promoted at work, fail to have the perfect family- even then God’s love never fails. But there’s more to it than that! What if I fail to love, the very thing for which God created me? What if I am a sinner like the worst of sinners, the kind that everybody would judge and reject, the kind who wouldn’t dare show their face in the doors of a church? The thing about going to Church, turning to Christ, is that it’s kind of like taking a shower. People don’t take showers because they are cleaner than everybody else. They take showers because they need ‘em more! So if you are a ‘loser’ in the spiritual sense- then you need grace! Jesus put it this way; "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17) As Christians we might try to be like that middle school kid who keeps following the cool kids around and parroting them. But we are called to ‘despise the things of this world’ (Cf 1 John 2:15) We are warned not to ‘conform to the pattern of this world’ (Romans 12:2). The call of the Christian is not to be like the cool kids. The call of the Christian is to let grace transform us, and not to let the worries of life and lure of wealth choke the life of grace in us. The thing is that the things of this world are not all despicable! It was obvious in high School that I should reject the sex, drugs, and alcohol culture that pervaded. It’s obvious how that stuff leads you away from God. But there is another thing which may be a little more insidious in our culture today, which I think Christians are buying in wholesale. It is the idea that ‘happiness’ or ‘wellness’ is our goal. Christianity is reduced to a means to an end, a relationship that you have while pursuing that end. Now don’t get me wrong- wellness is a good thing. But I keep getting asked to give this talk on how faith contributes to wellness. And it does! Objectively people in our culture who are plugged in to their faith and a faith community are happier, more successful, have stronger marriages, less depression… it would seem that if wellness were your goal making sure to have an active prayer life and attend Church would help a lot! But wellness is not the goal of the Christian life. If it were, than people like Jesus and the apostles failed miserably at achieving that goal. Most of the apostles were martyred, or imprisoned, or faced other extreme hardships. Jesus himself was killed. When Jesus was recruiting people he did not say “Come follow me, and I will make you happy, and you will experience the wellness for which you were created.” Instead he said “Come follow me, take up your cross, drink the cup that I will drink. You will be persecuted and rejected. Rejoice in your suffering.” The reality is that the goal of the Christian life is love, and this reorientation towards love instead of wellness changed everything. When the goal is love, suffering makes sense as a way of loving. Making sacrifices and fasting and living simply all make sense in the logic of love, but not in the logic of wellness. Having a lot of kids doesn’t even make sense to people who make wellness their goal… but Catholics have a lot of kids! No wonder Christians are rejected in the eyes of the world! Jesus is for losers! Not for the self made people who have it all together on their own power. As disciples of Christ, we go to Him, to the source of grace, and grace enables us to live a life of love which is radically counter cultural.

Friday, April 20, 2018

What is the Gospel message?

One day while I was in Kenya, I was walking down a beach in Malindi, on the Indian Ocean.  I got talking to guy called Captain Omar.  He was a Captain, because he owned his own rowboat.  He was Omar, because he was Muslim.  I didn't figure that our right away, and if I had maybe I would have been a little more cautious since the coast of Kenya is known for violence by Muslims towards Christians.

Captain Omar asked me why I was in Kenya-  was I tourist?

"No, I'm actually a missionary"

"What's that?"

"Someone who tells people about Jesus."

"I'm a person, tell me."

I suddenly found myself at a loss.  I'm great at apologetics, or defending isolated moral teachings, or explaining about miracles, or whatever.  But how do I explain to someone who knows next to nothing about Jesus why Jesus mattered?

By this time I knew he was Muslim, so I said something to the effect of  "Well, you believe in God-  and so do I.  But I believe that God became a man... well first He became a baby, and was born in a manger.  Then he grew up and became a man... not all of God, you see, just God the Son, who is fully God but there's still God that is not son... and they killed him, but he came back to life. Then he went to Heaven. But we still eat his body every week at Church."

You ever realize how stupid Christianity sounds to unbelievers?  No wonder the strongest argument against us is not really an argument so much as to make us feel intellectually embarrassed that we actually hold to these doctrines.

But it shows the problem-  even I, as a trained missionary and youth minister, could not quickly explain to a stranger what Christianity was really about.

This quick introductory teaching about Christianity is called Kerygma, which is just a Greek word for preaching.  It is worth isolating the basic pieces of it, so usually you'll see something like this;

1. God is Love and created us out of Love.
2. We sinned and broke our relationship with God.
3. Jesus came and died for us so that we can be with God again.
4. Christians are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, in order that we might be made Holy, like God.

Now if you know these 4 basic points, you've got the gist of the Gospel message, and can now 'evangelize', meaning bring people to a basic knowledge of the truth.

The point I'm most interested in is number 4.  It seems like a lot of Christians are of the impression that Jesus came, died, and rose, and that's all we need to know about Him.  There's a guy called N.T. Wright, who's an Anglican Bishop and New Testament Scholar.  His theory is that when we established the Creeds, like the Nicene Creed (c325 to combat Arianism) we summarized the disputed teachings of the faith.  But then we used that as a teaching tool, so we go straight from "Born of the Virgin Mary" to "suffered under Pontius Pilate,  was crucified, died and was buried."  Wright says he suspects that the Gospel writers would be like "Hey, I spent a lot of time writing about the stuff that happened in between those 2 events!"

If you look at Jesus' life in between those two things, this is where he did the thing that he said he was "anointed" to do. Jesus himself summarizes it by quoting Isaiah: 

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

This stuff is important!  The word "Gospel" means "Good news".  So what is the good news? Seems like most Christians think the good news is only that "You don't have to go to Hell."  Which is true, but try telling someone that as good news!

"Good news!  You don't have to go to Hell"

They might reply "Great!  I wasn't planning to!"

Even in Jesus time, the people the apostles were preaching to, didn't really think they were going to Hell. The Jews didn't focus much on the afterlife at all- the Sadducees didn't even think there would be one!  The Greeks believed in Hades, which is pretty attractive, but a far cry from how we picture Hell.

And Jesus had them preaching the good news before he even died and rose!  So what was the good news?

Jesus came and was annointed to establish His Kingdom on Earth!  So it's not just that you don't have to go to Hell...  when the Bible says we are "saved" from our sins the Greek word "Sozo" could be translated "Saved" or Healed or Freed.  So it's not just about Hell!

The good news is that we can be healed and freed of our sins too!  That means, that by God's grace, we can overcome addictions, and character flaws that hurt our marriages and relationships. We can be transformed into people who are "Rooted and grounded in love" (Ephesians 3:17), and who have the fruits of the spirit like joy, peace, kindness, patience (cf Gal 5:22) as natural attributes of someone who is plugged into God!

And it's not just me that can be personally transformed!  The promise of a kingdom is the promise of a community of others who are transformed and we hold each other up and we begin to transform society. In time by living lives of  transformation in Christ, we could see societies where war is eliminated, economic disparity is impacted by societal generosity, human dignity is upheld against lust and other destructive ideologies.

The Gospel message is all of these things, and it is great news!  By becoming disciples of Christ we can;

1.Experience personal transformation
2. Establish the kingdom of God on Earth.
3. Overcome death and Hell.

With good news like that, of course we should be prepared to tell others!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Why did Jesus have to die for us?

So everyone knows that Jesus died for our sins, but the question is-  why? Like, couldn't God have just saved us from our sins by some other means?

This is a question that theologians have debated for centuries. They usually try to explain it by way of analogy, but often they'll add the caveat that those explanations are insufficient.

For example there's the courtroom analogy, as is seen in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Edmund is a traitor, and the ancient laws say that traitors must die. The White Witch has a claim on Edmund, but Aslan offers himself in Edmunds' place.  So the Witch sacrifices Aslan, even on an altar, but because Aslan is blameless,  the act breaks the ancient magic, Aslan comes back to life, and defeats the Witch.   So it is with Jesus.  Related image

God declared that the punishment for sin was death-  not just physical death, but spiritual death away from God.  Jesus took the punishment we deserved on himself so that God does not have to be contradicted and the ancient law could be appeased. In so doing he broke the ancient way, so that now we are freed from the logic of sin and death.

This analogy is helpful, and true as far as it goes, but is insufficient. Because why should God be bound to a law that He created-  was there some legally binding agreement with the devil?  It's a very good analogy, but leaves more questions.

Another helpful way to understand this is to understand the Jewish logic of sacrifice. In the Old Testament (which means old covenant or old deal) Jews would have to sacrifice an animal on an altar to please God and appease His justice. You could sacrifice an animal in place of someone else-  Think Abraham and Isaac or Moses sacrificing the lambs at passover.

It takes a lot longer to explain this piece to people when they ask since you have to explain the whole Old Testament logic of sacrifice, but this helps us understand Jesus' sacrifice a lot better!  After all, Jesus came to 'fulfill the law and the prophets' (Matt 5:17)- so everything that happened in the Old Testament happens again in a new significant way in the New Testament. Jesus death on the Cross fulfills Abraham and Isaac (A father sacrifices a son on mount Moriah) and even more obviously it fulfills Passover, as they celebrate the Last Supper on the feast of Passover.  This is why John the Baptist calls Jesus the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29).  Just as at the Passover the Hebrews had to sacrifice a lamb and eat it in order for the angel of death to Passover them, so Jesus had to be sacrificed and we can participate in that Sacrifice by receiving the Eucharist, the unleavened bread which at Passover Jesus broke and said "This is my body, do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)

All of this is obviously key to understanding why Jesus' death is redemptive, but it still begs the question- why did God have to do it that way?

I think the trick is that that question is wrong. I don't think he had to do it that way.  I think he chose to.

I think we make a mistake when we frame our relationship with God and his redemptive sacrifice in legal language, as though God is bound by some law that is over even Him.

I think if we really want to understand it, we have to understand it through the language of love and relationship. So when you think of it in these terms, why would a God who is totally motivated by Love choose to redeem the world through his own sacrifice?

From this perspective it's actually easy to speculate about the answers.  Love has it's own logic- why have children? Why get married? Why give to the poor?  We are not legally bound to do these things, but we make huge sacrifices in order to do them out of love.

I think this is why the language in scripture is so much more often about a wedding than about a courtroom. Just as a groom gives himself to his wife out of love, so Jesus gave himself to us. His gift of self become totally complete when he died, which is why he says "It is finished" or even "It is consummated." (John 19:30) We receive his gift of self when we receive the Eucharist- and in so doing we give ourselves back to him.

God the lover shows his love for us by dying for us- "greater love has no man..." (John 15:13), and "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).

Perhaps God, the author of history, was not trying to fulfill some legal obligation.  Perhaps he wrote salvation history in such a way that the lover gives himself for his bride and dies and comes back. Not because he had to do it- he chose to do it to show us what his love for us is like.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Should Catholics help non Christian refugees come to our country?

Should Catholics help non Christian refugees come to our country?

This article is largely in response to one written by Dr Taylor Marshall, Islamic Refugee Crisis: Good Samaritan or Maccabean Response or Both?  I linked this article to that one because, frankly, Dr. Marshall is way better informed than I am on the subject, and he is a Catholic teacher, writer, and podcaster for whom I have immense respect.  Because of that respect, it bothers me to say that I think he is wrong on this point, and so are many others who take his position. In short, Dr. Marshall argues that we are not obligated to bring in refugees, and I believe very strongly that we should.

First off, people might get hung up on term 'obligated'.  Marshall argues that we are not obligated or required by Christ to bring non Christian refugees into our country.  Ok, but technically I'm not obligated to have a daily prayer life or go to confession more than twice a year or receive the Eucharist... and I'm not obligated by my marriage vows to spend quality time with my kids-  but if I want to seek holiness or be anything more than just moderately good, I will do more than the minimum which I am obligated to do.

Let us for the moment assume that Marshall is not just saying that we are not obligated, but that we ought not take in Muslim refugees, since, if you read the whole article, that's clearly what he is saying.

Dr.  Marshall argues that Thomas Aquinas would say no to taking in Muslim refugees, and I am going to assume that he knows-  since he wrote a book on Thomas Aquinas' theology. However, if that is the case, I will disagree with Thomas Aquinas too, just as I disagree with him about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (which he denied) and his position that heretics are worthy of the death penalty.  I have to assume again that Dr. Marshall agrees with me on that, although it looks almost from his article as if he is suggesting that heretics, like Muslims, should be subject to the death penalty.  I'm guessing that's not what Dr. Marshall meant to say.

Aquinas aside, I think Dr. Marshall actually made some extremely weak arguments.  For example, he said

If you live in a democracy, a 51% political Islamic majority will allow “we the people” to promulgate Sharia law. They are following their conscience and religious beliefs in this matter. They will do this just as they have done in any other community where they captured the majority (Mecca, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, etc.)
Obviously real life democracies are a little more complicated than that, but let's not dispute that point.   The population of the United States is 319 Million. The percentage of those who are Muslim is 1%.  In other words, in order for the 51% of America to be Muslim (as a consequence of the refugee crisis) they'd have to take in 319 million Muslim refugees! Right now Obama wants to take in 10,000, and politicians on the right want to bring in even less. There's only 60 million refugees of any kind in the world. Can we therefore dismiss the idea that Sharia law is a threat?

(Someone pointed out that you only need 10% to make a big difference-  ok, only 32 million- or that distribution in jurisdictions is an issue- so it's not a slam dunk, but still, fear of Sharia is a pretty weak argument in my books!)

Marshall then makes the analogy of the Family Home, suggesting that bringing refugees into our country and helping them to get onto their feet is comparable to bringing a homeless man into my home and letting him sleep with my wife while I'm away. You can decide for yourself whether that is a good analogy. (Make sure you read the way he wrote it, and not just my simplification.  You can guess my opinion.)

Then he uses my least favorite argument of all from the anti refugee people;

There is also the further problem that 5%-20% of global Muslims are considered to be “radicalized,” which means that they are consciously willing to use terrorist tactics to advance their Muslim worldview against the West. If you knew that 10% of your child’s Halloween candy was poisoned, would you allow your child to consume any of it?
Mike Huckabee made the same point, using poisonous nuts in his analogy. This argument is actually stupid, and I'm disappointed in Dr Marshall and others who don't see why. No, I wouldn't let my kid eat their Halloween candy...  but there is an incredible difference between the value of human life and a candy.  Would I let my kid risk their life to save someone else's?  Yes. I would even teach them to do so.

Here's my analogy.  Suppose a ship carrying hundreds of passengers was attacked by a terrorist on the ship. Now it is sinking, and the passengers are floundering in the water. You are in a boat nearby, and can reasonably take in 25 passengers- not nearly all of them. The trouble is that you know that a few of the drowning people may be terrorists, and they may attack your boat. Would you take the risk to save 25?

A friend said no, not if my kids were on board the boat.  Others said they would prioritize, women and children first. Clearly many would say "Christians first".  For me?  I'd pull them into my boat, and if my children were there I'd teach them to do likewise.

My analogy is flawed too, but you gotta admit, it's better than the poisonous nuts' analogy.

The other problem with this argument is that it somehow assumes that the refugees will be representative of the global average-  never mind that they are being screened once by the UN and again by Canada or the USA or whoever is taking them in. Clearly this will reduce the percentage of refugees actually coming in who are radicalized.

But let's extend this logic to other stats.  Could your kid eat their candy if only 3% of it were poisoned? 'Cause 3% of Americans are presently under some form of correctional control for criminal activity.  Guess we'd better not let any Americans into Canada, since 3% of them are criminals. (It get's a lot worse once you start breaking it down by race or gender).  Anyway, pursuing that logic can get ugly quick.

I'm disappointed that someone as rational as Marshall would employ such a deeply flawed analogy.

The last argument I want to address is the "Samaritan uses the hotel" argument, that the Samaritan was commended for his humanitarian aid, and implicitly therefore that's the most that any Christian should expect to do.

Look, Mother Teresa did way more than the Good Samaritan.  Regardless of their faith, she helped Muslims and Hindus out of love.  Christ did way more.   Are we called to Sainthood in imitation of Christ, or are we called to moderate humanitarianism?

Scripture is full of passages like "I was a stranger and you invited me in" (Matt 25:35) and about welcoming the foreigner (Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19, etc).  

Pope Francis encouraged the Church's of Europe to bring in one refugee family each. It saddens me that so many Catholic/Christian voices are arguing against the Pope's desire to help the refugees.  I'm certain there are more well reasoned arguments out there that what has been presented here.  But since the goal of every Christians life should be to 'love your neighbor as yourself', you will need to convince me that helping refugees to rebuild their life in Syria is more loving and feasible than helping them to get on with life here. 

If it were me, trying to save my family, I'd want the quick solution.  I'd want to be in Canada, surrounded by a welcoming community, with the opportunity of independence and freedom. I would not want to stay in a refugee camp waiting for everyone in Syria to decide they love each other after all.   Jesus' command was 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'

So my question to Marshall and all the other objectors is this-  what would you have them do unto you? 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What do I think about gay marriage?

It is with some trepidation that I write this article, because frankly I'm afraid of offending people, afraid of being bullied, afraid of alienating friends, afraid of being inacurrate... but despite these fears I am going to step into the fray!

Last week the US Supreme court declared it unconstitutional to ban same sex marriage at a state level.  Since then, a large number of my friends have changed their facebook profile to have a rainbow wash to celebrate their support for this legislation.  Others of my friends have posted messages reflecting the Catholic Churches teachings on same sex relationships.  And I've participated in a few online discussions.  The difficulty is that I find that I fall in between the two poles of the debate.  I suspect that there are a number of people out there like me who are struggling to articulate their thoughts, but are afraid of appearing bigotted on one hand or heretical on the other. I guess I am throwing caution to the wind by writing this-  but I won't advertise the post on facebook.  Too many trolls out there.

I think I am reluctantly in favor of legalizing same sex marriage.  This will surprise a number of people, since I always deliberately agree with the Catholic Church on everything, and it appears that the majority of Bishops oppose same sex marriage. However, I'm the kind of person who changes his mind when the facts change-  so I may change my mind on this, and I invite people to try to help me change it!

The thing is, I do think gay sex is sinful.  I believe that sex is created by God to be both unitive and procreative- an act of love that's by it's nature open to having babies.  I believe sacramental marriage must be free, total, faithful and fruitful.  In other words, I'm opposed to pornography, adultery, polygamy, forced marriages, divorce and contraception... among other things.  But I do not think that each of those things should necessarily be illegal!  (Forced marriages clearly should be, but for different reasons other than it invalidates the marriage.  I'd also like to see tighter restrictions on porn, but that's a rabbit trail.)

So I oppose gay sex for the same reason as I oppose those other things.  My opposition is rooted in my faith, and is the same reason that I hold human life as inherently valuable.  Clearly I do not think the Catholic Church should be forced to perform same sex marriages-  and actually I think that is theologically impossible.

But obviously our culture has a different definition than I do of marriage-  still noble, still a celebration of love-  but very diluted from the sacramental definition.  I think that an argument can be made to preserve the meaning of the word by it's Catholic definition, but frankly I think that battle is long since lost.  If gays want to celebrate their love in the more diluted sense in which most people consider marriage, then so be it. As suggested above, I think polygamy is the logical next step, especially considering that there are cultures all over that accept it, and it's consenting adults. So the definition will be diluted yet further.  Maybe we should allow consenting incestuous adults too... though I admit I feel squeamish about that, but maybe my squeamishness is only rooted in my deep seated psychological bigotry.  (No doubt someone is going to be offended by my equating gay sex with incest, but if consenting adults who declare love for each other is the only standard, I'm not sure what arguments can be made against it.)   I don't seriously think pedophiles or animals are on the list, and I hope robots aren't... but you know the slippery slope argument does seem to have some validity.  I suspect that in the end the definition of marriage will be so diluted that governments will ask themselves why they are in the business of celebrating marriages at all.  After all, we want to get government out of our bedrooms.... strange that we keep inviting them in!

So what should Catholics do?  I think it's time to recognize that what everyone else means by marriage is not what we mean.  Maybe we should call ours Matrimony, and just abandon the term altogether. Marriage is what is sanctioned by the state, Matrimony is what is sanctioned by the Church.

I do think however that we are in uncharted waters.  I have never before witnessed so much animosity to the Church, or to Christians.  I've never before been so scared to speak up publicly for what the Church teaches.  Any opinion which runs counter to the zeit geist is labelled homophobia, so pretty much hate speech.  How long will our culture tolerate things like Catholic Schools?  Catholic social justice groups? Christian universities? Are my concerns naive?  I think a very little research will show that they are not.

Anyway, I say, let the gays get married, just as we let people use contraception and get divorces and get married outside the Church.  Maybe if gays are treated equally within our secular, nothing is sacred culture, we will see a toning down of the venomous attacks against anyone who holds a different view.