Prayer intentions
Please pray for the following people. And if you know someone who needs a prayer, by all means feel free to add as many names as you want.

March 20, 2008

The post I've been dreading

N.B. — I've been dreading the thought of publishing this post. It's been sitting here in draft mode for a very long time. I know I'll stir up some kind of tempest, and there's probably not a single comment in reply that I'm not expecting. There's something here for everyone to dislike.

I'm an avid reader of the Internet. Thanks to the Internet, I'm exposed to ideas and opinions that I never would have believed possible. Some have angered me, others have enlightened me. The best of them have managed to amuse me while enlightening me. In large part because of the things I learned on the Internet and through email, I became Catholic, for which I will reap the benefits in eternity.

But nowhere on the Internet do I find my unique set of opinions, especially my political opinions.

Everywhere I look, I find one of two things: conservative writings that are smug, smarmy, and dishonest, full of hatred and easily disprovable lies or errors; or liberal writings that include, not just atheistic, but anti-religious screeds and fist-pounding in favor of abortion. Libertarians as expressed online are no better, because they can be just as godless, worshipping the god of free-market and personal choice without attention to spirituality or responsibility to one's fellow man.

Depending on the topic at hand, I have been accused of being both conservative and liberal, and come away feeling insulted either way.

Here are some of my thoughts for which people have called me "liberal":

I am very pro-union. I'm under no illusions that unions are perfect, but they are an absolute necessity to counter the wealth-driven corporate steamroller that mashes workers flat all in the name of capitalism. I have seen the face of corporate greed firsthand, and there is zero concern about how any behavior by the corporation might affect the employees. And as His Holiness John Paul II (who was himself a fan of unions) pointed out, "The thing that must shape the whole economy is respect for the workers’ rights."

I am an environmentalist. God appointed us as stewards of this planet. While I'm no scientist and can't prove or disprove the whole "global warming" thing any better than the average man on the street, I also have a hard time believing that spewing excessive carbon dioxide and other pollutants in the air and water could possibly be a good thing. Each individual and corporation has the responsibility to take care of the resources we have, because we will all be held accountable by God one day.

I am a big fan of separation of church and state. Once you blur the line between government and Church, you compromise the integrity of not just the state, but the Church as well. The Church already prohibits clergy from serving in a political capacity. Likewise, the US Constitution prohibits the official establishment of religion or the sponsorship thereof. Christ Himself said to render unto Caesar that which was Caesar's, and to God that which was God's, clearly drawing the line that the two were separate entities. Government must attend to worldly affairs in the here and now, and the Church must attend to the spiritual matters which lead to the hereafter.

Here are some of my thoughts for which people have called me "conservative":

I am completely against abortion, for what I feel are obvious reasons. It's infanticide, duh! Even though it was never brought up in our house, I'm sure I could have figured out at a very early age that baby-killing was a bad thing. To me this is a no-brainer, and I still haven't figured out what contortions the Supreme Court had to go through to not only say it wasn't, but that it is a Constitutionally protected right — go figure.

I am a Christian. Yes, despite the openly derisive things that are said about how "stupid" and "intellectually backward" I must be, or that my being a Christian is just a result of my living in the Backwater Deep South™ (which is code for "stupid redneck"), I insist on being identified as a Christian. Everything I say automatically gets twenty IQ points knocked off in people's minds because of it.

And here's at least one thought that defies a label:

I am opposed to the state recognizing gay marriage. I see the phrase "gay marriage" as an oxymoron. Of course, I'm not in favor of the state recognizing "straight" marriage, either. I believe it invests the state with too much power over a sacramental relationship. It's a religious vocation not unlike the priesthood in its own way, and it's ludicrous to think that one must obtain a license to exercise a religious vocation, especially in the same office where you apply for your fishing license.

My suggestion: Since it seems that what the real battle is about, is having an equal say in deciding who gets insurance benefits and rights of survivorship and other inheritance matters, let's abolish the marriage license altogether, and create a civil partnership license, which formalizes all those technical details. This is the sort of thing at which the state excels.

The good news is, there would be no more muddying the waters of the definition of marriage. The Church would once again be able to assert her authority over its meaning. Matter of fact, this is a shining example of what I said before about separation of church and state. The state has stuck its nose in religious business (marriage) for far too long, and the result has been the cheapening of the institution.

See what I mean? Something for everyone to dislike!

Then again, maybe I reflect the views of a lot of people who just don't hang out on the Internet like I do. If that's the case, and you've just been looking for someone who thinks like you do, talk to me! I'd love to hear from you. If not, well, I kind of expected that, too.

March 19, 2008

Look to it yourself

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, and during Mass we read the entire story of Christ's Passion. One of the phrases that stuck in my mind as we read it, became the title of this post - Look to it yourself. This phrase showed up twice in quick succession, which is probably why it stuck with me.

The first time it appears, Judas has suddenly realized how badly he's screwed up, and is going back to the priests who paid him to betray Jesus to return the money and hopefully undo the damage he's done. He pleads with them, and says, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." To which they reply, "What is that to us? Look to it yourself."

Second time the phrase appears, it is being spoken by Pontius Pilate. Pilate, the Roman governor, has examined Jesus and has determined to his own satisfaction that Jesus is not guilty of anything, and is trying to release him back to his people. The custom is, he can set a prisoner free during the traditional Passover feast. He is trying to make the choice easy - do you want me to release this notorious robber Barabbas, or do you want me to release this man Jesus, who's done nothing wrong? The crowd is being stirred up by the priests to get Barabbas released, and they were starting to get violent.

So, in the words of Matthew 27:24-25, When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood. Look to it yourselves." And the whole people said in reply, "His blood be upon us and upon our children."

In each case, there is a party trying to relieve themselves of responsibility by dumping it on someone else, who is equally responsible. In the first case, the priests even acknowledge after Judas flees the temple that the money is the price of blood, but they are so wrapped up in their priestly duties that their only concern is more about what is the "lawful" thing to do with the money. In the second case, there is someone who has a good instinct about what should be done, and even makes a certain effort to do the right thing; but in the end, he too falls back on "just doing his job."

This recalls to mind the parable of the good Samaritan, which seems in hindsight almost to foreshadow His crucifixion. In the parable, the priest and the Levite both pass by the robbery victim. Eventually it fell to a Samaritan (Samaritans being a race of people considered in those days little more than a pack of criminals themselves), who picked the man up and cared for him, tending his wounds and seeing to his safekeeping. The question remains, though: whose responsibility was it to care for the robbery victim?

The answer: all of them.

Whose responsibility was it to ensure that justice was done during the Passover feast those two millennia ago? Everyone.

If we repeat after Pontius Pilate and those long-ago priests by saying, "Look to it yourself" - in other words, "So what? It's not our problem, it's your problem now" - we run the risk of re-crucifying Christ, metaphorically if not literally. What we do to those who need help the most, we do it to Christ.

NB - yes it has been a long time since I posted. We'll see if I can post again a little sooner than another 8 or 9 months.