Friday, March 31, 2006

Foo-Foo Dust in Virgin Mary Statues

(From Yahoo News.)
Two men suspected of helping smuggle cocaine to New York from Mexico inside statues of the Virgin Mary were arrested Thursday, U.S. authorities said.

Peter Matheis, 52, and Rafael Serrano, 36, both Mexican nationals, were indicted in New York and Houston respectively on money-laundering and narcotics charges along with six others arrested previously in the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

Five 3-foot-tall statues of the Virgin Mary, filled with 242 pounds of cocaine, were seized in a Brooklyn warehouse as part of the police operation.

The drug ring used the statues to smuggle cocaine worth millions of dollars, FBI agent John Gilbride said in a statement.

The DEA said the investigation was continuing in Mexico.

Lawyers for the defendants could not be immediately reached for comment.

I would not want to be either of these guys at the Great White Throne Judgment of Christ! Can you imagine? “Mom, can you come over here a minute? I wonder if you remember these two gentlemen…” Theologically, this may not be the unforgivable sin; nevertheless, if I were them, I think I’d stick with rubber soles and heels and not let myself touch ground.

It certainly gives a whole new twist to one of the titles traditionally used to honor the Blessed Mother - “Snow of Hermon.”

Sorry - no sacrilege intended; I was just trying to crack a joke. Guess I'd better take a powder and blow for now.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Churches Choose 'Eco-Palms' for Palm Sunday Services

Combining ecology and theology, a growing number of churches are choosing “eco-palms” for their Palm Sunday services. It's an idea that's resonating with congregations who previously had not given much thought to where palms come from and who often have interests in other justice causes, such as “fair trade coffee” supporting Third World coffee growers. “To have in our hand on Palm Sunday a palm that we know has been harvested in an ecologically friendly way, in a way that's going to benefit the communities and the people who harvested them, adds that much more depth to our celebration of Palm Sunday,” says Brenda Meier, parish projects coordinator for Baltimore-based Lutheran World Relief, which has taken the lead in promoting palm fronds that preserve the environment and livelihood of Mexican and Guatemalan harvesters.
(From a story on Religion News Service for March 30, 2006.)

Is there actually that big an international palm industry? I always figured we just got them from Texas, Florida, and California. And what do you have to do to harvest palm fronds in an “ecologically unfriendly” manner? It doesn’t hurt the tree to just go out and pull a bunch of fronds off. Do they chop down the palm trees just to harvest the greenery?

I'm sorry to be the skeptic, but if this is indeed a problem, can someone explain it to me? It sounds more like somebody came up with a really good marketing scheme than that we’re saving the world one palm tree at a time. I don’t know beans about the situation, and I could be wrong. But the whole idea reminds me of some companies I’m familiar with that do eco-friendly packaging – the product goes through the assembly line and gets packed in the normal manner, then gets shipped to a repackaging center where they pull it out of the original cardboard box and put it in the “eco-friendly” package. The cardboard can’t be reused, so it goes to the recycler. The customer pays extra, and uses two boxes instead of one.

Maybe we should go to reusable plastic fronds. No, that would be a mess when you try to burn them for Ash Wednesday ashes. The toxic fumes would take out the Altar Guild, and the ashes would probably give us all forehead cancer.

Next thing, they'll be telling us we all have to have vegan liturgies. "This is my broccoli, which is given for you..." Clearly, the end times are upon us.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Properties of Elemental Magisterium

The newly discovered element, Magesterium777, has a number of interesting chemical and ecclesial properties. Although an extraordinarily dense and weighty material, it is readily absorbed through the skin of most laity. Clergy, however, seem to develop over time a resistance to Magesterium; by the time they reach the episcopate, many clerics become completely impenetrable.

The effects of Magisterium are subtle at first, but chronic exposure leads to many psychological and behavioral changes in the exposed individual. These are reflected in a pronounced tendency to kneel rather than stand, to say “and with your spirit” when everyone else is saying “and also with you,” to unexpectedly speak phrases of Latin, Greek, or Aramaic (therapists without a classical education may confuse Magisteriosis with Tourette’s), and, especially, to start referring to the works of Chrysostom or Athanasius instead of those of Hans Kung or John Shelby Spong.

Magesterium appears to be highly addictive. When it is withdrawn, Magisteriosis sufferers will actively seek out a new supply, often migrating from one parish or even denomination to another in order to reexpose themselves. Although numerous attempts have been made to neutralize the effects of Magisterium, those suffering from Magisteriosis seem impervious to treatment. Once exposure has reached a certain point, the effects appear to be irreversible.

Magisterium is remarkably stable for such a heavy element, and shows no signs of spontaneous decay even after 2000 years. It can, however, be transmuted by bombardment with newtrons to form the unstable intermediate Dissentium. Dissentium quickly breaks down by ejecting essential core particles to form Apostasum666. Magisterium777 can also be split in a schismatic reactor, with each resulting sect-ion carrying off its own unique fragment of Magisterium.

Magisterium also has powerful catalytic properties, in that its presence causes the complete oxidation of the extremely common element Heresium. The result of this violent oxidation is an extreme, white-hot flame that appears to last for eternity, accompanied by a severe stench resembling that of sulfur.

The best supplies of Magisterium can be procured in Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and Continuing Anglican churches. Other sources are almost always partly degraded into sect-ions. Be particularly careful to avoid any containers labeled “ECUSA,” as they are almost always heavily contaminated with Apostasum666.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why We Need Hell

I was going to write a bit of a Lenten reflection on heaven and hell, but Frederica Mathewes-Green does so much better a job of it than I possibly could.

Hell has never been a fashionable destination, but it in recent years it's met a fate that even the most passé hotspots don't endure; people suspect it doesn't exist. Or, if it does exist, it attracts no customers; "we are permitted to hope that hell is empty" is how this is sometimes phrased. Even the most conservative Christians have a hard time putting a positive spin on a wrathful God who flings evildoers into flaming torment.

It is tragic that some Christians have been so battered with stories of a prideful, vindictive God that they have fled from Jesus' fold. No wonder some become atheists; who would want to spend eternity with such a tyrant?

Yet I'm going to make a case for hell, though not the one you see in cartoons, a fiery cavern where demons poke you with pitchforks. Dante made that kind of thing look pretty exciting, but "The Inferno" was written almost 1300 years after the Gospels. When you strip away European and medieval assumptions, and look at the writings of Christians in lands and cultures closer to Jesus' time, you get a different picture…
That's just a teaser; read the whole thing; you will not be disappointed.

She draws her metaphors from Origen and Daniel.

"The same sun that melts wax hardens mud" is how Origen, the 3rd century Egyptian writer, put it. In the 4th century, St. Basil the Great used the story of the three young men in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-30) as an illustration: the fire spared the prayerful trio, while the guards who threw them in were destroyed.

I draw my metaphors from South Austin. I was going in the same general direction, but my best example involved the difference in reactions between the dog and the cockroaches when you flip on the kitchen lights. The dog goes to the cabinet for a snack; the roaches flee in panic and horror. I guess that’s why she’s an author and I’m a geek.

By the way, she will be one of the speakers at the 3rd Austin C.S. Lewis Conference at St. Edward’s University, August 29, 2006. The conference topic is Goodness, Truth, and Beauty – Apologetics and the Winsome Christ. I’ve been to the last two conferences, and I do not hesitate to give them a shameless plug. Be there or regret it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Student Expelled for Conservative Views Wins Suit

An army veteran and graduate student at Le Moyne College in upstate New York who was expelled from his degree program because of his conservative philosophy of education is back in the classroom and speaking out.

Last year Le Moyne College, a Jesuit school located in Syracuse, dismissed Scott McConnell from its masters of education program for writing a paper in which he advocated the use of corporal punishment and criticized multiculturalism (
see earlier story). The head of the school's education department told the "A" student his expulsion was the result of a "mismatch" between his personal beliefs and the school's program goals.

McConnell, an evangelical Christian as well as a conservative, filed a civil rights lawsuit, and his attorney argued that his dismissal was "a gross violation of McConnell's rights to freedom of expression." An appeals court subsequently ordered Le Moyne to reinstate the education student, and both sides in the dispute have since agreed to stop suing each other.

The reinstated graduate student feels he is finally being treated like every other Le Moyne College student, at least by the faculty. "I've been treated fairly by the professors," he says. However, he acknowledges that "some of the students look at me negatively; they give me dirty looks, and they kind of point at me."

On the other hand, McConnell notes, "The administration won't come within ten feet of me, which is fine with me. The more they stay away from me the faster I can get through this program."

The teacher-in-training says he is not concerned about the future. He contends, "I base everything on my faith in the Lord, and because of that, it's like the song He's the Rock of my Salvation. Well, that's my rock. I stand upon it, and I have nothing to worry about."

In fact, after receiving an A-minus on the paper he was expelled for writing, McConnell feels qualified to offer other Christian students a piece of advice. "If you're going to write a personal paper," he says, "make sure you have facts to back it up."

McConnell emphasizes that, without his faith in God, he would never have made it through his ordeal with Le Moyne College. When he finishes earning his master's degree, the graduate student says he would preferably like to teach in a private school because he disagrees with the way U.S. public schools are run.
(From Agape Press.)

I really, really hope there’s a Jesuit out there who will successfully take me to task for this, but it seems like any connection between the Society of Jesus and the Church is strictly a matter of either history or coincidence. And although it’s not really reflected in this particular conflict, other things I’ve read about the Jevvies lately make me want to ask them the same question I pose to many Episcopal priests. If you don’t believe in the historical Christian faith as taught by the Apostles, the Fathers, and the Doctors of the Church, why in heck would you want to be a priest of it?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

N.Korean defector says disabled newborns are killed

North Korea has no people with physical disabilities because they are killed almost as soon as they are born, a physician who defected from the communist state said on Wednesday.

Ri Kwang-chol, who fled to the South last year, told a forum of rights activists that the practice of killing newborns was widespread but denied he himself took part in it.

"There are no people with physical defects in North Korea," Ri told members of the New Right Union, which groups local activists and North Korean refugees.

He said babies born with physical disabilities were killed in infancy in hospitals or in homes and were quickly buried.

The practice is encouraged by the state, Ri said, as a way of purifying the masses and eliminating people who might be considered "different."

[…] North Korea has called itself a people's paradise and said criticism of its human rights was motivated by a goal of toppling the leadership of Kim Jong-il.
(Read the whole article here.)

Now you know why we should never have included North Korea in the Axis of Evil. See! It turns out that they are just like us; the only difference is that they wait until after the children are born. You say to-may-to; I say to-mah-to; let’s call the whole war off.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Diversity Day" Canceled to Avoid too much Diversity

(From WorldNetDaily.)
Amid controversy over a homosexual speaker, a high school in Wisconsin has canceled its "Diversity Day" event scheduled for tomorrow.

[…] The paper said…the event was called off late last week after the Florida-based public-interest legal group Liberty Counsel raised a potential challenge, insisting the program include the viewpoint of a former homosexual.

The last event, in 2004, initially was canceled by the school board after 400 people signed a petition protesting the inclusion of speakers on homosexual and transgender issues. The event was reinstated in the spring, however, when elections changed the board's membership.

This time, a fax from Liberty Counsel stated local pastor Don Greven of Bad Axe Lutheran Church and the grandfather of a senior at the high school raised concerns about no Christian, or formerly homosexual, viewpoint being included among the speakers, the Tribune reported.

Liberty Counsel argued a federal court in Michigan had ruled a similar exclusion unconstitutional.

"By excluding the Christian and ex-gay viewpoints, the (Viroqua) District violates the Establishment Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection," the group said.

At last someone has pointed out that the exclusion of Christian viewpoints is an establishment of non-Christianity.

[…] Gregg Attleson, a teacher on the Diversity Day planning committee, told the LaCrosse paper the intent is to introduce students to minorities and people with alternative lifestyles.

[…] Attleson said the homosexual couple scheduled to speak refused to be on the program alongside an "ex-gay" viewpoint, saying they would be uncomfortable.

Tolerance is permissable only as long as it is tolerance of politically approved groups. No dissent, however, will be tolerated!

The committee then decided it would be best to cancel the whole program.

[…] "Non-positive groups were not what we were going for," said committee member Ellen Byers in response to the decision to cancel.

The committee, of course, is the ultimate authority on what’s positive and what’s not. One has to ask, what is more positive than someone who has, in the face of serious opposition, successfully changed his life around?

[…] "It's ironic, because we're trying to be tolerant and at the same time we might be accused of being intolerant, said Byers, an English teacher.

It is ironic because it holds the diversity police up to the logical consequences of their own standards. If all viewpoints are of equal worth, then by what right do you seek to exclude ours? Welcome to the wonderful world of consistency.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Meeting at Top Catholic University Rehabilitates Crusades

The medieval crusades had a "high and noble" goal and were not something to be apologised for, conference participants were told at a Vatican-sponsored university this weekend.

The Crusaders are often seen, not only by Muslims, as bloodthirsty warriors who invaded Muslim lands and wantonly attacked worshippers of Islam. During the Catholic Church's Holy Year 2000 celebrations, the late Pope John Paul II asked Muslims for forgiveness for sins committed by Christians during the Crusades. But a conference at Rome's Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University forcefully played up a quite different view.

The crusades were "defensive wars, never aggressive", said Italian historian Roberto de Mattei, who opened the debate on Friday.

Their goal was to "defend the faith and the civilisation of the Christian west against Islam", he continued, saying that the campaigns came "after the Islamic invasion of Christian lands and the devastation of Holy Sites." Prof. de Mattei pointed in particular to the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Christians believe Jesus Christ was buried after his crucifixion and where the resurrection occurred.

This event in 1009, carried out by the armies of Caliph Hakim, was one of the things which led Pope Urban II to call for the first crusade in 1095, urging Christians to "free" the Holy Land.

In 1944 Pope Pius XII gave a speech in which he appeared at least in part to justify the crusades by likening the mission of crusading knights to the task of missionaries in foreign lands.

Recently several historians have re-examined the Crusades, exploring the link between the two approaches to spreading Christianity.

Among them is John Riley-Smith, Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge University, who has written books arguing that the crusades should not be viewed with a modern perspective. He has also written that anyone apologising for them "doesn't know history properly."

Speaking at the conference in Rome, he said that the knights who left homes and families to fight in the Holy Land were "inflamed by an ardour for charity and a love of God". Prof. de Mattei agreed, saying that the noblest ideals were at work in crusaders: "A Christian is ready to offer his own life for the supernatural good of his neighbour, defending it with his combat."

There were eight Crusades, the first from 1095 to 1101 and the last in 1270. They inspired centuries of art and literature, right up the present day. Popular interest was aroused again recently by a major film production directed by Ridley Scott.
(Original article here.)

It’s about time! I am so heartily sick of people bringing up the Crusades as prima facie evidence that Christianity causes wars. I think it derives from a total lack of good history education. History teachers and profs spend all their time these days on the interpretation of history and very little on history itself. Interpretation is nice, but only if it is built upon the foundation of knowing what actually happened. Otherwise, there is no ability to discern sensible interpretations from nonsense, and the interpretative process becomes mere propaganda.

People assume the Crusades were an unprovoked invasion to wrest Palestine away from the local Moslem inhabitants. But how in heck do they think Palestine got to be Moslem in the first place? When we leave New Testament times, Palestine is part of the Roman Empire, largely populated by Jews and pagan Greeks. After the Jewish revolts of the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Jews were scattered out of Judea but remained a significant (and frequently prosperous) chunk of the population in Arabia and the Eastern Mediterranean. Christianity grew in the succeeding centuries, and the Greek population largely converted after Constantine legalized the Faith. Palestine remained part of the Eastern Roman Empire as a mainly Christian region until the mid-7th century. Only then did the land become Moslem.

How did it become Moslem? Did people have a big Islamic revival after hearing some Moslem street preachers? Did they have an election between Allah and Yahweh? Did the local Byzantine planning board decide to rezone Palestine as “Islamic Residential? No! It was invaded and conquered. The Christian population was “tolerated,” but was taxed and restricted in their freedom of worship and action – about the way Christians are “tolerated” in a lot of Moslem countries today.

If the Crusades are an example of illicit aggression, then so is the invasion of France in 1944. I will therefore be happy to sign any petition authorizing the UN to return of France to Germany forthwith.

Were the Crusaders always good guys, let alone competent? Heck, no! They did some really bad stuff – massacres, rape, pillage, plunder, you name it - sometimes in the name of God and frequently in the name of Stupid. But let’s not argue that until we can at least come to some agreement about what the Crusades actually were, and an understanding of who invaded whom in the first place.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Thank God for the Orthodox!

To the Reverend Clergy of our parishes

Dearly beloved brothers in the Lord,

With this letter, we, the hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, wish to share with you some disturbing observations concerning the destruction of many lives in our nation, as explicit sexual content becomes increasingly available through a variety of technologies.

We are writing at this time because we know that you care deeply about the well-being of your children, and it is precisely your children who may pay the highest price and become victims of the uncontrolled availability of all that is now technologically available on the internet. This could spell disaster for your children and grandchildren, inflicting upon their lives and their families grave consequences resulting in immeasurable moral, social and spiritual damage.

Current advanced technology facilitates the distribution of digital video content via wireless handheld devices such as video cell phones, iPods and PDAs. Through highly advanced versions of these wireless handheld devices, all the pornography on the internet is available to many Americans, including our children and teens. There are no filtering or monitoring devices available at this time. This means many children and teens will be able to access such material, unless their parents are aware of this threat and take action to prevent it.

The technology itself is not dangerous. The danger lies in the fact that there are currently no safeguards or regulations in place to protect children and teens from being exposed to unwanted, seductive and explicit content that is downloadable through these wireless handheld devices.

The National Coalition and the Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP), which has been fighting the advancement of our sexualized culture since 1986, when it was formed in New York with Archbishop Iakovos among its founders, are now working with the CTIA Wireless Association to ensure that appropriate guidelines, controls and protections from this threat are in place as it relates to cell phones.

However, it is critically important that companies develop educational materials for parents, which will be used consistently at the point of purchase and choice of contract. Until these wireless devices can be used safely, we urge great caution to parents of children and teens.

We call upon you, our clergy, to be vigilant and to help keep your flock informed of the dangers they unknowingly are opening to their children and grandchildren when they give them these wireless devices, before appropriate protection has been developed. Ongoing parental guidance is essential to protect our children.

Invoking the prayers of the Holy Theotokos for the welfare of our beloved children, we extend to you and your flock our blessings,

(Signed by nine Archbishops, Metropolitans, and Bishops representing the major branches of Orthodoxy in the USA)
(Original document on Orthodoxy Today.)

I’d love to see what the bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA, have to say on this topic. No – on second thought, I really don’t want to know.

Turkmen president offers a place in heaven to his readers

Turkmenistan's president-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov announced on state television that anyone reading his philosophical work three times would be assured a place in heaven.

"Anyone who reads the Rukhnama three times will find spiritual wealth, will become more intelligent, will recognise the divine being and will go straight to heaven," Niyazov said Monday.

The Turkmen leader said he had "called on Allah" while working on the two-volume book to ensure that enthusiastic readers would be given quicker access to heaven.

Niyazov, known as Turkmenbashi (Leader of the Turkmen Peoples), has set up a bizarre personality cult, including erecting gold statues of himself and his deceased parents in strategic spots across his largely-desert country.

The Rukhnama, a collection of philosophical and religious writings, is compulsory reading for schoolchildren and government officials across the former Soviet republic in Central Asia.
(Original article here.)

And here I thought I had an ego problem…

I suspect that “reading his philosophical work three times” is probably such a massive act of penance and self-denial as to be, if done with a penitent heart, a truly meritorious act. In that respect, maybe it could help ease the passage from earth to heaven.

False messiahs = gold statues; real messiah = wooden cross. The more things change, the more they never really change at all.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Psychics to try contacting Lennon in TV seance

(Original article here.)
Imagine John Lennon spinning in his grave.

The ex-Beatle, who was murdered over 25 years ago, is the latest subject of a pay-per-view seance arranged by the producers of a 2003 attempt to contact the dead Princess Diana. That show made money but was slammed by critics as hitting a new low in television tastelessness.

That's a serious achievement. If I were assigned the task of hitting a new low in TV tastelessness, I am not even sure where I'd start.

"People say this is disgusting and I accept that criticism, but we're making a serious attempt to do something that many, many millions of people around the world think is possible," said Paul Sharratt, who heads Starcast Productions, which made "The Spirit of Diana." That show drew over half a million U.S. viewers willing to pay $14.95 to watch it.

The Lennon show will air on April 24 on a pay-per-view channel and cost $9.95.

Sharratt himself is a "non-believer," and admits to not being totally convinced otherwise after psychics attempted to contact the dead princess in the 2003 program. Nevertheless, it made for some great television, he said.

I hope John shows up. I’d like to ask him how it feels to go for $5.00 less than Diana.

"I have to say that I'm a skeptic. I went into it very skeptically and I didn't come out a total believer, but it was good for a lot of people as a tribute to Diana," he said.

Sharratt said he chose Lennon because the former Beatle, like Diana, is an icon and was also a deeply spiritual person. "Lennon was very interested in the spiritual world. It's a natural follow-up to the Diana seance," he said.

Spiritual: feeling religious without actually having to commit to anything or change your lifestyle. (Paraphrased from somebody. If you know the source, let me know.)

The program will show psychics traveling to sites of significance to the former Beatle […]

[…] Sharratt said the Indian sequence will feature a spirit reader at an ashram who believes he can contact Lennon to receive musical notes and lyrics from the other side.

Any notations will be flown to Los Angeles, where a composer will arrange the notes, add vocals and backgrounds to produce a new song.

I bet if he shows up singing, it won’t be Imagine.

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,

Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Flying Cow Leaves Two Police Cars in Flames

A little light reading for a Friday;

Talk about a wild night near Seguin. A cow came flying out of its trailer, sent DPS and police scrambling, and left two police cars going up in flames.

[…] Watson told News 4 WOAI, "We believe the gate of the cattle trailer came open, and the cow, for lack of a better phrase spilled out onto the Interstate. It was pretty chaotic for a while."

Several cars hit some of the cows. One cow died. DPS troopers called for backup.
That's when one officer was nearly run down by a speeding truck, carrying two illegal immigrants inside.

Seguin Police were out looking for those illegal immigrants. They parked their cars in the hot grass, burning two of them including that brand new 2006 Crown Victoria. Watson said, "Well, all of a sudden, another officer who'd arrived on the scene, alerted the sergeant that there was a fire."

Everything inside was destroyed, including tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment designed for the patrol cars.

[…] The two Mexican immigrants, ages 21 and 23, are in custody for illegally entering the country and evading arrest. Watson says they have replacement cars for now, but hope the city council will vote to get new cars soon.
(From, San Antonio)

Ho hum, another typical day in Central Texas. No wonder the traffic around here is so bad.

Seguin, for the benefit of you "furriners," is a nice little city northeast of San Antonio and is the home of Texas Lutheran University, an excellent liberal-arts college.

As a snarky aside, I love the way they refer to illegal border crossers as “immigrants.” They wouldn’t do that if these guys had crossed from the USA into Mexico. Why does everybody else in the world get to have their own nation-states with meaningful borders, except for us?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Netherlands Entrance Exam

The camera focuses on two gay men kissing in a park. Later, a topless woman emerges from the sea and walks onto a crowded beach. For would-be immigrants to the Netherlands, this film is a test of their readiness to participate in the liberal Dutch culture.

If they can't stomach it, no need to apply.

Despite whether they find the film offensive, applicants must buy a copy and watch it if they hope to pass the Netherlands' new entrance examination.

The test — the first of its kind in the world — became compulsory Wednesday, and was made available at 138 Dutch embassies.

Taking the exam costs $420. The price for a preparation package that includes the film, a CD ROM and a picture album of famous Dutch people is $75.

"As of today, immigrants wishing to settle in the Netherlands for, in particular, the purposes of marrying or forming a relationship will be required to take the civic integration examination abroad," the Immigration Ministry said in a statement.
(Read the whole thing here.)

You know, I certainly don’t want the Jihadists to win (being a dhimmi doesn’t strike me as a fun career move), but sometimes it’s really hard not to sympathize with them, even if it's just a little bit. The best recruiting tool for al Qaeda is the current state of Western civilization.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The (Literal) Death of Secularism

From USA, courtesy of both Canterbury Tales and The Shrine of the Holy Whapping:
What's the difference between Seattle and Salt Lake City? There are many differences, of course, but here's one you might not know. In Seattle, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children. In Salt Lake City, there are nearly 19% more kids than dogs.

This curious fact might at first seem trivial, but it reflects a much broader and little-noticed demographic trend that has deep implications for the future of global culture and politics. It's not that people in a progressive city such as Seattle are so much fonder of dogs than are people in a conservative city such as Salt Lake City. It's that progressives are so much less likely to have children...

You really need to read the whole article. Secularism, combined with modern (counter)reproductive technology, is turning out to be an evolutionary dead end. The author doesn’t really look at this in terms of biology, but the childlessness of “progressives” really is an example of (un)natural selection in action. It is one that cannot easily be turned around, either, since the key factors driving the lack of children – unlimited personal autonomy, and the decoupling of sexual pleasure from reproduction - are some of the core factors defining what’s “progressive” in the first place.

Interesting. We usually think of abortion in terms of murder – the intentional and unjust taking of another human life. It seems that we can also view it as a form of delayed suicide.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Scary Churches

This may be the scariest church web site I have ever run across. It makes ECUSA and dissident parishes like the notorious Catholic(ish) St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis look positively, well, normal.

Make sure you are sitting; take the Prozac (or beer, if you are Bubbaspiritual); now click here to be transferred across the boundaries of time, space, and orthodoxy to Ebenezer Lutheran in San Francisco, California. One of their prayers (the Mater Nostra, I guess) is below.

Our Mother who is within us
we celebrate your many names.
Your wisdom come
your will be done
unfolding from the depths within us.
Each day you give us all that we need.
You remind us of our limits
and we let go.
You support us in our power
and we act with courage.
For you are the dwelling place within us
the empowerment around us
and the celebration among us
now and for ever. Amen

I’m afraid my heavenly mother is the one who said "Behold, I am the handmaid of The Lord; let it be to me according to your word." I really don’t think that’s quite what these people have in mind. Be sure to (not) purchase a Goddess Rosary from their online store!

(Tip of the gimme cap to The Curt Jester.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Church arsonists tied to Satanism

While the "all-American college boys" arrested for a series of church arsons claimed they had committed their crimes for the fun of it – with no religious or political motivation – new reports from friends say the students dabbled in the occult and Satanism.

Benjamin Moseley and Russell DeBusk, 19, were theater students at Birmingham-Southern College. Matthew Cloyd, 20, lived in the same dorm as DeBusk, an academic overachiever and son of a doctor.

Less enthralled with fame and film, Matthew Cloyd, 20, hooked up with the others when he and DeBusk lived in the same dorm.

[…] Cloyd wrote to Moseley last summer, as the two planned a road trip: "Let us defy the very morals of society instilled upon us by our parents, our relatives and of course Jesus."

About the same time, DeBusk and Moseley started dabbling in the occult, according to a report by Religion News Service. They told friends they were Satanists on a hunt for knowledge.

[…] DeBusk and Moseley had a darker side, according to friends. They said they claimed to be Satanists, which, they explained, was "not about worshipping the devil, but about the pursuit of knowledge."

Jeremy Burgess, DeBusk's roommate, said he discussed religion with him.

"He told me I was one of the more intelligent Christians he's talked to," Burgess said. "Coming from a Satanist, I didn't know quite how to interpret that."
(From WorldNetDaily for 3/13/2006)

That last sentence has to be the quote of the day.

I always take reports like this with a grain of salt, and I really have no idea what I actually believe about all this stuff. “The devil made me do it” has always seemed to me to be the most facile of excuses for evil. On the other hand, “dabbling in Satanism” strikes me as similar to playing with a syringe you find on a street corner. Odds are, you aren’t going to get hurt. Sometimes, however, it will kill you. Why even mess with it? You’re just setting yourself up for something bad to happen.

Even if you’re a convinced modernist and think it nonsense that “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour (1Pe 5:8),” what does “dabbling in Satanism” say about the person that does it? Everybody knows what “Satan” means, and even if you don’t believe he exists, isn’t there by definition something wrong with glorifying the notion? Even if you don’t believe you’re opening yourself up to the preternatural, don’t you believe you’re opening yourself up to something foul in yourself? Talk about asking for it!

These guys will probably have several years to think the matter through; fortunately, they didn’t injure or kill anyone in the commission of their crimes. I hope prison doesn’t simply harden them. A felony conviction probably won’t hurt the actors too much. Given the current moral state of the American arts community, it may even be a professional asset. Mr. Cloyd, however, can probably kiss any hope of a professional career goodbye.

Truly a sad thing for all concerned – a really good sentence would have these guys spend the next seven to ten years helping rebuild the churches they burned and then serving the communities they harmed.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

City to seize church by eminent domain

The city of Long Beach, Calif., is using the power of eminent domain bolstered by last summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling to condemn a Baptist congregation's church building.

The city wants to remove the Filipino Baptist Fellowship's building to make way for condominiums, the Baptist Press reported.

The city will hold a hearing March 13 and vote on a resolution authorizing the city attorney to begin condemnation proceedings.

[…] Baptist Press noted there are eight other active cases of eminent domain abuse against churches across the country, according to the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm in Arlington, Va.
(Read the whole article on WorldNet Daily)

I hope no one is surprised by this. If Kelo v. City of New London continues to stand, we are likely to see a whole lot more of it. Churches, after all, are among the prime targets for seizure since they produce no tax revenue. Perhaps we’d best start looking to see what we can use as the equivalent of catacombs.

The whole thing is kind of funny, in a way. The authorities just arrested three kids for burning down a bunch of Baptist churches in Alabama. The jerks are likely to get (deservedly) some pretty serious jail time. Other than being legal, however, how are Long Beach’s actions any different?

On the other hand, perhaps the court will use this as an opportunity to correct the hideous decision they made in Kelo.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Study: Texas parental law lowers teen abortion

From The Houston Chronicle:
Texas' rate of teen abortions fell after the state enacted a parental notification law, a new study found, but researchers also discovered an increase in the likelihood that girls nearly 18 will delay abortions so they don't have to tell their parents.

The study, conducted by researchers at Baruch College at City University of New York, found girls 17 1/2 or slightly older were 34 percent more likely to have an abortion in the much riskier second trimester than girls already 18 when they became pregnant.

The findings were published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Texas, the largest and most populous of the 35 states to enforce a parental involvement law, was chosen for the study because of its size and diverse population and because most girls live far from states that don't require parental involvement.

After notification became law in Texas, the study shows, abortion rates among teens ages 15-17 fell 11 percent to 20 percent more than the rate among 18-year-olds, who were not affected by the law.

The study acknowledges that abortion rates and birth rates among teens have been declining nationally and in Texas since 1991. Lead researcher Ted Joyce said researchers tried to compensate for that by subtracting the drop in abortion rates among 18-year-olds — 7 percent — from the rate among the younger girls.

Researchers based their findings on birth and abortion certificates from 1998-1999, the two years before parental notification became law, and rates from 2000 to 2002, after the law was enacted.

[…] Joyce, who said he supports abortion rights, hopes the study spotlights what he calls the adverse outcomes — later abortions and more unintended childbearing — of parental involvement laws.

"It's a public health issue and we should worry about it," he said. "If we really want to avoid abortions we should help kids avoid pregnancies."

How can anyone possibly be surprised by this? Do they honestly believe that large numbers of parents, once informed, wouldn’t try to help their daughters keep the baby? The fact that they might be unhappy with a child's actions isn't going to make them stop loving her.

I am particularly struck by the “adverse outcomes.” “Later abortions” means that girls who are close to 18 wait until they are no longer under the notification law, then seek an abortion without telling their parents. In other words, they want an abortion and don’t want to take the chance that anyone might talk them out of it. That is truly a sad situation, but I’m not at all sure what can be done about it, short of convincing kids that mom and dad aren’t the enemy. (I know – on rare occasions, mom and dad are the enemy. The notification laws all have provisions for special cases.)

As to the horrors of “unintended childbearing,” I’m not even sure what that means. Until a few decades ago, you could make the case that all childbearing was to some extent “unintended,” in that it was virtually impossible to exercise control over the process. Childbearing is the result of having sex; I am aware of only one exception to that general rule, and it occurred quite some time ago. Why should the fact that a baby is unintended condemn it to death?

Kansas church won't break picketing laws

From The Modesto (Cal.) Bee:
A small Kansas church known for its anti-gay protests said Wednesday it will still picket on the day of soldiers' funerals but won't violate new state laws that limit when and where such demonstrations take place.

"We're not going to get arrested. We obey the law," said Shirley Phelps-Roper, an attorney and member of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, a fundamentalist congregation headed by her father, the Rev. Fred Phelps.

Westboro Baptist has outraged mourning communities across the nation by showing up at soldiers' funerals with signs that read "God Hates Fags" or "God Made IEDs," a reference to roadside bombs. Members of the congregation contend soldiers are being struck down by God for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.

In response, several states have passed or considered legislation restricting when and where pickets may demonstrate at funerals. Violators can be fined or jailed.

Westboro Baptist canceled demonstrations at funerals this past week in Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin, which have new laws limiting such protests.

Phelps-Roper cited a variety of reasons for the cancellations and said the group still plans to picket in states that have new laws.

She also said the church is considering legal challenges to the laws. "We're waiting until all the legislatures are over to see what tattered shreds they've left the Constitution in," she said.

Oklahoma's law bars protests an hour before or after a funeral service and keeps picketers at least 500 feet away from a church or cemetery where the funeral is being held. Missouri and Wisconsin approved similar laws, and Indiana's law makes disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral a felony punishable by fines and prison time.

Okay – from what I’ve seen and heard about this “church,” it is far closer to being a cult than to any kind of orthodox Christian church. Most of the members are somehow related to the “pastor,” Fred Phelps, Sr., who founded Westboro after being booted out of a normal Baptist congregation. The facilities are more in the nature of a fortified compound than of a church. They appear to believe that no one outside Westboro Baptist will be saved, that the elect are not answerable to human laws, that Christmas and Easter are pagan holidays, and that it is a sin not to rejoice when other people are victims of tragedy, violence or suffering. WBC has reportedly prayed for the total destruction of every individual not in their church. In addition, they hope and pray that everybody outside WBC will burn in hell for all eternity. (Mostly excerpted from Wikipedia, which is not always reliable, but I have seen similar information elsewhere.)

It’s a free country, and that includes the freedom to be an evil jackass, but I wish Mr. Phelps would just go away. Most of all, I wish the press would quit referring to these people as Christians. Please offer a prayer for these poor deluded souls when you read this. It is just sad.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Men's Rights Group Eyes Child Support Stay

From The Houston Chronicle:
Contending that women have more options than they do in the event of an unintended pregnancy, men's rights activists are mounting a long shot legal campaign aimed at giving them the chance to opt out of financial responsibility for raising a child.

The National Center for Men has prepared a lawsuit _ nicknamed Roe v. Wade for Men _ to be filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Michigan on behalf of a 25-year-old computer programmer ordered to pay child support for his ex-girlfriend's daughter. The suit addresses the issue of male reproductive rights, contending that lack of such rights violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

The gist of the argument: If a pregnant woman can choose among abortion, adoption or raising a child, a man involved in an unintended pregnancy should have the choice of declining the financial responsibilities of fatherhood. The activists involved hope to spark discussion even if they lose.

"There's such a spectrum of choice that women have _ it's her body, her pregnancy and she has the ultimate right to make decisions," said Mel Feit, director of the men's center. "I'm trying to find a way for a man also to have some say over decisions that affect his life profoundly."

I wondered when this would finally come up. Ideas have consequences, and the logical consequence of “personal reproductive rights” is that what applies to the goose ought to apply to the gander as well. If the woman has the intrinsic right to kill the child, why doesn’t the guy have the right to ignore it? In terms of your own life, which would you prefer? To be ignored by your father? Or to be whacked by your mother? Which is the greater offense?

Who was it that said "the problem with insanity isn't that it is illogical, but that it is only logical?"

Cool Critter of the Day

A team of American-led divers has discovered a new crustacean in the South Pacific that resembles a lobster and is covered with what looks like silky, blond fur, French researchers said Tuesday.

Scientists said the animal, which they named Kiwa hirsuta, was so distinct from other species that they created a new family and genus for it.

The divers found the animal in waters 7,540 feet deep at a site 900 miles south of Easter Island last year, according to Michel Segonzac of the
French Institute for Sea Exploration.

The new crustacean is described in the journal of the
National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

The animal is white and just shy of 6 inches long — about the size of a salad plate.
[…] It is also blind. The researchers found it had only "the vestige of a membrane" in place of eyes, Segonzac said.

[…] The family was named Kiwaida, from Kiwa, the goddess of crustaceans in Polynesian mythology.

In BSF this year we are studying Genesis. When I looked at the picture of the critter, the first thing that came to my mind was Esau, the hairy brother of Jacob. Perhaps it is really just an ordinary lobster in disguise, trying to steal the blessing of its hairy brother.

Or perhaps it is trying to imitate a mammal to avoid being eaten during Lent.

White, long blonde hair, living in the depths - at least they didn't name it after Britney Spears.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Guantanamo 'better than Belgian jails'

Inmates at Guantanamo Bay prison are treated better than in Belgian jails, an expert for Europe's biggest security organisation said today after a visit to the controversial US detention centre in Cuba.

But Alain Grignard, deputy head of Brussels' federal police anti-terrorism unit, said holding people for many years without telling them what would happen to them is in itself "mental torture".

"At the level of the detention facilities, it is a model prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian prisons," said Mr Grignard.

He served as expert on a visit to Guantanamo Bay last week by a group of politicians from the assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Mr Grignard's comments came less than a month after a UN report said Guantanamo prison detainees faced treatment amounting to torture.

For the record, the UN never once actually visited Gitmo – TWA)

Many of the 500 inmates in the prison at the US naval base in Cuba have been held for four years without trial. The prisoners were mainly detained in Afghanistan and are held as pat of President George W. Bush's "war on terror".

I thought is was the USA's war on terror. Was it "Franklin D. Roosevelt's WWII," or "Abe Lincoln's War of Northern Aggression?"

Mr Grignard told a news conference prisoners' right to practice their religion, food, clothes and medical care were better than in Belgian prisons.

"I know no Belgian prison where each inmate receives its Muslim kit," Mr Grignard said.

At last, a touch of sanity. It seems to have become worldwide conventional wisdom that US troopers get their jollies by pulling fingernails off of helpless, innocent, “moderate muslim” victims, and no one ever questions just how preposterous the whole idea is. I think part of the issue is that the nattering classes just don’t know anyone in the military. Their sons and daughters wind up in the Graduate School of Bidness, while the kids of the middle class go off to defend their right to never suffer discomfort. Soldiers then easily become some nefarious “them” that it is easy to mentally reconstruct into snarling SS troopers.

With regard to “holding people for many years without telling them what would happen to them,” anyone who fell into enemy hands (on either side) back in 1939 had six years to wait before knowing what would happen to them. And Rudolf Hess had to wait 5 years until the successful conclusion of the war before his trial for war crimes. Had the war not ended in 1945, he would have been waiting longer. As long as prisoners are treated properly, I don’t see any compelling reason why they should not be held for the duration of hostilities. The offering of parole is usually restricted to regular soldiers from whom it is reasonable to expect honorable conduct, and those who believe the residents of Club Gitmo should be freed should remember that the accepted penalty for violation of parole by a war prisoner is trial and sentencing by the Detaining Power – including execution.

Monday, March 06, 2006


If the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do? (Psa 11:3, RSV)

I fret a lot these days. I fret about the decay of society; I fret about the future of the country; I fret about the future of the Church here in America. I fret about what kind of a world my daughter is going to have to live in. I fret about just what the heck it is God wants me to be doing.

In the 15th century, they used to fret, too. Pope Calixtus III (1455-1458) prayed “From the devil, the Turk, and the comet, Good Lord deliver us.” Substitute global warming for the comet, and nothing much has changed. Constantinople fell in 1453; the towers fell in 2001. Their portent of impending doom was Halley’s comet (1456); ours is melting icecaps. The devil, well, he’s always around.

There are two primary reasons why I fret. One has to do with not really knowing what I’m supposed to be doing. I always feel like I’m supposed to be “doing something for God,” and I can never figure out what it is. The other has to do with the feeling that the world is spinning out of control – “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” I think both derive from flaws in how I view God’s relation to the world.

Why do I think it’s up to me to figure out what God wants me to do? If God wants me to do something, He will no doubt be able to find a way to inform me. He is God, after all! My real fear - the one that I don't want to admit – is that God wants me to do what I’m doing now, and do it well It’s an insult to my adolescent-level grandiosity, and a testimony to my unwillingness to submit.

And why do I fear the course of events? Christendom quaked in terror of the Moslems back in the fifteenth century; it looked like all of Europe would be overwhelmed. Things didn’t get better for a long time; it wasn’t until 1529 that the Turks were finally defeated at the gates of Vienna. In the meantime, saints kept on being saintly, and the lost kept on getting lost. And the people who spent their lives fretting wasted time that they could have used to become saints. Civilizations come, and civilizations go, and all are in the hands of God. People, however, last for eternity, and my job is to choose whether or not I will be an heir of the promise. The answer to the problem posed in the psalm at top is immediately answered in the succeeding verse.

The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD's throne is in heaven;
his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men. (Psa 11:4, RSV)

Nothing exists outside the permission of The God Who Sees (Gen. 16:13), the same God Almighty Who gave the promises to Abraham and to Peter. Whatever comes, comes within that context; there is no other. Perhaps, what I should really give up for Lent is fear.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psa 27:1, RSV)

Friday, March 03, 2006

New from Opus Dei, Just in time for Lent!

Ever since the publication of that unfortunate book, The Da Vinci Code, those who wish to follow the path of corporal mortification have found themselves under public scrutiny. Gone are those glory days when we could safely travel from town to town, publicly lashing ourselves into ecstasy. After the unwanted publicity from Dan Brown’s minim opus, how can the remnant faithful follow our holy practices without drawing unfavorable attention from the crawling masses of hell-spawned heathen general population? Now that we have entered the Holy Season of Lent, most true Christians members of the Order are afraid to pull out the simplest whip or chain for public degradation penance lest they draw ridicule upon Holy Mother Church.

Opus Dei proudly endorses the new Mark 666 Electronic Flagellator, The Beast™ of all concealed self-flagellation devices. Easily worn around the waist, The Beast is invisible under loose clothing. Electrodes can be placed on the back, chest, or any other more sensitive part of the body one wishes to torture chastise. Simple, intuitive electronic controls permit the wearer to dial in any level of penance from a mildly titillating “Inadvertant Venial” to a brain-sizzling “Repentant Apostate.” You can punish your sinful nature on the bus, at the office, in the restaurant, or in the comfort of your own home without disturbing the purulent bags of sinful corruption other folks around you.

The unit runs off easily-replaceable, rechargeable cell phone batteries; typical battery life is 36 hours at venial-sin settings, 6 hours at mortal. The unit is guaranteed for 5 complete Great Lents.

Units not sold at most department stores; if you’re really one of us, you’ll know where to get one.

Caution: Use at high settings may lead to involuntary grunting and twitching. If this causes unwanted attention, it is generally sufficient to claim a neurological condition and threaten to sue for discrimination. Do not use if you have a pacemaker, implanted hearing aid, or embedded shrapnel. Do not operate heavy machinery or motor vehicles while the flagellator is on. Do not use tobacco products while at the highest settings, as cigarettes and cigars will light by themselves. Do not under any circumstances handle explosives while wearing the flagellator. Use while swimming or bathing may result in involuntary martyrdom. Avoid exposure when raining or snowing. Manufacturer is not responsible if you attempt to cross security checkpoints while wearing device. Recharger and spare batteries sold separately.

Lent: A Time to Fast From Media and Criticism

Vatican City, March 2, 2006 ( Article #ZE06030301).- Fasting today is not just about not eating or drinking, says the president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

Fasting can also include abstaining from radio, television, telephone - and criticism of others, says Benedictine Father Juan Javier Flores Arcas . "Our Lent should be like Christ and with Christ," the priest said in this interview with ZENIT on Lent.

[…] The traditional Lenten practices, of which the Ash Wednesday liturgy speaks, are fasting, prayer and alms. Needless to say, they have not lost any of their timeliness.

But there are many more fasts than those the Church asks of us on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

The member that sins the most must fast, and each one will know what fast suits him and which he must practice most: media fasting; doing without everything that is superfluous in a Christian's life; the indiscriminate use of the telephone, television, the computer, and of the Internet is superfluous; fasting from that which can be harmful in our conversations and which might injure our brother; fasting from lack of charity and sensitivity, from constant criticism of others, from falsehood and lies, from one's egoism.

The eye that sinned, the mouth that spoke evilly, the hand that acted worse, the foot that went on the wrong path, the heart that sinned, must fast.

Ouch, that hurts! I have just been royally skewered. I really hate having the light shine in my darkness. Based on the above, blogging may be light over the Lenten season. Dang, where did I put that sackcloth…

Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The "It's not 1968 Anymore" Award: We Have a Winner

London, Mar. 01 ( - Catholic political activists in Great Britain planned a campaign of disobedience in London on Ash Wednesday to protest against nuclear weapons.

Members of two liberal groups, Catholic Peace Action and Pax Christi, met at the British defense ministry in Whitehall, planning to mark the building with ashes. Organizers of the protests said that they would risk arrest in an annual effort to dramatize the country's reliance on nuclear weaponry. The demonstrators said that the government should "build security through a commitment to justice and actions that recognize the dignity of each person rather than through fear and the strength of nuclear arms."

The focal point of this year's demonstration-- an annual protest that has been staged since 1984-- is public discussion of plans to replace the Trident nuclear submarines. The two Catholic groups argue that replacement of the decommissioned submarines would violate a British commitment to work for an end to the arms race, under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Could someone please gently tell these people that (a) it’s 2006 now, (b) the Cold War is over, and (c) despite their best efforts, the Soviet Union lost. If they start to slip into shock, play Lennon’s Imagine for them a few times until they revive.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The First Day of Lent

…and I already blew the fast without even thinking about it. One thing about Lent – it really encourages humility. (I’ve always been really proud of my humility.)

It reminds me of why I get so irritated with arguments pro and con about sola fide. Any straightforward reading of scripture makes it clear that certain standards of behavior are expected of me. After all, Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17) and said the earth would pass away before the law was abolished (Luke 16:17). Paul (1 Cor 6:9-10) lists a whole mess of things that will keep us out of the kingdom of heaven; James (Jam 2:17) tells us faith without works is dead. The fathers reiterate the same theme over and over again. My salvation indeed depends on what sort of person I am.

I know I have to become righteous to inherit eternal life. Having been myself for quite some number of years, however, I also know with absolute certainty that it’s not gonna happen. Were I to receive daily eucharist for the next 12,000 years and say a million rosaries, I still wouldn’t get there. It’s like the old Caedmon’s Call song:

You know I ran across
An old box of letters
When I was bagging up some clothes for goodwill

But you know I had to laugh
At the same old struggles
That plagued me then are plaguing me still

I have no alternative whatsoever but to keep plugging along and trust in God to make it all work out in the end. Is it all up to me? Yeah – it pretty much says so. Church teaching has always emphasized personal holiness Is it all up to God? Yeah. I will never quit sinning – I am sure I have the grace and the capacity, but I just don’t “have what it takes.” Is it faith alone, or is it faith plus works? The only answer I can come up with is “Yes.”

Is that a self contradiction? Not really; it’s an observation. Two things that are both observably true can’t contradict each other. If they appear to contradict each other, then there is something wrong in my understanding of the world. Whenever I teach Intro Chem, one difficult thing to get across to people is the wave / particle duality of the electron. “Is it a wave or is it a particle? It can’t be both. They’re mutually exclusive!” Well, no they aren’t. An electron simply is what it is, and electrons have been perfectly happy being themselves since God made the Big Bang bang. They’re not going to stop being electrons; I need to stop and change my paradigm. I may not be able to visualize an electron the way I visualize a hamster, but if I accept it for what it is, I can work with it.

I hear too many facile explanations that try to reconcile the apparent contradiction between “faith alone” and “faith plus works” without changing the paradigm – trying to make it “understandable” as if it has to fit the mold of my worldly preconceptions. They have always struck me as contrived and hollow.

The Divine Mercy is what it is. I may not be able to quite wrap my head around it, but if I take it on its own terms – if I accept the notion that the apparent contradiction is my problem and not the problem of the thing itself – then I can get somewhere.

This isn’t the “living with contradiction” guff you hear from so many pulpits these days, which is usually an excuse for contradicting scripture and the historic teachings of the church. It’s living with something inexplicable that you know is true based on what you can clearly see for yourself. I may not quite grasp the relation between faith and works, but I can see it in my own life and the lives of others.

And I do have an answer to the question: “You say it’s both faith alone and faith plus works? How the heck does that work?” The answer is that it seems to work pretty well. Praise be to God always.