Does God Will Suffering?

A close friend of mine recently fell into a severe emotional state when a good priest friend, who had suffered a long and painful bout with brain cancer, finally succumbed to the disease. How could God have allowed such a horrible thing to happen? Fr. M was still quite young and apparently had many good years ahead of him. When I mentioned that perhaps this was God’s will for Fr. M my friend lapsed into a bitter state of denial. “I don’t believe that God had anything to do with it,” he snapped back as if unable to reconcile a loving, merciful being with a deity who could actually will such terrible suffering on such a good and decent man.

I had no quick answers to his complaint, yet something deep inside me said that no matter how unpleasant the implications God, in fact, not only permits us to suffer, to which my friend would tacitly agree, but more to the point there are times when God positively wills us to suffer. It is on this second point that my friend and many fellow Christians would violently disagree. In fact, the all too common depiction of God as some cosmic sadist has likely turned more people against religion in our materialist, pain-averse culture than ever before. A mass consumerism which promises instant gratification has somehow robbed us of the former stoicism by which our great-grandparents quietly accepted pain and suffering as natural parts of life. Continue reading

Connect the Dots: Violence Beget Violence

Now that domestic terrorism is becoming a regular weekly event I wonder, should we permanently start flying our flags at half mast? Of course, my deepest prayers and sympathies go out to the victims and families of the irrational and savage violence being perpetrated in places like El Paso and Dayton. But in official responses from the leadership class I keep hearing the same worn and tired narratives, i.e. We need to address “access to guns,” “ammunition magazines,” “video violence,” the current “mental health crisis,” etc., as if taking guns off a shelf will magically turn psychotic killers into model citizens. But if not guns, such deranged domestic terrorists will surely resort to homemade bombs, axes or knives, bottles of acid, even large vehicles to commit their reckless mayhem.

Unfortunately, the one thing that politicians, journalists, and countless activists on both sides of the divide seem strangely reluctant to bring up, much less actually admit to, is that fundamentally what our society is now dealing with is not a “mental health crisis” but a moral health crisis. Continue reading

Of Angels, God, and Men

What are angels and what effect, if any, do they have in our lives? To begin with, angelic and human natures are totally separate and distinct forms. People often confuse angels with deceased persons, probably stemming from countless Hollywood depictions such as Clarence, the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Real angels are spiritual beings who have never been attached to a body. Just so you and I will never become angels because we are human, something entirely different in both essence and nature. Catholic teaching has long insisted that our special human dignity derives from the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God. But if God is pure spirit it would seem more likely that he is reflected in his angels, not men and women. Yet man actually bears a closer resemblance to God than even the highest angelic hosts. We know this because God himself took the form of a man, not an angel, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Angels are quite literally God’s ministers who execute his divine will in the universe as they have from the beginning. They are of the spiritual order which is superior to and in control of the material order. They are like cosmic traffic cops charged with implementing and directing the physical laws of nature. Science may understand, for instance, how gravity hold stars, planets, even galaxies together and can even make mathematical predictions based on it’s laws. But what science cannot fully answer is why gravity exists in the first place and what mysterious forces cause it to behave as it does. In other words there must be, behind all the physical sciences, some Divine science which ultimately orders the cosmos. Continue reading

No Greater Love

 

A follow-up to my prior post regarding the Courage Deficit we are now facing.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13) Since posting my last column on today’s Deficit of Courage (April 20), events have confirmed many of the arguments made in that post. Exactly one week later, to the day, a shooting erupted at the Chabod House of Poway synagogue in San Diego followed three days later by another savage attack on a college campus in Charlotte, North Carolina. Then on May 7 a third brutal attack unfolded at a STEM high school in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, practically my own back yard.  But in each instance, what might have unfolded as another major tragedy was foiled by the courageous intervention of ordinary citizens whose quick and selfless actions prevented major bloodbaths. Of those five courageous individuals who confronted various gunmen, two survived their assailant’s attacks, still, three of their company perished while preserving the lives of others. Continue reading

The “Courage Deficit” that Burdens Our Children

Americans have a long and cherished tradition of independent self-reliance and initiative which is, I fear, being eroded into something the consistency of wet sand. Witness the recent fiasco in Denver area schools where a panic attack, fomented by public officials, spread like a virus to affect some 400,000 students. In the end the only casualty was a tragically disturbed 18 year old girl who, on little more than a hunch and having broken no apparent laws, became the object of a massive FBI manhunt which ended only after her suicide was discovered in a secluded mountain forest. Meanwhile thousands of Denver area students and indeed the entire nation were, once again, manipulated and traumatized by our trembling officialdom, ably abetted by a vulture media establishment. Yet mental images of frightened students and teachers cowering in a locked classroom make me wonder whatever happened to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?

I remember quite a different America growing up where kids routinely rode their bikes to school and played outdoors unsupervised till dusk. We Boomers inherited a legacy of valor, self-sacrifice, and courage from our parent’s generation, who had recently fought a terrible war to secure freedom for all. Freedom is not free; it sometimes exacts a very high price after all. Continue reading

Weaponizing History

What should the proper attitude towards history be? Today, campus ideologues and Antifa iconoclasts are busily knocking down monuments or eradicating any positive memories of the past. Consider the case of Notre Dame University which recently covered over some century old murals of Christopher Columbus using the “doublespeak” mantra of, “not concealing anything but rather to tell the full story,” so claimed university president Rev. John Jenkins. (But how does erasure tell a story?) Such academic politicians are especially adept at distorting, altering, or re-interpreting genuine history as a cheap propaganda tool. I call it “weaponizing history,” using the past as a weapon to smite one’s opponents or, more often, to advance some favored agenda.

These kinds of historical abuses should raise serious questions about what is a proper attitude towards history in our modern world. Obviously a good faithful historian is truthful in so far as the limitations of documentation allows. But beyond that, good history neither embellishes the past needlessly nor is it used as a blanket condemnation of persons or events already transpired. It needs to be objective and fair minded, taking into consideration the context of culture, belief systems, even geography ~ all of which have enormous bearings on human activity in any age. But too often the grievance mongers only aim is to hijack history for personal gain. Continue reading

Eve & the True Meaning of ‘Feminism”

Mary Beth Bonacci wrote a marvelous piece recently in the Denver Catholic titled, “On Toxic Masculinity.” It seems that in the current #MeToo climate, normal masculinity is routinely equated with being a racist, misogynist, or even rapist. But Bonacci bravely stands up for manhood. She notes, “I don’t believe masculinity is ‘toxic’. Masculinity is raw material, just as femininity is. Men can use their gifts for good or evil, just as women can. (But try using the term ‘toxic femininity’ in polite company and see what happens.) For millennia, the goal of society has been to channel those instincts, not to suppress them… But there seems to be a movement to neutralize masculinity entirely.” Rather than subscribe to some prescribed gender ideology, namely that men are basically rotten and women are always good, Bonacci rightly places the responsibility for actions on the individual, not on one’s gender. She reminds us that stereotypes are overly broad generalizations containing some small grains of truth that tend to be conflated to absurd proportions. But one thing is undeniable: men and women are cut from very different cloth, and with good reason.

Watching Peter Jackson’s poignant documentary on World War I, “They Will Not Grow Old,” I was reminded that male attitudes and behavior are little changed over the past 100 years, indeed the past 1,000 years. Men are generally the physically stronger sex but weaker morally. It is women who have historically provided the real moral strength in any society. But after 1918 the moral attitudes of women began to change in the West. Legal emancipation and the vote opened up a whole new sense of self sufficiency which, ever so gradually, morphed into today’s radical feminism. Continue reading

What Good is Suffering?

The modern-day Revolution is primarily a rejection not merely of the Christian social order but of God himself. He is, after all, the ultimate object of insurrection. And what is the nature of God’s supposed crime against humanity to warrants such rejection? The most common complaint lodged against him is that he allows pain and suffering in the world, and therefore he must be a cruel God. In light of the accusation we must honestly ask ourselves, is this a valid charge or a mere pretext?

We all experience some degree of suffering throughout life. This is an unavoidable fact of our human existence. And because there is suffering and yes, evil, many people conclude either, a) that God does not exist or, b) then he must be some kind of cosmic sadist bent on torturing hapless souls for no apparent reason. There is another side to the story, however, which is that human beings also enjoy an abundance of the good things that sustain life and give much happiness and joy besides.

We occupy a world of gratuitous abundance which too often we take for granted. The rains fall to water this fertile earth, thus providing us with food, fibers for clothing, medicine and much more. Then consider the countless natural resources which make our technical civilization possible. We have family, teachers, and friends who nurture us and enrich our lives. Most of all, the gift of life itself was bestowed liberally upon each one of us with no cooperation on our part. What about the particular talents, abilities, and creative drives not to mention the countless material goods that we enjoy and find fulfillment in? Consider the gift of time itself which provides us ample opportunity to grow and develop those talents? Do these things also not come from God? If so, he must be a very poor torturer, indeed. Continue reading

Out of India

The former crown jewel of the British Empire proudly proclaims itself today as the world’s largest democracy. With four times the population of the world’s second largest democracy (the United States), India is undoubtedly a nation with an important future. Within a few years it is set to surpass even China, becoming the world’s largest nation. But India is also a land deeply influenced by its long and fascinating past. It is by far the world’s largest melting pot comprising at least 22 different languages and countless ethnicities among its people.This amazing amalgam of humanity is squeezed into a land area less than a third the size of the United States and no society on the planet can boast of greater diversity socially, culturally, or even geographically. Its terrain ranges from steaming tropical jungles in the south to mighty watered plains along the Ganges and the perennially ice bound ranges of the high Himalayas.

Surprisingly, this exotic sub-continent at the center of Asia is also one of the earliest cradles of Christianity, a fact of which very few Westerners are aware. The Catholic faith in India can claim a lineage of nearly 2,000 years, when the apostle Thomas arrived on its western shoreline around the year 50 AD. India, in fact, was quite well known to the Romans who traded with it heavily for spices, especially pepper. St. Thomas most likely landed here on a trading vessel loaded with Roman coins. Following his Master’s instructions to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 28:19) Continue reading

A Crisis of Leadership

Consider this proverbial chicken and egg problem. Are bad leaders the cause of social and moral decline in a society, or are they merely another symptom of such decline ~ a Cause or an Effect? Perhaps in a representative democracy such as ours the answer must include both of the above.  As many pundits have pointed out, people often get the leaders they deserve, but are leaders, by their own actions, entirely blameless in the corruption of a society? After all, those who exert power, either for good or for ill, owe some accountability to the people for whatever consequences their actions may bring about. Our great nation is a case in point.

This land of E Pluribus Unum ~ Out of Many, One ~ is gradually being transformed into the very opposite, Out of One, Many. This is apparent in the extreme levels of social polarization that has not been seen here since those fateful years preceding the American Civil War. Today’s Americans face a similar dilemma, though the issue is no longer the extension of freedom to all persons but the extension of something far more basic and compelling, which is life itself. Should unborn persons have a legally protected right to exist? This simple question has raised violent passions on either side to such elevated levels that our very political system is now imperiled. Abortion has become the new lightening-rod issue which weighs heavily upon the entire political dialogue, while poisoning civil discourse from both sides. Continue reading