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
Shepherds, or Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?
“The shepherds have rebelled against me; the prophets prophesied in the name of Baal, following useless idols… You heavens, stand aghast at this, says the Lord ─ since my people have committed a double crime: they have abandoned me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water.” (Jer. 2:8,12-13)
If Theodore McCarrick’s sudden fall from grace over a sordid history of sexual abuse demonstrates anything, it is that the Catholic hierarchy can no longer continue to operate under an opaque cloak of secrecy and deception. As the Church confronts this latest ‘Watergate moment,’ I wonder, do its leaders really comprehend the problem? The latest disturbing revelations by a former Vatican Nuncio, Archbishop Vigano, suggest otherwise. Following the classic Western movie “they went that-a-way” theme, it seems that in our shepherd’s zealous hunt for child molesters, they have willfully blinded themselves to an equally disturbing problem, a rampant homosexual subculture operating within certain clerical ranks. Continue reading
Yesterday marked the 500th anniversary of possibly the most momentous event in modern Western society. Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the church door at Wittenburg demarcates the transition from a medieval society going back to the era of Charlemagne into what we know as the modern world in many respects. Most Protestants today regard Luther as the sainted reformer of Christianity while other Christians would see him as a heretic who split the Church asunder. And while both views may have their respective merits (and passionate defenders) neither view provides a clear and dispassionate analysis of Luther’s methods and objectives. Continue reading
On my recent long drive back from Nebraska I was pondering just how expansive our great country is, but also how people today are so impressed by large numbers, especially when preceded by a $ sign. But numbers are really just abstract ciphers until we attach some more pertinent meaning to them. For instance, they can be helpful in measuring relationships between physical objects or to gain some sense of proportion. My mind then wandered into the field of astronomy where Really Big numbers are common, everyday occurrences. It turns out this big, old world of ours is really pretty insignificant in the universal scheme of existence, and yet its significance derives not from any physical properties but because it contains something that is exceedingly rare in the cosmos, and even more precious: life. Continue reading
On Monday, August 21 several million Americans will witness a total eclipse of the sun. From ancient times solar eclipses, like comets, have been considered portents of singular events, either great or chilling, something like a celestial early warning system. I am not normally prone to make wild predictions based upon astronomical signs, but this year already seems to be filled with foreboding on many fronts, as though something great and terrible looms on the horizon. Being the 100th year of the Fatima apparitions in Portugal, many others have also expressed a sense of imminence, as though a significant spiritual storm is brewing the likes of which our generation has never seen. Like any premonition there is no real way to accurately predict what form that storm might take. But, as always, the best clues about the future often come from the past. Continue reading
(In a Very Confused World)
Our world today, particularly in the West, is suffering through a frightful identity crisis. If you doubt this assertion just look closely at the ridiculous identity politics that has overrun college campuses. Universities have always been the bell-weathers of society so the current gender dystopia verging on hysteria that we now commonly see among students is an ill wind that blows. It would appear that many young people today are undergoing what was called in the ’60s a major “identity crisis.” The pendulum has finally swung full circle. Continue reading
All are Redeemed, but not all are Saved
“Never was there a worse sinner, and never was God kinder to one,” remarks the fictional character J. Blue in Myles Connolly’s classic novelette Mr. Blue. Although intended as an epithet for his gravestone, the childlike Blue innocently encapsulates the entire mystery of salvation into a single, plain-spoken truism. There is not one of us who could not make that motto his or her own, for it is only the kindness of God which allows any person to be saved. Nothing we can ever do merits such extraordinary kindness. All salvation is God’s pure gift.
Of course many in our secular culture do not see it that way. Today’s world is profoundly skeptical of a benevolent God. The belief that mankind can and will save itself, solve its own problems, and create its own sanguine future has become the new gospel. Continue reading
Glorious Vacation! We just spent a thrilling week touring about Northern California, a delightful experience augmented by the extraordinary beauty and fascinating history of this corner of the world. Pristine Sierra lakes, sprawling vineyards, and majestic giant redwoods all conspire to leave the tourist breathless. My only complaint during an otherwise perfect holiday was the haphazard posting of road signs, a situation which too often left one in a state of mystified spatial confusion.
We little realize or appreciate just how much we exist at the mercy of sign makers until we find ourselves unexpectedly on the wrong side of a six lane torrent of madly rushing traffic, Continue reading
My father was a great dad in almost every respect. Notwithstanding his cheery, loving disposition he was affected by a bit of residual puritanism which sometimes surfaced in amusing ways. I remember one such instance when I was about 12 years old. Our family received some free tickets to a newly released film, Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man. While the movie itself was quite entertaining I was more bemused by dad’s reaction to the story line which he earnestly viewed as immoral because Professor Harold Hill, the charming confidence man who wins the heart of the local librarian (Marian), is actually rescued from his well deserved fate of being exposed, horsewhipped, and thrown in a jail cell. Anything less than severe punishment represented a serious breech of justice in dad’s somewhat legalistic mind. I saw the thing a little differently. The real moral of this zany story revolves around the redemptive love of a good woman, Marian, and how that love has the power to transform a jaded, fast talking slicker into a genuine human being who learns to care more about others than himself.
Nothing rounds out one’s personality like the spirit of gratitude. Gratitude, like optimism, changes our whole outlook on life for the better. Fittingly, the very word “gratitude” rhymes with “attitude” because gratitude is an attitude which becomes essential to human happiness and well being. But gratitude is not an easy habit to cultivate, especially in a free society such as ours. Not that freedom itself is antithetical to gratitude. In fact, freedom is the strongest inducement to be grateful to the God who first gave us freedom. Not all peoples possess the precious liberties that we Americans enjoy and that fact alone should inspire one to a sense of profound gratitude.
Today, however, our country seems to be losing that once vibrant sense of gratitude to God which long served as a hallmark of our national identity and character. Continue reading