Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Charismatic Renewal: Clap if you love Jesus?

The Charismatic Renewal is a movement in the Catholic Church to reemphasize the importance of developing spiritual gifts, also called charisms. However, the stories I had heard about charismatic services made it seem more like just another worship style, and one I wanted no part of. I heard about dancing and clapping during two hour long Masses and preachers singling out anyone holding back and shouting things like "If you're not clapping then you don't love Jesus!" I had heard about healing services with people jumping from their wheelchairs and running around the room. Healing is good. But the image in my mind was described well by a friend: "I kept picturing those evangelical shows that would come on Sundays with those preachers that would scream and be sweating with the people with cancer, or in wheelchairs, walking on stage and falling down, and then being whisked away." But, worst of all, it all sounded so.... extroverted! Cue humiliating memories of high school dances and gym classes.

Shocked and appalled, I adamantly refused to go to anything labeled charismatic. In fact, I had told my friend Jeremy, who was very excited about the charismatic renewal, that my preferred style of worship involves neither clapping nor gibberish! But eventually, feeling guilty for being such a grumpy jerk over a trivial thing, I broke down and attended what is called a Burning Bush Adoration.

Compared to the spectacle I had imagined, this charismatic adoration was surprisingly tame, although I did hear some speaking in tongues. Here was one of the suspicious charismatic practices I'd heard about! However, the priest leading the worship service gave a good explanation of the phenomenon. He described it as having a prayer formed in the heart and being able to express that prayer in the language of the Spirit, which I had termed gibberish, without having to consciously formulate it into words. And I think I understood what he meant. Sometimes I have a prayer in my heart but it feels like such a burden to put it into words. Surely secular people have experienced this with thoughts in general. On some occasions, I've felt like I can express it in a different way, silently, like my soul singing in some heavenly language. Maybe that's like speaking in tongues.

Note: The charism of speaking in tongues refers to a person, by the grace of God, speaking in a language that he or she does not know. Without the additional grace of understanding that language, the person may not even know the meaning of what he or she just said. Therefore, another charism is the gift of understanding tongues. If I have this gift, then God may not give me the grace of speaking in languages I don't know, but through the grace of God I am inspired to know the meaning of words spoken in languages I've never known. St. Paul says the gift of tongues is worthless unless someone in the community has this gift of interpretation. However, there's another phenomenon that is often referred to as speaking in tongues, and might be more appropriately called praying in tongues or speaking the language of the Spirit, and this is what I had qualms about.

After reading "The Power of the Kingdom" by Fr. Matthew Swizdor, I've come to think that many people have a knee jerk reaction against the charismatic renewal for reasons like this: "There are many 'charismatic' circles today, especially in certain areas, who insist that one has not received the Holy Spirit unless one is 'making funny noises.' This leads some people to imitate and pretend, lest they be left out, instead of praying and searching for the quiet, transforming presence of the Holy Spirit in their souls, which is the only thing that really matters."

To me, another troubling aspect of charismatic prayer services was witnessing resting in the Spirit. This is when a person's body relaxes and falls to the ground while being prayed over. Like speaking in tongues, initially I saw no benefit to it and certainly didn't want this to happen to me. However, shortly after my introduction to charismatic events through the Burning Bush Adoration, I went to a healing prayer service with a friend. The healing service happened after Mass during a period of Eucharistic Adoration. I was praying while my friend went forward to be anointed. When I looked up I saw people helping her up from the floor! Afterward she told me about resting in the Spirit and how sometimes when she gets prayed over she feels it coming and can either fight it or let herself go. She said, when she lets herself go, she feels completely relaxed and just rests in God's presence for a while until He releases her.

Even Fr. Matthew Swizdor started out with a negative opinion of resting in the Spirit, which many people unfortunately term slain in the Spirit. He said: "The fact that people fall to the ground when touched by the Power doesn't mean they are like dead. They are enjoying a beautiful repose in the Lord, an ecstasy, a 'floating on a cloud,' and that is why I like to call it 'resting in the Spirit'. When I first saw it happen in Pennsylvania, I felt rather negative about it. I thought they were 'passing out', and that had never appealed to me as something positive. But, actually, these people were falling into an ecstatic state, an altered state of consciousness."

I've come to the conclusion that these can be genuine experiences and I've lost my aversion to all things charismatic. It was actually quite humbling since I had been so determined to maintain my dislike. But little did I know I'd end up attending a weekend long charismatic conference on power in prayer and developing the spiritual gifts of prophecy, healing, and deliverance! That's right, private exorcism! That just goes to show that things can always get weirder.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

If God is not one, he is not God.

October 2, 2012

Archbishop Fulton Sheen felt that because Christianity is the ultimate truth, one sees shades of it in other religions, both those existing before and those coming after, because each theology seeks for truth. So he would say that Christianity is the fulfillment of all other genuine attempts at theology. In an episode of his television show Life is Worth Living, entitled "The Yearnings of the Pre-Christian World", the Archbishop explains how the ancient world foreshadowed the coming of Christianity. Two years ago my knee jerk reaction would have been to think, "how arrogant!" Now, in addition to agreeing with him, I realize how silly it was to be offended that a Catholic Archbishop thinks Christianity is true.

Anyway, one such near-truth is Polytheism. Of course, this is the belief in many gods, for example, the Greek and Roman gods. The Monotheist asks, "how can there be order in the Universe with these competing gods?" Perhaps the Polytheist answers, "one god has more power than the others." Otherwise, how can their be any stability? What happens if the lesser gods work together to overpower the greater god? That would be a disaster. Others may believe that all of the gods are in harmony with each other in a New Age sort of Pantheism. The near-truth of Pantheism will have to be pondered on another day.

GK Chesterton claimed that Hinduism is not a religion at all, but rather a mythology with little expectation to be taken literally. It reminds me of the ancient Greeks who sacrificed to the many gods while their philosophers referred to God in the singular. Maybe the answer is that a working Polytheism isn't actually Polytheism. If we conclude that there needs to be a supreme God of the gods, Polytheism looks more like Monotheism. As Tertullian wrote in the second century AD: "The supreme being must be unique, without equal... If God is not one, he is not God."

Maybe it's a matter of semantics? If God means supreme being, then how can there be more than one?

In Judaism and Christianity, there exists one God with multitudes of spiritual beings, far more intelligent and advanced than we are, with the ability to interact with the material world. In fact, I've heard more about spirits, both good and bad, since becoming Catholic than I ever had before. We worship the one God rather than interacting with spirits directly by, for example, conjuring or fortune telling. I may ask the Angels and Saints to intercede for me by the Divine Power, but I don't call upon spirits directly. Because just like the Greek gods, some spirits have better intentions than others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2113) says: "Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc."

And really, why not make friends with the One who has ultimate power? Because who am I to discern whether a spirit, especially an angel or demon who is far more intelligent than I am, is good or bad? genuine or manipulative? This is part of why the Church canonizes Saints. If I mistakenly ask St. Anthony of Padua to heal me, rather than asking for his prayerful intercession, then I am assured that I have not accidentally sent an open invitation to some antagonistic spirit (like a dangerous, sparkly vampire).

However, when acting in obedience to God in response to our prayers, the good angels fulfill their primary role as God's messengers. "They are all ministering spirits, sent to care for those on the way to salvation."--Feast of the Guardian Angels (Morning Prayer, antiphon)

On the Feast of the Guardian Angels we thank them for their intercession, venerate them on account of their virtue and obedience, and marvel at their intellect which is so superior to ours. This glorifies God through our appreciation, rather than worship, of His creatures. And yet, the existence of such creatures does remind us of the radical strangeness of God becoming man, an event that so dumbfounded and outraged some of the angels that they were moved to disobedience.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Prostitutes, hot pokers, and the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

Chapel at Dominican House of Studies

I had never been to the Dominican House of Studies when Christine invited me to the enrollment ceremony for the Angelic Warfare Confraternity (AWC) on the Feast of the Archangels one year ago. I knew very little about the AWC and had no intention of joining. But the Dominicans, aptly named the Order of Preachers, put on a good show and I rashly decided to just go with it.

According to the AWC website, "the Angelic Warfare Confraternity is a supernatural fellowship of men and women bound to one another in love and dedicated to pursuing and promoting chastity together under the powerful patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary." The main spiritual fruits of the AWC are the protection of chastity and purity, the healing of the stains of sin against chastity and purity, and the protection from the occasion of sin against chastity and purity and from scandal. Some people have reported intellectual benefits attributed to the intercession of the patron, St. Thomas Aquinas. The AWC is centuries old and some of the deceased members have been beatified.

Two of the most obvious qualities of Thomas Aquinas were his superhuman intellect and his childlike innocence, reasons for which he is called the Angelic Doctor. The title Doctor of the Church is given to a Saint whose writing has been especially important to our understanding of theology and doctrine. GK Chesterton speculated that Thomas spent so much time in intense thought that he channeled all of his other energies, including sexual energy, into thinking.

When Thomas was a young man he ran off and became a Dominican which ticked off his parents who wanted him to be a Benedictine. Mom was so upset that she sent Thomas' brothers to drag him home and lock him in the family tower. They tried to wait him out but couldn't get him to leave the Dominicans. So his brothers came up with the fool proof plan of sending a prostitute into his room to tempt him out of celibacy. (No one could possibly turn down SEX!) Well, Thomas chased the poor prostitute out of the room with a hot poker, slammed the door behind her, and burned a cross into the wooden door before collapsing to the floor, probably nearly having heart attack because Thomas was never a slender guy. Then he went into a sort of unconscious ecstasy during which angels tied a cord around his waist that would protect his chastity and purity from any further attack. Supposedly when he woke up there was a cord around his waist.

AWC members wear either a blessed cord around the waist or a blessed medal, in honor of St. Thomas and Our Lady of the Rosary. Fr Brent informed us that, "You should wear it at all times until someone removes it from your dead body."

Fr Brent admitted to removing his before surgery and forgetting to put it back on after. He remembered it when he had unusually unchaste and impure thoughts, but the thoughts went away after putting it back on. He cautioned us that this spiritual chastity belt won't help if we don't take it seriously. One has to actually want to live chastity.

Anyway, Christine and I went into the chapel and sat quietly and I started to feel awkward, not knowing what was going on. Eventually Fr Brent and some dangerously good looking Dominican men showed up to explain the details. There were seminarians and even some priests there to be enrolled and we were told that in some places entire seminaries have joined the confraternity.  Our job as members is to pray for each of us to receive the graces mentioned above. The prayers include a prayer of St. Thomas and another prayer asking for his intercession and 15 Hail Mary prayers in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary (after the original 15 decades of the rosary). We were given some time to decide if we could commit to the prayers and the lifestyle.

We went into another room to fill out a form for the records and then we were each given a candle and processed back into the chapel. We entered by twos, so of course we stood by our buddies. But once we were inside the pairs were split up on either side of the chapel. The girl in front of me seemed really confused and tried to complain and follow the older woman she was partnered with but the Dominicans politely guided her to the other side. As soon as I sat down she said to me, "I'm deaf, can you help me?" There was a lot of reading from the booklets they gave us and I tried to follow the text with my finger in case she got lost trying to lip read what Fr Brent was saying. Sometimes we had to read responses, but that wasn't made clear in the text, so she would try to watch me and see if I was talking. It wasn't the best system but we made it through.

The candles were dripping and Fr Brent sprinkled us and our cords and metals with holy water. There was water and wax everywhere! Then some Dominican brothers came in to ceremoniously put the medals around our necks. This took forever because the cords were too small to fit over some of our heads. The deaf girl next to me took down her hair as her Dominican repeatedly tried to force the cord over her head. Eventually some of them gave up and started battling with the clasp. Finally everyone was medalled and we processed out and down the cloister walk with live Gregorian Chant. One by one our names were entered into a huge old book, again very ceremoniously. Then Fr Brent gave some final instructions and I watched the deaf girl ask her companion what he had said. The old lady helplessly shook her head until the girl gave up and asked me. After some pointing and waving around and speaking as clearly was I could she repeated back what I had told her. I wonder if she often has to deal with people who are too afraid even to attempt communicating with her.

A year later, I think it was the best way to celebrate the Feast of Sts. Michael and Gabriel and Raphael, the Archangels.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

By the intercession of the dead monk skulls.

When I was on a Foreign Study Program in Greece in 2002 we went to Meteora, one of the coolest monasteries ever. We wore long skirts so as not to offend the Greek Orthodox monks. They have a room filled with dead monk skulls. It seemed strange at the time, but maybe not as weird as the tiny petrified body of a little boy that's on display at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington DC. What's the deal with the dead people (or pieces of dead people!) on display for public veneration? What's the deal with relics?

Assuming there's an afterlife (which we do), then what happens when I die? I leave my body behind, right? I don't need it anymore, right? Well... sort of. But it's still my body even though it's going to rot away. And I will still need it. But don't worry, it will be restored in a miraculous way during the resurrection of the dead. No biggie. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and restored him to earthly life even after Martha said, although not in these words, "ummmm... he's been dead for four days. Are you sure you wanna go in there? It's gonna be super stinky." My body is me. It's not just a possession that I own, like my old t-shirt that can be thrown away if I die. Angels may be pure spirit but humans are spirit and body so if I'm going to have a human life after death (instead of one of those creepy ghost lives like in Hades/Sheol) then, at some point, I need my body back! When Jesus was resurrected he let the Apostles poke at him and eat with him so they could make sure he was a living person and not a ghost. A living human being has a body.

So at the end of the world my rotten body, or my cremated body, or my disintegrated body, or my fill-in-the-blank body will be restored and become my 'glorified' body. What happens in the meantime? It's still my body even though it's no longer animated because it's separated from my soul. Sure, in some sense it doesn't matter what happens to it because it'll get patched up later. But it should be respected because it's still part of me.

And--brace yourselves!--my body is a holy object. (Although certainly not as holy as it should be.) When a person is Baptized, he or she becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit, meaning that God comes to live within him or her. Fr. Dale says that when he's celebrating a funeral, he bows to the body while incensing it. Not because he's worshiping the body but because God is still at home in that body. Grace is God's life within us, i.e. the presence of God. A special grace is attached to any object, like a rosary, that has been blessed. When the blessed object is no longer usable it gets either burned or buried so that it won't be defiled. The same thing is done with bodies.

The more we're freed from sin the more 'space' there is for God to live within us (cause God doesn't fraternize with sin). So a holy person, or a holy person's body, will be more strongly steeped in God's grace--hence, the seemingly superstitious practice of venerating relics. The relic is venerated; God, present within the relic, is worshiped. Idol worship? No! Neither the relic nor the person it came from is being worshiped. As usual, God is being worshiped. No surprise there.

What about praying to St. Anthony, for example, in the presence of his relic? Praying in the presence of his relic reminds me that he is still alive and that the spirit world is closer than I realize. And, because his body is still his, I'm in the same room with him and we're praying together! Just like praying in the same room with my friend Jeremy is different from texting to ask him to pray for me. But again, the most important thing about a relic is the presence of God. And if I know this person is a Saint then I know that he is full of grace, because that's one of the conditions of being in Heaven.

A first order relic is an actual piece of the body of a Saint. Lots of churches have sarcophagi to display the bodies of Saints, and sometimes small pieces of tissue are removed to make relics for other churches, like the piece of petrified flesh at the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City. Sometimes the bones of a Saint are dug up to make relics--there's a tradition of embedding the relic of a Saint in every altar. But just like every other fun thing, sometimes people go overboard. After Catherine of Siena died her body was kept in Rome until her head was smuggled out by some people of Siena. They felt sure that she would rather be kept at home but doubted that they could smuggle the entire body.

A second order relic is something that was owned by the Saint, usually a piece of clothing. The presence of God within the Saint sanctifies his or her clothing and possessions so that they carry a special grace, just like the blessed rosary. Remember that Luke 8:40-48 tells of a woman who is instantly healed after touching the cloak of Jesus. Her faith was strong enough that just touching his garment was enough.

A third order, or higher, relic is a piece of cloth that was touched to a second or third order relic and now retains some extra grace. These minor relics can be bought and sold. In the YouTube video Blessing of Cloth for St. Anthony Relics, Fr. Richard Jacob touches a large cloth to the reliquary of the major relic of St. Anthony, his petrified flesh, in Ellicott City.

But just remember, it's all fun and games until someone desecrates a body!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Our Father is younger than we.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, 'Do it again'; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
 --GK Chesterton

Thursday, May 10, 2012

George Takei did it wrong.

Please! if you're going to bother making a written argument (or written inflammatory statements?) then 1.) think and 2.) proofread.

We all think that some of the George Takei Facebook posts are funny. I personally found this one very amusing to the point of LOLing. But if he, or whoever made this, is trying to show support for gay marriage then perhaps he needs an editor.

I admit the original quote is witty. But then the "graphic designer", through conscious or subconscious sabotage, added a seemingly innocent set of quotation marks and became my inspiration for all future posts. I agree with George. Rather than using the misnomer, gay marriage, as if it's an actual type of marriage, I will from now on refer to it as "marriage" to make it clear that I'm not referring to sacramental marriage. Thanks George!

I can't blame the second post on George but the logic is obviously flawed. First of all, clearly this post is not meant to provide a well-reasoned statement.  I think a more likely motive is to make all religious people seem irrational and of the opinion that everyone in the world, regardless of their personal beliefs, should be required to follow the teachings of fill-in-the-blank religion. Maybe the implication is that such people claim all sin should be illegal, in which case we should all get ready for our incarceration! But we could make equally reasonable FB flair that says: CLAIMING THAT SOMEONE ELSE MISSING MASS ON A HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION IS AGAINST YOUR RELIGION IS LIKE BEING ANGRY AT SOMEONE FOR EATING A DONUT BECAUSE YOU'RE ON A DIET. Hahaha, that one's funny too!!! We could teach the catechism this way!

But even if my thinking were muddled enough to mistakenly claim that someone else's marriage is against my religion, a simple statement does not imply anger. Unless we're talking about a specific angry person, then claiming that someone else's marriage is against your religion is not like being angry at someone for eating a doughnut because you're on a diet. If I, a Catholic, say that gay marriage (oops, I mean "marriage") is against Islam is that a display of anger? Probably not. So a more logical statement would be CLAIMING THAT SOMEONE ELSE'S MARRIAGE IS AGAINST YOUR RELIGION IS LIKE CLAIMING THAT DOUGHNUTS ARE AGAINST THE ATKIN'S DIET.

Sadly, we seem to have forgotten that it's possible to disagree without anger or hatred.

And I'm not an expert theologian, but I don't know about marriage and civil ceremonies being against any religion. The post is mistakenly equating marriage with homosexual sex. So if we correct that mistake we're left with:

But wait wait wait.... I know we've all heard the cliche "that's against my religion!" but it makes no sense in this situation. Communism is against my religion, if I'm living under a Communist regime and can't lawfully practice my religion. But is being a sinner against my religion? You see.... at least in my Church, we have this thing called Confession through which you can receive something called absolution. But this sacrament is only available to sinners... so I'm gonna say no. So in order to make any sense of this thing we have to change it to:

Well yes. I can certainly agree with that.

I think we should try to remember that noting the existence of religious bigotry and homophobia is not an argument supporting gay marriage, just like being grossed out by gay sex is not an argument against it. It says nothing about the actual issue, which is the fundamental question, "what is marriage?" and "how should it be legislated?" 

Must we continue to dehumanize each other by insisting that every person opposed to gay marriage is a homophobe? I'm not saying that homophobes don't exist. But I do believe that it's possible to disagree with a person without being afraid of their view. Let's say my husband wants to paint our house blue but I think that all houses should be painted white and I feel that our Home Owner's Association should uphold their rule that all houses in the community will be painted white. Does that make me a chromophobe?

So, for the sake of my own sanity, I'm going to help these people out a little bit. The following are some actual arguments. I don't agree with them, but at least they address the actual issue of marriage legislation and the definition of marriage. Of course they should still be backed up with thinking and proofreading.

1.) Romantic love, sexual attraction, and economic interdependence are each, on their own, sufficient conditions for marriage.
2.) Morals are relative so any legislation must be based on something else.

So George, here are Calvin and Hobbes doing it right:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Aurora: A New Witness to God

(Aurora Borealis, Frederic Edwin Church, 1865 at Smithsonian Art)

First saw the Northern Lights. My eye was caught by beams of light and dark very like the crown of horny rays the sun makes behind a cloud. At first I thought of silvery cloud until I saw that these were more luminous and did not dim the clearness of the stars in the Bear. They rose slightly radiating thrown out from the earthline. Then I saw soft pulses of light one after another rise and pass upwards arched in shape but waveringly and with the arch broken. They seemed to float, not following the warp of the sphere as falling stars look to do but free though concentrical with it. This busy working of nature wholly independent of the earth and seeming to go on in a strain of time not reckoned by our reckoning of days and years but simpler and as if correcting the preoccupation of the world by being preoccupied with and appealing to and dated to the day of judgment was like a new witness to God and filled me with delightful fear.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins, Journal Excerpt September 24, 1870

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Convo with my sexually active Imaginary Friend.

On Friday a couple of real life friends and I went to the Rally for Religious Liberty in Baltimore. (Let's all take this moment to laugh about Eddie Izzard's plan for a Reason Rally. "HAHAHAHAHA!!! That's right, you sheep!! Only a STUPID IDIOT could believe in God. Baaaaaaaa!!!" Atheists are so funny.) It got me thinking--without the use of reason, of course, because I threw that out with my conversion--about the HHS mandate and why I think it's such a bad thing. The following is the conversation I had with my sexually active Imaginary Friend (IF) who so generously offered her undivided attention.

IF: so after reading your last post it seems like you think that everything you and your church think is a sin should be illegal, right?

Me: no, no, no, that's not what I meant at all! I don't think sodomy or oral sex or masturbation or anything like that should be illegal. If every sin were against the law, sooner or later we'd all be in jail.

IF: then why are you so upset about the HHS mandate? You don't think the use of contraceptives should be illegal?

Me: no! even Pope John Paul 2 acknowledged that some women have medical reasons to take what we refer to as the birth control pill for hormone therapy. There is nothing wrong with using a drug for serious medical reasons. And although the Church says that using condoms or undergoing voluntary non-medical sterilization is wrong, nobody is trying to make these things illegal. The Pope might not think you should be having sex in the first place, but nobody thinks you should be thrown in jail for it.

Me: things get more complicated when we talk about using the birth control pill for contraceptive reasons because studies show that it can work as an abortifacient, which means conception may have taken place but the egg was then flushed from the woman's system, making birth control pills similar to the morning after pill. If you believe that life starts at conception then you see this as an abortion and the killing of a baby. But regardless of when you think life begins, it's clear that terminating a pregnancy even at the earliest moment quenches the potential life that began to exist at the moment of conception.

Me: But the point is that nobody should be forced to help another person do something immoral.

IF: but, what if we think you're being dumb in saying that women shouldn't use contraceptives? Why should we have to go along with it?

Me: well, what if? What if I think it's dumb that Judaism doesn't allow people to eat pork products. What if the government were to mandate that all cafeterias must sell pork? And refuse to make an exception for Jewish organizations that employ non-Jews or even serve non-Jews?

IF: but the Obama administration made an accommodation!

Me: the accommodation allowed the organizations to fund the unconscionable services indirectly rather than directly by forcing insurance companies to pay for the service. That's still unconscionable. What if we told our Jewish friends from the above example that they would have to provide pork in their cafeteria but they could contract out to a non-Jewish company? That's more insulting than it is a reasonable solution.

IF: but what about all the non-Catholics working for Catholic organizations?

Me: as one of my friends said, "would you accept a job with PETA and expect them to hand out free hamburgers?"

IF: but come on, we're not talking about pork and hamburgers here. We're talking about women's health. That's more serious.

Me: It is a matter of women's health! Birth control pills are actually dangerous to a woman's health, from side effects that I've experienced firsthand including rampant UTIs and deterioration of vision and increased blood pressure to more serious effects including blood clots and cancer, not to mention the fact that many women have a hard time regaining fertility after long term use. But that's beside the point.

Me: as a woman there are many things that are more important to me than being able to have consequenceless sex. Like being able to see! For example, the government could choose to mandate that I have access to free contact lenses. That would be awesome. And nobody thinks wearing contact lenses is immoral. If we can't cover everything, why insist on covering something that some people feel is immoral?

IF: yeah, but you don't need contact lenses. You could just wear your glasses. Women need contraceptives.

Me: I can see better with my contacts than with my glasses! And besides, women can use Natural Family Planning which, admittedly, requires some level of self control but has been shown to be as effective as the pill--and has no side effects!!

IF: but Obama says that the money women spend on contraceptives is money that could be spent on groceries or rent.

Me: So Obama feels that poor women are so addicted to sex that they would rather be evicted or stop eating than abstain from sexual relations? I find that offensive. And is it really that hard to find cheap or free contraceptives without this mandate? Surely it's not only in academia where we're having free condoms thrown at us from every direction? I was under the impression that women can get free birth control and morning after pills from clinics like Obama's beloved Planned Parenthood.

IF: I don't see why you're making such a big deal out of this. It's hardly going to effect anybody.

Me: It's a huge deal! As soon as the government forces one group, not matter how small, to do something that they believe is morally wrong then we can never use that argument against unjust laws. At the Rally for Religious Liberty, Ambassador Alan Keyes gave the example of pre-Civil War laws requiring anyone who has knowledge of the whereabouts of an escaped slave to take action to return that slave to his or her owner. People disobeyed that law for the same reason that many organizations will disobey the mandate, because following it violated their consciences. It's not just a Catholic problem. Many Protestant Pastors and Rabbis participated in the rallies. This is the sort of precedent that should make even a secular atheist nervous. And that is why the case of HHS vs. Florida will be heard by the Supreme Court this week.

IF: Well. My birth control pills are more important to me than your conscience.

Me: Sigh. You and Obama have made that abundantly clear.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Do words have meaning?

The gloating of liberal Marylanders over Governor O'Malley's epic cave to political pressure regarding gay marriage has forced me to turn the brain back on for some thinking.

A while back I watched a documentary called For the Bible Tells Me So, which questioned whether or not the Bible says anything about committed homosexual relationships. The conclusion was either no or probably not. However, I've since graduated from amateur documentary-level theology to the "I would believe anything this man ever said even though I don't have to" theology of Blessed John Paul II. His seductively beautiful Theology of the Body paints the picture of the human family with father, mother and child as the image of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit. Essentially, the love between the Father and the Son and between the father and the mother is so intense that it is procreative and personified by the Spirit and the child respectively.

Thus Christian theology insists that the link between human sexuality and fertility should not be severed as it has been by the use of birth control and by homosexual relationships. From the image of the Trinity comes the definition of the Sacrament of Marriage. So it should be obvious why a Catholic would say that the proposed gay marriage is a radical redefinition of marriage in that it no longer has anything to do with procreation. I know! Such intolerant bigotry to insist that words have meaning. By the way, when I use the term Catholic here, I mean someone who believes what the Church teaches, rather than those who claim to be devout Catholics and yet apparently don't believe the moral and theological teachings.

Now I know that the push for gay marriage comes from a place of love. But rather than providing a means of acknowledging a loving relationship between adults, which by itself doesn't constitute marriage, the goal of gay marriage is to legitimize gay relationships. Often when women feel that we are being denied the respect we deserve in a male-dominated environment, we strive to be one of the guys. But we soon face the consequences of jamming ourselves into a male mold rather than insisting our femininity be recognized and respected. Today, it seems we feel that jamming gay people into the straight person mold will somehow make homosexuality more palatable. On the one hand, same sex couples are being told to embrace their homosexuality, while on the other hand they are being told that they need to be more like heterosexual couples in order for their union to be acceptable. Unfortunately, there will be sad consequences because such an approach does not respect the dignity of same sex attracted persons and further degrades the integrity of the family. As someone who was raised by my mother and grandmother, I can tell you that two moms will never make a dad.

If marriage is to be founded solely on feelings of love between two individuals and, in particular, on sexual love, then limiting the redefinition of marriage to gays is a great hypocrisy. If gay marriage is okay then why not polygamy? And why can't I marry my brother like the monarchs used to? When incest exists between two consenting adults should it be contractualized through marriage? I cannot think of a reason for supporting gay marriage that would not also apply to a happy, incestuous couple. And, based on the current logic, if anyone thinks that brother and sister shouldn't be married then he or she is apparently an intolerant bigot, because it's their civil right! Might Cardinal O'Brien be right in saying that we experience "intolerance behind the mask of tolerance"?

The redefinition of marriage strips the word of any definitive meaning. Maybe we feel that it's okay to redefine marriage because we no longer feel that heterosexual marriage has meaning. Maybe we feel that it's just an optional civil contract between two cohabiting adults. In which case, shouldn't we reclaim the true definition of marriage rather than continue the process of rendering it meaningless?