Thursday, March 11, 2010

Loving God with Fear and Trembling

My twin brother, Matthew, who will finally be ordained on April 24th, was entrusted with giving the evening reflection at the seminary that he attends. I've read several of the mock-homilies that he's had to give over the years in preparation for the priesthood, and I think that this one is his best one yet.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think, and stop by his blog and give him some words of encouragement. Seminarians are always in need of our kind words and our prayers.

Pax Christi,

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Evening Prayer Reflection
by Matthew Hardesty

Our reading this evening, in another translation, contains the famous "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" passage. The Season of Lent can often engender "fear and trembling" so how should we best understand this? Certainly the third theology class was in "fear and trembling" last week as we waited for our faculty vote! But let's go a little deeper…

This year I've been assigned to Sacred Heart in Glyndon and one of the highlights for me has been teaching every Wednesday in the parish school. And I have tried each week to follow the example of my good, dear friend, St. John Bosco, "The Apostle of Youth." St. John Bosco was a priest of the Diocese of Turin, Italy and was ordained in the 1840's. One day on a visit to the juvenile prisons, he was mortified to see the squalor in which the boys were living and the unchecked disorder and violence that overcame them. He resolved then to make it his mission to help these boys, to reform them, and to reach out to other problem boys before they ended up in prison. He attracted them first with games, music, and adventures to their favorite hills and countrysides in Turin. He could juggle, walk on his hands, and even play the trumpet. The boys loved that he wanted to spend time with them; for most of them this was the first act of kindness they had ever been shown.

Once he won their trust, St. John Bosco was then able to celebrate Mass for them, to hear their confessions, to teach them catechetical lessons, and even various trades and other skills. Soon the boys realized that behind the games and the adventures was a Holy Priest of God who showed them that they were lovable and good. In him they found the love of Jesus Christ. St. John Bosco showed them that they had a human dignity and value. He never lorded his authority over them. He never whipped them into shape or reprimanded them. In fact he rarely punished them at all. "A kind word or a glance," he wrote, "does more to encourage a child than a severe reprimand, which only serves to dampen youthful enthusiasm."

Soon the roughest, most violent boys of the streets of Turin abhorred the thought of disappointing Don Bosco. They hated the thought of doing the slightest thing to offend their beloved father. Sitting at his feet was like sitting at the feet of the Magister Bonum, the Good Teacher, Himself.

I think this is the type of fear and trembling we should have before God and the only type that should be engendered among those that we will teach and shepherd some day. Like the boys of Turin, our fear of God is not a servile fear, a fear of punishment or wrath but a filial fear, the fear a son has for his father out of deep love, honor, and respect. And the trembling we have before him is not the fright or horror one feels before an oppressive master but the dread of offending the Father we love. Ultimately this is a fear and trembling that never stays with fear, but always leads to trust, confidence, and abandonment to the Father who has captivated and tamed our wild hearts.

How will we, in turn, be regarded by those under our care? Will they be compliant out of servile fear or out of reverence for Christ, in whose Person we will minister? Will we be able to win their hearts at all? One can have perfectly reasoned catechesis but this falls on deaf ears if the people don't see Christ in us and hear His Voice in our words. The faithful, especially children, can spot a phony from a mile away. They know within the first few minutes of spending time with them, if we are with them begrudgingly or to fulfill an obligation or if we are with them because we love them, have high hopes for them, and would give our lives for the salvation of their souls.

Let's examine our hearts during the remainder of Lent. Do we have a servile fear or a filial fear of God? Does an awe and reverence for the Father accompany the decisions we make throughout the day? Do we detest all our sins because of His just punishments or most of all because they offend Him, our God, who is all good and deserving of all our love? The fear and trembling we keep before Him can easily determine the fear and trembling we call forth from His People. We will play a large part in forming their image of God. We must present a Lord deserving of their trust and abandonment. Let us never forget the words of the Psalmist: "If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared" (Ps 130:3-4).

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Facebook Debate on Same-Sex Marriage: Part 2

Here is Part 2 in my debate on same-sex marriage. Also see Part 1. My words will be in tan, Windy's in brown, Josh's in gray, and E.D.'s in the golden brown color that I typically use for Scripture verses. Mine is the only voice in favor of traditional marriage.

Let's get right to it:

if you claim to recognize red herring arguments, can you at least see that the majority of your points are slippery slope arguments (logical fallacies)? In other words, if we do A, it'll lead to B, C, and D. Or, "if we allow same sex marriages, it'll lead to mothers marrying sons, people marrying goats, etc. Faulty argument form, unless you can prove that A NECESSARILY leads to B, C, D. You can't.

Ok, now, the "rights" point. Legal or civil rights are rights granted by a political system. Natural or moral rights are rights that are not contingent upon laws. Natural/moral rights are universal, and not dependent upon a particular governing party. I think a main difference is that some people see same sex marriage as a natural right, and others see it as a civil right. Nonetheless, it's pretty easy to distinguish that any law that discriminates against a certain group (or person) ought not to be a law. And shouting "this is amurica, you can love it or leave it" isn't really what our democratic process is about. A ban on same sex marriage is ENTIRELY religious based, as are many of our laws. Ought we have laws based upon religious beliefs? No. Do we? Sadly, yes.

Ok, the "hating on African Americans" part is pretty self-explanatory. You stated that laws were based upon morality and implied that if something is illegal, it's because it's immoral. It was pointed out that if that were true, it would be morally right to own slaves, as it was once allowed by law. ... See More

BTW, if your interested, here's a link to other logical fallacies. Back in undergrad, I took a class called "Logic and Mr. Limbaugh" where we dissected arguments he'd made, seeing that most of them were fallacies. Christian apologists use many of the same faulty argument forms.

here's a link to a good essay listing the various arguments against gay marriage.

My friend Julie posted this on my wall.....
"Same-sex marriage has very little to do with the kind of things talked about in the passgaes of the Bible that some people think refer to homosexuality. Homosexuality as we know it today was not referenced until the mid 1800's and the word "homosexuality" is never used in the Bible. Even opposite sex ... See Moremarriage was quite different then, than it is ... See Morenow. Cherry-picking those laws that we still want to enforce (usually on others) is often just a way of feeling better about our own failures. Here is an excellent resource that describes how many Christians view the "clobber pasages"" (0.06%) of the Bible:

E.D. .... to respond to your previous comment, I was not using the "slippery slope" argument b/c I never said, nor do I think, that legal acceptance of same-sex marriage will necessarily lead to legal acceptance of the other relationships I listed. Windy said that "all consenting adults should be granted the same privileges and rights as any other human is allowed." I was simply pointing out that, if we use that criteria to determine which relationships society should legally recognize, then we would have to begin recognizing incestuous relationships as well. Just because two adults happen to consent to the relationship and even want it a great deal, that itself does not prove that the relationship should be recognized.

In your second paragraph you make many points that I would like to take in turn. First, I agree with your definition of legal/civil and natural/moral rights. But, the question remains: How do we determine whether or not someone has a legitimate claim to something? If it's a legitimate claim, it's a "right." If it's an arbitrary claim, it's a "want." I think a claim is legitimate only if it is justified morally, and if it has its basis in some good that should be honored. Under this definition, same-sex marriage cannot qualify as a right.

Now, I realize that this begs the further question: how do we determine whether or not something is moral or good? As a Catholic, the Bible and the teachings of the Church are my guide, and while one could argue that these should be the guides for ALL men, I think it is also true that natural law and every man's faculty of reason can and should also lead him to the conclusion that same-sex marriage is immoral and thus no one has a legitimate claim to it.

Some articles on how the irreligious man should come to this conclusion:You also said, "any law that discriminates against a certain group (or person) ought not to be a law." But, not all discrimination is unjust. Our laws against stealing discriminate against kleptomaniacs. Should they for that reason be repealed? Our laws against pedophilia discriminate against adults who are sexually attracted to minors. Should they for that reason be repealed? Arguing that a law should be repealed b/c it discriminates is not enough. You have to prove that the discrimination in question is unjust.

Finally, you said that "A ban on same sex marriage is ENTIRELY religious based," but that is "ENTIRELY" not true, as the articles I linked you to should adequately reveal.

The "hating on African Americans part" is based on argumentation that I didn't even make, so it's entirely irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. Also, thank you for the link to the logical fallacies. I am already very well aware of them.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Facebook Debate on Same-Sex Marriage: Part 1

If you are familiar with Facebook at all, then you know that one thing people like to do is set up groups with the hopes of finding one million people who are for or against something. "I bet we can find 1,000,000 people who are against abortion," or "I bet we can find 1,000,000 people who eat cereal for dinner," or "I bet we can find 1,000,000 people who think these '1,000,000' groups are stupid" or whatever. Well recently, a Facebook friend of mine invited me to join a group called, "I bet we can find 1,000,000 people who are for same-sex marriage." I had to politely decline. Of course, that resulted in a debate on the topic, and I would like to share that here.

This is my first real foray into the same-sex marriage debate. I've read a lot about it and I've followed it in the news, but I've never put my views to the test in an actual debate with someone. So, this should be a learning experience. I hope my rookie attempt at defending the institution of marriage is in some way helpful.

My opponents in the debate are "Windy," "Josh," and "E.D." Mine is the only voice in favor of traditional marriage. I will be structuring our comments in the order in which they appeared in the Facebook exchange. My words will be in tan, Windy's in brown, Josh's in gray, and E.D.'s in the golden color that I typically use for Scripture verses.

Pax Christi,

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Sorry Windy, I can't join the same-sex marriage group

Yeah, I kinda figured. I thought.... Hey, you might be one of those people who doesn't think it's right to force their personal religious beliefs on other people.... Guess I was wrong.

Windy, you can't divorce law from morality. Every law we have is based on some belief about what is best for the human person and for society and what is not. Underlying our laws against murder, and rape, and burglary, and assault, and perjury (to name but a few) are real beliefs about life, sex, the right to your own property and personal integrity, and telling the truth. Was our government "forcing personal beliefs on other people" when it made all of those things illegal?

Are you saying that same sex marriage is equal to the offenses of murder, rape, burglary assault, & perjury?? In all of the offenses you listed other people are harmed, against their will, and it is only right to protect people from being harmed by others. In same sex marriage, I wanna ask you, who is getting harmed??? I know that you find it ... See Moreoffensive to your morality and beliefs, but it does not harm you, your family, or really have anything to do with you since you are clearly not gay. There are rights and privileges granted to those whose marriages are recognized by the state, and it is only fair, and RIGHT that all consenting adults be granted the same privileges and rights as any other human is allowed, sexuality shouldn't be an issue!
Your bible states that homosexuality is an abomination to God, yet it also states eating shellfish and wearing clothes of mixed fibers are also abominations to God.... no fair cherry-picking.

This why we need tougher laws to separate church and state because of uneducated people who compares such nonsense about gay marriage to hard core criminals and to think that there are people like this teaching or should I say brain washing our youth. It... See More’s like there is nothing else better to do hating on equal civil rights for all. The GBLT community who are tax payers and they follow the same rules as the heterosexual community and the GBLT community will not rest to all the discrimination has stopped. Also, our government has screwed up several times such as when African Americans did not have civil rights and treating them like they were nothing. So basically you are saying the government should still hate on the African American community?? It’s obvious that our government has made several mistakes and people should be joining forces to get through these hard economic hardships and help your neighbor instead of fighting with them…

As if there's never been unjust laws past by government!

surely he's not saying that just because something's illegal, it's therefore immoral. surely...
and Josh...that's just the devil making you have good, logical points! :)

Windy and Joshua .... both of you missed my point entirely. Read my comment again. I wasn't saying that same-sex marriage was equal to murder or rape or the rest. It's obviously not. What I was saying was that you can't divorce law from morality. You charge that the ban on same-sex marriage is a "forcing of our beliefs on other people." I didn't get an answer the first time, so I'll ask it again: Were we forcing our beliefs on other people when we made murder and burglary and perjury illegal? What about the law against a father marrying his daughter, or a man marrying his sister? The issue isn't that this ban on gay marriage has a moral underpinning. All laws are based upon some belief about something, and there's no escaping that fact. The issue instead is that you don't happen to agree with the particular beliefs that this law is founded upon. So, the whole "you're forcing your beliefs on others" and "separate of Church and state" argument is really just a red herring.

You two also speak of same-sex marriage as a "right." How do you define a "right"? Is it the freedom to do whatever the hell I want to do? If that's true then a person can claim a "right" to do anything. The problem with this debate is that people often speak of "rights" when they really have no idea what they mean by that word, or they haven't defined it in a way that is really logically consistent.

Windy .... if "all consenting adults should be granted the same privileges and rights as any other human is allowed" does that mean we should let a mother marry her son or a brother marry his sister, if they're both all for it? Surely your logic doesn't apply in every case like you think it does. Also, you mentioned the Bible. You're wrong to say that my stance amounts to "cherry-picking" which laws I want to follow and ignoring the rest. The fact is, the new covenant law of grace has abolished laws on eating, and washing, and dressing, and other ceremonial laws of that type. Jesus said that it is not what comes from the outside that defiles a man but that which comes from the heart (cf. Mt 15:11,17-20). The moral laws have not been abolished. They are universal. The laws against homosexual activity are among these, for they are upheld in both the Old and New Testament.

Joshua .... surely you can engage in a debate without using insults and ad hominem attacks. That sort of argumentation doesn't really do much to further your cause.

E.D. .... read my comment again. I said that every law has within it some statement of belief about what is best for the human person and for society. It does not necessarily follow from this that if something is illegal it is therefore immoral. Since you are someone who enjoys "good, logical points" I am surprised that that fact escaped you. You seem to find Joshua's arguments to be particularly "good" and "logical", which I find odd considering that he made a most illogical statement when he said that it somehow follows from my position that the government should still be hating on African Americans. Perhaps you or Joshua can explain that logic to me.
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