Monday, June 9, 2014

Exchanging views with a conservative Catholic

Responding to my blog entry the other day entitled Bishops and Girls in Neckties, a conservative Catholic took issue with my celebration of humanism and the moral code of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   I see it as the moral code of the modern world and urge its fullest possible acceptance.    It's not morality, my correspondent insists. Only (traditional - his understanding of traditional) Catholic morality which deals with sin - is to be taken seriously.

It's always good to see ideas spelled out in black and white, I think.  Because Blogger doesn't permit lengthy exchanges in the commentary, I am posting our exchange here.  I assume my discussion partner has no objections, since his remarks appeared on this blog in another location.  He goes by Frontline Supervisor.

His first comment appeared on June 3.

Wrong. History is full of examples of Christians who have refused to bend to the non-Christian culture of their time and place, from Apostolic days onward. Christians RIGHT NOW in the Middle East are being TORTURED and KILLED because they WILL NOT bow to Islamic beliefs and prevailing "morality"! How much more shall we uncompromised Western believers with religious liberty protection and civil law on our side, at risk more of being socially ostracized by Christ-deniers and culturally compliant carnal Christians than flogged, imprisoned or stoned to death, REFUSE to bow to the evil Zeitgeist, the spirit of this post-Christian age, with your wicked idea of comparing disagreement with sexual sin to "white supremacy" or labelling "exclusion" of Christ-rejecting Jews from Heaven as "anti-Semitic". The God of ISRAEL, Jew AND Gentile alike, laughs at that modernistic ignorance. 

Churches do NOT have to change to accommodate majority cultural morality. I will not. We have the God-given RIGHT to be patriarchal, family centered, sexually pure, against masturbation, sensual worldly music, booze, pot, immodest dress, Hollywood, Godless government schools and ecumenism. Whatever applies to the billion-plus member Roman megalith, small Bible churches do NOT have to be "political" organizations who follow "democracy" either. I don't need a majority, or even 0.1 per cent to agree with me- just two or three gathering together agreed in His holy name plus God is enough.

As a Christian who is Millennial (20-something) and in the *moral MINORITY*, who proudly rejects the modern Western "equality, diversity, inclusion" view which holds a serial killer's life more valuable than a fetus' life and compares sex acts to skin color, I will just opt to withdraw even further from the secular culture and live in my country as a small religious minority if the currently "mainstream conservative" churches surrender to the culture. There will be an ultra-traditional remnant 100, 200, 500, yea even 10,000 years from now that will reject modernism's heretical lies if the Lord tarries.

As for defending my views? Only Christ's Body get to Heaven. Pluralism is a satanic delusion wrought by those who underestimate the awesome holiness of God and the depth of man's sin. I do not pray with false religionists, "interfaith" events are not acceptable. Luther's "exclusion" of Jews in terms of their blatant rejection of Christ recorded in God's Word, as builders who obstinately reject their Cornerstone Messiah Jesus (Yeshua) Christ is still applicable- his violence and hatred was wrong but it's better to "offend" Jews, Muslims, Mormons etc. by warning them of eternal perdition than "love" and "include" them as far as the Lake of Fire! "Inter-religious" "dialogue" only skirts the question sinners must face: are you washed in Christ's Blood or not? I scoff at foolish talk of "sides of history". Get on the right side of ETERNITY today. Missing out on mainstream cultural affirmation in this life is well worth it.

-A Christian who is about reality, not rhetoric, in my refusal to adapt to evil social norms.

To which I responded, on June 4th:

Dear Frontline Supervisor:

Thanks for tuning in with your reaction to what I had to say about the accommodation of Catholic church (and church school) officials to the values that prevail in San Francisco and most modern Western cultures.

You begin by declaring that I am wrong, but you don’t specify what I am wrong about. I’m guessing you are referring to my last statement, that the church will sooner or later embrace universal human rights and the morality of equality without regard to race, creed, gender or sexuality.

Your challenge brings to light an erroneous assumption on my part. I should not have said that the church will someday embrace these rights and this morality. A good portion of what you call the Body of Christ already does! What I should have said is that my guess is that more and more of the rest of these people will come to do so as well. Ever since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was composed, the trend has been, with occasional backsliding, in a single direction – toward the embrace of democracy and equality. That is as true inside your church as in the world at large.

You may disagree, and you are probably right that there will always be a holdout of diehard authoritarians willing to support with their last dying breath the claims to power of the patriarchal hierarchy.

But do you seriously want to be among those whose dying breath is exhaled around the words, “Don’t pray with Protestants” or “Don’t let women have an equal say” or “Keep those horny teenagers away from the Eucharist!”

Your church has a magnificent potential for uplift and compassion. Why would you reduce a house of “many dwelling places” to a single cramped shack of smug zealots with narrow horizons and limited imaginations?

He then wrote again, on June 6th.  He wrote two entries.  I have combined them into one, and this time interspersed my comments with his.  His words are in italics; mine are not.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a fundamentally cosmopolitan Humanistic document. Although there is much to be respected and applauded within its text, I do not consider it to determine morality. 

Whether you recognize it as a moral code or not, it is one.  You have a moral code which you follow based on the teachings of your church as you understand them.  But the concept of morality and ethics far predates your church.  The world’s major religions all have well-established codes of morality in addition to their creation myths, liturgical practices and cultural traditions.  Yours is but one of those.  And there is no shortage of non-religious based ethical systems as well.  You could benefit from opening your windows and looking out.  And take notice, when you do, of how well the world functions outside of the reach of your church.  And notice too how many of the practices of your church other people consider downright immoral.

Why? I believe no human ideology, even one supported by myriad great statesmen, diplomats, jurists and philosophers, backed by international agreements and many pieces of human positive law, can trump God's Word in moral terms.

Trump?  You think this is a contest?  A my daddy can beat up your daddy test of moral codes?  You really ought not to make the mistake of thinking your beliefs are superior to the beliefs of others.  There is no way such a claim will ever hold water, since it is based on self-reference.  If it suits you to enter this belief system, by all means have at it.  But give the world a break and recognize there are things out there in the universe beyond your knowledge and experience.  By shutting the door to thought the way you do, you remove the opportunity to question and to learn, to rethink your assumptions and expand your horizons.

Just as a national government making something legal or a culture widely embracing it as socially acceptable does not necessarily change its moral status, making something an international human right has no bearing on whether it is SIN!

Sin is a religious concept.  Few people outside your religion care one whit about sin.  It’s your way to police yourself (and others, unfortunately).  It has no place in public discourse, unless you close the doors and windows to the world and talk only amongst yourselves.

No, it is not "as true" that "my church" is included in the general egalitarian shift as for mainline Christians and secularists. This is mostly due to the fact it was set up relatively recently as a bulwark for Bible-believers in large part to offer sanctuary from the dangerously compromised mainline and the ever-leftward "trend" of drift in secular society. I do not deny that most churches would be swimming in this direction even if they never embrace the farther fringes of the postmodern liberal project; however, there are exceptions.

I’m not sure what you’re trying to say in your sentence “No, it is not "as true" that "my church" is included in the general egalitarian shift as for mainline Christians and secularists”.  I think you mean your church is not part of the general egalitarian shift shared by most mainline Christians and secularists, right?  Well, that’s true, but only to people who define your church narrowly, as the Roman structure, which came in fairly late in church history as a power grab, and did serious damage to the body of believers who were (and still are) trying their best to live according to the teachings of a great moral leader.  Members of this oligarchy stole the church, made it into an old-boy’s club, and continue to this day pretending to be entitled to speak with the voice of God.  I said earlier that I don’t really care how you Catholics fight amongst yourselves, but that’s not quite true.  Over time, I have come away from being disgusted by what I thought was the church (the organization as you appear to be defining it) and come to recognize it is actually what the people who collectively call themselves Catholic say it is – a body of believers, a spiritual place many call home.  The pope, the curia, the cardinals and the bishops may want to think they are the church, but more and more Catholics have spoken out and put a lie to their claims.  So what you said above is factually inaccurate.  Most Catholics have, in fact, joined with other Christians and secularists in embracing the values we have come to call humanistic enlightenment values.  And that’s a wonderful thing.

"Do I want to be among those whose dying breath is exhaled..." Well I would prefer if there was no need for conflict but this is a fallen world and so the choice is to fight (spiritually and culturally) or surrender...I'm not the white flag type. So, faute de mieux, yes if not on the specific hyperbolic terms you put it in.

I’m sorry.  I don’t know you, but I would wish you a better fate.

"Uplift" is a slippery word. The Church is NOT for the purpose of making people feeeeel better about themselvvvves *California drawl* but getting people saved, instructing them in discipleship, fellowshipping to worship the Lord corporately, and living Godly for Jesus, the Church, their family and the wider world. Some people who speak of "uplift" want to turn the Church into a man-centric (not Christ/Cross-centric), psycho babbling affective education facility. I say no Sir, there is Esalen and whatever other ungodly third-force institution if you want humanistically defined "uplift"...which often includes "affirmation" of inappropriate beliefs, values and choices. We would not "affirm" your gay lifestyle nor your anti-Christian worldview at our church(affirm! to think professed men of God use that word in respect of evil!)

I’m sorry you have never known the uplift that comes from the Catholic church.  I haven’t either, but I know many who have.  They speak of being lifted up by the Eucharist, the sense of community, the belief in a Savior.  It may not be the church’s main purpose, as you see it, but don’t sell it short.  It can be a wonderful thing.

You say you do not “affirm” my “gay lifestyle.”  My Lord, young man, what makes you think I give a shit?  First off, it’s not a lifestyle.  Secondly, shame on you for coming down on the way other people live their lives.  What arrogance you have!   If you want to see why people are running in all directions from your church, take a look in the mirror.  It’s that smug arrogance, that know-it-all sophomoric notion of being superior that drives people away.  Evil?  No, we’re not evil, most of us outside your narrow circle.  We’re doing the best we can, trying, failing and trying again to live life to the fullest, to do good and to be good.  Give us a break.

Compassion? AMEN to that! much of the work we do along with that of like-minded churches and ministries is profoundly rooted in and driven by compassion. There is a false dichotomy peddled by some ultra-libs between kind, caring "social gospel" mainline folk and harsh ignorant "fundies", based on their slander that anyone on the right politically or theologically is uncompassionate! I suspect often motivated by a wish to shift focus from their aberrant beliefs and conduct to their "enemies". 

Your last line is typical of what cosmopolitan-intersectionalist sophisticates have to say about small town folk who are not so indulgent of false doctrine, "self-fulfilment" and sensuous decadence.

Cosmopolitan-intersectionalist”???  Sounds positively erotic.  I’ve never been labeled that before.  I think I like it.

“Indulgent of false doctrine”?  - Your certitude absolutely amazes me.  And still in your 20s, you say?  Do you think you have anything left to learn?

Are you really from a small town where people don’t appreciate self-fulfillment?  Don’t indulge in it from time to time?    Why would you – why would anyone - want to live in such a place?

Sensuous decadence?

Oh dear. 

As for Catholics and "San Francisco values", while the hierarchy and plenty of devout pro-traditional-family laypeople continue to stand firm on most issues stereotyped as "culture war"---they show zero church discipline much of the time, supposedly having a clear guideline for excommunication but it is hardly ever used since Vatican II.

One of precious few exceptions being Lefebvre, and SSPXers were excommunicated for being *too* conservative and in some cases anti-Semitic...I do not agree with or have close contact with that grouping & as a person of Jewish descent I take great issue with Shoah minimization and apparent support for a fascist party [French FN] in their ranks.

But then you have Michael Moore tweeting about attending Sunday Mass and using his ostensible Catholic faith to defend political positions (not that Barry Lynn or Norman Lear have called him out on it!) and for suggesting he be excommunicated a friend of mine was called EXTREMIST!

Extremist? Moore's worldview is not from any recognizable wing of Catholic orthodoxy...he is an out-and-out, bomb throwin, San Francisco values, ROBERT CROMEY-CARTER HEYWARD- KATE RAGSDALE wing Episcopal style sensualist who has said God created gay sex and enjoys watching it all, believes in sexual freedom, federal tax funded abortion on demand, even minor girls and post 20 weeks, says he yas no moral objection to drug use and supports legalizing (nearly) all of 'em attacked Giuliani for trying to restrain porn and stripping in NYC, likened Black conservatives to the US Nazi collaborator PoW in Slaughterhouse 5, compared Clarence Thomas to a slave and Scalia to KKK, blamed the Clinton impeachment on "obsessed" sexually "repressed" Republicans, provided affective education, values clarification & *sensitivity training encounter groups* to teens w/o parental involvement in the 70s (see "Davison Hotline"), slammed an abortion litmus test down on poor (profamily Catholic Dem) Bart Stupak's head in 2010!, advocates explicit sex ed and secret condom handouts in public schools, openly defends Jeremiah Wright, holds every person's diverse spiritual (non-)belief is valid FOR THEM so detests absolute Truth and proselytizers, says the Bible is to be taken for our self-improvement and not literally, applauds ACT-UP stunts, finds Bill Clinton and Barack Obama not pro-abortion *enough* for him...and somehow it's the person *questioning* whether he belongs in the RCC is extreme? I REALLY doubt it!

Until they start to crack down on radicals in the public eye, telling them "hey- this is America, if you really prefer Episcopal or U.C.C. "values" you can always use your religious liberty and find an affirming inclusive embrace in their arms, but if you wanna be a Catholic in good standing get repenting!"- the Catholic Church stands little chance of weathering the secular storm.

Feel better now?


William D. Lindsey said...

Alan, thank you for posting this. If nothing else, it will document for a generation or two down the road some of the absolute insanity being blathered around by "religious" people of a certain ilk at this point in history. Unless said "religious" people simply put an end to history, as some of them want to do, in the hope of precipitating the second coming of Jesus . . . .

I stopped reading the man's drivel when he moved from applauding Christians who refuse to bend the knee to "Islamic morality" to applauding his Christian version of Islamic anti-gay moral teachings.

If he can't see that he's promoting homophobic moral ideas that are more at home among certain fundamentalist groups of Islamic believers today than they are almost anywhere else in the world, then the poor fellow is as blind as a bat.

Unknown said...

Actually I am as blind as... a person with 20/20 vision. So conservative Islam shares my opposition to sex between same-gender couples. So does conservative Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, various [not all] Eastern religions and [not all] traditional tribal as the standard for sexual expression is written on our hearts, though of course mankind in its sinfulness attempts to suppress the truth, so even many of those lost in spiritual darkness often hold to it.

That makes no difference to my belief it is better for a Christian to be martyred than submit to conversion to Islam or any other anti-Christ system. Just because they agree with me that homosexual behavior is wrong (and even then most Muslims would probably be much harsher than I am on the subject)you think I'm going to deny the One Who shed His Blood for me at Calvary? A thousand times NO! That argument disgusts me.

Oh and I am a religious person, not a "religious" [sic] one. Keep your nasty scare quotes to yourself.

Unknown said...

Oh and Alan- in all seriousness, what is "feel better now?" intended to mean following my second paragraph? Are you saying that the extremist anti-Christian views I referred to a professing Catholic espousing make you feel warm and fuzzy inside?

Alan McCornick said...

My “feel better now?” remark was in response to your brain dump. You simply unloaded. There’s nothing in your remarks which I can identify as an invitation to engage. You’re obviously not interested in an exchange of ideas; you’re simply making a list of people and ideas for which you have no use. Vomiting on paper. I simply wondered if, now that you had gotten all the poison out of your system, you felt better, that’s all.

Look, if you want to debate or discuss ideas, I’d be happy to join you. But there is nothing to be gained by talking with someone who is simply testifying. When you testify, one either says “Amen, brother” or one walks out of church. There’s no learning that takes place, no opportunity to reflect and possibly revise one’s thinking. One cannot argue with a closed mind. If all you have to say is “This is the truth, and I will not entertain any contradiction,” there is nothing one can say in response. One agrees or one disagrees, but the conversation is at an end. It is a Mexican stand-off.

You’re not the only person around to stick his fingers in his ears and say, “I can’t hear you, and even if I could I wouldn’t listen.” But the Buddhists are right. There is only one thing that is certain and that is change. And change comes about because people engage with one another, listen to each other, learn from each other, recognize that we are all “suspended in webs of significance” we ourselves have spun. We are all like the blind men and the elephant. All possessors of partial truths at best. All capable of engaging with more and more complexity over time as we gain perspective from listening to others. All subject to error.

Your notion of religion is all about shutting down discussion and shutting out doubt and complexity. The person who described your notion of religion in quotes obviously has a different notion of religion. Together, the two of you reflect the current debate with the Catholic Church. He focuses on listening for the voice of God in the many voices of the men and women who speak of such things. You focus not on listening, but on your conviction that you are right and others who disagree with you are wrong. His view is inclusive; yours is exclusive. He welcomes; you shun. He focuses on forgiveness; you focus on error. He put the word religion in quotes – I’m guessing – you would have to check with him – because he finds your notion of religion something other than religion. You two are both self-identified Catholics. You simply disagree on what that means.

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