Saturday, July 28, 2012

What G.K. Chesterton Might Tell Sensationalistic "Converts" from Catholicism

Mt. Angel Abbey
I'm at a disadvantage in this post, because for personal reasons (happily explained off my blog), it would neither be gracious nor thoughtful for me to identify the person that sparked this weekend's reflection.  In short, though, I'll say I was disappointed to read a vitriolic account of one man's journey from the Catholic faith earlier this week.  While these accounts are certainly nothing new, they do have a way of getting my dander up.  

What especially gets under my skin, I suppose, is when broad, baseless assertions are made without any attempt at either objectivity or Christ-like charity.  When the baseless opinions are woven into a garment of hate and religious bigotry, it demonstrates more than anything else, I think, that the love of Christ is either not present within the life of the writer, or, at the very least, the person's has a spiritual "blind spot" when it comes to the Catholic Church.

In this particular case, the man coming forward gave a breathless account of  having been raised in the Catholic Church only to later have found new freedom within the Baptist tradition.  Today, his livelihood apparently depends upon anti-Catholic diatribes, end-times predictions, and book censorship.  Although his posting implies a book on his conversion in the form of thumbnail image, he apparently has authored no such work.  As alluded to earlier, it is neither wise nor gracious for me in this case to mention the person's name.  (I am happy to explain why off the blog, if interested.)  If you wish to consider this blog posting, a sort of constructive venting...that's fine.  I am endeavoring, however, to offer more than that today.

If you check our own story of conversion to the Catholic Church (more of an enrichment than conversion really) at Catholic Answers, I hope the reader doesn't come away with any feelings that I bear ill will towards any of the Protestants in my life.  On the contrary, we are where we are today because of the high regard for faith, reason, and reverence with which I was raised.  Church, after all, is not entertainment; it is worship.

As a personal aside, I will share that I felt that the conversion story for This Rock, needed more positive things to say about our family's background in the Protestant tradition.  Originally, it did, but some of the positive elements were edited out by TR in order to make it a better fit for the magazine; I think that's unfortunate.  The following quote from G.K. Chesterton's wonderful work on Saint Thomas Aquinas is a powerful argument of how all believers should endeavor to debate these issues which seperate us.

We have already noted why,in this one quarrel with Siger of Brabant, Thomas Aquinas let loose such thunders of purely moral passion; it was because the whole work of his life was being betrayed behind his back, by those who had used his victories over the reactionaries. The point at the moment is that this is perhaps his one moment of personal passion, save for a single flash in the troubles of his youth: and he is once more fighting his enemies with a firebrand.  And yet, even in this isolated apocalypse of anger, there is one phrase that may be commended for all time to men who are angry with much less cause.

If there is one sentence that could be carved in marble, as representing the calmest and most enduring rationality of his unique intelligence, it is a sentence which came pouring out with all the rest of this molten lava. If there is one phrase that stands before history as typical of Thomas Aquinas, it is that phrase about his own argument: "It is not based on documents of faith, but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves." Would that all Orthodox doctors in deliberation were as reasonable as Aquinas in anger! Would that all Christian apologists would remember that maxim;and write it up in large letters on the wall, before they nail any theses there. At the top of his fury, Thomas Aquinas understands,what so many defenders of orthodoxy will not understand. It is no good to tell an atheist that he is an atheist; or to charge a denier of immortality with the infamy of denying it; or to imagine that one can force an opponent to admit he is wrong, by proving that he is wrong on somebody else's principles, but not on his own. After the great example of St. Thomas, the principle stands, or ought always to have stood established; that we must either not argue with a man at all, or we must argue on his grounds and not ours. We may do other things instead of arguing, according to our views of what actions are morally permissible; but if we argue we must argue“on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves."

(Note: strange format problems on the above quote.  Paragraph division not exactly matching text.)

Like the successful married couple, all Christians should learn to fight with fairness and charity--even when we find ourselves in strong disagreement.  

A good place to begin in the dismantling of the fences between Catholics and Protestants might be avoidance of terms that polarize rather than unite—especially when the terms themselves offer little in the way of illumination. There is a devout and brilliant Catholic apologist who recently wrote a book defending Catholic theological positions from Protestant and secular attack.  While this author does a wonderful job explaining the Catholic perspective and pointing out some of the top issues which separate us, the book fails at times to accurately convey the subtle range of differences between the Protestant denominations. As an example, the author implies that all “fundamentalists” are Calvinists—e.g. believing in “heretical Predestinarianism”, as Joseph Pohle describes it, or “once saved always saved”.  Neither the Free Methodist nor Nazarene churches, however, fall into this category.  In fact, they share their roots in Charles Wesley, the great hymn writer.  Likewise, not all Calvinists can be broadly categorized as fundamentalists—e.g. Presbyterians.  Generalizations and labels are not the way to build dialogue or understanding.  The key to communication is to build upon our commonalities and avoid constantly emphasizing our differences.  If Catholics are properly catechized, they should have no problem explaining how our traditions have grown closer over issues like the profound gift of sanctifying grace.  They might also mention how Catholics often work together with Protestants to battle such cultural tragedies as abortion and pornography.  It’s also worth noting that some of the present divisive issues were of little or no concern to Martin Luther—for example, infant baptism or Mary’s place of honor within the Catholic Church.

As a way of concluding this post, I thought I would offer some references on the different areas shallowly and angrily discussed in this Baptist's blog.  (If you don't know of what your speaking, sometimes it's best not to place your soul in peril by opening your mouth.)

See also The Book of James

More personal recommendations:

A Call to Christian Unity

Joseph Pearce's Literary Giants, Literary Catholics

6 of the Most Unexpected Converts

Alec Guiness and Catholic Conversion

The Catholic Revival (503 notable conversions)

Does God positively set apart those persons bound for hell?  Does free will even exist?  Read about Heretical Predestinarianism .

Faith and Deeds (James 2)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God.Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sharing an Excerpt from "Lost in Translation"

I was raised in an eastern Washington valley where...let's just say racial tolerance and harmony were not always where they should be.  While I dislike the cliches surrounding the issue of diversity, racial justice and equal access issues are terribly important--especially given the current economic climate.  I have had a small pet project I was working on recently...but one of the people I was trying to help decided to lob over a verbal "holy hand grenade of Antioch."  Consequently, I made the decision to use this short essay to spark discussion within state agencies, but remove myself otherwise from the endeavor for a while.  It should be seen as referring in a generic or generalized sense to all state and federal agencies--which is actually one of the problems associated with the piece, but I digress too much.

Should you be interested in reading part of the piece, I am sharing an excerpt below.  If you are an Oregon State employee, I'd be happy to share the whole essay.  Otherwise, you just get this sneak peek.  (Sorry!)  

If you are an Oregon State employee, feel free to contact me at for details.

In my last article, we explored what adaptive communication means.  Today, I encourage readers to look at it again, focusing this time on the state’s efforts to bridge the communication gap between state agencies and our non-English clients—specifically those who communicate in Spanish, the largest demographic group of non-English speakers.  At the outset, I should perhaps disclose that I favor all United States citizens learning English.  While I personally believe that this creates a strong bond and unifying strength, fluency in English remains only a distant dream to many of the people we serve.  We all likely agree that these people, from employers to claimants, all deserve clear and unfettered access to state agency services, but are we walking the walk?

Why Not Give Obama a Do-Over? (In their Own Words)

Something stinky is afoot this election year.
Writing on politics bores me to death, but I thought it might         actually be interesting to gather the quotes of others, people who enjoy writing on this stuff, and one or two items from yours truly.  I've also thrown in some other links and graphs for good measure.  We'll see how this works.  (Copyright attorneys, move along.  Nothing to see here.)  Please note that these are not necessarily in any order of its objective importance--or, in fact, any order at all.  I do, however, believe that Obama will lose because of the dismal state of the economy and our failure to return from the Great Recession.

...By the way, how's all that hope and change working out for you?

Courtesy the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

 "At Obama’s back is a dismayingly anemic recovery, constantly threatening to get worse. He wants credit for “creating” 3 million jobs but insists he be held blameless for millions more workers who’ve left the job market entirely."

Jonah Goldberg  
National Review (1)

"The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.

Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections.
The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest since 1965." (emphasis added)

"By the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2012, the new debt accumulated in this fiscal year by the federal government had already exceeded $1 trillion, making this fiscal year the fifth straight in which the federal government has increased its debt by more than a trillion dollars, according to official debt numbers published by the U.S. Treasury.

Prior to fiscal 2008, the federal government had never increased its debt by as much as $1 trillion in a single fiscal year. From fiscal 2008 onward, however, the federal government has increased its debt by at least $1 trillion each and every fiscal year."

Terrence P. Jeffrey

Of all the lamentations in both pieces, the one that had me in full eye roll was this one in Politico from Drew Westen, an Emory University clinical psychologist who studies the role of messaging and emotion in politics.

Obama’s “fundamental error,” Westen said, was not blaming former President George W. Bush and conservative lawmakers early enough and often enough in his term for creating the country’s economic troubles before he got into office.

Westen either suffers from amnesia or is a resident of the land of Mitt-Believe. Republicans have been hammering Obama for his propensity to blame President George W. Bush for the nation’s problems from almost the beginning of his administration. That’s because Obama has been blaming Bush for that long.

Jonathan Capehart

Following Obama's Own Advice

"If we do not change our politics -- if we do not fundamentally change the way Washington works -- then the problems we've been talking about for the last generation will be the same ones that haunt us for generations to come."

"But let me be clear -- this isn't just about ending the failed policies of the Bush years; it's about ending the failed system in Washington that produces those policies. For far too long, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, Washington has allowed Wall Street to use lobbyists and campaign contributions to rig the system and get its way, no matter what it costs ordinary Americans."
"We are up against the belief that it's all right for lobbyists to dominate our government--that they are just part of the system in Washington. But we know that the undue influence of lobbyists is part of the problem, and this election is our chance to say that we're not going to let them stand in our way anymore. Unless we're willing to challenge the broken system in Washington, and stop letting lobbyists use their clout to get their way, nothing else is going to change."

"If we're not willing to take up that fight, then real change--change that will make a lasting difference in the lives of ordinary Americans--will keep getting blocked by the defenders of the status quo."

2008 Quotes taken from The Atlantic (5)

Freedom of Speech 


"I would like to conclude by pointing out that President Obama has made his opposition to faith and Christianity abundantly clear now.  Personally, I don't see how a Christian--let alone an informed Catholic--in good conscience could vote for him.  His aim seems to be to make it as easy and convenient as possible to destroy the lives of the unborn, served up upon the altar of Moloch."


"When my wife and I were first married, we were as poor as church mice and living in the northwest corner of Washington State. Some of the worst medical care our family ever received was during a time when we briefly relied upon public aid. My daughter Sarah experienced serious complications at birth, and we will never know whether the poor care of her delivery had lasting consequences for long-term health and well-being. Nearly as frightening: Sarah would have gone blind if we had not left Washington State for Texas, where we able to stay with family and pay for an eye specialist's surgery. The doctor in Washington, paid through the state health safety net, ignored a serious problem, a problem which would have led eventually to Sarah's blindness, according to her Dallas eye surgeon. Assembly-line medicine does not work, and the worst kind of assembly-line medicine of all is where the state or federal government is the overseer."

"History will judge whether Mr. Roberts saved the reputation of the court or lost his nerve. Many conservatives obviously suspect the latter. Resolved: The government cannot make you eat broccoli, though it may levy a non-broccoli-eating tax on any who refuse.

Yet he may also think—and would not be wrong to think—that ObamaCare is doomed in any case. His opinion makes clearer than ever that ObamaCare is a tax program—throwing more tax dollars at an unreformed health-care system. ObamaCare is a huge new entitlement in a nation laboring under commitments it already can't afford. Those who gripe that he just authorized a vast expansion of the welfare state haven't reckoned with this fiscal reality principle."

Holman W. Jenkins


"A woman's ability to decide how many children to have and when, without interference from the government, is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. It is not just an issue of choice, but equality and opportunity for all women."

Barack Obama

"With the topic of abortion being discussed on the airwaves so much lately, I thought it might be a good time to devote a blog entry or two to the issue.  When you hear people  making statements along the lines of "abortion on demand is a right of all women" or the particularly bewildering whine of "keep your laws off my body," * we're hearing echoes of Margaret Sanger's voice, but who was she?"

"Repeatedly, she refers to her desire for "thoroughbreds" when it comes to the generations to follow.  In other words, she is espousing eugenics.  This is the same belief which led to the rise to power of a certain German by the name of Hitler.  A good article on the September 1957 Mike Wallace interview of Sanger may be found at LifeSite News.  Also, I found the interview itself available courtesy the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin.  It's fascinating to watch this interview, to have the opportunity to not only analyze her words but also her mannerisms."

A question...for you.  As a reader, I'd be interested in your take as to why the Obama campaign does as well as it does with the Hispanic community--given the group's rather conservative social values.  Thoughts?

Foreign Policy Blunders

"Since Mr. Obama took office, the opinion of the United States generally has declined in every country surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, according to a report released in June. Despite the vaunted White House effort to reach out to Muslim-majority countries, U.S. favorability ratings in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan are below where they were in 2008, when George W. Bush was at the helm. The study notes that “opinion is generally against Obama in most of the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, with about half or more in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan saying Obama should not be elected again.”

"Nonetheless, it is sobering to measure Obama against the goals he set himself when coming into office. His international priorities were clear and ambitious. He intended to solve the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomacy. He wanted to make peace between Israel and Palestine. He would transform America’s image in the Muslim world. The Guantanamo prison camp would be closed and terrorists would be tried in US courts, He would get the US out of Iraq and use the freed-up resources to fix Afghanistan. And he would dramatically improve relations with Russia and China, allowing the world to make progress on issues of common concern, from global warming to global trade."

Gideon Rachman

Environmental Incompetence & Shenanigans

"Reviewing the administration's public statements and press conferences on the subject, the picture that emerges is not necessarily one of willful neglect, but of a frustrated White House that did not, perhaps, initially grasp the scope of the disaster, and whose hand was forced on an issue it knew very little about. Whether the terms "Deepwater" and "top kill" continue to haunt Obama in the coming months will be determined in no small part by how much longer the oil continues to seep into the sea, and how forcefully he can convince the American public that he is, in fact, in control of a very uncontrollable situation."
Alex Wagner

"Quite unbelievably, President Obama put himself in the company of persons related to the 2010 Solyndra energy company scandal, which has sullied the reputation of the White House for the past two years. Not only was Obama in the presence of such individuals again, but he was repeating the same reasoned-method of contact. Obama and the Solyndra-related people were together to raise funds for Obama’s election once again."

CBS News Writer Scott Paulson (15)
"Like Solyndra, Abound's bankruptcy is a bitter echo of the hype generated by President Obama in his weekly radio address exactly two years ago when he touted his push for a clean energy economy. Abound Solar, he said, would manufacture advanced solar panels at two new plants, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs at plants in Indiana and Colorado."

You Didn't Build That

"I would argue that the irony of saying “somebody else” can only come from someone who is confused about the power any individual has and perhaps the extent of their own power. If credit can be given to me for my actions then likewise can I be blamed for them. To deny the freedom and responsibility needed to succeed or fail we run the risk of seeing ourselves and others as victims."

Debra King