Friday, January 13, 2012

Old Testament Violence

The following is an excerpt from a conversation I was involved in with regard to OT violence. This was written by a user named "Doom":

As far as the violence in the Bible. All of the violence in the Bible can be fit into one of four categories:

1. Stories where God kills someone (and violence is thus seen as a positive thing)

2. Stories where God asks human beings to kill someone for him (and violence is thus seen as a positive thing)

3. Stories where a horrific atrocity of some kind is committed, but where no direct moral judgment is passed by the author.

4. The vindictive passages, where one asks God to curse an enemy, or to avenge himself on an enemy or some such thing.

About the stories in category 1 and 2:

Okay, on the question of all the stories in the Bible where God kills people, or asks others to do it for him.

God, being the one who gives life, has the right to take life whenever he likes, and if he wishes to ask human beings to do the killing for him, then he has the right to do that as well.

But, you may ask 'doesn't this mean that man has the right to kill arbitrarily?'

The answer is 'no', and here is why: life is a gift from God. Man does not give life, God does. Hence, God can take life, but man cannot. (At least he can't unless he is given a direct order from God to do so.)

I would like to also make the point that since God is omnipotent; ultimately every life form that has ever died in the whole history of the universe has died because God willed that it die.

Therefore God is, whether directly or indirectly, responsible for the death of every living thing that has ever died.

I would also add, about the various laws in the book of Leviticus and elsewhere that demand death for things like sorcery, homosexuality and blasphemy, that the traditional Christian (as well as Jewish) view is that these laws are valid ONLY IN the context of ancient Israel. Keep in mind that ancient Israel was a theocracy, which was ruled by priest-kings who made all of their major decisions by directly consulting God by means of the Urim and Thumin and by other means. (Now, you don't have to concede that any of this was anything more than superstition in order to understand that this is what the ancient Israelites believed, whether true or false.) Since ancient Israel was established by God and ruled directly by God, therefore the rules were rather strict, because God lived in the temple, he was thus present in Israel in a way that he was not present anywhere else on the Earth.

But ancient Israel is dead, there is not a single government on this Earth that was established by God, not a single government on earth that is ruled directly by God, God does not dwell in any single place on earth, not Rome, not Jerusalem, not Mecca, there is nowhere on this Earth that God abides in a deeper way than he does anywhere else. Therefore those laws are no longer in effect.

Moreover, both Christians and Jews believe that this will not change except by the direct intervention of God. The modern state of Israel cannot be in any way identified with ancient Israel, because it is a secular state, founded by men, and not God. Both Christians and Jews believe that this will change only at the end of the age, when God intervenes directly in human affairs and sets things right. For Jews, this is the coming of the messiah, for Christians it is the second coming of Christ. In either case, this is not something that human beings can bring about, only God can make it happen.

Category 3:

Stories about horrible atrocities, but the Biblical author doesn't seem to comment one way or the other.

I simply wish to point out that not every story in the entire Bible is told from a standpoint of approval. If the Bible records a story of someone making a human sacrifice, this does not mean that the author approves of human sacrifice.

The argument 'X happened in the Bible, therefore the Biblical author must have approved of X' is not a valid argument.

Many of the stories in the Bible are told as warnings 'DON'T do this!', many others are told simply because the author is trying to record exactly what really happened and it would be wrong to try to whitewash history.

One of the books of the Bible that is most frequently criticized for its violence is the book of Judges. When reading Judges for the first time, it can seem rather monotonous. The book of Judges is just one horrible atrocity after another, there are stories of elaborate assassination plots, brutal violence, even what has to be one of the first recorded incidents of deliberate genocide, when the other 11 Israelite tribes try to exterminate the tribe of Benjamin.

It is easy to wonder 'what exactly is the point of this vast litany of brutality?'

The point is actually explained in the very last verse of the book of Judges which reads:

'In that time, Israel did not have a king, and everyone did what he himself felt was best in his own eyes."

You may wonder 'so what, Israel didn't have a king? who cares?', but if you think about it for a few seconds, it will quickly become clear what the author means. What he is saying is 'see, see how bad things were before Israel had a king? It was just violence and brutality all the day long, it was anarchy, it was chaos, thank God that we finally got a king, who was able to establish peace, order and tranquility in the kingdom, and bring an end to all this senseless slaughter!'

So, the book of Judges doesn't record all that senseless brutality in order to approve of it, but rather the opposite.

My point is that context matters.

Okay, category #4

What to do with the various 'vindictive' passages of the Bible, where someone is expressing violent rage and demanding revenge?

There are many such passages, but the most famous is from Psalm 136 (or 137 in the Hebrew) so let us quote the passage for maximum effect:

1 By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 On the willows there we hung up our lyres. 3 For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! 6 Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!

7 Remember, O LORD, against the E'domites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, "Rase it, rase it! Down to its foundations!" 8 O daughter of Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall he be who requites you with what you have done to us! 9 Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!

The really disturbing passage is the last one, which I have happily put in bold for maximum attention.

What a disgusting, disturbing thought! What is that doing in the Bible?

How have Christians and Jews, throughout history, interpreted this passage?

Well, Saint Augustine, in the 4th century AD, interpreted it allegorically, saying that the 'little ones' are our sins, and that we are to smash our sins against the rock in order to become holy.

That is not the most literal interpretation, but my point in mentioning it is that pretty much NO major Christian or Jewish commentator in the last 2,500 years or so has interpreted this to mean that it morally permissible to take babies and smash them against rocks.

Pretty much no one uses this passage as a justification for violence.

So what are we to make of this?

Let me explain it to you this way....

Sometimes in life, something bad happens to you, and it is not one of those things that you can just write off as 'nobody's fault' either, rather someone does something that deliberately hurts you, he kills your son, he rapes your daughter, he flies an airplane into the World Trade Center and kills 3,000 innocent people.....

Sometimes people do horrible things to you, not by accident, by purely out of hatred, malice and spite. Worse than this, it seems that they gets away with it to. They escape justice.

Sometimes your anger is so intense, that it builds up into a violent rage, and you want justice, you want to grab that gun and walk up to the courtroom as he is walking out, and shoot him in the head! You are so angry, you don't know if you can control yourself.

So what do you do? Where's the answer? Where's the relief?

The answer is, you pray, and you ask God, 'please lord, I have endured a horrible injustice, please, somehow, some way, set it right. Put right what once went wrong. Fix this, PLEASE!'

And so you ask God to punish the one who hurt you. You ask for justice.

And you say things like 'blessed be the one who takes your little ones and smashes them upon the rock!' You vent all of those angry feelings, those horrible sentiments, and just give it up to God, and ask him to make it all right somehow.

You don't go out and perform the deed yourself, you ask God to do it for you. You pray, 'please God, don't let me lose control, please help me to stay calm, and please set it right somehow.'

And then somehow you choke down your rage, and your hurt, and you try to forgive the one who hurt you, content that God will set it right somehow, in his own time, you try to turn all those negatives in a positive, and you try to go on with your life.

That's what you do.

And that is what those vindictive Bible passages are all about.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On God wanting me to be Protestant first

I used to believe this. Or rather, I should say I still do but it was poorly worded and needs quite a bit of clarification because people can get the wrong idea and defer from going to the Catholic Church until they are ready. That's not how it works.

One should not say it this way. God does not will anyone to be protestant, Moslem, Jewish, atheist, etc. To will this would indeed be contradictory and contrary to both reason and the faith handed down to the Church. Such a contradiction is heretical [and or] schismatic and would be akin to worshiping a false view of God. And there is no doubt that it is sinful to hold heresy, to be schismatic, to be a sectarian, to worship false gods, etc.

Now, that isn't to say that every or even most protestants (or whatever religion) are subjectively guilty of heresy, schism. They may err in good faith (at worst it might by a venial sin and one would still be in a relationship with God). But protestantism (in its various forms) is a matter of heresy. Hence, even if a person is not culpable, still there is an evil in the thing itself which God cannot be said to desire. How could he?

Nonetheless, it may be true that God moves us to......say recognize Him and because we are not perfect beings we may recognize Him, but then proceed to be protestant rather than atheist (or whatever faith). It is possible to say that one's time as a protestant was on the road to their being Catholic, as they were moved to accept the truth more and more. But insofar as one in fact accepts protestantism as such, with its errors, no, God could not be said to desire that.

It would be like God giving you nudges to go in a straight line but you keep swerving (this is where you go toward protestantism for reasons only know to you and God) but still heading in the same general direction (like a drunk man). God does not will you to swerve, but does will you to go in that general direction (which is the Catholic Church).

Now there is that question of what happens if one swerves so much that it's not heading in the same direction and away from Catholicism. Well that would be like leaving protestantism and becoming an atheist. I won't presume to know what will happen to such a person but chances don't look good. Only God knows.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Literal Adam

I guess even the best can be wrong (Forward to 5:52-6:04):

It bummed me out to hear Fr. Barron get it wrong on Adam not being a literal figure. Maybe it was a slip up? Perhaps, but it's hard to interpret otherwise and I hope Fr. Robert Barron comes out publicly to correct himself or clarify what he meant; if he meant something other then what many seem to be interpreting out of it (even another priest in his own webiste corrected him).

Dave Armstrong references to a good article on this topic:

Adam and Eve: Defense of Their Literal Existence as the Primal Human Couple, by Catholic Philosopher, Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Veiling and Head Converings

I wish I would have paid closer attention eight years ago when a Church of Christ pastor tried to dupe me by asking why catholic women no longer veil themselves. I guess I took his questions as a clear attempt to be trollish and go on his usual anti-catholic rant. However, he wasn't completely wrong. I came across a blog that did a great job at explaining head covering for both men and women:

Veiling or Head Covering Explained

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Intolerance from the tolerant

I can’t recount the number of times I’ve been called intolerant for believing and holding as beautiful certain truths of the Holy Catholic Church. Perhaps on par or even worse then say the Aryan Nation or some extremist Islamic group. In fact, I’m almost inclined to say that I’d be better off being from the Aryan Nation or some Islamic group. For in their eyes, I’m much more of a threat to their everyday lives then some Norse community of skin heads living in the mountains. Apparently any belief or opinion differing from their own is viewed as intolerant; hostility need not be a part of it anymore. It’s quite ironic that such intolerance of opposing views comes from those whom title themselves “the tolerant ones”. Gooooooo tolerance!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Children are the problem

We got a close to midnight knock at the door. It was my boys little friend and he wanted to play with them. The very sound of his knock was just odd to us. I told him they had spent the night at their grandma and grandpa’s house. It was as if he didn’t hear me because he continued by saying “I just want to play with them in front of the door where you can see us”. I asked him “do you know what time it is?”……he put his head down and said “ just for a little while” ………….”But they aren’t here”….I repeated. “Does your mom know you are out here?”….I asked……”Well, she’s the one that told me to leave.” Shocking or surprising didn’t automatically come to mind; more like deeply saddened. I didn't get a chance to invite him in.

In that instant I was inundated with images and voices of all those people who would look upon me and my wife as if we had committed blasphemy to dare have five children. Perhaps out of concern for the well being of our children? In the same way that I felt for this boy? I was overwhelmed with disgust on the reality that people actually believe that if that boy simply didn’t exist (had his mom simply not have reproduced), somehow it would fix all the problems pertaining to broken homes. It would be akin to saying that if we only didn’t have women, rape wouldn’t exist (well not completely but I won’t go there). Feminist groups would be tempted to stone me and all other women would raise a brow; justly so. No rational animal would even think of such a solution. Yet we do it with children all the time. Selfishness, immaturity, abuse, etc. they are simply symptoms of the problem. If we could only limit the amount of children or not have any children at all, that is sure to fix things.
I’m not saying we should reproduce like bunnies either ; each according to their situation and what God wills. It’s just this resonating anti-child attitude that irks me to no end. Even worse to hear it from Catholics. God be with us.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Religious Climate by me

Jennifer made me ponder over the religious climate of where I live; particularly in my county. So I dug up some links of religious centers/churches that I have either visited or have driven by or visited. I’d visit all of them if it didn’t drive my wife bonkers that as soon as I see a religious center/church, I want to pull over and poke my head in. So here they are (I will be adding more in time):

Pao Fa Buddhist Temple

-The surronding area of this temple (along with the Temple) is amazing.

Gayatri Consciousness Center

-The word "Consciousness" literally made me pull over and check out the facility. It is a real beautiful building. Fairly small in size compared to other religious centers but it's nice to see the pyramid looking structure in the front. It drives my wife crazy everytime I stop and do this...

Roman Catholic

-Fairly obvious. I've been to atleast 15 or so different parishes. The diocese is up in the hills and I've been there as well.

Saddleback Church (Baptist) – Rick Warren

Calvary Chapel (Evangelical) – Chuck Smith

-I love Chuck! Used to listen to him on the radio and even attended Calvary Chapel for some time. Orange County is the Mecca for this denomination.

Crystal Cathedral (Reformed Church) - Robert H. Schuller

-It's in downtown and it's a building that is hard to miss. Beautiful building...

Association of Vineyard Churches (Charismatic Protestant) – John Wimber

-For some reason I tend to see these churches close to the mall.

Family International (Apocalyptic Christians, Hippie movement) – David Berg

-Either close to the beaches or in the woods. I don't know if that has anything to do with it being hippy or not?

Islam Centers/Mosques

-The newest built 5 years ago and it makes an effort to invite the outside world.

Jewish Centers/Synagogues

-I've only seen one synogogue. The others are in places that I would normally never visit.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Coptic Christians in Egypt

I pass a Coptic Catholic Church a couple miles from my house from time to time and it made me think of the recent protests in Egypt. I know very little about Copts other then they came from a very ancient Christian culture that probably predates Roman Christians. Since coming back into full communion with Rome in the early 1800’s they have lived a persecuted and fairly isolated life in Egypt. Many of them choosing to leave and immigrate to other countries or simply flee the large cities.

And then I get knee jerk reactions in forums when I dare call the protestors “Muslim”. As if I had said the protestors were “Black” or something. However, me calling the crowd Muslim was nothing more then a calculated guess. It’s not like I wasn’t aware that Egypt wasn't predominantly Muslim and that Coptic Christians, Episcopalian, and other denominational Christians are a minority in Egypt (5-10 percent). Just this Sunday in Tahrir Square Christians held a special Mass in support of the protest. Considering all that Copts have gone through in Egypt:

Kosheh Massacre

Nag Hammadi Massacre

Alexandria Bombing

……to name a few……I naturally thought most Christians were going to stay in doors. It was a nice surprise to see that Mass in the center of it all. But one shouldn’t mistake what they see with how badly Christians are normally treated. Prayers for our fellow Coptic brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Laura Ingraham and Pimp Parenthood

Pimps going to Planned Parenthood for assistance:

Laura Ingraham and Pimp Parenthood

Those PP workers looked real concerned for the children working as sex slaves for the pimp eh? I'm sure these are isolated incidents? (wink wink) Maybe she is right; this was all put together by a right wing pro-life group to stop the healthcare bill. Somehow that is supposed to make her argument less nauseating and ridiculous. Are you freakin kidding me! The guy is trafficking little girls as sex slaves and all she can say is that some right wing group put all this together? Words fail me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thoughts on Mormons

What do you think about Mormons?

Love em.

They were probably the stepping stone to me being religious in the first place. I was young so I mostly remember how kind they were to me. I didn't really go too deep into their doctrines, but I had a basic grasp of it. Looking back at it, it's a simplified form of Chrisitianity; taking most of the "mystery" out of it. Have a problem with the Trinity? Not a problem. Have a problem with Hell? Not a problem. If you read real close into men like Josepth Smith, Martin Luther, etc. you will find a profound struggle within them that lead to their shift from Orthodoxy. It's much easier to come up with your own conclusion then to call it a mystery or work to understand it over time.

But as far as my personal experiences with them, I have nothing but good things to say. I'd even go so far as to say that they treated me better then Catholics do......=]

If it were only about how I was treated, I probably would have remained Mormon.