Wednesday, February 27, 2013

America's Dark Ages and How to Rebuild

Everyone I speak to or communicate with via cyberspace seems to be feeling it. Something weird, something dark, perhaps even something ugly has taken hold of America. Be they left or right, liberal or conservative, male or female, especially those of us over the age of forty, we all sense a tearing of our cultural fabric; an agitation, perhaps even a pandemic vertigo. 

Many blame it on the economy and the sixteen trillion dollar national debt. Many believe its all about our rights being taken away. Others see the problem as a prejudice, intolerance, an us-against them--found in the the war against women or minorities. 

Because many see the problems as political in nature, the solution for them will be in electing political leaders. They want those living with in DC’s beltway to rein in spending or redistribute wealth, return to the gold standard, cut taxes or raise taxes depending on what side of political spectrum they are on. Our little gods in Washington are expected to eliminate social injustice for the poor and women and minorities or, for the opposite  political side, to get out of American’s way and allow Americans to prosper under the Bill of Rights without government interference. 

I hear and read conservatives trying to remain positive, encouraging each other with, “if we can just hold out till the next election, things will turn around.” They believe America will rediscover its independent spirit, the Constitution and its Founding Fathers’ courage to fight the system of big government. While those now in power are rushing to get all their legislation enacted to prevent the progressive movement from losing momentum.

Both sides know in their guts there is a trouble brewing. The political left and right have no realistic way of compromising on the solution to America’s problems. Our political leaders seem as out of touch with the problem and solution as the rest of America.

May I suggest though that America either cannot or will not see from whence the chaos flows. We citizens are blind to the fact that no amount of laws can heal the real wounds in the hearts of Americans.

The wounds are moral. The Western world is not suffering from lack of money, nor lack of rights. We are suffering for lack of character. We are in a dark ages of moral madness. I would list America’s moral depravities, but I think it would send us all into despair to see it all at once. We are a filthy, vile and depraved culture and our only hope a miracle--not only in Washington, but in each of us. 

What we need to do to save ourselves and our communities is to follow the instruction of God: 

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. II Chronicles 7: 14

The problem is with us, as a people. And we don’t wan’t the problem to be within us. But that is directly where it is. We must repent as individuals and turn from our wicked ways. We must repent as a nation and turn from our wicked ways. 

Each of us need to get back to the basics of putting the kingdom of God first. Don’t worry about rights, don’t worry about pursuing happiness. Right now, pursue wisdom and holiness. That is the only way we can repair our nation. We need to get back to where we know what right and wrong is. Most people today walk around totally unaware that much of what they are doing is wicked! We don’t even recognize sin anymore.

First, repent and repair your relationship with Christ. 

If you are Catholic, get to confession. Give a true, heartfelt, exhaustive and honest confession. Get it all off your chest and then trust that you are forgiven. You are a NEW person in Christ. 

Go to church, get with a Bible study group, read your Bible and pray daily. Pray many times a day. Give your will to Christ and ask Him to change your heart. And if you are not there yet, if your faith is wavering,  pray that God will give you the grace to awaken your conscience, to repent and turn from your wicked ways. And if you can’t even do that much, and there’s no judgment here I’ve been there many times, just go to a quiet area with no distractions and daily spend at least 15 minutes in total silence asking if there is a God, He will reveal Himself to you. Then get to church. (My suggestion would be a Catholic mass). Just stepping into church is a cry of faith, “I believe, help my unbelief!”

Second, repair your relationship with your family. 

This is hard. Really hard. Especially if there are anger issues with someone. Strip yourself of pride, as well as selfish expectations and become a humble servant to your family. Don’t think you’ve failed if discussions get heated and repetitive. That’s the Devil’s lie. Communication and relationships are difficult and emotional and messy. Expect it and just keep communicating and loving and forgiving and asking for forgiveness. Think the best of your family and read I Corinthians 13 as needed, at least weekly! And keep in mind that St. Paul puts patience as the first description of love. 

Don’t Criticize. Shut up, listen patiently and don’t interrupt. Listen with a soft heart and then speak gently. (Again, don’t beat yourself or anyone else up for failing to live up to the perfect person, we all fail. The point is that there is peace beyond the storms of life. It’s okay to get upset and emotional, just always make up. Children need to see parents make up. It is so important that they see that closure, and that people can fight and get through it without a crisis.)

I have found that active listening is one of the best ways to repair any relationship. Also, don’t keep secrets. Be faithful to your spouse no matter the cost. Make sure your spouse or children know that you love them above all and will never, ever leave them. I think most of the world is afraid of being abandon by the one they love. Make your home a safe place by continually speaking words of encouragement and faithfulness. Hugs are good too! Work at knowing each other and what each one of you need to feel safe.

For unmarried people. Don’t marry someone who doesn’t have your moral values. Be kind to your spouse when he doesn’t deserve it. Go into marriage with the idea that this is forever, then don’t divorce, especially if you have children. 

Be a good parent and love your children enough to sacrifice to protect them from the evil culture. 

Third, repair your community

Know your neighbors. Talk to them. 

Get involved in some way, either with funding charities or personal time. This depends a lot on your situation. Parents with small children can only do so much. Don’t let community activities take away from your family time. But when you do have the opportunity, support charities. You can’t do it all, so pick one you feel the Lord wants you to get involved in.

Support good, wholesome media. We must quit watching pornography personally and cry out for others to quit supporting the pornography that comes out of Hollywood and other studios. We need to just change the channel when deprave commercials or television programming comes on. Support decent television by watching it and cut the funding from degrading programming by not watching it--in the home or at the theatre.

Our country has only one way of recovery and that is not a solution of politics or economy. It is that we have the courage to see ourselves and repent. Then have the courage to start from the beginning and repair relationships with God, our family and our neighbor. That is America’s only hope and it is Americas BEST hope. 

God bless.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Faith and Fibonacci

If Catholicism doesn’t make sense to you, do not become Catholic. Really.  We mean that. Catholics believe that faith must be reasonable. And when Christ said, “Come let us reason together” He was encouraging us to base our beliefs on that which corresponds to reality. And if after you study, truly study Catholicism with an open mind and spirit, it doesn’t seem to correspond with reality nor with logic nor with the Bible, then we would not want you to go against your conscience, nor your common sense.

Finding Truth
In general, Catholics believe that the fullness of Truth doesn’t come downloaded into one’s mental hard drive at birth, at baptism or with any revelation or by the Holy Spirit. Then all the born-again Christian has to do is just dig deeply into themselves to find Truth. No, truth is other than we are. It is outside us. However, humans have been given the capacity by God to recognize truth when it is presented. We are expected to have the “ahaa!” moment when we discover the Truth.  
And when Truth is presented to us, it is supposed to make sense.
Catholics believe that faith must be based upon reason. Faith should never be illogical or create cognitive dissonance in your thinking. Faith isn’t about accepting blindly that 2 + 2 = 5. If that is what any faith feels like to you, there is a true problem. I’m not saying truth is easy to understand, not by any stretch. Truth can be as complex as quantum physics, but once you get it, you should be able to see that it is in line with reality.

Let me explain with a personal experience.

I don’t want to sound critical, but I need to make a point using what I know. When I was a Seventh-day Adventists I thought faith was accepting or at least struggling with all your might to accept something as true that didn’t seem rational. If you keep to superficial Adventism and Sabbatarianism, you don’t see the illogic.  But when you start in-depth studying of Ellen White’s writings comparing them to her other writings and then to the Bible, you have to either let go of logic and have a blind faith that SDA doctrine somehow makes sense to someone smarter than yourself or you have to conceal your panic and pray your faith will survive this continual onslaught of disorienting theology.
It was too much for my husband and I; that kind of faith seemed ungodly, but we didn't understand why.
Then, when my husband and I left the SDA church and entered the wide varieties of Protestantism, theology seemed to be much more acquainted with the real world and the Bible. Yet, the more we studied in different denominations, we began to recognize that same old rule of faith we heard within Adventism. Faith is about the struggle to believe that which is irrational. Just believe. Have simple faith.
Protestant theology didn’t seem to work on the minute level nor on a general, overarching level. I felt pressured to accept the illogical, both on an individual and on a broad basis.

When I would question an individual denomination about how their interpretation conflicted with scripture, instead of answering my question, I would hear often, “Don’t study yourself out of the church! Just have simple faith.” Which meant to me, “We don’t have an answer, accept the illogical.” When those words are in the context of a warm, godly smile it can send you into despair, for it makes you feel you are being unfaithful to God not to just accept irrationality.

On a broader basis, Protestantism is a battle of cognitive dissonance. They claim the Bible is the sole authority and it is the infallible Word of God, but then they took out books that didn’t fit their theology and tell each Protestant that they can trust their own personal interpretation of this infallible truth. So when truly sincere, brilliant Christian scholars, who can fluently read scripture in its original languages all come up with different interpretations of truth and morals, we have the recipe for moral chaos. That is irrational. 

Truth isn’t up to us to decide. The belief that Christ left moral decisions up to the individual to figure out by using a textbook (Bible) hasn’t worked out well. The outcome has been disunity and moral confusion. That isn’t rational. 
I found the Protestant idea of faith as confusing as the Adventist idea of faith, just in different ways. Faith to them seems to be about believing the unbelievable. 

Catholic Faith

Perhaps faith isn’t supposed to be accepting the irrational. Perhaps faith is something different. Catholicism has taught me that faith is based upon reason. It isn’t accepting something that makes no sense. It is imagining that there is more, an extension of what we already know into what we do not know.

Take for example the Fibonacci sequence of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, ... These are rational numbers placed in a sequence that is understandable when we are taught that we add the first two numbers to get the third then we add that number to the next one to get fourth number such as: 0 + 1 = 1, 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3 and so on.  These are not random numbers, but they build upon each other to make a pattern. They are a rational pattern. If a snarky elementary student were to ask a teacher, “What are the Fibonacci numbers to googolplex?” The teacher would respond, “I don’t know them precisely because we haven’t yet counted up to that point, but we know for a fact these sequences can go on into infinity because it is based upon rational processes.”

We can make a pretty good hypothesis about what we don’t know based upon what we do know.

Catholics idea of faith is like this. We add together scripture, philosophy, tradition, historical documents and archeology and present them in a reasonable way in order to allow someone to conclude that it is reasonable to believe in Christ as well as the Catholic Church. Protestants' faith seemed more to me, like unrelated numbers strung together and we are asked to believe they make sense.  

You may need a teacher to explain how the doctrines of Catholicism are reasonable, as it may not be evident by just a cursory look, but the more you study Catholicism, it doesn’t ask anything irrational of you. That makes me feel.... at peace and within reality.

So if Catholicism doesn’t do that for you, you shouldn’t be Catholic. However, we do ask that you don’t just throw it all up because it is hard to understand. Perhaps, if left alone you wouldn’t have understood the Fibonacci numbers either. Let a good Catholic apologist explain it, just as you would want a good algebra teacher to explain algebra. Catholic faith makes sense. It isn’t about blind faith.