A few of my family members read here

I feel reasonably sure that it is hard for my family when I write about the differences between Protestants and Catholics (I’ve mentioned before that I am the only living Catholic in my family, and how over 50% of the adults in my family are devoutly Protestant). At least, I assume it is because I’d probably feel the same way if the situation was reversed. Part of what I am doing here is leaving a record of my thoughts, ideas, arguments, etc. I don’t want all of these things stuck inside my head, and I don’t have any Catholic family members to discuss them with. So I write about them here. I do get some non-family traffic from these posts, but not a ton. A few posts get the bulk of the traffic. For example, the post about the differences between baptism and confirmation must be a popular result at the search engines because I get a lot of traffic for that post.

Anyway, I do consider the effect this will have on my family members who read here, which as of right now is only 2-3 but I am seriously considering letting the others know about it. I have considered starting a different blog in order to separate out the Catholic stuff, but that doesn’t seem right either. I was raised to hide half of myself from each of my parents, which is an extraordinarily damaging and unhealthy way to be formed as a child. Childhood is a time of formation, and being formed by one’s parents(with the explicit support of experts and leaders) to hide one’s self simply cannot ever be God’s will for any child. Learning not to hide who I am is a process, and I am working on it.

I am sorry if things I say here hurt anybody; I don’t want that, but I also need an outlet to express what is really going on inside of me. What is the solution?

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Rachel’s picture at the mall

My daughter Rachel has played the violin since she was six years old. She is 26 now, so she’s been playing for 20 years.

When she was little, she had a violin teacher named Christina. At Christmastime, Christina organized a little concert at the mall with her students and some students of another teacher. I dressed Rachel in this adorable dress that had a red top and gold skirt. As it turned out, two other little violin students about her same size also wore red dresses. I took a bunch of photos, and one of my favorites is of the three girls standing there playing their violins.

A few months later, I was at the mall by myself doing some shopping. I walked past one of those vendors that has a display in the center of the aisle. He had a lot of sepia tone photos for sale, and other photos too. I think he was selling developing services also, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember.

While looking at his photos, I looked up and saw one of Rachel! She was wearing that red dress! It was sepia tone, cropped to fit a circular cardboard back, and protected by a plastic cover. I was confused at first, because I had no idea why this man had a photo of my daughter for sale at his booth. So I asked him where he got the photo. He said that there had been a Christmas concert at the mall. He saw an adorable little blonde girl playing the violin and wanted to take her picture, so he did. I explained that it was my daughter, and I purchased the photo from him.

Rachel has it now and it sits on a display shelf in her living room. It is getting faded and I am worried about how long it will last. Perhaps it can be restored someday. Such a precious memory!

Embarrassed by the Catholic Church

Some blogs have so much strenuous objection to the Catholic Church, and it goes on and on and on… I do wonder what is under all that negativity. Sometimes I get the impression that the people are embarrassed by the Catholic Church. Nobody has ever said so, at least, I haven’t seen anyone admit it. It’s just a impression, a feeling, I get from time to time while reading different blogs and posts.

There are Bible verses about being ashamed of Christ or the Gospel. If the Church is his one-flesh bride (Eph. 5:32), then I think it is reasonable to apply those verses to her.

Cult dynamics: addicted to the cult

“The so-called therapeutic groups try to but cannot provide or replace this maturational process. Their goal is to ’empower’ their members by providing them with support and a sense of belonging. Since the suppression of childhood feelings is the rule within these groups, however, the individual’s depression cannot be resolved. Moreover, a person can become addicted to the group itself, as the group provides the illusion that the unmet needs of the former child can eventually be fulfilled (by the group) in the adult. With such illusions, no one can truly heal.” Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child (emphasis added)

This describes Solid Rock to a T. It is an addiction, and even before I left often felt and thought that my ex was behaving like an addict. I thought the same thing about myself, not so much in the years preceding my departure, but earlier for sure. I remember one time, in the late 1990s or early 2000s, thinking that being there was like shooting up, complete with the euphoric feeling, and once or twice I had a spontaneous image arise in my mind of me injecting myself with a needle full of heroin or something similar after accepting certain things about the leader.

On empty rituals

birthday party empty ritual v2
Birthday parties are cultural rituals.

Let’s say you were good friends with your neighbor. She has a young son, and she invites you to his birthday party. You decide to go because you care about your neighbor, but you don’t really want to be there because he’s just a little kid, and a noisy one at that. So you go, but you don’t have a good time. The kids are laughing and having a good time, but you’re not. You notice, however, that other adults are having a good time. They’re smiling and laughing at the kids’ antics. Finally, as soon as you think you can get away, you make an excuse to leave.

Birthday celebrations are rituals. We might say that you experienced an empty birthday party, an empty ritual. What made it empty?

Did the son make it empty? Was it the other kids? The neighbor? The kids’ laughter? The fact that it was a birthday party? Why was it an empty ritual for you but apparently not for the other adults?

It might be that you didn’t fill the ritual with anything. Rituals require faith, hope, and love to see into them, to their meaning. It is possible that bringing faith, hope, and love to the neighbor’s son’s birthday party would have changed the event for you.

If the ritual seems empty, that might not be your fault. It could be that nobody taught you how to fill it, or that you even needed to fill it. I’ve seen that a lot. If you don’t know how to fill the ritual, then look around and see if you know anybody who does. I bet they can help you.

It’s just Catholic, not Roman Catholic

catholic with a frame
Catholic: with respect to the whole, or, universal.

Generally speaking, it’s not correct to refer to the Catholic Church as the Roman Catholic Church. People do it all the time, but that isn’t how the universal Church refers to herself. It is too narrow of a name, and a bit contradictory if applied to the entire Church. Catholic means “universal,” or, “pertaining to the whole.” You will see some Catholic Churches use the phrase “Roman Catholic,” in their title, but this just means that they are Latin Rite. There are 23 rites in the Catholic Church. For example, there is a Chaldean rite, a Melkite rite, a Maronite rite, and so on. It would be improper to refer to a Chaldean Catholic as a Roman Catholic. Such a person is in full communion with the Catholic Church and the successor of St. Peter, but is not Roman Catholic.

So I recommend referring to anybody in full communion with the Catholic Church and successor of St. Peter as a Catholic, and the Church led by him as the Catholic Church. If you must use the term Roman Catholic, only use it with those Catholics who worship under the Latin rite, like I do. Don’t use it to refer to the entire Church–it’s just not correct to do so.

Melkite Catholic Church
St. Anne Melkite Greek Catholic Church, in Los Angeles. It is Greek Catholic, not Roman Catholic.

Here is a photo of a Catholic Church that is not Roman Catholic. I could go to mass here to fulfill my Sunday obligation, because it is in full communion with the successor of St. Peter. They don’t call it mass though. They call it Divine Liturgy. Check out their bulletin. It’s partially written in Arabic, even though it is located in Los Angeles. There is so much diversity in the Catholic Church!

Even though I worship under the Latin rite, call me Catholic instead of Roman Catholic. That works best for me.

For Reformation Day: Protestantism hurt and confused me

Reposting this from last year. A brief synopsis of my personal experiences within Protestantism.

https://everybodysdaughter.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/protestantism-hurt-and-confused-me/

For Reformation Day: Bible conundrum

I recently had an online disagreement with somebody, a Protestant. I asked her to cite Bible verses to support her position. So she did. I replied I disagreed with her interpretation of those verses. Then I asked her if I had an obligation to accept her interpretation. I also said that if her answer was yes, that I DID have an obligation to accept her interpretation, then to tell me where or from whom she received her authority to impose her interpretation upon me (and presumably upon every other Christian). Then I asked her what we should do if I disagreed with her claim about the source of her authority. Her response was that I was using an ad hominem. I responded by saying that I was not criticising her, but I was criticising her presupposition. So it wasn’t an ad hominem.

Here is the syllogism:

  • Since God is one, He does not change, and He only teaches one truth, there can only be one objectively correct interpretation of Scripture.
  • There is disagreement of what Scripture means between two or more Christians of good will. They all can see this.
  • No parties to the dispute have authority to enforce the correct interpretation, but one or more do not realize this. One or more believes that making better arguments or citing more or better Scripture verses is the way to resolve the dispute. Yet the dispute is never resolved.
  • No agreement is made. Visible fractures develop between Christians, since the parties to the dispute all believe themselves to understand the correct interpretation of Scripture (which is a tacit reinforcement of the first point above).

By what authority may somebody enforce the one and only correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture when there is a disagreement between Christians of good will?

Neglecting contraception is a big mistake

Is it possible to argue effectively against the Sexual Revolution without arguing against contraception? I do not believe it is. It is clear that many Christians who are against certain aspects of the Sexual Revolution (such as abortion and same-sex marriage) are in favor of Christians using contraception. But I see a definite link between the two.

So what is the Sexual Revolution? Let’s look at some secular sources. Google, which seems to have scraped this definition from Oxford Dictionary, defines it as:

the liberalization of established social and moral attitudes toward sex, particularly that occurring in western countries during the 1960s, as the women’s liberation movement and developments in contraception instigated greater experimentation with sex, especially outside of marriage.

Wikipedia says that it is:

a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the Western world from the 1960s to the 1980s. Sexual liberation included increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships (primarily marriage). The normalization of contraception and the pill, public nudity, pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality, and alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion all followed.

Dictionary.com says that the Sexual Revolution was:

A drastic relaxation in general standards of sexual behavior. The most recent occurred in the 1960s and was helped by the introduction of the Pill, an easy and reliable method of preventing pregnancy.

It should be clear that contraception is inseparable from the Sexual Revolution. So why do most Christians fall silent when it comes to contraception?

Contraception is very seductive. Instead of sex being a presumptively fertile activity, sex becomes a presumptively sterile activity. The appeal of sex without babies is strong. Many people who use contraception seem to believe that they have a “right” for pregnancy-free coitus. A right to pregnancy-free coitus completely explains the problem of abortion.

The United States Supreme Court alluded to this “right” for pregnancy-free coitus in its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992. This decision, the subject of which was not contraception but rather abortion, mentions the word “contraception” nine times, and “birth control” once. For example:

“[P]eople…have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.

“It should be recognized, moreover, that in some critical respects, the abortion decision is of the same character as the decision to use contraception...”

Contraception is the main lynchpin here, not abortion.

It should not be a surprise then that a survey conducted in 2015 of women who had abortions, 70% identified as Christians, over 40% said they attended church once a month or more, and 20% said they attended church at least once a week. Given that they identify as Christians, there is a disconnect somewhere with these women. I propose that a major disconnect has happened within Christian circles that do not explicitly reject contraception. They have accepted the “right” for pregnancy-free coitus. By so doing, the logic must follow, and abortions will happen.

Undoubtedly, some who use contraception and still become pregnant do not choose abortion. But they reveal their reliance on the “right” for pregnancy-free coitus by saying that they were not “intending” pregnancy, and/or by labeling those children as “happy accidents” or worse, as mistakes. The child’s very existence should be evidence that there is no “right” for pregnancy-free coitus, that sex is not a sterile act. But rather than rejecting the “right” to pregnancy-free coitus as a false right that has no basis in reality, we adopt intentions and labels that cover for it because we love the pleasure of sex more than we love truth. By labeling a child like that, we are saying to them, “You are an accident, and your existence does not undermine my right to pregnancy-free coitus. Since you were an accident, I was being generous to allow you to live, because you came into existence in violation of my right.” Either the child is a gift from God with an intact ontology and personal anthropology that adults are bound to respect as a duty in justice, or the child is an accident who lives at the pleasure of his parents. I do not see a middle ground here. In fact, what I see is an inequality between those who have their personal anthropology and ontology respected by their parents, the legal system, and the wider society, and those who do not receive such respect.

Same-sex marriage eventually became accepted, and this follows the logic established by contraception. A “right” for pregnancy-free coitus among fertile opposite-sex couples means that sex is presumptively a sterile act. If sex is presumptively sterile, then there is no need to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples, because children are no longer logically integral to marriage or coitus.

Given the separation of marriage, sex, and children that has been widely accepted in Christendom, there is not much left to justify the exclusion of same-sex couples from enjoying the benefits of civil marriage. After all, by accepting the suppression of children from sex and marriage, this elevated sterile sexual pleasure to the highest sexual good for many Christians. If sterile sexual pleasure is indeed the highest sexual good, then it is illogical to exclude couples who can never under any circumstances bear their own children.

If sterile sexual pleasure is the highest sexual good, then it could be argued that same-sex sexual relations are superior to opposite-sex sexual relations, since there is no chance of an unwanted intruder (pregnancy) imposing himself into a same-sex sexual relationship. See, for example, some homosexual advocates’ use of the term “breeders” as a derogatory way to label opposite-sex couples who bear children. Also, if children are licitly separated from sex and marriage, then it is logical for them to be obtained in a manner that disrespects their ontology, such as by utilizing third-party reproduction.

Infertility does not undermine what I am saying. In the real world, the world based on facts that impact real human beings, some opposite-sex couples with unwanted infertility do conceive children, and some opposite-sex couples who contracept also conceive children. As Dr. Ian Malcolm said in the film Jurassic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.”

Many will completely discount this point. For them, life doesn’t find a way. Instead they turn everything upside down. Like the scientists employed in the lab of Jurassic Park, they find a way for life. This means a few things:

  1. They believe they are bigger than life, that they can, and that they ought to, control the creation of life in a direct manner.
  2. They’ve built their lives and their entire worldview on certain aspects of “sexual freedom.” Curtailing this “freedom” means a lifestyle change. Not easy to do, and there are no worldly incentives to actually do it.
  3. They unwittingly place sterile coitus in a more prominent position than human life conceived at unexpected times. Even if they are otherwise pro-life, this undermines their pro-life position.

Let’s consider a different angle: when human life is spontaneously conceived, it is exercising an important form of freedom. It comes into being apart from the explicit will of another human being. Nobody commanded it to come into existence. Certain conditions happened (a sperm found an egg), and the life sprang into being. This phenomenon is an overlooked aspect of human freedom. The Sexual Revolution’s adherents need total control over the creation of human life, because spontaneous human life interferes with sexual pleasure. That form of freedom must be suppressed, because spontaneously created human life imposes unwanted obligations upon others. It is difficult to accept that an orgasm has eternal, or at least long lasting, consequences, and eliminating unwanted obligations while maximizing sexual pleasure is at the very heart of the Sexual Revolution, even if it means killing hundreds of millions of human lives to achieve. While many Christians are not in favor of killing human life through abortion, they are in favor of the logic and lifestyle that leads to it.

To accept contraception is to accept a foundational aspect of the Sexual Revolution, including the logic that leads to abortion and same-sex marriage. We can’t effectively argue against something while simultaneously accepting its foundation. Arguments against the Sexual Revolution will become stronger and more effective when Christians reject its cornerstone, contraception, in large numbers and on an institutional basis.

Jennifer Johnson is a Catholic convert, is the author of Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds Equality for Children, and is the Treasurer for the Ruth Institute.

I probably won’t be signing the Nashville Statement, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t

In case you have not heard yet, there is a new statement from prominent Evangelical Christians that got released recently. It is called the Nashville Statement, and it is their attempt to combat certain aspects of the Sexual Revolution by upholding sexual morality from a Biblical perspective. It is not long, and you can read it here.

It is my own personal belief that contraception has been a foundation stone of the Sexual Revolution. Evangelicals as a group have not repudiated contraception, which means that they have accepted a foundational aspect of the Sexual Revolution within their ranks and on an institutional basis. Since the statement neglects contraception, I don’t want to endorse these Evangelical’s neglect of their implicit reliance on an important aspect of the Sexual Revolution. I don’t want to give the impression that this reliance is no big deal and not logically problematic to everything else they oppose about the Sexual Revolution.

The statement does say that marriage is procreative, but that seems ad hoc to me. Why is marriage procreative if contraception is OK? I will continue to say it: a right to pregnancy-free coitus among opposite-sex couples (aka “the contraceptive mentality”) created the “need” for abortion and same-sex marriage, and contributed to the “need” to de-gender our legal code.

The sex with of a “guarantee” of no children is seductive, obviously. This is one aspect of the Sexual Revolution that many otherwise orthodox Christians like. They have participated in redefining the Sixth Commandment, and this is a spiritual and logical obstacle to combating the other sinful and heretical aspects of the Sexual Revolution.

Having said all that, I might change my mind and sign it. We’ll see. I’ll have to work it out in my mind and that might take some time. If I think the benefit of showing support outweighs my reluctance to sign something that I think is logically problematic, I’ll sign it. If I do, I’ll update this post.