Thursday, March 15, 2018

Prayer Shaming: A New Front in the Culture War

A new front has opened in the Culture War. Now they are targeting prayer. The controversy was triggered by the fact that political leaders traditionally sent messages of condolences offering their “thoughts and prayers” to victims and their families.
Such innocent expressions of comfort have enraged liberals who claim the idea of prayer especially in times of a shooting is meaningless. Even prayer can be politicized as some protesters have resorted to “shaming prayer.”
They do this by becoming indignant with prayers, which they ridicule as ineffectual and infantile. Enough of your prayers, they cry, let us see legislative action! The more radical protesters go one step further by raging and blaspheming against God who allows such tragedies to happen.
The Narrow Vision of the Prayer Shamers
Indeed, it is tragic that there are those who shame prayer. They refuse the very means by which every suffering and problem might be overcome. Although they would be enraged at the suggestion, the prayer shamers need prayers.
Their problem is that they do not have Faith in God. Therefore, they do not understand the nature of prayer. For them, prayer is a kind of therapeutic exercise of weak individuals who cannot face reality. Such weaklings resort to appealing to an imaginary being from whom they imagine they receive favors. Such an opinion is not new, for Saint Thomas Aquinas says that even among the ancients “some held that human affairs are not ruled by Divine providence; whence it would follow that it is useless to pray and to worship God at all” (II-II: 83).
Hence, the prayer shamers’ mentality is sadly limited and narrow-minded. They recognize no reality or power beyond the physical world. They rely only upon themselves to realize their goals. And when they fail in life, as all eventually will do, they do not understand the meaning of suffering and become resentful.
God Desires to Help Humanity
If only they would have recourse to prayer! If only they knew just how much God wishes to help them.
Prayer is defined as the elevation of the mind to God in order to converse with him. While there are several types of prayer, the most common is that of petition, in which the person implores God’s aid, which he willingly and abundantly grants.
One of the most common themes in the Bible is God’s constant pleas to his people to call upon him. He implores: “Cry to me, and I will hear thee” (Jer, XXXIII, 3). The psalms likewise proclaim this great desire. “Call upon me, and I will deliver you from all dangers” (Ps. 49:15). And God delivers on his promises as can be seen: “Thou, O Lord art sweet and mild, and plenteous in mercy to all who call upon Thee” (Ps. 85:5).
In the New Testament, Saint John registers Christ’s complaint: “Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name: ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 26:24). Saint James says succinctly: “You have not, because you ask not” (4:2).
Saint Augustine says God has a greater desire to give us his graces, than we have to receive them. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who wrote extensively about prayer, says that God may well answer those who criticize prayer: “Do not complain to me if you do not enjoy complete happiness; complain of yourselves for not having asked my graces; ask me for them henceforth and you shall be satisfied.”
Tragically, the prayer shamers have not availed themselves to this great instrument. They do not believe in prayer and therefore do not ask.
The Conditions of Effective Prayer
Prayer shamers might raise the objection that they do not see immediate results. They might even give as proof their own past efforts when they may have whispered prayers in secret that were not answered.
The reason why prayers are not answered is because there are conditions attached to them. Saint James once again says succinctly: “You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss” (James 4:3).
The first condition for prayer to be heard is to be humble. “A humble and contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise” (Ps. I:19). It matters not if one is a saint or sinner, God hears those who are humble. Those who approach with an attitude of resentment, entitlement, and pride are centered all on self. In their pride, they attribute qualities to themselves that belong to God. That is why Scripture says, “God resisteth the proud and giveth graces to the humble” (James 4:6).
A second condition for effective prayer is confidence, which is the unconditional hope of obtaining all that is helpful toward salvation. In teaching the Our Father prayer, Christ exhorted his disciples to approach God with the confidence of a child to a parent. Those with confidence believe God will keep the promises when Christ said: “If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23).
Indeed, says Saint Augustine, “by promising, he has made himself a debtor.”
Yet another condition for efficacious prayer is perseverance. God wishes to united himself to those who “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17). Christ tells his disciples that it is not sufficient simply to ask, but to insist saying “seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). Persevering prayer will obtain results beyond expectations. As Saint Bernard says, “when we pray, the Lord will give either the grace we ask, or one that is more useful to us.”

A Need for Less Shame in Praying
Thus, those who shame prayer do not know prayer. They do not have recourse to God and shame those who do. They have recourse instead to government solutions that often make matters worse. Tragically, God has been banished from the public square, and people are surprised when disasters happen.
However, Christians also share in the ignorance of the power of prayer. The political figures that send thoughts and prayers, often do so as a matter of social convention without praying. The faithful also neglect to avail themselves of the good that can be obtained through prayer.
How much more effective these figures would be if they really prayed and asked for God’s aid to console those who suffer tragedy. How much more could be done if all the faithful would approach God with humble and contrite hearts asking that the nation be spared from certain tragedies. How many blessings could be expected if everyone would gather and pray in the public square to call upon God’s aid with perseverance.
Indeed, prayer shamers would be less effective if Christians had less shame in praying.

Prayer Shaming: A New Front in the Culture War - Return to Order

Thursday, February 22, 2018

When Will the Shooting Stop?

The gun control debate has reignited with the recent Florida shooting. Despite the passionate commentaries on all sides, no one seems to be able to answer the question of when the shootings will stop.
As much as liberal media want to blame guns, police or government, this is a moral problem. It involves the acts of an individual who committed monstrous crimes for which he is responsible. As much as others might wish to blame a decadent culture, the nihilistic nature of these dark crimes signal a much deeper problem that strikes at the foundation of modern society.

The liberal order that has long dominated American society is falling apart. As it crumbles, it is creating monsters. The appearance of these shooter-monsters is an ominous harbinger of this disintegration.
The Triumph of Unfettered Autonomy and Freedom
Liberalism has always proclaimed the autonomy of the individual who is free from strong social ties. Shooters are now affirming an extreme autonomy that knows no authority nor respects any social bonds. Liberalism has promised unfettered freedom without external restraints. Shooters are now abusing that delusional liberty by acting out their fantasies. They see those around them as expendable characters that can be killed inside the bizarre scripts of their own making.
The tragedy of it all is that over the decades, liberalism has also eroded the values and institutions by which society would defend itself from such abuses. Today, the nation finds itself without the only effective means to stop the shooting.
Behavior that Raises Red Flags
Indeed, shooters are an extreme product of the liberal experiment. It is something easy to see in their personal lives. Ironically, in these times when police can profile no one, the media have made the shooters’ profiles familiar to everyone. No profiles could better reflect extreme autonomy and freedom.
Shooters have problems at school, family issues, violent behavior, and police encounters. They take medications, lack communication skills and show strange, unpredictable behavior. They indulge in violent video games and send disturbing messages through social media.
It is no wonder that the liberal media scream that “The red flags were all there.” The public demands that something be done. Police and the FBI are asked to take preventative measures. Government officials propose social programs for troubled youths. Data companies must look for red flags.
The problem with all such measures is that the shooter profile probably fits tens of thousands of young Americans born in broken homes, who exhibit anti-social behavior and have mental problems. As the numbers grow and the system crumbles, merely flagging social misfits and limiting their action will not be enough to stop the shootings.
Can Anything Be Legally Done?
Shooters hide within the liberal order. They game the system because in most cases, nothing can be legally done against them before they kill. It is not illegal to be aggressive, act strangely, or be anti-social. The fact that police visited the Florida shooter’s home 39 times only serves to prove that the system does not work. Police departments probably have countless similar cases nationwide of young disasters waiting to happen.
These young people cannot be locked up only because they fit this strange profile. Moreover, no prison or mental health system in the world is large enough to accommodate all the dangerous people who have committed no crime. The suspects cannot always be stopped before they act. No police force in the world is capable of continually monitoring every potential shooter, and arrest them just before they start to shoot.
Social workers cannot address the real problems deep inside these youths. Government social programs cannot replace the love and care of Christian parents that teach their children the difference between right and wrong at an early age. Alas, mighty Google’s algorithms cannot filter through the ocean of social media to find every potential threat.
This moral problem cannot be solved by big government and gigantic corporations. It has taken on a proportion that mocks their abilities.
Recognizing Liberalism’s Failure
What must be addressed is the crumbling liberal order that is creating monsters. The first step to stopping the shooting is to acknowledge liberalism’s inherent defects.
In his recent book, Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen says that “Liberalism has failed—not because it fell short but because it was true to itself.” As liberalism progressed, it has fallen victim to its own success. When it reaches the end of its internal contradictions, it creates monsters.
Indeed, liberalism has fabulously succeeded in eroding the societal bonds of family, community and faith that have normally shaped and governed moral behavior in society. In the words of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, society has been reduced to “nothing but a meeting place for individual wills” which individuals use as “an arena for the achievement of their own satisfaction.”
The later phases of liberalism now leave society defenseless against the ravages of the shooter-monsters.
The Greatest Mistake of Liberalism
However, the worst mistake of liberalism is that it deprives life of its meaning. Human nature is profoundly social. Deep social relationships give purpose to life. Individuals become frustrated when reduced to the shallow associations that fail to provide context and value to their existence.
Dr. Deneen claims that the political project of liberalism has turned individuals into increasingly “separate, autonomous, nonrelational selves replete with rights and defined by our liberty, but insecure, powerless, afraid and alone.”
Inside this God-forsaken moonscape, it is easy to understand why the shooters appear, as they fail to find meaning inside the loneliness of their existence. The shooters represent not the failure of the liberal order but rather an extreme and radical fruit of its principles.
Liberalism’s Worst Sin
Liberalism’s worst sin is to reduce God into a mere choice within the system. God has no official role in liberal society except perhaps that of some absent clockmaker who wound up the world and now leaves it alone to operate without him. The Church is effectively emptied of her functions inside its system.
Liberalism does not attempt to answer those existential questions which individuals have always asked about the purpose of life, the meaning of truth, the final destination of the soul, and the nature of God and true happiness. Individuals are led to believe there are no real answers to these essential questions. Individuals find they have no certainties to anchor their souls, despite craving them.
Nothing Makes Sense Without God
Like it or not, nothing makes sense without the one true God. There is no reason to do good or avoid evil when it has no final consequences in eternity. History has no meaning when God does not direct the course of events. Where there is no Providence that benevolently provides for needs, life takes on a brutal dog-eat-dog appearance. Where there is no Church to guide and teach, the worst passions dominate. When taken to its final consequences, liberalism presents a despairing worldview, in which man is the product of random causes inside an unintelligible universe.
Hence, one sees the dark, nihilistic side of the shooter-monsters who often desire their own annihilation in addition to that of others. That is why their motives are so mystifying since the shooters have long freed themselves from the moorings of a rightly formed conscience, rational behavior and the natural moral law.
Until these existential issues are addressed, the number of monsters will continue to increase, and society as a whole will continue to fragment and decay. Until Christ is enthroned as King, there will be no peace over the land, and the shooting will not stop.
As seen on Crisis Magazine.

When Will the Shooting Stop? - Return to Order

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nancy Pelosi’s Rosary

Rarely does a conservative Catholic find occasion to agree with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. On most moral and political issues, she can be found supporting all things liberal.
But Congress is a strange place these days. One never knows what to expect. In these times when everything is politicized, the theatrical and sensational easily dominates. Sometimes, an idea slips out that actually has merit…if put in the proper context.

During her nearly eight-hour informal filibuster on the House floor last week, Mrs. Pelosi demanded a vote for amnesty for the so-called Dreamers. The term applies to the 3.5 million illegal aliens who entered America as children and who later enrolled or are eligible for the President Obama-created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
As part of her interminable discourse for the Dreamers, the congresswoman suggested praying the rosary—the whole rosary—for the Dreamers.
“I thought maybe we could say the rosary on the floor of the House,” the former Speaker, who calls herself Catholic, remarked. “Not just five decades, the full rosary. All of the mysteries of the rosary. That’s 15 decades of the rosary.”
Before asking everyone to go to their knees, however, Mrs. Pelosi reconsidered. She said she preferred to use the time to tell the stories of the Dreamers which are “very prayerful,” whatever that means.
She then quickly pivoted to praising the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops for their strong support of the Dreamers. She even invoked Pope Francis and Benedict XVI and their support for immigrants. The rosary suggestion suddenly disappeared as quickly as it had arisen before a single bead of the rosary could be counted.
While it appears that the rosary was politicized, the suggestion did show how powerful the image of the rosary can be in these secular times.
What was extraordinary about the incident is that there was no outrage or objections to the suggestion that the House pray the rosary—the whole rosary—on the floor. There were no complaints about separation of Church and State even from the most unChristian among the legislative representatives. It seemed the liberals even thought it reasonable that they might be asked to pray for the Dreamers. However, knowing how these political maneuvers work, they plainly saw no danger of actually praying the rosary.
The key to the whole proposal was that important phrase “for the Dreamers.” As long as the prayers were “for the Dreamers,” anything can be proposed, and anything can be done, even having Congress pray the full rosary. There is no constitutional objection that cannot be overcome. For Dreamers, all things are possible.
The minor incident in House Minority Leader Pelosi’s long-winded filibuster was quickly lost in the fast-paced news cycle. It did however set a precedent that might be invoked in the future.
It would need to be a future situation in which the nation faces a true crisis, one for which there is no human solution. It would have to be a crisis so great as to overshadow petty politics and ideological differences. In their desperation, members of Congress would then feel compelled to call upon God for help, with child-like sincerity, from the depth of their hearts.
In such a situation, perhaps a representative would be inspired to get up and propose that all pray “Nancy Pelosi’s rosary”—a measure mentioned without protest or outrage in 2018.  And then the members of Congress of both parties would pray the rosary—the whole rosary—on the floor of the House just as she suggested.
Such a scene does not seem likely given the present polarized state of the nation. However, desperate times often create conditions to achieve that which is considered impossible. One must have the courage to dream. After all, for dreamers (or is it just for certain Dreamers?), all things are possible—even Nancy Pelosi’s full 15-decade rosary being prayed by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Nancy Pelosi’s Rosary - Return to Order: Nancy Pelosi’s Rosary. Rarely does a conservative Catholic find occasion to agree with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. On most moral and political issues, she can be found supporting all things liberal. But Congress is a strange place these days. One never knows what to expect. In these times when...

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How Evolution Means the Death of the Soul

Evolutionists rarely proclaim their incompatibility with Christianity so as not to alarm Christians. They will generally try to present it as a purely scientific theory that seeks to explain the origins of the universe. If religious people have a problem, it is their narrow vision to blame, not the theory itself.
I have always viewed this perspective as dishonest. It is obvious to me that this debate goes beyond science. The liberal media and educational establishment put too much emphasis on a process that can only be truly verified by going back millions of years (which no one can).

Liberals lose no opportunity to introduce it into any narrative. It seems no tourist site or museum can be left without some reference to evolution eons ago. There has to be something else that makes it so important to the liberal mindset.
Another indication of this importance is the fact that it impassions both the left and the right, liberals and conservatives, atheists and Christians. No one seems content to leave it in the dark and distant past. No one becomes impassioned about something that is not important. Therefore, it must be important.
A Common-sense Rejection of Evolution
At the same time, I have always thought it ironic that, despite all the propaganda in favor of evolution, so few Americans actually believe in it. We are supposed to be the nation of technology and progress.
Yet a 2012 Gallop poll, for example, found that only 15 percent of Americans believe that man is the product of Darwin’s ape-to-human natural selection process alone. Some 46 percent believe in Creation by God alone. The others are somewhere in the middle. It appears that most people do not have sufficient faith in science to believe in the highly improbable hit-and miss narrative over billions of years.
Indeed, it takes a lot of faith to believe in evolution. To explain a world of evident intelligent design, it is much more commonsensical to believe in God as Creator.
Evolution Means There is No Soul
Thus, the debate rages mainly in the scientific fields. Although Creation supporters debate well in this field, few see evolution as a graver danger to philosophy, theology or Christianity as a whole.
That is why I was surprised to find a recent bestseller that just plain said it. Curiously historian Yuval Noah Harari in his book Homo Deus:, A Brief History of Tomorrow, recounts his musings about the undue importance given to evolution as opposed to other scientific theories. He sought to find out why modernity needs evolution to progress.
And when he finds out, he bluntly says it: “if you really understand the theory of evolution, you understand that there is no soul.”
Harari is an important writer that enjoys the greatest prestige and support from the liberal establishment. His books have been on the New York Times bestsellers list and enjoy endorsement from figures like former President Barack Obama and Bill Gates. It is safe to say that his views represent the cutting edge of liberal thought.

The Soul is Rejected by Science, Therefore It Does Not Exist

Thus, he explains why evolution means there is no soul. This is because the immortal, immutable and indivisible soul simply cannot fit into a narrative that is a changeable, divisible and selective. Evolution only works when the being that is evolving has parts that can change, mutate and thus evolve. The soul has no parts. “Something that cannot be divided or changed cannot have come into existence through natural selection,” Harari concludes.
His logic is very clear: the existence of souls is incompatible with the theory of evolution since the process cannot produce everlasting entities. Everything is mutable. To him, souls are something we, as humans, created to assure our immortal future in an imagined afterlife. Thus, he says that the whole scientific establishment rejects the notion of the soul and have never found proofs of its existence.  As it cannot be scientifically observed, the soul does not exist.
The Consequences of Evolutionary Theory
This explains why radical liberals like evolution so much. Christianity exists for the salvation of souls. The role of religion is to link souls to God and prepare them for their eternal destiny. If there is no soul, they can be no God. Religion makes no sense. Thus, it is not by chance that there is a fundamental incompatibility between the adherents of religion and by those who really understand evolution’s full implications.
Of course, the premise that the soul does not exist has practical consequence in society. if there is no soul, then there is no final destination to punish evil and rewards good forever. Morality itself become irrelevant. As Harari claims, man becomes reduced to a conscious animal governed by pre-determined impulses without free will.
Such a society corresponds to the dialectic materialism espoused by Marx and is carried forth by liberal thought to our day. Scholars like Harari at least have the honesty to admit the essential role of evolution in forming the society they see for the future.
These scholars looking into future also proclaim their opposition to those who cling to a society based on what Russell Kirk called the “permanent things.” An evolutionary order cannot come to terms with permanent norms of courage, duty, courtesy, justice, and charity that owe their existence and authority to a transcendent God.
Thus, the battle lines are drawn.  Most people defending a Divine order sense incompatibility between the two world views implicitly although they do not know how to express it clearly. The evolutionists know better the brutal laws of evolution yet dare not state it bluntly. The result is a situation that leads to so many people, as Harari rightly claims, prefer “to reject the theory of evolution rather than give up their souls.”
How Evolution Means the Death of the Soul - Return to Order:

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Three Things You Can Do While Boycotting the Super Bowl

Super Bowl Sunday has long been revered by millions of Americans as the greatest football experience of the year. It was something not to be missed.
However, Super Bowl 2018 will be different. Some will be sitting this one out. In fact, it is possible that the super bowl will never be the same again. Many Americans feel betrayed by the NFL and have simply given up football altogether.

The reason for the boycott is, of course, the blatant disrespect of many NFL players toward the nation’s flag and anthem. Players insisting upon “taking a knee” during the anthem soured many toward the game. People find it hard to understand why multi-millionaire players have politicized this most elementary display of patriotism and pride in the country. Especially offended are countless veterans who have fought under the flag.
The NFL establishment has tried to spin the kneeling as freedom of expression, legitimate protest or an exercise of diversity. No one is fooled by such arguments. The fans have spoken. This season’s ratings are way down. Attendance at games has declined. Stadiums are no longer full, and tickets are offered with discounts.
As the first major protest season ends, many families are boycotting the event. For the first time in their lives, they have concluded that the super bowl is not super anymore.
As the sports event approaches, these new dissenters will need to find ways to replace the game. They will need to fill the void of this usually exciting weekend. To those families boycotting the Super Bowl, here are three suggestions about how to spend the afternoon.
First, use the occasion to get together for a special dinner with family. Make it a teaching moment discussing with the children the reasons why the family is boycotting the game. Explain the notions of honor and love of country that should motivate Americans to serve the common good and not think of themselves. Tell stories of how members of the family have served the nation and the respect that they deserve. Invite family veterans over to tell their stories.
Secondly, use the afternoon as an occasion for the family to study the history of the nation. This might be done by visiting a war or historical museum. It might also include a reading of a text or the watching of a documentary. Study the times of great suffering when the flag has served as a symbol of inspiration. Study the good things as well as the bad.
Contrary to a stupid nationalism that deifies the nation, a real appreciation of America should recognize both faults and virtues. It should wish the best for America but also the best possible development of the qualities of other nations.
Finally, use the part of the afternoon of the game to pray as a family for the nation. When a country has reached a point in which the people no longer respect the symbols, qualities and sacrifices of the past, then it is in great need of prayers.
Pray for the nation. Take time to think of the institutions of family, community and Faith that are being destroyed and pray for them. Pray for family and friends. Pray for the soldiers especially those deployed faraway. Pray for a polarized nation and for a general return to God and order.
There is so much to pray for. This can be an occasion to pray together with others whether it be at home, church, an adoration chapel or a family rosary. Prayers can work wonders.
For some the decision to boycott the Super Bowl is difficult. However, for something to be “super” it must conform to high standards and respect all that is excellent and worthy of honor. Something super should not stoop to that which is denigrating, offensive or political correct.
When the Super Bowl is no longer super, it is best to stand by ones’ principles and become part of the solution.