Tag Archives: homosexuality

#212: Gender Subjectivity

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #212, on the subject of Gender Subjectivity.

I somewhat predictably got some responses challenging my thoughts in mark Joseph “young” web log entry #207:  The Gender Identity Trap.  (There were a few supportive ones as well, and they are certainly helpful also, but the challenging ones are under consideration here.)  One of them indicated–and I am paraphrasing the thought, so I hope I am correctly representing it–that I should be sensitive to the feelings of those who feel as if they are in the wrong body.  They would probably feel persecuted were I to tell them that they are wrong.

Indeed, it is important always to be sensitive to the feelings of others, as individuals.  I should, for example, be sensitive of the feelings of someone who believes himself to be, or to be the reincarnation of, Napoleon Bonaparte, or Abraham Lincoln, or Marie Antoinette.

Whoa, brother, that’s not the same thing.

I agree.  However, it is more the same than different.  After all, the primary difference is that most of us do not entertain the possibility that someone we meet might be the reincarnation of some famous person.  Even if we believe in reincarnation, the probability that any particular individual happens to be one of the very few historically significant persons from among the millions of ordinary commoners and peasants of any particular era is phenomenally against.  If we do not believe in reincarnation, then even that tiny fraction of possibility vanishes.  Similarly if we do not believe that it is possible for anyone to “be” the “wrong sex” for their “internal gender”, then the probability that any particular individual is so becomes zero.  A person might believe that he is trapped in the wrong body type, or that he is indeed Emperor General Bonaparte, and I should treat such an individual with the respect due any human being, but I do not need to believe that they are correct in that self-identification.

That, though, underscores another aspect of the problem which I carelessly overlooked in that previous article.  What is the basis for that self-identification?

I might taste something and declare that it has too much salt.  You, presumably, have tasted salt, and therefore you know what I mean.  Assuming you were in a position to taste the same food, you would be able to say whether you agreed with my assessment of excessive salinity.  There is a sense in which that is subjective:  you might like food that is particularly salty, or I might prefer food that is more bland.  However, there is an objective connection here:  we have both tasted salt, and so both know what salt tastes like in food.  Had either of us never tasted salt, the question, “Is this too salty?” would become meaningless.

In contrast, the person who claims to feel as if in the wrong gender body is making a subjective judgment without an objective basis.  What does it mean to say “I don’t feel like I am a man, I feel like I am a woman”?  It can only mean “I don’t feel like I imagine a man feels, I feel like I imagine a woman feels.”  If you were born a man, you have no experience being a woman.  How, then, can you possibly determine that you feel like something you have never felt?  It would be like saying that you think this food has too much saffron if you have never tasted saffron.  You’re guessing based on what someone told you.  You have no objective connection for what it is to be the opposite sex.

That means you get that notion entirely from–as observed in the previous article–cultural biases and expectations.  You say, “I do not have the feelings and interests which society tells me a person of my sex ought to have, and find that I am far better attuned to the feelings and interests which society tells me are those of the opposite sex, and therefore I am the wrong sex.”  The problem is not that you are the wrong sex for your gender.  The problem is that society is wrong in defining men and women according to its preferences and stereotypes.  “Oh, but I have always felt like I was the other sex.”  You can’t know that.  All you can know is that you’ve always felt as if society was telling you that you are not the kind of person society thinks a man (or a woman) should be, and that you think that you are more like the kind of person society has told you that a woman (or a man) should be.

What does it feel like to be a man, on the inside, or to be a woman, on the inside?  Every one of us is a combination of traits which we identify as masculine or feminine, and every one of those identifications is a societal bias.  You like to cook, which you think is a feminine trait–but many of the best cooks in the world are men.  You enjoy bow hunting, which you think is a masculine trait–but the Greeks reported the existence in their time of an entire army of female archers.  The only thing that makes any character trait masculine or feminine is the arbitrary opinion of present society.

In other words, if you feel like you’re the wrong gender for the sex of your body, the problem isn’t that you’re the wrong gender but that you’ve bought a lie about what it feels like to be what you are.  If you were born a man, you have always felt like you, and therefore always felt like a man–not like every man, certainly, because not every man feels the same, but like the one man that is you.  If you were born a woman, you likewise have never felt like a man, you have felt like that woman who is you.  We do not have the ability truly to know what others feel, what it feels like to be someone else.  We have role playing games through which we explore such things, but very rarely do we find ourselves getting more than a glimpse of the externals–what it feels like to be persecuted, what it feels like to be famous.  We never really experience what it feels like to be the opposite sex, any more than we ever really experience what it feels like to be a dog, or a tree, or a rock.  It is outside our experience entirely.  In roleplaying we only approach what it feels like to be treated by others as if we were someone or something else.  And since it is outside our experience, we cannot know that we feel like we are the wrong sex.

What you really feel is that society has rejected who you really are and made you wish you were not yourself.  Many of us have felt that way.  The answer is not to try to become someone else.  The answer is to become the best you you can be, live with that self, and push back against the pressures of a society that wants you to conform to their expectations.  Be the best male nurse, the best female pile driver, and tell the world, “I break the mold.  I am comfortable with who I am, even if you aren’t.”  Don’t let the world tell you that who you really are is wrong.  It is the world that is wrong.

#152: Breaking a Habit

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #152, on the subject of Breaking a Habit.

We all have habits.  It is actually a positive feature of our design:  we can harness this habit process to give ourselves good habits, like habitually buckling our seatbelts, or brushing our teeth, or saying prayers when we hear sirens.  Yet we tend to notice habits when we develop harmful ones–the regular drink at the odd time, the tendency to snack while working, and of course one of the big ones, smoking.

It was smoking that caused me to think about this, because I know several people who smoke and really can’t afford the cigarettes, and because of my father.  I can remember him smoking when I was a boy, and I can remember that my mother said he had a hard time quitting.  In the last years of his life he shared with me two things, one the way he managed to quit, and the other a technique he had recently seen in a newspaper that would work well with his own.  He seemed at the time eager that I should pass these to smokers I knew, but on reflection it occurs to me that these are good ways to quit just about any habit–and my theology tells me that we all have habits we ought to break, and we all have trouble breaking them.

img0152cigs

The difficulty, it seems, is that it is just about impossible for any of us to say to ourselves that we will never do something again, and then stick to that.  It’s the reason you’ve probably already broken at least one of the New Year’s Resolutions you made yesterday.  It may be that angels who live in eternity can make irrevocable choices, but those of us stuck here in this time zone do not have that ability.  And therein lies the key to beating the habit:  recognize that you can’t decide never again, and deal with right now.

My father explained to me that he never quit smoking.  He had in previous years won bets against people who were trying to quit smoking, which were in essence that he could go longer without a cigarette than they would.  One day he applied that to the long haul.  For over fifty years he never quit smoking, never told himself he was quitting, he just always decided that he didn’t need a cigarette right now, every time he wanted one.  You don’t quit smoking, you don’t break a habit, by deciding right now that you will never do it again; you break it by deciding that you won’t do it now, even if maybe you’ll do it later.  When later becomes now, you make the same decision, because you can almost always decide that now is not a good time for a cigarette, that you can have one later when the time is better, and never decide that the time is better.

So that’s how it’s done.

The other part is worth mentioning, particularly for people who have failed before.  Failure is not necessarily a disaster; it only means that you start again.  The suggestion that was made was that you keep score and play against yourself.  Keep a notebook, or get some kind of “app” on your phone that lets you record this.  Every time you indulge the habit–have a cigarette, or if that’s not your habit, raid the icebox or take a drink–write down the date and time, and do the math:  how long has it been since the last time you did this?  That’s your score.  Keep track of your best score, and try to beat it.  If you have gone four days without a cigarette, but your personal best on record is six days, tell yourself you can beat six days, even if it’s only six days and one hour, and put off that smoke until you’ve bested yourself.  Then you have a new record, a new best to beat.  You’ve also proved that you can go that long, and if you stick to it you’ll be going months without a mistake.

This is nothing new, really.  It’s part of why they have that litany at the beginning of every speech at Alcoholics Anonymous: this is who I am, I admit I have a problem, and at the moment my streak is this long.  When it has been three years since you’ve had a drink–or a smoke, or an unscheduled snack, or whatever your habit is–you have some sense of accomplishment in the number.  No one says it will never be a temptation; it’s only that practicing resisting that temptation makes you better at it; setting goals you know are achievable because you have done nearly as well before, and dealing with the problem in the present instead of in the hypothetical, all make that resistance easier.

So I hope this helps you quit the habit, whatever it is.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#150: 2016 Retrospective

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #150, on the subject of 2016 Retrospective.

Periodically I try to look back over some period of time and review what I have published, and the end of the year is a good time to do this.  Thus before the new year begins I am offering you a reminder of articles you might have seen–or might have missed–over the past twelve months.  I am not going to recall them all.  For one thing, that would be far too many, and it in some cases will be easier to point to another location where certain categories of articles are indexed (which will appear more obvious as we progress).  For another, although we did this a year ago in web log post #34:  Happy Old Year, we also did it late in March in #70:  Writing Backwards and Forwards, when we had finished posting Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  So we will begin with the last third of March, and will reference some articles through indices and other sources.

I have divided articles into the categories which I thought most appropriate to them.  Many of these articles are reasonably in two or more categories–articles related to music often relate to writing, or Bible and theology; Bible and politics articles sometimes are nearly interchangeable.  I, of course, think it is all worth reading; I hope you think it at least worth considering reading.

I should also explain those odd six-digit numbers for anyone for whom they are not obvious, because they are at least non-standard.  They are YYMMDD, that is, year, month, and day of the date of publication of each article, each represented by two digits.  Thus the first one which appears, 160325, represents this year 2016, the third month March, and the twenty-fifth day.

img0150calendar

Let’s start with writings about writing.

There is quite a bit that should be in this category.  After all, that previous retrospective post appeared as we finished posting that first novel, and we have since posted the second, all one hundred sixty-two chapters of which are indexed in their own website section, Old Verses New.  If you’ve not read the novels, you have some catching up to do.  I also published one more behind-the-writings post on that first novel, #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One 160325, to cover notes unearthed in an old file on the hard drive.

Concurrent with the release of those second novel chapters there were again behind-the-writings posts, this time each covering nine consecutive chapters and hitting the web log every two weeks.  Although they are all linked from that table-of-contents page, since they are web log posts I am listing them here:  #74:  Another Novel 160421; #78:  Novel Fears 160506; #82:  Novel Developments 160519; #86:  Novel Conflicts 160602; #89:  Novel Confrontations 160623; #91:  Novel Mysteries 160707; #94:  Novel Meetings 160721; #100:  Novel Settling 160804; #104:  Novel Learning 160818; #110:  Character Redirects 160901;
#113:  Character Movements 160916;
#116:  Character Missions 160929;
#119:  Character Projects 161013;
#122:  Character Partings 161027; #128:  Character Gatherings 161110; #134:  Versers in Space 161124; #142:  Characters Unite 161208; and #148:  Characters Succeed 161222.

I have also added a Novel Support Section which at this point contains character sheets for several of the characters in the first novel and one in the second; also, if you have enjoyed reading the novels and have not seen #149:  Toward the Third Novel 161223, it is a must-read.

Also on the subject of writing, I discussed what was required for someone to be identified as an “author” in, appropriately, #72:  Being an Author 160410.  I addressed #118:  Dry Spells 161012 and how to deal with them, and gave some advice on #132:  Writing Horror 161116.  There was also one fun Multiverser story which had been at Dice Tales years ago which I revived here, #146:  Chris and the Teleporting Spaceships 161220

I struggled with where on this list to put #120:  Giving Offense 161014.  It deals with political issues of sexuality and involves a bit of theological perspective, but ultimately is about the concept of tolerance and how we handle disagreements.

It should be mentioned that not everything I write is here at M. J. Young Net; I write a bit about writing in my Goodreads book reviews.

Of course, I also wrote a fair amount of Bible and Theology material.

Part of it was apologetic, that is, discussing the reasons for belief and answers to the arguments against it.  In this category we have #73:  Authenticity of the New Testament Accounts 160413, #76:  Intelligent Simulation 160424 (specifically addressing an incongruity between denying the possibility of “Intelligent Design” while accepting that the universe might be the equivalent of a computer program), and #84:  Man-made Religion 160527 (addressing the charge that the fact all religions are different proves none are true).

Other pages are more Bible or theology questions, such as #88:  Sheep and Goats 160617, #90:  Footnotes on Guidance 160625, #121:  The Christian and the Law 161022, and #133:  Your Sunday Best 161117 (on why people dress up for church).

#114:  St. Teresa, Pedophile Priests, and Miracles 160917 is probably a bit of both, as it is a response to a criticism of Christian faith (specifically the Roman Catholic Church, but impacting all of us).

There was also a short miniseries of posts about the first chapter of Romans, the sin and punishment it presents, and how we as believers should respond.  It appeared in four parts:  #138:  The Sin of Romans I 161204, #139:  Immorality in Romans I 161205, #140:  Societal Implications of Romans I 161206, and #141:  The Solution to the Romans I Problem 161207.

Again, not everything I wrote is here.  The Faith and Gaming series and related materials including some from The Way, the Truth, and the Dice are being republished at the Christian Gamers Guild; to date, twenty-six such articles have appeared, but more are on the way including one written recently (a rules set for what I think might be a Christian game) which I debated posting here but decided to give to them as fresh content.  Meanwhile, the Chaplain’s Bible Study continues, having completed I & II Peter and now entering the last chapter of I John.

Again, some posts which are listed below as political are closely connected to principles of faith; after all, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are inextricably connected.  Also, quite a few of the music posts are also Bible or theology posts, since I have been involved in Christian music for decades.

So Music will be the next subject.

Since it is something people ask musicians, I decided to give some thought and put some words to #75:  Musical Influences 160423, the artists who have impacted my composing, arranging, and performances.

I also reached into my memories of being in radio, how it applies to being a musician and to being a writer, in #77:  Radio Activity 160427.

I wrote a miniseries about ministry and music, what it means to be a minister and how different kinds of ministries integrate music.  It began by saying not all Christian musicians are necessarily ministers in #95:  Music Ministry Disconnect 160724, and then continued with #97:  Ministry Calling 160728, #98:  What Is a Minister? 160730, #99:  Music Ministry of an Apostle 160803, #101:  Prophetic Music Ministry 160808, #102:  Music and the Evangelist Ministry 160812, #103:  Music Ministry of the Pastor 160814, #106:  The Teacher Music Ministry 160821, and
#107:  Miscellaneous Music Ministries 160824.  As something of an addendum, I posted #109:  Simple Songs 160827, a discussion of why so many currently popular songs seem to be musically very basic, and why given their purpose that is an essential feature.

In related areas, I offered #111:  A Partial History of the Audio Recording Industry 160903 explaining why recored companies are failing, #129:  Eulogy for the Record Album 161111 discussing why this is becoming a lost art form, and #147:  Traditional versus Contemporary Music 161221 on the perennial argument in churches about what kinds of songs are appropriate.

The lyrics to my song Free 161017 were added to the site, because it was referenced in one of the articles and I thought the readers should be able to find them if they wished.

There were quite a few articles about Law and Politics, although despite the fact that this was an “election year” (of course, there are elections every year, but this one was special), most of them were not really about that.  By March the Presidential race had devolved into such utter nonsense that there was little chance of making sense of it, so I stopped writing about it after talking about Ridiculous Republicans and Dizzying Democrats.

Some were, of course.  These included the self-explanatory titles #123:  The 2016 Election in New Jersey 161104, #124:  The 2016 New Jersey Public Questions 161105, #125:  My Presidential Fears 161106, and #127:  New Jersey 2016 Election Results 161109, and a few others including #126:  Equity and Religion 161107 about an argument in Missouri concerning whether it should be legal to give state money to child care and preschool services affiliated with religious groups, and #131:  The Fat Lady Sings 161114, #136:  Recounting Nonsense 161128, and #143:  A Geographical Look at the Election 161217, considering the aftermath of the election and the cries to change the outcome.

We had a number of pages connected to the new sexual revolution, including #79:  Normal Promiscuity 160507, #83:  Help!  I’m a Lesbian Trapped in a Man’s Body! 160521, and #115:  Disregarding Facts About Sexual Preference 160926.

Other topics loosely under discrimination include #87:  Spanish Ice Cream 160616 (about whether a well-known shop can refuse to take orders in languages other than English), #130:  Economics and Racism 161112 (about how and why unemployment stimulates racist attitudes), and #135:  What Racism Is 161127 (explaining why it is possible for blacks to have racist attitudes toward whites).  Several with connections to law and economics include #105:  Forced Philanthropy 160820 (taxing those with more to give to those with less), #108:  The Value of Ostentation 160826 (arguing that the purchase of expensive baubles by the rich is good for the poor), #137:  Conservative Penny-pinching 161023 (discussing spending cuts), and #145:  The New Internet Tax Law 161219 (about how Colorado has gotten around the problem of charging sales tax on Internet purchases).

A few other topics were hit, including one on freedom of speech and religion called #144:  Shutting Off the Jukebox 161218, one on scare tactics used to promote policy entitled #80:  Environmental Blackmail 160508, and one in which court decisions in recent immigration cases seem likely to impact the future of legalized marijuana, called #96:  Federal Non-enforcement 160727.

Of course Temporal Anomalies is a popular subject among the readers; the budget has been constraining of late, so we have not done the number of analyses we would like, but we did post a full analysis of Time Lapse 160402.  We also reported on #85:  Time Travel Coming on Television 160528, and tackled two related issues, #81:  The Grandfather Paradox Problem 160515 and #117:  The Prime Universe 160930.

We have a number of other posts that we’re categorizing as Logic/Miscellany, mostly because they otherwise defy categorization (or, perhaps, become categories with single items within them).  #92:  Electronic Tyranny 060708 is a response to someone’s suggestion that we need to break away from social media to get our lives back.  #93:  What Is a Friend? 060720 presents two concepts of the word, and my own preference on that.  #112:  Isn’t It Obvious? 160904 is really just a couple of real life problems with logical solutions.  I also did a product review of an old washing machine that was once new, Notes on a Maytag Centennial Washing Machine 160424.

Although it does not involve much writing, with tongue planted firmly in cheek I offer Gazebos in the Wild, a Pinterest board which posts photographs with taxonomies attempting to capture and identify these dangerous wild creatures in their natural habitats.  You would have to have heard the story of Eric and the Gazebo for that to be funny, I think.

Of course, I post on social media, but the interesting ones are on Patreon, and mostly because I include notes on projects still ahead and life issues impeding them.  As 2017 arrives, I expect to continue writing and posting–I already have two drafts, one on music and the other on breaking bad habits.  I invite your feedback.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#141: The Solution to the Romans I Problem

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #141, on the subject of The Solution to the Romans I Problem.

We began this miniseries with The Sin in Romans I, where we stated

…ultimately there is only one sin listed in the first chapter of the Book of Romans:

…they did not give Him the glory or the gratitude that they owed Him, robbing Him of what He justly deserved….

We were deriving that from Romans 1:19ff.  We then continued in Immorality in Romans I to explain that the “sins” we see described in that first chapter–the immorality, homosexuality, and total depravity–are not given to us as the proof of guilt but as the demonstration of punishment, that God punishes those who fail to recognize and thank Him by delivering them to the desires that destroy them.  We ended that article with the thought

…if these are the punishment of God, why would I want them?  Obviously, there is this draw that they have, because people are drawn into them, and many Christians will admit being tempted in those directions.  The black hole of death pulls everyone toward it.  The message of the gospel includes that Jesus saves us from this, that He enables us to be free from this death.

Then I noted that there was something else, something I had missed before.  The third article, Societal Implications of Romans I explained that, that this judgment came not primarily on individuals who rejected God but ultimately on the society itself:  you could be innocent of the moral degradation of the world around you, but it was worsening, drawing in those around you.

The question here is, what can we do?  The answer is what the answer almost always is:  we need to repent.

img0141eagle

Some of you probably just said, “Yes, Chaplain, we need to get all those sinners, all those fornicators and adulterers and homosexuals and lesbians and generally depraved people out there, to repent and turn to Christ.”  If you said that, you missed the point.  Of course those people need to repent; but judgment begins with the house of God–and all of that, here in the first chapter of Romans, was the punishment, not the crime.  The one sin–the only sin–Paul identifies in the first chapter of Romans is failing to acknowledge God and thank Him.

Of course, we think that we do acknowledge God and thank Him.  After all, we say grace before meals, gather on weekends for worship services, make sure we set aside a little time every day for devotions–how are we not acknowledging and thanking God?

The fact is we give too much credit to ourselves, and in a lot of ways that we not only do not recognize as taking it from God but find admirable.  We are idolators, worshipping God sometimes and other gods at other times.

Our number one idol is ourselves.  We thank God for the food, but we think that we obtained it by our own labor or resourcefulness.  We do not really think that God provides our food, our homes, our clothes–we think all of that comes from our own effort.  We fail to recognize God’s kindness to us in providing all this.

There is also a great deal of patriotism:  we worship our nation.  There has certainly been much about our nation for which we should be grateful to God, but in the words of Romans 1:25, we worship the creation (“ktisis”, meaning any created object or act of creation, frequently rendered “creature”) rather than the Creator, thinking that our nation and its founders gave us what ultimately came from God.  I have been in churches where on patriotic holy days they have sung patriotic anthems and recited the Pledge of Allegiance as if it were one of the creeds.  Those who pledge allegiance to America are serving two masters.  Thank God for America, but pledge allegiance only to God, and acknowledge Him as the giver of all good gifts.

There are quite a few of us who worship capitalism and the free market.  Don’t misunderstand me:  capitalism is a brilliant and effective human method of driving a society toward prosperity, but it is not a Christian system at all.  Its central concept is that everyone not only will but should act in the most selfish self-serving way possible to bring about the maximum benefit for the most people.  A Christian system would work on the premise that everyone should and will act in the most self-sacrificing loving way possible to help others, which makes it surpisingly similar to socialism.  The problem is that most people–even most of us who espouse Christianity–are more likely to act in capitalist ways than socialist ways, and if you’re building a system it is more practical to design it to fit the way the majority of people actually do act than the way we would like them to act.  Capitalism works well precisely because people are in the main selfish and unloving; socialism fails for the same reason.  Yet we treat capitalism as if it were a codicil to the gospel, part of the divine plan.  We do not need to abandon capitalism as a society, but as Christians we need to recognize it is not the source of our prosperity but a tainted tool through which God has managed to deliver it to tainted people.

I could probably continue with our idols.  We always think that our prosperity comes from something tangible, instead of recognizing the real source of all the good we receive.  That is the repentance–the “metanoia”, the “thought change”–that we need.  We need to stop thinking that we have earned the good things we have, that we have built a society that provides them, that we should thank our nation for being a place where such prosperity is possible, and get beyond all of that to recognizing that God has delivered good things to us.  If we fail to thank Him for what He has given us, to acknowledge Him as the source of all the good in our lives; if we continue to share the credit due to Him with others who are at best instruments of His kindness; the wrath will continue to fall on our world, and we will be buried in the depravity that has grown exponentially in the short time that I have been alive to see it.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#140: Societal Implications of Romans I

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #140, on the subject of Societal Implications of Romans I.

We began this miniseries with The Sin in Romans I, where we stated

…ultimately there is only one sin listed in the first chapter of the Book of Romans:

    …they did not give Him the glory or the gratitude that they owed Him, robbing Him of what He justly deserved….

We were deriving that from Romans 1:19ff.  We then continued in Immorality in Romans I to explain that the “sins” we see described in that first chapter–the immorality, homosexuality, and total depravity–are not given to us as the proof of guilt but as the demonstration of punishment, that God punishes those who fail to recognize and thank Him by delivering them to the desires that destroy them.  We ended that article with the thought

…if these are the punishment of God, why would I want them?  Obviously, there is this draw that they have, because people are drawn into them, and many Christians will admit being tempted in those directions.  The black hole of death pulls everyone toward it.  The message of the gospel includes that Jesus saves us from this, that He enables us to be free from this death.

Then I noted that there was something else, something I had missed before.

That is where we are today, but to get there we are going to begin with a meandering discussion beginning with divorce law.

img0140lawbooks

This has been not true for so long that some of my readers might be surprised to discover it was ever true.  At one time, when a man and a woman signed their names to a piece of paper and swore before a public gathering that they would remain together for their entire lives, the government regarded those to be legally enforceable promises which it, the public at large, and the couple themselves fully expected they would keep.  The part about “better or worse…rich or poor…sickness and health” underscored this:  there were no outs.  In England, if you wanted a divorce you often needed an Act of Parliament.

Of course, exceptions were made, what some will remember as “divorce for cause”.  The promises that were made to each other included loving and caring for each other, and forsaking all others.  If it could be demonstrated in court that one party had breached those promises, the other party was entitled to damages, including dissolution of the marriage.  If the husband beat the wife, or abandoned her; or if the wife was sleeping with the neighbor–these were causes, breaches of the promises, and the injured party could be released from the obligation, often with compensatory damages in property settlements or alimony.

Usually.

By the middle of the twentieth century, affluent Americans who believed that they had earned what they had, and forgot that God had given it to them, began to be bored with monogamy.  They felt like they should be able to divorce each other for no better reason than that they wanted to marry someone else, to find “happiness” with another lover.  Hollywood gossip certainly fueled this–the stresses on the marriages of movie stars who were frequently separated working on different projects, frequently put into close relationships with other actors, and adored by fans who made them believe they deserved better caused many of them to fail, and the tabloid press popularized the idea that a star or starlet was escaping a bad relationship for a better one.  Ordinary people thought that happiness was found in leaving the wrong person and finding the right one.  The law in most places, though, was very much against them:  you could not be divorced for a whim, only for a cause, a breach of the promise by one party against the other.

And the law was strict.  There is a New York case in which a couple wanted a divorce but could not get one without cause, so the husband arranged for his wife to have an affair with his best friend, and they went to court and presented the matter to the judge–and the judge said no, that since the husband colluded in his wife’s infidelity he could not claim that he had been harmed by it, and therefore had no cause for a divorce.  People were being forced to stay married to each other for no better reason than that at one time years before they promised each other and the government and the world at large that they would.

And somehow we no longer thought that a good enough reason.  Why should you have to do something just because you promised, and benefited from the promise?

Gradually over several decades we changed those laws, to allow ourselves to break those promises.  In the wake of that, the upcoming generation saw that the promises were becoming meaningless, and we entered the beginning of a “sexual revolution” in which such promiscuity became more open, accepted by larger and larger segments of society.  Today promiscuity is the assumed norm.  Unmarried adult virgins are treated as a comic element in popular media, a rarity, and sex among teens is expected even by their parents who don’t counsel them to wait but to be careful when they don’t.

And the law has moved to a place where it says, it is nobody’s business whether you have sex, whether you break promises made to a spouse, whether you get your pleasure from the opposite sex or the same sex.  Follow your own moral compass, and if you don’t like where it points, break it and go where you want.

In the process we have lost the ability to commit, to keep promises, to love and trust each other.  That is a serious loss.

This was the part I did not see a decade ago when I taught that class (or three decades ago when I taught Romans to those college students).  I could see that the immorality, the homosexuality, and the depravity were punishments on individuals who were destroying themselves because they refused to acknowledge God.  What I did not then see was that it was bigger than that.  It was not that Joe would not acknowledge God and now was having an affair with Alice, or that Bill was rejecting God and now found himself in a relationship with Steve, or that Mary ignored God’s kindness toward her and now could not figure out what was right and what was wrong.  That was all true, but it was also true that there were others who had failed to acknowledge God who still lived moral upright lives, who were not suffering from the punishment Paul described.  It was not targeting every individual evenly.

However, it was targeting society.  People who kept their marriage vows started to discover that their spouses did not.  People who embraced only heterosexual relationships discovered that they had homosexual children.  People who lived moral lives based on a moral compass that followed sound principles but not God found that those around them, even those closest to them, could see no reason to follow those principles and were ready to do whatever profited them, whatever felt good, whatever they wanted.  The society that rejected God, the society that failed to acknowledge Him, was falling into a downward spiral into depravity.

The wrath of God has come upon us.  We can see it in the world around us, and as Paul said, it proves that God has begun the end of the world with the judgment of those who reject Him.

There is at least one more piece to this miniseries, because this is not the end of the story.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#139: Immorality in Romans I

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #139, on the subject of Immorality in Romans I.

We began a miniseries with The Sin in Romans I, where we stated

…ultimately there is only one sin listed in the first chapter of the Book of Romans:

    …they did not give Him the glory or the gratitude that they owed Him, robbing Him of what He justly deserved….

We were deriving that from Romans 1:19ff.

Some of you were undoubtedly struggling with that, because your understanding of Romans 1:24ff is that Paul begins cataloguing the sins for which mankind is being judged.  He starts to talk about immorality, promiscuity, segueing into homosexuality and lesbianism, and then into an entire catalog that we can best describe as total depravity.  Surely these are the sins for which men are punished, no?

Painting by Thomas Rowlandson
Painting by Thomas Rowlandson

No.

If we read what the next two verses say, we find

Therefore, God in His wrath handed them over to their promiscuous drives, so that they would lose all respect for their bodies.  He punished them because they traded the truth they had about God for a lie, and worshipped and served creatures instead of their Creator, who is the source of all good things forever, and that’s certain.

All that promiscuity, all that immorality, that is not the sin–it is the punishment.

Some of you are thinking, what kind of punishment is that?  God gets upset because we don’t recognize how good He has been to us, so He punishes us by sending us lovers, causing us to have affairs?  Bring it on!

That actually demonstrates to some degree that you are already touched by that wrath; but then, why should sexual immorality be punishment?  It has always been a temptation, something we desire.  It seems, then, if we’re bad, God gives us what we desire.  How should that be a problem?  It sounds like punishing a bad child by giving him ice cream and candy.

It should be said first that if God says this is a punishment, there must be a reason for us to perceive it as a punishment.  There must be something fundamentally undesireable about that thing that we desire.  Maybe we don’t see what it is, but it must be there.

In fact, speaking in the abstract, God never forbids anything just because He doesn’t like it.  He forbids that which is bad for us and others.  We see short-term enjoyment in promiscuity, but God sees damage to people.  Years ago I wrote a page entitled Why Shouldn’t You Have Sex If You Aren’t Married? in which I talked about all the people who are hurt by these casual liasons–beginning with the partners themselves, extending to their future loves, their children, and people around them.  There I put some time into discussing how such promiscuous conduct is self-destructive, destroying the person’s reputation, their trustworthiness, their ability to love and be loved, and never really bringing any fulfillment.

God created us to form us into creatures who could engage in honest, trusting, loving relationships with each other and ultimately with Him.  Promiscuity, immorality, adultery, fornication–whatever specific form you give it–destroys that.

So, too, as the punishment worsens, we find in 1:26f

Because they did this, God handed them over to strong self-destructive feelings; their women traded all for which their bodies were made for something unnatural, and the men also abandoned that for which women’s bodies were made and felt strong passions for each other, and so men performed indecent sexual acts with other men, and suffered the consequences of having rejected God.

–that is, God punishes those who refuse to acknowledge and thank Him by pushing them into homosexuality, another even more self-destructive conduct.  This is the punishment.  It then worsens in 1:28ff, restating the crime,

Further, since they were no longer willing to recognize God, God handed them over to depravity in their thinking, so that they could no longer understand that anything could be wrong in itself, being completely filled with injustice, cruelty, greed, malice; full of envy, killing, rivalry, deceit, nastiness; they are rumor mongers, slanderers, God-haters, insulting, prideful, braggarts, inventing new evils, disobeying parents, foolish, promise-breakers, unloving, merciless, who fully aware that God is right to sentence to death those who do things like these not only do them themselves, but encourage others to do them as well.

People who do not recognize God ultimately become parodies of what we are supposed to be.

Of course, arguably not all of them do, or at least, not that we can see.  This punishment falls on some more harshly than others.  Yet it is evident that today people are rushing into these traits.

I would say one more thing about the immorality, the homosexuality, and the general depravity before I end this article:  if these are the punishment of God, why would I want them?  Obviously, there is this draw that they have, because people are drawn into them, and many Christians will admit being tempted in those directions.  The black hole of death pulls everyone toward it.  The message of the gospel includes that Jesus saves us from this, that He enables us to be free from this death.

All of this I have covered elsewhere.  Yet there was something else I only recently realized–which will be the next article in the miniseries.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#138: The Sin in Romans I

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #138, on the subject of The Sin in Romans I.

Just over a decade ago, on February 6, 2006, with the permission of the Christian Gamers Guild, I began using one of their Yahoo!Groups lists to teach a Bible class–something more than a Bible study, on the level of an undergraduate course but that the pace would be moderated and there would be no homework assignments.  I began with Paul’s Epistle to the Romans for some significant reasons–I had taught it as an undergraduate course before, I had recently rebuilt the notes I needed for it, and as primarily a Pauline scholar it made sense for me to begin with his most recognized and comprehensive work.  That class is still continuing, currently studying the First Epistle of John; you can read more about it here.

I mention it because there are several significant points I learned from that book that most people get completely wrong, and in those lessons (still available through Yahoo!) you can read about this in detail–but I have more recently begun to realize that there was something very important in that which I missed.

It is going to take more than one article to explain it, so I will begin by trying to get you up to speed so you don’t have to read all of those posts.

img0138christ

The first thing to grasp is that this is, in a sense, Paul’s resume.  He has never been to Rome, and it appears that the people he names in the greetings he sends at the end of the letter are all people he met somewhere else.  He wants to preach in Spain, but he needs a base of operations, a church that will support him and send him that direction.  Thus he is sending a letter to them in which he lays out the message that he preaches, the gospel of Jesus Christ as he understands it.  This is what Paul preached in cities throughout the Roman Empire that changed the world; this is the fundamental Christian message.

He launches into this in the seventeenth verse, where he writes

For I am not ashamed to talk about the good news.  The good news is what makes it possible for God to save everyone who believes in God from the just punishment that comes upon all wrongdoers as the world now comes to an end, starting with the Jews and reaching to everyone else.

That’s my translation from the Greek, made with a lot of comparison to a lot of other translations and a strong reliance on whatever materials I had available at that time.  Notice, though, that what Paul is saying is that the end of the world has begun–sometime in the middle of the first century.  However, any Jew then would have told you that the there would be two things that would happen at the end of the world:  the righteous would be rewarded and the wicked would be punished.  Paul says that this is now happening, that the punishment is starting and those who believe God are being rescued from it.

Then the surprise comes in verse eighteen, where he says

The good news shows us how God is right now acting as the just judge of the world, meting out rewards and punishments even now, if we have the faith to see it.  After all, the scripture says, “The righteous person will live because of his faith.”

He in essence says that we know that the end of the world is arriving because judgment has already begun.  The wicked are already being punished, and the righteous are already being saved.

We might at this point expect that he is going to launch into a description of how the gospel saves us, but he surprises us again:

We can see God’s just judgments in the world because His wrath can be seen plainly against all the ungodliness and injustice of men who unfairly try to deny and hide the truth, because within themselves they know something about God, and God has made his existence clearly evident to everyone.  For God’s invisible attributes have been readily recognized and understood since the beginning of creation, in creation itself, which shows us His eternal power and divine nature, so that they cannot claim they did not know.  Even though they knew God had to exist, they did not give Him the glory or the gratitude that they owed Him, robbing Him of what He justly deserved, but instead started to think and believe all kinds of silly things, and all together lost the light that they had.  Claiming that they were becoming truly wise, they actually became fools, and gave up the glory of the God who remains forever in exchange for something that looked like a picture of men and birds and beasts and other creatures which all ultimately decay and are destroyed.

The chapter is going to continue to describe a lot of things God apparently thinks are terrible–beginning with immorality and infidelity, moving into homosexuality and lesbianism, and ending with a level of depravity that suggests the complete loss of any moral compass.  Many who read this chapter, many who preach on it, think that it is telling us all the wickedness, all the sins, for which men and women are being punished.  God rightly punishes people who act like that, we are told, and the punishment will come.

However, Paul’s entire case rests on the idea that the punishment already has come, and that he is going to describe that punishment which is obvious to everyone who looks at it the right way–and if those statements are the sins for which people are punished, he never gets to the punishment.

That’s because ultimately there is only one sin listed in the first chapter of the Book of Romans:

…they did not give Him the glory or the gratitude that they owed Him, robbing Him of what He justly deserved….

That is the crime of which humanity stands accused, and of which I think we all at some point have been guilty.  That is the sin of which we repent to be saved.  We agree to acknowledge that God is right, we should be grateful to Him for what He has given us, and we owe Him everything.  Otherwise, we are robbing Him.

So, what about the rest–the infidelity and homosexuality and depravity and all that?  Well, that’s the second thing everyone misses, and that’s the second article in this miniseries.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#120: Giving Offense

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #120, on the subject of Giving Offense.

A couple days ago I was asked whether I had again offended a Specifically Named Person by writing another piece on homosexuality.

img0120fox

I had no idea how to reply to this.  I was unaware that I had offended this individual previously by my writing; I have no reason to believe he identifies as homosexual.  I obviously know that some people in my circle of relationships disagree with me on any subject you care to name, and this is one on which there are some significant disagreements–but I don’t keep track of who holds what positions on which issues, so I could not have told you that he disagreed with my views on this one.  It does not surprise me if he does; I know he disagrees with me on some issues, but then, everyone disagrees with everyone on some issues.  As the anonymous wise Quaker is quoted as having said to his closest friend, “Everyone’s a little queer ‘cept me and thee, and sometimes I’m not so sure of thee.”  I know of no one with whom I am in complete agreement about everything.  That does not bother me.  After all, I know that everyone is wrong about something, and I know that that includes me, but it also includes everyone who disagrees with me.  The trick is figuring out where you’re wrong and where you’re right, and not being more certain of it than you can justify.

What bothers me is that he would be offended by my opinion, or perhaps by my expression of my opinion.

I have probably written about tolerance before.  Being tolerant does not mean not caring about an issue.  It means having a strong opinion but treating others respectfully who hold a different opinion.  Many people who are not religious believe that they are tolerant when they are actually indifferent and condescending.  That is, their attitude is “all religious ideas are nonsense, so it really does not matter what nonsense you believe.”  However, changes in society are forcing these people to recognize that this is not true–that it really does matter what one believes about God, because that in turn controls what one believes about many practical issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, and the “norms” of society.  The criticism is that some religious people–those who disagree with the current attitudes on specific issues–are intolerant; the truth is that those who hold to those current attitudes are proving to be less tolerant.

Being tolerant does not mean that we all agree.  It means that we agree to disagree amicably, and to allow each other to hold differing opinions, to live by them as our own beliefs dictate, and to discuss them openly.  That’s all First Amendment:  the absolute protection of religious and political opinion.  Today those who hold certain viewpoints also hold the opinion that to disagree with those viewpoints ought to be criminal.  We encounter it in the homosexual marriage debate; it is rampant in the environmental field; it appears in issues related to reproductive choice.  If you do not agree with the approved opinion (whether or not it is held by the majority), you will not be tolerated.

On the specific issue of homosexuality, I agree that homosexuality is “natural”; it is as natural as heroin addiction:  you can encourage it, and once you’ve got it you probably can never really be fully rid of it.  There is sufficient evidence that homosexuality is not fixed in the genes, but involves environmental factors and choices on some level.  The position that the unborn are as human as their mothers and deserve equal protection equal to that extended to their mothers–and probably then some, as they are the more vulnerable class–is certainly defensible.  The issue of whether global warming is heading us into an environmental disaster, or whether it is instead staving off potentially disastrous global cooling and an ice age, can also be debated.

I hold some opinions which are apparently minority viewpoints, but I hold them honestly because of what I consider solid rational bases.  To say “I am sorry if that offends you” is not really an apology; it is more an expression of compassion for your disability, that you are such a person as would be offended by the expression of an opinion with which you disagree.  I think better of you than that.  I respect you and your opinions, even, or perhaps particularly, where I disagree.  I am willing to hear your evidence and your arguments.  I expect only the same courtesy in response.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#115: Disregarding Facts About Sexual Preference

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #115, on the subject of Disregarding Facts About Sexual Preference.

I am aware that it is “politically correct” to regard homosexuality as normal, and to assert that homosexuals are born that way and cannot help being as they are.  It has already been established that I do not believe that, and if being politically correct means pretending that lies are true I am going to have to be politically incorrect (a phrase I was using before it was commandeered by a comedian for his talk show).  Opinions are fairly set on this issue, and the battle is going to rage for most of the next generation.  I don’t mind that people disagree with me.  There are facts on the other side, just as there are facts on this side.  What I dislike is when people ignore the facts that support the position with which they disagree.

img0115lesbian

I was moved to consider this by a television show.  It has become extremely common for television shows to give us likeable homosexual characters, in an effort to make homosexuality seem normal.  It’s a mistake, I think, but people in media recognize that they have a lot influence and attempt to use it.  I remember that my wife had a favorite television show featuring a favorite actor, and then the lead character’s girlfriend got pregnant and (over his objections) chose to get an abortion.  My wife never watched the show again, because she could not look at a woman who would do that to her baby without crying, and so the show lost its entertainment value.  It must not have been only her, though, because within a season the girlfriend, a regular from the beginning, was written out of the show, and the series failed by the end of the next season.  People were offended.  I tried to continue liking Buffy the Vampire Slayer after they decided to make Willow homosexual, but I it just upset me too badly that her life was being so destroyed, and the more so that it was done for a political message.  There was a show launched a year or so ago which sounded really interesting and I started watching it rather faithfully, but I couldn’t get past the excessive homosexual sex in it despite the truly fascinating ongoing mystery that was the primary plotline.  If you want to lose audience for an entertainment show, make a bold statement that is bound to offend a large number of viewers, and stick to it.

In the particular show which inspired these current thoughts, there is tension between an elderly widow and her homosexual daughter.  The resolution of the show came about when the mother came to understand that her daughter’s sexuality was not the mother’s fault, that it did not work that way but she was simply born homosexual.  Maybe she was; the jury is still out on that.  However, a picture had been painted of her parents as a couple who possibly never loved each other, the mother terrified of the father for their entire marriage.  How can this not have impacted the daughter?  We are wrong to imagine that our future marriages will be just like those of our parents, but we do it anyway even when we want to make it different, and a girl growing up in such a house would stand a very good chance of being conditioned to fear men and turn elsewhere for affection.  I don’t mean to blame the mother–“fault” for harming someone when acting with the best of intentions but limited knowledge does not always mean “culpability” for the outcome–but I think we’re ignoring a lot of facts when we assert that the environmental factors were irrelevant.

Of course, it’s only a television show, and in fiction the writers can always tell us that things are the way the show says they are.  That the daughter of this fear-filled loveless marriage becomes a lesbian proves nothing, because it’s only what the writers decided.  Still, just as the characters in the story seem to be ignoring the obvious fact that the child grew up to fear men, those who assert that homosexuality is entirely genetic and not at all environmental seem to be ignoring similar facts in reality.

Decades ago I worked with a young man who in his spare time often visited lesbian hangouts and got to know the girls.  He said he never met one who had not been badly hurt by a man at some point–a father, brother, husband, boyfriend, rapist, someone who left her fearful of or angry at men.  There are easily a thousand plausible explanations for that.  He might simply never have met one who didn’t fit the pattern, or he might have assumed that those who didn’t tell him of such a history did not want to discuss it.  Yet it is data:  many lesbian women appear to have rejected men because of abuse or hurt in their past.  It is at least plausible that environment, and not heredity, is the cause of their homosexuality.

I agree that there might be hereditary factors.  As with alcoholism, some might be born with a genetic predisposition to this particular temptation, and as with alcoholism experimentation might trigger it more quickly in those who are more susceptible.  But when those who want it to be entirely hereditary attempt to deny that there are any environmental factors, that those who are sexually attracted to members of the same sex could not possibly not have been, it is almost certainly because that is the answer they want, not the answer the evidence supports.

Believe what you think the evidence supports; defend your position.  Don’t suppose that you can ignore evidence and still make your position credible.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#114: Saint Teresa, Pedophile Priests, and Miracles

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #114, on the subject of Saint Teresa, Pedophile Priests, and Miracles.

You probably have already heard that the woman known to most of us as Mother Teresa is now officially Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

The first I saw it was in an article critical of the Roman Catholic Church, in the Salt Lake Tribune.  My initial glance at the piece noted that it somehow connected the canonization of this world-respected woman to the issue of pedophilia among the priesthood, and I thought it was going to say that an organization which so poorly handled that situation had no business making people saints.  I was musing on that, but I hate it when people criticize my articles without having read them, so I went back to read it completely and discovered that his complaint, while I think just as wrong-headed, was much more subtle.

img0114teresa

It is of course rather easy to criticize the church for its handling of these pedophile cases, but difficult to see from their perspective.  After all, they’re older and larger than most countries, consider their priests something like diplomatic envoys to everywhere in the world, and have a long history of handling their own problems internally.  Add to that the necessity of balancing justice with mercy, the concerns for the sinners as much as for the victims, and the awareness that the quickest way for an ordinary parishoner to remove an unwanted priest is to make sexual allegations against him, and you’ve got a very difficult situation.  It is thus easy to say that they handled it poorly–but not so simple to be certain that any of us would have handled it better.  That, though, was not what the article was addressing.

It is also a mistake to think that the Roman Catholic Church “makes” people Saints.  Canonization is rather more a process of identifying those who are.  There are few people in the world, perhaps of any faith, who would say that Teresa was not a saint.  She certainly fit the standards most Protestants hold:  she loved Jesus so much that she abandoned all possibility for a “normal” comfortable western life in order to bring the love of God to some of the most impoverished and spiritually needy people on earth.  Many ordinary Catholics were pressing for the Vatican to say officially what they believed unofficially.  The problem was that the Roman Catholic canonization process has a requirement that to be recognized officially as a Capital-S Saint an individual must have performed miracles.  At least two must be certified by Vatican investigators.

As one of my Protestant friends said, she should be credited with the miracle of getting funding for so unglamorous a work, and probably also for doing so much with what she had.  Those, though, are not the types of miracles considered; there has to be an undeniable supernatural element involved.  The author of the critical article is unimpressed with the two that they certified, but his argument is rather that miracles do not happen, and the events cited in support of her canonization were not miracles.  He then argues, seemingly, that if miracles really did happen, if God really did intervene in the world, then certainly God Himself would have acted to prevent those priests from abusing those children.  No loving father could have permitted that kind of treatment of his own children; how can the Church assert that God is a loving Father, if that God did not intervene on behalf of these victims?

We could get into a very involved conversation about why the writer supposes the conduct of these priests to have been “wrong”.  Certainly it was wrong by the standards of the Roman Catholic Church.  However, the Marquis de Sade wrote some very compelling arguments in moral philosophy in which he asserted that whatever exists is right.  On that basis he claimed that because men were stronger than women, whatever a man chose to do to a woman was morally right simply because nature made the man capable of doing it.  The same argument would apply to this situation, that because the priests were able by whatever means to rape these children, their ability to do so is sufficient justification for their actions.  I certainly disagree because, like the Roman Catholic Church, I believe that God has called us to a different moral philosophy.  The question is, on what basis does our anti-God critic disagree?  If he asserts, as he does, that there is no God, why does he suppose that it is wrong for adults to engage in sexual acts with children?  It seems to be his personal preference; the Marquis de Sade would have disagreed, as would at least some of the men who do this.  To say that something is morally wrong presupposes that that statement has meaning.  We fall back on “human rights”, but the only reason Jefferson and the founders of America could speak of such rights is that they believed such rights were conferred (endowed) upon every individual by the God who made us.  No, they did not all believe in the Christian God (many were Deists), but they did found their moral philosophy on a divine origin.

However, let us agree that the conduct of those priests was heinous.  We have a solid foundation for holding that position, even if the writer who raises it does not.  The question is, why did God not stop them?

It is said that during the American Civil War someone from Europe visited President Lincoln at the White House.  During his visit, he asked whether it were really true that the American press was completely free of government control–something unimaginable in Europe at that time.  In answer, Lincoln handed his guest that day’s newspaper, whose lead story was denigrating the way the President was handling the war.  It was obvious that such an article could not have been written if the publisher had any thought of the government taking action against his paper for it.

If God is able to work miracles, why does He not miraculously silence critics like the op-ed piece in the Salt Lake Tribune?

Perhaps the writer thinks that even God would not interfere with the freedom of the press in America.  Why not?  There is nothing particular about the choice to write something which is offensive to God that would make it less objectionable than the choice to do something which is offensive to God.  God could perhaps have prevented many atrocities–the development of the atomic bombs that devastated two Japanese cities, the rise of the regime which exterminated nearly six million Jews and even more Poles plus many other peoples, and we could fill the rest of this article with such acts.  Yet these are all choices made by men, and just as God chooses not to prevent one writer from criticizing Him in the Salt Lake Tribune, so too He has not prevented billions of other hurtful actions by everyone in the world.  He allows us to make our own choices, and to hurt and be hurt by those choices.  If he prevented all of them, there would be no freedoms whatsoever.

Two footnotes should be put to this.

The first is that we do not know and indeed cannot know whether God has limited human wickedness and disaster.  We can imagine horrors that never happened.  The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union never “went hot” into a nuclear battle despite the many fictional scenarios describing how it might have happened.  We do not know whether God prevented nuclear war, or indeed whether He will do so in the future; we only know that it did not happen.  Our perspective of the “bad” that happens in this world lacks perspective because, apart from horror stories, we measure it against itself.  Be assured, though, that if the worst thing that ever happened in the world was the occasional hangnail, someone would be asking how God could possibly allow the suffering that is the hangnail.  We complain of the worst wickedness in the world, but do not know what might have been or whether God saved us from something worse than that.

The second is that God, Who is the only possible foundation for any supposed moral law to which we could hold anyone accountable, promises that He is ultimately fair and will judge everyone.  He has made it His responsibility to see to it that everyone who has caused any harm will be recompensed an equal amount of harm, and anyone who has been harmed will be compensated an appropriate amount in reparations, so that all wrongs ultimately are put right.  The writer of the article does not want there to be ultimate justice, but present intervention.  However, I expect were we to ask if what He wants is for God to remove from the world the power to choose what we do and have our choices affect each other, he would object to that as well.  There will be ultimate justice, and may God have mercy on us all.  Meanwhile, we are given freedom to act in ways that are either beneficial (as Saint Teresa) or baneful (as the priests), so that we may then be judged.

How there can be mercy and justice at the same time is something I have addressed elsewhere, and is much more than this article can include.  It is perhaps the problem that the Catholic Church has in handling its errant priests.  The bishops are not God, and neither are we, and we all do the best we can, which often is not as good as we might hope.  We all also fail, hurt others, and need forgiveness and correction.  God offers that, and that is the true miracle.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]