[SOC] Superstorm Sandy, Ev Bogue, Married Life, Atheist Flak, the Mission, Schemers for the Grace of God

I am watching the coverage of the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. It doesn't look good. As someone who went through Hurricane Hugo, I know the misery these people are facing. Storms suck.

The most popular thing on the C-blog right now is this post concerning Everett Bogue. I haven't kept up with Ev for the last year or so since I wrote that post, but he seems to have taken some people for a ride and is semi-homeless with his girlfriend Gwen Bell. I don't know all the details. Then, his mom posts on the blog. Ev seems to be having some kind of meltdown. My part in all of this? I seem to be the only one who keeps a post up about the guy with the comments section turning into a virtual forum for people to bash on the guy.

I don't believe in kicking a man when he is down, so I won't do that with Ev. He is clearly a man in a period of crisis. So, I will say a prayer for him. You should hold out hope for everyone no matter what.

I've been adding a little more detail to the subject line of these SOC posts. It should make them easier to search, and I am tempted to go back and include them on older posts. For those who don't know, these are posts where I write whatever pops into my head at that moment in a stream of consciousness essay. This is why I put the "SOC" tag on them. If I didn't, you would be lead to believe that I have no idea how to structure a real essay with a thesis.

I just saw my wife off to work. People ask me all the time how married life is treating me, and I have to say it is great. But I'm not the one that moved to a new town and a new job. My wife is a saint because she did all of that for me. I don't deserve someone as awesome as that woman, so I am very grateful to the Almighty for putting her in my life and to her. She puts up with a lot to be with me.

Yes, I am a Catholic or at least in the process of conversion. I am in RCIA paying my dues. The atheists on Facebook are not amused by my conversion. But it is OK. There was a time when I would have lashed out at those people, but I find this amazing love for them in my heart. Fulton Sheen used to end his programs with the benediction "God love you." Whenever someone bashes on me, I just say to myself "God love you."

I see that I have a mission in life now. My experience has prepared me in a unique way to reach Protestants, atheists, and lapsed Catholics. The fourth part of my mission in life is to present a Catholic view of politics based on the teachings of the Church. This urge is pressed in my heart over and over again. But I am also cautioned by a saying from my mother-in-law. "You just want to sprinkle them." The alternative is to turn on the firehose and blow them away. This is simply prudence, so my mission is to sprinkle in these areas. Whatever becomes of it will be left to God.

There are three heads on my fountain. The first head is my blog. People have already written to me to tell me that they have found encouragement and inspiration from the C-blog and my conversion. I am not really in my own at the moment because I am very much a student in this new way of living and thinking. Plus, I feel like a real dirtbag because of my past as an atheist. But I have no intention of expunging that past from my record. I lost my faith. But that faith was inferior and damning. I will have more on this when I discuss Catholicism and Calvinism, but I can tell you that heresy has consequences.

The second head is my life in the world. I rub shoulders with many non-Catholics, and I never go out with the intent of proselytizing. That would not be sprinkling. But I get hosed on a regular basis from Protestants, so I have many opportunities to share what I am learning and what I believe when they ask their questions. The part I struggle with the most is being an example because I am a terrible person.

The third head is my new life in the Church and with my wife. I spend hours on the balcony of my apartment talking with Molly about all of these things. And I have found a lot of great people at Our Lady of Perpetual Help especially our priest. This is where the third plank of my mission comes into play. There are a lot of lapsed Catholics. These are people usually raised in Catholicism, but they have grown cold in their faith. This is because they stopped going to Mass. My message to them is to go to Mass. Not really complicated.

I use an analogy or parable of sorts to describe it all. Imagine a thief who plots and schemes to acquire the grace of God. God rewards that schemer. We should learn from the example of that thief. We should love God's grace and mercy so much that we would do anything to receive it. Here is the example of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus's cloak:
And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.  And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.” But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.” When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.  And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8:40-48 NASB
That woman stole it from Jesus. And Jesus rewarded her. This is how we all should be. We should be like that woman. Some people try to barter for grace. Others simply beg for it and receive it. But those who scheme to get it are especially blessed because they know they don't deserve it, but they want it all the same and aim to get it.

I don't deserve God's grace. I don't deserve my wife, but I schemed to get her because I valued her where others did not. Similarly, I scheme to get God's grace. I am a scoundrel and a villain, but I know a good thing when I see it. So, I scheme to get the things I want. I want the love of God in my life. I don't care what I have to do to get it. I want it.

The love of God is gratuitous. It abounds and overflows. God loves you so hard that it would obliterate your soul to feel all of it at once. This is why salvation is a process. Purging breaks your heart, but it is the sweetest break you will ever know.

God love you.


It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.

One of the things people learn about me usually within the first day of meeting me is that I do not drink. This has always been considered an odd thing about me because I am not a Baptist. In Baptistland, alcohol is forbidden along with tobacco products, Rated R movies, and dancing. The thinking goes that if you can eliminate these things that you can eliminate evil along the way. But this is foolish. Evil is not found in a product or substance. Evil comes from the heart.

My decision to be a virtual teetotaller is not a religious one since it was a choice I made even as an atheist. My decision was utterly practical. Looking at the behavior of other people and myself, I realized that drinking is stupid. People see drinking as an issue of temperance, but I see it as a matter of prudence. How is  it possible to go to the bar or attend a party and not end up driving drunk? The limits on breathalyzer tests are so low now that you are going to be over the legal limit if you just gargled with mouthwash. (LAWYERLY TIP: Never blow even if you are sober.) For myself, I admit that I have driven a motor vehicle many times in the past after having a few or many drinks. DUI is the most widely committed crime in America now. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

The reason for the draconian measures regarding DUI is not because of drunken driving. It is because of drinking. Cellphone use and driving while sleepy are just as dangerous as driving under the influence. The danger is that you are riding in a giant hunk of metal hurtling along at high rates of speed. But no one really cares about the car issue. The real issue is that drinking issue. Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD is really the leftover of the temperance movement that gave this country Prohibition. Drunk driving laws are meant to punish drinking not bad driving.

I can drink with a clear conscience because I know alcohol is not inherently evil. I have had many good times when I drank in a responsible manner choosing the mean between deficiency and excess as Aristotle counseled. I have also met many recovering alcoholics, and I can tell you that they are just as annoying and repulsive while sober as they are drunk. So, why did I give up the sauce?

The answer to that question is very obvious. Who wants to drink alone? Drinking alone has always been regarded as the first step towards a drinking problem. So, you drink with friends. This isn't an issue if you always drink at home, but no one does this. They go to bars and parties which requires driving. Then, when the party has ended, everyone does those silly hypocritical rituals. Are you OK to drive? Do you need me to call you a cab? Complete and utter nonsense. Everyone leaving that place will be well over the legal limit even if they are not drunk. Basically, every night of drinking is followed by the gamble on the drive home that you won't get caught. People do the hypocrisy routine to reassure themselves that they are not committing a crime. Then, they load up in the car and commit the crime. It is what it is.

I decided for myself that I didn't care to keep gambling on this foolishness. My livelihood depends on me keeping a clean driving record, and a DUI conviction would severely limit my employment opportunities. So, I gave up drinking. It is a decision I have not regretted one bit. Being a shitfaced drunk is almost never a good thing, so it has all been to the good for me. I can also add that I do not use drugs of any kind for much the same reason. I like working and staying out of jail.

I do not think walking the straight edge makes me a better or moral person. Alcohol doesn't make you a bad person. It merely amplifies the person you are already. Unfortunately, for most people, the person they are already is a dumb ass. Alcohol makes you dumber. Not drinking has merely allowed me to keep my own stupidity to myself. And the only pressure I have ever gotten on this issue has been from the drinkers. This is because stupidity loves company. No, thanks. I'm going to stay smart. Go with prudence.

[SOC] Eight O'Clock Coffee, Lance Armstrong, Nihilistic Fiction, Shakespeare, and Flannery O'Connor

Most of the SOC posts begin while the coffee is brewing in the Mister Coffee. Today is a day off from work, so I get to do some blogging. My head hurts because I begin each day in caffeine withdrawal. Since these posts are basically writing down whatever is in my brain at the moment, I usually write about coffee to begin. In this case, the coffee is the fine Eight O'Clock brand. Here is a picture:

This brand used to be made by the A&P grocery chain, but they spun off the division that made the coffee. The coffee lives on despite the demise of the stores. The reason for this is because the coffee has a devoted fan base who swear by the stuff. It is very good coffee relative to the price. It doesn't have that extreme bitterness that you will find in cheap brands like Folger's. I think 8OC is the perfect midpoint between the cheap coffees and the expensive coffees.

Now that I have some coffee in me, I can reflect a bit more on Lance Armstrong. He had his titles stripped, but the story now is the feeding frenzy that is starting around the guy. That is a bit surprising. It is like the stream of fleas fleeing from the fresh carcass of a dead animal. They were all for him before they were against him. I always wondered how the crowds that greeted Jesus on his trumphant entry into Jerusalem could be the same crowd that would turn against him and demand his crucifixion. Seeing the sudden about face on Lance Armstrong shows just how fickle devotion can be.

Lance Armstrong was my hero. I believed in that guy. It was 1999, and I was working at Hell, Inc. I had lost my faith in God, but I had yet to declare myself an atheist. An ex-triathlete who had competed professionally was working for me in my area, and he was gushing about this former triathlete turned cyclist that I had never heard about before. The guy almost died from cancer, and he seemed to pull off a sort of secular resurrection by beating the disease and returning to competitive cycling. The guy was Lance Armstrong. I was intrigued, so I went home and fired up the internet. This was the beginning of a decade long fascination with the guy.

I loved Lance Armstrong. He had a tenacious work ethic. He was brash. He was from Texas. And Lance was an atheist. This was a guy who didn't need God because he had an unshakable faith in himself. He was the embodiment of Nietzsche's superman. This was someone you could believe in. Here is a sample of the greatness:

This video seems rather embarrassing in hindsight now that we know the truth about Lance Armstrong. The guy was a phony. He was an atheist touting a miracle, but in the end, he was just another liar.

I stopped believing in Lance years before others discovered the truth about him. I always knew this day would come. No lie ever remains hidden. Truth has a strange way of coming out no matter how clever you are at hiding it. But Lance's disgrace comes at a propitious time for me as I have renounced atheism and embraced the Catholic faith. I am forced to reflect on the nature of heroes.

A Google search of the C-blog will show that I have had a lot of heroes over the years. I don't have any heroes now. The series I used to call Heroes, Villains, and Pricks will no longer be seen here because I have abandoned all my heroes. It doesn't mean that I don't admire people. It is that the people I admire now are saints not heroes.

The difference between a saint and a hero is very basic. Heroes are proud. Saints are humble. Heroes point to their own greatness. Saints point to the greatness of God. As someone once put it, the four cardinal virtues are "humility, humility, humility, and humility."

Atheists don't do humility. You figure they would be humble since a distrust in oneself is a cornerstone of the scientific method. But atheism is about pride. Atheists have a supreme confidence in themselves and their abilities. I know because I was an atheist. I was humble for an atheist because of the residue of religious training, but I was still proud all the same. I directed my life, and I lived by my own light. Such pride can only invite ridicule.

Lance Armstrong is ridiculous now. All his greatness is nothing as truth has turned into his enemy. Atheists lie just as much as anyone else. Lance Armstrong promulgated a fairy tale. Now, look at him. Look at his disgrace. He is a quiet and silly man now. The proud one has been humbled.

I think about my own life now as I am clearly in a transitional period of my life. I lack direction in my life at the moment because I don't know what to do next except read and work. The real question for me is this. Is this blog going to become a Catholic blog? I don't know.

The only constant on this blog has been me. Where others have abandoned their blogs as their views changed, my blog keeps chugging along because the only thing I have to do to keep it going is to keep being me. The problem is that I now believe different things and see things in a much different light. This brings me to the subject of my fiction.

I have written various stories over the years from an essentially nihilistic viewpoint. The stories are either ridiculously comical or absolutely soul sucking. Naturally, people want me to continue writing that stuff. The problem is that I don't want to write it anymore. Blame it on Shakespeare.

Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the English language. I love Shakes. It is only recently that I discovered that Shakespeare was Catholic. Shakes was Catholic at a time when it was dangerous to be Catholic, so this part of him was kept secret. People are amazed at how smart Shakespeare was which has led to all those conspiracy theories about other people writing those plays. But Shakespeare wrote those plays, and he was most likely educated in secret in the Catholic underground of Elizabethan England.

Catholics are big on what we call "the true, the good, and the beautiful." This was why Shakespeare was so good. This is why his work resonates across time. The man was utterly Catholic.

Being a Catholic writer is not about didacticism such as you see in the Christian ghetto that Protestants craft for themselves. This was a point of contention between the Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien and the Anglo-Catholic C.S. Lewis. Christian allegorical fiction tends to be very bad.

My favorite Catholic writer is Flannery O'Connor who was heavily influenced by her faith, but you will have a hard time recognizing it in her work much as you would in Tolkien or Shakespeare. Catholics recognize it immediately in much the same way that it hit me the other day that Bruce Springsteen was Catholic. I never knew it, but I immediately picked up on it when one of his songs was playing on the radio.

What is the difference between a Protestant sensibility and a Catholic sensibility? Protestant work is saccharine. It is imitation as opposed to being truly creative and original. In short, it feels fake. This is because Protestants tend to be fake themselves. "Fake it 'til you make it" is their motto. The best illustration I can give is this. When a Protestant builds a car, he takes a car that is already made and puts a Jesus bumper sticker on it. When a Catholic builds a car, he goes out and studies the design of every car ever made. He learns the craft of carmaking as completely as possible. Then, he builds the absolute best car he knows how to make. The car has no outward religious aspect to it. You just really like it. This is how good Catholic writing is. It is not explicitly religious, but it speaks to the human condition. This is the influence of the good, the true, and the beautiful.

I'm not a good writer. People have told me I write well, but the truth is that my writing is very empty and without fulfillment. When I first read Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People" back in high school, it stayed with me until the present day. It is a story about a ridiculous atheist, but it still stays with me like no other story I have ever read. I wish I could write a story like that. That is what I want my writing to be. Everything I have written to this point in my life has been nothing but straw.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


Nike finally ditches Lance. You have to love Nike. They stand with their athletes right up to the point that they begin to tarnish the brand. Then, they drop them. Then, there is the gossip that Nike had a hand in all the doping including possibly buying off someone with a $500K "gift." I'm at the point where I have to wonder what Nike knew and when did they know it.

As far as I am concerned, the Lance story has ended. What needs to be addressed is the larger issue of doping in sports. Is it here to stay? Will people simply accept it? I don't think so. Doping ruins those sports that hew to that Greek tradition. I think sports will simply become more Roman. Right now, the Roman sports are football, NASCAR, and UFC. In short, ugly sports will prevail while refined sports will wither and die. Long live the spectacle!


Obama  touched his balls in that last debate, and basically told the country what it already knows. Mitt Romney is full of shit. What the O-man doesn't understand is that the country isn't voting to hire Mitt Romney. They are voting to fire Obama. That is a big difference.

I have a bet on this race with my wife, and it is based on the simple fact that the American public votes on economic matters more than anything else. In a lousy economy, a sitting president does not get a second term. It doesn't matter who his party is or who his opponent is. This is how Bill Clinton came from nowhere to defeat the elder George H.W. Bush to win the presidency. That economy was robust compared to this one.


Will the Kindle/iPad kill the novel? That is an interesting question. Clearly, the iPod killed the album. I doubt we will get another Dark Side of the Moon in the age of the mp3. Does a similar fate await the novel? I don't know.

I am a Kindle user, and I enjoy the device immensely. I actually prefer a physical book in my hand, but I mostly use the kindle for reading books that I can't get in physical form. Those books are either out of print or were never even considered for publication. Plus, it is sweet to be reading a book moments after purchase as opposed to waiting days for physical delivery. And my backpack is way lighter even with an entire library at my fingertips. But the medium does change the message. This is why television is so much different from motion pictures.

I don't think the novel will die. This is because stories are forever. They still make movies out of Shakespeare, so I think novels will go on. All of it is really how you combine and slice the product. For instance, the rock album was the product of the LP format for vinyl. An album was basically just a collection of songs, but people found that they often liked listening to an entire side of a record straight through. A new experience was born out of the technology. Prior to that, it was all about the song, and it is now back to the song.

Novels grew out of serialized stories in periodical publications. You see this sort of thing on episodic television where stories are extended over a season or longer. This is why television has gotten so good relative to movies. Stories are longer and richer on television. Likewise, Dickens and Dumas sprung from periodical literature in their day. At some point, the novel moved from the periodical to hold its own place as a stand alone product.

E-readers are more like periodicals than books because they can be published at will creating immediacy. I think you may see a return of the serial novel as writers craft their stories in real time instead of becoming virtual hermits for a year or more pounding away at the keys. Having that feedback makes the stories better in much the same way that the interactive feedback of blogging has made essays better. Say what you will, the internet has increased reading not decreased it.

The downside of tech products like e-readers is that it is tempting to jettison square meals in favor of candy. But this has always been a temptation of any medium. Dime store novels and paperback romances are examples of this. I have spent a lifetime hearing about the death of both the novel and rock and roll. Yet, they still keep on living. Long live the novel.


I recently had a conversation with a guy who believes in the prosperity gospel. The gist of this heresy is that Jesus died on the cross, so you could be able to buy a BMW. He told me about churches that automatically take tithes from paychecks electronically and the presence of ATMs in churches. I pointed out the teachings of Jesus about the rich, the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, the cleansing of moneychangers from the temple, etc. All of this was dismissed. Somehow, a crucified Christ cares that you get to live in a McMansion while others starve. It just amazes me how people can be so blind but call themselves Christians.

[SOC] Politics, Christian Democracy, Sweden, and Catholic Social Teaching

I get one question these days. Who are you going to vote for, Charlie? The answer to that one is a simple one. I am voting for no one. Naturally, people fill in the blank with "Mitt Romney." Apparently, words don't mean anything anymore.

My last ballot was cast for Ron Paul, and I would like to leave it that way. When you vote for an honest man, voting for slimebags makes you sick inside. Both Obama and Romney are slimebags. I can't vote for either, and I won't. I would rather my useless vote be forfeited than to have either one of those liars be able to claim they ever had my support.

I don't think voting or holding elected office really changes anything. Ron Paul's revolution has mostly been a moral revolution. Unfortunately, it has not extended beyond his committed base of supporters, and it probably won't. In Europe, Daniel Hannan has preached a similar message that has been disregarded. The reason things do not change is because of the moral temperament of the people. We live in an age where people want to live at the expense of others, and we will reap the calamity of that foolish proposition extended to an entire nation or continent.

My conversion to Catholicism has affected my political thinking since politics is naturally an extension of morality. As an atheist, I subscribed to a libertarian worldview because atheism for me was fundamentally about freedom. Most atheists tend to be progressives because they subscribe less to freedom and more towards materialist values and supposed enlightened minds able to reason perfectly. Catholicism finds a lot of problems in both libertarianism and progressivism.

There are a lot of libertarians who are also Catholic. The two most prominent ones that spring to mind would be Tom Woods and Judge Andrew Napolitano. But their viewpoints suggest more of a conservative than a libertarian worldview. Gary Johnson is an atheist libertarian, and this is reflected in his support of gay marriage and a pro-choice outlook on abortion. Neither Woods nor Napolitano support abortion rights and are pro-life. Ron Paul is also pro-life.

You can't be Catholic and libertarian. Those two worldviews are in opposition. This doesn't keep certain Catholics from claiming to be libertarian. But there libertarianism is quite distinct from the libertarianism of someone like Gary Johnson or the pot smoking crowd over at Reason or the atheistic flavor espoused by Ayn Rand and her devotees. The reason you can't be both libertarian and Catholic is because the fundamental cornerstone of libertarianism is individualism, and Catholicism rejects individualism.

Individualism stresses that it is the individual that is or should be sovereign. The individual is the cornerstone of society, and the individual should enjoy a minimum of interference from other individuals in matters of politics, religion, economics, and morality. This philosophy carried to its ultimate end was embodied in the person and work of Ayn Rand. The result of her philosophy was that she was a flagrant adulterer, a drug abuser, and held a disdain for anything resembling altruism. Even the characters in her novels are without children since rearing children or having a family requires a high degree of selflessness. If everyone lived in this way, life would literally be hell on earth. And no libertarian or Objectivist can be consistent in this individualism since the advance of liberty requires a high degree of selflessness and altruistic endeavor. This is reflected in Ron Paul who clearly is influenced more by Christian teaching than by Ayn Rand.

Catholics reject individualism, but they do not embrace collectivism either. This is something I learn repeatedly in my Catholic studies. The Catholic worldview is balanced between extremes. The individual has importance in the Catholic worldview because of the imago Dei. We are all made in the image of God. As such, even an unborn child has value in the eyes of the Church. The life of the unborn has greater value than the lifestyle of the mother of that child. Conversely, the value of a human life is dependent upon God. This is why Catholics and libertarians can find so much common ground because they both place a high degree of value on the individual. But Catholicism must reject the sovereignty of the individual. Only God is our true sovereign. As such, you can't be Catholic and libertarian because Catholicism rejects individualism.

There is freedom in Catholicism. Catholicism embraces free will. You have the freedom to do good and to do evil. What you don't have is the freedom to define what is good or evil. This was the serpent's lie to Eve in the garden. In knowing good and evil, she could become like God. No such thing happened. No freedom or happiness flowed from that disobedience. This is the frustration of the libertine. In doing what we want, we only want more in an endless cycle of dissatisfaction. This is the nature of concupiscence. It always wants more and is never satisfied.

This dissatisfaction is at full display in the United States. The USA is a land that has enjoyed unprecedented freedom and prosperity. It is also the most dissatisfied nation to ever exist with unprecedented rates of divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, suicide, and materialist consumerism. For a people who have so much, why are so many so miserable? The good life just isn't so good.

True freedom is the ability to do what is right and just. There are many ways to live, but there is only one right way to live. St. Augustine gets it right when he says that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. People explore an array of substitutes, but none of them are ever satisfying. Likewise, once Eve and Adam tasted of the forbidden fruit, they were barred from the Tree of Life. This story is replayed in our lives again and again. We can choose our way and and dissatisfaction, or we can choose God's way and life. But you can't have both.

I see the Western world headed for a collapse. This will be a social and economic collapse. This is not the calamity it would seem since such collapses are often what is needed for a reordering of the world back to its principles. This happened to the Soviet world, and things are better there for it. The right ordering of society requires a Judeo-Christian ethic.

There is no political party or group or individual here in America that perfectly represents or defends the Catholic political viewpoint. Often, Catholics divide over emphasis, so those most strongly against abortion side with Republicans while those most concerned for the poor side with Democrats. The result is that Catholics are divided on the issues so much that you now have two Catholic candidates on the two tickets defending things that Catholics find indefensible. This would be abortion, unjust war, and cuts to social spending while benefiting the rich with tax cuts.

Catholics do have an option in Europe under Christian Democracy. Christian Democracy is the mirror opposite of libertarianism. Libertarians are socially progressive and economically conservative. Christian Democrats are socially conservative and economically progressive. A libertarian will support your right to an abortion, but you have to pay for it yourself. A Christian Democrat will oppose abortion but will support a universal healthcare system that would provide for prenatal care. But like libertarianism, Christian Democracy is not a viable option in the American two party system. You can check out the CDU here.

If your morality is Christian, then your politics must also be Christian. Because the various parties have some chunk of truth in them and reflect some moral aspect of the Christian faith, many Christians especially Catholics find common cause with these people. The problem is that this common cause comes at the cost of compromise. This how you get a Joe Biden defending abortion while being personally opposed to it while Paul Ryan praises Ayn Rand. While libertarians are committed but insufficient in numbers to make a difference, Catholics are sufficient in numbers but insufficient in commitment to make a difference. And this is how evil triumphs.

If there is a weakness in the Christian Democratic worldview, it might be economics. How can you have a robust capitalist economy while also having a social safety net? Sweden seems to have answered that one. They have both, and coincidentally, this blend of social welfare and capitalism is the platform of the Christian Democrats in Sweden.

The problem with all the other political viewpoints is that they divorce themselves from the Christian worldview. Libertarians are correct on property rights, but they are incorrect on social responsibility. Progressives pursue social responsibility but at the expense of property rights. Conservatives defend traditional morality when it comes to your body but not your wallet. And government expenditure should be for the benefit of all and not just for some. Yet, this is where our current calamity will come from as everyone seeks to take but prefers not to give.

The reason I liked Ron Paul and still like Ron Paul is because of his frank honesty. He opposes war and abortion and bailouts to corporations. Catholics could find a lot to like in a libertarian like Ron Paul, but his libertarianism is contrary to Catholic Social Teaching. I am finding that it isn't so much the system that is malfunctioning so much as the morality or the lack of morality in that system. Greece has social welfare, and it is collapsing while Sweden and Germany are not. Both Sweden and Germany are governed or have been governed by Christian Democrats. Christian Democracy has not been as successful in Greece.

My thinking on all these things is evolving, and I may have gotten some facts wrong. But I am attempting to soothe the cognitive dissonance between my faith and my politics. What I can say is that the current two party system does not reflect the Catholic worldview, and Catholics need to stop compromising with it.

[SOC] Conversion, Anti-Catholicism, the Real Presence

It has been difficult to keep up my blog these days. The problem is that when you blog you are writing from a position of knowing what you are talking about. This would be the teaching mode. But I can't be in the teaching mode when I am heavily in the learning mode. This learning has been prompted by my conversion to the Roman Catholic Church. The conversion is causing me to rethink everything in my life.

I can keep writing these SOC posts because they are more like journal entries than essays. I have even toyed with just turning the C-blog into one continuous online daily journal. With an SOC post, I am writing from a position of not knowing and just chronicling the journey. They write themselves. The danger of writing these sorts of posts is that I might become too confessional which makes my wife cringe.

Why did I convert? The conventional wisdom is that my wife made me do it, but I think people drop this idea after meeting me and talking to me about this stuff. I am a bit too zealous to be a reluctant convert trying to appease his wife. My wife did not make me do anything. She merely opened a door on a world that I simply did not know existed.

The reason I did not know about this world is very simple. I was raised Protestant. This meant being taught lies about the Catholic Church that always colored my perception of Catholicism even as an atheist. I had never set foot in a Catholic church beyond taking a drunken friend from Belgium to my local parish to light a candle for a dead relative when I was 18 years old. I just didn't know.

The first and most fundamental lie that I got from Protestantism is that Catholicism is not from the Bible. If you attend a single mass, you will realize the absurdity of this claim. Baptists like to talk about Bible preaching, but they are merely long winded opinions from a preacher based on a single verse of the Bible. In the Catholic Church, the Bible is read. You get an Old Testament passage followed by a passage from the New Testament and a reading from the Gospel. These are not atomized passages. They seem pre-selected to make you squirm in your seat. The readings are powerful as the Word is read for what it is and not merely as some starting point for a personal religious rant. Catholics are Bible readers, and they are Bible Christians more so than any Baptist.

At this point, some will say that I am being less than charitable to the Protestants. I am being "negative." Most of this criticism comes from cradle Catholics who have no idea what goes on in a Protestant church. My wife was one of those people cautioning me to be more gentle and charitable to non-Catholics. Then, I took her to a Baptist church and a Presbyterian church to let her get an idea. She was upset at both services and felt physically ill. I thought she would like the Presbyterian church a little more than the Baptist church, but the Presbyterian service was even more upsetting because they served communion at that one. If you have spent a lifetime believing in the Real Presence, watching a bunch of people smack their lips on Wonder Bread and grape juice and calling it the body and blood of Christ is traumatic. I had to get her out of there, but we only succeeded in catching one of the elders carrying the leftovers of the communion to the garbage. It was like a horror movie. You know the blood and gore is just make believe, but it still disturbs you all the same.

Catholics believe that the wine and the host are the actual body and blood of Christ. This is why they genuflect before the altar. This is why they have eucharistic adoration. This is why they build magnificent cathedrals. If you want to cause anguish and pain in a Catholic church, drop a single crumb from a communion wafer and see what happens. They will literally eat it off the floor. And where do they get this idea from? From the Bible:

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.

60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?

62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?

63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.

65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

(John 6:53-69 KJV)

Jesus clearly teaches the Real Presence. If He were merely discussing juice and crackers, why were the disciples offended? Who peels off over a symbol? And wouldn't Jesus have corrected them? But He doesn't correct them. He really meant it. You must literally eat His body and drink His blood. This teaching was established by Jesus, affirmed by the first century church, continued all through history for over a thousand years, and still continues in both Catholic and Orthodox churches today which trace their lineage all the way back to the Apostles. This teaching was not questioned until the Protestant Reformation.

St. Paul does not mince words. Here is what he had to say about it:

27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

(1 Corinthians 11:27-29 KJV)

It is the actual body and blood of Christ. If you eat it unworthily, it will kill you. Fortunately, for Protestants, it really is just bread and grape juice. No change happens in their communion because if it did, they would have been wiped out long ago. I also don't think it is a coincidence that virtually all Protestants deny the Real Presence. This denial is actually mercy. When Protestants celebrate communion, it is like a kid with a toy steering wheel on his safety seat riding in the car. It is pretend, but it would be a disaster if we actually let the kid drive the car. Likewise, Christ is not present in any Protestant church. Protestants are pretending.

My Protestant readers may find all of this highly insulting, but I can't help this. This is the teaching of the Lord. It was as offensive to his original disciples as it is now. It was so offensive that they all turned away leaving just the twelve to carry on with Jesus.

The second lie that Protestants have promulgated since Luther is the idea that Catholics believe in justification by works alone. This simply isn't so. That is a fashionable lie. God can never be in anyone's debt. God owes us nothing. But here's the thing. God still rewards you as if you actually did work. The Parable of the Workers highlights this:

1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Matthew 20:1-16 KJV) 
This parable is important because it stresses two important truths simultaneously. The first is that we are called to work. Remember, the owner of the vineyard isn't just handing out cash to the idle. He wants work. But the reward is gracious. It isn't a quid pro quo. But what happens to those who don't work?

The Parable of the Wedding Feast has the answer:

2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,

3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.

5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:

6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.

7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.

9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.

10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:

12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

14 For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:2-14 KJV)

I like seeing both parables together because they end with the same refrain about many being called but few being chosen. In both parables, we see the grace being offered. But the insults to that grace are different. In the workers parable, the workers insult the grace by acting as if it is something earned and owed to them. In the wedding feast parable, the works insult the grace as if it is no value, and they owe nothing to the one extending the grace. Both are serious errors. And we see both today.

God does not operate by the game theory strategy known as "tit-for-tat." Jews in their scrupulosity are known for this sort of thinking. This would be the Pharisees in the time of Jesus but such thinking is not confined to a single religion or sect. God's grace is not given as someone pays a bill for services rendered. The worker parable is specifically for those types of people.

The wedding feast parable is primarily for Protestants. Protestants make the error in thinking that because grace is not earned that nothing is owed to God. Jesus is explicit in the parable. The man without wedding clothes is cast out. Evangelicals will make the argument that the wedding clothes are Christ's righteousness imputed, but this is an error. The wedding guest is not wearing the rags of his own filthy self-righteousness. He simply doesn't give a rip that he has been invited. He is there to freeload and be an ungrateful swine. If you want to see such ingratitude today, go to a typical evangelical church where there is zero reverence. Worship is turned into a rock concert, and churches are judged purely by how well they met the felt needs of the churchgoers. Religion is reduced to a consumer item. Preachers have to be entertaining and put on a good show.

These two errors are on the same continuum. The first error says that God owes me something. The second error says that I owe God nothing. You can see how both would be insulting to the Almighty. So, what is the right way to be?

Generally speaking, Catholics get it right. They believe God does not owe them, but they believe they owe God everything. This is a Church that will forgive the greatest of sins, but it will also excommunicate you. You will hear two things about the Catholic Church. It is simultaneously gracious but also severe. It is loving but tough. That is what God's grace looks like. You see this way of God relating to His people throughout the Old Testament and the New. God is not a tyrant, but He is not a doormat either. His forgiveness is gratuitous, but it is not cheap.

Not many people can discern this way of relating. They bring these errors into their human relations as well. This would be the husband-and-wife game of tit-for-tat where a sex favor is done in exchange for a shopping spree. Or, it could be the opposite where a son or daughter extracts mucho dinero from long suffering parents to pay for drugs and booze at State U Party School while on academic probation. Our human relationships and our relationship with God are intrinsically bound. Both are to be the same in terms of grace, forgiveness, and gratitude.

Theologians can make all of this very complicated with big words and philosophical concepts, but it doesn't have to be like that. Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Anyone who strives to do those two things is going to get it right. God owes you nothing. He has given you everything. Give Him everything in return. That is simple.

I suppose I have written enough now to get myself in trouble. I will stop here.