Charlie's Blog: October 2014

10.30.2014

The God of Indifference


And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. . .
JOHN 1:14 NAS

In a previous essay, I discussed the arguments of Aquinas for the existence of God in a very basic way. The essence of all those arguments is that nothing comes from nothing. Consequently, God must exist. These arguments are so ironclad and persuasive and supported by the evidence of science that atheism becomes impossible and irrational. But believing in a god of creation and believing in Jesus Christ are not the same thing. In fact, an entire movement of thinkers rejected Jesus Christ and His divinity in favor of a remote god who set the universe in motion and stepped out the backdoor. This is the god of the Freemasons, and the movement was known as the Enlightenment. It holds sway even today though people may not wish to acknowledge this. I would argue that this god of indifference is the current god of choice of the vast majority of humanity. A god who is indifferent to us is a god who can be ignored, and this is precisely what most people are doing today. They ignore God. He is to be used for convenience and discarded when inconvenient. Dr. Peter Kreeft wrote, "Most theists are deists most of the time, in practice if not in theory. They practice the absence of God instead of the presence of God."

Atheists have tried mightily over the last decade to make the case that there is no God. They have made some converts, but the vast majority of people have not taken the bait. These are not people who attend religious services each week and pray to God daily. These are actually the horde who sleep in on Sunday morning and never say grace before a meal. They practice no religion whatsoever. You would think that these people would be fertile ground for atheism, but they are not. The reason for this should be clear to the atheists because of the reason I pointed to in my previous essay. These people plainly see from what is created that God exists. They think atheism is stupid. This is the atmosphere and the conventional wisdom that reigned during the Enlightenment. Here is Ben Franklin,

My Parents had early given me religious Impressions, and brought me through my Childhood piously in the Dissenting Way. But I was scarce 15 when, after doubting by turns of several Points as I found them disputed in the different Books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some Books against Deism fell into my Hands; they were said to be the Substance of Sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an Effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them: For the Arguments of the Deists which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much Stronger than the Refutations. In short I soon became a thorough Deist.

Many of the Founding Fathers were deists and/or Freemasons. Ben Franklin, George Washington, and James Monroe were Freemasons. Thomas Jefferson was not a Freemason, but he was clearly a deist along with Thomas Paine. They would deny it, but Freemasons have a deist religion. God is reduced to an impersonal thing like mathematics or geometry. Other religions like Christianity or Islam can be appreciated for their affirmation of the teachings of "natural religion" but can be ignored when they claim miracles like the Incarnation or the Resurrection. This egalitarian attitude to religion is known as indifferentism. The real god of deism doesn't really care what your religion may be. But if it makes you a law abiding citizen, the deist is down with it.

Are the deists right? The answer is that they are half right and half wrong much like the Greeks and Romans that existed before Christ. When you read about Greco-Roman philosophy, you will notice that they are essentially proto-deists. Though they had polytheistic myths about Zeus and Saturn, behind these gods was an impersonal force governing them all. You can call this fate or what have you. The name they chose was logos. This is one of those packed Greek words deep in meaning, but we can see it as essentially the deist god. The logos was the ordering principle of the universe that even the gods had to obey. We can also call it reason.

St. John took on this doctrine of the logos in his Gospel in the first lines. We translate logos as "Word." So, St. John writes in John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Essentially, the logos was with God, and the logos was God. The deist can agree with this. It is when St. John goes on to say in verse 14, "The Word was flesh and dwelt among us," that the deist must step off the train into the land of disbelief. This is the doctrine of the Incarnation, and it is why a deist cannot be a Christian and vice versa.

Many deists try to be Christians but only in a philosophical sense. The Unitarians would be one such example, but their doctrines are virtually identical to liberals in mainline Protestant denominations and the apostate heretics that hide out in the Catholic Church. Jesus was just a good teacher and nothing more. This was essentially the view of Thomas Jefferson who was a deist and famously took a pair of scissors to the Bible to cut out the miraculous bits his deism could not tolerate leaving just the moral teachings. The problem with this viewpoint is that if Jesus was such a good teacher then why did all of His followers get the crazy wrongheaded idea that this man was God? Clearly, Judaism did not teach this and would even kill those who believed such a heresy. The Romans were no different as they were just as eager to kill Christians and stamp out their cult as the Jews were. If Jesus taught such an idea to His followers and it is obvious that He did, either He was correct, or He was a diabolical insane madman akin to Charles Manson.


The deist either by declaration or default must reckon with this aspect of Jesus Christ. Was He merely a man who believed He was God? Or, was He actually God? All we have to go on is the testimony of those who followed Him. Either they were insane like their teacher, or they told the truth willing to be tortured and murdered rather than recant. None ever did. Had they done so, we would never have heard the end of it since both Jews and Romans would have seized upon the admission. The fact is that you can get someone to lie and admit that the world is flat before they would suffer the fate of those Christians. But their persistence in holding to such an outlandish lie strains credulity. Here is St. Peter on the matter,
For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 
2 Peter 1:16-18 NAS

St. Peter is plain on the matter. It is doubtful that his sect was the first one to make such outlandish claims in his day. Cults proliferated then much as they do today. You would think that this made people gullible, but it had the opposite effect as it made people very skeptical. This was what lead Gamaliel to give the following advice in Acts 5,

But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
ACTS 5:33-39 NAS 
Basically, Gamaliel says you can ignore these guys. If they are fools, their foolishness will die out. But if they are the real deal, you will fail and find yourself defying God Himself. He could say this because they had already seen all the other would be messiahs. And I doubt any of them claimed divinity. Yet, a group of men claimed divinity for a man who had already been executed. They claimed that this guy rose from the dead after said execution and then split to return to Heaven. Finally, the only thing they could offer you in the world was to be tortured, maimed, and murdered in a variety of ways. And if you doubted this fate, the fact that the followers of Jesus had already suffered the fate of their master would do a lot to quell those doubts. In essence, they asked people to believe and die with them. That is not what we call a winning message. Jesus may have been a good or bad teacher. He may have been divine or divinely insane. But He was a terrible marketer. This is the worst message you could ever deliver to people unless it was the absolute truth. People believed it such that this cult ended up consuming the very empire that aimed to destroy the new religion.

The incarnation and divinity of Christ is an issue of faith. It can't be proven anymore than I can prove that Abraham Lincoln caught a bullet in Ford's Theater. We take people's word on it. For all we know, it could be made up, but this implies a reason to make it up. We might as well doubt the reports in Scientific American. I don't see how those followers of Christ could make up such a story and then die for it in the way they did if it wasn't true.

The Incarnation matters because it ends any belief in a god of indifference. God is not indifferent. He didn't step out the backdoor after making the universe. He actually came and dwelt among humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. He still continues to dwell among humanity in the Eucharist and in the person of the Holy Spirit. Those who lived before Christ can be excused for their ignorance, but those after Christ cannot make the same claim to ignorance. Deism is an infantile reaction to a revelation that people would have preferred not to have received. Deism is a preference for the god of indifference.

Why would anyone prefer the god of indifference over Jesus Christ? The obvious answer is that it allows humanity to be indifferent to God. If God doesn't care, then people are free to return the favor with a clear conscience. Where the atheist would say that God isn't there at all, the deist simply wants God to be there long enough to make it all make sense and then get out of the way. Like Jefferson, they want to keep the bits they like and discard the bits they don't like. This accurately sums up the conventional religious sensibility in America today as people assemble their own religion from their intuition and whatever bits they care to steal from established religions. Thomas Jefferson would be the finest example of this religious schizophrenia as he writes about humanity being endowed with certain inalienable rights between sex sessions with his slave woman Sally Hemings. This country has practically deified a man who was a hypocrite at best but more likely a self-deluded monster who never proposed a doctrine that he himself did not violate. The best that Jefferson's admirers can say about the man is that he was "complicated."

We can condemn Jefferson for his hypocrisy, but his viewpoints are essentially the default viewpoint of most people living today who believe in God while ignoring Him. We must give credit to the atheist for at least having a solid reason for not following God. The practical deist is something else because he or she is someone who should know better but chooses to be ingnorant. Willful ignorance is more damnable than accidental ignorance. Not knowing and not wanting to know are two entirely different things.

The practical deism of today is better known as nominalism. People are nominal Christians. They may have been baptized in a church and reared in a faith, but they toss it away until they have children of their own. Then, they send their children for religious instruction while they stay at home. They want their children to be the good Christians that they can't be. This is disgusting.

Deism is simply a hybrid of religion and atheism. It gives you all the certainty that comes with believing in a deity including a moral claim on others while letting yourself off the hook for any of those moral claims. It is having the cake and eating it, too. The worst part of it all is that these nominalist/deist types believe they are going to Heaven when they die. At least the atheist faces the expected abyss with a stoic sensibility. There is something to admire in that. But how can we admire an evil person who believes in their own goodness? This is the ultimate self-delusion.

Nominalism is practical deism. People claim to believe in God and then ignore Him. I see it all the time. It is why no one talks about religion in polite company. This is why both the atheist and the evangelical Christian are the ones you leave off the invitation list to the cocktail party. They have the nasty habit of bringing up the topic which is better left undiscussed. Then, there is that religious relative who you can count on to say grace at the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but who is an embarrassment to you and the family. They can't be described as "religious" without adding "nut" to the word. This is because the nominalist thinks themselves religious but in the non-nutty sense which is to say that it makes no practical difference in their daily lives.

I don't know of any way to argue against this nominalism except by striving to live in a superior way. Nominalists are not lacking in belief so much as vigor. They are the lukewarm alluded to in Revelation 3:16 who God promises to spew out of His mouth. It seems God prefers our love or our hatred to our indifference. As my priest told me once, "Virulent atheism means you are close." When people are on the road to conversion, they will fight it at first resisting it with anger. God can work with that. Indifference is something God does not work with. The nominalist makes a truce with God agreeing to not bother with God as long as God does not bother with the nominalist. Surprisingly, God abides by this truce. People have free will, and this includes ignoring God. God may also bless this person with wealth and success, but this blessing is really a curse as the nominalist slides into oblivion. Many souls are saved by perfect disasters that rouse them from their indifference. Calamity has prevented many catastrophes. I hope calamity finds you before its too late.


10.27.2014

Sloth


There are a lot of things I wish I would have done, instead of just sitting around and complaining about having a boring life.
KURT COBAIN

Sloth is equated with laziness, but laziness is not the thing itself but merely the symptom. Sloth is more akin to depression. Sloth is a loss of hope in life which gives itself to a loss of energy. This loss of energy lends itself to sleeping all day and feeling sorry for itself. Sloth can also communicate itself as boredom, ennui, torpor, and just plain grouchiness. The indulgence of sloth ends ultimately in the attempt of self-annihilation that we know as suicide.

The other day I was reflecting on the music of the Strokes. The Strokes come from New York City, and their music has a certain nervous energy to it. Other bands from New York have a similar sound and energy whether it is the Ramones or Television. I like to contrast these bands with the Seattle grunge bands of the 1990's like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana. The New York bands sound happy while the Seattle bands sound gloomy. The takeaway is that people in New York are too busy to be depressed.

The easiest cure for sloth is to get busy and stay busy. But this quick cure treats the symptom instead of the disease. The disease of sloth is fundamentally a loss of hope. Life under the sun is really not worth living. As Shakespeare put it in Macbeth, "It is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,. Signifying nothing." Life is like a cruel joke. Once life is reduced to futility and repetition, sloth becomes the default setting. Suicide becomes a temptation because it ends the endless monotonous soul sucking boredom.

I do not recommend suicide to anyone. Suicide merely makes the gloom a permanent condition of being. It is an escape into a worse fate. Hell for the slothful is this life without the hope of escape. The suicidal person is ultimately an atheist hoping that nothing exists beyond this world. Sleep is just the dress rehearsal for this final escape.

The ultimate antidote to sloth is the hope found in Jesus Christ. When I was an atheist, I spent years in hopelessness. I was able to counteract sloth by a heavy dose of work and ceaseless activity. One of the reasons this blog came into being was to keep me busy when I could not find work to do because I had maxed out my hours on the job. I replaced sloth with workaholism which is actually a form of gluttony. Since becoming Catholic, I have been "blessed" with more work than I could ever want. This is because the needs of the Church and the poor are unceasing. I now divide my days into paid work and free work. But I find a certain joy in all of it because I know that even a bad day at work can be offered up to the Lord.

Protestantism and the doctrine of justification by faith alone lend themselves to sloth because your works and sufferings now become meaningless under sola fide. Futility becomes the handmaiden to sloth, and I remember being just as depressed as a Calvinist as I was as an atheist. God does not work in this way. He has no need for our works, but He invites us all to share in the labor for our sake. As a Protestant, I lived in sloth. As a Catholic, I live each day in activity for my Lord. My work really counts for something, and this something is not just a paycheck. As St. Paul put it in Philippians 2:12, ". . .work out your salvation. . ." This is how treasure is built in Heaven. It is done by our activities in this life. Between prayer, Church attendance, work, and works of mercy, there is no lack for things to do towards the working out of your salvation.

Christians are not immune from sloth. Those given to sloth are long on excuses and short on actual work. They would rather complain instead of doing something. Even in the most hopeless of situations, you can still work at your prayers. This is because what may be hopeless for us is never hopeless for God. The slothful actually work really hard at being hopeless. Where you may offer solutions, they can always tell you why those solutions will never work. The primary reason most solutions don't work is because they are left untried by those who cling to hopelessness.

I learned an important lesson from survivalist Bear Grylls. If you ever find yourself lost in the wilderness, the temptation is to stay put and wait for a rescue. But this is almost always a mistake. He says you should keep moving even if you make mistakes along the way. The advice seems to indicate that movement will improve the odds of getting back to civilization, but I think it is primarily to boost flagging spirits and keep hope alive. I remember reading about Christopher McCandless in Into the Wild who starved to death in the Alaskan wilderness. The irony was that he was 22 miles from a road where he could have gotten help from a passing motorist. This was a day's hike. I suspect that McCandless died as much from sloth as starvation. The lesson is to keep moving if you want to live. The problem is when you have stopped wanting to live.

True hope leads to work. When you believe in God and in His goodness, you get busy. Even if you can't always see what you are hoping for, you should keep moving in that direction even if you make mistakes. Work in itself cures a lot of ills, but even the most hopeful Christian will give in to despair when they sit idle. Idleness leads to boredom, and boredom leads to depression. Depression leads to death. The cure is to pray and work. Ora et labora!


10.25.2014

Lust


You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
MATTHEW 5:27-30 NAS

Lust is perhaps the most favorite of the deadly sins. At one time, the pornography industry generated more revenue than Hollywood. Now that the internet makes pornography free and ubiquitous, the porn industry has fallen on hard times. The pornographers undoubtedly yearn for the good ol' days when folks like Jerry Falwell made porn hard to get but lucrative. Lust seems like something natural, but it is a destructive sin causing more heartbreak and impoverished children than any other sin.

I was struck by this while watching a YouTube video of a fellow giving his reasons for getting a vasectomy at a young age despite not having children. He showed children sleeping on the streets in Bangkok. Clearly, all children have a father at conception, but they tend to disappear after that. This vasectomized man strikes me as an atheist, but I can agree with his point that sex has consequences that affect others than just yourself.


The whole point of a man getting a vasectomy is to enjoy the satisfaction of his lust without any of the consequences. The sad thing is that he has also cut off the joy that fatherhood can bring when it is pursued in the context of holy matrimony. But this arrangement requires chastity, fidelity, and responsibility. Men are not interested in these things today. Sadly, many women don't seem interested in them either.

Talk of unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and ruined relationships ending in break up and divorce don't really get to the heart of the matter with lust. When we think of lust, we think primarily of the body, but lust does its greatest damage to the soul. Even someone who is outwardly chaste can be consumed by lust and be even more depraved than a womanizer. This would be the vile person who indulges in child pornography. Lust is not just a physical depravity but also a mental and spiritual depravity.

Lust is essentially the reduction of another person in either thought or deed to being merely an object of pleasure. In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus not only affirms the Mosaic teaching on adultery but increases it to include lustful thoughts. The strong words about cutting off the right hand or putting out your eye seems directed especially at the masturbator and the peeping tom. People who view pornography may think they are in the clear because their crime is "victimless," but they are causing their own souls to be cast into Hell. Much of the shame on Judgment Day will come when the secret vices of people are brought into the light.

I was conversing with an adulterer not long ago, and we were talking about adultery and lust. He tried to make the case that men have needs that have to be gratified. I asked him what he would do if he had just a crust of bread between him and his daughter, and they were starving. "I would give her the bread and do without," he said. My response was this. If you can do without food that you need to survive for the sake of your daughter, why can't you do without sex on the side for her sake and the sake of her mother? That was the end of the conversation.

Chastity is seen today as the perversion while perversion is now seen as normal and healthy. Any restriction placed on this is held as being virtually criminal. To be celibate is to be a deviant in the mindset of modernism. We have Sigmund Freud to thank for this as his teachings on repression have led people to believe that sexual restraint leads to pathology. If you don't indulge those passions, they will build up inside of you like a pressure cooker until they explode. This idea is an error.

Lust grows with indulgence. It is like a fire that must be constantly fed to remain alight. Pardon me for being graphic here, but porn stars take viagra in order to be able to perform. Their bodies cannot keep pace with their lust. Greater levels of depravity must be attained to experience the thrill in much the same way heroin addicts take larger and larger doses until they overdose and die. Inevitably, the person with lust ends up in the forbidden zone of murder. This would be the Marquis de Sade, Jack the Ripper, and Ted Bundy.

"I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence just like me. And without exception, without question, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography."--TED BUNDY

Lust seeks to consume, devour, and dispose of the other person. At some point, sex is left in the rearview mirror as murder becomes the more thrilling element. People who indulge in lust and porn will deny this, but why does porn become so violent? Why is there ultimately bondage, sadism, and rape scenarios? This is the dark path.

Not everyone who indulges their lust become serial killers. This is because murder is against the law. But in their hearts, those who burn with lust seek to deface the image of God in others. They can't kill or destroy, so they settle for humiliation and degradation. On the flip side, many of the people suffering the degradation find some perverse pleasure in it enjoying the humiliation of being tied up and whipped. This is because they seek to deface the image of God in themselves.


                                                                                                                                                                    Lust can also be present in a marriage. You, Gentle Reader, may be apoplectic at this moment at such an idea. But marriage is not some open field of indulgence where every perversion and whim can be explored and satisfied. Sad to say, this notion is popular among many Protestants who equate a marriage license with a hunting license where it is fine to shoot a duck or deer within season and not over a baited field. But marriage should be based on love and respect and not recreation or perversion. A husband who humiliates his wife in the bedroom is no different and can even be worse than the man who visits a prostitute. And the sad thing is that many wives feel compelled to compete with their husbands' porn addictions and indulge his depraved inclinations. This is a grievous sin.

It is also well known that the Catholic Church does not allow artificial birth control. Many myths have popped up over this as if the Church is somehow only interested in getting converts through birth. But this misses the big picture entirely. As Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote in Humanae Vitae,
It is a love which is total — that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.
Artificial birth control allows for the dehumanization of the wife as she is now turned from a mother into a sex machine meant to serve the pleasures of the husband whenever and wherever. This is evil. Critics will say that Natural Family Planning is no different than artifical borth control, but it is different. NFP requires communication and discipline and restraint where artifical birth control makes the wife available 24/7. Conversely, artificial means of fertility such as in vitro fertilization and the like turns women into mere breeders valued only for what they can produce sort of like a farm animal. A wife is neither a cow nor a whore. Yet, modern contraception and fertility make both possible.

There are also avenues of lust that are utterly forbidden in any context. The most popular at this moment would be those with same sex attraction. The Catechism states that homosexual inclinations are inherently disordered. My personal opinion is that homosexuality is the perversion of that love known as friendship. In this context, both heterosexuals and homosexuals deal with the same temptations. Extramarital relations of any type are disordered. They run contrary to God's plan.

I also must add a note on the importance of modesty. We live in a culture today where dress leaves little to the imagination. To dress provocatively is sinful. We would condemn someone who wore a confederate flag shirt to a civil rights march, but we seem to not apply the same logic when women wear skimpy clothes in public places. As one woman put it bluntly, "Don't advertise what you're not selling."


Modesty is not meant to demean or degrade women like some Islamist burka. Instead, modesty elevates a woman and gives her a dignified place of honor and respect. By practicing modesty, women live in imitation of the Blessed Mother who was modest and chaste. This should also be a spur to men to treat all women with the same respect they give to the Mother of God.

My own thinking has changed considerably on this as I embrace more fully the teachings of chivalry. It is popular to think that chivalry is dead, but it isn't dead for me. Chivalry is what turned sword wielding rapist barbarians into the knights that fought for a lady's honor. It sickens me to see how men treat women today. As one fellow put it, "I'll start treating them like ladies when they start acting like ladies." Naturally, this came from the mouth of a despicable person who thought of women as nothing more than creatures that existed for the satisfaction of his lust. I wonder if he would feel the same way if his mother or sisters were treated this way.

I treat all women with the same respect that is due to the Blessed Mother. This would include the streetwalking prostitute. Just like doing unto the poor is doing unto Jesus Himself, how you treat women is how you treat the Virgin Mary. All men will be held to account for this. This is the essence of chivalry. It is sad that so many Protestants have demoted Mary to some minor character in the Bible because they end up doing the same to all women by extension. The honor and respect that feminists seek is found in this Marian ideal, but they would have to be Christian and Catholic to claim it. But you only have to be a woman to get that respect from me. Mary undid what Eve did. By her, salvation came into the world. Venerate the Blessed Mother, and your lust will be tamed. Your conscience will burn in you when you look with lust at some woman. You will see in all women a reflection of the Queen of Heaven, and you will honor them because you love the Mother of our Savior.

10.18.2014

Love of This Life


Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
JOHN 12:24-26 NASB

. . .Demas has deserted me for love of this life. . .
2 TIMOTHY 4:10

Television is a strange thing. On one channel, we have home shopping while on another channel men brave the frigid and churning waters of the Bering Sea in peril to their lives, so they can put crab on the tables of diners and food on their families' tables. We have the evening news reporting ebola epidemics, wars, police corruption, and other terrible things interspersed with commercials for hemorrhoid ointment and prescription remedies for restless leg syndrome. But perhaps the biggest irony of television is the one channel where some prosperity gospel evangelist preaches about victorious Christian living with the sincerest smile that cosmetic surgery and dentistry can create while on EWTN and CNN we see Christians in Iraq crucified by ISIS for the faith. One group of believers is captured in a heretical fantasy world of big houses and buffet dinners while the other group of believers literally die on the cross.

The world is not a good place. Even when you have the good life, it is not so good as we see even rich and famous people opting for divorce, drug abuse, and suicide. True Christians and suicidal people have one thing in common. They have both given up on finding happiness in this life. The difference is that the suicidal have no hope at all while the true Christian has the hope of eternal life in Christ Jesus and perseveres in that hope with the patience of Christ. The fool is the one who seeks the good life in this present world thinking this will bring happiness. The sad thing is that many of these foolish people claim to read the Bible and believe a false gospel that is not contained in that Bible. They believe that Jesus died on the cross to give them a big house and a fancy car and gaudy rings for their fingers. Where do they get this idea?

Life is suffering. You can either lie to yourself and try to pretend it away. Or, you can accept it and despair and slit your wrists. Or, you can find the meaning and purpose in that suffering which will lead you inevitably to Christ and His cross. The simple fact is that people have an insatiable appetite for a thing that does not exist in this world. Happiness is not possible in this world. If it were, no one would ever want Heaven.

The Bible is replete with this message. Page after page from Old Testament to New Testament, the message is given again and again in various ways. We are pilgrims on a journey to a promised land that is not a piece of real estate but Heaven. We have Job suffering but not knowing why. We have the writer of Ecclesiastes living the good life of this world and despairing of the emptiness it cannot fill. We have Abraham given a promise that he did not live to see. We have Moses who dies before ever entering the Promised Land of Israel. And every single person in the Bible is a failure and a sinner except Jesus and His mother. No one is really hopeful until after the Resurrection. Then, life gets really bad for those who believe in God. But they don't care. They hate this life anyway.

ST. BARTHOLOMEW: Definitely not a lover of this life.

I like to contemplate St. Bartholomew who was one of the twelve apostles. Tradition states that he was martyred for his faith. They skinned the man alive. He is now honored with statues showing him holding his own skin. I am reminded of that line from Flannery O'Connor when she wrote,  "She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." St. Bartholomew didn't get a quick death. Neither did the other martyrs who were crucified, fed to wild animals, disemboweled, roasted alive, and on and on. St. Paul probably had it the easiest because as a Roman citizen he was given the privilege of just being beheaded though it probably took a couple of whacks to separate his head from his body. Yet, his life was pretty rough up to that point.
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
 2 Corintians 11:24-27 NASB

Paul did not have a Rolex or a McMansion or a BMW. Yet, somehow he suffered all of these things, so some TV evangelist can live in a $10 million mansion.


The Good News of Jesus Christ is not that you can have a leopard skin rug for your marble floor. Such things make a mockery of Our Lord and Savior who lacked even a simple home during His life. Jesus could have come as anyone in this world, but he came as a humble carpenter. And does Jesus expect us to live the same way as He did? Yes!

If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.
JOHN 15:19-20 NASB
The Prosperity Gospel is a false gospel. Its evil is twofold. The first is that it encourages people to put their focus on the things of this world and the love of this life instead of on Christ and His kingdom. The second is that it makes believers who are suffering despair because they can't understand why God hasn't blessed them with material comforts. Christ does not give His followers an easy life. He gives them a cross, and He expects us to carry it. But we can take comfort in the fact that He suffered as we suffer, and He will never abandon us in our trials and tribulations.

What about the material comforts of this world? Is it wrong to enjoy the good things in this world? The answer to this question is found in the Gospels. Jesus drank wine, ate food, stayed in the homes of His followers, and obviously enjoyed comforts during His time. But He held them in their proper place as we should as well. These comforts are refreshment and relief on the journey. I liken them to the cups of water they hand out at road races.


No one enters a marathon for the cups of water and the bananas and bagels at the aid stations. One enters a race to run hard towards the finish line. This involves suffering and endurance and a trial of one's fitness. Likewise, the Christian life is the same way. Our lives should be lived as service and penance. Our sufferings are offered up along with our joys. When seen in the proper light, you see that the poor and the suffering of this world are more blessed than the rich and the prosperous. Those with easy lives are averse to suffering, so it is a greater sacrifice to give those things up. This is why the disciples felt despair and sorrow for the rich young man who turned away fom following Jesus when Jesus told him to sell all he had. It is easy to sell all you have when you don't own anything.

Material things are just rest and refreshment for the race of this life. We are material beings, so we will need material things to keep body and soul together in this life. But we are also spiritual beings needing what really matters in life. In the choice between body and soul, the soul should always take precedence. Jesus says in Matthew 10:28, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Your body will die. Your soul is the only eternal thing you have. Focusing on the body to the exclusion of the soul is like paying for nice rims and a custom paint job on a rented car.

The life lived in the acquisition of material things is a wasted life. Jesus says this in His parable of the rich fool,

The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, "What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?" Then he said, "This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.'  But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?"  So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
LUKE 12:16-20 NASB
Your soul is more important than your possessions. You don't have to die and go to Heaven to realize this. I don't know of any rich people who are happy. The closest is Warren Buffett who seems to derive more pleasure from his work than from his wealth and directs his philanthropic giving towards Planned Parenthood in the belief that it would be better if children were not born into this miserable world. Naturally, he's an agnostic, and every quote I have read from him indicates his belief that he was just a lucky man born into a world where most people are unlucky. His wealth has been generated almost entirely as a consequence of pessimism and frugality. I wouldn't call that happiness.

I would envy the rich if they were truly happy. But they aren't happy, so I don't care. Someone asked John D. Rockerfeller how much money was enough. Rockerfeller replied, "Just a little bit more." Evil is never satisfied, so it always wants more. Happiness is having everything you want. Since people are always wanting, they are never happy. The Buddhists recognize this which is why they seek to extinguish all desire, but this, too, is a desire which is why happiness eludes them as well. Happiness is found only in Heaven. The only people you should envy are the saints who enjoy the Beatific Vision forever.

To become a saint is to carry that cross. This is not a popular message. The crucifix is the symbol most associated with Catholic Christianity. It is stark, real, confrontational, and uncomforting.


Protestant Christianity jettisoned the crucifix in favor of the empty cross. Some Protestants will make the argument that the empty cross is meant to symbolize the Resurrection and the victory of Jesus over death. But this is nonsense. The real reason Protestantism embraced the empty cross was to soften the message of Jesus and make it less confrontational and demanding in accordance with Protestant theology. The empty cross makes it abstract and removed from our lives. The result is that the cross of Christ now has the same impact as a mathematical symbol on a calculator.


Prosperity gospel Christians take it one step further by removing the cross entirely and substituting something even more banal like an upward pointing arrow or other geometric object. This is more the cult of Pythagoras than Christianity.


The Bible is atomized and reduced to a collection of platitudes to adorn porcelain figurines and posters. The Christian religion is turned into a philosophy of positive thinking and materialism. This is heresy. Here's a quotation that would make a great poster:

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:3-10 NASB

I still cannot understand how anyone could derive the prosperity gospel from the words of Jesus or any of the apostles. There is ignorance, and then there is gymnastic ignorance which turns flips and somersaults over the truth in order to embrace error. If you read the Bible looking merely for the nuggets that tickle your itching ears, you are one of those people who can turn off the entire front portion of your brain and ignore the blatantly obvious. In short, you are brain damaged.

Prosperity gospel people should not call themselves Christians. I predict that day will come. I like to call them "Prospetarians." The fact that one of these Prospetarians could write and publish an entire book without even mentioning God shows that the trend in the godless direction is underway.

How does one hate this life? The answer is obvious. Be content with what is necessary and give the rest to those who have nothing. As Proverbs 19:17, "One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed." We should pursue eternal rewards in opposition to mere temporal rewards. This is what it means for a grain of wheat to die and go into the earth bearing much fruit. This is simply a metaphor for not being selfish but being selfless. The fruit that is born from this death is the fruit of the Spirit and the impact we make on others with our lives. Here are the things we can do to die to ourselves:

1. Be content with having what you need.

You shouldn't want anything more than the things you need to live and function in this life. You will immediately realize how little is really necessary, and it also cures covetousness and envy. If you are alive and reading this, God has already provided for you. You can complain that God has not provided when you are dead.

2. Practice corporal mortification.

These are the practices you do to voluntarily learn to do without. For instance, you can skip lunch, and then give the money you would have spent on steak and martinis to a homeless shelter or Food for the Poor. While your stomach is growling, offer it up to God as a sacrifice. Anytime you suffer some discomfort even voluntary discomfort, it can be offered up to the Lord. It also has the added benefit of helping us to be more self-disciplined. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27, "I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway." Corporal mortification is exercise for the soul.

3. Pray for others.

Intercessory prayer always has one great benefit to ourselves. It makes us forget ourselves and think about others. Even the most incapable person can pray for others. Those who are poor and handicapped think they have nothing to give, yet they can give their suffering and prayers on behalf of others. Anyone can be a saint and that includes those confined to wheelchairs and hospital beds.

4. Give alms.

If you are rich, give it to those who have nothing. It is my personal belief that God blesses the wealthy to see what they will do with the wealth, and it saddens me when they just give it to Planned Parenthood or to build an administrative building at a university with their name plastered on the side. But no matter how much you give, give with joy and give it anonymously if you can. Let it be your gift to the Lord.

5. Practice the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy.

Corporal
To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To ransom the captive;
To bury the dead.

Spiritual
To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.

True prosperity is prosperity of the soul. It matters less that you are rich than that you are generous of heart, gentle, forgiving, forebearing, merciful, wise, and joyful. This is the abundant life Jesus is talking about. These are the truly good things, and Jesus wants to give these things to you. When you have these things, you will feel more joy than a thousand Lamborghinis can ever give you. These things are rare because hearts are hard. But if you can break up the hard soil of your soul, God can put these seeds in the ground of your being and produce an abundant harvest of goodness. He can make a saint of you, and this should be our truest and highest ambition.

I have been blessed in my life. Some of the greatest blessings I have ever received in life are the things that God never gave me. I was not born rich, and I have never been rich. This means I have never been spoiled. I see things differently now. What I considered a curse I now consider a blessing. It is easy to be humble when you were born in the dirt. From my youngest age, I had an emptiness that God allowed in me so that one day He could fill it with Himself. And I am fond of saying, "It doesn't matter where you start but where you finish." My hope for myself and for all of you is that the finish will be Heaven.

10.13.2014

Pride


How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!
ISAIAH 14:12 NAS

Pride is considered the deadliest of the sins. It was the primary sin as the Fall began when Satan declared to God that he would not serve. Everyone else ratifies the decision when they also declare that they will not serve. This would be the vast majority of the human race.

There are many definitions of pride, but I prefer this definition. Pride is to be blind to who you really are. Pride is essentially a self-delusion. I know this because of a proud person that I know. He is vain in many ways, yet it doesn't keep him from making a complete ass out of himself. The reality is that we are all mirrors of Christ. Some mirrors reflect better than others while other mirrors have some dirt on them. Pride is when the mirror is pointed entirely away from Christ. It doesn't matter how clean or dirty the mirror may be. The mirror is only beautiful when it reflects Christ. Satan may have been the son of the dawn, but he is now just an evil son of a bitch.

We have no goodness of our own but must derive it entirely from Christ. We live in a time of self-improvement and navel gazing. Our eyes are always on ourselves. We always seek our own magnificence. And all of it is vanity and futility.


The Cult of Self-Improvement is basically about doing two things. The first is making lots of money. The second is looking good while making it. This is Pride, and the end result of all this pride is that all of these people end up looking like silly clowns. This is not true self-improvement. This is self-worship. Vanity is the path to being utterly ridiculous.

True self-improvement comes when we try to become the best version of ourselves. We achieve this when we become more like Christ. The saints give us examples of this transformation. This is the path of humility. People don't like humility. This is because it involves debasement and humiliation. The ironic thing about being humble is that it restores our dignity. Jesus gives this parable about the paradoxical nature of humility:
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them,  “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
LUKE 14:7-11 NAS
Humility is the way to go. You can't lose. I remember watching a video with Bill Gates where he admitted that he wore a $10 wristwatch. Now, I know guys who spend considerable dollars to have fancy looking watches that give off an air of sophistication and status. But Bill Gates with his cheap plastic watch is still the richest man in the world. The fact that he wore something cheap made me actually admire the guy.

Humility is not the quality of hating yourself so much as forgetting yourself. If you focus on being humble, even that can become a vanity.  This is why we shouldn't let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Basically, we should just do good, and the only introspection we should have should be a daily examination of conscience. When we look in the mirror of ourselves, we should focus on cleaning away everything that does not reflect the image of Christ.

In my own life, I confess to being proud and arrogant. I remember as a proud atheist being invited to attend a musical event at a local evangelical church. I went to mock it, but I left chastened. These church going rubes were idiots as far as I was concerned. But they were sincere in their faith. I could have chosen to be a complete jerk at that moment, but I didn't. I remember one of the congregants gave me a pin with a red button glued to it. He called it a "blood of Jesus" pin. I thought it was stupid, but I put it on. I don't know why, but I wore it. I still have it today. It means a great deal to me. I was still an atheist when I left that place, but I could not be a proud atheist. I had mocked religious people before, but I couldn't do it anymore. It was evil, and I knew it. To repay evil for good is always a sin no matter what religion or lack of religion you follow.

I am on the other side now, and I remember being mocked pretty severely by my former atheist allies. I took a lot of abuse, but it only made me ask myself one question. Was I like these ugly people who now insult me? The answer is yes. I was one of those people ugly in their pride. I remember going to atheist meetings, and they seemed joined in nothing more common than making sport of the religious. One fellow would smirk in his "brilliance," and all I could reflect on was his polyamorous wife who would follow her atheist ethics to sleep with whomever she chose. For a smart group of people, they now look very dumb to me.

If you want to look foolish, be proud. Pride and folly go hand in hand. But if you want true wisdom and true greatness, be as humble as the dust. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and I know this to be very true. My own conversion to Catholicism would come as I admired someone very humble. God loves the humble and lavishes on them His greatest gifts. As for the proud, they are frustrated and humiliated at every turn. They triumph for a season but end in everlasting defeat. Pride is death. Humble yourself.


10.11.2014

Wrath

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'

 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
MATTHEW 5:21-22 NAS

There is a scene in The Silence of Lambs where Hannibal Lecter played by Sir Anthony Hopkins bludgeons a guard to death with the guard's baton. He has this fierce look on his face as he commits the act. Then, he savors what he has done as he listens to the classical music playing in his cage. He would go on and eviscerate the man and display the corpse in an angel pose.


Hannibal Lecter is one of the most memorable and notorious movie villains of all time. He captures the imagination because we find it hard to fathom his reasons for committing these acts of atrocity. Unlike some run of the mill sociopath, there seems to be a morality and justice to Lecter's madness which makes it even scarier. In some way, all of Lecter's victims deserve what is coming to them. Lecter is a mixture of justice and savagery. He is reason and insanity. He is a lover of beauty and barbarity. Yet, despite his complexities, Lecter is motivated by the most common of impulses. Lecter is motivated by wrath.

Wrath is the most complicated of the deadly sins. This is because it springs from a sense of justice. To hear a man say he would like to kill another man is to make us think poorly of him. To hear a man say that he would like to kill a child killer makes us think differently of him. This difference is what made the Dexter TV series so compelling and even fiendish as the audience ends up rooting for a serial killer to not get caught. This is because the killer murdered other killers. We excuse the killer when we see him serving our sense of justice. But is this right? Should we delight in any person's destruction even if that person is evil?

There is a difference between mere anger and wrath. Anger is not a sin. It is a natural and reasonable response to evil. Jesus became angry. The most memorable of those times was when he cleansed the temple of the moneychangers who had turned God's house into a den of thieves. Wrath is a different thing from anger. Wrath wishes to destroy the other person. Wrath wants to murder. But before it murders, it wants to torture and torment and inflict great pain. After the murder, it eviscerates and mutilates. Wrath delights in the destruction of others.

Most people are not able to give full vent to their wrath. This is because murder is illegal. So, they opt to murder people's character. Or, they will enact other forms of revenge such as using the system to destroy that person's life such as getting them fired from a job or having them incarcerated. This is why power is so seductive because it gives us power over our enemies. But even the powerless fall prey to wrath as they contemplate and savor what they would do if only they could wrap their hands around the throats of those who do them wrong. Whether potent or impotent, wrath works on the soul and destroys it. This is because wrath makes the person like the wrongdoer or even worse.

We can tell the difference between anger and wrath when someone we love does wrong and when someone we hate does wrong. When our loved ones wrong us, we are disappointed. We may even express that disappointment. When our enemies wrong us, we just want them to pay and pay in some violent way. But we are not commanded to hate. We are to love others, and this includes those who wrong us. You don't have to like them or like the things they do. But love is to wish the good of the other. Wrath wishes the destruction of the other.

We are called to be merciful. We are not allowed revenge. As Romans 12:19 puts it, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,' says the Lord." Wrath usually comes when we think justice is denied and non-existent. In a world without justice, we seek to create our own justice. But this comes from a lack of faith in God and a lack of patience in His ways. It also comes from a hatred of His mercy. But God is perfect in both mercy and justice. We should want mercy for all people. This is because God is merciful to us. We should be forgiving in light of the forgiveness God extends to us. But we should also pause and contemplate the fate of those who reject God's mercy. That alone should put the fear in us. Hell is a terrible place, and the torments there are beyond our imagination.


Hell is a frightening concept, and some universalist theologians would like to do away with it. But Hell is a real place. The Bible and Jesus Himself leave no doubt of Hell's existence. Jesus says in Matthew 13:49-50, "So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Jesus mentions Hell more times than any other figure in the Bible. He repeatedly warns people to repent and not go there.

I think people should meditate on Hell on a frequent basis. Think of the worst person you know. That person could be living or dead. It could be a figure from your own life or a colossal villain from history. Think of their crimes and great evil. Then, think of what these crimes deserve in terms of punishment. Use your imagination. Then, shudder as you realize that the worst thing you can imagine comes nowhere close to what Hell is like. When you do this properly, you should feel great sorrow for these people. Hell is the antidote to wrath. Hell restores to us a love for those who do us wrong.

Some people may wish to claim that God is unjust for sending people to Hell. But no one is in Hell except by their own choosing. That is the sad part of it all. God abounds in mercy, but those in Hell rejected this mercy. They chose to do evil and also chose to not ask for forgiveness for their sins. In addition, they also could not forgive those who had wronged them. Finally, no one in Hell is punished more than he or she deserves. The punishments of Hell will fit the crimes.

The reason we should let God have vengeance is because God is good at it. We are not good at it. Even the best of human justice is a joke. Serial killers and mass murderers can only pay once with their lives. Their fate will often be more humane than what they inflicted on their victims. Finally, an execution only hastens what will befall us all. Everyone will pay with their lives. And to make it even more absurd, innocents are punished while guilty ones go free. This is was what happened at the Crucifixion of Jesus as God Himself was executed while a criminal was let off.

The best that human justice can ever be is a restraint and a warning. Human justice merely keeps evil in check. It does not correct it or avenge it. The main reason people go to jail is to keep them away from us and to keep us way from them and their evil. Beyond this, there is no justice in this world. But there is mercy.

We are called and commanded to love our enemies. We are to love those who hate us and do good to them. This is because mercy achieves what justice does not. Mercy is redemption. When you turn your cheek to your enemy, you are giving them the opportunity to repent and do good. To refrain from hitting you twice is an act of goodness and represents the first step towards repentance. If you really want to get back at your enemies, do good things for them. Sometimes, the only good thing you can do for people is to pray for them. But this is enough. By doing good, we do not become like our enemies. Conversely, by doing good, we give our enemies the opportunity to become more like us.

This is the essence of the Atonement. By consenting to death on the Cross, God turned the other cheek to us. Likewise, this great act of forbearance and charity is played out again and again in the lives of those who follow Jesus and suffer persecution and martyrdom for His sake. This is the beguiling nature of love. It shows us our own blackened hearts and moves us to repent.

There are those who are beyond the reach of charity. When someone's soul is so dark that even charity will not move them, they are lost. This is spiritual death. Acts of charity directed towards them only drives them further into the darkness. Either way, the wheat is separated from the chaff. Those who respond favorably to God's love will continue in that love and bear fruit in themselves. Those who reject God's love will respond unfavorably and will reject it. This will lead to darkening hearts. Sometimes, the most charitable acts you can do for people is to pray for them and just let them be.

Marcus Aurelius said, "The best revenge is to not to be like your enemy." Just as we invite people to become like us when we perform charitable deeds for them, those people wish that we would become like them when they do evil to us. This is essentially what Satan wished to do to God and explains his perpetual war against Heaven. It is madness, but madness has its reasons even if they make no sense. This was how Emperor Palpatine worked in the Star Wars movies. He invited Luke to strike him down and give in to the anger. Evil actively provokes others to come and destroy it. This is how it spreads. This is because evil knows that it can take you down with it. Evil wants to be destroyed, but it does not want to be destroyed alone.


Palpatine knew that wrath was a path to the dark side. Once you want to destroy a bad person like himself, it is only a small step to wanting to destroy good people after that. But wrath consumes itself. Wrath is never happy. It is never satisfied. Once the fires of wrath flame out, they are replaced by a coldness. Hot blooded killers grow to become cold blooded killers. This is where monsters are born.

Hannibal Lecter is a fictional monster, but his creator Thomas Harris would eventually give a reason for the creation of this enigma. As a child, Lecter suffered atrocities during World War II in Lithuania as he and his sister were victimized by monstrous men. They would kill his sister and feast on her. To make it even more profane, they forced Lecter to eat his own sister. Hannibal would go on to get revenge on those men but not without becoming exactly like them. His complexity was born from simple wrath and the desire for revenge.

Wrath is my besetting sin. There are two reasons for this. The first is that I was an atheist for a long time, so you get used to the idea that there is no God, no justice, and no Hell. I was fond of saying, "There is no justice, but the justice you make." This was my desire for revenge.

The second reason for my wrath is that I am someone who has suffered wrong. I can forgive those who have wronged me, and I pray for them. It brings healing to my soul to do this. But those people can never ask for my forgiveness or even give a simple apology. As such, they now destroy themselves in their misery. They can only repay evil for good, and I can only pity them. May God have mercy on their souls.

I don't want to become a monster. People ask me why I stopped being an atheist, and that is the most honest answer that I can give. I gave in to the evil and let it consume me for a decade. Then, God was good to me, and I was stricken in my conscience. I think I was hoping for Him to give me the final beatdown, so I could feel justified in hating Him forever. Everyone else had to get in their lick on me, so I was waiting for God to take His turn. It didn't happen like that. To be a monster is to hate God, and I can't hate God. If you can't hate God, you can't hate those He loves, and God loves everyone.

I still have a small glowing ember of wrath in me, and it is my hope that by writing this that I can root it out. I take all that I suffered and continue to suffer and put it in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is my hope that all of that wrath will be consumed in the burning fire of His holy love.

O my Most Loving and Gentle Jesus, I desire with all the affections of my heart, that all beings should praise Thee, honor Thee and glorify Thee eternally for that sacred wound wherewith Thy divine side was rent. I deposit, enclose, conceal in that wound and in that opening in Thy Heart, my heart and all my feelings, thoughts, desires, intentions and all the faculties of my soul. I entreat Thee, by the precious Blood and Water that flowed from Thy Most Loving Heart, to take entire possession of me, that Thou may guide me in all things. Consume me in the burning fire of thy holy Love, so that I may be so absorbed and transformed into Thee that I may no longer be but one with Thee.

Amen.

10.09.2014

Envy


Years from now, when I'm successful and happy, ...and he's in prison... I hope I'm not too mature to gloat.
BILL WATTERSON

When Cain stuck it to Abel, I have pondered one question. Was Cain happy when the murder was done? For some reason, I think he was as miserable or more after the act than he was before. The reason Cain murdered his brother is obvious. He was consumed with envy. God found favor with the fruit of Abel's labor while he did not find favor with Cain's. We don't know why God favored one over the other. Some have said that Abel offered a blood sacrifice while Cain did not. I don't know. What I do know is that Cain did not look at his own sacrifice and tend to his own affairs in the matter. Instead, he took his brother and made a sacrifice of him. He doubled down on his error and committed a worst crime. This is the way sin goes. It compounds like usury. Envy is usually the precursor to the other deadly sins of pride, wrath, lust, and the rest.

What causes envy? At its most basic level, envy comes from looking over the fence at your neighbor. One of the things people have noticed about the social network known as Facebook is that it seems to provoke envy. Facebook envy is a real phenomenon because people put their lives on display which invites people to make comparisons with their own lives. This is where envy begins. It starts with that comparison. Most people are quite happy with their lives when they are ignorant of other people's lives. I think most envy could be cured by simply minding your own business. A good place to start would be unplugging from Facebook.


The simple facts of life are that some people are better off than you and some are worse off than you. The envious person is always surprised to discover that others envy them. This is because the envious are miserable and cannot see the good things in their lives. That others would see good things in their lives is disorienting. This is because the nature of envy is to always make you feel deprived even when you have something. Gore Vidal put it best when he said, "It is not enough merely to win; others must lose." Envy can only be happy when all others are miserable. Since God is good to everyone, envy is always miserable and will always be miserable. It always wants and desires the suffering and misery of others. Envy believes that it deserves the good while everyone else deserves the bad. But Carrie Fisher was apt when she said, "Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." Envy never attains what it desires.

It is not wrong to desire the good things other people have. For instance, I desire the wisdom of Solomon. But it is one thing to wish for wisdom and another thing to wish that Solomon was an idiot. Envy thinks only in terms of the zero sum game where every other person's good fortune automatically makes bad fortune for someone else. Conversely, envy gloats at the misfortunes of others and wills those misfortunes. Envy will make claims to "justice." Somehow or another, the envious person is more deserving than the other person. God owes the envious person more than the others. But God does not deal with us on the basis of what we deserve. What we deserve is Hell. What God does give is mercy. He lets His sun shine on good and evil. He pays the last worker the same as the first worker. God is generous. Envy hates generosity.

If minding one's own business is an antidote to envy, another antidote is to look at ourselves and realize what we truly deserve. I know that I am a sinner and undeserving of any good thing God has given me. You would think this realization would make me feel bad, but it makes me feel better. It makes me grateful for what He gives me. I am a blessed person. The person who has been forgiven much loves much. This doesn't mean you should go out and be the worst sinner you can be so you can experience more forgiveness. It simply means being more self-aware of your own sins.

Another antidote to envy is to know a good thing from a bad thing. People confuse happiness with good feelings instead of good being. When I think about this, I imagine a lavish banquet attended by aristocratic snobs enjoying their status and their pleasures while denigrating their lowly servants. The envious person imagines these people as happy, but the virtuous person sees them as the most miserable of wretches. This is because these people lack good things. They lack the virtues. They lack self-awareness. They lack God.


People can't see the misery of these outwardly happy people. They only see people living the "good life." But the good life is not a good life. You merely have to put the difference between the fortunate and the unfortunate in starker terms to see what I am getting at.


I love Nazi propaganda posters because it offers this starkness. Germans living under the Third Reich will make some claim to victimhood as if they lived under the oppression of a power mad dictator, but this is revisionist history. The reality is that they loved Hitler and enjoyed life under his rule. They had the good life except there was nothing good in this good life. They were pleasantly deluded so they opt for an alternative delusion than deal with their consciences. To see their delusion is to remedy envy because you see how pathetic they are in their ignorance. While reading The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, I was blown away at how the man felt sorry for his slave masters. He actually pitied the men who owned him and beat him. Those evil men were debased in their lack of humanity. Douglass saw this because he was able to see with the eyes of God.

There is no worse calamity than to lose one's soul. We should never envy the good fortune of the wicked because it is no more than the gluttony of a cow headed to a slaughterhouse. When you see this, you start to hate good fortune because of its delusional effects. You also start to see the good in adversity because it produces self-awareness and an appreciation for reality. You have to ask yourself a question. Is it better to be good and poor? Or, is it better to be rich and evil? I remember when I asked a friend of mine if he would rather be rich or happy. I laughed when he said, "That's easy. I'd rather be rich."

When you see a virtuous person, there is a sort of envy there as well in the sense that you desire the same things they have. The difference is that you can admire the good in others while trying to cultivate it in yourself. This is why reading about saints and martyrs makes us want to be like them. We celebrate these good men and women, and we venerate them. That is the heart of charity. It always seeks the good both for others and for ourselves. Envy hates the good in others. It gloats in their misfortunes and calumniates the good at every turn. Envy believes that making others appear bad will make it look good. But envy only makes itself look worse and more pathetic. This is the sign of contradiction. Every story of every saint has this sign of contradiction. Great virtue always provokes great hatred. Slander is the homage that envy pays to the good.

The only truly good things in life are the virtues which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Here is a list of these virtues in case you have forgotten them or don't know them:

Fortitude
Temperance
Prudence
Justice
Faith
Hope
Love

God wants us to have all of these good things and deprives no one of these good things. If we seek these virtues and avail ourselves of the means of grace, they will be ours. God said to Cain in Genesis 4:6, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?" God did not deprive Cain of happiness or the means to attain happiness. Being happy only requires repentance and the return to doing right. But Cain chose murder instead of repentance. It is a ridiculous notion to think that killing someone else will improve yourself. But we do exactly this when we gossip and slander others. We seek to murder them. We seek their injury and their harm. We want to take pleasure in their suffering and misfortune.

Envy is ultimately a hatred of God. It is ingratitude for all that God has given us. It is saying to God, "This is all you have to give me?!" It is seeing the flaw in the mouth of the gift horse. This would be the Israelites who ungrateful for their liberation from slavery complained to God incessantly in the desert. Ungrateful to the end, an entire generation died and was buried in that desert including Moses himself. The lesson from this is that by being ungrateful for what we have now is to forfeit the good things still to come. God is generous to His children, but He never spoils them. He would rather see us deprived and grateful than blessed and ungrateful.

The last part about envy is that it is cured when we wish for the good of others. The opposite of envy is charity. A good way to cultivate charity is to pray for others and do corporal works of mercy. And this should not be done as a way of bargaining with God. God can never be indebted to you. You should be charitable in the same way that an apple tree grows apples. God's nature is infinitely self-giving. God gives and loves not because of some need in Himself but as a consequence of His benevolent nature. We should be the same way. We do not improve ourselves when we destroy others. We improve ourselves when we help others.

I look into my own soul, and I ask myself if I am envious of others. Envy is low on my list of faults but mainly because wrath takes the top spot. My lack of envy springs more from my indifference to others than from charity. You have to care about what people have in order to envy them, and I am mostly apathetic. But I know that I should genuinely want the good of all others. I want everyone to be happy. I want everyone to be a saint. I want everyone to go to Heaven. A big step in that direction is to rid ourselves of envy and to put on the garments of charity. You can be envious, or you can be happy. But you can't be both.