Sunday, April 27, 2014

Let's talk conflict

If you tell me you truly believe that 2 + 2 = 5, I will tell you I truly believe you are wrong.  If you persist in believing this equation to be true, I'll probably continue to hang out with you and go to the movies with you and be your friend.  You'll just be wrong about math and I probably won't want you to be in charge of teaching it to any children.  I'll be sad about your incorrect math skills.  But life would go on and at no point would we hate each other over this disagreement.

That's a simplistic view of conflict over deeply held beliefs that does not end in fear and hatred.  I'm not sure why we can't apply it to other things.  For instance, I believe abortion is wrong.  The act itself is intrinsically evil, which means it can never be justified.  However, this does not mean I hate women.  It does not mean I hate women who have had an abortion.  Identifying something as a sin should not actually lead to hate and fear of the person.  As we're called to bring Jesus to people and Jesus came to save sinners (like us), we should continue to love these people.  This brings about the "hate the sin and love the sinner" catchphrase that is often thrown around but oftentimes not understood or put into practice.  

Of course, some might argue the analogy to math isn't valid as we know math to be true.  Some would argue we don't know that about God and morals.  I'm an engineer, I like math.  I trust math.  However, I believe in God more than I believe in math.  "Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but 'the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives'"  (Catechism of the Catholic Church 157, quoting St Aquinas).  The analogy is valid for a believer.

Now let's go back to the math.  Let's say you were trying to write laws that allowed the teaching of your 2 + 2 = 5 equation.  I would oppose your laws.  I don't think it will bring good order to society to teach such things.  I'll probably invest money in the campaigns against your campaign and put a sign out in my yard.  However, this still would not prevent me from hanging out with you, assuming we could remain civil.  It is always harder to remain civil with politics, but that would be a goal.

So when there are laws in favor of abortion, I must also oppose them.  Naturally if I believe in God and think He's opposed to such actions, I wouldn't want to support laws that allow them.  I'd want to invest in campaigns that are opposed to these laws and hopefully participate in educating people as to why abortion is wrong while providing other alternatives.  Again, this does not mean I hate women.  It does not mean I hate women who have had an abortion.  I don't sit around at night wondering how I can make life harder for another woman while laughing maniacally.  

When the Catholic Church or others identify behaviors as sinful and when they fight policies that promote sinful actions, they are not also hating on their opponents.  In fact, in many cases you'll find these churches have ministries to reach out and assist the very people they supposedly "hate."  No doubt there are some groups and people who truly hate other individual people, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say they're doing it wrong.

Does this setup cause conflict?  Yes.  In the math example, the other "side" clearly believes they are right.  In the conversations we have with others and the battles we must wage politically, the opposing "side" believes just as heartily as we they are indeed correct.  Disagreement is inevitable.  But let's get over the idea we have to hate each other, personally, in the process.  "Remember who the real enemy is."  For Christians, that enemy is satan.  It is okay to hate him.  But everyone else is called to a life with God, even if they don't know that, and we should remember it and treat them accordingly.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Buffet of Devotions

I am acting as a sponsor for a candidate in RCIA.  She'll be joining the church in just a few days, and it truly has been wonderful helping her through this process.  A few weeks ago she pulled me aside with a question.  Apparently, we had failed to explain all the devotions that we talk about (Rosary, Stations of the Cross, Adoration) are optional.  She was feeling a bit overwhelmed and wanted to know what to do!  We ended up coming up with an analogy that helps explain all these great things we have available as Catholics.  It is like we have a buffet of devotions!  You have to take a tray and a plate and silverware, which could represent Jesus and the Sacraments. But then you get to pick from the huge variety of devotions the people of the Church have developed over 2000 years.  They are all wonderful of course, but different people may enjoy different ones.  And that's okay!  We have the blessing of having many options with which to explore and deepen our faith.

When was the last time you checked out something Catholic other than Sunday Mass and Sacraments?  There's a short little article here that might give you some ideas and explains some of the more common ones.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Growth through Suffering

If you want to become stronger, you have to lift heavier things.  I know this from CrossFit.  The workouts aren't easy and people can't understand why I volunteer for such suffering, but I see tremendous improvement in all areas since I started.  I'm stronger, faster, and have more endurance.  

We often pray for patience or humility or something else along the lines of becoming better people.  We want God to reach down and turn us into a better version of ourselves.  He can, of course, do that, and does in many ways.  Prayer, the sacraments, and other devotions are used to form us.  But sometimes, we grow through suffering.  When I have to fight myself to be patient with someone, I'm becoming a more patient person.  It is a lot like lifting weights.  Every time I suffer through something difficult, I become a better person.  That doesn't sound awesome though.  At CrossFit when I suffer, I can see the results immediately.  I get a much hotter body and feel much better about myself.  Generic suffering otherwise just seems so… painful.  It is difficult to remember that suffering has a purpose and that God can (and does) use it for good in us.

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~James 1:2-4

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~Rom 5:3-5

This of course makes perfect sense as I write this blog, but nobody likes suffering and it is hard to keep it in mind when I'm suffering or when others are!