Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Relativism Part Two: the Mess We've Made

In my last post, Moral Relativism and the Dawn of Insanity, I discussed what moral relativism is and how I believe it came to be so widely accepted in our society.  I also touched on what happens when you follow relativism to its logical end.  The result is nothing less than a complete and utter breakdown of logic and reason.  This is because relativism takes objective morality and replaces it with one's feelings.  It levels the field of decision making so that all choices are equal.  On the surface this looks like a great idea; it looks like freedom and fairness with a big red bow.  But try to argue for or against anything once you've made your case for this and you'd have an easier time trying to nail Jell-O® to the wall than make a moral argument.  

In this post, I want to take a look at some of the manifestations of relativism in our society.  As I said in my last post, I believe the root cause of the prevalence of relativism today is the sexual revolution.  This becomes quite clear when we look at some of the major ways it has played out in society and our culture.  

Widespread use of birth control and legalized abortion

Image credit:

Last time, I shared this reference to Peter Kreeft's A Refutation of Moral Relativism, but I think it's worth sharing again, especially for anyone who might be reading this post separately:

"Obviously, the strongest and most attractive of the passions is sexual passion.  It is therefore also the most addictive and the most blinding.  So, there could hardly be a more powerful undermining of our moral knowledge and our moral life than the sexual revolution.  Already, the demand for sexual freedom has overridden one of nature's strongest instincts: motherhood.  A million mothers a year in America alone pay hired killers, who are called healer or physicians, to kill their own unborn daughters and sons.  How could this happen? Only because abortion is driven by sexual motives.  For abortion is backup birth control, and birth control is the demand to have sex without having babies.  If the stork brought babies, there'd be no Planned Parenthood."

Both the use of birth control and the legalization of abortion are considered justified by the right to bodily autonomy and so-called "reproductive freedom."  What we are actually saying with these ridiculous notions is that we somehow have the right to engage in the act specifically intended to create babies without creating babies.  The total lack of logic in that should slap you in the face.  How dare we demand such a thing?  That's like saying I demand to go swimming without getting wet.  Whatever you believe about birth control or abortion, nobody can deny that the purpose of sex is procreation.  What's worse, as Kreeft points out, one of the strongest instincts we have is to reproduce.  In an effort to satisfy our urges without inconveniencing ourselves with unwanted children we are literally defying nature and our very existence.  Take a look at this article which announced recently that Italy is officially dying as a country.  There are more deaths every year now than births.  They aren't alone either.  Japan is in the same boat, and right here in the United States, Maine officially had more deaths than births as detailed back in May 2013.  We are  contracepting and aborting ourselves out of existence like lemmings running off a cliff.  

All self-interest aside, abortion is the murder of a human being.  There's a lot more to be said against abortion, and  I'll cover it much more thoroughly in the future.  But for now, the point I want to make is something that is so objectively wrong is now considered acceptable in our society.  The only way this is possible is if we reject the objective truth that all human beings have the right to life and declare that everything is relative.  Moral relativism requires us to put aside the most fundamental right we have: life.  Why and for what?  So we can do as we please with no consequences?  Since when does anyone consider that moral?  And if unborn babies don't have a right to life then who does?  Where is the line drawn and who chooses?  If it's morally acceptable to kill a baby immediately before it's born then why not immediately after or six months after?  If all human beings do not have the inalienable right to life, then nobody does.  This is the tangled web of relativism.  This is what happens when we set aside the objective truth that all human beings have the right to life and replace it with the idea that we only have the right to life when someone else decides they feel like letting us live.

Dissolution of marriage, the family, and sexuality in general

This topic is undoubtedly a live wire as well, but it needs to be addressed.  Marriage and the family are hanging by a thread in our country.  And why wouldn't they be when our society has decided to base all its decisions on feelings?  We only stay in a marriage so long as our feelings toward our spouse stay the same.  We only bring the children we've created into the world if we feel like we want to and we're ready.  Because we have made the mental separation between sex and procreation, we no longer recognize marriage as the unique union between a man and a woman or that the conjugal act should be reserved for marriage for the purpose of creating families. We have even gone so far as to declare that biological sex and gender are two different and independent things and the latter is based on how we feel.  

Feelings are fleeting and transient.  They are unpredictable and cannot be the basis for decision making.  Mothers of babies with colic actually confess to wanting to throw their babies out the window after hours of endless crying.  Catch your spouse in the act of infidelity and you may well find yourself experiencing feelings of homicidal rage.  People who stand on the side of a bridge contemplating ending their lives feel as though their lives are hopeless and without meaning and that the best solution is to end it.  Yet in all of these instances we encourage people to work past those feelings.  We tell them it will get better and they won't always feel this way.

Enter the deranged world of relativism and we should be telling those mothers to fling open their windows and send those babies flying.  After all, who are we to judge them and how they feel?  You can't tell that woman she is obligated to endure this suffering for the sake of her child.  How dare you suggest that she should put her own needs and feelings aside?  Stop pushing your morality on her!  While we're at it, grab the nearest lethal weapon and have at it with that no good dirty cheating bastard!  Don't worry, we know better than to judge you and your feelings.  Your life seems like it's over?  Hey man, I don't want to tell you how to feel, go for it.

In these examples, it sounds silly doesn't it?  It sounds completely insane and that's because it is.  The problem arises when we think there is a difference between the examples I posed above and walking out on your spouse because you're tired of their nonsense or encouraging a boy to dress and act like a girl because he said he feels like a girl.  This is madness;  this is relativism.  Ask yourself why you would tell a mother on the brink of a breakdown to go take a hot bath while you watch the baby, but your friend tells you he feels like a woman on the inside and you would encourage him to start dressing the part and look into surgery.  We now encourage people to mutilate their bodies beyond recognition because of how they feel.  

When did we lose our collective minds?  How did we come to decide that certain feelings can and should change and others can't and shouldn't?  Who wrote the criteria for this?  Because some people are born that way?  Scientists tell us that alcoholics are born that way.  Shall we tell them to drink up, they can't help it?  If science tells us pedophiles are born that way shall we decide that's okay too?  Love is love!  That's different you say?  Why, because it involves children?  But we've already decided that children can declare themselves homosexual, transexual, transgender, intersex and whatever other permutations they've come up with in the last five minutes.  If they can decide these things why can't they be in love with an adult?  Indeed, how many cases have we seen over the years when children were in sexual relationships with adults and declared that it was completely consensual?

If marriage isn't the unique and permanent union between a man and a woman then what is it?  The complementarity of man and woman is what makes marriage unique - throw that out and you throw the whole lot out.  Marriage becomes meaningless and undergoes the same endless permutations of sexuality and for the same reason.  Man-man, woman-woman, man-two women, man-woman-cow...what difference does it make?  It's just an arrangement.  Consider what Peter Kreeft said in regard to divorce, again from his Refutation of Moral Relativism:

"Divorce is a second example of the power of the sexual revolution to undermine basic moral principles.  Suppose there were some other practice, not connected with sex, which had these three documentable results.  First, betraying the person you claim to love the most, the person you had pledged your life to, betraying your solemn promise to her or him.  Second, thereby abusing the children you had procreated and promised to protect, scarring their souls more infinitely than anything else except direct violent physical abuse, and making it far more difficult for them ever to attain happy lives or marriages.  And thirdly, thereby harming, undermining, and perhaps destroying your society's future.  Would not such a practice be universally condemned?  Yet, that is exactly what divorce is, and it is universally accepted.  Betrayal is universally condemned unless it is sexual.  Justice, honestly, not doing other harms-these moral principles are affirmed, unless they interfere with sex."

He has hit the proverbial nail on the head.  We have placed ourselves in a bottomless moral quagmire.  Because we decided that the primary purpose of sex is pleasure rather than procreation we have opened Pandora's box.  What's worse is that we don't want the genie back in the bottle.  Even with all the evidence piling up in one huge festering heap that this has done endless damage to our society and humanity in general, we're not willing to give up our free sex.  We continue to allow the consequences to unravel like red-faced toddlers insisting on having our way, consequences be damned.  


These things are hard to talk about.  We live in a society where political correctness has run rampant and a country which once prided itself on freedom of expression is choked with an endless list of things you can't say and opinions you can't hold.  But  I'm hoping to make people see that when we turn away from objective morality it all falls apart.  Moral relativism pulls the rug out from under us and sends us down the quintessential slippery slope.  It demands that we contradict ourselves and our own logic (used very loosely) while we pick and choose what sounds good and acceptable to us today.  All the while we have removed the guardrail and are about to hurl ourselves off a cliff.  Again I ask, why and for what?  I'll tell you why.  We have removed the true source of joy from our lives: God.  Not only are God's laws written on our hearts, but we naturally seek and long for Him.  There is a place in us where only He fits and when we try to fill it with anything else we are endlessly frustrated.  We try more and more but to no avail.  As St. Thomas Aquinas said:

"Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures."

It's not too late to put the genie back in the bottle, friends.  It's not too late to return to God and return to reason.  I invite everyone to visit this website to find out more about the Catholic Faith and always feel free to ask questions.  I'll leave you with this, and until next time, may God bless you:

"The security we all need as a presupposition of our freedom and dignity cannot ultimately be derived from technical systems of control.  It can come only from the moral strength of man, and where this is lacking or insufficient, the power man has will be transformed more and more into a power of destruction...the attempt, carried to extremes, to shape human affairs to the total exclusion of God leads us more and more to the brink of the abyss, toward the utter annihilation of man.  We must therefore reverse the axiom of the Enlightenment and say: Even the one who does not succeed in finding the path to accepting the existence of God ought nevertheless to try to live and to direct his life veluti si Deus daretur, as if God did indeed exist."  -  Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Moral Relativism and the Dawn of Insanity

We have arrived at the dawn of a new era.  Many loud voices declare this is an age of equality and justice and enlightenment.  "Out with the old ways and in with the new!", they say.  But if you listen closely, you will hear a few faint voices under the roar.  Those few are the voice of reason trying to drown out the roar of madness.  That madness has a name: moral relativism.

Moral relativism is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.

Now I imagine many of you nodded in agreement with what you just read.  It's the song we're all used to singing along with these days like the Seven Dwarves whistling off to work.  We're so accustomed to singing it we realize neither what we're saying nor its implications.


Let's take a stroll through history, shall we?  After all, the best way to understand the present state of things is to take a look at how they got that way in the first place.

Moral relativism is not a new concept by any means, but its widespread acceptance is, if you'll pardon the term, relatively new.  It has reared its ugly head before, but has typically been thwarted by a world that understood morality must be clearly defined and has a source greater than man.  Behold:

"Everything that I have said and done in these last years is relativism, by intuition.  From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.  If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism."

Care to venture a guess who in history said that?  Time's up.  That quote is from none other than Benito Mussolini.  Now if you're a little rusty on your world history you can read up on this swell guy here, but if you're short on time let's point out the two words in that quote which should give you pause: 'enforce' and 'fascism.'  Here he is below; you might recognize the man on the right as well.

"Hitlermusso2 edit". Via Wikipedia

Thankfully today we still live in a world where (most) people find the actions of Mussolini and friends to be deplorable.  Yet what he said then is so in tune with the logic we use to justify innumerable behaviors in our society today, behaviors which were considered immoral and unacceptable not so very long ago.  In fact, if you adhere to moral relativism as your standard for judging whether an action is right or wrong, you actually do not have a logical leg to stand on in order to condemn such events as the Holocaust.  We'll get to that in just a minute.  First let's figure out how we went from defenders of all that is good in the world to a society of apathetic self-worshipers.

Enter the sexual revolution.  Everything I've read, watched, listened to, or pondered since returning to the Church has led me to believe that many of the evils we face today have their roots here.  Now you don't have to be a math genius to figure out that I didn't live through the sexual revolution, so if any of you reading this did, feel free to add your two cents in the comments.  I certainly grew up in the aftermath of it, though, and any decent study of contemporary American history shows us that something definitely went horribly wrong.

Indeed, how could it not?  When you take such a profoundly meaningful and, dare I say, spiritual experience which makes the people involved tremendously vulnerable and turn it into nothing more than the satisfaction of a physical urge you turn people into things, a means to an end.  I can think of another concept in history that did that : slavery.  Now I can debate the evils that resulted from the sexual revolution every day of the week and twice on Sundays, but for the purposes of this discussion, the point I want to make is this:  at this point in history we decided to set aside traditional objective morality for the idea that what is right is whatever feels good.  Let me leave you with this before we move on:

"Obviously, the strongest and most attractive of the passions is sexual passion.  It is therefore also the most addictive and the most blinding.  So, there could hardly be a more powerful undermining of our moral knowledge and our moral life than the sexual revolution.  Already, the demand for sexual freedom has overridden  one of nature's strongest instincts: motherhood.  A million mothers a year in America alone pay hired killers, who are called healers or physicians, to kill their own unborn daughters and sons.  How could this happen?  Only because abortion is driven by sexual motives.  For abortion is backup birth control, and birth control is the demand to have sex without having babies.  If the stork brought babies, there'd be no Planned Parenthood."  Peter Kreeft: "A Refutation of Moral Relativism"

The Logical End of Relativism

What happens when we follow relativism to its logical end?  Someone once told me that my faith gives me all the purpose and meaning and black and white lines I need.  In a way, he's right except for the fact that he means I believe in it for the purpose of obtaining these things.  I believe in my faith because it's true.  I know it in my heart as well as my mind and many writers far greater than I'll ever be have proven a thousand times over the logical arguments for the faith.  That all goes far beyond the scope of this post, but the irony of my friend's statement is this:  we all need purpose and meaning and these things can never be found in the realm of relativism.

Let's start with what relativism rejects: absolute truth.  Relativism rejects the idea that there is such a thing as objective morality-a definitive set of rules that we all should live by.  The Church teaches us that the laws of God are written on our hearts.  We recognize that morality and human rights do not come from man but from God.  We also declare that human beings are all beloved children of God, made in His image and as such possess inherent dignity.  From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone..." - CCC #356

"Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for 'from one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth.'" - CCC #360

"This law of human solidarity and charity, without excluding the rich variety of persons, cultures, and peoples, assures us that all men are truly brethren." - CCC #361
"Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.  From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person-among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life." - CCC #2270 

Say, that sounds something like:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." - Declaration of Independence

So on the one side of the morality coin we have absolute truth: morality and human rights come from God and man does not have authority to change it.  On the flip side we have moral relativism which tells us that morality is determined by the individual and therefore changes from person to person, culture to culture, etc.  This sounds great, it sounds like freedom, doesn't it?  

Society: Nobody can force their morality on us, we make our own rules!  

Reality: Wait, who makes the rules?

Society: Man does, we don't need a small and petty god to tell us how to be good!

Reality: Okay, who among you gets to decide what the rules are?

Society: We'll vote to choose our leaders and they'll decide the laws for us.

Reality:  And how will they decide that?

Society: They can all say how they feel about stuff and then vote on it.

Reality: So, you want people to write laws based on their feelings?  But feelings are fleeting, unstable, and unreliable.  And doesn't this all mean you'll just be subject to the morality of your leaders?

Society: Well somebody has to write the rules you know!

Reality: And what will you do if you don't like the rules?

Society: We'll tell them to change it because we don't like it.

Reality: On what grounds, if everything is relative, how can you argue against how somebody else feels?

Society: That's not fair!

Reality: Fair is a relative term.  You lose.

Here's the problem, folks.  If our laws and rights and morality don't come from God, a higher authority than man, then we have no rights at all.  If our human rights are granted by man there is no such thing as inalienable rights!

inalienable: Not capable of being given up or transferred - Webster's II New Riverside Dictionary

If our rights come from man they mean nothing.  Anything granted by man can be taken away by man.  But that which is granted by God almighty, man has no authority to take away.   In the world of moral relativism, rights are determined by those in power and in the end, might makes right.  Translated that means the one with the biggest gun wins.  This is where monsters like Mussolini are born and it's only when we are holding fast to absolute truth  that we have legs and spine to stand up against them.  If you're adhering to relativism how can you possibly argue against anything?  Sure you can say it's wrong to hurt people.  What does it mean to hurt somebody?  Hitler thought he was doing a great service to the world.  He thought it was for the greater good and who are you to argue?  Does it hurt your feelings that he decided to kill people he thought were inferior?  Sorry, he and his ilk had different feelings and majority rules you know.  This isn't working out like you hoped it would, is it?  

If we will simply be honest with ourselves, if we can shake off the fog of our collective delusions we know deep inside that every single one of us has the same voice, the same moral code that comes from somewhere other than silly fleeting feelings.  It's the voice that makes us stand up and scream, "This isn't FAIR!"  If rape were legalized tomorrow would you throw up your hands and say, "Whelp, majority rules.  Who am I to judge?"  Of course not because everybody knows rape is wrong and it has nothing to do with a majority vote or what's legal and what's not.  Our morality, our human rights are not determined by majority or votes.  It's time to wake up, my friends.  It's time to open our eyes to the reality of the destruction caused by moral relativism in our society.  And that will be the focus of my next post.  I leave you with the great G.K. Chesterton, and until next time, may God bless you.


"The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." - G.K. Chesterton

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Myth of the Hippie Jesus

It almost sounds like a bunch of really bad "B" movies, doesn't it? "Revenge of the Hippie Jesus!" "Hippie Jesus Returns!" "Hippie Jesus and Friends Sing Kumbaya!"  It's enough to make any self-respecting Christian want to slam their head in a door.  In this post, my goal is to slay the myth of the dreaded Hippie Jesus.

In my first post, "How Did We Get Here?", I referenced this pervasive myth briefly.  While it's easy to demonstrate that this is an inaccurate portrayal of Christ, it's also easy to understand how this myth came about.  You see, Hippie Jesus is this safe character who makes us feel warm and fuzzy.  He says great things about not judging others which we can take as a green light to do whatever we want and boldly declare, "You're not allowed to judge me for this, Hippie Jesus said so!"  The temptation is strong to take the money and run so to speak.  Let's take the words of Jesus that make us feel good about ourselves and ignore the rest.  But in reality, Jesus is dangerous and subversive and He takes us way out of our comfort zone.  This man claimed to be the Son of God, the Word made flesh for crying out loud!  There is nothing safe about that, and it's either true or he is in fact, a very bad man.  Read the following passage from the Gospel of Matthew:

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"  Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father." -Matthew 16:13-17

 Plain as day, Jesus not only affirms Peter's statement but informs him that it is Divine revelation. We cannot sit on the fence about Christ.  His own words declare that He was not just another man with some wise words.  This demands of us a choice  to either accept this as truth or reject it, but it does not allow for a middle ground.  This is not an "I'm okay, you're okay, let's have a group hug" moment.  This is a "You're God walking among us or insane or evil, and pardon me but I need to go change my pants" moment.

Moving on, let's look at the conditions of discipleship Jesus lays out in the Gospel of Mark:

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.  What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  What could one give in exchange for his life?  Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.  - Mark 8:34-38

Now let's be clear about something here.  We rarely hear about crucifixion these days and are most accustomed to thinking about taking up one's cross in a figurative sense.  But in those days, the cross struck terror into people's hearts.  This was an instrument of torture and the most horrific way to die.  For Jesus to tell people to take up their cross and follow him was nothing short of madness back then.  Are you feeling warm and fuzzy yet?

In his brilliant work of art, The Catholicism Series, Father Robert Barron points out a short but telling portion of Mark's Gospel:

They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them.  They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. - Mark 10:32

Why would anyone be afraid of Hippie Jesus? If he made his way from town to town preaching nothing but love and forgiveness what is there to be afraid of?  If he truly was just another great teacher among many, why fear?  It's like suggesting people could be afraid of the Dalai Lama.

For the sake of being thorough, let's throw one more in here.  The following is a passage from the Gospel of John in which Jesus calls Himself the bread of life:

"Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink..."  - John 6:47-55

And then:

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"  Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." - John 6:66-69 

What Jesus said to those following Him was so shocking and offensive they walked away, all but the Twelve.  They walked away after seeing Jesus work miracles.   Imagine you watched a man raise the dead and then being so appalled at his words you just went home.  This is incidentally the Gospel passage used to prove the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but that is a subject for another post.

Now I don't want to send you running to the opposite end of the spectrum here either.  The takeaway message is not that Hippie Jesus isn't real, but real Jesus is super scary and we need to run for our lives.  But we certainly must dismiss the idea of Jesus as an ancient Care Bear.  As the always spot on Father Larry Richards puts it, "God is not Barney."  Are we all beloved children of God made in His image?  Absolutely.  Now, for those of you with children, do you love your children?  Of course you do.  Do you set rules and limits for your children and do you punish them with they misbehave?  Of course you do.  Now if you have the sense to do that, undoubtedly out of love for your children, would not the God of the universe do the same?  It is because God loves us that He wants more for us and demands more from us.  

See, the myth of the Hippie Jesus creates this deadly circular (il)logic.  We say that Jesus loves us just the way we are no matter what.  Because He loves us the way we are no matter what, He does not demand we change our ways.  Because He does not demand we change our ways, He is just like any other historical figure with friendly suggestions for humanity and is therefore not the Son of God.  Since He is not the Son of God, we don't need to change for Him.  And round and round we go.

But we do need to change and Christ demands this of us.  You can't possibly read the Gospel and come away thinking that you don't.  Let me put it this way:  if you know Jesus, especially if you came to know Him late in life like I did, and it didn't change you in a dramatic way, you're doing something very wrong.  And what message does this send to those around you?  If you call yourself a Christian, yet there is nothing remarkable about you, don't you send the message that it doesn't matter? Don't you add one more reason for people to think all religions are the same and what we believe is not important?  Don't be afraid, my friends.  Don't be afraid to stand out and look strange and be called names.  Remember:

"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.  Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No slave is greater than his master.'  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me...Whoever hates me also hates my Father."                                                                                                                                                                                                       -John 15:18-21,23 

 Until next time, may God bless you.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How Did We Get Here?

Have you ever paused in a moment of self-reflection and asked yourself, “How did I get here?”  Now I have asked myself this question simply walking into the kitchen, and you may be asking yourself at this very moment, staring incredulously at this blog post.  But all kidding aside, most of us have stopped along the road we’re traveling on and pondered the vast accumulation of choices, curveballs, wrong turns, and sucker punches that got us to where we are.  My answer to this question, as I sit here in disbelief writing a blog of all things, can be answered quite accurately with one marvelous word: God.  Without a doubt, the only reason I am here in this place and in these circumstances is because I, like you, am loved by an almighty and ever-loving God.  It is my hope that this blog will help you, someone you love, or someone you don’t even know discover Him too.  If you are already blessed enough to know Him then I hope it encourages you in your faith and gives you courage to speak and act boldly so that you might show others the way. 

To be perfectly honest with you, my life is not that terribly interesting and my conversion(or rather re-version) story is not one they are likely to make a movie about.  So who cares and why should you keep reading, right?  All too often, and with great assistance from television, we think that significant and lasting change only comes from dramatic or even traumatic events in our lives.  When we think of a conversion story, we imagine a brush with death that sent us to our knees thanking God for our very lives.  But I have come to know that God meets us where we are and in a way that is unique for each person.  Ordinary experiences can be quite extraordinary and God can do great things with the mundane.

As I said, my story is not so much a conversion but rather a reversion.  I was raised Catholic, but with poor catechesis what little faith I had dissolved easily and by the ripe old age of fourteen I considered myself an atheist.  Nevertheless, I was confirmed in the Church with the agreement that I could walk away after that if I chose...and I promptly did.

Now I'll do my best to summarize the last twenty years for you.  Did I say twenty?  Oh mercy.  Well, that cat's out of the bag anyway.  

Year followed year, and I soon was heading off to college.  I held firmly to the belief that this natural, tangible world was all there was, when we died there was simply nothing, and all people of religious faith were fools clinging to their rosy colored glasses.  Sound harsh?  Yes indeed, and I was.  Lucky for me, God is merciful and He was gradually shaping my heart to recognize Truth when the time came.  But I had a long and painful road ahead of me first.

I was already engaged when I left for college and got married the summer after my freshman year.  One could have predicted, and indeed many probably did, that this would end in disaster.  Four and a half years later I found myself doing what was in my eyes unthinkable: getting divorced.  Our society may be casual about divorce these days as some folks change spouses like they change their underwear, but I assure you, it is far more painful than you could imagine.  

Eager for a change of scene and a fresh start, I moved to Charlotte, NC where my brother had been living since he graduated college.  It was here that I met my new husband and I came alive once more.  Little did I know, this wonderful man was about to change my life in ways I couldn't possibly imagine.  No he wasn't a Christian who convinced me that God is real and loves me and so on.  Rather he showed me what it means to be loved and because of that, much later on I was able to come to know God who is love.

We had quite the whirlwind romance and fell in love and got married quickly.  Soon after that we decided to start a family and much to our surprise our first baby turned out to be two babies.  Our immense joy was soon to be accompanied by fear, however, as this turned out to be a rather difficult pregnancy.  Without going into all the many details, let's just say many times throughout the pregnancy it looked as though we would lose one or both of our precious girls.  They made their arrival two months ahead of schedule, but were remarkably healthy.  Three weeks later Emma came home and Lily followed two weeks after.

Now I can hear you thinking it: "Oh, her babies' lives were spared and now she believes in God.  How predictable!"  Sorry to disappoint, but I walked away from this miraculous event unmoved and as staunchly atheist as ever.

Fast forward three years and you find us expecting baby number three and simultaneously moving.  That's every bit as fun as it sounds.  I spent most of this pregnancy separated from my husband who was working in Wilmington, NC while we waited for our house to sell.  Again, things worked out against the odds and we managed to sell the house and find a new one just in time.  We moved just eleven days after our third baby girl, Nora, was born.

A few months later, I started looking into when Emma and Lily would start Kindergarten.  I was dismayed that because of North Carolina law they would not start until the year they turned six.  Believing, as all parents do, that my girls were far too bright to be starting school so late I began looking at schooling I could do at home with them until then.  It was this research that had me inadvertently looking at articles about, ick, homeschooling.  My brother and sister-in-law were homeschooling my nephew and I thought it was the most ridiculous idea ever.  I was convinced he would end up an ill-adjusted, under-educated sociopath(yes I was still quite harsh).  But the more I read, the more I found I was rather uneducated myself and did not understand homeschooling like I thought I did.  I continued to read and research and before I knew what was happening, I was actually considering homeschooling and discussing it with my husband.  We went back and forth on the subject for a time and then my typically indecisive husband astonished me by saying, "Well, if I had to choose, I'd say homeschool them."  That was enough for me.

Now the stage was set.  I did what is typical of me, and immediately ordered several books on homeschooling and nobody saw my face for weeks.  One of those books was about to change my life forever: Deborah Bell's Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling.  I had been tolerating the author's occasional reference to her Christian faith throughout the book because I otherwise found it quite helpful.  From time to time I would sit and roll my eyes and say, "Why do these silly Christians insist on bringing their faith into EVERYTHING??  Can't they talk about a single subject without bringing it up?"  Then while meandering my way through the chapter on math, I was caught off-guard by a reference to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.  Specifically, she referred to the point he makes in the book about the necessity of making a choice about Christ.  Now I have loaned both of these books out and so you will have to settle for my paraphrasing.  Basically, either Jesus is who He says He is, or He's a bad man.  We must choose.  What we cannot do is say Christ was this great moral teacher and we should all try to be more like him.  No, He says He is the Son of God.  Either that's true or He's evil(or a third possibility Lewis mentions-a lunatic).  I sat quite bewildered at these words.  I read them over and over and over and stared at them through squinted, aggravated eyes.  Then they began to widen and I felt as if I was standing at the edge of an abyss - one false move and down you go.  Finally it dawned on me that I actually owned that book.  My brother had given it to me years before in an effort to save his stubborn heathen sister.  At the time, my marriage was circling the drain and I really wasn't interested.  But now, in the southern August heat, I knew I had to find that book.  I tore upstairs to the attic like a woman possessed and began ripping through boxes until at last I found it.

That was the beginning of the end.  If you've taken the time to read this far, I thank you.  I won't go through the rest of the details of my conversion because, let's face it, you have a life waiting for you.  But one last detail I want to make clear is this:  I didn't want this.  I wasn't looking for God and I really didn't want to know Him.  I did not put this faith on to make myself feel better like a pair of rosy colored glasses.  In fact, I was quite happy with my  life as it was and felt certain I had all my ducks in a row.  What followed that moment of revelation was the hardest experience of my life.  The Truth is not easy; it's not comfortable.  My conversion turned my entire life on its head and I had to start at the beginning like a  frightened little child.  Doesn't that sound like fun?  Don't you want to know where to sign up?  I hope you'll stayed tuned.  I hope you will consider that if I was willing to suffer through this experience then maybe, just maybe, there's something to this Christianity stuff after all.  Until next time, may God bless you.