God Isn’t Fixing This

Today I found myself pondering the mystery of why anyone would actually read the Daily News. Nonetheless, I presume people buy it because somehow the glorified gossip magazine continues to operate.

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My thinly veiled displeasure at most major “news” outlets aside, the above article was brought to my attention when I came across Patheos’ Top Ten Atheist News Stories of 2015 and found the link to the now infamous article written in response to the San Bernardino shootings. The article is essentially an accusation that Christians hide behind prayer and don’t do enough in the face of such atrocities followed by a premise that prayer is a waste of our time because God either:

  1. doesn’t care
  2. doesn’t do anything
  3. doesn’t even exist

I’m really glad this article made the list because if this is the best atheists have then I feel reinforced in my decision to practice Catholicism. Because the author totally missed the boat on this one, and this article should be an embarrassment to committed atheists everywhere, not a rallying point.

It’s embarrassing because this article comes across more like the rant of an angsty teenager against uncool parents than a sound philosophical argument. Because my Catholic faith represents truth and atheism doesn’t represent anything except a negation of the truth my religion proclaims. You may not like everything Dad has to say, but you do not disprove the existence of Dad by merely claiming that he sucks. And the article really highlights this flawed reasoning in a most delightful way. 

Because what the title of the article should have been was this:

“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS MY WAY”

This reasoning, I would argue, is the most sincere divide between theists and atheists because it is the prime issue encountered when examining one’s beliefs as it is the essence of faith. The Christians (the most popular theists to bash) who were called out in this article were called out because they committed the secular sin of being audacious enough to believe that God exists AND retain the faith that even in the darkest of circumstances He reigns supreme. This attitude really pisses people off. If you don’t believe me, read The Littler Way

Because there is a great temptation, a human pride, that leads us to believe that if there is a God He should operate the way we do. We wonder how a God who presumably loves us can let us experience pain? Why a God who rules the universe allows such tragedy? Especially if He has the power to stop it. And I think there is a prevailing stereotype of Christians as either unbelievably ignorant white trash or the ultra preppy Bible study type who is always smiling and LOVES JESUS. And people say that “they have faith because they just don’t get it. They are not as smart as we are and if they were they also would no longer believe.”

But the truth is I continue to believe in God because I do not, nor will I ever, presume to believe that I am as smart as God or that my understandings come anywhere near His own. God by His very essence does not have the same human limitations that I do, even when He took the form of a human Himself. No, God is infinite and while there are many things about His nature I feel I am coming to understand as I mature in my relationship with God, I simply could never grasp the infinite. Not for lack of intellect or because God doesn’t love me or even that God is some jerk who enjoys being smarter than everyone else (not possible because God has no pride), but because I am still confined to time and infinite things are, by their very nature, outside of time. And in the lapse between my earthly life and my death which I do believe will plunge me into eternity, I chose to have faith not from an ignorant refusal to see what is in front of me, but rather an ignorance of what I cannot yet see in front of me. My faith is my admission that while there is much I do not know, I do know in my heart that I love God, which means that even when I don’t understand God or His ways or my trials, I trust Him. That is what confounds, angers, and upsets those who love the world and have rejected or neglected the presence of God in their hearts.

Admittedly, I was given the tools to nurture my faith through the blessing of being able to grow up among a different sort of Christian than the unflattering media narrative they parade across all “news” outlets. The kind of Christian that gets no notice from the world. The Christian who chooses love in order to please no one except their God, because their God first loves them and from that experience they have been drawn to love and serve others. And you won’t find these people just in churches, you’ll find them in hospitals, offices, charities, schools, grocery stores, bus stops, and even on playgrounds. The unspoken witnesses to the love that makes the world go round, the little acts of love and kindness that go unnoticed to the masses, meant only for those who were meant to see them, as God leads us all both to Himself and towards one another.

So tell your atheistic and cynical counterparts to calm down. We may be confined to time, but God is not and He will finish what He began in this world in a more glorious way than you or I can yet imagine. All that’s left to do now is leave you with the wise words of my powerhouse of a confirmation Saint, Theresa of Avila: 

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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

So in the chaos of modernity where the first world is aware of both global, national, and local news almost instantly I admit it can be difficult to hold on to hope. And in light of that statement I respect those people who care about others beyond just themselves and I think it’s admirable when people want to change the world for the better.

However, that does not excuse the laughably bad, yet socially acceptable, notion espoused by the media, those in office, and echoed in college campuses across the country which proposes that the solution to our chaotic world and the violence that we see before us is to demonize dissent with the hopes of eventually eliminating it entirely. This sentiment is echoed in President Obama’s recent speech calling for an end to Catholic and Protestant private schools.  To use his own words:

“… If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division… [and] discourages cooperation.”

Granted his speech was given in Ireland, where Catholic and Protestant divisions run deep, yet I see this school of thought gaining momentum everywhere. It is a response to a problem based on the following set of ideas:

  1. People who disagree don’t like each other
  2. People who don’t like each other don’t respect each other
  3. People who don’t respect each other can feel justified in hating each other
  4. If people feel justified in hating each other they can become violent
  5. If all people choose to become violent the world will become a very violent place

These observations are fairly true in my limited experience on this planet, but the problem is not the competing viewpoints it is the choice made by the individual. Our belief systems certainly influence our actions, but it absurd to propose the solution of imposing the same set of beliefs on everyone in order to get the same predictable actions and outcomes, especially if you believe in freedom.

In fact, if the President truly believes his own assertion that the problem is not individual (or even collective) behavior but instead the freedom of thought in the first place, then by this same logic we should also eliminate American political parties because their existence and emotionally-charged opposition hinders us from “seeing ourselves in one another” and the mutual resentment stirred up on both sides of the aisle “encourages division and…discourages cooperation.”

Furthermore this quote, while seemingly innocent, places religious freedom in very dangerous waters because he betrays his feelings that Catholic and Protestant schools that are allowed to exist separately from the state promote and foster the violence and hatred that are contributing factors to the hostile political, social, and economic environment we live in. He is essentially revealing that in his mind the existence of these schools threatens the “peace,” “tolerance,” and “equality” that are at the core of his administration and the goal of all “progressive” moderns who encompass the left. Look out Catholic and Protestant schools, because this logic is laden with bias and the conclusion he draws from his biased logic is false, but that has never stopped any politician with a mission and good campaign funding.

And before you think I hate Obama and all politicians, I do not. I merely disagree with the way they handle true diversity and differences in opinion. They may be in earnest when they say they want peace, but they are willing to compromise their (but mostly my) freedom in order to get it whereas I am not. Because I have experienced that type of “peace” and it’s a lie. The sort of “peace” they want is a tolerance full of concessions where no one speaks up or gets angry or gets their feathers ruffled, a compromise where all agree to subscribe to a new narrative that has no specific religion, race, creed or distinction of any kind, but is instead a secular social code rather like the manual used at the beginning of the Lego Movie. 

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A world that opts for conformity rather than diversity, an urbane and suburban existence where everyone shops at Whole Foods, watches Good Morning America, uses a condemn, exercises, has very few children (if any), overpays for coffee, dresses like a catalog, and doesn’t go to Church on Sunday. It’s the new American dream of peace by materialism, prosperity at the expense of humanity. It is an existence whose only concern is appearances and surface level status quos, rather than true human community based on mutual respect and love of neighbor. 

It’s like the “peace” of relatives who hate each other but put on a good show for the holidays, bragging that it was a good holiday not because it was truly good but simply because both sides of the family managed not to kill each other. This is how the politicians want us to relate to each other, forget a true dialogue, just everybody take it easy and smile for the photo.

And this is a problem because this false peace masquerades as a high ideal, something that we should all be striving for as a societal virtue when in fact it will destroy us. It is the John Lennon lyrics of imagining a world without religious wars, the lingering sadness in wake of all the violent shootings, the disenchanted American populace in light of the political acrimony between Republicans and Democrats, and the fear of global terrorism that wears on us and makes this lie of false peace seem appealing. The idea that if we all gave up everything about us that makes us unique or passionate (like religion or politics) and trusted the universal state to dictate our lives then things would be different, simpler, more peaceful. The ugly dissent that gets everybody all riled up will be gone, and there will be no more violence- and then we would be free to create a better world…Forget the means, think of the glorious ends of universal brotherhood, world peace, and prosperity for all. So tempting, isn’t it? Especially in situations like ours, that feel so desperate and disheartening.

There’s only one problem. It will never work. I’m not saying I don’t believe in those glorious things, I’m saying I merely don’t subscribe to the ideals of earthly paradise. I am a Catholic and I want the paradise of heaven, to finally be home with God where all those high ideals of genuine virtue become a living reality. Becuase the world is a fallen place. I’m not saying that to be bleak or because I’ve given up on it. But it is made up of imperfect people and giving the state authority to rid the world of dissent will not solve the problem, merely silence it, and that is not true peace. True peace begins in love, love of God and love of people. And the choice to do that cannot be mandated by any government, only put into practice by those who choose to believe it. And as much people get cynical these days when it comes to believing in people’s capacity for love, I think they are misguided. Because true love is hard, perhaps the hardest thing that humans can take it upon themselves to do, and I cannot condemn those brave enough to try because I am the type that would rather fail at something glorious than succeed at something meaningless.

And I would argue that this call to love is important because the absence of genuine Christian love is noticeable in our world today. Because it is not Christian love, but worldly love that separates, that loves by degrees and draws distinctions between “us” and “them.” It is the worldly love of the new atheism that is tainted with pride and is taught to love only when it sees a reflection of itself in the other. It is worldly love that only cares about its own feelings and the vanity of how things appear on the surface. This is the love that permeates our world and this is why the world is currently the way it is, not because of the failure of Christian love or the presence of Christian schools.

And it is high time that we remembered how to truly love each other once more, to re-ignite the spirit that unites us all as the true brothers and sisters that we are.