"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nativity, Crucifix and an Old Favorite

At my parish, during the Eucharist, I lead the congregation in some of the more contemporary songs we use in worship. At this time of the year, the nativity sets start making their way out and one of them sits on top of the church's piano. Right above the piano is a crucifix. Thus, for these few minutes at the piano (instead of the organ) I get to see the two poles of Christ's life, birth and death, all at once. There are a number of adjectives which come to mind to describe it; poignant and touching, being among them. It really drives home exactly the reason the Christ-child was born.
But today my thoughts were slightly different. We were singing the song "Give Thanks", the chorus of which is as follows:

"Now let the weak say 'I am strong'
Let the poor say "I am rich',
because of what the Lord has done for us."

Looking at a Nativity you can see these words lived out. The poor Joseph and Mary wrapping their little one in a blanket, laying him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn. Yes, I know the reason they were out in a stable was not because they did not have any money-the place was full. But nothing looks more homely than to see a king, sleeping in the place where the cows and pigs would eat. And yet, it was at this moment, that Mary and Joseph must have understood the words quoted above. I am strong and I am rich because this little one has been made poor for me. By uniting my life to his in faith, I too make the journey from spiritual poverty to the treasures of heaven. The humble poor, with Mary and Joseph, can truly sing these words.

For even the poorest Americans, this is a hard lesson to learn. We are simply a wealthy people. Often our wealth gets in the way of understanding simple lessons. There's a reason the rich young ruler was told to sell all of his belongings. Wealth can cause us lean too much on ourselves for provision and not on God. But in that nativity you can see the real faith of a mother and father. You can see, that though materially poor, the Virgin and her husband possessed and held in their arms the greatest riches imaginable.

Lord, this Christmas season, help us to give enough away that we can understand, if even in a small way, poverty. And in that poverty, may we look to you to make us rich, through the power of the cross you were born to bear and die upon. Amen.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


The United States Senate voted on two significant bills today. As a Christian, I am dissapointed in both to some degree.

The first bill was the so-called DREAM act. This legislation would have allowed illegal immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children to become citizens. Lest anyone confuse this with some kind of blanket amnesty, there were strict conditions applied to qualify for legal status. The children who would qualify would be ones who were brought here by parents when they were under sixteen. They would have had to live in the U.S. for at least five years and have obtained a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Those meeting this requirement would then have six years to undergo a criminal background check, and either graduate from college or serve two years in the military. The bill failed on a procedural motion by a 55-41 vote. 60 votes were needed in order to ensure a filibuster by most Republicans and some Democrats could be defeated.

I am saddened for several reasons. First, how many 15 year olds (or younger) can actively defy their parents on an issue such as moving? If the parents say it is time to move, a child cannot stay behind. Those brought to this country at such a young age cannot be held accountable for the sins of their parents. For children in this situation, I would be more than happy for them to simply obtain a social security number and pay taxes like any other American. But to think, 41 senators did not think children brought here unwillingly, growing up in this culture, serving our country domestically or in the military, were unworthy to be called Americans is dissapointing to say the least.
I think our immigration laws should be enforced. Something ought to be done with those parents who willingly broke the laws; (perhaps this means a change in current law to allow them to stay here after meeting certain conditions or something else)there should be some penalty for breaking the law. But it's un-Christian and un-American to say those who have grown up here aren't Americans because of their parents.
While slightly off the subject, our immigration policy is a bit funny in light of the fact that European settlers emmigrated to this country without passports and displaced those whom we call Native Americans. I'm not arguing for large-scale amnesty. I am arguing for historical perspective. But even if you subscribe to a "round 'em up and send them home" philosophy, I cannot understand how denying American children the right to be Americans is sound policy.

The Senate also repealed the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of the military, which will now allow gays to serve openly in the military. I do believe that sexually active homosexuals are living in grave sin. That is the historical Christian view. Thus, even though I believe strongly in civil liberties, I can't support this bill. As I have said a thousand times before, I have no animosity toward homosexuals. But I can't call their sins or my sins good, just because their/my will is inclined a certain way. I know this not necessarily a question of whether homosexuality is right or wrong, but support for the bill would be a tacit endoresement of a lifestyle choice with which I disagree.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why Pornography is Wrong

With estimates showing that roughly half of American adults indulge in pornography (3 of 4 being men) I think it is important to constantly remind myself and others about the dangers and evils of pornography. It has left countless families torn to shreds and weak families make weak societies. Not to mention the fact, that ponography puts the individual soul in serious peril. There are five reasons which immediately come to mind when looking at why pornography is so gravely disordered.

1.) "You have heard it said of old...but I say whoever lusts after a woman in his heart has already committed adultery." (Mt. 5) When Jesus clarifies the teaching of the 10 commandments, he leaves no wiggle room. Lust all by itself is adultery. I don't believe there is anyone who looks at and uses pornography who does not use it to excite lust. Therefore, pornography falls under our Lord's condemnation as a grave moral error tantamount to the physical act of adultery.

But that is only the beginning of the problem-it is actually far worse than being guilty of a singular sin.

2.) Objectification-Whether a man or a woman, by looking at pornography you are making those you view objects. Instead of people with inherent dignity they are treated as means to achieve the end of physical pleasure. The mindset which that develops is completely backward. Instead of being the servants we are called to be, we force the object of our desire to do all for us. The image on screen is not two (in some cases more) people, but objects the viewer essentially manipulates for his or her pleasure. You think it's hard to teach children, particularly young men, about real beauty now, wait for another generation that has been saturated in pornography. It will be well nigh impossible. If woman are seen only as objects what are the chances of ever defeating domestic violence?

3.) This leads into the next reason pornography is evil. When St. Paul writes of marriage in his Episle to Ephesus (a passage few people understand when they hear it at a wedding) he cannot help but lapse into talking about Christ and his Bride, the Church. When he speaks of the husband giving everything for his wife (for what else does it mean when he commands the husband "to love") and the wife in turn serving her husband, he is speaking of participation in the mystery of Christ's love for his Church. Jesus gave everything he possibly could for his bride, to become her lover, to consummate the divine marriage. He held nothing back, not even his life. What does the viewer of pornography give to the so-called actors? Nothing! He/she takes whatever they want and give nothing. Sex is to be communion between two people, an image of Christ's love for the Church. Viewing sex from a distance is inherently disordered because it is meant to be something in which there is active giving of oneself to the other. That is what real love is.

4.) Pornography is ultimately the most effective form of birth control. I've argued in other places that birth control is wrong. But in those cases I was arguing against condoms and the pill. In the case of pornography, the sexual act is often simulated by the viewer. In the male ( I won't speak for women here) this involves, to use the language of Genesis, the "spilling of one's seed." This was the sin for which the man Onan was put to death by God. It is clearly not something which the Lord takes lightly. Returning to Ephesians five, it is notable that marital relations are a picture of Christ's love for his Church. Let's think about this. What is the result of Jesus dying for his Church? Life for all who believe. What is the result of sex? Procreation...life! Not everytime of course. Nor is a revival started every time the gospel is preached. But sexual acts intended for pleasure which actively cut off the possibility of life, are like a church service where there is no gospel. In love, particularly in conjugal love, nothing should be held back. In pornography, not a thing is given.

5.) Lastly, you cannot love your neighbor as yourself and be a person who watches pornography. How can you claim to have the best interests of the "actors" at heart, when you are essentially paying for them to engage in acts which lead to severe emotional distress, possible HIV infections, abortions, and likely a whole host of other things that slip my mind at the moment. People need to understand how much pain many adult film stars report after they retire. In many cases they are devastated. You become an active source of that pain by participation in pornography.

What does it mean to be human? As those who are created in the Image and Likness of God, it must mean that we are creatures meant to live in community and in love with another (just as the Most Holy Trinity does.) To love is to put the interests of the Other before your own. To love is to hold nothing of yourself back from the Other. In the respects outlined above, pornography seeks the pleasures of receiving love without giving it. And because it is in giving that we are able to truly receive, pornography prevents its viewers from experiencing true love-whether they are married or single. The joy of being a part of the Church is the joy of serving the Lover who gave all he had. Joy will be found in our culture's marriages when the same thing can be said. Let us then pray for God to forgive our lust, selfishness, and lack of love, and that he will bend our wills away from anything that would cause us to act against the interests of others.