Thomas Merton’s ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’ a classic for the well-read man of faith

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Not too long ago I was sitting at the kitchen table with my wife after Mass and she told me that I seemed restless. I agreed, and when we started to dig down into the reasons why, one of them was the kind of “dumbed down” Catholicism that Bishop Robert Barron criticizes so eloquently on his YouTube channel.

I sometimes sit in Church on Sunday and listen to our priest deliver the same New York Jets joke that he has used at least three times in the last 18 months. I’ll hear another priest tell well-prepared homilies that seem to concentrate on feel-goodisms (e.g., “Make someone smile and you’ll bring them closer to God”), instead of anything substantive. It’s maddening to know that there is a wealth of intellectual treasures in the Catholic Church, but for some weird reason priests never seem to challenge people in the pews to pick up a good book and read.

It boggles my mind that I have never — in nearly 38 years — heard a priest on Sunday tell me to read Saint Augustine’s ConfessionsC.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas, or a whole host of intellectual giants who have helped me over the years to understand my faith on a deeper level — and to cogently share it with those in my circle of friends. I searched out the above-mentioned authors because at some point in time I realized that I had to take as much personal responsibility with my spiritual health as I have with my physical and mental development over the years.

And it is here, dear reader, where Trappist monk Thomas Merton enters the equation. Long story short, his autobiography is a must-read for anyone who has drifted away from the Church because they received too many helpings of “dumbed down Catholicism” without realizing how much stimulating content was within reach.

Regular readers know that I am a huge fan of Saint Augustine’s Confessions and now they know that I fully endorse Merton. But what they don’t know is that one of the reasons these men resonate with me is because the flaws they both acknowledge — their spiritual deficiencies — have been my own.

Merton says:

“Where was my will? ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,’ and I had not laid up any treasures for myself in heaven. They were all on earth. I wanted to be a writer, a poet, a critic, a professor. I wanted to enjoy all kinds of pleasures of the intellect and of the senses and in order to have these pleasures I did not hesitate to place myself in situations which I knew would end in spiritual disaster — although generally I was so blinded by my own appetites that I never even clearly considered this fact until it was too late, and the damage was done.

Of course, as far as my ambitions went, their objects were all right in themselves. There is nothing wrong in being a writer or a poet — at least I hope there is not: but the harm lies in wanting to be one for the gratification of one’s own ambitions, and merely in order to bring oneself up to the level demanded by his own internal self-idolatry. Because I was writing for myself and for the world, the things I wrote were rank with the passions and selfishness and sin from which they sprang. An evil tree brings forth evil fruits, when it brings forth fruit at all,” (Merton, Thomas. 253).

Who knew that a deceased monk could peg me to the wall and make me weep like no man who walks the earth? You exposed me to all the world, Thomas Merton. Touché! But I thank you, because I am better for it.

The point here is not so much to treat this blog as a confessional booth (although in many ways it is), but to point out just how imperative it is to read the best and the brightest that has ever been written. If you really want to see spiritual growth, then you must put in the same type of time and effort that you do with any other endeavor deemed important.

If you are a Catholic or a lapsed Catholic, then I highly recommend Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain. If you are not Catholic but you are interested in exploring this kind of subject matter, then I would start out with C.S. Lewis since it’s easier to step into a warm bath than a brisk pool.

Regardless which route you take, the point remains: Get reading!

Related:

Americans need to read more Saint Augustine and listen to less Mike Huckabee

The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics’: Pay a small price for the work of an intellectual giant

G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Everlasting Man’ — perfect Easter reading

‘Letters to a Young Catholic’: George Weigel hits a literary home run

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Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ a masterpiece, must-see for Catholics

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One would think that a Martin Scorsese film with a ready-made audience of 1.1 billion Catholics would be a no-brainer in terms of marketing. Strangely, the money men behind the director’s latest masterpiece, Silence, decided to go with an “art house” angle instead of any serious outreach to those who could make it a smash hit. The decision will cost the film millions during its theatrical run, but that still does not change the fact that it is a must-see effort by the man who brought the world Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and a slew of other great projects.

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For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of the movie, which is based on a Shûsaku Endô’s 1966 novel, it involves two 17th century Jesuit missionaries who must look for their mentor in Japan. As an “army of two” they must find out if there is truth to the claim that their mentor rejected the faith after years of torment by officials.

Mr. Scorsese recently said that “three or four great actors” turned down roles for Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver). After watching the film (How much do you want to bet that one of those actors was Leonardo DiCaprio?), it is safe to say that it was probably a blessing in disguise. Everyone involved delivers, particularly Mr. Garfield.

In short, see the movie if you are a fan of cinema — real cinema. Those with an attention span shaped by years of time on Twitter will be nowhere to be found, and you will exit the theater better for the experience.

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“Doug, Doug, Doug, you need to give me more than that,” you say? Yes, I understand. That is a reasonable request, and since I do not want to spoil too much of the film I will just say that the central question is one that I have covered before on this blog: Why does God seem absent at times?

When we go through trials and tribulations and pray, silence can be incredibly frustrating. People want God to be the cartoonish figure with a big white beard — they want Him to be a material being — and the absence of an on-call Divine Psychiatrist causes many men to believe they are alone in the world.

As Hubert Van Zeller has said, “We always imagine that if we felt strong, we would not mind having to carry the Cross. But the whole point is that we should not feel strong.”

Silence, perhaps to the chagrin of many priests, will cause people to question their own faith — but that is a good thing because the Truth can and should be able to stand up to any scrutiny. The faith that has gone through an intellectual blast furnace and survived comes out on the other side a spiritual steel, which is exactly what is needed in the modern world. Catholics need to intimately understand the value of pain and why such ordeals allowed by our Creator are always a blessing (as tough as that may be to comprehend).

As C.S. Lewis says in The Problem of Pain:

“Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object — we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.

As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.

If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” — C.S. Lewis.

Silence is not for the faint of heart, but at the end of the day it forces religious viewers to objectively examine the strength of their own faith.

Would you drown before renouncing God? Would you burn? Would you die any number of gruesome deaths? If not, then why?

Very few men or women ever die a saint, but that reality does not free us from the obligation to try. Mr. Scorsese may have a complicated history with his Catholic upbringing (he is certainly not alone), but there should be no doubt about the quality of Silence. Hollywood producers discouraged him from making the film for decades, but he persevered. For that, moviegoers owe him a debt of gratitude.

‘Hostage to the Devil’: Malachi Martin’s masterwork on possession, exorcism more than a must-read for Catholics

hostage

Former Jesuit priest Malachi Martin died in 1999, but he wrote one of the most comprehensive books on possession and exorcism in 1976 — Hostage To The Devil. Those who are unfamiliar with the man’s work may dismiss Hostage as fare for old school Catholics, but it is much more than that. Anyone who is interested in humanity’s struggle with morality, truth, free will, sex and gender, spirit and psyche would do themselves a favor by purchasing it soon.

Regular readers of this blog know that the intersection of politics and popular culture are covered on a regular basis. Movies, music and comic books are reviewed, but at the heart of it all is a fight against moral relativism.

The message is simple: Good and Evil exist. To deny that, or to pretend as though a man can go through life making morally neutral decisions, is to walk down a road of confusion. And, as Fr. Malachi notes, confusion seems to be a “prime weapon of evil.”

The author says:

“The surest effect of possession in an individual — the most obvious and striking effect common to all possessed persons, whether observed or apart from Exorcism — is the great loss in human quality, in humanness.

Curiously enough, the difficulty in talking nowadays about possession and describing its progress and effects in those attacked does not come from the weird, bizarre, or ‘unimaginable’ happens that may accompany possession.

The difficulty comes, instead, from the insistence of latter-day opinion makers that the religious view of good and evil is outdated; that the personality of each man, woman, and child exists only as a cross section of single traits and attributes best revealed in scores we achieve in psychological tests; that the truest and purest models for our behavior come from ‘lower animals’ and from ‘natural man,’ a mythical invention that has never existed and that we cannot imagine. …

Even though our coverage of these questions concerning Jesus and Lucifer must be brief due to limitations of space, we are not merely indulging in a comforting cliché when we make one observation: The best that latter-day prophets and modern doom sayers seem able to do with these matters is to ignore them and tell us to do the same. They cannot prove them false, but only increase their efforts to persuade us so. And for all their mighty efforts, they cannot repair the damage they do in this way to our humanness.,” Malachi Martin, Hostage to the Devil (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992), 409, 411-412.

In short, the bulk of Hostage deals with five cases:

  • Zio’s Friend and the Smiler — 29
  • Father Bones and Mister Natch — 83
  • The Virgin and the Girl-Fixer — 173
  • Uncle Ponto and the Mushroom-Souper — 249
  • The Rooster and the Tortoise — 321

As readers can see by the pagination, trying to respectfully break down any one of these cases in a book review would be difficult. Exhaustive interviews were conducted with all parties involved, written records were examined, and hours upon hours of audio recordings analyzed.

What is important to know before buying the book — particularly for skeptics — is that Fr. Martin is not an intellectual slouch. He is a very intelligent man. He is serious, and the content within Hostage is extremely disturbing.

The fact of the matter is that possession is nothing like Americans see in Hollywood movies. It is much more insidious than that because bodiless beings that can glean knowledge from eternity are not stupid. Possession is a process by which patient demons wait for an entry point, exploit confusion, and ultimately seize control when victims voluntarily present their souls on a silver platter.

Exacerbating this threat is a culture that grants Satan “the ultimate camouflage” — the belief that he does not exist.

“Raised more and more in an atmosphere where moral criticism is not merely out of fashion, but prohibited, [we] swim with little help in a veritable sea of pornography. Not merely sexual pornography, but the pornography of unmitigated self-interest. Whether spoken or acted out without explanation, the dominant question of the younger generations among us is, What can you do for me? What can my parents, my friends, my acquaintances, my enemies, my government, my country, do for me?

The difficulty is that as individuals and as a society, we are no longer willing — many of us are no longer able — to give an answer to that question that will satisfy anyone for long. …

Not to believe in evil is not be be armed against it. To disbelieve is to be disarmed. If your will does not accept the existence of evil, you are rendered incapable of resisting evil. Those with no capacity of resistance become prime targets for Possession,” (Preface, XIII, XIV, XV).

As Fr. Martin says, “no one wants to believe in evil, really, above all, not in an evil being, an evil spirit,” because acknowledging that places a perpetual responsibility on our shoulders.

“That [disbelief] is the opening through which [Satan] crawls, stilling all suspicions, making everything seem normal and natural. This is the ‘thought,’ the unwariness of the ordinary human being which amounts to a disinclination to believe in evil. And, if you do not believe in evil, how can you believe in or even know what good is?” (389)

Hostage is an amazing book. Anyone who is remotely spiritual should read it, but they must be forewarned that it will leave them shaken to the core.

If you have any questions about the cases covered by Fr. Martin, then feel free to ask in the comments section below.

France bans Down Syndrome ad from TV because smiling kids might ‘disturb’ women who had an abortion

world-down-syndrome-day

Years ago I was a substitute teacher just outside Chicago. There were days when I had the opportunity to join special education classes, which included kids with Down Syndrome. I am not lying when I say that those were some of the best kids I ever had the privilege to meet.

Given that experience, you can see one of the many reasons why a story out of France caught my eye just before Thanksgiving.  It turns out that a commercial by CoorDown titled “Dear Future Mom” is now officially banned from the airwaves. The reason? It might “disturb the conscience” of women who elected to have an abortion.

The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed on the story Wednesday:

“Abortion is legal in most of Europe, but its proponents are bent on suppressing efforts to change the minds of mothers considering it. Witness France’s ban on a television commercial showing happy children with Down Syndrome (DS).

Produced to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, the commercial showed several cheerful children with DS addressing a mother considering abortion. “Dear future mom,” says one, “don’t be afraid.” “Your child will be able to do many things,” says another. “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” “He’ll be able to speak and tell you he loves you.”

France’s High Audiovisual Council removed the commercial from air earlier this year, and in November the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, upheld the ban, since the clip could ‘disturb the conscience’ of French women who had aborted DS fetuses.”

Ask yourself this question: If French courts are permitted to ban a television commercial that features smiling kids because it might “disturb the conscious” of some viewers, then what is off limits?

Answer: Nothing.

Whether you agree or disagree with abortion, then I hope you can see just how incredibly terrifying this court’s logic is from a free-speech and religious liberty perspective. People often behave like the liberties enjoyed by the western world will be around forever, but that is not the case.

“But Doug!” you said, “Why should we care about France? We sort of expect that kind of thing from the French and Europe as a whole, right?”

The truth, sadly, is that every nation has Thought Police — even the U.S.

One merely needs to check out BuzzFeed’s hit piece on the hosts of HGTV’s hit series Fixer Upper. Writer Kate Aurthur founder herself a juicy target to destroy because a popular married couple is suspected of a Mind Crime. That’s why she wrote “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage.”

Shocker — Christian family belongs to a church that does not approve of homosexual relationships.

Perhaps Allahpundit over at Hotair put it best:

“The BuzzFeed piece is proof that we’re past the persuasion stage now in the culture wars, particularly as regards gay rights, and into the bludgeoning stage, where the left feels secure enough in its gains to try to strongarm the holdouts.”

Boom.

In France, smiling kids with Down Syndrome cannot appear on television. In America, Christian couples with hit television shows have giant websites trying to find ways to destroy their career.

In France, powerful legal councils keep you off the air if you  disturb the conscience of women who had an abortion. In America, liberal reporters will try to derail your television career if you “disturb the conscious” of secular Democrats.

And with that, I will leave you with a quote by John Philpot Curran:

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” — John Philpot Curran.

If you do not think you have anything to learn from men who were born in the 1700s, then think again.

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DeGrasse Tyson pushes Matrix-like theory of reality, still mocks Christians

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Your friendly neighborhood blogger is always perusing the internet for science-related news. Given that fact, it did not go unnoticed that two stories pushing the idea that reality is all an illusion gained widespread media attention over the past month.

The first piece came when Neil DeGrasse Tyson said it was “very likely” humans are living in a simulation. The second story involved Princeton University scientists who think free will may just be a trick the brain plays to rewrite history. None of this would be very fascinating if it weren’t for the fact that Morepheus DeGrasse Tyson and his atheist followers take pot shots at Christians on a regular basis.

Extreme Tech reported April 22:

“At the most recent Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, recently held at New York’s Hayden Planetarium, scientists gathered to address the question for the year: Is the universe a computer simulation? It’s an older question that you might imagine, and if we interpret it a bit more broadly then it’s really one of the oldest questions imaginable: How do we know that reality is reality? And, if our universe were a big, elaborate lie, could we ever devise some test to prove that fact? At the debate, host and celebrity astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson argued that the probability is that we [‘very likely’] live in a computer simulation.”

The U.K. Independent reported Sunday:

Free will might be an illusion created by our brains, scientists might have proved.

Humans are convinced that they make conscious choices as they live their lives. But instead it may be that the brain just convinces itself that it made a free choice from the available options after the decision is made.

The idea was tested out by tricking subjects into believing that they had made a choice before the consequences of that choice could actually be seen. In the test, people were made to believe that they had taken a decision using free will – even though that was impossible. …

In one of the studies undertaken by Adam Bear and Paul Bloom, of Princeton University, the test subjects were shown five white circles on a computer monitor. They were told to choose one of the circles before one of them lit up red.

The participants were then asked to describe whether they’d picked the correct circle, another one, or if they hadn’t had time to actually pick one.

Statistically, people should have picked the right circle about one out of every five times. But they reported getting it right much more than 20 per cent of the time, going over 30 per cent if the circle turned red very quickly.

The scientists suggest that the findings show that the test subjects’ minds were swapping around the order of events, so that it appeared that they had chosen the right circle – even if they hadn’t actually had time to do so.

Is it more likely scientists “proved” free will is an illusion, or that they reestablished people are capable of lying?

Is it more likely scientists “proved” free will is an illusion, or that they reestablished the human brain is a beautiful box of paradoxes?

The human brain is incredibly sturdy, yet fragile. It is awe-inspiring in its complexity, yet ultimately a sponge-like mass of neurons, blood vessels, and tissue. It can turn science fiction into reality, yet it often falls for “tricks” played by researchers in white lab coats. The list goes on and on.

Matrix

Imagine what the world would look like if billions of people simultaneously listened to Morepheus DeGrasse Tyson and researchers at the University of Free Will Is Just an Illusion. Tyson likes to lump “crazy” Christianity in with Scientology, but my guess is that he would soon yearn for a world solely populated by “cracker”-eating Catholics if 7 billion people concluded a.) they were living in a glorified video game, and b.) they did not need to take responsibility for their actions.

Regardless, men of faith should smile. DeGrasse Tyson’s acknowledgment that humans “very likely” have a Creator will prompt some of his supporters down a spiritual path in the years ahead.

G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Everlasting Man’ — perfect Easter reading

Easter is here — that wonderful day when Christians rejoice and atheists shake their head and ask, “Why the heck are we still talking about that guy Jesus after 2,000 years?!” That is a fair question, which is why today seems like an ideal opportunity to revisit G.K. Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man.”

“If Christ was simply a human character, he really was a highly complex and contradictory human character. For he combined exactly the two things that lie at the two extremes of human variation. He was exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge. What he said was always unexpected; but it was always unexpectedly magnanimous and often unexpectedly moderate.

Take a thing like the point of the parable of the tares and the wheat. It has the quality that united sanity and subtlety. It has not the simplicity of a madman. It has not even the simplicity of a fanatic. It might be uttered by a philosopher a hundred years old, at the end of a century of Utopias. Nothing could be less like this quality of seeing beyond and all round obvious things, than the condition of an egomaniac with the one sensitive spot in his brain. I really do not see how these two characters could be convincingly combined, except in the astonishing way in which the creed combines them.” — G.K. Chesterton.

Every year countless YouTube videos pop up by wannabe Joe Rogans, who blast the so-called “fairy tale” known as Christianity. They go apoplectic over said “fairy tale” and its longevity. Generation after generation after generation picks up the Bible, studies it, and then billions of people conclude that Christ was exactly who he claimed to be.

The reason for this, as Chesterton points out, is that Christ spoke with authority while simultaneously being “exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge.”

The Jesus of the New Testament seems to me to have in great many ways the note of something superhuman; that is of something human and more than human. But there is another quality running through all his teachings which seems to me neglected in most modern talk about them as teachings; and that is the persistent suggestion that he has not really come to teach.

If there is one incident in the record which affects me personally as grandly and gloriously human, it is the incident of giving wine for the wedding-feast. That is really human in the sense in which a whole crowd of prigs, having the appearance of human beings, can hardly be described as human.

It rises superior to all superior persons. It is as human as Herrick and as democratic as Dickens. But even in that story there is something else that has the note of things not fully explained; and in a way there very relevant. I mean the first hesitation, not on any ground touching the nature of the miracle, but on that of the propriety of working any miracles at all, at least at that stage; ‘my time is not yet come.’

What did that mean? At least it certainly meant a general plan or purpose in the mind, with which certain things did or did not fit in. And if we leave out that solitary strategic plan, we not only leave out the point of the story, but the story.

The imitation Joe Rogans often preface their derision of Christianity with lines like, “I went to Catholic school” — as if they weren’t like every other high-school kid who slept through classes, wrote notes to girlfriends, and generally just goofed around with buddies for four years. The same people who cannot understand basic economics in their 40s would have us believe they fully understood Christianity by age 16, but I digress.

The more one studies the Bible, the more obvious it becomes that Christ was unlike any man who walked the earth up until that time — and that He maintains that distinction to this very day. All the “flying spaghetti monster” jokes in the world cannot diminish the genius and goodness dispensed by Christ in ways, as Chesterton says, “more than human.”

Christ was born. His primary purpose in life was to die a horrible death — and then rise again. He did.

Chesterton states:

“I willingly and warmly agree that it is, in itself, a suggestion at which we might expect even the brain of the believer to reel, when he realized his own belief. But the brain of the believer does not reel; it is the brains of the unbelievers that reel. …

I care not if the skeptic says it is a tall story; I cannot see how so toppling a tower could stand so long without foundation. Still less can I see how it could become, as it has become, the home of man. 

Had it merely appeared and disappeared, it might possibly have been remembered or explained as the last leap of the rage of illusion, the ultimate myth of the ultimate mood, in which the mind struck the sky and broke. But the mind did not break. It is the one mind that remains unbroken in the break-up of the world.

If it were an error, it seems as if the error could hardly have lasted a day. If it were a mere ecstasy, it would seem that such an ecstasy could not endure for an hour. It has endured for nearly two thousand years; and the world within it has been more lucid, more level-headed, more reasonable in its hopes, more healthy in its instincts, more humorous and cheerful in the face of fate and death, than all the world outside.

Happy Easter, everyone. I am grateful for all of you who regularly give me precious time out of your day and I pray for your regularly.

Best,

Doug

Disney, Marvel throw tantrum over Georgia’s religious liberty bill

Winter Soldier v Captain America

Imagine that I, a Catholic, walked into a Muslim bakery and asked the man behind the counter to make a wedding cake for me that said, “Jesus is Lord.” Does the Muslim man have the right to deny me service? It’s a good bet that countless Disney and Marvel employees would say yes.

Imagine that I, a Catholic, owned a bakery and a Muslim man walked in and asked for a cake that said, “Allahu Akbar! Happy Birthday. I’m glad you’re not kafir!” Do I have a right to deny him service? It’s a good bet that many, many Disney and Marvel employees would say yes.

Imagine some jerk knowingly walked into a gay man’s bakery and asked for a cake that referenced Romans 1:27 — “Men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Would the gay man have the right to deny the jerk service? The answer should be self-evident.

Why then is it so hard for Disney and Marvel to understand that a religious man has every right to deny a gay man a wedding cake if it conflicts with his spiritual convictions?

Fortune magazine reported earlier today:

Walt Disney, along with subsidiary Marvel Studios, announced plans on Wednesday to boycott filming future movie projects in the state of Georgia should Governor Nathan Deal sign the bill. Opponents of the bill, which passed Georgia’s state legislature last week after facing significant opposition from a faction of lawmakers, claim it would allow a range of faith-based organizations to openly discriminate against the LGBT community.

In a statement provided to the press, a Disney spokesperson said: “Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.”

I have said on this very blog that I would make cakes for anyone if I owned “Dough Ernst’s Bakery” — even a wedding cake for a gay couple. I would not, however, hold it against the baker across town if he said doing so would be a violation of his faith. It seems downright bizarre that Disney and Marvel are doing their own part to further chip away at religious freedom in the United States.

Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal has until May 3 to decide whether or not he will sign the Free Exercise Protection Act, which was passed by the state legislature this week. In the meantime, millions of men like Marvel writer Dan Slott — whose understanding of most public policy issues boils down to “Me like: Good. Me no like: Bad.” — will be putting pressure on him to not sign the bill.

DS religious liberty tweet

One should note that Dan Slott merely re-tweeted Variety’s article on the issue instead of telling Christians to go to “Christ-Land” like he did in 2014 after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling he didn’t like. Bravo! Perhaps he knows that yours truly would be ready to expose his own bigotry (inadvertent or not, you be the judge) once again.

Dan Slott Christians

Here is what I said July 1, 2014:

Question for Dan Slott: If I just had a beef with a few Jews over a religious issue with political implications, and I told them to go to “Jew-land,” then how would you respond? How would my employer respond? That’s right — you’d go ballistic. And then my employer would fire me. But you get to tell a bunch of Christians to go to “Christ-land” without consequences. Hypocrite.

Do women have the right to form organizations that only cater to women? Do men have the right to form organizations that only cater to men? Do gay people have the right to form organizations that only cater to gay people? Do Christian organizations have the right to form organizations that only cater to Christians?

The answer is yes — even if the questions are re-worded in terms of the right of every group mentioned to discriminate against individuals outside the group.

A free society respects the fact that people in the private sector have the right to assemble as they see fit. An Orwellian nightmare is a place where law enforcement officials use limited time and resources to force bakers to make cakes against their will.

 

Scupoli’s ‘Spiritual Combat’: Advice from 1589 for modern men seeking virtue

Spiritual Combat

It has always been my belief that the vast majority of men, if not all men, have seriously wondered at some point how they would fare on the field of battle. War, for all of its wretchedness, offers men a clear picture of their inner virtue — or lack thereof. These “What if?” games are unnecessary, however, as Dom L. Scupoli Apulia’s The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul demonstrates.

The Italian author pointed out in 1589 what many men in 2016 fail to realize — bombs are already dropping all around us. Spiritual warfare rages in all directions. A man not only can be a war hero, but he must — his very soul depends upon it.

What men often fail to realize is that they are stuck in a no-man’s land reminiscent of World War I. This is a bad place to be. Man’s rational faculty is called from both sides in the only war that matters: “God moving it by His grace, and the flesh by its appetites.”

Being “neutral” in this war is not an option, and since tomorrow is never guaranteed it is best to pick a side now.

Fully mastering patience, humility, obedience and numerous other virtues is a difficult task. Scupoli details a few of the stumbling blocks we experience:

There are some who are so overwhelmed by their sins that they never even consider the possibility of breaking their chains. Others want to free themselves from this slavery, but they do nothing to accomplish this. Some think they are secure, and for that very reason are very far from being so. Others, after attaining a high degree of virtue, fall all the more heavily.

When the devil has enmeshed the soul in sin, he uses every means at his disposal to distract its attention from anything that would enable it to recognize the terrible condition into which it has fallen.

The devil is not content to stifle every inspiration from Heaven, and to suggest evil thoughts in their place. He endeavors to plunge it into new faults, either of the same or a more vicious nature by supplying dangerous opportunities to sin.

Thus the soul, deprived of Heavenly guidance, heaps sin upon sin, and hardens itself in its evil ways. Floundering in the mire, it rushes from darkness to darkness, from one pit to another, always moving father from the path of salvation and multiplying sin upon sin, unless strengthened by an extraordinary grace from Heaven.” (Scuplio, Dom. The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul. Tan Classics, 2010. 89-93)

In many ways the soul is the beacon which directs a man towards virtue. If a man is not careful, a sinful calcification can take place around the soul. It soon becomes difficult, if not impossible, to hear or see the beacon and before long the captain of the ship “rushes from darkness to darkness.”

If you seek to become a virtuous man or woman, then The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul is a must-read. If you are a Christian who has ever wondered, “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God foist trials and tribulations upon me?” then Scupoli’s work is for you. I would rank it with Francis De Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life and Saint Augustine’s Confessions as an essential addition to your library.

Editor’s Note: I will send a copy of “The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul” to the first regular reader who asks.

Media’s next goal: Sell public on non-monogamous marriages

It was just this past summer that NY Mag contributor “Michael Sonomore” attempted to make the case for “open marriages.” Tech Insider has now jumped on a new study by Journal of Marriage and Family to basically say, “Hey, did you and your spouse ever think of becoming a swinger? Maybe you should.”

First the goal of popular culture was to divorce the definition of marriage from Christianity. Then the goal was to strip people of the idea that the union between one man and one woman is so integral to building a healthy civil society that it should be cherished with its own institution. Sometimes sociologists describe marriage without ever using the world “love,” and now it’s essentially “marriage means whatever we say it means,” (i.e., it means nothing).

“Marital Monogamy as Ideal and Practice: The Detraditionalization Thesis in Contemporary Marriages” includes the results of surveying 90 Canadians who were questioned on monogamy and marriage. Researchers spoke with 26 heterosexual females, 21 heterosexual males, 21 gay males, and 22 lesbians. Most of the couples were relatively young.

Tech Insider reported Wednesday:

“Research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that another big change is happening in how people think about marriage: Some no longer consider monogamy an absolute essential. …

The first questions the couples answered revealed that people are becoming more open to the idea of non-monogamous marriages. Less than half of all the heterosexual female respondents, about one-third of the heterosexual male respondents, and “relatively few” homosexual couples felt that marriage and monogamy were inseparable, the researchers concluded.

Most people interviewed thought that monogamy isn’t something that a marriage necessarily requires. As one participant explained:

‘I’ll say that it’s different for everyone … and you have to find what works for you … [maybe] you’re committed to each other and you’re married but then you guys decide every Friday night we’re going to swinger parties and that’s what we want to do, and that excitement is what brings us together, then awesome. But is it going to be for me? No. Am I going to say, you can’t do it? No.'”

Where is this idea coming from? We know the New York Times has been exploring it since at least 2011:

Although best known for his It Gets Better project, an archive of hopeful videos aimed at troubled gay youth, [Gay-rights activist Dan] Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.

What does it say about a culture when a growing number of couples see nothing wrong with taking other human beings, objectifying them, and then using them as nothing more than masturbatory devices?

Popular culture does not promote loving relationships — it promotes lusting relationships.

The spiritual fulfillment that comes when two adults have a proper understanding of marriage — and then they put in the effort to realize its potential — is unmatched. It takes patience, perseverance, humility, selfless sacrifice and a whole host of other virtues to arrive at the final destination, which is why “pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements” are peddled to the public instead.

Is it easier to act like an animal or act like an angel? The answer is self-evident.

Yes, it may bring “excitement” to act like a beast on occasion, but marriage was never meant to bring two beasts together. Marriage unites human souls, which is why perverting marriage’s proper definition and function is a travesty.

Here is what the modern American male is up against: On every level — physical, mental, and spiritual — there are forces at work to turn him into glorified cattle.

On the physical level he is encouraged to embrace sloth and gluttony; on the mental level he is encouraged to become a servant of the state; and on the spiritual level he is encouraged to become a libidinous pig who drags his wife into the muck.

True happiness can be found, but the path does not begin by taking directions from the purveyors of moral relativism.

‘The Imitation of Christ’: Antidote for Media-addicted America

Politicians and pundits use every election cycle to talk about the need for “new” ideas. Increasingly secular yet tech-savvy societies are always looking for the next “new” idea, and yet they wonder why the same old problems persist. The more I read, the more I think that many “old” ideas should be dusted off and embraced.

Take Thomas à Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ,” written in 1418, for example. Just like our good friend Saint Augustine, it’s been a while since he walked the earth. Regardless, Kempis’ devotional book is one that would be beneficial to Christians and non-Christians alike. Even if one were to weirdly strip out all references to Christ, much of the wisdom regarding the right way to live would still remain.

Atheists say that Christ was not the Son of God, but if you asked them if the man — from a purely historical point of view — lived a life worth imitating, then the vast majority of them would probably say yes.

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchap. CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC and FOX. Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo. Warner Bros, Sony, Disney, Universal and Netflix. NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and UFC. Amazon, Ebay, Microsoft, Apple and more, more, more always vie for our attention — and we give it to them.

Addiction to the temporal is a horrible thing, but it is hard to recognize because it sneaks up on a man. It slowly slithers around the psyche. Its initially brings warmth and joy, but in the end it’s all a ruse. When it has completely enveloped the whole of a man’s being it constricts like a python and suffocates his soul while he sleeps.

In the addicted man’s waking state he is, on many levels, unaware that the most important part of him is in peril.

He is sad. He is lost. He does not know why he is never complete, and so he turns to the very thing that fills him with venom while he dreams.

Enter Thomas à Kempis, who breaks down the blueprint for a happy life into four parts: 1. Useful Admonitions for a Spiritual Life. 2. Admonitions Concerning Interior Things. 3. Internal Consolation. 4. The Blessed Sacrament.

Ask yourself if there is a reason why politicians never mention “The Imitation of Christ” as one of their favorite books.

“Who is so wise as to be able fully to know all things? Therefore, trust not too much to thine own thoughts, but be willing also to hear the sentiments of others. Although thine opinion be good, yet if for God’s sake thou leave it to follow that of another, it will be more profitable to thee.

For I have often heard, that it is more safe to hear and to take counsel than to give it.

It may also happen that each one’s thought may be good, but to refuse to yield to others when reason or a just cause requires it is a sign of pride and willfulness,” (Book 1, Chapter 9).

Interesting, isn’t it?

“Don’t listen to those ‘old’ ideas, kind voter. Listen to me, [Insert Politician’s Name Here], because I’m never wrong and my ‘new’ ideas will fix all your problems.”

Kempis continues:

“How happy and prudent is he who strives to be such now in this life as he desires to be found at his death.

For it will give a man a great confidence of dying happily if he has a perfect contempt of the world, a fervent desire of advancing in virtue, a love for discipline, the spirit of penance, a ready obedience, self-denial, and patience in bearing all adversities for the love of Christ,” (Book 1, Chapter 23).

It takes just two sentences for the author to give readers seeds that will bear a harvest of joy for all the years of their lives. As a Catholic, I would implore readers not to take Christ out of the sentence, but I will concede that doing so does not negate the rest of the advice embedded in the text.

America faces many challenges in the years ahead. If you are interested in giving yourself mental and spiritual tools for the task, then I highly suggest reading “The Imitation of Christ.”

Editor’s Note: I will send a copy of the book to the first regular reader who asks.