Friday, January 29, 2010

Missionaries Urgently Needed in the Amazon!

The following video is very difficult to watch and I do not recommend viewing it if you consider yourself to be sensitive—I turned my stomach when I watched it and made another grown man that I know weep.

In the jungles of the Amazon, there is a very strong custom of burying children alive for various superstitious reasons. The practice goes on even now and has been covered up by the Brazilian government, as well as various Indian rights organizations, who are trying to stop outsiders from violating "native rights" by attempting to stop this barbaric practice.

The video clip below is from a documentary that shows a real tribe carrying out this ceremony—putting two children in a pit to be buried alive. I believe one escapes, but as far as I can tell the first child dies.

This is horrible and needs to be stopped—this is an example of why we need solid missionary preaching and repentance and conversion among these people, not a simple dialogue. This is a demonic, wicked thing these people are doing, and equally wicked are the "activists" who try to preserve the custom in favor of native's rights. It is appalling that there are those in the Catholic Church who think this region of the world and these people are living in some sort of unspoiled, pre-industrial Eden. These villains would defend Aztec human sacrifice if it were still around.

Missionaries, get down there! Preach Christ! The Evil One delights in the slaughter of innocents and has since the beginning...Preach Jesus and stop this abomination!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Movie Review: Avatar

So I let my curiosity get the best of me and went to see Avatar last night with the wife, figuring that though I generally stay away from new cinema, this film seemed to be such a cultural phenomenon that I had to inform myself about it. My wife and I both enjoyed the film; it didn't seem like three hours as I was watching it, and I can certainly say that the cinematography and effects were spectacular. Besides the fact that it was entertaining and aesthetically pleasing to watch, I can't say that much more in praise of it. I am shocked that it has become the highest grossing movie of all time and am concerned that its worldview will become more mainstream as time goes on.

The first thing I want to point out is the utter unoriginality of the movie. The movie was basically a futuristic rehash of the 1995 Disney Pocahontas film. John Smith is Jake Sully and the girl (whatever her name was) is Pocahontas. The Marines are the English, who instead of gold are seeking an absurdly named ore called "Unobtainium." There's even a sacred tree, like in Pocahontas.

But to delve into this a little more deeply, one of the central things in the film is the ability of certain men, whose minds fit a specific profile, to be able to "jump into" certain synthetically engineered biological bodies ("Avatars") and control them remotely, or "drive" them. This concept is almost directly pirated from the 1995-1996 Japanese series of anime films entitled (in English) "Neon Genesis Evangelion" (see here), which was widely popular and grossed over $16 million. The central idea of the Neon Genesis Evangelion series was that a series of teenagers, with very specific mental profiles, were chosen to pilot bio-engineered creatures called "Evas." The Evas are organic, but they are basically shell bodies that are inhabited ("driven") by the human pilots in order to combat a threatening race of alien invaders. Like Jake Sully in Avatar, the main character in Neon Genesis Evangelion is a young boy named Shinji who is initially unfit to pilot an Eva but (like Jake Sully) becomes one of the most important Eva pilots through his uncanny union with his Eva body. Anyone being honest with themselves can see the similarities - I do not accuse James Cameron of direct plagiarism per se, though it is possible; I merely point out that this is hardly an original theme.

Another element of unoriginality was the concept of the taming of those dragon-looking birds and the nonsense about them only choosing one rider for life, the riders bonding with the creature, controlling it with their mind, etc. This is obviously plagiarized from Eragon, which Christopher Paolini stole from the Dragon Riders of Pern. When I saw this concept in Eragon, I was a little frustrated, but to see it so blatantly recycled in Avatar was too much.

From a Christian viewpoint, the biggest problem with Avatar is the spirituality positively portrayed in the film. The Na'vi have a relation to their planet (Pandora) in which the entire planet is a type of semi-conscious, living organism. The "souls" of the Na'vi come forth from the planet, or rather the planet's life force (Eywa) and return to the collective consciousness of the planet when they die. Thus there is a very strong pantheistic element, with several scenes of the Na'vi worshiping or praying to the planet in bizarre religious rituals that look like a mix between Native American ceremony and African tribalism. The problem is not so much that type of ritual is portrayed as much as that it is endorsed by the obvious sympathy which the audience is supposed to have for the Na'vi.

Regarding sympathy, the plot is so one-sided as to make the Marines into unredeemable evil antagonists, such that the main character Jake Sully, a former Marine, apparently has no scruples about turning on his own comrades and slaying them in a pitched battle at the end of the movie. Through its complete positive portrayal of the Na'vi and its complete negative portrayal of the human Marines, this film attempts to elicit the viewer's sympathy and draw implicit connections to a host of real world events - I told my wife upon leaving the theater, "This film tries to make you feel bad for the killing of the Indians, destruction of the environment, and the Iraq War all at once!" Not that I approve of any of those things, but to tie them all together under the ideology of pantheistic earth-worship creates a false dichotomy - as if to say that if you oppose pantheistic earth worship you must be in favor of destroying the environment. The sympathies created by the movie are too one sided and based on such false dichotomies.

While I initially sympathized with the Na'vi, I found it difficult to maintain my sympathy the further into the film as their pantheistic earth worship began to be more emphasized and promoted. By the latter part of the film, I found myself actually hoping the Marines would succeed in their plan to blow up the "Tree of Souls," the center of the Na'vi earth cult. What does it say about a film when our sympathies switch half way from the protagonist to the antagonist? It either means that I am very sadistic, or that the movie depicts an imbalanced approach to the themes it tries to address, which I think is indeed the case here based on other reviews I have heard of the film.

One more thing - the 3D effects just weren't that awesome. I'm sorry, but they weren't. It was a little bit cool I suppose, but after a few minutes I took my glasses off, preferring to watch the film normally. To my horror, the screen was all blurry - apparently this new breed of 3D film has to be watched with the glasses (which they conveniently charge an extra $2.00 for, making the tickets for my wife and I $21.95). Unfortunately, this seems to be the new thing, because all the films in the previews were for upcoming 3D features. The 3D was neat, and the scenery was beautiful, but I never really felt like the movie was coming out at me, nor did I think it that much better than viewing a traditional, non-3D movie.

So what are we left with? A breathtaking computerized cinematography with a one-sided plot, little depth (the last twenty minutes of the film were disgustingly predictable) and a pantheistic moral message, and sci-fi ideas lifted from several other films and books. Perhaps it would be good to rent if you are curious to see it, but I wouldn't waste $21.95 just to see it in the stupid 3D that only half-works. For these reasons, I give this film one out of three papal tiaras

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Traditionalism and "Negativity"

One ofter hears the criticism that Traditionalists frequently come off as arrogant or cranky. The accusation is that Trads, while sometimes pointing out real problems in the Church, seem to take a perverse pleasure in focusing on the negative in a spirit of antagonism and spite. I admit that this can be true at times - I have had my own experiences with cranky, mean-spirited Traditionalists, and at times I have been one myself. I don't think this has much import on whether or not Traditionalist positions are valid, but it does make it that much more difficult to convince skeptics if we look like we are in a constant state of antagonistic pessimism. It is an easy attitude to fall into (for everyone, not just Trads) and I have tried to make certain that I keep the virtue of hope alive in my heart and remember Whose Church this is that we all belong to and love.

But of course, if (as can happen) I or other Traditionalists falter in our duty to be charitable, or perhaps if we improperly single out a specific individual for ridicule, the immediate hue and cry is raised by opponents of Traditionalism that Trads are mean-spirited, arrogant, and that we lack the "authority" to make any sweeping condemnations of persons, especially persons within the established Church who have long credentials and lots of letters after their names. Dave Armstrong has said in his critiques of Traditionalism that one of the great "errors" of our position is to found in the attitude or spirit with which we approach things. I don't see how an attitude or a "spirit" can be an error, but I understand what he is getting at. Unfortunately, this stigma of the cranky, mean-spirited Traditionalist seems to have stuck to a degree. While the label is sometimes deserved, I also think it is too quickly applied, so that any time a Traditionalist takes issue with anything or questions or critiques anybody, it is taken as further evidence of Traditionalist arrogance and antagonism.

It is my contention that, while the stereotype of the accusatory trad is sometimes true, that there is nevertheless a double-standard at work here. Consider the cover of First Things for the January 2010 issue. Take a look (sorry I couldn't find a bigger pic):

Pete Seeger is a communist? Mitch Albom is an idiot? These are the headline articles on the cover of First Things? I can understand that the editors of First Things might disagree with some aspects of Mitch Albom's work, but to just say "Mitch Albom is an idiot" on the cover? What would happen if I or Athanasius or any Trad published an article in a print journal about someone we disagreed with with a title like "John Doe is a Heretic" or "Fr. Bob Johnson is an Ignoramus" (made-up names so as to not offend anybody)? Can you imagine how we would be decried as mean-spirited and overly confrontational?

I believe that sometimes we need to simply say, "So-and-so is an idiot." There is a great story that I recall from the life of St. John Vianney - one time a young theologian came from the big city to speak with St. John; as the two strolled through the lanes of Ars, the theologian told St. John about all the newfangled theories of a then nascent modernism that he was picking up and tried to explain to St. John how his traditional faith was too simplistic for modern man. Vianney listened and nodded until the young man was finished, at which point he smiled, put his hand on the theologian's shoulder and said, "My friend, you are an idiot" (This story is in Fr. Rutler's biography of St. John, though I quote it only from memory here).

No doubt this theologian was an idiot and St. John thought he deserved to be told so. Perhaps the editors of First Things believe Mitch Albom to be an idiot and feel he needs to be told. I concede that sometimes such statements may be necessary - and that theoretically I suppose it is possible to call somebody and "idiot" in a spirit of charity. But my quandry is this - I believe that the readers of First Things, and the orthodox Catholic community at large, will probably give First Things a pass on this cover. They will probably smile and think to themselves, "Ooh... I wonder what First Things has to say about Albom or Seeger?" and eagerly delve into the magazine in curiosity. I don't think they will question whether or not such titles are appropriate or charitable. Some might even make the argument that Albom is indeed an idiot and needs to be called so; perhaps, but one thing is for sure, if some Traditionalist were to take up a similar tone in an article, there would be sound condemnation from mainstream Catholics, who would probably accuse the said Trad of being mean-spirited. This is what I am getting at when I mention a double-standard when it comes to the issue of calling people arrogant or mean-spirited.

"But Boniface," some may say, "that's different. Mitch Albom is a secular Jewish radio host, not a Catholic, nor is Pete Seeger a Catholic. Trads, however, routinely focus their criticism on other Catholics and members of the hierarchy."

Look, as I said, I do think Trads need to be careful about being overly critical and hypersensitive. Point taken. But to the objection that Album and Seeger are not Catholics, are we then saying that it is okay to call non-Catholics idiots in print but that somehow it is wrong if the object of the criticism is Catholic? If this were so, this would mean that moral badness of insulting someone would reside not in what was said but in whether the person the insult was made against was Catholic or not, as if only Catholics and persons in the Catholic hierarchy have a right to a good name and non-Catholics don't. That would be preposterous.

"Okay Boniface, I agree that First Things shouldn't have just put those claims on the title. But perhaps they are substantiated by the article. What evidence do the authors bring forth to prove Mitch Albom's idiocy or Pete Seeger's communism?"

Even if the articles do support these claims, does that really justify calling someone an idiot on the front of your magazine? Even if we did have good evidence to support the conclusion that Napoleon made some serious tactical blunders at Waterloo, would any self-respecting historian entitle his article "Napoleon was a Moron"? Nobody who wanted to be taken seriously would speak in such a way. Incidentally, the Mitch Albom article is just a book review of Albom's new book, which the reviewer takes an obvious dislike to. The Seeger article is about the left-leaning sympathies of most folk musicians of the 1960's. But I think it is inconsequential whether or not the articles justify the claims - the point is that such a blanket statement - on the cover of your magazine - is uncharitable, and if I were to write such headlines as a Trad, I would be roundly condemned and it would be taken as further evidence of the "mean spiritedness" of Traditionalism.

What do I take away from this? The reality that (in my opinion) if you are a mainstream Catholic commentator with some letters after your name and some good connections, you can get away with calling people idiots on the front of your magazine. But when Traditionalists do things like questioning whether or not John Paul II should be canonized, suggesting that there may be ambiguity in Vatican II documents or criticizing certain modern theologians for novel ideas, we are mean spirited, quasi-schismatic Church-bashers who lack the authority to make these judgments. Maybe there is a factor I am missing - perhaps I am drawing parallels where none exist; if you think so, please let me know. But I am just calling it like I see it.

Conditional Baptism

I have a quandry - if you have an adult who is in need of conditional baptism, due to the fact that they vaguely remember being baptized somewhere at a non-Catholic church but have no records, the church no longer exists, etc., is it necessary for them to also make a first confession prior to baptism in case they are already baptized? I'm thinking, if they are baptized, then the conditional baptism will not effect the grace of baptism, since baptism can't be repeated. In that case, a first confession prior to the conditional baptism would be ideal, "just in case." But, if they are not in fact already baptized, then the first confession would not avail them, since confession is only for the baptized; but that wouldn't matter because the baptism, though administered conditionally, would in fact be a valid baptism and take care of all their sins and the punishments due to sin.

Any suggestions here? If you know of any official statements on this, please let me know. This is a real situation and not a hypothetical, so I need some practical guidelines. In days past, when this has come up, we have just administered conditional baptism with no prior confession, though I have had some scruples about this.

What would you recommend in this scenario and are you aware of any current magisterial documents addressing it?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Meaning & Value in Human Existence (part 2)

Sorry, this post took a little longer than usual because it is quite a complex argument and very philosophical and wordy. A week ago I posted on the question about meaning in human existence (see here) and proposed that we attempt to demonstrate the following points:

1) That we all search for meaning in our life that comes from outside ourselves.

2) That this search for meaning is not just an extension of the subjective meaning we create.

While what follows it not in any way a proof for God's existence or even a certain proof for the search for objective meaning in life, I think it does justice to the issue of meaning in as much as something so interior and subjective can be "proven."

Let's begin with the undeniable fact of the human being's desire to know. This is fundamental to human nature and was stated clearly by Aristotle in the very first sentence of the Metaphysics: "All men by nature desire to know" (Meta. 1:1). The Latin name for the human species is homo sapiens, "thinking man." To desire knowledge is part and parcel of what mankind is. One can argue that this inherent desire is from God or (for the materialist) a product of evolutionary development, but I don't see it as an important point in this discussion. It is not the origin but the fact of an undisputed, universal search for knowledge inherent in man that we are starting with.

But what type of knowledge does man search for? There are a variety of forms of knowledge, but most come under the divisions of either scientific or philosophical knowledge. Science answers questions about the material make-up of the creation, how it functions, what cause produces what effect and in general anything to do with the material constitution of the world. To put it succinctly, science tells us the "how" of the world. It tells us what is, that is, what is going among the various interacting elements of the world and how they interrelate. Of the fact that science simply tells us what is going on now, and as such is incomplete, C.S. Lewis says:

If a man says 'Humpty Dumpty is falling,' you see at once that this is not a complete story. The bit you have been told implies both a later chapter in which Humpty Dumpty will have reached the ground, and an earlier chapter in which he was still seated on the wall. A Nature which is 'running down' cannot be the whole story [referring to entropy in the universe]. A clock can't run down unless it has been wound up. Humpty Dumpty can't fall off a wall which never existed...Admittedly, science discerns no 'king's horses and men' who can 'put Humpty Dumpty together again'. But you would not expect her to. She is based on observation: and all our observations are observations of Humpty Dumpty in mid-air. They do not reach either the wall above or the ground below - much less the King with his horses hastening towards the spot (Miracles, Harper Collins, 247-248)

Thus science is incapable of grasping the teleological end of things - it can only tell us what is going on now, corresponding to the "how" questions about the universe.

But though man has certainly sought to know how nature works, he has never been content with this sort of knowledge alone but has gone on to seek philosophical knowledge. Philosophical knowledge seeks to find out ultimate reasons - where did things come from ultimately? Why were they created and what is the reason for anything existing rather than nothing? Philosophical questions seek to find out "why", as opposed to the how of science. They are not opposed to each other; in fact, they compliment each other.

Before we go on, can we prove that man does indeed seek philosophical knowledge? I think this is easily provable by looking at the fact of religious experience among all men. Just as the fact of a desire to know proves to us that man takes delight in knowing, so the universal fact of religious belief attests to the truth that men seek a philosophical knowledge over and apart from scientific knowledge. Religion seeks to provide men with answers to ultimate questions - where did we come from, what happens after we die, why is there a world, etc. Since the beginning of human existence, mankind has exhibited religious tendencies. In 2006, anthropologists discovered what they believe to be the oldest evidence of religious ritual in the world in a site in Botswana, which they say was a religious center as distant as 77,000 years ago (source). Totemist-animist religious cults are evidenced as early as 70,000 BC and ritual burial began over 60,000 years ago, according to anthropologists.

Whether you believe these numbers are accurate or not, the point is that religious practice is something that emerges right at the beginning of human culture, so far back in history that it is hardly possible to distinguish the existence of mankind without religion. Mind you, this does not establish the existence of God by any means; it does establish the universality of religious practice and its emergence into human culture at an amazingly early stage (it is also interesting that this 77,000 year old cult in Botswana apparently worshiped the "serpent").

This extremely early origin of religion ought to make us pause and reevaluate the materialist interpretation of where the search for meaning comes from. Remember, according to the materialist, man starts by creating things himself, seeing purposefulness in his own objects and then reading that purposefulness back onto creation. In real life I do not think this sequence is so easily established. Our earliest traceable religious practice is about 77,000 years ago, but it is probably safe to assume that if a cult center had already popped up by that time then religious belief among human beings is probably much older. It is very difficult to discern when religious belief first awoke in the human heart - for the Christian, this belief is actually primeval: man had a primitive, initial intimacy with God from His very creation that was only later distorted and changed through the loss of original innocence.

But I think the important question is this - does a search for meaning in the world, a "why", come from man's primitive creativity, or is man's creativity itself a result of his capacity to ask why about the world? If man had not been the type of creature especially able to wonder about the world, would he ever have begun to make tools, fire, etc. in the first place? The Catechism states that this capacity to wonder about ultimate things - to ask religious questions - is fundamental to man's nature:

In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being (CCC 28).

The reason for man's innate religiosity is not primarily because of his natural capacity to create, but rather to his "other directedness," which means his need for communion with other persons that naturally disposes him to look outward towards the other. This outward lookingness is not just a keener perception than that of the animals - it is qualitatively different. Man not only perceives the outside world but is capable of wonder, which is the beginning of philosophy. The ancients noted this int he symbolic manner in which animals move about "facing" the ground, bound to this world - but man alone gazes upward at the heavens.

This disposition to wonder is evident at a very early age. Children's favorite question is "Why?", as any parent knows. But (and this is crucial), children recognize at a very early age the concept of a chain of causality. They seem to intuit that there can be no infinite regress in this chain, and thus seek to come to the origin of it. For example:

Girl: Daddy, how do the lights work?

Dad: I flip a switch and they just go on.

Girl: Why?

Dad: Because the switch activates a current that lights the bulb.

Girl: Why?

Dad: Uhh...because of the wires in the wall that carry something called 'electricity' from the switch to the bulb.

Girl: Why?

Dad: Because that's the way electricity works; it is conducted through certain types of materials - in this case, through the wires.

Girl: Why does it work that way?

Dad: I don't's just the law of electricity for it to travel in a current like that...

Girl: Why is it that way?

Dad: I don't just is.

At this point, the father can really have no reply other than to say, "It just is." Now we have come to the end of the causal chain with "It just is," arriving at being itself. But getting to the point where the dad says "It just is" leaves a little bit of a dissatisfaction - on the one hand, the child at this point usually recognizes that the chain can go no further back (or at least the father is incapable of explaining it back any further); on the other hand, they (we) still see that if something is, there must be a reason for its existence - another cause behind its "izzing." So very early on, children pick up the idea of a causal chain and understand, as demonstrated by their constant "why's", that anything that comes into existence has a cause - and their questioning demonstrates wonder at the way things are coupled with an innate desire to get down to the ultimate cause of things, the Why beyond which there can be no more why. This is the search for meaning in its most fundamental form, a search that is innate in us but whose end we seek outside us.

Notice also that, were the father a scientist or an electrician and knew very intimately all the working of electricity, the child could still reduce him to the "I don't just is" statement - the chain of questioning might be longer, but the end will be the same. The reason for this is that because existence - being - is what the child is ultimately questioning about, they can keep stripping away layers of explanation (depending on their perseverance) until they get down to the level of just what simply is. So, saying that the dad in the above scenario just didn't know enough about science to answer her questions doesn't cut it.

So by now we have seen how humans begin to look for meaning in an ultimate cause just by virtue of their humanity - that it is human nature to want to know, and to want to know ultimate things. Obviously, children, even toddlers, evidence this desire to find meaning. But one could easily make the accusation that this search for an original and supreme "Why" that stands behind all other "whys" is simply a product of the child's immaturity; could it not be argued that once a child's reason develops and his mind develops that he will see that there is no ultimate cause or meaning and that what all children seek by pressing "why?" is after all not so important?

To answer this we need only look to the work of Austrian neurologist Victor Frankl, who though a Jewish agnostic, still recognized in the 1940's and 50's that the search for meaning is absolutely essential in the lives of all humans, adults as well as children. In his 1946 book Man's Search for Meaning, he chronicled his experience in Auschwitz and explained how men who had some kind of external meaning for their existence, some reason for living, tended to survive whereas those who saw no meaning in their sufferings tended to expire first. In a very vital and dynamic way, the presence of meaning in life could be the difference between survival and death. Frankl describes the moment in the concentration camp when he first realized the importance of meaning in life:

And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise. A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -- that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory...." (56-57)

Frankl goes on to describe how, after the war, he began a psychiatric therapy based on the premise that many of the most common psychological disorders were due to the fact that modern people had no meaning for their lives. By encouraging them to find or discover some external meaning or reason for living, he had tremendous success in curing many people.

Frankl of course was an agnostic, and the "meaning" he encouraged people to discover was a varied as the people he treated: sometimes the "reasons" he taught people to live by included honoring a parent, working on behalf of bettering the future of some child, and many other such worldly matters (though he also utilized religious motivation when practical). But the common thread throughout all of these "reasons" for life is their exteriority to the person - they are all meanings or goals external to the person which can then serve as guiding lights that lead a person towards what Frankl called "fulfillment."

What can we take away from this? Just this: the search for a meaning in life is primal and fundamental in the life of mankind, and that man searches for this meaning not necessarily within but without, "behind" and before the phenomenon of the world. Discovering this meaning is so important that people can literally become the victims of various neuroses if they can't establish it.

But need this meaning be something external to us, something transcendent? Why can't we simply find our own meaning in our own life? This is where Frankl's thesis ultimately breaks down, for while he stresses the importance of meaning in our lives, it is of little importance to him where this meaning comes from or whether it is objective or not. Frankl's contribution to the argument is more in the assertion of the fact that man will find or make meaning in his life, not that life is objectively meaningful. But if man, by nature, finds meaning, then why did "nature" allow man to be so constituted?

Mankind is ultimately not satisfied with a meaning that he "discovers" within himself, for his gaze is on the concept of being, and we quickly discern within our own selves a lack - our being is contingent and uncertain, subject to death and all the calamities that befall creatures. We quickly realize that the ultimate meaning we seek is not found within us but in something that transcends us - in the why that lies behind all of nature.

A meaning that is purely subjective is ultimately unsatisfactory. Consider the following example: Suppose you read a fiction book which really catches your attention. The character development is superb, the plot outstanding and suspenseful, and the book full of insightful glimpses of human nature and our condition, with some hints of spirituality. The book is an unqualified masterpiece, akin to Crime and Punishment or The Violent Bear it Away (two of my favorites).

Now, suppose you hear that the author of this masterpiece is coming to do a booksigning in your local bookstore. You are extremely excited and go to the booksigning. Once there, the author gives a brief talk about the book, in which you hope he will explain what the book is about. I mean, you know the plot, characters, themes, etc., but you are hoping to gain the insight into the novel tha actually comes from hearing the author speak what he was thinking when he wrote the book and what he says it is about - in other words, what the book is "really" getting at.

Imagine the disappointment if that author were to stand up and say, "This book has no objective meaning. It's meaning is whatever you find in it." I suppose this would not stop you from enjoying the book on some level, but I'd imagine any reader would be a little upset and finding that the book he had found so much meaning in had no "real" meaning in the mind of the author. It does (in some way) detract from the enjoyment of reading the book (have you ever liked a song and assumed it was about one thing, only to find out later that it was about something else, perhaps something lewd or banal, and this knowledge "ruined" the song for you?).

The reader wants to know what the book is really about, not what he himself "feels" it is about. In a way, the impressions we have about what the book is about flow from what we know the author is trying to say, if we are privy to this information. Nobody would tolerate an answer from an author that the book's meaning was completely in the mind of the reader - that approach vacuums the adventure out of reading. A merely subjective meaning is dissatisfying to the reader, just as a merely subjective meaning to life is dissatisfying to the one who lives it.

I suppose one could say that they are perfectly satisfied with life having no meaning, but it could equally be argued that the fact that they are comfortable with this belief and have accomodated themselves to it signifies that acknowledgement life's alleged meaninglessness has become its meaning for them - a bizarre and unnatural inversion of value, but one that can result nonetheless when man seeks to live life without a teleological end in mind. Transcendent meaning endures, even if one chooses to find that meaning in a creed of meaninglessness., to which the atheist comes to terms with, as in a truce, rather than lovingly accepts. How can one lovingly accept what one holds as meaningless and random? It seems that modern man has somehow managed to condition himself to this point of view. Another quote from Frankl: "A man can get used to anything, but do not ask us how."

Like reading, in which meaning and themes are found (not created), life itself is a process of discovery, in which mankind seeks to find the ultimate cause behind all other causes that exists objectively and independently of him. This Cause which we all seek is that which all men call 'God.'

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

St. Vincent of Lerins on Tradition

Here's some good stuff I came across from St. Vincent of Lerins Commonitorium (Chapter 2), c. 450 AD:

I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of theChurch's interpretation? For this reason—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient [unanimous] definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

Besides being a good apologetic for the Faith contra sola scriptura, St. Vincent gives us three criteria for making sure that even within the Church we are adhering to the Catholic faith "in the strictest sense," which he says is done by following three principles: universality, antiquity and consent.

Universality - Is what we believe what is believed by all Catholics everywhere?

Antiquity- Is what is believed what the Fathers and our "holy ancestors" understood and believed?

Consent- Is what is believed from antiquity that which the all, or "at least almost all" of the Fathers or held, or is it a minority opinion or an isolated case?

In chapter 5 of the same work, St. Vincent tells us that, because of the universality and antiquity of the Faith, when one stands up for the faith professed by the martyrs and apostles (that is, the ancient Church), one is not merely defending one part of the Church but the Church entire, as St. Vincent explains:

But in this divine virtue, as we may call it, exhibited by these Confessors, we must note especially that the defence which they then undertook in appealing to the Ancient Church, was the defence, not of a part, but of the whole body. For it was not right that men of such eminence should uphold with so huge an effort the vague and conflicting notions of one or two men, or should exert themselves in the defence of some ill-advised combination of some petty province; but adhering to the decrees and definitions of the universal priesthood of Holy Church, the heirs of Apostolic and Catholic truth, they chose rather to deliver up themselves than to betray the faith of universality and antiquity. For which cause they were deemed worthy of so great glory as not only to be accounted Confessors, but rightly, and deservedly to be accounted foremost among Confessors.

You can read St. Vincent's Commonitorium at New Advent here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Encouragement to receive kneeling

I am currently away from home and attended Mass tonight somewhere I don't usually attend. At communion time, I noticed that almost everybody was receiving standing and in the hand, with an occasional reception standing on the tongue maybe every tenth person (just a guess; I was not paying too close attention, as I was preparing myself to receive, but since I was near the end I had a chance to witness most of the parish go before me).

I decided that I was going to receive kneeling on the tongue, as I usually do at my home parish. Of course, being at a different parish I was unsure whether the priest would say anything to me about it, stare at me blankly, fumble around or what. My worries were groundless, however. When I knelt in front of the priest to receive, his face lit up in a way I have seldom seen; I'd almost swear it was a literal glow. His eyes got big and round and a huge grin spread from ear to ear. He had the most angelic, pleasant countenance, a look that said, "I've been waiting for months for somebody to receive like this!" He very slowly (slower than he had done with the others) and reverently took a host from the paten and said "Body of Christ" with a very solemn intentionality before placing the Body of our Lord on my tongue. It was clearly a joy for him to distribute communion to me this way.

I know nothing about the background of this priest or the parish, but two things were evident: (1) Nobody there received kneeling, but (2) the priest was overjoyed when somebody did. This was a great encouragement to me and a reminder that just because we walk into a parish when we are on vacation and see everybody receiving standing in the hand, we ought not to presume that the priest is "against kneeling." There are so many factors that could be involved...I was certainly not expecting the almost heavenly look he gave me when I knelt, but it was quite comforting and reassuring.

I encourage everybody to kneel regularly for reception of holy communion, but perhaps especially in situations where it is uncommon to do so. It might just make the priest's day, and in making his, it might make yours.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Meaning & Value in Human Existence (part 1)

As with several of my other recent posts, this one is a spin off of my dialogue I am having with an atheist on Facebook. In our discussion of the question of God's existence, I brought up the issue of meaning in human life and how people are not satisfied with purely empirical, scientific answers to the mysteries of life. For most of human history, people have been more interested in asking why about the world, which is a philosophical question. This is a question about meaning and the value that we attach to finding meaning in our existence.

The atheist materialist, by definition, must reject any possibility of ultimate, transcendent meaning in the universe, either of the cosmos as a whole or of the lives of individual humans. If we do find meaning in our lives, this meaning must be something subjective that we project upon what we do, not something transcendent that comes from beyond us. The value we attach to finding meaning can likewise only have its origin in us ("It is important because it is important to me").

In the materialist view, meaning must ultimately be something read back upon the cosmos by humans, who take the purposefulness of their own inventions and actions and project it upon nature. For example, humans create hammers, and the hammer as a specific end, a purposeful meaning for its existence - this meaning is, of course, to pound nails. The fact that it is brought into being with a purpose in mind supposes a creator, which in the case of the hammer, is the human craftsman. So the hammer begins in the mind of the craftsman, who then brings the tool into being with a certain ultimate end in mind, Furthermore, the form and function of the hammer in its material creation are so constituted that they point to its end; i.e., even if you did not know why the hammer was created, you might be able to deduce this by looking at its design and material composition.

The problem comes when humans (so the argument goes), take this same principle and apply it to the natural world. The hammer has purpose and was created by an intelligence; there is an astounding amount of complexity and beauty in the natural world, wherein many divergent elements work together with an apparent purposefulness, and therefore there must be a creator of the natural world just as there is a creator of the hammer. In this view, the apparent purposefulness of the world (which is only apparent) begins with an experience of purposefulness in human society and then is projected backwards onto the natural environment in which humankind finds itself.

This leads us on to meaning - for just as the hammer is created for a certain meaning, a reason, this would lead humans to wonder what was the ultimate reason or meaning behind the universe? Why was it created? Furthermore, if the universe itself has a why to it, then the person in the universe seeks also to find the why of his own existence. However, for the materialist, these are ultimately futile questions - questions based fundamentally in a backwards projection of human purposefulness onto things that are inherently unpurposeful. For the atheist, asking why is there a universe at all or what is the ultimate meaning of my life is like asking how to draw a round square. Nature is ultimately meaningless in the philosophical sense; it is complex, beautiful and immense, but ultimately there is no reason why it should exist rather than shouldn't and no purposeful end to which it is tending. Of course, thie precludes any posisbility of invidual human meaning - we are all on our own in a meaningless universe; or, as Pink Floyd put it, we are all "lost souls swimming in a fishbowl year after year."

What, then, is the Christian's response to this? In the first place we have to understand the real question. The question is not "Is there meaning to life?" Both the atheist and the Christian agree that life has meaning. The difference is that the atheist says that this meaning is grounded in the subjective value of the person and flows from the alleged fact that there is no ultimate meaning. Since there is no ultimate meaning, each individual finds or creates meaning for himself out of a mess of meaningless experiences. Thus there is meaning, but it is grounded in the subject.

The Christian does not deny that this type of meaning exists and is important; for example, I still have in my possession a worn out old blanket that I used when I was young. The blanket has no objective value over other blankets other than the meaning that I attach to it. But the Christian does not say with the atheist that all meaning in life is of this sort; rather, the Christian acknowledges an ultimate or teleological meaning of the whole cosmos, that the world and universe were created for a specific purpose by an intelligent agent who had that purpose in mind when it was called forth. The Christian also asserts that his own individual life has a meaning or purposefulness; i.e., that there are some things I am objectively "supposed" to do and others that I "ought" not to do. I am a person living a meaning-oriented life in a cosmos which itself has purpose and direction. Most importantly, this purpose and direction is objective, inherent in life and the cosmos themselves, and does not have its origin in myself.

The Christian would also add that, since this meaning is inherent in reality, and since mankind is by definition a being who wants to know the truth, discovering the ultimate meaning about reality constitutes the greatest aspiration of mankind. Mankind wants to know the truth, and it is in seeking this truth in our time on earth that man is most fully human.

The question then is where we get meaning and whether or not it is important for people to find an objective meaning to life. We know the atheist objections - can the Christian counter-proposition be proven?

Now that we have the sides delineated and the questions defined, we will attempt to answer them in the following post.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ugandan Schism

Has anyone heard about this yet? I only picked up a blurb about it on Zenit, which didn't have very many details - but here is the article in its entirety:

Ugandan Group Forms Breakaway Church

KAMPALA, Uganda, JAN. 8, 2010 ( The 20 so-called Catholic priests in Uganda who formed a new church where celibacy is not required are no threat to the Catholic Church, says the retired archbishop of Kampala.
Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala described the so-called Catholic Apostolic National Church as a group of "false prophets," the Associated Press reported last week.

Leonard Lubega, who calls himself a priest even though it is unclear whether or not he was ever ordained, founded the Catholic Apostolic National Church last month.

It is an offshoot of the Catholic Apostolic National Church of Zambia, which was founded by former Zambian Catholic priest Luciano Anzanga Mbewe.

Mbewe, who was excommunicated in June, is expected to visit the new church in Uganda for its official launch, and to ordain priests.

Cardinal Wamala noted that he didn't know any of the "so-called priests" involved in founding the movement, and he urged the faithful not to "follow or listen to them because they intend to divide the Church."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Bishop Peric: "Where is the 'Great Sign'?

Alleged Medjugorje "seer" Mirjana Soldo, who first predicted a "Great Sign" from the Virgin which would arrive "soon" back in 1981.

Recently (Dec. 11th, 2009) Bishop Ratko Peric of the Diocese of Mostra, Herzegovnia, published a new paper chronicling the mess of deception and contradiction that has come out of the Medjugorje seers in the past 29 years. The paper centers on the elusive "sign" that the seers began promising in 1981 and which has since never materialized - and of which some defenders of Medjugorje are now denying was ever part of the messages.

Bishop Peric really tells us nothing new here, but he puts the whole debacle in a chronological order and brings out some of the most grevious errors of the seers, including outright lies and intentional deception, not to mention heresy (Mary telling the seers they no longer need to pray for their own souls), contradiction and ambiguity.

Despite the misunderstanding a few months back about the Vatican condemning Medjugorje, rumors persist that something is in the works. Since nothing more specific can be said, I'm going to leave it at that for now.

By the way, if you are a follower of Medjugorje, please do not respond if your comments will just be about how so many people are converting and how we just all need to be non-judgmental; telling people not to be judgmental does not take away the problem that Ivan and the seers have been caught in many lies and contradictions. If you want to comment, please make comments directly relating to the obvious lies and deceptions perpetrated by Ivan, Mirjana, Vicka and the seers and what you make of them.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Is your priest protesting the Missal changes?

I was recently alerted to this website, entitled "What if We Just Said Wait?", where priests, laypersons and religious can go online and sign a petition protesting the new language of the revised English translation of the Missal that will be promulgated soon. It is fun because you can go onto this site and scroll through the list of 9000+ names and see who from your diocese is protesting the new language, and whether they are religious, lay, or a priest (I think my diocese had 14 or so people, half religious and one priest). If you have some minutes to spare, I suggest scrolling through it; you might recognize a priest or religious from your diocese!

It is amusing to me that the same crowd that insisted on an immediate and radical implementation of (perceived) Conciliar reforms is now arguing for a slow and moderated lean towards tradition using the same arguments that opponents of the reforms of the 60's once made. For example:

"We are very concerned about the proposed new translations of the Roman Missal. We believe that simply imposing them on our people -- even after a program of preparation -- will have an adverse effect on their prayer and cause serious division in our communities."

This is what conservatives in the 1960's argued with regards to the rupture with tradition, and rightfully so, I think. But the radicals did not care back then - it was a top-down, authoritarian implementation of something never envisioned by the Council Fathers. But now that Pope Benedict is leading the Church back to where it needs to be, the progressives are crying for moderation and warning that "imposing" things on people can cause division and disruption.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Prostitution Question

Is there anyone with knowledge of the law who can tell my why existing prostitution statues cannot be brought to bear against the pornography industry? After all, do not the actors in these films essentially have sex for money? If they weren't getting paid (presumably) they wouldn't be doing it. Why can't we take laws that prohibit the sale of sexual services and use them against pornography producers? I am assuming the distinction lies in the fact that with a prostitute one is paying for sexual services directly whereas with pornography an actor is not paid for sex per se but for the video recording/photos of the sexual activity? Still, I think this is a tenuous distinction because obviously, even if the focus of the transaction is on the video and not the sex itself, there would be no transaction is the video did not contain sex, which is of course the whole point of pornography.

Any insight on this from a legal standpoint?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Purge of the Archives

The interesting thing about blogging is that as the years go by you can trace a real development of thought on many things - if you go back to posts from early 2007, they are of a decidedly different tone than those more recent. A blog is truly a journal (hence the name "web log"), wherein one's intellectual development is apparent not only to oneself but to everyone who logs on and follows the blog.

When I first started this blog with Anselm in June 0f 2007, it was because I was frustrated. This blog was born of frustration. The frustration was that of a Catholic striving to live the historic Catholic faith in an atmosphere within American Catholicism that seemed not only apathetic but downright hostile to it. I felt alone and on the fringe, unsure if I was the only one who felt this way. Thus my first posts from 2007-2008 are very frustrated and confrontational in tone (during this year I also had the blessing of relative anonymity, which has long since vanished). I was very harsh and critical of a lot of things and said so bluntly on here, even calling people out by name whom I thought were contributing to the watering down of the Faith.

I have come a long way since 2007, and while I still love the tradition of our Faith and think a reform of the Church (an authentic reform) is desperately needed, my outlook has been softened by the virtue of hope and the frustration that accompanied my earlier posts has largely vanished. I realized that one cannot go on anger and frustration forever, like the Protestant "reformers" whose only reform was to tear down a thousand years of tradition and culture. I have endeavored to become more even-minded and hopeful in the past year or so and to use this blog to contribute more positively to the reform of the Church instead of just pointing fingers (though I still regrettfully engage in finger-pointing once in awhile when something upsets me enough).

It has come to my attention, unfortunately, that certain people have been sifting through my blog, especially in my earlier, more incendiary posts, and taking offense or issue with some of the things said there. I recently had some statements I made in 2007 brought up against me by Dave Armstrong, to which I could only tell him that my opinions had slightly moderated since then (Dave is not the only one or most recent person that I had this problem with,, of course).To anyone who is coming on here and drudging up old posts about Vatican II, John Paul II, bishops or whomever, and then forming judgments about myself based on these posts, I can only say the same - my opinions have moderated some since then and I have learned to see a lot more of the positive work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. I know there are still big areas we need work in, and we should continue to point these out. My position is not that we close our eyes to problems, but that the view we take of the real problems needs to be tempered by the virtue of hope and faith in God, that this is His Church and that everything will end alright - just like in the fairy tales, where there is a single, terrifying instant when it seems the dragon will prevail, the damsel will go unrescued and the hero may fall. Then some miracle occurs and everything is resolved happily. I have learned to trust God in His governance of the Church in the same manner, knowing that all will turn out well.

But, just because I have been troubled several times recently by persons going through old posts, I'm pulling my tag list and archives from the sidebar. Anyone who wants to get back to my oldest posts is going to have to do it manually by scrolling through a million screens (I've also reduced my posts per screen from 25 to 15 to make it more time consuming to scroll through them all -LOL). I'm also going to be deleting some of my older posts that I think are no longer of any value. It does no good to leave up posts that no longer express what you really think (or do so in an imperfect way) only to have them cited against you later. Other posts I may revise to bring more up to date. Once I am through doing this, I will put the archives and tag list back up.

Thanks for your continued patronage of this tiny, insignificant little corner of the Internet.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The "jealousy" of God

"Zeal for your house consumes me" (Psalm 69:9).

In a now famous statement, Oprah Winfrey once spoke on her Baptist upbringing and how it was that she lost her faith in mainstream Christianity, ultimately in favor of New Age thought. She related about ten years ago:

"I was raised a Baptist and we were too hung up on traditional ways. I was sitting in church and heard that God is a jealous God. I asked 'Why?' Come on-let's get over it!" (source)

What Oprah eventually concluded was that a loving God could not possibly be jealous, since jealousy is a purely human affection, and a particularly petty one at that. Therefore God could not be a jealous God, as the Bible states. The god Oprah eventually settled on is a god that does not care what people think about him - he is aloof and all-embracing, and certainly not jealous by any stretch.

It certainly cannot be denied that God calls Himself "jealous" in the Old Testament; in fact, right in the Decalogue. The prohibitions against idol worship in the first commandment are concluded with the statement, "I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous." What is this jealousy that God attributes to Himself and which Oprah thinks so little of?

Let's begin by looking at this verse quoted above in Exodus 20:5, "I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous." (Lat. (ego sum Dominus Deus tuus fortis zelotes) .Notice two things here: first that the original Latin word is "zelotes", the same word that is used in the New Testament to describe one of the Apostles, Simon the Zealot. This shows a connection between the ideas of "jealousy" and "zeal" in the Scriptures; the connection is a semantic connection in meaning, as well as an etymological connection, as I will demonstrate.

Second, notice that the designation of God as "jealous" follows immediately upon the warnings against idolatry, suggesting that God wishes us to understand this attribute of His nature specifically against the backdrop of the sin of idolatry.

Regarding the first point, the connection between "jealousy" and "zeal", we need to first understand that both of these words come from the same source, the Latin word zelus, which itself comes from the Greek zelos, which sometimes means jealously in the negative sense but also emulation, rivalry or zeal. It is quite interesting that this one root can have two opposing derivations - a positive and a negative aspect of jealousy. We can be jealous "of" or jealous "for"; to be jealous of means to envy something we do not have; to be jealous for means to desire to retain something good one already has, as we shall see. On the great etymology website Etymology Online I found this interesting comment on Indo-European words origins for "envy" and "jealousy":

"Most of the words for 'envy' ... had from the outset a hostile force, based on 'look at' (with malice), 'not love,' etc. Conversely, most of those which became distinctive terms for 'jealousy' were originally used also in a good sense, 'zeal, emulation.' " [Buck, pp.1138-9, source]

We know of course as a theological truth that God cannot be "jealous" in the petty, human way. But Scripturally we see this to be the case as well if we understand God's "jealously" more in keeping with the root word than with the common English usage; that is, as "zeal." This is the type of zeal expressed by our Lord when He drove the money changers from the Temple, of which the Scriptures said, "Zeal for your house will consume me" (Ps. 68:9, John 2:17). See how God is said to be zealous/jealous "for" something?

Very well, so we can say that if God is jealous, it is not in the petty human way that we mean when we use the word jealously in the context of malice or envy, but rather more in the context of zeal. So we have a God. whose jealousy is understood in terms of zeal "for" us. What does this mean exactly? For this answer, we need to go back to our second point: that the designation of God as "jealous" follows immediately upon the warnings against idolatry.

This gets to what I said above about jealousy "for" something being a desire to retain a good already possessed. This type of jealousy flows from the possession of a true good and a consequent desire to see that good preserved. This desire for the well-being of the good puts one in conflict with anything that detracts from the goodness of the object/person, or which could deprive the lover of the object loved. The Scriptures use this phrase to describe the affections of a man for his wife when there is a suspicion of real (or imaginary) adultery, that is, when he feels he has "lost" his beloved to someone else:

Num. 5:11-15: Then the LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If a man's wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure- then he is to take his wife to the priest.

Knowing that the Lord's covenant with His people is spoken of in marital terms, and that idolatry is spiritual adultery (see Hosea 1:2), we should not be surprised then if this language about God being "jealous" is used in connection with the worship of idols and false gods. This is in fact the case all throughout Scripture, beginning in the Decalogue with the first commandment and continuing on throughout the whole of the Old Testament. Consider the following verses, noting the connection between jealousy and idolatry:

Ex. 34:14: Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Deut. 4:23-24:
Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deut. 6:14-16: Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah.

Deut. 32:16-17:
They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols.They sacrificed to demons, which are not God - gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear.

Jos. 24:19-20:
Joshua said to the people, "You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you."

Psalm 78:57-59:
Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow.They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols. When God heard them, he was very angry; he rejected Israel completely.

Ezk. 8:2-4:
I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man. From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal. He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain.

Nahum 1:1-2,14: An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies...The LORD has given a command concerning you, Nineveh : "You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the carved images and cast idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile."

The message here is undeniable: we can only understand the jealously of God for His people against the existence of competing loyalties that distract us from God and drive us from Him, in Israel's case literal false gods. God is passionately intent on possessing us and on not sharing us with other gods or rival loyalties. This is to be understood in the same way that a husband or wife is "jealous" of their spouse, insofar as they desire his/her highest good, are privy to a special, exclusive relationship with one another, and demand/expect this exclusivity to be respected and honored by the virtue of marital fidelity.

Is there anyone out there so foolish as to say that a man's jealousy to the exclusive marital relationship with his wife against other competitors is the same as the petty, vain jealously of, say, a man who covets his neighbor's new car? The latter seeks through envy to possess something lacking; the former seeks through charity to preserve a good from corruption or loss. It is in this second sense that we must understand God's jealously - a jealous zeal for His people, due to His great love, which is in hostility towards anything that would take us from Him, knowing that our true and highest good lies in communion with our Creator. This is the divine zeal with which God pursues souls.

Does Oprah care? Not really. The statement of hers listed above about her confusion over God's "jealously" is really no reason to disbelieve in God; it's a simple misunderstanding, a stumbling block, a block which she uses to justify her desire to seek not that which is true but that which is gratifying to the flesh. Her statement reflects not an argument against a Christian God, nor even a real doubt; just a difficulty - one that could have been cleared up with ten minutes of study.

Well, even if I doubt Oprah Winfrey will read this and repent, perhaps it will help someone else who has been deluded by Oprah's poison to see just a little more clearly.