Category Archives: Morality

“What Would Jesus Do?” Try Asking, “What Did Jesus Do?”

“What would Jesus do?”

The answer to that question often depends on who you ask.  It’s a question that fits nicely into the relativistic mind of our age.  It allows each of us to thoughtfully rub our chins, look up at the sky and say, “Well, I believe Jesus would…”  So, the question is really just Jiminy Cricket’s “follow your conscience” line wearing a Christian mask.  It is relativism presented as religion.  Whatever answer you come up with is as good as anyone else’s answer as long as we are all “sincere.”

Often, the honest answer to the question “What would Jesus do?” is “I really don’t know.”  His disciples lived with him for three years and Jesus constantly kept them surprised and guessing.  Why are we so convinced that we have Jesus pegged?  For example, it astounds me when celebrities claim to know what Jesus would or would not approve of, as if being a famous celebrity makes one an authority on the mind of Christ.

When we ask, “What would Jesus do?” we can only think and act hypothetically.  We can only speculate and take our best guess.  Maybe we’re helping, maybe we’re doing harm.  What if we decide to do the exact opposite of what Jesus would actually do?  Our world faces daily situations for which there are no explicit instructions in the Bible.  Dealing in general, biblical principles does not always provide enough specifics.  Asking what Jesus would do often doesn’t help much.

Perhaps a more helpful question is, “What did Jesus do?”  There are documented answers to that question.  In terms of what our world faces today, an important answer is, “Jesus established an authoritative, teaching Church to guide us and to spiritually feed us.”  In the midst of all the confusion over what Jesus would do, we have a Church to inform us of what we as followers of Jesus in this present day are to do and what we are not to do.

I sometimes hear people defend immorality by stating that the Bible is silent or ambiguous about certain modern day issues.  Of course it is!  Jesus never told his disciples to write a book to instruct us on every possible, future, moral issue.  Jesus established a Church (only one Church) with the authority to provide us with those instructions on faith and morals.  Jesus did not establish multiple church denominations to speculate and argue about what He might or might not do.  Men established those churches (some very recently).

God is not the author of confusion.  Jesus did not leave us with a Bible, the Holy Spirit and hypothetical questions about what He would do.  He left us with His Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, to lead us into all truth.  Does this mean we always have every answer to every question?  No.  Does it mean we put it to a vote when we are confused about what Jesus would do?  No (Christianity is not a democracy).  It means that by following His Church we are following Jesus.  We are to strive for obedience to the faith, not speculation.

It comes down to trust (i.e. faith).  Either we trust with all our heart that Jesus knew what He was doing when He established the Church (trust what He did), or we try to constantly change the Church to conform to our speculations about what Jesus would do (lean on our own understanding and feelings).

Fear

It is good when fear motivates us to jump away from a coiling snake or to wear our seat belts.  These are examples of God-given reflexes and reason.  It is not good when fear motivates us to sin.  Much sin is rooted in fear.  It stems from a lack of trust in God.  Our fears are exploited by the powers of darkness and used to tempt us away from love and toward sin.  I am reminded of the line from the classic movie Poltergeist, “It knows what scares you.”

Virtually any sin we can think of can be traced back to some fear.  Virtually any fear can result in some type of sin.

We Americans like to talk about rights and justice.  Seldom do we get to the heart of the matter.  When we violate God’s moral or natural laws we are usually motivated by fears which fuel our lack of trust in God.  We also like to use the word “love,” but we fail to understand the word.  We think love is simply another pleasant emotion instead of a courageous, selfless act of the will.

We are taught that courage is a virtue and that fear is a weakness.  So, instead of admitting that we have sinned because we are afraid, we mask our sins under the cover of “rights” and “justice.”  This makes us seem courageous, but often it is just like Adam and Eve hiding from God and wearing “fig leaves” to cover their shame.  So, the first step is to recognize sin for what it is and choose God’s love instead (even when it’s really, really hard).  Otherwise we remain stuck in the circular rationalization of our sins.

Next, we must ask ourselves what we are afraid of.  When we acknowledge our fears we are better able to see how they pave the way for sin.  Is our sin rooted in a fear of what we might miss out on (some pleasure, perhaps)?  Is it rooted in a fear of increased responsibility?  Is it a financial fear?  Is it a health related fear?  Whatever the fear, there is likely a lack of trust in God that accompanies it.  So, we choose our way instead of God’s way, and we sin.  We violate God’s moral or natural law.  We choose fear over love.

“God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Tim 1:7)  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love castes out fear; because fear has torment.  He that fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1John 4:18)

What are your fears?  You may have to dig deep to find some of them.  Can you choose God’s ways in the face of them?  Will you let perfect love cast them out?  Or will you remain crouched behind your right to do things your way?

Relax The Moral Standards?

Why does the Catholic Church refuse to “relax” certain moral standards even when a high percentage of Catholics desire such a move?  It’s because the job of the Church is not to produce “nice,” spiritually mediocre people who “get along” with everybody.  The job of the Church is to produce saints, people of radical holiness.  Lowering moral standards would mute the call to sanctity.

At the same time, the Church has a most lenient penitential system.  We all fall short of Jesus’ standard of perfection and require God’s mercy.  The other job of the Church is to be the vehicle of God’s love and mercy when we fall.  God’s loving mercy does not lower moral standards.  Mercy provides help and support in shooting for those standards.

Catholics (indeed, all Christians) are called to radical holiness.  We are all called to sainthood.  Lowering the bar won’t cut it.  Instead, seek to meet the bar.

 

(Paraphrase of a commentary by Fr. Robert Barron)

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

It took me a long time to see the light about the Church’s teaching on birth control.  Like so many other aspects of the Faith, the teaching holds both a simple beauty and a profound complexity.  There is still much I need to learn regarding the Theology of the Body.

If I had to sum up my thoughts on what the Church teaches about human sexuality, I suppose I might use the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  God knew very well what He was doing when He created our reproductive systems.  Healthy men and women don’t require medications, prophylactics or surgeries to fix or prevent anything.  Our reproductive systems need to be respected and managed, but not broken by being “fixed.”

The idea of natural family planning (NFP) was confusing to me for a long time because I did not grasp the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” concept.  Why not use chemicals or devices?  These are just various ways of managing the body.  We do all sorts of medical things to manage our bodies.  What’s the big deal?  The big deal turned out to be that artificial birth control “breaks” something that is already operating in a healthy and normal way.  It repairs or enhances nothing.  When else would we go to a doctor and ask for a drug or device to break that which is healthy?  “Gee, Doc, my legs are working so well!  Can you put one of them in a cast for me, please?”  “I have 20/20 vision?  Hey, Doc, can I have some glasses to blur my eyesight and really give me some good headaches?”  NFP does not “break,” or interfere with, a healthy, normal human system.

Artificial birth control does not teach people responsibility.  It teaches people to try and have their cake and eat it, too.  It teaches people that the primary purpose of the reproductive system is pleasure, when in fact, it is procreation.  God was nice enough to make sex pleasurable.  He could have made it as stimulating as shaking hands.  Let’s not forget that those “feel good” nerve endings have lots of other equipment attached to them.  Those nerve endings are part of an entire system, not just “accessories” for us to bat around like cat toys whenever we want.  NFP keeps this in mind by respecting both the pleasurable and the procreative aspects of sexual design.  Everything remains intact, unobstructed and chemical free.  It all works like God designed it to work, baby or no baby.

Incidentally, some people argue that since post menopausal women can no longer conceive, then they should not be having sex if sex is all about procreation.  Again, menopause is perfectly in line with the natural design of human sexuality.  No pills have been taken, no condoms have been put on, and nothing has been unnaturally altered.  So, of course, post menopausal women are allowed to enjoy the natural pleasure of sex.  It’s only natural!  (There are also women that have had hysterectomies or other medically necessary procedures that have rendered them sterile without choice).  And, of course, there are the stories of Sarah and Elizabeth.  God can surprise us.

Much more could be said, but I think the primary motivator is fear.  People are afraid of the responsibility that comes with new life.  That is why we now exist in a culture of death.  People want to have lots of fun without “fearing” the responsibility.  The entitlement mentality and the contraceptive mentality are very close cousins.  Look at it this way: we are not likely to see NFP being used among the promiscuous population.  Not because it is ineffective, but because it requires responsibility, communication, commitment, self control and respect by both partners.  Artificial birth control does not require those qualities in partners.  It only requires a willingness to break a normal, working system by “fixing” it.

I’m not trying to lay a big guilt trip on folks.  I’m just trying to help expose the lies we have swallowed for decades.  Christians in particular should be concerned about whether or not they are actually becoming “one flesh” within their marriages, and whether or not their sex lives are in keeping with God’s natural law.

This is not just a “Catholic” issue.  It’s not true “because the Catholic Church teaches it’s true.”  The Catholic Church (like a voice in the wilderness) still teaches it because it is true and always has been true!  Catholicism refuses to allow society to dictate God’s truth.  Catholic reproductive systems and non-Catholic reproductive systems were all created and designed by the same God.  Artificial birth control affects us all the same.  The truth hits everybody.  The question is, “Are we responsibly honoring God’s creative design, or are we trying to play God with our bodies just to have some pleasure?”

Here’s an interesting website I found recently about NPF.

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Critical Thinking Versus Being Critical

I was taught to use critical thinking skills.  I’m not always good at it, but I do try to see all sides of issues, and I try to avoid being duped.  Critical thinkers should be able to step back and see potential problems within their own conclusions as well as the conclusions of others.  No one can be right about everything all of the time.  Nevertheless, we must make conclusions regarding values, principles and morality, especially if we claim to be Christian.  Such conclusions must be based on reason as well as faith.  Pope John Paul II said that faith and reason are the two wings on which the soul takes flight.  Hence, even Christians need critical thinking skills.  Being Christian is an intelligent choice as well as a choice of faith.  Being a critical thinker, however, is not the same as being a critical person, and many folks get the two confused.

Critical people tend to seek out and point out the faults of others.  They will look a person “up and down” in an attempt to spot a blemish or shortcoming.  They also tend to find ways to make “imperfections” known to others.  This is the attitude of the Pharisee whose prayer consisted of thanking God that he was not like the sinners around him.  It is an attitude of superiority which expresses contempt for others while “pumping up” one’s self.  Having a critical attitude is not the same thing as using critical thinking skills to arrive at different conclusions than others.

There are also people that, if disagreed with, will throw out accusations of hatred.  “Since you disagree with my conclusion, you must hate me.”  These people are dismissing the possibility that the conclusion that differs from theirs could have been arrived at through legitimate, critical thinking rather than through hatred.  Using critical thinking skills is not hatred.  In fact, it is a loving thing to do as it attempts to see all sides and operate justly rather than through pure emotion.

As Christians, we are compelled to use critical thinking skills but not to be critical people.   We are to be, as Scripture says, “Wise as serpents but harmless as doves.”  James tells us how difficult it is to “tame the tongue,” yet we must strive to “speak the truth in love.”  As soon as we use truth as a hammer to beat down or insult other human beings, we enter the realm of sin.  We must, at all times and with all people, act with charity (love).  Faith, hope and charity: the greatest of these is charity.  Think critically, but don’t be a critical person.  Critical people tend to attract other critical people, and that is not the mission of the Church.  Criticism doesn’t usually win people over.

Most of us are critical rather than loving at times.  That’s why we have the confessional.  And Jesus waits for us there, not to criticize us, but to love us and to help us think more critically about how we can be more like Him and bring others to Him.

The Bible? Yep, There’s An App For That. But…

We have reached a point in history where the Bible is available to practically everyone.  We can even carry it around on our smart phones if we want to.  We have access to all sorts of information about the Bible with a few clicks of a mouse or the slide of a finger.  Things have changed drastically since the days when there were only a few Bibles copied by hand.  And yet, some things have not changed at all.  The meaning of Scripture has not changed.  The truth contained in Scripture has not changed.  The ability to properly discern the meaning of the text still resides with the Holy Spirit, not human technology.  Our technology cannot match God.

Consider the account of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:31.  The Apostle Phillip saw him reading from the prophet Esaias.  So, Phillip, guided by the Spirit, approached the man and asked him if he understood what he was reading.  The man replied, “How can I unless some man guides me?”  So, Phillip explained (preached) to the man how the Scriptures pointed to Jesus Christ.  The eunuch then asked to be baptized.  He became a Christian, not because he read and understood the copy of the Scriptures he possessed, but because a Spirit-led, authoritative interpreter of that Scripture preached to him.  That Ethiopian eunuch might as well have been sitting there Googling the Scripture on his iPhone.  He still would have needed the apostolic authority guided by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible contains, among other things, Paul’s letters to various churches regarding many different topics such as salvation, end times, proper behavior of Christians, the Lord’s Supper, etc.  Peter (the first pope and head of the apostles) also wrote some letters.  In 2Peter 3:16, Peter mentions the letters of Paul.  Peter writes that Paul’s letters contain information that is “hard to understand.”  Not only are the letters hard to understand, but there are a lot of people twisting the truth of those letters “to their own destruction.”  In other words, interpreting the Bible is difficult and dangerous.  Peter then warns the Christians not to be led astray by people that are improperly interpreting Paul’s letters.

Having a laptop with fancy Bible software or a smart phone has not made it safer to interpret Scripture.  In fact, it has probably increased the danger.  We now live in a world of relativism, the antithesis of truth.  People generally no longer believe in absolute truth.  “You have your truth and I have my truth.”  “You have your Bible interpretation and I have my Bible interpretation.”  “You follow your Jesus and I’ll follow my Jesus.”  This is partly the result of many Bibles with little or no guidance from apostolic authority.  Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Pontius Pilot says, “What is truth?” and then washes his hands of it and crucifies Truth.  Such is our world of mass information and relativistic mindset.

Can’t people become Christian in any church?  Isn’t it even possible for people to pick up a Bible, read it, learn about Jesus and become Christian?  Of course.  But becoming Christian is only the beginning.  Disciples must learn how to remain Christians, grow as Christians and conduct themselves as Christians.  Just as we do not leave newborn babies to fend for themselves, The Master did not set us adrift on the winds of conflicting doctrines.  Jesus did not leave us alone with only our Bibles.  He left us a Church for guidance.  When we ignore or abandon the apostolic guidance of that Church, we place ourselves in peril.  When we act as if we know better than the Church that Jesus established and gave His own authority to, we place ourselves in peril.  When we have devotion to the Bible but not to Christ’s Church, we place ourselves in peril.  It is not the Bible that divides Christians; it is the issue of authority.

The question of authority extends even beyond the interpretation of Scripture.  The Bible does not explicitly address certain issues facing modern Christians.  While technology has given us smart phones, it has also enhanced our ability to “play God,” particularly in the beginning and ending stages of life.  Science promises great power and ingenuity, but it does not promise morality or spiritual truth.  If Christians are divided over moral issues that are addressed in the Bible, how much more will they be divided on issues where the Bible is silent?  There has to be an authority to interpret Scripture and to address contemporary moral issues.

Keep your Bible on your phone, your Kindle, your laptop, your desktop or in a drawer by your bed if you wish.  It matters not.  What matters is the authority by which we discern the Bible.  There are now literally thousands of conflicting interpretations and various lifestyles all claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit and all using the name “Christian.”  It’s confusing.  God is not the author of confusion (1Cor 14:33).  We still need the apostolic, Spirit-led authority that unlocked the Scriptures for the Ethiopian eunuch.  We don’t need more technology or Bibles, and we don’t need just any church or just any preacher; we need the Church preaching apostolic truth.

Women’s Rights (?)

None of us had the option of choosing who our parents would be.  We did not know the content of their character or the color of their skin.  We did not know if they were upstanding members of society or common criminals.  We did not know if they practiced any particular faith, or if they had any sense of morality whatsoever.  We did not know if they were going to nurture us or abuse us.  We had no sense of how they treated each other.  For all we knew, our fathers could have been rapists or ministers.  Our mothers might have been prostitutes or soccer moms.  We simply did not get to choose who our parents would be.  Yet, here we are, existing, and trying to make the best of it, because someone gave us a chance at life.

Life is the primary, inalienable right.  Without life, none of the other human rights make any sense.  Consider the rights of a woman, for example.  What good are her rights if she is not alive?  One of life’s greatest ironies is the killing of women in utero in the name of “women’s rights” (or, for that matter, the killing of any human in the name of “human rights”).

Incidently, it is sometimes claimed that, since I do not have a woman’s body, I am not allowed to say anything about women’s issues, particularly abortion.  Foolishness.  My very existence is due to a woman’s body and her choices, as is the existence of anyone reading this.  Furthermore, any woman would be glad to have the support of my opinion if it was in agreement with her own.  It is only when I disagree that my gender becomes an issue.

I cannot be supportive of “women’s rights” by excluding the weakest and most vulnerable of all women; those women still in the womb of other women.  They are living in what used to be the safest place on earth.  Now it is one of the most perilous places to exist.  Don’t tell me how important your  life and your female body are while the body living inside of you (possibly another female) is being destroyed.  They are both equally important.  They both deserve the right to live and have a chance to show their quality, no matter who the parents are.

 

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us.