Biblical and Catholic Church Teachings on the Poor

Besides the inciting opening comments, here is an interesting essay that deals with Jesus' social teachings and the Catholic church's stance on the poor. The site, according to the copyright, was written in 2003, so it is not reactionary to the current political dialog.

Catholic Church Social Teachings: Matthew 25

On Church Unity

This quote means more to me after worshiping with my brothers and sisters in Christ from various congregations throughout Antwerp last night. Too bad we only do it a few times a year.

"Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become "unity" conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified."
- A.W. Tozer

And here are a few other quotes on unity.

In necessary things, unity
in doubtful things, liberty
in all things, charity.
-Saint Augustine

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…

…I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
- Jesus

True Religion, Atheism, and the Quest for Truth

I recently read an article from Tara Stiles entitled What Would God Do For You? The article turns into an atheistic rant against Christianity. This is my response.

We can sit around and focus on all of the bad actions that religious people have done through the years as a means of discrediting religion. Likewise, we can sit around and focus on all of the bad actions that atheists have done in the twentieth century as a means of discrediting atheism. To discredit either argument based upon bad actions is intellectual disingenuousness at best.

In an article like Tara Stiles', the bad actions of "religious" people in the past are brought up as a way to trick the audience into not liking God. Nobody in their right mind would like a God that encouraged bad religious people to do bad religious actions. Religious people oftentimes take the same approach to atheism. Both belief systems have enough battle scars for those who want to discredit an idea based on battle scars to easily scoff at the other side. What this approach ignores is that every belief will be morphed and manipulated because of power hungry people, but that does not mean we should not believe anything. Should we just go around being apathetic and not believe? (And I believe atheism is believing - agnostics do not believe.)

What gives the ideas value are the good actions that people do as a result of believing them. There are many good things that Christians have done. Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, many medical clinics, most of our hospitals, and the list can go on. Don't throw the baby out with the pooped in bath water.

Many Christians have done many stupid things, but that does not mean the gospel of Jesus is not true. There are many Christians who sincerely believe in Jesus and are trying to bring about his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. They don't follow to use Jesus as a tool for eternal life or to make themselves feel superior to the "nonbelievers" but live their lives, like Jesus did, as an example of how we are supposed to live by serving one another.

Responsibility over Voting, and Obama

My reply to Troy's question in my last post became too long, so here it is in all its glory.

Troy stated:

That's why I didn't vote last year. I couldn't yoke myself (read: be partially responsible for) any of their policies.
Just a question: do you feel even a little responsible for what he's doing? After all, you helped him get into office. And should you feel responsible?
Not accusing, just asking.

It's a good question.

Do I feel responsible? No, not really. I have not even felt a tinge of guilt over it. I never even considered whether I was responsible until your post.

I still think he is better than McCain would have ever been. I understood going in that I was voting for a person I disagreed with on many issues. It's the nature of politics in a democracy. Now, I could choose to avoid participating altogether. I have considered that, but I just am not there yet. I think Obama proposed many good things in his campaign. Those are what I voted for. If he renigs on them, it is his fault, not mine.

It does disappoint me that he went full steam after the issues I disagreed with him on. What has disappointed me most is his not standing up to the wall street banking mentality and politics as usual in Washington. "Too big to fail" should disappear. And corporate lobbyists need to lose their control. Those were changes he acted like he would make, but instead he has only delivered the changes I held my nose over while appeasing corporate and corrupt America time and time again. In the end, I disagreed with him on some issues, but I agreed with him on more "moral" issues than I agreed with McCain on. And still do. The nature of a democracy is that we do not get the candidate we want, but the compromise candidate that we can agree on. Unfortunately, McCain eliminated the candidate I would have voted for over Obama in the primary, but I was not about to vote for McCain.

The problem is that I can't fire Obama. Although I probably wouldn't fire him yet. He has delivered on changing the attitude of our foreign policy from one that would always lead to war to one that might lead to peace. I believe strongly in talking with our international "enemies" as I try to talk to my neighborhood "enemies" in real life. Although, "enemies" more than likely don't want to talk to me.

The inevitable nature of voting for someone that is not yourself is that they will do some things you disagree with, and sometimes we even do things that we disagree with. It seems awfully similar to being part of a church. Love overcomes a multitude of sins, but all too often we just don't love one another and act like sharks with blood in the water when someone stumbles or does something we disagree with. Other people are always going to do things that I don't agree with because they are not me. We need to learn to live with people that approach things differently than ourselves. More than likely, we will even learn from them. I cannot isolate myself and surround myself with only people that do things the way I want them done if I want to have any sort of impact on the people around me.

I think our nation is at a very unusual situation due to technology. We are able to isolate ourselves into hives of similar people in a cable/digital world. We get our news from people we agree with. We only visit sites we agree with. While all the while relationships with real neighbors and co-workers dwindle. We have lost the ability to civilly interact with those we disagree with. We call them "idiots", "unpatriotic", and "ignorant". I fear that this tribal mentality will lead to more heartache and pain. We have to learn to live with people we disagree with, whether as a nation or as a people in the church.

David Ploufe, the Audacity to Win, and Obama's Presidency so Far

David Plouffe, the campaign manager for Obama's 2008 campaign, just wrote The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory, examining the ideals of Obama's campaign and what he has done so far in Washington. Arianna Huffington wrote a great article on the book: Obama One Year Later: The Audacity of Winning vs. The Timidity of Governing.

For a life-time Republican who voted for change when I voted for a Democratic presidential candidate (the first time in four adult presidential elections), some of the initiatives Obama has pursued are the ones that I held my nose when voting while what I voted for has disappeared. Is what he has done a glimpse into what he really wants? Are the bigger ideas that he ran on meaningless? Or has lost his way in the Beltway?

I voted for withdrawal from Iraq and would like it to extend to Afghanistan, but he stated in his campaign that he would increase troops in Afghanistan. He's living up to that. I voted against corporate profiteering on the backs of the working class. I voted for Universal Health Care, for decisions to be made without "consulting" corporate lobbyists, for a line by line examination of the budget that would cut government spending and head us in the direction of a balanced budget, and a change in approach to foreign policy. Only the last has he given us.

I am pretty sure President McCain would increase troop levels in Afghanistan after having tamed Iraq, be against the public option in a health care policy, and would have cut spending. McCain, like Obama, likes Cap and Trade. A corporate man, Geithner, is on the cabinet, so I don't see how McCain could do any worse. Did I only get hate crime laws, extension of abortions, embryonic stem cell research, and another increase in taxing smokers when I helped elect Obama?

There are valid alternatives to stem cell research other than the much heralded embryonic stem cell research. Crime should be punished based on actions rather than thoughts, even if the thoughts are horrid. Smokers, even if it is for something good like health care for kids, should not carry an increased burden to pay for the health care of this nation's children. And no federal dollars should go to abortions because there are so many in this nation against them. Yet that is what we have received so far from the Obama presidency.

Arianna's article reminded me why I voted for Obama. I hope the book reminds Obama why he wanted to be President. It even made me believe once again that Washington could be changed. That our nation could head down a different political path and be better.

Updated Favorite Books - Amazon Store

I updated my favorite books in my Amazon store.

And I am on vacation this week, planned on doing nothing, but might be buying a house instead.