Sunday, July 5, 2015

Recommended Reading

In answering the question as to what fundamental principles are behind the Church's teaching on homosexuality, Joseph Prever says in this amazing interview:

"Well, what I think is that one, at the bottom of it, men and women are different. Number two, that eros is different from friendship, and number three, that physical acts have spiritual meanings."

Excellent reading, highly recommended.

The reason I say that is not because I think it’s nonsense to rely on the power of the sacraments, but I do think it’s nonsense to rely on the power of the sacraments for things that the sacraments weren’t actually designed to do. For example, it would be absurd to say that you weren’t going to go to the doctor to fix your broken arm because you preferred to go to confession. Within human society, there exist certain solutions to certain human problems, and if we don’t take advantage of them, then we’re being very stupid.  

My favorite:

Physical differences are not just physical differences, because physicality is not just physicality. It all comes down to the fact that you can't paraphrase the poem. That is to say, if you have a poem which says something beautiful and true, you can't say sum it up by saying, ‘ok, and what the poet meant to say is this syllogism.’ And in the same way, the only way to describe what masculinity and femininity are is to say: ‘here are men, they are manly. Here are women, they are womanly.’ That's literally the only way to do it, because our bodies are poems. They are poems that express the ‘masculinity’ of God and the ‘femininity’ of God and we have to take them seriously, which doesn't mean we can pin down (exactly) what the poems are saying.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Oh, the Humanity!

White Tulips, for Forgiveness
This week has illustrated why I try not to watch the news. It is very difficult for me to handle the reality of children suffering, particularly when it's as egregious as what A Holy Experience wrote about here. I listen once a week to the Diane Rehm show international hour, which is a very intellectual experience. Several journalists discuss the history and implications of current events. They tend to gloss over details and say things like, "ISIS conducted many acts of brutality when they took Ramadi" or something similar, so while they don't ignore the darker sides of the news, they don't dwell on the horrible details, either.

I like this because it allows me to be up to date without immersing myself in the reality of what's happening. It's just so darn hard for me to let go and move on. I have talked with friends and family members about this problem and most of them say, "You just have to stop dwelling on it. There's nothing you can do." The ones who, like me, can't always find a way to do that tell me, "Just avoid the news as much as you can."

Facebook is my undoing. I spent most of Tuesday so full of anger and disgust over ISIS that it was hard for me to focus on the here and now of parenting. I called my mom and my best friend, and together we ranted about the situation and our helplessness in the face of such twisted brutality.

Then Thursday, at the gym, I came across the People interview with Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, who were held in that Cleveland house along with Michelle Knight. Years. YEARS of torture. And the sick games that man played with them, and how he just kept going back out and kidnapping more young girls. And less than a year in prison, he committed suicide. Oh, the rage.

And then today, The Duggar scandal. I read through a few articles from different sources, then read Josh Duggar's statement . I came to three conclusions:

1. The Duggar family responded to the situation. (I absolutely think there can and should be a discussion of whether their response went far enough. Here's a good start from a blogger on Patheos.)

2. Josh Duggar has admitted his actions, apologized, sought forgiveness, and worked towards restitution with his victims (according to his statement.)

3. At least some of the victims have requested privacy and anonymity. We should respect their right to privacy, and as such, we don't have their perspective the way we do the Duggar parents, Josh, and his wife Anna.

It was only after I started reading comments that I realized how much rage is being directed at the Duggars and people who share their views. It surprised me. I read comments like, "HANG THE MONSTER!" and "He needs to go to trial and be locked away. Pervert!" I also read comments that vilified his wife, "What kind of a person would have children with this monster?" and "She knew and she still married him! SICK."

Hang the monster? Seriously? Isn't there a huge difference between what Josh Duggar did and what Ariel Castro did? Without excusing his actions in the least, I would think we could all agree there is a continuum of molestation/abuse, and I don't see how hanging is an appropriate response here. He is not hiding from what he did. He is accepting the consequences, like resigning from his position as head of the Family Research Council and making public apologies for his actions. I feel compassion for him and his victims, both. I hope and pray that everyone truly did receive counseling, and I think he should be able to move forward with his life providing that he really has done what he claims (repented, sought forgiveness, made restitution.)

And a little voice in my head asks, "Would that apply to ISIS members?"

I tried a few years ago to read Yancey's book "What's So Amazing about Grace?" On the first page he gives the account of a woman addicted to drugs who was pimping out her daughter to the men who were paying her for sex. I will not mention here the age of her daughter. But I literally could not advance past that first page because RAGE at men who would have sex with a child just consumed me and prevented me from understanding what Yancey was trying to say. It is the same reason I could not finish Phillip Gourevitch's "We Would Like To Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families" and Immaculee Ilibagizas excellent book "Left to Tell."

I have to believe that wisdom truly is a gift from the Holy Spirit, because the human me is the one who rages impotently against the sick jerks who would repeatedly abuse a 9 year old girl. It's the Holy Spirit who can see that those men were probably abused themselves as children, that they grew up in poverty without proper nutrition and education. Many of them are probably mentally ill in some way or another (I'd be surprised if there's anyone who lives in a war-torn area that doesn't have PTSD.)  Whatever weaknesses they have as people (and we ALL have those weaknesses) are being amplified by their environment and exploited by the ideology of ISIS. They are responsible for their actions, of course! But there is a part of me that can understand that they are truly sick; they are in need of healing.

So, yes. That would apply to ISIS members. Whether or not it's possible is a matter for another post.

Jesus loves Ariel Castro just as he loves Amanda Berry. Ask Sister Mary Martha had such a beautiful reflection on the permanence of hell and God's desire that everyone repent and join Him in heaven. (I have no opinion on whether Sister Mary Martha is a real nun or not. She has not posted in many months but I always found her perspective comforting and full of wisdom.)

Josh Duggar is a person. So was Ariel Castro and Osama Bin Laden and Hitler. Love asks us to respond to others in a way that honors their individual rights and dignities. I think the first step is to view them as people, as hard as that may be sometimes. If we don't, we are letting the rage and the hate win over love. And if God is love, then we know who rage and hate is...

Friday, March 20, 2015

We Must Care

It comes again, that persistent voice of doubt that says "WHAT'S THE POINT?" Why care? Does it make any difference?

I choose to believe that yes, it does. In fact, it makes such a tremendous difference not only in our lives, but to everyone we encounter, that I think it must be the single most important thing we can do.

We can care. Even when it hurts, and sweet Lord, it hurts SO much to care sometimes. Like you, I am horrified by the plight of civilians in the Middle East and Africa. I am overcome with rage at the stories of injustice, violence, cruelty, and selfishness. Like you, I want to turn away from the truth, that there are worse things than beheading which ISIS is doing to children. The other evening I asked my husband, bitterly and petulantly, "Is there anything we can do about ISIS? Because I really don't want to hear anymore about what they are doing to people if there's nothing that can be done to stop them. It's just too much."

I don't know if there is anything we can do to stop them. Maybe an international force is the answer, but we are far away from reaching any sort of consensus on that. In the meantime, what can be done about ISIS? What can I, as a suburban housewife with four kids and a little blog, do about one of the most violent and terrible threats of our generation?

So little. I can care. I can teach my children to care. I can encourage others to care.

From that, perhaps a tiny spark is lit. Some glimmer of solidarity that could lead to action. Maybe not right this moment, but someday. Because what's the alternative? Further isolation? Compartmentalization? A culture of apathy that says the world has always been thus, and shall always be thus, and it's someone else's problem, not mine? As Philip Yancey so eloquently stated:
"The strongest argument in favor of grace is the alternative, a world of ungrace. The strongest argument for forgiveness is the alternative, a permanent state of unforgiveness." 
Thus the strongest argument for caring is the alternative, a permanent state of indifference. The greatest crimes against humanity are committed by those who do not respect the dignity of human life. If we don't wish to lose our humanity, we must care.

And if we care, we must act. Which leads me again to the original question: What can I do?

I am so small. It feels that anything I do is so insignificant that it's hardly worth the effort. Moments like these, I am inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux because she acknowledged her own humility and weakness, but never let it stop her from doing what God called her to do. She said,
"Merit does not consist in doing or giving much. It consists in loving much."
In other words, it consists in caring. If you believe, AS I DO BELIEVE!, that prayer is a way to love those we cannot love in any other way, then please pray with me this coming week: that the native forces fighting ISIS will resist the temptation to retaliate against citizens belonging to different sects or religions. I am trying to offer up my own desire to retaliate (when my kids are defiant, when I am wrongly accused, when someone cuts me off in traffic, etc.) for this intention.

If the most that happens is that I spend my time "turning the other cheek" then I can say two things: I cared, and I did something about it.