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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Luther and Islam

When most people teach the religions of the world, they lump early Christianity together with Protestantism and tack Islam onto the back.

This is not wise. If we offer the religions in chronological order, and pay close attention to the world situation, especially the situation in Europe, we'll see something that most people miss. Lutheranism owes a heavy theological debt to Mohammed.

Now, to be fair to Luther, he recognized Mohammed as an Arian heretic who denied the divinity of Christ and called the Koran a book of Satan.
So it's not like he LOVED Mohammed.
He didn't like him at all.

But, that having been said, there are several points of contact between Islam and Luther's teachings.

1) War Against the Turk is War Against God
Both Islam and Luther agreed the fighting the Muslim army was fighting God, although they thought this for different reasons. For Muslims, they really WERE on a mission from God because they were the true faith. After all, they started a rampage against Christians in 632, crossed into Spain in 711, conquered Constantinople in 1453, and headed up to Buda and Pest about the time Luther was hammering theses on a church door.

However, from Luther's point of view, as represented in his defense of the 95 Theses, while Muslims were an heretical faith based in Arianism, they were also sent by God to scourge Catholic Europe, so no opposition should be brought against them. This was especially true given that Luther held that the Pope was more evil than Islam. So, while the Pope was trying to gather Christian armies to fight crusades against Muslim rapacity Luther was actively trying to keep any Christian from fighting. Luther only began to modify his stance when the Muslims finally captured Buda and Pest, and began to advance on Vienna.

2) Iconoclasm (the destruction of images)
Both Islam and Lutheran Protestantism destroyed images because they argued that God commanded it. For both, the use of images was idolatry.

But again, to be fair, Luther and his compatriots were not the first to be taken in by the aspect of Muslim theology. The Eastern Christian Church in Constantinople underwent at least two different bouts of iconoclasm between 700 and 1000 AD, both a result of the fact that Muslim armies were constantly attacking the city.

Within 100 years of the first assault, the Christian emperor of Constantinople decided to join his Muslim opponents in destroying images, the beginning of the great Iconoclasm heresies. In both outbreaks of iconoclasm, it took decades to put down the heresy.

So, we should not be surprised to see Protestants changing the teaching on Decalogues' teaching on images as Muslim armies attacked Budapest, in much the same way the Eastern emperor had when Muslim armies attacked Constantinople.

3) The Irrationality of God
In both his sermons and in the collection of sayings called Table Talk, Luther stated:
"But since the devil's bride, Reason, that pretty whore, comes in and thinks she's wise, and what she says, what she thinks, is from the Holy Spirit, who can help us, then? Not judges, not doctors, no king or emperor, because [reason] is the Devil's greatest whore." The original German is "Vernunft ... ist die höchste Hur, die der Teufel hat" Martin Luther's Last Sermon in Wittenberg ... Second Sunday in Epiphany, 17 January 1546. Dr. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe. (Weimar: Herman Boehlaus Nachfolger, 1914), Band 51:126, Line 7ff

Islam, of course, has always taught that Allah is not bound by rationality. He is more powerful than anything, even the force of reason.

Now, Islam teaches that God can change, while Protestantism has never taught this, but that's only because Islam is more theologically consistent than Protestantism in this regard. After all, if reason really is the "whore of the devil," then God cannot be rational as His very rationality would make Him the devil's whore. Lutheran theology in reference to the role of reason and faith is essentially just a restatement of Muslim theology.

4) Divorce is Legitimate
Muslims always permitted divorce - the man simply says "divorce" three times and that accomplishes the deed.

Once Luther became convinced that marriage was not a sacrament (which was the Muslim position as well, of course), Bucer became the first Christian to draw the logical conclusion. He argued as the Jews and Muslims did, that marriage was simply a civil contract, and divorce was a reasonable solution. Protestants in general and Lutherans in particular quickly followed suit.

5) Polygamy is Acceptable
But even divorce was sometimes troublesome. Luther asserted that nothing in Scripture forbad polygamy. Bucer, Melanchthon and Luther would all advise Henry VIII to simply commit bigamy instead of going through the trouble of annulment when Henry tired of his wife. Henry had not the stomach for the Protestant solution, but that didn't stop the idea.

When Philip of Hesse faced the same problem, Luther famously advised him in the same way - simply take a second wife secretly when he tired of the first. Philip acted on the advice and did so with Bucer and Melancthon, Luther's main theological advisor, serving as witnesses to the "lawful" bigamy. John of Leiden had reached the same conclusion in Munster just five years earlier, and the whole city had become bigamous for a time, so Luther wasn't even original in this advice.,_Landgrave_of_Hesse#Bigamous_Marriage

6) Lying is a Virtue in Times of Necessity
A standard of Shi'a Muslim theology is the practice of taqiyya, or lying in order to protect the faith. Luther gave similar advice on the virtues of lying to Philip of Hesse when Philip's bigamy was found out. Unfortunately, the lie was found out as well, and Luther's reputation suffered somewhat from the resulting scandal.

7) Proclaim With Your Mouth
This last is not really Luther's fault - to the end of his life, he insisted on the necessity and efficacy of baptism. However, his rejection of the other sacraments and his sole fide theology led naturally to a very Muslim conclusion: the sinner's prayer is efficacious.

Everyone knows that in order to become a Jew, the man must be circumcised. What most people don't realize is that conversion to Judaism requires a ritual bath: the mikveh.

That's why John the Baptist baptized people - he was giving them the ritual bath that signified the conversion of hearts. While neither the mikveh nor John the Baptist's baptism did anything in terms of grace, that wasn't true of the baptism Christ instituted. For 1500 years, baptism was the sacrament which fulfilled the symbol the mikveh represented. It provides sanctifying grace.

But nearly a millennia of Muslim violence changed many people's idea of what was necessary to convert to a life of faith.

"Laa ilāha illa Allāh, wa Muḥammad(un) rasūl Allāh." Say that sentence aloud and, according to Muslim theology, you are thereby rendered a Muslim, subject to all shariah law, including the law which makes apostates eligible for the death penalty.

Similarly, 19th and 20th century Christianity adopted this Muslim concept and came up with the "sinner's pew" - the first pew in the church, a place reserved for those the preacher intended to focus his conversion sermons on. That, in turn, became the "sinner's prayer."

Proclaim with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, believe in your hearts that He is risen from the dead, and you are saved. Not only is that sentence very close to a passage in Romans, it is virtually Muslim in its sentiments.

If you have ever wondered why secular humanism - the fruit of Protestantism - is so favorable towards the Muslims, this may give some of the necessary philosophical connections.

Chris West Evangelizing Government Employees?

Christopher West has long held Hugh Hefner up as an icon, someone who tried to rescue the naked from the Manichean Puritanism (tm) of American religious bigotry.

He has also long held that those who are pure should be able to look on the body of a naked woman without shame. He famously held that he purified himself by seeing an image of the Blessed Virgin's breasts as she was nursing Jesus (and she ain't no flat-chested mama, according to Chris), and recalled every pornographic image he had every beheld, offering it all to her.

Well, government employees are now gaining Westian sensibilities.

At least one senior government executive has gained the purity of thought necessary to look beyond the nudity of the female form and show love and concern for those caught up in the work of pornography and prostitution.

For instance, one senior executive spent at least 331 days looking at
pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or
partially clad women without being detected, the records show. When finally
caught, the NSF official retired. He even offered, among other explanations, a
humanitarian defense, suggesting that he frequented the porn sites to provide a
living to the poor overseas women. Investigators put the cost to taxpayers of
the senior official's porn surfing at between $13,800 and about $58,000. "He
explained that these young women are from poor countries and need to make money to help their parents and this site helps them do that," investigators wrote in
a memo.

Now, clearly, Westians should applaud this man for his discernment and holiness!

As Westians frequently point out, "You can't evangelize a woman or man unless you look at him or her." Indeed. And you can't evangelize them unless you talk with them. And if they are paid to talk smutty, well, we can't be prudish about it - we have to make sure they don't lose their jobs, so we are forced to listen to the smut and talk with them, in order to make sure they are receiving a living wage.

As the Washington Times points out, it's all about love, really.

We are saddened, of course, that the man didn't have a chance to show off his anal foreplay skills, but perhaps that should be left for another session.

For now, we must simply do as Chris West does. Pick up the most beautiful artwork we can ever imagine, let Hugh Hefner rescue it from the trash, think pure thoughts, and look at what Hugh offers us.

I'm sure John Paul II would approve.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chris and the Cult

Below is a quote from Christopher West's response to Dr. Michael Healy's talk at the Personalist Project event. It perfectly illustrates the point Alice von Hildebrand made in her CNA interview about how West fails to understand the inflammability of sexual passion. He sounds truly Manichean in his claim that an engaged couple is not virtuous unless they are capable of being alone together the day before their wedding without sinning.

Dr. Healy's talk was on "Dietrich von Hildebrand on Human Sexuality." West says at the beginning of his response that he composed his talk in advance, based on reading an advance copy of Dr. Healy's talk. So West is not speaking off the cuff when he says on the topic of moving from continence to virtue:
"St. Paul is so clear on this: 'We are called to freedom! Do not take up again a yoke of slavery.' In my travels, I run into all kinds of different perspectives on these things. What is appropriate, for example, for, say, a young engaged couple? They want to be chaste, they want to save themselves for marriage. What would be appropriate in terms of their affection for one another, what would be appropriate in terms of even their spending time together?

"And in some of the more extreme positions on these questions, which are open for conversation, I hear things like this: 'Well, you never better be alone together. Because you know what's gonna happen if you're alone together.'

"Okay. Take a good-hearted couple. If they know their weaknesses, if they know if they were alone together, they would engage in behavior that they shouldn't be engaging in, I will be the first to commend them for not being alone together. Christian, know thyself. But we must not call that virtue.

"Such a couple is continent, but they are not virtuous, in the true sense of the word, in the true Thomistic sense of the word.

"Think of it from this perspective: If the only thing that kept you from having sex before marriage was the fact that you didn't have the opportunity, what does that say about the desires of your heart? And then there is a real and present danger of justifying lust within the marriage.

"Here's the, the kind of visual that comes to me when I think this through: You get this good-hearted engaged couple, they have never been told about the progress of the Christian life, they've been dropped off at the curb of continence, and they think that's all they can expect. 'Okay, so I'll chain myself to this tree, and you chain yourself to that tree, so we can't get at one another.' What then does the honeymoon become?

"'Oh, now we are allowed to cut the chains loose!' [Makes a dramatic sound effect like a person ripping himself free.] Is that an act of love? Is that an act of purity?

"There is no magic trick on the wedding day that suddenly makes what you do that night an act of love. If you could not be alone together the day before you got married and not sin, there is no magic trick, there is no waving at the wand at the altar, that suddenly makes your sexual behavior beautiful, true, good, lovely, and pure.

"We must take up our cross and follow. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. This freedom is a real, living possibility if we are willing to undergo deep and painful purifications. ..."
First: Christopher West seems to think that avoiding near occasions of sin is not virtuous activity. Unfortunately, all the saints of the Church and all the manuals on morality say he is in error on this point. The conscious decision to avoid a near occasion of sin is, indeed, a virtue.

Second: Christopher West seems completely unfamiliar with the theology of the sacrament of marriage. It is precisely the case that actions which are sinful prior to a sacrament can be pure afterward, simply because of the sacrament. Take, for instance, the reception of Eucharist. If I receive Christ while in a state of mortal sin, even if I am most sorrowful for that unconfessed sin, then I have just committed another mortal sin. If, however, I first receive the sacrament of reconciliation worthily, confessed my sin, received absolution, and then receive the Eucharist, that reception is not only NOT a sin, I actually grow in God's grace. Same action, quite different results, all because of the reception of a sacrament.

Similarly, no matter how much I love the woman, if I have sex with her before marriage, it is a sin, while if I have sex with her after having been bound to her in the sacrament of marriage, it is not a sin. St. Paul talks precisely about the power and beauty of the sacrament of marriage when he says, "it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Cor 7:9). Indeed, to deny that sex is sanctified by marriage, which is precisely what these (apparently) carefully considered remarks by Chris West maintains, is a denial of Catholic sacramental theology.

Now, is it possible to have sex with my own wife in a lustful way? Sure. But the very fact that the couple has worked hard to avoid a near occasion of sin prior to their marriage means that they are trying to avoid precisely this sin of lust. As a result, it would be not only wrong, but actually perverse, to impute lust to them on the basis that they tried to avoid sin prior to marriage.

Grace, especially sacramental grace, the most powerful force in the universe, changes us. So, it is, in fact, the case that the divinizing graces of marriage do begin to work immediately upon the newly married couple, helping them to withstand concupiscence, turning us towards the "beautiful, true, good, lovely and pure." Indeed, it is precisely the sacraments' ability to "make us gods" (see CCC #460, 1988, 1999), that is, their ability to empower us to love as God alone loves that allows us to love with purity.

Third: West also seems unfamiliar with John Paul II's summary of the ancient Catholic teaching on the THREE ends of marriage in Love and Responsibility (p. 66), a teaching that simply draws on the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church:
"The Church, as has been mentioned previously, teaches, and has always taught, that the primary end of marriage is procreatio, but that it has a secondary end, defined in Latin terminology as mutuum adiutorium. Apart from these a tertiary aim is mentioned - remedium concupiscentiae. Marriage, objectively considered, must provide first of all the means of continuing existence, secondly a conjugal life for man and woman, and thirdly a legitimate orientation for desire. The ends of marriage, in the order mentioned, are incompatible with any subjectivist interpretation of the sexual urge, and therefore demand from man, as a person, objectivity in his thinking on sexual matters, and above all in his behaviour. This objectivity is the foundation of conjugal morality." (emphasis added).
JPII goes on to point out that the ends are attained on the basis of a personalistic norm, that is, each of the three ends flow from love. But he specifically says that the ends themselves are not subjective, i.e., the ends are not personalistic. Indeed, he goes on to say, "By reason of the fact that they are persons a man and a woman must consciously seek to realize the aims of marriage according to the priority given above, because this order is objective, accessible to reason, and therefore binding on human persons." (p. 67, emphasis added)

He continues by pointing out, "The personalistic norm itself is not, of course, to be identified with any one of the aims of marriage: a norm is never an end, nor is an end a norm." (p. 68) It is worthwhile to read the whole section closely, something which Chris West shows no sign of ever having done.

Indeed, it is noteworthy that JPII's book, Love and Responsibility, and his own TOB audiences almost completely ignore both ends (1) and (3), focusing entirely on end (2). As a result of JPII's omission, most students of TOB, especially those who follow Chris West's rather outrageous version of JP II's teachings, don't have the necessary theological context to present a full and accurate teaching on sex and marriage.

This talk alone shows that West's idea of Hildebrandian purity is deeply flawed, colored heavily with his own memory of growing up in the Mother of God community. Compare his criticism of those who say an engaged couple shouldn't be alone together with these passages from the Washington Post's Mother of God exposés on the community, a community whose attitudes towards sexuality were so distorted that West himself told WaPo reporters "I feel like I have been raped":
Some former members say their marriages were arranged by Mother of God superiors and that they were manipulated into marrying partners they did not love.
Ex-members say they were told where to honeymoon, how to eat, dress and decorate their homes, and how to have sex. [Source:]

The control began with dating. "It was almost, like, 'Big Brother is watching,' " recalls ex-member Bonnie West [Christopher West's mother!!!]. Parents learned from their heads that their teenaged children were forbidden to date until the community's leaders judged them ready. Even then the community would try to control every step. Many parents say they were taught to distrust everything their own children said and were encouraged to mount a steady surveillance of the community's youngsters.

"We'd be reporting back and forth to other parents: 'We saw your girl talking to this boy,' " Stan Weightman recalls. "We'd be encouraged to look through their dresser drawers for things, to read diaries if they had any." Rick Herald recalls being asked by his head "about how you thought about certain girls, whether you fantasized about them, how far your sexual fantasies went." Roger Cavanaugh says he was asked questions about whether he masturbated, whether he fantasized about particular women and how many minutes it took for him and his wife to have sex." [Source: ]
Personally, it is clear to me that the influence of the Mother of God cult upon Christopher West's psyche has fixated him on an understanding of human sexuality which is not in keeping with JP II's work or with the work of the Church as a whole.

So, what are we to make of Cardinal Rigali's recent statement of support for Christopher West? We must simply recall that bishops have frequently backed extremely erroneous teachers and teachings. Indeed, nearly every major heresy of the Church was started or actively supported by an ordained man or men. The ordained men who currently advise the TOB institute, a corporation Chris West created in order to create a low-tax revenue stream for promulgating his version of Catholicism, are obviously interested in not bringing scandal upon themselves. Thus, every member of West's board has a vested interest in painting West's statements in the best possible light, even if that judgement is not actually warranted by West's teachings.

Similarly, the theologically incoherent support West has received from people like Dr. Janet Smith or Dr. Michael Healy are not unusual. If even a Saint of the Church could erroneously support an anti-Pope (as St. Vincent of Ferrar did when he acted as advisor to anti-Pope Benedict XIII), then we should not be shocked to see Dr. Janet Smith led astray by the Mother of God community and its product, Christopher West.

Chris West and his supporters have, to date, refused to answer any of the charges brought against West's teachings. Instead, they have banded together into a mutual admiration society in the hopes that the whole controversy will go away.

As long as the cult background West marinated in for years continues to influence his teaching, the controversy will not go away.

Further Reading:
Cardinal Rigali Backs Chris West
In Other News...
Bishop Eusebius Backs Musician Arius
Bishop John Backs Nestorius
Archbishop Cranmer Backs Henry VIII

Christopher West: "I Feel Like I Have Been Raped."
WaPo's Exposé on Christopher West's Cult Background: Mother of God Community
Dr. Mary Healy: Co-Chair, Mother of God Community
Sacred Heart Seminary Professor: Dr. Mary Healy
Sacred Heart Seminary Professor: Dr. Janet Smith
"I Sincerely Hope West's Cult of Personality Is Short-Lived"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mafioso in America

In the old days, the Mafia ran numbers games, gambling houses, prostitution rings and protection rackets. Even if you ran an honest business, you couldn't escape. You had to pay a percentage of your profit to the man who ran your block. If you didn't, you or your business would be attacked, possibly destroyed.

Today, the government runs the lotto and gives out casino licenses. ACORN helps entrepreneurs set up prostitution rings. Even if you run an honest business it doesn't matter. You have to pay the tax man or he'll kidnap you, throw you in jail, destroy your business.

Now, with the Chicago Butcher in office, the juice on business transactions is going up. The Democrats will Rahm through a new health care mandate that will fine people $3800 each for breathing, if they dare to do so without first having gotten health care insurance, either through the government or through the private insurers the government intends to destroy. Yeats had it right:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Cardinal O'Malley vs. John the Baptist

Just a few short days after the commemoration of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, Cardinal O'Malley shared these thoughts on the way John badgered Herod for taking his brother's wife as his own:
At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us. Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end. Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.
Inspiring words indeed!

What?!?.... What did you say?... Wait... he wasn't talking about John?

But... but righteous anger is a sin, as Aquinas clearly... well, alright, maybe not Aquinas, but as the Church.... what??.... alright, not the Church...

But certainly someone doesn't find righteous anger appealing....
Well, yes, Herod, of course... but it seems to me there was someone else opposed to it as well...


Well, never mind!
Let's start another rousing chorus of Kumbaya!

Next Week's Feature:
Why Jesus was Wrong to Scourge the Money-Changers in the Temple!

Look for the informative sidebar on St. Paul and name-calling!

Also, Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Wish Your Opponent Would Accidentally Cut Off His Own Penis!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Obama Chooses Irrelevance

Over one hundred years ago, the bishops of America had a choice.
They could spend the bulk of their effort catechizing adults, as the Church Universal had done through most of her history, or they could imitate the public school system of the United States and spend the bulk of their catechetical efforts on teaching children the Faith.

They chose the children.
This choice to ignore the adults began their long but inevitable slide into irrelevance. Today, the bishops produce encyclicals that no one reads, trying to save schools that no one sends their children to. By focusing the bulk of their effort on children, the bishops implicitly admitted - whether they meant to or not - that they had nothing of particular substance to offer adults.

In just a few short days, Barack Hussein Obama will follow the lead of the American bishops. For the first time ever, an American President will spend an hour addressing America's schoolchildren.

It is of signal interest that he chooses to do this only after being his vaunted health plan was relentlessly savaged and torn to bits by political commentators and man-in-the-pew adult citizens during the August recess.

The facts speak for themselves.
Barack Obama has begun his own long slide into irrelevance.

This does, however, raise a disturbing question.

For the American bishops, the slide of formerly great office into relative obscurity was marked by increasingly irresponsible behaviour, culminating in the twin scandals of American Catholic education and priestly sexual abuse.

As the President destroys himself, what kind of behaviour can we expect from a this man, a man whose shocking narcissism already outpaces even that of his predecessors?

The dangers increase as the shadows lengthen.