This is the sort of book we like
(For you and I are very small),
With pictures stuck in anyhow,
And hardly any words at all.
You will not understand a word
Of all the words, including mine;
Never you trouble; you can see,
And all directness is divine—
Stand up and keep your childishness:
Read all the pedants’ screeds and strictures;
But don’t believe in anything
That can’t be told in coloured pictures.
(Words inscribed on the opening page of an illustrated children’s book by Randolph Caldecott that G.K. Chesterton presented to a young friend)
If you think the year is 2015, you’re only partially correct. For the citizens of North Korea it’s presently 104. That’s because the government retooled the calendar so that the modern era began on the day their tin-pot messiah, Kim II-sung, was born. (April 15, 1912—the “Day of the Sun”—is a national holiday, appropriately coinciding with America’s tax filing day, though it would have been even more fitting had he been born two weeks before.)
His son and successor, Kim Jong-il, took a break from “changing the times”— settling on changing his score card in golf. According to official North Korean state media reports, this unsurpassed leader and athlete routinely shot three or four holes-in-one per round of golf.
But now Jong-il’s son and successor, Jong Un (you’ve got to appreciate the delightful onomatopoeia in all of this), is back on the time thing. On August 15 the government officially put the nation’s clocks on Pyongyang Time, setting them back from the rest of the world by one-half hour.
And there you have it folks: truth unfolding on the world stage. And courtesy of the Playwright who directs the rising and fall of nations and individuals; all in an effort to get through our thick heads that the more we lean to our own understanding, the stupider and more destructive we become.
North Korea: there’s probably no nation on earth more committed to rejecting God; more beguiled by the notion that “man is the measure of all things” and that a great one can arise from the masses and lead the people into a humanistic promise-land. And what has it gotten them? Knocked two thousand years back into the past. (Looking at the living conditions in North Korea, that’s actually an insult to citizens of the iron age.) Jerked a half-step out-of-sync with reality. And cursed with a succession of toad-like fools for leaders who if placed anywhere else in the world couldn’t get elected class clown.
(But before we get too smug: how far behind this tragicomic fiasco are we? I mean, really? Particularly when set against the New Jerusalem God has in mind for this planet.)
And so the “four winds of heaven” sovereignly blow across the roiling, chaotic seas of fallen humanity. Beast systems are cast upon the shore and do their dance until ebbing tides sweep them back into the abyss. Flecks of foamy shame manifest as men: pathetic antichrists granted a brief opportunity to sit on their Creator’s lap and try and slap at His face. Change the times! Rail against the Ancient of Days! Strain against His cords and commandments! Oppress the poor and the people of God!
The Creator chuckles. The Playwright, seated on His blood-bought throne, determines the scene is over; that the plot point is complete. The wind blows and the tides ebb. And Nero, Diocletian, Attila, Vlad, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi, Saddam and the Kims—among other beasts—shuffle off, stage left, into a burning Sheol; waiting on the terrors of the Great Day when the curtain sets on Act One.
Then Act Two begins.
The U.S. Capitol Building is also known as the “People’s House” – homage to the fact that our federal government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Well if the president can rename Mount McKinley, the people of the United States can rechristen the Capitol Building to suit the mood of the times.
Please sign our petition to rename the seat of our elected government. And vote on a new name or suggest your own.
We can now add to the list of risks associated with the homosexual lifestyle its impact on the frontal lobes and logic centers of the evangelical brain. Faced with the rising “gay” tide, multiple thousands—perhaps millions—of professing Christians are becoming both hosts and transmitters of a peculiar form of cognitive dissonance: embracing two incompatible ideas and somehow making peace with the disharmony.
I’m speaking here of the idea that active, unrepentant sexual activity between two same-gendered people is consistent with Christian beliefs and practices.
The solvent for forging this artificial union or peace (see Jer. 6:14)? A skewed view of Christian love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.
An important distinction needs to be made here between this and the other, more manifestly rebellious method some professing Christians use to reconcile the two: twisting scriptural references to homosexuality to mean something other than their clear meaning and what 99% of biblical scholars over three millennia have taken them to mean. In other words, advocating that when properly practiced God blesses homosexual behavior and that it is just as conducive to human and societal flourishing as heterosexuality. I am specifically addressing here Christians who still believe that homosex is wrong—or at least sub-optimal—but also believe that Christian love and forgiveness call for us to accept it.
I was recently confronted with this insidious meme for the umpteenth time while strolling through a special event held at an upscale shopping and dining development. It was a Kid’s Fare and the streets were dotted with booths and presentations catering to pre-teens. One was sponsored by a local church. Still looking for a congregation to join after moving to Cleveland, I stopped and visited with a nice lady who was handing out gift bags and talking up the impressive variety of programs her church had to offer children in the community. As we chatted, it was clear she was genuinely sincere and excited about Jesus and her faith. Yes, her church believed in the inerrancy of Scripture. Ditto the bodily death and resurrection of Christ. And yes, Jesus was the way, the truth and the life. Not wanting to monopolize her time, I decided to cut to the chase and ask “the question”—one that sadly has become one of the better gauges as to a particular church’s position on the “pillar and ground of truth” scale. (1 Tim. 3:15)
“Where are you guys in relation to the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage?”
She blinked and opened with what I have found to be a standard, evasive response: “We love and support all people and want to help them on their journey with God.”
“Fantastic!” I replied. “But what does that practically mean for someone who is actively engaged in a homosexual lifestyle?”
After a few more ambiguous comments, she finally cut to the chase, revealing the infectious meme. To better understand this affliction, I will break it down—with brief commentary—in sections.
1. “Look, we’re all sinners.” Very true. And I’m a candidate for the chief of them. But note the clear inference here: homosex is sinful. No one would respond to a question about whether their church accepts homeless people, dentists, or Germans by noting, “We’re all sinners.” Somewhere in that brain of hers the Biblical truth was still alive, if not well: God never intended for a man to lie with another man as he would a woman. (Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:27)
2. “Jesus came to save sinners.” Once again the implication is that homosex is sinful. But here we need to remember that Jesus came to not just atone for sin, thus saving sinners. He also came to deliver them; to save them “from their sins” (Matt. 1:21); to work in them the grace so that they can “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) And that certainly includes—more necessitates—that sinful acts be acknowledged as being just that: sinful.
3. Then she spoke about herself: how she had her first child outside of marriage, further that she was divorced. (Again, I can relate on both counts. Worse, as an unmarried college student I had my first child executed by an abortionist.) “My church accepts me,” she said. “Shouldn’t we accept gay people as well?” Well, that depends on what we mean by “accept.” Receive, love and honor them as broken, fallen image-bearers-of-God like the rest of us? Absolutely! Patiently, compassionately join them on our collective journey towards the Celestial City. Of course! But that also means acknowledging that there is a prescribed path to that City, a highway of holiness that God has raised up for us to walk upon. (Isa. 35:8) And divorce, abortion, premarital sex, homosex and a host of other beliefs and behaviors are not only not paving stones on that highway; far worse, they are pitfalls, sloughs and dungeons that can profoundly hinder our journey. It is true every pilgrim will experience one or more of them. And that’s why there are divorce recovery groups, addiction programs, ministries to women grieving over their abortions, and more. But there is a universe of difference between that and normalizing a particular sin by trying to pretend a noxious swamp is really a verdant pasture. And sacralizing homosexuality with the label “marriage,” or pretending that people who engage in homosex can have an inheritance in the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9) is to attempt precisely that.
4. Now a little defensive, she shrugged her shoulders and joined the chorus of other professing believers who have shared similar answers with me over the past five years: “Jesus is all about love and forgiveness. God desires mercy and not sacrifice. Judge not lest you yourself be judged. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Neither do I (Jesus) condemn you. Jesus preferred hanging out with those who had been marginalized by polite society. By grace we have been saved, not works. God is love, love, love, love, love…”
To her and any professing Christian infected with this meme and blithely suppressing the dissonance it logically, necessarily carries with it: You are not reflecting God’s love by making someone feel comfortable with their sin. That would be more like hate. And by adding your “Amen” to the chorus of those normalizing homosexuality, you are far from showing mercy. Like it or not, you have joined forces—however unwittingly—with the Dark Fowler. (Ps. 91:3) You are helping set snares for other souls. And that may well include a young man in your family, church or community who is estranged from his father, struggling with teen angst and identity issues and who suddenly finds himself being lead into temptation by a homosexual man (perhaps a relative or neighbor) that has shown an interest in him.
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The other day I was chatting with a neighbor who attends a liberal, “inclusive” (gay friendly) church. He mentioned helping with children’s Sunday School the previous week. The lesson? David and Goliath.
The class ended with the kids throwing marshmallows at a cardboard cut-out of the 666 giant.
There’s a metaphor here somewhere.
Any day now the Supreme Court is going to announce its decision on Obergefell vs. Hodges, one of the most paradigm-shifting cases in its 226-year history. At stake is whether the definition of marriage that has stood for millennia – that is the union of one man and one women – is in need of a makeover in order to include same-sex couples. Personally, I expect their decision to be 5 – 4 against the traditional, default position. But even if it simply moves the homophile agenda forward rather than granting it the blank check it’s been lobbying for, the die is cast. The center of the target for human sexuality toward which all of us have been designed, programmed and then proscribed by our Creator to aim is eventually going to be completely erased here in America (and most of the so-called First World) as far as man-made laws and dominant public mores are concerned.
You can count on it.
The reasons for this extraordinary, rapid shift in legal and public opinion – likely unprecedented in American and perhaps even world history – are many and varied. But as an observer looking through the lens of a Christian worldview there is, in my opinion, one key straw that did the camel in. The “meat” of American culture is rotting because the “salt has lost its savor.” (Matt. 5:13)
There are many ways in which the Church collectively and Christians individually have become lukewarm (Rev. 3:15, 16) and have thus failed to retain our inherited saltiness. (I know we’re dealing with metaphors here. But this is an example where literal chemistry still applies. Run lukewarm water over a block of salt and behold: it melts and you’re left with some tepid, briny water that is only good for helping people poop or throw-up.) Among them:
1. Worldliness – compromise in matters relating to Lordship; chastity (pre-marital sex, pornography, adultery, etc.); gender roles; the sanctity of marriage (unbiblical divorce and remarriage); soaking up entertainments that have championed the post-modern-sexual (pomosexual) ethos; worldly dating patterns and ideas concerning human sexuality (e.g. that a person can’t live a full life unless they are partnered and having great sex); etc..
2. Our failure to obey our God-given mandate to “tend, protect and cultivate” the broader world (Gen. 1:28; 2:15) – which includes a focused engagement in culture-forming arenas such as academia, the arts and politics.
3. Handing the majority of our children over to Pharaoh to be educated – and hence – indoctrinated in a humanistic, relativistic, and pomosexual worldview.
4. Calling it “traditional marriage” and primarily defending it as such rather than taking out the sharp, two-edged sword of presuppositional apologetics and boldly standing with God and biblical marriage. There isn’t time here to develop this somewhat complicated distinction. But by ceding the terms of the debate to the humanists and their fallacious insistence that it take place solely on “religiously neutral” grounds, we have fallen into the Proverbs 26:4 pit: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” (For the reader who understands this distinction, I am not suggesting that natural law arguments don’t play a key role in our broader apologetic. But we should no more lead with them than we should prefer working by moonlight rather than by the full light of day.)
5. Not understanding the times and how the church is called to do respond. (1 Chron. 12:32) See all the above plus the ridiculous reactions of too many pastors and Christians towards homosexuality. Among them: treating it as almost an unpardonable sin and the same-sex attracted person as a separate category of sinner; thinking and acting as if such inclinations are a choice; that every individual homosexual fits neatly into the categories outlined in Romans 1:21-32; and that a couple of prayers, some deliverance, or just getting married to a member of the opposite sex will invariably eliminate homosexual impulses. I could go on and list dozens of other bone-headed responses and clichés I’ve heard Christians use that haven’t even reached the pathetic threshold of “healing the wounds of people slightly.” (Jer. 6:14)
6. A lack of consecration in regard to the divine engines of prayer, fasting and worship. There is a profoundly spiritual component to this struggle (Eph. 6:12). And it is folly and to neglect the spiritual weapons the Lord of Host has granted us for the battle. (2 Cor. 10:4)
7. Fumbling and even ignoring outright our call to boldly proclaim and defend (as well as model; see #1) what the Bible says about human sexuality generally and homosexuality specifically. The bottom-line? When truth falls – stumbles, is unproclaimed and undefended – in the public square, darkness and confusion settle over the people. Justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance. (Isa. 59:14) And so normalizing homosexuality begins to first look plausible…and finally necessary.
In Part 2, I will develop this last point a bit more, particularly in regard to the so-called millennial generation upon whose shoulders much of the battle but most of the blowback for losing it will fall. Just what is the “truth” concerning homosexuality we as Christians are called to proclaim and defend? The answer is perhaps a bit more complex than the stereotypical “The Bible says it and that settles it!” mantra allows. And in Part 3, I will suggest a “modest proposal” to the statistical majority of millennials who have come to believe that God is OK with people being gay.
* Lost… for now. As Christians, we should ever keep in mind the implications of Jesus’ bruised heel over the serpent’s crushed head. (Gen. 3:15) We should maintain a strong confidence in the power of light to vanquish darkness; grace to triumph over sin; love to conquer death; truth to cast down lies; and leaven of the Kingdom to eventually work through the loaf. (Matt. 13:33) We should boldly believe and confess that the God of peace will eventually crush Satan under our feet even as He did for the early Christians who suffered under the anti-Christ persecutions of Nero, Domitian and the Roman emperor cult. (Rom. 16:20) Observing the flow of both Biblical and secular history, we understand that sometimes people and nations have to go backward and down before they can take the next step forward and up. We should believe that our best days are yet before us – though they may only be seen by our children or some other future generation. The profound loss of Christian civilization and the captivity we are and will experience will be temporary. Out of the ashes of a spent, dissipated America, a humble, Godly remnant will arise, repent and rebuild. There will be seed in the stump! (Isa. 6:13)
I’m presently working on a series of articles and videos concerning the sea-change taking place in the West relative to sexual and gender mores. To this end, I’m looking to interview Christian husbands who have been faithful regarding their own sexual integrity.
Now people can and do define this standard differently. Relative to the task at hand, I am using the following standard:
1. Premaritally, you abstained from all forms of genital contact with another person.
2. As a married man there have been zero erotic interactions with anyone other than your wife. You have also never looked at pornography (“soft” like lingerie advertisements and, of course “hard”) to the point of stimulation/masturbation.
If this honestly describes you, I would deeply appreciate your confidential feedback on a couple of questions. If you are willing, please contact me via email me at email@example.com. And please feel free to forward this message to others you think may be interested.
(As an important aside, if the statistics I read are correct, the majority of Christian men who read this will not qualify. If you have godly sorrow about your “falling short” in this regard and are actively taking steps to “practice righteousness” (1 John 3:7), know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Do NOT let the enemy or your own sense of shame keep you from experiencing God’s complete love, forgiveness and acceptance — as well as His power to overcome. Every son of Adam struggles with one or more “besetting sins” in their life. Some by a peculiar combination of nature, nurture, marriage and God’s grace don’t have to fight the temptations of sexual sin as much as others. The only, true Judge of the earth knows. He will sort it all out. He will do right. (Gen. 18:25))
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Even to sympathetic friends, Dietrich von Hildebrand was considered extreme in his early opposition to Hitler. Looking in our rear-view mirrors, no one would say that today. Might the same be happening again as Christians who stand up for biblical values on marriage, family and gender are being labeled extreme, homophobic dinosaurs; even becoming something of an embarrassment to their silent friends?
What follows below is an interview conducted by Franciscan Way magazine with John Henry Crosby, the translator and editor of My Battle With Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich. The book is based upon the 1920s–1930s memoirs of Dietrich von Hildebrand, the renowned German Roman Catholic philosopher and theologian, and also includes important essays from the period.
I found the interview fascinating on a number of levels.
First, here was a man who very early on saw the catastrophic end-game of Hitler and National Socialism when the vast majority of Germans missed it. Why? Because he reasoned biblically, his keen intellect informed by the “new world of grace.” Though he was an intellectual living in a materialistic, anti-supernatural zeitgeist, he wasn’t afraid to give preeminence to the spiritual world. Coupled with his apparent knowledge of scripture, redemptive history and biblical typology, he quickly recognized Hitler as “an anti-Christ.” (Note he used “an” and not “the”–avoiding the common error many make today as they await the coming of the anti-Christ.) As a result, he became one of the preeminent prophets of the 20th century. Also, unfortunately, one of the least well-known. I pray this book helps change that.
Second was Hildebrand’s courage. Let’s be honest. Most professing Christians today are remarkably silent concerning a very similar dark cloud creeping its way into America’s governmental, judicial, educational, economic, and infotainment institutions. They are too busy accommodating themselves to the cloud and having their ears tickled with messages of cheap grace and how to have their best lives now. Among those who do see the darkness rising and are willing to think, pray and even address it from time to time, vanishingly few are willing to do much to practically, boldly and, yes, sacrificially stand against it. Here, again, Hildebrand stands as a light on a hill.
Next was his balanced approach to cultural transformation. Yes, we are called to be “hot”– to confront evil when and where it manifests. But we should also strive to be “cold”–to bring living water to a culture dying of thirst. (Many today are simply lukewarm; not a promising temperature to be. (Rev. 3:16)) And so his passion to foster a counter-culture of life, beauty, grace and truth is exemplary.
Lastly, as I have already alluded to, I was struck by the remarkable similarities to his time and ours. I need to be cautious here. I don’t see anything like a new Hitler on America’s horizon. (So please, no invoking Godwin’s Law on me.) Nor do I foresee a day when any adult people group will be marched into concentration camps and gas chambers. But we have killed–and are killing–the unborn at a rate that makes the Holocaust look like a pre-game show as far as the number of people murdered. (I understand there are other factors associated with the Holocaust that make it unsurpassed in regard to human suffering and the callousness of heart necessary to perpetrate it.) We are in danger of ceding all authority to a centralized government run by elites chorusing “Let us break the (LORD’s and His anointed’s) chains and throw off their shackles. (Psalm 2). Let us do what is right in our own eyes. (Judges 21:25).” Having attacked the fruit of marriage (abortion; untethering sex from marriage and then sex from procreation; turning what children are born over to humanistic schools and pop-culture brainwashing; etc.), we have been continuing to chip away at the root: God’s image in the binary, male/female distinctive and their reunion through marriage and sex. And what happens once the foundation of the biblical family is destroyed; once its position as the center of the target towards which every sojourning soul is called to aim is erased and replaced with a 360º “Do what thou wilt” panorama?
Both the Bible and history–including mid-20th Century history–says it will not be pretty.
(Special note: I’m aware I have readers who are anti-Catholic. Many assume that because I produced Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism, I’m also anti-Catholic. I am not. Today’s RC church is a far cry from the medieval brand that Luther and other reformers rightly, though imperfectly, challenged. And perhaps more to the point, Protestantism–with its multiple tens of thousands of schisms and compromises–is likely as goofy and apostate as the Roman church was six-hundred years ago. I believe Christians are called to recognize and honor the works of the Holy Spirit when and wherever they manifest. Dietrich von Hildebrand was just such a work. And I’m proud to pay tribute to him and bring him to more people’s attention.)
Just after midnight, on March 12, 1938, three Gestapo agents pounded on the door to Dietrich von Hildebrand’s home. When no answer came, they broke down the door, only to find the Viennese apartment empty. The German philosopher had fled the apartment (and Vienna) just five hours earlier.
Austrians awoke on March 12 to find their country occupied by the German army. Their political leaders had been arrested while they slept. After the heads of government, von Hildebrand had been next on the Gestapo’s list.
What had the philosopher done to incur the wrath of Hitler’s regime? And what more would von Hildebrand do in the weeks and years ahead?
Recently, Franciscan Way sat down with John Henry Crosby to discuss von Hildebrand’s campaign against the Nazis. Here’s what we learned.
Franciscan Way: Perhaps you could set the stage for us and explain a little about what von Hildebrand was doing when the Nazis came to power?
John Henry Crosby: By the fall of 1919, von Hildebrand was living and teaching in Munich, which would soon become home base for the fledgling Nazi movement. This proximity gave him the opportunity to see firsthand the movement’s early growth. Already by 1921, more than 10 years before Hitler came to power, von Hildebrand had made his first public statements against National Socialism. I know of no other German figure of prominence who recognized and denounced the Nazi movement earlier than von Hildebrand. From his memoirs, it is not quite clear when he became fully conscious of a mission to fight Nazism, but certainly by 1933, when Hitler seized power, von Hildebrand knew that he had to raise his voice. It is moving to see that von Hildebrand left Germany in March 1933, not because he knew what form his opposition would take, but because he was sure that God would show him the way.
FW: How did von Hildebrand’s Catholic faith influence that decision?
JHC: So much could be said here. I think von Hildebrand’s faith gave his reason a powerful supernatural dimension. He was a convert, received into the Church at Easter 1914. He was gifted with a penetrating mind and the ability to articulate his perceptions. When he converted, his intellectual gifts expanded as he discovered the “new world” of grace, as he often put it. Would he still have grasped the danger Hitler posed had he not converted? I think so. But I don’t know if he would have perceived the demonic evil present in Nazism so clearly. His faith allowed him to see Hitler through a supernatural lens. This explains why he often described Hitler as an “Anti-Christ.” Many friends, even those who shared his anti-Nazism, thought he expressed himself in excessive terms, but looking back on the destruction and genocide propagated by the Nazi regime, it’s hard to deny how accurate von Hildebrand’s perception turned out to be.
FW: What concrete steps did von Hildebrand take to oppose Hitler?
JHC: The single most concrete thing he did was to found and edit the premier German-language intellectual and cultural anti-Nazi publication. From 1933, when Hitler’s takeover of the German government forced von Hildebrand to flee Germany for Austria, until 1938, when the Nazis took over Austria as well, he published his journal on a weekly basis and managed to pen an essay for almost every issue. By bringing together many different voices, from right and left, his paper presented a formidable united front against National Socialism. But just as important was his direct impact on individual people. And that influence was deep and lasting. I can think of no better confirmation of this than the words of one student who credited von Hildebrand for “immunizing” him “against the siren song of National Socialism.”
FW: When the Nazis entered Austria, von Hildebrand was one of the first people they went to arrest? Why? After all, he was a philosopher, not a politician?
JHC: A very good question. It is a little ironic, but it’s also a tribute to the central role of ideas in political and cultural struggles. There are several reasons the SS came straight after von Hildebrand. Certainly von Hildebrand had crossed the line from philosophy into politics and public debate. He was so fearless and uncompromising in his articles that the Nazi regime (before invading Austria in 1938) regularly complained about him to the Austrian government. I like quoting the assessment of FBI founding director, J. Edgar Hoover, who said von Hildebrand was “editor of the most violently anti-Nazi newspaper in Austria.” While Hoover would have welcomed von Hildebrand’s efforts, his words pair well with those of Hitler’s ambassador in Vienna, who thundered: “That Hildebrand is the worst obstacle to Nazism in Austria. No one does more harm!”
FW: At a time when so many other Christians, Catholics included, chose to remain silent, what gave von Hildebrand the courage to speak up?
JHC: The memoirs offer a sort of “anatomy of witness” as exemplified by von Hildebrand. We see, for example, how remark- ably little influence prevailing ideas had on him; we see his sense of responsibility to speak out, both as a philosopher and Christian; and we see how deeply he loved his country. But all of this is just prologue when it comes to the real source of his courage, which was his absolute faith that God had called him and would sustain and protect him no matter what happened, provided that he remained faithful to his calling.
FW: How is von Hildebrand’s witness still relevant to Catholics today?
JHC: I view his memoirs and essays as a handbook for wit- ness. They are packed with illuminating examples and practical wisdom. But this should not overshadow a further deeply personal relevance for Catholics and, indeed, for any readers of the book. Think of a great work of fiction or drama. Just as literature allows us to inhabit the characters and storyline, and thereby to grow in self-knowledge, I think von Hildebrand’s story, which is so intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally rich, can illuminate and nourish each of us as we need it most.
FW: The struggle to end the evil of abortion is probably the clearest parallel to the struggle against National Socialism? Given that, what advice do you think von Hildebrand would have for the pro-life movement?
JHC: Von Hildebrand’s career was just ending as the pro-life movement was beginning. His last public lecture, however, was about abortion, and he spoke in almost prophetic words about what legalized abortion meant for our society. He was always un-compromising when it came to moral evil, and abortion horrified him profoundly.
But if he were alive today, I suspect he would challenge us to not view our pro-life position too exclusively in political terms. He would have resonated with Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a “culture of life,” recognizing that pro-life laws and court rulings are necessary but far from sufficient for creating a public order that truly respects all human life. I think he would have called atten- tion to the many subtle ways in which committed pro-life people undermine their efforts through the indiscriminate consumption of mainstream culture.
Of course, he would not have wanted Catholics to move into a sort of ghetto—he was far too much of a Christian humanist to propose that. But he would have reminded us of St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “Test everything, retain what is good.” I can almost hear him pointing out to his fellow Catholics that a culture of life is as much (if not more) fostered through beauty and things that ennoble the spirit as it is through good public policies. (Franciscan Way, a publication of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Spring 2015, pp. 34, 35. Visit the Hildebrand Project for more information on Dietrich Von Hildebrand.)
If you came to this blog through a link, scroll below to see readers’ comments. If you came here by accessing The Apologetics Group site directly, see TAG readers’ comments — posted at the bottom of this dedicated blog page. I personally value living outside an echo chamber; and if I only read things I agreed with and neglected the iron sharpening iron benefit of people providing a different perspective than what I’m used to — I would be the poorer for it. Of course, there’s a balance; comments extremely outside the bounds of what I consider orthodoxy are often not worth my time.
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Am I the only one who sees that the emperor once again has the backside of his hospital gown flapping open? I’m talking about the accolades being heaped on the mom who yanked her masked son out of the chaos surrounding the recent riots in Baltimore. From Whoopie Goldberg to Bill O’Reilly, a steady chorus of praise is growing for the feisty lady whom many are now calling the “Mother of the Year.” I wouldn’t be surprised if a book deal or reality show is already in the works.
I’m suggesting that the cause of truth may be better served viewing her as yet another tragic victim of the systemic problems that help fuel the riots, and perhaps even more insidiously, an example of how far America has lowered the moral bar for people trapped in the blighted housing projects that dot our country.
(Important note; too important to be relegated to a footnote that many will miss: I’m not going to refer to #BaltimoreMom in this article by her real name, though it is now well-known. That’s because I don’t want to focus on her as a person, one I’m loathe to shame given the likely hand she’s been dealt by circumstances over which she has had little control. Instead, I’m using #BaltimoreMom as a symbol of the prevailing thought in and about today’s inner-city black culture.)
First, credit where credit is due. She clearly was genuinely worried about her son. That’s a good thing. She claims she wanted to protect the police and help maintain law and order. That, too, is laudable. She was willing to enter a chaotic situation and take charge. Kudos yet again. And she’s not afraid to discipline and show tough love towards her son. My kind of gal that. I admire and thank her on all four counts.
But seriously, how many times did she drop the f-bomb in the process, worse the mega mother-f bomb? Five or six times in the thirty seconds I saw. I’m guessing it was more than that, with even more bombs dropped when they got home. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the lad and his five sisters have been exposed to that type of vulgarity their entire lives.
Big deal, you say. They’re just words. These kids are used to it—it’s part of their culture. But isn’t that the point? When people—and particularly young people, whose character and brain architecture are in formation from conception right through adolescence—are routinely exposed to vulgarity, ugliness and ill-manners, that is more often than not how they will turn out. Vulgarity becomes vocabulary. Thug talk helps beget thugs. And thuggery is a big part of the Baltimore riots.
Let’s be honest. A white woman talking that way and beating on her kid would be called trailer trash and an abuser. Protective Services would be called. But a black woman? She gets labeled “the mother of all moms” by CNN. That’s not praise—it’s affirmative insult, like walking up to Mrs. Lincoln in the cemetery and telling her how lovely she looked in black.
It’s both interesting and telling how many reports praising her actions used the word “beating” to describe the way she dealt with her son. Seriously? Do we really think beating kids is a good thing? (Maybe, faced with a mob on a mindless rampage, and civil authorities reduced to hapless, helpless gawkers, some of us do like the idea of beating them. And so, for granting us a moment of catharsis, an abusive mother is transmogrified into a hero. Something to think about.) A pro football player recently caught similarly wailing on his son faced a suspension and an avalanche of public vitriol and humiliation. But because she’s a woman—nay, a black woman—she doesn’t just get a pass; she is celebrated.
Look, I believe in corporal punishment when it is appropriately (calmly, lovingly, redemptively, biblically) administered. But her angry, nearly out-of-control hitting was none of that. The matriarchal culture that dominates black inner-city America—more on that in a moment—afforded her all kinds of protection and moral authority. Some firm, clean words and dragging him home by the ear would have been just as effective in getting him out of a bad situation.
That’s what a true “Mother of the Year” would have done.
And how likely is it that this was a one time thing? That she hasn’t beaten on her children like this before? Sure, it’s better than providing no discipline at all. Maybe. But it’s a far cry from what’s needed to produce future MLKs who will champion peace when chaos rears its ugly head.
But this is all nitpicking compared to the last point I want to make, one that—from what I can tell—has been completely passed over by both press and pundits—save Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who gave it all of five minutes.
#BaltimoreMom describes herself as a “single mom with six kids.” Now, here I dare not tread lightly because I don’t know her full story. (And extensive research online yielded nothing about her past in regard to the six children, an anonymity I find curious—if not indicative—of the politically requisite lowered bar of expectations.) Maybe she’s a widow and had all six of her children by her deceased husband. Should that be the case, I will be forever sorry for having impugned her character by implying otherwise. But the principle here is far too important not to raise. Arguably, the single greatest factor contributing to poverty, crime, school drop-out rates and just about every other social ill that gave rise to the Baltimore riots is fatherlessness. And in Baltimore, as in most of America’s inner cities, more than four out of five babies born to black mothers will be raised without a married father in the home.
If #BaltimoreMom has contributed to these statistics, then at bottom she’s part of the problem. And honoring her as “Mother of the Year” is not only a disingenuous and sobering example of lowered expectations, but also an insult to any woman of her “race”—the human one—who abstains from sex outside of marriage and strives to create a nurturing home environment for her children, one that is free from vulgar language and slapping around.
These are the true “Mothers of the Year.”
Author’s Note: Yes, I have stepped into it with this one. I know—I truly know—it’s all very complicated and #BaltimoreMom is in large part the victim of a failed cultural experiment and deserving of compassion. Believe me, as a former pastor whose parish was the DC area, and who worked with people like her (including adopting an unmarried young lady into our family for the last two trimesters of her pregnancy) my heart aches for this woman and her children. But dumbing things down—worse, making her and others like her feel good about their sinful lifestyles—is not true love and compassion. It is a form of indifference, even hate. I also know this would be a lot easier to take if I weren’t a white guy. But I’m done playing the PC game. Our country is in freefall. I waited a couple of days for someone like E.T. Williams or Star Parker to step up to the plate on this. They didn’t, so I did. If you want to come after me simply because I’m a white dude, talk to the hand. Lastly, and most importantly, in one interview, she said in reference to her son and his problems that she wasn’t “like that anymore.” If she has repented of the lifestyle described above she has my utmost praise and respect. Until I was twenty-six, mine wasn’t any better. In fact it was worse—egregiously so—considering I was blessed to be raised in a far more nurturing environment. I had no excuse. We should all be grateful and awestruck by the forgiveness and the new life is available to us in Christ. If #BaltimoreMom has sincerely repented, and can get to work on her language and approach to child discipline, I’ll be happy to throw her name in the hat as a real “Mother of the Year.”
In attempting to discern the true root of a nation’s problems, it’s important we begin by differentiating between cultures that have never been transformed by Christianity and those that have. What’s wrong with Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia is one thing; the result of sin and the influence of “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), largely un-ameliorated by the Gospel of the Kingdom. They are in an entirely different situation from those countries that make up what is commonly referred to as the West; what was once called Christendom.
When someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required (Luke 12:48). And while far from perfect, there has never been a country that has been more powerfully impacted by and entrusted with the Gospel of the Kingdom than the United States.
Jesus called His church the “salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Matt. 5: 13,14). He further said that collectively we would do the things He did…and MORE because He was going to the Father (John 14:12) — that the gates of Hell itself could not prevail against His Bride. (Matt. 16:18).
And yet the Church throughout much of the West is seeing the forces of darkness prevail all around her.
What is wrong with America is precisely what was often wrong with the nation in Old Testament times that was most closely associated with the Kingdom of God on earth, Israel: “They (God’s covenant people) did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 6:1). See also, among many other verses, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6) and the destructive power of laziness (being “at ease” when the walls are crumbling) and spiritual pride. We can go on. Make no mistake, America is slouching towards Gomorrah and judgment not because Satan and his seed have grown so powerful, but because the church has grown so weak.
It can’t simply be attributed to the serpent. His head was crushed at the cross 2000 years ago and there is no prophecy of Scripture that would indicate that this mortal wound would ever be healed. Quite the contrary, the God of peace promises that we will also crush Satan under OUR feet (Rom. 16:20).
It can’t be “the spirit of anti-Christ” – the adversary that was in the world during the apostolic period and will remain, manifesting itself in and through various people, until the end of the age. How can the spirit of hell and Satan, operating through mortal people, ever be able to conquer the Spirit of God living in and through Christians? It can’t; “greater is He that is in us than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)
No, the blight is with the light. The Church has become “captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8) We have been at ease in Zion and through sloth and carnality have yielded the ground gained by those who have gone before us.
And we dare to presume that God is going to give us a pass and rapture us out of the mess we have helped create?