May 12, 2003
In all of history there have been only two philosophies that can truly be called 'transnational' or 'supranational'; that is, they appeal to peoples across space and time, across national and racial and cultural and linguistic divides. These are communism and Catholicism, though many have claimed this mantle.
Islam certainly has. It sees the world as two entities: the world of Islam and the world of war. It admits to no barriers to the propagation of faith. Eventually all will be Islam. For this reason all competing ideas, such as communism and Catholicism---all of Christianity for that matter---must not be allowed in any Islamic nation that takes this presumption more than allegorically. But Islam has ceased to expand; indeed it ceased doing so almost 400 years ago. All growth now is merely among believers, and new converts are rare even in Africa, long hailed as an area ripe for Islamic penetration. Islam will never make inroads into the US or Japan or Latin America. It will exist where it is but in no other place. Indeed, it has been showing signs of decay for several centuries.
Another failure in the supranational arena is the United Nations. Its idea was based upon the death of nationalism, that all nations would be willing to subsume petty local interests into grand worldly ones. This idea works in families and small communities, only rarely in nations and even less so internationally. Quick: name something---anything---upon which all nations agree. Name something upon which the five permanent members of the Security Council agree. Take your time.
Non-Catholic Christian denominations also pretend to be supranational; though however true their doctrines---and for all I know one of them might be 'the one true faith'---they have never exhibited much strength or appeal beyond their core geographic area. So we have Pennsylvania pacifists as Quakers, residents of Utah as Mormons, Englanders as Anglicans, southerners as Fundamentalists, oddball cranks as Christian Scientists, pests as Jehovah's Witnesses, Greeks and Russians and Romanians for their respective Orthodox churches. And this principle applies to other faiths: Jews do not proselytize, Hindus live in India, Baha'is inhabit prisons in Iran. Imagine a tribe of Sikhs living around Hudson Bay or a Peruvian Anglican and you will see what I mean.
We are left with the doctrines of Marx and those of Catholicism. Avatars and acolytes of these two faiths are found in every country. Both competing faiths have been very successful in proselytizing and converting.
Marxism, as I have written before, is a religion; or more precisely, a counterfeit religion. It renders unto its believers all the promises of Catholicism except eternal life---which, being materialistic, it cannot admit at any rate. It survives only where religious belief is weak or non-existent, such as in Western European governments and college faculties in the US. Like Islam, but more effectively, it persecutes all rival ideas, especially Catholicism. Like Islam, it advances by the sword. Like Islam, no nation has ever voted such a regime into power. Much more so than Islam communism has found adherents everywhere. It promises not eternal but earthly salvation.
The word 'catholic' simply means 'universal,' as in something that is suited for all humanity in every place and time: Romans of the first century, Germans of the 4th, Africans and Franks of the 5th, Anglo-Saxons of the 6th, Vikings of the 10th, Aztecs and Japanese of the 16th, and so on. It advances not by violence but by martyrdom and invitation. (And please let us hear nothing of those conquistadors of the 16th century who converted 'at the point of a sword.' People forced into such belief abandon it at the first opportunity.) Everywhere it exists either openly or clandestinely, building churches, converting men and adding to its list of martyrs. It promises an eternity of joy, even if one's earthly life is a bit painful.
Communism appears very creaky at the opening of the 21st century. Its greatest redoubt, the USSR, has passed on, leaving only a few shabby tyrannies---Cuba and North Korea---and a bloated and corrupt thugocracy, China, to carry its torch. It is doubtful that any of these will exist in ten years.
Catholicism has taken some hits recently as well, as any look at the newspapers can show. But then, it has always suffered at the hands of the world. It is well used to suffering. Sometimes it revels in it. In fact it calls that part of the church it believes to be in Purgatory the 'Church Suffering.' The earthly church is the 'Church Militant' and the Heavenly part is the 'Church Triumphant.'
Communism likewise is so divided: suffering under capitalism; militant through the proletarian revolution; triumphant as the state 'withers away.'
Both ideas exist simultaneously in the world, but they are mutually exclusive in the mind. Both ideas claim to have the true path to salvation and to lay claim to some sort of 'end of history.' But it needs to be said that Catholics who claim to be communists and communists who claim to be Catholics are confused, deluded or lying.
If indeed there is coming an 'end of history' I will leave it to my reader to predict which of these two faiths will be there when it arrives.
August 2, 2003
The phrase means "Earth Mother", and it is an integral part of much of the Indigenous belief system in the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes. Many Westerners come to the Andes and comment on what they believe is the love of the earth exhibited by the people here. They fancy that the locals have some higher understanding of the environment than is possible to Westerners. They delude themselves.
The worship of Pachamama---Westerners at times identify her with their own goofy idea of an "earth mother goddess", Gaea---offers no moral code, no sacred books, no salvation here or in the hereafter. What it is is a propitiatory form of worship, rather like the religions of Babylon and ancient Egypt. The ancient peoples of Peru and Bolivia saw their world as harsh, cruel, terrifying and beyond understanding. The earth they lived on served up death in large doses on a regular basis. There is scarcely any natural disaster outside of tornados, hurricanes and the Clintons that did not visit itself upon the Andean peoples.
The only hope as they saw it was to somehow curry favor with the earth, with Pachamama---which they identified with the female gender---in the hope that when she again decided to lay waste to some part of humanity, she might spare those who had performed services for her. And so an elaborate ritual system developed around propitiating the goddess to curb her impulse to wreak havoc. (This idea would be familiar to the characters in The Epic of Gilgamesh.)
And so the Andean Indian would perform all sorts of ceremonies on all sorts of occasions to this end. Every time the earth was to be plowed, every time a house was to be built upon her, he would attempt to pacify the earth-goddess. Today one can see at these ritual observances alcohol scattered about, llama fat smeared here and there and the skin of a dead cat tossed around. The usual Westerner who witnesses these events thus connects them with the childish environmental clap-trap he was force-fed in grammar school. He declaims, "Oh look how these Indians love the earth!"
Wrong. The Indians do not love the earth, they fear her, and for good reason. Case in point: In 1970 the town of Yungay was buried under millions of tons of mud, ice and rock. Twenty-thousand people were killed in a few seconds--Pachamama in action. (The only structure to show through the muck was the bell tower of the local Catholic Church---showing to all with eyes who the real God is. Those interested can visit this site today.) This type of thing is a regular occurrence in the Andes, as are earthquakes, floods, droughts, cholera, typhus, rabies---a veritable cornucopia of disaster on a Biblical scale.
Pachamama is a real bitch.
Western Civ 101
Which reminds me---the first people to try and understand the earth and not just blindly conciliate her were the Greeks. It was they who developed the scientific method and saw that the world, far from being arbitrary as the Andean peoples thought, actually operated by physical laws. These laws could be studied and the world understood. The failure of the Greeks was in their incessant internecine warfare that cursed all their history with political instability.
It was the Hebrews who first understood natural law; that is, that there were things inherent in men---at first they thought only inherent in Hebrews---that endowed them with a dignity and freedom that no political system could take away. This was a gift from their God, and in return He demanded a certain moral behavior. The failure of the Hebrews was their continuous whoring after other gods.
The Romans brought the first political order to the entire Mediterranean world even while adopting Greek culture. They were true geniuses at political organization---along with the Assyrians, Persians and Incas. But unlike these other civilizations the Romans never completely accepted the idea of arbitrary rule by a sovereign---that is, there was a area of a man's life immune to the dictates of the state, subject only to law. The Romans´ failure was that they developed no mechanism to remove a ruler who ignored these fundamentals of Roman law, leaving assassination and military intervention as the only ways to effect political change.
It was Christianity that brought all of these streams together and wrapped them in the great Revelation of God's incarnation among His creation. It was in Christendom where our ideas of the modern world were born: democracy, human rights, capitalism, separation of church and state all emerged from Christianity and not from Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism.
Thus, these streams of thought and philosophy are what we call Western Civilization. The technical term would be Judeo-Christian Greco-Roman civilization.
No room for Pachamama there.
September 24, 2003
Why do good people suffer? Why is there disease? Why do sinners so often profit while saints so often end up in lions´ mouths? Why is there such obvious---and not so obvious---evil in the world? The Christians say that God is Love, that God is good, that God loves His creatures. How can this be true?
These questions have bedeviled man since Adam. You might not like the answers, but here they are in no particular order of importance.
Free Will. God wants man to love Him as an act of devotion, not from compulsion. He made men not robots. If man is free to love then he is free to hate. It is his choice. He respects your decision. The consequences of that decision come later.
Fallen Man. Even the greatest of saints are sinners. They themselves say this---and they should know. (Recall that Peter himself denied Christ three times.) The difficulty is in our very nature. It is corrupted and does not function as it was supposed to. We try to do good but we stumble. We become angry. We kill. We lie. We allow our carnal natures free reign. It is because we are broken.
Lucifer. He is a creature. That is, like us he was created. He chose to use his angelic gifts for evil. One-third of all angels followed him in his revolt against God. (Yes, there was a war in Heaven.) You see, Lucifer ("light bringer") believed he should be in God's place. His sin was that of Pride, the greatest sin possible. Lucifer, being a smart fellow, most certainly knows your weaknesses. He or his pals are always at your side tempting, enticing, trying to thwart whatever good is in you. But he cannot make you do something against your will. If you surrender to him, the fault is yours.
Sin. This is all around us, in us and in others. No one escapes it, sorry to say. Sin is like a virus, a cancer of the soul. Once you allow it to enter (that pesky free will again!) you create an opening for more sin---and more and more. Unrepented, it takes more and more of you until you actually become the sin. Bad enough this is, but you then spread your infection---for that is what sin is---to others. A homosexual delights when he---or she---can seduce another, a cocaine user delights when he can get others to use his drug, a pornographer delights when his products sell well. When enough sin infects a nation, odd things happen: neighbors are invaded without cause, citizens are shipped off to Gulags, Jews are stuffed into ovens.
Not pleasant prospects, it would seem! How to escape from all this? Easy answer: Trust in Christ and accept Him for what He is, for He is God. But you must choose to do this---free will again. He offers Himself to us all the time. But if you continually refuse Him, He will allow your will, rather than His own, to be done. You will like it for a while, but not for long. And not forever.
December 27, 2003
There are four ways to journey to foreign lands. In order of difficulty and risk they are: tourism, travel, adventure and exploration. I have done all of them. I am doing all of them.
Tourism is what most people mean by 'travel.' All hotels, transportation, food, photo opportunities, sites---everything, in fact---is arranged beforehand by an agency that specializes in such things. There are no surprises, for those who pay good money for such a tour do not want any. These are people who have no time to do research, learn the rudiments of a foreign language, and to make their own flight arrangements. Tourism is easy, popular and can be entertaining though at times it can be boring. Remember, no surprises! All hotels are clean and have hot water and one seldom gets ill eating the food.
The next step in difficulty is travel. One makes his own arrangements and attempts to learn street and restaurant survival techniques in a foreign tongue. This takes some time as often the traveler does not really know exactly where he is going or where he will stay when he gets there. College students making their first foray to Europe, graduate students following the 'Gringo Trail' from Mexico to Peru and retired folks who have time and an adventurous spirit become experts in travel. It is seldom boring, but it can be---and many times it is---trying. Cold water pensions or hostels and street food are well known to the traveler, as is the occasional bout with dysentary.
There are some hybrids that combine tourism and travel. They usually have the words 'adventure' or 'eco-' (as in 'ecological') in them. Thus something called 'adventure travel' and 'eco-tourism.' But do not be fooled, both are really types of tourism. All is arranged, planned and organized. The customer is just along for the ride. These trips can certainly be fun, but there is nothing heroic or difficult about them.
Adventure requires a desire to really get off the well-traveled track, to go the weird places---like obscure Mayan ruins buried deep in some God-forsaken jungle. It is also expensive, as the adventurer must have tent, stove and all the rest of the backpacking kit. He---and occasionally she---must be prepared for the unexpected (what I call the 'X' factor) for the unexpected is part of the reason for planning an adventure in the first place. And trust me, the X factor always happens. Adventurers plan on getting sick, sleeping in odd places, being dirty for days on end, becoming unfamiliar with toilets, having close encounters with animals and very strange people, and eating unrecognizable fare---that is why it is called 'adventure.' Adventure types can be seen hiking frozen islands, soloing mountain peaks and revelling in avoiding death when it appears.
Exploration---going where few have gone---is getting tough to come by these days. Most areas of the world have been mapped and McDonaled. Even Everest, which 50 years ago was seen as the peak event in the exploration of the age, now is almost tourism. No kidding, about anyone can pay an agency upwards of $65,000 to take them to the summit of Everest and even back down again---no mean feat, as 14 people died there a few years back. Both poles are well-traversed---there are tours there---Africa has given up her secret of the source of the Nile, Asia is way over crowded. The only real remaining place to experience exploration is South and Central America, but even there it is quickly succumbing to tourism. This is not a complaint, just an observation.
One rule of thumb: if a bus pulls up to your camp site and unloads 50 Japanese tourists with matching suits and cameras, it is time to get out of there. When I was first in Tikal 20 years ago I was about alone in the jungle there. There was only a place to camp, one place to eat and no hotels. Now it is as crowded as Disney World. What all this means is that the adventurers and explorers must go further and further 'out there'. Rather than Tikal one must walk to Nakum. Rather than the Inca Trail one must walk across the Andes to Choquequirao. And so on. But even those places will be well traveled one day, forcing the explorers and adventurers way back into the hills and trackless jungle.
The last remaining areas for exploration in Central America are the far reaches of northern Guatemala, the Mosquito region of Nicaragua, and Honduras, specifically the region between the Paulaya and Platano Rivers. Tales of monkey gods and lost cities abound. And that, dear reader, is why I am going there. After which...what? How will I be able to beat that, assuming I survive? The very thought disturbs. Maybe then it will be time to retire all my backpacking gear. After all, I will have seen all that is worth seeing in Latin America, as far as I am considered.
Or I could climb Aconcagua. Or spend time traversing the Venezuelan jungles. Or venture forth into the grasslands of Suriname. Or cut across country from Perrito Moreno National Park in Argentina all the way to Chile.
Ah...I feel better already!
Februray 5, 2004
One year ago there were 22 million Iraqis who were forced to live under an Orwellian regime that regularly raped, mutilated, murdered, tortured and robbed them. They were really the slaves of Saddam Hussein, and he treated them as such. They lived, served and died at his behest. Under no circumstances could this situation have been considered as due to the will of God. Indeed, to all who know Him or know of Him, it was hateful to Him. Today these Iraqis are free, just as God intended them to be: free to choose Him or reject Him, but free in any case. To put the matter another way, God's will was done in Iraq. His children were freed, just as the Hebrews were freed 3200 years ago. If you cannot believe this, then you must believe that the Iraqis under Saddam were better off then they are today or that God cares nothing for His creation. Thus you must also believe that the Hebrews were better off under pharaoh than they were while wandering freely around Sinai.
And who was the one who freed God's people? It was George Bush who did so, George Bush who carried out the will of God. Do you find this hard to believe? If so, then you have either not read the Bible or you do not understand it. For it is shot through and through with God moving in history by using His creation to work His will. He could easily have freed the Hebrews, but He chose Moses to do it. When Moses complained that he was not up to the task---it seems that he had as much difficulty speaking in public as Bush has---God sent his brother Aaron along with him. It was the same with Joshua. God could have simply eliminated those pesky Canaanites, but He sent Joshua to wipe them out. And the Assyrian Sargon II, the Chaldean Nebuchadrezzar II and the Persian Cyrus are explicitly mentioned as doing the will of God. And on and on throughout the Old Testament.
And it is the same in the New Testament. In fact as we know, God became man to perfect His plan for the salvation and redemption of His creatures. Of course He could have just willed that all men be saved, but He chose another method, one that would involve man himself. He even chose one His creatures, Mary, to bear His Child---with momentous results for all.
You see my point. God works in history through the pinnacle of His creation, man. It has been thus since Adam and Eve. It is the same today, unless God has changed---an impossibility of course. What happened in Iraq happened because God willed it so. He loves Iraqis as He loves all of His creation. He wanted them freed. They were freed. And let us not hear any complaining about the lives lost in doing so. The cost of doing the will of God is often paid in blood: of martyrs, of soldiers, of religious. God Himself paid for the sins of man in His own blood.
Of course, you can certainly believe that there is no God, that all religion is nonsense, and so on. But then you are still stuck with the moral question: Is the world a better place or not since 22 million Iraqis were brought into freedom? If you agree, then you must agree with the method of their liberation---that would be the US military. If you do not agree that the world is a better place, then the nightmare of Saddam's regime did not bother you at all---and I fear for your soul. (You might wish to run your opinion by an Iraqi, but I will not be responsible for his reaction if you do so.)
And God is not finished working in the Middle East, most of whose peoples are forced to live under corrupt and tyrannical governments. All of these are coming to an end, just as they did in the same region thousands of years ago.
Deus lo volt.
February 27, 2004
Recently I was listening to a radio show on Catholic Answers. A self-styled feminist-type called in to complain about the the Catholic Church's 'oppression of women.' Her arguments were standard liberal boilerplate: the Church's stand on abortion 'oppresses women'; the Church's stand on an all-male priesthood 'oppresses women'; the Church's stand on divorce 'oppresses women'; the Church's stand on homosexuality 'oppresses women'; the Church's stand on Chastity---you guessed it---'oppresses women.' And so on. She spoke calmly and matter-of-factly, as if her concerns were common knowledge. She seemed to say, "What is the Church going to do about all this oppression?" Short answer: not a thing. There is no oppression of women in the Catholic Church.
There are over one billion Catholics, and half of them are women---that would be 500,000,000 give or take a stray nun or two. All of them---every single one---is in the Church voluntarily. Every nun, every lay worker, every woman in the pews on Sunday can leave the Church any time she wishes. No questions asked, no hard feelings, we wish you well, we will pray for you, we hope you return. Catholic women certainly know this, yet they belong anyway. Can it be that all those teeming millions are simply deluded slaves who unconsciously yearn for the liberating ideas of radical feminism? Rather unlikely I would say.
The Church promises much, an Eternity with Christ to be precise. How so? Well, there are rules---all voluntary of course---on how to go about obtaining this free---yes, free---gift. They come right from our Lord and are most clearly laid out in the Bible---which the Church nursed for 2000 years---and her own Catechism---based on the same Bible and hundreds and hundreds of years of Christian writing and commentary. Look them up yourself if you wish. The Catholic Church can no more rescind these rules than she can rescind the law of gravity. God would not allow it---and we have His word on this. Our feminist will be sorely disappointed in her attempts to stop all of this 'oppression'. Her argument is not really with the Church, but with God---the very God who gave the Church to the pinnacle of His Creation.
Take a look at abortion. The Catholic Church calls it murder, yet our feminist calls it 'oppression of women.' There have been 40,000,000 abortions in the US since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Guess how many of these aborted babies were female? Hmm...that would be 20,000,000. (And nothing so oppresses a female as murdering her.) So the Church has been one of a few voices---the others being Islam and conservative Protestant Christianity and Orthodox Judaism--- defending the rights of all those unborn girls. Our feminist would have them all slaughtered---oops, they were all slaughtered. All those slaughtered females, never to grow up to be oppressed by the Church---or for that matter, to be indoctrinated into the mysteries of radical feminism.
Our feminist can certainly find some branch of (so-called) 'Christianity' that sanctions all of her fantasies. There are many, for example, that have female 'priests', several that sanction homosexual practices including marriage, and others that could care less about pre-marital sex, birth control or abortion. So why pick on Catholicism when her ideals have already been realized? The answer will disturb, but it must be said. She---that is, the master who governs her---is not interested in those couterfeit forms of belief. He, this 'lord of the flies', is only interested in destroying the real McCoy---and Catholics will tell you that there is only one game in town, the Catholic Church. She is the 'real deal', the fullest expression of Christ's Word, the purest form of Christian Faith and Doctrine---and Beelzebub knows this.
Perhaps our feminist is an ex-Catholic. Well, she is no longer one for sure. So why does she complain? She is 'out of the game' as it were. No Catholic chased her down and tried to drag her back into Mass. She freely left---and she can freely return, though she must repent and confess of course---though her pennance might take some time. Now, what if she were a Cuban who had tried to leave that charming island? She would be shot or imprisoned. Now that is real oppression.
And any Catholic can receive the gifts of the Church without spending one cent. Communion, Confession, Eternal Life, bingo nights---all available without putting one thin dime into the collection plate. Now, how about the gifts the State offers? Try not paying your taxes that pay for these 'gifts'. What would happen? You would be sent to prison, your property confiscated, your life ruined. Again, that would be real oppression. And the State cannot even deliver on its promises to protect its citizens, the most basic thing it is supposed to do. Not even the USA, the most powerful state in existence, can do this. (And by the way, it was the USA that allowed those 20,000,000 abortions of unborn girls. Not even potential future citizens of the State are safe from its evil.) Yet the Catholic Church can and does deliver upon her promises every time, and not even the gates of Hell can stop her.
Sounds like a pretty good deal to me, and at a reasonable price to boot.
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