Essays on Philosophy and Theology

(Always under construction)

Random Thoughts

To See Things as They Are

Words

Man and Moloch

Sheep and Goats

Catholics and Protestants

The Church Throws Down The Gauntlet

He is Risen

À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

Free From All Error

A Parable

Future Perfect

Previews of Hell

 

Random Thoughts 

I began to devour books as a child of six, and have never stopped reading. At first they served as an escape from the unfathomable world in which I found myself. Now they have become a marvelous and complex pleasure. I am surrounded by them. Even today I still read about four books a month. Their subjects are eclectic to be sure, but mainly History and Theology, and some scary books about people having unpleasant experiences with wild animals.  

What is called “the Marxist tradition” is really only shining a light in a dead end alley. There is nothing there but a “how-to” on setting up the most ghastly and murderous tyrannies ever known. Much of what Marx proposed was really only his own take on Kant and Ricardo, and those were not clearly understood by him. Marx claimed to be an economist, but he was really a philosopher of a particularly dreary sort. Just as Hitler’s theories were based upon race hatred, those of Marx were based upon class hatred. For less complicated tyrants simple hatred will do: hatred of the decent, of the beautiful, of the Holy. All that hatred is really a rebellion against God.  

Non-believers say that the main reason Christians embrace their faith is because it gives them “comfort.” Not so. I take little comfort in my faith. I am a Christian because Christianity is true. In my weak moments I wish that it were not. It is most definitely not “comforting”. For that I use wine. Christianity is the most intellectually, morally and spiritually demanding creed ever to exist. What comfort can I take in one of its founding principles that state: “Christ died not so that you could be spared from discomfort but so that you could join Him on the Cross.” And so it is. He demands that His followers sacrifice the world and their very lives. What other dogmas demand such? Christianity is losing its appeal not because it is false, but because in our degraded, depraved and feminine age men refuse to stand as men. These sorts search out those creeds that promise them ease and comfort. C.S. Lewis called such creatures “men without chests.”    

Having “an open mind” does not really mean what most people think it means. An open mind belongs to those who are still searching for the Truth. Once it is found, the search is over. One gazes at a map not to simply wander about, but to actually arrive at some particular destination. Once there, the man has succeeded in his quest. An open mind is thus only a temporary condition and one not suited for men who think as men. Nowadays the claim of an “open mind” is used to accommodate and applaud all sorts of depravities once relegated to the darkest regions of human nature. Such horrors now receive accolades from the Best People and funding from regimes populated and ruled by them. But let us speak frankly: These days a man who boasts about his “open mind” is really only rejecting Christian morality. On that subject his mind is completely closed.   

“Pragmatism” and “realism” have completely fluid meanings depending upon the whims of those who claim to adhere to these doctrines. A pragmatist would have no problem going along with the latest incarnations of Mao or Stalin if such creatures promised new roads or free health care. The pragmatist thus has his price. His “principles” are flexible and changeable, and move with the times. The “realist” claims to see the world just as it is, and to ridicule things he dismisses out of hand---things such as the Resurrection and miracles. He has no ability or the tools necessary to “see beyond the seen”. He lacks discernment, which can be simply defined as the capacity to choose Truth over falsehood. This is a rare competence, and the man who possesses it is neither pragmatist nor realist; he is a Christian.  

A reading of Nietzsche will depress an honest man. But then, all so-called “existentialist” writers do likewise. Camus thought Sisyphus was content with his absurd fate; Sartre saw Hell as nothing more than “other people”. Nietzsche’s idea of the “Superman”---the Übermensch---justifies any tyranny or murder to the man who so boldly states that he lives “beyond Good and Evil.” Nietzsche spent the final years of his life in and out of asylums---a fitting and just end to any man and any regime that practices such doctrines. They always end up in holocausts and gulags. Indeed, they cannot end in any other way.  

It perplexes that the American ruling class is constantly arguing for intervention in the world of Islam, to put boots on the ground in those dreary places where the mosque and sharia rule. But may I ask why we should expend American blood and treasure to aid a people who have been slaughtering each other for 1400 years? On one side of these civil wars we see: a bunch of America-hating, Jew-hating and Christian hating, terrorist psychopaths. On the other side of these civil wars we see: a bunch of America-hating, Jew-hating and Christian hating terrorist psychopaths. Why not simply let such degraded folks fight it out? And let the best men win---except there are no “best men.” There are only worse and worse men. What a world. 

I am fast approaching 60 years of age. By the standards of times long past, I am ancient. I have learned very little in my time, but what I know, I know, paltry as that knowledge is. The world itself, being finite and riddled with lies---indeed, it has succumbed to them---once offered me marvelous and fabulous things. But these worthless baubles have long ceased to sparkle; the gold has lost its luster.  

I have no desire to survive in a world that claps and dances at the approach of the Four Horsemen. I am as a mere onlooker at the Feast of Belshazzar, but have no power to stop it. The writing is on the wall for the entire world to see, but it has purposefully blinded its own eyes in some sort of ghastly mockery of Oedipus---who at least was an honest man. My eyes more and more gaze upon Eternity, yet my Master has commanded me to soldier up and do my duty---to His Body, to His children. And so I will, to the best that my weaknesses and frailties allow.

 

To See Things as They Are

The only question worth asking is this one: Is Christianity true? If it is true, then we live in a certain type of universe. If it is false, then we live in a different type of universe.

Let’s pretend for just a bit. Let us imagine that Christianity is true. That every single claim of that faith---the Atonement, the Resurrection, all those miracles, the Trinity, Heaven and Hell, Sin and Redemption---is absolutely true.

Some of you will not have to pretend at all. Some of you might have to squirm a bit, but you can manage it. Some of you simply will not be able to do it. Very well, then imagine that what I write is a fairy tale and bear with me.

Paul said that after his little incident on the Damascus Road that scales fell from his eyes and ‘he received his sight at once.’ He was no longer blind. He had once persecuted Christians. Now he was one. You see, the Truth had smacked him in the face.

It is like that with all Christians. The Truth smacks us in the face. We see the world differently than non-Christians. It is really no more complicated than that. That was the reason Christ came to live among us, to show us the reality of our situation.

And here is the reality of our situation.

We live in two worlds, the natural and the supernatural. The natural world is that which is discernible by our senses. Science is very good at measuring this world. Science is after all nothing more than man making devices to improve his own senses.

The supernatural world is not at all discernible to our senses. We call it ‘the invisible world.’ It is above and beyond the natural world. Science has no competence to make any claims whatsoever about that world. When some scientist says, for example, that ‘science has disproved the existence of angels’ he is speaking very foolishly.

And it is indeed curious to know that every culture and society and civilization that has ever existed has believed in both worlds. Those among us who believe that there is no such thing as the supernatural world belong to an extremely tiny and insignificant minority when looked at from the perspective of history.

I said that we live in both worlds. That part of us that inhabits the supernatural world is what we call the soul. It is who you really are. This immediately becomes clear if we do a little experiment.

Let us say your name is Smith. If you look into a mirror you will say, “There is Smith.” Now imagine that you lost both your legs and you look into a mirror. You will still say, “There is Smith.” You will not say, “There is half of Smith.” Smith is then not his body. He is something else.

The soul lasts forever. The body does not. It is therefore vital that we see to the condition of our soul. And just as a new car comes with an owner’s manual so does your soul come with an owner’s manual. We call this owner’s manual the Bible. In it are all the things necessary to keep the soul in tip top shape.

Shot through and through the Bible are the doings of both the natural and supernatural worlds. The supernatural world is the world of God and angels and demons. What happens in that world has a reflection in this world. You might be surprised to know that a war in this world is a sure sign that there is a war in the supernatural world.

In fact, even before the creation of the natural world there was a war. It was between Lucifer and his angels and God and His angels. Like us the angels are created beings. Lucifer was the most beautiful and intelligent being in all Creation. When he went bad he remained intelligent and beautiful, but both were twisted and perverted. He was defeated along with his followers---we call these demons---and all were cast out from Heaven.

Lucifer---Satan, if you wish, as he has many names---desires nothing more than to hurt God. As this is impossible he hurts the next best thing, the pinnacle of God’s Creation, man. He is very busy.

There is more of course, but the key point here is that there is a war in this world between the followers of God and the followers of Lucifer. The followers of Christ behave in a certain way and believe in certain things. The followers of Lucifer behave in a different way and believe in different things.

First and foremost Lucifer is a God hater. All of his followers are also God haters. It is logical, really. Like father like son, so they say. While we are all created by God we are not all children of God. Some of us---perhaps most of us---follow Lucifer.

There are no other options. You must claim one as your father. None of us have the option to be an orphan.

Once you claim God as your father, much becomes clear. The scales have fallen from your eyes. You are able to see. The more time you spend as a child of God the better you are able to see, to recognize, His enemy. This is only reasonable. The more time you spend following a superb military commander the better soldier you become.

Now we come to the reason I write these words. A follower of Christ can tell when a person, an organization or a nation has succumbed to the charms of Lucifer. It will be as clear as anything.

What does God say about abortion, for example? He hates it. What does Lucifer say about it? He loves it, adores it, and he wants you to adore it and worship it. The same could be said about sodomy, about the worship of false gods---the most popular one today is earth worship---about corruption in high places---such as in government and in the schools---about using your body not as His temple but as a place for the practice of impurity and perversion.

The Lord detests these things wherever they occur: in political parties, in international organizations, in men. And His followers are to detest them as well. A Christian is to avoid them at all costs, even at the cost of his life.

So now you know. Any man or organization that promotes those things hated by God is beholden to Satan. There is no other way, no polite way, to state it.

We must look at our nation with the scales gone from our eyes and see things as they are. We must call evil what it is. And evil when it works its way through a man will claim his life forever.

The same is true of nations.

You may think that the problems of our Republic are due to this man or to that program, that we only have to replace these and all will be well.

That is a lie, and it comes from the Father of Lies.

The problem is one of repentance. We have as a nation long ‘done what is right in our own eyes.’ We have abandoned God. We have removed Him from every public sphere, from every school house, from the very halls where our national life is governed.

God has returned the favor. He has abandoned us. The results are all around us for those who have eyes to see.

You say that you would like to see change in our nation. So would I. But first we need to ask ourselves a question: Whose side are we on? The side of God or the side of Lucifer? In this war there can be no neutrals, no gray areas, no nuances.

Choose wisely.

 

Words

I wrote many of the words below on my last day in Buenos Aires where I lived and taught for ten years. That seems a lifetime ago, mere light and shadow from another world. Some have been adopted from men far wiser than I. Most have been learned by me through the hard school of experience. From time to time I add to these words as time and circumstance allow.

The cost of putting them into my heart has been exorbitant but not frightful, and certainly less than that paid by Aeschylus' Agamemnon:

In visions of the night, like dropping rain,
Descend the many memories of pain
Before the spirit's sight: through tears and sorrow
Comes wisdom over the unwilling soul.

Such poetry is necessary and welcome in the Orwellian times in which we live, times where we are told that black is really white, evil is really good, treason is really honor, truth is really relative. We are as Dr. Johnson would have us, 'of needing to be reminded more than instructed.'

We need to be reminded that our problems are not unique, that other peoples in far-off lands and long-ago ages either survived them or succumbed to them. So will we.

Here are some reminders.

Drink wine now and again. Jesus did.

Show kindness to all children. Jesus did.

Forgive your enemies. Jesus did.

Do not lie to children. Better not to lie at all.

Never trust the person who looks back at you in the mirror. He is your worst enemy. You may laugh at him, however.

God made the world not for Himself, but for you. Go see it.

Man makes cities. God makes Mountains. And Jungles. And Forests. And Glaciers. And Canyons. And Valleys.

The first city was built by the first murderer.  Much of history is explained by that simple fact.

Always write as if God is reading. Always speak as if God is listening. Always act as if God is watching.

There is no sin in God's wilderness unless you bring it with you.

At the end of periods of great pain often lies great joy.

Go to a Church or Synagogue or Temple or Mosque as often as you can.

The world does not care about your problems.

Your eyes are meant to see the material world. Your soul is meant to discern things outside of the material world, to "see beyond the seen."

Never refuse a favor.

Break the habit of using foul language.

You cannot love too much. You can, however, love improperly.

The world hated Christ. It will hate His followers.

If you invite Christ to come into your heart, remember that He is a Carpenter. He will bring His tool box. Expect changes.

There are no fools in Heaven. There are no fools in Hell. At death every man will be able to see his life as it really was. Some will rejoice in this knowledge. Some will not.

One either serves God or serves Lucifer. There are no exceptions. Choose. Do so this instant.

Remember that you are mortal.

You cannot know when you will die. You can, however, choose how you will meet your death.

Gold is rare and costly. So is Honor. So is Chastity.

Give away as much of yourself as you can.

You cannot understand Love until you empty yourself.

We are all creatures of God. We are not all children of God.

The world knows its own. Christ knows His own. No one belongs to both Christ and the world.

You are not a Christian because you believe in God. Even Satan believes in God. You are a Christian if you obey God.

Everyone in Hell believes in God.

True freedom is internal.

Life is priceless. Death does not end it.

What comes out of a man is vastly more important than what goes into him.

If you have not read the Bible do not comment on Christianity. Or on God.

If you call yourself a Christian but do not read the Bible, stop calling yourself a Christian. 

When most people say 'God is love' what they really mean is 'Love is God.'

Jesus died on the Cross. The Christian must join Him there.

You know no bondage until you are a slave to sin. You know no freedom until those bonds are broken.

There is never a reason for rudeness or unkindness or cruelty.

Spend time alone.

Being alone is not the same thing as being lonely.

A clean heart will not lie to you.

Both Good and Evil echo for years.

The higher you climb, the fewer the people but the clearer the view.

There is nothing remotely as joyful as being clean on the inside.

You are free to break the Moral Law, but you are not free of the consequences of doing so.

Call your mother more often. Right now if you can. One day you will not be able to.

Reward the Spirit. But punish the Flesh.

Avoid those who are morally unclean. They pollute all they touch.

Learn how to be silent.

And good Lord, at the very least learn the last one. You need not always give an opinion, proffer advice or submit commentary. Often your silence is telling, and a listener might even learn something from it.

So will you.

 

Man and Moloch

Mussolini had the last words on State worship.

Everything in the State. Nothing outside the State. Nothing against the State.

Let us call such a view ‘the State as God,’ for that is what it is. It is substituting the worship of God for the worship of the State. You may call it fascism if you wish---Il Duce certainly did---but that changes nothing. When one looks to the State for his needs rather than to God he is treating the State as God.

Such a man at first might not even be aware that he no longer worships God. He might still attend church regularly but he is really just going through the motions. His true love is nowhere to be found there.

The usual form of government for 6000 years has been State worship. Thus were both pharaohs and Incas seen as living incarnations of a god. Thus were Mesopotamian kings modestly titled ‘Kings of Kings, Great Kings, Mighty Kings, the Kings of the World, the Kings of the Four Corners.’ The Romans were more restrained and only allowed their Caesars to be worshipped after they were safely dead.

But even the Romans had a form of State worship to which all were required to conform. This got those early Christians into some difficulties, as they worshipped the true God. Thus they were tossed into lions’ dens, burned to death and generally severely put upon. And here we see that all gods are jealous gods, just as God is a jealous God. They brook no competition. The Roman State would accept no other competitor. Its way or the highway, nothing else would do.

All State worship ends in this way, in stacks of corpses. Whatever name we know it as---Nazism, communism, totalitarianism, socialism---it has a hunger for human life and takes it at will. There is a reason for this.

The State sees humanity as a weak and perishable vessel. It has no purpose other than to serve the State. The one immutable law is that men die but the State lives forever. We see this philosophy in every ruler, every king, every president, every emperor and every prime minister who ever lived. They all act as if their particular nation will be everlasting.

Christianity is entirely different. It sees man as everlasting and the State as ephemeral. Thus man is literally infinitely more important than the State. The two can coexist but one must be subservient to the other. Thus did the Carpenter say, “Render under Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God, that which is God’s.” The State replies, “Render unto me all that you have and all that you are.”

This is why the first thing State worshippers do when they get power is to diminish and then destroy Christianity. That faith, after all, plainly states that some things in life are only for God. This is intolerable for those whose only god is the State.

We see this clearly in communism, which has been in each and every instance openly hostile to Christianity. It murders priests, burns churches and puts the faithful to death. No opposition can be allowed, for the State is a jealous god.

We see this here in America as well, though in a much more subtle and insidious way. The State seeks to eliminate Christianity from the public sphere and has largely succeeded. Organizations like the Boy Scouts that have a Christian core are to be persecuted as well. Propaganda organs of the State where future citizens are to be indoctrinated---we call these organs ‘public schools’---are to be cleansed of anything hostile to the State.

There is more, of course. Behaviors manifestly opposed to Christianity---sodomy, abortion---are to be State supported and forced upon Christians throughout America by using schools, the entertainment industry and the media. No stone is to be left unturned as the State moves to root out and demolish its competition for the heart and soul of man.

This is no different from what happened in Israel 2200 years ago. Then the State worshippers were the Seleucids. These were absolutely hostile to anything that presented itself as opposition to the official ideology, a system based upon homosexuality and displays of public nudity. Sound familiar?

These were anathema to Judaism, though then as now many of the faithful became weak and gradually submitted to the demands of the State. We see this today in the weakening of mainline Protestant faiths, many of which have given in to the State’s demand that, among other things, homosexuality be accepted. Thus there are appearing more and more open and practicing homosexual pastors of both genders. These have openly surrendered to State worship, though they of course would never put it quite this way. They claim their beliefs are really based upon ‘tolerance,’ a word that by the way is openly promoted by the State itself.

Americans seem oblivious to how much State worship has overtaken them. Few of us make the connection that the more we demand the State do---retirement, health care, education---the more of our money will be turned over to the State to pay for all of it. Taxes are the food of the State, and it is voracious.

To make this plain, imagine a man who refuses to pay his taxes. He will be imprisoned, his family destroyed, his property seized and his children sent away to become the sons and daughters of strangers. So tell me, would Cuba act any differently?

Behind State worship there is of course a person. This ancient demon’s name is Moloch (‘king’) but he has also been called Baal (‘lord’). Once a man submits to Moloch he becomes his servant. We see many such today. It is easy to identify them, especially among the political class. The next time you hear some politician vowing some new government program, you might ask yourself whether the program serves God or Caesar. If Caesar then you know that Moloch is about.

Here is one example. It is from a recent speech by that champion of Moloch, Hillary Clinton.

If you're a family that is struggling, and you don't have health care, well, you are invisible to this president. If you're a single mom trying to find affordable child care so you can go to work, well, you're invisible, too.

Her real message is that we should turn over all our choices about health care and the raising of our children to the State. This is in line with all of her solutions to America’s problems---they all involve increasing the power of the State and thus of her master, Moloch. The next time you hear of some politician promising that all we need to do is feed more taxes to the State, you will know where his heart lies.

You should know one outstanding attribute of Moloch, that he demanded the sacrifice of children. People of old would take their newborns to a brazen image of Moloch with jaw agape and toss them into his fiery maw where they were burned to death. The moral difference between this ancient practice and our modern one of abortion is precisely nothing.

Perhaps the first worshipper of Moloch was Cain. After killing his brother he fled into the wilderness and built the world’s first city---that is, he founded the first state. State worship thus was begun by the first murderer.

If you wish to understand why the actions of States throughout history has been so bloody, you need look no further than that.

 

Sheep and Goats

How can we say that one man is a Christian and another man is not?

Certainly Christ left us with some method to recognize His followers. And just as certainly it is vital that we do so.

Christianity is a demanding faith, the particulars of which are aptly laid out in the New Testament. To be a Christian a man must allow---one must ask---Christ to come into his life. Once done all sorts of things happen. The man becomes literally ‘born again.’ He is a new man. He has left his purely carnal existence and become a child of God.

The mere fact of birth does not mean one is a child of Christ. The Carpenter Himself made this plain in the Gospels. Some of His listeners after all He called children of the Father of Lies. He also said that until the end of time there will be goats in the midst of His sheep. Even among His twelve there was Judas.

So we can count on the obvious fact that some of those who claim to belong to Christ in reality belong to the other guy. We should neither be disheartened nor surprised at this. We were warned that this would be so.

So we can expect goats to dress up as sheep. Why do they do this? Quick answer: To cause the sheep to join the goats. You see, there is a tremendous battle going on all around you. You do not see most of it but you see evidence of it. We call this evidence ‘temptation.’ When you experience this there is somebody next to you. He is not your friend.

Of course, those who belong to the goats hardly ever admit to being a goat. That would be too easy. They claim Christ. It is simple to do so. It is popular in our nation to do so. It is especially popular among our political class. Christianity is a marketing tool. This is easy to show. Who would be elected to office who claimed atheism?

This is why politicians like to be photographed in church and why they like to talk about prayer and God. It is good for their business. Bill Clinton loved to be shown lugging around a huge Bible. George Bush said that Christ was his favorite philosopher.

But the goats have a problem, and it is a serious one. A child of Christ was given the gift of ‘discernment.’ It is the ability to ‘see beyond the seen.’ A Christian can use this tool to see who is really a sheep and who is not.

Heading back to the Gospels we see that a Christian man is to live, as much as he possibly can, as Christ lived. He will of course fail regularly. But when this happens Christ picks up His sheep and gives a hand. We see this in our human realm when a father allows his child to take his first steps. The child stumbles along for a few feet but then falls back to the ground. The father is right there, picking his child up and encouraging him on.

But consider another type of father, one who laughs when his child falls to the ground and refuses to pick him up. He even does all he can to keep his child from ever rising up from all fours. The child will thus spend all his life shambling around like an animal. He will become a goat. He might even come to like being a goat. Of course, he will not like it forever.

Two types of fathers. Two types of sons. Goats and sheep. Both children will come to resemble their fathers.

We know this from folk wisdom: ‘The fruit does not fall far from the tree.’ Christ Himself said something like this: “By their fruits you shall know them.”

We have come to the heart of the matter. The fruit of goats and the fruit of sheep are different. Goats are

filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32)

Sheep are different.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)

There you have it.

But how about us? Where do we fit in? How are we to tell if we ourselves are Christians or not?

Here is the formula. Simply place your own name in the place of ‘love’ and ‘it’ in this passage.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

You see what I mean. Shameful and embarrassing, yes?

The solution---the only solution---is to get on your knees right now, this instant if you can.

Your Father will be delighted to help you walk.

 

Catholics and Protestants

It happened again. Hank Hanegraff, the 'Bible Answer Man', said something completely stupid about Catholicism on his radio show. It was not the first time he demonstrated his misunderstanding of that faith, nor dare I say will it be the last---alas.

Hanegraff is certainly not alone in his ignorance, though his fame and condescending arrogance puts him among the elite anti-Catholics. Certainly there are things about Catholicism that drive Protestants to drink.

And no, I am not here going to argue in favor of Catholicism. Either it is true or it is not. That decision is entirely yours to make. But do make it. It is one thing to be a member of this Christian faith or that Christian faith. It is an entirely different thing not to be a Christian at all. A Protestant might argue that it is better to be Protestant than Catholic. I would argue that it is better to be Protestant or Catholic than to be pagan.

The debates between Catholics and Protestants will end when they see the face of Christ. And let me say that Protestants will not be asked how many Bible passages they memorized and Catholics will not be asked how many Rosaries they said. Our Lord will have other things on His mind.

But I do wish that those Protestants who speak of Catholicism do so from knowledge of it. The many errors of Hanegraff and his type when they speak of that faith could have been easily avoided by the horribly difficult task of opening a book.

Yet Catholic books seem mighty scarce upon Protestant bookshelves. I scarcely ever hear of a Protestant who quotes a demonstrably Catholic author. I understand their plight, which is a simple one to express. It is very difficult for a Protestant to quote from Christian authors before Martin Luther and his wildly misnamed ‘Reformation.’

The reason is that all the Christian writers---all those theologians, Fathers of the Church, Bible commentators and so on---were Catholic. And all of them from Tertullian to Augustine to Thomas Moore believed in the entire panoply of Catholic Dogma---Confession, papal infallibility, transubstantiation, the whole kit and caboodle.

From this statement of historical fact there is no escape, neither for Protestants nor for Catholics---especially for Catholics. For a Protestant to deny papal infallibility is one thing; for a Catholic to do so is an entirely different matter. That Catholic would be a heretic. Hell would gape for the fool unless he repented. But more of this in due course.

And I appreciate it very much when a Protestant turns to a Catholic writer for inspiration, just as I am certain that Protestants appreciate it when Catholics turn to a Protestant author for inspiration.

Of course, there might be a lack of Protestant books upon Catholic bookshelves as well. But not upon mine. Of the nearly 400 books I have read since 1996, 36 are on theology. And most of those are Protestant books---and I just purchased 3 more. In fact it was a Protestant book that led me to Christ, C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.

And I continue to immerse myself in Protestant teachings, sometimes hours a day. The medium of such teaching is Protestant radio. I live in the Bible Belt after all. Here you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting some Bible thumping Protestant preacher in the snout. And I would not have it any other way.

Here are the main things about Catholicism that drive Protestants to distraction. And do not forget that I am here not going to claim that Catholicism is better or truer that Protestantism. I will merely list some things about it that bug non-Catholics---and indeed these bug some Catholics too, but all of these types are misguided at best and damned at worst.

The pope. Oh my God do Protestants have a problem with this fellow! They refuse the Catholic claim that the pope is the head---the only head, mind you—of Christ’s Church on earth. And well should they deny this claim, for if they accepted it they would cease to be Protestants. This is the core difference between Catholics and Protestants.

Some Protestants even go absolutely nuts over the pope, claiming he is anti-Christ. Here is one such gem. It is quite typical of the genre.

So many of the depictions found within Roman Catholicism are identical to those used in Satanism, we should not be shocked any more.

You can find more yourself. Type in ‘pope antichrist’ in yahoo and there will be 527,000 pages. Choose some and read at your leisure.

Papal Infallibility. I have yet to hear of, read of or meet a Protestant who understood this one. Protestants seem to believe that papal infallibility applies to everything and anything the pope says. When one actually looks up what Catholics believe it becomes clear. Only when the pope speaks of Dogma or Morals is he infallible. The pope’s positions on, say, smoking and capital punishment and the World Series are irrelevant to the Catholic faith.

And all popes, being human, fall into sin. But Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit does not allow even a pope involved in grievous sins to error when stating Dogma and Morals. Indeed, when one looks at the 2000 years of Catholic history one cannot find anywhere a change in Dogma and Morals from Christ to Benedict.

Mary. Here is another bugaboo for Protestants. I once heard a Protestant preacher make the claim in front of his congregation that ‘Catholics worship Mary.’ Such a statement is quite typical. In reality Catholics, like Protestants, worship only God. They revere Mary as they consider the Mother of God deserving of such reverence.

And how odd is it that Mary has a higher place in Islam than she does in Protestantism. There she is also revered, though as the mother of what Islam calls the second greatest prophet.

Images. Catholics love these things, all of them from Crucifixes to cheap little pictures to rosaries dangling from the rear view mirror. Protestants claim that Catholics are worshipping graven images. But certainly every Protestant has in his wallet a photo of his wife and kids. And just as certainly he does not confuse those images with the real things. He keeps them as reminders of where his heart lies. This is exactly why Catholics carry around such objects. We need to be reminded---and often---of where our heart lies.

This is why a Catholic Church looks like an antique shop to non-Catholics---all those statues and images and Crucifixes and stained glass windows everywhere and all around. To Catholics, a Protestant church looks stark and empty, like a well-maintained warehouse or garage.

Body and Blood. Catholics believe that the bread and wine are changed during Mass into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The fancy name for this is transubstantiation. Christ Himself said that all those who do not eat of His Body and drink of His Blood cannot have eternal life. Catholics take Him at His word.

The Bible. Something that surprises many is that the Protestant Bible is shorter than the Catholic Bible. The reason is that Martin Luther decided that some of the books and portions of other books that had been in the Bible for 1200 years in actuality should never have been included. Luther considered such books non-canonical. They were tossed out---Maccabees 1 and 2, Tobit, Bel and the Dragon and many others. He wanted to eliminate the Book of James as well—he called it ‘an epistle of straw’---but cooler heads prevailed.

Some of those things that Catholics claim and Protestants deny---Purgatory for one thing---were contained in those tossed-out books. Odd that Protestants would toss out Biblical evidence for something and then claim that Catholics have no Biblical evidence for that thing.

There are more differences between Catholics and Protestants but they are horrendously difficult for a non-theologian to write about without making some fool error. I can only hope and pray that what I wrote does not embarrass the Catholic Church too much.

Let me remind all my readers whether Protestant or Catholic or something else. Catholics and Protestants have their differences---and these simply cannot be denied. But they agree upon far more than they disagree.

The real argument that Catholics and Protestants have is not with each other. It is with the world. It is the world that worships and glorifies and revels in power and sex and wealth and idolatry. It is the world that is the real enemy. It is the world that is ruled by Powers and Principalities.

And it is this very world that Christ came to redeem. He did so through His Blood and through His Body that He sacrificed upon the Cross. Christians know that He died not so His followers could avoid the Cross, but so they might join Him on it.

If you claim Christianity but deny this, you are neither Protestant nor Catholic. You are nothing.

(Further Reading: For those with an interest in comparative theology, you might start with Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. It is endorsed by both Chuck Colson and James Akin. You might also see here: http://www.catholic.com/tracts )

 

The Church Throws Down The Gauntlet

The pope made a threat.

Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.

What delayed him? Such a thing has been long desired.

And note that I did not write ‘orthodox Catholics’ for there are no other kind. A ‘heterodox Catholic’ does not exist. Catholicism is wholly unlike the myriad variants of Protestantism in that her set of dogmas cannot be tampered with. There is no negotiating with moral rulings concerning abortion.

You cannot be in favor of abortion yet claim to be a Catholic. Such a position is nonsensical. What you are really saying is “I disagree with the Catholic position on abortion but I insist on taking Communion.” Such a person is in a state of grave sin. Such a person is also a fool, but foolishness will seldom land one in Hell. If it did I would be damned.

The state on the Church in America is a pale shadow of what it was only 50 years ago. Then Catholicism was a force to be reckoned with. Catholics took very seriously indeed such things as ‘meatless Fridays’ and regular Confessions. The popular culture also understood the power of the Church. How strange does it sound today that airlines and trains and restaurants throughout America all offered fish on Fridays in deference to their Catholic patrons?

Our culture then showed priests in a positive light. True, they might be drinkers but their faith and spiritual strength could not be denied. Look at some old Hollywood movies and you will see what I mean. And nuns were paragons of moral probity and were never seen without their habits.

It is no exaggeration to say that Hollywood once feared and respected the Catholic Church. And today? Popular culture shows priests as corrupt and immoral weaklings who easily turn a blind eye to anyone who breaks Catholic teachings. These men are subjects of contempt and unworthy of respect. Recent movies such as Elizabeth and Kingdom of Heaven show nothing but revulsion for anything Catholic.

How did things go so wrong?

The Church is in the world but not of the world. Her feet are on earth but her eyes are set upon Eternity. Whatever social revolutions overtake society most certainly have an effect upon the Church. We saw this in the 1960s as Vatican II (1962-65) was called to answer the demands of wavering Catholics who desired a ‘breath of fresh air’ to blow through the Church. Pope John XXIII hoped that a Council would quell such clarion calls yet inject renewed vigor into the Church.

It did neither. Rather, Vatican II infuriated those heretics who wished the Church to relax her teachings against contraceptives, abortion and divorce---remember, those were the days of ‘the pill’ and the beginnings of the ‘sexual revolution.’ The Council did exactly as the Council of Trent did 400 years before, it restated Catholic Doctrines. The way of the Church or the highway to Hell. Make your decision.

Obviously the timorous and heretical Catholics were infuriated. They thought that the Church would give them a green light to indulge themselves in all of the worldly delights of fornication, sodomy and birth control. These creatures wanted the world, the flesh and the Devil as well as to be able to call themselves Catholic and take Communion.

There was never a chance in Hell of this happening.

Unsatisfied, these disturbed malcontents remained in the Church and tried to destroy her from within. They are there still.

Every weakness of the Church today can be traced to Vatican II---not the actual documents but to the way the Council was interpreted. The great and silly phrase of these heretics is that all of their proposals to ‘modernize’ the Church are in ‘the spirit of Vatican II.’ Well do they ignore the actual Council and invent some mythical ‘spirit’ of Vatican II to justify all of their obvious heresies and blasphemies.

And the results of 40 years of these types working their way through the Church? Empty pews. Seminaries riddled with sodomy. Nuns without habits. Masses without Latin. Absurd priests who gibber from the pulpit about global warming but never mention sin or Hell.

And the laughter of demons all around.

I drifted away from the Church as a callow lad sometime around 1965 or so. I left a Church with women with hats and veils, men with suits and ties, Masses conducted in Latin, Gregorian chants and an air of solemnity all around. I returned to the Church in 1991 and found men and women dressed as for the beach, hip and worldly priests speaking the latest psycho-babble lingo, silly guitar music, the gibbering of ‘liberation theology’ and Latin nowhere to be found.

In contradiction to many Catholics' claims that it marked the beginning of a "new springtime" for the Church, critics see the Council as a major cause of a tremendous decline in vocations and the erosion of Catholic belief and the influence of the Church in the Western world. They further argue that it changed the focus of the Church from seeking the salvation of souls to improving mankind's earthly situation.

Such have been the results of ‘the spirit of Vatican II.’

Simply stated, the Catholic Church in America has suffered a disaster in the past 40 years.

Thus the attempts of Benedict to regain lost ground. The excommunication of abortion-loving politicians is but a small start. It is the Church at last bestirring herself in the face of the astounding and unique moral decline of American society. It is---finally---the Church Militant showing defiance at the eradication of Christian culture in our Western world.

And the Church will of course prevail. Not even the gates of Hell can stand against her.

We have a Carpenter’s word on this.

 

He is Risen

Two thousand years ago in a far off province of the Roman Empire, a Carpenter was executed by the State. He had stirred up no small amount of trouble against the ruling local elite, Pharisees by name, and they had pressed upon the Roman governor to rid them of this meddlesome pest. It seems this Carpenter had gone about superbly insulting those Pharisees, calling them 'white-washed tombs' and 'hypocrites.' He had gathered quite a following among the rabble, who began to refer to Him as Rabbi, an accolade formerly only given to the Pharisees themselves.

Spurred by envy and fearful of losing their power over the people, they began to plot and scheme. They could not go about in the light and simply grab the Carpenter and toss Him in some dungeon, as the mob might tear the Pharisees to pieces. These Pharisees enlisted a follower of this Carpenter, one Judas, gathered up some of their policemen and went at night and arrested their Prey in a garden. He went unresisting.

His trial by the Pharisees that night was against all law and tradition, but those elites of that far off Roman province were desperate. They wanted to quickly get done what they thought simply had to get done, by hook or by crook. Like many today they were pragmatists. If something was necessary but a bit shady, well then go ahead with it for the good of the people. All will be well as the noble end would justify the grubby means.

And they were grubby indeed. Witnesses were coerced, violence was inflicted, evidence was falsified. When the Pharisees were satisfied, the condemned Man was dragged beaten and bleeding before the local agent of the Roman state. You see, those Pharisees were themselves under the jurisdiction of Rome. While this condition rankled, they now saw a way to use their servile condition to get Rome to do their own dirty work.

The Roman governor was Pontius Pilate, he of hand washing fame. Like every one of his kind if there was one thing he absolutely detested it was political instability. Rome wanted her representatives to keep the peace and collect the taxes. Indeed, the second depended upon the first. To Pilate this thing the Pharisees were forcing him to deal with had the potential of a revolt that might spin out of hand. From the balcony where he decided cases of law as far as he could see were mobs of screaming locals. A wrong decision might send this rabble on a rampage. Peace would be disrupted, taxes would fall into arrears and Pilate's political career would be imperiled. It was best to be done with this case as soon as possible.

And so it was. Pilate saw himself as a fair man, and perhaps by the standards of the Roman state he was. He questioned this Carpenter but could really get nothing out of Him. The Fellow claimed to be some sort of king, but that His kingdom was nowhere to be found. To Pilate all of this was gibberish, and it revolved around a rather technical aspect of the local theology. Any Roman could not have cared less about such things. And of this multitude screaming for the Carpenter to be executed, well why not give in to it? No one life was more important than peace and stability in a province of Rome.

The Carpenter was hauled away and put to death in the manner of the time. It was not really a big deal to arrange on such short notice as a couple of others were scheduled to be executed that same day. One more death would not greatly inconvenience the Roman bureaucracy. And so it was done. The cost of labor and materials to Rome was minimal: three nails and two beams of wood, and the pay of a few soldiers for extra duty.

After a few hours Pilate was informed of the death of that rabble-rousing Carpenter. This was surprising as usually the condemned took much longer to expire. Pilate remembered that 100 years before the followers of the slave rebel Spartacus had been crucified by the thousands on both sides of a road that led to Rome. For days travelers along that road afterward reported the screams and moans of dying men. But Pilate's men confirmed that the Carpenter was indeed dead. One had even shoved a spear into his side to make sure.

A follower of the dead Carpenter asked Pilate if he could claim the Body and bury it according to local tradition. Pilate was feeling relieved at having avoided an uprising and so granted this petition.

But some of the Pharisees were troubled. There were rumors that this dead Carpenter would rise from the tomb. If some of His deluded followers managed to steal the corpse perhaps many would come to believe the fanciful tale. There would be problems for the Pharisees if this happened. Things might spin out of control. The Pharisees wanted Pilate to place some guards around the tomb of the dead Carpenter so that no one could possibly steal His body. This also Pilate granted, though perhaps he was inwardly laughing at such silly men. Resurrection after death? What astounding nonsense. True, in the Roman religions there were tales of such things, of dying gods coming back to life, but Pilate was a confirmed agnostic. He had to see to believe, a doubting Thomas before Thomas doubted.

Tough luck for those Pharisees, for when the tomb was opened the Body was gone. They were furious of course, but also impotent. Maybe nothing would happen after the rumors died away, they hoped. Ah, but much happened. Some of the locals began to claim that they had seen the Carpenter in the Flesh. Groups of people began to meet and talk about this dead Carpenter. Some of these groups began to abandon the faith in which they had been instructed by the Pharisees. This was the last straw. The Pharisees formed squads of roaming agents who had the power to arrest and imprison. The elites considered themselves fortunate that they had one of their own who was particularly fanatical in his disgust at those who followed the dead Carpenter. He was merciless and efficient.

A terrible shock came to the Pharisees when this man betrayed them. He actually joined those he had formerly persecuted. He traveled all about the Empire proclaiming the truth of the Carpenter, whose name Chrestos gave a name to His followers: Christians. This traitor to the Pharisees wrote as he traveled and his letters were copied and re-copied among the followers of Chrestos. His ideas spread---Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, even to Rome herself. There these Christians were seen as some weird off-shoot of a weird religion in that far off province. Nothing to worry about. Rome had conquered many strange peoples with many strange beliefs. Who could keep track of them all?

The new faith spread, especially in the Eternal City of Rome where that traitorous Pharisee ensconced himself. He wrote letter after letter and ream after ream of this new theology, all of which he sent to every Christian community throughout the empire of Rome.

All seemed well, but all was not well. For there came to power in Rome the anti-Christ Nero (54-68), a most degenerate and morally decayed man. He developed a particular hatred for the followers of Chrestos, all of whom refused to worship the emperor. This denial of the emperor's own godhood drove Nero to spasms of near unspeakable cruelty. He ordered that these Christians be exterminated wherever they could be found. And they were everywhere. They were rounded up and paraded to the Hippodrome, there to be torn to pieces by wild beasts, to be slaughtered by professional gladiators, to be covered in pitch and burned to light the streets of the Eternal City. Nero's tortures were superb political theater, quite refined in their ghastly torments and awesome in their demonstration of the power of the Roman state.

And it was all for nothing. For this faith in that dead Carpenter grew and spread. Indeed, it was as if with every sword thrust the splattering of blood served as seeds for more Christians. Nero saw Christians go to their deaths singing praises to their risen God. He saw their faces aglow with peace as they were overcome with torture. To Nero this was inhuman. He could not know that he was witness to the superhuman.

After Nero things quieted a bit, though every once in a while Rome would bestir herself in a few persecutions. But when the barbarians came toward the end of the second century, things began to fall apart. Philosopher-king and God-hater Marcus Aurelius (161-180) started anew Nero's machinery of death. The persecutions of Christians under the emperor Decius (249-41) surpassed those of Nero in numbers and in cruelty. Such an intensity of state sponsored terror and slaughter were not seen again in Europe until the 20th century.

And again all was for nothing. For it was the Roman state herself that collapsed and not the Church of Chrestos. An emperor of Rome, Constantine the Great (306-337), made the faith immune to further persecutions. On his deathbed Constantine himself became a follower of the Risen God. In the words of Will Durant

Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and the Carpenter had won.

 

So be not afraid. Know that the most powerful, competent and ferocious government known to man was overcome by a Carpenter who chose to live among us. He has since overcome the entire world. And always remember though we live in the world, we are under His command not to be of it. For our world is not this one.

Today He rises to renew the face of the earth. Let us arise with Him.

 

À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

While I busy myself solving the problems of the world---like the problem of choosing a suitable wine for this weekend of cooking---images from long ago drift in and out of my mind. Such daydreams occur more and more often as I age. Some are Heavenly. Some are Hellish.

Men remember their glorious victories and their glorious defeats. They remember joys and regrets, pain and happiness, sorrow and laughter. Most men assuredly would do things differently if life offered a second time around.

Sadly or gladly, there are no second times. We men forget that if we had another chance we would simply make different sorts of errors.

No, once is certainly enough. At the end of a life awaits not the tomb---such a squalid result of a man's existence would render all joy on this earth a sham---but something else, an Eternity of something else. When we reach this place we will cry out either in joy or terror. What we do in the here and the now will decide how we spend the there and then, this thing we call Eternity.

As Grace would have it, I survived my time playing in the muck, the years and years spent in trying my utmost to earn a place in Hell. Not that I understood all of this, of course. My god was the fellow who glared back at me when I peered into the mirror. I thought he was the perfect guide, the intelligent, all-knowing, and oh-so-clever one.

But he was a monster.

The monster has been slain, but there are remains of him here and there, tiny little redoubts where any passing demon can attempt an end-run around my will and remind me of my years in the muck. There will be no end of these until death. It is spiritual warfare of a very unconditional sort. And there can be only one of two possible results.

And there is nothing---absolutely nothing---I can do about such temptations. As long as there is in the flesh the slightest piece of territory not yet surrendered to Christ there will be a place where His opposition can set up shop. Augustine and Paul understood this quite well. I live as Seneca.

I know the life I should live. Yet I live the life I should not live. I follow one behind the other, pleading, with hands outstretched.

Yet I live by Grace. Yet I thrive by Grace. Yet I am blessed by Grace. I deserve Hell yet Grace promises Heaven.

If this is not Love then there is no God.

 

Free From All Error

Of all the Christian denominations Catholicism is the most demanding. One might even call her dogmatic---which she is. In fact, the Church revels in her dogmatism. It is either her way or the highway. And by the lights of the Catholic faith that highway leads either to Purgatory or Hell. Love her or hate her, right or wrong, the Catholic Church believes this with her entire heart and soul.

The Church does not compromise and has never compromised her teachings on Morals and Doctrine. She teaches that since such things come from God, His creature man has not the authority to change them. Not a bit of them, neither jot nor tittle, are subject to man’s whim or desire.

Anyone who studies the Church whether Catholic or not should know this. If he does not then he is either ignorant or lying. In either case that man should cease commenting on Catholic theology.

And I am not here constructing some sort of argument about the truth of Catholic Doctrine. I am merely stating what it is. You don’t have to like it. The fact that I like it is completely irrelevant. I might be a madman after all. But then, so might you be.

And the Church says that the further from her you travel the more irrational you become.

I can write about those peculiar Catholic teachings that so bedevil Protestants---to say nothing of pagans---at great length. It would please me to do so. You have heard of most of them: Confession, Communion, adoration of Mary and so on. But time restrains.

Without question the singular thing about Catholicism that sends non-Catholics---and even some whom claim to be Catholic---into states of frenzy is the papacy. If there was one thing that the enemies of the Church agree on---and her enemies are legion---it is this.

The Church believes that the pope is the Vicar of Christ, that when he speaks ex cathedra---'from the chair'---about Morals or Doctrine he is infallible---as in ‘incapable of error.’ Now, wrap your mind around that phrase for a spell. ‘Incapable of error’ means just what it says. Catholic Moral and Doctrinal teaching are perfect. Without error. Unchanging and unchangeable. Purer than Ivory soap.

Like I said, you do not have the believe this, but to remain in the state of reason you must believe that the Church believes it.

Such thoughts intrude this early morning because of this headline.

Pope stands ground on abortion, gay 'marriage'

Well, yes. Recall the term ‘infallible.’ And the pope is not so much standing his ground as simply claiming the ground for Jesus Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday set out "nonnegotiable values" as he urged Catholic lawmakers to oppose laws favoring divorce, abortion, homosexual "marriage" and euthanasia.

I love the phrase ‘nonnegotiable.’ Now, what part of ‘nonnegotiable’ do you not understand?

Thus, of all the conceits of the modern word none is more Hellish than the belief that man himself can alter the very substance of God's Law. The Church teaches---and has taught since Christ walked the earth and will teach until He comes again---that divorce is impossible, abortion is murder, unrepentant sodomites are damned and all life is sacred.

Questions?

Now you can understand why the world, the flesh and the Devil so hate the Catholic Church. She is unbending, unrepentant, unchanging and completely uninterested in your thoughts about all of this. The Church faces the world not in accommodation but in defiance. She has thrown down the gauntlet. She speaks with the authority of God Himself and demands that the world and all men lay down their arms and surrender. Nothing else will do.

While thousands of Protestant churches have caved in to the demands of this earth---condoms, female and homosexual priests, birth control, divorce and so on---the Catholic Church remains unbowed. She insists that it is the world that must change, not the Church. And from this stand she cannot be moved, not even by the gates of Hell.

Do not waste your time in complaining. Your arguments will fall upon deaf ears. And if you are a Catholic who has problems with the moral authority of the Church about birth control, sodomy and all the rest, you have two choices: either leave the Church or repent. For you cannot do anything about what the Church teaches regarding Morals and Doctrine. You have absolutely no influence concerning them.

Now we see the complete and utter absurdity of the lustful trying to change the position of the Church on condoms---never going to allow them---and married priests---impossible to permit them. We see the complete and utter absurdity of trying to change the position of the Church on sodomy---an abomination---and abortion---an affront to God.

So there you have it. The Church teaches that she is infallible concerning Morals and Doctrines. Period. End of argument.

Like I said, you are not required to believe this. But to understand Catholicism you are required to believe that Catholics believe it.

And they are not going to change. God has forbidden them to do so.

 

A Parable

There was a certain house in a certain neighborhood. The owners of this house and his family were unpleasant. They did not keep their house very tidy. On some nights a horrible screaming could be heard coming from the house. Sometimes the sons of the owner of the house would go into the neighborhood to rob and kill. None of the neighbors were strong enough to protect themselves.

One day that house caught fire. The neighbors were afraid that their houses too would catch fire, and so they called the firemen. The firemen arrived and almost put it out. Before they could fire-starters from two neighboring houses rushed up and threw gasoline on the smoldering house. The firemen began their task anew. The fire-starter neighbors again kept the fire going and from time to time sneaked up on the firemen and killed one of them. The firemen kept at their duty, knowing that if they failed the entire neighborhood would go up in flames.

But soon those people whose homes were as yet untouched by the fire began to complain. "Why can't these fireman work faster?" a man said. Some said, "Those fire trucks are so noisy. Why can't the firemen work in silence?" Others complained, "Why do those firemen waste so much water?" One was overheard stating, "Why are the firemen here anyway? Everyone knows that the fire would have gone out on its own."

A college professor walked by and shook his head. "How good for me that I am educated and so never had to become a fireman," he said. A skinny man with the professor remarked, "And look how they fight the fire! What idiots! Why, I know how to put out the fire better than they do!"

Soon a large group of complainers gathered around the busy firemen, squawking and yelling. They taunted them, demanding that they go home and leave their neighborhood. "Enough is enough!" they yelped. But the firemen kept at their thankless task, even though many of them had been killed.

The complainers called the fire station and demanded that the firemen be removed. The fire chief was a stubborn sort who loved his firemen. He explained that unless his men put out the fire their homes will be also catch fire. But the complainers scoffed at this, saying "There was no real problem until your firemen arrived! And look! Why, their presence has created more fire-starters!"

Some of the complainers went right to the fire house and marched around it, protesting with signs and bull horns. "Bring the firemen home!" they screamed. One of the fire-starters from the neighborhood was there too. He laughed at the fire chief, threatening that he would soon set ablaze the firehouse itself.

One of the neighbors watched all of this but did not complain. He appreciated the firemen immensely, and even from time to time would talk to the firemen and share information with them about the neighborhood.

The man was old but wise in the ways of the neighborhood. His family had lived there for so long no one could remember when it had not. On his once muscled forearm were numbers long ago tattooed there. They reminded him every hour of every day of the men who had branded him so.

The man understood. He had seen this all before. The old man went to his home. His family awaited him there. No words were spoken. They brought out an ancient book written in an ancient tongue. To the light of seven flames upon seven candles they covered their heads with cloth and began to chant in that ancient tongue.

They finished, and the old man gathered his sons around him. He had been greatly blessed, and his sons were as numerous as the stars. They embraced as their women wept. The old man wept as well, for he knew that some of his sons were living their last night on earth.

The sons left their house and slowly walked toward the fire. In their determined hands were powerful things of metal, all new and dazzling and terrible to behold. The sons were not noticed by the crowd, but one of the firemen saw them. They exchanged glances, and a grim smile appeared on the muscled jaw of the fireman.

The sons made their way to the houses of the fire-starters, walking in a darkness only broken by brilliant flashes of fiery light. But the shiny, terrible things the sons carried in their hands would soon light up the sky so brightly that nothing else could be seen but its brilliance…

Later when all was done many remembered that night. Some say that there had been a thunder in the heavens. Others swore that they had seen four terrible horses race across the sky. Still others claim to this day that there had been winged creatures flying overhead and chanting, "El Shaddai! El Elyon! El Yisrael!"

No one saw the fire-starters ever again.

Few understood the things of that night except the firemen and an old man with a tattooed forearm.

 

Future perfect

An archeologist, while rummaging among the ruins of our fallen civilization, met a ghost from the long dead race of Americans. The wraith boasted much about what we had been as a people.

“We died in the hundreds of thousands to end slavery here and around the world.

We invented Jazz.

We wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg address.

We went to the moon to see how far we could hit a golf ball.

We lifted a telescope into orbit that could see to the edge of the universe.

When people snuck into the country against our laws, we made parking lots and food stands off to the side of the road so they wouldn’t get hurt, and we let them use our hospitals for free, and we made their children citizens.

We didn’t care what God you worshipped as long as we could worship ours.

We let the People arm themselves at will. Just to make sure.

We gave everybody the vote.

We built Disneyworld. Just for fun.

We had a revolution so successful it was still going strong two and a quarter centuries later.

We had so many heroes, even at the end, that we felt free to hate them and burn them in effigy.

We electrified the guitar.

We invented a music so compelling that it rocked the world.”

The archeologist asked, “If you accomplished all of this, then why did your nation collapse?” The ghost answered, “Because we went insane.”

“Please explain.”

The ghost took a breath and said, “We traded beauty for ugliness, truth for lies, liberty for comfort, love for indifference, responsibility for frivolity, duty for entertainment, history for sound bites, and children for pleasure. We had gold, but we tossed it aside and replaced it with cleverly designed dross. We turned men into women and women into men and marveled at our new creative power. We stopped looking up to Heaven and began to keep our gaze firmly fixed on the ground. We abandoned the old God for a host of hip, cool and slick new ones.”

“And?”

“Those new gods turned on us. At first they granted us our every wish. They laughed with us. They danced with us. We all ate, drank and made all sorts of merry. All of us exulted in our power. And then…” Here the ghost stopped for a moment. His mouth was half open as if trying to speak. His body shuddered as it remembered an ancient terror. “But there were some among us who felt something was wrong, dreadfully wrong.”

“How so?”

“They warned us, you know. They begged us to cease our national madness and return to the days of our forefathers. At first they were just annoying, and we laughed at them. But they became louder and more insistent, and so we asked our new gods to rid us of the pests. And they did. Our gods simply required that we all get special marks on our bodies, but the pests refused to get them. But soon they began to disappear. Terrifying stories emerged about their fate, but we closed our ears and our eyes. Soon the few that remained ran off to the hills. Sometimes we would hear about them, but mostly they vanished from our memory. We were glad that they were gone, and we all laughed together and rolled with the good times. But…”

“What?”

“We began to change. Where we had once looked into the mirror and seen men, now we saw animals, beasts in fact. Some of us even seemed to walk on all fours and make animal sounds. We prayed to our gods, and they answered that all was well, that we were becoming as they were, that we were becoming as gods. And then things began to break down.”

“What things?”

“Everything. Our machines, our laws, our finances, our systems of government and trade—they all seemed to rust away and no one any longer understood how they had functioned. There arose among us those who claimed to be able to fix things. They promised they could return us to the good times. We marveled at their speech, their handsomeness, their resumes, their attire. They seemed to be especially blessed by our gods. But something was odd about them.”

“Like?”

“They never smiled. Ever. We thought it was because of their deep concern for us. We believed these men and placed them over us. But things became worse, much worse. Our new rulers demanded more of our treasure and we gave it. Our new rulers demanded more of our children and we surrendered them. Our new rulers demanded that we live only in certain areas, join only certain groups, think only certain things and say only certain words. They said that all of this was necessary for the good of us all. Soon the way we had been just faded away. It seemed that we had always had these men over us, that we had always given them what they demanded. We began to see pictures of these men everywhere, even in our homes, even in our empty churches. More and more of us started to walk on all fours and make the sounds of animals. Those that did looked content.”

“And what about you?” laughed the archeologist as he shook his head. “Did you go on all fours?”

“No. I remained standing until the end.”

“The end?”

“It happened suddenly. There was that knock on my door, a bunch of uniformed men, some yelling. I called upon my wife and children, but they were on all fours braying like donkeys. I began to scream. My best friend across the hall opened his door to see what was happening, but then he went on all fours and started to low. I ran and the men chased me. I made it into the street. Everyone I passed was on all fours. Some were barking and some were cackling. Some were yelping like hyenas. I prayed to the gods that they might save me. But they laughed, and it was an odd sound, like the laughter of demons. There was pain like shafts of heat passing through me, a rush of warm liquid, and then all was darkness. And now I am here walking among these ruins and talking to you.”

The archeologist thought for a bit, and then leaned into the ghost and asked him in a lowered voice, almost a whisper, “So what about those old stories of Heaven and Hell? Are they true?”

“Yes. They are true.”

The man’s eyes grew wide. “Then where did you go when you died?”

“I was shown both of them. In Hell there were still all those images of our rulers. And everyone there was on all fours and making animal sounds. In Heaven I saw men walking and speaking. And there was music. I had forgotten what music sounded like. And there were none of those images.”

“Then why did you not stay?”

“I was told to come here and warn you.”

“Warn me? About what?”

But the ghost was silent. He smiled and seemed to be slowly backing away from the archeologist. At last he just faded away.

The man stood for a moment, shuddered and then walked away from the ruins. On the way home he saw the same things he had always seen, but now for the first time in memory they shocked him—streets covered with images of the rulers, lines upon lines of people on all fours making the sounds of animals, rust everywhere. He stared at the mark on his hand, and tried to rub it off. But it would not come off, it would never come off.

And all around him was heard the laughter of demons.

 

Previews of Hell

I read today of Sister Josefa Menendez (1890-1932). She was a Spanish nun who wrote descriptions of Hell in her little book The Way of Divine Love. For believers her words are enough to make you re-think what you do this day, this hour, this very moment.

For non-believers, you have my permission to eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy this world while you can. But you have been warned.

She quotes one of the damned:

This is my torture... that I want to love and cannot; there is nothing left me but hatred and despair. If one of us could so much as make a single act of love... this would no longer be hell... But we cannot, we live on hatred and malevolence...

A good summation of Hell---hatred and malevolence. And it is reasonable to assume that those yet on earth whose lives are consumed by such things are bringing a piece of Hell into the here and now. Perhaps they are so enamored of Hell they simply cannot wait for its torments to begin, they must have a preview first. Such creatures are to be pitied. Such creatures are to be put as far away from your life as you can possibly put them.

We have all met such, those who lives are Hell and who want you to join them there.

Here her description would make anyone who fancied a career in politics to change his mind.

It seemed to me that the majority accused themselves of sins of impurity, of stealing, of unjust trading; and that most of the damned are in Hell for these sins.

And forget that damned lie that one is sent to Hell. Not so. One goes there because he chooses to. And he is a perfect fool who prefers dark to light. I know. I spent most of my life in that role.

The soul precipitates itself there, as if to hide from God in order to be free to hate and curse Him.

But what if Hell is some fantasy cooked up by theologians in order to increase church revenues and scare schoolchildren? What then?

Simple: In Dostoyevsky's words, all would therefore be permissible. If there is no Hell then it simply does not matter what you do on earth. Rape, lie, murder, steal---all will be well if you can avoid getting caught or if you have enough power to buy off the law.

Half of the notable people in history fall into this category. While on earth they did what was right in their own eyes. They enjoyed the earthly delights of power, impurity, esteem, and wealth. One moment after death they faced a Judge who could not be bribed, who was interested in neither Fortune nor Fame. I am sure the ensuing conversations were memorable.

You can get a fair idea of Hell's future population by perusing the pages of People magazine, by reading the roll call of the US Congress, by visiting any Planned Parenthood clinic, by scanning the guest list at the Playboy mansion, by looking at all those serious folk at the UN. There they are, the Hell-bent, the damned. Some seem oblivious. Some do not. Some might yet be saved. Some will not.

Hell is necessary. And so is the fear of Hell. It is this fear that makes life on earth tolerable. That, and Salvation. These go together of course.

And if Hell does not exist, then Christ is a liar. If you think that Sister Josefa's words are spooky, then read the descriptions of Hell that come right out of the New Testament.

The words about Hell that Jesus gives us are not pretty. They are not meant to be.