David Ancell's Virtual Home

That Terrible Banana Peel

  /   Saturday, September 23, 2017   /   Comments(0)

Sometimes it’s hard for me to take allegations of racism in this country seriously. It’s not that I deny that racism exists. Even if I did, the latest events in Charlottesville should have been enough to convince me that it does exist. I don’t deny the evil of racism either. I know it’s sinful. Let me share an incident that has happened in the news to illustrate the problem I have.

In August 2017, a retreat for leaders of fraternities and sororities at Ole Miss (which happens to be where I went to school) was cut cut short due to one supposedly racist incident.. A breakfast had been served that included a fruit cart with bananas. I guess one of the students took his banana to go. He looking for a trash can to throw away his banana peel and couldn’t find one. So, he put the banana peel in a nearby tree. One of the members of a historically African-American sorority saw the banana peel and, having remembered a recent incident involving bananas that really was a racist incident, became disturbed by it.

A meeting was called later that day, and the student who put the peel there explained himself and apologized for it. However, that wasn’t good enough for the offended. They claimed that they didn’t feel safe, and the end result was that a big production was made out of it. The retreat was cut short. My favorite line was that the student who discarded the banana peel needed to consider the “effects of their actions versus their intent” because of the “fear and anger” that was incited. Never mind that it seems pretty unlikely that such an effect could have been anticipated by the student who did this.

I once read a meme that someone posted on Facebook that said something like “If I tell you that you’ve hurt me, you don’t have the right to tell me you didn’t.” There are really two extremes that we need to avoid in cases like these. One is usually not socially acceptable by any decent person. The other seems to be the direction in which our society is headed, and I can only think that it will lead to worse relations between different groups of people as we will fail to walk on eggshells to avoid being accused of “bias.”

The first extreme is only acceptable to genuine abusers. These are the people who do objectively offensive things and blame the other person for taking offense. The incident I have described would have been an entirely different issue had there been a racial slur written on the banana peel or had it been hung from the tree on a noose. It is beyond question that white supremacist groups are wrong. It’s not just about black and white races either. It’s just as wrong to walk up to a Latino or Asian person and tell them that they need to go back to their own country. It would be wrong for someone to meet a Catholic priest and immediately tell him he’s a pedophile. I can’t imagine a decent person saying that a person offended by any of these things is being too sensitive.

The other extreme actually concerns me more because it’s becoming a kind of norm. This extreme basically says that one who is offended by the words or actions of another doesn’t have any responsibility at all for how he interprets those words or actions, and to suggest that he does is “blaming the victim.” This mentality goes beyond the fact that someone was offended by something that was said or done. The person who committed said “offense” is guilty of an enormous evil. Maybe it’s completely unforgivable, or maybe the “victim” makes a major drama about being offended but never seems to be able to describe anything in particular that he wants done about it. Someone has been “triggered,” and now the entire world must be horrified by it.

So, we end up with a group of people being super upset because someone discarded their banana peel in a nearby tree. Great offense is taken because the table centerpieces at a dinner were cotton stalks. If we were deliberately looking for something to be offended by, it would be hard to tell if anything would be any different.

Maybe I had my chance to make some major drama. I am married to an Asian woman, and on two occasions at an amusement park an employee questioned me when I tried to board a ride with my wife and her immediate family. After all, they just assumed that, just because I don’t look like her family, I must not belong with them. What terrible racist people! Really, what could the operators have done? They didn’t have any way of knowing whether I belonged with them or was jumping the line. Still, I could have made it into a racial drama and gotten them in big trouble for nothing more than trying to do their jobs as best they could. Instead, I just laughed about it, and I still think it’s funny.

All of this is not to say that misconceptions and unintentional slights shouldn’t be corrected. St. Ignatius of Loyola is a good guide in this matter. He would tell us to always be ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement. If we can’t, ask the other how he understands it. If the understanding is not good, first correct with kindness before using more forceful means of correction. In other words, correction needs to be done with an assumption of good will rather than making something into a drama by too easily condemning someone as “racist” or “sexist” or “stereotyping.” Only after someone responds in a way that rules out good will can we assume that there is none.

We also need to recognize that we can’t expect everyone to understand everything about any given race, culture, or religion. I’m Catholic, and the number of misconceptions about the Church is huge. Although I love to talk about it and help bring people to understanding, I have to accept that not everyone will understand. It’s not necessarily a form of bigotry or hatred, but instead it can just be a form of ignorance that someone just doesn’t see the need to correct. Often, when people don’t know something, then don’t know that they don’t know it. I can’t imagine the student putting the banana peel in the tree thinking he had better Google that for racist incidents just to be sure. How would that have ever come to mind?

We’d see a much better improvement in any kind of relations if we thought more critically about the things at which we take offense and took some responsibility for our reactions. Some things are objectively offensive, and true hate groups do exist. There’s no question that we need to fight against them. Other things are misconceptions that need to be corrected with charity. Some things are just misconceptions and misunderstandings, and treating them as racist, sexist, or any other kind of bigotry will merely stir up anger which serves no one. If we are continually taking offense, we leave each other walking on eggshells for fear of unintentionally triggering someone and being dragged before a bias incident response team (Yes, they exist on college campuses with who knows what kind of power!). It will become so restrictive that many will give up trying to improve relations.

Category: Catholic, Response, Social Commentary


My Thoughts on the Nashville Statement

  /   Monday, September 04, 2017   /   Comments(0)

By now, many people have heard about the Nashville Statement written by a group of evangelicals known as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The statement is really a well-written and compassionate statement of constant Christian teaching on sexuality. However, there are plenty in the media, including social media, who just won’t have it.

I have read a number of comments and derogatory tweets stating that the statement is “anti-LGBT bigotry.” Some of the objections weren’t particular logical, like the ones stating that it’s 2017. What does the number of the current year have to do with whether the statement is right or wrong? Others criticized the statement simply because it came out during the time of Hurricane Harvey. Yeah, I’m sure the members of this group knew when there was going to be a hurricane and planned to release the statement then. Seriously, I’m doing my regular job in Nashville, so why can’t they? Even the mayor of Nashville, Megan Barry, posted a critical statement on her Twitter account. However, if you know anything about her, that’s not a surprise. She’s a known supporter of Planned Parenthood, and she’s also known for having officiated at the first same sex wedding in Nashville.

However, the statement is hardly a hate-filled denunciation. It states that marriage is between one man and one woman and that sex belongs only in marriage. It states that men and women are different from each other and that those differences are good. They are part of God’s creation, and both sexes are equal in dignity. It recognized the sinfulness of homosexual acts and of trying to act as though one had a different gender from one’s biological sex. However, also recognized is that those who find themselves with some ambiguity in regard to their sex or attracted to members of the same sex are still people loved by God who can live a fruitful life by obedience to Christ rather than identifying oneself with these inclinations and seeking to act on them. Finally, the statement clearly says in the end that no one is beyond the mercy of Christ. There’s nothing in here that hasn’t been proclaimed by the Church for 2000 years, even though some people in our present age wish to deny this.

As a Catholic, I could affirm everything in the Nashville statement. Still, it’s not perfect. There is one minor point that I would like to see worded another way. There is another statement that I would like to see strengthened and a third on which the Nashville statement is silent but shouldn’t be.

Article 2 of the statement says that God’s plan is “chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.” I think I know what they meant, but I don’t like the wording. Chastity is a life long virtue for people in all states of life, not just for unmarried people. It simply means the subjection of one’s sexual desires to right reason. It does not only mean abstinence, though it does for anyone not married. I’ve noticed some Protestant works saying someone intends to remain “sexually pure until marriage,” but they don’t mean that they plan to commit adultery once married. There’s nothing impure about the marital act between a husband and a wife when engaged in properly. Total abstinence ends once one is married, but the practice of chastity does not. It not only encompasses fidelity, but also respect for the physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of one’s spouse.

While Article 1 of the statement does mention that God intends marriage to be a lifelong union, I would have liked a stronger statement against divorce. Specifically, I’d like it to say that “WE DENY that a valid, consummated marriage may be dissolved by anything other than the death of one of the spouses.” However, I do know that many evangelicals do believe in a kind of biblical divorce. Truthfully, there are reasons why one must separate from one’s spouse and even obtain a civil divorce for protection. However, the person is still married to that spouse in the eyes of God and may not seek another during the spouse’s lifetime.

So, what’s the biggest thing missing from the Nashville Statement? It lacks any mention of the necessity of each sexual act being open to life and the sinfulness of and harm caused by contraception. Evangelicals often don’t understand this, but the acceptance of contraception is at least partly responsible for opening the floodgates of the problems in our society today. Allowing deliberate separation of sex from the transmission of life made it possible for people to attempt to redefine its meaning into whatever strikes someone’s fancy. Children became an optional add on to one’s “relationship” and perhaps were even considered a nuisance. It made it much easier for men and women to use each other as objects for one’s own pleasure whether than to give themselves to each other in love. I pray that one day the evangelicals will come to this understanding. When Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae in 1968, he was prophetic in stating what would happen were there widespread acceptance of contraception. He was right!

Still, calling the Nashville Statement some kind of bigotry is just plain nonsense. There’s nothing new in it. It is simply a proclamation of one part of the Gospel that is badly needed in today’s climate of family breakdown.

Category: Catholic, Morality, Response


Google and Supposed Diversity

  /   Monday, August 14, 2017   /   Comments(0)

James Damore no doubt got more than what he bargained for, or maybe he expected it. If you aren’t familiar with his name, he’s the 28-year-old man who was fired by Google for his memo that the media has named an “anti-diversity manifesto” or an “anti-diversity screed” (full text of memo is in this link). In it, he suggested something that is absolutely anathema to today’s promoters of diversity – that men and women are different from each other and that those differences, rather than discriminatory practices, may account for why there are not a lot of women in the tech industry. Well, really, I’m oversimplifying. Maybe I’m just strange, but I’m having a hard time understanding how his comments are “anti-diversity” or a “screed,” and I hope you’ll stick around for my explanation below. In fact, it’s really a carefully written memo that is well worth reading, and I’ve provided a link above to the whole document if you can excuse Gizmodo’s comments.

I’m perfectly fine with Google expressing disagreement with what Damore wrote. That’s one thing. Given the fact that Google controls a search engine, YouTube, and a major e-mail service, among other things, the fact that they fired him is really disturbing. I have no reason to believe that they are censoring people who disagree with their viewpoints on their search engine or any other site, but it would only take one misguided “anti-discrimination” initiative for them to start doing so at any time in the future.

It seems that corporate America in general is moving towards a view of diversity and inclusion where the standard of right and wrong is no more than hurt feelings, even if the cause is mere disagreement. I remember this being discussed back at orientation at my first real pharmacy job when we were basically told that what was important was how the other person felt. When there is disagreement, the reply is often a sort of canned, knee jerk, reaction rather than a well thought out argument to specific points made. It’s as though it’s just impossible for anyone to honestly disagree with the prevailing groupthink. In reading the official responses from Google, I think one could be forgiven for suspecting that those who wrote the responses never read, much less thought about, the actual memo.

If there are really no natural differences between men and women, then it would mean that men and women are merely interchangeable parts. If this is the case, then it seems to me that it would undermine the whole rationale of promoting diversity. Why in the world would we care how many of each completely interchangeable part we have in a particular workplace? Why couldn’t we acknowledge that there are natural differences between the sexes without going to the opposite extreme of stereotyping? Anyone who is carefully observant knows that the natural traits of masculinity and femininity can still be expressed in different degrees among either sex.

Actually, failure to understand the natural differences between the sexes is likely to lead to more unjust discrimination against women, not less. Modern feminism, instead of valuing women for who they are, tends to denigrate the things that make being a woman distinct from being a man. Their version of “equality” is not seeing the equal in importance and complimentary nature of both sexes. Rather, it is practically saying that what men have traditionally done is of greater importance, and women who don’t do those things are lesser beings. I just think of the stories I’ve heard of women who stay home with their children being accused of wasting their time, talent, or even their lives. After all, they could be helping to fatten some big corporation’s bottom line but are instead working to raise immortal souls who will one day, by their free choice, spend eternity in God’s presence or forever separated from him (not to mention ensuring survival of the human race). Who is to say that any unjust discrimination occurring against women might be caused at least in part by a failure to appreciate the fact that a woman will likely approach her work in a somewhat different manner than a man will and to respect that approach for what it is rather than expecting conformity?

However, with there being natural differences between the sexes, it’s perfectly reasonable that there will be some lines of work in which there are fewer women than men who are interested. This does not and should not be used to justify unfair discrimination (which does exist). Women with the aptitude and desire to do so should be able to pursue work in male-dominated fields. However, arbitrarily trying to increase the number of women in a profession is in and of itself an unjust discriminatory practice. We need to simply hire, pay, and promote people based on their merits instead.

Yes, there should be equal pay for equal work. While we are at it, we also need to look at how well we are paying people who pursue professions traditionally dominated by women, such as teaching. Of course, harassment of any kind, especially sexual harassment, is completely unacceptable. The answer to that, however, is the virtue of chastity for both sexes (but it’s probably more lacking in men), not the sexual permissiveness of the current culture that breeds the mentality that this is acceptable. Our culture can and should treat both sexes as equal in dignity without denying natural differences.

One final note . . . while I do think equal opportunity needs to exist, please understand that none of this is to be taken to negate my view that family, not job or career, needs to come first. This is true for both men and women though it will usually be manifested differently. Many of these problems tend to be exacerbated by the mistaken notion in our society that the job or career is the most important thing and the ultimate source of fulfillment. This is where we really need to put our efforts.

Category: Response


What About the Other Side of This

  /   Wednesday, March 01, 2017   /   Comments(0)

I have heard over the years about different politicians and groups insisting on protecting “access” to contraception as though it were something necessary and hard to obtain. I have also heard all I can stand from people who insist that the new version of “nondiscrimination” is more important than the faith of people who run businesses and provide services. I’ve often thought about how such policies, and especially the actions of our previous administration, would end up limiting the medical profession to people who will essentially follow our culture, preventing people of faith from being able to practice both their faith and a healing profession. I’m glad to see that there still are some people still trying to stand up for the rights of faithful health care professionals.

However, there is another aspect of this that needs to be considered. I have had my fill of media describing women seeking abortion, contraception, or a morning-after pill being made to feel guilty about their “reproductive choices,” but very few in the major media are willing to apply that to faithful Catholic women who wish to embrace the Church’s teaching about openness to life. Where is their “access” to faithful physicians who have a mindset other than the prevailing cultural mindset about families and children? Where is their “access” to an OB / GYN who understands natural family planning? If you want to talk about discrimination, then you should hear the comments these women (including my wife) get when they try to explain that they don’t want contraception.

However, for all the grief they get, at least there is not yet legislation pending to make the teaching of natural family planning illegal or to saddle it with ridiculous requirements. For another group, such laws are in place in some form in a number of states and cities. They city of Toledo, Ohio is the most recent I have seen to ban any form of “conversion therapy” for people with same-sex attraction. Claims you hear are that it protects people, presumably minors, from being forced to undergo supposedly harmful therapy for something that supposedly isn’t a problem. The Toledo version doesn’t appear to be limited to minors, though, as some are.

Well, I really don’t know how well current methods of therapy work for same-sex attraction. Even the NARTH institute is not suggesting that everyone (or even most people) with same sex attraction can completely reorient themselves. Therapy certainly will have no helpful effect on anyone who does not want to change. However, banning all therapy with such a goal sets a dangerous precedent.

What about those people who do want to try and change or reduce unwanted same sex attractions? What option are we leaving them? Some people may be able to do so if they get help before the feelings become deep rooted. Instead, the only “support” option available to them in these jurisdictions is someone who tells them to accept this as who they are and get on with it. The same can also happen to someone who experience discomfort about their gender. They may not have anyone to turn to except people who insist that they believe that they are really a woman in a man’s body or vice versa, and this is who they are.

For their own ideology, the activists are shutting down the scientific inquiry and the treatment choices for people. By doing this, the only freedom or choice they support is for people who fit their ideas. Those of us who want treatments in conformity with our faith may find ourselves out of luck if we don’t do something about it.

Category: Catholic, Response


They Knew Him Not

  /   Saturday, December 31, 2016   /   Comments(0)

We are nearing the end of the Octave of Christmas, and on January 1st we will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Church gives us the reading of the first chapter of the Gospel of John for the day. What struck me was something that I see as a reflection of the saddest aspect of human society. The Gospel mentions that the world was made through the Word who is Jesus Christ, but despite this, the world did not know him. He even came among his own people, but they did not receive him.

If anyone is considering what is the greatest problem facing our society today, I think the root of it is simple. Today, we live in a secular society. That is nothing really new. As far as I know, as long as the Church has existed, there have been both the temporal rulers of society, and the bishops in the Church. The problem today is actually called secularism. It’s the running of our society and the going about of our lives as though God did not exist or, if he does, as though he doesn’t really have any effect on our lives.

Some people treat the very thought of God with contempt. You can see this is the angry atheists of our day who have bought into the absurd notion that this entire universe came about by itself. It’s also visible among the media people who mock Christians. Others just don’t give God the time of day. They just go about their business every day without it ever having seemed to occur to them that there is a greater purpose beyond what they are doing every day. Concerns about what would be the will of God or whether a certain act is sinful give way to a supposed “real life.” Some such people have really never thought about the matter. Others assume that we really can’t know the truth, but somehow they insist that they know we cannot know the truth. They never bother to try and find out. Still others are actually people who say they believe, and even go to church, but their belief is superficial at best because it hardly weighs in on the decisions they make on a daily basis.

It has always seemed strange to me how someone can really say that they believe in God, but not be ready to base every aspect of their lives on what he has to say to us. This ain’t small potatoes! I also cannot fathom how anyone can just ignore the question of God entirely as it were of little matter. Don’t they need to find out the truth? The fact is that we are all going to die one day, and we will leave behind whatever we had on this earth. One may wish to spend life doing good for others, and indeed we should. However, everyone whom we have helped will die one day no matter how much good we have done for them. Then, how will we have helped them? The good we do must have behind it a greater purpose.

In society today, we as Christians, and especially Catholics (as we have the fullness of truth), have a mission. We must evangelize. The atheist, of course, needs to be evangelized, but he may actually be better off than the sleepers who don’t seem to think it matters. The atheists, at least, are actively arguing and perhaps could be convinced. However, many times the problem that causes unbelief is a moral problem. There is some sinful behavior that they aren’t willing to give up that is at the root of their unbelief, whether they understand it or not. Still, if it becomes know to us, helping them to see another way to live may be what is needed.

The people whom I really think will be harder to believe are what we may call the “sleepers.” They are the people who go through life without much thought of God, as though the question were a topic of interest to some like science fiction. Unlike the atheists, they have to be convinced that they need an answer in the first place. Such people may see very little wrong with their lives. Yet, God wants to call these people to himself as well. We must pray that they come to know him before it is too late.

I’ve never liked the saying that we should “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” Contrary to popular belief, St. Francis of Assisi did not say it. The saying can easily become an excuse not to preach the Gospel and not to use words when needed. However, we who follow Christ really do need to examine our lives. In a secularized society, we can easily fall into the trap of living at least some aspect of our lives as though God didn’t exist. Does Christ rule over everything . . . how we act, how we dress, how we run our businesses, how we raise and educate our kids, how we choose entertainment? We’ll never convince the world if we appear to be unconvinced. This doesn’t mean we wait until we are perfect to preach the Gospel or that we should appear perfect. This might actually discourage people who live troubled lives. Rather, we need to give God everything, and this also means that we need to learn to tell people about Christ, his Church, and his love for us.

Our societal problems won’t ultimately be solved by government leaders, though we do need good ones in office. They won’t be solved by some new product developed by a corporation, though they can be of assistance to us. They won’t be solved by education, though we need to be educated. They won’t even be solved by social justice and welfare programs, though we are obligated as Christians to help those in need. We must get to the root of everything, and to do so, we need to put everything under the reign of the King whose birth we celebrated almost a week ago.

Category: Catholic, Response, Spirituality


Just Say Merry Christmas

  /   Friday, December 23, 2016   /   Comments(0)

When I was in kindergarten, way back in 1980, our teacher had us all make a Christmas card for a craft. She told us that we could choose to write either “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” on the card. That was probably the first time I had heard the phrase “Happy Holidays.” It seemed strange to me then as a young child who hadn’t even been baptized at the time. It still seems strange to me now.

I don’t want to make some huge drama of it every time someone says “Happy Holidays.” I’ll have nothing to do with the ridiculous Starbucks cup controversy from last year. However, I am aware that many people, including devout Christians, don’t seem to think it matters at all. Truthfully, many people may just be saying what rolls off their tongue and not really thinking about it. The thing is that we really do need to think about it.

I’d go so far to say that anyone who is really offended by being wished a “Merry Christmas” is probably someone whom I would term a “professional offendee.” That’s the term I use to describe anyone who finds offensiveness to some group in way too many aspects of human speech (or in things like naming a sports team the “Braves”). Really, how I am going to react if someone tells me to have a Happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? I celebrate neither, but I think getting upset about it would be a waste of my energy. It wouldn’t do me much good anyway. It seems that the move towards “inclusiveness” really means anything but Christianity. Did anyone hear about the suggestion from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville last year to make sure that holiday parties are not “Christmas parties but in disguise?”. I dare them to say that about a Hindu festival!

With that, I get into the precise problem. The “War on Christmas,” isn’t about people saying Happy Holidays. It’s rather more concerned with the ridiculous aversion that some have to mentioning Christmas or of specifically celebrating Christmas. A number of businesses who darn well know they are making great profits from the sales of Christmas gifts act as though they think we are just celebrating Generic Winter Holiday. You can see this list from the American Family Association. One street that I drive by frequently advertises “Holiday Trees.” What else are those being used for at this time of year? In a job I held, part of our orientation was a diversity class where we were to discuss how to plan an inoffensive “holiday” party. We had to have it in November so that it wouldn’t look like a Christmas party. Oh, the horrors of our party looking like a named holiday that even many non-Christians celebrate!

We who are Christians should not be ashamed to mention that we are celebrating the birth of Christ. Just as the winter solstice has passed and days are just starting to get longer, we celebrate the Light of the World coming to us. We need not be afraid to simple say “Merry Christmas” to those whom we see. We have something known and very real to celebrate.

So, to all who are reading, I wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Category: Catholic, Response, Uncategorized


Just What is Education About

  /   Sunday, September 21, 2014   /   Comments(0)

My first born son is in pre-school now.  We found a great Catholic pre-school that operates a modified Montessori program.  From around the time we moved to the Nashville area, I’ve been thinking about what kind of school we will send our children to.  My understanding of education has changed a lot since I was a student.  Some of what I’m going to write about here is years away, but I think it’s good for me to think about it now.

When I was getting ready to go to school, my marching order was “You will major in something in which you can get a job.”  I had no argument here.  I wanted to have a job and be independent, and I didn’t want to “waste” time on anything that I wasn’t going to use.  In high school, I even wrote an essay against have a liberal arts curriculum.  I balked at any kind of philosophy or intellectual tradition.  I figured that there were too many crazy people involved in that for it to be anything worthwhile anyway.  I had a roommate taking a course in logic, and I wondered why he bothered.  Before entering pharmacy school, I even asked a philosophy professor what people did with a degree in philosophy.

Then, I graduated and entered residency.  Some challenges to my faith caused me to do some searching for whether it were possible for someone to know the truth.  The intellectual tradition didn’t seem so silly anymore and neither did all that philosophy stuff.  Although I didn’t have a total picture, I realized that the Catholic Church had an intellectual tradition, and having at least some understanding of it was a major key to knowing the truth of the Catholic faith.  At least, at that time, I began to understand that the thinking skills taught by a philosophy course would help me to explain to people why faith in God and Christian morality are not just arbitrary things.

This, along with what I have discovered since, led me to have a completely different idea of the education that I want my children to have.  The very first thing that we need to be concerned about for them is their eternal salvation.  Ultimately, everything in their education should be leading them to God.  All of the stuff about going to college and getting a job is secondary and should be pointed towards this end.  This doesn’t mean that they can’t study subjects like math and science.  All true knowledge leads to God.  However, math and science cannot be the only thing they know well, as it was for me.

The National Catholic Register published a recent article about new interest being shown in a classical education.  It is described as focusing on the “trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric” and the “quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.”  The result will be students with better thinking and reasoning skills.  Most importantly, it is leading the students to an encounter with Christ.

This is in contrast to the Common Core.  From what I understand of it, which isn’t much, it is a utilitarian type of education.  In the Common Core, literature is largely replaced by informational texts.  The emphasis is on college and career preparation.  The administrator of one classical education school, on the other hand, stated that, “We don’t want our children to aim for college and a career.  We want them to aim for the good life.”  Another article that I’ve read even suggests that, in college, we should “resist the temptation to pursue degrees aimed at finding a job.”

This is an area where I do have some concern.  I do want my children, as well as other faithful Catholics, to be able to train to get a good job.  The fact is that our children will someday have to have the ability to do a job and pay our bills.  We can’t just toss this aside because it is quite simply reality.  I would not want to suggest that godly people avoid professional schools where they learn to be doctors, pharmacists, engineers, and other professions.  Otherwise, the only people who will be left in those professions are people who are not believers and whose moral compass will not lead us in the right direction.

However, I’m even more concerned about things like Common Core, education solely for the purpose of obtaining a job, and education that concentrates solely on math and science.   After all, I do not want my children formed for corporate America.  I don’t want my children to learn to, as a pharmacy preceptor during my residency would say, learn to do things “right” and not be able to reflect on whether they are doing the right things.  I’ve seen too many things about how we seek fulfillment in our careers, and yet, there is far more to life than our career.

When I went to college and later pharmacy school, I encountered a lot that I was not intellectually prepared to answer.  Some of it was pretty subtle.  I want to see my kids have the ability to critically think about what is being presented to them and not simply be ruled by sentiments or the lines of secular society.  They need to have an understanding of the philosophical history and thinking of our civilization as well as where it went wrong.  When they go to college, I want them not to fall for any of the “isms” that will be presented (The book Disorientation is an excellent read about this.).

The best way to get them ready to think is through a more classical education.  I’d like to think that I can find some kind of Great Books program or liberal studies program that will form them as people.  They especially need a solid formation in the Catholic Faith so that they know it and can explain it to others.  The problem that I’m going to have is that I never had this kind of education, and my understanding of why I needed it came later in life.  Somehow, I need to make sure my kids get what they need to be real thinkers, not people who simply swallow society’s lines in the name of “thinking for themselves.”  They need job training, but they need more than job training.  They need formation for all of life, both in this life and in eternity.

Category: Catholic, Response


The Respect Due People with Same-Sex Attraction vs Gay Rights

  /   Sunday, July 13, 2014   /   Comments(0)

A few weeks ago, President Obama has promised to sign an executive order prohibiting companies who do business with the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  This order is likely his attempt to implement, as much as possible, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act that failed to pass the House of Representatives last November.  The order hasn’t been made public yet, but it is expected soon. Needless to say, this could create a myriad of issues depending on how broadly  “discrimination” and “doing business with the federal government” are defined.

Believe it or not, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does mention, in paragraph 2358 (scroll down near the bottom), that people with same-sex attraction are to be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” We are to avoid “every sign of unjust discrimination” against them.  If I were a business owner, I could not in good conscience arbitrarily refuse to hire someone simply for having this inclination.  However, does this mean that there should be anti-discrimination laws in place?  Let me explain some things here.

If you haven’t noticed, in the paragraph above, I used the term “people with same-sex attraction” rather than describing such people as gay, lesbian, or homosexual.  I referred to them as “having this inclination.”  For some reason that I can’t understand, people with same-sex attraction often bind their identity up with their inclination and say that it is “who they are.”  However, people, regardless of their condition, are far more than their inclinations.

People who have such an inclination probably didn’t actively choose it.  There may be some responsibility for strengthening the inclination in one’s mind once it is noticed, but even then there may be reasons why a person isn’t fully morally responsible for this.  There is debate as to whether the inclination can be eradicated, and my own opinion is that it depends on how deep-rooted it has become.  Some may be able to eradicate the inclination, reduce it, or at least have a somewhat normal relationship with a person of the opposite sex.  Others may not be able to do any of that.  However, regardless of the above, having such an inclination doesn’t destroy a person’s worth and dignity in the eyes of God.  People with same-sex attraction still have a need to make a living and be able to function as they can in society.  This shouldn’t be denied arbitrarily.  However, it does not follow that there aren’t cases of just discrimination against them.

Notice that, up until now, I’ve been talking about having an inclination towards the same gender.  There’s a difference between having the inclination and acting upon it.  The inclination isn’t in and of itself sinful.  However, like I said, despite what the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association now say, it is a disorder, just like anxiety, depression, anorexia.  How do I know (apart from Church teaching, of course)?  The desire to have a sexual union with someone of the same gender has no natural means available to accomplish it.  Two men or two women cannot unite their bodies anatomically in the same way that a man and a woman can.  Our bodies just weren’t made for it.  It’s also completely impossible for it to accomplish the biological end of sexual relations – the generation of offspring.  Having the disordered desire is not in and of itself sinful, but acting on it is seriously sinful.

In fact, a case of discrimination is most likely to occur is if a person is, in fact, openly acting on it. Even then, there are a lot of situations when someone’s conduct can be tolerated.  If I were a restaurant  or store owner, an argument can be made that someone’s homosexual activity is not directly contrary to the mission of that particular business.  This is true even though I would run my business according to my Catholic faith.

However, it’s another story if we are talking about a Catholic school or university, charity organization, or even a for-profit whose purpose is to, for example, publish Catholic books.  Someone known to be deliberately acting directly contrary to the teaching of the Church in such a serious matter, with no known intention of changing the situation, would be acting directly contrary to the mission of such an organization.  Requiring that organization to employ such a person makes a mockery of its mission.  Would PETA be required to employ someone in a key position who ate bacon off the clock?

One major threat that an anti-discrimination law could pose would be to require Catholic employers or even institutions of the Church to recognize homosexual unions and provide spousal benefits to homosexual couples.  It’s one thing to tolerate such activity; it’s quite another to give official recognition or even the giving of benefits.  It’s still another to force the granting of recognition upon people whose long-standing religious beliefs would be violated in doing so.  Let’s not forget that we’ve already had a lawsuit against a Christian baker who did not want to make a wedding cake for a homosexual wedding.  The court ruled against him despite the fact that homosexual marriage isn’t legal in that state.  This is a real threat against religious freedom.

Even someone who is not acting on the inclination may not be suited for certain occupations, possibly depending on the severity of the inclination.  A Vatican document came out several years ago stating that men who practice homosexuality or have deep-seated tendencies cannot be ordained as clergy.  There may be some other situations in which such an inclination would affect how well they could do the job, and employers faced with such situations need to retain their right to make a reasonable judgment unhindered by political correctness.

The bottom line is that people who have an inclination towards people of the same sex are still loved by God, and they need our care and compassion.  Treating them with contempt is simply wrong.  However, allowing them to act upon the desire and pretending it is normal is doing them a great disservice, just like enabling an alcoholic would be.  People with such inclinations, even those acting on them, should be able to obtain what they need to live just like anyone else.  However, making them a protected class, especially in today’s society, is a dangerous move and needs to be stopped.

Category: Catholic, Morality, Response


Will Religious Freedom Create Corporate Anarchy?

  /   Tuesday, July 01, 2014   /   Comments(0)

It’s all over the news now. It’s on the Internet, so it must be true. Pfizer, Wal-Mart, and Apple are raising religious objections to paying taxes (warning: link contains vitriol). GM now has religious objections to paying employees, so they are going to stop. Rite Aid has religious objections to laws requiring a prescription in order to dispense medication, so now everyone can go there and get the “good stuff” any time. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that Hobby Lobby can’t be forced to provide insurance coverage for abortifacients contraceptives, they can all get away with this stuff, right? If not, maybe they could at least become Jehovah’s Witnesses and stop covering blood transfusions or something like that.

That’s what you might be led to believe if you listen to all the nonsense that is out there in the media about this, including the dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg wrote that the ruling was of “startling breadth” and would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law to which they raised a religious objection. Well, now, according to her, corporations that don’t want to follow the law now need only make up a religion and decide that following the law will be against their beliefs. Surely they will get away with it even if there is zero evidence of any such beliefs (or any beliefs at all) predating this ruling.

Well, actually, the more “startling breadth” is really in Ginsburg’s dissent. Indeed, I’ve read similar stuff from some columnist who spouted out that he was “in favor of religious freedom” as long as they “obey the law.”  If so, this logic could be applied against any challenge to any law based on religious freedom. They seem to forget that we have a Constitution that dictates that certain laws can’t be made in this country. This is the issue that was at stake. Does the Department of Health and Human Services have the right to issue this mandate? If a law can’t be challenged because it’s an unnecessary infringement on one’s Constitutional rights, then the Constitution isn’t worth squat. Further, if protecting a company’s rights has broad implications, then so does not doing so. Are we going to give the government the power to require companies to pay for cosmetic surgery, tanning sessions, or Botox to remove wrinkles?

A compelling interest must exist in order to limit religious Freedom, and it has to be done in the least restrictive manner necessary. Sadly, the issue of a compelling interest was basically sidestepped even in the majority ruling. You could find compelling reasons to require coverage of vaccinations, blood transfusions, and psychiatry, but contraception is not essential health care despite what the left wants it to be. It is a lifestyle choice. The “need” for it can be eliminated by simple self control.

It also defies logic to say that for-profit businesses do not have rights. Businesses in this country tend to be owned by human beings. If a business doesn’t exist to serve customers and make a living for its owners, all of whom happen to be people, then why does it exist? No business is an impersonal entity, even though some corporations may seem that way. Owners have rights, too.

Are we to say that, the moment you are out in society to make a living, you have to leave your very mission and purpose in life behind? Can someone not start a business to further his/her mission and make a living doing it? This would basically reduces one’s faith to a random, arbitrary thought or personality quirk that has no place in the “real” world. It would be fine to have those beliefs, as long as you don’t actually take them seriously when running a business. I’m always amazed at how people who accuse others of blindly following a religion will blindly assume that religious beliefs are all arbitrary and cannot be substantiated.

The way some of those protest signs read (eg “Keep my boss out of my bedroom.”), you’d be forgiven for thinking that his case was about whether your boss could search your house for condoms and packs of Ortho Tri-Cyclen. It isn’t. It’s about whether your boss can be forced to pay for your contraception (or at least the premiums to cover it). Your boss shouldn’t be able to control what you do outside of work that closely. However, not being required to pay for something does not give that person control over someone’s life. No one is trampling any rights here, as though there were a right to contraception. The mandate to cover contraception was going to do little more than ensure that only people without morals (or at least without any that they take seriously) can run a business. We have seen enough problems in our nation without barring people of real faith from leadership in the business world.

Category: Catholic, Response


Where Are We?

  /   Thursday, June 19, 2014   /   Comments(0)

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I were on vacation visiting family.  As we always like to do when we visit this city, we took a walk through the attractive/upscale shopping and dining area.  It’s just a beautiful place to take a walk.  This time, I noticed something I didn’t remember seeing before.

Down one street I found the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist.  Across the street from there was a Unity Temple.  The Christian Scientists were a sect founded by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy based on some supposed insight on healing.  They are the ones who don’t believe in the use of medicine.  The Unity Temple is some kind of church that seeks a “unity” and “peace and harmony” that doesn’t appear to be based on anything but just letting people believe whatever they believe.  Their web site, which I won’t link to here, has as a principle that we create our life experience through our own thoughts.

From that location, I decided to search for the nearest Catholic Church.  This would be a place that could really use a place to encounter our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.  To my dismay, I found that the nearest Catholic Church was the Cathedral four miles away.  It’s not too far, but it’s not too close either.  So, I had to ask, where are we?

Why aren’t we there?  It just reminded me more that we need to be where the people are, trying in whatever way we can to bring people to an encounter with Our Lord.  If someone doesn’t help feed the hungry, they will seek whatever food they can find.  Sadly, that food will never satisfy like the fullness of truth.  Just imagine if there were a church or chapel there where people could stop and pray in the presence of the Eucharist.  Maybe they could go to Confession and be reconciled with God.  We could even leave some materials where interested people could discover the Catholic faith.

One place where evangelization is badly needed is simply among where ordinary activity of people takes place.  We should be there, not to try to shove something down their throats, but to engage them, inform them, and ultimately challenge them to explore the truth.  If other groups are there, why aren’t we?

Category: Catholic, Response


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