Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Immortality of the Soul

Recently I was discussing death with a friend of mine and we were talking about the differing views on what happens to us when we die… This whole thing may sound a bit morbid but last week I gave a talk which included a section on Christian anthropology which examines the Christian view of what it means to be man. This is a question which resonates in both matters of life and in matters of death.

For an atheist, man has no more meaning or importance than a rock. We’re just matter, not spirit. Ontologically speaking, man really has no more intrinsic rights or value than a waterfall, horse, or asteroid! Quite sad! Christians, however, hold the HIGHEST view of man (higher than ANY other religion in the world) in that Christianity is the only religion that teaches their God became man! Not only does God do this, but He does it so that we can share in His nature like He shared in ours!

Coming back to the immortality of the soul, I was asked: “Even if we did have a soul, how do we know it is immortal? Why does it have to live beyond the death of the body, that is, how do we know it lives on after death?”

I believed the answer came from the question. You see words like “beyond” and “after” imply time. True enough our bodies are in space and time but our spiritual souls are not. In reality our spiritual souls are more “real” than our bodies because they are NOT broken into parts and spread out across space and time. They are higher up on the “teleological food chain” so to speak. In other words, the body is to the spiritual soul what a square is to a cube. Our spiritual souls are not in space and time, therefore the death of the body in space and time would have no impact on the existence of the soul.

What I’m getting at here is that if one believes that they have a spiritual soul, then the immortality of that soul is intrinsically connected to it. If the soul is not immortal than there really is no soul there at all.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Duties and Rights

Last Tuesday I had the great privilege to meet and hear a talk from Benedict Nguyen, the Chancellor of the Diocese of La Crosse. His topic was on denying the Eucharist to a pro-choice Catholic politician and the canons of canon law which support it.

His first issue in the talk was to distinguish canon law from civil law. The difference comes from our understanding of the legal relationship between duty and rights. In civil law, we have rights and therefore the government has a duty to uphold them. In canon law, however, the duty comes first. We have a duty to go to Mass each weekend and therefore we have a right to a properly celebrated Mass.

So what do we do if things aren’t going well at all? Where does it say we have the right to speak up in defense of our duty?

Canon 212 §3: They [Catholics] have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

When you think about it, this isn’t about protecting our rights that we naturally possess (as was the case with the civil rights movement), rather it’s about trying to do the jobs we were put here to do. Imagine if you were a soldier and had no bullets. You shouldn’t be blamed for asking your buddy (or a superior) for more ammunition. Just as ammunition saves the lives of soldiers, the Eucharist allows us to survive the battlefield upon which we now fight. We need to go to Mass and we have the right to have it celebrated properly.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Iraq Tactic

I came across an interesting article about a new tactic in Iraq. No it’s not about using bigger guns or employing more unmanned aerial vehicles. In fact, it’s not a physical weapon at all.

The new tactic: education.

A group of anthropology professors, most of whom are passifists, have signed up, put on the uniform, and are now in Iraq. Their mission: embed themselves with front line units, teaching the men about Islam and the cultural background of the Iraqi people.

Here’s an excerpt:

“‘It's a huge asset,’ said Staff Sergeant Dustin ‘Boogie’ Brueggemann who, as a tactical psychological operations specialist, has spent the past year trying to win hearts and minds in Adhamiya, until a few months ago one of the most violent strongholds of Sunni Arab militants in Iraq.

‘The guys who were out with him were saying: “Dr Matsuda's so smart!” Soldiers even on the lowest level now, we see the big picture just by listening to him talk,’ he said.

‘He gave me so much information that had I known it a year ago I could have done things differently,’ he said. ‘He gave me a history of the Ubaidi tribe. A lot of people here are members of that tribe. I knew a little bit about them, but I didn't realize just how big they were.’”

What surprises me is that these pacifist soldiers are being attacked as pro-war by there secular friends in the intellectual establishment! It just goes to show how little these far-Left loons really know!

I will say, however, that this is MUCH different than in old wars in which professors signed up to fight, not just to teach. One could say that our country survived the Civil War when Col. Chamberlain, a professor from Maine, held back Confederate forces from overwhelming the Union army at Gettysburg.

Perhaps the professors will win wars once again?

Read the story here

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Huck-a-boom or Huck-a-bust?

Presidential candidates are not to be shunned because of skin color or sex – as a matter of fact, to say so would bring public shame and potential lawsuits. I’m not a big fan of Senators Obama or Clinton – but it is primarily because of their positions on abortion. With this standard I’m not a fan of Edwards either!

But I think it should be equally shameful for one to say: “I’m not voting for him because he’s a Mormon” or “I’m not voting for him because he was a Baptist minister.”

Independents after Sunday night’s FoxNews GOP debate seemed to say the latter about Mike Huckabee. Claiming they knew little about him, then turning around to flat out say he talked about his faith too prominently, a fact Huckabee really didn’t bring up in the debate – except in a jovial act of self-criticism.

This leads me to grow angry with the media bias – among conservative and liberal media alike. It also leads me to wonder if Huckabee can overcome the image he has received from the establishment and actually succeed in winning the nomination and then the general election in November.

I’m not sure how well Huckabee will need to perform in New Hampshire tonight – but I suppose a strong third place would keep his momentum up and take him into a first place finish in South Carolina, Florida, and then the rest of the South. But who knows? Hilary sure found out the hard way. We’ll certainly know more tonight!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Christology of Stewardship

Yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany – the day that the three Magi visited the infant Jesus. The homily at Mass was of course about the giving of our gifts to God. The priest emphasized our repentance and good works, which I think is marvelous. Typically, however, the homily focuses on stewardship. Stewardship is a part of our Catholic life, but it is more often than not associated with the peace-and-justice, vote Democrat, folks. Stewardship, as well as peace-and-justice, goes well beyond party lines. Like everything else, it goes back to Christ.

You may have noticed the title: Christology of Stewardship. By this I not only refer to the christocentricity of stewardship but I also root stewardship in Christ the God-Man. Like Christ, stewardship must take on a material and spiritual dimension. So often we tend to say: “Stewardship is all about the giving of material goods to those who need them.” Yet when we talk about those who will “inherit the earth” – and all it’s material possessions – Jesus tells us that it is the meek. Who are the meek? The meek are those who realize that the best things to receive are spiritual things (like love, mercy, and kindness) and not the material things.

This is where I love education! If I gave ten students twenty dollars I would be out $200. But if I taught my students about some topic – say Vatican II – then we all would know about Vatican II and I have lost nothing. In fact, I’ve probably gained a better understanding of the council myself! Stewardship should be equally about giving the great spiritual gifts as it is about giving the material gifts.

But speaking of material gifts, I got to thinking about the three gifts of the Magi: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It just so happens that when we speak of stewardship we usually speak of three things: time, talent, and treasure. Of course, I began to draw connections. First of all, gold and treasure seem to stand out on both lists – so you can draw the obvious connection!

Talent and frankincense correlate to me in that the smell of frankincense was very symbolic of life and to me there is nothing more unique and life-giving about a person than their talents. There have been times that I didn’t have a lot of treasure to offer the Church, but I know God has given me many talents. These I have offered countless times and I often believe that there is more in the giving of talent than in the giving of cash – it’s easy to give money but hard to give that which is most unique about yourself.

If frankincense is symbolic of life, myrrh is symbolic of death. Myrrh was used to cover the smell of corpses and was also used in embalming procedures of ancient times. To me this perfectly connects with time. Our lives on earth are in time – and time is running out. When we die, God is going to ask us what we did with our time. How have we been stewards with our time? The myrrh, as well as time, should remind us of our duty as stewards and the role we play as the children of God.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Introduction - Updated!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Lord of the Rings, this scene is from the first film, entitled The Fellowship of the Ring. In the movie, a fellowship (or friendship) of nine companions launch a quest to destroy the Ring of Power, casting it back into the fiery chasm from whence it came. The Ring, by the way, is akin to sin. Sins can be very small and attractive, like the Ring. Sauron, a fallen angel of sorts (similar to the Devil) and the creator of the Ring, has tied all his evil and power – in fact, his very being – to the Ring, meaning that the destruction of the Ring means the defeat of Sauron. This interconnectivity of Sauron and the Ring is a wonderful parallel to Satan and sin. While in Christianity, Satan and sin are dealt with at Calvary, traditionally said to have taken place on March 25, in the Lord of the Rings, the Ring will arrive at Mount Doom (where it was made) on March 25! Oh yeah, it is said that Calvary itself is connected with the site of Adam’s death, so again, the origins of sin and the origins of the Ring come full circle in righting past wrongs.

The Christ figure, Frodo, who is a short creature called a hobbit, is the Ringbearer, carrying the Ring to Mount Doom as Christ carried the cross. Frodo represents Christ as Priest, offering sacrifice. Not to give anything away, but at the end of the last film you’ll hear him exclaim: “It is done!” Sound familiar? But a little more background on Frodo. His uncle, Bilbo, came across the Ring years back, acquiring it from a fallen hobbit named Gollum, whose life was spared by Bilbo. Now Gollum is bent on retaking the Ring for himself once more, following the fellowship into a place called the Mines of Moria.

One last point: Gandalf, the character Frodo converses with in this scene, is a wizard who represents Christ as Prophet. Just listen to his words of wisdom! Later on, Gandalf will announce: “I am a servant of the secret fire!” – a reference to the Holy Spirit who drives all prophets, including Christ!

Okay, watch the clip. I’ll blog more on it tomorrow.

LATEST Update: The video has been updated to the proper length and has also been posted on YouTube! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Coming Soon!

Hey all. Well I have a series of posts coming on... the Lord of the Rings! Well, at least a particularly good scene from the first film, the Fellowship of the Ring. I'm going to post bits of video files from the scene with each post (that's the plan anyway), but it's taking longer to get the video up than I thought and will begin posting tomorrow.

But to give you a hint at what scene I'm talking about: it's the scene that almost put me to sleep when I saw it in theaters the first time!

Okay, so I went to the midnight showing. Oh yeah, and I didn't know what the Lord of the Rings was really about and I was dependant upon an atheist friend to give me the scoop - and I really don't trust atheists, especially when something involves wizards and such! But when I got to the theater and saw about a dozen or so priests from EWTN in line (at the time I was living in Alabama, where EWTN is located) I figured it would be okay. Nevertheless, the movie hit this slow point at 2ish and I really didn't get all that was trying to be said.

Anyhoo, for those of you that have seen the movie, you'll know right where I'm at - and for those of you who have not, then I'll let you know what's up. Either way, you're all in for a treat!

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Could we show the troops some respect?

Next week I’ll be teaching some some students at the high school I work for on the Battle of Gettysburg. I’m totally stoked about it. I think it’s because I’ve always been a fan of the military's use of two important elements: brawn and brains. It takes so much discipline and strength to be a good soldier – but it also takes someone with a genius mind to orchestrate an army’s strategy.

Study and experience has led me to personally see both.

In high school I served in an ROTC of sorts, flying up to Chicago from Kansas to take part in the US Navy’s basic training program at Great Lakes Naval Station. Since then I’ve run into countless numbers of former Navy men who went to boot camp there as well. My overall time in this Naval program pushed every aspect of my life to the limit, making me a far stronger person today. In addition to all the hard work I did, I was able to do some really cool things – like firing M-16s, working with a dozen or so Navy SEALS, and getting up close to stealth fighters and bombers.

My own study has led me to see what it takes to be a good military commander. It’s like playing chess without seeing all the pieces. So it naturally upsets me when I hear people say: “Military intelligence is an oxymoron.” Come on, you wouldn’t say that about a chess champion! I think all this today has to do with a secular culture that despises the military. Hollywood is quick to produce a movie which makes soldiers look like idiots, unquestioning orders that they know to be bad or morally abhorrent.

One last point: look at Iraq. With the ensuing violence following the death of Saddam Hussein, almost everyone thought it was a doomed situation, plummeting into civil war. Then last spring they announced a troop “surge” which would stem the violence. Most media outlets said: “Hey, what good will an additional 20,000 troops really do? Others called it an escalation to violence and not a solution. Many made fun of the president and the new general in charge of the surge. Little did they know how effective the surge would be.

The day was one, however, by a combination of military brains and brawn.

The strength of the surge troops was combined with a new strategy which defied the mentality of Congress over the past two years (that’s right, military decisions should be made by generals, not senators). In the past, troops were ordered to stay in their vehicles for protection while Congress ordered thousands of new heavily armored Hummers to protect them. The new strategy: get out there and engage the Iraqi population. Help them, encourage them, and show them what it really means to live in a free and democratic country. The violence has now dropped considerably (US combat deaths numbered only in the teens – as opposed to 126 deaths last May; Iraqi civilian deaths are down 75 percent!) and we are awaiting reconciliation movements to grow between Iraq’s various religious and cultural groups.

Please, let’s give the troops and generals the respect they deserve!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year! (And it’s not just a FIRST day, it’s also a FEAST day!)

That’s right, today is not only the first day of the new year it’s also.. the feast day of Mary the Mother of God! This is such an important day to remember and it’s not just because Catholics are on some “Mary trip” or something. Just check out today’s Mass readings for yourself and put the puzzle pieces together!

But in case you don’t like puzzles, here’s the big picture.

The great Church Father, St. Athanasius, once said: “The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of men could become the sons of God.” In other words, God shared in our nature so that we could share in His nature through grace. Check out St. Paul (Galatians 4:4-7):

“Brothers and sisters:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir
, through God.”

You see, by becoming part of the Body of Christ, the Church, we enter into Christ and become the adopted children of God – but this is more than simply a legal adoption. We are born again through faith and baptism (John 3:5) as sons in the one Son. Because of this, all that Christ has is ours – we are heirs of all that belongs to Him. This includes God as Father, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the home of heaven.

It also includes Mary as our Mother and Queen. So why don’t we take a day, obey the 4th Commandment and honor our Mother, shall we?