No place to experiment

armyI never served in the military.  So, it is possible I have this all wrong.  But I doubt it.

My late father and late father-in-law both served, as did several of my other relatives.  In conversations with them, paying attention to the news and watching probably every movie John Wayne ever made, I got the impression the military isn’t the place for social experimentation.

The military experiments, but more along the lines of how to keep its members safe and eliminate the enemy most effectively.  Sorting out issues related to human sexuality shouldn’t be a priority for people getting prepared for war.

Thus, I was a bit dismayed last week when I read news articles about life in the US Army.  (Kudos for Lifesite for reporting.)

First, it seems the Army has informed its female soldiers that they should show dignity and respect for transgender soldier who are in the process of transitioning from male to female.  These transitioning folk will be using the female barracks and showers even though they are still anatomically male.

In other words, if you are a female soldier and you encounter someone with a penis in your showers, don’t worry; they aren’t really a guy, but an uncompleted woman.

I’m not sure (nor do I want to speculate on this too much) how you know the difference between a transitioning person and a guy who just decided to ogle the women in the bath, but the situation must lead to some interesting conversations for military recruiters…

SARGEANT RECRUITER:  So, tell me about yourself.

AMORPHOUS RECRUIT:  Well, I’m called William Smith on my birth certificate.  Most of my life, people have called me Bill.  But in the past couple years I have started to sense that I should have been Gertrude.  So, my close friends now call me Gert.

SARGE:  That is really interesting.  As you know, the military is open to people of all gender persuasions. Would you like to be assigned to male or female quarters?

BILL/GERT:  Gee, that is a tough one.  Some days I feel like a boy and some days I feel like a girl.  Do I really have to choose?

SARGE:  I hope it doesn’t seem unsympathetic or in any way, threatening to your fluid personhood, but you do have to select one.  However, the Army will do everything to make you feel comfortable and if you decide to be a man now and decide later you would rather be a woman, we’ll pay for whatever treatments and surgeries are involved.

I probably should have mentioned this earlier; the military pays for its members to have sex-change operations. That means we are paying for the operations.  And I don’t think this is a wise investment in the defense of our nation.

You don’t have to be a genius or have won an Olympic medal to join the Army.  But there are entrance exams and fitness tests.  Not everyone gets in.  And if it were up to me, recruits would have to be a demonstrable member of one gender, without the option of changing later on.

The Army isn’t the place to work out sexual identity.

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Charlie Gard will die

Lilium_longiflorum_(Easter_Lily)Charlie Gard came into this world on August 4, 2016.  His parents love him and want him to have as much of life as God wills for him.  He may be dead by the time you read this.

Charlie has a rare genetic disorder and brain damage.  Doctors in the UK say his condition is terminal and there is nothing more to be done.

Charlie’s parents don’t accept that opinion.  Parents tend to resist such news.  I know.  I’m a parent and no medical situation, no matter how dire, no matter how terrifying, could remove hope from my heart for a sick child.

As you probably have read, Charlie’s case has been the subject of lawsuits, court rulings, opinions from doctors and medical ethicists, countless news reports and the tears of parents around the world.  Even Pope Francis  and President Trump weighed in.

Medical authorities in the UK won’t let Charlie go home, won’t let his parents take him to the United States for treatment and won’t like his parents take him to Italy for treatment.

I suppose they figure if they can’t heal him, he can’t be healed.  They likely are right, but why fight someone else who is willing to try – and the scores of people willing to pay for trying?

Charlie’s parents are a bump in the road of state-controlled medicine.  They didn’t fall in line with the “system.”  The European Court of Human Rights rejected their final appear.  I guess Charlie has run out of human rights.  When you can’t get help from a court of “human rights”, the Pope or the President, you probably have reached the end of the road.

But it is only an earthly road.  Charlie’s situation moves millions of people around the world.  His parents love him.  God loves him.  He was the definition of innocent victim.

Charlie Gard will die. So will you.  So will I.  Everyone dies.

You and I pray we’ll get to heaven.  I’m pretty sure St. Peter already has a place reserved for Charlie.

Don’t write us off

lennonzukerbergjesus

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I know I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first – rock & roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” – John Lennon, 1966

People have been predicting the end of our Church for a long time.  All were wrong:  Nero, Attila, Hitler, Stalin and so forth.

People usually make this prediction when they have achieved great success in the eyes of the secular world:  money, popularity, influence, power and so forth.  My experience is that people who have acquired such attributes are tempted to feel a bit, well, god-like.

The latest person to unveil this god complex is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  At a conference in Chicago (my fair city) last week, he said, “It’s so striking that for decades, membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter.  That’s a lot of people now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.”

Surprise; he thinks the somewhere else is Facebook.  He suggests (and I have to admit this is positive) that people connected in meaningful ways to others have a greater sense of purpose and give more to charity.  I’m just not convinced that Facebook connects people in a meaningful way.

Facebook and its ilk are called “social” media, not “deeply spiritual, life-changing, salvation-producing” media.  But after 13 years of spectacular growth, a movie of his life story and a few billions in the bank, Zuckerberg likely is feeling rather almighty.

The Fab Four (Beatles) had dozens of hit songs, but nothing to compare with Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

Facebook has reached billions of people.  But it never raised anyone from the dead.  It never promised eternal salvation (and it can’t).  And I’m willing to bet nobody will remember it in 100 years, let alone a couple millennia, as in the case of Christ.

Our culture idolizes the worldly successful.  He who dies with the most toys wins it seems.

Truth is, social media are weak and powerless compared to the son God.  He is the only one you can “friend” to get to heaven.

How much for your vote?

dollar-726884_960_720The special congressional election in Georgia’s Sixth District set a sad record: most money ever spent on a congressional election.

Thirty million dollars.  And as I said, sad.

The district has a population of just under 700,000.  A subset of that number is eligible to vote and as in every district, the subset of people who actually vote is smaller.

The special election generated 260,000 votes.  I figure 80 percent were sure bets to vote for either the Democrat or the Republican.  That means there were about 52,000 people who were pondering their pick.

And it was to influence the decisions of those 52,000 voters that political operatives spent $30,000,000.  For that heap of cash, you gets lots of radio and television ads, billboards, posters, brochures, buttons, refrigerator magnets and rubber-chicken dinners.

Of course, what you are looking for is votes.  If you do the math, you are spending $577 for each of the 52,000 votes in play.  Like I said, sad.

Something is terribly wrong when we spend so much money to market, promote and sell political candidates.  We must believe that the biggest spender will win, not the soundest idea.  Does money make right?

Shut up and play the game

soccer-673488_960_720Depending on your point of view, Jaelene Hinkle is either a hero or a bigot.

In my view, she is just a talented soccer player and Christian.  But because of her firm (but compassionate) Christian view, she is sitting out a couple big soccer matches this month.

A little background.  Hinkle plays on the US Women’s National Soccer Team.  That means she is no athletic slouch.

The team is playing a couple international “friendly” matches this month.  A friendly is a little like a pre-season or practice game in that it doesn’t count in any sort of league or tournament standings.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that the players are friends or behave in a friendly manner during the match.

In a bountiful not to political correctness, the US team is wearing rainbow gay pride jerseys for these matches.  I guess they want to demonstrate solidarity with LGBT folk, some of whom I presume are soccer players and fans.

Hinkle is sitting out the matches rather than wear the gay jersey, which she bravely says conflicts with her faith.  To her credit, she isn’t making a big deal about it, just practicing her faith.

I don’t think this is a choice a soccer player should have to make.

There are myriad causes the soccer team could promote on its jerseys:

  • Whole grains for breakfast
  • Right to life
  • Global warming
  • Benefits of regular exercise
  • Save the whales
  • Clean water
  • Gun control
  • Drive 55
  • Yoga
  • World peace

For me, the obvious think to promote would be bass fishing, but others would likely disagree.  So here is a novel thought; why don’t we promote soccer on soccer jerseys?

Rather than promoting a political, social, moral or religious cause, why not put the team name and a number on each jersey?  The US Team is a rather big deal, so it might make sense to add the individual player’s name.

Anything else should relate to the game, perhaps a snappy slogan:  “Let’s kick hard and whip the Russians.”  At the end of the day, it isn’t the style of the jersey that counts; it is whether you put the ball in the net.

Keep it Simple

640px-Gospel_of_johnGod so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. — JN 3:16-18

 This is my favorite Gospel reading.  Short.  Clear.  Simple.

I’m a simple guy.  I believe most problems have an obvious answer.  We may not like the answer and it may not be easy, but right is right and wrong it wrong.

That being my view, I’m astonished at how complicated we make our faith.  People study for years to become Bible scholars.  The scholars write millions or books and articles.  We fill libraries with books analyzing everything in the Bible and everything anyone has ever writer about anything ever said about what is in the Bible.

I enjoy reading, and I read many books about the faith.  I tend to enjoy books about people who have heroically lived their faith.  I’m not as enthusiastic about books that argue the fine points of theology.  I’m glad there are theologians, but I’m even more glad I’m not one of them.

I searched the book section of Amazon and got more than half a million results for “Bible.”  Should I laugh or cry?

Catholics of all varieties have been debating of late whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive communion.  I have an opinion, but in light of the gospel passage above, I’m not sure my opinion is all that important.

I have orthodox views, what many people call conservative.  If everyone observed the 10 commandments, the world would be a safer, more peaceful place.  The commandments may not be easy to follow – but they are simple.  But rules alone can’t make us happy and won’t get us into heaven.

Jesus isn’t about rules. He is about salvation, which comes from believing.  He is about mercy, not punishment.  He is about love, not law enforcement.  He is the Word and invites us into a personal relationship.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been transported back to pre-Christian times.  Debate abounds over church music, church architecture and what color shoes altar servers should wear.  We need more rules and better enforcement, right?

Pre-Christian Israel had lots of rules, but it wasn’t working.  So God did something that changed everything:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. — JN 3:16-18

Sparks will fly…

glitterCome Holy Spirit.  Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

If you liked glitter Ash Wednesday, you’ll love Sparkly Pentecost.

That’s right.  The LBGT folks who put glitter on one holy day are putting sparkle in other.  They promoted glitter in the ashes for the start of Lent.  And tomorrow they are marketing bags of glitter to be thrown into the air during Pentecost services.  This supposedly will confer on everyone a “glitter blessing” and somehow affirm LGBT lifestyles.

In reality, it is an attempt to show Christian solidarity with folks who are confused about their sexuality. It is a tacky trick to get attention, confuse acceptance and endorsement, and exploit something of greater importance than whether boys can kiss boys, girls can kiss girls and anyone can enter the bathroom of their choice.

Pentecost is about the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is a gift presented to all, undeserved and inexplicable.

Pentecost isn’t about affirming a particular race, religion, biological orientation, décor, team spirit, shoe size or hair color.  It isn’t about you or me, but the Holy Spirit.

But I expect the appropriation of holy days for unholy purposes is just getting started.  Look for rainbow flags on the Fourth of July, transgender turkeys on Thanksgiving and glitter Christmas trees in December.  I don’t know what these folks will dream up for Labor Day, but I’m sure it will be disgusting.

Pentecost isn’t a day to make political statements or issue demands.  Let’s try gratitude.  God created you.  Jesus loves you.  The Holy Spirit is with you.

 

Prepare for battle

wrestleIn a couple days, Pope Francis and Donald Trump will meet face to face, person to person, two heavyweight approaching the center ring of international diplomacy.

I have been reading the advance predictions about what they will discuss and whether there will be sparks.  From what some writers suggest, this could be a titanic, awkward clash of irreconcilable differences.

Of course, the news media depend on conflict, so it won’t be much of a story if Francis and Trump get together, swap recipes, and tell family stories.  The press wants blood, and given the history of these two men, they have some reason to expect it.

Despite being people of different cultures, occupations, and histories, Francis and Trump have one huge thing in common:  causing chaos in the public square.  For Trump, the tool of choice is Twitter.  For Francis, the tool of choice is the off-the-cuff comment, often in an airplane news conference.

The assumption is that these two giants of the international stage have little to nothing in common – but I dare to disagree.  Some examples:

Francis worries about global warming and Trump is a skeptic.  But both want the earth of prosper and people to have enough food and shelter.

Trump wants to build a wall and Francis favors bridges.  But both want a workable immigration system that helps those in need and recognizes the sovereignty of nations.

Both men are Christians and want the persecution of Christians around the world to end.

At the risk of sounding like a beauty pageant participant, I believe both men want world piece, although they likely won’t agree on the steps to get there.

There won’t be fisticuffs, mud wrestling or foul language.  There will be a search for common ground and an effort to build a foundation for collaboration.

I have a sense they could become friends.

Mother of all whatever

BLU-82_Daisy_Cutter_FireballPope Francis got lots of media attention (a common event) this week when he expressed shame at the American reference to dropping the “mother of all bombs” on some nasty people in Afghanistan.

The bomb’s official name is GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB). I suppose MOAB could be an acronym for “mother of all bombs.”

In any event, I agree with the Pope that the mixing of bombs and motherhood I a bit distressing.  Motherhood ought to involve cuddly babies, pot roast in the oven and mini-vans going to soccer matches.  No bombs allowed.

This motherly controversy inspired me to do some research and I discovered that the term “mother of all” is, well, the mother of all phrases.  That is, it turns up often.

There is evidence is has Arabic origins, with Saddam Hussein having called the Gulf War the “mother of all battles.”  For Saddam, it turn out to be the “mommy dearest” of all battled.

The mother of all modified has been widely applied:

  • Mother of all marches
  • Mother of all terrorist groups
  • Mother of all questions
  • Mother of all countdowns
  • Mini of all mini lipstick duo
  • Mother of all lists
  • Mother of all brunches
  • Mother of all herbs

You get the idea.  Something really big and special becomes “mother of whatever.”  It could be something good or something bad – mother of all chocolate bars or mother of all mosquitos.  Frankly, mother really doesn’t make sense in any of these examples.

Therefore, I propose an alternative to mother of all:  honking humungous.  It works really well with a range of topics:

  • Honking humungous elephant
  • Honking humungous argument
  • Honking humungous army
  • Honking humungous computer

I think it works.  And even though I set out to write the mother of all blogs, I’m happy to settle for one that is just honking humungous.

Another step toward total depredation

deathThe “Newsbusters” headline sums it up:  Jewelry Company Offers Parents ‘Sacred Art’ Made of IVF Embryos.

That’s right, fertility fans who have leftover embryos after conspiring with modern medicine to play God, can make jewelry from the uncompleted, potential humans.

I would say this is as sick as it can get, but I’ve said that before and been proved wrong.  So…I’m sure something more horrendous will crop up sooner than you can imagine.

Humans have a long and sordid history of misusing parts of dead people.

There is evidence that some Mesoamericans used human heads in a game resembling soccer.

Some Native American tribes ate the organs of defeated enemies, apparently in the belief the practice gave them greater strength.

Some ancient cultures used the skin of defeated enemies to make wall coverings.  The Nazis updated this practice to the creation of human skin lamps.

Chopping off heads has been a practice from ancient times through the Middle Ages, the French Revolution and today’s beheading enthusiasts, ISIS.

Thus, the problem of what to do with a leftover body or part of a body has long challenged the crueler side of the human mind.  Severed heads can be hung from a pole or be impaled on a post.

Now, I’m sure someone will raise the issue of those creepy Catholics and their relics.  You know, pieces of saints’ bones, fingernails, hair and whatever.

No, it isn’t the same, for many reasons, of which I’ll state only the most obvious:

·       Catholics don’t abuse the body parts of enemies, they venerate the relics of really great people.

·       We keep them in respectful containers, not in hoop earrings or souvenir pendants.

There is a huge difference between honoring a saint’s relic and desecrating a body.  Desecrating a baby’s body is hard to comprehend.

We think our culture is so advanced.  We’ve put behind us all the barbaric practices of the past.  But somehow, they keep cropping up.

What would be grosser than making dead babies into cufflinks?  I don’t know, but I’m sure someone already is working on it.