Political Correctness and Donald Trump

The point is, I’m glad Donald Trump is president because I hope all the racists and bigots aren’t afraid to say what they want anymore.

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Black Lives Matter




Racism

There has been a lot of controversy over NFL players protesting racism in America. Now there definitely is systemic, institutionalized racism in the United States, that is a fact. It is clear in the schooling system where some schools are rich and white while some are poor and black. It’s obvious when the overwhelming majority of the prison population is black and yet white crimes are equally (if not more) prevalent yet less likely to get punished. Look at the Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort made a career out of his crime. Even after he got caught he served a minimal sentence and now is cashing in on his previous crimes with books, a movie and seminars that teach people how to be better scam artists. A high school in Jackson Mississippi had a segregated prom until 2008, changing that caused an uproar in the town (see the documentary Prom Night in Mississippi). Racism in America is a very important, very relevant problem that needs to be addressed. Colin Kapernick is doing what every American should be doing by peacefully protesting racism and using his elevated platform to do it is all the better. 


What’s Really Going On?

Ok, well let’s lay it out… Cops are shooting black men in the streets for no reason. Are they racist for doing that? Yes, but so are you and me and everyone. The uncomfortable truth we don’t want to deal with is that we all make assumptions based on skin colour, nationality, religion, sexuality and gender. Part of what makes humans more advanced than animals is that we have evolved to have the ability to make judgments about our environment very quickly. Like a deer that assumes every noise in the woods is danger, except our assumptions have evolved to be much more complex. It isn’t necessarily wrong for a person to think that maybe a black guy is armed and dangerous. Given the media we consume where every black man on TV is armed and dangerous, given the cops frequency of dealing with armed and dangerous black men, given the fact that prisons are filled with black men (unjustly) and that most black men are in poor desperate neighbourhoods where crime is the norm (unjustly), I think it is pretty reasonable to think that. Those are true facts, which is why I said racism is institutionalized, so how do we fix it?  Furthermore I think all of us would make those assumptions too. The police officer isn’t being racist, he’s scared. The problem comes when you give that person a gun, tell them they  have to use it to defend themselvess and their community, then militarize them with tanks and swat gear (Jon Oliver video) and pump them full of fear. 

The Root of the Problem

Many claim Racism is the root of the problem but that’s not entirely true on its own. The real root is fear. Americans are terrified of Islam and ISIS, guns, crime, schools shootings, Y2K, killer bees, SARS, west Nile, Zika, bird flu, suicide, car accidents, heart disease… You name it and Americans are afraid of it. They have an alarm on their locked house and a safe in a locked room inside that house. The media reports every scary thing that ever happens, which causes fear, which causes everyone to assume the worst which causes more scary things happening and the cycle continues. When people live in fear, they act out of that fear and act in irrational (racist) ways. 

The Cure

So what cures fear? Peace. The only way to have peace in society though is to find an inner personal peace. A peaceful heart brings about a peaceful mind, which can bring about a peaceful society. Now I sound like a Buddhist…. I work in a Catholic Church because I believe it is the answer, or one of the answers to this problem of fear and this unpeacefulness we all feel. We are focused on the wrong things, power, money, honour, fame… Rather than faith, family, friendship, truth, goodness and beauty. Parents will bring their kid to hockey 6 nights a week because they care more about having the next Sydney Crosby than having dinner with the family. What are we teaching the next generations? The good news is that we have the power to change all this, so let’s get started!

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God’s Justice


The Dilemma

There is a very old philosophical dilemma known as the Euthyphro Dilemma that goes back to Socretes. It is really a theological question and it goes like this…

“Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”

Euthyphro Dilemma


The problem is that either whatever God says is good, happens to be what God wills and therefore goodness is arbitrary because it just happens to be God’s “preference” so to speak. Or goodness already exists in the universe and God chooses goodness, except that would mean that there is something above God. This is a major problem when considering the Christian God! However the only answer that makes sense to me is from John where he says “God is good” not that God does good things but that God and goodness are one. This mean that what God’s will is and what goodness is are always the same because they are the exact same thing, they can never be separated.

Justice

Now let’s apply the same question to justice.

Is what is just commanded by God because it is just, or is it just because it is commanded by God?

So basically what we are asking is, “is justice one in the same as God’s will?” The answer must be “yes” or else we would have the same problem as above, that there is an objective Justice above God that He must follow. Now I think we all know that God desires everyone to go to Heaven, but if you need proof…

1 Timothy 2:3-4

 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved  and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

So if Gods will is that all men would be saved and Gods Justice is the same as his will, then Hell cannot be necessary for the sake of divine Justice. That is not to say that Hell does not exist and I’m not sure that this argument alone proves conclusively that no one goes to Hell, however it gives good reason to hope all are saved. What it does prove though is that we cannot say that eternal punishment is a necessary for Gods Justice. Gods Justice is different from our fairness, and we should not confuse the two. It means that divine mercy and divine justice are much closer than we can comprehend.


There does seem to be a need for punishment still, however I would argue our only punishment is clinging to things that are not God. So purgatory is necessary but the punishment of purgatory is simply the pain we feel being ripped away from something you love but that is destructive to your soul. For example we are ripped away from our attachment to power and the amount to which we cling to power is equal to the pain we feel. Hell would be if we continued to cling to that power but we would have to cling to it for all eternity. Is it possible for us to cling to something that is not God for an infinitely long time? We certainly cannot say yes because we have no concept of an infinite amount of time. Also, I say we are ripped away because our free will is torn between what we want and what we want to want. We want power, though we know what we really need is God, so we desire to want God even when we want power still. In eternity that leaves us torn but over a long enough time span we always eventually come to God. Therefore our free will and Gods Justice (in other words his mercy) do coexist.
Quotes from Brilliant Minds

Here are some quotes to back me up…

When you punish the wicked, it is just since it agrees with their merits; however when you spare the wicked it is just…. because it is befitting your goodness. – St. Anslem, Proslogium ch. 10

Balthasar says that justice is “subordinate to divine mercy, indeed, must be virtually a mode of this mercy.” – Dare We Hope ch. 11

Only hope is able to comprehend the reality of God that surpasses all antithesis, to know that His mercy is identical with his Justice and his Justice with his mercy. – Josef Pieper On Hope

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Too Holy for You! 

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In my perspective of the Christian religion I see two types of Christians: traditional and progressive or in other words, conservative and liberal. The traditional Christian is exclusive in that they want to preserve what is there. In the words of Balthasar they want to “raise the bastions” to keep out the corruption of the world. The progressive or liberal Christian is very inclusive even to a fault; willing to change hard and fast church doctrine in order to please everyone. Neither of these is healthy; true Christianity lies in a delicate balance between these two extremes. Today I want to talk about the ultra-conservative and why it is so toxic. 

              “Angelism” is where you over spiritualize and you lose your humanity in the                              process of deepening your interior life and that is false. That has always been                            rejected by the church… the deeper you go in prayer, the more you should be                            capable of being in communion with others, and I mean everyone… – Fr. John                          Nepil of the podcast “Catholic Stuff You Should Know”, episode “ecclesiology of                     communion” (Where I stole this whole blog from!)

us-vs-them-295

God loves unity. The fact that God is three in one shows us how He loves unity and communion. Separating yourself from being overly conservative or traditional undermines this fundamental principle of God. The more we pull away from “the other”, the more we pull away from God himself. They are trying to grow in their own personal holiness and they think, say for Catholics, receiving on the tongue is an outward expression of their own deeper inner spirituality. It is the same with wanting to bring back the Latin Mass or kneeling to receive communion. These things are attractive  because they are meant to express a deeper desire for God, but instead it comes off to others as pretentious and even arrogant. To common people it looks like the traditionalist thinks they are “holier” than the guy coming to Mass once a month and guess what, they aren’t! Maybe it is true that the traditionalist does have a deeper devotion, but there is no need for him to let anyone know that except God!

               “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by                             them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”                                         – Matthew 6:1

Madeline Delbrel is a woman who lived a life where she was under communism but lived in communion with strong communists which also meant for the most part they did not believe in God. There is this sense that we are in a hostile world and we need to retreat away to protect what is left of our Christian identity in society, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to show people our compassion and our joy! One thing I enjoy about Catholicism is how intertwined with the culture it has been in the past. The priest would go to the bar to have a smoke and a beer and be in amongst the regular working-class people. We have started doing the opposite where we retreat away because the world is “going to Hell in a handbasket”. We feel we need to separate ourselves from “those people”. Madeline Delbrel after her conversion was dedicated to helping other people find happiness which she believed was through her new found faith.

So who are “those people” that Christians seem to be hiding from? Homosexuals, abortionists, divorcees, pro-choicers, liberals, atheists… No. The Christian that thinks that they are closer to God than someone else only hides from themselves. They hide from their shame, their own sin, just like Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden. It would seem they need to place someone else as evil in order to justify them being good, since they only know and fear how far they themselves truly are from God. The righteous man knows himself to be a sinner, and assumes everyone else a saint. In “Dare We Hope” by Hans Urs Von Balthasar he quotes three people, Soren Kierkegaard, St. Anthony of Egypt and another unnamed church Father. All three quotes express the same sentiment but I will quote Kierkegaard, 

            “Telling other people “You are eternally lost” is something I cannot do. As far as I                  am concerned; the situation is that all others will, of course, go to heaven; the only                doubt is whether I shall get there.”

This attitude, this concern for one’s own salvation without calculating the odds or being concerned about the likelihood of others going to heaven or hell, is what I believe a saint is made of. Doesn’t Paul say, “I do not even judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:3) so then do we think we can judge others? This is why the traditionalist mindset is so toxic; it places yourself on a pedestal while you condemn everyone else. Any time you see others as wrong or less holy you automatically place yourself of the right or holy side. You become the man on the milk crate screaming about the apocalypse… A make-shift pedestal that makes you feel bigger, meanwhile everyone else can see that you placed yourself up there (Not God!) on that shaky unstable plastic. 

by Duncan Michael McPherson, Later Days.

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Utilitarianism

“Work Makes You Free” – The sign written over the entrance of Aushwitz

So… What is it?

Utilitarianism is a philosophy started by Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mills. To briefly explain the most basic and simplified form of it, it focuses on “utility”. The idea is that the most important thing is a persons happiness of pleasure. The other tenate of this ideology is that life is not intrinsically valuable, its value comes from how useful the person is to the whole. In Wrath of Kahn, Spock says “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few!” This is the anthem of Utilitarianism, and it sounds pretty good as a buzz word doesn’t it? The example given is a train out of control, filled with people. (The bad) guy from Die Hard is in control of it and says you have to kill one person to save the train full of people. It sounds pretty reasonable to kill the one to save the many, to increase the pleasure of many by the sacrifice of one.

So… What’s Wrong with it?

The problem with this ideology is that it does not consider a human life sacred, or in secular terms valuable. As Christians, as theists, we believe the God created everything, including our very lives and that this gives life meaning and value. Maxmillian Kolbe sacrificed his life for one other man in Aushwitz during WWII. Utilitarianism would say that was meaningless because a life is a life, so it doesn’t matter which life goes. It doesn’t see it as a heroic act of love and compassion, but a stupid act. Utilitarianism also starts an elitist mindset that can be traced back to Eugenics and Hitler’s regime. Hitler (and others at that time like Margaret Sanger) believed that some lives were worth more than others. If the greatest good is to have more of the best kind of people, then others become expendable under this ideology. In modern day we can see this in how we treat the mentally and physically disabled. They can’t do as much as the average person, therefore they are worth less and worthless.

So… What’s this got to do with Abortion?

Margaret Sanger, as I mentioned earlier, was involved in Eugenics and trying to help create a master race. She believed that  if you didn’t have the right genes you were not worth much. For example she is quoted as saying  “quote about eliminating black people through contraception and abortion.” Margaret Sanger was an early 20th century feminist whose mother died mother died giving birth to her 11th child. Now many will argue that Eugenics and Abortion are not at all related anymore, if ever at all.  The problem though is that this idea that some human lives are worth more than others is at the heart of the abortion arguments. Peter Singer says it’s based on intelligence, some say brain activity, our laws in Canada say in or out of the womb, many would say a child wanted or unwanted is the distinction. Are people who were wanted by their parents worth more than people who weren’t wanted/planned by their parents? Of course not, that’s absurd! You might want Donald Trump dead, but that doesn’t make his life of less objective value!

So… Why Should I Care

I’m writing this on the way to Aushwitz in Poland. I feel like that is all I need to say because Eugenicists thought what they were doing was right too.  History can make a fool of even the most intelligent of us. We cringe and cry and rail against Hitler’s ideology, we use words like “crazy” or “evil”. If  one day we realize that a human embryo is as valuable as yours and mine, we will make Aushwitz look like a joke. We will look back in horror at abortion as the largest mass killing of human beings in human history. For those who are pro-choice I just want to propose one question, what if we are wrong? What if, as a society, we got this one wrong? What if you are on the wrong side of history? The Holocaust killed 6 Million Jews. Abortion kills …. Lives. What if One day we will call abortion the holocaust?

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Peter Singer, Abortion and the Age of Reason

Evolution

If you believe in evolution, that means you believe that as a species, the goal of everything we homosapiens do must be to ensure the survival of our species. If you are a ‘naturalist’ it means you do not believe anything supernatural exists (no God, no angels, no spirits no soul). If you believe both you are a Evolutionary Naturalist, which I would say is most Atheists.

This would mean that we have no reason to care about any other plant, animal or thing except for how it benefits us as a species. So we don’t want to kill off an animal or plant that is useful to us, but only because it will help our species. 

Peter Singer is a philosopher who tries to make the claim that we should extend our ethics about human beings to animals. He says that we kill animals because they are of lower intelligence and are not self aware, therefore they are not a person. He says that we should look at abortion the same way, a fetus in the womb cannot think and cannot be self aware therefore we shouldn’t worry about killing it just like we don’t mind killing a cow to eat it. This means that abortion could be acceptable long after the baby is born or else we should be more concerned about killing plants and animals. (I stole/adapted this argument from Alvin Plantinga, a Christian philosopher arguing against Atheism).

Stupid People Die!

This is a claim that is saying that the only difference between animals and humans is intelligence. Peter Singer says a conservative estimate is that abortion would be ok until a month after the baby is born. However you could argue self-awareness or consciousness doesn’t happen until much later. 

Peter admits that you cannot draw a definite line of when self-awareness starts and even accepts that life begins at conception. Intelligence and this vague term “self-awareness” are on a sliding scale. I am more self-aware than a 10 year old and I’m guessing a 50 year old is more self-aware than me. Under this logic of intelligence and self-awareness or consciousness, you could really justify killing off anyone less intelligent than you. This argument leaves the mentally delayed very vulnerable. 

Pain for Pleasure

The other problem with this argument is that Singer argues that the tragedy of someone dying young is that their plans are ruined. That their potential to do good and make the world a better place is spoiled. However regardless of intelligence, this is exactly what makes a human fetus and an animal different. Although a fetus doesn’t have intelligence to make plans, it has the potential to do great things. Comparing a fetus to an animal is unfair because an animal can never dream, never plan, never change the world. The pain of losing someone young is the same pain as losing a baby in the womb, wanted or not. I can tell you that it is not the same pain as an animal dying and I think it’s insulting to those who have lost a baby in the womb to compare that to an animal. A fetus may not be self-aware yet, but we know that it will be eventually. Unless of course you are disabled in some way….

Utilitarianism

I think Utilitarianism needs its own blog to explain what exactly we mean and what exactly the problem is and how it relates toPeter Singer. On to part 2!

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Best Pro-Choice Arguments (Part 1)

no-two-brains-are-alike-investigation-reveals-494462-2

So after offering a new twist on the most common pro-choice arguments last week, I want to try and tackle the very best arguments in favour of making abortion an option. Usually after I explain my position and the other person explains their, it is clear that this issue comes down to one important question; when does person-hood begin? Notice it’s not when life begins, because organs are alive but we kill those, animals and plants are alive but we kill them. Person-hood is when something goes from simply alive, to a human person.

The Best Pro-Choice Argument

At the end of life we consider someone legally dead when brain activity stops. Therefore we shouldn’t consider life as beginning until there is brain activity. Therefore abortion should be acceptable up until there is brain activity.

This is a very strong argument for making (keeping) abortion legal. I don’t think pro-life people appreciate how valid this argument is, and  how need to take arguments like this seriously and not brush them off. I will give my argument of why this is not sufficient reason to allow abortion. First I want to point out that if you subscribe to this argument and you are Canadian, there are no laws whatsoever regulating abortion. Brain activity usually starts at 6 months and you can legally have an abortion right up until birth. So if this is the reason you are pro-choice, you need to get out to the March for Life to lobby for laws against late term abortions.

Brain Activity 

That’s not the argument against this point though. I would suggest that there is a significant difference between end of life and beginning of life. At the end of life when someone’s brain stops working we consider them officially dead, but why? Why not the heart or lungs? Well, we are able to keep someone alive using a machine that replaces the heart or the lungs. As of right now when someone’s brain stops functioning we have no way to bring them back or even keep that critical organ from functioning properly, even in a minimal way. If we imagine a machine that can keep a brain moderately operational would we have to change the definition of death? Let’s say a machine keeps the brain active but the person can’t move because all their organs are not getting the right signals to keep them going. The persons body dies but the brain is still active, are they dead? This is the shaky ground that this argument rests on. When we get down to a cellular level it gets even more complicated, if you have time, watch this video to really get you thinking…

Here is the real problem though… When someone is dying, at some point, there is nothing we can do to stop it. If there was a way to prevent that brain activity from shutting down we would do it so they could live longer. When a person loses brain activity we know they are not going to come back, there is no other alternative. In the case of an unborn child, at even the earliest stage, we know that given the right conditions they will have brain activity and be alive at some point. I hesitate to use the term “potential person-hood” because that could be considered a sperm or an egg or even from an atomic level any atom! There is no doubt however, that a living human being naturally comes from this group of cells. In death we may not know the exact moment where a human person loses their person-hood, but it doesn’t really matter because we know there is nothing we can do. (Maybe they never truly lose their “person-hood”. But their “soul”, in Latin the word soul is “anima” or the thing that animates their body, is separated from their body for a time. This is important because we don’t really understand what animates the body… again watch that video above.)

Sometimes the Fertilized Egg Does Not Implant in the Uterus

Since we live in an imperfect world though, there is often complications (as Bill Nye points out in his video on abortion). So, naturally, the fertilized egg does not implant and that human being never has a chance to develop. This is not a moral problem for pro-lifers because it is a natural process with no intent to interrupt what is a natural process. This is critical because intent is everything in moral philosophy, except for Utilitarianism which is where our modern society gets its moral logic from. Utilitarianism says that all that matters is what happened and intent doesn’t mean anything. If you believe manslaughter and 1st degree murder are different then you are not a Utilitarian and you believe intent is important. Just because some people die at 27 doesn’t mean we can kill other people at 27 and just because some fetuses die in the womb doesn’t mean we can kill other fetuses in the womb.

Natural Processes

Abortion is when we know that a life is coming and we consciously and intentionally do something destructive to interfere with a natural process. This is the reason for so many controversial teachings in the church. When we go to a doctor and get medicine or surgery it is meant to enhance the natural process of the body. That is good and considered acceptable according to the church. It is bad to control, change or stop natural processes from happening. It would be like cutting off a grizzly bears food supply because you want to save all the salmon from dying. You would mess with the whole natural ecosystem. Sometimes our bodies themselves act in an unnatural way like an autoimmune disease. In this case we give medicine that helps the body to do what it should naturally do. I think then the question becomes “what is natural?” For that we would need another blog, however I think you can see why we believe abortion is generally wrong in almost all cases (we can consider ectopic pregnancies another time). I think it is easy to understand how abortion can be seen as interfering with a natural process.

The Reality is…

What it comes down to is that there is a big difference between preventing something from living and declaring something dead. If you planted a bulb for a rose bush and someone put lye on the spot you planted it, you would be mad that they intentionally killed your plant! If it died naturally you might be upset but less mad because there wasn’t an intention of harm coming from another person. If it was withering and dead and someone dug it up you would be less upset since its end was inevitable. (We’ll discuss end of life issues another day too). That is basically the counter-argument, but I want to make it clear to pro-life people reading this that you need to take these arguments more seriously! These are valid concerns that we are ignoring to achieve a political agenda. Do not get sucked into caring more about getting what you want, than doing what is right.

 

* In a future blog I would also like to tackle Peter Singer’s argument for person-hood which may be even better than this one. However I don’t think many people subscribe to his argument since he argues that you should be able to kill toddlers…

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