Tag Archives: Religion

What Do You Believe?

It is a question I asked my children often when they were in high school and for a few years after.  I still ask them once or twice a year, and when they ask me for advice (not often, but when they ask) the question above is always the opening query.  Philosophy, for the little our education system teaches these days, is still the foundation for making sound decisions, and it is important for each person to remember what their own foundation is periodically.  Some call it ‘centering’.  I prefer ‘foundation’.  One builds character on some foundation.

Consider the children’s story of the Three Little Pigs.  Has your mind already jumped ahead to which of them had the stronger foundation of faith or belief to last out life’s storms?  Do you already know who or what your own ‘Big Bad Wolf’ is?  This simple childhood story represents Western philosophy education at its basic level and typically in the home.  Then, there’s the popular culture book “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. What is taught in education today?  A myriad of concepts come to mind and to discuss them would veer off my intent here.  What is relevant is that each of us finds some level of commitment to some principle of life, and we move forward with our lives.  Few venture beyond what was learned in middle school or high school, testing what they believe in their forays into their work or through their college years and beyond.

For all the years I asked the question of my children my point was to know what they chose to hold true from what their mother and I taught them, and what they picked up along the way on their own to strengthen or replace those lessons.  It remains a question they don’t like answering,…yet.  One day, I hope the example with have their own children squirming in a chair.  This is not some sadistic plot but an effort to get them ready for their own ‘Big Bad Wolves’.

For all the asking of what they believe, they have never turned the question back on me.  I can’t say why because it would be speculative, and that is always a mistake when building friendships.  However, I have been doing some reading about how to continue to build this friendship with my children I am prompted by the author to answer the question posed for myself.  In all my fifty-seven years, no one has ever asked me. I’ve been studying theology at the Master’s level for three years, and the question hasn’t come up there either.  I’m certain my actions have demonstrated for those around me, especially my children, what I believe.  The deeper answer is why?

“Why am I Catholic?”

Simple answer is, I believe. Sure, I was born and raised, schooled through grammar school. But I joined the Navy, for crying out loud, and stayed 20 years. With all I’ve seen, why ‘stay’ Catholic?

Because, for all I’ve seen, it is True, and the Church remains a repository of Truth, and that Truth is carried to every corner of society, every day of the year. The reason the Catholic social networks are as strong as they are is because the embodied spirits of the people let the life of Christ shine through in what they do, some a little, some a lot, and some in everything they do.  Catholic health care makes up one sixth of the healthcare economy in the U.S.  Catholic Charities is the largest relief organization in the world.  The Catholic school system, from grammar school through high school, and into post secondary education, is the largest private school system in the world.  These are the works of the Church that come from the faith.

What the public hears more of, though, are the sins of the Church.  Of course, it’s what we expect.  Two-percent of our priests have committed unspeakable acts in the past several decades.  Movies portray these same servants in poor light since the 1960’s.  Long forgotten is Pat O’Brian’s portrayal of Father Flanagan, founder of Boy’s Town in the 1940’s.  The Exorcist was a pop-culture phenomenon and now a ‘new’ fall drama on a major TV network.  Charlton Heston’s Moses in the 1956 Ten Commandments is now dependent on implied illusions of a child messenger because of Christian Bale’s bump on the head, a far more earthly portrayal of the myth-history.  The modern stories of Saint Pope John Paul II and Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta can hardly keep up with the world’s reminders of our real sins and culture’s distortion of both our work and our theology.  Zombies and vampires are somehow more believable than God becoming man and sharing our embodied spirit existence here on earth.

I still choose to believe.  I continue to be inspired by the Spirit.  I continue to hold that when I attend Mass I am at an intersection of this material world and the spiritual heaven. And in receiving what appears to many as only bread and wine, I affirm that it is the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God as described in the Gospels.  It is both an act of Faith  and an act of Will of my Conscience.

If you ask yourself the title question, what answer do you come up with?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Principles Thread Through Time

What is the common thread between the conduct of successful business, the safety of nations from dedicated terrorists, the sixth-century BCE and the twenty-first century societies?  I propose there is a common thread of commitment to principle.  Let’s take a look.

The modern world in Western society owes much of its form and format to the Abrahamic religious traditions and the discord between them.  This week, Brussels takes center stage in the story.  Several Islamist were so committed to their cause they willingly sacrificed themselves for it.  The perspective of this argument is to look at the opposite side; a lack of commitment.

Though the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testaments are not history they do provide an historical perspective important to any leader.  The point of the Prophets in these books is to exclaim in many ways what happens when a People divorce themselves from the very principles that tied them together.  Solomon, for all the laud and honor he receives, broke from the Law given his People and allowed opposing cultures to reign in his kingdom.  The religions of his many wives were in direct contrast to the Law of Moses, including the ‘sacrifice’ of children on the altars of their gods and ritual prostitution.  His kingdom split after his death, and two-hundred years later Israel was wiped off the face of the earth. Judah followed a century later.  Israel, as a sovereign state, would not exist again for sixteen hundred years.

Cultural discontent in the West arose from duplicity in leadership in the 1960’s, preaching honor and life while prosecuting a war widely opposed from France to the United States to Vietnam.  Questioning everything followed, in our kitchens and in our universities, and now citizens stand and defecate on flags, riot in the streets against perceived and real injustices, and ‘sacrifice’ children on the ‘altar’ of women’s health and population control.  The education systems teach more the faults and immoralities of the West rather than those principles upon which the society rose.

It is not so much a stretch to swing from the macro world view of religion and politics to the macro and micro view of business conduct.  Modern Western business ethics grew out of Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic.  Hard work and dedication will germinate growth and innovation.  This is successful only when those in the business are so committed.  Manage products for the sake of creating wealth rather than for the value the product brings to society brings in methods contrary to the successful principles that build the product in the first place.  The ‘boss’ at any level, concentrating only on cost reductions, eventually cuts into product quality. Customers lose faith.  The company fails.  To return to the Hebrew Scriptures, “One cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Improvement in business and business success requires a commitment to a sound product.  Engineering, in any form, is the core of the product. Quality programs are only monitors, and accounting principles are only accounting.  All have to be in proper balance.  Society likewise has to be in balance.  We cannot concentrate on the faults of our past to the detriment of those principles we built our lives on.  The principles and successes must have the majority of the discussion in the classrooms, in the boardrooms, and in the public discourse if younger generations are to find faith in, believe in, and act upon them.

Napoleon Hill wrote in his seminal work ‘Think and Grow Rich’ in 1937, “What a man can conceive and believe he can achieve.”  Nineteen hundred years earlier, Jesus the Christ is recorded as saying “Ask, and you shall receive. Seek, and you will find.  Knock, and the door will be opened.”  What ideas should we give our people to begin to believe in again, in the kitchen, in the classroom, in the boardroom, and in our law?  How will we color it?

They Were All On Stage Because of God’s Inspiration Megyn

Concerning the last segment of the first Republican Presidential debate for 2016, moderated by FoxNews on August 6th, 2015;

Megyn Kelley was one of three ‘moderators’ in what was more a Q & A than a debate between candidates. Before the final break and also introducing the final segment, Ms. Kelley made rather flippant comments concerning whether or not the candidates had received any specific inspiration on what their first actions or priorities should be… from ‘God’, as if to put down anyone with faith in a Supreme Being. It was short comment. It was a curt comment. It rang as loudly as a fire alarm in my ears.

I cannot put words to the candidates’ responses. Some were allowed to comment directly to the question, others were not offered an opportunity. I do have the following to share on this particular topic.

None of the candidates would be on the stage were they not somehow inspired by some higher power. Few would argue that Mr. Trump presents himself from the inspiration of his ego, though I am one who would. All professed some intent to fulfill a patriotic duty to the country. Some invoked their God. Those doing so placed themselves in good company.

You see, our system of laws is built upon a specific Decalogue in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, a Decalogue that is equally respected by our Islamic brothers and sisters. These Ten Commandments provide the foundation for our Constitution and laws of governance and public policies. Social Security and Medicare are largely responses to the 4th of those laws, ‘Honor your father and mother’ through the financial and health support of our elderly citizens. “Thou shalt not kill’ seems a rather pertinent one to this discussion, given the numbers of mass murderers on trial the recent killings so publically promoted by the news media. Baltimore, MD is having a particularly difficult problem this year. ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ has been officially ignored by our Supreme Court this past session. ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors’ goods’ is routinely ignored by thieves and prosecuted not quite as frequently, as thieves are difficult to apprehend.

Our founders thought it important to acknowledge a Supreme Being from our beginnings as a nation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Who is ‘their Creator’ if not the God that gave us the Decalogue? To this and the rest of the Declaration of Independence, our representatives closed the document with “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” A reliance on God, Divine Providence, saw most of these men die as traitors or in poverty. What survived was country they dedicated to God.

Is our country dedicated to God from its beginning? It is a fair question. Let me answer it with the ways that used to exhibit our faith in such a beginning.

  • From the third stanza of a song sung from the days of the Revolution until only a few years ago in our schools; 3rd stanza of America
  • Our Father’s God, to Thee, Author of Liberty, to Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, with Freedom’s holy light. Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King”
  • From the War of 1812, from Baltimore harbor, September 15th, 1815, a young lawyer scribbled these words on an envelope; from the 4th stanza of the Star Spangled Banner;
  • Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
  • Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
  • Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
  • And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
  • From Lincoln’s 1858 ‘House Divided’ speech to the Illinois Republican Convention. He was discussing the Dread Scott decision concerning equal admission of slave states to non-slavery states;
    • “In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided.” Mr. Lincoln’s quotations are a direct quote from the Christian gospel, words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in Mark 3:25.
  • From Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address
  • “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
  • In 1895, Katherine Lee Bates wrote another song that was, until recently, sung widely and in our schools as well. This is her 1904 chorus revision;
  • “America! America!
  • God shed his grace on thee
  • And crown thy good with brotherhood
  • From sea to shining sea!”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr, August 28th, 1963, promoting the advancement of equal rights for the Black population of our nation, revived several of these previous examples;
  • I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
  • – AND-
  • “This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
  • And finally, Mr. King closed with;
  • ‘And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
    •  

The threads of the Decalogue, of the dedication of our country by ‘We, the People’, remain evident in what has become our civil as well as faithful religion in these united States. We are a Nation and a People founded on the Liberty found when laws establish boundaries for behavior. For more than the two-hundred-forty-six years since a Declaration was proclaimed we have bound ourselves to a faith in God. That faith has served us well.

Were the men on that stage last night and those presented in the earlier broadcast by Fox, and the others looking forward to presenting themselves as candidates to tend to our country’s business inspired by God? You should know they were, are, and continue to be, either by their own commitment or by their adherence to the civil religion professed in our public proclamations.

So, please, Ms. Kelley, please provide some modicum of respect when you speak about our God, our Divine Providence, our Creator when you broadcast national events. We are all bound to Divine Providence whether we acknowledge the Creator or not.