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Posts Tagged ‘Sin’

Alessandra Stanley, NYT TV critic recently reviewed the new HBO series Girls, which she writes is the “much anticipated comedy about four single women in New York.”  I have not and will not be watching that show but I found Ms. Stanley’s review of it rather enlightening.  What she finds to be the theme of Girls is that “[t]he economy fluctuates, neighborhoods blossom or decay, but men never cease to disappoint.”

Some 40 years after the sexual revolution, all this sex, immorality, and “freedom” for women has failed to improve the lives of young women at all!  Basically, Stanley declares the sexual revolution and feminism to have been an absolute unmitigated failure;  well, okay, she doesn’t actually declare that, but it is really her point:

Lena Dunham’s much anticipated comedy about four single women in New York, which starts on Sunday night, is worth all the fuss, even though it invites comparisons to Carrie Bradshaw and friends, and even though it incites a lot of dreary debate about the demise of feminism. There are obvious parallels between “Girls” and that earlier HBO series, but the theme of female friendship and romantic disappointment stretches back long before, all the way to the early 1940s and Mary McCarthy’s first novel, “The Company She Keeps.”       

One reason that “Girls” is unsettling is that it is an acerbic, deadpan reminder that human nature doesn’t change. There was a lot of sex in the ’60s, but not much sexual revolution. For all the talk of equality, sexual liberation and independence, the love lives of these young women are not much more satisfying than those of their grandmothers. Their professional expectations are, if anything, even lower.

That’s right, feminism is dead and despite all the sexual escapades, the lives of women have not improved.  Based on this television show, the lives of twenty-something women are unsatisfying, humilating…in fact, downright debasing.  The characters include the lead, Hannah who is described by Stanley as “unpleasant in ways that are only occasionally endearing” and a “parasite sponging off her parents,” and Jessa who “is a sexual free spirit but not particularly joyful.”  These girls are being portrayed as having all the fruits of the women’s movement, being freed from the expectation of marriage and motherhood they are free to pursue careers, relationships without commitments, and self-interested hobbies and leisure activities.  Why then are the young women of Girls so unpleasant, selfish, unambitious and unhappy?  Could it be that the fruit produced by the radical feminist agenda is not as sweet as we have been (repeatedly) told?

Perhaps becoming self-aware halfway through her review, Ms. Stanley admits that Girls portrayal of modern femininity might be seen as “a cautionary tale” but cannot bring herself to admit in print that this apparently accurate portrait has it’s underlying roots in the failure of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution.  Instead, she backs off her previous indictment and then takes a swipe at those of us who see and call the failure for what it is.  She sniggers:

The depiction of slacker life in New York, which includes tattoos, drugs, casual sex and abortions, is presented with wry humor, but it could easily be interpreted as a cautionary tale written by the religious right: the lifestyles of these modern women, untethered to responsibility, faith or morality, are parables that could scare Amish youth away from Rumspringa and wayward Mormons back into their temple garments.       

Har har, see what she did there?  She admits that all the drugs sex and abortions “could” be viewed as an indictment of the modern hedonism, but only by weird anti-cultural sects like Mormons and the Amish; you know, the “religious right”.  No rational religion would condemn all this sex and unhappiness, and the only good Christian for the Left is one that is shacking up with their significant other.  Only the fringe folks like you and me get all uptight about commandments and moral living.  I can hear her sniggering at her own cleverness, because of course nothing works better for the liberals like dismissing legitimate worries over the effects of immoral societies as dangerous fringe thinking.

One can guess what Ms. Stanley would make of the teachings of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, in which he correctly predicted the effects of contraception on the relationship between men and women. 

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

I don’t know if Ms. Stanley as read Humanae Vitae, but maybe the writer and star of Girls, Leah Dunham has because the “liaison”-the, er, sexual hookup- between the lead character Hannah and a character named Adam is described by Stanley as “debasing”:

Adam lets her visit his apartment for sexual gratification — his own — and ignores her desires; most of his sexual fantasies seem borrowed from video games and porn videos. He is just as callous about her feelings…

Pope Paul VI predicted the outcome decades ago, and was vilified, and shamefully much of the vitriol was from the clergy and laity of the Church.  However, he was right.  Contraception and the freedom of the sexual revolution did not advance the cause of women.  We have become things, objects, tools.

Here we have a cable series that is being described by people who profess to know these things as “gritty”, an “honest romp the through New York City’s social landscape [sic]”, one Huffington Post critic going so far as to compare her twenty-something woman writer experience point by point to that of the Girls main character.  I will assume that the HBO show is then, basically reality for many 20-somethings and that makes me sad for them.  In a world in which these girls can have attachment-free sex at any time, can pursue careers and self-interest leisure activities freed of the burdens of matrimony and motherhood…well, aren’t they supposed to be happy?  Didn’t they get what they were promised would buy them happiness?  Based on Girls, it would seem not.  As Ms. Stanley of the NYT portrays it, these women seem to be selfish, debased, joyless, ambitionless, and unsuccessful. 

But what do I know?  I am a cave woman, expected to be barefoot and pregnant by my Neanderthal husband.  At least, I’m pretty sure that the staff of the NYT thinks so.

[note: for whatever reason, my original essay got eaten and I’ve tried to recreate it from memory.  It’s late now and I am bummed because my original was much better.  Perhaps my memory will improve with sleep and I’ll edit this tomorrow.]

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Maybe you already saw this article linked over at The Drudge Report.  I am posting it here because of my own personal experience.   You see, I wish that when I was mired in sin and depressed and hopeless, some good Christian doctor had just said, “Get thee to a rectory! find a priest and dig yourself out of this dung heap of sin!”

Well, I eventually found that curative on my own, without the help of the medical community.  Still it is good to know that there are medical professionals that understand that God made us to be corporeal and spiritual, and the one affects the other.  In England, a young man described as being “in a rut and in need of help” was lucky enough to find a doctor who was willing to see him as the whole person that God made him.  After a lengthy consultation the doctor suggested that the young man return to the practice of his faith from youth.  Fox News NY reports:

Richard Scott, a doctor for 28 years, is under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) and faces disciplinary action after he suggested to a 24-year-old man that he might find solace in Christianity.

Scott, who practices at a medical center in Margate, east of London, well known for having Christian doctors, insists he only raised his spiritual beliefs after carrying out a thorough and lengthy consultation, during which medical checks and referrals for further care were arranged.

When the man’s mother inquired of the consultation, however, her son apparently replied, “He just said I need Jesus.” This prompted his mother to refer Scott to the GMC, claiming that he had not offered medical advice during the consultation but instead talked about Jesus.

…He has continued to seek treatment from the practice despite the complaint filed by his mother.

The doctor, who has an unblemished record “has decided to fight the allegations and stand up to what he believes is a politically correct trend in Britain to persecute Christians for expressing their faith in the workplace.”

Scott fears that if he accepts the warning, and discusses his Christian beliefs with other patients, he could be struck off.

He maintains he acted professionally and says the complaint was made against him in the knowledge that professional bodies are nervous about claims of a religious nature.

Scott said, “I only discussed my faith at the end of a lengthy medical consultation after exploring the various interventions that the patient had previously tried, and after promising to follow up the patient’s request for an appointment with other medical professionals.

“I only discussed mutual faith after obtaining the patient’s permission. In our conversation, I said that, personally, I had found having faith in Jesus helped me and could help the patient. At no time did the patient indicate that they were offended, or that they wanted to stop the discussion. If that had been the case, I would have immediately ended the conversation.

“This complaint was brought to the GMC not by the patient, who has continued to be a patient in this practice, but by the patient’s mother.”

Scott is a partner at the Bethesda medical center in Margate, Kent. The six partners at the practice are all Christians and it has taken a biblical name. Practice leaflets and message boards publicize the doctors’ religion and invite patients to raise Christian beliefs with them.

Scott is being advised by the Christian Legal Center. Paul Diamond, the leading human rights barrister, has been instructed in the case.

Did you catch that?  The practice is made up of Christian practitioners.  Their leaflets and boards publicize their Christian beliefs and the nature of their practice.  So my question is, did this mother take her son there knowing full well the nature of their practice?  Was this some sort of set up?  We know from experience that atheists and humanists are not content to simply keep religion out of government.  They want it out of everyone’s lives and will not be happy until this is achieved.  Their number one target, in fact their only target, is Christianity. 

Pray for this doctor and his legal defense team.  May we never be silent in proclaiming the truth.  And for what it’s worth, I think the doctor is probably spot on.  We all can think of examples where getting right by God ‘cured’ someone of pain, despair, depression, anxiety or other so-called mental illnesses.

It did for me.

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I heard this prayer this morning on the Sonrise Morning show and resolved to post it here.  It’s the Lenten Prayer of St. Augustine.

O Lord,
The house of my soul is narrow;
enlarge it that you may enter in.
It is ruinous, O repair it!
It displeases Your sight.
I confess it, I know.
But who shall cleanse it,
to whom shall I cry but to you?
Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,
and spare Your servant from strange sins.
St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430)

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Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton:

For children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.

I quoted this in Bible study the other day as it seemed appropriate. The innocent have nothing to fear from a just God, while the guilty shrink from such justice. As we age, we hopefully gain self-awareness, insight and humility. We throw ourselves into the arms of our merciful Lord, knowing that a fully just God would condemn us for our faithlessness. But we can trust to God’s justice AND his mercy. We only have to ask for it with fully contrite hearts.

But watch out that you do not fall into the habit of wanting mercy for yourself, and justice for everyone else!

A great prayer of contrition is found in Psalms:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy. And according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me….Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. Cast me not away from your face; and take not your holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit. I will teach the unjust your ways: and the wicked shall be converted to you. Deliver me from blood, O God, you God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol your justice. O Lord, you will open my lips: and my mouth shall declare your praise. For if you had desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings you will not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, you will not despise. — Psalm 51

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The Gospel for today is another unique story, the story of the adulterous woman found only in John.  Scholars speculate that this story was a later edition to the text as it does not seem very Johannine, and may have been written by same author of Luke – Acts.  The Church believes it to be inspired scripture and it remains one of the most popular stories in all the Bible.

while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.  They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.   But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.  Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more.”   John 8:1-11

Our friend Fr. Jon at Redemptorist Preacher takes an in-depth look at the underlying drama to the story; after all, this was a trap being laid for Jesus, one of several instances in the Gospel in which he is challenged by Jewish leaders with a seemingly no-win situation (e.g. the question of paying Roman taxes).  Here the trap is that while Mosaic law (religious) required adulterers to be stoned to death, Roman law (civil) forbade any private capital punishment.  Should Jesus heed the Hebrew law of his ancestors or obey the might of the Roman authorities?   Either way he answers could lead to his own death.  The scribes and Pharisees chose a very visible, crowded venue to challenge him.  How fraught the situation, and how humiliating for this woman, who likely may have been dragged there immediately after being found in flagrante delicto. 

My Sunday to Sunday nonsensical weekly just wanted to discuss the inherent sexual bias of the story and bemoan that women are still being kept down by The Man.  You know, the Church and the Pope and mean guys everywhere.  Blessedly, our Bible study leader decided to scrap the Gospel reflections from the Sunday to Sunday and instead spend the entire time leading our own discussion, which was enlightening and uplifting.  I confess that I disliked this story for a long time.  In my opinion, it was used in an anti-Christian way for far too long, and is the go-to verse for moral relativists everywhere.  But I am so glad that I had this week to study and reflect on it.  I have a whole new appreciation for the complexity of this Gospel.  

Our Bible study was wonderful, too.  We dwelt on Jesus’ silence, his remarkable silence.  In reflecting on our discussion, it occurs to me that this possibly throwaway story shows us the way to be Christians, as Jesus role models the virtues we should aspire to: 

  • Justice
  • Temperance
  • Prudence
  • Courage
  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love

Everyone discussing this Gospel account sooner or later uses it to point to Jesus’ non-judgment and that oftentimes becomes the sole takeaway from it.  “Jesus said he didn’t judge the woman and neither should we.”  This (I think) is an incorrect lesson for us, or at least not the sole lesson.  Jesus does not condemn the adulteress, but I think he does judge the woman.  In so doing, he actually shows us how to judge.  Never does Jesus tell her she is not a sinner and not guilty of her crime.  In fact, he forgives her and instructs her to turn from her path of sin – “go and sin no more.”   See that?  He did not simply say, “Go on, beat it!”  He did not say, “well then, clearly you are not guilty.” 

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more.”  

The condemnation of the crowd would have been her stoning, her loss of earthly life.  Jesus does not condemn her and in so doing, he presages our Reconciliation sacrament.  Jesus’ pardon refers to her eternal condemnation.  Jesus frees her; he is her savior just as we know he is ours.  He came to free us from our sins.  But inherent in this act of compassion, and mercy is his act of divine justice.  The woman must not sin anymore. 

And what does that mean, “sin no more”?  We know by the Catechism that we are all sinners and fall short of the grace of God.  Is the woman, and are we, required to “sin no more”?  How can we take on such a burden?  What is Jesus telling us?

In order to be absolved of our sins, in order for God’s merciful forgiveness to be ours, we must convert our hearts.  We must renounce the sin in which we find ourselves and we must earnestly intend to not persist in it.  How many of us understand that?  We ask for God’s forgiveness but have we truly renounced our sin within our heart of hearts?  Do we walk into our confession hardened to Jesus’ words?  We know from Revelation and from Pauline letters that we may not persist in our sins, and that Jesus WILL come again to judge the living and the dead.  Our acts on earth will be weighed in the balance.  So we must repent now, and that means to renounce our sins and promise to do better.

So how are we to judge if we should not condemn?  We know that only God knows the secrets of our hearts, and only He has perfect justice and mercy.  We must trust to His justice.  But as Christians, we are called upon to lead our fallen brothers and sisters back to the path, and correct one another in a spirit of love and gentleness.  In good faith, can we allow those entrusted to our care to persist in their sin?  I think we cannot.  Adultery, premarital sex, gossiping, sloth, illegal business practices, addictions, whatever the moral failing, this Gospel is not telling us it is none of our business.  It is showing us the way to intervene as a Christ follower should:  take time to reflect in silence and humility, maybe get down in the dirt a bit to fully understand the situation, see all sides, when finally necessary to speak, do so calmly, temperately and fairly, do not offer condemnation but rather love, forgiveness and a hope for reconciliation, make it clear to the sinner that Christ expects their metanoia.

Our sins are so hard to renounce, our hearts slow to convert.  Speaking the truth in charity and gentleness must be matched by our own humility, our understanding of our own failures.  We have a faith that goes beyond following an established set of rules.  Our faith requires us to devote our time, energy, intellect and spirit in a constant conversion away from ourselves and over to God.

Our God is so awesome!

Pray with me: 

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.

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Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.  ~Robert Brault

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your “Yes” mean “Yes” and your “No” mean “No,” that you may not incur condemnation. James 5:12

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.  Matthew 5:33-37

A day ago,  my best friend told me a lie.  (Well, more accurately, told me a partial truth in a misleading way so that I would draw a conclusion that was not true.) Partly to be kind to me, partly because telling the whole truth would have demanded courage.  I admit that I am very upset by this.  Although I appreciate my friend’s position, I am extremely disappointed.  My question to my fellow Catholics and Christians:

Is a lie ever justified? 

Here are my thoughts:  In discussing whether we can justifiably sin in order to accomplish what we believe is good (the ends justifying the means), I once told a colleague that God doesn’t use evil to work His plan, although in His mercy, He often allows for good to overcome the bad from our sinful decisions.  After much thought, the colleague returned with this retort:  God used Pontius Pilate in His salvation plan.

The obvious answer to that is, who wants to be Pontius Pilate? or Judas?  or the Sanhedrin?  Sure, their acts were instrumental in furthering God’s plan for our salvation but come on, I don’t think they had many graces flowing from their act, do you?

I really would like your heartfelt (and truthful!) responses to this question.

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Today we read the story of the Prodigal son, a parable which is only found in Luke.  I love this parable.  We discussed it this week in my Lenten Bible study, and of course, we discussed the points of view of the main characters and how each of us can – at some point in our lives – identify with all of them : the lost son, the dutiful son and the forgiving father.  Most around the table seem to be identifying with the dutiful son, at this point in their lives.  I thought that was interesting.  I almost always identify with the wayward son, myself but as of late, I had to admit that the parable character I most identify with is the Fatted Calf.  This garnered some chuckles around the table.  Unfortunately, I was only semi-joking…

I did observe that while I don’t frequently relate to the dutiful but resentful older son, if I were present for Jesus ministry, I might find myself in the role of the critical and doubting scribes and Pharisees.  I would probably see Jesus standing with sinners and become judgmental and discount his holiness.  I might gossip about him, or speculate on what shenanigans he is up to.  :-(   This got alot of agreement from our group.

Anyway, for reflection on the the gospel reading, I am sending you to two great sources for further enlightenment.  First, a video by Fr. John Riccardo of Our Lady of Good Counsel here in SE Michigan (which I have posted before).

Second,  biblical scholar Michael Barber‘s treatise on the Prodigal Son which he posted over on The Sacred Page yesterday.  (I wish he had posted it before Thursday, I would have looked very smart “coming up” with these brilliant ideas!)  (totally kidding, I would have given him credit.)

You Can Always Come Home

The Prodigal Son, New Life and Sacramental Imagery  by Michael Barber

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