Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pope Francis Pops the Soap Bubble of Christian Vanity

Pope Francis used his homily during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta to warn Christians against vanity when practicing the faith.  The Holy Father keyed off of the scriptural reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes to dwell upon vanity, which the pontiff illustrated through several examples of living to be seen.

Pope Francis emulated the inspiration for his regnal name by railing against doctors of the law who stroll around the square wearing luxurious attire like princes.  This certainly sounds like words that could be uttered by St. Francis Assisi.  

Pope Francis celebrating Mass at acro Convento and Saint Francis Basilica in Assisi

Pope Francis pastorally inspired homilies used tangible metaphors, like soap bubbles and onions, to drive home his point against vanity.  But the Holy Father supplemented these symbols with the rich history of the Church.  

“The Egyptian Fathers of the desert said that vanity is a temptation against which we must battle our whole life, because it always comes back to take the truth away from us. And in order to understand this they said: It’s like an onion. You take it, and begin to peel it – the onion – and you peel away vanity today, a little bit tomorrow, and your whole life your peeling away vanity in order to overcome it. And at the end you are pleased: I removed the vanity, I peeled the onion, but the odor remains with you on your hand. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to not be vain, to be true, with the truth of reality and of the Gospel.”

The answer from the Holy Father is humility, prayer leading to acts of charity.

h/t  Vatican Radio  

Countering Convenient Constructs of Personhood

Dr. James T. McMahon, the now deceased late term abortionist, epitomized cognitive dissonance regarding personhood.  While  Dr. James McMahon abstractly opined about the incarnation of the soul comes when the fetus is accepted by the mother, the partial term abortionist offered a more revealing opinion when commenting for the American Medical News.

“If I see a case…after twenty weeks, where it frankly is a child to me, I really agonize over it because the potential is so imminently there…On the other hand, I have another position, which I think is superior in the hierarchy of questions, and that is “who owns this child?” It’s got to be the mother.”

No wonder why so called Pro-Choice partisans bristle at the analogy between abortion and slavery.  But when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, unless a person is protected by society in utero, the fetus' fate is dictated by "who owns" the child.

But the Bible clarifies when personhood occurs. Psalm 139 13-16 instructs:

For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

That certainly does not sound like personhood is optional depending on the disposition of the parent. Or if one considers it from a religious perspective, your Heavenly Father claims you from the moment of conception. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Find the True Islamic Scholar

Former U.S. President George W. Bush

Former President George W. Bush (Harvard Business School, MBA '75)

   The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That's not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  These terrorists don't represent peace.  They represent evil and war.

     When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world.  Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace.  And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race -- out of every race.  
                          ~ President George W. Bush,  Islamic Center September 17, 2001 

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama as law student (J.D. Harvard '91}

Now let’s make two things clear:  ISIL is not “Islamic.”  No religion condones the killing of innocents.  And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.  And ISIL is certainly not a state. 
                           ~   President Barack Obama, The White House September 10th 2014

British Prime Minister David Cameron 

Caricature of British Prime Minister David Cameron (M.A. Brasenose College, Oxford '88)

"They [ISIS] boast of their brutality; they claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace. They are not Muslims, they are monsters.” 
                                    ~ British Prime Minister David Cameron September 14, 2014 

Self appointed ISIS/ISIL/IS Caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi

                                       Abu Bakr al Baghdadi (B.A., M.A., PhD Islamic Studies, Islamic University of Baghdad}

Here the flag of the Islamic State, the flag of tawhīd (monotheism), rises and flutters. Its shade covers land from Aleppo to Diyala. Beneath it, the walls of the tawāghīt (rulers claiming the rights of Allah) havebeen demolished, their flags have fallen, and their borders have been destroyed. Their soldiers are either killed, imprisoned, or defeated. The Muslims are honored. The kuffār (infidels) are disgraced. Ahlus-Sunnah (the Sunnis) are masters and are esteemed. The people of bid’ah (heresy) are humiliated. The hudūd (Sharia penalties) are implemented – the hudūd of Allah – all of them. The frontlines are defended. Crosses and graves are demolished. Prisoners are released by the edge of the sword. The people in the lands of the State move about for their  livelihood and journeys, feeling safe regarding their lives and wealth. Wulāt (“governors”) and judges have been appointed. Jizyah (a tax imposed on kuffār) has been enforced. Fay’ (money taken from the kuffār without battle) and zakat (obligatory alms) have been collected. Courts have been established to resolve disputes and complaints. Evil has been removed. Lessons and classes have been held in the masājid  and, by the grace of Allah, the religion has become completely for  Allah
  ~  Declaration of Islamic State by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi (a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim ibn Awwad)  July 1, 2014

It would seem that someone who constantly quotes the Quran and interpretive sharia texts and has several advanced degrees in Islamic studies would be the best bet in that bunch.  While we may vehemently disagree with Bakr al Baghdadi's interpretations and implementation of sharia law, it seems incredulous that secular Western leaders insist that ISIS is not Islamic. Former President George W. Bush was closer to the mark in his comments that the face of terror is not the true face of Islam, but that may be more wishful thinking that comparative theology. 

In a faith of 1.57 billion believers throughout the world, Islam can have many different expressions and emphases.  America has been blessed by a Muslim community which freely practices their faith in a peaceful manner.  Across the Atlantic Ocean, Europe has a more acrimonious experience. Many nations have colonial ties with Muslim majority nations, like Britain (Pakistan), Netherlands (Indonesia), France (Algeria).  Other European nations invited Islamic immigration as guest workers, like Germany (Turkey) but the cheap labor never moved back home. Now that there are significant European Muslim populations in concentrated enclaves which are adverse to assimilation.  Consequently,  there are no go zones where the police avoid and the Islamic communities semi-formally administer Sharia law, which often conflicts with the jurisprudence of the rest of the state. 

Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has condemned the brutality of ISIS in beheading hostages and killing unbelievers (be they Jewish, Nazarenes a.k.a. Christians, and even other Muslims who do not adhere to their Salifist jihadism) as a" unique evil".  Alas, this is not historically accurate, as the victory of the Knights Hospitaller in Great Siege of Malta (1565),the Holy League's victory at sea in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and the defeat of the Ottomans in the Siege of Vienna (1683) marks efforts by Muslims to expand their caliphate by the sword. 

Islam is more than a religion but is also a holistic political system with its own jurisprudence. Political Islam is a manifestation of this theocratic thread in Islamic thought. Bakr al Baghdadi's declaration demonstrated point by point how ISIS was incorporating its interpretation of sharia law. Time and again, we in the West are told that Islam is a religion of peace. But the root of the word Islam means submission.  Perhaps by submitting to the five pillars of Islam, a believer is said to gain peace.  Another myth is the CAIR-full instruction that jihad simply means "interior struggle".  The word jihad means struggle.  In the Muslim world, jihad means Holy War.  If it were just the interior struggle, why would Qu'ran 4:94 exempt the elderly and children from jihad?

Many Muslims live out their faith peacefully.  But to deny that the so called Islamic State is not Islamic because it does not comport to our sensibilities as outsiders of what Muslims ought to believe is ludicrous. While we should not mistake all Muslims as radical Islamists, it seems silly to inculcate a cognitive subterfuge. 

Jonah Goldberg offered a challenging point to our secular Islamic scholars entrenched in the corridors of power:  "Instead of Americans trying to persuade Muslims around the world that terrorism is un-Islamic, why shouldn't Muslims be working harder to convince us?"

St. John Chrysostom on Scripture

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Prince Charles on the Persecution of Christians

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, recently wrote Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Raphael Sako of Baghdad in order to show support for Christians and members of other faiths suffering  barbaric persecution at the hands of Caliphate Jihadists operating under the banner of ISIS, ISIL or the "Islamic State".  

But this was not the first time that the Crown Prince of the United Kingdom has spoken out against the persecution of Christians by Islamists in the Middle East.  He spoke out about the dwindling number of Christians in the birthplace of Christianity in December, 2013.

In May 2014, Prince Charles authored an opinion piece for the pan-Arabic publication  Asharq Alawsat  in which the Prince of Wales urged:

Now is the time to re-double our joint efforts to stress what binds the three Abrahamic faiths together and, as Christians, Jews and Muslims, to express outrage at what tears us asunder.  In doing this, it is important to remind ourselves that an emphasis on love of neighbour and doing to others as we would have them do to us are the ultimate foundations of truth, justice, compassion and human rights...
Alas, ISIS rampage in Iraq against Christians, Yazidis and even Shiite Muslims who do not believe the same way that these radical Islamists see the world  have created enormous turmoil and suffering.