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Islam Examined, Part 1

If Westerners were to stop looking at Islam through the lens of Political Correctness, they would fear for the future of Western civilization. That is the message of Nonie Darwish’s Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic law. Darwish lived the first thirty years of her life as a Muslim in Egypt and her father died in jihad against Israel. She was still a child at the time and remembers a government official asking her and her siblings, “Which one of you will avenge your father’s blood by killing Jews?” That remark made her begin wondering about her religion’s teachings.… Read More

 

“Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace”

The prayer that begins with this petition is my favorite and the favorite of millions of people of various religious denominations around the world. A musical version of the prayer, “Make me a channel of your peace,” is also popular with church choirs. Here is the full prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.… Read More

 

A Reflection on Pride and Humility

Two of Jesus’ parables give special emphasis to humility. The Parable of the Guests (Luke 14) explains how being humble would spare a guest embarrassment. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18), explains that a humbler penitent is more pleasing to God than a proud one. Both parables end with the very same sentence—“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

These parables and other biblical passages make clear that humility is a virtue, but it is still difficult to define.… Read More

 

The Other Side of Forgiveness

We are reminded of the importance of forgiving others every time we recite the Lord’s Prayer and ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But there is another side to forgiveness that is less prominent in Christian, including Catholic, teaching. That side is helping others to forgive us.

The admonition to forgive others for their offenses is first offered in the Old Testament (see Genesis 50:17 and 1 Kings 8:50).… Read More

 

Everyday Grace

Last Sunday, as I stood in line to receive communion, I noticed an elderly couple across from me. Both were stooped and feeble, she more so. She also appeared to be suffering from some form of dementia. Her husband gently guided her to communion and then back to their pew.

I immediately recalled a similar couple that lived near me in the late 1990s. The wife had Alzheimer’s and her husband cared for her for many months before she went to a nursing home, where he visited her every day until she died.… Read More

 

The Gospel and Politics

The people in the Bible group were discussing the Gospel messages of love: in particular, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27); “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28); “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matt 7:12).

The focus of the conversation was on how these messages apply to everyday life.… Read More

 

The Catholic Hierarchy Disappoint Again

The Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. have disappointed Catholics in the past, and they are doing so again, this time on the matter of President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. I recently examined six widely reported hierarchical statements and found only two that met or surpassed minimal standards of reasoned discourse—separating fact from fiction, acknowledging complexity, making careful distinctions, demonstrating fairness, and avoiding rash and fallacious judgment.Read More

 

Christmas and Forgiveness

“I can never forgive Trump for the things he said about John McCain, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and all the others. Never!” A Catholic friend said this to me early in December, after Trump was elected. She spoke with such finality that I framed my response very cautiously.

“I understand why his statements offended you,” I replied. “They offended me, too. But Trump has taken a very different tone lately and he has made some impressive cabinet choices .… Read More

 

Theology Confounded

17398115 - abstract word cloud for christian theology with related tags and termsA friend recently recommended a slender spiritual book, Poverty of Spirit. Written by Johannes Baptist Metz, a German Catholic theologian, it was first published in 1968 and republished thirty years later. What I found most interesting in reading it is that, though it contains genuine insights, it is also self-contradictory and misleading. The reason, I believe, is a cultural movement that began in the 1960s.… Read More

 

Foolishly Forsaking Humility

pharisee-publicanIn 1980 Mac Davis wrote “Oh, Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble (if you’re perfect in every way)”  He was not disparaging humility, of course, but having fun with the human tendency to overweening pride and self-importance. Yet ironically, at that very time, the self-esteem movement was championing what he was mocking.

The self-esteem movement proclaimed that humility is an obstacle to mental health. It urged people to love themselves, accept themselves unconditionally, esteem themselves, and banish all feelings of shame and guilt.… Read More