Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I'll be away for awhile.

I apologize for my long absence. I've been very busy and lacking of energy. Sadly things will start to pick up in the near future, so it maybe some time before I can start commenting regularly again. I apologize, as I know many people read this blog and enjoy my commentaries.

Pope meeting with SSPX

Recently it seems the Pope is willing to hold talks with the Society of Pius X over the possibility of reconciliation. I find this encouraging news and you can read about it here. I would give more commentary on this incident and the whole issue of traditional Catholicism, but sadly I'm not able as I will explain in another post.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Crisis Magazine.....again!

You may remember in another post where I took a contrary attitude to Crisis Magazine and their position concerning Hispanic immigration as somehow being key to re-evangelizing American society.

Well I just came across this interesting discussion about the magazine at Caelum Et Terra and it's strong links to the Neo-conservative movement, which are largely ex-Trotskyists who pretend to be conservatives. Crisis magazine's chief editor Deal Hudson was a staunch advocate of the invasion of Iraq, which could easily be compared to the Soviet invasion of Poland. As I stated in my comments, Crisis is on the mark when it sticks to faith and culture; but it's off the wall when it comes to politics. Goes to show how much Catholic politics have degraded in this country!

RIP Brother Roger

I read this story concerning the recent stabbing of Christian leader Brother Roger. I really don't know much about this man (and I'll try to find out more information later), but there seems to be a large amount of grief over his death. Pope Benedict XVI himself has expressed his sadness over the news.

Rest in Peace, brother.

The Charade of World Youth Day

The Pope has recently arrived in his native Germany to celebrate World Youth Day. This event has received quite a lot of coverage not only in the Catholic press but mainstream news as well. I already gave my opinion about these events in a previous post where I basically denounced them as nothing more than "Woodstock-style gatherings trying to cloak themselves in Catholic truth." The coverage I've seen on the events in Colonge only seem to confirm my view.

Possibly one of the most ridiculous things to occur in relation to this event is how a certain teen magazine is passing out posters of the Pope. As teeny-boppers often like to say puleeze!

I must say I'm not at all impressed, either as a young person or as a Catholic. These celebrations show how far the Church has degraded itself in recent years. And I'm certainly not alone in this assessment. Marian T. Horvat wrote an interesting review of a book exposing the charade that World Youth Day truly is, and how it does not serve Catholic truth in any meaningful way.

It's been reported that Pope Benedict plans on "reaching out" to Muslims and Jews while he's in Colonge. I find this very disappointing, and contrary to the portrait Robert Spencer painted of him as the "Enemy of Jihad". Islam has been the antithesis of Christian Europe for countless centuries; why on earth would you want to "reach out" to them, especially when Islam continues to threaten Europe's very existence? This just does not make any f**king sense!

I had high hopes for Pope Benedict XVI, but recent events have caused much disillusionment in my assessment of him. I probably settle into another love-hate opinion I had for the previous Pontiff, John Paul II.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My new blog

I've created a new blog titled Ukrainian Glory, to give me an outlet for my Ukrainohile sentiments and feelings. I will still post here, where I will express my views on politics, social issues, and religion as a whole; while my other blog will deal with how these issues effect the Ukrainian community in particular.

Enjoy! :)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Catholicism and Hispanics

Although in my previous post, I gave praise for the article in the latest edition of Crisis Magazine concerning Eastern Catholics, I was very upset to read that it featured another article concerning the issue of Hispanic immigration into the United States. Sadly there's no link and only offers this short summary of the article:
Heading North: Can Hispanic Immigration Restore America’s Christian Culture?

John Burger argues that Hispanic immigrants can help re-evangelize America…if the Church will let them.
The issue of Hispanic immigration and its effects is one that runs through every aspect of American life. Samuel Huntington's most recent book Who Are We , presents Hispanic immigration as a direct threat to America's national identity. But what about the Catholic faith?

Since I'm unable to read Burger's article, I can't address his arguments specifically. However, many people have argued along similar lines, that Hispanic immigration will serve to increase the influence of Catholicism within American society. Sadly, this is why many in the top leadership of the American Church has made many statements in favor of immigration.

Jim Kalb provides a very good critique of many pro-Hispanic immigration arguments in his commentary "Assimilation to what?". Kalb argues that many Hispanic immigrants(or their descendents) eventually adopt attitudes and practices known throughout American society(which are antithetical to Catholic teachings); thus destroying the argument that Hispanics will automatically re-evangelize American society.

Another interesting point made by Kalb is that the logic used by immigrant enthusiaststs within the Catholic Church actually violates long held traditions toward evangelizing cultures. As he explains:
"When Paul visited Athens, and found that the people weren’t Christians, he didn’t propose to remedy the situation by moving large numbers of Levantine Christians there. Instead, he tried to Christianize the people already there by persuading them of the truth of Christianity by reference to their existing concerns and understandings. Quite possibly he thought it was the genius of Christianity to transform peoples through conversion — thus letting grace perfect nature — rather than transform localities through invasion. Catholic leaders may want to consider the point."

The Light of Eastern Catholicism

The latest edition of Crisis Magazine features a very nice article titled "The Other Catholics: A Short Guide to the Eastern Catholic Churches", which as the title suggests is an introduction to the world of Eastern Catholicism. Most Catholics in the world do not realize the Roman Catholic Church is but one of several rites within the universal church. I myself belong to the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which as the article explains is the largest Eastern-rite church in the world.

Several issues plague the Eastern Churches. One in particular is our relationship with our fellow Christian brethren within the Orthodox Church, with whom we share our Eastern Christian heritage. To the Orthodox, we're seen as traitors who sold out to the Papacy and often refer to us by the insulting term "uniate". Unity with our Orthodox brethren has long been a goal and hope for us Eastern Catholics, yet sadly several issues prevent that from happening soon.

Yet our traditions have not fully been appreciated by our Roman Catholic brethren either. For several generations, the Eastern Churches had to endure the policy of "latinization" which meant forcing Latin practices into our faith. Although thankfully this practice has ceased since Vatican II, but the damage had been done. The disrespect(and ignorance) found for the Eastern churches found among many Roman Catholics has convinced many to convert to the Orthodox church.

Yet there have been many attempts to address the concerns of the Eastern Churches in modern times. As stated before, Vatican II helped bring an end to the policy of latinization and from then on the Church leadership has encouraged the Eastern Churches to reclaim their lost heritage. John Paul II even wrote in his apostolic letter "Light of the East" about the important role that Eastern Catholicism has in enlightening the entire universal church.

Lubomyr Husar, who is now currently head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, gave a very interesting speech concerning the role of Eastern Catholicism back in 2000 which should shed light on this rich heritage. Another great article dealing with the Eastern heritage and its place within the Catholic world is Anthony T. Dragani's "The importance of understanding Eastern Christianity". EWTN itself features an interesting series on the topic named after John Paul's apostolic letter.

May the light of the East shine down and illuminate the world!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Religion and Nationalism continued.....

In a follow-up to my recent post concerning the relationship between religion and nationalism, here's an interesting scholarly commentary on the issue I've recently read:

"It may be futile and unrealistic to separate religion and ethnic identity. Many individuals behave as if their ethnic affiliation and professed religion are one and the same: to be born Croatian is to be born Catholic...There are few multireligious ethnic groups and their relative scarcity suggests that religion is the root of ethnic differentiations or that religious distinctiveness is a key to ethnic saliency."
-- Cynthia Enloe "Religion and Ethnicity"; Ethnicity edited by John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith, pp. 199-200; 201

Creationism vs. Evolution

Patrick Buchanan has written an interesting commentary dealing with the controversial issue of Creationism( or Intelligent Design) against Darwin's theory of evolution. The sad aspect of this on-going controversy is the constant knee-jerking and idiocy that seems abound on both sides of the argument. Many atheists and other anti-religious minded folks will try to argue for evolution as a way of to debunk religious faith. In particular they like to group all creationists or supporters of Intelligent Design as Christian nut-cases who try to promote theology as science. Casey Luskin refuted this notion in a critique of such arguments made by Michael Shermer. The truth is the Creationist/Intelligent design camp is full of people from different backgrounds(not just Christian). Of course the same should be said for supporters of evolution, many religious people can be found in that camp as well. So the controversy is not entirely religion vs. science as many people try to portray it, it's far more complex.

Yet there are many problems with Creationists as well. In response to Evolutionist arguments, many in this school of thought will degrade themselves into a full-blown crusade against science as a whole. What's even more annoying about many creationists is their literalism towards the Book of Genesis. This is clearly irrational and even goes against Christian tradition in relation to how the scriptures are to be read. Christianity has always been rooted in an allegorical tradition not a literalist one. It was the literalism of the Pharisees that Jesus and the early Christians clearly rejected.

As a Christian, my sympathies are clearly with the Creationist/Intelligent Design camp, but I should mention only in a general sense. That is, I clearly believe that the universe was created by an intelligent being(God). The specifics of how God created the universe and how life came to exist, well.....I'm more than happy to leave it to biologists to explain the specifics of that. So I'm very much in favor of a Creationism/Intelligent Design governed by a strong sense of reason, and there are plenty of Creationists who would agree with me. In fact the Book of Genesis itself advocates an evolutionary-like development of life, where God starts off creating small simple creatures and ending with more complex creatures.

A very interesting commentary on the relationship between evolution and religion (and one which forms much of my viewpoint on this issue) was written by Fr. Deacon Andrey Kuraev. Although it argues largely from an Orthodox standpoint, the points Kuraev makes can easily apply to all denominations. He notes that there's no "textual nor a doctrinal basis to reject evolutionism" especially when separated from its "atheist interpretation". Kuraev goes into more detail concerning what several Orthodox theologians have states on this issue, to even debunking many inconsistencies of Creationists who take the Book of Genesis literally.

Well these are my two cents on this issue.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Religion and Nationalism

I recently came across this interesting commentary at the Little Geneva blog:
"While only 52% of Europeans believe in God, 81% of Greeks do. It is no coincidence that 85% of Greeks claim to be "very proud" of their nationality, compared with a European average of only 41%. Religious fidelity goes hand-in-hand with respect for heritage."
This is actually quite true and many sociological studies have shown a close relationship between religious devotion and nationalist sentiment. Possibly one of the most recent studies written on this topic is Anthony D. Smith's book Chosen Peoples: Sacred Sources of National Identity, which argues that "sacred belief remains central to national identity, even in an increasingly secular, globalized modern world." In particular, Smith looks into the immeasurable influence that Christianity and the Bible had on European concepts of nationhood.

Smith is not alone in pointing out this important relationship between religion and nationalism. Smith himself admits he was influenced by the late Adrian Hastings, who wrote The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism in order to refute the Modernist school of thought which contends that nations are nothing more than "imagined communities" and products of the modern age. Another major contention made by the Modernists is that nationalism is by and large a secular phenomena. Hastings disagrees, arguing that:

"[r]religion is an integral element of many cultures, most ethnicities and some states. The Bible provided, for the Christian world at least, the original model of the nation. Without it and its Christian interpretation and implementation, it is arguable that nations and nationalism, as we know them, could never have existed. Moreover, religion has produced the dominant character of some state-shaped nations and of some nationalisms. Biblical Christianity both undergirds the cultural and political world out of which the phenomena of nationhood and nationalism as a whole developed and in a number of important cases provided a crucial ingredient for the particular history of both nations and nationalisms."
--page 4
How on earth could the Bible provide the framework for nationalism? some people would try to argue. Sadly in this day and age, a blind sense of universalism and multiculturalism which denies the legitimacy of ethnic and national devotion prevails very much within many so-called "Christian" circles. Their arguments are largely based on a perversion of certain Biblical verses (which I will address a little later).

Getting back to the topic, Adrian Hastings (along with Smith) argues that the Bible provided "a developed model of what it means to be a nation" through the example of the Israelites in the Old Testament. A nation was constituted by "a unity of people, language, religion, territory and government."(page 18) With the spread of Christianity across Europe, the Israelite model spread along with it. Since there is no political model expressed within the New Testament, the Church and Christian communities have often had to rely on the nationalist model of the Israelites for guidance on building a truly Christian society. And there are numerous cases throughout Europe where respective nations used the example of the Israelites as a mirror through which to see themselves. I already provided some examples of this in a previous post concerning the relationship between the story of Exodus and nationalism. It's quite clear that the Old Testament is filled with nationalistic themes.

Although it's obvious that nationalistic themes prevail within the Old Testament, few people realize that they also prevail within the New Testament as well. Many Biblical scholars have noted the strong nationalist overtones that are evident within the Gospel of Matthew, which identifies Christ intimately with the needs and concerns of the Hebrew people, a sentiment clearly expressed in Matthew 15:24. At the end of Matthew's Gospel, Christ commands the Apostles to go and "make disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28:19). The event of Pentecost in Acts 2 also helps demonstrate that the division of mankind into nations is part of God's plan. Even the last book of the Bible, Revelations, states that the nations of world will be blessed and take their proper place in the New Jerusalem (Revelations 21:24, 26), which implies that the existence of nations will continue into eternity.

Yet many people will try to argue that nationalism and Christianity are incompatible, and will use St. Paul's words in Colossians 3:11 and Galatians 3:28 as their basis, which states: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus". First off, we must look at the context in which Paul was speaking in. During Paul's time, religious affiliation was often based on ethnicity, location, class, profession, and sometimes gender (the cult of Mithras, for example, barred women from membership). What Paul is stating is that those rules do not apply with Christianity, all are welcomed to belief in Christ and given the opportunity to receive salvation through him. This does not mean there are no differences between Christians, far from it. Paul states there's "no slave nor free", yet repeatedly states that slaves should obey their masters. He states there's "no male nor female", yet repeatedly talks about the different roles husbands and wives should play within the family. So clearly Paul is speaking from a metaphysical perspective. Besides, if Paul's words really did condemn ethnic pride, why does he boast of his own ethnicity in Philippians 3:5 along with Romans 9:3-5, 11:1?

There are several books and articles that demonstrate the close relationship between religion (in particular Christianity) and nationalist sentiment. Hastings and Smith are good sources to start off with. John Mark Ministries has a very interesting article, which goes further into the ways ethnicity and nationalism are seen in the Bible. Other good articles include "The Bible and Ethnicity" by Dewi Hughes, and "The Christian Doctrine of Nations" written by H. A. Scott Trask for American Renaisance. For a more specifically Catholic perspective on this issue, Fr. Stephen J. Brown's wonderfully written "What is Patriotism?" is highly recommended.