Category Archives: hate speech

On Football, the First Amendment and the Third Commandment

A couple years ago, we were ironically at McDonald’s on a Sunday morning, in a picking grain on the sabbath capacity, and while we were waiting, and whichever news channel was on (why must restaurants ruin people’s digestion with “news”? I wish they’d just play Boomerang or something that all ages could enjoy without stress or ideology), the anchoress said, “It’s Sunday, and that means Americans’ thoughts turn to football!”
It made me sad that that statement is so true: Americans’ thoughts on Sunday don’t turn to God.  They turn to football, or golf, or Sunday brunch or sleeping in or going to the movies.

In the City, we need no bells:
Let them waken the suburbs.
I journeyed to the suburbs, and there I was told:
We toil for six days, on the seventh we must motor
To Hindhead, or Maidenhead.
If the weather is foul we stay at home and read the papers.
In industrial districts, there I was told
Of economic laws.
In the pleasant countryside, there it seemed
That the country now is only fit for picnics.
And the Church does not seem to be wanted
In country or in suburbs; and in the town
Only for important weddings.

[….]

And the wind shall say: “Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.” (T. S. Eliot, Choruses from ‘The Rock’)

This whole NFL/National Anthem thing is thus a bit confusing to me:
1) I hate professional sports, football in particular, both in that I don’t see the point of watching sports and get annoyed when my shows are preempted by sports, but also in that I think it involves way too much money and way too much physical risk.  So the idea of having people lash out against the NFL and hopefully free up Sundays and holidays a bit for other activities makes me kind of hopeful.
2) In addition, though I’m conflicted when it comes to prerecorded TV or going to a restaurant, Western culture is far less respectful of the Lord’s Day today than it was when Eliot wrote those words over 80 years ago.
We’ve come a long way since Eric Lidell in the 1924 Olympics.  Now, we have players who are “controversial” for openly praying during sporting events, and people who schedule their church attendance around football praise him while getting mad at the “irreverence” shown by players who protest the performing of the “National Anthem.”

3) What of the Anthem itself?

Everybody knows the first verse, but here’s verse 3, the source of the controversy:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

How is it the “land of the free and the home of the brave” if we’re going to hunt down and kill runaway slaves? (And yes I know the historical context was the slaves fighting on the side of the British during the War of 1812).

Long before anyone ever hear of Colin Kaepernick, Ray Charles and others were asking for the “Star Spangled Banner” to be replaced with something like “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America.”  Besides, it’s also a notoriously difficult song to sing.

So it’s not some sudden new thing that African Americans find the “Star Spangled Banner” offensive, and I think they’re justified in doing so.  Given that “hirelings” would have meant Irish and German Catholics, anyway, I’m inclined to more than sympathize with their objections.

4) Why do we *have* a National Anthem?
Because in 1931, the news circulated that the City Council of Erie, Pennsylvania, was so left-wing they were singing the “Internationale” at their meetings.  The story “went viral,” as we now say, and the Star Spangled Banner was adopted as a National Anthem as a move against Socialism (so for that reason I’m inclined to agree with it).

5) OTOH, why do we put such emphasis on the flag?
In that case, it’s almost the opposite: in the late 1800s, concerned about rising immigration from Ireland and Eastern and Southern Europe, and trying to reunite the country after the Civil War, there was an alliance of Socialists and Protestants who pushed for US nationalism.  They wanted to downplay the Constitution to downplay both Federalism and the First Amendment, so they wrote and promoted the Pledge and veneration of the Flag as a new approach to unifying the country.
All these historical contexts validate another longstanding instinct of mine, which is that if we are to truly honor our military, we should honor the Constitution they vow to uphold, and that includes not forcing people to engage in particular speech or expression with which they disagree. Let’s recall that the early Christians’ refusal to swear an oath to Caesar was one of the major reasons they were persecuted.

6) Then there’s the “taking the knee” thing.  In one of those mind-numbing twists of human behavior, the players are genuflecting because, as Americans, they see subservience as a bad thing, so they are performing a gesture they perceive as a repulsive gesture of subservience to protest a song referring to hunting down and killing their enslaved ancestors.

Why now?  Well, let’s see, it’s only been since 2009 that NFL players have been officially required to stand on the field for the Anthem,  although it was customary before that.  And hmm, why, with more and more attention being paid to African American males, whether legitimate suspects or completely innocent, being shot in the back, might African American males in positions of influence might want to draw attention to a song about killing fleeing “slaves”?

7) What of the First Amendment?  A popular notion-depending upon whose side is at the center of the First Amendment issue in question–is that the First Amendment only applies to the Federal government and not to one’s employment status.  To a certain extent, I’d agree. But this also presumes people have a choice about their employment status.  It is one thing to look at an athlete who makes millions of dollars for playing a game or an actor who gets millions of dollars to play pretend and say, “You are paid to entertain me, and I am not entertained by your behavior. So I am not going to buy your product.”
A few years ago, we said of the “wedding cake” controversy, “What if Nazis wanted a liberal baker to make a cake?”  Well, now liberals are trying to get actual Nazis who get photographed at rallies fired from their jobs.  They’re refusing to perform for Trump or members of his administration, flat out telling Trump supporters they don’t want their business, etc.
If we don’t want someone like Tim Tebow fired for genuflecting in prayer, why do we want someone like Colin Kaepernick fire for genuflecting in protest?
There is a difference between telling a business, “I’m not going to give you business because I disagree with you,” or “I’m going to support your business because I agree with you,” and suing the business or asking the government to fine the business for some perceived “civil rights violation.”

8) Still, should the first Amendment protect employees’ speech?  Before disability, I could accept that, as an employee, and as someone trying to feed my family, I should refrain from certain kinds of speech.  But that seems different than requiring an employee to actively violate his or her conscience.  What about the right to pray or read the Bible in one’s cubicle?  To have political or religious signage on one’s vehicle?  What about after-hours?  There’s a list that circulates the Internet of requirements for teachers 100 years ago, and they were expected to adhere to various behavioral standards even in their off hours that today we might consider draconian, yet many contemporary contracts or “ethics courses” say the same.  I worked for employers who said, for example, that their “harassment policy” extended to one’s private life. That if an employee was out in public, and a coworker or client overheard an offensive conversation, the employee could still potentially be sued or fired for it!

9) Lastly, does protesting a requirement as a civilian, in a country that is supposedly founded on freedom of speech, to sing a particular song or say a particular pledge or revere a flag honor or dishonor the troops who’ve sacrificed and died to uphold the Constitution?  I’d argue that mandatory expression is a greater dishonor to the troops.

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Pope Francis and Fred Phelps

Pope Francis holding a Monstrance at Eucharistic Adoration

One of these days, I’ll get around to updating my banner

This week, “Who am I to judge” was back in the headlines as Pope Francis gave a homily on Luke 6:36-38:

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.

More recently, however, His Holiness showed another example of what he does *not* mean when he warned the Mafia that they’re in danger of Hell.
Meanwhile, in an example of what “judge not lest ye be judged” most definitely *does* mean, poor Fred Phelps, Sr.. Phelps’s story is a tragic example of the path of heresy: starting out with zeal for the Lord but losing the love he had at first (Rev 2:4). He started as a reknowned civil rights activist known for participation in the _Brown v. Board of Education_ case and moved on to peace activism but somehow, while apparently retaining those positions became known for a strong “anti-gay” polemic (that is to say, “anti-homosexual,” rather than “anti-homosexuality”). His “congregation” Westboro Baptist became known for protesting various funerals, ranging from soldiers (see anti-war, above) to prominent homosexuals to children, with their notorious “God hates [sinners]” signs.

It was hard to find a pic that did not feature one of his repulsive signs.

So, what of Fred Phelps?

Objectively speaking:

1. He promoted hate, making a career (both as a disbarred lawyer and as a “minister” without any ties to any “denomination” or “hierarchy”) out of attacking various individual and social evils with straight-on hate rather than authentic zeal or love. He “lived by the sword” and by “judging others,” to the extent that his own family will not have a funeral for him because they don’t “worship [or pray for] the dead.” Again, most certainly if someone lived the opposite of “judge not, lest ye be judged,” it was Fred Phelps.
2. He was anti-Catholic, attacked the Church Jesus founded, and presumably, as someone who claimed to know the Bible, read and ignored John 20:23 and James 5:16 (“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”) How can one who is Baptized and claims to know the Bible be forgiven of mortal sin without the Sacrament of Reconciliation? He not only preached that pretty much everyone was damned to Hell but also helped keep people away from that powerful Sacrament, and he discouraged praying for the poor souls in Purgatory.
3. Oddly united just about everyone in hating him back or pitying him. From atheist and “gay rights” leaders to conservative Christians, many people outside his own congregation have called for treating his death with compassion and forgiveness, while others are calling for counter protests like, “God hates Fred.” Already, cartoons and memes are appearing joking about him potentially being in Hell.

Certainly, if there’s anyone we can say with certainty is in Hell, it’s Fred Phelps, right?

Wrong.

We can’t do that.

I always imagine personal judgement as the personal encounter described by St. Teresa of Avila and by St. Faustina, Jesus coming to the person and the person reacting either with love or with fear and loathing–or perhaps C. S. Lewis’s version where the person is greeted by the person they would least want to see in Heaven who is there (_The Great Divorce_ is a must-read).

I look at the life of Fred Phelps and wonder how it’s possible, objectively *or* subjectively, for him to face personal judgement and embrace the love and forgiveness of Christ? I imagine rather the response of Javert, the response of Judas after the Last Supper in the 1973 _Jesus Christ Superstar_ movie, where Jesus tries to give him a blanket, even after he has publicly denounced Jesus and left the company of Apostles, and Judas recoils.


Nevertheless, I also have to hope that his reaction is different. I have to hope that he repented even in those split seconds of death and was snatched from the Devil’s grasp, because otherwise, what hope to I have? What hope do any of us have? Fred Phelps may have been greeted by the souls of every saved person whose funeral he picketed, and how did he react? What if he reacted by asking forgiveness?

So what if, when you or I have our time, we find ourselves face-to-face with Jesus–and with Fred Phelps, or Adolf Hitler, or Judas Iscariot? Someone we were absolutely convinced was beyond asking God’s forgiveness yet wasn’t? How would we react? Would we ask, “How could You forgive *HIM* and not me??”

One final point: if he did repent of his mortal sins, he definitely had a lot of Purgatory in store to clear away his attachments.  Pray for him, since by his own doing he has taught his family and friends not to.

For further reading, an older post I often link at times like this:
“Absalom and the Prodigal Son”

Religion is more than just something to do on Sunday

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” –G.K. Chesterton


Football season is beginning. It always strikes me that people who are afraid to talk of “politics and religion” for fear of offending friends or relatives will get into absolute feuds over football. Meanwhile, they treat politics and religion the way they treat sports: a form of recreation; merely something to do on the weekends.
The other thing that football has in common with politics and religion is that people generally seem to choose their religious and political affiliations the way they pick their football teams: as a form of patriotism, or because of their families (either to show loyalty or spite their families), or because of their friends. Thus, just as they support the Steelers, or the Redskins, or the Browns, or the Panthers because of where they happen to live, people tend to simply accept (or reject) their family’s religion or political party without necessarily thinking of *why* they support it.
Thus, people will speak of “religion,” as a concept, in ways that can be quite baffling. On the one hand, you have people who insist that they’re Catholic, even though they reject the Church’s teachings from transubstantiation to the evil of contraception to the very Incarnation itself, because “it’s too hard to leave the Church,” like She is some kind of blood cult or something. They’re attached (rightly) to the nostalgia evoked by the liturgy (particularly the infamous Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter liturgies), and they attribute the devotion of other Catholics to a kind of extreme nostalgia (hence the “People who want the Traditional Latin Mass are just old people who don’t like change” argument).
On the other hand, you have people who say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” meaning that they’re not affiliated with a particular denomination or worship service. “Religion” has come to be defined according to the Masonic view as something subservient to “society” or “culture” (which is the main reason the 18th Century popes condemned the Masonic Lodges). The “church” or synagogue, temple or mosque is treated as something like a Lodge: a place to meet every week, have some fun, engage in organized charities, and host major life events like weddings and funerals. The Sacraments become similar “life events”–Baptism (or “Christening”) becomes a ceremony to recognize a birth, and so the same young parents who were offended at the notion in pre-Cana counseling that they should live as Catholics become offended at the notion they must promise to actually raise their children Catholic. They participate in First Communion and Confirmation (aka “graduation from CCD”) for the same reasons. It’s really very sad.
Thus, both the nominal Catholic and the “spiritual” non-Catholic are baffled by the notion that any religion should claim to be superior or to actually teach the Truth about Divine and Human Nature. Theology is seen as arbitrary and superstitious. Ironically, though, the claim that all religions are equal and that people should have “freedom of worship” means that “religion” should not be extended into “public life.” It’s just something to do for an hour a week, and not to actually effect one’s life beyond some base common denominator of being a “decent person” or a “good citizen.” Any religion that claims to do *more* that that is immediately suspect for violating the commonly accepted definition of “religion” that the Masons have taught us for nearly 300 years.
So the Left has fought for legalization of so-called “same sex marriage,” insisting they only want “equal rights,” and that no one should feel threatened by it. Christians warned that it would lead to persecution of those who didn’t want to participate. Others insisted and continue to insist that it was about “marriage equality” and that opponents were “homophobic.” Yet, now that the Supreme Court has essentially legalized it nationwide by throwing out the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the California Proposition 8, a court has ruled that Christian photographers cannot refuse to photograph gay weddings, a Christian bakery has closed due to “LGBT” threats and protests, a millionaire “gay” couple has sued a church in the UK for not performing their “wedding,” and Ugandan homosexuals have sued a Christian evangelist for “crimes against humanity.” Yet, like Nancy Pelosi’s infamous comment on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), “conservative” Catholic literary critic Joseph Bottum argues that we have to allow gay marriage to happen to see if it might do some good.
The LGBTQ lobby is powerful, as the UK case illustrates, precisely because it’s rich, but also because of “well meaning” Christians who think it’s about “fairness,” and others who don’t think that “religion” shouldn’t intrude on the “public sphere.” It’s the same reasoning behind the HHS contraception mandate: the alleged “right” to violate Natural Law supersedes the right of employers to chose not to engage in material cooperation. Indeed, the notion of “material cooperation” goes over most people’s heads or is used in the opposite of its intent.

Do Liberals Always Think We’re Angry Because *They’re* So Angry?

In his short-lived sitcom Bob, Bob Newhart played a cartoonist who had been a popular comic book writer a generation before and was hired by a comic book firm to work with a hip young writer on reviving the superhero he created with a “gritty,” 90s approach. In the show’s most memorable scene, often used in ads, the younger writer encourages Bob to express his anger in his work.
“But I don’t have any anger,” says Bob.
“Show me your anger, Bob!” shouts the other guy.
“I don’t have any anger.”
They go back and forth a few times, until “SHOW ME YOUR ANGER, BOB!”
Until Bob finally screams, angrily, “I DON’T HAVE ANY ANGER!!!”

One of the surest ways to incite someone to anger is to claim they’re angry when they’re not, and a favorite debate tactic of liberals is to accuse conservatives of being angry, especially when we’re giving impassioned defenses of causes like the Right to Life. Ever since those early 1990s, the racist, sexist expression “Angry white males” has been used to dismiss conservatives.

So, the other day, after what I’ll admit became a bit of an angry Facebook discussion with a self-proclaimed daily Mass attending Catholic who supports gay marriage and opposes the Church’s right and obligation to tell the State what to do in matters of Natural Law, I posted a reflection on how we often speak of “poorly catechized” Catholics, but there are actually a lot of *badly* catechized Catholics. Some woman who, from what I can discern from her blog isn’t Catholic but likes to post a lot of anti-Catholic stuff, posted an extremely condescending comment with three points:

1) She claimed that my mission statement is a lie because I oppose Obama. Apparently, she thinks that abortion and eugenics constitute support of children and disabled people.
2) She approved of my interlocutor’s disrespect for the Pope, made condescending comments about how she presumed I must have been “dismissive” in my tone, and how people have to be nicer to each other when debating vital moral truths, and how I ought to be capable of seeing some good in my interlocutor’s demonic positions in support of government-endorsed sin.
3) She said she sensed a lot of “anger” in my post.

Hmm, that’s funny, since I thought in the post in question I was being fairly neutral, if not expressing dismay and sorrow that so many Catholics have been misled about what Catholicism is. I sometimes confuse Ven. Fulton Sheen’s observation that not 1 person hates the Catholic Church but millions hate what they think the Catholic Church is with GK Chesterton’s observation that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting but found difficult and not tried. It is also Fulton Sheen who said, after the infamous Land of Lakes convention that fomented dissent against Humanae Vitae in Catholic universities, that the worst thing a Catholic parent can do is send their child to a Catholic college.

Ironically, as I noted in my previous post, I had baited my “Catholic” interlocutor at one point the other night with a charge that he had been brainwashed by a secular education, expecting him to say he had a Catholic education–since usually when I encounter someone who thinks they way he does, that person has been to 12 years of Catholic school, and probably has an MA in theology from one of several universities.

The first time I was suspiciously dismissed from a teaching job was at the first Catholic college I taught for online, when I had been careful to do everything they said, and had even done a great deal of work, unpaid, because I had been verbally offered classes several quarters in advance, only to be told at the last minute that my classes were assigned to someone else. “Did I do something wrong?” “No. We just had to give your classes to someone we hired after you.”

Later, I applied for a job with the online program of another university. My training went well, though I was uncomfortable with the notion they wanted me to do a semester of “training” unpaid. The very last training assignment was an essay on “diversity.” I was puzzled. I had never had to talk about “diversity” at any of the public or secular for-profit universities I’d worked for, so why at a Catholic school? Then I did a more careful perusal of the school’s main site to find they had an active “LGBT” program, including a Gay Rights Week on campus. So I wrote my essay on how great it was to finally teach at a Catholic institution and be able to incorporate my faith in the classroom, and I never heard from them again.

Anyway, I’m getting off track from this post’s intent.

Another time I was directly fired from a teaching job, this time at a for-profit college, it was nominally for cause (they always emphasized how gradebook and attendance errors could be grounds for immediate dismissal, and I had a couple due to entering the information in the computer the wrong way), I felt that the firing was not due to that. I had a couple openly homosexual students, and I found myself put on the spot at one point, and in the following class session, I was being observed again, when I had just had an observation a few weeks before, and a week after that I was called in to the dean’s office and fired. I was vindicated, however, when I saw the campus advertising for a dean and assistant dean later that quarter.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI, has said that he expects to die in bed, but he expects his successor to die in prison and his successor’s successor to be publicly executed. Archbishop Chaput has made very similar statements. As I’ve noted many times since last January, the Holy Father himself, addressing the US bishops at their ad limina visit, said the “gay rights movement” and the present administration pose an unprecedented threat to religious freedom in our country, particularly the freedom of the Catholic Church. The UK this year passed a “gay marriage” law that specifically requires churches to participate if they provide weddings to non-members. My interlocutor the other night kept insisting that legalizing gay marriage isn’t a threat to the church, even after I listed the number of ways that it is a threat to the Church and to heterosexual couples (for example: various government forms are now changing to say “Spouse 1” and “Spouse 2”, rather than “husband and wife”), including the stated goal of many homosexual activists–and many of my students whose papers I graded over the years–that they want to see the day when the Catholic Church, specifically, is forced to endorse gay marriage.

When Archbishop Levada was appointed prefect of the CDF by Pope Benedict XVI, a lot of people were concerned because of his compromise on San Francisco’s law requiring employers to provide benefits to gay couples. After unsuccessfully suing the city, Archbishop Levada said he was going to allow employees of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to name any adults who lived with them without paying rent to be “dependents”–thus not creating a special right for homosexuals but also providing a needed benefit for adult relatives who live together, etc. In a discussion with some other Catholics who were concerned about whether this made Levada a “liberal,” some of whom were from Canada, I asked what the justification was for the “gay marriage” movement in Canada. Here in the US they make impassioned arguments about legal property rights and insurance coverage, when Canada has socialized medicine. One fellow said, “They don’t make any pretense about it. They openly say their goal is to force the Catholic Church to recognize gay marriage.”

If I say that gay marriage creates a situation where it’s harder to protect my children from sin, that means I’m a “hater.” If I say that it’s frustrating to see so many openly gay characters on television, and how gay couples are becoming more and more prominent on TV, that somehow extrapolates (as my interlocutors the other night directly accused me of saying) that I want to kill gay people or something. No, it just means the same thing as why I try not to let my children see programs involving cohabitation. They still think of the Sixth Commandment as the _Veggietales_ “Dance with who brung ya,” and they think it’s gross when people who aren’t married kiss each other.

Canada is now saying that homeschooling families can’t teach Christian morals to their kids. Canada is saying that it’s “bullying” and “hate speech” to say that homosexual behavior is wrong. Members of the “Christian Left” will respond that we are all sinners, and that’s perfectly true. The other night, one of the guys I was arguing with (there were two, but one was more active than the other) pointed out that the only New Testament passages that explicitly mention homosexuality group it with drunkenness, theft and slander. I responded that I try not to let my children get exposed to drunks, thieves and slanderers, either, and that if someone started a movement to legalize drunk driving, theft and/or slander, people would object to that. That didn’t go over well, and I was accused of confusing bigotry with reason.

Again, angry liberals like to accuse conservatives of being angry when they don’t have a leg to stand on in their arguments.

Then there’s the famous, “It’s biological,” which I’ve addressed many times. My body’s propensity to have its arteries blow up is also biological. Just because I am, as “Lady Gaga” tells her followers, “Born that way,” doesn’t mean it’s God’s intention: the Church has that covered in the doctrine of Original Sin. Sociopaths, manic-depressives, addicts and schizophrenics are all, in some extent, born that way. That doesn’t mean we allow them to *stay* that way. My autistic children are “born that way,” and autism actually has a lot of redeeming qualities, but that doesn’t mean they should be permitted to throw self-destructive fits.

If there’s a biological basis for homosexuality, that doesn’t mean God intends it or it’s something good. I often mention the “study” a few years back where some geneticists got together and debated homosexuality: normally, a favorable genetic trait leads to individual health and procreation, and if something doesn’t meet those criteria, it’s a genetic defect. Homosexual behavior doesn’t lead to procreation, and it leads to all sorts of health problems. A logical conclusion would be that it’s a genetic defect, but these geniuses decided to redefine the standard for an advantageous evolutionary trait and say that homosexuality is a natural tool for population control! So much for survival of the fittest!

But, again, that’s hate. That’s anger. That’s bigotry.

When an unmarried woman gets up in front of Congress and claims that college students like herself have to spend close to $1000 a year on birth control, and someone calls her a “slut,” that’s dismissed as anger and bigotry.

I call it the little boy pointing out that the emperor’s naked.

Pharisee #1, Pharisee #2 and the Tax Collector

10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity–greedy, dishonest, adulterous–or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

This parable, often called “The Pharisee and the Publican [or “Tax Collector”], is one of those things often cited, along with the infamous “Judge Not, lest ye be judged” to stifle any condemnation of objective moral evil.

To properly understand this parable, however, we must also think about what it meant to be a Pharisee and what it meant to be a tax collector.

In Roman-occupied Palestine, the tax collectors were looked upon by their Jewish brethren as collaborators. They were unclean because they cooperated with the Roman authorities. They also economically cheated their brethren. When we talk about Jesus associating with “tax collectors and prostitutes”, that really applies to two different categories of people.

As C. S. Lewis points out somewhere, prostitution is not a generally glamourous profession. Few people think, “I wanna grow and be a prostitute.” It’s a profession that someone enters out of desperation. Though sadly many who enter that profession get so buried in sin that they not only lose hope but the desire for salvation, still many who are trapped in that lifestyle want a way *out*. Prostitute-type sinners are looking for a Savior, and Jesus offers that hope.

Tax collector-type sinners are on the opposite end. They’ve got it made: they have everything the world could offer. Roman tax collectors made their living off of graft. The Romans expected them to pay the required tax, but the tax collectors themselves would often abuse the tax code and overtax people to make a tidy profit–as Zaccheaus admitted to doing when he promised to give back everything he took unjustly, plus interest.

When the Pharisees condemned Jesus for “dining with tax collectors and sinners,” however, the Gospel only recounts two occasions of Jesus dining with a tax collector. One is the home of Levi/Matthew, after he abandoned tax collecting and literally dropped everything to follow Jesus. The other is Zacchaeus, who literally goes out of his way to see Jesus, then welcomes Our Lord into his home, and then promises to give away first everything he took unjustly, plus interest, and next 1/2 of everything that is rightfully his. Only after Zacchaeus promises to do that does Jesus say “truly salvation has come to this house” (Lk 19:9; a warning to the “salvation by faith alone” crowd).

So it is not really fair to say Jesus dined with “tax collectors”–the only two recorded cases were tax collectors *who had already repented*. And the same with prostitutes and adulteresses. Whether the various sinful women mentioned in the Gospels (the woman who anoints Jesus at the Pharisee’s house, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, or Mary of Magdala) are the same or different, the essence of all these women’s stories is Jesus’ words to the woman whom He saved from stoning: “Go and sin no more.” (Jn 8:11).

Every case of the Pharisees condemning Jesus for associating with “sinners” pertains to someone who’s already repented. Indeed, the key passage where they condemn Him for doing so is at dinner at Matthew’s house (Mt 9:11)–yet the Pharisees are *right there*. They’re at the dinner party, too! When they come nad say “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery” (Jn 8:4), they condemn themselves for voyeurism, which is why reading is often paired in the Liturgy with the story of Susannah in Daniel, where a couple of peeping-Tom priests get mad when the woman they’re lusting after rejects their advances, so they accuse her of adultery (Daniel 13).

Nowhere does Jesus encourage His followers to regularly hang out with *unrepentant* sinners. Quite the contrary:

14 Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.
. . .
34t “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. 35For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’

37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up his cross* and follow after me is not worthy of me. 39* v Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:14, 34-39)

And, immediately after the teaching about removing the beam from one’s own eye (Mt 7:5), Our Lord says, ““Do not give what is holy to dogs,* or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Mt 7:6).

On the other hand, what are the Pharisees? Well, we know the Pharisees were self-righteous, but we forget in what their self-righteousness entailed. The Pharisees were very concerned primarily about cultural “righteousness” and about appearances, and not even necessarily about “moral righteousness.”

The Sadducees were Biblical and legal literalists. The classic Sunday school pneumonic tool that they were “sad, you see, because they didn’t believe in the Resurrection” is an oversimplification which side-steps the fact that they were the “fundamentalists” of first-century Judaism. Sadducees held that the only Scriptures were the five books of the Torah. They did not believe that the Prophets and Writings belonged in the Scriptures, and especially not the Writings that were originally written in Greek (the Deuterocanon). So any theological concepts that were introduced outside the confines of the Torah, such as the “resurrection” or the existence of angels, were rejected by the Sadducees. In cases like the ‘messengers of God’ mentioned in Genesis, a Sadducee would interpret those passages as referring to human prophets, and not to angels.

The Pharisees, by contrast, not only accepted the Prophets and Writings as part of Scripture, but they believed the law was open to interpretation based upon tradition. Our Lord to that extent agreed with their school of thought, and some scholars argue that if we are to place Jesus in any school of Judaism of His day, he’s clearly a Pharisee–He uses Pharisaical methods of Scriptural exegesis and hermeneutics.

The problem with the Pharisees, though, is their primary concern was “separating the sheep from the goats,” and emphasizing the cultural separateness of the Jews from the Gentiles. They “strained the gnat and swallowed the camel” (Mt 23:24) because they emphasized the aspects of the Law that were of lesser important but more superficial. It’s easier to sit down and say, “Let’s try some camel burgers for dinner” than it is to sit down and eat soup for dinner and find a gnat floating in one’s soup. That’s just gross.

So the Pharisees would condemn acts of external impurity (such as healing on the Sabbath) while ignoring acts of genuine immorality (such as staring at naked women in the hopes of catching them committing adultery). They would condemn collaboration with the Romans by the tax collectors while essentially collaborating themselves (again, they were at the dinner party, too).

Jesus’ most explicit condemnations of the Pharisees in Mark 7 still don’t make sense out of the historical context, but for example, when He says, “Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’* (meaning, dedicated to God),” (Mk 7:11), this refers to a legal fiction that they would create. It does not refer to giving money to the “Church” or to authentically failing to care for one’s parents because of a religious obligation–after all, the same Jesus also said “let the dead bury their dead” (Lk 9:60) and on numerous occasions called His followers to abandon their families.

What made the Pharisee’s version of “Qorban” immoral was it was a religous kind of tax evasion or asset hiding.

A prominent football coach with quite a “nest egg” legally signs everything over to his wife, claiming it’s so she won’t have to pay estate taxes when he dies. Just a couple months later, he is announced as a plaintiff in a major lawsuit, and shortly after that, it’s publicly announced he has cancer. So his critics question whether he was really providing for his wife or trying to protect his assets against the lawsuit. Whichever of the three possible motives, or all of them, it may have been, it’s a common practice to transfer assets in some some seemingly innocent way to avoid any one of those three eventualities when one knows they’re on the way.

Another example is how companies avoid various tax codes by the corporate structures they use. So some critics of “Obamacare” have noted how companies that want to avoid the penalties for “Obamacare” just have to divide themselves up into smaller “dummy corporations”, each having the maximum employees to skirt ACA’s requirements.

That’s essentially what the Pharisee’s version of “Qorban” was. The Law allowed for assets to be transferred to the Temple. Qorban was a way of legally transferring assets to the temple so they could still be used by the individual but not officially “in his name,” so he wouldn’t have to use them to care for his other obligations. I also once heard that the Pharisees would try to avoid “breaking the sabbath” by packing “just enough food” so it didn’t count as work, then stopping every so often that it wasn’t “work” to rest and have a snack so they could claim they weren’t “traveling on the sabbath”. So let’s say they said the maximum distance you could travel on the Sabbath was 10 miles. A Pharisee would walk for 10 miles, then take a break and eat a cracker and say it was a “meal.” But if he saw you walking 11 miles, he’d accuse you of breaking the Sabbath.

In Christian arguments, “Pharisee” is kind of like “Nazi” in political arguments: it gets thrown around so much as to lose its meaning, and if we’re going to accurately apply it, we need to know what it means. For the Pharisees used complicated legalisms and theological arguments to justify their own behavior while condemning others for superficial offenses (“not by appearances shall he judge,” says the Prophet, Isaiah 11:3).

It is one thing to speak of those who think they are righteous when they are not. It is one thing to speak of those who sin and admit it and don’t repent. It is a third thing to speak of those who sin and repent. However, where the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican gets misapplied, and where the charge of Pharisaism is often misapplied, is in situations within the Church where we argue with one another about moral or theological teachings.

The better passage about internecine arguments among Catholics is the “letters to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor” in Revelation 2 & 3. I believe I’ve blogged about this passage before. Like all aspects of the Book of the Apocalypse, these seven “letters” are much debated. A popular theory is that they’re about “eras of Church history” or something. But I think it’s simpler than that. In those letters, we can see the divisions that exist in the Church today and have probably always existed: the “conservatives” who are upright in God’s law but sometimes forget compassion; the “liberals” who are good about compassion but associate too much with unrepentant sinners and allow corruption to infiltrate the Church; the “charismatics”; those who get it right; the martyrs; etc.

Isaiah says “woe to those who call evil good” (5:20). This is the stock-in-trade of the so-called “Catholic Left” today. It’s one thing to show compassion to sinners, but true charity requires calling someone to repentance and welcoming them. How many of us have been to confession only to have the priest say, of an intrinsic evil, “That’s not a sin” or “That’s not a sin anymore”? I know someone who spent many years away from the Church, and then, upon regaining his faith, went to his local pastor and asked what to do, especially given some of the moral complications of his marriage and such. The priest said, “Well, the Church doesn’t believe in sin anymore, so you can just come back.”

Fr. Corapi may have fallen into trouble with his own fame getting to his head, but he still had some worthwhile stories, such as the priest at a conference who spoke of how hell and the Devil are obsolete (of course, the CDF issued a document in the 70s denouncing this popular “spirit of Vatican II” teaching). A lady asked the priest, “Father, do you *really* not believe in Hell?” “Of course not.” “Well, you will when you get there!”

When someone is calling evil good, and using theological sophistication to undermine a clear-cut teaching of the Church (such as the intrinsic evil of artificial contraception), it is not “name calling,” nor is it “Pharisaism,” to point out that such a person is on the fast track to Hell. Rather, the person who uses theological sophistries to justify evil is the one engaging in Pharisaism.

It is not uncharitable to point out that someone is speaking for the Devil, not for God. It is, rather, a supreme act of charity.

So let me get this straight

1. An anti-abortion activist shoots an abortionist, and it’s instant news, dominating every headline and every TV station. Immediately, it’s “all pro-lifers are terrorists.”
YET

A gay “rights” activist shoots a security guard at the Family Research Council, which is constantly vilified as a “hate group” by the Left, and it gets barely a mention in the news.

2. If a “pro-lifer” commits an act of violence, pro-lifers are quick to denounce the violence, and the Left, again, is quick to say that the “rhetoric” of all pro-lifers is responsible. If a liberal is shot by another liberal, as in the case of Rep. Giffords, even *that* is blamed on conservatives

YET

A pro-gay rights activist commits an act of violence against the Family Research Council, and pro-lifers are quick to say that we should NOT blame all gay rights activists for this one act of violence. Meanwhile, the Left is saying FRC deserved it because it’s a “hate group.” (Whose rhetoric is inciting people to violence?)

3. An anti-abortionist shoots somebody, or a soldier shoots somebody, and Obama’s all over the place denouncing it. A gay activist shoots somebody, and you don’t hear a peep from the president–hours later, after much pressure, a white house spokeshuman issues a half-hearted and vague condemnation.

Thankfully, no one died in the FRC shooting, but what gives? Do people really not see the double standard and the hypocrisy of the Left and the Mainstream Media?

GLAAD says Christianity has “No Place in Modern America”

In saying that Kirk Cameron’s views on same sex “marriage” have “no place in modern America,” GLAAD is essentially saying that Christianity has no place in modern America.

Meanwhile, Cameron himself has stood by his comments, and accused his attackers–including _Growing Pains_ co-stars Alan Thicke and Tracey Gold–of hate speech for their attacks on Christianity and their claims that *his* comments (that he believes abortion and homosexual behavior are sinful and contrary to God’s plan) are hate-speech.

Piers Morgan ambushed Cameron in an interview that was supposed to stick to his new movie. Cameron stated his views–aka basic Christian teaching–in a very diplomatic way, and got blasted for it. His comments have been labelled “homophobic” and an “anti-gay diatribe,” yet they are anything but.

As typical with liberals and their nonsense about “hate speech,” what they’re really saying is that they hate any speech that expresses views they disagree with. They can say whatever hateful things they want about Christianity or about Christians, but for a Christian to say, “That behavior is sinful; stop doing it” is “hate speech.” Makes a lot of sense.