Friday, November 16, 2012

Defending Religious Liberty; and Living in a World of Wonder

Much of the week's news was 'more of the same.' These caught my attention:
  1. "Prayerfully Resolute"
  2. Weather Report from a Robot on Mars

Social Media, Yeats, and Elijah

I've been running into quite a few posts in social media that read something like this:
'I'm the only real [Catholic, Christian, American, whatever] left!

"Nobody cares!!

"America has no [moral values, religious leaders, decent citizens, whatever] left!!!'
I even ran into one chap who said that nobody cared: which was odd, since the rest of the post showed that he cared, a lot.

Disappointed, Not Discouraged

Today is the 10th day since America's presidential election. The results disappointed me, but I'm not discouraged: maybe because I've been through something like this before. (November 6, 2012)

I think it helps that I know a little about 'good old days' gone by:
"...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity....
"
("The Second Coming," W. B. Yeats (1919))
Yeats had some reason for feeling apprehensive. Born in 1865, he'd seen his familiar 19th century world fall into the meat grinders of:
Maybe I should be sitting in a dark room, wringing my hands in anguish over the passing of the Cold War, Victorian England and the Hanseatic League: but I seriously doubt it. I've discussed this sort of thing in a few blogs:

Freedom!

I had to change some of my views when I became a Catholic. What "freedom" means isn't one of them. As a Catholic, I have to:
  • Support religious freedom
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)
    • For everybody
      (Catechism, 2106)
  • Submit to legitimate authorities
    • Refuse obedience to civil authorities
      • When their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience
      (Catechism, 2242)
    (Catechism, 2239)
I've posted that list fairly often. (June 1, 2012)

Catholic bishops in America care about freedom - for everybody. That's why they launched First American Freedom (firstamericanfreedom.com). It encourages education, prayer and public action to protect religious freedom.



1. "Prayerfully Resolute"

"Religious liberty defense must be long-term, Archbishop Lori declares"
Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News (November 13, 2012)

"The strong protection of Americans' religious freedom requires a long-term commitment to formation and education, particularly of young people, the U.S. bishops' leader on religious liberty issues said.

" 'We are prayerfully resolute in pursuing the project of defending and fostering religious liberty, in the short and mid-term and in the long-term,' said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who chairs the ad hoc committee on religious liberty....

"...Looking at the immediate future, Archbishop Lori observed that the 'political landscape is the same, but so also is our resolve to eliminate the HHS mandate and most especially the four-part definition that it contains of what constitutes religious activity.'..."
I think Archbishop Lori made sense in that article.

Restoring - or creating - religious liberty in America will take time.

But civilizations have been changed before.

I think we can do it again:

2. Weather Report from a Robot on Mars


(NASA/JPL-Caltech, used w/o permission)
"NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used a mechanism on its robotic arm to dig up five scoopfuls of material from a patch of dusty sand called 'Rocknest,' producing the five bite-mark pits visible in this image from the rover's left Navigation Camera (Navcam). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech"
"NASA Rover Providing New Weather and Radiation Data About Mars"
Mission News, NASA (November 15, 2012)

"Observations of wind patterns and natural radiation patterns on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover are helping scientists better understand the environment on the Red Planet's surface.

"Researchers using the car-sized mobile laboratory have identified transient whirlwinds, mapped winds in relation to slopes, tracked daily and seasonal changes in air pressure, and linked rhythmic changes in radiation to daily atmospheric changes. The knowledge being gained about these processes helps scientists interpret evidence about environmental changes on Mars that might have led to conditions favorable for life....

"...The overall goal of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is to use 10 instruments on Curiosity to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes...."
I'll grant that what the Curiosity rover is doing lacks the fast-paced drama of Hollywood's 'space' movies. What fascinates me about Curiosity's weather reports and photos of dirt is that this is real.

Mars, Microbes, and a World of Wonder

Human-size Martians, with or without ray guns, would be exciting. For that matter, Martian microbes would be exciting. Any solid evidence that there is or was life on Mars would keep scientists busy for years. Decades.

I think it's very unlikely that Curiosity will find evidence that there was, or is, life on Mars. But it could happen.

Contrary to some expectations, I don't think that discovering life on another world will make Christians self-destruct. Not all of us, anyway. And that's another topic. (January 20, 2012) Like I've said before:
"...I see creation as a world of wonder. I also think that not studying the created world is a strange way to honor God the Creator.

"The Church doesn't seem to have a problem with paying attention to creation. (Catechism, 280, 282-289) Particularly since "The world was made for the glory of God," and "Creation reveals God's Glory" (Catechism 293-294; "Creation Reveals God's Glory," Pope John Paul II (March 12, 1986))...

... it's idolizing creation, or some creature, that gets us in trouble. (Catechism, 2112-2114)...
"
(November 27, 2011)

Step Back, and Look

One-half light-year long interstellar 'twisters' in the Lagoon Nebula (M8) in the constellation Sagittarius. Photo STScI-PRC96-38aHubble Space Telescope, Space Telescope Science Institute, via NASA, used w/o permissionI could be a 'good Catholic,' and assume that all creation is a few thousand miles across and a few thousand years old. But I'm not bothered by the knowledge that the scale of creation is enormous in both time and space.

I probably wouldn't have made a universe this big. But, as I've said before, God's God; and I'm not.

Looking into the night sky, seeing images captured by orbiting telescopes, and learning more about this creation, probably won't put an end to world hunger: or unsnarl rush hour traffic.

But I think it's a good idea to occasionally take a deep breath, step back, and look - really look - at this astonishing world we live in.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder's craft."
(Psalms 19:2)

(Hubble Space Telescope, Space Telescope Science Institute, via NASA, used w/o permission)
"Closer view of the "twisters" in the Lagoon Nebula."

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