Monday, December 12, 2011

My Take on the News: A Warmonger Christmas Tree, and Freedom From Religion

I've said this before, and probably will again: Freedom of religion is important. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)

That's religious freedom for everybody:
" 'Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits.'34 This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order. For this reason it 'continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it.'35"
(Catechism, 2106)
I think folks who see "freedom of religion" as "freedom from religion" may be sincere. But I also think they're remembering the 'good old days' of post-Reformation Europe, when northern princes set up little state churches to support their interests.

I think state churches were - and are - a mistake. I've discussed the establishment clause before.

As a Catholic, living in America, I enjoy a remarkable degree of freedom: including the freedom to worship, even if it's not the way some federal official prefers. But 'my end of the boat isn't sinking' isn't a sensible attitude, which is why I'm writing this post.

Warmongers, a Christmas Tree, and Religious Freedom

Friday is my usual day for 'in the news' posts, but I figured I'd give my take on this trio today:
  1. Warmongers Launch -- a Christmas Tree??
  2. The Metropolitan Church of Rangoon: 100 Years
  3. Freedom of Religion, Freedom From Religion, and American Diffidence
I plan to be back Friday: maybe with something a tad more 'seasonal.'

Tolerance, Beliefs, and Being Catholic

The Catholic Church doesn't teach that what I believe doesn't matter, or that 'everybody's right.' But as a practicing Catholic, I wouldn't be allowed to 'make' someone believe what I do: even if I could.

And I'm certainly not allowed to hate people. (Catechism, 1033)

Bias, Beliefs, and Religious Crazies

If that isn't what you've heard about 'those Catholics' or 'those Christians,' I'm not surprised. Between noisy disciples of malignant virtue, and the perennial 'Judgment Day' marketing campaigns, this is how religion often gets treated in old-school media:

(Reuters photo, via, used w/o permission)

(Non Sequitur, Wiley Miller, used w/o permission)

It's little wonder that a New York Times editor apparently saw having religious beliefs and believing that space aliens live among us as pretty much the same sort of thing. I think he's wrong, but I'm one of those people with religious beliefs: and 'everybody knows' what they're like.

Sure, religious crazies exist. The area where I grew up was infested with one variety: which indirectly led me to become a Catholic, and that's another topic.

Not All Christians are Dolts

Then there's the notion that Christians - all Christians - are anti-science know-nothings. Some, yes: all, definitely not. Which is yet another topic, and I've been over that before:

(The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, used w/o permission)

The Upper Crust and God Almighty

Does the imagined reality of the upper crust matter?

In one way, no. God isn't subject to the United States Supreme Court. Looking at the big picture, God's God, we're not: and getting in the Almighty's way isn't worthwhile:
"Then Job answered the LORD and said: 1 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered."
(Job 42:1-2)
In another way, in the short run, yes. What the folks in positions of power and influence want to believe is true can affect what happens to the rest of us.

Which gets me to news about a Rangoon Cathedral, European secularism, and assault with -- a lighted Christmas tree?!

1. Warmongers Launch -- a Christmas Tree?

Having grown up in America, I can see the North Korean establishment's point of view. But I still think this sounds crazy:
"North Korea Threatens South Korea Over Christmas Lights Near Border"
NewsCore, via (December 11, 2011)

"North Korea warned South Korea on Sunday of 'unexpected consequences' if Seoul displays Christmas lights near the tense border, and vowed to retaliate for what it called 'psychological warfare.'

"The South's defense ministry said earlier it was considering a request by a Seoul church group to put up Christmas lights on a steel tower shaped like a tree atop a military-controlled hill near the border.

"The North's official website, Uriminzokkiri, called the plan 'a mean attempt for psychological warfare' against the communist state and threatened to retaliate immediately if the lights are switched on.

"The 511-feet hill in the South, about two miles from the border, is within range of North Korean gunfire...."
"Psychological warfare?" A Christmas tree?!

That's not quite as daft as it may seem. North Korea's ruling dynasty runs a workers' paradise: one of the few remaining examples. And North Korea's efforts to impose a communist system are about as successful as any other.

What must be particularly galling is that South Korea, with almost the same natural resources, climate, and cultural roots, is doing rather well. Under the circumstances, I can see where North Korea's leadership feel threatened by a fake Christmas tree.

If that tower is decked out like a Christmas tree, and lit: folks in a North Korean city will be able to see it. And be reminded that not all Koreans enjoy the privilege of supporting Kim Jong Il and his enforcers. Back to that article:
"...The tree-shaped, 98-feet high steel structure is illuminated by thousands of small light bulbs and can be seen from the North's major city of Kaesong just north of the border, according to media reports.

" 'The enemy warmongers ... should be aware that they should be held responsible entirely for any unexpected consequences that may be caused by their scheme,' Uriminzokkiri said. 'This issue ... is not something to be ignored quietly.'..."
(NewsCore, via
My betters, here in America, seem to have a similar attitude toward 'winter holiday' displays. Like I said, I think I understand North Korea's stand on that ersatz Christmas tree and the "enemy warmongers." But I think they're wrong.

Meanwhile, in Burma / Myanma / Myanmar / whatever:

2. The Metropolitan Church of Rangoon: 100 Years

"Pope Encourages Christians in Myanmar"
Sends Envoy to Cathedral Celebrations
ZENIT (December 9, 2011)

"For the 100th anniversary of the cathedral of Rangoon, Myanmar, Benedict XVI sent a message in Latin to his special envoy to the event, Cardinal Renato Martino, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

" 'The Metropolitan Church of Rangoon celebrates with gratitude and solemnity the 100 years of its cathedral church, dedicated to Mary Most Holy, which was consecrated in the times of Pius X, our illustrious predecessor,' stated the Dec. 1 message.

"On Thursday, solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 'on the occasion of the happy day of the jubilee, in that cathedral see, the first built in the whole land of Myanmar,' the Holy Father noted, 'a solemn celebration is being held' in gratitude of the faithful 'to Almighty God for the very great benefits which for years he has been pleased to lavish on the whole ecclesial community.'...

"...'Finally, we heartily desire that you extend words of our benevolence also to the civil and Buddhist religious authorities and to all who hold in special consideration the mission of the Church, the concept of religious liberty and the sincere good of the human person,' he added. The Holy Father concluded by imparting his blessing to Cardinal Martino, in order that he transmit it to all the participants in the celebration."
Considering that most folks in Myanmar / Burma are Buddhists (89%), with about 4% Christians,1 that talk about extending "words of our benevolence" could be taken as a threat. That wouldn't, I think, be reasonable: but biases don't have to be.

The current boss of Burma / Myanmar doesn't have a particularly good record for human rights, so it's nice to see that Catholics, who are about 1%1 of the country's population, are allowed to have a cathedral.

3. Freedom of Religion, Freedom From Religion, and American Diffidence

My take on this ZENIT article isn't the jingoistic rant some might expect:
"US Might Turn Blind Eye to Religious Freedom"
While Christians Suffer More Persecution Than Any Other Faith
ZENIT (December 8, 2011)

"Christians have become the most persecuted followers of any religion in the world today, according to participants at a recent conference in Moscow. Yet the U.S. government appears to be scaling back its work to safeguard this crucial human right.

"The International Conference on the Freedom of Religion and Discrimination against Christians, which took place earlier this month and brought together representatives of Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic communities and international religious experts, warned that the faith risks vanishing completely in parts of the world as a consequence.

"The conference heard that about 100 million Christians worldwide are suffering persecution and thousands die in religious conflicts. Metropolitan Hilarion, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church's Foreign Relations Department, said the largest number affected live in Africa and the Middle East.

"The participants attributed two main reasons to the increase in attacks: the loss of Christian roots and European secularism where secular authorities are increasingly marginalizing religion from public life; and Islamic radicalism, exacerbated by aggressive missionary work by representatives of different non-Christian sects, and distortions of Christian teaching...."
Wait a minute! Aren't religious people hate-filled lunatics? 'Everybody knows' that religion kills people.

As is often the case, 'everybody' is wrong. Yes, there are religious nuts. But I'm convinced that the assorted book-burners, 'God Hates Fags' zealots, and vandals aren't typical of 'religious people.' I don't even think they're typical American Protestants:
Back to that article:
"...Interestingly, it took a Muslim participant to highlight the role that politics also plays in igniting clashes between religions, according to the Web site Mufti Mohammedgali Khuzin, of the Russian Association of Islamic Accord, noted that the two major religious conflicts of today are between Muslims and Jews and between Muslims and Christians. 'Instigated by third parties, these conflicts yield a lot of benefit for the secular consumer society, which cashes in fabulously on them,' he said.....

"...Responding to his [United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) president, Leonard Leo] speech, Lord Alton who chairs the working group, drew attention to a recent report by the charity Aid to the Church in Need which showed that 75% of religious persecution is against Christians, mostly in the Islamic world. He also noted the growing marginalization of Christians in the West.

" 'In Britain, Christians face a double threat,' he explained. 'Firstly, radical secularism that has forced the Catholic Church to curtail some of its valuable services to society, and secondly a growing radical Islam that is leading to the creation of parallel Sharia laws. This so-called Sharia Creep is out to exploit the weaknesses of our value system, increasing the chances of extremist violence.'..."
I suspect that part of Islam's image problem today comes from Islamic equivalents of the Ku Klux Klan either controlling nations like Iran, or having massive influence over national affairs.

As Mufti Mohammedgali Khuzin said,
"...the two major religious conflicts of today are between Muslims and Jews and between Muslims and Christians. 'Instigated by third parties, these conflicts yield a lot of benefit for the secular consumer society, which cashes in fabulously on them'...."
I'm not sure what he meant by 'instigated by third parties,' but I'm strongly inclined to agree that devout secularists willingly use Al Qaeda's activities as an example of why Christianity should be barred from public life.

And that's still another topic. Topics.

Related posts:

1 Source: "Burma," CIA World Factbook (page last updated December 6, 2011)

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.