Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Change, Love, and Mass Murder

My weekly schedule has me writing a 'Bible and 'Catechism' post for today. Last week's was "Sin, Freedom, and Toy Monkeys." This week I was going to get started on Catechism, 388-389. I'd started a post about original sin, Catholic style, when I read this:
"Breivik 'cut contact with friends' in run-up to attacks"
BBC News (May 29, 2012)

"Anders Behring Breivik cut himself off from friends in the years leading up to his deadly attacks, according to the testimony of a former friend.

"He became 'more serious and less social' and had 'lost the spark of life', the witness told the court.

"Another former friend told the court Breivik worried about his looks and had a nose job to look more 'Aryan'.

"Four former friends are giving evidence at Breivik's trial for the 22 July attacks, in which 77 people died...."
The trial isn't to determine if Anders Behring Breivik killed several dozen folks. He says he did. The trial will decide whether he's legally responsible for the crimes: or is legally nuts.

The BBC News article brought up some points that matter for Americans: or anybody else who lives in today's world. My opinion.

Coping with Change, Decisions, and Mass Murder

Change is, arguably, one of the few things a person can count on in this world. That's not a new idea:
"Nothing endures but change."
(Heraclitus, 540 BC - 480 BC)
Each human being alive today has free will. I posted about that last week. (May 23, 2012)

We can't always control what happens to us, to the people we know, and the places we call home. But we decide what we think about those events: and how we respond to them. Even 'going along with the crowd,' or letting emotions direct our thoughts are decisions of a sort.

I think it's important to remember that:
  • Change
    • Happens
    • Hurts
    • Can be
      • Good
      • Bad
      • Simply change
  • People
    • Aren't all alike
    • Come in a wide variety of
      • Personalities
      • Abilities
    • Form many different
      • Cultures
      • Ethnic groups
    • Aren't supposed to be all alike
I think I can understand why someone might be upset about new folks moving into a familiar neighborhood. I can even sympathize, a little. But killing innocent people is wrong. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258)

Judgmental as this may sound, not liking the way new neighbors look or act does not justify murder.

Change Happens

The America I live in today isn't the one I grew up in. I might be more nostalgic about the 'good old days,' if I didn't remember what America was like in my youth. (November 10, 2010)

Things are supposed to change:
"...The universe was created 'in a state of journeying'...."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 302)
Sometimes change can be good, or at least feel good. My children have changed since their birth, growing and learning. I think this is a good thing: and would have been very concerned if these changes weren't happening.

Other sorts of change are, I think, bad: at least in the short term. Getting sick is a 'change' from being healthy: but I don't see it as an improvement. What a person can do with unpleasant circumstances can be good - and that's another topic.

Sometime change is - just change. Again, in the short run. A few days ago it was hot and muggy, today was cool and pleasant here in Sauk Centre. A few days from now, conditions will be different.

Weather changes from day to day: but aesthetics and comfort aside, I don't see it as 'good' or 'bad.' It's just what happens. There are theological and philosophical aspects to weather, but that's yet another topic. Topics.

People: Individuals and the Common Good

As a practicing Catholic, I have to see individuals as important:
"Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone...."
(Catechism, 357)
But we're not just isolated individuals. Human beings are social creatures:
"In keeping with the social nature of man, the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good, which in turn can be defined only in reference to the human person:
"Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already justified, but gather instead to seek the common good together.25"
(Catechism, 1905)
The "common good," Catholic style, is "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily." (Catechism, 1906-1907) I posted about that earlier this month. (May 13, 2012)

Neighbors and Rules

Like I've said before, fairly often, rules in the Catholic Church boil down to a few very simple ideas:
I said "simple," not "easy." Even if - or maybe particularly since - the sort of "love" involved is an act of the will, not feeling all warm and fuzzy. (Catechism, 1766) I've been over that before. (May 14, 2012)

Race; Idolatry; and Love, Catholic Style

Love, Catholic style, is supposed to affect the way we think and act:
"The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:
"Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design.40"
(Catechism, 1935)

"Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, 'You cannot serve God and mammon.' 44 Many martyrs died for not adoring 'the Beast' 45 refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.46"
(Catechism, 2113) [emphasis mine]
I've known a few bigots who are also Catholics. Maybe you have, too. That doesn't change what the Church teaches.

Catholics aren't expected to be perfect. But we're told what "perfect" is: and part of our job is working toward being perfect. (Catechism, 2842) Our work isn't just 'self improvement.' We're expected to make a difference in the world:
"...Consider how [Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say 'thy will be done in me or in us,' but 'on earth,' the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven.107"
(Catechism, 2825)

Surrounded by Blonde Giants

I grew up in a part of America that was, at the time, almost entirely Scandinavian- or German-American. I was accustomed to facing other young men eye-to-chin. Years later, I learned that I was very close to the American average for male height: and had grown up surrounded by blond giants.

On the other hand, I lived about two blocks from a college campus: and had gotten used to rubbing elbows with folks who didn't look at all Norwegian.

For that matter, my mother didn't 'look Norwegian.' She was five-foot-nothing, with black hair: but was as ekte norsk as you're ever likely to find. She really didn't like it when someone said, 'you don't look Norwegian.'

America, Norway, Ethnicity, and Statistics

America is not even close to being as ethnically or culturally uniform as Norway is:
  • Norway (2007 estimate)
    • Norwegian 94.4%
      • Includes Sami, about 60,000
    • Other European 3.6%
    • Other 2%
  • United States (2007 estimate)
    • White 79.96%
    • Black 12.85%
    • Asian 4.43%
    • Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%
    • Native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%
    • Two or more races 1.61%
    • Hispanic about 15.1%
      • Including
        • Mexican
        • Cuban
        • Puerto Rican
        • Dominican Republic
        • Spanish
        • Central or South American
      • Of "any race or ethnic group"
        • White
        • Black
        • Asian
        • Whatever
    ("Norway" (last updated April 23, 2012), "United States" (last updated May 9, 2012), CIA World Factbook)
I think America's increasingly broad variety of people is a good thing, but not everybody feels that way.

Two Millennia of Diversity - and Unity

It's not the main reason I converted to Catholicism, but I was attracted to the Church because it's literally καθολικός, universal:
"They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, 'Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?

"Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

"Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome,

"both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.' "
(Acts 2:7-11)
I suppose I could take Collossians 3:11 and Galatians 3:28, and claim that I'm a generic human being; not a man who lives in America, speaks English, and has ancestral roots in Norway, Ireland, and Scotland. I could, but I think that would be silly.

I didn't stop being the unique individual I am when I became Catholic. I took what I have, what I am, and began adding to that package. By conforming my will to that of my Lord, I'm becoming more distinctly 'myself.'

Unity and Diversity

The Catholic Church is, literally, universal. For two thousand years we've been working to teach folks about unity: that everybody is my neighbor. We are trying to achieve world unity: and I suspect that's what some folks don't like about us. (March 25, 2012)

An archbishop discussed the ideas of national unity, cultural diversity, and individuality, in a more positive way:
"...'Our efforts at national unity often depend upon bringing peoples' diversity into something of an artificial harmony that seeks to minimize the uniqueness and distinctiveness of people. The Catholic Church on the contrary focuses upon what we all share in common which is our faith and our oneness in Christ,' Archbishop Gregory said.

" 'To be a Catholic one need not abandon one's individuality. In fact, the Catholic Church is most perfectly herself when all of her children display that rich diversity that God has fashioned into the very heart of humanity,' the archbishop said. 'We are most Catholic when we reflect our oneness of faith and worship that is achieved in response to our rich mixture of human variety through the grace of the Holy Spirit.'..."
("Atlanta Archbishop delivers homily at Catholic Cultural Diversity Convocation," USCCB News Release, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (May 10, 2010))
[emphasis mine]

Feet, Ears, and Getting a Grip

"Diversity" isn't just about ethnicity and culture. People have a wonderful array of abilities, like the "spiritual gifts" discussed in 1 Corinthians 12:
"If a foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,' it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.

"Or if an ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,' it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.

"If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?" (1 Corinthians 12:15-17)
And that's - what else? - yet again another topic.

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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.