By Mariola O'Brien |


I wake up at night to nurse my baby. It's dark and quiet. All I hear is her drinking with delight. Her little body is so soft and warm, I have to smile. Then my thoughts start to wander and my heart sinks...

Our neighbor had come for a visit to congratulate us on the birth of our daughter. She brought gifts, and news... She was unexpectedly pregnant and "couldn't" keep this baby. Even though both her husband and parents wanted this child, she was considering abortion. Nobody could have given her better advice than we did at that moment. She went home, time passed and her tummy didn't seem to grow.

When we bump into her she smiles and wants to show our baby to her son. No questions are asked and I smile dutifully. Showing her my baby I am about to say she's alive, but hear myself say she's awake. My baby reminds me of her baby who is no more and never will be. She had her reasons; they all do. Every time I see her I want to ask what happened to your baby? But all we talk about is the weather. As I turn my back and continue walking I hear myself asking what happened to your baby?

How heavy is my heart! To have a conversation with a mother who told me she was going to have her baby killed and then followed through! Her abortion has traumatized me. How will she be doing in the years to come? Only time will tell the effects, not only on her, but her son, husband and parents. The memory of her dead baby haunts me like a ghost. Will it not haunt her and her family? Legalized murder by the mother herself. And nobody reacts. I feel so powerless! We tried to talk to her, we prayed. But in the end, there was nothing we could do.

What has happened to the world?

"Hope to see you soon again. Have a great day!"

~~~~~

We're out with our kids when a neighbor calls on us from his backyard. We join him for tea. I know something about his pain and his wife's pain. Only God has all the answers. Only God knows the right time to be given a child, or not be given one. Their boy is sitting in his highchair eating. Very slowly. His father says it can take up to an hour to have one meal. Soon they will celebrate his second birthday, but he cannot walk. He looks at us and smiles, because he doesn't speak yet either.

He looks very sweet in his blue eyes and blond hair. He is very sweet, and loved. But he was ordered from the doctor and had to come into existence. He wasn't received as a gift, but ordered like a product. He wasn't created in love, union and a gift of self, but rather in a laboratory. He has seven siblings or so who will probably never be. They weren't good enough to have. Their brother beat them to it. Barely. They'll be thrown away, or serve as guinea-pigs at best.

What has happened to the world?

"Thanks for the tea and give our greetings to your wife. Bye for now!"

~~~~~

On the way to the park we stop to talk to our neighbor, a nice young woman whom we know from the play-center. Her daughter waves to our son and he waves back. The mother is very kind and goodhearted, and adores her little girl. I like her a lot. We laugh and chat. My husband notices scars on her wrists. The little girl was just picked up from her dads'. Sorry, that's not a typo. No, it's not dad's; it is actually dads'. They had had her over the weekend.

Both her daughter and our son have the same right to a normal and wholesome family. But the laws don't agree. I wonder to myself which one is her dad. Will she grow up knowing she only has one father? Or will it dawn upon her in grade four? Will her mother explain to her that she exists thanks to a deal between two homosexual men and herself, that she is a product of loneliness and sadness? A band-aid to give comfort and joy, kind of like a pet? Will she tell her that there is no love-story behind her conception? Why does this make me think "sophisticated trafficking"?

What has happened to the world?

"Well, take care and see you soon!"


You don't choose your neighbors, but you can definitely pray for them and their children...

By Lea Z. Singh |


Canada’s commitment to free speech is about to be tested in a major new case involving Bill Whatcott, a Saskatchewan nurse and Christian activist whose leaflets were the subject of a 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. This time, Whatcott has been slapped with a C$104 million lawsuit by two of Ontario’s most prominent gay heavyweights: iconic activist Christopher Hudspeth and former Liberal Deputy Premier George Smitherman.

They are suing Whatcott for mental distress on behalf of Toronto's entire gay community and for libel against various Liberal leaders including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The lawsuit stems from Whatcott’s activities at this year’s Toronto’s Pride, which Whatcott and a handful of others managed to infiltrate while dressed as “gay zombies” in green suits. They handed out leaflets which graphically warned about the health dangers of gay sex and accused the Liberal party of being in cahoots with the gay agenda.

Click here to read the rest at MercatorNet.
By Jasbir T. Singh |

Take a wild guess where I am in my grade 6 class!

Thomas Sowell's call to eliminate affirmative action made me reflect on my own experience as a visible minority (East Indian) growing up in Ottawa in the mid-1970s. I also thought about my current situation as a public servant in the Government of Canada. I strongly support Thomas Sowell's position against affirmative action, and want to explain why.


My parents are first generation immigrants from India, and I was born in Canada. All throughout elementary school, I was always one of two visible minorities in the class. The beauty of being a child is that you naturally don't think of racial issues, and while the majority of my friends were white growing up, it never occurred to me that I was different in any other way, other than my skin tone. I never felt held back in any way, and I was never discriminated against in school. I can only recall one instance when I was around 10 years old while riding my bicycle when I heard some kids yell out  "paki!" as I rode by. I didn't turn back and just ignored it, but I remember feeling hurt by it and somehow ashamed that I was different from everyone else.

Other than that instance, which made me aware that some people could be mean to visible minorities, I knew that this was an exception rather than the rule. I never once blamed white people for putting me down or holding me back. I had a wonderful childhood, and all opportunities were open to me.

Then, as a young adult, when I started filling out government forms and employment application forms, I felt strange when asked to mark the check box next to my racial ethnicity. I thought to myself, why ask this? Why do "they" want to know if I'm East Indian? I think I'll leave that question blank, thank you very much.

I instinctively thought that such questions were somehow immoral and unfair, and that they could be used against me, possibly to discriminate against me for not being white. Later on I learned that these ethnicity questions were designed to "help" visible minorities rather than to discriminate. This was my introduction to the world of affirmative action and employment equity.

To this day I detest such questions on job application forms. I never asked for special treatment just because I'm a visible minority, and I don't want special treatment just for being brown. It's an insult, and simply unfair to win a job competition on these grounds.

It reminds me of an East Indian woman I know who is approximately 5'2". Approximately 20 years ago, when she was in her 20s, she was successful at becoming an Ottawa Police Officer. It baffled me because my 6'0" 180 lb. male friend didn't make it, and to this day he knows he didn't make it because he is a white male. He explained how the year he competed for the position, several visible minority women were hired instead. I feel really sorry for my friend, and I do believe he was discriminated against for being white, reverse discrimination if you will.

What is even more upsetting to me is that the East Indian woman who somehow "passed" and was hired, barely lasted 5 years as a police officer, and eventually resigned. Meanwhile, my friend today is a struggling auto mechanic, and I'm sure still bitter about not making it. There's nothing wrong with being an auto mechanic, but the point is that his dreams of being an officer were crushed due to employment equity policies. He had everything going for him, a degree in criminology, superior athleticism and strength, conviction about justice being served, you name it. He really wanted to serve and protect.

Any time employment equity policies are applied, they tend to favour one group over another, and at the same time act as a barrier to another group. Such policies simply override merit-based hiring practices, and therefore, should be eliminated. As Thomas Sowell points out, visible minorities did not ask for employment equity. This notion is in the minds of the white people who fabricated it on their own volition to apparently "correct" the unfair discrimination of visible minorities. Affirmative action was the wrong reaction to an apparent problem. For more thorough discussion, read The Case Against Affirmative Action.

The better course of action would have been to fire any white person who perpetuated discrimination against a minority group, and to further promote a merit-based system based on education, experience, and potential for good performance.

Related
Audio lead in music (altered), Sunset Moments, by Scott Holmes licensed 
under an Attribution-NonCommercial License at the Free Music Archive.
By Jasbir T. Singh |


In elementary school during recess, Bobby (bully) pushes and punches Greg (good guy) repeatedly and doesn't stop. A teacher has already been informed about Bobby bullying Greg, but Bobby doesn't care. No adult is present when Bobby bullies Greg repeatedly.

What do you think Greg should do?

a. He should run every time.

b. He should fight back.

c. He should block the blows defensively without fighting back.

If you selected, a, then you have failed to help Greg address his situation. Greg will learn that he has to run when faced with adversity, and his self esteem will likely plummet. He is at risk of not learning how to stand up for himself and face adversity. You have also allowed Bobby to continue with his behaviour, knowing that he won't stop. Greg could be affected for the rest of his life. By answering, a, you have failed him.

If you selected, c, then you probably think that any form of violence is wrong because it implies an "eye for an eye". You may think that only non-violent means should be used in every situation in an effort to make peace. In the adult world of course we should refrain from retaliation. After all, the following teachings are great lessons for humanity:
To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Luke 6:29

But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Matthew 5:39-41
However, in Greg's situation, the non-violent approach is not appropriate. It will have failed to help Greg, the victim, and Bobby will continue to bully Greg. There would also be no sense of justice.

Option, b, is the right answer. It is perfectly acceptable and legitimate for Greg to fight back in order to defend himself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2263-2265) has an excellent explanation of legitimate defense. It teaches that:
...If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful...
In my opinion, not only is Greg justified in fighting back, he should be encouraged to do so. It will help to develop and shape his character for the better, possibly for the rest of his life. He should be taught that fighting is not the answer in most situations, and that it should be avoided when possible. However, if someone attacks you, you are perfectly in your right to defend yourself with as much force as is necessary (with moderation) to ward off the aggressor.

This reminds me of a time when I was five years old. The townhome we lived in at the time backed onto a public park with swings and play structures. I would often play there, and I was always within earshot of my mother, who I think could see me from the kitchen window. Back in the 70s parents were rarely seen in the park with their children.

I'll never forget Guy, who was probably my age. He had long hockey hair, always had his shirt off, and his body was usually covered with black grease stains. At least that's how I remember him. He was the tough guy, the king of the 5-year-olds in the park, and he was aggressive towards me, always acting as if he would hit me.

I was afraid of Guy, and he knew it. He would practically bully me out of the park whenever I was playing there. It got to the point where I refused to play at the park anymore because of Guy's threats.

One evening, my Dad asked me why I stopped going to the park. I told him that I was afraid of Guy, and that he would hurt me. I'll never forget how my Dad handled the situation...I'm forever grateful to him for it. He basically taught me how to stand up to Guy, and that I should continue to play at the park. He explained that if Guy ever approached me to punch or hit me, then I should be ready with my fists clenched. He taught me how to make a fist for the first time in my life.

He then went on to show me how to throw a sideways knuckle-punch landing right on the deltoid muscle. Of course my 12-year-old brother was there to help me practice.

The next day, I went to the park, and was confronted by Guy. Before I knew it I was trapped in a circle of boys surrounding us as they were shouting, fight! fight! fight! Of course there wasn't a parent in sight. When Guy approached me with his chest all huffed up and sticking out, I reacted out of fear and panic, and threw my knuckle punch. It landed perfectly on his left shoulder, and he went down, wincing in pain. I looked at my hands, and said, it worked! Guy ran off, and never bothered me again.

This was a defining moment in my life, and I remember it clearly almost forty years later. I know for certain that it helped to give me confidence as a boy, and probably helped to shape my character, giving me a good start in life. I learned right from wrong in those days, and about standing up for myself.

I never grew up to be a fighter, and I never had to resort to fighting since then. Nobody, except for my big brother, has had to face my side-way knuckle-punch, and even then, it was just during play fighting when trying to escape his headlocks.

Audio lead in music (altered), Sunset Moments, by Scott Holmes licensed 
under an Attribution-NonCommercial License at the Free Music Archive.
By Paul Malvern |

Some years back I attended a two-day conference on Sufi spirituality held at the University of Toronto. The keynote speaker was the late Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, who was at the time the leader of the Sufis in the Western Hemisphere. A warm and wise man, he began his speech by citing Jesus’ statement, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”, adding as an aside that, before that happens, it will first make you very unhappy.

This is a particularly apt warning for those of us committed to the democratic traditions that have made the U.S. and Canada prosperous and stable nations in which freedom and justice are the birthright of every citizen. For there is a growing sense among many that our current democratic systems of government are not all they should be. Nor does political discourse seem as vibrant and intellectually challenging as it once was – a prime example being this year’s U.S. Presidential election cycle which offers more than a few examples of this unhappy truth.

Sadly, such incidents are just the tip of the iceberg – with democratic dumbing down now taking place in virtually all Western nations. In this ‘low information’ Brave New World, election campaigns have become tasteless extravaganzas in which parties and policies are marketed very much as your might sell a box of laundry soap. Candidates are chosen and sold to the public on the basis of their appearance and demographics rather than their grasp of issues or potential for governing well and wisely. Political debate has become increasingly rancorous with charges and counter-charges hurled with little concern for the truth. And the breadth and depth of political discourse shrinks daily as politicians and the media avoid discussing issues that might offend the sensibilities of some special interest group. As a result, honest, open and intelligent discussion of issues is replaced by a stifling conformism that makes dealing with the real problems facing us virtually impossible.

Low Information Citizens

To date, much of the discussion of the ‘dumbing down’ of our political and governmental systems has focused on ‘low-information’ voters – a term which encompasses both those who do not vote and those who do vote but have inadequate information upon which to make a well-informed choice. While originally simply descriptive, this term has over time taken on a nasty, insulting and judgmental quality – being little more than a euphemism for ‘stupid’. In its new role as the ultimate political insult, use of the term seeks to shut down debate and allow those wielding it to feel morally and intellectually superior to others. Those benighted souls who embrace Christianity as a living faith or who hold socially conservative views are all too familiar with how this particular game is played – being frequently characterized as poorly educated rubes, bigots, and anti-sex, anti-science, ‘bitter clingers’ who are unable to understand the complexity of the world they live in.

Even so, there are some gentler spirits out there who are not prepared to consign the great unwashed masses to outer darkness. These enlightened souls view the low information citizen as someone to be embraced and redeemed, not scorned and rejected. For them the low information syndrome cries out for better voter education so those afflicted by it can join the rest of us in happily exercising their democratic rights and responsibilities. One such group of idealists are the officials at Elections Canada, the government body charged with ensuring the integrity of the election process, which also sees a role for itself in encouraging greater citizen participation in national elections. Apparently, this second goal is proving to be a daunting one, given the increasingly jaundiced view many have of politicians, government institutions and the value of voting generally. In an attempt to better understand why so many Canadians do not vote the organization commissioned a major study of non-voters and why citizens are choosing to opt out of the electoral process. Judging from the results, it could not have provided them with very pleasant reading since the clear message from those polled was that they have had it with politicians in particular and government in general. And they feel that elections have become meaningless exercises that have nothing to do with them. The study reported that, “There is a widespread perception that politicians are untrustworthy, selfish, unaccountable, lack credibility, are not true to their word, etc. Similarly, the government, sometimes with a capital "G" and sometimes without, betrays the people's trust, and accomplishes little.” 1

Clearly, not the sort of thing you can build on to restore trust in the country’s political and governmental systems!

Of course, leaving aside the details as of why each approach is problematic, there is a more general problem to consider – namely, that both approaches focus on the supposed failings of citizens and more or less totally ignore how our political and governmental systems may contribute to the situation. And they fail to consider the possibility that many of those who disengage from the political process may have good reasons for doing so.

Profiling the Low Information Voter

So who are these ‘no shows’? And why do they show so little interest in voting or staying abreast of current events?

Studies conducted in the U.S. and Canada show heavy concentrations of disenfranchised citizens among youth and the poor – many of whom see elections as irrelevant to their lives. Sadly, they do have a point. For governments and political parties in Canada and the U.S. often put more emphasis on issues of interest to older and affluent voters who have better access to information and political contacts, a stronger sense of entitlement, and higher voter participation rates. And the points of view of powerful and well-financed lobby groups and those special interests represented in the governing coalition are much more likely to be taken seriously than the concerns of individual citizens, no matter how well they might present them.

In such an environment, those who are the strongest and wealthiest and have the best political clout and connections almost always get the most attention – while those who are poor, powerless and lack patrons to argue their case get further marginalized. Given the seeming hopelessness of their situation, many of them concentrate on those tasks that can make a difference in their lives – such as finding a decent job, paying the bills, and getting a good education and place to live for their kids.

Fostering the Low Information Environment

So if “low-information” behaviour is not the result of some arcane form of original sin on the part of citizens, where does the blame lie? To answer this question, we need to look higher up in the food chain to identify those people who may have a vested interest in fostering the growth of a low-information polity.

As we do that, we need to constantly remind ourselves that there is a huge difference in politics and government between the truth and what is touted as the truth. This means rejecting the sunny picture of politics and government portrayed in high school civics classes in favor of a model that more accurately mirrors reality. For the harsh fact of life is that for many in government and politics, the goal is less about public service than it is about career success, getting power and keeping it. And one of the best ways to achieve these goals involves managing the flow of information to citizens, trumpeting your successes and hiding or spinning your failures. None of which bodes well for the future of our democratic system of government!

Then too, while most governments and politicians may claim to want open, transparent government and extensive public input, the reality is often quite different. For nothing is as terrifying to those in power as a well-informed, fully-engaged citizenry that knows where the bodies are buried, politically-speaking, and is mad as hell. To counter such a threat many politicians and government officials do their best to make sure the public receives as little real information as possible, especially information that might be negative or embarrassing.

Political parties may also attempt – occasionally in concert with their competitors - to keep citizens ill-informed or misinformed. Sometimes this takes the form of partisan attacks and counter-attacks that suppress some facts and distort the importance or meaning of others. At other times, this may involve tacit agreement among parties not to discuss certain issues, as happens with the abortion issue in Canada. And the growing centralization of parties hinders free-wheeling, open discussion by fostering a system in which party insiders develop policies and positions behind closed doors, using party discipline to force rank and file compliance. Teamed with this is the growing tendency to treat elections as marketing exercises rather than opportunities to meaningfully discuss issues and policy options. In this world of political gamesmanship and image polishing, building your brand is all that matters. And the frank discussion of ideas and facts is replaced by crass appeals to emotion. As a result, candidates are chosen and sold on the basis of their likeability, physical appearance and demographics. And mud-slinging and negative advertising is used extensively to damage rivals’ brands.

Many lobby and special interest groups may also seek to limit the information available to citizens. And they may attempt to prevent full-scale debate on issues impacting their area of interest – particularly when those issues involve such controversial matters as abortion, which is portrayed as the exercise of personal choice by a woman rather than the ending of the life of her unborn infant.

In recent years, some journalists have also joined the ranks of the “low-information”, either out of some strong ideological conviction, a lack of commitment or intellectual prowess, or a desire to avoid rocking the boat. Part of this may flow from the media’s increasing use of an entertainment model rather than pursue serious journalism which is invariably difficult, intellectually demanding and time-consuming. Under this new paradigm, many news and public affairs programs now entertain, tranquilize and enrage rather than inform and encourage serious consideration of issues. And some on-air personalities are little more than ‘teeth and hair’, as long-time journalists are wont to describe them. Equally deadly is the flight from objectivity in favor of advocacy journalism where truth becomes whatever your favorite political party or special interest group says it is. Coupled with this is the practice of some journalistic zealots to cherry-pick or distort facts and smear the other side in order to advance their agenda – a practice which mirrors the growing ideological and cultural divide seen in both Canada and the United States.

But while many governments, parties and journalists foster the growth of a low-information polity, they are also unwitting victims of it themselves at times. For example, many career politicians have never had a real job outside of politics, which severely limits their knowledge of ‘real life’ and their grasp of issues. Many senior bureaucrats also have limited knowledge of how the world works outside of Ottawa or Washington. And many journalists are inhabitants of the same bubble in which senior bureaucrats and politicians operate. Those inhabiting this bubble often live in the same neighborhoods, have the same friends and share a similar culture. And they frequently share a similar worldview, which causes them to view alternate opinions as ill-conceived, illegitimate and occasionally even evil. The result is an information deficit and group-think that cripples the policy making process and discourages journalists from exposing bad governmental policies, poorly thought-out political platforms and those incompetents and rogues in government who are less than a credit to their office.

Not a happy picture – to be sure! But at least now we know.

Summing Up

So coming back to our original point - is Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan correct in saying that knowing the truth will make you unhappy? Judging from the realities of our political and governmental systems, he does have a point. But Jesus is also right. For it is only by knowing the truth – not some media-generated fairy tale - that we can ever hope to fix what is broken and restore democracy and citizen participation to their former place of honor. And that’s a hope all of us should cherish and build on.

[1] Jon H. Pammett and Lawrence LeDuc. Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian Federal Elections: A New Survey of Non-voters. [Ottawa]: Elections Canada, 2003. Retrieved from: http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rec/part/tud&document=reasons&lang=e



My article, published by The Federalist today:

The new hiring policy at the University of Cincinnati is straight out of a George Orwell novel. Since July 1st, everyone from full professor to part-time custodian is now required to swear allegiance to the cult of Inclusion and Diversity.

If you want to apply to any hourly-wage job on the UC campus, you will need to write a paragraph explaining "how your qualifications prepare you to work with faculty, staff and students from cultures and backgrounds different from your own."

...Continue reading at The Federalist.

By Lea Z. Singh |

My latest piece, published today by Crisis Magazine:

Every year, pornography tangles up millions of people in its sticky spider webs. It rolls them up like hapless flies, and sucks out their brains until they are pretty much the walking dead. Christians are not exempt. And we are finally starting to admit it and talk about it.

But there is still something missing in the discussion. Most of the time, articles about the negative effects of pornography focus on men. Women have set up lawn chairs on the sidelines, often as despairing wives who wonder how to deal with their porn-entangled husbands.

And this seems only right, because many of us believe that pornography is mostly a male problem. Although women are increasingly consuming pornography, the majority of users of internet porn are still men. For instance, CovenantEyes reports that "68% of young adult men and 18% of women use porn at least once every week","64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once a month", and "Men are more than 543% more likely to look at porn than women."

But what if these statistics are not giving us the whole picture? What if they are ignoring a huge segment of the pornography industry, a segment which affects millions of women just as powerfully and negatively as internet pornography affects men?

Click here to read the rest at Crisis Magazine.




Note: this piece has been reprinted by LifeSiteNews.

A poignant passage in Immaculée Ilibagiza's book Left to Tell recounts how her father, a proud and prominent Tutsi in their village, resisted leaving Rwanda in the spring of 1994, shortly before the genocide. The signs of brewing violence were becoming increasingly obvious, but Ilibagiza's father was determined to be a sign of hope for his Tutsi community. He remained almost incomprehensibly optimistic, refusing to believe that the worst could happen. So, his family forfeited chances at making an escape, rejecting the last getaway plan the very night before their own village was attacked.

Then suddenly, it was too late. The killing sprees began like rain out of gathered clouds, and Ilibagiza's mother, father and two brothers lost their lives almost immediately. Ilibagiza herself survived only by miraculous luck, spending three terror-filled months crammed into a small hidden bathroom with several other women.

When I first read Left to Tell, the attitude of Illibigaza's father struck me as incredibly naive. Even though he paid the ultimate price for his quixotic hope in human goodness, I felt a certain anger at him for being so stubbornly blind as to throw his whole family into the path of machetes. How could he have been so foolish?

But as I continued reading about the Rwandan genocide, I discovered a rather surprising thing: the story of Ilibagiza's father was not unusual. In the face of oncoming danger, many people seem remarkably resistant to the suggestion that very terrible things can happen.

For instance, one author writes:
"One reason the death toll was so high was that many people in the villages simply refused to believe that such a thing was really happening. There had been massacres before, but never anything like this...Many people heard it on the radio and simply did not believe it.

The RPF radio station, Muhabura, was also broadcasting at this time, telling the people about the genocide. The station told them that all Tutsis were being executed, and they needed to flee for their lives. But still people stayed."
Later I discovered that during the Second World War, many Jews also resisted leaving for safety when they still had the opportunity. Very often, eyewitnesses who escaped from concentration camps were not believed, and some were even reported to German soldiers. As the Holocaust Encyclopedia states:
[T]he Nazi regime benefited from the unwillingness of the average human being to grasp the dimensions of these crimes. Leaders of Jewish resistance organizations, for example, tried to warn ghetto residents of the German intentions, but even those who heard about the killing centers did not necessary believe what they had heard. “Common sense could not understand that it was possible to exterminate tens and hundreds of thousands of Jews,” Yitzhak Zuckerman, a leader of the Jewish resistance in Warsaw, observed.
One survivor's account reminisced about how inside Auschwitz, many prisoners refused to believe that people were being incinerated in the gas ovens. Despite all of the clear signs, including the acrid smell that filled their daily air, prisoners remained convinced of alternate explanations for what was happening. Even there, on the doorstep of hell, a certain strange blindness shielded many people from understanding, or admitting, the full terrible reality.

This blindness, which seems to be a universal feature of human psychology, is helpful when it protects us from despair and insanity in the face of insurmountable odds. But it may also prevent us at times from making life-saving choices. If we refuse to recognize or acknowledge the severity of the danger before us, then we are not likely to get out of its path.

The Signs of the Times


I am not trying to suggest that our contemporary cultural revolution will open the door to a genocide or any kind of physical violence. Not at all.

But a genuine persecution of Christians does appear to be on the horizon. Anti-Christian sentiment has been growing exponentially in recent years. Losing jobs, losing standing in society, losing tax breaks for Christian businesses, fines for businesses and individuals, even some arrests...all those things are already starting to happen. Christians and conservatives of all stripes are being pushed out of the public square, silenced and openly discriminated against, as described by Princeton Professor Robert George in his famous 2014 speech:
...To be a witness to the Gospel today is to make oneself a marked man or woman. It is to expose oneself to scorn and reproach. To unashamedly proclaim the Gospel in its fullness is to place in jeopardy one’s security, one’s personal aspirations and ambitions, the peace and tranquility one enjoys, one’s standing in polite society. One may in consequence of one’s public witness be discriminated against and denied educational opportunities and the prestigious credentials they may offer; one may lose valuable opportunities for employment and professional advancement; one may be excluded from worldly recognition and honors of various sorts; one’s witness may even cost one treasured friendships. It may produce familial discord and even alienation from family members. Yes, there are costs of discipleship—heavy costs.
In a nutshell, Christians who reject same-sex marriage are being turned into the equivalent of Old South racists. And everyone knows that "bigots" ought to be spat upon.

So vilified by their society, Christians can expect no mercy.

And so, it should worry us that just as liberals are increasingly making use of the words "racists" and "bigots" when talking about Christians who do not accept same-sex marriage, so are conservatives increasingly making comparisons between the triumph of today's gender ideology and the rise of Nazi Germany.

Our future may not be like Nazi Germany. Or like Communism, or like Jacobin France. Our future oppressive regime will probably have a new face...but an old body. Dictatorships have come and gone throughout history, and each remake of that same old song is also a bit different from all the rest.

One thing is always sure: no dictatorship is a pleasant cup of tea for dissenters.

Girding Our Loins

However you choose to prepare, I suggest three points to remember:

1. Don't expect anyone else to have the "aha moment".

Many people will mysteriously continue to "see no evil, hear no evil" even if things get really bad. They won't lift a finger to stop a dictatorship from settling in. Ever. In fact, they will probably cheer for the dictatorship as it comes.

Even among those who recognize problems with the current culture, hope and optimism will continue to burn brightly. As long as the tornado has reached only the neighbour's house, they will cling to the belief that their own houses will be spared.

Chalk it up to human nature: a whole cocktail of psychological tendencies accounts for this behavior, including the herd instinct (urge to conformity), fear of negative consequences for rejecting the required mantras, and the unwillingness and perhaps inability to come to terms with very difficult situations which are out of our control (easier to pretend they don't exist). Many of these tendencies are unconscious instinct-based behaviors. If people are confronted about them, they may not even be aware of them!

2. If you want to leave, it's okay.
Don't feel pressured to stay in a situation that is going from bad to worse. Courage and Christianity do not require you to be a sitting duck...and history may vindicate you as one of the few who did the smart thing. Just as before World War II, there were Jews who packed their bags and got out of Germany, and even out of Europe, when things already smelled bad but before the War started. Good for them!

Should you choose to accept it, your challenge will be finding some place to flee to. There are not many safe, pleasant, civilized places left in the world that have not been affected by the cultural philosophy and obsessions of the Western world.

Reminds me a bit of the true story of the Lykov family, who were found in the Russian taiga after 40 years of wandering about in the wilderness, having originally escaped from the Bolskeviks in 1937. Living with the wolves and bears in a rough-hewn log cabin, they managed to skip right over World War II and a huge chunk of Soviet Communism.

Effective, but not a very tempting solution.

3. Connect with like-minded people.

One good strategy here is the "Benedict Option" advanced by Rod Dreher, who describes it this way:

The “Benedict Option” refers to Christians in the contemporary West who cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire, and who therefore are keen to construct local forms of community as loci of Christian resistance against what the empire represents.

Dreher is very adamant that the "Ben Op" is not a way of isolating ourselves from the world, it's just a way of strengthening each other in the midst of the world. This makes a lot of sense. People need community, and this option provides a built-in support network. It can be carried out in the middle of a city, not just on some Amish-like compound. An intentional community can be created anywhere.

Also seek out role models from similar historical times, for encouragement and wisdom. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, G.K. Chesterton, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and others.

Finally, be aware that as things get worse, you will inevitably become more isolated. Many people on your side will fall away and cave in to the pressures of society. It is already happening - think Michael Coren, David Blankenhorn, and others. Keep up your resolve and courage even as things get tougher.

And to be totally honest: be prepared to suffer for your beliefs. However, always remember why you are being targeted: it is an honor to suffer for the truth. "Be not afraid."

This is a long-haul flight.

If you like this post, please "Like" Culture Witness on Facebook!


Yet another airplane interview, and the Pope has done it again: this time, his verbal bomb is that the Church should apologize to gays. In fact, saying 'sorry' is apparently not enough, and the Church should also ask for forgiveness. 

Most of the Pope's explanations for this were characteristically vague. But there is no doubt he agrees with Cardinal Marx about the pain that the Church has supposedly inflicted on the homosexual community, and about the need for an apology.

Well, hold on Pope Francis. Let's remember that Cardinal Marx went a lot further still. Saying 'sorry' was just the beginning. The "Marxist Cardinal" (as the Pope seems to enjoy calling him, only it doesn't seem to be just a joke) also said that the Church should take a positive view of same-sex relationships, and that the Church can't oppose civil unions.

And that, right there, is really shocking. It is nothing less than a call for change in doctrine, a revolution in the Church. And maybe, schism.

What Cardinal Marx said:
“The history of homosexuals in our societies is very bad because we’ve done a lot to marginalize [them],” he said, adding that as a Church and as a society “we’ve also to say ‘sorry, sorry.’”

The Cardinal, who is the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, said that up until “very recently” the Catholic Church had been “very negative about gay people,” adding that “it was a scandal and terrible.”

...Cardinal Marx suggested in the interview that the Church ought to look favorably on same-sex relationships, but would not go as far as calling those relationships “marriage.”
 
“We have to respect the decisions of people. We have to respect also, as I said in the first synod on the family — some were shocked, but I think it’s normal — you cannot say that a relationship between a man and a man, and they are faithful, [that] that is nothing, that has no worth,” he said. 
He said it was up to the state “to make regulations for homosexuals so they have equal rights or nearly equal . . . but marriage is another point,” adding that the state “has to regulate these partnerships and to bring them into a just position, and we as church cannot be against it.”
So the big question is: does the Pope agree with his Marxist buddy on these things too?

If he does, that is huge. It would be hard to see that as anything but a change in the Church's central teaching, the core of her moral beliefs for millenia - something that is never supposed to happen in the Church, which rests under the protection of the Holy Spirit.

In his airplane interview, Pope Francis was silent about the rest of Cardinal Marx's statements. Is the Pope's silence a clue to his concurrence, or is he just being tactful and not publicly challenging the opinions of his friend and trusted adviser?

His silence is not comforting. I find it concerning that he did not, at the very least, seize the opportunity to correct the rest of Cardinal Marx's comments, and to reiterate a bright line that the Church will not cross in its teaching on the nature of marriage.

In fact, the Pope just muddied the waters still further. He said:
I will repeat what I said on my first trip. I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. One can condemn, but not for theological reasons, but for reasons of political behavior...Certain manifestations are a bit too offensive for others, no? ... But these are things that have nothing to do with the problem. The problem is a person that has a condition, that has good will and who seeks God, who are we to judge? And we must accompany them well...this is what the catechism says, a clear catechism. Then there are traditions in some countries, in some cultures that have a different mentality on this problem. I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness – like that “Marxist Cardinal” said (laughs) – must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended. ...Christians must ask forgiveness for having not accompanied so many choices...
What in the world does it mean that "One can condemn, but not for theological reasons, but for reasons of political behavior"?

The logic of this statement escapes me, at least from the perspective of the Catechism. First of all, obviously the Church does not condemn the sinner - ever. The Pope knows that. What the Church condemns is the sin. But the only time anything is a sin, it is so for theological reasons! Hello, theology of the body. How is that not theological?

So from a religious perspective, the Pope's statement makes NO SENSE at all.

Here is how the Pope's statement would make sense: if the Pope thought that same-sex relationships were not actually sinful (so no theological problems there). He would then mainly be concerned that some homosexual activists get too lewd and exhibitionist at gay pride parades, irritating the sensibilities of the more tight-laced crowd. And that, ladies and gentlemen, would be the main reason to "condemn" homosexual behaviour!

But obviously, that can't possibly be the Pope's opinion of homosexual behavour. Because if it were, then he wouldn't believe the teachings of his own religion...and he's the Pope. So clearly, he must believe that homosexual relationships are sinful...right?

The Pope should have been an acrobat, or at least, his mouth should have been. All of his Papacy long, he has been walking a very precarious tightrope.

He'd better not make the whole Church plummet into the water with him.

The mouth of Pope Francis


There is a lot of really good stuff in Amoris Laetitia. It's a huge document that is mostly a goldmine of solid, strong quotes expressing Church teaching on many different subjects involving the family. If the liberals were sticking their fingers in the door, hoping to make some leeway for same-sex marriage, reproductive technologies, abortion, or even contraception, they got their fingers slammed instead.

BUT. There is also a small amount of bad stuff. Namely, those references to letting priests decide to let some divorced and remarried Catholics possibly receive the Eucharist, in what looks like a violation of Church rules, because apparently conscience might make it okay.

Does that sprinkle of bad stuff, like too much salt, spoil the whole stew? Many sure think it does. Particularly if, as David Warren suggests, the stew was cooked just so that sprinkle could be added.

Others, like Fr. David Longnecker, are of the opinion that such a conclusion is uncharitable and unbecoming, akin to "picking through the Pope's exhortation like carrion crows". We should take time to digest the stew, not for a few hours or days but probably for a few months at least. Then we'll be able to speak more about it.

But here's the thing. The world is burning around us, we are now in Sodom. And our besieged leader has just issued a statement. Well, what does Fr. Longnecker (with all due respect) think we're going to do? File it away and sit on it for months? Not a chance.

We will scan each line with bated breath and eager anticipation, hoping to see, like those patriots behind the ramparts in the American anthem, whether our banner still waves over the home of the brave and the land of the free. Has the Pope given in to those liberal pressures, or is the Church still standing its ground?

For us in Sodom, that is the question. And all else is just...stew.

Time for desperate measures?

Amoris demonstrates that the Church is acutely informed of the worst plagues raining down on today's families. It lists them all, and vividly too.

But what to do about it all, well, that is a whole other hairball.

"We have long thought," says Pope Francis, "that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues...we were providing sufficient support to families...He seems to be referring to all those previous Encyclicals and other Church documents, which clearly outline the moral rules...but no one cares. So obviously that approach didn't pan out.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Pope Francis appears to be in triage mode. He is trying to rescue those divorced and remarried Catholics, of which there are alarmingly many, who are no longer worthy to receive the Eucharist, at least according to the way the Church currently does the math. So it's either time to shrink the Church, or time to change the math.

And with Amoris, Pope Francis has clearly chosen to change the math. In his words:
"lest we take the wrong path: “There are two ways of thinking...: casting off and reinstating. The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement…...It is a matter of reaching out to everyone...No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!"
So onward with reinstating. Which means, in the case of divorced and remarried Catholics without annulments, that they might be able to receive the Eucharist without first getting their annulments.

Pope Francis's new approach gives the final word to the conscience of lay Catholics, rather than the 'objective' rules of the Church:
305. For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families”....Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.351 Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us remember that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”.352 The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality.  
Footnote 351:
In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).
And there you have it, a crack has opened in the facade. Some say it is a little tear, some say it is quite a noticeable hole.

The gist of it is this: remarried Catholics without annulments can receive Communion without getting annulments, as long as they do so with sweaty brows and sincere effort to discern the right thing to do.

A new Winnipeg statement?

Paragraph 305, together with its Footnote 351, reminds me of that infamous Winnipeg Statement of 1968, when Canadian bishops took it upon themselves to do damage control after the publication of Humanae Vitae. Paragraph 26 of their statement said:
"In accord with the accepted principles of moral theology, if these persons have tried sincerely but without success to pursue a line of conduct in keeping with the given directives, they may be safely assured that, whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience." 
In this way, the Bishops tried to make the Church's rejection of contraception more digestible for the laity, which seems to have been judged (and correctly, until now) as too weak to put the Church's teaching into practice.

But if the results of that experiment offer any lesson, then Amoris won't be ushering the Church into any kind of new springtime. Instead, we can expect still less adherence to Church teachings, as the laity (who won't bother with any of the fine print) put into practice the central lesson of Amoris: Church teachings can be circumvented by conscience.

Conscience at the wheel?

So how does this new approach not go along with the trend towards extreme individualism, which the Church identified as a major problem in No. 33 of Amoris?

Nearly every person in our society is already under the impression that they are a demi-God whose personal whims, feelings and desires are the only thing that matters. Is it really productive to tell such people that they can jump over the Church's rules as long as they "discern" it is okay?

Pope Francis knows the risks of this approach. He even spells them out himself:
"For this discernment to happen, the following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it”.338 These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant “exceptions”, or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favours. When a responsible and tactful person, who does not presume to put his or her own desires ahead of the common good of the Church, meets with a pastor capable of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him, there can be no risk that a specific discernment may lead people to think that the Church maintains a double standard."
These are some serious dangers. The Church might look like it's saying one thing and doing another. Priests might look like they welcome influence peddlers, and we might practically roll back a few centuries to the time of buying and selling indulgences.

But obviously, Pope Francis is willing to take his chances. And all will go well...except if it doesn't. And when has any new policy been applied only as intended?

The Pope's bleeding heart

Laudate Si unveiled the Pope's liberal leanings, and Amoris Laetitia cements the fact that he is, as they say, a bleeding heart. He's got a soft spot for those who don't fit into the Church's moral parameters, and he wants to pull them into his 'big tent' Church, rules be dammed. Yes, Pope Francis is the teacher who will lower the bar when the class can't master the material.

As a contrast, it's interesting that few things annoy the Pope more than seemingly "perfect" Catholics. He's leveled so many insults in their direction that there's a whole spoof book compiled on the subject (worth reading; it's hilarious).

What else could we expect?

There would have been another way. The other option, which seems to have been preferred by Pope Benedict, would be to keep on keeping on. The Church would stick to its rules even if the whole class got an F. If they can't keep up, they can drop the course.

The small but true Church would maintain its integrity and existence through the dark times of cultural decadence. It would keep the lamp burning, hoping that someday, a revival would happen and people would come to their senses. The Church has gone that route before, and has successfully survived those periods of theological famine.

But that's not the path traveled by Pope Francis, who has just launched a course for uncharted waters.

Uncharted for the Catholic Church, that is - but many Protestant denominations have already traveled that route. They've shown us just what becomes of churches that reduce their expectations in an attempt to swing their doors ever wider.

I have yet to see a good ending to that scenario.
By Lea Z. Singh |

I know I shouldn't be blogging about Easter anymore, nearly two weeks after our speeding culture has moved 10,000 miles past that drive-by destination. Here I am doing it anyway.

This year, our Easter was not about egg hunts and fun times. Easter hit us hard this year, right over our heads, with its real message about life and death. It's a message that we are supposed to remember each year at Easter, but we are never quite ready for the full reality of it.

We spent this Easter praying intensely for the lives of two people: a dear friend who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, and a close family member who spent Easter Sunday in very serious condition in a hospital bed. We are still praying for them both.

Not much of a "happy" Easter. But the essence of Easter was in a sense more present to us over Easter weekend than perhaps all of those other years when entertainments and amusements were at the forefront. Because Easter is not about bunnies, eggs, or hot cross buns. It is our annual appointment with death itself. It is supposed to make us think about where we are all headed, quite inevitably. No one is exempt from it, not even God.

Death is not a popular subject, and that is hardly surprising. People have different ways of dealing with the prospect of death, but it seems to me that most people like to erase it from their minds entirely and pretend that it will never come. I have read in the past that death is a subject that is just too painful for the human psyche to bear, hence we just block it out. We don't like to be reminded of it, and talking about it is basically taboo.

Well, Easter breaks the taboo, because Easter starts with death. But it ends in a most shocking turnaround, with life after death. And this is why the Christian religion exists in the first place. Without the resurrection, Christ would be just another false prophet. As St. Paul said: "if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith....if Christ has not been raised...Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all." (1 Cor. 15:54-55). 

Easter is a huge message of hope for all of us stranded on this doomed Titanic of earth. Yes we must all jump into the freezing water, but Easter offers us a lifeboat to the side of eternal life. The prospect of death is not nearly as terrifying when we are assured of continued existence afterwards, and possibly a blissful one at that.

With Easter on our side, we can laugh at death. All that death can do is kill our earthly body, just as Jesus was crucified on the cross. Who cares about a perishable body, when we now have the prospect of eternal life in a glorified body? And so, St. Paul writes: "Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:54-55).

But how do we know that the resurrection was real? 

That is indeed the question, isn't it. It seems mighty convenient that Christianity, along with several of the other world religions, offers us an escape from the finality of earthly death.

What's more, Christianity reserves that escape for humans only. We see our pets die, and we are told that it is really over for them. Indeed, all other animals and other living things on this earth are just plain dead when they die. But human beings, we are told, will mysteriously shuffle into glorified bodies and hang out in heaven (or, less delightfully, roast with their forever bodies in an eternal hell).

Yes, even the first Christians were well aware of this central problem of credibility. It's not an easy sell to preach that a condemned and executed 33-year-old carpenter's son from a backwater village in occupied Judea actually came back to life after lying dead in his tomb for two days, and that this action unlocked the heavenly gates for all of us.

You are not expected to swallow this story whole without question. It is natural to weigh the evidence, though a leap of faith is still required at the end:

1. The historical account: One or two crazy people are fairly common, but group hallucinations? Not so much. According to the gospels, hundreds of people witnessed the crucified Christ, confirmed dead, to have risen from the dead. He walked around with his resurrected body, which bore the scars of his crucifixion, for about 40 days. He appeared to his disciples and also other followers. He even let his shocked disciple Thomas feel right inside the wound in his side. He performed more miracles. And he taught that we, too, could share in that eternal life. 

2. The surrounding circumstances: Consider the fact that Jesus was not an ordinary carpenter minding his own business. His entire life, as recorded in the gospels, is like an arrow pointing towards the resurrection, and the whole Jewish bible, which is the Christian Old Testament, is like an arrow pointing to the life of Jesus. Consider also that the start of Jesus's life was just as miraculous as the end, since he is the only person ever conceived by a virgin. Then during his lifetime, he spoke so wisely, as recorded in the gospels, that 2000 years later, even millions of people who are not Christian call him a prophet. He also performed many miracles during his lifetime, such as returning life to the dead body of Lazarus (not a resurrection, since Lazarus was not in a glorified body).

3. The fruits: Christianity has been a major shaping force in the world, and is largely responsible for the rise and success of Western civilization. Could a faith founded on fiction have had the same effect? And then there are the smaller fruits, including the many hospitals and homes for orphans, the aged, the sick, the poor and the dying, all run by Catholic religious orders.

4. Search within your heart, you know it to be true!  Many people find their own hearts to be the most convincing reason for accepting Christianity. The Christian teachings about right and wrong, about justice and mercy and love, jibe very well with the feelings and convictions most people naturally hold within their hearts. Christianity seems to "fit" the truth, even if it is not always what we would like to hear. When people turn inward, they can also often feel God's love and almost hear his voice. They begin to experience a direct connection with Jesus and recognize signs of God working in their lives and changing them from within.

5. Look at all the smart and good people: As social creatures, it is a psychological fact that we feel more comfortable when many other people have made the choice we are considering. With Christianity, that is definitely the case. Many very smart people chose Christianity. Look at all the brainpower of "Church Fathers" like St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, the author of the famous Summa Theologica! If Christianity was good enough to convince such titans, there must be something to it. And then there are the amazing good people: Mother Theresa, Jean Vanier, and so many others. With their whole lives, these people testify to the power of Christian love.


A leap into the....light

The resurrection has never been proven to be a historical fact. There is some independent historical evidence (outside the Bible) that Jesus really existed, and that he was crucified. But even if we can prove that he existed, there is no scientific proof that he rose from the dead. It is a matter of faith, but that faith is not blind. It is based on all the evidence above. Still, in considering the evidence, the final step is still essential: a leap of faith.

What is a leap of faith? It is the point at which you admit that the resurrection will never be demonstrated in a Scientific American article, but you choose to believe it anyway.


Can we choose to believe something that we aren't absolutely sure about? 

Well, judges and juries do it all the time. They have to make decisions and hand out sentences, even though in most cases it is impossible to establish the truth with absolute certainty. So, courts use a scale of probabilities to determine the outcome of the case.

Courts usually use one of three legal standards for this purpose: preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, or beyond reasonable doubt. Preponderance of the evidence is the easiest standard to meet, as one side just has to demonstrate that it is more than 50% likely to be true. Clear and convincing evidence is harder to meet, since one side has to show that it is substantially more likely than not to be true. And beyond reasonable doubt is the hardest proof to meet, as one side has to show that there is no good reason to doubt their story.

Each of us is the judge and jury of our own case concerning Jesus. What burden of proof does Christianity have to meet for each of us to rule in its favor? I suspect that our burdens of proof vary, and some people believe more easily than others.

Beyond reasonable doubt?

Many wafflers and so-called "agnostics" have probably set for themselves a burden of proof that is hard for Christianity to meet, such as beyond reasonable doubt, and then they hang out at faith's door waiting for some definitive evidence to take them across the threshold. This game can last forever, as some weighty reasons exist for doubting the truths of Christianity, including:

1. All the seemingly senseless and cruel suffering in the world: this is surely the most commonly invoked, and perhaps the most serious, argument against Christianity. It is hard to believe in a Christian god of love, mercy and justice when babies die and innocent people suffer every day. Many people watch helplessly as their loved ones are struck down by accidents and diseases.

But Christianity offers a complex and comprehensive answer of the problem of pain. That explanation gives a deep meaning to suffering, makes sense of the senselessness and continues to be convincing to many.

2. The argument against anthropocentrism: why would God choose us, of all the creatures that are found on this earth and that also likely exist throughout this entire giant universe? Why would we little nothings be so worthy of his attention that he would even become one of us?

There are all kinds of possible answers to this question, but perhaps the most significant is found in the Bible itself in the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus portrays himself as the shepherd who goes out to find and save even one lost sheep. So to God, even one faulty human species on little old earth seems to be worth the trouble.

3. The blind watchmaker of our world, evolution: there seems to be no "need" for God anymore. Except it's not clear that evolution really was blind. The Intelligent Design movement has gained a lot of traction, and has shed light on many holes in the theory of blind evolution. There are also some fascinating books out there talking about how finely tuned our universe is for life, and these too argue against a randomly ordered world.

For a different angle on this question, I look back even further to the very start of things. How about the "evolution" of the universe as a whole? Could that have happened without any sort of intervention by an intelligent power outside of our world? Could something really have come from nothing? That does not seem reasonable to me (though admittedly, that is not the same as showing it was the Christian God).


Can reason alone lead us to faith?

According to the Catholic Church, the answer is both yes and no:
"Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason."11 Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God's revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created "in the image of God".
In the historical conditions in which he finds himself, however, man experiences many difficulties in coming to know God by the light of reason alone:
"Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, who watches over and controls the world by his providence, and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator; yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty. For the truths that concern the relations between God and man wholly transcend the visible order of things, and, if they are translated into human action and influence it, they call for self-surrender and abnegation. The human mind, in its turn, is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful."
This is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God's revelation, not only about those things that exceed his understanding, but also "about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of the human race, they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error".
So in ideal conditions we would be able to attain certainty about God through reason alone. But our conditions are not ideal:
Part of the problem is that reason has been wounded by the Fall and dimmed by the effects of sin. Reason is, to some degree or another, distorted, limited, and hindered; it is often pulled off the road by our whims, emotions, and passions.
As a result, we no longer have the ability to travel to Jesus Christ by reason alone. Reason can now bring us only part of the way:
[I]n different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality "that everyone calls God".
Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.
Reason keeps our feet dragging on solid ground, but to finish the race we will need to let our feet jump into the air and soar on faith.


The jump


If one does not have faith, how does one get it? Is it an act of the will, or a gift from God himself? It seems that the mystery of faith is both very simple - a free gift from God to all mankind - and a complex dance - man learning to submit to a God that his natural reason cannot fully comprehend. Here is what the Catholic Church says about this:
Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. "Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'"25
...But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason.
...In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: "Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace."27
What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe "because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived".28 So "that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit."29 Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability "are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all"; they are "motives of credibility" (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is "by no means a blind impulse of the mind".30
The Catholic Church interestingly aligns faith with obedience and submission to God:
By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.2 With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, "the obedience of faith".3
To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to "hear or listen to") in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself. Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture. The Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment.

Is it getting harder to believe in God?

As our culture falls increasingly away from religious practice, the pattern seems to be feeding on itself - the more people fall away, the harder it may be for those who are still believers to continue to believe. Why? One reason is that people are social creatures who strive to live in harmony with those around them. We don't like to be different from our immediate community, instead, we like to blend into the larger group. Even the Church seems to recognize this aspect of faith:
Faith is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. 
The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith

Easter still the only way

It may be a struggle to keep on believing in an age of unbelief, but the true meaning of Easter should not be thrown away lightly. It is the train that can take us past death and into new life in another world.

Other religions may promise similar things, but they are all clearly man-made. For all of us here on earth, Christianity is our best shot. In many ways, its claims are outrageous. But those claims manage to coalesce into a genius coherence that seems far beyond human capability.

And so the mysteries of the Christian faith are worth dwelling on and considering, they are worth studying and pondering.

As future dust of the earth, we should want them to be true. And that ardent hope will enable us to bear the trials and tribulations of this world with greater peace.