Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Weekly Update from CCM

Good morning, students!

A few brief reminders for this week....

Your campus minister, doing his duty.
That's right, I have jury duty this week.  It's a week's service, which means that I may or may not be required to be at court any day this week.  The way it has been working yesterday and today is that jurors call in each day to see whether they will be required to report in or not.  So this week will be rather hit or miss as far as me being available in my office.  Jury service is an important part of our judicial system which I am glad to participate in.  I ask for your patience if I am not as available this week as I normally am.

Just Dance!
Catholic Campus Ministry is hosting a "Just Dance" party TONIGHT at the Catholic Student Center.  We'll get the ball rolling at 7pm, so please come by and join us for some FUN!

Supper @ the Center
Please join us this Wednesday night at 6:30 for our usual home cooked supper at the Center!  Our program this week will be discussion led by Alex Cassell about Christian acceptance.  Jesus commands us to love our neighbor.  But what happens when we don't necessarily like our neighbor?  What does it mean to love someone that you have personality conflicts with?  How do we form a good relationship with that person?  As college students, you know that your nearest neighbor can be very close by (like, in the bunk below you).  This should be an interesting discussion, so please join us.

Quote of the Week
"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people." - G. K. Chesterton

Atheists on the Loose!
I have had several encounters with what you might call "evangelical atheists" this past week.  These are people who not only don't believe in God, they don't think anyone else should, either.  In fact, they believe religion is the greatest evil to befall mankind.  And they support this viewpoint by pointing out all of the horrible things that people in the past have done in the name of religion.  They point to wars and persecutions and things like that.  

What do we do in these situations?  Well, we can point out first of all that not all religions are the same.  For example, the Muslim religion believes that spreading the faith by violence is legitimate.  On the other hand, the Amish practice extreme Pacifism.  So it is wrong to paint all religions with the same brush.  

We can also point out all of the good things that religion has done for society - this is especially true of Christianity.  The Catholic Church is, after all, the largest charitable relief organization on the planet.  The Church practically invented the concept of charity.  One of the first things that the pagan Roman empire noticed about this new, strange group of Christ-followers is their capacity for love and charity.  They not only took care of their own poor and hungry - they also took care of others!  This was unheard of in pagan society.  Care for the orphan and the widow is practically built into our faith from the start (read the book of Acts).  The Church runs orphanages, the Church runs hospitals, the Church runs homeless shelters.  We do it all.

The Catholic Church also founded the world's first universities in the Middle Ages.  Catholic colleges and universities continue to be some of the most sought after schools today.  The Church has also been on the forefront of much scientific discovery.  The father of genetic studies was an Augustinian monk (Gregor Mendel), and the originator of the Big Bang theory was a Jesuit priest (Georges Lemaitre).  

But what about all those horrible things people do in the name of their religion?  What about religious wars?  My first suggestion is to not let the "evangelical atheists" off the hook when they make such claims.  Ask them about specifics and see if they even have their facts right.  For example, one example of religious persecution often cited is that "nine million witches were burned at the stake" during the "Burning Times" in the Middle Ages and later.  In fact, historians put the figure closer to 50,000.  Still a lot, but nowhere close to the 9,000,000 cited.  Moreover, these "witches" were not executed by the Church, but by secular authorities.  One could make the argument that these secular authorities were still members of the Christian faithful.

But here is the real point.  Yes, people have done bad things in the past.  And they continue to do bad things today.  People sin.  That itself is a tenant of our Christian faith.  We are weak, we are imperfect, we are fallen.  When we do horrible things such as fighting unjust wars, persecuting those who do not agree with us, or whatever else Christians get accused of, we do those things despite our religion, not because of it.  Our religion teaches us kindness.  It teaches us love.  It teaches us to cloth the naked, feed the hungry, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner.  It teaches us to love those who persecute us.  If we sometimes fail in these things, the fault lies within ourselves, not in the teachings of Jesus.

Mankind is totally capable of doing horrible things on its own, without help from religions.  The most horrible slaughters of the twentieth century were performed at the hands of atheistic communist regimes, such as Stalin and Mao.  One does not have to be religious to commit atrocities.  

Religion, especially the Christian religion, has the antidote to bring us up and above those sorts of things, if we only will listen to its message, take it to heart, and live it in our lives.  So when the "evangelical atheists" come knocking on your door, don't let them bully you into feeling ashamed of your faith.  Stand firm and be proud of all the good that Christianity stands for.  Stand firm for the Truth!

God bless!

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