Sunday, October 26, 2008

Another Letter, But One From The 'What Was' Perspective

Shining Some Light On Dark Arguments

Again this morning I have come across another very important article, but this one is the polar opposite of yesterday's. This is a long letter written by a Jesuit Church historian to a Catholic Massachusetts legislator at the height of the attempt to over turn Massachusetts's same sex marriage laws through a state constitutional initiative.

This is a highly relevant letter today, in that it traces the history of the development of Catholic teaching with regards to marriage and sexuality. It is not a fear based, "What if" but a dispassionate look at "What was" and how we have arrived at the Catholic understanding of marriage and relationship. The author also points out how the current argument of "It's always been this way" is far from the truth.

Just like the, "what if'" scenarios fail under the light of reason, the "it's always been this way" arguments also fail when light is cast upon them. Have a good read.
PS: I find it quite interesting that in all the time, effort and money (25 million) that Christians have put into passing proposition 8 in California against same sex marriage, I have not heard one peep about Proposition K on the ballot in San Francisco.


  1. I had a great read Colleen. My, how awesome is the truth?

    Thank God for historians that can bring things into the light of reasoning and enlightenment.

  2. I saw this tonight and thought of You Col. It's old but interesting. How many people think of using science in their everyday life?

    Col does! Right? God Bless You Col :-) joer

    Science in Jesus' Life
    by Jeffrey H. Wattles
    Scientific Symposium I 1988


    We all want to live the integrated life, with science as part of a growing mind in a progressive personality. But how do we do it? How do we approach this great ideal?

    Are we all just supposed to go out and get super-involved with science? Somehow it seems that there's more to it than that.

    It's not easy.

    o Modern technology can be so complex that some people just get turned off.

    o There is so much poor science these days that fails to distinguish correlation from causation.

    o There is so much confusing dispute between the experts.

    o And there are the well-known ethical problems with science.

    So how are we going to strengthen the scientific component in our lives? My two-part answer is philosophic and biographic.

    I can put the philosophic part very briefly. We can begin by recognizing and affirming our God-given intuitive capacity for recognizing facts and discerning causal relationships. Some popular books today tell their readers about releasing the mystic within you or releasing the artist within you. We could equally well speak of actualizing the scientist within you. We all have capacities beyond what most of us usually use. We simply need the courage to affirm and sharpen our scientific intuition.

    The biographic part of the answer is a reflection on Jesus' life.

    The apostles had not been successful in their teaching. They were fleeing through northern Galilee and bewildered about what was going on. Jesus' blunt explanation to them included these words:

    "Consider the Greeks, who have a science without religion, while the Jews have a reli- gion without science. And when men become thus misled into accepting a narrow and confused disintegration of truth, their only hope of salvation is to become truth-co-ordinated--converted.

    "Let me emphatically state this eternal truth: If you, by truth co-ordination, learn to exemplify in your lives this beautiful wholeness of righteousness, your fellow men will then seek after you that they may gain what you have so acquired." (*1726)

    We can understand this teaching by looking at Jesus' life.

    First, Jesus became acquainted with nature as a child and continued his interest into adulthood. "Jesus' earliest training, aside from that of the home hearth, had to do with a reverent and sympathetic contact with nature." (*1364) He asked lots of questions concerning science. (*1365) He studied the habits of the fish on the Sea of Galilee so closely that he could predict catches that others regarded as miraculous.

    Next, Jesus understood the essential truths of philosophy of science, as we see in his discourse on science. He knew the limitations of science and taught a friendly universe in which fact and value have a common cause in the Paradise Father. (*1477)

    Next, Jesus got to know all kinds of people well. In order to understand how Jesus exemplified his teaching about science and the beautiful wholeness of righteousness, we need to expand the concept of science to include social science. The scientific component in his righteousness included more than a superb knowledge of weather and the habits of fish. Jesus carried out a thorough study of how men make a living. (*1371) We are told that "The real purpose of his trip around the Mediterranean Basin was to know men. He came very close to hundreds of humankind on this journey. He met and loved all manner of men, rich and poor, high and low, black and white, educated and uneducated, cultured and uncultured, animalistic and spiritual, religious and irreligious, moral and immoral." (*1424)

    Next, Jesus thoroughly studied the scriptures and associated literature. One of the humanistic sciences is the science of interpreting texts. At the age of 13 Jesus began a painstaking topical study of the scriptures and associated literature in order to deal with every implication they might hold for his life work. (*1390-91) At age 26 in Capernaum,"he spent at least five evenings a week at intense study." (*1420) During the four months of intensive training with the first six apostles, Jesus explained that "they should spend three hours every evening in study and preparation for their future work." (*1533)

    Jesus never wore his learning on his sleeve; his apostles were surprised to hear him discourse on a sophisticated level. But his masterful knowledge was always there when he needed it, for example, during his last week in the flesh, when he was challenged by the Sadducees who did not believe in resurrection. They were the professional specialists in the first five books of the Bible. Jesus showed that from those very scriptures a subtle inference could be drawn to overturn their skeptical doctrine: "And even your Father Moses understood this, for, in connection with his experiences at the burning bush, he heard the Father say, `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' " (*1900) The present tense of that verb--I am the God of Abraham, rather than I was the God of Abraham--implies that the relationship is a present one, and hence that Abraham has been resurrected. Jesus saw the implication that the specialists had missed--but he didn't go around showing off this grammatical subtlety. It was merely ready in case it was ever needed.

    Next, Jesus courageously faced the hard facts. We are told that "Science is the source of facts, and mind cannot operate without facts." (*1222) My point is complementary: facts are the beginning of science. One of the reasons for Judas' downfall is that "he did not like to face facts frankly." (*2056)

    We have a tendency to think that science has to do with those facts that are remote from us. We tend not to use our scientific abilities on intimate matters. But rigorous and tough-minded thinking must invade the realms of daily life. Scientific integrity begins at home.

    Jesus at the age of 12 had been called by the celestial messenger to be about his Father's business; but then he found himself after Joseph's death faced with a family emergency. He faced the facts and "rightly reasoned that the watchcare of his earthly father's family must take precedence of all duties." (*1389)

    Jesus told his followers about the hard facts of the social environment in which they were laboring for truth. In the Ordination Sermon he said, "In all the business of the kingdom I exhort you to show just judgment and keen wisdom. Present not that which is holy to dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample your gems under foot and turn to rend you. I warn you against false prophets who will come to you in sheep's clothing, while on the inside they are as ravening wolves." (*1571)

    Throughout Jesus' public career he was keenly aware of the political situation, staying clear of danger early in his public career when opposition began to mount in Jerusalem; confronting challenges in the Epochal Sermon when open conflict had become inevitable; telling his followers to be realistic--to count the cost of being a disciple; warning his disciples about the downfall of Jerusalem and the enmity of the world; all the while proclaiming the primal facts of the sovereignty of God and the love of the Father for the individual.

    Finally, Jesus organized his knowledge into idea-decisions. So often we collect a piece of knowledge and leave it there, sitting on the shelf of the mind. We gather information, but we don't wrestle issues to the point of judgment, decision. We become passive consumers of information in a scientistic culture. But we have an alternative: to take that piece of knowledge and to bring to actualization its contribution to decision and action.

    "Revelation teaches mortal man that, to start such a magnificent and intriguing adventure, he should begin by the organization of knowledge into idea-decisions." (*1112)

    Right after his baptism, Jesus prepared for his great decisions by recalling his full range of planetary knowledge. We are told, "Jesus thought over the whole span of human life on Urantia, from the days of Andon and Fonta, down through Adam's default, and on to the ministry of the Melchizedek of Salem." (*1514)

    We would like to know much more than we do about Jesus the scientist. We are given very little of the data he collected empirically. But we are given, from time to time, results of his knowledge of humankind. Jesus organized his knowledge into idea-decisions--and also into instructions for his followers. Consider a few of his teachings which embody the knowledge of cause and effect, of action and result:

    He had his apostles begin with personal ministry before public preaching.

    He taught that sharers of truth should "not undertake to show men the beauties of the temple until you have first taken them into the temple." (*1593)

    And he predicted that "The persistent preaching of this gospel of the kingdom will some day bring to all nations a new and unbelievable liberation, intellectual freedom, and religious liberty." (*1930)

    And what knowledge of humanity is embedded in his new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you."!

    There is a danger for us: we have not acquired the empirical foundation for these teachings; we may fail to understand why they are important; we may act contrary to their implicit wisdom; and we may have to rediscover their truth through a harvest of unhappiness.

    We have the priceless opportunity of intelligent participation in the evolution of our universe. Science is on trial before the bar of human need. Will we utilize our scientific capacities to understand and act in accord with divine teaching or will we do something else with these abilities? Science requires courage and honest adventure. And it touches upon the beliefs at the root of our actions. Will we follow the Master fully in our devotion to truth?

    "If you, by truth co-ordination, learn to exemplify in your lives this beautiful wholeness of righteousness, your fellow men will then seek after you that they may gain what you have so acquired." (*1726)

    * * *

    We can live in a more truth-co-ordinated way by basing our lives more perfectly on what we can learn from science. (This might involve exercise, nutrition, rest, recycling, or a more intelligent approach to our work or study.) What personal growth project would you like to undertake along these lines? Write down one or more needs that you would like to work on.

    For each of these needs, answer the following questions:

    1. How does this need require you to become more of a scientist yourself, making observations, testing hypotheses, etc.?

    2. How does this need require you to explore more of what science has already discovered?

    3. How does this need require you to put into practice what you already know?

  3. Colleen, I went to bed last night telling myself, "If only I had some good summary of the complex history of marriage as an institution in Western cultures . . . ."

    And here it is. This is a very valuable summary, and it will help many of us tremendously.

    It's interesting that, since Fr. Schloesser wrote this letter in 2004, the "venerable tradition" argument has been further extended by traditionalist Christians to "forever," the beginning of time.

    Both Catholics and non-Catholics are now using JPII's theology of the body to claim that one man, one woman marriage has always been the norm from time immemorial. This argument is just so far removed from historical fact that it's hard to imagine how anyone holds it, but I find it everywhere now.