Lesson 56- Discerning Humanism from Christianity

         In my last program, I was talking about the importance of a vision, which, may I suggest, is simply the yearning of the right lobe of our brains for its hearts desires. The heart, as I mentioned in my last program is more important than the mind because it is the source of the premises upon which the mind will act. It was because of this, that the philosopher, Schopenhauer, said that religion was correct when it sought to change the heart or will rather than the mind or intellect. A good heart, he said, was always better than a good mind. And, from a Christian point of view, we could say that the Father, who corresponds to our creative, artistic right lobe, is the heart of God and Jesus, who corresponds to our logical, intelligent left lobe, is the mind of God whose job is to carry out the premises emanating from His own Sacred Heart. Thus, the Sacred Heart of Jesus may simply be another name for God the Father whose vision or dream for His creation is frustrated and wounded every time human beings fail to cooperate through sinning.

        Like all dreamers, He has an eternal longing to see His dream come true but unfortunately, His own nature will not allow Him to impose it upon His creation which He has endowed with freedom. Thus, He is an artist who is painting with paints that have a mind of their own. Well, why doesnt He bring them under control? As the Song of Thanksgiving says,

        His care called out a people; His love made them His own
        He dried their tears and calmed their fears and finally brought them home.
        Its when our trials are over, we most easily forget
        But His friendship never ceases His love shows no regret
        Love that freely given, want to freely be received

        In other words, no matter how much this gift of freedom to His creatures interferes with the completion of His dream, He never regrets that He gave it to us because, you see, love and freedom are intimately intertwined. There is no such things as forced love and thus, the author of Love, who is Love Itself, is committed to allowing us to be free to choose to either return His love or to reject it. Either we will freely accept the gift of the fullness of life that He is trying to give us or we will continue to live in the Kingdom of Mental Darkness in which we are entrapped.

        The problem, according to St. John is the light came into the world and men loved darkness. We are operating with hearts that are rooted in the natural level and He is calling us to move to the next higher one, the supernatural level. And this can be accomplished only through a rebirth or paradigm shift in which the premises of our animalistic nature, which are concerned with dominance, power, rank, pleasure and turf are replaced with new premises that are based on service, dedication, responsibility, and love. And, as this transformation happens, we find our own heart distancing itself from the cares and concerns of this world. We sense that we are in it but not of it.

        For example, my Irish genes no longer respond in a partisan way to the conflict between Northern and Southern Ireland. I am tired of the blame game that has placed both sides in an eternal circle of violence in which generation after generation sacrifices young lives to a cause that only intensifies and prolongs the hatred on both sides. I yearn for a peaceful Ireland where Protestants and Catholics learn to live in peace.

        I also am finding it more and more difficult to become emotionally involved in the geo-political issues that involve our country. When I read the paper of things that are happening in the center East and elsewhere, the natural man in me begins to feel a twinge of patriotic anger and starts to imagine the havoc that we should reek upon those who would dare to oppose our interests and maim our soldiers. And then I find myself thinking that the real enemy is not the people on the other side. Rather, it is the spirit of a world system which throughout all of human history has led to an eternal series of war, all of which promised to finally resolve our conflicts and bring lasting peace. And since this has never happened, you would think that we would start to question and doubt the methodology and begin to look for new ways to resolve our differences.

        The supernatural man within me is telling me that the real war is not between flesh and blood but rather between spiritual systems which are rooted in the hearts of men. I am beginning to hate war, violence, lying, greed, injustice, etc instead of the people who practice them. I am beginning to feel that we have all been pawns to spiritual powers and influences of which we are not totally aware and that the real battles are taking place in the hearts of men and not on the battlefields of foreign lands.

        It reminds me of a Star Trek episode in which the Starship Enterprise enters an area of the universe where, for some unknown reason, fighting constantly breaking out among members of the crew who had always been friends. Eventually, the problem climaxes when two of the major crewmembers become involved in a fight in which one of them is killed. The argument began in the mess hall over some stupid issue like pass the salt. As Captain Kirk leaves the bridge to investigate the murder, he is informed that the murdered crewmember has just come back to life. Sensing that something out of the ordinary is responsible for what is happening, he and Mr. Spock finally deduce that there is a spiritual being aboard the Enterprise that ate hate. Like a farmer planting seeds, it went about planting seeds of hate, mistrust, resentment, misunderstanding, suspicion, jealousy etc into the minds of men. And, as these sentiments took root and erupted into violent conflicts, the spiritual being fed on the energy that was being generated. Thus, in the mess hall, when one crewmember asked the other to pass the salt, the spiritual being planted in the mind of the other the question Why do you always have to pass the salt? Hes got two arms! Why doesnt he reach for it? When he says this to the other crewmember, the being plants in his mind the response, Well, why do you always get to sit near the window? Why cant I sit there some time? As the battle heats up and charges and counter-charges are hurled back and forth, the spiritual being gorges itself on the energy being released and grows in power and influence. Captain Kirk informs the crew that the only way to defeat this spiritual being, that was immune to guns and lasers, was to replace hatred and suspicion with love and trust. In other words, spiritual battles require spiritual weapons.

        Its a powerful parable that, if we took it to heart, might transform our world. Therefore, I am learning to oppose spiritual qualities rather than the people who express them. I am learning to oppose rape and not the rapist; murder instead of the murderer; war instead of the warrior; abortion rather than the abortionist; homosexuality rather than the homosexual. In other words, I am learning to oppose the sin rather than the sinner.

        Thus, as I have been suggesting, we are involved in a Cultural War that does not involve guns and bombs but rather values and lifestyles. The weapons are not physical, they are attitudinal and they are expressed by the way that we live our lives and the things that we support. Like Captain Kirks crew, we have to be careful that in opposing that which needs to be opposed we do not allow any spiritual being to generate in us any of the negative feelings upon which it might feed. Thus, we should oppose abortion and reflect that opposition by the things that we say and the way that we vote, but we should not be duped into bombing abortion clinics and becoming involved in heated yelling matches with the opposition. But even better than opposition is positive action in the opposite direction. We should seek to be part of the solution and not part of the problem and that is why we must have a vision of our own. A vision that imagines the world as it ought to be and generates within us a lifelong effort to transform that which is hope for into that which is real. But where is this vision located? Where all visions are locatedin our hearts. And where are our hearts? Well, the physical ones are in our chest but the spiritual ones are in our heads. And where in our heads might we find this heart that contains the premises by which we live? According to some, it is in our unconscious mind.

        Sigmund Freud, the founder of the Psychoanalytic Theory in psychology, had hypothesized that much of human behavior is motivated by the unconscious mind, which seems to correspond to the animalistic, nonverbal, intuitive right lobes of our brain. Because it thinks in pictures, rather than words, it tends to produce holistic image of what it would like the world to be and thus, it seems to be the producer of visions and the generator of premises which unconsciously guides much of our behavior. However, because it has problems focusing a distaste for details, it has to depend on the left lobe to map out the steps that are necessary to turn the vision from that is hoped for to that which exists. Thus, a vision is a motivating goal that provides the premises upon which we act, and how we act will determine what becomes real and what remains just a hope. Therefore, we might say that reality is a self fulfilling prophecy in which people, because they believe something is true, act as though it is true, and thereby cause it to become true. If the vision is not strong enough to generate action, then it will remain an empty hope destined for the trash heap of history for dreams that could have been but never were.

        The fact that we see major changes taking place in our national paradigm and moral code is a clear indication that there are groups out there that have a dream they are willing to act upon and the fact that their dream is not meeting any significant opposition indicates that those who oppose them either have no dream or that it is not strong enough to motivate them to act.

        It was the dream of His Fathers Kingdom that motivated Jesus in His life and ministry. It was this same dream that motivated the Apostles and early Christians to take on the Roman Empire despite the hardships and persecutions that were involved. It has been this same dream that has driven Western civilization to seek the changes and reforms that have brought us to the present moment. And it is this same dream that has been passed on to us to move it further towards the fulfillment of Jesus prayer Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And it is this dream, known as the Judeo/Christian Linear Utopian Concept of History, that is not being passed on to our children through our families, schools, and, sorry to say, even our churches. And, yet, as the Bible says, without a vision or dream the people perish.

        There are two dangers facing us today. The first is that we have forgotten our own dream and the second is that we are being pulled into someone elses dream.

        As I mentioned in my last talk, there is a lot of counterfeit Christianity out there today which makes it very difficult for undiscerning Christians to avoid being led down paths that end in Secular Humanism. The two dreams are so close in places that it is hard even for a discerning Christian to detect the essential difference between them. The Christian dream is so appealing, that even those who oppose Christianity cant help but to incorporate major components of it into their own vision. Thus they use our words and talk of our ends, but they are using their own means.

        In future programs, I will devote my talks to pointing out the fine distinction between the Christian and Secular Humanistic dreams. And, since, the two visions are so close in their ends, as Christians we can and should affirm those aspects of their dream that are compatible with ours. At the same time, we have to be ready to oppose those that are not.

        A good place to start is with the song, The Power of the Dream, that I played at the end of my last program, which was the theme song of one of the Olympics. Now the Olympics is an international event and thus this song was expressing an international hope which all of mankind was striving towards. Let me review with you the words of this song, which you might have missed, so that we can compare it to the dream of Christianity. The words are:

        Deep within each there lies a magic spark
        That lights the fire of our imagination
        And since the dawn of man, the strength of just I can
        Has brought together people of all nations.
        Theres nothing ordinary in the living of each day,
        Theres a special part every one of us will play.
        Feel the flame forever burn, teaching lessons we must learn
        To bring us closer to the power of the dream
        As the world give us the best to stand apart from all the rest
        (As God gives us the grace to stand apart from all the rest,)
        It is the power of the dream that brings us here.
        Your mind will take you far; the rest is just pure heart,
        Youll find your fate is all your own creation
        (Youll find your fate for you is Gods creation.)
        Every boy and girl, as they come into this world,
        They bring the gift of hope and inspiration.
        Feel the flame forever burn, teaching lesson we must learn
        To bring us closer to the power of the dream
        The world unites in hope and peace; pray that it will always be
        It is the power of the dream that brings us here.
        Theres so much strength in all of us, every woman, child, and man
        Its the moment that you think you cant, you discover that you can
        Feel the flame forever burn, teaching lessons we must learn
        To bring us closer to the power of the dream.
        Power of the dream; faith in things unseen
        Courage to embrace your fears
        No matter where you are, reach for your own star.
        To realize the power of the dream
        To realize the power of the dream

        As I said, this was the theme song for the Olympics and therefore it was a message that was created for the entire world. The message is 95% Christian and 5% Secular Humanistic but you have to have a discerning ear to hear the difference.

         First, let me talk about the parts with which we agree. We agree that deep within each heart there lies a magic spark that lights the power of our imagination. It is the spark that St. Augustine spoke about when he said, Our hearts were made for Thee Oh God and will not rest until they rest in Thee. It is the yearning for the Ultimate Good who is God and the desire to create a world patterned on His dream.

         We also agree that since the dawn of man it has been the efforts of the people who have said I can that has brought about the changes and reforms that have united people from all nations and this has been brought about through the flame of the Holy Spirit of Truth which is always teaching us lessons we must learn to bring us closer to the power of the dream.

         We also agree there should be nothing ordinary in the living of each life because theres a special part that every one of us has to play. And we have no problem with the idea that every boy and girl, as they come into the world, brings with them a gift of hope and inspiration. Nor do we object to the idea that the world will unite in hope and peace.

        Our problem is with how and under whom they will unite. Christianity has always envisioned an international world united under Christ, the Wisdom of God. However, we are not the only ones with an international vision. The theme song of Communism is the Internationale which indicates their desire to create a new international order based on the principles of a secular humanistic Communist state. Therefore, is the New World Order in this song the one described in the Gospel or the one described in John Lennons Imagine. Now lets look at the secular humanistic influences in this song.

         The first problem occurs in the next line which says as the world gives us the best to stand apart from all the rest which, in itself, could be innocently referring to world class athletes who had come together to compete in the Olympics. However, it could also the beginning of the movement of the song towards the spirit of the Humanist Manifesto which says, There is no God to save Mankind; Mankind must save itself. This could be contrasted with St. Ignatiuss statement Pray like everything depended on God, and work like everything depended on you. For the Christian it is the Holy Spirit of God that is driving this dream while for the Humanist it is the Human Spirit thus they emphasize the power of the individual. The next two lines illustrate this more clearly when they say:
        Your mind will take you far; the rest is just pure heart,
        Youll find your fate is all your own creation

         Can you hear this emphasis on the independent right of the individual to choose his own world? In other words, there is no power greater than the individual will.

         Years ago, when I used this song with young people at a Catholic Unity Conference, I change these lines so that they were more compatible with our Christian view. Thus, the line, As the world give us the best to stand apart from all the rest was changed to As God gives us the grace to stand apart from all the rest, and the line, Youll find your fate is all your own creation, was changed to Youll find your fate for you is Gods creation.

        These changes might seem insignificant to many of you but it is through these minor shifts that the Christian Dream is becoming the Secular Humanists dream and those Christians who do not possess the discernment to see it are slowing accepting a Humanistic nightmare for a Christian vision. And by the time that we realize it, it may be too late.

         Like the frog that is slowly being boiled alive in a pot over a low flame, Christians are gradually being turned away from their own dream by minor shifts in their paradigm. Unfortunately because many of us dont know or remember that dream, and the forces of the world are doing their best to steal or corrupt it, we are easily mislead not only by those outside our ranks but even by those who are within. Let me just give you a two examples.

        Over the Easter holidays, which are the High Holy Days for Christianity, I was disgusted with what a major network put on to recognize our faith. Peter Jennings, on ABC, spent weeks promoting a three-hours special on Jesus and Paul that was touted as the most spectacular presentation ever done on them. Since it was scheduled for Holy Week, I naturally assumed that this was something that every Christian wanted to watch as part of their Easter meditation. Boy, was I wrong!

        After one half hour, I turned it off because it attacked and tried to undermine every belief that we hold dear. Jennings and his crew had peppered the presentation with so called experts who claimed that Judas probably never really existed but was merely a symbol used in the Gospels to represent the Jewish people who had betrayed Christ. This was followed by another expert who claimed that Jesus was never buried because it was the practice of the Romans to leave the bodies to decay on the cross. Of course, no reference was made to the Gospels assertion that the Jewish leaders requested that He be taken down because it was sacrilegious to have anyone hanging on a cross during the Sabbath.

        Then, the viewer learned that because most of the Gospels were written forty years after the Crucifixion, the Gospels writers purposely shifted the blame from Pilate, who really feared Jesus as a violent revolutionary, to the Jewish leaders. This was done, according to the so-called experts because the Christians were trying to distance themselves from their Jewish roots by blaming the crucifixion on the Jews. Of course, there is not a shred of historical evidence for this and the whole conclusion is based on speculations by these so-called experts.

        Its hard to understand how Pilate could consider a man who said, Love your enemies; do good to those who harm you, or those who take up the sword will die by the sword; or give to Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are God; and finally, My kingdom is not of this world! as a violent revolutionary who was trying to overthrow the Roman Empire. Nor did the experts address the fact that the Jewish leaders had accused Jesus of blaspheme and that according to their law this required death.

        In all my years in Catholic education, I was never taught that the Jewish people, either then or now, had killed Christ. In fact, I was taught that we and all sinners were responsible.

        However, I was taught that the Jewish leaders of that time were responsible for His death because they had asked the Romans to impose a death sentence because they couldnt and therefore they tried to convince the Romans that Jesus was a political threat to Rome rather than a religious threat to them.

        It appears that some people cant live with this fact and want to revise history no matter how much they must distort the historical record. I have no trouble and most of the people that I know dont seem to have any trouble with accepting the historical record and, at the same time, accept our Jewish neighbors and friends. I cant see how any reasonable person could hold an entire people responsible, either then or throughout history, for the actions of a small group within that group, no more than I can see why white people today, who were never involved in slavery, should pay restitution to black people who were never enslaved. This kind of reasoning is not only unreasonable; it is also unjust. However, there are those that buy into the premise of historical responsibility and that is why they feel that the only solution to anti-Semitism is to deny or revise history.

        Its bad enough when the secular media does this but it is even worst when a group within our own Church does it. During the same time frame, the Paulists, a group of Catholic priest involved in media productions, presented a TV movie entitled Judas. Now, since there are so few specifics in the Gospels on Judas himself, it seemed reasonable that the producers would have to resort to some creative fabrication. However, what they did went far beyond any reasonable poetic license. First, the character of Jesus was humanized to the point where His divine dimension was almost obliterated. All throughout the presentation we see a conflict between Judas desire to turn the Gospel towards political ends while Jesus tries to keep focused on the religious ends. In one scene, Jesus and Judas have a minor wrestling bout over their disagreement.

        Up to this point, one might find it slightly artistically annoying. But then comes the real twist. The chief priest is portrayed as being friendly and interested in Jesus while Pilate is portrayed as feeling politically threatened by Him. As the movie progresses, it is asserted that Pilate convinces the Chief Priest to enter into a plot with him to kill Jesus. Reluctantly, the Chief Priest agrees and accuses Jesus of trying to lead a revolution to overthrow the Roman Empire. When Jesus is brought before Pilate, Pilate is shown standing in the wing talking to the Chief Priest. As he gets ready to go out to meet Jesus, he nudges the Chief Priest and with a knowing glance says, Watch this! thereby intimating that he intends to pretend that he was not interested in killing Jesus when in reality he was.

        The Paulists should be ashamed of themselves for distorting the historical Biblical record in such a gross way. Later, someone told me that they are great supporters of John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for the presidency from Massachusetts, and that they opposed any attempt by Archbishop OMalley to deny him communion on the basis of his public record supporting abortion and other laws that violate Catholic moral teachings. According to my source, they offered to give him communion if he were refused it by the Archbishop.

        Thus, to the unsuspecting Catholic, there are forces from without and from within the Church who are trying to shift him away from his orthodox beliefs and, since many of us are so poorly catechized it is not difficult to pull the wool over our eyes.

        The latest assault is The DeVince Code which is now being made into a movie. Lets hope that it flops to the same degree that Mel Gibsons The Passion of the Christ succeeded.

        Dont you find it strange that Christianity, which was the religion upon which this country was founded, it now openly attacked and challenged by major media sources? Can you imagine any other religion or group having their most sacred beliefs challenged or debunked during the time when they were recognizing and honoring those beliefs.

        Can you imagine the major networks presenting a program questioning whether the Holocaust ever happened or whether Mohammed ever existed at a time when both groups were involved in remembering and honoring the event? I am sure that it would be possible for them to find some individuals who would present some convoluted reasoning based on speculation and specious evidence to prove both contentions.

        Why is it that they believe that they can attack Christianity with such impunity? Maybe it because we are fast becoming a nation of nominal, misinformed, or uninformed Christians who no longer care or are able to muster the necessary energy to answer back. And maybe that because we lack a vision.

        The only positive spin that I can put on what is happening is that the Church is being pruned of all its dead wood. It is being pruned of priests who have disgraced the Church through their behavior and of lay people who, at best are hanger-on-ers and at worst are simply people who identify themselves a Catholics on documents. When the pruning is done, the Church will be revitalized like a tree that, after losing its dead or dying branches that have been sapping its energy, is able to direct its resources to those parts which are alive and growing.

        If we intend to be part of this revitalized Church then we must not only know what is good about our vision but what is wrong about that of our opponents. In future programs, I intend to address this issue.

        Well I see that my time is up. Heres Dom!