17 February, 2010

Why I maintain this blog: A reflection and some thoughts. Feel free to make suggestions if you think I can better accomplish what I am trying to achieve - generating a conversation

Martin & Reddog:  Thank you for your posts in this thread. I had never heard of Dr. Reker before I read the news story about his study (I think I provided a link as well as publishing the summary).

You each raise a central point of this blog that I would like to address, namely what articles I publish on the blog. I will copy this same text (although maybe with a bit of editing to clean up the grammar) into a posting in its own right.

Yours are not the only criticism that I get about the variety of topics that I post on the blog. In fact I catch more flack from fellow Christians who object to the fact that I post comments such as your which argue the opposite to Dr. Reker's study (they often think that I am harming the Christian position by exposing readers to anti-life or other positions contrary to traditional Christian stands on moral issues).

I also freely admit that some of what I post is politically incorrect - at least as that term has come to be understood as saying something that one group or another might find offensive (as you both did with this article).

Yet that is exactly what I intend to continuing doing! No where in my the initial post did I give my opinion - and I clearly stated that I was throwing it out there for discussion. Please don't draw some conclusion as to my intent in posting any article other than to accomplish that which I repeatedly stated: to foster discussion of important topic of faith, morals and societal life. Wherever "the rubber hits the road", there are bound to be heat, conflict, dirt and noise. But these are necessary consequences of making progress in understanding these issues.

Some of what I post will generate discussion or rancor from one group while another causes the same for others. It is my firm conviction that we should not shy away from these discussions just because people might get upset, and that each time something like our exchanges on this topic occurs, it serves to shine a light on a subject to bring clarity and knowledge to those who read it. Let me take it a step further: if you (or anyone) wants to recommend something for posting, I'll be happy to oblige so long at it fits the parameters I began this blog with - that it's something that relates to the intersection of faith and life.

One final point: in the face of allegations of "bloody hands" and the occasional questioning of my head, heart or charity, I have never responded with accusation or acrimony. I assume the best of intentions on everyone's part and do my best to follow the same route in my postings. I try to be humble and charitable in all that I write. All that I ask of you is only what I demand of myself - that we be truthful, charitable and open to each others arguments. There is no attempt on my part to use these pages to "convert" anyone or coerce people into believing the same as I do. I do not believe that it is your intention to convert me either!

I trust that you will in the future comprehend this a little better and will continue to join in the no-holds barred dialogue and debate as you have done previously.

Fr. Tim

26 comments:

  1. "(they often think that I am harming the Christian position by exposing readers to anti-life or other positions contrary to traditional Christian stands on moral issues)."

    You might try suggesting to those particular critics that if a position cannot stand against such mild opposition, it will not stand against reality.

    Moral issues are personal and individual. They are like muscles -- they need exercise. Your more conservative critics should be thanking you, not scolding you.

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  2. May I remind Lady Janus that moral issues are NOT personal and private? Every moral action has some affect on another person, especially when you are talking about the taking of a life, meaning the unborn.

    And yes the pro-life position will stand the test of time. It has been a historic Christian, (note I didn't say Catholic) belief and tenet for centuries.

    Glad to see you back Lady Janus!

    Cliff

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  3. You are all ready converted, Tim. You know that the Church is morally bankrupt and run by men with no interest in either God or the well being of the laity, only their own narrow self interest.

    You think for yourself and are tired of doing the bidding of and defending men who are nothing more than parasites.

    It's only a matter of time before you come around.

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  4. Reddog, you are partially right about the Church, and I agree most of Christianity is in need of repentance. As I stated before the Church in dire need of reform. Pride has infiltrated the leadership and the lay people slumber from their comfortable pew.

    It is no different than in the Old Testament times when the people of God wandered from the true goal they were given. And as in Old Testament times, THEY DID RETURN TO THE ONE TRUE GOD. Everything in history is cyclical.

    Cliff

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  5. ("Wherever "the rubber hits the road", there are bound to be heat, conflict, dirt and noise. But these are necessary consequences of making progress in understanding these issues.")

    Yeah, this is understood. Unfortunately this medium does not make it easy to see that the person on the other side of the electronic link is in fact a human being. It is impossible to see the effect one's comments have reflected in the face of one's opponents.

    ("allegations of "bloody hands" and the occasional questioning of my head, heart or charity...")

    How exactly do you tell the difference between an honest seeker of truth and someone who is acting out of base motives when all you have to judge by is a line of electronic text?

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  6. "How exactly do you tell the difference between an honest seeker of truth and someone who is acting out of base motives when all you have to judge by is a line of electronic text?"

    First, I would ask why it would be considered important to do so.

    Second, I would ask for your definition of "truth."

    No "conversions" ever happen on blogs. The very best anyone can hope for is a civilized and polite exchange of ideas and definitions. You say why you think x is important to you and I counter with why I think y is more important, and so on.

    And when it comes to motivation, all is base. And I for one have no problem with that.

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  7. Freyr: I would hope that it is a given that if one says that they are interested in discussing a topic, that their intentions are honest. I simply choose to start all of these discussions/conversations/debates (whatever name we give them) from the perspective of assuming the good will of all. Can we get to really know each other via this medium? Not likely, but we can share thoughts, ideas and concepts and through that we can come to know something of each other. Again though, that is not the purpose of the blog... it can only be a secondary benefit at best.

    Fr. Tim

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  8. ("First, I would ask why it would be considered important to do so.")

    You've answered your own question. I would expect "a civilized and polite exchange of ideas" from someone who is honestly seeking the truth. As for base motives... I'm sure we have all seen internet trolls dropping flame bait on all sorts of forums. Such things are a waste of everyone's time and energy.

    I really don't want to be anyone's adrenalin fix...

    As for Pilate's question... What is truth?
    You don't ask the small ones do you? The first question should probably be "Are we going to holster our guns and sit down?" We may never agree on the definition of truth but I would hope we might at least agree on the first step of the journey.

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  9. Freyr: Amen! All participants are asked to leave their guns at the door!! (grin)

    Fr. Tim

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  10. "You've answered your own question."

    No I didn't. Not to me, anyway. I wanted to know why you think it's so important to tell the difference between a seeker of "truth" and someone who is simply debating for the fun of it.

    "I would expect "a civilized and polite exchange of ideas" from someone who is honestly seeking the truth."

    I've know some very polite scoundrels and some extremely rude seekers. Behavior does not go to motive.

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  11. Well polite may not be the best word and debating for the fun of it does not preclude mutual respect.

    I am reflecting on an ongoing argument between myself and a friend of mine. We are not terribly polite... in fact we are often quite rude. There is, however, mutual respect and a complete lack of malicious intent.

    Sometimes it's the only time I have a decent conversation... aside from talking to myself of course.

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  12. Hi Tim,

    Thank you for your remarks. I can certainly understand why you might find my words uncomfortable.

    I also had not heard of Dr. Reker before your post. I did, however, take 2 whole minutes to look up his "study" and to check his background. Afterall - his study contradicts all serious research that I am familiar with in this area. As I suspected, both his "study" and his background were consistent with Catholic Online's usual journalistic standards.

    When you list Catholic Online as one of your news sources, and when you quote uncritically from one of its articles - which is dripping with anti-gay bigotry - then I do view that as tacit approval of the sentiments being expressed therein.

    I will also gently point out that you attempted to defend Reker in your comment when you wrote:

    "If the story (about Reker's testimony being rejected by the courts) was based solely upon his opinion, I would agree with your objection."

    Yes let me assure you - your hands and the hands of your Church are bloody. Your hands are bloody to the extent that you both perpetrate unsubstantiated negative sterotypes about homosexuals.

    It is one thing to make scriptural or theological arguments against homosexuals, but it is quite another thing to baselessly accuse homosexuals of:

    "Households with a homosexually-behaving adult uniquely endanger children".

    This is a negative sterotype that is not:

    a) supported by scripture;
    b) supported by peer reviewed science;

    It is, however, exactly one of the negative sterotypes that is fuelling anti-gay bigotry in Uganda right now.

    Uganda is merely one of the most recent examples of the persecution of homosexuals, but this persecution is by no means isolated to the African continent.

    I entirely 'get' why you do not like it when I link your words, the words of your fellow travellers in the truth (e.g. Catholic Online) and the words of your Church, to the violence being waged against gay people.

    A tepid "love the sinner, but hate the sin" just does not cut it any more Tim.

    In a world where they are literally burning the faggots at the stake, and hanging them high and often, natural justice demands that people of goodwill speak up...not just uncritically publish anti-gay bigotry and pretend it is merely a matter of parlour room debate over a cup of tea.

    Your words do matter. The ideas you promote do matter. The question for you my friend, is what kind of world do you want your words and ideas to help to create? What kind of world is your silence allowing to unfold?

    Respectfully...Martin

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  13. Hi Martin,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. You have given me a great deal to ponder. The only point that I would raise is this: given that we both believe that words do matter, and given as well that we both understand the these are important issues to debate, discuss, support or eviscerate, then is it improper to bring up issues as I have done in this blog? If we do not openly bring these topics to the floor, then the remain hidden in half truths and darkened hearts.

    For example, I did not defend Dr. Reker... I pointed out that instead of dealing with the substance of his argument, your first response was to challenge his credentials. The Wikapedia reference you offered spoke positively of his accomplishments and seem to grant some credence to the validity of his argument. You subsequent comments in which you offered sites which address the substance of his article were of a lot more benefit in advancing your point.

    Secondly, I ask you to look again at my original post where I posed the question: is this "wisdom or bigotry?" If the material is not first put before one for consideration, how can the merits of the argument be either refuted or confirmed?

    As to my uncritical acceptance of articles from Catholic Online... you are absolutely correct. But I do not apologize for drawing from a source that (while traditional in its orientation) is considered to be a solid source for Catholic teaching and issues. Opinion pieces like the one that inspired my original post do not have the same heft as their news stories, the fact that this cross posting of an article from their site is proof positive that they are almost always good fodder for discussion.

    So, pulling these thoughts all together, let me conclude by saying again that it is the purpose of this blog to engender conversation and debate, not to convert. To be successful, it requires me to post topics (although I am certainly open to posting other articles if people send them to me) and for others to join in pointing out their flaws, consequences and effects. Given that literally hundreds of people everyday read these exchanges (about 6000 each month) is proof positive that people appreciate these exchanges. I sincerely hope that they continue. I'll do my part in arguing the side of faith. I count on others to do their part as well.

    You call me "friend", and you have been so in my heart and mind since we met 25 years ago. Friendship is not an emotion or warm feeling... it is a walking together through a period of life. As I was graced with your calm demeanor and wisdom those many years ago in London, so I appreciate now your articulate voice and insightful logic.

    Thank you.

    Tim

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  14. If you remember, I posted the text from the catechism in a previous incarnation of this thread. I did that for a specific reason... there is a lack of understanding on both sides as to what the church's actual teaching about homosexuality is .

    On the Catholic side I have witnessed an incredible degree of denial about that teaching. The call is to engagement... to involvement. It is fairly easy to exhibit bigotry when you can dehumanize the person... it is quite another matter when they are staring you in the face. Love should cost something...

    I have watched people give in to the fear... the feeling of being under attack with your back against the wall. I have seen the siege mentality first hand and it is ugly.

    Unfortunately I can also see the reasons for this siege mentality. This culture is merciless towards those who do not conform. I do not like being the object of someone's hatred... I doubt any sane person would.

    In my earlier post I asked "Are we going to holster our guns and sit down?" I do not think this is exaggerating the situation. This media is deceptive... just because you cannot see the pain does not mean it does not exist. You are quite right. "Your words do matter."

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  15. Freyr: You write:

    "On the Catholic side I have witnessed an incredible degree of denial about that teaching. The call is to engagement... to involvement. It is fairly easy to exhibit bigotry when you can dehumanize the person... it is quite another matter when they are staring you in the face. Love should cost something..."

    Could you expand a bit on this point. I think its key to understanding this issue, at least when approached from the perspectives of faith and charity.

    Thanks!

    Fr. Tim

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  16. "They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." Sec 2358, Catechism

    There is a fallacy present in our culture that says acceptance must include approval. This is not the case. Unfortunately acceptance without a blanket approval is both difficult and painful for all concerned.

    In my own case it means I have had to face this with people I care a great deal about. It is far easier to shut the door, close off the emotions and distance yourself... it hurts less that way. Love does cost something... it means feeling that pain in the full knowledge that to cut off the pain would mean cutting yourself off from the person.

    I believe we are called to be there, to listen, to be engaged with people and involved in the world around us. I have seen Catholics isolate themselves so that the only people they ever talk to are other Catholics, a siege mentality if you will. I am told that the reason for this is because they need the support. But I wonder...

    You cannot accept someone if you never look upon their face, if you never walk with them a while, if you never listen. If you are honest with yourself this will leave you conflicted.

    If you do not feel the need to give both acceptance and approval then you are lacking in compassion. If you approve of something you believe is wrong then you risk losing yourself. If you retreat from facing this dilemma, then you are lacking in faith.

    It's Lent and we are walking towards Golgotha once again...

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  17. Freyr: Thank you very much for your post. I'm going to copy it and bring it to the fore as a post on the main blog page. I hope it, and my response will comments from others.

    Again, many thanks for each of your posts in this thread.

    Fr. Tim

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  18. Hi Tim,

    Would you link uncritically to an article where the author referred to empirical research that allegedly proved:

    a) black people had lower intelligence;
    b) black people were unable to form stable relationships and families;
    c) and that both a) and b) were sufficient reasons to discriminate against black people and deny them the right to form marriages and families?

    Or would you link uncritically to an article that referred to "research" that empirically "proved" that Jews had a higher propensity to abuse christian children than non-Jews?

    I think we both know that you would look long and hard at the above referenced "research" before you linked to it.

    So why is it that you (and many others) link uncritically to research that is anti-gay?

    I appreciate that there is prinicipled disagreement between some religious folks and some or all parts of the homosexual community. I understand that, but what I do not understand is:

    Why do some religious folks literally define themselves by their anti-gay views?

    Why do some religious folks go out of their way to interfere in the equal treatment of homosexuals under the law?

    Why are so many religous folks so very silent on the Anti-Gay Bill in Uganda? Arguably this is one of the greatest human rights violations of our time, and one that Christians around the world could actually play a positive role in resolving.

    I am mystified as to why some religious folks feel the need to utterly demonize the LGBT community at every turn...so much so that they actually lie and distort reality in order to do so. Some even create pseudo-scientific research to justify the demonizing.

    I am mystified why some religious folks must hold up every bad example of a homosexual person and proclaim that all homosexuals are the same and therefore undeserving of (you fill in the blank).

    I am mystified why some religious folks cannot simply tolerate the existence of homosexuals. I am not arguing for acceptance, or love, or sympathy - just plain old tolerance. You leave the homos alone to do whatever they want unless it breaks your leg or picks your pocket. Simple. Secular. Tolerance.

    Perhaps one reason that this topic raises such passion for me is that I know so many homosexuals personally. Many are friends, some are family, and others are just acquaintenances. I know that homosexuals are just as rotten, and just as saintly as anyone else. And just like 'real people', they are often a combination of the two.

    In any case...a few things to think about.

    Cheers...Martin

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  19. Martin:

    In truth, I believe I would post articles such as you describe on my blog as I did with the Reker article. I have always followed seriously a wisdom that I learned from Fr. Jack & Mickey (Art of the Confessor course): that Christ was serious when he said that which is whispered in darkness will be brought into the light of the day.

    If someone posted an article that purported to empirically prove what such startling premises, then this should be brought into the light of the day. That's the only way that it can be refuted and challenged. I do not only post on the issue of gay rights issues; it is simply one of a host of topics that I bring forward for discussion.

    Let me conclude by once again pointing our to you that I raised the question of the validity of Reker's conclusions by asking if whether he had discovered a significant factor in determining the best interest of a child, or if he was a "bigot". Clearly I am open to being persuaded one way or the other. This is why I shared with you my appreciation for the refuting documentation that you posted links to, once you had finished questioning the good doctor's character and reputation, to say nothing of mine. (grin)

    Let me add that I too have friends and acquaintances with gay and lesbians. I find them to be no different from any other people I've met in life - broken vessels of grace and sin. They do not expect that I offer approval of their lifestyle - nor do I expect their approval of my religious choices. We have had many an intense discussion over the years, and we all still remain good friends. Marty: you and I are approximately the same age (of the downward side of 50). Do we not both have many friends who are living in non-sacramental heterosexual relationships? If my experience is typical, the answer would be a definite YES. I don't preach at them; they don't act in any other manner than which one expect when entertaining or visiting with friends.

    Compassion comes from being able to walk with many people, through the intimate paths of their lives. I don't define anyone by their sexuality but by the truthfulness of their heart. My experience is that it has been a few homosexuals, in the furtherance of the gay agenda, are the ones who are self-identifying themselves with the sexual preference. My straight (and gay as well) friends have not felt so compelled to define themselves in such a manner, any more than I carry my celibacy in such a way that it defines the essence.

    con't next comment

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  20. con't from above:

    I believe that we are all redeemed children of God; brothers and sisters with Jesus and with each other. We are all given the freedom to choose to live our own lives by whatever creed or belief that we wish. If people want to be sure of attaining peace in this life and the next, the Church offers its offices and teaching to make that possible. If people choose to walk a different path in life... c'est la vie. We each, by virtue of being granted this freedom must also carry the responsibility for our choices.

    I always express it this way to people. If, after learning what the church teaches on any topic, and prayerful (or at least with good conscience) consideration chooses to live in another manner, then they are taking their chances.

    I remember when Gordon Sinclair (Front Page Challenge) - a famous (notorious?) atheist from the 1960's and 70's was asked what he would say if after he died, he came face to face with God at the gates to heaven. "O Shit!" was his immediate response. Then he added that he would have no grounds to complain for whatever was his eternal fate as he has chosen the path he had freely.

    I do agree that there are religious folks who are fixated on the issue of sexuality. I see them as the point/counterpoint to the sexual freedom of most of their peers. Both groups seem fixated on with whom they achieve an orgasm, to the detriment of both extremes.

    We are so much more than the sum of our sexuality - this alone makes acceptable the subject for conversation (just as one can talk about any other facet of life), and grounds it in compassion. To question wisdom in this dossier of life activities is open to all. Some of us should remember that when we choose to exercise our freedom of belief for ourselves, so too must we respect the same beliefs of others.

    Thanks for your post. It did indeed give me much to think about.

    Tim

    (sorry for any spelling/grammar mistakes - small,slow and old laptop here at cottage makes it hard to see more than a line or two of text - just hope it makes sense)

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  21. Fr Tim,

    Interesting thread! If you don’t mind, I would like to gently point out something to those who have been critical of your choice of posts on this blog.
    I am referring here to your concluding words after posting “Church Teaching on Homosexuality: Wisdom or Bigotry?”

    Here are your own words:

    “These conclusions are hardly considered "correct" or proper in today's marriage debates. Is it possible that "common knowledge" on this question, just like the public consensus regarding of the safety of children with priests, has turned against the proponents of the gay rights movement?”

    The remarks above can hardly be considered to be a threat, or to provoke hatred, or to be close-minded. In fact, quite the opposite. They unjudgmentally invite us to share our thoughts.

    The sense I get is that some posters are terribly bothered by this approach.

    I would like to suggest that perhaps the problem they face in these discussions is the blindness engendered by political correctness. Most of us are so afraid of saying something that could potentially be perceived as bigoted, that a paralysis sets in which readily hinders any further discussion that may bring new insights into a specific field.

    At the risk of sounding preachy, may I point out that truth liberates, whereas falsehood enslaves. There is a common truth within every human being, what is referred in tradition as the “nature” of man. This truth needs to be apprehended and discovered, but it cannot be imposed.

    If the ideas a poster is promoting correspond to the true nature of man, regardless of peer reviewed research and statistics, both of which can be readily manipulated, then the test will be that these ideas will have withstood and will continue to withstand the test of time and of culture. If on the other hand the ideas are detrimental to the good of man and of society, then eventually this will become palpably obvious, and the ideas will eventually die out of their own accord.
    Love and truth must go hand in hand. The mere possibility that some ideas are needing to be “imposed” by force upon individuals or upon society as a whole, is a sure sign that those very ideas may not be strong enough in and of themselves to be convincing, nor true to the goodness they purport to contain.

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  22. Cristina: Thank you. JPII repeated many times that it is the role of the church to "propose, never impose" its beliefs, morality or world vision.

    In this I believe, everyone can agree.

    Where we seem to run into conflict is when the Church publicly campaigns for this same vision as to how to order our society - protect life, creation and ensure that we are granted the absolute freedom of belief as we do, with its concomitant right to argue and vote our beliefs into law if we convince the majority of our fellow citizens of the wisdom we propose.

    I truly have come to believe that that which is the image and likeness of God that is reflected in all of us is our essential freedom of will. This is the one gift that was not lost to sin. Thus if God grants us this absolute right, then we must offer it to all we meet.

    As I previously wrote: we can choose to follow the teachings of Christ and his Church, and receive our reward in the life to come. Others are free to walk their own path. If we are right, and come our day of judgment, God will not impose his will on everyone and bring them into the new creation. He will respect the choices of those, who with their lives chose to walk away from him in life will not be forced to live in God's presence in the next.

    Ergo, God sends no one to hell, but simply respects the free will of those who have demonstrated their desire to remain separated from Him in the life to come.

    It's the old position of Blaise Pascal: If God exists, he had every thing to gain by following the prescripts of his Church. If God does not exist, he had nothing to lose. He chose the path of hope.

    I'm just trying to do the same.

    Fr. Tim

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  23. Hi TIm,

    You wrote"

    "In truth, I believe I would post articles such as you describe on my blog as I did with the Reker article."

    Perhaps you would Tim...but I doubt you would so uncritically.

    Cheers...Martin

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  24. "JPII repeated many times that it is the role of the church to "propose, never impose" its beliefs, morality or world vision."

    If that were actually what every Catholic believes and the yardstick by which each one really lives, there would never be any problems among those who live by their faith and those who do not.

    Evangelism and proseylizing, though, are opposites to this attitude. They are based on the idea that it is not only good, but imperative to impose one's faith on others. Like they score brownine points or something for their enthusiasm in tackling those of us who insist on being recalcitrant heathens.

    And that, in turn, leads to my protesting of the tendency for religious political activism. I have no problem with anyone's living within the boundaries of his own religious convictions. But I most definitely have a problem with anyone's trying to force me to do the same -- especially when my own religious convictions are precisely opposite to those being imposed!

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  25. Lady Janus: You write: "Evangelism and proseylizing, though, are opposites to this attitude. They are based on the idea that it is not only good, but imperative to impose one's faith on others." In fact evangelism and proselytizing are little more than making a proposition - aka proposing. You are correct in saying that many times in our history the Christian faith was imposed to the detriment of many other cultures and religion - but let's not confuse conquest with proselytizing.

    Fr. Tim

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  26. I'm not going back into history again, Tim...that was a one-time mention, just to clarify a position. I don't want to live there any more than you do. So, no, I wasn't confusing conquest with proselytizing.

    I see proselytizing and evangelizing as a type of sales pitch...and most of the pitchers are the type you see in old cartoons -- foot jammed in the door to prevent its closing, so they can continue their spiel even over the protests of the people who aren't interested in buying what they're selling.

    I run a gauntlet of "missionaries" at my local bus loop on a fairly regular basis. I've gotten pretty good at swinging my stick if they get too close, so they tend to keep their distance from me, now. But there was a period of time when it seemed like they had a wager going to see who could be the first to "land" me.

    I can understand the urge to share what one thinks is wonderful. But when someone like me says they're not interested, I expect people to stop talking, stop pitching, and if they insist on staying around, change the subject. And if they can't do that, they need to leave.

    Thing is, I'm fascinated by the concept of religion. And I don't mind at all discussing it on a theoretical basis. But that's where it stops with me. I have my own religious life. I have no interest in adopting someone else's.

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