Jesus Christ, Social Conformist?
Among the excellent articles in the October-November-December 2001 issue, I was struck particularly by the "Apologist’s Eye" piece detailing Linda Poindexter’s conversion ("Don’t Die on the Priest’s Day Off"). My sister married a Lutheran thirty years ago, and they merged into Episcopalianism. I had always though it was more a matter of convenience that anything else. She has flourished there and is undoubtedly a far better Christian than I am.
We had never talked about the reasons for the switch until last summer when we visited them. Somehow we got on the subject of the shortage of priests in the Church, and she opined that we needed to accept women into the priesthood. Doing so, she said, would alleviate the shortage of clergy and enhance the spirituality of the parishes where women priests served.
I countered that, as I understand it, such an action could not happen, and that if Jesus would have wanted female priests he would have included women as apostles. My sister shot back that the only thing that kept Jesus from selecting women apostles was social convention.
Social convention? Our Savior, true God and true Man, who had gone up against just about every social convention imaginable—including allowing himself to be crucified—was going to exclude women from the priesthood because of . . . social convention? I was dumbfounded, and tried to tell my sister that just because she felt that way didn’t mean that she was right and that Rome was wrong. She was not appeased.
Thus it was refreshing to read of Mrs. Poindexter’s decision, which must have been difficult. I applaud her reasoning that "the magisterium of the Church is divinely guided and inspired and perhaps may contain more truth than my own thinking on the subject." That’s where I was trying to go in my discussion with my sister, but without success. Maybe she’ll learn of Mrs. Poindexter’s move and give it some more thought.
You can combine as many issues of This Rock as you want, as long as you keep publishing it. Thanks to James Akin for another great article ("Flatland Apologetics," October-November-December 2001). My college calculus professor recommended Flatland, and it certainly makes you reexamine how you think about dimensions of space and time.
It reminded me of another organization, Reasons to Believe, which I think is also in San Diego, so you have probably heard of it. The founder, Dr. Hugh Ross, is an astrophysicist, and he has some really fascinating ideas about reconciling the creation story with what we actually know through today’s science.
Although he goes to a lot of trouble to reconcile his Protestant’s desire for a literal interpretation of the Bible, he does suggest some fascinating ideas about the number of dimensions that existed during the Big Bang. His science seems very good (I have a only B.S. degree in aerospace engineering), which is sadly uncommon in these types of fields.
His first book, The Fingerprint of God, is very thought-provoking, although one of his subsequent books seemed to me to be mostly focused on convincing Evangelicals that he wasn’t denying the story of Creation in the Bible. Anyway, I recommend it to you for future articles—with appropriate Catholic editing, of course.
Via the Internet
Editor’s reply: Reasons to Believe is based in Pasadena, California.
The article entitled "Catholic Questions: Apologetics Backwards" in your October-November-December 2001 issue was outstanding. Listening and then asking questions, as Jesus did in the Temple, is indeed the best way to bring others to recognize truth.
The author, Mary Beth Kremski, has performed a great service to apologetics. Since reading the article I’ve used this approach on others and suddenly yet gently found the landscape transformed without any hint of ungracious conversation. It’s like carefully pulling the weeds from an empty vessel into which all plants were poured in the soul of the religious individual with whom we are speaking.
Polygamy Is Forbidden for Mormons
In "Quick Questions" (October-November-December 2001), a Mormon’s question regarding polygamy seems to be an argument for the right to practice polygamy. One only has to go to the Book of Mormon (Jacob 2:27) to find that the practice of polygamy is forbidden for Mormons. Why did Joseph Smith encourage this law to be broken? That seems to be the more pressing question.
Sin Is All in Fun
The primary problem with Harry Potter ("The Morals of Magic," July-August 2001) is that it confuses good with evil. Sorcery, witchcraft, and casting spells are all held up as positive values because the hero practices them for good reasons—friendship, loyalty, et cetera.
We adults, of course, know better. We would never use something intrinsically evil, even for a good reason. Oh, wait—many Catholics don’t see a problem with this in the area of contraception, do they? Seeing how even Catholic adults can be confused, it seems clear that children might also have difficulty discerning these errors.
We challenge parents to consider: Would you encourage children to read a story that focuses on the use of drugs, racism, or sexual promiscuity as a solution to problems? What if it was done for a good purpose (to increase self-esteem, to help a friend)? What if it was just a story, and—after all—it does get kids to read?
To state that a child well-grounded in her faith will not be at risk is to ignore several important considerations. How are they grounded in their faith? By not being exposed to materials that challenge the consistency of the faith and aim to replace it with cultural dangers! And experts warn us that even good families can be affected by drugs, suicide, cults.
It is also inconsistent to declare that the Harry Potter books teach children friendship, loyalty, and bravery, but then turn around and declare that children won’t be influenced by the glorification of the occult. You can’t have it both ways.
When there are so many good books that can engage children, why waste our time on those that support moral relativism? Sorcery, witchcraft, conjuring evil spirits and casting spells are—dare I say it—sins. Oh, but it’s all in fun. Sin often is.
Andy and Mary Reck
Study and Understand Evil
I disagree with Michael L. Parkinson’s statement that your "apologia" for Harry Potter is appalling ("Letters," September 2001). I do agree that a belief in magic can be unhealthy spiritually, although I must admit that as a child I loved fairy tales, the Oz stories, et cetera. Isolating ourselves and our children from everything evil is not healthy. I see wisdom in the Church’s not requiring us to take an absolutist attitude on every imperfect subject.
If I know enough about what to avoid, I am assured that whatever else I do will be successful. To me, this has meant that I must study and understand evil to know how to avoid it and not be tempted by it. Ignorance of bad subjects simply leaves one ill-prepared to deal with them should they arise in your life.
David K. Lowell
I Had Nightmares for a Week
I am eleven years old, and I wanted to tell you my experience on reading the Harry Potter book series ("The Morals of Magic," July-August 2001).
The first three books had very little killing, but in the fourth book there was a lot of killing. I was reading it at night before I went to bed, which is when most children read, and I had about one chapter left. I went to sleep and had a horrible nightmare from this book. In fact, I had nightmares for a week. My mother said I should finish reading the book, because she was sure good would prevail. She was right. Good always prevails for those who can outwit or trick the evil Lord Voldemort.
In the real world, outwitting and outsmarting are not the goal of our lives. We should spend our free time focusing on learning about God, his commandments, and getting to heaven. In the Harry Potter book series, God is not even mentioned.
These stories that have witchcraft and wizardry—which are against the Catholic faith—do not just travel right through children’s minds. They stay there, and children think about them often, discuss them with their friends, and act them out while playing. To keep this out of their imagination, we cannot present this material. I was greatly affected by these books.
Learned a Great Deal
I read Russell L. Ford’s recommendation of the Inter Mirifica for inmates who would like to do correspondence courses on Catholicism ("Not Tough Love, Not Soft Love, but Real Love," March 2001). I have found three other sources that offer free courses to inmates to be especially helpful:
(1) Catholic Information Service, Knights of Columbus, P.O. Box 1971, New Haven, CT 06509
(2) Catholic Home Study Service, P.O. Box 363, Perryville, MO 63775-0363
(3) Religious Home Study Program, 3700 East Lincoln, Witchita, KS 67218-2099
The first two are wonderful, and I learned a great deal. They answered a lot of tough questions for me and aided remarkably in my own conversion from Sataniam. I have not yet started the third, but it looks great.