In Defense of Priests: Why I Still Support My White Collared Brothers

If you can’t guess by my blog title then I’ll go ahead and fill you in on a little secret… I’m not Catholic. I’m not a member of the original denomination, and even though I have a lot of respect for my papal brothers, my home is with those good ole Baptists. Having said that, feel like I have to come out and defend my brothers and sisters in black (seriously I envy the outfits) because these guys have been taking a real beating for almost a decade now and it is getting kind of ridiculous. If you haven’t guessed what I’m talking about yet, it’s the whole pedophile priest debacle that the church is still getting attacked over.

Now I’m already getting a feeling that this one might get me some negative publicity. Let me clarify this before I say anything else: I am NOT trying to excuse, condone, or deny any sexually abusive acts performed by clergy men, especially when they are done to children. What I am doing is providing some facts regarding these allegations that many in the media conveniently leave out.

For starters we have the rumor that the Catholic Church is somehow full of secret pedophiles. This is completely and utterly not the case:

“We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this (pedophilia) or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else, I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others.”

-Ernie Allen (president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.)

The facts are that 0.07% of all Catholic priests have been found to have been involved in child molestation. Compare that to the 4.2% of all public school teachers in America that have molested children and you can draw your own conclusions. For me, on a purely statistical level I’d say your kids are a lot safer going to Mass than they are to public school.

If you have your doubts about this then I’d suggest reading The John Jay Report. This was a very thorough investigation done to investigate the priesthood with full church consent. It can be read in its entirety HERE or (if you are short on time or too lazy to read the entire thing) you can read the Wikipedia summary of the results found HERE.

The results were clear that pedophilia and sexual abuse had occurred, but it was nowhere near the alarming regularity that the media would have you believe. In fact it was actually pretty low considering the size and scope of the Catholic church. Had you been around to see these news stories as they were breaking, (or if you have visited any atheist sites lately) you know that that’s not the way it was presented. People love a monster, and the Catholic church got to play the part of the monster in this one.

You have to remember that the media wants to sell you stories, they are willing to blow things way out of proportion in order to get you to tune in and shocking stories get more attention. Remember swine flu, bird flu, the fiscal cliff, Y2K, 2012, or any major news story in the last fifteen or so years that never went anywhere. Heck that Anna Nicole Smith baby story almost got more air time than the September 11th terrorist attacks. The “news” media in America is a joke. If they have a story that’s sensational the facts cans screw themselves. They want ratings, and the more frightened or disturbed you are the more you will stay glued to your T.V.  The truth behind the matter is that when one just looks at the cold hard facts, they do not lead one to conclude that there is really any connection between the priesthood and a surplus of pedophilia.

So why then did the Pedophile Priest thing take off like it did? Well that’s really a three-part issue:

  1. Priests are expected to be “holy” and pure, so any sexual scandal in the priesthood will get more media attention than your average layman. It’s the same reason why there seem to be so many political sex scandals in the world. Sex scandals happen all the time, but it’s when the person is in a figure of authority (especially a moral authority) that it is seen as a real news story.
  2. Catholics do not “self-discipline” in a way that is pleasing to most of the secular/non-catholic population. Most priests that are found to have been involved in sexual-abuse cases are relocated, but not dismissed. A lot of this has to do with Catholic beliefs in rehabilitation, forgiveness, and mercy (which I share). This is consistent with the teachings of Christ on forgiveness and mercy, but it also can lead to repeat offenses which does not help the church’s image at all. This has led many to think that Catholics are trying to “cover up” these cases. It’s a hot button issue, but the Catholic church is really not the secret pedophile club that so many make it out to be. This didn’t stop people from changing “rehabilitation” and “mercy” into “cover up” and “scandal.”
  3. A lot of people really don’t like Catholics. I wish it was more complicated than that, but for some reason Catholics get a LOT of hate from almost everyone. Most of my non-catholic friends if asked what they think about Catholics would probably list several negative things before they got around to a positive one. Seriously, give this a try. Ask someone you know (who’s not a Catholic) what they think about Catholics and see how long it takes for a compliment to come up.

At the end of the day, no organization that deals with child abuse considers the Catholic church a “hot bed of abuse”, and while the church is still learning and adapting better ways to deal with these situations, it can’t be said that issues aren’t being dealt with in a very progressive way.

The Christ I follow was not one who sought punishment for sinners. He wasn’t bent on vengeance and he didn’t want to see the wicked strung up and made an example of. Instead Christ advocated rehabilitation, forgiveness, mercy, and love. I don’t recall pedophiles making a list of exceptions to this rule, and I’m pretty sure that Christ offers forgiveness and second chances to them too. The knee jerk reaction for human beings is to want to see any pedophile (especially those who act in a church setting) be locked away or executed for their crimes, but is that what Christ advocated? I think not. No large organization is without its share of screw ups, scandals, and disasters, but I give the Catholics props for dealing with this in a way that I find to be consistent with the teachings of Christ.

A Ranting on the Real and Radical Rather than Relevant

The following was pretty much a stream of consciousness post. It’s a rambling rant that I wrote spur of the moment, and decided to publish because I think it hit on some points that are near to my heart and of great concern to me. Future posts will be better organized and structured: 

I’d like for you to be honest with yourself for a moment and seriously contemplate when was the last time you felt the Holy Spirit move you. When was the last time you really hated your sins and repented with a heart that was so hungry for grace that you could not help but be swallowed up in the love of God. If this sounds foreign to you then I hope and pray that this will not remain the case for much longer. Let us be honest.

This thing we call Christianity is not a simply belief, a rationality, a moral compass, or a set of truisms. This thing we call Christianity is a radical rebirth of the soul that calls for death of the old as well as birth of the new. This thing we call salvation is not a simple exchange of words or a singular moment in our life where we pray the sinners prayer (which is not found anywhere in scripture) but rather a life long striving for righteousness.

Let me explain to you something that should be common, but has somehow become lost and forgotten. Christ is freedom. We are completely liberated from the binds of legalism and law just as we are liberated from the binds of sin and death. Do you live a life that reflects the gratefulness that a slave shows his liberator, or do you stay at the side of your old master because leaving is hard?

Do you bind yourself up in legalistic judgementalism so that you can store up morality points and look down on those that don’t meet your standard? If that sounds remotely like you then I’m here to tell you that your morality is crap. Do you think a holy and perfect God is going to love you more because you are slightly less dirty or sick than your brother? A good parent doesn’t love his children on a scale of merit and a healer is not concerned with the fact that you need less healing than someone else. In his eyes you are both sick and he wishes only to make you both well. If anything he is more concerned with the sickest because they need him most. As one who has been the king of false judges, I promise you that no smug morality can ever compare to the reality of seeing someone truly broken and loving them with all your heart. To do this is to momentarily glimpse through the eyes of our creator and it is the greatest sensation I know.

Perhaps you are not the legalist. Perhaps you are the type that scoffs at legalism and instead goes around confident that you are free to do what you want because no man can judge you and God will forgive. If this rings true for you then I’m afraid you are still a slave who never left his master. You must understand that sin is not bad because God gets jollies out of taking away fun things from you. Sin is bad because it defiles, destroys, contaminates, perverts, or corrupts the good gifts of God for you.

God is not here to give you a cheapened and sheltered life, He designed you for a life more abundant and He wants to see you reach your potential. He designed you for a life that is truly life. As one who has had trouble with alcohol in the past I can promise you that a drunken stupor can never amount to the majesty of a purely sober moment spent in awe of the creator. As one who has indulged in more sexually immoral acts than I care to publicize, I promise you that no sexual gratification is a substitute for a pure and chaste love that consumes and envelopes you until you finally are able to love that person with mind, body, and soul. No unhealthy foods or substances can compare to the joy of health, no lies will ever be as liberating as being completely and brokenly honest. No possession will ever compare to the satisfaction of knowing you helped a brother or sister in their time of need. What fools we are to return to sin when such a majestic and full life awaits for us. Christ broke the chains, you just have to choose to walk away. How horrible we must be to have knowledge of the suffering God endured for us to liberate us, and yet in the end we choose to remain in our own filth. Hedonism is the ultimate slavery masked as liberation.

Why am I bringing this up? It scares me how dead many Christians seem to be and it scares me how dead at times I can be. Numb is no way to go through life, and yet so many of us grind our way through like some sad sap at the bank waiting for the line to end. We try so hard to be “relevant” with our bracelets, t-shirts, contemporary music, trendy bible covers, and snappy one liners like and in the end the vast majority of us are fakes and we wonder why people don’t want to come to church. If we continue to try to force Christianity into culturally relevant stigmas then we will never see what the Church is capable of. Christianity will never be culturally relevant because the world will not and cannot understand us until they meet our Lord.

Radical Christianity is not going to manifest itself in a hebrew tattoo, or a jesus t-shirt, or a christian folk band. Radical Christianity should be redundant because Christianity, if it is Christianity at all, is radical by its very nature. If you call yourself Christian you side with those who reject both rigid morality and hedonistic self-gratification. If you call yourself Christian you side with those who do not see good people or bad people, but a world full of sick and dirty people who need the healing and cleansing hand of God. If you call yourself a Christian you side with those who reject revenge and human honor and embrace mercy, grace, forgiveness, and limitless love for all those who cannot and do not deserve it. If you are my brother or sister in Christ you are amazingly radical, so let us live like it.

A Commitment To A Healthy Life Part 2: Let’s Talk Porn

So in my last post I talked about the area in my life where I struggled with habitual sin (unhealthy eating and over-eating). I talked about how being willingly unhealthy in any area  of your life is not honoring your body and the gift of life that God has given you. I’m only on day four of my low-calorie plant and water based diet and only two days into my exercise routine. I’m hungry and sometimes a bit winded, but it feels good to be actively doing something instead of ignoring habitual sin. Since I’m on a bit of a health kick right now I decided to address another very unhealthy habitual sin that I think is just as harmful and wide spread (if not more so) than over-eating. That of course being pornography. I already showed you guy sin the last post a chart of the four areas of health.

slide37My last post I dealt pretty exclusively with physical health since it was the area I probably lack in the most and need to do the most work in. In the spirit of good health I decided to devote today’s post to an area of health that I know plagues most of the modern male community even more so than laziness and gluttony.

Now granted I know that there is a sizable chunk of the female population who also struggles with pornography, and I don’t want to exclude you or pretend that you don’t exist, but since I am a male and can only speak from a male’s perspective, this post will probably be pretty male-centric. Having said that let’s begin.

First of all we need to address why pornography is unhealthy. Some of you may be shocked to learn that this needs to be clarified, and others may already be ready to attack my claim and defend your beloved porn. In order to save some time here’s a link to Gary Wilson’s “The Great Porn Experiment”:

As you can see in the above video, this porn problem isn’t merely a matter of spiritual health, but it also has mental and physical consequences. One could venture to say that pornography negatively effects all four areas of health in some way or another. Not to mention the fact that it is a time consuming, antisocial, and counterproductive way to spend your time. To put it in simple pro-con terms, the benefits (an orgasm by yourself) in no way even compare to the detractors.

What are these detractors you might ask, well for starters let’s be honest and just admit that porn is exploitive. No matter who your object of lust is, when porn is concerned they become just that… an object. When a person watches porn they don’t seek to know the person or people involved. They don’t want to build a relationship with them, know their heart, grow them as a person, or help them along life’s trials and tribulations. The images you masturbate to are nothing more to you than things you can use to get what you want. You have degrades that person to little more than a virtual prostitute, and how does that reflect the love of God to them?

Sex was designed to be a bonding experience between married couples. It creates a physically intimate connection that is meant to mirror and compliment the already strong emotional connection. Porn spits in the face of what sex was designed for. It separates rather than binds, it creates loneliness rather than intimacy, and it objectifies the other person rather than fueling your love for them. It’s a filthy addiction that has become far too normalized with the passage of time. We are reaching a point where people are poisoning themselves so frequently that they don’t even realize that it’s poison anymore.

It’s also worth noting that pornography is very rarely a one time sin. Porn is so readily available today that upon giving in to temptation once it becomes increasingly easier to give in again and again in an endless cycle:

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Think of all the time and energy that is devoted by the person described in the above image. I know quitting can be extremely hard, and for a large chunk of my life I don’t think I ever went more than a week without porn or masturbating, but I can tell you that it’s worth the effort. I can’t tell you how much emotional and mental energy I used to devote to watching porn, quitting porn, and relapsing again. It was so exhausting that at times I would just give up on recovering and settle in my little rut of porn for weeks at a time. It’s not healthy and I guarantee you there has never been a person who on their death bed wished they had spent more time masturbating.

When I was on porn I was more anti-social, more introverted, more self-conscious, and always in a state of fear that my dirty secret would be uncovered. Off porn the temptation does not go away, but it get’s easier with time. I’m more energetic, outgoing, and confident. I have more free time and I don’t have to devote so much mental and spiritual energy to combatting porn or dealing with regret. It’s liberating to know I can lend my computer to someone without having a panic attack over whether or not they’ll see my browsing history. A life without porn is a life of freedom that those still trapped in its binds cannot yet understand.

As the great C.S. Lewis wrote:

“For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself…After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.”

-C.S. Lewis

If for no other reason porn is a lapse of self control and needs to be mastered if one ever hopes to master himself. No one wants porn, what they want is intimacy with another human being. This desire that is built into us is meant to spur us towards greater and better things. To give into porn is to settle for loneliness.

If you who are reading this are struggling then know that you can do this. It is possible to quit, you just have to motivate yourself to actually do it. If you are tired of starting over, then for the love of God (literally) stop failing! Maybe that sounds over simplistic, but if we are were all honest with ourselves the only reason anyone ever gives into temptation is because in that moment they chose the easy way out and gave up.

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

-Romans 7:19-20

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

-Ephesians 4:19-24

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

-Galatians 5:24

Seriously, guys. It’s time to man up and take control of ourselves. If you are in habitual sin with pornography the first thing you need to do is to pray for forgiveness from God and for strength and determination to quit. The Second thing is to find ways to avoid temptation and healthy ways to deal with temptation when it inevitably arrises. The third thing is to seek accountability. As scripture says, “cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) and “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17). It is important to have someone keeping you accountable, someone you trust, someone who want’s what is best for you. You can do this.

If you want a more in-depth guide to helping you or someone you know quit for good I highly recommend the following books:

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“Every Man’s Battle” – By Stephen Arterburn (For Married Men)

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“Every Young Man’s Battle” – Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker (Unmarried Guys)

In Regard to “Sluts” an “Whores”

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So with a title like that you probably want to know where this is going. The reason for this post is to address Christian ethics, particularly in the way we treat women. This is not to call out men specifically because “slut-shaming” come from all genders.  The point of this post is that I’ve noticed a lot of Christians I’ve encountered feel it is somehow acceptable to be completely condescending and spiteful of those who are in the midst of sexual sins. It’s also a strange to note that women are far mor often the target for this spite while men are rarely called out with the same fervor and fierceness.

If we hold to the label of “Christian” then that means we are claiming to be children of God who were saved by grace through Jesus Christ. Christians claim to be representatives of Christ and accept the responsibility of sharing his love and gospel with the world. Nowhere in that description do I see where it is ok to apply derogatory terms in order to shame people. This post could apply to almost any sin, but for the moment I’m going to focus on sexual sins, since there seems to be a huge double standard here.

One of the first problems I see is that in my experience men and women are treated much differently when it comes to sexual sin in their life. When it is men who have sexual sins they are usually “tempted” or “stumbling” but if a woman is in a state of sexual sin she is a “slut” or a “whore.” Sometimes terms like these are applied to women who have done nothing wrong except for perhaps wearing an outfit that the observer finds promiscuous. While I’m not attacking modesty or defending overly revealing clothing, I think it’s a bit excessive to label a woman some derogatory term reserved for prostitutes simply by her choice in dress.

 To call a man a “slut” or a “whore” seem strange and causes us to take pause because we usually don’t think of male sexuality in such terms. It’s clear that the terminology often used is in favor of men and degrading towards women. Even when we look outside of the Christian church we see a society that tends to praise men who can have a lot of sex, while shaming women for the same acts and desires. We have created this idea where it is almost entirely the women’s job to protect themselves from men’s sexual desires, and it’s the women’s fault if they give in to easily. In this fantasy world it’s natural for men to pursue women for sexual gratification, but when a woman sleeps with several men it’s her that’s broken. She becomes “easy” as if she was the beginners course that men take before moving up to a harder challenge. Men seem to do most of the “scoring” while women are usually the ones who were “violated.” I don’t even want to address the whole “she was asking for it” argument that comes up in rape cases, because honestly I find that one of the most repulsive things anyone could say.

Let’s get dow to the point. I’m going to call a spade a spade here and say that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Scripture is very clear on that point and I don’t want to come off as if I’m excusing anyone. My main points I’m making are these:

  1. Derogatory language like “whore” and “slut” should not be terms that Christians use to describe someone, and no person should ever be despised or shamed by Christians. We who openly admit we are sinners should know better.
  2. It’s time to hold men to a higher accountability. It takes two to tango, and I don’t like how we tend to go easier on men while being so harsh towards women.

Let’s talk about point one. I think this passage sums it up nicely, but I’ll take some time to elaborate on it a bit:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group  and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stoneat her.”Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

– John 8:3-11

Some things jump out at me right off the bat when I read this account. The first being that Jesus flat-out says that the only person worthy of throwing a stone is the person who has no sin. He didn’t say that  they could throw a stone if they had not committed adultery, but rather that the only person who is worthy and able to condemn is the one who has never done anything wrong. The Pharisees wised up and knew that none of them could meet this standard. The second thing that strikes me is that Jesus, though he was worthy of casting judgement, instead chose to show mercy. Surely if Christ could show mercy then we who are also sinners could learn to do the same. Did christ at any point hint that he saw this woman as anything less than a human being worthy of love and a second chance? The anser is No.

So where then do we get off shaming women for the very same sin that Christ forgave the woman of? Am I saying that we should not call out sin for what it is? Absolutely not, Christ didn’t pretend that the woman was not in the wrong here, he simply chose love over condemnation. That’s the beauty of Christianity, that all of us are messed up but in spite of that God still loves us. When we realize how dependent upon God’s mercy and love we are, words like “slut” and “whore” shouldn’t even register in our vocabulary. For me to look at one of my sisters and call her a slut, would be to say that I am somehow better. God loves the woman you condemn more than you will ever love anything in your entire life, and that makes her beautiful and worthy of your respect.

Now let’s talk about point number two, specifically that we need to hold men more accountable. I see a AnsVYlot of men who have very warped ideas about women and their own sexual sins. The problem here is that where women are shamed and cast out for their sexual sins, men are far too often praised for theirs. The popular TV show How I Met Your Mother is a really funny show that I watch from time to time, but it never fails to bother me that one of the main characters ongoing jokes is that he lies to women and sleeps with them only to abandon them in the morning. The audience is supposed to think that objectifying, using, and tricking women is funny.

This objectification does not just occur in the “sexists” or “jerks” either. One of the saddest trends I’ve seen recently are the “nice guys” who have convinced themselves that it’s ok to pursue a woman for purely sexual ends just as long as you are nice to her while you do it. These are the guy who will play the part and act caring and compassionate, but sex is never off the table and is usually their primary objective. These men are of the mindset that their niceness should lead to a reward in the form of sexual gratification at some point in the future. These “nice guys” I’m taking about might actually think they are being “nice” but in the end their kindness is only a means to an ends.

The problem with both the “ladies man” and the “nice guy” is that they are both seeking women purely for sexual gratification. It doesn’t matter if you are the seductive type or the steady “friend” hoping to get lucky this is still sexual sin. These mindsets only further the idea that it is ok to view women as objects rather than human beings. We shouldn’t be living in a world where women have to defend themselves from men’s desires in some a predator vs. prey relationship. What we need is men who guard their heart and pursue purity. I’d like to see men who can actually control themselves and who do not blame women for being their stumbling blocks. I’d like to see men who pursue relationships rather than sex partners. I’d like to see men who try don’t rely on women to defend themselves, but rather seek out ways to better manage their sex drives in healthy ways. Sex can be a wonderful thing, but it was intended to be shared between two people in the context of marriage. Sex isn’t meant to be an icebreaker or an end goal, but rather a wonderfully intimate act to further bond two people who are already bonded by love and matrimony.

So to wrap this all up: Everyone should be held accountable for their actions, and it’s not ok to praise one gender and cast out the other for the same sin. It’s not ok to spitefully condemn or cast out anyone regardless of sin, and derogatory language should not be in a Christian’s vocabulary. When addressing sin we must remember to approach it with gentleness, sincerity, love, patience, mercy, and grace. Our motives in correcting sin should be aimed at healing rather than shaming, at loving rather than hating, and at reconciliation rather than division.  To all who read this, remember that Jesus loves you regardless of what you are, who you are, what you have done, or what you will do. He knows your heart and loves you dearly. Christ corrected with love and mercy rather than anger and shame. We should do our best to do the same.