Monday, October 25, 2010

Gender - is it really in the genes?

A recent "Mystery Diagnosis" program which featured a woman who did not mature, female-wise, throws some doubts on the idea of gender being in the genes as is often claimed by trans-gendered folks. A doctor consulted on her lack of female development, recommended surgery, saying her ovaries were non functional and had a high risk of being a factor in cancer later on. She was quickly taken into the hospital and the offending ovaries were removed or at least that's what she was told.

Before her surgery, she had developed looking more male than female with the exception of the bodily hair which she did not have. After surgery, she was given large amounts of estrogen and told she would have to stay on this for life but, as an adult, unsatisfied with the diagnosis, she began to dig and finally asked for her hospital records (which they gave her a hard time about releasing, first claiming she had never had surgery there). When a doctor in California examined her records, he found that she had been lied to. She had never had her ovaries removed because she never developed ovaries. Apparently, her "gonads" were non functional... the gonads secrete what is needed to either develop ovaries and a feminine shape or not. They had removed the gonads (the part about them being a prevalent spot for cancer was true). They probably had not told her because of the fear of throwing her in a position of considering "gender reassignment" but apparently, the reason she had not developed ovaries was because she, unlike females, had a "Y" chromosome!

What was surprising is despite being physically somewhat "masculine", she, after finding out she had a "Y" chromosome did NOT seek gender reassignment. She was attracted to men and found a mate who was crazy about her - they adopted 2 kids and have been married at least 18 years (the oldest kid is 18 and was adopted as a very young kid).

The interesting thing is she's totally happy as a woman and if gender reassignment would be understandable in anyone, it would be someone who is genetically, basically a man and yet, apparently this woman on the show had never even considered that - it seems totally off her radar screen.

One study, touted as the largest study on the issue, stated that one gene had been found which was a bit "longer" in females than males and "might cause" "feminisation" of the brain. This study was only of 112 male to female gender reassignment cases however, and is far from conclusively proving that there is anything genetically involved.

The Discovery Health "Mystery Diagnosis" case throws serious doubt into the need for "gender reassignment" in anyone - something, even knowing several "gender reassigned" folks, I have wondered about for years. None of the "gender reassigned" people I've known were really, truly the gender they claimed to be and in more closely interviewing several of them, it seemed the problem was more "inferiority complex" or bad memories from the past (one gender reassigned male to female had been an officer in Vietnam, ordered to blow up entire villages) or simply feeling that they more "belonged" to the female (or male) gender due to their interests, for example like one artist I knew or their sensitivity. For one transgendered male to female, I matched all her stories of childhood female likes with my boy likes - I was a tom boy, loving guns, using dolls to merely to be hostages in boy games and even not particularly desiring to be female when I grew up. I have to date, always hated make up (feels yucky on the skin so I have never worn it) and dresses (hamper movement and are not as comfortable as pants). I wear my hair very short and find that much more convenient than the alternative. And yet, I loved being a mother and love being a grandmother and am very attracted to males, particularly my good looking husband of 44 years duration.

So often we are basing gender on their likes (like boy toys or girl toys etc) and clothing or makeup or long hair, rather than deeper things, forgetting that in other societies it may be the men who wear dresses or makeup. It may be that gender is much deeper than even what we are genetically, like possibly, in the so called "soul" or "spirit".

Friday, October 22, 2010

If God wanted us to use artificial birth control ....

I keep wondering this - if God wanted us to use artificial birth control, why hasn't He helped us invent something which is both safe and effective? The family planning method which is safe and effective is "periodic abstinence" or "Billings Ovulation". And ironically, this is the method the Catholic Church recommends. You only have to abstain 5-7 days a month and the rest of the time, have a good time whenever you want. So why are 85% of Catholic Women using artificial birth control?

Natural Family Planning is one of the best kept secrets perhaps because no one makes a buck from it.

With the latest news of the study which found a significantly higher risk of both lung cancer and breast cancer in women taking pharmaceutical estrogen and progestin, perhaps Catholic women will have a change of heart.

I have personally observed young women on this medication to have severely crippling strokes and another friend on the medication who developed uterine cancer - she ended up dying in her early 60's with pancreatic cancer.

The Health Read News blog tells about the latest risks found in low dose birth control.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review - Not Like Me by Eric Michael Bryant

Note: a copy of this book was provided me free of charge by the publisher for reviewing purposes.

Eric Michael Bryant, author of "NOT LIKE ME", is a young guy who introduces himself by way of stating that he's white and bald but lives in a part of town where most of his neighbors are either African American or Hispanic. And he's also a youth minister. Pretty soon in the book one discovers his passions - for conversion and for reaching out to groups of people he feels Christians often ignore. And while this is certainly commendable, i.e. We should not require our friends to have to agree with us in order for us to love them, it isn't necessarily what Jesus had in mind when He told us we should love unconditionally. Conversion as the result of reaching out to others, is a condition.

That being said, the book offers some good suggestions including, befriending folks who are different, bringing over treats for new neighbors and inviting new people to outings, probably things we all knew about but still, a reminder every so often is good.

Where the book runs into problems is toward the end where Bryant extends his search for diversity among the attendees of a church, in a bit questionable direction.

He describes a dark woman as attending a church where she was pleased to find a warm friendly reception, until they discovered that she is an abortionist. Suddenly church members' attitudes toward her cooled as they attempted to share with her why abortion is so wrong. Needless to say, she left the church rather than abandoning her lucrative profession. Eric Bryant appears to disagree with the attitude of the members toward abortion and maintains that had the church looked past her gruesome field of work and tolerated her totally, she might have converted.

I disagree here. While we are asked to love the sinner, not telling her about such a serious sin would have not taken her spiritual welfare into consideration. The Catholic Church calls "admonishing the sinner", a spiritual act of mercy. Thus the folks in the church who let the abortionist know how the church and God looks at abortion, did her a greater kindness than those who would have remained silent.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Edmund Burke:

"All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to keep silent!"

Bryant's conclusion about abortion was that people shouldn't complain about it but rather adopt an unwanted child. Adoption is a good idea but I cannot see how this will end abortion. It sounds good though and more importantly, allows those who are "pro choice" to be comfortable (and possibly attend his church, bringing their bucks along?). I feel it's very wrong for a Christian to be any kind of tolerant toward something as intrinsically evil as abortion.

Bryant took a similar non-position on immigration - he pointed out that we had imported thousands of these people to labor for us (for very low wages) thus boosting our economy (true) but then also stated that "thousands of immigrants" had stolen Americans identities in order to work here. I've heard this accusation from the media but find it hard to believe that the rather un-techy immigrants from Mexico would bother stealing an identity in order to do manual labor for low pay. Bryant left the reader questioning just what his position on immigration was.

A chapter entitled "the Mosque next door" held promise of perhaps counteracting the anti Muslim sentiment prevalent now, however I found that whereas Eric Bryant seemed tolerant of "alternate lifestyles" and s/s marriage, and even tolerant of abortion, he seemed less willing to respect other spiritual paths like that of the Muslims. Ironic was that Muslims who enjoyed his young ministry events, were likely as intent on converting him as he was intent on making them Christians!

Bryant got in his complaints about liturgy also, toward the end of "Not Like Me". He writes,

"religion does not work because religion is humanity's attempt to earn God's favor" (page 224)


"Jesus message was very different. He taught that the practice of "religion" cannot be the answer." (page 222)

He also points out that he feels that,

"We cannot do enough good to come to God on our own merits" (ibid)

He is of forgetting the following rather clear part of the Bible:

James 2:18ff "Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works."

This is a common omission on the part of many believers in the "Salvation by Faith alone" theory.

My issues withstanding, I did find "Not Like Me" to be well written and organized in a unique manner. Bryant often uses his own experiences and family anecdotes to illustrate his points which I found charming. At the end of every chapter, he includes comments from other Christian writers which bring a different prospective to the chapter's discussion.

That is, if you don't mind the contradictions and theological errors, you might find "Not Like Me" an interesting read.

About the author:

Eric Bryant serves as an elder, speaker and navigator with the leadership team at Mosaic ( in Los Angeles, a church known for its creativity and diversity. He is part of the core teams for the Mosaic Alliance ( and The Origins Project ( Bryant completed his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership with Bethel Seminary. He lives with his wife, Debbie, and two children, Caleb and Trevi, in the middle of Los Angeles County.

You can find Eric and share your break through ideas at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Morning After pill is risky and the media is not telling people!

Ella is a dangerous medication - it was approved by the FDA for a "morning after pill" (meaning if conception took place, the baby will be aborted). It's supposed to be "good" for 5 days but because of its half life, it can actually stay in your system for 14 days or more. It blocks progesterone in stopping the production of it as well as blocking progesterone receptors which is supposed to cause a miscarriage. But it isn't effective sometimes. With every million doses of Ella given, 20,000 babies will survive the treatment and be born probably with serious disabilities.

Blocking progesterone can also cause many repercussions especially that the medication stays in your body for so long.

These are repercussions from the short pharmaceutical studies (at least those they are telling us about). We have no idea what other repercussions this medication might have which will come up in the aftermarket research.

Ella was rushed through FDA approval, circumventing the usual net of safety required for new medications.

There is a press silence about the dangers of Ella which works similarly to the RU 486 and so people will be taking the medication without knowing the danger they may face.

The following blog is by a scientist, a microbiologist, Dr Gerald Nadal and it gives more details - please take the time to read it because knowing this may not only save a baby's life but perhaps that of the mother of that baby.

Ella - untangling the ball of lies

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Catholic Bishops back Bishop Olmsted's statement

In Phoenix, Arizona, in November 2009, a Catholic Sister named Sr. Margaret Mary McBride approved an abortion for a patient in St Joseph's Hospital. The woman has pulmonary hypertension, a potentially fatal illness and she was in the hospital to treat her illness. Apparently when the doctors found out she was pregnant, they, in feeling the pregnancy posed greater risks for the woman, suggested an elective abortion and the Catholic Sister approved this decision.

Unfortunately, in her approval of an elective abortion, Sr M. M. ended up with an "automatic excommunication" which is a bit of a sticky situation for a Catholic nun to be faced with (to put it mildly).

The hospital defended her decision and the news services found the story a new way to attack the Catholic church for their stand on abortion. So 8 months after the fact, the story, first leaked by the AZ Republic was splattered all over the news.

Reporters interviewed Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix. Was the Sister really excommunicated, they asked. The Bishop confirmed the automatic excommunication for participation in an "intrinsic evil" act. And of course, that made the Bishop the target for more attacks.

I wrote a blog on this for the AZCentral news site and was told by one of the commenters that "all Catholics know that the stands of the Catholic church are outdated..." Huh? Since when is a prohibition of a particularly gross type of murder, outdated?

Anyway, turns out the Catholic Bishops Committee, supports Bishop Olmsted and they recently released a statement which explains things rather clearly. According to Catholic News Services:

A June 23 statement from the USCCB Committee on Doctrine addresses the Arizona controversy, and calls upon the teachings of the Holy Fathers to explain the issue at hand. “The Distinction between Direct Abortion and Legitimate Medical Procedures” clarifies Church teaching, and applies it succinctly to the Arizona case.

Church teaching, said the statement, holds that direct abortion is never permissible. Direct abortion is an act whose primary intent is to terminate a pregnancy and kill an unborn child. However, medical procedures which have other primary intentions, and which indirectly end the life of the unborn child, are not considered to be direct abortions nor immoral.

“The difference can be seen in two different scenarios in which the unborn child is not yet old enough to survive outside the womb,” says the statement. “In the first scenario, a pregnant woman is experiencing problems with one or more of her organs, apparently as a result of the added burden of pregnancy. The doctor recommends an abortion to protect the health of the woman.”

“In the second scenario, a pregnant woman develops cancer in her uterus. The doctor recommends surgery to remove the cancerous uterus as the only way to prevent the spread of the cancer. Removing the uterus will also lead to the death of the unborn child, who cannot survive at this point outside the uterus.”

The first scenario is an example of a direct abortion, because the surgery directly targets the life of the child. The procedure only affects the function of the woman’s organs, and thus her health, in an indirect way, explained the document. “As the Church has said many times, direct abortion is never permissible because a good end cannot justify an evil means.”

In the second scenario, the surgery “indirectly and unintentionally (although foreseeably) results in the death of an unborn child.” However, it “directly addresses the health problem of the woman” and her “health benefits directly from the surgery, because of the removal of the cancerous organ.”

In that scenario, “the surgery does not directly target the life of the unborn child,” explains the statement. “The death of the child is an unintended and unavoidable side effect and not the aim of the surgery.”

Seems clear enough to me. As the Bishops stated, I hope this clears the confusion of the public about this incident.

Monday, May 17, 2010

book Review: O ME OF LITTLE FAITH by Jason Boyett

NOTE: A copy of this book was provided me free of charge by the publisher for review purposes.

Fr Benedict Groeschel, CFR, said on one of his shows:

"Everytime I get annoyed with God, I pick up a crucifix and remember that Jesus went through it all before us."

Fr Groeschel, a priest psychologist, after writing several books, made it through a coronary bypass in his early 70's and then, in his late 70's got into a horrible car accident which left him in a coma for several weeks. He came out of that also but not without a lot of injury. He is disabled to the point of needing assistance for all daily tasks which must have been a bitter pill for him to swallow. And if that were not enough, he recently had a couple of strokes, one of which partially took away his ability to speak.

Let's face it, we all ask those questions like "What was God thinking of?" or "Why is this a part of God's Plan?" And "How can God's Plan be perfect when it seems to allow terminal illness in children, famine and starvation in the world and more?"

Jason Boyett, author of "O Me of Little Faith", who describes himself on Facebook, as a Dad, a husband, a writer, a musician and speaker and a grown man who still likes cookies and milk, is not a theologian or pastor. His bio mentions that he has written several other books and has been featured on the National Geographics and History Channel. And that he lives in Texas with his wife and two kids.

He made his commitment to the Lord when he was 10 years old in a fundamentalist church, but found he had a lot of questions and also found that those around him who may have had similar questions and doubts about God, were afraid to voice these, as many seem to feel that faith and doubt cannot co-exist.

He leads us through HIS doubts which I think all of us can relate to, and ends with an inspiring last chapter which details how he solves this dilemma.

The honesty in "O Me of Little Faith" is refreshing. Jason rips through the pretensions of some who claim constant communication with God but not in a uncharitable manner. Just that this did not work for him. Perhaps they are in constant communication with God, he writes but that's not where he's at.

Jason writes that to believe in God is more of a leap of faith than to simply say there is no God but because it's the path of least resistance doesn't make it the right way to go. (P 54) Actually in studying the order of the universe, cosmological constants and latest "Big Bang" Theories, for me it's more of a leap of faith to not believe in God but many feel that the famous Occam's Razer would solve that question as saying God does not exist.

He also wonders why do we have to ask God for things we want when God already knows.I confess I used to feel that way also but in my later years, I have been asking God for things I need. If nothing else, it feels good to make pleas of God and Jesus did point out that the pesky asker - the squeaky wheel is the one who gets God's attention. He asks if any parent would deny their children and if not how much more does God love us? I feel that God does answer every prayer though sometimes, much to our frustration, the answer is "No".

As Mother Angelica of EWTN has said:

"God opens a door for us and we must walk through in total faith and then wait for God to open the next door."

Jason concludes that the ideal way of praying is the prayer of the church i.e. the Divine Office (praying the psalms). I must agree with him here.

"O Me of Little Faith" is not a fast reading book but it is very worth reading and will, I feel, give anyone who endures, a stronger faith. It's not that faith excludes doubt but that doubt is a part of faith, Boyett concludes. There, I agree also and feel that if people do not acknowledge their doubts, it actually can weaken their faith.

Catholics will like Jason's admonishment that the sinner's prayer is only the beginning of faith - he quotes James 2 "Show me your faith without works and I will show you the faith which underlies my works."

Although Jason Boyett describes himself as an agnostic, I had a feeling throughout the book that he is really a very strong believer.

I would really recommend this book! I enjoyed it very much!

Here's where you get it:


Jason Boyett has a website and a blog.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review: Present Perfect by Gregory A. Boyd

NOTE: a copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes.

This book by Dr Greg A. Boyd, Pastor of an Evangelical church in Minnesota, promises to help the reader experience "true spiritual formation" by "inviting God's Presence" in one's life.

And yet the author openly admits that he hasn't really experienced this transformation:

"Brother Lawrence, Frank Laubach and Jean de Caussade each speak of experiencing a transformation after which “practicing the presence of God” was as natural to them as breathing. I thought I was getting close to this sort of breakthrough last year when I was writing a book on this discipline (called Present Perfect) but I now suspect this was simply because my mind tends to be totally occupied with whatever I happen to be writing about at the time. This year I’m back to being pretty much the same old atheistic-minded Greg."

Although Greg attended a Catholic church for several years, it was because of his stepmother whom he describes as abusive, and when she left, he and his father both became atheists. The following is from an interview with Greg:

"My mom died before I was 3. My father remarried rather quickly, mostly out of a desperate need for someone to care for his four kids. If there are marriages made in heaven, this one was made in the other place. There was almost non-stop warfare in my home growing up. On top of this, my stepmother was physically abusive. The day my parents divorced and the family split up when I was 13 was quite honestly one of my happiest memories I have growing up. Though we had been attending a Catholic church up to this point, as soon as my stepmother and her two kids moved out, my father and I declared ourselves to be atheists."

After being atheist for 4 years and getting into drugs, Greg said he found the Lord.

He went to school for theology and has an impressive set of credentials including a M.Div from Yale Divinity School and a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr Greg has also published 18 books and is a speaker on the international scene.

About 20 years ago, Greg encountered the writings of Catholic monk, Brother Lawrence, "THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD". He also read a couple of other authors on similar subjects: Jean Pierre de Caussade who was apparently a contemporary of Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach.

Greg was intrigued and began to find a way to put what he had read about, into practice. And "Present Perfect" details his own way of striving to be aware of God in his own life.

One charming thing about "Present Perfect" is that Greg is very honest about his own struggles. In one place he writes:

"I often feel as if I'm on a train that's constantly picking up speed as it races toward a brick wall. I have no idea when I'll crash, but I know I won't survive. Each passing moment takes me closer to this inevitability at an ever increasing speed. I'm dying." (P 63)

But then adds that

"The fear is not just that we're going to die. The fear is that we'll never really live." P 64

Quite a bit into this book, I realized that Greg's beliefs are very earth centered. He did state that he believes what Catholics call "Heaven" will be here on earth. I wondered how he dealt with the words of Jesus about His Kingdom being "not of this world".

My sense is that Greg with his struggles in being aware of God, may be speaking from an agnostic point of view. (He quipped to CNN that when one "Googles" his name, the word "heretic" comes up quite often!)

That being said, there is much merit in a person who has not received the "gift of faith", in working so diligently to approach God.

One of many intriguing things about "Present Perfect" is that it offers many practical ways of becoming more aware of God's presence that all of us can use in our own lives. These methods use both psychological tools like what Weight Watchers refer to as "anchors" (innocuous gestures or items which remind of what we want to be reminded of) and "positive self talk" or "affirmations" and, imagery.

Although Catholic spirituality should center around powerful channels of grace like the Holy Mass, the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as well as ejaculatory prayer as Robert Spitzer, S.J. suggests - short prayers like "God help me" and "Holy Spirit, push away the darkness", we still can benefit a lot by supplementing these with many of Pastor Greg's suggestions in "Present Perfect".

Pastor Greg tells us to not be bothered by something we did for God imperfectly advising us to just "let it go". However, I find it the best for me in such situations to pray "God, please fix it!" Pastor Greg does offer an interesting method of letting things go, using an anchor (I won't tell you about it - you'll need to read the book, but I'm planning to try it myself!). :)

I could relate to a lot of what Greg wrote about. For example, have we all not been here:

"I realized that my trivial, self-centered mental chatter about the past and future - like a dark cloud blocking the sun - had kept me from seeing the Glory of God that surrounded me every second of every day."

I found many of Pastor Greg's observations to be rather profound - like how the world tends to program us and many of us live as "semi conscious slaves" as in "The Matrix".

And things which intrigued me such as his reporting that the core values of most Christians do not much differ from those of pagans. (I think this may not be true of Catholics and possibly members of other mainstream churches like Lutheran or Southern Baptist though). He also quoted a statistic about only 4 percent of those who come up for an altar call and "accept the Lord", continuing in the Christian walk. I looked for a cite for this which was not provided and again I wonder which congregations Pastor Greg was referring to. I suspect not Catholic and this possibly illustrates that putting people through a rigorous course in religion before they make the commitment such as our RCIA program, might be a wise idea.

I disagree with Pastor Greg about the earth based Heaven (probably referring to a literal interpretation of Revelations but ignoring many other passages which suggest something different).

Greg also seems in places, a bit anti religion, making a sharp distinction between religion and spiritual walk, a definition which is loved by the world but is erroneous in my POV. Greg writes in a blog:

"the religion of Christendom dies a slow death (praise God!)"

In this, he ignores that Jesus founded a church (REF Matt 16:14FF) with a leader (and I even felt that when I was a Protestant reading the KJV).

Truth is, Greg quotes very little scripture in the book although he does quote Brother Lawrence and mostly the non Catholic, Frank Laubach. I missed there not being more Scripture because in places, things he writes, seem to contradict Biblical teachings.

Would I recommend "Present Perfect"? I believe I would, with the caution that you keep in mind that the writer may be writing from an agnostic POV. That being said, the book is profound and clever and very interesting reading and I personally, found it helpful to me. I think anyone reading it, may discover not only, how to pray better but also how to live life more fully.

You can obtain a copy of "PRESENT PERFECT" on Pastor Greg's website or on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


NOTE: A copy of THE NAKED GOSPEL by Andrew Farley, was provided me, free of charge by Zondervan, for review purposes.

Andrew Farley, author of THE NAKED GOSPEL, found himself going into what may be suspected to be clinical depression. He writes in the beginning of THE NAKED GOSPEL:

"I found myself lying on the floor of my apartment, sobbing for hours on end: "God, I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do, and I still don't feel closer to you. In fact, I feel worse than ever! How could this have gone wrong? I can't see any way out. Help me."

I think that others have been there and in fact, Farley brings up a couple of famous people, one of which was Martin Luther. He writes:

"[Luther] was constantly overcome with guilt. He was infatuated with self flagellation and made countless attempts to atone for his never ending list of sins. In addition to whipping himself until he bled, he would sometimes lie on the snowy ground all night long in the dead of Winter until eventually, he was in such a state of shock that his colleagues would have carry him to safety."

Farley goes on to mention Mother Teresa's 40 year period of spiritual dryness - quoting her out of context, he suggests that she had a difficult time finding "meaning and purpose" and a "stable relationship with God".

It's not surprising that Farley doesn't understand the complexity of the spiritual dryness of a saint like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as he's not a Catholic but in the case of Martin Luther, although I have read suggestions that he was a bit too heavy handed with the self punishment when he was an Augustian priest, enough to "worry" his superiors (this I found in an article in the Encyclopedia Americana years ago), in all fairness to him, there is no evidence he spent his whole life in such a mode. Farley doesn't document his claims about Luther so I can't research it further. At the least, Lutherans will take exception to these statements as Luther is, understandably, sort of a hero to those members of the church he founded in the 1500's.

There is no doubt that Farley is a scholar and a brilliantly intelligent individual. In fact, the text of his book, reads similarly to articles I have found in Mensa publications (the IQ group).

For in order to cure his clinical depression (which likely was NOT "caused" by his religion - chances are, the religion was only how he expressed it!), Farley ends up deciding that all laws in the Bible, including the entire teachings of Jesus, are null and void for Christians.

The "harsh teachings of Jesus", he explains, are just too difficult to live by and besides, since Jesus had not died on the cross yet, Jesus was merely speaking to those under the "Old Covenant". The New Covenant began, says Farley, when Jesus died on the cross. He writes further:

"Jesus tells His audience to cut off their hands, to pluck out their eyes and to be perfect just like short He is discouraging his contemporaries as they seek to achieve righteousness through the law." (p. 231)

And concludes that:

"God intended us to be dependent on Him with no concern for morality and ethics...if we get life from the Spirit, then we're not designed to live by the Jewish law, religious rules, a moral code or even Christian "principles"

Farley who is a weekend pastor of a (must be) free spirited church in Texas and a linguistic professor in his day job, leaves no stone unturned, even explaining away the faith plus works passages in James (i.e. "show me your faith without works and I'll show you the faith which underlies my works" and "faith without works is dead").

Farley writes:

"we need to recognize that this passage in James does not seem to be referring to a post salvation experience." p 199

Farley ignores Jesus' statement however that "I came not to destroy the law but to fulfill the law" and makes mention that we should not follow a dead religious teacher (Jesus the man) but the resurrected Christ who is "fused within us". And that we should realize that when Christ is dwelling within us, our wants will be what Jesus wants.

If this is sounding more and more like "New Age" to you, yes, I believe this is very similar to New Age which is really an adulterated mixture of agnosticism and Buddhism with a bit of paganism thrown in. New Age teaches people to look within for the Christ or god or deity within us and to follow that, thus deciding for themselves what is right and wrong. The theological name for this is "moral relativism".

In fact, Farley's gospel sounds very much like the famous New Age "Course in Miracles" which gives similar advice albeit not cloaked in Christian terminology. So even though Farley claims a new (and of course, better) type of Christianity, his ideas are not really new at all and may in fact, be anathema to mainstream Christians.

Farley's complete dismissal of the teachings of Jesus may be, to most mainstream Christians, definitely a serious problem. And Farley's distinct separation of what he calls "Jesus the Man" who taught the Jews how to live according to their law (not applicable to us, says Farley), from Jesus resurrected who indwells, seems to be teaching against traditional Christology. This is not a new type of heresy, having first appeared in the 2nd or 3rd century of Christianity, the on going argument about whether Jesus had two natures, human and Divine or just a Divine nature or just a human nature.

The Catholic church settled the issue in the 4th century by declaring Mary the "mother of God" thus establishing that Mary was not the mother of a nature (i.e. Jesus' human nature) but rather the mother of a Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus who is all Man and all God. Even poorly understood by some Catholics, calling Mary the "mother of God" is really saying something important about Jesus rather than Mary.

Farley's doctrines are very earth centered, another area in which it very much resembles "New Age" thinking. He writes:

"if we merely had a ticket to Heaven, there'd be no power to live in the present." p 181


"it's very difficult, if not totally unrealistic to live for something far off in the future. "
P 182

He calls mainstream Christianity a "Lackluster Gospel", writing:

"We're inundated with a lackluster gospel that advocates partial forgiveness, a pressure filled motivation for behavioral change, and the promise of earned rewards in Heaven or a cash return on earth. This counterfeit is the reason that the church sometimes doesn't appear much different from the world." p 192

He feels that all the law in the Bible (which he contradictorily still insists is the 'Word of God') can cause people to sin.

"The law causes sin to increase, not decrease. " p 232

But, I may ask, if the Bible is the Word of God, how could following it, cause people to sin? Lack of desire to follow the Commandments has led many a person into New Age thinking which seemingly comfortably tells us sin is outdated and we are "free", however, it seems that Andrew Farley has gone a step further in bringing New Age thinking into Christianity.

He seems to have forgotten some of the basics like "sin is a moment of pleasure and a lifetime of pain and virtue is a moment of pain and a lifetime of joy" (Bishop Sheen).

Although this book might make interesting reading for agnostics and atheists, especially those into intellectualizing, it seems not appropriate for people really trying to find Jesus through Christianity.

While Farley may feel he is making Christianity palpable to the typical Post Christian hedonist (and he well might be doing this), I have to question his theology as it seems to agree more with New Age philosophy than traditional Christian theology but I guess if that is what it takes to bring him to God, then God can work through that also.

For some, however, the book might seem a way out of the "boring" rules of Christianity and they should keep in mind:

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Timothy 4:3)

Everyone has their own path - I must say, the book did keep my interest all the way through although I can say that also about the "Course in Miracles". This isn't MY path to God but it's always interesting to read about the paths of others and we can always learn something!

on Amazon...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

March for Life -revisiting it

We went to one of the first Marches for Life in our city, in the late 1970's... a few hundred showed up and we marched and ended up at a Rally which was more of an Evangelical Evangelism effort than anything else. Amidst the music groups, one speaker got up and said 'this is not a church issue but a civil rights issue'. He was basically ignored as the music went on. It was mostly unimpressive to say the least.

So I have skipped all the marches since then but this year, EWTN, the Global Catholic Network, had complete live coverage of both the March on Washington and the West Coast March for life (in San Francisco) and I decided to watch it.

I discovered things have greatly changed since the 1970's. For the March in Washington, 500,000 marchers, by most reports showed up - it looked more like a million when I watched on TV. The speakers included tearful women who regretted their abortions (and were hurt by them), Abby Johnson who ran a Planned Parenthood clinic for several years, who had recently quit her clinic and joined the Pro Life movement after watching a doctor abort a 13 week fetus using guided ultra sound, Lila Rose, a young person who went under cover as a 13 year old seeking an abortion to several Planned Parenthood clinics and discovered they were willing to cover up that her boyfriend was 22 and that they tried to talk her into an abortion and more.

One of the speakers was a Rabbi who was extremely passionate about abortion and how it was hurting women and babies.

Also on the platform were several Congress persons, Catholic Bishops and clergy. And standing behind the speakers on the platform, several women held up signs which read "I regret my abortion".

The weather was cold and grey but this did not stop or slow down the March and the most impressive thing was perhaps that a goodly portion of March attendees were young people. Young people are the hope of our country, the future and if so many of them are pro life, we are looking in much better shape than I've thought.

It rained at the West Coast March for life in San Francisco but 40,000 marchers showed up and marched in the cold rain.

Watching these marches, I'd say the future of the pro life movement looked very hopeful - there was a lot more substance than the Rally I attended 30 years ago.

Things change and sometimes for the better!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Yoga and Pilates - honoring non Christian gods?

I just read an interesting blog which said that Christians should not do yoga because "every posture is designed as a position of worship to a Hindu god!" Aside from the fact that Hindus have been monotheists for centuries i.e. students of comparative religions tell us that Hindus kind of morphed into monotheism - their God is considered a tri-une God - God the Creator, God the Preserver and God the Destroyer - we should probably take a moment to clarify this issue of doing yoga or pilates etc.

First of all, if we think of it, many common practices can be traced to pre Chirstian times - even those we use in our sacred liturgy like lighting candles for example, and didn't they kneel in pre Christian times? Does that mean by kneeling in church we are honoring a pagan god because kneeling was a posture, originally designed to honor pre Christian deities?

Secondly, many customs we enjoy to celebrate Christian holidays come from pre Christian customs. For example the Christmas tree, that we all love - that comes from the practice of decorating a tree for the drunken debauchery known as "Saturnalia". Santa Claus who bears little to no resemblance to the Catholic Bishop, St Nicholas, is actually, a variation of the Norse god, Thor, who wore a red suit and rode around the sky in a chariot pulled by goats and dropped gifts down the chimneys of "good" children, at Saturnalia time. Also true of the Easter Bunny (and Easter eggs) and more. All of these customs are things we could omit from our celebrations without any medical or physical repercussions but far as I know, most Christians would not feel like Christmas without the decorated tree -- even the Vatican has a Christmas tree. And although we have not put up a Christmas tree in our home for many years, I did very much enjoy the exquisite decorations we had in our parish this year which included several Christmas trees.

I can see where a Christian might not want to do the meditational part of Yoga i.e. the "OM" mantra's etc. But then, I suppose if one were to use that as a launch into a prayer meditation about Our Lord, that might be ok also. I like to do the Divine Mercy Chaplet when I'm doing yoga.

This isn't an original idea with me. There is a physician, Dr Anne who practices a form of TAI CHI combining it with signing the words (deaf sign language) of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I've done this with the DVD (she is a devout Catholic - this physician) and it's a very touching prayer experience.

Fact remains, medicine recognizes Yoga as an EXTREMELY healthy practice to maintain muscle tone, avoid contracture and even to treat or minimize arthritis (see for example, Arnot, Bob, MD "WEAR AND TEAR",NY 2001, in which he points out that studies have suggested that in countries where folks do Yoga, knee replacement surgery is almost unheard of).

As a person who does yoga 4 times a week or more, I can attest to the fact, that it's a very healthy practice. I don't take a class but I have watched classes on TV to learn the poses. I have a routine I do which takes about 15-20 minutes depending on how long I hold each pose.

Catholics are often accused of "formal idolatry" (worshipping statues) when we pray the "Hail Mary" but the bottom line is that few if any folks, even folks who belong to non theist religions, practice formal idolatry any more today. However, as I point out to those who thus accuse Catholics, "Practical idolatry" i.e. considering money or career or a person more important than God, is COMMONLY practiced in our society today and yet, while being so fearful of "formal idolatry", Christians are seldom even warned about "practical idolatry".

Apparently those in the early church even Jesus' disciples may have been confused about things which is probably why Jesus told us in Mark 7:14-15 " Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile."

In other words, with neutral things like Yoga, Pilates etc, it may be true that "it's not what ya do but the way that ya do it!" :)

God gave us all these things to enjoy. And practices like Yoga and Pilates, besides being wonderful for the physique, can also SIGNIFICANTLY reduce stress, which medicine has long recognized as a prominent player in all types of illness and heart disease.

This sounds more to me like being nice to our "Temples of the Holy Spirit" which IS honoring OUR God.