Tuesday, January 15, 2013

From Radical Feminist to Devout Catholic

This is the conversion story of my friend Kim Manning, which has been on my blog forever but which has not been its own featured post until today. We took our faith journeys together, though we started in very different places. 

I find any story of a liberal feminist-turned-Catholic to be fascinating, but I had the joy of watching this one as it unfolded. Grab a cup of tea and dive into it now with me...




My Road from Gender Feminism to Catholicism
By Kimberley Manning




Kim and I during the journey, mid-1990s. We would soon go from 
secular newspaper editorial writers (while still stay-at-home mommies) 
to practicing Catholics and RCIA teachers. 



Consider the following scenario:  There was a time in human history when all was well.  People lived in harmony with the planet, all resources were shared equally, and there was no violence.  This was the great time of matriarchal cultures when women held the positions of power in their societies and wielded that power with wisdom.
Then it all came to a halt when men rose up and began to use force, rooted in misogyny, to bring women under their control.  This was not some series of isolated uprisings, but a systematic reversal of world power and a subjugation of women which has left my gender devastated.  Rape was the first method used to subdue women, followed by the development of the institution of marriage; however, as time went on, more sophisticated mechanisms were employed to rob women of their power, both earthly and spiritual.  
The coup de grace in this destruction of matriarchal utopia was the development of Christianity.  This patriarchal system, purposely dominated by men, would seek to destroy the last vestiges of the great goddess-centered religions by establishing the complete authority of males over females through its use of supposed sacred writings (the Bible) and masculine symbolism to describe God.  The great peace-loving goddess religions were no match for the brute force of a male-dominated Christendom and so were decimated.  The greatest blow was the Inquisition, in which millions of pagan women, many high priestesses, were burned at the stake, as the Catholic Church made its massive attempt finally to eradicate female power.  Then came the witch hunts in the New World, while today such constructs as gender roles continue the assaults against feminine energy on the planet.
Revisionist history at its finest?  To be sure.  However, much to my embarrassment, I must confess that not so long ago I subscribed to this gender feminist nonsense.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t raised with such notions.  To my parents’ credit, I was brought up in a strong Christian home.  Baptized in a Methodist Church, I was raised in a warm and loving Episcopalian home in Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania – the heart of Amish country.  The Christian values of love they neighbor, personal morality, and strong faith were modeled constantly at home and reinforced by Anabaptist fundamentalists who set a very conservative tone for the community.  Most significantly, I was raised with the old-fashioned idea that there is objective truth – that while there may be gray areas in life, there is such a thing as definitive right and wrong.
I embraced these values, knowing that somehow they were connected to the God in whom we believed, though I was unclear as to how that was so.  Consequently, while seeds of truth were planted, they had not taken root, and by the time I left for college, I was very vulnerable to drifting away from Christianity.
As is not uncommon for young adults, I began to consider other options when I failed to see meaning in the religion of my youth.  Gender feminism would eventually become that other option, but my “conversion” was a slow and insidious process.  I use the word “conversion” purposely, because I later came to see that gender feminism is a pseudo-religion in which all of the archetypal symbols are there in a twisted manner.  “Womyn” is deified, empowerment is the mantra, unborn children are the blood sacrifices in the ritual of abortion, and men are the scapegoats for our sins.
My first brush with radical feminism was a brief discussion with the Lutheran minister at my college over the issue of inclusive language in the Bible. At the time, it struck me as absurd that the reference to God as “our Father” in any way undermined my value as a woman.  That was when my head was still screwed on straight and I was majoring in science.  Two years into my degree, I switched majors and began to study social work.  My heavy interest in the subjective philosophies of pantheism and my decision to do a volunteer internship at a domestic violence shelter had potent consequences.  I began to hear a lot of talk about “woman’s experience,” how it is the ultimate source of truth.  It began to seem like an all-out attack on women was taking place in society, in the form of domestic abuse (not such an absurd conclusion if the only new women you meet for 10 months are battered ones).  I began to read a lot about misogyny, considered by many feminists to be a deep psychological predisposition in all men.  
By the time I graduated, I was still brave enough to get married, despite my growing awareness that marriage was a legal maneuver orchestrated by men to gain control of women, both economically and physically.  With a growing concern for my oppressed sisters everywhere, I took a paying job as a domestic violence counselor in a shelter.
In my personal life, I continued to explore pantheism, branching out into the New Age movement.  I became fascinated with all things subjective.  Psychology and spirituality were my passions and the left-brained world of critical thinking was now diagnosed as anal-retentive. I became convinced of such nebulous notions as there is no evil (or good/evil/God are all the same), pain is an illusion, God is really a woman, if you don’t get it right in this life you can always come back and try again, truth is whatever we make it for we are all creating our own realities, and all views and choices are of equal value.  My highest “virtue” became tolerance, and I felt guilty if I in any way judged another’s actions.
These ideas dovetailed quite nicely with my experience at work. The staff members at the shelter were all women.  We saw ourselves as a feminist organization in which all of the women were co-equals.  On numerous occasions I found this “no one’s in charge” approach unbearable.  Sometimes we would sit around for days in staff meetings trying to make a decision about a particular case.  Those days seemed interminable, but it was all done in the name of fairness, for there should be no leaders, no hierarchy of authority – those were male constructs.  So everyone would have her say as discussion and negotiation would go on and on. The name of the game was consensus, but when consensus could not be reached our director would make the final decision.  This always struck me as contrary to our philosophy, but in the end everyone seemed willing to overlook the inconsistency out of sheer fatigue.
Ours was a safe environment in which the lesbian women could feel safe to “come out.” The banter of male-bashing was an endless stream of jokes and occasional outbursts of raging hatred.  A woman’s “right to choose” was the pivotal issue around which woman’s freedom revolved and which had to be protected at all costs.  We even had copies of videos giving instruction in “menstrual extraction” (do-it-yourself abortion) in case men ever took away our “right” to control our own bodies.  Makeup was frowned upon and dieting was seen as a total surrender to the male-dominated culture in which women are merely objects for men’s pleasure.
Sexual abuse in America was rampant, I was told.  The estimates were said to be as high as 70 percent of all girls. Some feminists I read even asserted that all acts of sex between a man and woman are, by definition, rape.  And the statistics for domestic violence were astounding; we often quoted that half of all married women were being savagely beaten every year!  Eating disorders (which we believed were caused by the male desire to keep women helpless little waifs) were killing our daughters, and all over the world the organized patriarchal religions were keeping women oppressed with such tactics as genital mutilation, whipping, stoning, death sentences, forced marriages, forbidding birth control and access to abortions, and refusal to accept same-sex marriage.
It all seemed so unjust, so horrible.  The evidence mounted in my mind: Men were simply evil, and governments and organized religion – specifically Christianity in America – were their weapons. And then one day it happened.  I had my “click” experience.  I later read that Ms. Magazine had coined this phrase to describe the exact moment of coming into full consciousness of one’s oppression. I was sitting across from a co-worker in the shelter one evening and, like a light going on, it suddenly hit me that the cultural reality of my childhood did not exist. I realized in my moment of “enlightenment” that all men were perpetrators and all women were victims. “Where have I been all these years?” I asked my friend.  “I feel like I’ve been living under a rock and for the first time now I can see clearly.  There’s a world of male oppression against women out there and we’ve got to fight back.”  My friend smiled warmly and said, “Now you’re getting it.  I had the same experience.  Now you see the truth.”
From that moment on, for the next four years, I essentially abandoned the notion of objective truth and embraced the worldview that all things are relative and truth is determined by the individual.  This was a wholly right-brained approach to life in which one’s personal experience and feelings at any given moment determine reality.  Left-brained thinking patterns, such as critical analysis and skepticism, were deemed too rigid, too limiting, too male.  I felt freed by the artistic approach to life where everything is an open possibility.  What 23-year-old wouldn’t love a doctrine of carte blanche?  Luckily, though, the tradition, objective values of my upbringing still resonated with me, and so my “experience” led me to continue to make prudent decisions in my own life.
Meanwhile, in the name of tolerance, I found myself supporting or at least not speaking out about all manner of poor decisions that friends, co-workers, and clients were making in their own lives.  They did not have the luxury of a sound foundation in the Christian ethics that I had grown up with, and consequently their lives were disasters.  I was too much of a coward to judge anyone else’s actions, but I reaped the benefits of having been reared in a worldview that correctly set high standards for me.  Consequently, I went along subscribing to this nonsensical system without getting myself into any real trouble.
During that time, I led my life with the comfort that I had found the “truth” – that it was whatever I willed it to be and was determined only by my own personal experience. But two situations came up that caused such a disruption in my feminist outlook that, looking back, I realized they were the start of my de-briefing process out of radical feminism.  
The first was when I discovered that a seriously flawed methodology was being used to gather data on the number of women that the shelter system had to turn away each year.  I saw that the numbers were being artificially inflated by a defective statistical method, and then those numbers were being presented to the public as the basis for more funding.  I told people about this, but no one seemed concerned.  I was told that the huge numbers we were getting statistically coincided with our “sense” of the number of battered women out there who were not able to get help, so therefore the numbers were valid.  I was also told that statistics were basically meaningless anyway since mathematics is just another male construct used to oppress “woman’s reality.”  This was too much for someone who had majored in science for two years.  Personal determination of lifestyle and worldview I was willing to go along with, but such a cavalier attitude toward numbers and data was intolerable.  When I began to see the outer reaches of subjective truth, I pulled back to regroup.
The second situation occurred shortly after this discovery.  It involved what I like to call my “anti-click” experience,” which would begin my return to the world of objective truth (though complete deprogramming would take years).  One day it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to base my truth solely on my own personal experience, then I could not subscribe to the gender feminist model.  After all, my experience of my father, brother, and husband was that men were wonderfully kind and had the utmost respect for women. It was statistically impossible that I alone would have found the only three decent men in the entire world.  So with that, gender feminism became a self-refuting proposition for me and began to crumble before my eyes.  That one such basic argument in logic could devastate my entire philosophy was quite an embarrassing blow – one I would suffer again when I returned to, and attempted to defend, Protestantism.
Over the next few years, I had two daughters. On the occasion of my older child’s third birthday, I realized that I had no real dominant philosophy, much less religion, in which to bring up my children.  I had originally planned to raise my girls with a knowledge of all the great religions and let them carve out some meaning to life on their own, but, as the parent of two toddlers, I was becoming acutely aware that children need structure and standards.  I and another young mother [Leila], had begun writing a political and social editorial column in the Arizona Republic in which we often lamented the effects on our society of the “whatever-works-for-you” mentality.  I had returned to the belief that there is an objective truth out there somewhere and I felt I owed it to my children to find it.  
I had looked into and dismissed Native American religions, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Shamanism, even pseudo-Christian philosophies such as the popular Course in Miracles.  The only obvious arena left was Christianity, but I was still inclined to think that while Jesus had obviously been a fine prophet, men had distorted his ideas and then used the institution of the Church and the image of a male god to alienate women from the experience of the divine.  Then one day my Catholic friend and co-writer, Leila Miller, mentioned to me that the Catholic Church held the Virgin Mary in great esteem – she was and is the Mother of God Incarnate, worthy of veneration.  (I had never heard of devotion to Mary in my Episcopal church.  In fact, aside from Christmastime references to the Virgin Birth, she was not mentioned.)  This realization of woman’s exalted status in Christianity severed the last thread which connected me to the feminist rendition of “herstory.” I was finally willing to take another look at the religion of my childhood.
In January 1995, I made a public statement to a group of friends that it was my sincere prayer that Jesus would reveal Himself to me.  I had never really understood this whole story of God made man, crucifixion, resurrection, and salvation.  If Jesus is the real source of Truth, I wanted Him to prove it.  What followed was a rapid fire conversion over the ensuing four months.  The support for my conversion was a Bible church that I chose solely on the basis that I could walk to it on the days I would not have a car.  The first sermon I heard there was excellent.  Not only did the pastor clearly instruct that the Bible is actually relevant to my life today (something I had always doubted), but he also argued that Christianity is not some nebulous religion of blind faith.  He spoke of Christianity as the source of objective truth, grounded in a real act that had occurred in a specific moment in human history.  I was intrigued and, over the following four months, I never missed a service.  I joined a Bible study group focusing on the New Testament, and after opening my heart to Christ, I had a classic moment of conversion: By His amazing grace, God gave me the gift of faith and I became a believing Christian.
Since I had such a “moment,” I figured I was a born-again Christian and it made sense that I should become a member of the Bible church.  Since this would mean renouncing my membership in the Episcopal Church, I decided that I should take the Bible church’s doctrine class to understand fully what I was joining.  This, along with a fair amount of reading on the side, left me enamored with the ideas of the Reformation.  Sola scriptura, the idea that the Bible is the only source of authority for a Christian, and sola fide, Luther’s idea that we are saved by our faith alone, became my pillars of the truth.  Looking back, I realize that those doctrines were no more than an impossible “synthesis” of subjective and objective truth:  The objective truth is in the Bible, but I, like Luther, still had the option of personally interpreting that truth.  But at the same time, I was sold on these newfound gems and ready to join the nondenominational world of the Bible church.
In the meantime, Leila saw how much fun I was having at the Bible church and considered leaving Catholicism.  Her mother very wisely advised her to know what she was leaving before she left the Catholic Church and subsequently gave her a copy of Karl Keating’s Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians". This prompted what can only be described as a marathon replay of the Reformation.  For months Leila and I debated the meanings of justification, salvation, sacrifice, transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and the Marian doctrines (just to name a few). Two of our phone conversations actually lasted seven hours each, and eventually the debate came down to one issue: authority.  We discovered that the core decision for a Christian is whether or not one submits to the authority of the Catholic Church (which claims to operate under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) and thus accepts the Church’s understanding of the Bible and her pronouncements on faith and morals.  If one rejects the Church’s authority, then one subscribes to the doctrine of sola scriptura and is left to find, through a personal interpretation of the Bible, the Truth that was promised by Christ.  The latter seemed the proper democratic (and more comfortable) approach to me and, imbued with an underlying subconscious prejudice against Catholicism and influenced by heretical Protestant biblical interpretations, I stuck to this position with a vengeance.
And then, in one last act toward an informed decision, I read a book called Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic, edited by Patrick Madrid. In three nights, the doctrine of sola scriptura, and much besides, came crumbling down around me.  I came to realize that if the Bible, as I held, was the sole source of truth for me as a Christian, then it would have to state as much.  But I discovered that, in fact, the Bible never makes such a claim – in fact, the opposite is true. Just as in feminism, I found myself smack dab up against a self-refuting philosophy.  I had been duped again, and this time I was devastated.  My newfound joy in Christianity evaporated, my spirit fell, and I was left in darkness. I could hardly sleep for nights as I wrestled with the terrible possibility that there was no Truth to be found.  Certainly the Catholic Church could not be the true Christianity – those people worship Mary, pray to idols, believe in salvation by works, engage in some sort of cannibalism at their Mass, and use guilt and threats of excommunication to coerce their members into serving the Church hierarchy.
Then I remembered an Anglican priest I had met while I had been a speaker at a pro-life conference (I had left the “pro-choice” camp when I left feminism).  He was from a schismatic group of Episcopalians.  In a panic, I met with him to find out just exactly where Episcopalians and/or Anglicans stand on the issues of sola fide and sola scriptura.  By that time, I had been reading Keating’s Catholicism and Fundamentalism myself (along with some embarrassingly weak Protestant apologetics).  In subsequent meetings with this priest I sought an official Anglican/Episcopalian response to the Roman Catholic positions on such critical points of doctrine as the Petrine succession, the Immaculate Conception, and Papal Infallibility. I thought for sure that he would present grand apologetic arguments in response to these questions. Instead, I came away from these talks recognizing what I now know to be a nearly universal ignorance of the Roman Catholic doctrine.  A prime example of this was the priest’s comment that the doctrine of Infallibility gave a pope carte blanche to invent any doctrine the Church wanted to make up.  “They are at risk of becoming like Mormons with that kind of doctrine,” he said.  Luckily, I understood by that time that Infallibility is actually a highly limiting doctrine that preserves and protects the Deposit of Faith.  It was clear to me that after 20 centuries of existence, the Catholic Church had not turned into some bizarre form of Mormonism but had, instead, preserved the living Faith instituted by our Lord and handed on by His Apostles.  I chuckled to myself as I considered that Mormonism was historically a result of Protestantism!
Meanwhile, at home, my husband kept asking me when I was going to admit to myself that my thinking was Catholic.  Yet I still just couldn’t imagine converting to the Church.  So, in a series of last-ditch efforts, I went to four Episcopal priests in an attempt to find anyone who could talk me out of becoming Roman Catholic.  After all, the Episcopal Church is said to be the via media – the middle ground – between Catholicism and Protestantism.  I had earlier dismissed the Episcopal Church, primarily because of its weak position on abortion, but now I was desperate.  I was hoping the Episcopalians would be able to teach me how to stay out of the Catholic Church without being a heretic. After engaging in many hours of discussion with these fine men, I was left stunned at the similarities between the Episcopal Church and gender feminism. 
I found a serious breakdown in moral teaching reminiscent of the “tolerance” model of feminist ideology in which no one or thing should be judged lest someone be made to feel uncomfortable.  One priest, who claimed to be pro-life, told me he believed in a woman’s right to an abortion and that he would not discourage a parishioner from having an abortion if she thought it was the best option for her!  Another priest responded to the Catholic stance on artificial birth control by saying, “You simply can’t run a church like that today.”  And I discovered that ordination of noncelibate homosexual priests was a quiet but regular practice in the Episcopal Church.
I also saw that old, familiar subjective truth model raising its ugly head again.  It was explained to me, by the dean of an Episcopal seminary, that the Episcopal Church is not a “confessional” church in which one is required to concur with any particular interpretation of doctrine. An Episcopalian, he said, cannot ignore the articles of faith (found in the Book of Common Prayer) or the creeds, but at the same time he need only profess them with regard to how he personally interprets them.  Shocked, I remember clarifying, “Do you mean that one man in the pews can profess belief in a literal resurrection, and the man next to him can profess a metaphorical resurrection, and they’re both right in the eyes of the Episcopal Church?” The answer was a definite “Yes.”  I was told numerous times that Episcopalians believe that “everyone is right, both Protestants and Catholics.” But I had already learned that it is only in the world of subjective truth that two opposing doctrines can both be right.  Subjectivism is simply antithetical to the objective Truth of Christ.
Another priest, a former assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury, encouraged me to join the “Roman mission” if that was where I felt more comfortable. Making decisions based on feelings and personal experience was another tenet of feminism that I had rejected as contrary to an objective Truth. 
And I learned that Episcopalian rejection of the papacy is not based on any solid historical, scriptural, or theological reason.  It is simply a refusal to submit to Church authority, just as it was for its founder, King Henry VIII. This disdain for binding authority is classic gender feminism, where the “patriarchal model of hierarchy” is seen as an abusive male construct.
The Episcopal Church I found is not the same creedal church my father grew up in – the one that taught me to seek objective truth.  Moreover, it is schism from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, therefore schism from the assured guidance of the Holy Spirit, which creates creedal chaos and has led Anglicanism into heresy.  One Episcopal priest put it beautifully: “The Catholics are specific [about doctrine] while we Episcopalians think of ourselves as tolerant.”  Exactly!  The magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church is the unchanging and knowable Truth – rooted in a 2,000-year history. That Truth is incompatible with “tolerance” of heretical philosophies. 
Everything I had rejected and escaped in gender feminism had surrounded me once again in Protestantism:  personal interpretation, subjective reality based on emotion, moral relativism, and rejection of legitimate authority.  I had not come all this way back to Christianity only once again to subscribe to the right-brain, subjective, emotional, and morally ungrounded philosophies that I had rejected in feminism.
It was finally over – I realized that I could not remain outside of the Catholic Church.
Since my decision to be reconciled with the Catholic Church, I have been thoroughly analyzed by bewildered friends and family.  I have been accused of becoming a Catholic because my friend is Catholic, because I like liturgical services, because I am committing some long overdue rebellion, or because I have a psychological wound from my past that has me on a neurotic search for an authority figure.  But I became a Catholic at the Easter Vigil Mass 1996 because I sought objective Truth, a Truth that leaves both feminism and Protestantism in the dust.  Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, so I took Him up on it. Much to my surprise, and now inestimable joy, I found His promised Truth, His objective, unchanging, divinely protected Truth, in His Holy Catholic Church.  I thank God I’m home.
Kimberley Manning 
Story first published in the New Oxford Review, 1996

27 comments:

  1. @Kimberly: thank you for your story.

    I have been a radical feminist for decades and have never heard the term "gender feminism"--what does that mean?

    Also, in reference to this comment: "I had found the “truth” – that it was whatever I willed it to be and was determined only by my own personal experience."

    Your own personal experience of "gender feminism" does not necessarily represent an objective "truth" about what it is. Some people's personal experience of Catholicism (and I know many of them) included growing up in Catholic schools where they felt continually shamed, scared and abused; being molested by priests; and fearing, as adults, they will never recover from the brain washing and cruelty they found in Catholic church.

    I am sure you would say their experiences do not represent the "truth" of Catholicism. I would never claim that they do, as I am not a Catholic, but I know their particular experiences are real.

    So I suggest that your assessment of radical feminism as "morally ungrounded," etc, is just your experience, your opinion.

    That said, I"m glad you've found a way of life that resonates as "true" for you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. And by asking, I am just trying to define terms. I will let Kim know that you commented (she does not read blogs), and hopefully she can pipe in! I guess I am just interested to know what an objective truth is (for a secular person) that is not based only in what one feels or determines for herself. Where would that truth be accessed? Where would it come from? Or, is there no objective truth that is unchanging and true for all?

      Sadly, your friends' experiences of abuse certainly were true. But they were sins. Sins contradict the teaching of the Church. So, we are not saying that someone's personal experiences did not truly occur, we are saying that there are objective truths about God, doctrine and morals that are true and fixed. And that they are true for all, and accessible to all.

      Delete
  3. "Objective truth" is Kimberly's assertion—" I essentially abandoned the notion of objective truth," so I think that question is for her. I assume she means that Catholicism represents objective truth and feminism represents the opposite.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Johanne, here is info on gender feminism:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equity_and_gender_feminism

    Coined by Christina Hoff Sommers, and was the terminology in use around the time Kim and I were writing, and just as she was leaving feminism. This particular piece was written in '96, when the term was still in use, but I haven't heard it much in the past decade or so.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Johanne, yes. She would say that her brand of belief then was very relativistic.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's funny, Leila, (please take this with the friendly tone in which it is intended), because I would say that I don't doubt Kimberly's experiences were real but that they contradict, in some ways, the true tenets of feminism--at least as feminism has matured. It is sad to me that people would take her experiences as representing the mindset of people who identify themselves as feminists today.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Johanne, I always know that you are speaking with kindness. I appreciate that so much about you!

    But here's the problem with what you said -- the "true tenets of feminism". What are those? And as feminism has "matured" does that mean its truths have changed from one thing to an opposite thing? How is her experience of feminism different from feminism today? And, where is the "truth" that is out there to be known, in feminism or anywhere?

    ReplyDelete
  8. My mother-in-law and I have had many conversations about feminism. She confessed to me that it was her father's generation that spawned the feminist movement that's so out of control to the point of emasculation. Her own father who is in his 80s and in poor health got upset with her for unclogging the toilet and insisted that it was "man's job", just to give an example.

    I think initially the feminist movement was good, but then it spawned a lot of other really horrible things like severing the rights of fathers to their pre-born children and things of that magnitude. I'm all for a renewal of separate but equal gender roles and rights. I suppose it has something to do with wanting both my boys to have rights too. So glad the Church agrees.

    Thanks for sharing the story.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Deltaflute, good point, and classical feminism was a very good, life-affirming, woman-affirming thing. Today, the linchpin of feminism is human abortion and gay "rights". They really went off the rails into something that is no longer relevant to most women (and which offends goodness), unlike the early stars of the movement, whom we all still can admire and thank.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Johanne, not sure if you are still there, but I'd like to ask this of you. In the material world, there is Truth that is not of our making or our determination. In science, we seek that Truth, we discover it, we receive it. But it's not of our own making, and it would exist even if we didn't exist. It exists outside of us, and our interaction with it is basically to seek, find, and accept it. (For example, we can deny the law of gravity, but good luck with that.)

    Do we agree that in the material world, Truth exists outside of ourselves and is not dependent on our personal beliefs, feelings, emotions or even our personal existence?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ahhhh. Authority! The greatest challenge since Adam and Eve. Great story Kim. Truth seekers rule. God bless and welcome home again.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Interesting story! One part I'd like to hear a bit more about is how she rejected the other religions. At this point, I do believe in God and objective truth--I'm just not sure what the truth is. Multiple, contradictory religions seem at least somewhat plausible to me, but I know that they can't all be true, and I'd like to have beliefs that aren't quite so vague. It would be interesting to hear some about how a person would find one religion convincing in a way that the others just aren't.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Johanne, I'm also curious about the "tenets of feminism." Where can they be found? Who determined them, and by what authority did they do so? Can they be changed?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Chris, Kim's been out of town for a week for a funeral, so she's hoping to pipe in soon. Meantime, when seeking Truth, look to the claims of Christ. He said He is God. If He is (and I believe there is plenty of reasonable evidence for that), then He is to be believed. Christ established a Church to teach in His name, so that we can find Truth (which has stood the test of time). If God loves us, it is reasonable that He would want us to be able to find the Truth and not be confused. So, Christ set it up that way. "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden" -- and so it is not.

    ReplyDelete
  15. great post! I feel like I have this discussion with friends and family entirely too often. (my truth/your truth vs. moral absolutes).

    ReplyDelete
  16. Chris, here is Kim's response to your question:

    Dear Chris,

    I don't have much time to talk; however, I felt compelled to address your question, which is an excellent one. The answer is rather simple. As I found out, one need not go to all the trouble of systematically eliminating or even addressing all the other religions. It is only necessary to examine the claims and life of Jesus and determine if they are true. If they are not true, you MUST dismiss Christianity (for it is a cult). If they are true, you MUST accept Christianity (and you will want to). The two best and most straight forward ways to approach this are to read C.S. Lewis' book, Mere Christianity, in which he posits the very reasonable and simple proposition of "Lord, liar, or lunatic" and to read the proofs for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And, if you are so inclined, you might check out all the Old Testament prophesies that were written down over a three thousand year period that predicted the Person of Jesus and how He fulfilled them.

    There is nothing hocus pocus about being a Christian. One need not suspend his powers of reason to believe. In fact, it is possible to come to belief by a simple process of logic and reason. Christianity is fundamentally predicated on a historical event -- a man came after numerous astoundingly accurate prophesies, lived and claimed to be God, did innumerable, witnessed miracles done by no one else before, died, resurrected from the dead as no on else before, and impacted the human race more than anyone else who ever lived. He must be taken seriously, and His witness is provable by simple logic and historical proof.

    Of course, once one comes to belief in Jesus of Nazareth as God, there is more to it. For one thing, He founded the Catholic Church. But that will all follow later. I recommend you keep it real simple. Just keep your mind and your heart open to seeing and hearing the Truth when it (He) comes along and read what I suggested above. People who don't understand Christianity want others to believe that it is a blind faith that only imbeciles follow. It's not! The proof of who Jesus was (and is) is easily proved with facts. Check it out for yourself.

    And one final note...you mentioned finding one religion convincing in a way that others aren't. Once a person becomes convinced that Jesus is truly Who He said He was and is, then that person will, of course, accept all that comes from Jesus as the Truth. To clarify, this doesn't mean that other religions have no truth. Truth is truth whether Jesus said it or the Buddha said it or Mohammed said it. We just know it's truth because Jesus is worthy of our belief (once you've been convinced he's God) and so we believe what he says. Some religions teach many things that are true, but they do not have everything right. Only Catholicism, Christian teaching handed down directly from Jesus for the past 2000+ years, has the fulness of Truth that we need to know. But that is something for you to believe for another day. :)

    I wish you all the best in your quest for the Truth -- it is the noblest endeavor you can undertake. Stay true to being willing to follow it wherever it takes you and you will be richly rewarded.

    Sincerely,
    Kim

    ReplyDelete
  17. Just a Tiny Pencil, I tried to encapsulate some of that here:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/10/pilate-said-to-him-what-is-truth.html

    Our post-Christian, First World minds are so conditioned to the "you have your truth, I have mine" mentality that we no longer even realize that we were born to be truth-seekers. Which implies a truth to be found!

    ReplyDelete
  18. What's with the spam comments? I thought Blogger automatically detected spam...

    I'm enjoying this discussion, especially since absolute morality vs. moral relativism is one of my absolute (pun intended) favorite topics!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Really not sure why the spam is coming through!! Ugh.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Johanne, you still there? I had hoped to continue the conversation!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Leila

    Here again. yes, I believe objective truth exists. To me, basic Buddhist teachings are descriptions of observable truth. Things like whether or not heaven exists or what Jesus actually said (therefore what he meant) are not observable.

    This statement makes no sense to me:

    "Once a person becomes convinced that Jesus is truly Who He said He was and is, then that person will, of course, accept all that comes from Jesus as the Truth"

    Because how can you possibly know what Jesus actually said? The bible was written by men, years after the words were spoken--if they actually were spoken at all.

    When you were a kid did you play the game "telephone"--where you sit in a circle and someone whispers something in the person's ear next to them and they whisper it to the next person, etc etc, until it gets back to the original person and you see how much the simple sentence changed as it was repeated several times? How can you possibly think you know what Jesus "said" when it was 2000 years ago and god knows how many times the information changed hands before it got to the people who wrote the bible. And then the books of the bible that were "chosen" to be part of the bible as we know it and others that were rejected.

    Anyway, I don't mean to be disrespectful but the idea of thinking you know the objective truth about things because of what Jesus "said" instead of what you actually observe just seems silly to me.

    An aside is that even observable truth can be suspect---like early astronomers who thought the sun revolved around the earth. It was a very logical conclusion--you could say an observable truth--but was inaccurate because of information they couldn't possibly have known at that time.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Johanne, I understand what you are saying. But remember, we believe that Jesus is God because He rose from the dead, literally. That is the only reason we believe Him, that moment in time, that historical fact. If He did not rise, then we are fools, and Christianity must be dismissed.

    That said, the Bible is inspired, we believe. But you don't have to believe that to get to the point where you see that Jesus is God (and then later understand that the Bible is inspired). The New Testament is also a history book, full of eyewitness accounts. If you know that the Peloponnesian War or even Revolutionary War happened, and believe it, then you are taking it on someone's word, no? You are not seeing video proof (which could be forged, anyway, right?), or hearing a tape recording, but you still believe that it happened. We humans have a reasonable threshold for what we believe is reliable historical record. The Bible meets the criteria for reliable historical record (we can go into that more later if you wish).

    So, as history, you hear the stories of those who knew Jesus and who saw him crucified and risen (not to mention witnessed miracles). If you have read the New Testament (esp. the Gospels), you will see how it was not written to be some mythical poem or allegory. The writers were dead serious about this being historical fact, and went to great pains to stress that.

    As Kim wrote in the same comment you quoted, there are many logical proofs of the Resurrection out there. So, it's once a soul accepts that Jesus did rise (and thus is God), then we have our authority. As the New Testament is as much history as anything, we see that Jesus (God) explicitly founded a Church (again, it's a fact of history). If God founded a Church to teach in His name, then we can trust the Church to teach His Truth (remember, He's God, He can protect His own Truth and make sure it gets to the world).

    I wish I could encapsulate it all here, but we don't base our belief in things on saying "The Bible is inspired, therefore everything Jesus said in it is true". We say to the skeptic, the Bible can be trusted as a historical account of a man named Jesus, who (if you look reasonably at the alternatives) rose from the dead, proving the case that He is God as He claimed. Then, we trust His Church, because He founded it. The history that the Church wrote down (i.e., the New Testament) can then also be trusted as inspired of God as Christ's Church claims, not merely good history.

    Start with New Testament as history and go from there. It's a linear argument.

    The best book to explain this (so much better than I) is Handbook of Christian Apologetics, by Kreeft and Tacelli. It uses aristotelean logic to answer the objections to Christianity. Really good stuff, for the mind (like mine, and I'm guessing yours) that needs things to make sense and be reasonable.

    Let me ask you this: If there were a loving, personal God, one who created all things, from the galaxies to the tiniest microbe, do you believe that He could make His Truths known to us if He wanted to?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Leila
    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I understand that the bible is a historical document but that doesn't make the actual quotes historical. I believe the Revolutionary War happened but I'm not sure I would believe a verbatim account of what Paul Revere said if it were recorded 70 years after he said it. And Christians always refer to "what Jesus said" as the source of truth and this does not make sense to me.

    As to your questions about God--that is such a huge concept containing so many premises that I'm not certain I agree with that I don't really know how to answer it. I guess I don't know. I don't feel confident the answer is yes.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Johanne, you are right. I can't think of anything less effective than for a Christian to say to a non-Christian, "Jesus said this...." and expect the non-Christian to take that as the source of truth. That seems silly to me. It should be something Christians can say to one another (as presumably both speaker and hearer believe in the divinity of Christ), but why would a non-Christian give Jesus' words the weight of truth? I think they wouldn't. Perhaps if someone says that to you, they are assuming your are Christian? Not sure why else someone would do that.

    And, again, the question is: Who is Jesus? If one reasons one's way to believe in the literal resurrection, then Jesus is God, and God (historically) founded a Church to teach in His name. That Church can be trusted to teach the Truth of its divine Founder.

    Let me ask that last question another way. If a human being, who is not a dog's creator, can teach/train a dog how to find a bone, then couldn't God, who is the Creator of all (including our brains and our nature), find a way to teach us basic Truths that He wanted us to know?

    Could such a thing ever really be above or beyond His awesome powers? Seems unlikely, to say the least.

    Also, remember that for the ancients, oral tradition was not at all like playing "telephone". It was serious business. It doesn't mean that every single last word was recorded verbatim, but the history and words are still nonetheless true.


    ReplyDelete
  25. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your story. It relates to my life in the sense that I am a college sophomore taking a women's studies class and we talk about feminism and all its forms and in our textbook it clearly describes the feminist patriarchy view of Christianity and have had to defend the Faith because it mistook something St. Thomas Aquinas said and misunderstanding of other Church teachings.

    Your story is encouraging and may help me in relating and talking to my protestant friends.

    Thanks and God Bless!

    ReplyDelete

PLEASE, when commenting, do not hit "reply" (which is the thread option). Instead, please put your comment at the bottom of the others.

To ensure that you don't miss any comments, click the "subscribe by email" link, above. If you do not subscribe and a post exceeds 200 comments, you must hit "load more" to get to the rest. We often have meaty and long discussions -- trust me, they're worth following!