Honestly Paying Back

zacchaeusZacchaeus wasn’t just a corrupt tax collector.  He was the chief tax collector.  He had grown rich while abusing his countrymen and capitalizing on their woes.

I myself can hardly relate to Zacchaeus.  I have never had to climb a tree to see over a crowd in my life.

But Zacchaeus did more than just swindle people.  If we do the math, we can figure that not all of Zacchaeus’ money came to him dishonestly.  Apparently, Zacchaeus had cheated people, but he also made prudent investments with the money, with some honest profits on them.  So, when Christ called him, and Zacchaeus turned his heart to God, the notorious tax collector had enough honest money in his coffers to pay back those he had wronged four times over.

Now, during November we Catholics pray especially for…the dead.

If we could be certain that our loved ones have made it all the way to heaven; if we could be sure that they are totally at peace, free of all debts to God and man, altogether reconciled to the truth; if we could know all this for sure, then we wouldn’t pray for them.  Rather, we would pray to them.

On the other hand, if we had no hope whatsoever that our beloved dead could reach the goal; if the whole thing were hopeless, then we wouldn’t pray for them then, either.

We pray because we hope.  Death swallows us human beings up into a great darkness. But we believe that God’s light shines beyond what we can see.  So it’s worth praying.  We hope for forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace for the ones we love, and we pray for this.

Let’s get even a little more precise.  Between the certainty that we don’t have, and the hopelessness that we don’t feel–about our deceased loved ones–some intermediate state must exist.  For them, that is.  Some intermediate state between heaven and hell.  What is it?  It must be something that involves making progress.  We pray that our beloved dead will make progress toward the ultimate goal.  How does someone make progress after death?

scales_of_justiceWhat happened with Zacchaeus teaches us the answer.  Zacchaeus saw God from the tree.  The Lord called Him closer, and of course Zacchaeus wanted to respond.  To get closer, Zacchaeus had to do two things:  He had to receive the mercy of God in Christ, so he could start fresh.  And he also had to pay people back.  He had done a lot of wrong, so—with the means at his disposal—he had to make it right again.

Now, we deceive ourselves if we don’t acknowledge that our debts weigh heavily in the balance of justice.  Who doesn’t fail in his duties in this life?  Duties to family, to church, to neighbor, to the poor and vulnerable?  We have a duty to the truth, to respect it completely.  We fail.  We have a duty to use all the material means we have to help others.  We don’t.  We have a duty to receive everything as a gift, and give thanks, and seek only the higher things of God.  We get sidetracked.  We let ourselves get grievously sidetracked.

God mercifully forgives sinners who repent.  But there’s a lot of debts to settle up.  We can start while we’re still making our pilgrim way on earth.  Whatever debts remain when we die, we settle in purgatory.  And our time in purgatory gets shorter with every prayer someone says for us, every Mass someone has offered for us, every sacrifice someone makes for us.  We hope that someone will do all these things for us when we pass on.  Which means the least we can do is pray and fast and make sacrifices and have Masses said and walk through Holy Doors for our beloved dead and for all the faithful departed.


The Body and the Rowan Tree


In Part XII of the novel Dr. Zhivago, the title character finds himself encamped in the Siberian wilderness with a detachment of troops.  The winter is coming on fast.  He observes this:

At the way out of the clearing and the forest, which was autumnally bare and could be seen through, as if the gates had been thrown open upon its emptiness, there grew a solitary, beautiful, rust-red-leafed rowan tree, the only one of the trees to keep its foliage. It grew on a mound above a low, hummocky bog, and reached right up into the sky, into the dark lead of the prewinter inclemency, the flatly widening corycombs of its head, brightly glowing berries.  Small winter birds, bullfinches and tomtits, with plumage bright as frosty dawns, settled on the rowan tree, slowly and selectively pecked the larger berries, and, thrusting up their little heads and stretching their necks, swallowed them with effort.

Some living intimacy was established between the birds and the tree. As if the rowan saw it all, resisted for a long time, then surrendered, taking pity on the little birds, yielded, unbuttoned herself, and gave them the breast, like a nurse to a baby.  ‘Well, what can I do with you? Go on, eat me, eat me. Feed yourselves.’ And she smiled.

Mother Earth, coursing with vigor and life, even in the Siberian winter.

What are we human beings made of?  It is in fact impossible for us to imagine ourselves, to conceive of ourselves at all, without including our earthen bodies in the picture.

Ephesians 6 offers a perfect case in point.  St. Paul is talking about purely spiritual matters. Fighting the devil, truth, righteousness, peace, faith.  And yet he cannot do so without painting an image of the human body, “armored” from head to toe.

The Apostolic See of Rome rarely intervenes to lay down laws regarding Christian burial. The last time the Vatican made a ruling in this area was over fifty years ago.  But the See of Peter has spoken definitively to us this month, to remind us of this crucial fact:

We believe in the resurrection of the body.  We believe that Mother Earth will give up her dead on the last day, and the bodies of the saints will stride forth with the fullness of life. God pours forth life to these earthen bodies of ours as surely as the rowan tree in Dr. Zhivago fed the winter birds.

We must bury our dead with this fact in the forefront of our minds.  As the instruction puts it: Burying the bodies of the deceased shows greater esteem for them than does cremation.

Or course God will raise the bodies of the dead who have been cremated, or whose bodies have been lost–He’s omnipotent; He can manage it.

But this is about us.  This is about us expressing what we believe about our bodies.  Our bodies are not instruments; they are not prisons; they are not husks or shells for our souls.  We are who we are: body and soul.  That’s why we lovingly lay the bodies of our beloved dead into the ground.  And patiently wait for the resurrection.

Treats and the Father

Sometimes the gospel reading at Holy Mass gives us a perfectly appropriate image.  “After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then you will stand outside knocking, and saying…Trick or treat!”

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. (Mt. 7:14)

On the one hand, Lord Jesus submitted to His bitter Passion, and mounted the height of the cross, in order to draw all people to Himself.  Christ extends His Hand to everyone.  His loving Heart wills the salvation of all.


But on the other hand, the road to salvation stretches before us—long, dark, and treacherous.  (And that’s just getting through the rest of today.)

On this road of Christian faith, we can encounter this situation:  ‘Nice! I think I have finally settled into a nice little state of comfortable holiness!’  Then the Lord demands the renunciation of something that I didn’t even realize I cherish with a desperate familiarity.

Children don’t like having their Halloween candy taken away from them.  And we don’t like it when the Lord points out that we have no real right to certain comforts that we have come to take for granted.  But He’s allowed to pull the rug out from under us anytime.  After all, we came naked into this world, and naked we will leave it again.

It’s not because He’s cruel.  But He has a particular kind of zeal for our souls.  The ‘trick’ is that His zeal can appear ruthlessly cruel to our grasping and avaricious eyes.

Almighty God has no interest whatsoever in our being “vaguely associated” with Him.  As if we could get to heaven by keeping some Catholic-school sweatshirts in our dresser drawers.  Or drinking our coffee from a “Blessed 24:7” mug.  As if we could find salvation by thinking of God and loving Him 35-40% of the time, and watching tv or twirling the facebook feed slackjawed the rest.

No.  He loves us with a ruthlessly demanding Passion.  One thing He is not is “nice.”  Not a “nice” God.  He is the crucified God.  He walked the narrow way of pure, honest, fearless love.  And His Way, the Way of the Cross, is the only way to the Father.

But, oh, what a Father do we find! when we walk this narrow way.  There’s not a treat in this world that can hold a candle to His love.

Pro-Life Candidate, Etc.

john paul ii loggia be not afraidTomorrow some of us will keep the Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II on the road.  We will pass through a Holy Door in Charleston, WVa., and then hightail it through Kentucky, headed for Thomas Merton’s Gethsemani Abbey.

The good Lord gave me two fathers to grow up under, Kirk White and Pope John Paul. At my dad’s funeral, we read the same reading we read at Holy Mass yesterday, which includes:

I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named.

(Ephesians 3:14-15)

I semi-resent this translation.

The word ‘family’ renders the Greek word πατριὰ, patria. You don’t have to qualify as a scholar to see that patria has something to do with pater, father.

“Family” is a beautiful word, to be sure.  But I think we have had more than enough gender neutrality.  I myself kneel before the Father, from whom every fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named. (And Eddie Vedder singing “Man of the Hour” runs through my head.)

I’m having a hard time keeping up with all the e-mails and phone calls from my people, asking me to tell them which of the two distinguished presidential candidates they’re supposed to vote for.

When I witnessed the following on Wednesday evening, I had some thoughts…

1. How did we wind up here, we the proud Pro-Life Movement?  With a pro-life candidate who can barely manage to articulate the pro-life message? And who has practically no credibility as a champion of our movement?

2. As a body politic, poised for yet another post-Roe v. Wade presidential election, how can we not see the full significance of killing so many of our of innocent and defenseless unborn children?  Isn’t it the decisive political issue of our age? Hasn’t widespread abortion had a profound economic impact? A crushing psychological impact? Hasn’t it distorted healthcare and the medical profession? Hasn’t killing so many of our children cost us dearly in family and community life? And doesn’t the fact that we never talk about any of these things show how much of a devastating impact abortion has had on the truthfulness of our public discourse?

Never in a million years could I counsel anyone to vote for either of these two candidates. Except under one set of circumstances: when these are the only two real candidates on the ballot. Then we face the duty of choosing one. Say your prayers and do your best.

thomas mertonAs you may know, Thomas Merton loved Boris Pasternak’s novel about the Russian civil war, Dr. Zhivago.  In one chapter during the final third of the book, the Red army tries to recruit Siberian townsmen who are sitting and eating leftover paskha for a late-winter lunch.

Again, no one need qualify as a scholar to recognize the word origin.

Easter will come.  Even with Bolsheviks on the march, Easter came in Siberia a century ago. Easter comes. France has had five republics. Easter has come every year. In 1860, the election of Abraham Lincoln led to the secession of the southern states. Easter came.

I don’t think either candidate mentioned God even once during any of the three debates. True enough, neither of them aspire to a religious office; our US presidency has to do with temporal matters. But we do need to pray.  With confidence in the love and wisdom of the triune God.

…Just in case you’re interested, for our spiritual reading while on the bus during our little pilgrimage, we will listen together to the following:

1. The homily of Pope John Paul II’s Inaugural Pontifical Mass, October 22, 1978

2. Thomas Merton’s No Man is an Island, chapters 2, 5, and 8.

3. Merton’s novice conferences on “the Spiritual Journey,” and “Prayer and Meditation.”

Parabola del Juez Injusto

pantocratorCuando venga el Hijo del Hombre, ¿encontrará justicia en la tierra?

Si o no encontrará fe en la tierra, sólo el tiempo lo dirá. Pero, nos preguntamos ¿encontrará justicia en la tierra?

Encontrara a los justos retribuidos equitativamente y a los criminales castigados proporcionalmente por sus crímenes? ¿Encontrará los bienes del mundo distribuidos bien, entre las personas honestas, todos viviendo en armonía, con cuidado a los vulnerables y la reverencia por los viejitos? ¿Encontrará la gente comunicando con discreción, dando mutuamente el beneficio de la duda, ayudándose unos a otros generosamente, superando antagonismos con sereno respeto mutuo? Encontrara Él todo esto cuando Él venga otra vez?

La viuda de la parábola buscaba justicia. Ella tenía una demanda legal. Podemos suponer que tenía un caso sólido en contra de alguien que la había engañado a ella.

El juez le debía una audiencia. Le debía una investigación sobre los hechos. Le debía a ella su trabajo como agente de la justicia. ¿Por qué, después de todo, tendríamos jueces, si no celebran audiencias, si no investigan los hechos, si no aplican las leyes, y hacen veredictos justos?

Pero este juez no lo haría. No se avergonzaba de admitir a sí mismo que no lo importaba nada. Tal vez un amigo poderoso lo nombró juez como favor personal, a pesar de que no tenía intención alguna de cumplir con sus deberes. O, tal vez él se había vuelto perezoso durante una carrera larga de fracaso frustrante. Tal vez comenzó como idealista. Pero año tras año, escuchó testimonios llenos de mentiras. Año tras año, trató de aplicar las leyes de manera justa, sólo para que el rey cambie las leyes para el beneficio de sus compinches. Año tras año, la verdadera justicia eludió su alcance. Así se dio por vencido. Tal vez eso es lo que pasó a este juez.

Anno Fidei inauguration Benedict XVIDe cualquier manera–ya sea desde el principio, o después de las decepciones–este juez había crecido perezoso, vago hasta los huesos.

Así que el enfrentamiento dramático se produjo. La viuda presenta su reclamación. El juez hace caso omiso de su demanda. Ella se enfada. Él la ignora más. Ella se pone furiosa con indignación justa. Ella aprieta su andador. “Su Señoría, o usted tiene una audiencia, como exige la ley, o yo le pongo los ojos morados antes de que pueda llamar a un mariscal, ayúdame Dios mío.”

Harto, cínico e inmune como era, el juez sabe que la viuda tiene derecho a estar enojado. Él sabe que no hay que defraudar a las viudas. El juez casi no cree en la justicia en la tierra, pero él sabe que el hombre desea la justicia, desea la verdad.  Él sabe que estos deseos no desaparecerán del alma humana. Así que tiene que hacer algo por esta viuda.

Yo no sé de ustedes, pero mi parte favorita de la encíclica del Papa Benedicto XVI sobre la esperanza cristiana es cuando trata de la Escuela de Frankfurt de la teoría social.

La Escuela de Frankfurt sostuvo que no se podía creer en Dios, porque hay demasiada injusticia entre los hombres. ¿Qué clase de Dios lo permita? Por otro lado, la Escuela de Frankfurt también sostuvo que no se podía tampoco rechazar la existencia de Dios. Porque si así fuera, se trataría de establecer la justicia perfecta por medios humanos independientes. Y eso, la historia ha demostrado, sólo empeora las cosas. El asesino más despiadado es la inclinación ateísta en el establecimiento de la sociedad humana perfecta.  El país de México lo vio hace un siglo.

El Papa Benedicto responde a la Escuela de Frankfurt, explicando nuestra fe cristiana en el Juicio Final. Nosotros no creemos en un dios vago que ignora toda la injusticia en la tierra. Creemos en Cristo crucificado por los pecados de la humanidad. Y creemos que Él, Jesucristo, Aquel que verdaderamente inocente y justo sufrió por nosotros–creemos que Él vendrá otra vez a poner todo en orden.

Citando Papa Benedicto:

Este inocente que sufre [Jesucristo] ha alcanzado la certeza de que: Dios existe, y Dios sabe crear la justicia de un modo que no podemos concebir, sin embargo, podemos intuir en la fe. Sí, existe la resurrección de la carne. Si hay justicia. Existe la ‘revocación’ del sufrimiento pasado, la reparación que restablece el derecho. Por esta razón, la fe en el Juicio final es ante todo la esperanza.

Estoy convencido que la cuestión de la justicia es el argumento esencial o, en todo caso, el argumento más fuerte en favor de la fe en la vida eterna. Sólo en relación con el reconocimiento de que la injusticia de la historia no puede ser la última palabra, llega a ser plenamente convincente la necesidad del retorno de Cristo y la vida nueva. (Párr. 43)

Si Cristo no viene de nuevo, entonces, ¿cuando se satisfacen nuestros deseos de la justicia? ¿Cuándo todos los males sean corregidos? Y si Él no viniera, entonces ¿por qué molestarse en tratar de hacer lo correcto? Si Cristo no trae la justicia, entonces nadie lo hará, porque nuestros intentos humanos siempre se quedan cortos.

Pero, como sabemos, Él viene otra vez. Eso no es realmente de lo que se trata. La pregunta es: cuando venga Él, ¿nos encontrará orando, con esperanza, y el anhelando la justicia?

Schoolhouse Rules and the New Testament

Roanoke Catholic School

Both our readings at Holy Mass today touch on “the Law.”

We might reasonably wonder whether or not the New Testament actually teaches us to obey the Law.  After all, St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “You are separated from Christ, you who are trying to be justified by the Law.”  And we read in St. Luke’s gospel that “the Pharisees were amazed to see that Jesus did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.”

Must we, then, follow the rules?  If we walk by pure faith, awaiting our blessed hope in Jesus, can we wear skirts above the knee?  Can we talk in class, even when we’re not supposed to?  Can we butt in line, as long as we believe in Jesus?

Here’s the thing.  We can read the New Testament from beginning to end, and nowhere does it say that the Ten Commandments are wrong.  The Law of God always demands our obedience.  And good school rules, laid down by good teachers and principals, serve a good purpose—namely, that everybody get a good education.

brunelleschi_crucifixSo: No talking when you’re not supposed to, no butting in line, and no short skirts.

But:  We can’t parade around like little Mr. or Miss Goody Two Shoes Pharisee, either.  Everyday we have to look at a crucifix and remember:  Our God and Savior died to save sinners.  He forgives sinners.

The Law of God demands a lot.  All of us fail sometimes.  When we admit the truth, God forgives.  Not only that, He gives us help from heaven so that we can do better.

If it were just us and The Rules, we would find ourselves hopelessly lost and alone.  That’s what St. Paul means when he writes that no one is justified by the Law.  But it’s not just us and The Rules.

God has a special plan for each of us, so that we can become exactly who He made us to be.  Each individual plan unfolds with its own unique beauty and glory.

He gave us His Law to help us find our way.  The Law is good.  But even better is the fact that He was willing to die so that we could always have a fresh start, no matter what.  A fresh start on the journey to becoming our true selves in Christ.

True Health

Naaman the leper washed in the Jordan, and his flesh became like the flesh of a little child. Lord Jesus told the ten lepers who begged for His pity to “go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going, they were healed.

Rod of AsclepiusChrist came to heal. He wills our health. He wills our true health, the health that consists in soundness of soul, as well as soundness of body.

I think we need to seek a solid foundation for our idea of “health.” Our technocratic culture, which ostensibly offers so many helps to good health, does not really have a clear idea of what health is. Pope St. John Paul II put it like this: “If we consider life as a mere consumer good, we reach a sort of cult of the body and a hedonistic quest for physical fitness.” (World Day of the Sick, 2/11/2000)

We human beings strive, with all our intelligence and scientific skill, to combat sickness and the suffering that goes with it. Many people dedicate their lives to healthcare. I daresay quite a few of you, dear readers, have given your lives to the work of healthcare. The Church’s mission to the world includes caring for the sick. And you don’t have to be a Christian to perceive that sickness is bad and healing is good.

But Jesus Christ offers the human race the true and deep vision of what health really is. He Himself is the source of life. His Body and Blood are the greatest and most important of all medicines; the Blessed Sacrament of the altar is the medicine of immortality.

jp_iiLet’s study Christ’s health. It begins with His interior communion with the will of the Father. Jesus is the source of all life, yes. But He said that His life comes from the Father. So our health begins with this fundamental fact of our existence: We receive ourselves as a gift from God. Almighty God gives us our life. If we imagine that health = total control of myself, my body, my powers, according to my will, then we have actually begun to understand health in a very unhealthy way.

Now, Lord Jesus lived a wholesome life, exercised temperance and self-control, worked steadily, kept His mind elevated, cultivated good friendships, knew how to relax. He never “went to the gym.” The ancient Greeks invented gyms, so the ancient Jews hated them. But our Lord did the strenuous exercise we associate with a ‘fitness regimen.’ We can reasonably estimate that He walked an average of 20-25 miles per week through the course of His pilgrim life.

So: Jesus ‘stayed fit’—He ate right and had a ‘healthy lifestyle’ for most of His time on earth. But the crucial thing we have to keep in mind is this: the God and source of all life also freely embraced human pain, suffering, and death. In fact, He became man to suffer and die.

When we base our concept of health on Christ, a new horizon opens up for us. We perceive that bodily suffering is not the absolute evil. And bodily suffering is not meaningless, a waste of life. Again, Pope St. John Paul II:

In celebrating the Eucharist, Christians proclaim and share in the sacrifice of Christ, for ‘by His wounds, we have been healed.’ Christians, uniting themselves with Christ, preserve in their own sufferings a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s redemption, and can share that treasure with others. Imitating Jesus has led saints and simple believers to turn their illnesses and pain into a source of purification and salvation.

Modern medical science has benefited the human race enormously. But science cannot by itself give us a true concept of health, because science cannot explain the fundamental reason why sickness exists. Yes, science succeeds in curing illnesses by accurately diagnosing them. But if the question is: Why do we human beings get sick? “Germs” is not the whole answer.

adam eve expelledWe get sick, and we die, because, in the beginning, we fell away from God. That doesn’t mean that any particular illness of any particular person comes as a punishment for particular sins. What it means is: In the beginning, God offered us, the human race, paradise and immortality. But we disobeyed His simple law.

We disobeyed because Satan tempted us to pride, and we gave in. But God knows better than Satan. The sickness and suffering that we experience because of Original Sin can involve agonizing deprivations. But, on the cross, the Lord turned agonizing deprivation into the doorway back to paradise.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Lord Jesus said those words to the sinner who acknowledged the justice of his punishment, but who begged for Christ’s mercy anyway–even as they both suffered together on their crosses. “You will be with me in paradise.” These are the words the suffering Christ speaks to the suffering sinner.

We cannot base our idea of health on anything other than our hope for that paradise that Jesus promised us at that moment. The paradise of true and complete communion with our Creator, the Lord and Giver of Life. The paradise of an everlasting Eden. Our idea of health must be wide and deep enough to embrace the cross of the Christ Who suffered. Because His Cross is the only way that leads to paradise.

Dear Senator

Many of us Virginians took pride in our state hosting Tuesday evening’s debate.  And we take pride in you, dear Senator Kaine.

I’m a Jesuit-educated, social-justice Catholic, just like you.  Just like professor Stephen Schneck of the Catholic University of America, who wrote the following:

As a fellow Jesuit-educated, social justice Catholic, I was shocked by the performance of Senator Tim Kaine in the debate…Where was the imprint of his missionary work in Honduras? Where was the glow of Kaine’s purported inspiration from Pope Francis?…

At a minimum, I expected to see compassion… I wanted to hear his vision for raising up a renewed respect for human dignity in American public life. I yearned to hear him talk about how citizenship and public service must be oriented toward the common good, to talk in a positive way about how refugees and immigrants enrich the human condition, and about the values of family, the moral imperative of care for the earth, and the unceasing Gospel message to serve the poor.

Yes, politics is politics.  Yes, being pro-life means more than condemning partial-birth abortion, which is where Governor Pence left it. Yes, Donald Trump completely misstated the pro-life position in March.

It-Takes-a-Village-book-cover-by-Hillary-ClintonBut, Senator, how can you not see the total hypocrisy and emptiness of what you’re saying?

You asked, “Governor, why don’t you trust women to make this choice for themselves? We can encourage people to support life. Of course we can. But why don’t you trust women?”

Trust women?  Most abortionists are men.

How can any decent person trust anyone who would reach into a woman’s womb and kill a baby? That is what abortion is.  It’s not the mother choosing the best pre-K.  It’s the killing of a baby.

Trust women? Doesn’t every child have a mother and a father, grandparents, and maybe aunts and uncles and cousins–men, women, and children who make up the baby’s family? Aren’t we all in this together?  Doesn’t it take a village to raise a child? (Someone wrote a book with that title…) I thought your campaign was about being “stronger together,” about “empowering families and kids.” I thought being liberal meant caring about the little guy.

What kind of good liberal are you, Senator?

A Motto Worth Trying to Live By + “Transgender”

Our prayers should not be long and tedious but short, earnest, and frequent. –St. Ambrose

…The other day, someone asked our Holy Father this question:

I would like to ask you, what would you say to someone who has struggled with their sexuality for years and feels that there is truly a problem of biology, that his aspect doesn’t correspond to what he or she feels is their sexual identity?

Can’t say I fully understand the question.  Not sure what “aspect” means here.

human_male_karyotpe_high_resolution_-_xy_chromosome_croppedBut I would like to point out: the Catholic position is that doctors should not lie to people. Medical science does not have the power to control everything.  When surgeons and biochemists get delusions of grandeur, it only confuses and misleads people who already have a lot to suffer.

Can an abortion make it like there never was a baby?  No.

Can artificial contraception completely remove the fact that sex is for making babies?  No.

Can any medical intervention render homosexual acts fruitful?  No.

Can surgeries and pills change a man or boy, whose every cell has XY chromosomes, into a woman or a girlOr a woman or girl, whose every cell has XX chromosomes, into a man or a boy? No.

People who struggle need friends who won’t tell them lies, especially lies about what doctors can really accomplish with the limited tools at their disposal.

“Being healthy” has to start with the truth.  The truth is that there is much more to us human beings than meets the eye, much more about us that science doesn’t understand (as opposed to the little bit that it does understand).  All the so-called “medical” procedures listed above actually involve grotesque acts of violence–profoundly unhealthy acts of violence.

Better to go to church and pray to the good God Who made us the men and women that we are.