Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lesson from St. Thomas

One of the ancient apostles who has always intrigued me was St. Thomas, affectionally referred to by Christians as "Doubting Thomas"; an appellation he received because he vocally expressed his doubt as to whether or not Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead.

I do not believe that this appellation should rightfully be bestowed upon Thomas. If he were the only one among the 11 remaining apostles who expressed doubt, then perhaps this would be the case. But it is not. According to the gospel account of St. Matthew, the others doubted even when they saw Jesus (Matt 28:17). However, when Thomas himself he Jesus he exclaims "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28), the only apostle in the Gospels to testify of Jesus' divinity and station as God himself. Perhaps instead of calling him "Doubting Thomas" we should call him "St. Thomas, the apostle of honesty" since all that he really did was demand the same evidence for believing that the others did (John 20:25).

There is a great lesson in this short chapter. It that one should not believe without evidence. That is not what faith is. Faith is not infra-rational; rather it is supra-rational. Notice that Jesus does not call Thomas "faithless" when he appears to him. Rather, he tells to receive the evidence he has asked for and be what he has been called to be (John 20:27).

As people attempt to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others, they should not be enraged or frustrated when the unbeliever, skeptic, or questioner is honest with them to ask for some sort of evidence before they will believe. If Jesus himself was willing to provide it to St. Thomas, certainly we mortals can work to have evidence to support our beliefs. This is why philosophy, science, reason, and argument are a part of true religion.

However, let us also remember that faith does not mean to know things perfectly, so there will be times when we do not have an answer to every question. However, we should spend time looking for an answer rather than simply accepting the fact that one is not currently available to us.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Of ISIS and Crusades

During his address at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Barack Obama made some very interesting comments. He talked about crimes that have been committed in the name of religion, and for the most part I agreed with his remarks. Too many times in the history of the world, religion has been the cover for violence and atrocity. As a religious person myself, I am often very troubled by these matters and am saddened when the non-religious use them as a way to show that religion cannot be correct. I view these arguments usually as non-sequiturs however.

The main problem with President Obama's speech came when he compared the Crusades to the modern conflict we face with ISIS. On my Facebook page, I commented that the president was not only not a very good president, but a terrible historian as well. I will give two brief points as to why.

First, the crusades were attacks made by the Catholic Church for different reasons. Some were for defense, some were on the point of aggression, others were to bring down heresy. These attacks were organized and were sanctioned officially by the Roman Catholic Church, as many times it was the Bishop of Rome (the pope) who organized them. This is not true of ISIS, a group of nomadic gangsters with no clear agenda and are not full representations of the Islamic World. 

Second, these comments are taken far out of context when we realize that this was something in the far past that has been dealt with, while ISIS is the real threat to our safety now. Also, no one has said that the religious were on there "high horse" or that only Islam has caused harm in the world. We are not at war with religion; we are at war with radical religion. Sadly, the president failed to make this distinction in his address, and until he recognizes ISIS for what it is we will never be able to stop them.

I do not have room in this brief blog to talk completely about the comparison of the crusades and ISIS. I would like to make one last point about them forever. Had the crusades not occurred, Islam would have easily taken over the Western World, and we would all now be living under Sharia law. Sound attractive? I did not think so.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Word of Caution

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have often struggled with the before called "Negro Doctrine"; the idea that until 1978 when church president Spencer W. Kimball had a "revelation", God himself barred lacks from being ordained to the priesthood. It begs the question: "If God created everyone a certain way for a certain purpose, and if all men are equal, then why did it take so long for the church to overcome the racism?"

For the most part in my 5 years as a church member, I have come to live with the idea. I leave it in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. However, I am absolutely convinced that this idea was man-made; there is not one ounce of truth in the idea that this practice was approved by the Lord. Any who believe this sadistic nonsense need to repent.

We find no inference of this idea in the Prophet Joseph Smith. Some of the prophets closest friends were black, and he approved of their ordination himself.  In the case of Elijah Abel, he ordained him an elder himself. How can any argue that blacks were not be ordained when the Prophet himself ordained? I do not understand it.

I can get that the church was restored in an era of slavery and racism, which the church opposed to its credit. What I cannot understand is how members today still act as though the ban itself was not racist. It clearly was. If the church seeks for truth, why not condemn this action and condemn the man who put in place, Mr. Brigham Young? Because the church worships it leaders, and sees them as demigods. Until this ceases, we will have to come to grips with the fact that the church will be of no help in certain matters.

Why do I bring this up? In an institute class this past week, the instructor said that this was similar to St. Peter not going to the Gentiles originally until he had a vision. It is indeed similar, but not for the reason that the instructor said. It is similar because St. Peter (along with many other Jews) believed that only the Jews would be saved, and he therefore hated the Gentiles This is similar to the fact that in Brigham Young's day, the negro was considered less than a human being and not of the same worth on Earth or in Heaven as a Caucasian. Jesus was a revolutionary, and his vision was to end racism and bring all into the family of God. Further, the vision would have been unnecessary if St. Peter had obeyed the Master's original instruction to take the gospel to the world with no restriction (Matthew 28: 19-20). Any who use this story to prove that the restriction o blacks had warrant from heaven should be treated with disgust, contempt, and ridicule.