Noahvose: Nea'ese


Wisconsin, USA
February 21
History Teacher
A Great Plains guy living in the Great Northwoods and feeling Claustrophobic.-- Masters in Anthropology (I thought we could use some Indians digging up white people).-- I have an amazing wife and two beautiful boys.-- I teach high school history and at an Alternative School for at-risk youth.-- ...and I have a serious Jelly Belly problem


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MAY 16, 2009 5:25PM

MY TWO CENTS: Catholic Values?

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By now, most people have heard the story surrounding President Obama’s commencement speech at Notre Dame and the controversy surrounding it. Some of the student body, led by a few politicians, are protesting the invitation by the university and Obama’s acceptance. They argue that Obama’s pro-choice stance is a violation of Catholic values. They firmly stand by their belief that their predominantly Catholic university should not honor anyone at commencement who contradicts Christian morals and ethics.


I have no problem with someone protesting his speech because of a singular mission they have against abortion. I understand this…I couldn’t support President Bush, because I have a similar mission against ignorant self-righteousness and dishonesty. My problem is when these protesters choose to ignore ALL THE OTHER Christian values when honoring speakers. Pope John Paul II formally condemned the war in Iraq, yet Notre Dame had Pres. Bush and Condoleeza Rice speak. Where was the outrage then by these same demonstrators?


There are two possibilities here. Either these people are merely making a political statement, while couching it in religious justification or they have so limited their view, that they’re blind to the other blatant violations of Christian morals by our country and leaders on both sides of the aisle (yes…even those on their side). Last time I checked greed, lying, torture, bigotry, and war (especially pre-emptive war) are all incongruent with Christ’s teachings.


I really don’t mind religious values, and I understand the need to speak out about them when standing up for something or someone. But I refuse to further accept religious hypocrisy and blind denial.


Catholics (and Christians in general)…YOU CAN’T PICK AND CHOOSE WHICH PARTS YOU’RE GOING TO LIVE BY. I remember listening to a local TV reporter asking people their opinions on the street after 9/11. One woman said, “Well…you know what the Bible says, ‘an eye for an eye’”. Yes…go on…did you finish reading that sentence in the Bible? Let me help. It says, “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Earlier this year another woman called into NPR and tried to argue with the anti-war guest by stating that Jesus never actually condemns war. Seriously? She refused to concede the point, since Jesus never actually said the word “war.” That’s some pretty thin, and indefensible, logic. It’s pretty hard to go to war when you love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, and refuse to lift the sword for fear you’ll die by it. I know people like these don’t represent all Christians, but it sure seems they represent a growing number of them.


It’s funny that most think separation of church and state saves the state from religious corruption. Well, I’m tired of seeing religion corrupted by politics.


If you want to protest Obama for his failure to abide by Christian values, fine. But you better start being consistent and speaking out about all of the transgressions…not just the ones that are convenient to you at the time or that get the most press. Where’s your praise for his stand against torture? Or his belief that we must hold to our highest principles, even when it’s difficult for us to do so? Or his belief that the wealthy must do their part to help the poor?


We’re supposed to put the word, the WHOLE WORD, first in our hearts and our lives; that means before our nation, our party, and our president. There’s no American flag waving over heaven, and its mascot is neither a donkey or an elephant.


“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith…Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”

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The last story I checked said those protesting weren't actually students of Notre Dame and when I saw Alan Keys being led away I was pretty sure he isn't Catholic either.
The ultra conservative fringe of catholics are trying extort publicity for an issue that is personal and has no place in politics. Today I heard, some of the lunatic fringe are comparing Obama's to the KKK's assembling at ND in 1928. Pathetic! --rated--
No comment, really.

Catholic and Christian values, fully put into play, would have a very different-looking country and world. Whatever one's views of abortion, it's a gnat in the scheme of things...
ocularnervosa - This morning CNN showed a website that was put together by ND students, or at least said it was. I realize they might be the minority, but they sure are getting a lot of press.

Mr. Mustard - Thanks for coming by. It just seems that the only two issues that come out of the Catholic church anymore are about abortion and gay rights. I'm not a Bible scholar, but it seems I remember he focused his life lessons on completely different topics.

Myriad - I wonder if people realize that if we were to truly walk the walk that Jesus asked, our kind of country couldn't exist. It reminds me of the old Gospel of Wealth argument, that if one worked hard and made a lot of money it was a sign of God's approval and providence. More proof that people can bend it any way they see fit for their convenience and comfort.
It's amazing to see the control elements of religion put to use with such wreckless abandon. It used to happen behind closed doors and now it's wielded with impunity while everyone watches and some approve.
So they invite Obama to speak. I heard a protester state that this invitation and handing him an honorary diploma was accepting his views on abortion as correct.

I can only assume that all people handed scholarships to ND are vetted so as to confirm their 100% alignment with ND's beliefs.

Just as everyone who attends ND are in complete accordance with the Catholic Faith and are abstaining from sex and not using condoms and loving their fellow man and turning the other cheek (no, not because that cheek is sore, perverts)...

Finally a hypocrite free zone has been identified!

Perfection thy name is... (cue angelic singing) Notre Dame.
I don't have anything to add...I agree with all you wrote.
The ability of most organized religions to cherry-pick the bible is limitless. You can take any piece of scripture out of context and make it mean whatever you want it to mean.

Sometimes their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Nice post...rated
I've posted this before on OS, but it's worth repeating, I think: My favorite recent example of a selective reading of the Bible can be found in an interview with Dick Cheney in February, 2009:

These are evil people. And we're not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.

Now, I don't know whether any individual Christian thinks turning the other cheek is always the right thing to do. But the Bible doesn't have any fine print for exceptions, I don't think, even for dealing with evil people. Did Christians speak out against Cheney? I didn't see any protests in the news.

More specifically, let's talk about Catholics. Here's something John Paul II said in 1995:

...the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: In other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

And again let's think about how conservative Catholics dealt with a Republican leader, in contrast to a Democratic leader. Obama is pro-choice, but he hasn't carried out any abortions or directed anyone to have an abortion. Bush II is in favor of the death penalty, obviously, and while governor of Texas he signed over 150 death warrants, every single one that crossed his desk. That's hardly very rare; death was the rule, not the exception. And while there was some discussion of this issue in the news, back in 2000, there were no protests (that I'm aware of) when he was asked to give a speech at Notre Dame. A double standard? What else does it look like?
Um, yeah, what Rob said...
You say some great things here, Noah, things I've thought and even wrote about before, most notably in the form of a letter to the editor (Plain Dealer, Cleveland) during the 2004 election. I remember saying, How did abortion come to take up so much of the pie?

But people should be careful about using a broad brush here. This particular protest is not a grassroots groundswell of Catholics at Notre Dame. It's a political exploitation by those old rascals Alan Keyes and Randall Terry, with a little help from that blowhard Bill Donahue. They are all secular (meaning non-clergy) right wingers who are a little bit crazy but a lot media houndish. It's entirely political. Not that there aren't pious, well-meaning, passionate believers following in these jerks' wakes, just that I think it's the religious being used by the political, not the other way around. If you remember, there was a book that came out a few years back from an insider who said Bush et al joked about how they were using the Christian right. I think religious zealots are scary, but I think they are mostly exploited by the politically powerful. Osama bin Ladin, after all, is not a player. It's the Bushes and Cheneys and Saddams and Achmadinejads who are manipulating those who think they are acting in good faith.

Great post.
Jimenace - Very well stated. If only I could write so succinctly.

Jay - the perfect amount of anger mixed with sarcasm. I loved it. I had that same thought. If he doesn't deserve an honorary degree because of his views, shouldn't they ask each of their graduates about his/her view on abortion and the other issues you mention? Let's do it. I believe Jesus said it rains on the just and the unjust alike. Why do so many Christians target their rain so narrowly?

Suzn - I totally agree with you agreeing with me. ..haha. Seriously, thanks for stopping by, reading, and commenting.

Charity - It brings up an interesting debate. Is there a "correct" interpretation of the Bible. Or are there scriptures that are too black and white to be interpreted. It says love your enemy, do good to those who hate you. If someone asks for your shirt, give him your coat as well. If someone asks you to walk a mile, walk two with him. Is it possible to take this at its word? It certainly seems clear cut. If I begin to interpret something so simple, am I confusing it to fit my own means? It reminds me of something I sometimes tell my students: the Truth is simple, living it is hard. Beware anybody who reverses these.

Rob - I'm not sure you're aware of proper OS ettiguette, but the comment isn't supposed to be better than the original post. Damn it!! Very well said. I really appreciate your insight and apparent passion for this topic. You sound as tired of it as I do. My biggest problem isn't the people who do this so blatantly, but those who follow it so willfully and ignorantly. However, I believe the Bible also says their is a special reward or price to be the leader of men. Perhaps they should re-read that part.
The points made in the post and comments are well stated, and important observations. To those points and observations, I would only add these:

I know this is splitting hairs, but in order to fit into contemporary society at all, Christians have to "cherry pick." For example, I don't know of any who abide by the Levitical law, nor support slavery (per se), and very few congregations segregate their services by gender. Of course, they are happy to point out the verses which support their dogma, but the cherry picking cannot be a surprise. What grinds me, in addition to some really ludicrous uses of their holy book, is that they are often the very people who insist that their interpretation is complete, and not "a la carte."

@Rob St. Amant - Just one thing. The Christians who spoke out against Dick Cheney et al didn't do so "as Christians" - they did so out of their convictions as Christians, but wouldn't necessarily have put that in their by-line. I have several friends who might be considered left-wing, liberal Christians, and have been apalled ever since Bush was elected - but they don't wear the cross on their sleeves, nor do they have the media-hunger of some "Christian" groups and individual.

Like I said - I know I'm splitting hairs, but overall, great post and comments.
Lainey - Very well said. I completely agree with you. My original point was not to paint all Christians or Catholics with the same brush I paint those in this particular protest. My point is merely to take their argument (which continues to be that Obama's pro-choice belief violates Catholic doctrine) and argue it on those merits. My questions are directed only at those who are using that argument in this one case...not all Catholics. However, that being said, I would like to see Catholics as much on the front line against issues like torture, pre-emptive war, war (in general), the environment, etc as they are on this topic.

The point you make about politics corrupting religion is the point I make in the post. I think we always worried in this country about the corruption working in the opposite direction. We're beginning to realize that perhaps the danger is the corruption of religion by political leaders. You bring up great examples to substantiate that...greatly appreciated.
I don't think there's a "correct" reading of the bible, per se, but you have to take the scriptures in context. Leviticus is used to justify so much, but if you read the entire thing, it becomes ridiculous when applied to our modern world.

Good point.
oops - forgot to note that I'm not a Christian, so what do I know, really. I just have a distaste for most organized religion, so I'll freely admit my bias.
Rob, some Cathlolics--I'm thinking of an assistant executive editor of the Plain Dealer, Kevin O'Brien, here, with whom I've had many online conversations--make a distinction between the allowability of abortions and the death penalty. Using some kind of smoke and mirrors, he justifies the death penalty--something about papal encyclicals or some such nonsense--but says there are no exceptions for abortion, again using some Catholic mumbo jumbo. When I pointed out the pope's specific language on the death penalty, saying that it was justified before the standard prisons were in practice, when there was the possibility that the murderer might escape and endanger society, etc., he just wouldn't budge. Anyway, my point is that people just don't seem to move on abortion. I think the main issue is political tribalism. People identify with one tribe--in most of these people's cases, it's the political tribe of Republicanism--and they rationalize almost anything away in the name of religion or economics or whatever. At the root, I think, is the Republican Party.
(I don't dismiss that there are partisans of the same variety for Democrats).
Owl, I love the point you make that people can't follow the bible literally. They literally can't because of the contradictions within the book. And there's stuff in there about not wearing synthetic material and about stoning handicapped people within certain parameters of a church, etc. I mean, no one is following the bible literally, so they need to stop pretending that they themselves aren't cherry picking.
Charity - Thanks for those comments. And thanks for being upfront about your bias. I'm a Christian, in that I believe that if lived, the message of Jesus would prove to be the best way to live our lives. I also, however, believe that other religions are just as valid. I liken them to different rivers running to the same ocean OR painting a mountain from different angles. Taken together, we might understand the entire mountain.

Let's take my argument strictly from the perspective of a Christian, though. Are they free to interpret a phrase that seems so clear cut as love your enemy? Where are the exceptions to that, even in our own time?
"if lived, the message of Jesus would prove to be the best way to live our lives."

I can't argue with that, not even a little bit. I think most of his teachings are pretty clear cut, but as you said in your post, you have to read the entire thing, not just pick out "an eye for an eye."

"Love your enemy" is another that's as crystal clear as it can be.

I think that living in the south, and seeing the day to day hypocrisy of many of the people here that claim to be Christian has soured me. Forgive me.
@ Lainey - Thanks - I'm a recovering fundamentalist - wrote a post or three about it awhile ago. Although not the same as Catholicism, it was at least as encompassing. The experience comes in handy once in awhile, if only because I actually have read the Bible a few times, cover to cover, unlike many "Christians." Now that I'm mostly past my anger phase, I'm trying to learn compassion for them. A lot of crap they stir up makes the compassion a challenge, though!
Noah - Crap - I've done it again, the us and them dichotomy. To me, anymore, there are "Christians" and followers of Christ. Both go by the same name, but you are clearly the latter. No disrespect intended!
Thanks for the refinements and corrections other commenters have added after my comment. It all makes sense, and I definitely think that Lainey's observation about tribalism is on target. (I've also come across the distinction between abortion and capital punishment, and it's struck me as hairsplitting.) Thanks for the good post, Noahvose; it's sparked some interesting discussion.
Charity - I lived for years in the South and got my BA from Ole Miss. I lived across the hall from a fundamentalist who routinely said "I'm not a racist...I mean there's blacks and then there's niggers." How could he reconcile that? I never found out, because I could never corner him in an honest discussion long enough to get him to question it. No apologies necessary. Church can be as corrupting on an individual as anything else. I guess it's true, of course another scripture, that we'll know a tree by its fruit.

Thanks again for all of your thoughts and insights.
hmm - I'm still not sure where you stand on the issue after reading this...

ha ha!! Kick butt noahvose - this is briliant. Please ignore my bias on this issue and just take my word for it. Thanks so much for so many things well said. It is amazing how the character of a pharisee (i.e. "fundamentalist" of any religion) has changed so little over a couple of thousand years. They continue to harshly judge everyone while they are the most corrupt. I actually pity them for what they may have to endure when they pass over.
This is awesome and so true! I remember separately hearing "an eye for an eye" and "turn the other cheek" as a child, but it wasn't until I was nearing adulthood (or there) that I found that Jesus had called up the scripture "an eye for an eye" and directly refuted it. Yet still I hear Christians try to use it. This shows how much of the Bible is taught out of context.
And yes, if they had Bush there and didn't protest, why protest now? This is politics disguised as religion. And (resounding yes), we do religion a favor when we leave politics out of it. I can't help but notice that in European countries with an official state church, they have markedly less church attendance than here. If one church is encouraged (or if, as I was told about Germany, the church can forcibly take a tithe from you once you enroll), then people are more likely to grow sick of church. The Christians who think they want no separation of church and state don't know history.
Owl - You write, "A lot of crap they stir up makes the compassion a challenge, though!" So true. That is probably the reason so many "Christians" fall short of loving their enemy and walking two miles with him. Good for you for holding yourself to the higher standard and trying to do what is difficult. I wish more of us did that. The dichotomy you create between those who title themselves Christian versus those who struggle to bear the fruit encourages me to finally write a post I've been thinking about. I hope it generates as intereting a debate this one has. Thanks.
Y Heron - I think you're exactly right. We often fool ourselves into believing that the times in which we live are so different from the past. This creates two important and sometimes dangerous fallacies:

1) we believe it is unfair to judge the actions and policies of the past. We mistakenly believe that there is such a thing as "today's standards" when in reality and with a lot of digging one will find that there were those in that past time period that thought the same. It's just that their words were usually drowned out or silenced.

2) It also creates a false line between then and now, making it very difficult to see the patterns. When I read those scriptures about the scribes and Pharisees, it is almost impossible not to see the similarities with so many politicians and religious leaders today. Those similarities are real, perhaps because the effect that power has on people and institutions is real and repeating.

Thanks always for your comments and insight.
Excellent post, Noahvosa,
Religion being tainted by politics is exactly it.
And bush actually caused more abortions by refusing to release the money Congress authorized for reproduction services globally. It is cherry picking.
Noah: A thoughtful posts makes thoughtful comments possible. Coming in as I often do, at the bottom of the list, I found so many folks saying things I felt and saying them better and more concisely than I could.

Several commenters --notably Myriad, yourself and others -- remarked about how living a Christ-like life would be so different than people think. You want radical thought? Try this one out for size: "turn the other cheek." Or how about "love your enemy as you love yourself." There's no equivocation there. Not a lick. Anybody who thinks leading a Christ-like life and living by his teaching is easy, raise your hand.

All that eye-for-an-eye stuff was intended for the barbarians of the Old Testament, and it continues to be a comfort for today's barbarians. Christ replaced that barbarity with a call for radical love. Read the Sermon on the Mount. It's a call that the official church preaches but can't follow.

If you find the Christ-like life to be too daunting to even think about, follow the advice of a more contemporary figure: Otis Redding said it best: Try a Little Tenderness with the ones you love and see where that takes you.
Two cents, hell This is priceless.
Perhaps there should be a copy of John Dean's "Conservatives Without Conscience" on the nightstand next to the bible? Or would that be asking too much?
Delia - Interesting comparison between religion in the U.S. and Europe. I wonder also if they're more jaded or cautious of organized religion in Europe due to the centuries of warfare over it and persecution by it. Maybe in a couple of thousand years, we'll be tired of arguing over it, too. I hope.

OSteph - I agree. Bush thought of abortions as murder of the innocent, but he thought bombing the innocent as collateral damage. Hypocrisy has no bounds.
There is an ultra orthodox set of Catholics who do, indeed, pick and choose what they want to emphasize.

Yeah, what you said.

I personally hate war and killing of innocents and child abuse and drunk driving.... these things should be recognized by the Church equally as bad things. JMPO
Jeremiah - You only come in last because that's the spot we reserve for the best. You bring up some very good points, and ones that I struggle with. As a teacher, I tell my students that I want them all to be people who care about others, who give freely of themselves, and who find causes larger than them. However, I also admit to them that I'm aware this will make their life a difficult one of self-sacrifice in a world that will often walk all over them. That's the true test, isn't it? Given the choice between the easy, wrong decision and the difficult, right decision which one will we make? That explains Jesus's instructions to his disciples, be peaceful like lambs but as wise as serpents.

You're right of course. There is no equivocation. The contradictions that people always bring up are those between the old and new testaments. However, it seems true Christians MUST follow Jesus's words, especially if he corrects the law.

I love your phrase, "it continues to comfort today's barbarians." You also wrote, "It's a call that the official church preaches but can't follow." Jesus agreed, it seems. He said to do what the Pharisees said, but not what they did. He also said that unless we were wiser than the Pharisees, we didn't stand much chance at any after-death reward.

thanks as always for your great insight. You add a great deal to any conversation.

rijaxn - Thanks for the topic, your radio show, and your questioning of convention. It is desperately needed.

Tim4Change - Thanks for coming by. I never like to mingle politics and religion much, but I must admit I'm always amazed at how the Republican party has been able to claim they're the religious party. Jesus said we'd know a tree by its fruit. If you see rotten fruit, then the tree must also be rotten. So much of their philosophy (the pull yourself up by your bootstraps and everybody just take care of yourself mentality) and policies seem to fly in the face of what Jesus said to do and believe. Remember though, Jesus also said people who proclaim worship publically, know him the least.
Didn't our President do an amazing job of trying to build a bridge between pro-lifers and pro-choicers. This is the model that actually can bring people together rather than divide. There will always be the fanatic fringe who has no care for either reason or compassion. But many who are open to the type of dialogue that Obama began. Great post!
Crazy Annie - I started this post with the sole purpose of speaking to those radical few, but they won't listen will they? So, I guess I'm speaking to the majority of Christians out there so that they start caring about and getting angry about the subjects that Christ tell us to (even if it means railing against fellow "Christians" for supporting things like war, torture, etc...). Sometimes, turing over the tables of the money changers is called for. Don't let the radical few be the spokesmen. They need to stop hiding their lamp under the table.

MartyT - Thanks for coming by. I have that same hope you do, which is a lot more than I had starting about eight years ago. I'm going to have to listen to his speech at ND. By the way...great post about your "freedom road" in Moab.
I grew up in the Catholic church. Was an altar boy for 7 years and went to an all male Catholic High School. When I wrote a term paper on the Reformation and Martin Luther I was accused of plagerism because Brother Benjamin, the religion instructor, didn't like my choice of topics, among other things he didn't like about me.

I was summarily expelled half way through my junior year. It was as if I had submitted Verbal Remedy's 10 something -or-others. In retropsect I wish I had her insight and wit at that time.

Instead, all I had was what I have now, a driving curiosity, a knack for research and a willingness to write about what a find while reading..... The bigotry and rigidity of thought displayed by the faculty and administration of the school during that episode in my life turned me off completely have haven't been a practicing anything since.

I transfered to public school, went to college and finished law school in the seven years allotted for the academic endeavor despite the fact that my mother was told by the good Jesuits that ran the place that I would never amount to anything.....

By the way, the school that tried to destroy my life chances was NOTRE DAME HIGH SCHOOL where young minds were sent to be bent or twisted into conformity and adherence to the Catholic dogma of the period.

Here's a side light that some of you will love. The lay gym teacher, who thought nothing of slapping kids around for "disciplinary purposes", that I had while in this 6th level of Dante's Inferno, went on to become the top administrator, the Commissioner, of the Connecticut Stae Department of Education.... And was subsequently given a post as an assistant or undersecretary of education with the Feds.......
The GYM teacher I referred to served as Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, appointed by President Clinton ( 1996-1999). Prior to that he was Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education for eight years (1983-1991).

Thanks for sharing some of your story. I'm guessing that you don't share the beliefs of the protestors and Notre Dame. I do want to make one thing clear, I'm certainly not trying to place judgement on Catholics, or Christians, in general...only those who pick and choose which scriptures to follow and support and then conveniently forget the rest.

What I wish most of all is for true Christians, by which I mean those who actually try to be followers of Christ's teachings, to take back their religion. They're instructed to not hide their lamp under the table and to shout from the rooftops, but the only ones doing this are those that shouldn't be, who are so misguided and give the religion such a bad name.

Christians don't always have to be walked on by the squeaky wheel. Sometimes, as I stated before, you have to turn over the tables of the money changers and yell, "vipers...hypocrites"