On Bigotry and Doctoral Assessments

I initially posted this on Facebook, but since it is a mammoth post for Facebook (though I think I have posted longer comments in my time…), I figured I should pop it on here. Let it be educational in whatever way Faithful Reader wishes :)

Given what I have been seeing over the past few weeks, for the sake a clarity, I think a thought experiment is in order:

For their mathematics doctorate, a PhD candidate submits a sound, well-researched and well-argued Middle English literature dissertation.

a) Would it be a form of unjust discrimination if the board of examiners refused to pass the candidate, or if the university refused to award the doctorate, or if mathematics departments at other institutions refused to hire the candidate?

b) Would the aforementioned refusal be reasonably considered a form of bigotry against literature students?

c) Would the aforementioned refusal be a sign of hatred on the part of relevant parties against people who enjoy Middle English literature, or literature in general?
I presume that most people would answer “no” to these three questions.

Now, I acknowledge that this is an imperfect analogy for the current marriage debate. However my purpose is not to create perfect analogies, but to show how it is possible that one can be against the redefinition of marriage without reference to a moral judgement of same-sex relationships, and especially without reference to a value judgement of those with a particular sexual orientation or identity. For many, their argument is not about why people attracted to those of the same sex or those in same sex relationships are terrible people and ought to be denied certain rights. Their argument is about what marriage is, why it is good, and what it is for.

This conversation will not go anywhere as long as activists scuttle it from the beginning by claiming – without qualification or justification – that their opponents are bigots and filled with hatred. Once such assumptions are put aside, perhaps a fruitful discussion will follow – which is what this debate needs.

Chesterton and the Mistake in Contemporary Debate

Swagger.

Just last week it was G.K. Chesterton’s 141st birthday! While he didn’t get himself a Google Doodle (that was reserved for Nepal Republic Day – a fair call at this time), he remains incredibly quote-able on a range of contemporary topics. I give him a solid 10 on the Wilde-Churchill Quote-O-Meter, myself. Nonetheless, here’s a quote from his What’s Wrong with the World that I think has century-long staying power:

“This is the arresting and dominant fact about modern social discussion; that the quarrel is not merely about the difficulties but about the aim. We agree about the evil; it is about the good that we should tear each other’s eyes out.” (What’s Wrong with the World, p. 17.)

At first glance, this quote seems about as far away from contemporary debates as one can get. Microaggressions, cultural Marxism, radical feminism, knuckle-dragging chauvinism, white-male privilege, welfare-state entitlement, big government, small government or any old government – all of these things seem to be problems that we argue over, not agree on. Continue reading

What Being a Young Sydney Catholic Taught Me about Mission

"Work"

“Work”

A man, sitting at a desk before the glow of an iMac, surrounded by the white soundproof walls of a North Sydney office block.

This is not the scene most people imagine when picturing the work of evangelisation. But for me, this is part my mission. I am the Production and Communications Officer at Cradio Limited, a Catholic podcasting and online radio service based in Sydney. Most of my job simply consists of sitting on a computer and editing audio files, then posting those audio files on our website – with a bit of creative design and promotion in between.

Indeed, it can be easy to look past the missionary aspect of what might look like a regular office job. Yet the Lord has continued to surprise me with how this work has brought others closer to Himself and His Church.

Now, on reflecting upon my experience in these areas, the consistent lesson that I have learned from these three areas in this: That we are called to be channels of God’s grace to others. Through our lives, we are called to be missionaries in the world and bearers of His grace.

In this article, I will reflect on three different experiences I’ve had as part of Cradio, the young Sydney Catholic scene, and the pro-life movement in Sydney. From each of these, I’ve learned something different yet equally valuable on how we are called to mission through being channels of God’s grace:

• That it is His work
• That we cannot keep it to ourselves
• That we must be willing to step out. Continue reading

Giving Up Meat for Lent: A Series of Dilemmas

I Brought Hummus

From Gemma Correll on Threadless

Or: The one where Luke finally stops being a wuss.

Earlier this year, I decided to use Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Name Generator to receive a patron saint for this year. Having a patron saint has been a fruitful exercise in the past, so I figured this year I would give Jennifer’s handy tool a go.

This year I received:

saint-nicholas-of-tolentino-04

St Nicholas of Tolentino

This awesome friar is the patron of holy souls in purgatory, mariners, and babies (babies!). He was also named after St Nicholas of Myra, as his middle-aged parents visited his shrine in Rome seeking a child – which is pretty cool given that St Nicholas of Myra in Penrith was where my parents were married and I received my sacraments. Nice to see a connection there!

But that’s not what this post is about. As I scrolled through his life, a line stuck out at me:

“A vegetarian, Nicholas was once served a roasted fowl…”

Wait, a vegetarian? Continue reading

Lenten Reality Check

Or: The one where Luke lazily recycles an article he wrote for a newspaper. Note: This originally appeared in the Parramatta Diocese’s Catholic Outlook.

Luke in the bush

I never feel as unconformable as I look in these photos… (Photo credit: Patrick J Lee)

“What are you giving up for Lent?” As a young Catholic, this is a frequently asked question – and primary concern – in the Lenten season. After all, in a world where I can access almost anything I want by jumping in my car or hopping on the Internet, denying myself a pleasure is an occasion for pause. While some may lament that Lenten practices have been relaxed considerably in recent times, there is little doubt that giving up something simple like coffee or chocolate is an occasion for spiritual growth today. Yet perhaps in my focus on the practice of abstinence during Lent in previous years, I had risked not seeing the forest for the trees. The Church does not ask us to engage in Lenten self-denial as a weight-loss programme, nor counter-cultural political statement, nor even just a disciplinary bootcamp. What is Lent about, then?

Schoenstatt

Unlike a big mac, Mt Schoenstatt is actually as awesome as what it looks like in its advertising.

On receiving an invitation to Schoenstatt’s Lent4Real Retreat, I immediately zeroed in on the word “Retreat”. “This sounds awesome,” I thought, “sitting in silence in the Mulgoa bushland, having time to pray and recollect my often scattered thoughts, actually catching up on some sleep…”. The “Lent” part of the title seemed to be more of an acknowledgement of its proximity to Ash Wednesday, rather than an indication of the retreat’s content. It is becoming obvious that I miss the forest for the trees frequently. On my arrival I found that, far from being a vague time-out session in late February, the purpose of the retreat was to take me through the very passion and death of Jesus Christ. Rather than relaxing with the kangaroos, I would follow Christ intimately as He would undergo the greatest suffering one could endure – and the greatest act of Love one could pour out. The ways we were taken into this experience were more practical than expected: sharing a meal and reflecting upon the Passover, struggling to keep awake before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, hand-making a crown of (real, and painful) thorns, and praying the Way of the Cross while carrying an actual cross. Indeed, this was Lent “4Real”.

Thorns

In case you thought I was bluffing…

Throughout the weekend we were guided by Sr M. Julie Brcar in prayer and reflection on the person of Christ and the context of His passion, from the olives at the Garden of Gethsemane to the thorns which pierced Our Lord’s head. In this way my feelings of tiredness, discomfort or agitation were directed out of myself and towards Jesus and His disciples. Of course, it was not all reflective or penitential, we were treated to numerous breaks and sugary meals – I was even greeted by some seasonably appropriate pancakes for breakfast. It wasn’t quite Lent yet, after all. While there many graces that were gained from the retreat, the greatest blessing was certainly the experience of going through the Passion with Christ, as the title suggests, for real. All too often I have allowed theoretical concepts to be disconnected from grounded reality – separating the meaning of Lent from the practice. In his Ash Wednesday homily, Pope Francis said that Lent is not about “outward forms or vague intentions”, but a time to “give ourselves a shake-up”. By providence, my own Mt Schoenstatt shake-up uncovered the combined meaning and practice of Lent, and allowed me to finally see the forest: everything in Lent is about deepening our relationship with the God Who became Man. While I didn’t come out of the Lent4Real Retreat with fresher face or a lower blood-sugar level, I did come out with a greater practical understanding of the experience of Christ – and the best preparation for Lent in my Christian journey thus far.

Christ in the Desert

Gym Night with Pope Francis

arms-articleBecause I have a body type somewhere between Steve Urkel and Sheldon Cooper, some have wondered out loud why I don’t go to the gym – which is apparently a thing nearly everyone does these days. But really, if I wanted to do something both penitential and beneficial, why wouldn’t I just read Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium? No, not because it is a 50,000 word marathon, nor because the generous use of exclamation marks makes for a physically exhausting read, but because the Holy Father says things like this:

[Spiritual] worldliness can be fuelled in two deeply interrelated ways… [One] is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. Continue reading

On Worldliness

Or: The one where Luke would get flagged for [original research] on Wikipedia.

Over at catholictwentysomething*, there’s a good article about a counter-reaction against worldliness – or more specifically a “religious bubble” lifestyle which can, and is, a repellent for many potential converts to the faith. Miss Catholictwentysomething rightly observes that “[s]o many of the overtly Christian people I met seemed segregated from the rest of the world in a way that I knew I couldn’t handle.” This is a fact we can’t ignore among potential converts, and it’s something that I had an aversion to in my teenage years (despite being a regular Sunday Mass attendee). However, this “religious-bubble” application of Christian anti-worldliness is not an orthodox interpretation of our call to be “in the world, not of the world”. It is instead more like a heresy that takes a truth and extends it to the point of distortion. Allow me to explain:
*Excuse the blatant promotion :) Continue reading