Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Christ and the Ballot Box

Red vs Blue.  Because that's literally all there is.  Or not.
Well, its the day after election day, the day where 50% of the country are lividly bemoaning the death of the the free world as we know it, and the other 50% are exuberantly celebrating the bright future of the nation.  Today is a special day.  Very seldom can we accurately predict that half the country are giddy and the other half forlorn.  All joking aside, these days after the Presidential election provides an excellent opportunity for reflection.  Here we are left in the great aftermath of the quadrennial clashing of the Conservative and the Progressive.  We see, in stark detail the expose of two very old and prominent philosophic systems, the preservation of the traditional and the genesis of the new.

I hope these things go down in history
as America's greatest contribution to
I'll be honest, both are good.  Our culture has rich history and this country has been forged from generations of beautiful and diverse traditions.  It also has been a great engine of novelty, revolutionizing the global community in ways ranging from Jazz music to atomic bombs to Pillow Pets.  I'm not here to discuss whether we ought to be Republican or Democrat or just throw in the towel and vote Ron Paul next time, but I do think we had ought to ask one vital question:  Where lies the Christian in this balance?  When the society is split in great political cacophony, where is the Christian?

It's a trick question! To suggest that Christianity is invested in either one side or the other is to fundamentally misunderstand Christianity in the first place.  You see, politics is a very human creation.  At its broadest sense, politics is the attempt of imperfect beings to mitigate their imperfections.  In our political interactions, we are imperfect beings who interact with each other in order to dampen the effects of our own mutual imperfections.  These effects can be relatively simple things like hunger, lack of shelter, or territorial issues, or they can be complex, such as authoritative and ideological conflict.  Politics exist where there is lack in the world; as long as human beings have needs and wants, we will be a political species.  Christianity, being religion, differs from politics in that it is not imperfect beings interacting with imperfect beings for the purpose of mitigating imperfection, but imperfect beings interacting with Perfection Itself, with God, for the purpose of actually becoming perfect.

Politics, love them or hate them, are inevitable, given that we remain imperfect and interactive.  Unless we somehow attain perfection (yeah right) or become totally isolated from each other (this might actually be doable...), we're going to be political.  However, politics cannot achieve perfection.  Inevitable as they may be, politics are still imperfect by nature, leaving man in need of more, of religion.  Because politics can only give us strategies and systems to cope with our shared imperfections rather than attain perfection, humans are in need of religion.  When we are faced with our own imperfections, we will of course find pragmatic (political) ways of alleviating it, but we will ultimately seek, and subsequently worship, an image of perfection (preferably God, although not always).  Politics cannot solve our personal imperfection, only those imperfections that arise with  We are inherently religious.
"That's not philosophy you pansy,
suck it up and keep reading!"

Did you survive that philosophy?  Take a deep breath.  Process it all.  Heck, go grab yourself an espresso, you deserve it.  Now, where were we... That's right, Christianity's place in politics.  Moving on...

Christians must resist the urge to imprison their faith to politics.  Christianity is no political system, because at its heart, it is not man relating to man, but men relating to Son of Man.  If you seek to be a disciple of Christ, if you want to build the Kingdom of God here on Earth, you must move beyond politics.  Jesus Christ was no politician.  He had no civil office, he ran for no election, his most significant interaction with the political system resulted in his crucifixion.  Why?  Because Christianity's enemy is not political.  Because we cannot solve the problems inherent to our nature.  You and I and everyone else are imperfect beings, we are lacking, all because of Sin.  Sin is not a political problem, its a crisis of the soul.  We will never resolve Sin in the voting booth, nor can we ever expect the government to complete what we Christians have the duty to do.  Christians are tasked, not to build good government, but to build good souls.  The crux of Christianity is not in how patriotic we are, but in the extent that we have striven for holiness.

Be careful where you tread, O Christian.  "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes" (Ps. 118:9)  Our hope is not in the Elephant or the Donkey, but in the Lamb of God.  The success of Christianity doesn't rest in political hands, but in pierced hands.  Whether your guy won or lost today is irrelevant to your duty as a Christian.  You are called to be Christ to the world.  Period.  There is nothing else.  Your vote should reflect this, your actions should reflect this, your life should reflect this.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Recently came across this quote and feel it is perfect inspiration for what we seek to offer at STARR. "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always starte withthe person nearest to you." Bessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No More Bad Religion

Well this is certainly a new sight...
As autumn rapidly approaches, we find ourselves rushing towards our quadrennial (once every 4 years) national ritual of vehemently  hating at least 50% of the population of the country, based almost entirely on whether they are red or blue, elephant or donkey, conservative or liberal, and so on and so forth.  Neighbor hating upon neighbor, Conservative older generations against liberal younger generations (or vice versa), everyone's barbecues and picnics ruined by squabbles until November blows over, all of which done with star-spangled hearts.  Now, far be it from me to interfere with our national tradition, but I have noticed that when we draw our political battle lines, we tend to draw them in other aspects of our lives, or at least we tend to emphasize them more... emphatically (yes, its a redundant word... just work with me here, I'm no English major).  Now, being a (mediocre) practitioner of Catholicism, I tend to ignore the battle lines drawn in realms like psychology and humanities and theatre (are there even polarizing debates in the realm of theatre?), mostly because I tend to be indifferent/ ignorant towards them.  However, whenever I find there to be these lines drawn in Holy Mother Church, I think its worth mentioning, perhaps even worth and outcry of sorts.

Now, before you scratch your head wondering why this has anything to do with STARR, or get angry because you've assumed my stance on either side of this fight (which, in this post, I have not), I ask you kindly to read on...

Now, politics are split between big government and little government (somewhat), and psychology divided between nurture vs. nature (or so I've been told), and theatre between... whatever it is that thespians debate about.  In Catholicism, the predominant polarizing debate typically lies here:  Social Justice vs. Traditional Values.  Unfortunately, it was never supposed to be a debate at all.

Let's set the stage, using a painfully rushed and stereotypical simplification of each side  On the so-called "left", you have the social justice Catholic.  These Catholics tend to place their emphasis on the issues of... you guessed it: social justice.  They wish to greatly emphasize the need for Catholics to serve the poor, to alleviate suffering, to resist greed and elitism and what not.  They aim to be accepting, inviting, and welcoming, and often find themselves at odds with some of the Church's more controversial teachings.  On the side deemed "right", you find the traditional values Catholic.  There is (stereo)typically an odor of incense surrounding these types, as their attention goes to liturgy, to moral teachings, and to near fanatical devotion to the Pope.  They have a love and affinity for the rich tradition of Catholicism, their kids are named after no less than 19 saints, and all their favorite hymns are in Latin (some of them even possibly being in Koine Greek.)  Where the left tends to be in disagreement on the controversial issues, the right is in absolute agreement with them, so much to the extent that these issues seem to dominate their focus and fill them with a horrible distaste for the current worldview.  They tend to dislike the other, with the left accusing the right of being unsympathetic, rejecting Christ's loving and welcoming nature, while the right accuses the left of being unfounded, rejecting Christ's foundation in the truth for the sake of relevancy, popularity, and fair-play.  So here's our debate.  Left vs. Right, loving acceptance vs firm truths, Social Justice vs. Traditional Values.  Its present, its widespread, and most of all, its really really really boring.

Now I'm no scholar of Sacred Scripture, I'm merely a humble commentator with little to know qualification to be commentating, but I do know this:  there was never meant to be a division in the Body of Christ.  We were never meant to be divided, to be split, to be politicized.  The conflict is a festering wound on the Body of Christ, a reminder that, though the King be perfect, the Kingdom is made up of ridiculously imperfect humans.  The main issue behind the debate is the illusion of division, brought on by the assumption that the Church is only as big as we can envision it.  Thus, when we envision Church in the streets and the slums, we wonder how any Catholic could dwell in gilded, ornate, lofty cathedrals, and we quickly conclude that they must be wrong and we must be right.  Or, when we see the great beauty and tradition of the Church's timeless and enduring tradition of faith and morals, we wonder how anyone could find themselves affirming those people living contrary to that tradition and concluded that they must be wrong and we must be right.  In truth, both are wrong and both are right, entirely because both have envisioned a Church that is too small.

Catholicism is not a religion of either one vision or the other vision.  It is a Church of both/and.  We do not all choose between lives of comfort and austerity, we are a religion in which both desert hermits and kings are saints.  We find people like St. Thomas More, a man well-off and influential who, when pressed, stood firm in his faith and paid for it with his life, yet we also find our dear St. Francis, who gave up everything to serve the poor and downtrodden.  These men are together in the Communion of Saints, not divided, but in full understanding of their roles in the Body of Christ.


Christianity is not a matter of either serving the poor or standing firm in the teachings of the Church.  Christianity is a matter of as Christ put in his own words, coming to "Love one another as I have loved you."  (John 15:12) It requires us to know how Christ loved us and to love each other in such a way.  Christianity is the inseparable bond of unstoppable Love and immovable Truth.  Our mission is to accept everyone in the truth, and we cannot sacrifice either for the advancement of the other.  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

In the midst of the political wars, it is important to avoid the temptation to politicize Christianity.  We are not about policies or platforms, we are about Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh.  The whole world, in all time and space is looking at us, silently asking us to prove all these things we claim, that God became Man, that Death is not the end, that Life can be eternal, and that the most fundamental truth behind everything is that we really are loved infinitely and eternally.  We are given the mission to let the whole world know that Jesus Christ lives, and we have no way of doing so except serving the unservable, believing the unbelievable, hoping in the hopeless, and loving the unlovable.  We're called to be Christ to the people.

STARR will only succeed to the extent that it seeks this goal.  Marian will only succeed to the extent that it seeks this goal.  You, my brother/sister in Jesus Christ, will only succeed to the extent that you achieve this goal.  In ordinary things and extraordinary things, let the world know Jesus Christ.  In great speeches and quiet words, speak of a God who loves unconditionally.  In great outreaches of relief and gentle touches, heal the wounded in His Name.  Everything you do, deeds great and deeds small, whether it be in lofty towers or the slums of the streets, let the whole world see Jesus Christ, alive in you.

You can never have enough pictures of Mother Teresa, her face
shining with a love that this world is so desperately needing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Working with Marian University Students

Last Friday, over 30 students showed up for our first STARR(Students Taking Active Reflective Roles) program of the 2012 Fall Semester. It does my heart good to see our young adults gather weekly to pray, reflect and serve.  It is a source of empowerment for me to see the unselfish desire to "get dirty for a good cause," (quote from a Marian graduate) and learn more about feeding hungry people in Indianapolis.  The energy, commitment, passion that these students bring to service is a sign, to me, of God alive in our world.  I am ever grateful that I have the blessing of working with such as these!  Peace, Jeanne 

Photo Page

Welcome back to Marian University S.T.A.R.R. Be sure to check out the photo link at the top of the page. There will be weekly updates from miscellaneous sites. If you have photos you would like to contribute, see myself or Joe Gehret at any of the S.T.A.R.R. gatherings.

Peace in Christ,

Caleb Ringwald

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Welcome to Poverty

Welcome, one and all, to another exciting semester of Marian University STARR!  For all you returning folk, welcome back, glad to have you.  For all you new folk to STARR, a hearty welcome, and thank you for responding to the call to serve.  Here at STARR, we're committed to the service of fellow man, both here at Marian and the surrounding community, and taking the time to reflect upon those experiences, understanding how they fit into our lives as Christian college students.

The little white lines are pieces of your soul,
forever lost to some bank of servers
at the Facebook headquarters.
 That's where we come in, and by we, I mean STARR blog.  We here at STARR blog understand that we live in a generation of young whippersnappers who like to use the interweb to do practically everything that used to require some form of genuine interaction.  Rather than genuinely talk, we engage in the ever-thrilling Facebook comment war.  We do our shopping on line, our socializing, our planning, our writing, etc.  Heck, even romance, which used to be done by engaging in such ancient customs as conversation, travelling, personal relationship, and self-vulnerability, is now engaged in safe behind the screen of digital glory.  These times sure are a-changing, and the STARR community is willing to change with them.  So, in order to facilitate much of the "reflecting" part of the STARR experience (STARR = Students Taking Active Reflective Roles), we've created STARR blog, using the all-powerful, soul-consuming power of the webbernet (because the word "internet" is sooo passe) to convey some good old fashion reflections on Christian service, Catholic social teaching, and other cool pertinent things.

Starting this year, we here are STARR blog want to spend good chunks reflecting on specific themes.  As our first blog theme this semester, we (and by we, we mean me) decided that the theme of poverty would be a wonderful reflection theme.  Because let's face it, if it weren't for poverty, STARR would be out of a job.  If there wasn't some sort of discrepancy in the world, if there wasn't some need that needed filled, there'd be no reason beyond sentimentality for an organization dedicated to selfless service to exist.  So we have to seek to understand what it is we're fighting.

Luckily for you, Joe's got you covered.  Besides a slew of rambling thoughts on poverty from my own skull, I've consulted with some folks who actually have experience in the realm of poverty, as in missionary work in Haiti, China, Kenya, El Salvador, and Ghana.  As the semester progresses, I will share with you their experiences and thoughts on true poverty, and we'll all learn from their wisdom and experience.

But for know, lets look at poverty on a local level.  Poverty is an important subject.  As long as man has been rich, he has also been poor, and understanding the nature of those two things is crucial to understanding the nature of man himself.  What in us drives us to be so rich, and what in us causes us to be so poor?  The great temptation is to assume that the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich and the poor are poor because they deserve to be poor, and that assisting them in any direct way would only serve to enable them.  While it may be true, this mentality all too often stems, not from concern for the person, but as a justification for our indifference.  Yes, handing money to a homeless person on the street might be patronizing or enabling, but sitting down and talking to him isn't.  Assumptions about poverty are dangerous, not just for the sake of the poor, but for our sake.  When we neglect the poor, either by ignoring them or by writing off our reluctance to aid them as being for their benefit, we risk our own soul.  We deceive ourselves, we somehow come to believe that we're any better than them, that no matter the circumstances, we'd never make the decisions that they have made to get where they are at.  Truthfully, we make them out to be less than human.  And that's wrong.
"What, give him compassion?  Nah, he'd probably spend it on booze anyways." 

So, all things considered, I'd like to make a proposal, I'm going to call it "Welcome to Poverty".  What I want all you awesome peoples to do is to carve a chunk of your time each day and find poverty in your own life.  How are you, like those without money, also poor?  Money is not the only inequality in this world, nor is it the measure of the value of a man.  So, in order to understand poverty, I want all of us to become poor, or rather, to realize that we've always been poor, making us no better than any beggar, panhandler, hobo, or what-have-you.  Think, or even better, pray that you might come to know your own poverty.  Take the time to deprive yourself for the sake of the poor, whether it be money, time, consideration, or (most importantly) pride.  Empty yourself a little bit, so that they might be full.  Step down from society's lofty heights, so that they might look a little taller.  Take the time each day to think, and welcome to Poverty.