Saturday, October 24, 2020

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Great Paradox: King Cyrus and President Trump

Two posts in 48 hours. What's happening at the Contolini’s?  Probably just an answer to prayers… For some time, I have been looking for and even been asking popular Catholic apologists to address the conflict that many Christians have in voting for Donald Trump. Today, finally, a good answer came as an email. 

I am posting below in its entirety the message I received from Steve Woods, who leads the organization Family Life Center International, which runs the website dads.org. Thank you, Steve. 

The Great Paradox: King Cyrus and President Trump 

Note: This article is not a political endorsement or a voting recommendation. Instead, it is a scriptural and theological commentary on past and current events. 

Many are having conflicting thoughts about President Trump. On the one hand, he has said, Tweeted, and engaged in things deeply troubling to Christians. On the other hand, Trump seems to be the most pro-life president we’ve ever had. 

Trump: 

  • Is the first president to address the March for Life in person 
  • Is the first President to single out Planned Parenthood for defunding 
  • Asked Congress to pass legislation to end late-term abortions 
  • Reinstated and expanded policies prohibiting international aid from funding oversees abortions 
  • Signed joint international statements stating that there is no international right to abortion 
  • Proclaimed to the U.N. that, “Americans will never tire of defending innocent life” 

How important is the pro-life issue to 2020 voting? Despite the confused and misleading statements of a few church leaders, abortion is the preeminent moral issue of our generation. 

The question still remains, How can a leader do so much good in defending pro-life and yet do and say so many negative things? I believe that the answer to this disconnect that’s puzzling so many Christians is found on an Israeli coin I recently purchased. 

May 1948 was the founding of the nation of Israel. In honor of the 70th anniversary of the modern state of Israel, President Trump proclaimed the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and instructed the U.S. Embassy to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

On a commemorative coin in recognition of this 70th anniversary event, the images of King Cyrus of Persia and President Trump overlap each other. You can see a picture of it here. 

As a result of God’s sovereign plan, King Cyrus became the founder of the Persian empire. Having conquered the entire ancient near east, he allowed the Jews suffering in captivity since the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem to return to Israel. In addition, he ordered the rebuilding of the temple and the temple vessels plundered by the Babylonians returned. To top it off, funds from the royal treasury would help pay for rebuilding. 

This is the biblical record describing this pagan emperor: 

"Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem.'” 

2 Chronicles 36:22 

 

“[God] who says of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose'; saying of Jerusalem, 'She shall be built,' and of the temple, 'Your foundation shall be laid.' 

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and ungird the loins of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: 

‘I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut asunder the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I gird you, though you do not know me.’” 

  • Isaiah 44:28 – 45:5 

  • It’s amazing that God calls this pagan emperor, who doesn’t know God as he should, “my shepherd” and “my anointed.” 

    Israel’s religious leaders and kings had fallen down on the job. In an irony of ironies, God calls a pagan emperor to do his work. 

    It’s my view that the 70th-anniversary Israeli coin perfectly depicts the great paradox that was King Cyrus and is President Donald Trump. God can raise up the most unexpected person to accomplish his will, especially when others in responsibility have fallen down on the job. 

 

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And since you are still reading, another item I would like to share, from a different and unrelated source than the article above, are the strong but necessary videos recently published by Fr. James Altman, from Wisconsin. I am pasting below the link of his first one. He then released a Part II and (just 2 days ago) Part III, which are also worth watching. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-7eoTN2vNM 





Saturday, October 10, 2020

The preeminent moral issue of our time

As American Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979) once said: “The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”

That is why I decided to publish this post. It is an understatement to say that our upcoming elections are divisive, yet so important. I will vote the side of life!  Yet, instead of using my own words here, I am pasting below those of somebody I deeply respect, apologist Trent Horn. 

Of course, I am happy to lovingly discuss this, if anybody reading this post would like to.

(The words below are from Trent's video, whose link can be found at the bottom of this post) 

It’s the 1860 presidential election and you have four candidates to choose from. Three of them want to allow the new states in the West to practice legal slavery. The fourth, Abraham Lincoln, says that the federal government should prevent these states from ever making it legal to enslave a human being. 

Whom do you vote for? I bet it’s the candidate who opposes legal slavery.

Does that make you a na├»ve, “single-issue” voter? After all, voters in 1860 were concerned about many important issues, including poverty, tariffs, women’s rights, and secession.

Yet out of all those issues, only one of them, slavery, was preeminent—far and away the more important social issue of that time.

It wasn’t abortion—because although abortions did happen then, they were illegal and rare. Those who broke the law and performed abortions were condemned by groups like the American Medical Association. This made abortion less important an issue than the four million Americans—13 percent of the population—who were legally enslaved.

Today, however, the situation is very different.

Slavery is illegal, though some criminals still practice it through human trafficking. But abortion is legal, and in this country alone it kills 850,000 pre-born children every year. Ten percent of these abortions take place after the first trimester and use a procedure called dilation and evacuation, in which fetuses may be decapitated and dismembered.

Most people today think they surely would have opposed slavery in the nineteenth century, yet they ignore or defend the legal killing of children in the womb, citing the “right to choose.” Yet abortion is the “slavery issue” of our time, the preeminent issue, and, just like slavery, it can be fully defeated only once the evil laws that uphold it are overturned.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that laws “may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” [...]

You can watch the whole video (and series) made by Trent Horn on this subject here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxDWKA8Wyp8&feature=emb_logo

And if you are one of my catholic readers, please read about the 5 non-negotiables issues for Catholic voters.




Sunday, July 19, 2020

The beach... a reflection

We recently came back from a week of vacation on the beach. In the middle of COVID, we flew to Florida to enjoy the vegetation, dip our feet in the warm waters of the gulf, collect shells and just plain relax. We booked the time back last September, so, when we were given the green light to go, we jumped on the opportunity.

Shell collecting by calm, warm (86F) waters seems to have a mesmerizing effect on humans. At any hour from before dawn to after dusk people of all ages and backgrounds walked on the beach looking for some little treasure, consisting of striped, ridged, calcium carbonate ‘pods’ – shells we call them. These used to be the house of small mollusks; they have washed onto the beach and are now destined to be ground down into sand by erosion and crushing along with billions of other similar remains. 

What is it with this activity that captures the imagination and time of young and old alike, man and women, rich and poor? I tried to think of another human activity that attracts all category of people in a similar way. I could not think of one.

Sanibel Island, where we spent our week of vacation, it’s a heaven for shell collecting. Because of its location and currents of the Gulf, millions of new shells are dumped on its shore every single day. Not many other beaches in the world are so lucky. I felt speechless and humbled by the beauty of life in the oceans that these shells represented. The ones I saw, the ones we collected are just a tiny fraction and reflection of the many more that reside under water, most of which nobody will ever see and enjoy. Yet, the mollusks still produce them, with colors, ridges, with interesting and varied shapes and sizes; and this process has continued for the whole life of the oceans. Each of these shells is a testimony, like each of us, of a unique life which God created, knows and cares for. While this is not a solid argument for the existence of God, it is hard to fathom that all of this bounty and diverse beauty could just be the result of random, small changes from an initial chemical soup. (Job 12, 7:9).  I’ll leave the scientific arguments to books like “Signature in the cell”, “Darwin’s doubt” and “Darwin Devolves”. In the meanwhile, I awe at the beaches and ocean floors covered with millennia’s worth of crushed shells, reduced to dust size particles. It makes we wonder, “Was there any sand on the beaches when the oceans were first formed?” 

I learned that it takes anywhere from 1 to 6 years for a mollusk to build its shell and grow with it to full size. Fascinating! They are surely small work of art, so insignificant it seems, yet so detailed, precise and precious, if we take the time to observe them.

Our family lives in a beautiful place, right at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Yet, I have wondered before how incredible it would be to live in a tropical resort and walk on the beach every day.  Who knows, maybe when I retire, I can spend a couple of the coldest months of the year in a place like this. I know my aging sore joints and body (which gets cold so easily) would thank me for that. The appeal and my enjoyment would come from spending time outdoor observing flowers and animals. Living in a tropical resort seems appealing; the beauty of nature, the warmth, the relaxation of a beach lifestyle. I could get use to that very quickly, I am sure. I do wonder though if it would make me more self-centered and selfish. There is nothing wrong with comfort, for sure, but living in a place that, in addition to the warm weather, is designed to maximize our pleasure at all times seems to bring us further away from the realities of this world, where there are people that have very little and struggle for basic necessities every day. Why are we here and what is the meaning of life? Surely not to just satisfy our own desires. Maybe I now better understand the meaning and purpose of vacation. 

I ran a few miles on a couple of days during our stay in Sanibel Island. Running is part of who I am and I like to experience it wherever I get to travel to. I also wanted to find out how different it felt to run at sea level after living at altitude for more than 20 years. Honestly it felt just as hard, but I think part of the problem was the 90+ degrees temperature and 80% humidity. It was summer after all in Florida. Anyway, I did collect three Strava CRs and a second place on another running segment. I could have grabbed a couple of more on the last morning of our stay, but instead decided to go watch the sunrise on the beach and I was reworded by a beautiful spectacle of sun and clouds and by ibises looking for a morning snack in the sand and a large group of pelicans still resting on trees. A perfect goodbye gift to an almost-perfect vacation. See you again soon Sanibel, I hope.

My favorite bird on the beach - the Ibis
Sunset at Bauman's beach

The pelicans hang out on this tree when not fishing

Sunrise on the last morning
The family with one missing...
so many shells


sausage tree

Ygritte

Mangrove forest