Reading God’s Mind
A Letter to the Galatians…
Pump out gravity from the Universe
And it collapses upon itself
Returning to the speck from which it began
Before the Big Bang lit it up
With an invisible hand
Pluck out Christ from Christianity
And Christian-strong still sails along…
On the wings of a theocratic song
Held aloft on currents that sing…
To Kings, High Priests, and all things…Right Wing
My fellow St Scholastica Raven. My fellow Catholic Central Shamrock. My consultant on all things choral, and my long-time educator… friend. How’s the inflation in Galatia ??? And, how goes the fauna and flora in Glocca Morra ???
Thank you for your recent piece of Catholic School, sportswear history: “To wit” (as they say in the Law business)… the St Anthony T-shirt you presented to the Catholic Central Alumni Board (below) and its knock off, Catholic Central sweatshirt (also below). Perhaps the inscription on the Catholic Central sweatshirt was purloined from St. Anthony or even from Father Theodore Hesburgh’s book… God, Country, Notre Dame. All with the common theme… our God, our America and our Catholic Schools.
Dr. Robert Fortay
As an aside, Jack, you mention Dr. Bob Fortay’s involvement on the Catholic Central, Alumni Board. My money says there was no better man (some equals, perhaps… but no better man) who ever attended Catholic Central over its 95-year history than Bob Fortay— Doctor, Dentist, Surgeon, friend, and humble servant of the Lord who regularly lived out the Golden Rule, “message” of Jesus… traveling to third world countries to perform life changing surgeries for God’s, disfigured children across the globe. Many of those kids are now adults who (thanks to Dr. Bob’s sacrifice and generosity) walk through our world with a “quality of life” they never would have known… if not for the Good Doctor’s guiding hand. May Dr. Bob continue to live in the Peace of Eternity. He has earned it.
Reasonable Minds May Differ ???
Jack, some things in life are just right… period. For example… (1) All women and men are born with equal Human Rights and (2) ex-President Trump lost the 2020 election. Other things in life are just wrong… period. For example… (1) Slavery and (2) George Floyd’s murder. But, still, other things appear in a less clear light… gray areas (as they are known) where “reasonable minds can reasonably differ.” Not “both-sider-ism”… but rather gray areas where “differing perceptions” of issues are both supportable (to some degree or another) by logic and deductive reasoning.
But, caveat (aka a word to the wise). Sometimes, the concept of reasonable minds, reasonably differing… must bow to a more in-depth analysis that leads to enlightenment and wisdom (“IF” such can be found).
Do Reasonable Minds “Reasonably” Differ ???
Maybe, the debate over the “message” (on the sport’s merchandise and book titles) is one of those gray areas where reasonable minds can reasonably differ ??? Maybe, some reasonable minds look at the T-shirts, sweatshirts and Father Hesburgh’s book title, and just see an attempt to “project” the message… “I believe in God, and I love America and my good-old Catholic School.” But, others might look at the same message in more depth, and object because, well because… they see the message (our God, our America, our St Anthony, our Catholic Central and our Notre Dame) as…
- “Exclusive”— as in a God who excludes some of his children from the table and the banquet of life by endorsing or preferring Americans and Catholics… over the rest.
- “Elitist”— a “finite” human mind reading the “infinite” mind of God, and telling the rest of us that they know what God’s “infinite” mind prefers… America and Catholic School, over others,
- “Nationalistic”— a superior White mindset of American Exceptionalism, with the “finite” mind of some humans claiming they can read the “infinite” mind of God and tell the rest of us who God endorses or prefers… their America and their Catholic School(s) over all the others. The only American exceptionalism I know of is the Bill of Rights.
Where am I on the issue ??? As a back-row Catholic (and a voice of one), I do not approve of the underlying messaging of God the Father preferring some of his children over others. Why ??? Because (again, as a voice of one), I disapprove of those who claim to read God’s mind. I disapprove of finite human minds using a crystal ball to read the infinite mind of God, and then tell the rest of us what God wants of us, what God prefers, or what Country or what School God endorses. Why ??? Because it’s always a slippery, “theocratic” slope for any finite human mind to read the infinite mind of God… even those (or, maybe, especially those) finite minds who attempt, subjectively, to “justify” their reading of God’s mind on the unprovable, theocratic dogma found in the Scripture of the Holy Books.
Try as they might, I don’t think those scripture-reading, mind readers… can accurately tell the rest of us what the infinite mind of God demands, wants, likes, prefers or endorses. See my previously, published article mentioning the unreliability of scripture. See Truth in the Holy Books.
Why do I call it a slippery “theocratic” slope ??? Because I am aware of the non-stop, human carnage involved in such “theocratic” thinking… of finite human minds, looking into a crystal ball, and reading the infinite mind of God. What “human carnage” you ask ??? The Human carnage that lay in the hearts, minds, souls and on the hands of the so-called “Mind Readers” and “True Believers” of the “unprovable” religious dogma. Who are these finite mind readers of the infinite mind of God ??? They are..
- Those who crucified Jesus of Nazareth… because (as his indoctrinated, theocratic executioners told us) Jesus “blasphemed”… contrary to God’s will. So, death to the blasphemers !!! God wills it.
- Those who started all the wars that killed all the innocents. Wars like the Christian Crusades… all because the indoctrinated, theocratic Christians of finite mind told the Crusaders of finite minds that their God of infinite mind wanted them to march to the Holy Lands, and get on with the pillage, plunder, carnage, conquest and death in God’s name. So, death to the infidels in the Holy Lands !!! God wills it.
- Those indoctrinated, Christian leaders like Patriarch Kirill (the leader of the Russian Orthodox Christian Church) who, with his finite and indoctrinated mind, spoke on behalf of God, and told the rest of us that the God of infinite mind approves of the destruction of the Ukraine and the deaths of God’s Ukrainian Children… who resist Russia’s invasion. So, death to the Ukraine !!! God wills it.
- Those indoctrinated, Evangelical Christian leaders, like Pat Robertson, who (while commenting on Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine in 2022) told us that Putin was “compelled by God” to invade the Ukraine to fulfill the Bible’s Armageddon’s prophecy. So, more death… to the Ukraine !!! Because, you know, God wills it.
Robertson, a very successful, fund-raising televangelist, has been described as the man who “cemented the alliance between conservative Christians and the Republican Party.” Now that Robertson has died (June 2023), maybe he can check it out with God to see if his finite mind correctly read God’s infinite mind… on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. In the meantime, just keep killing God’s children of the Ukraine !!! God wills it.
- Those of the Spanish Inquisition… theocrats of finite minds who read the infinite mind of God, and told the rest of us, just who had to die as “heretics” (from the Greek word for “choice”)… for not choosing the correct version of God’s dogma. So, death to the heretics !!! God wills it.
- Those who hung and burned women across Europe and at Salem Massachusetts because (as the finite minds of the indoctrinated, Christian theocrats told us) many women were Witches who posed a threat to what the infinite mind of God wanted. So, death to the Witches !!! God wills it.
- Those 918, indoctrinated Christians who drank the cool-aid, and died in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978 at the insistence of their indoctrinated, Christian leader, Jim Jones, he who told his indoctrinated followers what the infinite mind of God wanted of them… poison themselves and their children. So, more death!!! God wills it.
- Those 201, indoctrinated Christians who died of starvation in Kenya this year (2023)… because their, indoctrinated leader (reading the infinite” mind of God) told his indoctrinated followers that God willed it, so they could be with Jesus. More death !!! God wills it.
- And, on and on and on, throughout the history of mankind… a history replete with theocrats of finite minds, using their “unprovable” dogma to tell their indoctrinated masses… what the infinite mind of God demands of them… war, death, murder, pain, suffering, discrimination, and societal shunning.
And What of Perception ???
I think “words” (and the “concepts” words evoke)… matter. Again, as a back-row Catholic and a voice of one, I think it appropriate to view how the St. Anthony t-shirt and the Catholic Central sweatshirt look, not only through the lens of theocratic history of the killing fields, but also through the eyes of non-Americans, non-Catholics, and non-Christians… when used on merchandise to market our God, our America and our Catholic Schools. God is the God of all his children across the globe. Therefore, let us be very cautious before we invoke the concept of God being a part of America’s (or any other Country’s) nationalism or patriotism. I also think the good, Notre Dame priest, Father Theodore Hesburgh… was a little elitist, tone deaf and lacking in historical perspective when he titled his book… God, Country, Notre Dame.
I have two Uncles (My Mother’s older Brothers, Jack and Larry Montroy) who played football for legendary Coach, Knute Rockne, at Notre Dame in the mid 1920s. So, the name “Notre Dame” garnered much reverence and respect in my household as I was growing up. But, those who find a tone deafness and an “elitism” with Father Hesburg’s book title… do seem to express a valid sentiment, especially for those not so connected to the Golden Dome of Notre Dame, as my family was.
God Gets Top Billing… No ???
In order of importance, I approve of a God figure (the Creator of all things, large and small) getting top billing on any and all T-shirts, sweatshirts and books. I have no problem with God at the top, because, well because (even though I have no emotional need for a God figure to exist), I have been through the 80 year “intellectual struggle” of trying to figure out whether the God story is real ??? Whether the God story is more reality than wishful thinking, or more wishful thinking than reality.
After much critical analysis, I have concluded that (more likely than not) God does exist. After a ton of effort over a lifetime, and with the use of “intellectual honesty” and critical analysis… I conclude that, there is (more likely than not) a God figure. See, God… To Be Or Not To Be. I rely on St. Thomas’ Aquinas’ compelling logic of the first mover- first cause… itself unmoved and uncaused, supplemented by the “Big Bang” mathematics of astronomy which intuitively asks (as my friend, Frank Demers once said)… “Who lit the match” ???
I am not moved to my belief in the existence of God by the Holy Books or the claimed theology that some say arises out of these, very well written, but “subjectively interpreted” Holy Books (Torah, Talmud, Old Testament, New Testament, Koran, etc.). I will not bog you down with all the details, but a few illustrative examples of the “fallibility” of the Holy Books are in order, like…
- The Roman Catholic Church (quoting the Bible) once claimed that the EARTH was the Center of our Solar System (i.e. from the rising of the Sun to the going down thereof). The Catholic Church use to claim that Galileo’s and Copernicus’ contrary science that the SUN is the center of our Solar System was “heresy”… punishable by death. But Galileo was right. Copernicus was right. The Bible was wrong. Despite the optical illusion, the Sun does not rise, nor set, nor move around the Earth. Our Sun is the center of our solar system, and our Earth moves around the Sun (in our Milky Way galaxy… one of a billion galaxies in the known Universe). Yet, the Roman Catholic Church used the Bible to silence Galileo with the threat of “death to the heretic”… and, in the process, retarded human knowledge and growth for too long a time. So much for the infallibility of Bibles (being the word of the all-knowing God).
- The Book of Genesis strains credulity with the Creation Story… by claiming that Adam and Eve just hit the Earth at a single moment in time, as fully formed human beings. The historical record of human fossils, (meticulously documented by Charles Darwin and others) conclusively disproves the appearance of Adam and Eve as an “all at once” arrival of (never-before seen) “first humans.” See The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephan Greenblatt.
Starting in the mid 20th Century, the Roman Catholic Church finally began to relent and loosen its grip on the faithful by allowing us Catholics to use our (God given) “Free Will” to believe in the indisputable science of evolution. Science won the battle and the Bible lost, and the Church had no choice but to relent (from Pope Pius XII in the 1950s to Pope John Paul II in the 1980s to Pope Francis in the 21st Century).
But, that slow awakening from the darkness of religious indoctrination came too late for Tennessee schoolteacher, John Scopes. In 1925, Scopes was charged with the crime of teaching evolution (alongside the story of Creation aka Adam and Eve). John Scopes was convicted in a Courtroom drama known as the Scopes Monkey Trial… despite the brilliant representation of defense attorney, Clarence Darrow. Scopes was right. The Bible was wrong. But, Scopes didn’t stand a chance against the Bible, in the Bible Belt of Tennessee with a Bible Belt Jury. See Inherit the Wind starring Spencer Tracy (as real life defense attorney, Clarence Darrow), and starring Frederic March (as real life prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan). Bryan was America’s most recognized, fundamentalist Christian of his time, and, hence… the logical choice to lead the religious “persecution” of school teacher, John Scopes, for the crime of exposing his students to the truth of human evolution. So much for the infallibility of Bibles (being the word of the all-knowing God… who dictated the Bibles to various scribes).
- Ditto for Noah’s Ark. Rhetorically, I ask… how did the Emperor Penguins schlep their slow, awkward shuffle from the wind chill of the South Pole to the deserts of the Middle East (and back) to hook up with Noah ??? Maybe Noah guided his Ark through the Polar cap and picked them up, rode out the flood in the Middle East and then dropped them off back in Antarctica. Maybe, but there is no such account in the Bible.
And What then of God-Given Free Will…
And Self Determination ???
God-given “Choice” (Greek word, heresy) opens the door for the greatest of all of God’s gifts to mankind… Free Will and Self Determination. God given Free Will and Self Determination encourage all of us humans to individually and personally figure out whether all the dogma we were taught as kids (or indoctrinated with as adolescents) is true ??? Translated, I don’t see God just saying on Judgment Day (be there one)… “Ok, you’re in because I know whatever you did in life, right or wrong (drank the Kool-aid, or not, killed everyone you could in the Crusades, or not, sent America’s Shock and Awe reigning down on Iraqi citizens in Gulf War II, or not, sent the Russian troops into destroy the Ukraine, or not”)… whatever you did was okay because, well because, “you were just following the orders of your, indoctrinated religious leaders.” It didn’t work that way at the Nurnberg trial for War Crimes in WW II, and (although I admit knowing nothing about the next life), I tend to doubt it will work that way in the next life (be there one).
Translated, our religious leaders may not be able to save us. So, let our God-given Free Will take charge of our own salvation, and look to the Golden Rule to save a reservation for us in the next world… be there one. If not, the Golden Rule will still serve us well in this world as we live out our “one time” shot as a “supportive” team player… living out the one, precious life God gave us.
All God’s Children Get Second Billing. No ???
All Schools get Third Billing. No ???
Okay, Jack man, relax and take a deep breath of fresh air… if you can find it amongst the Canadian forest fires. Back to the narrower question. For the moment, the question is “merchandise” wearers who seem to be subjectively claiming that their Country (and their fellow citizens) get the second billing to God, and their Catholic school gets third billing ???… which some see as a thinly disguised claim that the merchandise wearer can read the infinite mind of God to determine who God prefers (Americans and Catholic schools). But, doesn’t it intuitively and logically seem that we are all Children of God, and that, therefore… second billing goes to you and me and all of God’s children across the globe (and throughout the Universe) ??? And third billing goes to all schools… unless the schools are terrorist schools, or schools who preach or advocate violence or preach and advocate that God really prefers their particular school system to all others.
As I have previously written… let us all be Children of God first, and a member of some religious organization second. And, let us all be citizens of the world first, and a member of some, patriotic, postage stamp of land second. That way I see myself in all of God’s children across the world, and I can easily extend my hand to them as I say… “May the Peace of Jesus be with you (and me).”
Therefore, it would seem a “self evident” truth (a phrase from the Declaration of Independence) that no particular individual or group should pretentiously claim second billing or third billing for themselves or their own, parochial school. Rather (again, a “self evident” truth… for me), second place and third place belongs to all of us Children of God… not just White Males, not just men, not just women, not just straights, not just LGBTQ, not just Evangelicals, not just Catholics, not just private school kids, not just public school kids, not just Christians, not just Jews, not just Muslims, not just Sikhs, not just Rastafarians, not just Buddhists, not just Hindus, not just… well, Jack you get my drift. Second billing on the marquee of merchandise belongs to ALL OF US CHILDREN OF GOD. And Third billing on the marquee belongs to all schools.
Specifically addressing my objection to the Catholic Central “merchandise,” the St. Anthony “merchandise” and Father Hesburgh’s book title… It would also seem a “self evident” truth that any claim of second billing as God’s favorite Country or any claim to third billing as God’s favorite school (Detroit St. Anthony, Catholic Central, Hillel, The Academy of the Chosen People, International Islamic Academy) is…
- Presumptuous and exclusive… as in “excluding” others (not like us) from the table of life, like many others do… Oakland Hills Country Club, Meadowbrook Country Club, Major League Baseball (before the color barrier was broken by Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, etc.), the Detroit Athletic Club, the Taliban in Afghanistan (who, in their ignorance) claim the Religious Superiority to exclude women from education, Southern Universities (pre-1970), Catholic Church’s never-ending exclusion of women as Deacons or Priests, etc.
- And, isn’t the above statement especially true… where the historic Jesus figure (and many other women and men of good will, as well as the Golden Rule)… incorporate “inclusion” as the order of the day.
- And, isn’t this especially true where humility and due regard for the Golden Rule and the message of Jesus seemingly should rule the day with Wisdom and the phrase “first being last, and the last being first” offsetting the chutzpah of “God is on our Side” mentality (Bob Dylan song).
- And, isn’t the above especially true where the concept of God “Our Father” picking favorites amongst humans may be a rehash of the South’s, dated doctrine that supported Slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, second class citizenship of Blacks in America via Jim Crow laws of “separate but equal” and ongoing discrimination ???
Maybe, reasonable minds may differ. Maybe ??? But my mind (reasonable or otherwise) says we should consider dumping the “too presumptuous” and “too exclusive,” God is on our side’ T-shirts, sweatshirts and book titles, etc.
God’s Universality… Love of Fellow Man
Jack, a poem I learned at our St. Scholastica in the seventh grade (Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt) artistically captures the “universality” of God’s love for those who love their fellow woman and their fellow man…
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
‘What writest thou?’—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered ‘The names of those who love the Lord.’
‘And is mine one?‘ said Abou. ‘Nay, not so,’
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said ‘I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.’
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
The poet’s message ??? Judged by the “Write me as one who loves his fellow man” standard, the poem seems to show the Universality of God’s love and acceptance, regardless of the “exclusionary” dogma of many religions. So, I say… let it be proclaimed that True Believers, Doubting Thomases and various Sundry Misfits of disparate beliefs who pay homage to the Golden Rule, “will all be received in Graceland”… sans T-shirts and books of claimed superiority.
Appreciation and Thanks
And, I do stop to thank and acknowledge all those beautiful people who taught me by example, the importance of the Golden Rule, including my parents, the Benedictine Priests and the Dominican Nuns at St. Scholastica, the Basilian priests at Catholic Central and the Jesuits at the University of Detroit.
Thanks for listening Jack.
Downtown Freddie from Detroit,
Son of Uptown Freddie, and
Father of Out of Town Freddie