Monday, January 25, 2010

Keeping the 1st Amendment Intact

There are quite a few in the pro-Death camp that would like to make sure that religious groups can't teach that abortion is wrong. Here's a perfect example (and our prayer intention for the day...).

Sometimes I wonder if people intentionally misunderstand the first amendment. However, I think it's far more likely that they just hear what everyone else is saying and parrot the argument, without really thinking about the absurdity of the the words that are coming out of their mouths (after all, if our genius political representatives are saying that any Church that has an opinion on marriage or the sanctity of human life risk loosing their tax exempt status then it must be true and more ridiculously, it must be based in the first amendment.).

Fortunately the 1st amendment is exactly what protects religious institutions from this type of attack. Let's take a look at what it actually says:
Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The founding fathers were outlawing the founding of a national church (an equivalent of the Church of England) that would be established by congress. They weren't saying that churches couldn't teach on moral issues. The first amendment protects the free exercise of religion and it takes a denial to a whole new level to imagine that the opposite is true.

The sort of rant in the blog above, and those given by several liberal members of the house in the past months, shows exactly why the first amendment was put in place and exactly what it was intended to protect against.

I do wonder if this will go before the Supreme Court eventually and we'll all get a lesson in 8th Grade Government to help our legislators and liberal arts professors understand what most 13 year olds get on the first read.

Now on to the second most frequently misquoted text:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matt. 7:1-5)
Does this mean that we can't judge whether or not something is sinful? No! But I'll let an actual apologist explain:
"If we break this passage down line by line, it becomes clear that Jesus was not telling his disciples that they could not ever judge the behavior of others. Rather, he was cautioning them to live righteous lives themselves so that their judgment of others’ behavior would not be rash judgment and their efforts would be effective in admonishing their neighbors.

"Judge not, that you be not judged." By itself, this statement could be construed to mean that one may escape even God’s judgment simply by not judging the behavior of others. Of course, everyone is judged by God, so this cannot be a proper understanding. Jesus goes on to reformulate his statement in a positive way: "With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." Jesus indeed expects his disciples to judge but he warns that they, too, will be judged in a like manner.

This is reminiscent of the line in the Lord’s Prayer, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Matt. 6:12). Much more than a simple warning that God will treat us as we treat others, this is an appeal to each of us to be as much as we can like God in the way that we treat others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, "there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make ‘ours’ the same mind that was in Christ Jesus" (CCC 2842).

In the next two lines Jesus cautions against hypocrisy: "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?" Judging hypocritically is not effective. A petty thief admonished by a bank robber only scoffs at his admonisher.

Jesus then explains how to judge rightly: "First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Much to the point of this article, there can be no doubt that those final words—"take the speck out of your brother’s eye"—are, indeed, permission to judge so long as it is done rightly."
The article goes on to explain that we are not to judge whether another is condemned to Hell. That judgement is reserved for him alone.

After all, if the skewed interpretation of "Judge not" were true than the spiritual work of mercy "Admonish the Sinner" would be a sin.

I feel like I should print out the entire article above and carry it in my pocket at all times so I can hand it to the next Catholic who use Matthew 7:1 as an excuse. We've all heard it (in my pre-conversion days I even used it): "Well I know abortion is wrong, but I can't judge someone else's decision."

Really? You can't say that it's wrong for someone else to commit murder?


  1. I've always heard the phrase. Love the sinner; hate the sin. I think that is what Jesus also means. We should condemn abortion, but embrace and forgive those who chose it. Notice chose is in the past tense. If we know that someone is choosing to have an abortion, then of course we should say something in a loving way. If we decide to be harsh, it won't help the situation nor would it be loving the sinner. It's a fine balance.

  2. I wish people would realize that separation of church and state goes both ways...just like a church cannot control the government, the government cannot tell a church what to do!

  3. Hey Cammie, you sure write good when you get riled. :) Same topic, lighter note = the blog you linked to that was going off on the 1st amendment also had this header to their combox: "negative comments will be deleted."

    I think the darkness of sin also clouds the intellect.

  4. Hi Delta Flute-

    I almost posted that quote as part of this post! It fits perfectly!

    Hi Catherine-


    Hi Cliff-

    When I read through this I thought I sounded riled! I've been coming up with the post in my head for a couple of days. Poor Paul has had to listen to so many ideas that relate to abortion this week.

    I noticed the "negative comments" thing and was tempting to write "praying for you" but thought it would be probably taken as a negative. Sin definitely seems to twist logic!


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