A Dog with Five Legs

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” — Abraham Lincoln

There’s a truth in that statement that many people forget nowadays. In their zeal for a certain cause, they misuse terms and language to promote their point of view, without regard for the actual meaning of those words. Hence, we have “choice” to refer to the killing of an unborn child. (The child is not given any “choice” in the matter.) We have “death with dignity” to refer to suicide. These euphemisms are often used to distract people from what someone is really trying to accomplish.

We have another example of that in this morning’s News-Journal and in the comments on their site about the article. The problem with this article is not so much its blatant lobbying for passage of the non-discrimination bill in the Senate. (Although at what point will the News-Journal admit it’s long since dropped any notion of objectivity in its reporting? And what do those people who think the News-Journal is biased towards conservatives have to say about articles like these?) The main problem I have with this bill is not that it would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; it is, after all, common decency not to discriminate against others for actions that do not affect their work performance. It’s the fact that once this bill does become law, it will almost certainly be used as the basis for a lawsuit arguing that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman violates the terms of the bill, even if the bill explicitly were to state that it required no such action.

This is where the five-legged dog comes in. The basis of this lawsuit will be that the definition of marriage in law, and in practice everywhere in the history of the world until the last decade or so discriminates against same-sex couples. It will be claimed, as we have seen often in the past, that as a man (or woman) is not allowed to marry another man (or woman), the marriage law is discriminatory against same-sex couples.

The idea that the true definition of marriage is discriminatory is incorrect. After all, it treats all people the same under the law. Any two people of the opposite sex, regardless of sexual orientation, can get married. If people choose not exercise this right, that is their choice. So, we’re responding to a false claim of discrimination.

A relationship between two members of the same sex cannot be a marriage, by definition. Calling a relationship between two members of the same sex a “marriage” no more creates an actual marriage than calling a tail a leg gives a dog five legs.

Given that many advocates of redefining marriage argue that it’s necessary to do so in order to handle certain issues like inheritance and hospital visitation rights. Redefining marriage in order to handle these issues is like using a nuclear bomb to kill a fly. After all, both of those issues and others of the same sort can be dealt with narrower, targeted legislation without approaching anything on the scale of creating the legal fiction of same-sex marriage.

So, creating a fictional “marriage” is neither necessary nor honest.

Legislative action creating civil unions would at least be more honest than pretending we can redefine marriage. These would have many of the appearances of a marriage without making the law pretend that it was. The problem with civil unions, though, is that because they look like a marriage, people will mistake them for a marriage. It is hard to believe that couples in civil unions will introduce themselves as “partners” or what-have-you instead of “spouse.” They’ll view themselves as being in a marriage and will refer to it as such.

Marriage is in enough trouble in today’s society without confusing the issue even more.

Prayers to Saints: The Biblical Basis

Yesterday’s Biblical selection for the Office of Readings was a selection from Revelation chapter 5. The scene takes place in Heaven, where Jesus appears in the form of the Lamb and the saints in heaven are praising him. Verse 8 reads:

When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.

Here we see the twenty-four elders, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles, presenting the prayers of the holy ones to the the Lamb (Jesus), just as they do when we pray to the saints for our intentions. When Catholics pray to saints, we don’t expect them personally to answer them. Rather, we are asking someone who has proven his closeness to Christ to pray for us. It’s really no different than asking a friend or acquaintance to pray for us. The only real difference is that we know the saints we ask to pray for us in Heaven are close to God and have proven their ability to intercede to God though past miracles.

Again in Revelation chapter 8, we read:

Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne.
The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel. (Rev 8: 3-4)

There are further instances of Biblical support for prayer to the saints. For example, in Psalm 103 verses 20-21, we see:

Bless the LORD, all you angels, mighty in strength and attentive, obedient to every command.
Bless the LORD, all you hosts, ministers who do God’s will.

Psalm 148 begins:

Hallelujah! Praise the LORD from the heavens; give praise in the heights.
Praise him, all you angels; give praise, all you hosts.

There’s a good article on Catholic.com which answers many Protestant objections to prayer to the saints. Here’s one particularly good excerpt:

The answer is: “Of course one should pray directly to Jesus!” But that does not mean it is not also a good thing to ask others to pray for one as well. Ultimately, the “go-directly-to-Jesus” objection boomerangs back on the one who makes it: Why should we ask any Christian, in heaven or on earth, to pray for us when we can ask Jesus directly? If the mere fact that we can go straight to Jesus proved that we should ask no Christian in heaven to pray for us then it would also prove that we should ask no Christian on earth to pray for us.

Since the practice of asking others to pray for us is so highly recommended in Scripture, it cannot be regarded as superfluous on the grounds that one can go directly to Jesus. The New Testament would not recommend it if there were not benefits coming from it. One such benefit is that the faith and devotion of the saints can support our own weaknesses and supply what is lacking in our own faith and devotion. Jesus regularly supplied for one person based on another person’s faith (e.g., Matt. 8:13, 15:28, 17:15–18, Mark 9:17–29, Luke 8:49–55). And it goes without saying that those in heaven, being free of the body and the distractions of this life, have even greater confidence and devotion to God than anyone on earth.

Having others praying for us thus is a good thing, not something to be despised or set aside. Of course, we should pray directly to Christ with every pressing need we have (cf. John 14:13–14). That’s something the Catholic Church strongly encourages. In fact, the prayers of the Mass, the central act of Catholic worship, are directed to God and Jesus, not the saints. But this does not mean that we should not also ask our fellow Christians, including those in heaven, to pray with us.

I know from personal experience that prayer to the saints is not only permissible, but effective. It makes sense that those closest to God and who have the greatest faith in Him, as evidenced by the lives they led and their presence in Heaven, would be extremely helpful to us with their prayers. As humans, we need all the help we can get, don’t cut yourselves off from some of the greatest help you can: pray to the saints too.

Prayers to Saints: The Biblical Basis

Yesterday’s Biblical selection for the Office of Readings was a selection from Revelation chapter 5. The scene takes place in Heaven, where Jesus appears in the form of the Lamb and the saints in heaven are praising him. Verse 8 reads:

When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.

Here we see the twenty-four elders, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles, presenting the prayers of the holy ones to the the Lamb (Jesus), just as they do when we pray to the saints for our intentions. When Catholics pray to saints, we don’t expect them personally to answer them. Rather, we are asking someone who has proven his closeness to Christ to pray for us. It’s really no different than asking a friend or acquaintance to pray for us. The only real difference is that we know the saints we ask to pray for us in Heaven are close to God and have proven their ability to intercede to God though past miracles.

Again in Revelation chapter 8, we read:

Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne.
The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel. (Rev 8: 3-4)

There are further instances of Biblical support for prayer to the saints. For example, in Psalm 103 verses 20-21, we see:

Bless the LORD, all you angels, mighty in strength and attentive, obedient to every command.
Bless the LORD, all you hosts, ministers who do God’s will.

Psalm 148 begins:

Hallelujah! Praise the LORD from the heavens; give praise in the heights.
Praise him, all you angels; give praise, all you hosts.

There’s a good article on Catholic.com which answers many Protestant objections to prayer to the saints. Here’s one particularly good excerpt:

The answer is: “Of course one should pray directly to Jesus!” But that does not mean it is not also a good thing to ask others to pray for one as well. Ultimately, the “go-directly-to-Jesus” objection boomerangs back on the one who makes it: Why should we ask any Christian, in heaven or on earth, to pray for us when we can ask Jesus directly? If the mere fact that we can go straight to Jesus proved that we should ask no Christian in heaven to pray for us then it would also prove that we should ask no Christian on earth to pray for us.

Since the practice of asking others to pray for us is so highly recommended in Scripture, it cannot be regarded as superfluous on the grounds that one can go directly to Jesus. The New Testament would not recommend it if there were not benefits coming from it. One such benefit is that the faith and devotion of the saints can support our own weaknesses and supply what is lacking in our own faith and devotion. Jesus regularly supplied for one person based on another person’s faith (e.g., Matt. 8:13, 15:28, 17:15–18, Mark 9:17–29, Luke 8:49–55). And it goes without saying that those in heaven, being free of the body and the distractions of this life, have even greater confidence and devotion to God than anyone on earth.

Having others praying for us thus is a good thing, not something to be despised or set aside. Of course, we should pray directly to Christ with every pressing need we have (cf. John 14:13–14). That’s something the Catholic Church strongly encourages. In fact, the prayers of the Mass, the central act of Catholic worship, are directed to God and Jesus, not the saints. But this does not mean that we should not also ask our fellow Christians, including those in heaven, to pray with us.

I know from personal experience that prayer to the saints is not only permissible, but effective. It makes sense that those closest to God and who have the greatest faith in Him, as evidenced by the lives they led and their presence in Heaven, would be extremely helpful to us with their prayers. As humans, we need all the help we can get, don’t cut yourselves off from some of the greatest help you can: pray to the saints too.