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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for the ‘Culture and Religion’ Category

Julius Caesar

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

July 12 is the birthday of (Gaius) Julius Caesar, born in Rome around 100 B.C. He was the great military leader who managed to capture for the Roman Empire most of what became France and Great Britain.

In a series of dispatches from the battlefield, Caesar became his own war correspondent. Unlike many of the Roman poets and historians of the era, Caesar wrote short descriptive prose that was easy for ordinary people to understand. His stories of military victories turned him into a national hero, but the Roman Senate increasingly saw him as a threat. It passed legislation requiring him to lay down his military command and return to Rome.

But Caesar realized that he had the largest and most battle-tested army in the empire under his command. And if he returned to Rome, his political opponents would end his career. And so, on January 10, 49 B.C., Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army, directly challenging the authority of the Senate. The result was a civil war. Though he was outnumbered in many of the major battles, Caesar won the war. And he was extremely merciful with captured military leaders, because he wanted them as his allies. That might have been his biggest mistake, since it was a group of those men he spared that began to conspire against him.

He was an absolute dictator of Rome, with ambitious plans to redistribute wealth and land. But a group of senators, led by Brutus and Cassius, wanted to bring back the old republic. So they organized an assassination on the steps of the Senate.

The Roman republic never returned. Instead, Rome would be ruled by a series of emperors for the rest of the empire’s existence.

John Calvin/Protestant Theologian

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

July 10 is the birthday of theologian and ecclesiastical statesman John Calvin (1509) , born Jehan Cauvin in Noyon, Picardy, France. Calvin was raised in a strict Roman Catholic family. His father was employed by the local bishop as an administrator in the town’s cathedral. Calvin was a precocious child, and by 12, he was working in a shop as a clerk and had received the tonsure, the severe haircut that symbolized dedication to one’s church.

Calvin’s father wished his son to be a priest, and sent him at age 14 to Paris to study at the College de Marche in preparation for university. Calvin studied rhetoric, logic, geometry, astronomy, music, and arithmetic. In Paris, he changed his name to its Latin form, Ioannes Calvinus, which in French became Jean Calvin.

Calvin was in his early 20s and working as a humanist lawyer when he had an epiphany sometime between 1528 and 1533. He wrote to a friend, “Being exceedingly alarmed at the misery into which I had fallen, and much more at that which threatened me in view of eternal death, I, duty bound, made it my first business to betake myself to your way, condemning my past life, not without groans and tears.” He left Roman Catholicism to join the Protestant faith. At that time, this was a dangerous and sometimes fatal undertaking: dozens of Protestants were being declared heretics and burned at the stake. Calvin fled Paris and traveled through France, Italy, and Switzerland for the next several years, settling in Geneva.

In 1536, he published the first version of Institutes of the Christian Religion, which he intended as a kind of primer, laying out the general rules of what would be come known as “Calvinism.” The five principles spell out TULIP:

Total depravity: all people are born sinful.
Unconditional election: God has already chosen those people who will be saved.
Limited atonement: Jesus died to atone for the sins of the elect only.
Irresistible grace: If you are among the elect, you will inevitably repent and become Christian.
Perseverance of the saints: You can never lose your salvation.

Calvin continued revising and publishing the Institutes throughout his life. It made him famous. Though he enjoyed an occasional game of shove ha’penny, which was a kind of precursor to shuffleboard, he was somewhat joyless and austere and disapproved of drinking, dancing, saucy songs, and gambling.

In Geneva, he preached over 2,000 sermons, at least once a day, for over an hour at each time. He used no notes. His friends urged him to marry, but he said, “I, who have the air of being so hostile to celibacy, I am still not married and do not know whether I will ever be. If I take a wife, it will be because, being better freed from numerous worries, I can devote myself to the Lord.” He told acquaintances that his wife would have to be “chaste, obliging, not fastidious, economical, patient, and careful for my health.”

When presented with a young woman from a noble family, he at first refused to marry her, but then reluctantly agreed, but only if she learned French, which she did, dutifully. Still, he backed out of the marriage at the last minute and instead married a widow named Idelette. They had several children, but none survived infancy. When Idelette died, he was bereft. He wrote to a friend, “I have been bereaved of the best friend of my life.”

John Calvin died in 1564. Aside from Martin Luther, he’s the most important figure in the second generation of the Protestant Reformation.

 

Luther/Marriage

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora on this date, June 13, in 1525. Their marriage was scandalous at that time, because Luther was a former monk, and his betrothed was a former nun. They met when Katharina — along with 11 of her fellow nuns — hid in a wagon to escape their convent; they ended up in Wittenberg, under Luther’s protection. Katharina was vivacious and intelligent, and soon had her share of suitors, but she declared that she would only marry Luther or his friend Nikolaus von Amsdorf. Many people — including Luther himself — were worried that it would reflect badly on the fledgling Protestant Reformation. In the end, Luther decided that there was “a battery of reason in favor of his proposal: his marriage would please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh and the devils to weep.”

His marriage to “dear Katie,” as he called her, was a happy one. They lived in the Black Cloister, the monastery where Luther had formerly served as a monk. They had six children, and Katharina ran the household while Luther taught and wrote. She controlled the family finances, grew most of the food, and brewed her own beer. She was an excellent cook, and the Luther dinner table became famous for its delicious food and stimulating conversation. Luther sought his wife’s advice on many matters, and she frequently dealt with publishers on his behalf, since he had no head for business.

Martin Luther died in 1546. Not long afterward, Katharina wrote to her sister: “I know that you take pity on me and my poor children. For who could not be deeply grieved and saddened over the loss of such a dear and precious man as my husband has been. He gave so much of himself in service not only to one town or to one country, but to the whole world. Yes, my sorrow is so deep that no words can express my heartbreak, and it is humanly impossible to understand what state of mind and spirit I am in … I can neither eat nor drink, not even sleep … God knows that when I think of having lost him, I can neither talk nor write in all my suffering.”

 

Garrison Keillor/Writers Almanac, June 2013

 

PhiladelphiaLocalGovernment/A Secular/Anti-Religious Entity

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Severe, despicable, tyranny by Philadelphia local Government. How to badly hurt innocent, vulnerable children.

 Foster Children can no longer be placed by Catholic Social Services unless they renounce traditional Catholic teaching.

Christianity of any traditional kind is a target in any jurisdiction ruled by progressives. If foster children are hurt by this intolerant policy, that’s just a necessary sacrifice.

Progressives have transformed civil government from a way for people to live in the same society even though they have different beliefs into an overarching church with a creed. Everyone who won’t affirm that creed will sooner or later be targeted for marginalization.

The Federalist reports, “While Kids Wait For Homes, Philadelphia Bars Catholic Social Services From Serving Foster Children.”

Ever since the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, we’ve been seeing myriad broader implications from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell. From wedding cake bakers to event planners, if you dissented from the new regime you could have your livelihood taken from you. Now, the inexorable logic of Obergefell is bearing down on religious organizations that do social welfare work, as conservatives predicted.

Last week, a group of foster families in Philadelphia asked a federal court to end a new municipal policy that prevents Catholic Social Services from placing children in foster homes. Catholic Social Services is one of the largest and highest-rated foster agencies in Philadelphia, but because it adheres to Catholic teaching on homosexuality and does not place foster children in same-sex households, the City of Philadelphia is cutting them off.

City officials are doing this despite a massive shortage of foster families in Philadelphia. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the foster families, issued this summary of the case last week:

“In March 2018, the City of Philadelphia put out an urgent call for 300 new foster families. Despite the desperate need for homes for the 6,000 children in Philadelphia’s foster care system, the City then abruptly barred Catholic Social Services, one of the most successful foster agencies in the city, from placing any children. The City’s actions mean that foster homes are sitting empty and loving foster parents are unable to serve at-risk children, simply because the City disagrees with Catholic Social Services’ longstanding beliefs about marriage.”

Philadelphia will terminate its contract with Catholic Social Services at the end of June unless the agency abandons the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage. Never mind that no same-sex couple has ever complained about Catholic Social Services, or that the agency refers couples with whom it cannot work to one of 26 other agencies in the region.

Martin Luther/The Reformation

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

It was on May 25, in 1521, that German priest and theologian Martin Luther was declared an outlaw and his writings were banned by the Edict of Worms. The edict made Luther more of a hero than he already was, and it’s a big reason that Protestantism caught on so quickly.

Luther decided to become a priest after getting caught out in a thunderstorm one night. He swore to God that if he survived he would enter the religious life. He did survive, and he went on to study theology, become ordained, and get a job as a professor in Wittenberg. As he became more and more involved in the church, he began to grow disgusted with some of its practices. He was especially angry about the church’s sales of indulgences, which were said to decrease the time a person had to spend in purgatory.

On the eve of All Saints’ Day in 1517, Luther nailed to the door of his church 95 theses attacking the sale of indulgences and other excesses of the church. They were originally written in Latin, but they became so popular that people demanded they be translated into German, and so they were. Hundreds of copies were printed up on a printing press, which was still a fairly recent invention, and Luther’s message spread throughout Germany and Europe.

Religious leaders and politicians began to realize how dangerous he was becoming to the traditional church, and in April of 1521, a group of Roman princes pressured Emperor Charles V into forming an assembly in the city of Worms to try to get Luther to reject his writings.

On his trip to Worms, Luther was celebrated as a hero at most of the towns he passed through. He refused to recant and went back to Wittenberg to start the reformation.

Garrison Keillor’s/ Writers Almanac, May, 2017


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