Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More Catholic than the Pope

I admit it- I'm an Internet addict. When I get up in the morning I take care of business and then jump on the computer, check my e-mail, see if anyone has checked out the blog lately, and then hit the forums/message boards. Then check my mail again. Then check the forums again. What can I say, I'm pathetic :)

Now that I'm Catholic again I have been hitting the Catholic forums. Interesting breed, religious forums. A medium that should bring people together around a common faith is generally used to insult others and nitpick over the stupidest stuff. If you like modern Catholic hymnody, Marty Haugen, Glory and Praise, etc., I can guaran-dang-tee you that you are now being ripped to shreds at Karl Keating's forum, with no mercy shown. Is the slightest bit of vocal inflection by a lector at Mass acceptable, or should they act as if they are reading the phone book? The answer is here. And God have mercy on your soul if you are a part of Life Teen or the charismatic movement.

There are battles that need to be fought; there are hills that need to be defended; there are truths that we need to be willing to die for. A woman desiring to wear a veil at Mass isn't one of those hills. If she is doing so out of a desire to honor her God, then she deserves praise, not scorn. People on some of these forums are only too willing to take the adversarial position on any issue that arises. They are also more than willing to tell you when you are violating the rules, no matter how obscure such a rule may be. They will take a bullet for Pope Benedict XVI, unless he criticizes the Iraq war or capital punishment, then of course he is only speaking as a private theologian who doesn't understand the nuances of American politics. The Pope wants to issue a universal indult to widen the permission given to celebrate the Tridentine Mass? By golly we need to listen to him- he's the Pope! The Pope approves of the existence of the charismatic movement? Well, you know, his infallibilty isn't an issue here, he could be mistaken on this... and the hemming and hawing goes on.

We need to choose our battles, folks. And when we engage in the battles we choose, let's remember that we are not spiritual terrorists whose aim is simply to bomb and destroy. Our discussions of the truths of the Catholic faith should be done boldly, with fervor, but with charity as well. The Mass is a truth to be defended at all costs. If someone chooses to wear or not wear a veil, that's between them and God.

Let's not get more Catholic than the Pope here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

At the Cross

At the cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful mother weeping,
close to Jesus at the last,
Through her soul, of joy bereavèd,
bowed with anguish, deeply grievèd,
now at length the sword hath passed.

O, that blessed one, grief-laden,
blessed Mother, blessed Maiden,
Mother of the all-holy One;
O that silent, ceaseless mourning,
O those dim eyes, never turning
from that wondrous, suffering Son.

Who, on Christ's dear mother gazing,
in her trouble so amazing,
born of woman, would not weep?
Who, on Christ's dear Mother thinking,
such a cup of sorrow drinking,
would not share her sorrows deep?

For his people's sins, in anguish,
there she saw the victim languish,
bleed in torments, bleed and die.
Saw the Lord's anointed taken,
saw her Child in death forsaken,
heard his last expiring cry.

In the passion of my Maker,
be my sinful soul partaker,
may I bear with her my part;
of his passion bear the token,
in a spirit bowed and broken
bear his death within my heart.

May his wounds both wound and heal me,
he enkindle, cleanse, and heal me,
be his cross my hope and stay.
May he, when the mountains quiver,
from that flame which burns for ever
shield me on the judgment day.

Jesus, may thy cross defend me,
and thy saving death befriend me,
cherished by thy deathless grace:
when to dust my dust returneth,
grant a soul that to thee yearneth
in thy paradise a place.
Words: Latin, thirteenth century;
trans. various;
this version is from The English Hymnal, 1906.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Oh God, come to my assistance... oh Lord, make haste to help me

I was born on October 2, 1966, which means that in a matter of days I will be 39 years old. I was baptized as an infant in a Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic, in somewhat of a nominal environment at times, but Catholic it was.

My earliest memories of Catholicism consist of being entranced by the mystery of the whole thing. And being bored too. I was a kid, what can I say :) I was an altar boy, so I got an up close and personal look at the inner workings of the Mass. If I try hard I can remember the names of the priests. Father Alexander was from the old school. He insisted on teaching all of the catechism classes. Father Barbernitz trained the altar boys and took us to the ice cream parlor. Father Bob Wenz worked with the teenagers. Each brought their own flavor to the proceedings.

When I became too old to be an altar boy, I became a lector. At the time I don’t believe St. Mary’s church had too many teenage lectors, if any. I remember one other. This occurred at the same time I was forming a faith life of my own. I became a born-again Christian as a sophomore in high school, and the Word of God took on an increasing importance to me. I brought that sense of reverence and importance, added a dash of zeal, and proclaimed the readings at Mass. Public speaking became a talent that I still pride myself on. Even now I apply the skills I was taught as a lector whenever I have the chance to speak before a group. I am more confident in public speaking than I am talking one on one.

At the same time I was lecturing at Mass, I was embarking on the journey that has made up the bulk of this blog. For a time I attended an Assembly of God church and a Catholic church simultaneously, but the flash and pizzazz of Pentecostal worship was wooing my heart. I finally decided that I had had enough; Mass was boring, even with my flair and style added to the mix, and besides, it wasn’t Biblical.

I’m not going to recap every stop on the road. You can read the archives for that. At this point in the road I have realized one thing- I’m tired of the journey. I’m ready for the destination. And I believe I am at that destination- one which I rejected several times but always stayed in the background, ready and waiting for me to return. On the verge of turning 39 I have decided on one last stop. I have returned full circle. What I thought wasn’t Biblical turned out to be exactly that- very Biblical.

I’m returning to the Roman Catholic Church.

This blog, therefore, might not even be necessary anymore. After all, I started it to map out my journey. I started it to share my experiences with God and church, and I think I have done a more than adequate job of that. But that chapter is closing now. I’m not going to offer a meandering apologetic statement to justify my move- there are sites out there that do a lot better job of that kind of thing than I could ever do.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’m not a grand theologian, I’m not a political commentator, I’m never going to be cool as the culture might define it at any given moment in time.

I’m just a guy.

See you on the other side.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Bible

Every Catholic must have the courage to believe that his faith (in communion with that of the Church) surpasses every "new magisterium" of the experts, of the intellectuals. Their hypotheses can be helpful in providing a better understanding of the genesis of the biblical books, but it is a prejudice of evolutionistic provenance if it is asserted that the text is understandable only if its origin and development are studied. The rule of faith, yesterday as today, is not based on the discoveries (be they true or hypothetical) of biblical sources and layers but on the Bible just as it is, as it has been read in the Church since the time of the Fathers until now. It is precisely the fidelity to this reading of the Bible that has given us the saints, who were often uneducated and, at any rate, frequently knew nothing about exegetical contexts. Yet they were the ones who understood it best.
---Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Ratzinger), The Ratzinger Report, pg. 76.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The man, the myth, the legend...

My new spiritual hero, Pope Benedict XVI.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


The focus here is about to change. I'm not ready to get into it yet. But if you look at the blog links you might be able to figure it out.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Something old, something new

With my son sick with pneumonia my wife had to stay home from church today, so I took the opportunity to attend Mass at St. Peregrine Church in Westlake, a church associated with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).
The churches of the SSPX worship according to the "old mass"- the Tridentine Mass, also popularly known as the Latin Mass, although you can have the current Catholic liturgy in Latin too. The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel LeFebvre in 1970 in order to preserve traditional Catholic spirituality and train priests that would maintain the old ways, including the Latin liturgy. The history of the group at this point depends on which person you talk too; the SSPX was suppressed, Archbishop LeFebvre was ordered not to ordain a group of priests in 1976 but did anyway, earning himself a suspension of his priestly faculties; and in 1988 he consecrated four bishops in order to keep the SSPX going after his death. This act brought about his excommunication and that of the four new bishops as well. Once again, those actively involved with the Society might tell you a different story; these are the facts as I remember them.

It has been several years since I attended a Tridentine Mass. I was born a Catholic but by the time I gained the capacity to remember anything we were celebrating Mass in English. I was an altar boy for several years; at one point I even wanted to become a priest. Those dreams faded off into the sunset when I realized that girls were pretty nice to look at. I stayed a Catholic until 1985, when I underwent the born-again experience and this journey began. The point is, I had little desire to attend a Latin Mass. 1990 rolled around and as this blog has faithfully recorded, I returned to the Catholic Church under the influence of Scott Hahn and Karl Keating. I wanted to do it right this time, but the churches around me seemed as dead as when I left in the first place.

Along came a TV program entitled What Catholics Believe. This program was sponsored by churches of the Society of St. Pius V , a splinter group from the SSPX, although I didn't realize it at the time. They promoted a return to the traditional Catholic liturgy as it was celebrated "before the confusion of Vatican II." (Don't ask; I'm not going there.) This sparked my interest. I knew that they weren't on the best of terms with the Cleveland Catholic diocese, but I didn't care about that; I just wanted to experience a style of worship that very few churches were going to provide me. So one Sunday morning I made the drive to Parma to see for myself.

It was a time warp experience. The incense, the priest turned toward the altar, his back to the people, the head coverings on the women, the reverence in which these Catholics approached worship; all of this was foreign to my experience. I enjoyed the experience tremendously, but never committed myself to attending one of these "traditionalist" parishes because I had designs on possibly becoming a monk someday, and the name of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Church on my resume would render my aspirations moot. I chalked it up to something I had to do for the experience of it and moved on.

Until this morning. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom which was celebrated at St. Innocent Orthodox Church put a yearning in my heart for something more than a pep rally, something more than just saying I wanted to worship; I wanted to actually do it. (See Cross One More Off The List for details.) In short, church service as usual was just not going to do. So what were my options. St. Innocent again? Maybe another Orthodox church? Mass? I went with Mass, but not just any Mass; I chose the uber-Mass of St. Peregrine's.

I got there at 10:55, with Mass scheduled to begin at 11:00, and the place looked packed. I found a spot in the last pew on the right hand side and waited for the drama to unfold. St. Peregrine's is different from St. Therese in a couple of aspects- they aren't connected with the same organization and would likely question whether the other was a true Catholic; and St. Peregrine's is more austere than St. Therese, without side altars and a lot of the statuary that St. Therese is decked out with. But the incense still smells the same, and still possesses the power to send my thoughts skyward with the puffs of smoke from the censer. I didn't have a missal with me (although thanks to Ebay I have one coming), so I just watched. And prayed. And felt the acute pain in my knees and legs from all the kneeling. I also observed. There were a lot of young people there. One whole side of the church was composed of young girls (or so it seemed). This traditionalist movement is certainly not hurting for a new generation to carry on its legacy. There were young families, elderly people, overall the same kind of mix you would see at any one of the churches I passed on Detroit Road in my hurry to be there on time.

But why were they there? Was it just a romantic attachment to a dying aesthetic, the same way people dress up as pilgrims and cowboys and attend 1890's themed festivals? Were they simply upset with their parish priest on the outside and wanted to stick it to the man? Were they actively in rebellion against the powers that be in the Catholic Church, ruing the day that the conclave elected a Polish and a German Pope instead of another Italian?
Something told me that it wasn't as simple as the Catholic apologetics geeks on the Internet forums would have me believe. Whatever brought these people here, I didn't really think it had much to do with the desire to be Protestants speaking Latin. I think there is a message here that the Catholic Church of the 21st century would be wise to take heed of. There is a groundswell of people who want to worship God. They don't want the liturgy dumbed down. They don't want a three-ring circus on Sunday mornings- Ringling Brothers is fine, thank you very much, and they do it a lot better. They don't want a rock concert- what was it Hank Hill said? Oh yes- "Can't you see you're not making Christianity better, you're just making rock and roll worse?" There are people (like me) who feel like if the whole point of the Sunday morning service is just to entertain, then we might as well stay home and watch the WWF- the show is better and we can sleep in.
And this is where the Evil Traditionalist and his Manifesto of a Young Catholic enter the picture again, to give this post a proper finale:
"It was ultimately my exposure to the treasures of traditional Catholicism that inspired me, because it finally struck me that Catholicism was a religion that was about something worthwhile. Jesus wasn’t just my brother or my friend, he was my God and my King; he wasn’t my peer, he was Divinity incarnate, and so, worth worshipping. Liturgy could be reverent. Churches and sacred music could be art. Christ wasn’t just my buddy – he was the Savior I so desperately needed. And he was really there in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

"I’m not alone. Young Catholics feel hungry because we’re being fed candy when we want steak. We feel talked down to because the faith has been made juvenile to appeal to our pop-culture interests. We are immersed in pop-culture, every day. We want to know that our religion transcends fashion and trends, that it is unique and worthy of respect, that it is the one religion out of thousands of competing religions that God wants us to belong to. We want a religion that hasn’t been dumbed-down, painstakingly stripped of every shred of mystery and remade in the image and likeness of men. We want the True Faith, not, as one of my theology professors called it, 'a bubble-gum chewing religion of suburban good cheer.'"

Will I attend another Tridentine Mass in the future? I would say that the odds are in favor of that happening. Is the SSPX wrong in what they do? That's not for me to decide. God is perfectly capable of searching their hearts and determing the reasons for their separation from the Catholic "system."

A starving man can't survive on merely a snack. He needs a meal.


Oh Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.

So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.
---Psalm 63:1-8

Saturday, September 17, 2005

My God and My All

My God and my all
I should like to love You
And give you my heart
And give you my soul
And so I will yearn for you
In the depths of your passion

Show me the way to love
Show me the way to give my life for You
Show me the way to love
Then we will surely rise

To fly like an eagle through the wind
To find in Your dying Lord
We both shall live again
So fly

So I will weep with You
In the death of Your passion
I will not be ashamed to travel the world
Weeping out loud for love
Weeping out loud for joy

Show me the way to love
Show me the way to give my life for You
Show me the way to love
Then we will surely rise

---John Michael Talbot, "My God and My All"

Friday, September 16, 2005


I will believe with devotion
Never departing from thy tender care
With every thought and emotion
Wherever I am
You are with me there

Jesus come quickly
Jesus come surely
Into my heart
Into my soul
My spirit at rest sweet communion
My body's salvation, spirit and soul

Ever before me and leading
Gently you keep me
So tender and fair
As a good and gentle shepherd
Strong as a warrior
With delicate air

Jesus come quickly
Jesus come surely
Into my heart
Into my soul
My spirit at rest sweet communion
My body's salvation, spirit and soul

With every thought and emotion
With every word every action of life
You are my manna from heaven
Sustaining my soul with heavenly wine

Jesus come quickly
Jesus come surely
Into my heart
Into my soul
My spirit at rest sweet communion
My body's salvation, spirit and soul

---John Michael Talbot, "Devotion"

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Why is the flesh-colored crayon always peach?

My daughter had an appointment today with a developmental pediatrician in Cleveland, specifically at the Children's Hospital for Rehabilitation. She isn't talking, she doesn't eat with utensils or play with other children and our concern was that she could possibly be autistic like her brother. Well, that's the diagnosis we received. She functions at a higher level than her brother but has the characteristics that place her within the autism spectrum. So we have two kids with disabilities now. I love them dearly but man is this hard.

But that wasn't the only thing I got out of the trip. The trip to the hospital ran through several very run-down neighborhoods. Businesses closed and boarded up. Several homeless people. Very large public housing projects. And churches. A lot of churches. Big churches, with names like "Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church" or "Shiloh Fire Baptized Church of God in Christ." Small churches in storefronts or houses.

And the first thought to cross my mind was "wow, there sure are a lot of black churches out here." And for that thought I deserved to be rebuked, because there is no black church. There is no white church. At least there shouldn't be, and in God's eyes there isn't. There are churches with predominantly black congregations, predominately white congregations, Asian, Latino, whatever, but that's because most churches reflect the neighborhood in which they reside.

The second thought to cross my mind was what was missing. There were no Orthodox churches here. No Presbyterian churches. No Lutheran, Methodist or Episcopal churches here (although I did see an African Methodist-Episcopal church, which is a different ball of wax entirely). I saw two Roman Catholic churches. Where were the rest? Where were the Foursquare churches? Assembly of God? The Southern Baptist churches? The Independent Fundamental Baptist variety? Were they just in a part of town that I didn't see? Or have they actively decided to not set up shop next to housing projects?

And why have I never been to one of these churches? I have chronicled my visits to numerous churches in this piece of self-indulgent vanity press I call a blog, and there are others that I haven't talked about. But as I travelled through this neighborhood I felt like I was in a completely different world. I've never been to a Church of God in Christ. I've never been to a church with Mount Zion in the title. I like to think that I know a lot because I've been to a lot of churches and met a lot of people. The fact is, I don't know jack.

Why, when you buy a box of crayons with 64 colors, is the flesh-colored crayon always peach?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Arthur Stanley MacNair

September 11th.
I don't deal well with days like this, especially when they fall on a Sunday. I think worship services should be reserved for worship, not for political rallies. Needless to say I am quite alone in my views, especially in the circles which I find myself residing.
I make a point of not talking about politics in this blog. I have some very definite opinions about things, opinions I feel very passionate about, but in the circles of conservative Christians in which I find myself walking, I feel like a man without a country. I'm not in the mood to receive a verbal thrashing, so I just avoid certain topics.
How did I get this way? Why am I theologically conservative but politically liberal? And why do I stubbornly insist on holding to positions that people around me respond to with insults and demeaning language? To answer that, let me tell you a story.

Arthur Stanley MacNair was born on August 7th, 1913, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, named after his father. At a certain age, I'm not sure when, the family moved to Los Angeles. His family joined Atwater Park Baptist Church. He went to UCLA, and was a UCLA football fan all of his life. He had designs on becoming a labor negotiator. After a visit from a seminary representative to his church, he decided to go into the ministry.

Stanley MacNair met Marjorie Morgan in the late 1930's, attending school in Berkeley, California. They were married in 1939, and he was ordained the same year. Stanley and Marjorie MacNair were always known to me simply as "Grandma and Grandpa Mac." Never one without the other.

Grandpa Mac was a minister in Exeter, California during World War II. At this point I will let the words of my grandmother pick up the tale.

"He was a pacifist from way back so when World War II came along, he was planning to register in the classification for ministers which would have exempted him from the draft. many people accepted this as they felt ministers would naturally be against fighting. But the CO's had a special derogatory classification. We had three school teachers in our church in Exeter - (a small, very conservative valley town) - two men and one woman. She didn't have to register but she was the wife of one of the men. They were very firm in their CO beliefs and registered as CO's. Grandpa, in order to identify with them, registered as a CO also, rather than as a minister. (Later, they were assigned very demeaning alternate service.)

"The three teachers were fired from their jobs. I was asked to resign from the YWCA leadership for girls in the high school. The minister of the Presbyterian church who had only been there a few months was fired as he registered as a CO also. His organist, a leading socialite in the town, led the crusade against all of us - she was responsible for my being asked to give up the YWCA leadership. One funny thing - in that town everyone went to the post office to get their mail. Often Grandpa would go in the evening or after dark. The word spread that he was meeting with "the enemy." When he saw the lady coming down the street he would purposefully greet her with "good morning Mrs. Clawson!" If she saw him coming she would cross to the other side of the street.

"We had been at Exeter for 2 and 1/2 years when the war was declared so our members knew us pretty well and were very fond of Grandpa. But he told his board of deacons that he was placing his resignation in their hands and if they ever felt they should accept it, he would understand and leave. But we didn't leave for another 2 plus years - and then for him to pursue his doctorate."

Arthur Stanley MacNair, my Grandpa Mac, was a funny man. He was a good man; he was a generous man; he was a loving man. He certainly wasn't stark raving mad as some conservative bloggers would like to paint all liberals as. He had courage in spades. It is that courage, to stand up for what he believed in come what may, that I look to and draw upon on a day like today, when I feel the need to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance, and when I feel the necessity to pray instead of sing "God Bless America." In my opinion, a church that identifies so closely with the culture of its nation that it can't be distinguished from it, has lost the ability and the right to speak prophetically to it. And what of international believers who may be visiting our services on a day like today? They certainly can't give an Amen to our hymns of patriotic praise.

I thought a lot about Grandpa Mac today. He died in 1996, but I wish he was still here, because I know that at least one person in this world would get it. At least one person would understand.

Somehow, somewhere, I have to believe he does.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Now you see, this is what I was talking about

James White published a small blurb on his blog talking about his Internet broadcast The Dividing Line. The headline- "God is sovereign in the natural realm." This is part of the description:
"Commented today on Katrina and the simple fact that if you believe the Bible and follow its teachings, things like Katrina cannot be sloughed off into the "it happens" category."

And that was the whole reason why I wrote what I did about the flood- quite a few people who believe the Bible and follow its teachings are doing that very thing, either "sloughing it off" as White puts it, or asking the tough questions that other bloggers have written off as "dumb and intemperate." It's obvious that James White believes that the flood was all part of God's master plan (by his use of the word "sovereign") and that real Bible believers shouldn't ask why. Well... I most certainly believe that every believer should ask why. I think God is tough enough to handle my questions and see me through to the other side of them, even when I don't see a way out and may not want to see a way out. And I think the world respects us more when we admit we don't have an answer, instead of trying to invent one. But I'm repeating myself.

A bigger issue, one which I've blogged about before, is this idea that if you believe the Bible, you have to believe certain things, when the guy across the street believes the Bible and believes opposite things. And the guy on the next block believes the Bible and holds to a third set of beliefs. If the Bible is that clear, how do good God-fearing people come to such opposite conclusions and say that they are merely following the Bible? Anyone care to step to the plate and answer that one? One rule- you have to do it without using the words dumb, stupid or intemperate. Those have already been used- I'm still picking pieces of those words out of the wounds in my back.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

And then there is this

From the Waiter Rant blog, read Nunc Dimittis . This right here kicks the a** of anything I have written in my blog for the past 5 months.

Of manifestos and other things

Manifesto of a Young Catholic

Great article, from the archives of The Evil Traditionalist.

As It Stands

Another interesting discussion on traditionalism from Amy Welborn's blog.

So why do people seek out these kinds of churches? More on that later.

Friday, September 02, 2005

WWJF? Pt. 2: The Battle of New Orleans

I received a couple of good comments after my entry yesterday, from Carla and Chris. The article was written out of frustration with the way an event like the flood of the South really doesn't fit into preconceived theological schemes, yet in an effort to appear like we're on top of things, that our faith is only valid when it has all the answers (and people are looking to us for said answers), we jam an answer into the scheme like one more t-shirt into my already overcrowded second drawer. The people of New Orleans don't want to know how theologically astute we are. They want a place to sleep for the night.

In response, Carla said this:
"Great questions - and ones I believe do deserve an answer, other than "I don't know".Sure, there is plenty that we don't know, but there is also opportunity to share the comfort and peace we have - even in such horrific situations.Answers given ought to be delivered with great sensitivity - however - since many are just so heartbroken, they truly do require all the compassion in the world....
Now the question is, HOW do we answer that question?Instead of plastic theology, how about theology with feet - living what we claim to believe, and making a difference in not only the immediate physical needs down there (by giving - tons of resources listed all over on places to give) but also giving solid answers to legitimate questions.I believe we're to do both. I also believe when we truly do not have an answer, to be honest about it rather than speculate and/or postulate. "

Theology with feet. I like that. I took that as a challenge, and went to James White's site, where I found a link to help a Louisiana pastor and his congregation rebuild (here). It's easy for me to sit here and pontificate. It's much harder to do something.
We should give answers when we have them. Key being "when we have them." There also comes a point when we should embrace the ambiguity. We don't have to have all the answers all the time. Sometimes a tearful embrace can speak louder than a thousand treatises.

Chris said this:
"On a complete intellectual level (as people removed from the disaster) we could simply say that none deserve to live, and that God has wiped out plenty of others with floods (among other options are pestulance, plague etc.). Obviously this isn't what the people on the ground in theses devistated areas need to hear, or want to hear. We need to reach out to them, serve them, and meet them in their need. Discussing the deeper aspects of Theology is worthwhile, but choosing the proper time and context is also important (my emphasis). I prefer saying "let's talk about that later" rather than "I don't know" though. If they are asking the questions, I don't want to close the conversation, just put it on hold."

In the past 9 years three members of my father's side of my family have died- my grandparents and my aunt. I loved them dearly and still miss them. In response to their deaths some people immediately asked "were they saved?" Legitimate question, bad timing. Choosing the proper time and context is important.

And good Lord, do not say "I know how you feel" to someone if you don't know how they feel. Just don't.