Sunday, December 14, 2008

Financial Advice from Scott Hahn

(Originally written 07/03/2006)

Scott Hahn gives some rare financial advice on his tape series “Calling All Catholics to Be Bible Christians. And Vice Versa”. Scott advises that if you want to make millions then you should invest in Zondervan, Moody, or any number of top Christian book publishers. He points out that Protestant Christians are ravenous readers and Christian book publishing is booming.

By contrast most Catholic publishers seem to be languishing. One major Catholic publisher recently put out a notice to its customers and resellers that it was going into bankruptcy protection, and I’ve heard (I own a bookstore) rumors of several other looming crises with other publishers with whom I deal. In addition I see the appeals from many Catholic publishers for donations & contributions to help them stay solvent.

So what’s the deal? Why are Protestant publishers booming and Catholic publishers bombing? (Allow the generalization for the sake of the discussion.)

Scott gives two reasons. First, Protestant publishers seem to understand the essence of supply-side economics: “If you build it they will come” In other words, the publishers themselves created the boom by building the business and promoting their books. In addition, Protestant church leaders constantly promote books and individual study. Good evidence of that on Guam is the fact that the only bookstore on this mostly Catholic island for many years was a Protestant bookstore.

By contrast, Catholics seem to be stuck in demand-side economics: “I will build it when they come.” This mentality became quite evident to me when I first floated the idea of a Catholic bookstore. I was told many times that it wouldn’t work because “Catholics don’t read.” Maybe I’m part Protestant but my thought was “well we don’t have anything to read”, and that maybe if we had something to read we might read it! In other words, I was confident that supply side economics would work. (It has.)

But Scott’s second point is that Catholics seems to have neglected part of Christ’s command in Mark 12:30:

“And thou shall love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment.”

What is of GREAT interest here is, as Scott points out, is that Jesus is not just repeating the first commandment from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, He actually is amending it, adding to it. The fact that Jesus actually adds to something as well known as the first of the Ten Commandments is worth noting. Here’s the commandment as stated in Deuteronomy 6:4-5:

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.”

Now compare this with the above scripture from Mark. We note that Jesus added “and with thy whole mind”! Why did he add this? What does he mean by “our whole mind”? It appears that Jesus doesn’t just want us to love God (heart), have faith in God (soul), and do His will (strength). He also now commands us to KNOW God (mind)!

We must impress upon ourselves that every word that comes from the mouth of God is of eternal significance and consequence. Jesus didn’t just throw in “with thy whole mind” just to round out the paragraph. He obviously commanded something here.

We may claim to believe this, but languishing Catholic publishers tell a different story. Compared to our Protestant brethren we are, in general, not as encouraged to read, study, and invest in our faith.

St. Bud the Wiser

(Originally written and published September, 2000)

Perhaps you’re not familiar with Bud the Wiser. Well, let me tell you. He must have been quite a guy. Unlike other patron saints whose feastday is only celebrated once a year, St. Bud’s feastday is celebrated just about every week. On any given Sunday you can see his name plastered on banners tied to church fences.

Drive through the village and you’re sure to see enormous inflatable statues of this affable saint towering from the rooftops. Stop and join the fiesta and you’ll be handed a small, chilled St. Bud icon. The icons are unique in that they have a pop top and a nice fermented beverage can be found inside.

St. Bud is the patron saint of fiestas, every fiesta. Or at least that’s what it must look like to a non-Catholic who sees his coat of arms (logo) next to whatever real saint the village is honoring. Well you’re probably on to me by now. I have nothing against beer. But I do wonder about the propriety of emblazoning the logo of any commercial product, particularly an alcoholic one, to the same banner that salutes and honors a holy saint.

We’ve all seen the banners and those giant inflatable cans perched on the rooftops at every village fiesta. I’m a businessperson, so I can empathize with the sponsoring companies for wanting to get their brand names in front of the public at every opportunity. But again, it’s a question of propriety and a question of what the signs and inflatable statues actually say about our Catholic values.

For most of us seasoned Catholic fiesta-goer’s, the fact that a banner sports both a beer logo and the name of a patron saint is hardly noticeable. The question I propose though is what does it say to our non-Catholic neighbors? In case you haven’t noticed, the LDS’s, JW’s, SDA’s, and “born-again” churches of all kinds are having a field day on Guam. Our island has become a happy hunting ground for these folks and their scouts are bringing home more and more Catholic trophies every week. Perhaps some of your kids have already “lost their heads” to one of these roving bands.

I’ve been to some of these “spear-a-Catholic” churches, and parading a newly “saved” former Catholic out to witness about the evils of the Catholic Church is usually the highlight of the service. The Catholic Church, they say, is the “whore of Babylon”. The Pope is the “anti-Christ”. We are idolatrous worshippers of Mary and the saints. We are ignorant of the Scriptures. And Catholics are going to hell. Well, some may say it a little nicer than that, but it’s there.

Sadly, most of us are woefully inept at defending even the least precept of our faith. And given the dearth of any form of fellowship at most of our churches, many of us, especially our young, are “ripe-pickins” for the bible-thumpin’, fellowshipin’, pot-luckin’ Church of the Warm-Friendlies down the road.

Why so many of us are unable to defend or even explain our faith is another topic. Meanwhile, we need to be aware that most of these other churches are opposed to the consumption of alcohol and see it as a great evil. They laugh at the incongruity of our attempt to oppose casino gambling while we raise banners to brews on our church doorsteps.

I happen to believe that because we have the true faith and our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist that we don’t have to get all tied up in the moral scruples that other churches seem to impose for themselves. The proper ordering of our faith automatically puts what others may consider vices of great evil into proper and relative perspective. In other words, no problem with a beer or two.

But do we really need to mix the blood of martyrs with “a cold one” and fly it on the same flag? Doing so seems to hand even more bullets to those who already hold their anti-Catholic guns aimed and ready at our young. But perhaps losing our children to a church that doesn’t booze is still better than losing them altogether to the booze itself.

Still, we need to rethink if it’s really wiser to include Bud the Wiser in our calendar of feasts. I think it best we take down the signs and statues and just keep him in the cooler. I’m sure our feasts will not be any less festive.
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