Monday, December 22, 2014



We are in the midst of the most popular holidays of the year. There are still some people completely unaware of what each of major holidays is actually about in the different traditions. I’ll summarize these briefly and provide some resources for those that would like more information to prepare everyone for this season.

I remember growing up as a child in a part of the country where many of my closest friends were Jewish and celebrated Hanukkah (or Chanukah). I couldn’t help but envy that many of my friends got gifts for eight days and I only got them on one. I knew little else other than that my friends had all these candles they’d light over the course of eight days and would play with these spinning tops called dreidels. There was much more involved of course, but these were the facts I had access to.

After finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I decided I needed a religious education as well. Having been raised Roman Catholic, I read through my Bible and found the books of the Maccabees. It was here that I found my first exposure to the historical origin for Hanukkah in the Maccabean revolution.

In 166 B.C. Judas Maccabee (Maccabee comes from the initial letters of the Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem, Who is like You, Oh God) rebelled against the Seleucids that were oppressing those in Israel and trying to get them to worship foreign gods. The King of the Seleucids, Antiochus, sent several armies to wipe out the rebels but was defeated each time by the Maccabees. Before the final battle with the Seleucid army at Mitzpah, Judah Maccabees and his brothers encouraged each other with the words: “Let us fight unto death in defense of our souls and our Temple!”

After these victories the Maccabees cleansed all of Jerusalem and the temple of idols that the Seleucids had placed there. The Maccabees then made a Menorah to light in the temple to dedicate it. Unfortunately they had only enough oil to last for one day. However, according to tradition, God miraculously allowed it to burn for eight days until new oil became available. This was a sign to God’s people that they were again under His protection. In memory of this, people celebrate Hanukkah for eight days to give thanks to God and to remember this miracle. For more on this read:,,

It seems difficult to justify that I’d have to explain the origin for Christmas. However, recent studies indicate that 91% of people that celebrate Christmas are NOT Christians (  I’d guess the historical basis for this may be lost on this group. A third of children ages 10-13 also don’t know that Christmas is about Jesus (  
In short, Christmas is a celebration Christians have to mark the birth of the promised messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe that God the son added a human nature at the moment of conception. This conception was a result of the Holy Spirit miraculously allowing the virgin Mary to conceive (as we tell our children, God put Jesus in Mary’s belly). We also explain to our children during this season that initially shepherds visited Mary and Jesus in the stable after the angels announced his birth. At a later time (which isn’t specified), wise men appeared to Jesus to present him gifts while the family was at a house. If the star appeared to the wise men WHEN Jesus was born its probable he was two years old or under based on what Herod believed (Luke 2:16). In sum, we celebrate the birthday of Emmanuel (God with us) on Christmas. For a treatment of those that raise objections to Christmas one can find an excellent response here:

Unlike the other two holidays, Kwanzaa has only been around since the 1960s. The word ‘Kwanzaa’ means ‘first fruits’ in Swahili. I got my first Kwanzaa card less than a decade ago and decided to look into it. Although some claim that this is an extremely old holiday, you’d be hard-pressed to find ANY reference to the holiday itself before the 1960s.  Kwanzaa is gaining popularity among certain groups and so it is good to be aware of what it is. 

The founder of this religion is Dr. Maulana Karenga. Karenga was a leader of the Black Power movement in the 1960s and was a community organizer. He created Kwanzaa in 1966 upon Marxist principles that he labeled as being those of African Heritage (no wonder so many resonating with Kwanzaa have been duped in thinking the liberal policies are theirs). Although the stated purpose is to “strengthen and unite the African communities,” the liberal policies which it supports have done the complete opposite ( The central thrust of his philosophy is communistic and communitarian.

Picture of Dr. Maulana Karenga

 Marx would have been pleased with Karenga’s condemnation of belief in God (Kawaida Theory, p.27), and with Karenga denying the Hebrew and Christian belief in heaven, hell, and the resurrection. Karenga writes, “it is a simplistic and often erroneous answer to existential ignorance fear, powerlessness and alienation. An example is the Hebrew myth of the six-day creation and the tower of Babel, or Christian myths of resurrection, heaven and hell.” (Kawaida Theory, p. 23)

One has to assess all of what is taught and accept the truth any place it is found. There is some indication that Karenga has tried to moderate these early comments to make inroads with those that are Christians. However, most of what is celebrated with the principles of Kwanzaa and the teachings of Karenga are consonant with Marxism. This is why it is embraced where liberation theology is taught (,,  

As a general guideline it is good to be familiar with what our friends and family celebrate. We can discuss these holidays with candor. Unlike the historical basis for Hanukkah and Christmas, one can easily find Kwanzaa was made up to advance a political agenda. Kwanzaa and Dr. Karenga are hostile to many of the ideas advanced in Christianity and Judaism. Although I have friends that celebrate all three of these without realizing what they are, ideas have consequences. The fact God has done miracles in history is significant for all mankind. The most important peace that can be found this holiday season does not originate in the will of man, but comes to all mankind on whom God’s favor rests. (Luke 2:14) God makes a way for this peace through His son, Christ the Lord, who was born on Christmas day.

Sunday, December 21, 2014



Marquette University is making national news. This is only partially because Philosophy Instructor Cheryl Abbate told a student that opposed homosexual marriage that “Some opinions are not appropriate,” “you don’t have a right in this class to make homophobic comments,” and “you can drop the class if you don’t like it.”  The main reason for national coverage is due to Marquette professor John McAdams being put on leave and investigated because he reported this incident on his Marquette Warrior blog (

Cheryl Abbate

John McAdams

As a graduate from Marquette (with several years in the Philosophy program) I know the leadership of the department (both Associate Dean Dr. Susanne Foster and the chair Dr. Nancy Snow) that dealt with the student’s complaint. I also remember how liberal both of these professors were. Despite this liberalism in the leadership positions, there were conservatives in the department that were unaffected. Knowing these women, it is possible more is going on here than simply liberals ignoring complaints by a conservative student (though the policy may justify them doing so).

Here are four problems with what is happening regarding the circumstances at Marquette:

1.       Marquette needs to discover how to reconcile its Catholic identity with the ‘speech codes’ that labels a statement offending any party as hate speech.

A tension for ANY professor at Marquette would be that there are serious problems with forbidding statements against homosexual marriage. One problem is that the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Pope, or even the Bible could be perceived as a personal attack or harassment and thus forbidden from being subject to classroom discussion. 

Another involves the issues with claiming that objections to gay marriage are homophobic. This commits a logical fallacy.  People can be homophobic, but arguments can’t. Even if a person does have an irrational fear of gays, it doesn’t follow that their arguments are invalid or unsound. Also, a phobia is an irrational fear you can’t control. The person with this condition is handicapped. When one person accuses another of being homophobic to ridicule their arguments, it is the equivalent of making fun of the handicapped (which is more politically incorrect than opposing gay marriage). These are distinctions any person can perceive and philosophy professors can lead the way in making them. 

Professors should encourage students to explore that there are not only theological reasons for opposing gay marriage (Rom. 1, 1 Cor. 6:9), there are also strong philosophical (, economic (see, and legal reasons for opposing it ( It remains to be seen whether Marquette’s new President Michael Lovell, its first non-Jesuit, will take up the mantle of the Jesuits (who were once known to be defenders of the Catholic Church).  One can hope he will support the right to engage ideas in the classrooms with Catholic teaching (which opposes ‘gay’ marriage).

Dr. Michael Lovell

2.       Everyone should recognize a professor’s right to control the classroom discussion.

The main fear the instructor seems to have had in bringing up the issue of gay marriage is that some in the class would be offended. As Cheryl Abbate certainly thought her students may feel harassed, she thought it best to keep this off the table for public discussion. Ms. Abbate has the right as an instructor to control her course content to stay on task. 

3.     In investigating John McAdams, Marquette is employing a bullying tactic to try to squelch conservative views.

Although they have denied officially ‘suspending’ McAdams (which consists of stopping his pay), opening an investigation into his activity will effectively suppress students and faculty from discussing areas where there is legitimate debate. This is not an atmosphere that will engender public discourse on subjects that are of moral concern. In accordance with McAdams initial blog surrounding the controversy, Marquette has taken the very action of silencing debate of which Ms. Abbate was accused. 

4.     There has been a lack of integrity on the part of some journalists in not reading Ms. Abbate’s side of the story. 

Few reports present a balanced approach in trying to figure out what actually occurred. I’m disappointed by the lack of research done on both sides. It was not entirely unreasonable for Ms. Abbate to postpone or prevent discussion on the issue of gay marriage in class as it would potentially highjack the discussion. In an interview with Ms. Abbate right after the initial report, we should admit that it is possible that there is more going on here than meets the eye (see As a conservative, I don’t have to create straw men to knock down liberal arguments for gay marriage. Some of Ms. Abbate’s most contentious statements were not in the actual recording the student provided Dr. McAdams. As these are the most damning, we should give her the benefit of the doubt. All professors have experienced students that have misunderstood what they were saying.  

There are many problematic facets of this story. Ms. Abbate will be welcomed practically anywhere due to the liberal majority in the Universities (if it is proven she actually said what Dr. McAdams has claimed, so much the better in the liberal mindset). The real question for many is whether it is possible to reform liberal Catholic Universities to keep them in line with the foundational beliefs of Christianity. Also, it is clear that the logical outworking of these speech codes is that Jesus, Paul, Aquinas, and even many Popes would be punished if they were to teach ethics at this ‘Catholic’ University.