Proportion and Reality in an Age of Mass Slaughter

I started to use the phrase “age of genocide” in the title for this post. But, on reflection, I decided that the word genocide, horrible as it is, is actually too small.

Do we have a word to describe the organized mass slaughters of millions of people by governments, and in the case of ISIS, wannabe governments?

It is not “just” genocide” because, in the case of some of these mass slaughterers, such as Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot and Chairman Mao, it was not a slaughter aimed at a discreet group of people so much as it was aimed at anyone they could kill. Then we have the slaughtering dictators such as Idi Amin, who certainly aimed much of his killing at Christians, but also killed quite a few others, as well.

In fact, finding a “pure” genocide anywhere is way past difficult. The Armenian genocide, which wiped out most of the Christian population of Turkey (did anyone every wonder why that country is 99% Muslim?) and the holocaust the Nazis perpetrated against the Jews, are the closest.

But the Nazis, even though they clearly stated, intended and nearly accomplished the total annihilation of the Jewish people in their conquered territories, also murdered whole seminaries of Catholic priests, gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, liberals and the disabled. The murder of Muslims in Bosnia (which United Nations troops, including a lot of Americans, brought to a halt) is another example of what might be at least an attempt at pure genocide.

What we are seeing in the Middle East today is, once again, a lot bigger than “just” genocide. Like most genocidal murderers, ISIS is, at base, just a bunch of murdering thugs. What that means in terms of what they do is that they don’t stop at “just” murdering every Christian and Yazidi they can kill. They also kill Muslims who don’t fit their idea of what a “true” Muslim is, and they kill journalists in attempts to extort ransom money, and they kill a lot of other people, as well.

They kill because they are cold-blooded murderers who have created a religious excuse for being what they are.

That’s why the term genocide is too small for the organized slaughter of innocents that has been taking place all over our globe since the turn of the 20th Century. If we limit it to the organized attempts to wipe out specific and discreet groups of people within a given population, we will ignore the murderous destruction of millions of other lives.

That’s how Stalin gets through the genocide sieve. He killed everybody.

Genocide as a word has a meaning that is too small for the organized murdering that we are dealing with in today’s world. If that doesn’t scare you, you probably don’t understand it.

Alongside this murdering fury that is the true hallmark by which our times will be remembered in history, are the emotional reactions to this savagery from its bystanders.

Members of the groups which are being slaughtered are often themselves under attack or at least somewhat marginalized in the less murderous societies in which they live. That was the case with Jews around the world when the Nazis were gearing up their killing machine. Even American Jews suffered social discrimination in terms of club memberships and the names they were called.

That leads to a frozen-in-place non-response by those who should be most equipped to help. Instead of rallying support for their persecuted brethren, members of the same group often turn away and ignore their plight. That certainly happened with the Jews.

Then, we have the subtle collaboration of news media and groups who do not like their own neighbors who are members of groups being persecuted in other lands. That fits the situation with Christian persecution. I’ve experienced myself the aggressive bullying whose motive is to silence anyone who talks about Christian persecution. I’ve also witnessed the relative silence about it in the mainstream media.

This is coupled with a group emphasis on anyone who does something that can be used to either weaken concern for persecuted Christians or to increase public dislike of them.

Witness the extraordinary emphasis given to the Westboro Baptist Church, which is in fact, just about a dozen (or less) individuals with signs. You would think, based on what has been written and said in certain Christian-bashing circles, that they were the pope speaking ex cathedra.

The same goes for one lone blog post which was written by a grievously wrong Christian calling for the classic run-up to genocide against Muslims. I’m going to write a full post on that alone as soon as I finish writing this one. But before I do that, I want to discuss the lack of proportion and reality with which it is being dealt.

First, in some Christian-bashing circles, their outraged coverage of this one blog post from an obscure blog site is the only commentary they’ve made about the mass slaughter of Christians in the Middle East. These are often the same people who attack anyone who tries to talk about Christian persecution.

I don’t take their outrage seriously because I see it as a targeted outrage, designed to create prejudice against Christians and provide tacit support for worldwide discrimination against and persecution of Christians. I see these bloggers as enablers of violent persecution of innocent people.

Second, we have the reaction of Muslim people who feel beleaguered because of the hideous behavior of their co-religionists. See? They seem to say. It’s not just us.

No. It’s not just them. Psychopathic murderers with government or quasi government backing are a widespread phenomena that cross all ethnic, religious (or non religious) groups. In light of this reality, I think it’s time for us to lay down the “It’s them!” “It’s not just us!” nonsense and simply acknowledge that murderers walk among us and they will use any excuse to ply their trade.

And that this the point of this post. Genocide as a word is too small for the mass murders we have seen for the past 100 years of human history. There is no group of people innocent of these murdering rampages.

If we are going to deal with these mass murders effectively and end them, we must begin by looking at them with a sense of proportion and in the light of reality. ISIS is nothing more than a gang of extortionists and mass murderers. They can dress up in Halloween costumes and claim that god is on their side all day long, and it will not change the fact that they are cold-blooded, murdering savages who have damned themselves before the real God.

Ditto for every other gang of murdering savages we’ve seen. Ted Bundy we can execute. But when the Ted Bundys of this world get their hands on philosophies and government, it takes a bit more than a flip of the switch to end them.

Proportion, applied to ISIS and all their murdering type, requires that we stop playing games with mass murder. There are some crimes that have to be stopped, and the organized mass murder of innocents is one of those crimes. We must not equate everything with this one thing. Blog posts can be argued and their ideas scuttled. But blog posts, however upsetting, are not the same thing as the actual organized murder of innocents on a mass scale.

Reality requires that we acknowledge that there is no group of people who can point their fingers at someone else and claim moral superiority in this. Organized mass murder of innocents has become part of the human story. If the history of this bloodshed has shown us anything, it is that any group of people is capable of it.

I’ve referenced the wisdom of Alcoholics Anonymous before when I was discussing the self-lies we tell. I will probably do it many times. AA has a wisdom in dealing with self-lies that kill.

You must accept reality on reality’s terms. 

That’s AA advice for recovering alcoholics and co-dependents. It is wisdom for our time.

 

Pope Francis Plans November Trip to Turkey-Iraq Border

 

Pope Francis is planning a trip to the Turkish-Iraqi border in November of this year.

The trip will give him the opportunity to visit with Christian and Yazidi refugees who have been driven from the homes by ISIS.

If the trip does not fall through it will place the Holy Father in relatively close proximity to the fighting. Rumors were rife a few days ago that ISIS had targeted Pope Francis for assassination. The Vatican said there was “nothing to” the concerns.

I don’t know what to make of all this except to say that ISIS has shown itself to be glutton for media attention and high profile murder. There is no one on this planet more high profile than the Vicar of Christ.

From Crux:

ROME — Pope Francis intends to travel to Turkey at the end of November, a trip that may take him to the border with Iraq in a demonstration of the pontiff’s concern for the violence there and the plight of refugees from the self-declared Islamic state, including an estimated 100,000 Christians.

Officials of the Turkish embassy to the Vatican confirmed to Crux that preparations for the trip are underway, which should see the pontiff in Istanbul on Nov. 30 for the feast of St. Andrew, considered the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Francis is also expected to make a stop in Ankara, the national capital, for a meeting with Turkish President Recep Erdogan. At the moment, the Vatican is waiting for a formal invitation to the pontiff from Erdogan before announcing the outing.

The invitation for Francis to visit Turkey was first extended at the beginning of his papacy by Bartholomew I, the first Patriarch of Constantinople to attend a papal inaugural Mass.

Since then the two men have struck up a partnership, with Bartholomew meeting Francis on his May trip to the Middle East and later joining him for a peace prayer with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents in the Vatican gardens on June 8.

Interest in making the trip has been enhanced by recent developments in Iraq. During an airborne press conference on the way back from a trip to South Korea in mid-August, Francis expressed an interest in visiting Iraq but said for the moment such a journey is “not the best thing to do.”

His outing in November is likely the closest the pontiff will be able to get to Iraq itself, and will give him the opportunity to meet Iraqi refugees.

An embassy official said that Turkey, a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority estimated at 99 percent of the population, is currently “doing everything in its power” to welcome Christians and Yazidis who have been forced out of their homes in both Iraq and border regions of Turkey itself by ISIS forces.

Snowballs in You Know Where: Libby Anne Cooks Up a Pastoral Chicken and I Agree (Mostly) with Her

I believe that there must be snowballs in the infernal regions.

Today, I am going to applaud and link to a post on the Patheos Atheist Channel.

Libby Anne who blogs at Love, Joy Feminism is a wee bit put off because a “pastor” of some indeterminate denomination (or not) has managed to insult both men and women by reducing men to their most talked about appendage and women to … I can’t even say it.

Let’s just say that in my opinion (and evidently Libby Anne’s as well) this guy is one of those kinds of guys that people tend to refer to as actually being the appendage in question, as in “he’s a d—.” Or maybe, just for variety, they might say, “he’s a d——head.”

Whatever.

The point — at least to me — is that this nano brain is an embarrassment. I had to google him to figure out how he was, and when I did, I discovered that he’s a Really Big Deal in certain circles. His name, in case you’re wondering, is Marc Driscoll. Or, as he seems to be commonly referred to, “Pastor Marc Driscoll.”

I read a bit of his wit and wisdom about human sexuality, and I’m going to assume that he was trying to be … I dunno … cute? Maybe he was making an attempt to address adolescent males about sexuality and decided to get all clever about it. Add the fact that he’s clearly as tone deaf about women as a walking turnip, and you’ve got what we’ve got.

Or, at least that’s what I want to be believe. I want to think that he’s just another open-mouth-insert-both-feet dufus who doesn’t like women and tries to hide it, but who ends up letting it show because he’s unaware of how much he dislikes women. The world is full of these guys.

I said a moment ago that Marc Driscoll is an embarrassment. But I am not exactly sure who he’s an embarrassment to. Twenty-one former pastors of his church (I don’t have a clue how they’re organized, but the story says they have 21 former pastors) have made formal complaints against him for his bullying, intimidating behavior. I suppose they might read this little thingy he wrote and feel embarrassed. But those same pastors also claim that Pastor Marc (as he evidently likes to be called) taught them “sound doctrine.”

So, maybe not. Maybe they think that men are their appendages, and women are the … there it is again, and I still can say it.

Whatever.

Pastor Marc ended up getting ousted from what is said to be a mega church (maybe that’s why the 21 former pastors) from his own organization that he had founded because of his abusive behavior towards these other pastors. Based on my extensive experience with various men like him that I have known in politics, I would guess that if he’s uncontrollably abusive and exhibiting “ungodly and disqualifying behavior” toward other men who are almost his equals in his church, he must be a real treat for the women and girls to be around.

I’ve never known a jerk who wasn’t at least partly an equal opportunity jerk. If he was abusive with the guys, he was almost certainly worse with the women.

Which brings us back around to his absolutely bizarre whatever that he wrote about women, men, appendages and (I kid you not) what God was thinking when He created all of us. It appears that Pastor Driscoll not only knows the purpose for women, which is, it seems, to get laid, but he knows what God was thinking when He created women.

You see, Pastor Marc tells us, God made the male half of the human race with a particular appendage that had nothing much to do. After mulling this over, God decided to make the female half of the human race to give that appendage a “home.” In Pastor Marc’s homiletic,  men are an appendage and women are a purpose for that appendage.

Libby Anne goes on about this in depth and speaks to all sorts of female concerns, including our life-bearing, nurturing selves. She evidently was taught as a child that she was some man’s future wife. If I had been taught that, I’d be mad about it, too.

But I got lucky. I was taught from the get-go by my Christian parents that I could do anything I wanted to do. This wasn’t some pre feminist rap. It was about them, loving me.

I remember when I was a kid, reading a story in The Ladies Home Journal in which the author said that women’s bodies were made so that they could have babies, that having babies was the purpose of the female body. The underlying assumption was that the male body had no purpose except to be a home for men, whereas women … well, you get it. Looking back on it, the article was a dressed-up-go-to-town version of Pastor Marc’s sex ed thingy.

“That’s not true,” my Mama told me. “Your body was made for you to live in it. It’s yours.”

I got my dose of anti-Pastor-Marc early, and it stuck. Which I guess was my good luck.

One benefit of my raising is that when I read idiot commentary like Pastor Marc Driscoll’s, I know right off that it is commentary from an idiot. I also know, due to a lifetime of experience out there butting heads and competing in the open marketplace of full-speed, grown-up politics, that sexism knows no faith or philosophy.

I am telling you the absolute truth when I say that the meanest and most vicious sexists I’ve ever known were liberal men. I say that as someone who self-identifies as a liberal. As for running away from the Church to avoid sexism, you might as well stay home and fight it out. Because atheist men can be vicious sexists, as well.

You’ll find this kind of garbage — and much, much worse — anywhere you go.

I’m not chiding Libby Anne for her opinions. She has every right to them. In fact, I rather imagine that if we could put aside the shibboleths of label, she and I might sit down over lunch and find out that we have a lot of belief in common. I say that after looking down the list of her blog posts and seeing a whole chicken and a pot of things I disagree with.

I just know that women who think that God hates women have often been taught that by people in the church; the kind of people who would tell a little girl that she is not a full person in herself; she is nothing more than someone’s future wife.

I’ve been a wife for over thirty years and I like it a lot, but nobody ever told me my whole purpose for existing was to be a wife. Even now, after decades of sharing my life with my adorable and adored husband, I am not a wife only. Or only a mother. Or only a daughter. I am first of all myself, as is every other human being. You cannot give — to your spouse, your children, your friends or your God — what you do not have. You must first be wholly yourself before you can truly be with and for another.

But that’s getting all philosophical/theological and thoughtful. Which is moving a long, long way from Pastor Marc Driscoll and his bizarro thinking about men and women.

He is, as I said, an embarrassment.

TMZ Releases Surveillance Video of Ray Rice Attacking His Fiance. Ravens Finally Terminate His Contract

 

What does it take for a pro football player to be held accountable?

Mistreatment of animals will get it done in  a hurry. Just ask Michael Vick.

But beating up a woman?

Not so much.

After months of dithering about the Ray Rice fiancé beating scandal the Ravens have finally terminated his contract. This follows the NFL’s earlier defense of a two-game suspension of the running back and a standing ovation of support for him from fans. Ray Rice fans also lit up twitter with their supportive messages. 

His fiancé even went ahead and married Mr Rice six weeks after he knocked her out.

If it hadn’t been for TMZ, that’s where the story would have ended, with another woman playing maso to some guy’s sado and all the good old boys giving him back-slapping high-fives for his behavior.

Misogyny is not a problem of one group of people or one set of beliefs. Misogyny is a human problem. It has everything to do with letting the biggest and the meanest make all the rules and nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with true manliness or human decency.

Real men don’t hit women.

In fairness to Mrs Rice, she probably does not remember what her husband did to her. She may not remember anything that happened that day, or that week.

There’s no doubt that men are stronger than women. God made them that way for a purpose and that purpose is not to beat and batter their families. It is to protect and provide for their families.

I’m glad the Ravens were finally forced to do what they should have done the first day. I wonder if the fans who gave Mr Rice and standing ovation and who sent those supportive tweets are re-thinking their own behavior?

If you want to see the video, go here. Thank you TMZ for putting it out there.

From TMZ:

This is what a two game suspension looks like – Ray Rice delivering a vicious punch to his fiancee’s face, knocking her out cold … and TMZ Sports has the shocking video.

We’ve already shown you the aftermath outside the elevator … Rice dragging the unconscious woman on the floor.  But we’ve now obtained video of the punch that put her down, raising the question … What was the NFL thinking when it wrist-slapped Rice with such feeble punishment?

The incident took place Feb. 15th at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City — after Ray and then-fiancee (now wife) Janay Palmer got into a heated argument on their way into the elevator.

Inside the elevator it’s apparent he strikes first … she hits back … and then Rice delivers the knockout blow.

The punch knocks Janay off her feet — and she smashes her head on the elevator hand rail … knocking her out cold. Ray doesn’t seem phased … and when the door opens, he drags her out into the hotel. 

An employee of the hotel  – which just shut down for good – tells TMZ Sports he was working there at the time and says the NFL saw the elevator footage before imposing the 2-game suspension.

Read more: http://www.tmz.com/2014/09/08/ray-rice-elevator-knockout-fiancee-takes-crushing-punch-video/#ixzz3CkxkUq3r

 

Thy Will be Done as It Is in Heaven

 

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Jesus Christ

We pray it every Sunday and at the beginning of each decade of the Rosary. My children and I began each homeschool day by praying it.

It is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus gave us when the disciples asked Teach us to pray. 

This prayer is the answer, given to us by God Himself in human form. It begins with a new way of looking at God.

Our Father, Jesus teaches us to address Him. Not YHWH whose name may not be said. Not I am, the unknowable infinite.

But, Our Father. 

For those of us who had fathers in our lives, that is a beautiful image. It betokens a loving, protecting presence. It speaks of always-there Daddies on the beat who kept us safe and taught us love by loving us, who gave us a place in the world that was ours and was safe and was home. Our Father, for those who have fathers, is a beautiful image.

Jesus teaches us to address God as Father. He tells us that He is the Good Shepherd; the protector and defender of our souls.

Jesus begins His prayer with Our Father and then moves to an acknowledgement of Who this Father is.

Hallowed be thy name. 

The name of God is like no other. It is the name of the One who created everything, everywhere, who spoke existence into existence with a single word and Who holds existence in existence with a thought. How can we address such a Being? Who are we to call Him Father? 

Jesuswho is God personified, God in human form, reminds us that Our Father Who art in heaven is also God, and His name is, as the Commandments told us, not to be taken in vain. We take this commandment too lightly these days, all of us, me included.

We take it lightly because we take God lightly. We have become so inured with the God-is-one-of-us way of thinking that we’ve forgotten Who He is and what He requires of us.

Our Father, Who art in heaven

Hallowed be Thy name. 

Jesus follows this acknowledgement of Who God is and the respect we owe Him, by praying that God’s Kingdom will come. In other places in Scripture, Jesus describes this Kingdom coming as leaven in bread and a mustard seed that grows into a great tree. He tells His followers that the Kingdom is now, that it is active in them (and us) when we hear His word.

Thy Kingdom come He prays, knowing full well that the Kingdom is coming, that its spark exists in the heart of every true follower of the Word, and that He is Himself this Word.

Look at nature, look at the long silent passage of time from that first word that spoke existence into existence and today’s world. It is an eye blink of time in the mind of God Who foresaw it from before the beginning, but it is time beyond our reckoning to us. God plants seeds, God sets events and forces in motion. God, the Good Shepherd Who answers our prayers and longs for relationship with us, is also a good gardener Who allows things to grow and ripen in their own time.

The Kingdom is coming in each of us individually and in our corporate history. It is no accident that the ideas of universal human rights grew in the hotbed of Christian culture. That notion was simply the fruit of the tree that grew from that first mustard seed.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

The Kingdom is coming in every believer who will trust Him and step out in faith to follow Him. But this kingdom is buffeted and attacked in direct proportion to how fruitful it is. Christ’s followers — His Kingdom on earth — suffer attack from what St Paul termed “powers and principalities.”

The darkness hates the Light. It has from the beginning. Our job as Christians is to be the Light, shining in the darkness.

We cannot leave the world outside our safe circles of faith lost in the blackness of a night without Christ.

We can not leave whole populations to the machinations of dead philosophies that teach death. The proponents of these philosophies seek death wherever it may be found. They lift up cruelty, killing and degradation of human beings and call these things rights. They label them good and teach them as freedom. And always, without end, they war against the Light.

Choose this day whom you will serve, Joshua enjoined the Israelites. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. 

Jesus took the command to serve the Lord our God and added another to it. Go into all nations teaching what I have taught you, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

We are called to do more than just save ourselves. Christianity is a lifeboat, headed for eternal life. Unlike a real lifeboat, it expands to take in everyone who wants to climb aboard. There is no qualification for entering into the Kingdom other than to accept Jesus as Lord.

Lord, how can we know the way, Thomas asked Him.

I am the Way,  Jesus answered.

No one comes to the Father, except through Me. 

Our job, as Christians, is to point the way to the Way. We are on a lifeboat headed for salvation, floating through waters filled with angry, lost, drowning people. We are called to shine the light on them and let them know the lifeboat is there, to help those who are willing to be saved to climb on board.

That is evangelization. We should not — must not — be the church that builds the fancy church house full of gorgeous accouterments and then sits, hands folded and utterly complacent, waiting for lost people to find their way to us.

We need to go to them. Because they are perishing. Because He told us to do it.

Our own inner cities would be wonderful places to begin. I’m not talking about ministries to clothe and feed these people, although those are certainly good things. I am talking about bringing them Christ; converting them. I am talking about evangelization.

How many churches in the inner city have closed down because they say all the people have left? That absurdity is emblematic of our failure to do what Jesus explicitly told us to do.

As the moving vans from those churches drive toward the suburbs, they go through neighborhoods that are full of people. They’re just not the people those churches want.

Oh, the churches come back to those neighborhoods. They come to do “ministry.” These “ministries” are good things. They offer help. But most of them do not stay around after dark and they do not offer Christ.

Which of you, if your child asked for a fish, would give him serpent, or if he asked for bread would give him a stone? Jesus asked.

If we give people bagels and coffee, warm winter coats and help with paying their utilities, but we don’t also offer them eternal life, what are we doing?

Do we think that eternal life is too rude to give to people? Are we afraid of being attacked for proselytizing? If that’s the problem, we need to get over it. The people who attack us for that have proven that they’ll find something else to attack us for if we stop sharing Jesus.

The existence of Christians and Christianity is what offends them. The only way we can stop them from attacking us is to follow the world instead of Him. In other words, we can stop their attacks if we stop being what they hate. If we give up our own eternal life and join them in their living death, they’ll stop harassing, hectoring, suing and hating us.

Do we fail to offer Christ along with the canned goods and clothing because it embarrasses us? Are we ashamed of Jesus? Are we afraid that Christian bashers will accuse us of making conversion a condition for our aid?

That would be a devilish thing, if it were true. We need to help people, whether they accept Christ or not. But we also need to offer them Christ as part of our help.

What they do with the offer is their decision. Nobody has to follow Jesus to get a can of beans or a pair of socks. But they have a right as human beings to know that eternal life can be theirs. They accept or don’t. Our only responsibility is to offer Him to those who are dying.

All we need to do is make sure that we are walking in His way. If people want to accuse us falsely, that’s on them.

Who determines your behavior: Jesus Christ, or His critics?

Evangelization is not some new-fangled marketing ploy. It is a Commandment from Jesus Christ. Protestants call it a Commission: The Great Commission. And so it is. Our Lord explicitly directed us to evangelize the world. He didn’t make exceptions, and He didn’t put caveats on it.

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and I will be with you always, to the end of the world.

Seems pretty clear to me.

Family Missions Company has put out a beautiful new video about evangelization. I think it’s worth watching.

YouTube Preview Image

Britain, You’ve Got a Problem.


At the expense of being called a few names, I’m going to post these videos.

I freely acknowledge that these events are not representative of all adherents to the Muslim faith. There are obvious cultural issues embedded in this behavior.

However, when you add them to the rapes in Rotherham, you can see that Britain certainly does have a problem. That problem will not be solved by continued cowing of the public and police with politically correct lies that deny the reality of the situation.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying: You have to take reality on reality’s terms.

Western society has been practicing an enforced form of codependence with its political correctness, and not just about issues of immigration. We need to stop lying to ourselves and look at reality.

YouTube Preview Image
Palmira Silva

Palmira Silva

YouTube Preview Image
Lee Rigby

Lee Rigby

YouTube Preview Image

Court Strikes Down Polygamy Law in Utah.

The courts have once against legislated by fiat. In this instance, a federal judge basically legalized polygamy in Utah.

For those who said that gay marriage would not lead to polygamy, your crow is ready and you can start eating it anytime you want.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

 

Steven Sotloff: Observant Jew. Grandson of Holocaust Survivors.

 

ISIS recently released another video of their British Muslim terrorist, beheading an American journalist.

The journalist was Steven Sotloff, an American Jew with dual Israeli citizenship. According to reports, Mr Sotloff followed his religion, even in the extreme circumstances of captivity by ISIS.

He did not, understandably, tell his captors he was Jewish. He kept up his prayers and fasted on Holy Days by claiming that he was sick and couldn’t eat. The deep irony in all this is that Steven Sotloff is the grandson of holocaust survivors.

Think about that.

Mr Sotloff’s grandparents survived a genocide of Jewish people. Decades later in another part of the world, he was abducted and murdered as part of an attempt to force America to pay a ransom. The ransom would have been used to finance an Islamic killing machine which is bent on the genocide of Christians and other non-Muslim faiths.

The difference between Mr Sotloff and his captors is more than just the difference of the relative power of the murderer vs the murdered. It is, indeed, one of faith.

Steven Sotloff, James Foley and the man who murdered them each claimed to be men of faith. The difference is what their faiths inspired them to do.

James Foley, who prayed the Rosary while in captivity, and Steven Sotfloff, who fasted on Jewish Holy Days by pretending to be ill, were both capable of something that the members of ISIS are not: Compassion.

Their faiths inspired them to bring the stories of the helpless victims of war to the larger world view. They were the voices of the voiceless. They gave the whole world facts and information to help us view what is happening in the dark places of current history with at least some accuracy. Their work was a vital part of the empowerment of ordinary people, both in the Middle East and in the West.

ISIS, by contrast, is a destroyer. It does not build. It does not redeem. ISIS murders and rapes, tortures and lies. The videos it has put out showing the beheadings of these two brave men are themselves lies. These men were not murdered for some bizarre idea of retribution against American power. Their murders were acts of extortion in an attempt to get American dollars.

ISIS is not, as it styles itself, a great religious army. It is a band of pirates. There is no honor in ISIS. It is a disgrace to humanity.

Steven Sotloff’s faith, and that of James Foley, is evident in the good they did. We see what kind of men they were by the lives they lived. We see the life-giving power of true faith in the real God in these men’s goodness.

By the same token, we see what kind of men the adherents of ISIS are by the lives they live. When they stand before God, they will answer for their genocide, rapes, thefts, terrors, lies and destruction of whole societies.

God is real. And He is just.

I have no doubt that Steven Sotloff and James Foley took comfort in that as they knelt in the desert awaiting the knife. If their murderer has any knowledge of God at all, he will fear it.

The Identical Opens This Weekend. I’m Taking My Family to See It. You Should Too.

10502203_351218668359340_1151622593821814307_n-1

What is it about Elvis?

Decades past his death, his magic remains. Is it the smoky eyes, the unique voice and style? Or is it the good guy, the gentle, deeply-spiritual soul that behind those blue, blue eyes?

I think it was and is the whole package. Elvis was American and his story was the story of much of America at that time, only writ large.

His family suffered during the depression, clawed their way out of deep poverty after World War II, and Elvis himself took off like a meteor, right along with his country, in the 50s. Elvis was energy and maleness, wrapped in basic decency and kindness. He was us, as we were then.

He must still be us on some level. Why else would his image and his story continue to captivate so long after his death?

The Identical is a bit like Elvis himself, in that it is based on good people making hard decisions in tough times. The Christian ethos of Elvis the man runs throughout the story in a deliberate but unselfconscious way.

The story uses an Elvis look-alike as its main character and is based — very loosely — on the fact that the real Elvis had a twin brother who died. I’ve read that Elvis felt the presence of this brother throughout his life.

In the movie, both twins survive, but one of them is given up for adoption, due to hard times. Both boys grow up loved and cared for by parents who adore them. The adopted child ends up experiencing something I’ve witnessed in adopted people I know: The call of a heritage that doesn’t quite fit the family they love and that cherishes and loves them.

We are ourselves from the moment of conception. This innate self is shaped by and reacts to the environment in which we are raised and live. But no matter the environment, this innate self will always win out at some level.

A person who has a deep and abiding talent for, say, music, will feel the call of that talent, no matter if he or she is raised by a family of people who are tone-deaf and without rhythm or not. This difference between the adopted and the family that adopts them is a fundamental expression of the innate person they are.

It has nothing to do with loving their parents or being loved by them. It does not change the fact that this is their family. But it does mean that adoptive parents will raise happier adopted children if they give space for the real person their child is to emerge in healthy ways.

The Identical is a tale of adoption, and the striving to be oneself in a sphere that doesn’t quite fit.

It is also a story of love and grace.

Because love has the power to make all things right between people. And grace from God is the transforming agent that lifts love up.

I had an opportunity to see a preview of the The Identical.  I recommend the movie. It has a fine cast, topped by Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd. It demonstrates the maturing of Christian entertainment that is beginning to occur.

Ray Liotta puts in a beautiful performance as the adoptive father. This performance sharpens the movie’s dynamic and gives it power. He manages to create a character that is both a stern and a loving man; someone who is full of human weakness but who is also deeply and absolutely honorable and loving. His character is balanced by Ashley Judd’s performance as the gentle Southern mama.

It is no easy trick to give artistic dimension to good people. Any painter will tell you that the light is the hardest — and most important part — of the image.

Liotta pulls The Identical together and makes it tick because he achieves that.

The Identical will open in theaters this weekend. I’m taking my family to see it. I recommend you do the same.

YouTube Preview Image

Five Top Reasons to Homeschool Your Kids

It’s school time again.

What this meant to me as a homeschooling mom was organizing an attendance sheet (Yes. I kept an attendance sheet to make sure that we had the requisite number of school days.) and writing down my lesson plans (Yes. I had lesson plans.)

It also meant setting up two folding tables in the dining room to use as desks and enrolling the kids in science labs at the Omniplex and then in physical activities at the Y for the physical education class.

We usually topped off the first day of class by going to a movie together in the afternoon. Since we were a one-income family and totally broke, we went to the dollar movie. I sneaked sodas into the theater in my large handbag and we shared a single bag of popcorn.

We also did some sort of field trip every week or so. The zoo was a favorite. In the cold months, it was often the Omniplex. We could buy an annual membership of both for $50 that allowed the whole family to go as many times as we wanted without extra charge.

Homeschooling is hard work for mom. Holding down a job is a lot easier. But then, you’re building people. You are investing years of your life’s capital in your children.

I did it. It was the best investment I ever made.

Here, are five reasons I think most parents should consider homeschooling.

1. Socialization. Every home-schooling mom knows this word. It is flung at us as a question. What about socialization? we are asked.

In truth, there is no accurate way to answer that question except with another question: What do you mean by socialization?

If, by “socialization,” you mean interaction with other children and free play time, homeschooling has it all over the public and private schools. Unlike kids in public schools, homeschooled kids actually get free play time. Free play time is critical to blowing off steam so they can learn without Ritalin. It  forms skills, including social skills. Free play time also develops their whole personalities, including their creative, thinking powers.

If, on the other hand, you mean being subjected to the brainwashing our schools have come to specialize in, nope. They don’t get it.

As for interaction with other kids, there’s plenty of that in homeschooling. The difference is the kids they’re interacting with. Instead of spending their days with the messed up kids from the messed up homes that our society has come to see as the new normal, homeschooled kids spend their days with other homeschoolers, who are, by and large, from intact families and stable homes.

Plus — and this is critical — they spend a lot more time with their own parents, which gives them an emotional security that kids who are shipped around all their days will never have.

All in all, socialization is one of the best reasons to homeschool your kids.

2. Education. I first heard about the stunning educational effectiveness of homeschooling when I was on the board of regents of a college here in Oklahoma. The college president told the board that he was surprised to report that homeschooled kids were trouncing kids from public schools academically.

Not only that, but homeschooled kids didnt have the crippling behavioral problems that kids from the public schools exhibited. They were poised, sure of themselves, organized and they showed up for class ready to work. Both he and the faculty were surprised by this. It was a reality that flew in the face of all their previous suppositions. So, they were surprised. But they shouldn’t have been.

Homeschooling gives kids the chance to learn at their own pace. If a child is good at math, they can move quickly. If they struggle at math, they can slow down and work it through until they really learn it.

Homeschooling gives kids a one-on-one learning experience. Teacher mom is going to keep working with them on a knotty point until they understand and absorb it. There’s no going on and leaving them confused and lost because the rest of the group understands.

Homeschooling kids never end up in the dummy group. They are not subjected to bullying. They learn early that if they dig in and get their work done, they can go play. There is no sitting at their desk bored out of their gourd while the slower kids get finished.

Homeschooled kids can follow their interests. My youngest son loved chess. So, we joined the homeschool chess club. When the club entered its members in the statewide Chess tournament, my son went.

I have terrible handwriting. Somehow or other, the judges decided (I guess they didn’t look at the kid. Either that, or they were trying to punish him for being homeschooled.) that the number 4 I wrote on his entry card was a 9. So, they put my little fourth grader in competition with public school and private school 9th graders.

If this was an attempt to punish him for being homeschooled, it failed. Big time. He won the tournament and brought home the first place trophy. He beat them all.

The point? Homeschooling lets kids grow in directions that factory schools don’t.

3. Sexual harassment, twisted sex ed. If you have a daughter, this should be a big point. Based on what I heard from my constituents, sexual harassment of girls in our public schools is close to being pro forma. This is actually supported by sex ed classes that push kids toward sexual activity at a too-young age. Your daughter has a much better chance of growing up to be a strong, independent young woman if she can skip this abuse during her formative years.

4. Religious freedom. Your kids can pray in homeschool. They can also read the Bible, talk about God and and express their feelings on issues of faith — all without fear of being hounded and trounced by lawyer-laden adults with agendas.

I read Hurlbut’s Bible stories aloud to my kids at the beginning of our school day for our first two years of homeschooling. My mother had this old book from her childhood and I read it on my own when I was little. I advise it to anyone, whether they are Catholic or Protestant.

We read The One-Year Bible for Kids the next year. We took turns reading different portions aloud.

After reading the Bible, we prayed together.

We also read a lot of other books on religious topics. Usually, I read them aloud to the kids, because they contained ideas that I wanted us to talk about. We’d read and then discuss.

5. Exploration. Homeschooled kids have the opportunity to noodle with ideas until they grok them. I remember when we were doing baby physics.

Things don’t fall, I told them. Gravity pulls. I dropped a wadded-up piece of paper and a can of beans on the carpet. When they hit at the same time, both kids were a bit gobsmacked. I did it again. They were still confused. So, I flattened out the paper and dropped it and the beans again. When the paper drifted down and hit later than the can of beans, the oldest boy “got” it.

But the youngest did not believe it. He would not accept it. He spent the afternoon, dropping all sorts of objects, looking for a “proof” that Mom was a nut and this gravity stuff was myth.

The opportunity to prove the idea to himself is unique to homeschooling. So is the good-natured discussion that went on during this learning time. At the end of that day, they both “got” it and we could go on to talk about terminal velocity and other interesting ideas the next day.

I saw this acted out in my kids over and over again. We read aloud through a children’s version of Homer. When we got to the sack of Troy, class broke down for a while as the kids played Greek soldier. Then, I had them write a Boyodyssey, about a journey of their own devising. One of them wrote about the family cat, going on a hunt.

This breakdown from study to story-inspired play was just as much part of the learning process as reading the book or writing the Boyodyssey. Years later, one of them took me to see the movie The 400 with him. He knew all about the story and the politics behind the war itself. We’d read/written/talked about this entire war (both wars, in fact) and its significance to Western civilization when he was a kid.

I could go on, but I’ll stop at these five reasons to homeschool your kids.

Our society is increasingly poisonous to children. Your children are a gift and a responsibility from God. Nothing you can do with your life is as important as raising these precious little ones in such a way that they can become the people God intended them to be from the moment of their conception. They are your value added to (or, if you blow it, your value subtracted from) the human equation.

I can think of no better investment in your children’s lives and well-being than homeschooling.

 

Homeschooling Resources: Homeschool Legal Defense Association

Vegisource Homeschool  You can buy homeschool curriculum here, for a fraction of what it would cost new.

Homeschool World It is essential to find other homeschoolers. This is a place to start.

Curriculum:

Many of these programs are accredited. They all provide a framework for homeschooling. This is just a taste. There are many choices.

Sonlight Curriculum This is what I used. Protestant, but can easily be adjusted for Catholics

Ave Maria Academy Classical homeschooling curriculum.

Seton Home Study School  I have homeschooling friends who have used this with outstanding success. Rigorous, traditional, Catholic.

Lepanto Press Traditional Catholic

A Becka Protestant. Traditional. I started with this and abandoned it quickly. But if you want a traditional classroom curriculum with a Protestant slant, this is a good one.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X