Did Jeff Sessions Receive an Award from the NAACP?

Governor Mike Pence of Indiana and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech hosted by Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Governor Mike Pence of Indiana and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech hosted by Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Did the same NAACP that came out swinging against Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination as Attorney General of the United States give him an award in 2009?

A photo of a plaque containing the words “NAACP Award for Governmental Excellence” is making the rounds today. The plaque, dated 2009, was found by an employee who was clearing out an office of Sessions’. It appears, from some of the photos, that the plaque was still in its box when it was found.

This photo is enough for those who want to be persuaded to decide that Attorney General Sessions is a changed man from the one Mrs Coretta Scott King wrote about in 1986. If you would like to read her letter, go here. You’ll have to click through to get to it, but I encourage you to read it in full.

For the record, and on the record, Attorney General Sessions labeled this letter “damnable lies.” That, and not this plaque, was his defense.

Personally, I don’t find the photo of a forgotten plaque all that persuasive, even if it turns out to be genuine.

Here’s why.

Public officials get awards all the time. They come in the mail, they are handed out at functions. They come raining in from everywhere. I myself have received awards from just about every group you can name, including groups that are diametrically opposed to one another. A photo of a plaque does not mean much, especially when the plaque meant so little to the recipient that they never took it out of the box and never produced it in their favor later.

I can tell you for sure that the awards that mattered to me got and continue to get more care than Attorney General Sessions gave this award. I cherish every award I got for pro life activities. I hung them on my office walls and have them still. I also cherish the awards I got from the firefighters and LULACS and for my efforts against violence against women. No one would ever find them in their original box. I’m proud of them and what I hope they say about me.

If Attorney General Sessions is indeed a changed man, we will know soon enough. We’ll know because a man who is not a racist cannot support some of the policies of this president. We’ll know because of what he does with the power of his office.

The plaque photo has caused quite a stir. A lot of people running are trying to trace it down. But the question of whether or not the National NAACP gave Attorney General Sessions this award appears to be settled. They did not.

Here is the NAACP’s statement concerning the plaque photo, emphasis mine:

“The NAACP is composed of more than 2,000 local and state units around the country.  Upon learning of the allegation that one of those units bestowed an award on Senator Jefferson Sessions in 2009, the National Office of the NAACP immediately undertook an investigation.  While we already have strong reasons to doubt that any such award was given to Senator Sessions, we will continue our investigation until we are confident that we know all of the facts.  What remains true and unchanged is the NAACP’s strong opposition to the nomination of Senator Sessions to become the next Attorney General of the United States.  The NAACP’s position against Senator Sessions is based on his decades of conduct as a prosecutor and, later, U.S. Senator from the State of Alabama.  In matters of civil and human rights, civil liberties, fair policing, voting rights, sentencing fairness, women’s rights, hate crimes and more, Senator Sessions has repeatedly demonstrated that he is clearly unsuited to perform the duties of an Attorney General in these crucial times.”

Snopes has been investigating the plaque photo and had this to say about it:

However, the above-displayed award has some unusual aspects to it. For instance, we found no record of anyone else’s having received an “NAACP Governmental Award of Excellence,” nor were we able to locate any reports (from 2009 or otherwise) regarding the NAACP’s honoring Sessions with such an award.

When we reached out to the NAACP for more information about the award, a staffer confirmed to us that the national NAACP office does not give out an award by that name as part of their regular honors.

Did a local NAACP office give Jeff Sessions an attaboy? That would be the same Alabama NAACP that staged a sit-in against his confirmation as Attorney General. Was it a gag gift from one of Sessions’ friends?

We don’t know yet.

We do know that he did not produce it in his defense, and he did not claim to be an award-winning civil rights supporter during his confirmation hearings or the debate that followed. We do have the NAACP’s confirmation of their opposition to his nomination based on what they say is a decades-long history of racism.

Whatever this plaque was or is, it appears that it did not mean all that much to Attorney General Sessions. He didn’t think it meant he wasn’t a racist. If he did, he would surely have used it to clear his name.

 

 

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Read the NAACP Statement About Attorney General Sessions’ Confirmation Yourself.

Dr. E. Faye Williams, National President/CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, speaking outside Mitch McConnell's house on Capitol Hill as the Senate votes on Jeff Session's confirmation Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Laurie Shaull https://www.flickr.com/photos/number7cloud/

Dr. E. Faye Williams, National President/CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, speaking outside Mitch McConnell’s house on Capitol Hill as the Senate votes on Jeff Session’s confirmation Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Laurie Shaull https://www.flickr.com/photos/number7cloud/

A photo of what appears to be an award to Attorney General Jeff Sessions from 2009 is being circulated. I’m not sure what this means.

As of now, I stand by what I wrote in this post concerning Attorney General Sessions. I do regard his confirmation as a tragedy for American Christianity because so many Christians chose to ignore his racist past in order to blindly support President Trump and whatever he does.

I also question the wisdom of nominating him in the first place. There are many people who could have been nominated who do not have the burden of this shady past concerning racism. I wonder what our president was thinking when he made this decision. It has an undeniable symmetry with the race-baiting campaign he waged in his quest for office.

I also think that Attorney General Sessions should not have been confirmed. If that had happened, President Trump would simply have offered another nominee. This surfacing of a photo of what may be an old award is indicative of the ugliness of Attorney General Sessions’ racist past. Whether or not he has changed is something that appears to be so debatable that his supporters (who are in reality Trump supporters, not his) are searching to find ways to refute it.

The fact that they have to search is itself an indictment of the man. If he had truly changed, it would be more apparent than that. Among other things, the NAACP would not have opposed his confirmation as they did.

Someone this dubious should not be the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. And Christians have no business blindly following any political leader the way they are following President Trump. Many of them follow President Trump, even when what he does opposes the Gospels.

Here is the NAACP’s statement following Attorney General Sessions confirmation. Read it yourself.

NAACP STATEMENT ON CONFIRMATION OF JEFF SESSIONS AS ATTORNEY GENERAL

FEBRUARY 9, 2017

Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was confirmed as the nation’s 84thUS Attorney General this evening, despite intense opposition by the NAACP and hundreds of organizations due to his historically weak and questionable support for voting rights, police accountability and the rights of immigrants and women.

The NAACP mobilized its memberships and collaborated with partners to flood the Senate with millions of phone calls asking senators to oppose Senator Sessions. President and CEO Cornell William Brooks, Alabama State Conference President Bernard Simelton and Alabama branch leaders helped mobilize two state-wide protests involving hundreds of NAACP members, national staff, and supporters for sit-ins at Senator Sessions Mobile, AL office that resulted in the arrests of nearly 15 NAACP members and supporters.

Media coverage of these events created a groundswell of protests and direct actions against his nomination. Through the mobilization of our Washington Bureau, legal teams and national staff, the NAACP successfully fought over nine times in nine months to beat back racist voter suppression laws in North Carolina, Texas and other states that saved millions of votes.

Through our 2,200 branches across the nation and national partners and coalitions, we organized protests and rallies across the nation and utilized social media to create millions of digital impressions, retweets, and posts on Facebook and Instagram calling on supporters to demand that the Senate vote to #StopSessions.

In January alone, the NAACP earned in support of its #StopSessions campaigns gained 43,000 new Twitter followers, generated hundreds of posts earning over 14.5 million views and more than 370,200 engagements. With Facebook, our supporters churned out 573,000 page “likes,” and posts were seen 4.1 million times, while videos were watched 1.07 million times in January alone. These numbers represent the floor of our potential activity in mobilizing support for the protection of civil rights rather than its ceiling.

Despite all our work and the coalitions we’ve collaborated with, Senator Sessions was confirmed today along a clear red versus blue partisan line of52-47. Rather than hang our heads in despair, the NAACP will continue to hold the new AG and the Department of Justice accountable for enforcing protections against voter suppression, the use of consent decrees as a means of reigning in racism within police departments, protection of women’s rights and the humane treatment for immigrant communities and sanctuary cities.

The NAACP will call upon members of Congress and the committeesexercising oversight over the Justice Department to ensure that the senator does what he is supposed to do to protect the vote and to end voter suppression and police brutality.

While we vigorously opposed his nomination, the NAACP and our branches across the nation and around the world are committed to working with the new AG in the same way we have worked with all previous AG’s to ensure the consistent and diligent protection of civil rights.

###

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas here.

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Is Jeff Sessions Confirmation a Tragedy for American Christianity?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

In a move that I regard as a tragedy for American Christianity, the United States Senate consented to President Trump’s appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney General of the United States.

They did this, despite Senator Sessions past as a Jim Crow public official. They did this after silencing Senator Elizabeth Warren for the heinous crime of reading aloud a letter from Coretta King, who is the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. This letter detailed Attorney General Sessions’ Jim Crow actions as a federal prosecutor.

I do not know if Attorney General Sessions has since had a turn of heart and changed in his racism. I do know that the Trump apologists who supported him in their usual knee-jerk, anything-Trump-does-is-holy-and-right manner did not bring such things forward. Instead, they resorted to the trashy, bully-boy Trumpian tactics of mis-using their power to silence legitimate debate and commentary.

The sad and frightening thing is that so many Christians supported this. We now have an Attorney General with legitimate Jim Crow bona fides, and very public and outspoken Christians put him there.

This is not the first time that Christians have abandoned following Christ to follow Trump. It is just one item on a list that is beginning to be too long to list in a blog.

It began with their decision that misogyny was ok, if it was candidate Trump who was calling women pigs and dogs and attacking women based on their appearance. It took an irreversible step forward when Christians — including Christian religious leaders — decided that sexual assault was ok, if candidate Trump was the assaulter.

It also began with candidate Trump’s dark race baiting against Hispanic people, with his demonizing of them and using them as a vote-getter. When Christian people bought into this, they bought into open, frank and outspoken racism. And they liked it.

It began when Christians decided that a First Lady who had posed in porn photos, including girl-on-girl sex, was fine with them. It went a step further when it came out and was confirmed by the editor of the publication in which the photos were placed, that candidate Trump had put his own wife in a porn photo shoot, that he was, in fact, “eager” to do it. What kind of man does that? What kind of Christian supports it?

It began when the tapes became public of Donald Trump, private citizen, bragging and hinting at sex with his own daughter, saying that what they “had in common was sex” and that he wanted “to date her” and agreeing with a commentator that she was “a piece of a–.” Again, what kind of man does that? And what kind of Christian supports it?

It moved right on through Christians supporting the obvious lies of a sociopathic liar and carrying this to the point that they became co-liars along with him.

President Donald Trump has become an idol, a false god, for many Christians. This has reached the point that they actually judge whether or not people are “christian” based on whether or not they are willing to blindly support his actions.

The confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a tragedy for American Christianity because it aligns American Christianity with Jim Crow racism. The presidency of President Donald Trump is a tragedy for American Christianity for a number of reasons.

First, because so many Christians, including Christian religious leaders, have been totally and abjectly willing to reject Jesus Christ when His teachings contradict Trump. They are willing to accept pornography, adultery, incest, sexual assault, misogyny and racism without a quibble. In fact, they are willing to attack people who abhor these things and claim that it is not Christian to oppose them.

They have conflated blind following of President Trump with following Christ, even when following Donald Trump leads them in ways of thinking that are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christ. Catholics among them wave around some something or other in Canon law that they say requires Catholics to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the evils of this administration on pain of not being a “real” Catholic.

This is a massive tragedy for American Christianity. I fear that it may end up ushering in an almost total loss of credibility for Christian witness in our society.

The standard reply for these things is to say, “But Hillary,” or, “But Obama.” The theory seems to be that these people were so bad that they justify drop-kicking the Gospels and denying Christ His Lordship in our lives to follow a false god who opposes them.

That is specious nonsense. I realize that I cannot reach the people who are so besotted with Trump that they have turned their backs on Christ. That will take the Holy Spirit. Or, I fear, it will take them, suffering the consequences of their blind followership of this demagogue. I fear that in a selfish way, because it means that we will all suffer those consequences along with them.

All I can do is what I am doing, which is to say straight out and without reservation that I am not following any false god anywhere and I urge those of you who still have the wits to think to do the same.

I am not and will never be a member of the “Resistance.” That is just mindless destructiveness, with no purpose, no goal, no reason other than its own brand of mindless hate.

I am not and will never be one of the Christian Trump Worship Cult.

I am in total support of my Hispanic brothers and sisters and those who believe in women’s human rights. I do not follow anyone who supports sexual assault. I do not listen to them and I do not regard them as moral voices.

Women have the right to live and breathe in self-respect, without being accosted and violated by sadistic billionaires who ram their hands up inside them, who call them names and who treat them as things. This is a basic human right. It is at the core of of the Christian witness that there is no Greek nor Jew, no slave nor free, no male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus. 

It is a real-life manifestation of the fact that male and female created He them in the Image and Likeness of God.

I believe absolutely in women’s human rights, and freedom from sexual assault is a human right. I just don’t think that giving women the right to kill their own children is the way to achieve human rights for women. Abortion is a knee bending to the devil misogyny, an accommodation to discrimination and the sexual double standard.

Ironically, President Trump is the personification of both misogyny and the sexual double standard. He exemplifies the attitudes and behavior that led so many women to support abortion in the first place. If Christians follow him in this — and right now, many of them are following him the way they should be following Jesus — they will destroy the gains they have made in the arguments for life.

If we want to do something about the influx of immigrants from Mexico, all we have to do is choose the good, positive and Christian response of going to work to help Mexico solve its problems. We need a Marshall plan for South America in general and Mexico in particular.

Opponents of this idea usually say it’s too difficult. But what is “simple” about destroying this country with rage, hatred and unchained evil? What has the demagoguing from the Republicans every election done that has resulted in good? Has the racism of Trump resulted in a healthy country? Has it brought peace? Has anything good come from it?

Doing things the Christian way often seems like doing them the hard way. But, unlike the devil’s way, it always brings good results in the long run.

The confirmation of Jeff Session as our Attorney General was a defeat for American Christianity because so many public and private Christians blindly supported it. It was a defeat because all they had to do was say no to this man and demand that the president make another, better, choice.

We are besmirching the name of Jesus with our fidelity to political evil. We are doing this by putting our political allegiances before the one thing that should be our defining allegiance in every single thing we do. That is our allegiance to Christ the Lord.

I am aware that a lot of people are angry with me, and some of them are going to stop talking to me and begin hating me because I say this. All I can say in answer is that racism is wrong. Sexual assault is wrong. Misogyny is wrong. Compulsive lying is wrong. Demagoguery is wrong.

I know it.

And they know it.

Which is why they are willing to believe any lie to continue supporting these things.

 

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US Senate Silences Warren for Reading Letter from MLK’s Widow

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy, New Delhi. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassynewdelhi/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy, New Delhi. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassynewdelhi/

Note: I’ve been told the links below to Mrs King’s letter don’t work. Since it’s a 10-page letter, I can’t reproduce it here. Instead go here and click through to it. It’s a historic document, and considering that it is talking about the man who is charged with enforcing our laws, a disturbing one. You should read it.

 

Yesterday, Senator Elizabeth Warren attempted to read a letter written by the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr concerning the 1986 nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship.

This same Jeff Sessions, who is now United States Senator Jeff Sessions, has been nominated by President Trump for the position of Attorney General of the United States, which is the chief law enforcement position in America. It is customary for the United States Senate to be a deliberative body in which senators, who are duly elected by the people of their respective states to be their voice in government, are given the freedom to debate without limitation.

However, the act of reading this letter, which is, among other things, a historic document, so offended the senators that they voted to bar Senator Warren from speaking on the floor of the Senate during the debate on the vote to confirm Senator Sessions as our Attorney General. I was curious as to what Mrs King might have said about our prospective attorney general to cause this outlandish behavior on the part of the Senate.

I feel that this vote is an attempt to silence, not just an individual senator, which is reprehensible enough, but is a vote to silence an idea. The idea in question is whether or not justice can prevail if we ignore the character of the people we put in power. The vote itself raises another question which is whether or not we can truly have government of the people if one of the people’s representatives can be summarily silenced for expressing ideas that at least some of their colleagues do not want to hear.

Senator Warren then read the letter on her Facebook page. Here, for those of you who are interested, is the cover letter Mrs Coretta Scott King wrote for her statement concerning the man who is the prospective Attorney General of the United States. You can read the full, 10-page statement — which is damning — here.

THE MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. CENTER


449 Auburn Avenue. NE. Attents. Georgia 30312 (404) 524-1956

March 19, 1986

The Honorable Strom Thurmond, Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary

United States Senate

Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: Nomination of Jefferson B. Sessions
U.S. Judge, southern/District of
Alabama Hearing, March 13, 1986

Dear Senator Thurmond:

I write to express my sincere opposition to the
confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as a federal district
court judge for the Southern District of Alabama. my
professional and personal roots in Alabama are deep and lasting.
Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States
Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the
ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts.

Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a
shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.
For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded

with a federal judgeship.

I regret that a long?standing commitment prevents me from
appearing in person to testify against this nominee. However,
I have attached a copy of my statement opposing Mr. Sessions'
confirmation and I request that my statement as well as this
letter be made a part of the?hearing record.

I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of
Mr. Sessions.

Sincerely, 

Coretta Scott King


cc: The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
United States Senate
308 Senate Hart Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
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America is Breaking Apart Over the Polarizing Worship of Little g gods

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by New Life Church Collingwood https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlcwood/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by New Life Church Collingwood https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlcwood/

America is breaking apart over the polarizing worship of little g gods.

We the People have become idiots and fools who follow one banner or the other blindly, without thought. To do this, we lie. We lie about the factual world around us. We lie about those who disagree with us. We lie about ourselves. And we lie about the nature of Jesus Christ.

We have becoming willing to attack anyone — even the Pope — if that person disagrees with the ever-changing teachings of our little g gods. We claim with a straight face that we are the arbiters of holiness, and we posit holiness in blindly following one little g god or the other.

From where I stand, there is no moral difference between those who worship the little g gods of the left, or the little g gods of the right. They are both idol worshippers, and they are both living in a self-made cage of self-imposed delusion.

Sad to say, most Christians have abandoned following Christ to follow their political gods. They trim their faith to fit their politics and denounce anyone and everyone who tries to tell them that this is not faith at all. It is delusion. It is madness. It is turning away from the sanity of following Christ.

Those who say they are Christians do not denounce Christ directly. Rather, they denounce everything He said. They cut the Sermon on the Mount and His clear teachings about the Judgement down to nothing. They attack the Holy Father. They pick and choose among the clergy, reviling those who disagree with their politics and making new little g gods out of those who agree with it.

It does not matter if one has given their soul to a little g god of the right or of the left, they have given themselves over to a nihilistic anti-Christ who plunges them into a constant bath of rageful self-righteousness, irrationality and lies.

People are making themselves into self-righteous, hate-filled, irrational wretches by following these false gods of politics. All they have to do is all they ever had to do, which is turn back to the real Christ, the real Cross, the real Jesus.

I know that I’m getting a bit boring by saying this over and over. But it needs to be said. I would not want to not say it over and over, because it is the only Way.

We need to turn back to Christ. By that I mean the real Christ, not the political christ of our own devising. Stop following political gods, which you made yourself of your own worst impulses, and follow Him.

If you do that, you will take your first look in a long time at humility. You will be like someone waking up from a drugged state to look at the mental and moral shambles you have made of your internal self, and you will wonder, “What was I thinking?”

I am asking you to exorcise yourself from the demonic little g gods of this age and follow Jesus. It is an urgent plea based on a deep love for you that can only come from Jesus. Do not continue to throw yourselves away by following the little g gods of this age. Follow Jesus Who died on the Cross, Who preached the Sermon on the Mount, Who gave us this good man for this time as His Vicar.

I wrote about this for the National Catholic Register. Here is part of what I said.

Most Christians want a comfortable enough, get-out-of-jail-free kind of faith.

They want to go to heaven, but not now. Heaven is for the distant future, when they are very old and die in their sleep after having dozed off in front of the television.

The best of them go to Mass on Sundays and drop a twenty in the collection plate as it passes. They may even read their Bibles and say a quick prayer before grace.

But Jesus, the radical revolutionary who overturned tables and cast the money changers out of the Temple, who called the Pharisees “blind guides, leading the blind,” that Jesus is more than they want.

They are both afraid of and unwilling to follow the history-changing Jesus who moves societies by moving individual human beings.

They resist and even denounce the Jesus Who radicalizes His followers’ minds with counter-intuitive teachings such as “Blessed are the poor,” and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” They don’t like the Jesus who said “You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

That Jesus, the Christ, the God made human who calls us to be more than the petty greed and selfishness that is humankind’s pit in which we all wallow, is not at all to their liking. He is, at best, uncomfortable. At worst, He is convicting in ways they refuse to be convicted.

There are sins we readily denounce, and sins we love so much we are willing to denounce the priest who preaches on them and deny the Christ who judges us for them.

We don’t much want the Jesus of the Book. We want the comfortable, easy, other-people’s-sins-are-the-only-sins-that-matter Jesus that we can trim and shape to fit our lives and our politics so that we never feel a twinge of personal remorse or regret for any of our pet sins.

We do not want and will not accept the real Jesus who told the power brokering priests of His day that prostitutes and tax collectors would enter into the Kingdom of Heaven before they did. We want no part of the Jesus Who told the rich young man to sell all he had, give it to the poor and then come and follow Him.

The truth is, we want to walk past Lazarus. We want to do it because walking past suffering is a whole lot easier than stopping and stooping to care.

Following Jesus has a price that very few Christians are willing to pay. Following Jesus means going against the zeitgeist, stepping out of the parade and being different. It means not doing the popular thing, but choosing to do the right thing, instead. It means being inconvenient, both to yourself and to those around you.

At the very least, truly following Jesus means standing up in front of the gods of this world instead of kneeling down before them. It means walking away from the worship of the false idols of politics, wealth, power and fame and following Him. It means being an outlier in a society that demands absolute conformity with one viewpoint, one way of living and thinking, or the other. (Read the rest here.)

 

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Can You Do This?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Long Thien https://www.flickr.com/photos/136682034@N03/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Long Thien https://www.flickr.com/photos/136682034@N03/

I read that anti-Pope Francis posters have appeared around Rome. I have one question for those responsible:

Can you do this?

This is a video of the Holy Father, performing an off-the-cuff exorcism while going down a receiving line. The Church has real power over satan, and that power flows through the Pope.

I can put up posters. I have put up posters. Many times.

But I can’t do this.

Can you?

YouTube Preview Image
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Timothy Putnam and the Weightiness of Becoming Catholic

Photo Source: Timothy Putnam, all rights reserved by Timothy Putnam.

Timothy Putnam and his wife, becoming Catholic. Photo Source: Timothy Putnam, all rights reserved by Timothy Putnam.

There is something weighty in the decision to become Catholic. Timothy Putnam

There is something weighty in the decision to become Catholic. Indeed there is. Sing it, say it, live it, my brother in Christ.

Timothy Putnam has “it.” That “it” is a genuine searching willingness to follow Jesus, even when — not if, but when — He leads us down pathways we would never have chosen on our own. It takes a bit more honesty and a lot more faith than most people are willing to commit to Jesus to stand up in front of the little g gods of this world, turn your back on them and walk away.

Faith, real faith, in the Living Christ is the key to following Him. If you don’t believe — really, truly, absolutely believe — that He is God, then you will not follow Him in this costly, unquestioning way of the Way.

Timothy Putnam follows.

He’s the best kind of follower, the only kind, that, when the bills are toted up, up yonder, matters. He’s the kind of follower who does not trim his faith to fit the world. He bases his activities in the world on his faith.

That is, indeed, a “weighty” thing. When it is coupled with the 2,000 year old teachings of the Church that Jesus founded and Peter first governed, the “weight” is the weight of a peaceful certainty that you don’t have to figure it out yourself. All you have to do is follow the path that is laid out for you in the Catechism, and that is explicated for you by the Pope.

Timothy Putnam has, like so many converts, a fresh and unalloyed love of the Church that comes from having been without it. Doing without the Catholic Church while you try to wend your way through the world can be hard going. It is the heavy slog of someone who has to make each and every decision for themselves.

Is it a sin to do this, or that, or whatnot?

We Catholics have that part easy. We can just put our foot down and slide to heaven by simply staying on the highway to heaven that is the Catholic Church.

But everything has a price. The free gift of eternal life was purchased for us by the ignominious crime of Calvary. We did our worst and God did His best and the result was our everlasting good.

The gift of following Christ has the continuous and ongoing price of being out of step with the world. There is no safe harbor for someone who does their best to follow Jesus and Him alone, no group of buddies, no political safe house where you can just do what your gang does and still follow Him.

If you try to follow Jesus, you are always going to end up an outlier. That’s just a fact.

For some folks like Timothy Putnam, it becomes even more fraught. Jesus calls a few people to step out on the ice of life and follow Him on a path the leads away from safe incomes and guaranteed benefits.

If you are single and He calls you to step out in faith into the shifting uncertainties of a ministry, then you risk a little. At most, you risk your own comfort. You alone suffer the loss of income. You alone must step through the chop of starting up, the long hours, the set-backs and the simple fact that faithful ministry does not and never will be a source of wealth.

But if you are the parents of what Timothy calls a “brood” of seven children, then stepping out is “weighty” for real.

I’ve met Tim’s family, and they are beautiful. His wife is as faithful and committed to Christ as he is. His children are intelligent, bright, inquisitive, fearless and good. Of all the things I know about Timothy Putnam, this is the best. He does not fail in his first vocation, which is to be a faithful father and husband.

He is a manly man in the for-real Christian way of being a manly man, which is to say that he loves, cherishes and cares for his family. This genuine manliness is a far cry from the tinfoil manliness of abusiveness and swaggering braggadocio that is being sold right now. One is the basis for civilization. The other is one of the roots of evil and destruction.

When Timothy Putnam and his wife made the decision to give up a job as the Director of Family and Pro Life for the Diocese of Tulsa and take up full-time ministry, it was a weighty decision. It meant giving up the benefits and security of steady employment and just following.

The result was the thoughtful, teachful blog here on Patheos, A Belief Observed. If you haven’t read it, you should give it a look. The “belief” it observes is that of a faithful Catholic father, husband and growing voice in Catholic media.

In addition to this blog and other activities, Tim hosts a great radio program called Outside the Walls.

Outside the Walls airs Saturdays at 4 pm central time, and on Sundays at 11 am central time. It’s on Breadbox Media, which has been endorsed by its local bishop for its fidelity to the Church. You can download it on iTunes, follow it on Facebook, and Twitter,  or just tune in on your computer or radio. You can also book Timothy as a speaker.

Outside the Walls  is a compendium of Church teaching, Bible study and thoughtful discussion about living Catholic in the world today. All this is put together and presented by an actual, faithful, Catholic husband and father who walks the walk.

I believe with all my heart that faithful Catholics need to support and uphold one another. Tune in and give it a listen. Then, tell you friends about it. You’ll be glad you did.

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Misunderstood Rattlesnakes? Count Me as One of the Misunderstanders.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Jacopo_Werther

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Jacopo_Werther

Now here’s something you don’t want to see.

Young Isac McFadden of Abilene Texas saw a “clump” in the toliet. Fortunately, he went to his mother about it rather than investigating himself.

His mother found what looks to be a healthy diamond back rattlesnake in the toilet, which, I guess, puts an end to the old story that rattlers don’t much like water. Isac’s mother killed the snake with a shovel (my grandmother always used a hoe,) and called Big Country Snake Removal.

It turns out that her house was infested. Twenty-three more rattlers were calling the McFadden’s place home. Thirteen of them were hiding out in the cellar and another 10, including six baby snakes, were under the house.

I’ve always been wary of going underground in tornado season. I shine a light and look it over before I venture in. The reason? I know snakes like places like that to … er … hole up. They also like close quarters in the winter.

The snake removal company cleared the snakes out of the house and cellar. From the way the story reads, they were a lot more careful than I would have been about not killing the things. They are quick to remind us that rattlesnakes are “amazing creatures that are really misunderstood.”

You can count me among the misunderstanders.

From Yahoo!:

rattlesnake in toilet(Who forgot to flush?Courtesy Big Country Snake Removal)

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Trump, a Racist Sexist? Well … Duh.

Rep Beth Fukumoto, in Chamber. Photo Source: File Photo, Hawaii Legislature

Rep Beth Fukumoto, in Chamber. Photo Source: File Photo, Hawaii Legislature

I feel your pain sister.

Been there. Done that. Got the press clippings, the extra 20 pounds from stress eating and the bloomin’ t-shirt.

Representative Beth Fukumoto, a Republican member of the Hawaii House of Representatives, is under fire from her fellow Republican legislators. Why? Well, it seems that she participated in the local Women’s March and made a speech calling President Trump “a racist and a sexist.” She even went so far — erroneously it seems — as saying that he had no place in the Republican Party.

Punishment from her colleagues was swift and nasty. She was removed from her position in the House Republican leadership, because, she says, she refused to stop criticizing President Trump.

That’s not so different from what happened to me as a pro life Democrat in Oklahoma. It’s the same group-think, my-way-or-the-highway bullying that makes surprising martyrs of people for simply following their consciences.

It is the opposite of rational thought and leads to very bad government.

According to one of her colleagues, Representative Bob McDermott, “She said our president is a sexist, is a racist, and that we have a bully in the White House.”

Well … duh … Representative McDermott.

Our race-baiting, sexual-assaulting, woman-hating, name-calling president is all that and more. He can’t even control his bullying in conversations with other heads of state. He’s called women pigs and dogs. He’s bragged about committing sexual assault, and had something like 11 women come forward to say he assaulted them. He put his own wife in a porn photo shoot and has talked about how he wants to “date” his own daughter.

He’s the kind of sleaze who gives sleazes a bad name. Of course he’s a racist. Of course he’s a sexist.

He got elected doing all this. He’s the prez. And, as a Democrat, I’m happy to say that he’s a Republican. I will also say that there are quite a few Rs out there who feel as I do and who have said so. That alone supports their party’s brand as the party of values.

As for Representative Fukumoto, she’s considering a switch to Independent.

I wish her luck, whether she stays an R or switches. We need more people of principle who will stand up for basic decency instead of going along with the party line.

From the Honolulu Star Advertiser:

Republicans in the state House of Representatives have ousted their minority leader Rep. Beth Fukumoto over her criticism of President Donald Trump, including recent comments that she made at the Women’s March in Honolulu last month.

Fukumoto, 33, said today that she is now considering switching over to the Democratic Party following this week’s actions by her Republican colleagues, which would further deplete the party of young leadership. She had been described as a rising star in Hawaii’s Republican Party, which holds only six seats in the 76-member Legislature.

Fukumoto (R, Mililani-Mililani Mauka-Waipio Acres) said that she had been told by a faction of her Republican colleagues that if she didn’t commit to not criticizing Trump for the rest of his term, they would oust her as minority leader.

She said she refused.

“I believe it is our job as Americans and as leaders of this body to criticize power when power is wrong,” she said during today’s House floor session.

On Tuesday, during a closed door session, House Republicans voted 3-2 to remove her from leadership. Voting in favor of the leadership reorganization were Reps. Gene Ward, Bob McDermott and Andria Tupola. Reps. Cynthia Thielen and Fukumoto voted against it and Rep. Lauren Matsumoto abstained.

The leadership changes were made official during today’s House floor session.

Replacing Fukumoto as minority leader is Tupola. Ward takes the place of minority floor leader.

Fukumoto sent out a letter to constituents in her district prior to today’s floor session telling them that she would like to leave the Republican Party, but said she wanted to get their feedback first.

Fukumoto spoke at the Jan. 21 Women’s March in Honolulu in opposition of Trump, including calling the president a bully.

“In the last couple years, I’ve watched leaders in the Republican Party become less and less tolerant of diverse opinions and dissenting voices,” Fukumoto said today in a news release. “Today, I’m facing demands for my resignation from leadership and possible censure because I raised concerns about our President’s treatment of women and minorities. I’ve been asked by both my party and my caucus to commit to not criticizing the president for the remainder of his term and to take a more partisan approach to working in the Legislature. That is not a commitment I can make. As a representative of my community, it is my job to hold leaders accountable and to work with anyone, regardless of party, to make Hawaii a better place for our families.” (Read the rest here.)

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Did America Discriminate Against Christian Refugees Under Obama?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

I have no first-hand knowledge of this. However, I have read repeatedly in publications which seek to support Christians who are subjected to discrimination, that President Obama’s administration discriminated against Christians who were seeking asylum in this country.

President Trump evidently repeated that charge in front of an Evangelical group. The BBC then shot back by saying that President Trump was wrong when he said that the Obama administration favored Muslim immigrants over Christians who were seeking asylum in this country.

Now, Barnabas Aid has issued repeated demands that the BBC retract this statement, which they say is inaccurate.

I have often cited Barnabas Aid in stories about Christian persecution. I have also read the same charges about discrimination against Christian refugees under President Obama from other sources. I always believed them, and, to be honest, I believe them now.

I think President Trump is suffering from what happens when someone lies over and over. People just stop believing them, and when they say something, even if it’s true, it carries no weight with those who view them as compulsive liars. This is sad and a bit scary, considering that what President Trump says on the world stage affects our nation’s future and overall credibility.

If people all over the globe tend to dismiss whatever he says as a lie, then that means that they also dismiss American positions and policy statements as lies. That weakens our position worldwide. It can destroy our credibility as a nation.

In this instance of “who you gonna believe,” there will probably be knee-jerk reactions based entirely on which side of the Trump question the reader happens to fall. Trump rejecters will believe the BBC. Trump followers will believe President Trump.

That’s what’s happening on many questions of public policy these days. Very little rational thought is going into what people decide to believe, and even less rational thought is going into who they decide to follow. This is a dangerous thing in a democracy. I, for one, am doing all I can to encourage people to pull back from it and think for themselves.

In this instance, I am, personally, more inclined to believe Barnabas Aid than the BBC. I have, as I said, no personal knowledge of how things have worked for refugees coming into this country in the last year or so. But over the years, I’ve talked to quite a number of Christians who have suffered persecution, including losing family members to Christian persecution, around the globe. In each instance, our government had, at best, ignored the situation which allowed such persecution to exist.

I hope that you will start looking at each of these “who you gonna believes?” on a case-by-case basis, and stop knee-jerking. Neither side of this tells the truth all the time. Both sides lie. Our president appears to be a compulsive liar. But sometimes, he says something that is true.

Try to form your followership and support based on more than one source, including sources that disagree with your viewpoint. Our country is worth a lot more than any passing political position or political party. We are the American people. We truly can make a difference.

From Barnabas Aid:

Barnabas Aid has challenged the BBC to correct a wholly false claim made last Sunday on prime time TV news about Christian refugees in the USA. In an interview with a Christian TV network President Trump defended the executive order he issued on 27 January by saying that the policy was about prioritising religious minorities. When specifically asked if persecuted Christians would be a priority he replied:

“Yes, they have been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very, very tough to get into the United States. If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian it was almost impossible.”

BBC office

BBC office
CC BY-SA 2.0 by Christine Matthews

On Sunday evening at the start of the 10pm television news, the BBC broadcast the following comment on this by their New York correspondent, Nick Bryant:

“In an interview with an evangelical television network [President Trump] claimed without any factual basis the old Obama policy favoured Muslims over Christians” (emphasis added).

A few minutes later the BBC also posted online a video of the actual statement they had claimed was “without any factual basis”. This sweeping assertion broadcast by the BBC was not only wholly untrue, it was also potentially damaging to tens of thousands of Syrian Christian refugees.

Barnabas Aid has for many months been highlighting the massive institutional discrimination faced by Syrian Christian refugees – with only one half of one percent of Syrian refugees resettled in the USA last year being Christians. This is despite them constituting up to 10% of the pre-war population and US Secretary of State John Kerry declaring in March that they were facing genocide.

It is not just Barnabas Aid that has been saying this. For nearly a year major US news networks such as Fox News and CNS have also reported it. The simple fact is that of 10,801 Syrian refugees admitted to the USA last year only 56 were Christians (there were also only 20 Shi’a and 17 Yazidis – the other two groups that John Kerry said were facing genocide), while 99% were Sunni Muslims. A 30 second google search by the BBC would have revealed this.

There have been claims that the previous administration could not have been discriminating against Christians as the total numbers of Christian (44%) and Muslim refugees (46%) admitted to the USA were similar. However, this is a misuse of statistics because these totals primarily reflect which countries have crises causing refugee movements. It is therefore almost impossible, using that kind of raw data, to say anything meaningful about whether Christians/Muslims are being discriminated against. However, where Christians are BOTH being specifically targeted as they are in Syria AND very significantly underrepresented in the number given entry to the USA then it is almost certain that they are facing significant discrimination.  It can be taken for granted that Syrian Christians are not averse to resettling in the USA, which is a number one goal for so many refugees and already has a large Arab Christian population which would make the newcomers feel at home.

Whatever one thinks of President Trump, it was wholly wrong for the BBC to make the sweeping claim that suggesting the previous administration’s policy disadvantaged Christians was “without any factual basis”.

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