6 Things I Hope the Synod on the Family Does That It Doesn’t Seem to be Doing Now

Family Worship Background

I had high hopes for the Synod on the Family.

I had hope that it would find ways for the Church to support and strengthen traditional marriage, that it would address the real problems of children of divorce who grow up with half their souls amputated by the constant roiling.

I had hope that it would take a look at ways to help people who are trying their best to follow Catholic teaching in a hostile world where one McJob won’t support a family, so both parents end up with with two or three jobs, leaving the children to raise themselves.

I had hope that the Synod would address the clanging juxtaposition of overprivileged kids in too-expensive Catholic schools staging walk-outs from their fine educations while inner city kids are forced to share textbooks and don’t even feel physically safe.

I had hope that the Synod would find ways to strengthen the family, not abandon and destroy it.

In truth, I not only had hopes for the Synod, I had trust in it. I believed in it and in the men who were participating in it. Now, I’m afraid of what they may do.

Here are 6 things I wish the Synod on the Family would consider that it doesn’t seem to be considering now.

 

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1. Poverty and its deleterious effect on families. As I mentioned above, even here in America, poverty grinds families to bits. American children aren’t forced to scavenge in garbage dumps for food. But they spend most of their lives being raised by everything and everybody except their parents.

There is such a divide between the elites and the rest of this country that I honestly don’t think they know or believe what their policies are doing to ordinary people. Low wages and a stagnant economy caused by exporting our industrial base has led to the need for mothers and dads to work two or three jobs apiece, just to put a roof over their kids’ heads.

There’s no nanny or au pair for these kids. They end up raising themselves, and being raised by other kids and the second-rate schools they must attend. As soon as the law allows, they get McJobs of their own, often working long hours to help support the family. The resulting exhaustion often ends their education.

Too many of them opt out altogether. Their real family, their real parents, are the gangs and the other kids. They have no moorings to make decisions, so they fall into early and promiscuous sex, babies without dads, drugs and gangs.

That’s in America.

I’m sure it’s much worse — by powers of ten — in developing countries. After all, the reason our corporations shipped our industrial base overseas was to be in places where it could treat people any way it wanted.

Divorce among the working class and lower classes in America is a plague; as is shacking up and having kids out of wedlock.

It destroys families. And the destruction of families destroys lives.

Perhaps the Synod should look at what it can do to help Catholics who want to have families and raise them well but are crippled by poverty that makes living out their vocation a desperate and losing fight. How can the Church support families in the face of poverty and corporatism? I wish they’d look at that.

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2. How the Church can actually teach its teachings to the people in the pews. Re-writing the Gospels to fit the times is not the correct pastoral answer. The correct pastoral answer is to take a look at why the Bishops have been such abysmal failures at teaching Church teaching.The arguments these men are having now are a direct result of their failure to teach in the past.

The Church leadership has gotten soft and disengaged. It has lost its missionary fervor. Its operating ethos is build-a-church-building-then-wait-for-the-parishioners-to-come. Follow that by preaching fine homilies that are nonetheless removed from the fact that ordinary pew-sitting Catholics are out there without ammunition or support on the front lines of a cultural war.

I don’t think that Catholic clergy really “get” what the Catholic laity is facing every single day. I don’t believe they understand the many social martyrdoms that many devout Catholics endure.

My hope is that the Synod could address this failure as it applies to the family and actually talk about how to help Catholic laity be the Light of the World that Jesus calls them to be.

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3. Stop speaking in indirections and obscure language. I would love to see our religious leaders take the marbles out of their mouths and actually communicate in a straightforward manner. The flap over the relatio is a case in point.

I’ve heard comments that people are “stupid” for not understanding that the document is just basically minutes of the previous meetings and nothing official. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my dealings with the public, it’s that if you say it, and they don’t get it, it’s on you to fix that. Leadership is mostly a matter of being understood.

This inability to speak in simple declarative sentences may be a large part of why the bishops have failed so disastrously these past decades in their job as teachers of the faith. If I could make one reform of Catholic clergy it would be to teach them to talk to people about the faith from the heart.

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4. Bring Catholic education back in line with Catholic belief, and provide it to the poor. Catholic education is losing its Catholic savor. It is also more and more the inaccessible privilege of the privileged. It smacks of hypocrisy to preach about “the poor” while shutting the doors to a good Catholic education in the “the poor’s” faces.

Catholic families of every social strata need the Church’s help in raising their children to be Catholic. If Catholic schools fail in this mission — and many of them are demonstrably failing horribly — then what are parents to do? By the same token, if access to a Catholic education is denied to parishioners who are trapped in the McJob syndrome, that will only quicken and deepen the destruction of their children.

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5. Address the plague of drug addiction that destroys our families. Drug addiction destroys the personalities of the people who suffer from it, and it also destroys the homes and happiness of everyone they love. It is a plague that is filling up prisons, destroying families, leaving children damaged and too bereft to become functioning adults, and hollowing out whole societies.

It leads to corruption and massive violence on a governmental scale. If the Synod wants to help families, it needs to discuss ways the Church can aid them in their anguished fight against drug addiction.

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6. Talk about Jesus, not one another. The priesthood is not supposed to be all about the priests. From the sex abuse scandal to some of the things I’m hearing from this Synod, the trouble stems, not from a lack of leadership, but a lack of followership.

Many of our religious leaders seem to think that their world is the whole world and that they have no need for the humble reliance on Christ that is the mark of true Christians the world over. My hope for this Synod is that its participants will follow Christ, and not each other. My number one wish is that our religious leadership would preach Christ. If they would do that, everything else would follow.

Second Dallas Nurse Diagnosed with Ebola had Just Completed Cross Country Flight

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A second Dallas nurse has been diagnosed with Ebola. She had traveled on a commercial flight from Cleveland to Dallas a few hours before she became ill. 

She is the second person to contract the disease after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the Ebola.

I’m not sure how emergency room personnel, who make the first diagnosis, are going to protect themselves from potential exposure to Ebola. It may lead to masks and gloves all around, even when dealing with removing splinters and from a toddler’s toe. 

From ABC News:

A second Texas nurse who has tested positive for Ebola was on a commercial jetliner from Cleveland to Dallas the night before she arrived at the hospital with a fever and was later diagnosed with the deadly virus, officials said today.

The nurse was part of the team at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who took care of a Liberian man who died of Ebola. She is the second member of the hospital staff to contract the virus and a Dallas official warned today that additional cases among the hospital’s health care workers is a “very real possibility.”

“The fight against Ebola in Dallas is a two-front fight now,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said, speaking at a morning press conference.

Authorities said they are now tracking 75 people following the second hospital worker’s diagnosis. The unidentified health care worker reported a fever Tuesday and was isolated at the hospital, authorities said.

The preliminary Ebola test was run late Tuesday at the state public health laboratory in Austin, and results were received at about midnight, authorities said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun confirmation testing.

The woman was put into isolation within 90 minutes, and she is dealing with her diagnosis “with grit and grace,” Jenkins said.

Authorities said this may not be the last case to be found among the hospital’s staff.

“We are preparing contingencies for more and that is a very real possibility,” Jenkins said.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings also suggested additional people may get sick.

“It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better,” the mayor said.

Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources defended practices at the hospital, which has faced criticism amid the Ebola diagnoses.

“It’s clear there was an exposure somewhere, sometime in our treatment of Duncan. Let’s be clear we’re a hospital that serves this community extremely well,” Varga said at the press conference.

“We’re the first to diagnose and treat this insidious disease that has attacked two of our own.”

City workers went to the neighborhood of the second patient early this morning to knock on doors to alert people to the news and to be alert to possible symptoms. They handed out flyers and later began robo calls to the area, Varga said.

Rawlings said the community remains vigilant. 

If You’re a Christian and They Know it, Hire Your Lawyer

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On the one hand, we have the Freedom From Religion Boors, sending off lawyer letters like a Gatling gun with the purpose of intimidating Christians — their target always seems to be Christians — into silence about their faith in public places. And on the other hand, we have that same FFRF, suing the federal government to force the IRS to “monitor” pastors for possible violations of the law in their sermons.

Enter Mayor Anise Parker of Houston, stage left.

Mayor Parker is embroiled in a fight with Houston residents over an ordinance the city council passed last spring. The ordinance is reputed to provide rather extensive legal “protection” to homosexuals and transgendereds.

That’s all well and good. Mayor Parker is Houston’s first lesbian mayor. Houstonians evidently like the job she’s done up until now. She was re-elected to her third and final term a year ago. Maybe she wanted to do something splendiferous for her mayoral swan song, and this new ordinance is it.

Politicians on the way out can become extraordinarily touchy about their “legacy.” I would guess that the first lesbian mayor of a large city would find no better legacy for herself than passing a land-mark gay rights act.

The trouble is political life is never a gimme. It’s always rough and tumble and, if you’re in office, you have to accept that. From the moment you report to work, the fight is on. Nothing ever comes easy in governing a democracy. Which is part of why it’s the best form of government there is; because elected officials do not get their way by proclamation. They’ve got to earn their victories in the political trenches of getting the votes and then defending the decisions to the pubic.

It appears that Mayor Parker forgot all that when she passed her legacy ordinance. She evidently shut down her ordinary thinking capacities where this ordinance was concerned and went into full-blown this-is-my-precious-legacy mode. I say that because it appears that she thought she could pass what was bound to be a controversial ordinance and there would be no flashback. How a three-term mayor could be so silly, I do not know.

So far, all this falls into the category of a seasoned mayor tossing everything she should have learned about governance aside and deciding to go all simple-minded and addle-pated over her pet mayoral victory. It looks for all the world like Mayor Parker entered the political arena over this ordinance — which was unavoidably going to draw serious push back — like a private citizen holding a dinner party in her own home. If the guests displeased her, she reserved the right to ask them to leave.

Here’s how it played out.

Opponents of the ordinance responded to its passage with a referendum petition to put the ordinance on the ballot and allow the citizens of Houston to vote on it. The petition garnered 50,000 signatures, which is a lot more than the needed 17,269. However the city threw it out, based on claims that it was “invalid.”

The petition’s backers responded to this with plans to take the city to court. 

The city responded to that with subpoenas, demanding to see the all sermons and speeches given by pastors who had opposed the ordinance that mention Mayor anise Parker, homosexuality or gender identity.

Now, the pastors’ attorneys are seeking to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that, among other things, they request material relating to activities protected by the First Amendment.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” their attorney, Christina Holcomb said.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” the city’s spokesperson responded.

There is a problem here that goes a lot deeper than one mayor who’s let her office go to her head. Regardless of the overweening ego delusions elected officials held in the past, no elected official before, say, 2005, would have even considered stepping all over the First Amendment and America’s most cherished freedoms to criticize our government like this.

Now, it’s become a palm-slapping, fist-bumping coup in certain circles to use the law to harass and bully Christians. The underlying problem here is the permission that Christian bashers give themselves to use the law to harass, badger, bully and deliberately try to limit the freedoms of American citizens who happen to be Christian.

Mayor Parker is mis-using her powers big-time on this. She’s also directly violating the Constitutional right of all American citizens to criticize their elected officials and public policy in public forums.

Are these subpoenas an attempt to use governmental power to quash pubic debate about this ordinance?

Or course they are.

Has Mayor Parker abandoned her responsibilities as Houston’s chief governing officer to play gay rights advocate? Perhaps. She certainly appears to have lost every last bit of her political and governing smarts over this issue. She has embroiled the city in a needless lawsuit by refusing to allow citizens the use of their rightful tool, the referendum. She followed that with a ham-handed attempt to silence her critics through government intimidation in the form of outrageous subpoenas.

She has also created another avenue to use government power to attack Christians. Now that the subpoena box has been opened, you can bet that other goodies are going to come out of it.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” the pastors’ attorney tells us. I would go a step further and say that political and social commentary are one of America’s greatest gifts to the world. Our forefathers created a government that ran right in the face of those that had preceded it. They grew up in a world where people could be hanged for criticizing the king or his policies, and they turned that on its head.

Americans have the right to criticize their government, their elected officials and public policy pretty much however they wish. There are a few caveats concerning elected officials, but the limits to redress through the courts for slander are so extreme that it’s close to impossible to do it. So far as I know, it is truly impossible to slander a policy or an idea.

The mayor of Houston, whatever her overwrought feelings about a particular ordinance, does not have the right to use her office to intimidate and bully her critics into silence. She can not, as Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have done, sit in a pew of the church of offending pastors and yell out “By God sir, I will not have this!”

Or rather, I suppose she could do that, but if she did, the pastor would be more likely to fall down laughing than to shake and shiver with fear.

We fought a whole war over this stuff.

And we won.

Now, American Christians are having to fight that war again, this time in the courts. To paraphrase the children’s song, If you’re Christian and they know it, hire your lawyer. You’re probably going to need one.

 

Freedom from Religion Foundation Hits Oklahoma City School

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Kathy Schiffer brought this to my attention.

Then I discovered that the Blaze had also covered it.

It seems that the Freedom from Religion Foundation is not only opposed to praying in schools, it also opposes pictures of praying.

In one of their usual trivial harrassments of ordinary people going about their lives, the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent one of their lawyer letters to an Oklahoma City school, demanding they remove a poster of two toddlers with hands clasped in what appears to be prayer. According to the Blaze, no one filed a complaint with the school district. However the FFRF claims that a parent contacted them.

The FFRF is just doing its regular thing of harassing, intimidating and badgering people in the name of atheism. The local ACLU, headed by my former colleague, Ryan Kiesel, is joining the party. Former Representative Kiesel says he’s doing this to “protect” the students of “other faiths and no faith.” Since no particular faith is specified in the poster, I would assume that the students are being protected from the sight of toddlers with what appear to be praying hands.

The poster has hung in Riverwind School for about 18 years. The FFRF sent their lawyer letter a year ago. The school, which is in Putnam City School District, has no plans to remove the poster.

For my part, I’m bored with the boorishness of these Freedom from Relgion Foundation theatrics. It must be terrible to be them, roaming around the country, looking for something to be outraged about so that they can threaten and bully other people.

Their claims of how they are defending the Constitution stink with self-righteous hypocrisy. If they want to defend the Constitution, they should be working against the HHS Mandate and its intrusion into First Amendment rights. If they’re concerned about education, they might take a look at our two-tier public education system with good schools for the rich and lousy schools for the inner city. That seems like a possible Constitutional issue to me.

Frankly, I’m bored with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They’re wasting their lives on hate. I don’t feel like letting them waste part of my life by being angry with them.

The Crazy People File

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Note: I published this post a few years’ back. It seemed apt to republish it today. 

 

“Crazy People”

The folder with this name sits on my hard drive.

Whenever I get an email that merits the title, I drag it into the “Crazy People” file. After 16 years in public office, the file has swollen to gigs of nutty emails that most likely would embarrass their senders if they read them today.

I have a theory that people don’t know how they sound in the emails they send to elected officials. They forget that other people are on the opposite end of these nasty diatribes; that they read them, react to them and file them away.

Several years ago, members of the Oklahoma House were spending what seemed like an endless day on the House floor. We were hearing one bill after another. Since it was close to the end of session, we’d voted on all these bills many times before; in committee, in the full House the first time, then again in the full House when they came back from the Senate, and now, in the full House again after they came out of conference committee.

We spend a lot of time together in the House of Representatives, kind of like people locked on a ship that’s adrift at sea. We’d heard each other’s speeches on these bills until we could all recite them together.

On that day, we were tired, over-stimulated and stressed; all combined with an almost numbing boredom. It gets like that late in every legislative session.

Mainly due to the boredom, we started talking about the emails we get. Now there are certain people who evidently get up every morning and fire off a nasty email to all the members of the legislature before breakfast, kind of like some people go to daily mass and others run on their treadmill. Their names and the names they call us become familiar to all of us. We started trying to figure out whose district these emailers were from.

Finally, I emailed the one who we all felt was the most flamboyant and asked what part of the state he lived in. Nobody answers these kinds of emails, and I think it was the first time any of us had clicked “reply” on one of his. The person responded and asked why I wanted to know. I said that we’d been talking about him and were wondering whose district he lived in.

If it’s possible to sound abashed in an email, this person did. I really don’t think he realized that people read the stuff he was sending. In all the years since, he has never sent another blanket email to the Oklahoma House.

Of course, this person, hateful and goofy-sounding as his emails were, did not rise to the level that gets someone into the “Crazy People” file. It takes a special kind of venom, and usually a couple of threats, to land there.

The point I’m making is if you’re writing your legislator in support of Christian values, remember that someone will read what you send. Do your best to sound like a follower of Christ and not an escapee from a wingnut radio talk show. You can make your point just as well without calling people names or attacking their intelligence, beliefs, children, parentage or appearance.

Remember: When you say your are a Christian, other people judge Christ by you. Don’t be a negative witness for Christ just because you think it’s clever and witty to degrade other people with your speech. Civility will not only make you a better witness for Christ, it will make you more persuasive about the positions you are advocating.

It can also keep you out of the “Crazy People” file.

Stop Inflicting Your Inner Crazy on Other People

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Photo Source: Friendly Atheist

Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta published a post concerning a couple of ominous notes received by an atheist leader at an “atheist church.” Public Catholic reader Lark brought this to my attention and asked me to comment on it.

I have zero problems saying that the nutso practice of putting threatening letters in people’s mailboxes is not only a federal crime, it is wrong.

There’s a lot I don’t know about this note-in-the-mailbox scenario. According to Mr Mehta’s post, the recipients of these missives are leaders in a local Louisiana “atheist church.” Leaving aside the whole question of “atheist church,” which, to be honest, sounds more like a community gathering than a church, let’s take up the two notes.

So far as I can tell from Mr Mehta’s post, these notes were placed anonymously in the family’s mailbox. The photos of the notes show them to be typewritten. I can see how someone who hasn’t experienced this before might find them threatening. Evidently, the family in question is taking them very seriously indeed. Most of the family has been moved “somewhere safe.”

Speaking as someone who has been a public figure for a long, long time, I can tell you that morons say a lot of moronic things, and that a good number of those moronic things are threatening.

Looking at the photos of these notes, I can make all sorts of conjectures about where they came from, ranging from teens playing a joke to a seriously disturbed nut, to — and this is reaching, but it could be true — a small group of militia types. That’s how vague my understanding of this is.

Frankly, I think our society gives people far too much leeway for inflicting their inner crazy on the people around them. I have a file on my hard drive, called the Crazy People file, where I put the threats and insults I got from the public (never from the district I represented) during my tenure as a legislator.

I’ve had people follow me around the state, showing up at every speaking engagement to heckle me. I’ve had my house broken into and my political records riffled through. Some idiot even stole my garbage right out of the can. I’ve had my tires slashed — repeatedly — and my brake lines cut. They even killed my dog.

My delete file here at Patheos gets steady incoming from the moron side of every issue we discuss. Most of these are just snipes and barbs and nutty diatribes. I get batches of the same insult that come in waves, which are obviously the result of a post by another blogger out there somewhere, flogging me for my opinions. After public office, this is pretty tame stuff. Blogging doesn’t seem to raise the same level of hate as political office.

I mention all this because I think we need a bit of perspective in the matter of these two notes. I don’t know if the notes were the only thing that happened, or if there have been other things, as well. Assuming that the notes are the whole deal, I repeat: They were wrong. Placing them in a mailbox is a federal crime.

If someone who claims to be following Christ put them there, they’ve got their heads on backwards. Hatred and attacking other people is sinful. It can keep you from going to heaven.

I think the solution to this situation is for both sides to try a dose of live and let live. Atheists have every right to think as they think and believe (or disbelieve) as they believe. However, that does not include the practice of continuously attacking, insulting and badgering other people. It’s wrong for everybody, including atheists, to behave this way.

Hopefully, these notes were a prank of some sort. If they were not, I hope that the perpetrators are found and punished.

Public life has good things about it, not the least of which being the many wonderful people you meet.

But the morons are out there.

And they say and do moronic things.

My advice to everyone, whether they are atheist or people of faith or just done care, is to stop inflicting your inner crazy on other people.

Don’t give yourself permission to be a jerk.

Synod on the Family: What Do They Mean by Gradualism?

Karen Schmidt Prodigal Son

We’re getting snippets of this, and snippets of that out of the Synod on the Family.

One word that has appeared and is floating around like one of those word bubbles above characters heads in a cartoon is gradualism. Even John Allen over at Crux, has made note of the sudden uptick in gradualism talk. “Gradualism … seemed on the verge of being stricken fem the official lexicon, is back with a vengeance,” he tell us. 

Unfortunately, ordinary pew-sitting Catholics like me have been pummeled and pounded with moral relativism these past few years. We’ve had the cant of what’s-happening-now talking-head theology thrown in our faces as we’ve been called everything from bigots to birdbrains for attempting to stay true to the Church’s teachings. In times like this, the sudden employment of the word “gradualism” by our bishops as they talk about those teachings fills us with anxiety.

Are our religious leaders going to pull the rug out from under us and announce that the teachings we’ve given real emotional blood to support are now as relative as the larger society has told us they are? The anxiety, which runs deep in a lot of hearts, is that our bishops are going to end up playing us for chumps for having believed them in the first place.

I’m no theologian, but I think — emphasis think — that gradualism, as it applies to Catholic teaching is that you don’t have to be all the way home to perfection or order to be on your way there. It sounds like shorthand way of saying that we are all on a journey in this life, and, in terms of our walk with Christ, we fall down a lot and have to get back up.

The easiest way I can explain what I’m trying to say is to describe my own self at the time of my conversion experience. I had committed the whole library of serious sins. I could go down the Ten Commandments and tick them off. Took the Lord’s name in vain? Check. Bore false witness? Check. Killed innocent people? Done and done.

I was rotten with sin, but the only sin I believed was a sin happened to be something that neither the press nor most of my friends know about. I confessed it to my priest and I’ve certainly taken it to God. I think I’ll let that ride and not confess it here.

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Suffice it to say, that I believed I had done something cruel to another person and I was grieved to my core over it. So grieved that, after 17 years of telling God to buzz off, I reached out to Him. “Forgive me,” was all I said, but it was enough.

I experienced a homecoming that puts the welcome given the prodigal son to shame. I was, as Protestants say, washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb.

Buutttttt … I stil didn’t know my other sins were sins.

I know that sounds daffy.

But I had lived by my own lights, been my own little g god for so long, drunk so many gallons of my own Kool-Aid that I honestly believed that, say, abortion, was a positive good that saved women’s lives. I believed that right down to the ground. No questions. No doubts.

I could go on for a long time, cataloguing what I didn’t know about my own sinful state. But the point I’m making needs no further explication, and here it is:

God accepted me just exactly as I was.

Let me say that again: God accepted me just exactly as I was. 

I didn’t have to go to the spiritual dry cleaners and get all spiffed up to be acceptable to Him and loved by Him.

I didn’t need to have my nose rubbed in my sins and be humiliated for them.

I didn’t even need to know what my sins were.

All I had to do was say “yes” and God loved me from death to life in an instant of overwhelming grace.

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The interesting part is that He didn’t start educating me right away. At first, it was like a honeymoon of sorts. I fell blindly and absolutely in love with Jesus and He loved me back. I felt so free, clean and loved.

And I was.

Gradually, this Being (Who I did not understand at the time was the Holy Spirit) Who had been walking with me since I said “Forgive me,” began to show me my sins. It was gently done. He would show me something I had done, and I would realize that it was wrong.

It was — get ready for this now — almost a year and a half before He raise the question of abortion, and then it was as gently done as all the rest. Just, this is wrong.

A lot came later, but once again, this suffices for the point I’m trying to make.

Gradualism is not just a theological construct. It is a lived reality. What I experienced when the Holy Spirit began the process of re-shaping me into what He wanted me to become, what He had always intended me to be, was God’s own gradualism.

He can knock you flat just as He did me. But when He picks you up, it’s like a mother holding her own precious child. He does not expect you to “get” it all at once, even more than I expected my newborn babies to hop down off the delivery table and start tap dancing.

I knew, and God knows, that we learn slowly or not at all.

And, perhaps more to the point, we learn when the time is right for us to do it.

This gradualism I describe does not say that God’s Word, His Gospels and His Righteousness are relative. They are not. In fact, they are so absolute that none of us can live up to them. That is the reason for the Cross. It is why God had to become human and suffer what we suffer and die as we die to open a way out of our lostness for us.

We can never live up to God’s absolute righteousness. Thanks be to God, we don’t have to.

We are, all of us pilgrim people on the road through this life and into the next one.

Gradualism is simply the acknowledgement of two things:

1. None of us is righteous is His sight, and,

2. He accepts us just as we are.

What we must do — what we must do — is trust Him and give Him our lives and our wills. We must let Him shape us into what we were meant to be, one gradual step at a time. If we presume on His mercy to declare that we do not need to change, that our sins are not sins, then we refuse Him and we will die the ultimate death.

God accepted me just as I was, and then He began to slowly change what I wanted to be. He showed me my sins and I reacted by believing Him and letting Him change me, from the inside out.

That is the key to salvation.

It is also why gradualism is not relativism. Gradualism does not say that sins are not sins. It simply says that we are, all of us, at whatever stage in our Walk with Christ, in need of improvement.

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Do not take the concept of gradualism and mis-use it as a get out of jail free card that allows you to willfully continue in your sins and thumb your nose at the Gospels. That is a fearful and, if it’s not given up, fatal sin. “God is not mocked,” St Paul told us, and those who claim God’s forgiveness as a fiat to sin are mocking God.

Gradualism is not relativism, although I suspect it will be bandied about as if it was. Gradualism is simply a word expressing what the old hymn, Just As I Am, expresses. It does not teach that sin is not sin. What it teaches is that the hopelessness of our sins need not be our story.

We can be washed clean of our sins by the Blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side. We can become true pilgrims who are walking faithfully with Him on the Narrow Way that will lead us to Glory.

Gradualism tells us that we don’t have to get perfect to go to God. That, no matter what we’ve done, we can change and become new creatures in Him.

Because the same Jesus Who told us He was the Way, also promised that He would make all things new.

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Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith takes his own view of gradualism here

The Supremes KO Marriage as a State’s Right Issue

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They didn’t do it directly.

It was an indirect, “if you say so” kind of move.

The United States Supreme Court allowed rulings from lower courts in favor of legalizing gay marriage stand. This decision, which affected rulings in five states, simply said that the Court would not address these lower court rulings. The rulings had overturned state laws in five states that limited marriage to one man and one woman.

This decision not to decide on the part of the Supreme Court was a backdoor way of overturning their own ruling of a few months ago that marriage was a matter for the states to regulate. It is also the natural outcome of their concomitant ruling overturning DOMA.

The Supreme Court’s tut-tut verbiage of the time aside, overturning DOMA had the effect of federalizing marriage. Lower courts have followed by legislating from the bench and overturning state laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman in a willy-nilly fashion.

Personally, I’m not surprised. I basically said this would happen when the DOMA decision came down. I ran into a bit of criticism for saying this at the time. But far too often, people try to parse their way out of the obvious by hinging arguments on the particulars and ignoring the major effects of a piece of legislation or public statement by government authorities.

This kind of “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is“ commentary cripples people’s understanding and leaves them wide open to what anyone with half a brain can see is coming.

The Supreme Court overturned DOMA, and that federalized marriage. They also, at the same time, made statements about marriage being a state’s rights issue. As the Court so often does, it set up a collision that it would have to rule on in the future.

In the instance of gay marriage, I think they did this for political reasons. It was their attempt to avoid the kind of cataclysmic ruling and the resulting public battle that happened with Roe v Wade. They know the harm Roe did to this country, and they didn’t want their fingerprints on another ruing that would damage it even further. At the same time, they intended to allow gay marriage.

What they did to avoid this was try the frog-in-the-pan-of-water method of making a cataclysmic ruling. You know how it goes. If you put a frog in a pan of boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put it in a pan of tepid water and slowly heat it up, the frog will sit there until it’s cooked. In this case, the frog is us.

The Supreme Court overturned DOMA, and thereby federalized marriage, which set up a series of court battles that collided directly with their statements concerning marriage in another ruling they made on the same day. It was inevitable and necessary that they were going to have to rule again as to which of their conflicting rulings they actually meant.

They did just that on Monday. But they didn’t do it by making a ruling. They did it by letting other courts’ rulings stand.

This is an interesting ploy.

In politics, we call it heat transference.

The Court used this three-step don’t-really-rule-but-get-the-effect-of-a-ruling method to transfer the heat away from themselves and diffuse it out onto the wider American public. The practical effect in terms of American jurisprudence is both similar to a cataclysmic ruling, and somewhat different.

The major difference is that future Supreme Courts won’t have to overturn this one if they decide to rewind things a bit. The Court hasn’t ruled. It just let lower court rulings stand.

That may sound like a minor difference, but in practical terms of what we’re going to have to do to put the toothpaste back into the tube, it’s major.

The important thing, which I intend to repeat as often as necessary, is that we’ve got a battle ahead of us.

We have to convert this culture, and we have to do it in the face of increasingly ugly anti-Christian bias.

This is not, to paraphrase Thomas Paine, the time for sunshine soldiers of the Cross.

The first place to begin is by clearing away the debris in our own lives and marriages. The second and equally important thing is to protect our children from the propaganda and brainwashing that is directed at them.

We need to live our values and raise our children to do the same.

Only then, when we have removed the beams from our own eyes, will we be fit to remove the splinter from the eyes of those around us.

This is a wonderful time to be a Christian. We have the opportunity to stand for Christ in meaningful ways that can change the world.

Don’t miss your chance to stand with Him in this day.

President Obama Sends Message to Killer’s Mosque. Did He Ignore Victim’s Family?

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My mother was an amazing woman, loving wife to my father and adoring grandmother.
She made me feel loved everyday.

 

President Obama has set off a bit of a firestorm by sending a congratulatory message to the mosque where Alton Nolen, the man who committed the Oklahoma beheading, worshipped. 

The message itself is a routine congratulatory message to Muslims during the celebration of Eid al-Adha. I don’t know if the White House extends similar congratulatory messages to Oklahoma Jewish worshippers during the High Holy Days, or if the head of the Oklahoma Southern Baptist Convention or the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City receive White House congratulations during Easter and Christmas. We’ve got a lot of faiths here in Oklahoma. Do they all get this white-glove treatment?

If they do, I haven’t heard of it. 

I feel reasonably certain that no other house of worship in Oklahoma City has had such a message hand-carried and then read aloud to them by David Myers, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based Neighborhood Partnerships; especially not after one of their members went out and murdered a grandmother shouting the religious slogans of their faith.  

While the message itself is a pro forma political attaboy, (or in this case, attaimam) I don’t think it’s customary to issue such messages to all faiths. I’d bet the ranch that this extreme case of a White House aide hand-carrying it over 1500 miles to read it aloud to worshippers is more than a little bit unusual.  If this was common practice with all faiths, we’d need a lot more directors. 

What really galls me is the one-sidedness of the behavior. So far as I know, President Obama chose not to send a message of condolence to, or in any other way acknowledge, the family of Colleen Hufford. Colleen Hufford is the 54-year-old grandmother who lost her life to a knife-wielding man shouting Islamic slogans.

Based on her daughter’s statements to the press, Mrs Hufford’s family has been supported by their Oklahoma community and, lately, by the larger American community. But there was no mention of any word from the Mourner in Chief. 

Colleen Hufford was not a political inconvenience. She was not and is not a challenge to the politically correct script our government and most of our media is reading to us.

Colleen Hufford was, according to her daughter Kelli Hufford, “a caring and compassionate woman.” She was Meemaw to her granddaughter. She loved to garden, and was a devoted hockey fan. One thing you realize watching her daughter’s statement is that this was a good woman, with a loving family. To see her daughter’s full statement, go here

Here is the formal statement from Colleen Hufford’s family:

For her life to have been taken in such a tragic act of violence adds a depth of grief we are trying to comprehend. We want to thank the wonderful family and friends who have come to our aid during this very difficult time with messages of hope and prayer. 

Here’s the message the president sent: 

Michelle and I would like to extend our best wishes to Muslims in the United States and around the world who are celebrating Eid al-Adha, and to congratulate those performing the Hajj this year.

“As our Muslim neighbors and friends gather for Eid celebrations, Muslim Americans are among the millions of pilgrims joining one of the world’s largest and most diverse gatherings. Hajj brings together Muslims from around the world — Sunni and Shiite — to share in reverent prayer, side by side. It serves as a reminder that no matter one’s tribe or sect, race or religion, gender or age, we are equals in humanity.

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