House Defeats Pacific Trade Fast Track

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

The United States House of Representatives has defeated the fast track on the Pacific Trade Agreement.

This is what happens with Democrats and Republicans come together.

I’m sure that they voted together for different reasons. That’s the way things work, when they work. But the point is that the United States House of Representatives turned by the Imperial Presidency by voting no on the fast tracking of the Pacific Trade agreement.

This vote puts the trade agreement back on a normal path, where it can be amended and its contents can be discussed. I am entirely aware that many Republicans voted against fast-tracking simply because they saw it as an opportunity to embarrass the president. I am also aware that the Democrats voted against it because they wanted to preserve American jobs.

I am also aware, that the American people won this round, at least for now. That’s so unusual that it, alone is cause to celebrate. Now if we can just get Congress to realize that they can actually pass laws, even if they read them, discuss them and amend them like grown up lawmakers, we’ll really have a miracle.

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — House Democrats rebuffed a dramatic personal appeal from President Obama on Friday, torpedoing his ambitious push to expand his trade negotiating power — and, quite likely, his chance to secure a legacy-defining trade accord spanning the Pacific Ocean.

In a remarkable rejection of a president they have resolutely backed, House Democrats voted to kill assistance to workers displaced by global trade, a program their party created and has stood by for four decades. By doing so, they brought down legislation granting the president trade promotion authority — the power to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended or filibustered by Congress — before it could even come to a final vote.

“We want a better deal for America’s workers,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader who has guided the president’s agenda for two terms and was personally lobbied by Mr. Obama until the last minute.

Republican leaders tried to muster support from their own party for trade adjustment assistance, a program they have long derided as an ineffective waste of money and sop to organized labor. But not enough Republicans were willing to save the program.

What Would Happen if Fat People Stopped Hating Themselves?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Daniel Oines https://www.flickr.com/photos/dno1967b/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Daniel Oines https://www.flickr.com/photos/dno1967b/

There’s no end to the weight-loss, get-in-shape advice/programs/support groups rolling around the internet.

Most of them are useless, but harmless. A few of them are useless and harmful. Some of them cost $$. Others are free.

All of them work short term.

None of them work long term.

The most extreme and destructive of these is weight loss surgery. As usual for “reality” tv, (which I’m pretty sure ain’t all that “real”) there are cable tv shows dedicated to putting people who suffer from extreme weight problems on the air and letting us watch them go through extreme “solutions.”

These “solutions” range from shows that put fat people through punishing exercise routines that would, if most of us fatties tried them cold turkey, put us in the hospital. These exercise routines are punishing to the point of being downright dangerous.

The exercise punishment is coupled with extreme food makeovers that are just as harsh and punishing as the workout routines. Basically, the person is supposed to stop eating everything they like and begin eating everything they hate, and they aren’t supposed to eat much of that.

Then, we meet the sadistic “trainer” who yells at, belittles, demands and bullies the overweight person every step of the way. The cherry on top is the televised weigh-in, complete with the fear of public humiliation. I don’t know how much these cable networks pay their victims who participate in these shows, but whatever it is, it’s not enough.

Does anyone think that this is a sustainable lifestyle for a real person? Would anyone want to live their life like this? Living like this would be like living in an eternal Navy Seals training camp. Nobody is going to do that, including Navy Seals.

Another popular form of weight loss reality show is the televised miseries of people who undergo weight loss surgery. I am assuming that these people at least get their surgery/counseling/medical care paid for. If they don’t, they need to get a lawyer. These shows are exercises in public humiliation. The poor “star” of the show has to reveal their deepest emotional scars, including things such as sexual abuse, to the whole wide uncaring world.

They are forced to exhibit their folds of fat, and then, after the weight loss, their folds of hanging skin, all for our edutainment. We get to see their family fights, their messy houses and their break-downs of despair. It’s soooo much fun.

Does anybody realize how sick this stuff is? The underlying message in all these shows is that overweight people are freaks who deserve to be punished.

That underlying message is out there everywhere you go in our world. There are only three groups of people you can really pile on to today: Child molesters (If they are Catholic priests. If they are powerful movie directors, not so much.) any outspoken, traditional Christian, and fat people.

Why do we pick on fat people? What’s wrong with being Rubenesque?

I have a theory, which is backed up by nothing but my own thinking and a bit of historical fact. Here it is.

Historical fact: Not so long ago, it was skinny people who got the social boos. My own grandmother, who was born in 1886, suffered from being labeled “unatractively thin,” while her more rotund sister was “pleasingly plump.”

Somewhere early in the 20th Century this began to flip. Before too many decades, we had the Duchess of Windsor, aka, Wallace Simpson, aka the seductress who led a king to abdicate his throne, telling the world that “you can never be too rich or too thin.”

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by The Coincidental Dandy https://www.flickr.com/photos/69017136@N04/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by The Coincidental Dandy https://www.flickr.com/photos/69017136@N04/

In the years since Wallace Simpson was all the news, things have gotten much worse. Marilyn Monroe, the sex kitten of the 50s, would be considered fat by today’s standards. Twiggy, the model who became famous for being uber skinny would look like just another twig beside today’s celebrities.

Twiggy. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by RV1864 https://www.flickr.com/photos/summer1978/

Twiggy. Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by RV1864 https://www.flickr.com/photos/summer1978/

Fashion models have literally starved themselves to death, trying to flatten the womanly curves off their bodies.

It’s a standard thing in some circles for women to starve themselves so completely that they begin to resemble boys instead of women. Then, they go to a surgeon and have fake breasts implanted under the skin of their chests to recreate the illusion of part of what they have starved away.

This is sick stuff folks. Really sick stuff.

How on earth did we get here?

My theory is based on the historical fact that this change in attitude about food occurred at the same time that our attitudes about sex began to change. There was a time not so long ago when our attitudes about sex were as punishing — especially for women — as our attitudes about food are now.

The hypocritical, cruel and destructive double standard reigned supreme. Women paid the whole price for human sexuality.

We could enjoy food back in those days, but not sex.

Now, we’ve gotten to the point that sex has become a kind of tyrannical monster that is forced on people. Force-feeding sex on a culture is not all that much better than punishing them for being sexual people in the first place. In fact, it’s beginning to look like it’s even more destructive.

At the same time that we’ve gone pagan about sex, we’ve turned hyper Victorian about food.

It’s as if we must be at war with our bodies on some level and we must make this war a form of societal condemnation and punishment for those hapless few who can’t fight the war and win. We need somebody to hate, because if we didn’t have somebody to hate, we’d have to look in the mirror, and face ourselves.

I think that this food sickness we’ve got going in our society is a symptom of widespread and endemic self hatred.

The first step out of cultural weight sickness is to stop pretending that it’s about a lack of self-discipline, addiction, laziness or any other defect.

Food, like sex, is good. Both of them are a gift from God. Both food and sex give great personal pleasure. They have the power to bring people together and create connections between them.

Sex, no matter what the sickos in our world tell you, makes a difference. Having sex with someone is, unless you are both really messed up people, a deeply bonding experience. It is the drive that brings men and women together to create family and civilization.

When it is abused, by turning it into a weapon, or degrading it into an animalistic function, it becomes harmful to the point of personal destruction. The antidote to this is the simple Christian teaching that sex is self-giving between two people. Viewed and lived through that prism, it’s a straight path to the joyous and fulfilling goodness of human sexuality.

It is the same with food. Sharing meals creates community, binds people together, makes it easier for them to talk and relate. There is a reason why meetings between heads of state always culminate in a banquet. That reason is part of who and what we are as social people. This drive for food is bound up in our relationships with others and with ourselves.

But when we turn food into a solitary and shameful act, a drive through the drive through, then gobble it down without being fully aware of what we are doing, we stuff down food’s immense power for good along with the hamburger and fries. The compelling impulse for food becomes a desolate act of self destruction that we repeat over and over again.

Photo  Source: Flickr Creative Commons by tracy ducasse https://www.flickr.com/photos/teagrrl/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by tracy ducasse https://www.flickr.com/photos/teagrrl/

We live such overworked, fractured lives that the simple pleasures of conversation, family meals with long, lingering discussions, laughter and just being together are lost to us. At the same time, we are burdened to the breaking point with the cultural guilt about and obsession with food.

The truth is that the celebrities we see with their emaciated bodies are only attractive when they are properly lit, expensively clothed, groomed, and Photoshopped. When you meet them in person, they look like walking x-rays. Many of them end up taking drugs to assuage the constant hunger they endure.

The first step out of our culture of weight sickness is to realize that it is a sickness. There is nothing normal about thinking about food all the time. It doesn’t matter if you are a binge eater stuffing down every candy bar in sight, or you are one of those walking x-rays taking drugs so the hunger pangs don’t overpower you; you are in the grip of a culturally induced obsession.

I think the first thing the fatties of the world, including me, need to do is stop hating ourselves for being fat. We need to stop punishing ourselves with food and over food. That’s a tough boogie I’m talking about. It means going in the face of a tsunami of cultural messages. It means taking the self-hate we’ve been taught and drop kicking it off the front porches of our emotional lives.

It takes real guts to go against the world around you. But Christians should be well-equipped for the task since we face the choice of the world or Jesus just about every single day of our lives.

I think I’m going to go to the grocery store and buy the makings of a really good meal. I’m going to buy my favorites. Then, I’m going to cook it and invite a few folks over for supper. I intend to enjoy the food and enjoy my guests.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped all this craziness and just started using food in the way God intended it to be used. What if we enjoyed it without guilt, shared it with pleasure, savored it, licked every last morsel off the spoon and then leaned back in our chairs and grinned?

One thing I’m pretty sure of is that I wouldn’t be any fatter. And I certainly would be a lot happier.

I think I’m going to try this. Enjoying food and not feeling guilty about it is my new diet. I wonder what will happen.

Now, let’s talk.

 

Will Gay Marriage Lead to “Marriage with Multiple Partners?” Emory Symposium Says No.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Bombman https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajay_g/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Bombman https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajay_g/

If the Supreme Court creates a 14th Amendment right to gay marriage in it upcoming decision, will that open the gateway to a legal right to polygamy?

Justice Alito asked that question directly during hearings on this decision. There was predictable outrage in certain quarters because of Justice Alito’s question.

Now Emory Law Journal attempts to put the question to rest by taking it seriously and answering it in the negative.

The journal recently held a “paper symposium” on this question. The upshot of the papers it published is that polygamy imposes a preponderance of harm to the human rights of women and children, as well as to the social order in terms of polygamy’s poverty and inequality creating force within societies.

For this reason, that authors argue that America would be able to avoid legalizing marriage between anybody and anything, even if gay marriage is considered a 14th Amendment right, based on arguments in favor of the public good.

This is sophistry in defense of what the authors consider to be a done deal. The forward to the symposium flatly states that the author anticipates that the Court will find a “right” to gay marriage in the 14th Amendment.

These papers and this symposium attempt to soften the blow of such a decision. They’re a scholarly version of the there-there-little-buttercup, it-doesn’t-mean-all-that-much stuff that came out after the DOMA decision. That was bogus then, and this line of reasoning is bogus now. Here’s why.

The authors of these papers seek to answer the serious question of what legal basis for restricting marriage to any definition at all remains if the Court creates a 14th Amendment right to gay marriage. They answer that there is a basis for restricting marriage to two people. Their reason for claiming that the courts will protect marriage between two people is, essentially, because it is best for the common good. 

The authors outline arguments against polygamy and for restricting marriage to two people based on the harms polygamy inflicts on society and on persons. They emphasize the obvious harms to the the civil and human rights of women and children that are inherent in polygamy, and also discuss polygamy’s poverty-creating force, as well as its destructiveness to men without money. They then claim that this gives the state a legitimate legal basis for restricting marriage to two people.

In other words, they are claiming that creating a 14th Amendment right to gay marriage will not lead to future rulings in favor of polygamy because polygamy harms the common good.

This is nonsense. The Catholic Church cares about the common good. The United States Supreme Court clearly does not.

The Court has a long history of ignoring the public good in decisions such as this. The Supreme Court single-handedly created the culture war that is ripping this country apart with it bench legislating in the Roe v Wade decision. It set the country on the road to destruction of marriage with the hydra-headed DOMA decision.  If it uses the 14th Amendment to create a “right” to gay marriage, it will simply be doing more of the same.

The idea that we can base our hopes of preventing a rush to legalize marriage between everybody and everything by trusting the Supreme Court’s desire to protect the common good is fantastical.

If the Supreme Court “finds” (good word) a 14th Amendment right to gay marriage, the agitation to legalize polygamy will ramp up within a couple of months, if not sooner. If you think I’m being alarmist, then hide and watch.

This agitation will be coupled with an all-out attack on the First Amendment rights of small business owners as well as individuals who express opinions in the workplace or other public venues that challenge politically correct thinking.

I remember when the DOMA decision was handed down, I predicted that what has happened would happen. A number of people said that I was being too negative, when in fact, I was deliberately down-playing what was coming. I’m telling you now that I’m also soft-peddling what will happen if the Supreme Court creates a right to gay marriage under the 14th Amendment.

That would be a draconian decision.

Go here to read the papers published in Emory Law’s symposium on marriage.

YouTube Preview Image

 

 

Beautiful Chalkboard Drawings from a 1917 Okie School Uncovered

Photo Source: Flick Creative Commons by Todd Petrie https://www.flickr.com/photos/58869428@N05/

Photo Source: Flick Creative Commons by Todd Petrie https://www.flickr.com/photos/58869428@N05/

 

You’ve got to click on this link and look at these. They are beautiful.

The Junk Food Fix is More Than One Person’s Bad Choice. It’s an American Problem.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maurice Svay https://www.flickr.com/photos/mauriz/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maurice Svay https://www.flickr.com/photos/mauriz/

My brave, witty and beautiful colleague, Katrina Fernandez, writes with the uninhibited gusto of a natural born wordsmith.

She has her finger on the pulse of the American condition. Her struggles with making ends meet as a single Mom in our current “jobless recovery” echo those of a lot of people I know, including my own family members. Her passion for Christ and His Church, her love of art and her fearless honesty make her one of the best reads on the internet.

Katrina has lately taken on the bugaboo of a whole raft of us working class Americans:  the demoralizing and doomed-to-defeat battle against overweight. Every word she writes, I can affirm from my own overweight life. Every defeat she encounters, every frustration and every small victory are experiences that millions of us have shared.

This topic of discussion fascinates a lot of us for the simple reason that Katrina is not alone in her predicament. Most of us live our lives in what Thoreau once described as “quiet desperation.” The difference is, in today’s world there is nothing quiet about our desperation.

We shout our frustrations for all the world to hear, but, despite our shouting, we do not comprehend them. How much of our food obsession and chronic widespread obesity is a reaction to the larger desperation of people who are pushed as far as they can be every single day of their lives?

All you have to do is leave this country and spend a few days in a place like Spain to come back and see and feel for yourself the driven, nerved-up atmosphere of our America. We are living through an implosion of our national wealth which is being siphoned off from the many and redeposited in the bank accounts of the very, very few.

We are, in fact and in truth, being systematically stolen blind by our government, which is the operative force in this theft.

What I’m saying is that we are getting poorer every single day. It is becoming harder and harder for ordinary Americans to make enough money to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and a running car in the garage.

We have splintered our families to the point that vast numbers of Americans are trying to row their boat with one hand. Single parents try to be two people. But they can’t. Not really.

We work long hours for low pay and fewer benefits every year. We send our children to substandard schools that throw them into contact with drugs, gangs and that teach them moral nihilism. Our tax dollars are used to manipulate our children into a valueless worldview that is anathema to us and to their futures.

We are forced to leave our children alone in our homes for many hours a week while we try to make a living. We face a future in which any chance of getting off the treadmill to retire is being challenged by politicians who work for corporatists who want this last big pool of money, which is the retirement savings of generations, for their own use.

We are tired to the point of exhaustion almost every day of our lives. We do not have the energy and leisure for reflection and thought. At the same time, the media bombards us constantly with one pounding crisis after another. We are propagandized, lied to and manipulated in a deliberate fashion on a constant basis by this same media.

At the end of our long day, we do not feel like cooking a meal. We are too tired to wheel a shopping cart through a grocery store. It is simpler and in fact less expensive to go through the drive-through at the local fast food joint and pick up a sack of something. We can be sure that this something will be heavily seasoned with fat, sugar and salt. We can be equally sure that it will not contain anything resembling a balance of food types and nutrients.

But we have learned to find satisfaction in the sledge-hammer hit of fats, sugar and salt. The carbs and fats hit our systems like a drug fix. They energize us for the moment and the powerful tastes assuage our longing for pleasure. Eating this stuff passes for a momentary time-out. It feels like comfort.

Food, used like this, is not about nourishment. It is not the pleasurable and relaxing experience of partaking of a well-balanced, home-cooked meal with family and friends. There is no lingering over the last morsel and laughing about the day’s problems.

This kind of eating is a buy-it-quick, stuff-it-down fix. We need the outlandish calorie counts supplied by all that fat and sugar to satisfy our hunger because the food itself is so low in so many essential nutrients. The sugar-fat-salt fix soothes our taste buds and raises our blood sugar so that we feel a short-lived high.

Of course, this doesn’t last. Unlike a real meal composed of good food, the high from this something we’ve bought at the drive through goes away in a relatively short time. Unlike a meal at the kitchen table with friends and family, it does nothing to relieve the day’s pressures and assuage the anxieties that keep us up at night, even when we ache from tiredness.

Before we have begun to burn the high number of calories we’ve consumed, the gnawing hungers, both physical and emotional, are back. Our bodies push us to eat again because they haven’t been properly nourished. Our minds beg us to binge because we need surcease from being, as Alcoholics Anonymous says, too hungry, angry, lonely and tired.

We have nobody to talk to. We have no other outlets in our time-starved lives where we can vent. We are pushed around, abandoned, scared and alone with our miseries. We really are too hungry, angry, lonely and tired to fend off that call for a junk food fix.

Our national problem with obesity is not so much a problem with food as it is that we don’t have healthy options for dealing with the many desperations of our existence. We live in a nation that has been at war for almost 15 years. Our country has been economically at war since around 1939.

Our government has been hijacked by corporatists who are draining the national purse as well as our private purses and taking the money for themselves. The government tells us that inflation is flat, yet every time we go to the grocery store or fill a prescription or guy a gallon of gas, we know that this is not true. Inflation is, in fact, running pretty high. The government has just cooked the books so it does not have to admit it.

The stock market has been going up and up, yet the people of this country can’t find jobs and when they do find jobs, they can’t live on what they are paid. They do not have retirements, the roads and bridges aren’t being repaired, tuition keeps going up and scads of people can not afford the health insurance being offered by the Affordable Health Care Act.

There isn’t time in most people’s lives to drop in at a gym and work out every day. Besides, people who never get enough sleep at night don’t feel like working out. The only pleasure a lot of people in this country get on a reliable basis is stuffing down that junk food they got from the drive through.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we will not solve the problem of widespread obesity in this country until and unless we solve the problems of lost community, no free time and fear of the future that haunts the American people. I’ve also come to the conclusion that it’s up to us to do this for ourselves.

Widespread obesity is a symptom of many huge problems facing the American people. If you find your community on the internet, instead of the flesh and blood people around you, if you are chronically exhausted from lack of sleep, if you ache all over from lack of exercise, if you can’t find a job or if you have a job, it doesn’t pay your bills, if you have no idea whatsoever where you would go or who would take care of you if you got cancer or when you grow old, then you are not living the American dream. You are living the American nightmare.

Is it any wonder that you find it so hard to give up the one pleasure you have? When a Big Mac becomes the best thing in your life, you won’t be able to stay away from it, no matter how hard you try.

We the People tamed this continent. We built railroads across the wilderness, created an industrial empire like nothing the world had ever seen. We won world wars and put men on the moon. We created a standard of living, not just for the few, but for a whole nation of Americans, that, again, the world had never seen before.

Now it is being taken from us. The only thing our government seems capable of doing is waging constant war. It will not spend our money on us. It does not build roads, does not provide decent education. It goes in your face against our values and needs.

The government has steadily siphoned off the wealth of this great nation for decades now. It has transferred monies that once enriched all the citizens of this nation into the hands of a few. It has exported our industrial base and the jobs that go with it. It has ignored the people on a consistent, bi-partisan basis.

Meanwhile, We the People tear our lives apart with senseless divorces, too much debt, increasingly splintered communities, zoning out in front of the computer or the television, and of course, those trips through the junk food drive throughs.

We are sitting by while we are being stolen blind by our own government, while our young people turn feral from no family life, bad schools and sicko social values and while we commit slow suicide from overeating, under exercising and constant sleep deprivation.

I am not speaking of these thing from the outside. I am one with most of these problems. I eat out too much, don’t exercise enough and so seldom get enough sleep that when I do I am astonished by how good I feel. Over-eating, under-exercising exhaustion is my normal.

I’ve decided I’m going to join brave Katrina Fernandez and blog about my own battle of the bulge. I’ve done this before when I published a series of posts under the title, Less of Me. I’m going to resurrect that title and post under it again.

I see overweight/under-exercise/lack of sleep as a widespread societal problem and a deeply humiliating and utterly defeating personal problem.

If there is a way out of this cycle, I have never found it.

If you want to read something like Ten Quick Fixes for Weight Loss, you need to skip my discussion and go somewhere else. However, I can guarantee you before you go there that it will not help you one bit to read those ten quick fixes. Because there aren’t any quick fixes. Because the problem itself is bigger than the individual. Because when an entire nation of people experience such a devastating malady as this, there is much more afoot than simple lack of will power and bad personal decisions.

The junk food fix and everything that goes with it is a societal problem. It is a maladjustment and a source of illness for tens of millions of Americans.

I am one of those Americans.

Let’s talk.

 

 

 

 

Court Upholds Texas Law Requiring Abortion Clinics to Meet Outpatient Surgery Standards

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Bridget Coila https://www.flickr.com/photos/bibbit/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Bridget Coila https://www.flickr.com/photos/bibbit/

Actually, it’s a no-brainer.

And no, it does not require abortion clinics to close.

I’m talking about a Texas law that requires free-standing abortion clinics to meet the same safety standards as any other free-standing surgery center. The law does not, as its opponents imply, close abortion clinics. It does make them safer for women.

It’s an odd sort of “reproductive health” that fights laws that simply require abortion clinics to meet the standards of every other outpatient surgery center. After all, the clinics perform an outpatient surgery we call an elective abortion. It seems that requiring them to meet the standards of every other outpatient surgery center would be a no-brainer.

From The New York Times:

WACO, Tex. — A federal appellate court upheld some of the toughest provisions of a Texas abortion law on Tuesday, putting 13 of the state’s abortion clinics at risk of permanently shutting their doors, which would leave the nation’s second-most populous state with eight abortion providers.

The appellate court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, sided for the most part with Texas and the abortion law the Republican-dominated Legislature passed in 2013, known as House Bill 2. It ruled that Texas can require all abortion clinics in the state to meet the same building, equipment and staffing standards as hospital-style surgical centers. Thirteen clinics whose facilities do not meet the new standards could be forced to close, leaving many regions without abortion clinics.

The court cited the explanations given by the Texas Legislature for what is considered one of the most restrictive abortions laws in the country.

“Freedom to Worship” is NOT Freedom of Religion

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Official Senate Photo, Public Domain

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Official Senate Photo, Public Domain

Oklahoma’s Senator James Lankford raised the question, and it’s a good one.

President Obama has staked the legacy of his presidency on a tyrannical revision of the First Amendment  to limit the Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion to activities conducted out of sight and behind the closed doors of church sanctuaries. Senator Lankford, along with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, asked if this has hurt United States’ efforts to speak for religious freedom in other countries.

From Christian Post Politics:

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins argued that limiting religious freedom to “freedom of worship” in the United States has hurt efforts to advocate for religious freedom abroad.

“I think the lack of priority on religious freedom that we have placed here domestically on our policies does send a message internationally. I think there is a correlation between the growing intolerance of religious freedom, not freedom of worship, but the growing intolerance toward religious freedom, like in the marketplace, is giving rise to persecution abroad,” Perkins asserted before the U.S. Senate’s State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee hearing on protecting international religious freedom Wednesday. “We no longer make it a priority here domestically, that sends a message to bad actors abroad that ‘America no longer puts a high priority on religious freedoms so we don’t have to worry about them moving against us based on that.’

Perkins noted how the Obamacare HHS mandate on birth control health care coverage has forced private businesses, like Hobby Lobby, to go to court to fight for their religious freedom.

In a Thursday interview with The Christian Post, Perkins clarified that there is a clear distinction between the penalizing of Christian business owners in America who stick up for their beliefs and the Christians killed and imprisoned in other parts of the world for their faith. However, there is still a responsibility for American Christians to stand up for their religious rights.

“But as Christians here in this country, if we refrain from speaking out and exercising our freedoms, we put the lives of Christians elsewhere at risk if we allow our religious freedoms here at home to be lost,” Perkins added.

Lankford, who is the co-chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and presided in the hearing, agreed with Perkins that the current limitations on religious liberty domestically can have an impact internationally, and added that the United States is responsible for setting a positive precedent.

“I made a comment in my conversation with the panelists that the United States has a responsibility to be a beacon of light for religious liberty and free speech and tolerance of individuals,” Lankford told CP. “When we set that example, we can multiply, we are on a good platform to do that. When we begin to limit free speech and freedom of religion in the United States, it diminishes our opportunity to be able to do that worldwide.”

“So, when universities want to be able to limit what Christian organizations can do on a campus, when Navy chaplains are limited on what they can say and do in regards to Scripture, when individuals can’t fully live out their faith in the workplace, those become serious issues because it diminishes the rights that we want to encourage worldwide within our own country,” Lankford continued.

Since President Barack Obama took office, the notion of “freedom of worship,” as opposed to “freedom of religion,” has become a contentious issue.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/does-obamas-freedom-of-worship-hurt-international-religious-freedoms-135574/#Asd8P3RTSkVZC8LB.99

 

 

Local Businesses are Choosing to Operate Under ISIS Rule

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Global Panorama https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Global Panorama https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/

ISIS may have a few problems with the social niceties. Their tendencies to murder, rape, enslave and behead are well known, as if their love of genocide.

But it appears that many local businesses are choosing to move under their governance. The reason? ISIS operates in a predictable fashion without the corruption tax imposed by other regimes.

I wonder how long it will be before our government signs a trade agreement with ISIS and begins shipping whatever American jobs are left to them.

From The Telegraph:

The Syrian businessman was enjoying a much-needed holiday in Turkey when the phone call came from the tax inspector of the Islamic State.

His business partner in Raqqa had been arrested, the inspector told him, and he would not be released until his company paid the $100,000 (£65,000) it owed the “Caliphate”.

“They told me that because I have a lot of money, I have to pay my share,” said Ammar, whose asked that his real name not be used. “They analyse your income and take a percentage.”

As Isil works to establish its empire, the jihadists have become fastidious bureaucrats: imposing taxes, paying fixed salaries and imposing trading standards laws in a bid to create a healthy economy that will sustain their autocratic rule.

Yet despite brutal punishments for those who break the laws, many Syrian businessmen see Isil as the only option when compared to the anarchy that prevails in areas controlled by other rebels, including Western-backed groups.

• Isil one year on: how Isil has spelt doom for Iraq’s Sunnis
• The rise of Islamic State – how the jihadi group conquered territory in Iraq and Syria

Ammar, who deals in cars, houses and poultry, is largely secular and privately despises the jihadists (he refers to the Isil-held “capital” of Raqqa as “the big prison”).

Yet he admits that he now works almost exclusively in their areas, having had $150,000 worth of stock stolen by a gang in turf run by another armed faction. Likewise, when he traded in areas controlled by the Syrian government, he was detained by a pro-regime militia, who demanded a bribe of $25,000 for his release.

While Isil charges zakat, the alms payment in Islam – essentially an income tax – to those residents who can afford it, Ammar said businesses were protected from theft and corruption.

“When I take chickens that I have bought from farmers in the rural areas to Raqqa the first thing I have to do is go to the zakat office and pay the standard 2.5 per cent. They then give me a voucher that allows me to sell the produce in the city.”

The model is being applied across Isil territory in Syria, and to such a degree that businesses are now choosing to move their industry into Isil areas.

Hundreds of US Priests Ask Church to Stand Firm on Church Teaching

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jeff_Golden https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jeff_Golden https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/

Catholic priests in the United States have joined their brothers in England in petitioning participants of the upcoming synod on the family to issue a “clear and firm” statement of support for traditional Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.

Nearly 1,000 American priests have signed this petition.

From Catholic New Agency:

.- Nearly 1,000 United States priests made their own a petition to the fathers of the upcoming Synod, originally made public and signed by nearly 500 English priests.

The statement’s wording is exactly that of the English version, and urges the fathers of the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family to issue a “clear and firm” proclamation of Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.

The organization Credo Priests has been circulating the petition and collecting online signatures, which are verified as U.S. Catholic clergy before appearing on the site. The signatory priests, sensing confusion among the laity after last year’s synod, said they wished to “re-state our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church’s Magisterium for two millennia.”

Among the U.S. signatures are seven bishops – three active and four retired.

The Church Without Nuns is Like a Human Heart that’s Cut in Half

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Legislators can be dismissive of clergy.

In fact, elected officials are, whether they will admit it in public or not, downright cynical about collared folk. Anyone who’s been through a political campaign and had the experience of a member of the clergy lying about them from the pulpit is bound to be changed by the experience.

In my young life, I’ve had clergy of many denominations stand behind the pulpit and call me everything but a nice person. Much of this was back in my anti-religion period when I was pro choice.

They did not confine themselves to the fact that I was pro choice. They claimed variously that I owned whole chains of abortion clinics, was a communist/prostitute/lesbian/whore/slut etc, etc, etc.

Then, when I experienced the love of Christ and converted, when I began to do my best of make up for the harm I’d done by being pro choice, I got attacked by clergy from the other side of the spectrum. They accused me of criminality (which made them lawsuit bait, btw), hating women/hating men/being in favor of rape, and, of course, sexual promiscuity and having had many abortions.

Notice that the lies always included sexual slurs. I think there’s a reason for this, given that I am female and the clergy who attacked me were all male. But I won’t go into it here. Just use your imagination.

Most elected officials end up being attacked by clergy at some point in their careers, and most of the time these attacks are among the most vicious and dishonest they experience. So, when a member of the clergy shows up to lobby for something or other, politicians tend to regard them more as other politicians than men and women of God.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto https://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto https://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/

Not so with nuns. The reaction a group of hardened and cynical legislators has to a nun, particularly a nun wearing a habit, is absolutely startling. The reason why is simple. They believe that the nuns are for real. They don’t see them as another political power player. They see nuns as genuinely holy people.

This leads me to the post that my colleague, Sr Theresa Aletheia Noble, published today. It’s an account of an encounter she had with a young man who had recently been released from prison. She writes,

Filled with the chutzpah that only an Italian background and the Holy Spirit can give you I rap on his window. He turns toward me with an unfriendly glare.

“Hi!” I say brightly, fully employing my “naive nun” routine, “Your mom wanted me to meet you.”

After a few moments, the man hesitantly opens the car door without looking at me.

He stays in his seat.

I wait, knowing I cannot really talk to him if his eyes stay glued to the steering wheel.

I realize that he is just as afraid of me as I am of him.

After an awkward moment he gets out of the car. I notice a tattoo on his neck in bold script: “La vida es sufrir” (life is suffering).

He moves uncomfortably from side to side.

I touch his arm and say, “I’ve been praying for you and I will keep praying for you. Feel free to come by to talk anytime. We have a chapel that you can visit.”

He takes his sunglasses off and squints in the sun, grinning slightly.

I just look at him intently as if to say, “I’m know this invitation seems absurd, but it still holds.”

We look at each other in silence for a few more seconds.

I wave and walk back to the bookstore, his mother close behind me. As I walk, I realize that, despite appearances, there is really not much that separates me from this mother’s son. Whatever he does, whatever he is involved in, it seems like it is only a few steps away. I can almost touch it. In some mysterious way I almost feel that I am him. In that moment something about my vocation clicks.

I am a sister: a sister to Jesus, a sister to gangbangers, a sister to grace, a sister to sin.

Nuns, sisters, especially when they wear clothing that makes it clear who they are, have a vocation that even they may not be aware of. They are a visible sign and a presence of God’s grace in this world.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/

Would this young man have opened his car door for a priest? Probably. But the encounter would not have been the same. There is a unique and irreplaceable personal power in the feminine that no priest can possess. There is also the public perception of nuns and sisters as people who are authentic in their commitment to Christ, who are, in fact, holy.

I dealt with people like this young man on a daily basis all the 18 years I was in office. I also dealt with frightened people, people outside the law in many ways, and victims of those outside the law.

I can’t remember one time when a frightened or lawbreaking person turned me away when I approached them. There was never a time when they offered me harm. There were many, many times when they came to me in trust and desperation; unafraid to confide in me, trusting absolutely that I would not betray their confidences, that I would help them in whatever way I could.

That is the power of the feminine, even without a habit. It is the power of mother love, even in a government situation.

Nuns are an irreplaceable component in the Church’s structure. Without them, the ministry of the  Church becomes too male to be truly functional. That is because men are not the human race. They are half of what we are as humans. Women and men together are the human race. Anything less is shorn and weak; a quasi-functional subpart of the damaged whole.

Without nuns, the Church is like a human heart, struggling to beat, even though it’s cut in half.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X