I Just Bought a Bumper Sticker. You Should Buy One Too.

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I just bought a bumper sticker like the one in the photo above. Next month, I’m getting a t-shirt to go with it.

The symbol on the left is a letter in the Arabic alphabet. It is pronounced “noon.” It is a slur against Christians in that part of the world, meaning Nazarene.

ISIS has used this symbol to mark the homes of Christians, as well as the bodies of the Christians they have murdered. They intend it as a great insult and degradation. But there is no higher honor than to be marked with the name of Christ. These people they are killing are martyrs who go straight to heaven.

I have this sign of the Nazarene on my Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages. It is an honor and a privilege to do so.

Now, it’s going on my car.

The merchant is Lisieux Learning on Zazzle.

Free Speech is a Civil Right: IRS and the Freedom from Religion Foundation Disagree

Free speech is a civil right bumper sticker

So … we’ve got an organization whose sole purpose is to drive religious expression from the public sphere by the use of threats of legal action and harassment.

This organization files a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and demands that the IRS join them in their harassment of religious people by “monitoring” churches for possible violations of IRS rules. In this instance, what they were suing about was the so-called “Johnson Amendment” to the IRS code.

The Johnson Amendment is the basis for the IRS rule that preachers may not endorse candidates from the pulpit if they are to receive tax-free status. The IRS rule itself is quite specific and narrow. Neither it nor the Johnson Amendment were intended to become the dreadnought by which churches are harassed and bullied in order to keep them from speaking out on moral issues. But that is exactly what has happened.

Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation routinely conflate the Johnson Amendment with a limitation on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, including freedom of speech in religion. They harass, bully and intimidate Christians all over the country with threats of lawsuits.  I say Christians because I am not aware of them doing this to other faiths.

It seems obvious to me that they are using the Johnson Amendment as a lever to try to destroy the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity, not only in the public sphere, but from the pulpit, as well.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States government settled this latest lawsuit by agreeing to become the FFRF’s hammer to beat down on free speech in the pulpit. They didn’t say this in so many words. What they agreed to do was to single out groups based on whether or not they are faith (read that Christian) organizations and “monitor” what their pastors preach for possible violations of the IRS code. If that is not a deliberately chilling government surveillance for the purpose of limiting free speech, what is?

It is particularly salient that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not just trying to stop churches from endorsing candidates for political office; it is also claiming that they violate the Johnson Amendment when they discuss legislation or political issues. Abortion is a political issue. Gay marriage is a political issue. The genocide in the Middle East is a political issue. Corporatism, the environment, divorce, pornography, sex trafficking, prostitution, taxes, jobs and most everything else in America is a political issue.

We are Americans, which means that we are political people. We have what is purported to be a government of, by and for the people, which means at its root that governmental matters belong to us to cuss, discuss, slice and dice however we choose. That should include every segment of our society, including the pulpit.

If we are also Christians, then our faith guides us in everything we do. Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. We try to follow the Gospels in everything. Our faith leaders have not just a right, they have a responsibility to lead us in the Gospel paths of living.

There is no line for Americans between themselves and their politics for the simple reason that our politics, and our government, are us. Our beliefs are legitimately pertinent to political debate because we are the government.

What this lawsuit by the FFRF — and other actions to censor and stifle religious discussion, opinions and activism —  amount to is an attempt to censor and silence a whole set of ideas. This lawsuit is a blatant push to silence people that the FFRF disagrees with by the use of government surveillance of selected groups, coupled with the threat of government action against those groups, and the government is going along with it. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is using the IRS to censor speech in the pulpit. This is not an attempt to drive Christianity from the pubic square through bullying. It is a direct mis-use of government power to silence free speech among a whole class of citizens because another group of citizens does not like what they are saying.

The IRS is going to “monitor” churches to see if the clergy talks about anything more pertinent to our daily lives than, say, Isaac blessing Jacob instead of Esau, for the purpose of hauling them up before the Man. It is as simple as that.

From New American:

The Internal Revenue Service continues to extend its already vast overreach, this time by agreeing to monitor church sermons as part of an agreement the government made on July 17 with the aggressively atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Freedom Outpost reported, “The Internal Revenue Service settled a lawsuit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The 2012 lawsuit was settled after the IRS agreed to monitor what is said in houses of worship, something that is a clear violation of the First Amendment, since no law can be written by Congress to this effect.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, brought the suit against the IRS, asserting that the group had been ignoring complaints that churches were violating their tax-exempt statuses. According to the group’s suit, churches promote political issues, legislation, and candidates from the pulpit.

FFRF asserted, “Pulpit Freedom Sunday … has become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity. The IRS, meanwhile, admittedly was not enforcing the restrictions against churches.”

FFRF claims that the churches are acting in violation of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which states that non-profits cannot endorse candidates.

A 2009 court ruling determined that the IRS must staff someone to monitor church politicking, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the IRS has not been adhering to the ruling.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and head of the Pulpit Initiative, told LifeSiteNews that “the IRS has no business censoring what a pastor preaches from the pulpit.” Stanley states that his organization is currently “attempting to bring the era of IRS censorship and intimidation to an end by challenging the Johnson Amendment, which imposes unconstitutional restrictions on clergy speech.”

He contends that churches should not have to choose between tax-exempt status and freedom of speech. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

Stanley insists that not only would it be unfair for churches to have to choose between one or the other, but that “churches are automatically tax exempt out of recognition that the surest way to destroy the free exercise of religion is to begin taxing it.” “Churches are constitutionally entitled to a tax exemption and that exemption cannot be conditioned on the surrender of constitutional rights.”

In celebration of its victory with the IRS, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a press release wherein it outlined its win:

The IRS has now resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations. The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations. While the IRS retains “prosecutorial” discretion with regard to any individual case, the IRS no longer has a blanket policy or practice of non-enforcement of political activity restrictions as to churches.

The press release also acknowledges, however, that the judge in the case could not order immediate action since a moratorium has been placed on the investigations by the IRS of tax exempt groups after the 2013 scandal in which the IRS was found to have been targeting Christian and conservative groups.

Governor Mary Fallin Condemns Black Mass

Governor Mary Fallin

Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin condemned black mass that is scheduled for Oklahoma City next month.

From the Governor’s website:

Gov. Fallin Condemns Black Mass Scheduled for Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today condemned a scheduled performance of a satanic black mass next month in Oklahoma City.

“This ‘Black Mass’ is a disgusting mockery of the Catholic faith, and it should be equally repellent to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” said Fallin. “It may be protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t condemn it in the strongest terms possible for the moral outrage which it is. It is shocking and disgusting that a group of New York City ‘satanists’ would travel all the way to Oklahoma to peddle their filth here. I pray they realize how hurtful their actions are and cancel this event.”

Fallin joins Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley in criticizing the event, scheduled for Sept. 21 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. The archbishop said the black mass “is a satanic inversion and distortion of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics, but of all Christians.”

Oklahoma City officials have said the Civic Center is a public building and the city must abide by the First Amendment and allow it to be leased to any group that agrees to abide by all laws and city ordinances.

The black mass in Oklahoma City reportedly is being organized by the Satanic Temple of New York City, which last year submitted plans for a public monument of a seated Satan on the state Capitol grounds to counter a monument of the Ten Commandments.

Video from Inside ISIS: What They Think of Themselves.

305087-e9a729cc-20f4-11e4-a212-44a8a3dd312bThey call themselves the Islamic State. This video from inside ISIS shows how they appear to themselves.

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If you want to see what they actually are, go here. But be warned, these are horrific photos of satanic depravity. If you would like to see the story behind the photo at the top, go here.

To put this in perspective, read Elizabeth Scalia’s post on how our lack of faith cripples the West. 

Defend us in battle

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Oriental Bishops Call on Islamic Leaders to Issue Fatwas Banning Attacks Against Christians

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If ever there was a needful thing, this is it.

The bishops of Oriental Churches are calling Muslim religious leaders to issue Fatwas banning attacks against Christians. A few incredibly brave Muslims have taken steps on their own. More than 200 people, many of them Muslims, gathered in July in front of a church in Baghdad, carrying signs that said, “I am Iraqi, I am Christian.”

“A group of citizens … they were Muslims … carrying slogans saying “I am Iraqi, I am Christian,” said Father Maysar Bahnam of Mar Korkis of Catholic Church. “They prayed in solidarity with us, saying that we are people from this land.”

Now, the Oriental Bishops are asking Muslim religious leaders to do the right thing and use their authority to help end what has become a genocide.

I do not know what the response will be. There may not be any response at all. But it is important to issue this call. This is an opportunity for Islam to demonstrate that there is more to it than the face we see on the news every night.

It is not enough for politically-correct Westerners to insist that Islam is a faith of peace and beauty. Muslims themselves — in particular Muslim religious leaders — need to demonstrate this by their actions and teachings.

From IDC, In Defense of Christians:

The bishops of Oriental Churches on Thursday demanded Muslim religious authorities to issue fatwas banning attacks against Christians and “other innocents” in the East, urging also parties financing terrorist organizations “to immediately stop arming” these extremist groups.

“We call on Muslim religious authorities, Sunnis and Shiites, to issue fatwas banning attacks against Christians and other innocents,” Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar said after a congregation of the bishops of Oriental Churches at Diman, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi’s summer seat.

In a related story: Austrian Muslims Hold Protest March Against Christian Persecution in Iraq

Christian Holocaust in Iraq. There are No Words.

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I can’t write about what’s happening to Christians in Iraq.

I have no words.

I can not forget that America contributed to this situation with our war on Iraq earlier in this century.

Again, I have no words.

Here are links from around the internet.

 

ISIS Burns Down Church

Report from Iraq: families throwing children from a mountaintop to keep them from terrorists.

ISIS has Conquered All Christian Villages Around Mosul

ISIS is Likely Receiving Funding from People Living in Countries Allied with US

State Dept: Syrian Christian Persecutuion Part of Largest Displacement of Reigious Communitiees in Recent Memory. 

 

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Worldwide Christian Persecution is Increasing and is Largely Ignored. 

The Spreading Scourge of Christian Persecution

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You Gotta Remember: Ann Coulter Called John Edwards “a Faggot.”

You gotta remember: Ann Coulter called erstwhile presidential candidate and famous adulterer John Edwards “a faggot.” 

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I do not think she was referring to a torch that people carry when they go to a lynching. I’m pretty sure that Ms Coulter was trying to say that former presidential candidate and besotted adulterer John Edwards is a homosexual. 

Aside from the fact that Mr Edwards’ flaming heterosexuality gifted him with a love child and put him in federal court defending his freedom, the salient point for the purpose of this post, is that Ms Coulter says stupid, mean things for their shock value. She also makes a lot of money doing this. 

Her latest sally into stupid meanness kinda goes off the cliff on the cold-blooded indifference to human suffering side of arguing. Ms Coulter is a beautiful woman, and she’s certainly talented, but her public utterances are so mean that she’s made herself into a caricature of meanness. 

She’s the non-cigar-smoking, good-looking, female version of Rush Limbaugh

In her latest sally down I-won’t-lift-my-little-finger-off-my-Bible-to-help-anybody lane, Ms Coulter levels a blast of what is almost incomprehensible hate at ebola-virus-victim Dr Kent Brantley. Her reason? His illness cost the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA a lot of money, and, oh yes, America needs help, too.  

She soundly and roundly condemns Dr Brantley for going to serve in Africa, asking the question “Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?”

Then she goes off on a round of arm waving and diatribing about how god (little “g” god) is an american (little “a” american), and america’s got problems and we need to take care of our problems and let the rest of the world go to hell. What she leaves out of this nifty little analysis is that if we do that, we won’t have to go to hell. We’ll already be there. 

Because that’s what hell is: A world without the real (big G) God. 

You know: The God who stepped down from heaven (a higher plane than america, by the way) to become one of us. The God who worked as an ordinary carpenter and consented to be tortured, mocked, shamed and murdered to save us from the exact kind of world Ms Coulter is lobbying for: A world where the biggest and meanest make all the rules and the rest of us are bugs that get squashed under the wheels of the biggest and the meanest’s overweening greed, indifference and narcissism. 

Why did Dr Brantley go to Africa? I don’t know the man, but I think it’s just possible that he went there because God called him to go there. It’s also more than likely that the reason these Christian charities spent all that money is because God has also called them to do things like that.

It may be that the reason God allowed Dr Brantley to get sick in the first place was to give those of us in the “developed” world at poke in the side; a wake-up call that we need to get serious about stopping the suffering in Africa. 

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. Everything Ms Coulter spits out has already been said, and not in a “letter” to the public. The first time these words of Ms Coulter’s were spoken, they came out in one sentence in a very private conversation.  

Am I my brother’s keeper? 

The answer to that question is the same today as it was then: Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 

You either believe God meant what He told us, or you don’t. You either follow Him and do as He commands, or you won’t. Justifying your refusal to follow the real, big “G” God by waving around little “g” god rules some little g god media preacher made up to lead you astray doesn’t get you out of anything. It only hardens you in your sin. 

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What have you done? Where is your brother?

How should I know where he is? Am I my brother’s keeper? 

Don’t follow Ann Coulter and her little g gods of narcissistic greed and indifference to human suffering. 

Political gods are demonic gods. 

All of them. 

From Human Events:

I wonder how the Ebola doctor feels now that his humanitarian trip has cost a Christian charity much more than any services he rendered.

What was the point? 

Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America’s premier hospitals. (This trip may be the first real-world demonstration of the economics of Obamacare.)

There’s little danger of an Ebola plague breaking loose from the treatment of these two Americans at the Emory University Hospital. But why do we have to deal with this at all?

Why did Dr. Brantly have to go to Africa? The very first “risk factor” listed by the Mayo Clinic for Ebola — an incurable disease with a 90 percent fatality rate — is: “Travel to Africa.”

Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?

 

For more on this topic, check out Elizabeth Scalia, whose book Strange Gods is about our practice of turning away from God to follow little g gods, rightly labels Ms Coulter’s “schtick” as a danger to our souls while Simcha Fisher contrasts Coulter’s message with that of Jesus. 

God Uses Us in the Broken Places. All We Have to Do Is Let Him.

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Catholic Patheosi Sisters in Christ. Lisa Hendey, Kathy Schiffer, Margaret Rose Realy. I’m the one in front, sitting down.

 

Where do I start?

Last week was the best. I’m still a wee bit tired from it, still absorbing and processing it. Where do I begin to tell you about it? I guess I’ll begin with the high point.

The high point wasn’t spending time with my Catholic Patheosi sisters in Christ, although I can tell you that was a blessing all in itself. The high point wasn’t meeting other Catholic writer/publishers/artists from all over the country, although again, that was an immersion in generous and loving like-mindedness that this outlier in the Oklahoma wilderness has never experienced before.

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Margaret Rose Realy, being interviewed by EWTN.

The high point, the Everest, of this entire week was the Thursday mass.

I almost didn’t go.

It had been such a full day. I “pitched” a book to an editor, presented an hour-long presentation and participated in a panel discussion. Between lunch and the panel discussion, I went to my room to take off my blazer and sat down in a chair.

Just for a moment.

I woke up an hour and half later. I had to scoot to get to the panel discussion in time and my neck was in permanent crick from sleeping pretzel-sytle in that chair.

Soooo, after the panel, I thought I’d just go up to my room, put on something comfy, order up room service and relax. No reason, I decided, to go to mass.

I got as far as the elevators, and in that hotel, the distance between our conference rooms and the elevators is a good hoof. I punched the up button. Then, while I was waiting for the door to open, I turned around and hoofed it back to the conference rooms.

I didn’t make a decision to go to mass. I just automatic-piloted my way down the hall, over the connector tunnel and then clomped down the stairs.

Father Frank Pavone, who was the celebrant, was already processing in when I slid into the last vacant seat on the back row between a couple of nuns and an elderly gentleman. I sometimes have mass troubles, and I braced myself, as tired as I was, for major mass troubles that day.

My mass troubles have been hitting me hard the past few months. What happens is that I sit in mass and am overwhelmed by a pounding sense that I am too unworthy to be in that room. It can, and sometimes does, reduce me to tears. It can and sometimes does, drive me away from mass. There are days when I get up and leave, mid-mass.

I’ve learned that if I can hang on and force myself to go forward and accept the Host, Jesus will heal me. When my mass trouble comes on me hard, I am like the woman with the hemorrhage who touched the hem of His garment and was healed, over and over, mass after mass, week after week.

But getting there, making it through mass without running away and then progressing up to the front of that line, many times making a humiliating spectacle of myself because tears keep leaking out of my eyes and dripping down my cheeks, can be an act of endurance, and, since I’ve learned that the Host heals, trust.

I’m like that woman from long ago, thinking If I can just touch the hem of His garment; if I can only touch Him; I will be healed. 

I slipped into that room, sat on that chair at the very back, and, while I didn’t think it in words, the thought was there: I hope I can get through this. There was safety in that door, a few steps away. I could leave if I had to, before anyone was the wiser.

But, after months of this on-going battle with the devil every time I go to mass, this time was different. There were no hants rising from the swamps of memory, no feeling of unworthiness. It was just me; solid and whole, standing in a roomful of other Jesus lovers, participating in the sweet miracle of heaven touching earth in bread and wine.

I have memories of such a solid sense of self as I felt then, but I have to go far back to find them.

Father Pavone brought a gift to us at that mass. He had what I think he called a “First class relic” of St John Paul II. I’m not up on my relic rules, but I think that’s what he said. It was a small spot of blood on a postage-stamp sized bit of cloth. The blood came from St John Paul’s body the day he died.

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Kathy Schiffer and Gary Zimak.

Father Pavone took the time — and it was quite a bit of time — to stand at the front of the room and give each of us an opportunity to venerate this relic. It worked out that I was the last person in the last line, the last one to do so.

I brought home a lot of work to do. I now have two books to write instead of just one, and I have a real hope that they both will be published. I’m not excited. I am … sure.

I am sure that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, and that Our Lord has both me and this work in the palm of His hand. This morning, while I was praying my Rosary, I felt St John Paul, sort of coaching me about what I should do. It neither surprises nor awes me that he came home with me from that mass.

That is the order of things. The spiritual world is as real and reliable as our physical world we inhabit in this life. An ice cube will melt in a glass of warm water. Always. And God comes to those who love Him. Always.

Sometimes, in fact, quite often, He sends His helpers by. My fellow Catholic Patheosi Kathy Schiffer, Margaret Rose Realy and Lisa Hendey are just such helpers. So, is St John Paul II.

I’m telling you this intensely personal story for one reason. I want the people who are reading this post — and I trust that the Lord will send the right ones by — to know that, to paraphrase St Paul, nothing, not the things we do, not the things done to us, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

God uses us in the broken places. All we have to do is let Him.

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The panel I almost slept through. Gary Zimak, Kathy Schiffer, me, Margaret Rose Realy.

 

Let’s Show Solidarity with Iraqi Christians

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This is my new photo for Facebook.

Patheos’ geek squad is still uber busy mopping up the big changes they made earlier this week. But I plan to change my photo as soon as they can do it for me.

ISIS is leaving this symbol on the bodies of the Iraqi Christians they murder. It is the the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet and is pronounced “noon.” The symbol stands for Nasara or Nazarenes, which is supposed to be a pejorative Arabic word for Christians.

But I can tell you that when I die, there would be no higher honor than to have my body labeled with the word Nazarene. What these murdering brutes intend as a dishonor is in fact, the highest honor. They are publicly labeling these people with the name of Christ the Lord. It is as if they are putting a sign on their bodies saying that, without doubt, the person whose body bears it is in heaven right now.

Pity the poor murdering wretches who martyr these Christians. Without repentance, they are going to hell.

Show your solidarity with the Christians of Iraq. Put this symbol everywhere you can; on your Facebook page, on your tweets.

If I can find something to put on my car, it’s going there.

It is an honor to stand with Iraq’s persecuted Christians in the face of this genocide.

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