Chinese Christians Form Human Shield to Protect Church from Government Destruction

Officials in China’s Communist government are denying that they are engaging in a campaign of systematic destruction of Christian churches.

They make this claim despite the fact that they have ordered the destruction of approximately a dozen churches. Churches in the Zhejiang province are reportedly facing either destruction or government-ordered removal of their crosses.

Christians who live in the province have responded courageously. They have formed human chains around the churches to prevent their destruction.

Even though officials deny a demolition campaign, the Communist Party’s provincial official in charge of religious affairs said publicly that the growth of Christianity was “too excessive and too haphazard.”

The interesting thing to me is how completely these government officials misunderstand the mustard seed of faith that is Christianity. It’s not now and never has been about church buildings. Christ grows in people’s hearts, not buildings.

They can tear down every church, and it will only serve to spread the Gospel further and faster.

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From The Telegraph:

Communist officials in China have denied waging a “demolition campaign” against churches in the country’s most Christian regions, after reportedly ordering a dozen to be destroyed.

The churches – in the eastern province of Zhejiang – are currently facing demolition or having their crosses removed, activists claim. Other churches are said to have been ordered to make themselves “less conspicuous” by turning their lights off at night.

Local preachers accuse Party officials in Zhejiang, a wealthy coastal province, of “gross interference” in Church affairs and have urged them to abandon what they believe is an orchestrated campaign.

Last week, Christians flocked to the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou – a rich port city known as the “Jerusalem of the East” because of its large Christian community – after its demolition was announced.

Officials denied launching a church demolition movement.

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Christian Professor Awarded Back Pay, Promotion for Violation of His First Amendment Rights

 

“No individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of his public employment.”

That comes from a 2011 opinion of the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals decision on a lawsuit filed by Dr Mike Adams. Dr Adams is a professor in criminology at the University of North Caroline-Wilmington.

He filed suit when university officials refused him a promotion to a full professorship. The suit claimed that this was due to his change of personal beliefs after conversion from atheism to Christianity.

When the university hired Dr Adams in 1993, he was an atheist. He received accolades from his colleagues and was promoted to associate professor 1998.

Dr Adams converted to Christianity in 2000, which affected his views on political and social issues. According to CharismaNews, “the university subjected Adams to a campaign of academic persecution that culminated in the denial of his promotion to full professorship, despite an award-winning record of teaching, research and service.”

Now a federal court has ordered the University of North Caroline-Wilmington to promote Dr Adams to the rank of full professor and pay him $50,000 in back pay.

Christian converts who come from more politicized environments often experience painful changes in the way they are treated by colleagues. Christian conversion can lead to the loss of old friendships and promotions, even here in the USA.

The court’s decision is an important one that hopefully will curb the harassment of people in public life who express opinions that run contrary to politically correct cant.

Now, if we can only develop First Amendment protections for those in the corporate environment.

Note: Public Catholic reader Peggy-O found this link to Dr Adams’ personal response to a bit of what he was subjected to. It’s well worth a read.

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Noah: PETA Meets the Animators by Way of a Wizard, with Mad Max and a Boat

 

Noah, the movie, is such a messy mish-mash of conflicting memes that I’m not really sure how to characterize it.

It is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a king, who bears the name Tubal Cain, has supposedly destroyed creation by eating meat and forging weapons of iron. The Biblical Tubal Cain was a descendent of Cain, and he did forge various instruments of bronze and iron, so I’m guessing that’s where the filmmakers got that idea.

The human race has descended to cannibalism and is so obviously on its way out that one wonders why God would bother annihilating it.

Noah and his family, along with the rest of humanity, live in a barren waste that looks like a lava field. There is no vegetation to speak of in this post-apocalyptic world; nothing to sustain the life of even one person, much less a whole “industrial civilization,” which is what the film claims exists.

The narrative arc of the movie is primarily the tale of Noah’s rise and fall in obedience to “the creator.” Noah rises to obedience to “the creator” by building an ark to save the animals, the “innocents” as the movie calls them, from the destruction of the Flood.

“The creator” has ordained that all people should perish, including Noah’s family, which is made inevitable, since Noah and his wife have only sons and the sons have no wives. Noah falls from obedience because he refuses to kill his own granddaughters in order to “end” the human race.

This is a massive departure from both the facts and the meaning of the story of Noah in Scripture. The first human beings with whom God made a covenant were Adam and Eve when He gave them dominion over creation and told them to “be fruitful and multiply.” They deformed this Covenant when they decided to disobey God.

Noah was the second person with whom the Almighty formed a Covenant. God spoke to Noah and gave him specific instructions on what he was to do. He also renewed the Covenant He had made with Adam and Eve with Noah, giving him and his progeny (unlike in the movie, Noah’s sons had wives) dominion over creation and telling them to be fruitful and multiply.

The entire narrative arc of the movie, which is built around the idea that it was God’s will that humanity be obliterated entirely, is anti-Biblical.

There is a brief mention in the movie of the real reason for the Flood, which is that fallen angels had mated with human women and the resulting offspring were such a taint in the human blood line that the line had to end and begin again. The movie is accurate in that the violence of humanity was also given as a reason. The entire line of Cain was wiped from the earth with the Flood.

Rather than connecting the dots about what the Nephilim were, the movie supplies us with Animators in the guise of fallen angels. The angels supposedly fell from grace when they disobeyed “the creator” and tried to help humanity. Their punishment was to become klutzy creatures, encapsulated in rock.

The animator/fallen-angels help Noah build the arc, and end up defending it Mad Max style against an invasion by Tubal-Cain’s hordes just as the rains begin. Their reward for this is that they are forgiven, shed their rock covering and warp off to the skies.

There is nothing in the movie of the grand theme of Noah, the renewer of the Covenant with humanity. The Bible story is edited significantly to provide us with the human-beings-are-bad/animals-are-the-innocents/humanity-must-die arc that the movie version of Noah’s story is woven around.

Noah’s movie encounters with God are limited to dreams. Instead of the precise instructions that the Almighty gave Noah in the Scriptures, we are treated to a Quest in which Noah goes to visit his grandfather Methuselah who acts as shaman and wizard. Methuselah lives in a cave with no food or visible means to provide food, and no contact with other humans.

He gives Noah a potion to drink which makes “the creator’s” plan a bit more clear to him. Later in the film, Methuselah heals Noah’s adoptive daughter with a touch, thus enabling her to bear the children which lead to Noah’s downfall. Methuselah does this at the behest of Noah’s wife, who, in a repeat of the Eve story, is the instrument which leads to Noah’s failure to obey “the creator.”

Instead of renewing the original Covenant with Adam and Eve, which is what the Bible story is about, Noah ends up renewing the Fall.

The Biblical story ends with humanity beginning again with God’s blessing. The movie ends on a hopeless note of fallen humanity separated from God forever. The only creatures who gain redemption are — get ready for this — the fallen angels.

Frankly, I think the movie makers are trying to get some of those $$$ that people of faith control. But they can’t bring themselves to make a movie that actually deals with the message that resonates throughout Scripture.

We are made in God’s image. We are fallen. We do have dominion over all creation. That is why we can tease out things like the Big Bang and unravel the secrets of how God did it when He made everything, everywhere. Although we are made of the dust of this earth and are bone and flesh, we are, in this essential quality, not the least bit like the animals. We can do great goodness. We can also commit great sin.

The Scriptures are the story of Jesus. Noah and the Covenant God made with him is the beginning of God’s active interaction with a fallen and depraved humanity. Over long millennia of slow interaction, God will raise up a people, who, after many falls and much chastisement, will give humanity its Christ, the final and absolute un-doer of the curse of the Fall.

I don’t expect a movie about Noah to tell this whole story. But I do expect it to be faithful enough to the Biblical narrative that I can, by watching it, place that story within the narrative whole of the Scriptures. This movie goes the other direction in order to deliver a message that is not only not part of the Biblical narrative, but in most ways, it runs counter to it.

Human dominion over creation becomes sinful when it becomes exploitation and destruction. We, alone of all the beings on this planet, have the capacity to chose, and our call in relation to creation is to chose to be responsible in how we use it.

This strikes to the heart of our politics, commerce and endless warfare. It shows us our sins in a glaring way that many people deny.

But the PETA-esq meme of this movie denies the essential fact of humanity as it relates to the created universe. We have dominion; it was created for us.

 

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Knights of Columbus Win Prize for Ethical Business Practices

 

Hooray for the Knights!

Ethisphere Institute has named the Knights of Columbus life insurance company to its 2014 World’s Most Ethical Companies. The Knights were one of only two life insurance companies to earn this honor.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- The fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus has been recognized as one of the world’s most ethical companies by a research center on best practices in corporate ethics and governance.

“This really speaks to the fact that a company can be committed to Church teaching, committed to Catholic values, and still provide a top quality service and be very successful at what they do,” Andrew Walther, vice president for communications and media with the Knights, told CNA March 21.

Timothy Erblich, CEO of the Ethisphere Institute, announced the award March 20, saying, “the Knights of Columbus join an exclusive community committed to driving performance through leading business practices. We congratulate everyone at Knights of Columbus for this extraordinary achievement.”

The institute named the New Haven, Conn.-based Catholic fraternal organization and life insurance company to its 2014 World’s Most Ethical Company list. The Knights is only one of two companies in the life insurance category to be recognized.

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World Vision Switches Tracks. Says They Won’t Hire Gay Marrieds. Can Their Supporters Trust Them After This?

 

It’s been an interesting 24 hours for the folks at World Vision.

Franklin Graham took them to task for their decision to hire people who are in same-sex marriages. Their supporters responded with a sense of betrayal and outrage. World Vision President, Richard Stearns, gave an interview to Christianity Today in which he tried to parse the decision into something it wasn’t, saying in part:

“It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there, he said, “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”

My reaction after reading this earlier today was that Mr Stearns needs to run for Congress. He’d fight right in. While the decision to hire people who are involved in gay marriages may not be a formal, written-out endorsement of gay marriage that was specifically voted on and approved by the board of directors of World Vision, it was, in fact and in practice, a public endorsement of the practice.

The Latin phrase is de facto. It was a de facto endorsement of gay marriage.

The reasoning Mr Stearns gave for this decision doesn’t hold any more water than his claims that the decision itself was just a teeny-tiny policy change with no serious ramifications.

After this particular dog didn’t hunt, something happened behind the scenes at World Vision. I don’t know what, but I have a feeling it wasn’t good times had by all for the people who went through it. What came out of it was a reversal of the organization’s earlier decision to hire people who are in gay marriages. From Christianity Today:

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

I am relieved that World Vision has taken this step back into Christian fealty. I pray that they stick with it in the days to come. Christians everywhere are being challenged by the changes in our society as we move deeper into a post Christian world.

World Vision flirted almost disastrously with allowing themselves and their ministry to slip over into public apostasy. Their reasoning, which seemed to be based on the notion that a lot of their supporter churches were slipping into this apostasy, is the oldest and weakest reason going.

“Everybody else is doing it” is an excuse that my kids gave up after they tried it on me and got a fail. Where this large organization got the notion that this line of thinking was a reasonable response to the challenges of being a faithful Christian in a post Christian world, I do not know.

I am glad that they are back where they should be.

I donate to other organizations rather than World Vision, so the next consideration is not one I have to think about. That consideration is, Can we trust them to stay with it?

That’s a legitimate concern, considering the bizarre leap of illogic they used to try to justify this move. If that is an example of how easily they get off the Christian track and how mush-minded they are about these things, there’s a real question, at least in my mind, as to when they’re going to jump off the track again.

I say that because I am certain without doubt that the challenges to Christians are just beginning. We are not even really out of the gate when it comes to the dissolution and dissing that is heading our way.

Can they take it?

Can you?

I’m pretty sure that we’re all going to get the chance to find out.

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Religious Freedom: Will the Supremes Let Us Keep It?

Today’s the day in which the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Sibelius vs Hobby Lobby.

The question at hand is not whether the HHS Mandate is Constitutional. The question which is being brought before the Court is whether or not the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 protects Hobby Lobby against the fines and penalties of the HHS Mandate.

The Obama Administration has argued in previous court appearances that the First Amendment only applies to formal worship activities and other direct actions of federally recognized churches, within the confines of their church proper. This narrow interpretation of the First Amendment would end freedom of religion in this country. In fact, it is very similar to the kind and type of religious freedom that totalitarian states operating under communism grant.

So much is at stake with this case.

Please pray that the Supreme Court will preserve the religious liberties and religious exemptions that Americans have long enjoyed.

From SCOTUS Review:

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Linked with:

Docket No.Op. BelowArgumentOpinionVoteAuthorTerm
13-35410th Cir.Mar 25, 2014TBDTBDTBDOT 2013

Issue: Whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq., which provides that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.

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Bodies of Aborted Babies Incinerated to Heat UK Hospitals

 

And you shall not let any of your children pass through the fire to Molech. If you do, you are dishonoring the name of your God. I am the LORD.

We are made in the image and likeness of God. Human life does not belong to us. It belongs to Him.

God so completely identifies people as made in His likeness that He told us that the sacrifice of human beings, the grave sin of “passing your children through the fire to Molech” profaned Him.

He took this so seriously that He ordered the Israelites to kill everyone already living in the area when they claimed the Holy land. This was a deliberate attempt to keep this people He was raising up be the light bearers of His covenant, and ultimately, the progenitors of the Messiah, free of the taint of the child sacrifice practiced by the people of that land.

Later, when they fell into it anyway, He repeatedly brought them to their knees until finally they were purged of it by a long imprisonment in exile. That worked. Never again after the Babylonian exile did the children of Israel fall into the evils of polygamy and child sacrifice.

Human sacrifice to demonic gods places its participants so far outside the reach of the real God that His people were ordered to destroy every vestige of it, including its practitioners. The reason was not just the practice, but its insidious contagious quality. The arguments may change, but the attraction to rid ourselves of those who are a burden to us, to propitiate the little g gods of our own self interests with human blood, is powerful.

Loving and caring for other people, accepting the claims they impose on us and our lives, can be sold to us as unnecessary and evil by those who appeal to our selfish self-interest and sense of moral superiority. We can, if we want, convince ourselves of anything. We can, and we do, dismiss our own sins with whatever flabby excuse is at hand. At the same time, we can excoriate and abuse our neighbor for violations of much lesser things with the merciless arrogance of the terminally self-righteous.

The sin of passing our children through the fire is a deep departure from everything that is good that is in us. When parents offer their own children to the gods of this world, then the heart of humanity becomes corrupt at its core. Once that is possible, anything is possible.

Our sacrifice of our children to the gods of this world, in abortion clinics and research laboratories, in medical clinics and in law, revivifies the ancient practice of passing children through the fire to appease demonic gods. Abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, egg harvesting, designer babies, are all, in one way or another, a form of human sacrifice to the demonic.

If you look at it that way, the practice of incinerating the bodies of babies who were murdered in the name of this world’s little g gods by abortion to heat our buildings seems apropos. It is us, living out the degradation of the human that has been our primary cultural drive for quite some time now. It is a riveting and precisely accurate symbol of the sacrifices we make to the gods of this world.

It is what we have become.

From The Telegraph:

The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.

Last night the Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

At least 15,500 foetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, Channel 4’s Dispatches discovered.

The programme, which will air tonight, found that parents who lose children in early pregnancy were often treated without compassion and were not consulted about what they wanted to happen to the remains.

One of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own ‘wast to energy’ plant. The mothers were told the remains had been ‘cremated.’

Another ‘waste to energy’ facility at Ipswich Hospital, operated by a private contractor, incinerated 1,101 foetal remains between 2011 and 2013.

They were brought in from another hospital before being burned, generating energy for the hospital site. Ipswich Hospital itself disposes of remains by cremation.

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Let There be Light: The Religious Significance of the Big Bang Echo

My eleven-year-old son put it better than anyone I have ever heard.

Homeschoolers socialize with other homeschoolers. We took our kids to movies together, enrolled them in activities that ranged from classes at the local science museum to participation in swim teams, homeschool soccer leagues and even a homeschool chess club.

We also had picnics, went to movies and other recreational activities.

It was after a homeschool picnic that my son gave me the best description of God’s viewpoint of us that I’ve ever heard.

We were full of food and feeling mellow and we got into a discussion of the first chapter of Genesis. We were all, including the kids, just kicking it around, expressing our own views. One of the homeschooling mothers took an absolutely literal, and, to me at least, narrow and inaccurate, view of the first chapters of Genesis. She believed that God had created the earth (and presumably the whole universe) in six twenty-four hour solar days.

I kept raising the buts inherent in her argument … but 24 hour days are based on how long it takes the earth to turn on its axis, and there was no earth and no sun “in the beginning,”

… but God created time, so in the beginning there was no time …

… but …

She would have none of it. She couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea that there was once nothing, absolutely nothing, and God created all creation out of this nothingness.

To her, and a lot of other people on both sides of the existence-of-god arguments, the idea of a beginning in which light, time, atoms, the rules of physics — everything, everywhere — simply did not exist was too incomprehensible to bother considering.

My eleven-year-old piped up, “but God created time,” he said. “God is not part of time. When God looks at creation, He doesn’t see a line, going off into the future. He sees a dot.”

My son’s comment didn’t make a ding in our friend’s thinking. It floated past her without engaging one brain cell.

But I was stunned by the simple understanding of an eleven-year-old.

He had said it all.

When scientists taught that the universe always was, they were dodging the obvious. The metaphysical implications in an existence which began from nothing are enormous.

If everything — everything — had a beginning, and that beginning was a sudden something when nothing exploded into all that is, then the question of “What, or Who, did this?” comes shortly after.

I’ve read comments about the discovery of the Big Bang Echo to the effect that the Big Bang Echo debunks the Biblical story of creation once and for all. I assume that by the Biblical story of creation they were referring, not to the Scriptures themselves, but to interpretations of those Scriptures like that of my fellow homeschooler.

The idea that God created the universe in seven 24-hour solar days has so many holes in it, from simple logic, that it won’t stand. If you read the thing literally, really literally, you’ll see that it doesn’t say any such thing. It says “day” and day, used this way, is poetic. It can mean almost any space of time.

The first chapter of Genesis is a poem. Anyone can see that. It’s what it is.

But it also describes, in poetic rather than scientific terms, a reality. God did create the heavens and the earth. He “spoke” existence into existence.

The discovery of the Big Bang echo doesn’t prove that. It doesn’t even address it.

What it does do is let us see it.

As my eleven-year-old son once said, God created time. He is outside time the same way that Henry Ford was outside and not part of the Model T, that I am outside and not part of this blog post. Mr Ford and I both leave our signatures all over our creations. There is an image of us in what we do. But we are not governed by the realities of what we have created. It is governed by us.

God created time just as He created everything else. He is outside of it. I think that when God looks at creation, he sees all of it, all at once, all the time.

When it comes to time, we, who are in it and of it, are like a grasshopper, standing in the middle of an interstate highway. From our vantage point, the highway of time goes on in both directions forever. It has no beginning and no end. But to God, Who is outside of time, the beginning, and the end, are both constantly in view.

That is what it means to be transcendent.

We, who are made in the image and likeness of God, possess the capacity to slowly and painstakingly unravel this mystery of how God did it. From inside our temporal prison, we can, by use of all our wits and by building on one another’s thinking, figure it out.

I believe that’s because we are made for more than this life. Where else did this drive to touch the face of God with our minds come from? What practical purpose does it serve for us to seek and find the echo of the Big Bang from which we came? We are made for more than what we appear to be. Our craving for transcendence is a hunger that we feed but cannot satisfy with the devices of our minds.

What we are hungering for is not the what of existence, but the Who that is behind it.

This Being Who spoke existence into existence, this Word that was there from the beginning, loves us. He left us clues to how He did it scattered throughout creation like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs.

The Big Bang echo is one such crumb. It allows us, for the first time, to see creation as it was created. That is its significance. And its gift.

Science is not the enemy of faith. Ham-handed fools who try to use science to “prove” their personal prejudices can make it seem to be the enemy of faith. Occasional misapprehensions of the partial discoveries we make as we follow the bread crumbs can yield to this hubris and, again, make science seem like the enemy of faith.

But in truth, science is just us, figuring out the creation we’ve been handed.

Science misapplied can be our undoing, both spiritually, and, as we meddle deeper into the building blocks of our existence, physically. We can blow ourselves up or mutate our genes and end ourselves with science. The threat is right in front of us every day we live.

That’s because science is our creation, and as our creation, it is flawed in the ways that we are flawed. It a tool that our tool-making kind has devised to help us understand How He did it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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Missing Airplanes, Deep Water Ports and Russian Union at Gun Point

I haven’t written much about the mess with Ukraine/Crimea/Russia. I haven’t written at all about the missing airliner.

The reasons are simple.

I don’t have a lot of wisdom to share about Ukraine/Crimea/Russia, and I don’t know what’s happened to that airliner.

My guess is that Russia wants a sort of alliance with its former satellites states; something akin to the European Union. I doubt that Russia wants to re-occupy those countries. They’ve already done that. And it didn’t work out.

On the other hand, creating an economic alliance that resembles the European Union would greatly enhance Russia’s economic clout. This is especially true if Russia is the absolute, unchallenged first among equals with the member states of that “union.”

Russia, being Russia, doesn’t seem to have gotten the drift of negotiation in developing this economic union. They’re more into gunpoint diplomacy than the give and take of actual negotiating.

Of course, negotiating with people who were, until a couple of decades ago, Russia’s slaves, would be tough going, even for the most delicate of debaters. Russia has what might be called a bad rep among their former satellites. The brutal police states they ran that impoverished people, destroyed their freedoms and ended many of their lives in gulags make people chary of being their pals now. These folks aren’t too eager to go back under the Russian lash.

It appears that Russia is still the child of its evil past. The response to frustrating displays of disregard for what Russia wants in its satellites seems to bring that evil child to the fore. Russia’s means of conversation is to bring in the tanks and troops.

In addition to economic hegemony, Russia also wants and needs something that Crimea — and only Crimea — has. Americans, who live in one of the other great continental nations, take our plethora of deep water ports for granted. We’ve got so many of them, and they are all ice free year round, that the whole question is not a question to us. We don’t think about what it would be like to be a continental nation without a single ice-free, deep-water port.

But Russia, despite its mammoth coastline, hasn’t got anyplace to park a fleet of big boats. It can’t ship goods by sea because there’s no way to get the goods onto the seas. I won’t discuss the issue of a Russian Navy at this point. I think it’s obvious that you’ve got to have ports to have an effective Nary.

Little Crimea is the proud possessor of a deep water port that is ice free.

Do I need to connect the dots here?

51688malaysiaplane

At the same time that we’ve seen exhaustive and utterly confusing news reports about Russia/Ukraine/Crimea, we have also been partakers of the mystery surrounding a missing airliner. It seems that this airliner abruptly made a hard turn off its course, dropped to below radar level and flew on for several hours. Then, it vanished.

Nobody knows what happened. Nobody knows where it is now. Nobody knows anything except that the airliner, its crew and passengers are missing.

Speculation about hijackings and terrorists raises a hundred nightmare scenarios in all our minds.

We faced with other people’s tragedies as their countries are invaded and annexed for the use of more powerful nations. We imagine what it must have been like on that airliner. We feel for the families of these people. We speculate about whether or not the crew and passengers are still alive, and if they are still alive, what might be happening to them.

All this is laced with fear. Not lie-awake-at-night-and-churn-fear, but the cold frisson of fear that is part of living in an uncertain and dangerous world. There are so many good people. But the relatively few bad ones have the capacity to make a hell of this earth for all of us.

Both these situations seem to have a simple root cause, and that root cause is the assumption by some individuals and countries that other human beings are simple expedients to them getting what they want.

We deal with powers and principalities every day of our lives. We see the results of their control over human beings on the news every evening, and we live out the personal miseries they cause us in the dysfunctions of our relations with those around us.

I haven’t written about missing airliners and Russian tanks parked on the ground of other people’s countries because I’m not sure enough of the facts to say anything definitive. I decided to write about these things today because of the one thing I am sure of.

We will never get to the end of the evil that people do to other people in this life. That is why it is so important for us to remember that our primary citizenship is not in any country of this world. We are citizens of heaven, even now, as we live here.

I am not urging an otherworldly abandonment of our responsibilities in the here and now. We are charged with bringing the Kingdom. We are called directly and explicitly by Our Lord to be the light that shines in this darkness.

As Americans we have unique freedoms with which to do this. We need to use every opportunity we have to fulfill our call, and when we feel that frisson of fear that comes from living in a fallen world, we need to remember that we serve a risen Lord. This world is just the smallest part of our existence.

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The Problem with Catechesis Is that It’s Been Found Difficult and Not Tried

Gilbert Chesterton famously said, “The problem with Christianity is not that it’s been tried and found wanting, it’s been found difficult and not tried.”

If you change the word Christianity for Catechesis, you have a description of the problem with the “unfaithful laity” in many parts of this country, if not the world.

As exhibit A, let me point you toward the mess at Eastside High School in Seattle. This school, which is nominally Catholic, appears to cater to rich little kids and provide them with a full blast of self-actualizing claptrap with a layer of do-gooderism and little c catholicism on top to make them feel good.

When their openly-gay vice principal “married” his partner, the school, in what was probably a stunning display of unexpected fidelity to Church teaching, decided to enforce its school contract and employee guidelines and dismiss him. The student body, which had clearly been catechized more by the vice principal and his supporters than anyone imparting Catholic teaching, reacted by staging a walk out.

Instead of expelling the students for walking out of class, the school pretty much caved on a later problem with another teacher.

Now, for all their what’s-happening-now weak-as-water Catholicism, the school is being sued by said vice principal.

Exhibit B would be the Seattle priest who wrote a column for a national magazine, taking a public stand against the teachings of the Church whose collar he wears.

Exhibit C would be the many Catholic politicians I know whose knowledge of what the Church teaches on issues such as the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage is limited to slogans, and most of them come from the media which is openly hostile to their Church. You can place the parish priests who’ve told them it’s ok to vote against pro life legislation and for gay marriage, even while their bishops are begging them to do the opposite, alongside the politicians on the exhibit table.

What’s wrong with catechesis?

1. It stops at the little-kid-in-Sunday-school level.

2. Despite the fact that most priests are faithful to the Church, nobody with authority in the Church says a word to disagree with those who aren’t. Don’t any of these guys answer to superiors in this hierarchical Church of ours? How, exactly, can the bishops expect the laity to respond to their leadership when their own priests are either ignoring the bishop or flat-out telling their parishioners that their personal ideas trump Church teaching in matters of mortal sin?

3. Nobody seems interested or able to answer the onslaught of attacks from the world at large that the laity is facing. We need leadership, and we’re not getting it. At the very least we need an acknowledgement of what the laity must endure in this post Christian America.

4. Too much catechesis in more liberal parishes preaches a little g social gospel that is almost totally silent on Church teaching about justice. On the other hand, too much catechesis in conservative parishes focuses on sanctity of life and marriage to the exclusion of social issues. Worse, they do this in a political, rather than a moral manner.

The American Church has grown soft. It is no longer the Church Militant. It seems more like the church self-indulgent.

I keep wanting to shake people and paraphrase the line from the movie Aliens, “Maybe you haven’t been keeping up with current events, but we’ve been getting our rear ends kicked.”

There is no reason to panic or sink into depression because of the recent losses in the courts and at the polls on social issues. We can turn that around. All it takes is the will and determination to do it on the part of the laity. 

That is the key, you know: The laity.

We’ve got the task of changing the world. The clergy has the task of catechizing/inspiring/leading us so that we are equipped to do that. Unfortunately, before the laity can convert the world, the laity itself needs to be converted. Too many Catholics treat Jesus as their cop-out instead of their Lord.

I know that’s a tall order for our priests. I also know that it most decidedly is not what a good many of our men in collars thought they were signing up for when they took their vows. Most of the priests we have today entered a priesthood rolling in automatic respect and trust for their calling which spilled over onto them personally. They saw themselves giving homilies, administering parishes, providing comfort, healing hurts, taking on an occasional pilgrimage and basically doing predictable and rewarding work throughout the long slide to safe and predictable retirement.

What has changed is that they now have to do all those things, with a call to battle heaped on top of it. They must somehow find a way to deal with demoralized and angry parishioners while they play catch up in preparing their people to be strong in their faith in the face of hostility, and learn how to convert a self-dissembling culture.

They’re not up to it. I know that.

But this is the our time. These are our challenges. And the job in front of us is the one the Holy Spirit has chosen for us.

We’ve got to support our priests who are trying to be faithful while learning how to do a whole new job and add it on top the job they already have. As for Catechesis, the parish and diocese which needs it the most are probably also the ones which will mount aggressive resistance to it. When priests try to teach what the Church teaches, parishioners who are also faithful to the Church need to stand by them absolutely, especially in the face of hostility from parishioners who have grown accustomed to the Church teaching what the world teaches.

Catechesis as we’ve been doing it is failing our children, our families, our Church and Our Lord. The evidence is all around us.

That’s the first fact we have to face. The second, which is that we must change our way of doing Catechesis, follows on its heels. Everything after that is detail.

 

 

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