I love Pope Francis. Nuff said.
Decades ago, not long after my conversion, I had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine.
This friend was from the time when just about all of my friends — including me — evinced a militant disregard for things Christian.
I didn’t know it at first, but that conversion to Christ was going to change everything in my life, including my relationship with people who had been as close to me as family. One by one and despite everything I could do to avoid it, I would lose them all. Worse, the same friends that I loved, truly loved, would become my worst enemies. They would do everything they could to destroy me.
This particular friend didn’t do that. But the friendship, the easy, warm trust between us, was gone almost as soon as I began to follow Christ. I tried my best to keep my new faith low key. I did everything I could to continue to blend in with my old crowd.
But … you’ve changed, this friend said one day.
It was an accusation, and I cringed inside, not understanding this “change” that he saw, even when I was doing my best to hide it. I did not realize in that moment that he had just unwittingly given me the greatest compliment he could.
He saw Christ in me. Despite everything I could do to pretend that nothing had happened and hang onto all my old friendships, I was changed. And this man saw it.
That comment began the slow unraveling of my old life as an unbeliever. I do not mean that it began my conversion. That had already happened. It was the start of the end of previous relationships with people who lived in the world of unbelief.
I fought it. I wanted to keep these people as friends. I wanted to hold onto the good times we’d shared.
But … you’ve changed, he said. And it was true.
This change began to resound in all these relationships with my old crowd. I never preached to them. I didn’t even talk about Christ to them. But I had changed on a fundamental level, and they were like ring wraiths sniffing me out.
This particular friend was the only one to address the change directly and then to lay into me at the root of that change. He knew, without my telling him, that I was now a Christian. And he began a program of reconversion.
Once, in one of our many arguments, he spat out a couple of sentences that I will never forget.
Go look in the mirror, he said. That is the only God you will ever see.
That comment was the apex of his arguing, and the end of our togetherness as people. It wasn’t the comment itself that did it. It was the unbridgeable gap between us.
We never formally stopped being friends, but we did stop spending time with one another. It was too fraught, too uncomfortable. We had the memory of a friendship, nothing more.
He died of a heart attack a few years later. There were jokes about his vehement unbelief in the many eulogies at his memorial service. This was a man who understood friendship. The memorial service was a crowded event, the building filled to overflowing.
I walked out, gripping my husband’s hand, hoping that in those last extremities my old friend had finally turned to God.
Did he go to hell?
I said it aloud when we got back to the car. Was he dead, really, eternally dead and gone to hell? My passionate, crazy friend — had he doomed himself to eternal death?
My husband was silent for a moment. Then, he reached out and squeezed my hand.
Probably, he said.
I changed again after that. My friend’s death shook me out of my somnambulance. I realized that being quiet about Jesus was the cruelest thing I could do to the people around me. I called quite a number of my old friends and told them directly that I did not want them to go to hell. I pleaded with them to change.
One of them changed, began following Christ and follows Him to this day. Otherwise, those calls had no effect.
You just don’t worry about me, one of them said, summing up the reaction from all of the rest.
A few years later, someone I knew and had crossed swords with was dying of cancer. This person and I barely spoke and when we did, it was barbed.
I picked up the phone and called him. Are you right with God? I asked him.
My friend’s death has taught me that there is never a wrong time to try to tell someone about Jesus, and there is never a right time to let another person slide into eternal death while you stand politely by and say nothing.
I read a headline before I began writing this post saying that 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their faith in Christ in the last year. I didn’t read the story, but I would assume that it was based on statistics from a survey of some sort.
There are a lot of reasons for the rising apostasy, but I think that the heresy of salvation through politics is one of the primary factors.
Many Christians have become besotted with a political Christianity where voting right and joining the correct political party has replaced following Christ. They have removed Jesus from Lordship of their lives and replaced him with an angry and unthinking devotion to their political party.
The Holy Spirit will not honor this kind of fallen Christianity. This Christless Christianity without a cross will not produce the fruit of the Kingdom because it is not of the Kingdom.
Go look in the mirror. That is the only God you will ever see.
Seven point five million Americans evidently decided to turn their backs on eternal life and plunge themselves into eternal death while we were barking at one another over whether or not the priest wears a stole when he hears confessions and is the Church too “feminized” and which political party is the right one for Christians.
Let me tell you something. If Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of your life, it does not matter which political party you are in or whether or not the mass or church service you attend is sufficiently to your liking.
It does not matter because wherever you are, you will do His will. If people aren’t looking at you accusingly and saying You’ve changed, then something is wrong with your relationship with Christ.
If you fit comfortably in this world, then you are not going to fit comfortably in heaven. If you sit idly by and watch people trot themselves off to eternal hell and do nothing, say nothing to stop them, then you are the most cruel of people.
Let me turn my friend’s comment around. When you look in the mirror, do you see your God?
Sin is one thing. We all sin. This is why we have confession. But if you are one of those many people who are trying to cut your faith to fit your politics, if you are trying to shear the teachings of Christ down to slip them nicely into the folder where you keep your political handouts, then you are, no matter how often you go to Church or how much you proclaim yourself a Christian, in rebellion against God.
If you do not accept the Lordship of Christ in all matters, then you are not following Christ. If you do accept the Lordship of Christ, then it does not matter where you are or what people you associate with, you will be His witness in that place.
Bearing witness to the Gospel with our lives is the universal Christian vocation.
But it doesn’t end there.
We are also called to bear witness to Christ with our words.
Ask yourself this: Have people abandoned the Church because of you? Have you driven them away with your peculiar and particular insistence on a vengeful reliance on your version of what a Christian should be? Has your unbending self-righteousness made them feel that the Church is the last place on earth they would go for love and forgiveness?
Have people come to Christ because of you? Have they felt safe to tell you of their failings, to share their doubts, to trust you with their darkest secrets? Have they experienced the love of Christ in you and begun to follow Him because you allowed yourself to be a conduit of His grace in their lives?
What fruit have you born with your followership of Christ?
When you stand before God, will lost souls point at you in accusation and say He or she never told me about Jesus.
Or worse, will they say, He or she was so angry and so self-righteous that I thought their Jesus was the devil?
How many souls will point to you and say He or she was the spark that led me to Christ?
The answer to those questions begins with another one. When you look in the mirror, do you see a beloved child of God who can trust His love to forgive their sins? Do you see a sinner who does not need to be afraid before God; someone who is forgiven and who is grateful for that forgiveness?
Do you look in the mirror and see the true lord of your life and the only god you will ever know?
ISIS march 21 men onto a beach in Libya. Twenty of these men were Christians. One, a Chadian Citizen, was not.
He watched the Coptic Christians die for Christ. When the terrorist murderer demanded that he reject Jesus Christ as his God, he replied, “their God is my God.” He was then beheaded with his Christian brothers.
The joy in this story is that 21 martyrs to Christ entered heaven that day. They are praying for us now.
ISIS announced the execution of 21 Copts but only 20 names were confirmed, most of them were from the province of Minya(Upper Egypt). There was an inaccuracy in the number of Egyptian Hostages; there were only 20 Egyptians(Copts). Then who was this remaining one non-Coptic victim?
Ahram-Canadian News was able to gather information about this man. He was a Chadian Citizen (Darker skin shown in picture) who accepted Christianity after seeing the immense faith of his fellow Coptic Christians to die for Christ. When Terrorist forced him to reject Jesus Christ as God, looking at his Christian friends he replied, “their God is my God“ so the terrorist beheaded him also.
JimmyZ brings the truth: Following Jesus means putting aside everything else and making Him Lord of your life for real.
Today is the 6th Annual Tulsa March for Life, sponsored by 35 groups including Lutherans for Life, The Uprising, Anglicans for Life, Victory Christian, Tulsa Bible Church, Claremore Nazarene, Holy Apostles Orthodox, Tulsa University Newman Center, Saint Gregory’s University, the Diocese of Tulsa, St Michael Episcopal, Oral Roberts University, Catholic Charities, Go Life Mobile, Mend Pregnancy Center and many others.
Be there, or be square.
Charles Dickens would have loved Rebecca Hamilton. “A Tale of Two Citizens…
“It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.” Thus might a pro-life observer describe Rebecca’s two separate stints in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
For you see, when Representative Hamilton served for six years in the legislature in the 1980’s. Before that, she had been the state director for the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). She used her considerable legislative skills on both the House floor and the House Public Health Committee, which she chaired, to make it as difficult as possible to pass pro-life bills. Indeed, she was a master of parliamentary sleight-of-hand in the pursuit of her “pro-choice” objectives.
Representative Hamilton and I were on opposite sides of the abortion issue continually during those six years during the ’80′s, and when she retired from the House at that time, she said to me: “Tony, you go your way and I’ll go my way, because abortion is an issue about which we are NEVER going to agree.”
But then, some years later, an amazing thing happened — something almost akin to what happened to Saul on the road to Damascus. Rebecca Hamilton wasn’t on horseback at the time, as was the future Saint Paul. She was driving her car one day, and she was reflecting on a confluence of recent events, and suddenly the right to life issue was brought into a very sharp, and very different, focus for her; she had become a mother, and she had experienced a religious conversion. And suddenly she knew, as she sat behind the wheel that day, that she had been — through all those earlier years — on the wrong side of the abortion issue…
It took great courage to do what she did next, but Rebecca decided to return to public life — to come back to the Oklahoma House of Representatives after a 15 year absence, this time as a PRO-LIFE legislator, a pro-life Democrat, in a party that has been less than friendly toward pro-life candidates. Rebecca persevered, and was elected six straight times, until term limits brought her service to an end this past November.
She had come back, as she so simply and humbly says, “To make amends.” To try to right the wrongs, repair the damage, make up for whatever bad example she might have given through her earlier support for abortion…
And she succeeded in rectifying those earlier mistakes to a degree she could never have imagined. On the strength of her own determination, she won pro-life legislative battles against all odds. Through her powers of persuasion, she transformed her party’s pro-abortion caucus into a largely pro-life caucus. By virtue of her unyielding commitment to making the pro-life issue a transcendent, bipartisan concern in the House, she has helped mightily to make the right to life the Oklahoma legislature’s #1 priority.
Rebecca Hamilton has been a tremendous force for good, and she will be acutely missed at the state Capitol. In part because of her background and history, she has been a uniquely effective and powerful voice for the unborn child. And through her principled, selfless, and courageous service, she has earned the deepest respect of those all across the political spectrum for her tireless and unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life.
National Right to Life
Oklahomans For Life
I’ve ignored the flap over Pope Francis’ latest airplane interview, mainly because it has no merit.
What I mean is that the carrying-on about the Holy Father’s use of certain phrases has no merit. It seems that Pope Francis affirmed the Catholic Church’s teaching on artificial birth control. In the process, he said that this teaching doesn’t mean that people need to have babies “like rabbits.”
All he meant was that people can use natural family planning. Big news.
The reaction was predictable.
On the one hand, Margery Egan, over at Crux, came out as a full member of The Pope is Catholic, Egad crowd. She reacted with hurt and outrage because Pope Francis stands by the Church’s teaching that artificial birth control is illicit. Here’s a bit of her reaction:
The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated.
I had hoped for so much more from this man.
Although he has not lived it himself, I had thought he understood something about good people living real lives in real marriages. I had thought he even understood something about the beauty of sex in marriage, the need for sex in marriage.
Then we have The Pope is Human, Egad crowd, going full tilt, as well. Most of this is showing up on Facebook and in chat rooms. A lot of people like their popes neat and straight-edged. What they want are popes who come out for display, recite Scripture and Church teaching as if they were programmed by a computer and then quietly go back inside to say their Rosaries.
In case you haven’t gotten the news, Pope Francis is not that kind of pope. He’s so completely relaxed in his papal skin that he just says whatever comes into his head. Fortunately for us, nothing that comes into his head is against the Church. Every single time he makes a comment that the press latches onto and tries to massage into a change in Church teaching, they are using an off-the-cuff comment that did no such thing. Misinterpret as they might, Pope Francis is not going to teach modern nihilism instead of the Gospels.
This good man, our Pope Francis, is Catholic. He’s also human. He’s a pastoral pope who loves to forgive sinners and who is using his papacy to say in every way he can that Jesus meant it when He said He came to save lost sinners.
Margery Egan asked if Pope Francis understands the real lives of real people, including the beauty and goodness of marital sex. The answer is yes, he does. That’s where the ‘you don’t have to reproduce like rabbits’ comment came from. All he meant was that Natural Family Planning works and Catholics should feel free to make use of it.
Now what does Bunnygate have to do with January 22? After all, Bunnygate is just Pope Francis, making good copy, and the media, proving once again just how significant the Church really is in today’s world.
If you doubt that, go stand on your front porch and should “reproduce like rabbits.” Do it several times. The only thing that might happen is that your neighbors will have something new to talk about. The New York Times, BBC, NBC, CBS, CNN and all their pals will give your behavior a big pass.
But when the pope uses such phrases, it’s front page news all around the world. Everything he says, every little gesture he makes, is observed, reported and interpreted according to the interpreter’s prejudice in every media outlet going.
Because what he says matters.
Because the Church is not irrelevant.
Because Jesus Christ, despite all the attacks and attempts to destroy faith in Him, is Lord, and billions of people bend their knee to Him.
That’s why Bunnygate is Bunnygate. It’s a big deal because the Church and Jesus are big deals.
How does that apply to January 22?
The early Christians stopped the practice of exposing infants, primarily baby girls, by three methods. First they refused to do it themselves. Second, they went out and rescued these babies, brought them home and raised them as part of their families. Third, they said it was wrong, over and over and over, until the message finally got through.
January 22 is the anniversary of the day when we resurrected the old practice of discarding unwanted children. We went further after that with our rights talk and brought back the Baals in new form as we sacrificed our babies, our elderly, our sick and even our unhappy people to the little g gods of modern convenience.
In our world today, bunnygate matters because it is the Vicar of Christ, however awkwardly he might phrase it, affirming once again that He is Catholic and that this means that he stands for life. The Church did not waver one inch in that airplane interview. The pope just stuck his foot in his mouth a bit. That’s all.
But he said the right things. He just said them in an off-hand and humorous way.
That is the only part of the interview that matters, which is why I haven’t bothered talking about it until now. The pope reiterated Church teaching. He practiced number three of the three things the early Christians did to overturn the practices of human sacrifice and exposing unwanted babies.
We do our version of number three when we go out into the streets today and march for life. We are saying, once again, that the Supreme Court was wrong. We will continue saying it until the message finally gets through.
At the same time, pro life people must also refuse to engage in abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cells research, egg harvesting and the attendant anti-life activities that saturate our world. Our most important testimony for life is living pro life.
That means we take care of other people. We put people ahead of profit and ahead of convenience. If we believe that the right to life is the first and most essential human right, then we have to behave that way in our private lives and our public lives.
We are called to follow Jesus when we are in the shower and when we are on a stage; when we pay our bills and when we go to work. Most important of all, we are called to follow Jesus in our homes and with our families, in how we treat the people closest to us.
January 22 and Bunnygate go together because they are of a whole. The United States Supreme Court unwittingly called forth Christians to witness to the sanctity of human life. The Holy Father has affirmed that the Church does not back down from this call.
Today is a special day for each of us to re-affirm to ourselves and to others that we stand for life and that we will continue to stand for life in our homes, on our jobs and on the streets until the world finally gets the message.
So, Pope Francis is going to write an encyclical on the environment, and the right wing heretics, the left wing heretics, the corporatists and the nihilists are sharpening their knives.
It would be a hopeful sign, that so many of our culture warriors and mega money-men are seemingly besotted with the pope to the point of losing all common sense.
It would be.
They are not besotted with the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. They are interested in him and his every little word because he has power, and power is what they are all about.
Pope Francis does not have the power to push a button and melt down mountains. He cannot sign an agreement and send the industrial base of a great capitalist nation to a communist nation. He can’t raid a national treasury and put the coin in his own pocket. He can not write a statue or issue an order and with his terrible swift pen KO the family, human life at its beginning or the tenuous hold on respect held by our frail elderly and disabled.
Pope Francis can not do any of those things. What he can do is speak directly to the conscience of billions of Christians by telling them the plain facts of what Christ meant. He has the power to take the phrase “the least of these” and tell us who the least of these is and what we must do for them. He can remind us that Jesus said it more than once and He said it without equivocation that if we ignore “the least of these” we will not see heaven.
Pope Francis can define for us what, specifically, following Christ means in our world today. He can elucidate for us what the Scriptures mean when they tell us that we are our brothers’ keeper and that we have dominion over the earth.
We live in a time when corporatists are raping the American economy for their gain, while they also rape the planet on which we all live. At the same time, nihilists are selling us a cant of destruction of the family, the devaluation of human life and bloated social programs that not only do not heal the wounds our indifference to human beings have inflicted but are increasingly becoming a means to attack the rights and freedoms Americans enjoy.
Does anybody besides me see that these two things are not opposites? They are different verses of the same song, and that same song is the satan-inspired ballad of the pit, the cultural refutation of the value, dignity, worth and meaning of human life. The fact that one side does it for corporate interests and the other side does it for nihilistic interests makes no real difference. Dead is dead and we are killing ourselves in the service of these false gods of our politics.
Patheos writers from every quarter comment about this, each in their own way.
Frank Schaeffer recently published a passionate article in the Huffington Post in which he repented of and disavowed his religious right past. I think he got his politics a bit wrong when he said, … the American right is not about politics as most people understand politics but about religious absolutes.
That may be the zeitgeist viewpoint, but from my vantage of having just completed 18 years in public office, it seems simplistic to the point of silliness. The right side of the political coin is not in any way about religious absolutes. Religious absolutes are what they use to sell their corporatism. Religious absolutes are their vote-getting machine.
Now, I know well that there are many sincere Christians who are part of the right side (let’s call them Republicans and stop the cuteness) of the political spectrum, precisely because they were chased out of the left side (Democrats) as punishment for their belief in God, in particular for their belief in His demand that we honor the sanctity of human life.
I’ve lived this nonsense, up close and personal, for quite some time. I can’t tell you how many times my fellow Democrats have uninvited me to be a member of their party because I am pro life.
I understand the flight of so many Christians to the Republican party. I also know that a good number of Republican office holders are devout and sincere Christians.
But, religious absolutes are not what the puppet masters who beam candidates into office on a beam of corporate money — in short the puppet masters who own and run the Republican Party for their own interests — are about. In fact, at least here in Oklahoma, a good many of the top tier Rs that I’ve known have been atheists, big donors to Planned Parenthood, etc.
Politics is not, ever, about religious certitude. It’s about getting power and keeping power and using power for corporatist purposes. It’s about raiding the treasury of public monies and public power which was built by the people and should be used for the people and putting it into the pockets of a few.
Buying a legislature or a Congress by putting them in office with a few million dollars is a cheap investment for controlling the American government and bending it to your own greedy and ruthless will.
On the other side, the side where Mr Schaeffer has found his new hallelujah, the vote-getting machine is aimed at the don’t-wanna-folllow-no-rules crowd. The Democratic Party, which was once the party of working people and the great builder of economic diversity and hope for this country, has become the purveyor of nihilism and the destruction of human life.
If it’s a bad moral idea, you can be pretty sure that the Ds will latch onto it and claim it as a human right before too long. Abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, egg harvesting and the intellectual tyranny of political correctness are their vote getting machine.
Again, I know many people who still cling to the working-class roots of the Democratic Party. They truly are about a living wage and building an economy with American manufacturing, American labor and American know-how. I know a good number of elected Democratic officials, including, not so long ago, myself, who feel this way.
They/we are to the Democratic Party what the pro traditional marriage people have become to the Republican Party; someone to be tolerated and used, but also, when policy is made, ignored.
The American people are a bit like Mr Schaeffer in that they flip from one of these extremes to the other, in search of someone who will listen to them. Every few years they toss out whoever is in office and elect a new batch of wing nuts from the opposite political spectrum. Then, after the people they elect ignore the people who elected them and follow the the corporatist pipers who paid for their campaigns, we the people wearily, and with a deepening sense of hopelessness, toss them out and try again.
How does anyone keep putting their faith in princes in the face of this? More to the point, how does anyone keep chasing after what Elizabeth Scalia calls “Strange Gods”, in this case the false idol of political salvation, year after year, election after election?
What does all this have to do with Pope Francis and his as-yet unwritten encyclical on the environment? In truth, it doesn’t have much at all to do with the encyclical itself, and that is the primary cause of all the carrying on about it in the two wing-nut camps that seek to define Western society in their own image.
They are not dealing with the actual encyclical, and they never will. What they are doing now is rehearsing and readying. They are softening us up for the tsunami of propaganda that will be unleashed when the encyclical is published.
Right wing nuts are afraid that Pope Francis might write something that says that they (gasp, shock, rage) might be in need of conversion. Left wing nuts are hopeful that this is so. Both of them intend to ignore the actual encyclical and write their own version of it when it comes out.
What they both want out of the deal is political advantage in order to solidify their control of the American government to be used for their own destructive and America-destroying purposes.
Pope Francis has the power of speaking as the Vicar of Christ and these politicos and their mouthpieces want to harness that power to their own anti-Christ uses. That makes him the object of their hatred and delight, another person thingy to massage and lie about until they drain him of his relevance and can’t use him anymore.
Mark Shea wrote a post yesterday in which he noodled with what this might mean to Catholics like us who are living our walk with Christ in these times. He rightly notes that certain members of the clergy are infected with this disease of defining Jesus by their politics along with the rest of the populace. They veer to the left, or to the right, whittling Jesus down into a caricature of the R or the D, and teaching their hapless parishioners to do the same.
Mark is the writer Catholic righties love to hate. He’s fought the good fight of speaking against both both torture and abortion, of being against corporatism and socialism, of saying that the right to life goes seamlessly from conception to natural death and that hunger, poverty, corporate wars and nihilistic debauchery that kills are co-promotors of the culture of death.
That is a most Catholic position, and it is also the one position most likely to make everybody, everywhere in the political firmament mad at you.
Because the little g gods of political fealty require a serious jettisoning of Christian baggage as the price for that comfortable feeling of finding cheap grace and easy salvation in your voter registration card. It does not matter which party you chose. If you follow its teachings instead of Jesus, you are on the broad path that leads to destruction.
That is Frank Schaeffer’s mistake. It was his first mistake when he blindly took off after the Rs in the name of Jesus, and now it’s his second mistake when he blindly attacks them and takes off after the Ds. I do not know this man, but based on this article, it seems that he is making the same mistake, over and again.
What I call The Political Heresy, which is the practice of looking for God in your politics, is, in my opinion, the primary heresy of contemporary America.
I would put it above nonsensical claptrap such as claiming that killing people with abortion and euthanasia is a human right, or that harvesting women’s bodies for eggs is women’s rights. I would also put it above the other claptrap of claiming that Jesus was a corporatist, and that what He really meant all along was blessed are the rich.
I do that because The Political Heresy is a first cause of both these things. What makes it a first cause is that it shifts our loyalty and our followership away from Christ Jesus and places it on the propagandized musings of well-paid think tanks and media outlets who are designed and employed to confuse, delude, misinform and otherwise lead us away from Him.
Pope Francis is writing an encyclical on the environment, and both sides of the political spectrum are sharpening their knives. Because they don’t care about Jesus. And they don’t care about the future of this planet. And they don’t care about people.
They care about getting and keeping power.
And everything else they say is a lie.
Copyright: Wonderlane used with permission.
The wise men r us.
By that I mean they are that vast reach of overlooked humanity that had no part in God’s Covenant with Abraham. The wise men are you and me, who will be, at long last and as St Paul put it, “grafted” onto the original tree of life that God planted when He raised up first a man and his wife, then their family, and finally, a people, to be the flame of flickering light in the darkness of fallen humanity.
We sorta know the story of the Wise Men. We’ve seen it acted out in Christmas pageants when, at the end of the story of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the manger, three little boys walk in to the tune of We Three Kings. They are wearing bathrobes made of shiny fabric and carrying three boxes marked “gold,” “frankincense” and “myrrh.”
The little boys put their boxes next to a makeshift manger which holds a doll wrapped in a baby blanket. Meanwhile a little girl, dressed in a her mother’s bathrobe and a little boy dressed in his dad’s, look on. The shepherds are already there, along with a couple of little girl angels.
It’s Christmas and the people rise to sing Joy to the World with the gusto of those who know in their hearts that this story, however simply it is told, is true.
These Christmas pageants are simple, fun and they do tell the essential story. But the layers upon layers of meaning that the story holds are not touched. That’s to the good, of course, since belief lies not in layers of understanding but in the simplicity of ultimate truth.
Christmas is about the end of the endless night of ultimate hopelessness. It is the story of The Light breaking into human history. As such, the simplicity of small-church Christmas pageants are all we need to tell the story.
But for those who want to look past the dust jacket on the story, the questions and the answers are there. Before Jesus, God’s direct work with humanity had been limited to this smallish family turned nation that He had settled smack along the most important trade route of the ancient world. The bread basket of Egypt, the spices and riches of the East, traveled along this narrow way near the sea on their journey to Europe.
Rome fed off this route, as had numerous empires before it. Of all the places in the ancient world, the one most likely to be fought over, invaded, battered and beaten, was this one. Why did God put His people here?
My guess is that it was because the story of the Jews is not just the story of the Jews. It is the story of Jesus’ family. The Bible itself is, from the first page to the last, the story of Jesus, of God’s redemption of us, all of us, everywhere. He chose to send His redemption first through a man and his wife, then through a family and finally through a single nation.
When Jesus was born, He repeated the story and went back, once again, to a man and woman, a husband and wife. It seems that God always begins His beginnings with humanity with family.
The Chosen people were chosen, as God told Abraham, “to be a blessing.” They job was to bring that first flickering point of light to the world at large. The nation of Israel was in the one best place best situated for sending the message of redemption to the whole world. The location that made it a perilous location of great political and economic interest, also made it the perfect jumping-off place for spreading the Good News outward until it met itself circling the globe.
Thus Jesus, when He finally came, was a Jew, born to Jews in a vassal Jewish nation residing in the crook of the elbow of the ancient economy.
He was, from the beginning, the Light of the World. Not, notice, the light of the Jews. Jesus, a Jew, born of Jews, came for every person who walked the planet. Salvation came from the Jews, but it was for us all.
That is the meaning of the Epiphany. It is the underlying message of God calling three wise men to, as the hymn says, “traverse afar” in their quest to find Him. These men were not Jews. They were us, the unsaved sea of humanity that had been, up until then, standing outside the door.
The epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are part of the story now. Salvation came from the Jews, but it is no longer theirs alone. From the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, He called all humanity to Himself. It began with three men who followed a star and it is unfolding to this day.
Pope Francis surprised the pundits this week by raising up cardinals from far-flung locations about the world, many of which are places where Christians suffer desperate persecution. The mustard seed is just being planted in some of these lands. Those cardinals are the successors to the wise men.
… the Gospel must be preached to all nations, Jesus told us.
And it will be.
And it is.
Like every other story of humankind, the story of our salvation begins with a man, a woman, and a baby. It begins with a family, and it ends with eternal life.
Mixed into this story is the tale of three wise men who “traversed afar” to pay homage to a newborn king laid in a manger in a stable. They visited the Romans’ vassal king of that land, King Herod, on their way to Him. In doing so, they alerted a ruthless and insecure man to a potential threat. Their indiscretion cost the lives of innocent children, executed by King Herod in a drive to safeguard his throne against prophecy. They were the trigger that sent Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus into exile in Egypt.
Their part in the story of salvation, was germinal in every way. But the most important part of it is also the most often overlooked. The wise men were not Jews, they were not of the Chosen people. The blood of Abraham did not flow in their veins. But God called them and guided them and over a long journey led them … to Him.
In this way, the epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are welcome at the table now. The doors to God’s salvation opened wide on that night when He was born, allowing any who will take the step to enter in. It began with a star, a journey and a baby.
Because the wise men r us.
I thank you Father … that you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and revealed them to the little ones.
“CCChristian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s holy catholic church; and, I thank God, hitherto my stomach hath served me very well thereunto, so that yet I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you all to help and assist with your prayers, that, at the very point and instant of death’s stroke, I may in that very moment stand steadfast without fainting in any one point of the catholic faith, free from any fear. And I beseech Almighty God of his infinite goodness to save the king and this realm, and that it may please him to hold his holy hand over it, and send the king a good council.”
St John Fisher, at his execution
God’s warriors have always been the most unlikely people.
He sent Moses who stuttered to speak to Pharaoh and Gideon who was a coward to fight a war. He chose Deborah — a woman in an ancient middle-eastern country — as commander in chief during another war, and He was Himself born in a manger and raised by a carpenter.
God likes the little people, the unlikely people. Jesus’ disciples, who would ultimately change the world, were fishermen and disreputable tax collectors and such.
Jesus Himself once thanked His Father for revealing the truth of the Kingdom to the “little ones.”
We see this lived out in our world every single day. How often do we see the powerful and puffed up professional followers of Christ who have done quite well for themselves, thank you very much, cut and run when trouble comes? How often do we see those who claim that they speak for God and we must honor and respect them for that reason, collude with the world and do its bidding rather than Our Lord’s?
The leadership in a good many of our Catholic universities is a case in point. Many of these universities are institutions that were built by priests, jesuits in particular, and which are still headed by priests.
Education has become a primary means of brainwashing young people into turning their back on Christ. This is a magnificent opportunity for those who run our Catholic universities to make a positive difference for the Kingdom. They could, if they were committed to Christ themselves, make their institutions a primary means of converting the culture.
Instead, many of them have chosen to convert their schools to fit the culture. When push comes to shove, as it has with the HHS Mandate, they bend the knee and kiss Ceasar’s ring without embarrassment. And they continue to wear the Roman collar while they are doing it.
As I said, in another post, enter the Little Sisters of the Poor, stage left. The sisters are, as Jesus said, “little ones.” The word “little” is even in their name. They were, before they decided to make a courtroom stand for Christ, almost anonymous. Their work isn’t the kind of thing that allows them to hobnob with presidents and kings. They spend their days caring for the least of these, for the very people that a good many in our society are pushing to euthanize for their costliness and the massive inconvenience they create. The Little Sister of the Poor care for the frail elderly,
The Little Sisters fit Jesus’ description of “the little ones” pretty well. They serve a Church which is administered by men who do sit down to sup with presidents and kings and many of whom have clearly forgotten that they are servants, not masters.
One of Public Catholic’s readers inspired this post with the comment that they wished the Little Sisters of the Poor would be more like the priests of Notre Dame and just do what the government tells them to do: Accept the HHS Mandate and follow the government instead of Christ.
The reader didn’t put that last bit about following the government instead of Christ in there. That was all me. But I honestly think it reflects the choice that the leadership at many of our Catholic universities have made, and not just in the HHS Mandate.
What the reader was saying, of course, is that they preferred Christians who follow the world rather than Christ; they like cowardly Christian leadership that will lead their people into betraying Our Lord so that the Church becomes a meaningless cypher in today’s world. This reader — and I imagine a good many other people — prefers the priests of Notre Dame to the Little Sisters of the Poor precisely because the priests are so willing to sell out Jesus and the Little Sisters are, however reluctantly, willing to fight for Him.
I wonder if this embarrasses these priests at all. I would take a look at myself if those who have as their outspoken goal the destruction of religion in general and Christianity in particular praised me for not following the Church. Do they consider, even for a moment, the implications in this?
These are difficult times, and difficult times are when the sunshine soldiers who joined to participate in the parades and fanfare lay down their arms and cross over to what looks like the winning side. How many of the English bishops acceded to Henry VIII? I know of one. Cardinal John Fisher was martyred for his faith and is now Saint John Fisher.
I’ve read letters from the bishops, encouraging the laity to consider St Thomas More when thinking about the HHS Mandate. St Thomas More is special to me. When I was in the process of converting, I thought about him a lot. I’ve always thought that he was there with me, aiding me in that time. St Thomas More is my namesake. During my years in office I wore his medal, all day, every day.
St Thomas More refused to repudiate the Church at the King’s command. St Thomas is precious to me because he had many failings and he did not want to die. He was not aiming for sainthood. He tried his best to live, to avoid his martyrdom. But in the end, when the choice of Christ or King was put before him, he chose Christ.
St Thomas More is a marvelous example, especially for politicians, writers and attorneys. St John Fisher is an equally important example for priests and bishops. I wish there was a St John Fisher Society to promote sacrificial followership among priests and bishops. I wish they could find fellowship and strength in one another. It is not easy to lead people in these times. It takes consistency and courage.
Leadership in the name of Christ is always servant leadership. It is a giving of oneself, rather than a getting for oneself. The people of God are hungry for leadership. Even most of those who criticize and try to bully the Church into acceding to the world would respond to leadership if they saw it. In fact, a good many of these people behave this way because they don’t have leadership. They are, as Jesus put it, like sheep without a shepherd.
The single best way to lead is by example, by inspiration. Do you want people to stand for Christ? Then stand for Christ yourself. Do you want people to sacrifice for Jesus because He is worth any sacrifice? Then, sacrifice yourself. The Church is built on the blood of the martyrs, not the crisp linens and fine serving ware of dining with presidents and kings.
The prominent priests of Notre Dame are a fine example of how not to do priestly leadership. Being the big dog and aping the world are not examples of servant leadership or even Christly leadership. They are examples of betrayal.
I thank You Father … that you have … revealed these things to the little ones.
Enter the Little Sisters of the Poor, stage left.
It seems I’ve run afoul of the atheist portal here at Patheos One. More. Time.
Nobody sticks in these folks’ collective craw more than I do. They love to hate me and they love to trash me. If one of them was slowly slipping away, I think the doc could show them one of my blog posts to get their poor little heart started beating again.
I’m not sure how I do it, and to be honest, I don’t care, but I do get under their skin. They react to me the way Tribbles react to Klingons.
I’ve studiously ignored this carrying on up to now, and I intend to go back to that same path as soon as I finish here. But I do have a small bone to pick with one of the more outlandish claims against me that has been published on that portal.
Dan Arel, who blogs at Danthropology, has a big case of outrage going over my recent blog post about the Prez. It seems that calling President Obama an idiot is a bridge too far for Mr Arel. That’s his opinion, and he’s welcome to it. Writing blog posts trying to get at me is also his call. It actually would be difficult for me to come up with a description of how little I care.
I’m not even all that exercised about the one point that I’m going to discuss here. I just think it leads into an important point that needs making.
In his outraged defense of the president, Mr Arel — as atheists seem wont to do — veers off into personal attacks against me. As often happens with personal attacks against me, he immediately goes into fantasyland and presents made-up nonsense as fact.
This paragraph is a case in point (emphasis mine):
Rebecca Hamilton is a former politician who spent her career attacking women’s rights. Now it seems in retirement, her life will be no different. She does not think women are able to make the choices that are right for them and instead wants the President to give her and her religion the privilege of making these choices for you.
Oh me. Oh my. Such a big fat lie.
Here’s just a sprinkling of things I’ve done (This is just off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s more.) during my career-long “attack” on women’s rights:
1. One of 6 founders of the first rape crisis center in Oklahoma.
2. Got first funding for statewide domestic violence shelters.
3. Author of the original protective order in Oklahoma.
4. Creator of the first statewide rape hot line in Oklahoma.
5. Authored legislation to allow rape victims and victims of domestic violence time off work for counseling, court visits, medical care without losing their employment.
6. Authored legislation to provide state funding for day care.
7. Authored legislation to make human trafficking illegal in Oklahoma.
8. Passed a law to keep rape victims’ information private.
9. Host and co-creator of the Oklahoma Day of Prayer for an End to Violence Against Women.
10. Authored bill to stop doctors from paying women to allow their bodies to be harvested for eggs.
11. Authored bill to stop forced abortions.
12. Authored bill making it a felony to beat up a pregnant woman.
13. Authored bill outlawing female genital mutilation in Oklahoma.
14. Authored bill to make rape by instrumentation a crime in Oklahoma.
Lessee now. What might I have done that could possibly be construed as “attacking women’s rights?????”
Tap, tap, tap …
Could it be the fact that I oppose abortion?
That’s all I can think of. And it does fit.
Because in some people’s minds, “women’s rights” is abortion. They think that if you aren’t in favor of abortion on demand, then you must be opposed to “women’s rights.” On the other hand, they think that if you favor abortion on demand, then that’s all there is to women’s rights.
Oddly enough, even in this, Mr Arel’s hateful hyperbole overreaches the facts by a few miles. I opposed abortion in the second half of my career. During the first, pre-conversion half, I was the pro choice poster girl of Oklahoma. I’ve got enough Margaret Sanger awards and other pro choice attagirls from that phase of my life to paper the walls of my house with them. I was the de facto go-to person in the Oklahoma legislature for those who wanted pro life bills killed dead. And I delivered, because I was, as one of my fellow House members told me, “one hell of a legislator.”
Before I was ever elected to office, I was the Oklahoma director for NARAL.
So puhllleeeezzzz Mr Arel, consider who you are tarring with your abortion-is-women’s-rights brush. I know more about this issue — from both sides — than you will ever learn.
One of the things I know, and that I have learned to my horror and grief, is that abortion kills a living child. I can’t tell you how devastated I was when I realized the full horror of what I had done during my anti-God years.
Not only was I shattered by my own crimes against humanity, but as a woman who cares deeply about women’s rights, I felt trapped in a conundrum. How could I work to ensure women’s rights and prevail in my life-long work to speak out for justice for womankind and still protect these unborn children’s lives? That was the question.
I found the answer in the place where we all must look: The abundant mercy and love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Jesus is Lord of every life, whether the person acknowledges this or not. He loves Mr Arel just as much as He loves me, or you. He loves him and wants to offer him forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life just as He loves and cherishes the unborn child.
We are all His brothers and sisters, all God’s children.
Jesus loves women with a special depth of love because He is the author of life and women are the bearers of life. We are His cooperators in the life force. He chose to be born of a woman Himself.
This does not mean that God intends His daughters to be limited to that one single role. We are not walking uteri. We are human beings, made in His image with all the hungers, desires and needs for significance, achievement and the fullness of life that men have. Diminishing us to the role of childbearing as if that was all there is to us is not God’s plan. It is the devil’s curse on humankind.
Misogyny is the human race, at war with itself. And abortion, which strips women of their uniqueness, is an attack on women’s humanity at a profound level. Women should not have to chose between a murdered child and a ruined life. That, and not some nebulous “right” to murder both their own child and their own maternity is what women’s rights should be.
Pregancy and childbirth should never be used as a weapon to terrorize women or limit their lives. Rather than ending this discrimination and misogyny, abortion cooperates with it. Abortion is just the old misogynist double standard, turned sideways. It puts the whole burden of human sexuality back on the woman once again.
I don’t blame Mr Arel for being such a twerp about all this. He is, after all, both a man and an atheist, which is a combination that, based on my reading, seems to struggle with ideas of women’s rights based on women’s humanity. In fact, this group seems to struggle with ideas of intrinsic and universal human rights for any group of people. Based on things he’s said and done, I would guess that he’s also got a special hate going toward me.
All that adds up to a king-sized pair of blinders. When he puts forth the women’s rights = abortion equation, he is repeating the mindless cant he’s been taught around who knows how many intellectual campfires.
What I would like him to do is to take those blinders off, or at least peek around them, and see the love and compassion that Our Lord extends to him. Mr Arel is wrong about abortion, wrong about God and, in a far lesser question, wrong about me.
I wish him the best thing I could wish anyone, that he accepts the love of Christ and begins the journey to heaven. Whether he knows it, or wants to believe it or not, he is my brother; my lost and angry brother.
I pray for you Dan. You are a child of the living God.
Now, I’m back to ignoring the atheist portal.