How to Present the Christian Message When the Message is the Medium

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The media is hard-selling abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and now polygamy and polyamory. It is also pushing farming women’s bodies for eggs and using women as pregnancy surrogates.

That is the real-world situation. We need to be aware of it. We need to do what we can to make other Christians aware of it, so that they see it for what it is. But what, beyond that, should we do?

We must learn how to communicate our message in today’s world. We can, you know. We’ve just got to stop bemoaning the situation and start thinking about what we can do.

This video gives a brief discussion of how Christianity has historically communicated its message. That’s a good place to start as we move forward to how we will communicate it in today’s world.

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

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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.

 

 

Doing Lent in the Fast Lane

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How to do Lent in the fast lane?

More to the point, how to do Lent when I’m catching myself running in circles?

This time of year is uber busy, fragmented and exhausting for Oklahoma House Members. How do I find time to pray more than Now I lay me and Bless us oh Lord?

What of the disciplines of fasting, alms and deep examination of conscience? Does all that go by the board when I’m stuck eating whatever is put in front of me and almost never get a moment alone?

I’m certain that I’m not the only person who finds themselves caught in a whirlpool of busyness during these days of Lent. That is, after all, our modern curse.

We are overwhelmed by a tsunami of too much: Too much stuff, too many activities and far too many people competing for our attention.

“Doing” Lent under those circumstances can easily reduce itself down to its lowest common denominator. Tuna sandwich for lunch on Fridays? Check. Grilled cheese for lunch on Ash Wednesday? Check. Confession, whether you need it or not? Check and check. And, oh yes, keep your sticky little fingers out of the candy dish at work.

Here we are, dealing with the fulcrum of history; the moment at which everything changed. We are considering the point at which the hopelessness of vanity, vanity all is vanity before Calvary was transformed into the birth of life everlasting after Calvary. Everything turns on that hilltop with the three crosses 2,000 years ago.

Lent is designed to take us there. It is meant to bring us to our knees before the foot of the cross where we can be born again.

But when you’re being drug by the runaway horse of overwhelming busyness that is our modern life, how do you do more than the minimum? How do you find the space, the quiet, the time to hear that still small voice?

I’ve dealt with this for years and to be honest, I’ve never found a fully satisfactory answer for it. Doing the minimum isn’t so minimum when it’s all you can manage. There is an element of faithfulness involved in those tuna sandwiches and skipped candy.

The trouble with doing the minimum is that it leaves you basically the same as you were before you did it. You don’t necessarily slide back spiritually the way you would if you didn’t try at all, but you won’t grow in Christ by doing the minimum. The minimum leaves you spiritually fed, but at a bare sustenance level.

Doing the minimum is just a step above not doing at all. It’s easy to slide from the minimum to less than the minimum and a deteriorating faith walk that leaves you half Christian.

How does anyone grow spiritually while living the lives we do, where emotional fracturing and distancing from faith seem built into the structure of it?

My advice, which is the advice of a woman whose Lenten practices are mostly a matter of minimums sandwiched into busyness, is to do at least the minimum, no matter what. Even if it means eating really substandard food like a spoonful of banquet carrots with a spoonful of banquet mashed potatoes with some kind of something that’s supposed to be gravy for lunch, do the minimum. Do it even if you can’t for the life of you remember your sins and have to search your memory while you’re standing in line outside the confessional.

I have a completely personal theology for doing the minimum that I call “God supplies the lacks.” What I mean by that is that I trust that if I don’t remember to confess every sin, or even my most important sins, God, Who knows everything about me, will supply the lacks and forgive me my forgetfulness, He supplies the lacks in my confession. God supplies the lacks. I don’t have anything but my own faith to base that on, but I believe it to a profound level.

I am not talking about deliberate refusal to do what you should when you have the opportunity to do it. I mean when you’re grinding metal in your life, God will supply the lacks to see you through it spiritually intact. All you have to do is your part, by which I mean those minimums offered up with the knowledge that the minimum is not really enough to keep you spiritually healthy for the long haul and a firm intention to do more and do better when you can.

This leads me to the “when you can” part of that. If your life is like Marine Corp boot camp 52 weeks out of every year, you really need to re-think your way of living. Otherwise, you’re going to be talking to God face to face a lot sooner than you expect. No one can use themselves up without breaking stride for their whole span of days.

You have to take time outs. It is essential to your sanity, health and purpose as a human being. For a workaholic, time out requires discipline. It is just as difficult for someone who is inured to a life of constant stimulation and overwork to take a pause as it is for a couch potato to get up and get moving. They are two sides of the same self-destructive coin.

Obeying the commandment to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” is your best friend in this. I didn’t know this a year ago. I didn’t even know it six months ago. I had one of those spoing! moments of insight that occasionally come along. I realized that I had been breaking one of the commandments without realizing the significance of what I was doing.

It’s not easy for someone like me to quit working for one full day each week. But I have found it to be my new best friend. I recommend it for anyone and everyone as a bare minimum of Christian living. It not only rests your mind; it opens your heart to God. I was surprised by the effect this simple act of obedience had on my closeness with Christ. If your job requires you to work on Sunday and you can’t get out of it, my advice is take your sabbath rest on another day. Do not cheat yourself of this great gift of the Sabbath.

Sunday rest is another bare minimum of Christian followership. But if you add it to the bare minimums of fasting, confession, weekly eucharist, you will find that they combine to lift you out of the basement Christian walk of maintenance spirituality and into a gentle curve of Christian growth.

Doing Lent in the fast lane is often about doing the minimum. The minimum will starve you spiritually over the long haul. But if you do it with love of Christ, you will be able to make up for it at other times.

That’s how I get through it. I do the minimum, and whatever else I can in addition to that minimum. And I trust God to supply the lacks.

Let’s Rebuild the City: Lecrae Shares His Testimony

Lecrae found Christ, but only gave himself to the Lord half way.

Jesus told us you can not serve two masters.

Lecrae gave his life over to Christ completely after a terrible automobile accident. The rest is rap.

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Son of God to Open in Theaters February 28

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I’m going. Are you?

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For more information, go here.

Getting Real: The Marriage Protection Amendment

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Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

 

Election time is just around the corner.

That means that you will be getting a lot of attention from the people who speak for you in government.

Don’t waste it.

When candidates hold coffees or teas; when they have their town halls or come to your door, make the effort to go and then to talk to them.  Let them know that you’ll be watching what they do if they are elected. Do not assume that because a candidate is with one party or the other that you know how they will vote and what they will do.

Both Rs and Ds will lie to you about where they stand on issues. Both Rs and Ds will defy their party and vote in ways that matter to them.

Ask these candidates, flat out, how they will vote on questions concerning the life of the unborn, violence against women and euthanasia. Then, follow that up with a new one. Ask them if they will vote for the Marriage Protection Amendment.

The Marriage Protection Amendment is a proposed Constitutional Amendment authored by Rep Tim Huelskamp, (R-Kan). Representative Huelskamp introduced the amendment last July.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who is head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ marriage defense efforts, recently sent a letter to Congressman Heulskamp, voicing his support for the proposed amendment.

I agree with the Archbishop that a Constitutional Amendment is the only way to approach this issue. If the Supreme Court had allowed DOMA to stand, the question could and would have been resolved legislatively. But they did not do that, which leaves us with this as our only way to proceed.

In his letter, Cardinal Cordileone said,

Your proposed Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is, therefore, a needed remedy. The amendment would secure in law throughout the country the basic truth known to reason that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Preserving this elemental truth is necessary for the good of society at large and for the good of children who deserve the love of both a mother and a father, neither of whom is expendable. Indeed, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any child conceived of their union. Federal court opinions that essentially redefine marriage to be merely a state recognized arrangement of intimate adult relationships ignore the truth about marriage, which deserves the highest protection in law.

I am, therefore, very pleased to support the Marriage Protection Amendment and urge your colleagues to join H. J. Res. 51 as cosponsors. Thank you for introducing in the House of Representatives this needed resolution to amend the U.S. Constitution. 

Make no mistake about it, amending the Constitution is difficult. We have before us not just the political work of passing and ratifying an amendment, but the much more important work of converting our culture.

One reason that the abortion fight has created bitterness and has taken so long is that pro life people have concentrated more on the politics than conversion.

Conversion must begin with us. By that I am referring to our own sexual behaviors, divorces and indifferent child rearing.

I’ve said repeatedly that the first and most important thing we must do — emphasis must do — is protect our own children from the corrosive effects of this post-Christian society in which we now live.

We need to protect our children, and at the same time be unafraid to go forward and speak the truth ourselves. For far too long, adults have protected themselves and thrown their children into the front lines of our trash culture. We have to reverse that, and we need to do it immediately.

Here is a copy of Cardinal Corleone’s letter:

Ltr cordileone defense of marraige act


 

 

Will They Know We are Christians by Our Love?

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“A Christian murderer…It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in History.” Pope Francis

I want to tell you two stories, both true, and both of which happened to me.

Back when I was running for office the first time around, I held a fund-raising party at a friend’s house. During the course of that campaign, I had been the target of a group of people who were strongly pro life. I had preachers at the largest churches in the district, preaching against me every Sunday. I had pro life people, walking door-to-door throughout the entire district, spreading outrageous lies about me.

For some reason, whenever a woman runs for office, the lies usually center around sex. I was denounced as a lesbian/prostitute/whore. I was also called a Communist.

When the fund-raising party took place, several of the pro life people showed up and took photos of the guests as they entered the house in what everyone thought was an attempt to intimidate them. They also made a point of writing down the license tag numbers on the guests’ cars.

That was back then, when I was pro choice.

Flash forward a couple of decades, and I am a converted Catholic, and what has been called the most pro life member of the Oklahoma legislature. (That’s the same Oklahoma legislature I was in back when I was pro choice.)

I hold another fund-raising event, this time a reception at the law office of a long-time friend of mine. Once again, I have been attacked by people who are passionate about the issue of abortion. Only this time it is the pro abortion people. I almost get censured by the Oklahoma Democratic Party. I am called a woman-hater/liar/whore. I am also called a (get ready for this) Fascist.

Now, at this fund-raising party, the pro abortion people show up. They — you guessed it — take photos of the guests as they enter the building, presumably to intimidate them, and write down the license tag numbers on the guest’s cars. The only difference between them and the pro life people who attacked me in my past is that they add the flourish of pickets with signs and chanting “traitor” at me in loud voices when I walk into the building.

Here’s my point: How, exactly, would a person on the sidelines be able to tell these two groups apart?

Answer: They’re can’t.

Both groups justify their behavior with claims that they are behaving badly out of a desire to create a greater good. The pro choicers claim that they are motivated by their love for women. The pro lifers say that they are motived by their love for unborn babies.

But if there is love in either group, you can’t see it by watching them. Their motivation appears to be hatred of one another.

In my humble opinion, if you can’t tell the difference between the behavior of pro life people and pro abortion people, then the pro life people are doing something wrong.

Evidently, my earlier post about slander and hate in political campaigns, felt like a personal attack to at least a few Public Catholic readers. That was not my intention. I know how hard it is to keep your religion when you are dealing with evil, and abortion is evil, right down to the ground. It perverts everything it touches, including good intentions.

It is the easiest thing in the world to convince yourself that sin is not sin if it is committed in the name of doing good. Politicians do this all the time. It’s why nobody trusts them. Politicians have extraordinary verbal skills and a good dose of legal sophistry at their disposal. They can spin up explanations about their own behavior and use those explanations to give themselves a green light to do just about anything. They excuse immoral behavior by claiming a moral imperative to behave immorally on just about every weasel vote they take.

Anyone who engages in the political battles of this world — even volunteers and well-wishers — is positioning themselves for a blast from the temptations of power. There are plenty of power brokers out there working full-time to grease the slide of ordinary people into the same self-congratulatory self-excusing self-justifications that politicians use.

But the truth itself remains untouched. In the end, the only ones we fool are ourselves.

What I’m trying to say is Do not let the evil of abortion and the venality of politics overwhelm your goodness and destroy your Christian witness. Do not tell yourself that sin is not sin if it is committed in the name of fighting abortion. Do not tell yourself that maliciously spreading ugly stories and gossip about other people is ok if it’s done to keep a pro abort out of office.

Because it is not ok. You may not do evil for a good cause. You also may not do evil because someone else did it first. It is wrong. It is sinful. For your own sake — for your own soul — do not become hardened in this sin of personal character assassination.

Several commenters have objected to the use of the phrase “murder with words” to describe the deliberate destruction of another person’s reputation for malicious purposes. I have looked into the eyes and seen the faces of people from both sides of the argument as they spit out vile epithets at me. I saw who sent them in their eyes. I never doubted that they were trying to hate me to death, that the only thing between their hate and actual, physical murder was fear of the law. The experience gave me an understanding of what Jesus meant when he said that a person who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and no murderer has eternal life within him. 

Think for a minute. Consider the dark pleasure that you feel when you are venting your righteous rage. Ponder the ugliness that enters your soul, along with the anger that accompanies it.

I spent a good bit of time in church this weekend, praying about my own righteous anger over fallen Catholics in high places. I knew that I could not and would not take to the various forums that are open to me and begin calling them names and putting out Photoshopped versions of their faces, replete with horns and ugly expressions. I had no temptation to degrade them as human beings or to spread ugly stories about them to punish and hurt them.

But I knew that the anger I felt could fester into bitterness, and that this bitterness would separate me from the one place above all that I want to be, which is in a state of grace. I want to do what my Lord Jesus Christ requires of me. So, I prayed about this anger before it had time to grow roots and begin to own me.

It is ok, it is fine, in fact, to deal with issues and facts and to point out the areas where you disagree with a person. It is ok, when the facts themselves warrant it, to say something such as President Obama is the most pro abortion president in history. I think there is sufficient factual evidence to warrant that statement, and I also think that it pertains to his job performance.

As their employers, the American people are obliged to have opinions about their elected officials’ job performance. Judiciously considering the facts and making reasoned judgements about how our elected officials perform their jobs is part of our charge as citizens of this Republic.

It is also imperative that Christians engage the larger culture through their work, their politics and their ministries. We are called to be the light of the world. We need to go into the world and be that light.

But trashing another person for the pleasure of hurting them — which is the real reason people repeat ugly, personal stories — is sinful. Trashing another person as a tactic is just as sinful. I am not talking about legitimate political criticism. I am talking about attempts to destroy someone’s reputation by spitefully spreading personal stories about them in what amounts to a political vendetta. Use any excuse you want, that is a sin. If you will just look into your own heart, at the darkness it puts there, you will know it for the sin it is.

I can attest to this because I am a human being. I know about the dark pleasure of hurting someone with words because I have felt it. I can tell you, based on my sinful experience that this is a grave sin that not only inflicts helplessness, humiliation and scalding pain on the person you attack, it dips your own soul in the blackness of evil. It is from the pit.

The question is not whether or not “everybody else is doing it.” Of course they are. Our whole culture is rotten with the politics of personal destruction. That is not a question at all.

The real question is: When people look at pro life advocates, will they be able to tell a difference between us and the pro abortion advocates?

Unless the answer to that is a clear-cut and resounding “yes,” we will never, no matter how hard we try, convert this culture to Christ.

After I wrote this, I found these comments from Pope Francis on this subject. From CNA/EWTN:

.- During his morning Mass homily in Santa Marta, Pope Francis focused on the topic of gossip – saying that when we participate in this sin, we imitate Cain’s gesture in killing his brother Abel.

The Pope began his homily Sept. 13 by echoing the words of Jesus in the gospel reading, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

He spoke for a few minutes on the virtue of humility, adding that Jesus addressed those who practice the opposite and who foster “that hateful attitude towards one’s neighbor when one becomes a ‘judge’ of his brother,” calling them “hypocrites.”

“Those who live judging their neighbor, speaking ill of their neighbor, are hypocrites, because they lack the strength and the courage to look to their own shortcomings.”

Pope Francis said that the “Lord does not waste many words on this concept,” and that “he who has hatred in his heart for his brother is a murderer.”

The Pope added that in his first letter, John the Apostle emphasizes that “anyone who has hatred for his brother is a murderer, he walks in darkness, he who judges his brother walks in darkness,” and that those who judge or speak ill of others are “Christian murderers.”

“A Christian murderer…It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in History.”

During this time when there is so much debate and discussion about war amid cries for peace, the pontiff pleaded that “a gesture of conversion on our own behalf is necessary.”

“Gossip,” he cautioned, “always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip.”

Quoting St. James the Apostle, the Pope imparted that the tongue is designed to praise God, “but when we use our tongue to speak ill of our brother or sister, we are using it to kill God…the image of God in our brother.”

Nick Vujicic: Living Fully for Jesus Christ, Part 4

This is Part 4.

You can watch Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

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Pope Francis Tasks Notre Dame to be “Uncompromising” In Its Catholic Identity

The Holy Father’s remarks to Notre Dame strike to the core mission of all Catholic Universities. I hope that they are listening.

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Nick Vujicic: Fully Living for Jesus Christ, Part 3

This is part 3. If you haven’t seen parts 1 and 2, you can watch them here and here.

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