From Russia With Love (or maybe not)


Frank Weathers has the story.

It seems that President Vladimir Putin is breaking new ice for Russian heads of state. He is now an op-ed author for the New York Times. Frank has nothing but praise for President Putin’s prose. I, on the other hand, look at it a bit differently.

President Putin wrote an op-ed piece in which he discussed America’s recent foreign policy. He accurately said that we’ve gotten into too many random military encounters lately, and that we are turning too often to force in our international engagements.

He also said that America’s way of dealing with other countries has become a matter of “relying on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’” I think he may have been talking about things like the obvious bullying that President Obama engaged in to coerce foreign nations to refuse sanctuary to whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

It is interesting indeed that this particular strategy backfired with President Putin, who, alone of all the heads of state in the world, took Mr Snowden in. President Obama was so miffed by this that he canceled a pre-G20 meeting with the Russian President, an action that, honestly folks, sounded personal and grade school to me.

President Putin goes on in his op-ed to remark about something that is quite serious: Nuclear proliferation. He evidently sees this growing push to develop the bomb by impoverished countries who cannot feed their own people as a defensive measure on their part. He is right again when he says, “If you have the bomb, they can’t touch you.”

In other words, nobody talks about randomly lobbing Tomahawk missiles at nations who have the bomb, no matter how egregious we find their behavior in other matters.

This raises an important question: Is America’s international policy, with its bully-boy tactics and constant deployment of force against small nations who can’t fight back, actually pushing smaller nations to follow a policy of developing nuclear weapons?

That is a discussion for another day, but it is certainly one worth having.


Having said all this, there is one thing I want Public Catholic readers to understand about President Putin’s op-ed piece. That one thing is that President Putin is using the op-ed to side-step our president and lobby the American people directly.

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing.

After all, he’s not paying a bunch of lobbyists to slime their way around the Capitol greasing campaign accounts and non-campaign pacs with their donations in order to convince our elected officials to vote against us. He is going out there in the court of public opinion and making his case in a straight-forward and direct way. We know where he’s coming from and what he’s saying. We do not have to listen to hours of lies from bought and paid for cable news talking heads interviewing bought and paid for think-tankers and bought and paid for politicians while they try to propagandize us.

We don’t have to sort through what President Putin is saying to decide what he really thinks. It’s all there, for the reading.

But we should be aware and never forget that he ain’t us.

He is the President of Russia and the interests he’s promoting are the interests of Russia. That doesn’t make what he’s saying wrong, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to him. Quite the contrary. That makes what he’s saying important and worthy of our thoughtful analysis.

Odd as this sounds, I have a higher opinion of his motives than I do our cable news people. He, at least, is working for his country.

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9/11: Here’s Something I Don’t Want to Write About


What a bitter cup.

It appears this nation will drink it to the dregs.

And then lick the cup.

As far as I’m concerned, the best moment of this whole thing was when I heard that Osama bin Laden was dead. Dead and dumped into the ocean to swim with the fishes.

I have no use for murdering monsters.

9/11 cost this country dearly. We have given up so much freedom to these murdering monsters. We are surveilled and patted down and searched; not to mention the lost lives, arms, legs and emotional wholeness of those we sent to fight this evil for us.

I remember the morning of 9/11. I watched the second plane hit the second tower and I knew; this was not random and it was not an accident. I heard that the Pentagon had been hit. I saw the towers fall. I heard there was another plane that had crashed.

And that was the miracle.

Once we saw through their lies, they couldn’t even handle our unarmed civilians. That planeload of people on Flight 93 fought back with boiling water and a food tray and they took those terrorists out on their way to destroy the Capitol.

That crash into the Pennsylvania countryside was the beginning of our resistance. It was the first time they faced Americans who knew the truth of who they were. It was the indicator of how badly they had miscalculated who we are and what we will do if war is forced upon us.

I was in the mood to do whatever after 9/11. I would have been willing, in the first rush of rage, to melt down the mountains of the Middle East to glass. But our president reacted like a president and not an enraged citizen. His initial response, to go into Afghanistan, was not only appropriate, it was controlled, considering what had happened.

This is America. Step on this soil to do harm and take the consequences.

That is my feeling.

Do not attempt, as Lincoln said, “to take a drink from the Ohio by force.”

We welcome people from all over the world. We help people all over the world.

But do not — ever — think that our kindness and our hospitality betokens an unwillingness to defend this country. That would be a mistake.

Today, on this anniversary of that day when someone dared to come onto American soil and kill 3,000 Americans, we are considering whether or not we should advance what has become an unending bleed of random military actions into yet another country. This time we are talking about military action in Syria.

We could, if we wanted, kill everything, everywhere. This country has that kind of power.

But the question is, should we? Not, should we kill everything, everywhere, which I think we all agree is not a good plan, but should we constantly and without much thought zap this little problem and that little problem and go here, there, and everywhere, firing off missiles and sending in troops for various, decidedly random, reasons?

Touch this homeland, defile America itself with your ancient hatreds and tribal feuds, and you will face us. That much is certain and non debatable.

But we need lines — bright, shiny lines — about when enough is enough to our endless military engagements overseas. We need to understand, for ourselves and not for anyone else, what we are doing and why we are doing it when we use our military force.

Random wars are an inexcusable misuse of the lives and treasure that the American people have invested in their military and entrusted to their elected officials.

If I will not sacrifice one of my children to your random war — and I will not — then I do not have the right to sacrifice other people’s children to it, either. So long as the board of directors of General Dynamics and Raytheon and Halliburton and all their almost numberless cohorts do not have their children wearing those “boots on the ground” we keep talking about, then any war we engage in is unjust at the outset.

Take their kids out of their expensive private schools, take away the keys to their cars that cost more than my house and send them to Syria alongside the inner city kids and working-class kids who fight these wars. Insist that the newscasters who are pushing so hard for war, war, any war with anybody anytime, send their children to fight.

That might change the rhetoric a bit. If the people who are benefitting from these wars actually started paying part of the cost of them, it might adjust their thinking.

9/11 still makes me angry. Sadly, that anger is mixed now with a sense of betrayal by my own government.

I pray that this changes.


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The Burden of Sin: What Jesus Endured on the Cross

The One Who knew no sin became sin for us.


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Graphic images, not for children.

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Late Night Catechism

I need a break from war and rumors of war.


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A Slide on the Ice is No Reason to Go to War


Much of the news media has been hard-selling war in Syria to their viewers for quite some time now.

Economic issues are the toughest issues to discuss with traditional Christians. I believe this is because far too many of our religious leaders have aligned themselves and their teaching with the Republican party rather than with Christ.

I am well aware that there are many religious leaders who have done the same thing with the Democrats. But when it comes to false teachings about money, the worst offenders are the heretical religious leaders who follow the Rs.

I believe quite firmly that money is playing a decisive part in this push for war-war-any-war-we-can-find that is coming out of certain opinion-makers’ mouths. Not so long ago, these same folks were pushing us to go to war with Iran. If we don’t go to war in Syria, they’ll be looking for another war someplace else before you can say bottom line.

There are real issues involved with this debate about Syria, but you won’t find them on the cable news. That is because the various cable news stations are, as I said earlier “opinion makers.”

Think about that.

Noodle with it.

Let the idea roll around in your mind as you look at it from different angles.

Opinion makers.

Not journalists. Not reporters of the news.

But opinion makers, which is, I think, a nice phrase for propagandists.

They’re not trying to inform you. They are trying to use you. Their “discussions” always go one direction, and that is war, war, more war.

I am not, as I have said many times, a pacifist. I believe in defending this nation. I understand the lessons of World War II when those in power were so hungry for peace that they became enablers of actions that resulted in the most destructive war in human history.

On the other hand, I sort of understand the side-step, two-step of the war that to this day nobody can really explain: World War I. The world slid into World War I like a line of cars rear-ending one another on an icy road.

One salient point that is usually overlooked is that World War I and World War II were not isolated events. They are actually one event. I have always regarded World War I and World War II as the same war with a 20-year, depression-wracked truce between engagements. The world oh-noooed its way into World War II by letting the bullies have their run-up. But the real causes of that war were in the first world war and its inconclusive and destructive pause. In a real way, the horrors of the 20th century began with a slide on the ice.

The moral of all this, at least for me, is that a slide on the ice is no reason, ever, to go to war. We need to think things through.

War is evil. It is destruction. Even when it must be fought, it is always a tragedy, and it always destroys precious lives. I have stood beside enough graves, I have witnessed the psychological deaths of enough parents standing like hollowed out husks of themselves beside those same graves, to be very slow to say that we should commit America to war.

War makes money, big money, for some. But I am from the economic class that fights these wars. I have talked to the men and women who’ve come back and can’t stop remembering. I have, as I said, stood beside graves into which we lowered coffins containing bodies so mutilated their parents were told not to look.

War is not a video game.

There are three points I want us to consider in this post.

1. Should President Obama have asked Congress to authorize action in Syria, or should he have acted unilaterally?

2. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Iraq, yet the world did nothing. Why is Syria different?

3. Can the American people resist the “opinion makers” who are trying to hard-sell them on war with somebody/anybody and think for themselves?

A couple of days ago:

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One year ago:

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Eleven years ago:

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Pope Francis Discusses the Dignity of Work


In one of his morning homilies a few months ago, Pope Francis talked about societies that put company profits above human dignity, or even human life. “What point have we come to?” he asked.

This kind of talk disturbs cafeteria Christians on the right, just as the Church’s insistence on the fundamental right to life of all human beings and the sanctity of Holy Matrimony disturbs cafeteria Christians on the left.

Each “side” of the culture wars wants the Holy Father to affirm them and their half-Gospel as righteousness so that they can use what would amount to an amputated, phony Jesus to score “gotcha!” points off those on the other side of the various political debates.

But Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ, not the apologist for the false idols of various religious/political heresies.

Jesus was a worker. A carpenter. By doing that, He elevated work far above the animalistic fight for survival that those in power often try to make it into for working people.

Human beings are made in the image and likeness of Almighty God. As such, we each have a transcendent dignity that extends beyond this life and into eternity. The things we do here, including the work of our heads, hands and hearts, is an expression of that innate, God-given dignity.

All people are entitled to the privileges of owning private property and to have the labor of their lives respected. Part of that respect is a living wage and decent working conditions. When these values are compromised by a moneyed few who mis-use the powers of government to seize the treasure of a nation to satisfy their personal rapaciousness, then those who govern must oppose those actions.

Elected officials who do otherwise may profess Christ with their mouths, but they deny Him by what they do.

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Working People

Our corporate media lines up hard against working people. They extol the virtues of the rich and proclaim the necessity of robbing the worker in every situation, from maintaining an unequal tax structure that permits some to pile up great wealth while forcing workers to pay more than the Biblical ten percent on every loaf of bread and gallon of milk they buy.

They yammer constantly about the totally fallacious “necessity” of cutting Social Security or putting it into the stock market where the wealthy can get a bite of it, but they say nothing about the vast corporate welfare and “privatization,” (Which is just a form of graft that attaches corporate profits to the tax base.) that is actually bankrupting the country.

You would think, listening to them, that a living wage was robbery and robbing retirements and social security so that we go back to the practice of putting our elderly people in poor farms was righteousness.

Who are working people?

I believe that would be you and me. And a few others in our past and present.



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The War on Girls: No Matter What You Accomplish Girl, You’re Still Just A Piece Of Meat


I wrote this post in response to the sexist coverage of the summer Olympics in 2012. I’m re-posting it now as a run-up to my next post, which will be on Miley Cyrus.

Prominent news organizations blazed past their critics to take home medals from the 2012 Olympics despite complaints of unsportsmanlike conduct. Opponents claim that the publications emphasized women athletes’ weight, appearance and body parts rather than their athletic performance. According to the editor in chief of a major news outlet, this criticism is unfair.

“Sure we spiced things up a little,” he said. “So what? Journalism is a competitive business. If these gals want to step out there, it’s our right to try to medal off them.”

This spirit of journalistic competitiveness was evident when the New York Times drummed the competition for the Misogyny Medal by sweeping the field with two articles they entered in the all-misogynist girl-baiting competition. Despite heroic effort from some of the sewer dwellers in the blogosphere, (who are the farm teams for this event,) the supposedly credible New York Times took the gold, followed closely by Melbourne Australia’s Herald Sun.

The Herald Sun made a bold opening move with an article claiming that one of Australia’s female swimmers was “too fat,” and setting up an online poll where readers could vote on the young woman’s appearance. Not to be outdone, the New York Times made a strong counter with an article criticizing one of the American women for being “too pretty” to be taken seriously. They followed this with an article discussing women water polo players’ breasts. This daring maneuver sealed their win.

Skirmishes occurred further back in the pack as other “legitimate” publications tried to make up for lost time by re-printing the bulk of these articles and discussing whether or not they actually “had a lot of truth in them.” Salon took home the bronze with this effort. There were excellent efforts by other outlets who discussed whether or not pretty women athletes were cheating by looking so good and if women athletes really are too fat. But, salacious as they were, none of these medaled.

After the medal ceremony, the team captain for the New York Times indicated that the publication would enter “every event out there” in the upcoming months, stating that it was part of the publication’s standard to maintain a high level of misogyny in all of its coverage at all times. He said that he intended to sharpen the Times’ edge by eliminating the sublety, which he felt slowed his team down. “Next time, we’ll just say that it doesn’t matter what women do or what they achieve, they are still second-class citizens.”

The Herald Sun’s captain broke into the interview to announce, “We’ll do better than that. Next time, we’ll skip the article and run a full-page headline saying, “No Matter What You Accomplish Girl, You’re Still Just A Piece Of Meat.”

When informed that the women athletes in question claimed to feel humiliated and degraded, both team captains said this was an “overreaction” and an example of the emotionalism of women. “I think it’s caused by them thinking about their breasts too much,” the New York Times team captain stated. “Also, carrying around all that fat,” the Herald Sun captain added. “Those girls need to drop about 40 pounds.”

“Yeah,” the Times’ Captain said. “Then we can do an article criticizing them for being too skinny.”

The team captains seemed to forget about the reporter at that point and wandered off together, re-hashing the competition and looking for a brewski.

As for the female athletes, after crying their eyes out, they competed in their events.


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India: Faith Grows Among Persecuted Christians in Orissa


We have been faced lately with the defection of a number of highly-placed American Christians on serious matters of faith.

In particular, there has been a large retreat among political and intellectual Christian leadership on the question of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. They are either tossing marriage out the door altogether, or they are, as I was once counseled concerning abortion, urging the rest of us to leave our beliefs at home or inside our houses of worship.

I’m not talking about one, specific, runner. I’m talking about a whole group of people who have grown fat off denouncing other people for not supporting the very values they are now running from themselves. Excuse me please if I won’t go along with their self-serving patter.

But I’m not going to.

I think they’re self-serving phonies.

I also think that they should consider persecuted Christians around the world who are holding fast to the cross in the face of horrific suffering.

A case in point is the persecuted Christian population of Orissa, India. Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (Orissa, eastern India) says,

“Faith in Orissa is growing because of the persecution. This mission, in the face of violent persecutions, has become the focus of religious and priestly vocations.”

Consider, for a moment, what sincere Christians face in India. According to Archbishop Barwa,

… the district of Kandhamal, where the majority of Catholics of the Archdiocese live, has faced untold persecution”. The highest point were the pogroms of 2008: “During the persecutions, there was an ethnic cleansing of all Christians in 400 villages, more than 6,000 houses, 340 churches and chapels, clinics and schools were burned and destroyed. Thousands of believers were injured, several women and girls, including a nun, were raped and about 60,000 men, women and children were left homeless”. The Bishop recalled that 75 Christians (22 Catholics, 28 Baptists, 12 Pentecostals, 5 of independent churches) and 8 non-tribal Christians were brutally murdered.

The text continues: “Five years after the persecutions, visiting the affected communities, the faithful say to the Bishop: the persecutors burned our houses, property, and killed our loved ones, but they did not manage to destroy our faith and cannot separate us from the love of Jesus Christ .We are proud to be Christians and proud of our faith”. Words and actions of this kind “are clear signs of growth in faith. They may be poor and illiterate, but rich people of faith”, he comments.
The Archbishop explains that still there is no guarantee that persecution will not be repeated: “We live trusting in God and making every effort, as individuals and communities, to build peace in Kandhamal, but we surrender to God and say: Let there be your will”.

He goes on to describe what I believe is beginning to happen here in the “Christian” West when he says, “Each growth is a process that requires pruning, trials and suffering.”

The devil is collecting the low-hanging fruit with the runners who are running away from traditional marriage in America today. These folks don’t need persecution to make them tuck tail and skeedaddle. If you stop and think about it, they’ve never really talked about following Jesus. Their focus for decades has been on denouncing other people. They haven’t urged us to live by our faith or even to bring people to Christ. Their entire focus has been on manipulating us into believing that being a Christian was summarized by how we vote.

The purpose of all this wasn’t our souls or the conversion of our culture. It was their power.

All they needed to switch horses on these issues they were pushing in lieu of actual Christianity was for the manipulations to stop delivering enough votes to give them the power. They are switching — and trying to get us to switch along with them — on 2,000 years of Christian teachings because denouncing people over those teachings has stopped being profitable. The minute they see the money is leaving the fight, they leave the fight right behind it.

Christianity is growing in India because the Christians there are following Christ.

Cowardice and Christianity don’t mix. Opportunism and political manipulations don’t mix with Christianity, either.

They never have.

Christianity was so ascendent here in the West that its popularity covered for the manipulators and cowards in our midst. But things are changing. Faithfully following Jesus is beginning to be a career breaker, rather than a career maker.

We shouldn’t be surprised when people who were only pretending to follow Jesus in the first place fall away under these circumstances. It is inevitable.

I am humbled by the persecuted Christians in our world today, those in Orissa among them. I know that God holds them close, because I know that none of us has the courage to stand toe to toe with satan incarnate and not run unless the Holy Spirit is empowering them.

We need to help our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in every way we can, including by praying for them every single day. I hope they in turn will pray for us.

Because their prayers avail much.

Because they walk with God.


The link to this article is courtesy of reader Fabio.

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