Bleeding Nigeria and Boko Haram

Boko Haram has killed at least 1600 people in Northern Nigeria since 2010.

It’s a repetitive story of bombings, mass shootings and knife attacks, much of it centered on the northern city of Kano. I used to know people who lived in Kano and I’ve heard their stories of atrocities against the Christians there.

This business of killing Christians in Kano precedes Boko Haram. LIke all forms of persecution, it gets and has gotten worse over time. A couple of decades ago, I knew people who were  victimized by deadly anti-Christian riots that were more or less disorganized and at least somewhat spontaneous.

But for the past 10 years or so Kano and all of northern Nigeria has been subjected to the organized violence of Boko Haram. I’ve published posts here at Public Catholic indicating that Boko Haram is funded and trained by extremist Muslim forces from outside Nigeria, indeed, from outside Africa. It appears that at least some of the funding for Boko Haram may be coming through England,

That’s an interesting and sad thought. A small child who is blown to bits on a summer’s evening may owe his or her death to the actions of international financiers and organizers who have given over their lives to organized killing.

A few days ago, Boko Haram struck again with a series of bomb blasts in Kano. These happened during the evening hours in the Christian section of the city. Many Muslims were out at the same time, because of Ramadan.

As usual for these things, Boko Haram has taken to killing other Muslims who don’t conform to their ideas, in addition to Christians.

My question: Why don’t the Muslims and Christians unite against these killers and get rid of them?

Another question: Why don’t the rest of us in the “civilized” world put their money people in prison? I don’t think it would be too difficult to write a law that could shut them down.

In the meantime, the killing and the dying go on in bleeding Nigeria.

From the Associated Press:

Associated Press

KANO, Nigeria (AP) — Multiple explosions rocked a Christian area in Nigeria’s northern Kano city Monday night, with security forces ferrying scores of wounded to hospitals.

A mortuary attendant at Murtala Mohammed Specialists Hospital said at least 10 bodies had been brought in from the scene. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Nigeria is fighting an Islamic uprising by extremists based mainly in the northeast, where the government has declared a state of emergency. Kano city and state are not part of that emergency.

Nigeria’s government is fighting an Islamic uprising by a network called Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden.” The group wants Islamic law imposed in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of more than 160 million, which is divided almost equally between Christians who live mainly in the south and Muslims who dominate the north.

Witness Kolade Ade said at least one blast appeared to come from a Mercedes-Benz parked beside a kiosk selling alcohol and soft drinks.

“After the first bomb, I threw myself into the canal (drain) to hide. There were at least three blasts,” he said.

The explosions came as hundreds of people thronged the area in Sabon Gari neighborhood, where some were playing snooker and others table tennis.

 

The Only Creatures Made for Our Own Selves

Anthropologists keep trying to come up with a definition of human beings that applies to something about us that is totally, absolutely unique.

We are the toolmakers, they said. Then, Jane Goodall discovered that chimps poke sticks into termite holes to pull them out and eat them.

We have language. That was a poor choice from the start, since anyone who’s been around animals knows they have a sort of language of their own.

So what about us is unique? Are we just a function of our opposable thumbs?

My answer, which I know would not fit into any anthropologist’s toolkit for categorizing, is that we are the only creatures on this earth who were made for our own selves.

Every other creature here has a purpose and, somehow or other, that purpose ultimately pertains to us. We alone are made with such absolute and radical free will that we can both know and reject our own Maker.

We can imagine things that don’t exist and find ways to create them. We can unravel the secrets of our own creation and teach ourselves a bit of the mechanisms God used when He made us and all that is. We can glimpse, albeit in an incomplete way that is filled with longing, the eternity that lies beyond our finite and mortal coil.

We have a touch of the divine within us that resides, not in our big brains, but in our almighty will. We are free. Stars exist within the laws of physics. Planets rotate on their orbits. All of creation occurs within predictable, learnable mathematical certainties.

The only real surprise is us. We are free, in the way that God is free. We can, with knowledge of what we are doing, and understanding of its implications, chose. We can create. And we can also destroy. This means that we alone of all the creatures around us have the capacity for good and evil. We are moral creatures by virtue of our free will and understanding.

We are not the God of the universe, but we can actually convince ourselves that we are because we have the God-given ability to chose. All our days, we hunger for something more, for that eternity we glimpse but can’t quite see.

There is something majestic and powerfully beautiful about our compulsion to push past the limits of what we are and dip our toes into what we are not. We are slower than a horse and much less powerful. But a long-distance runner can literally run a horse to death. We are not fish, but we venture into the deeps with our ships and tanks and diving bells. We extend our reach far past where any single animal can go. Not satisfied with that, we push our lungs and bodies to dive deep without devices.

Unlike any other creature, we push ourselves past what our species can do and into torturous endurance for not reason except  to see if we can do it.

We are made for ourselves alone. Which means that we alone can give ourselves away — totally, freely and with full consent. Of all the things and creatures God has made, we stand alone on this earth as the only one who He gave as a gift to themselves. He gave us, from the first breath, our own selves. We were made to love Him.

Or not.

And we were made to be free to live, love, work, explore, learn, teach and push ourselves past what we think we can do.

There is no horizon to human existence, not even death. We are living souls, made for an eternity of love.

This is a video of William Trubridge’s record-setting free dive into Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas. He dove — on one breath and without assistance — 101 meters, which is just a little more than 331 feet. Watch and be awed.

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Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt.

I am tempted to say that Dr Richard Dawkins is the Westboro Baptist Church of the atheists.

But I won’t.

The reason?

The only thing Dr Dawkins has in common with the much ballyhooed and massively exaggerated Westboro Baptist Church is that they both specialize in attacking the sensibilities of other people in order to gain fame for themselves. The similarities pretty much end there.

Dr Dawkins writes best-selling books that evidently convince a lot of people to pull their own pants down in public and waggle their beefy buns in other people’s faces. Dr Dawkins gives speeches that attract tens of thousands of cheering fellow haters. Some them have gone on to write books and run popular blogs, spreading this hate like a virus.

Dr Dawkins is, in a word, effective at spreading his call for verbal bashing and social discrimination.

Meanwhile the Westboro Baptist Church is a family-sized congregation of weirdos who go around the country demonstrating with homemade signs. They carefully pick the place to do their thing that will upset and offend the most people. They are universally dissed. People form human chains to defend their targets from the offense they give.

The Westboro Baptist Church, is, in a word, ineffective.

For these reasons, I cannot call Dr Dawkins the Westboro Baptist Church of atheism. In fact, I think I will avoid that kind of comparison altogether and let Dr Dawkins speak for himself in the video below. 

The interesting portion of the video comes after Dr Dawkins’ predictable call for his audience to “mock them, ridicule them, in public … with contempt,” when they talk to Christians. That’s when Dr Ravi Zacharias responds to Dr Dawkins’ little diatribe.

There are people who come on this blog all the time with the intention of following their leader’s instructions. They get deleted.

Dr Dawkins begins his comment with the phrase, “Whenever I talk to religious people …”

My question is why would a religious person talk to Dr Dawkins? Why would anyone allow themselves to be interrogated in the manner he claims he engages in?

What he describes is verbal abuse. It is hate speech. It is Christian bashing.

His call to “mock them, ridicule them, in public … with contempt” speaks far more specifically to the valueless ethos of his non-belief than it does anything else. It is also, as Ravi Zacharias points out, ridiculous.

I would suggest two things: Watch the video below to hear Ravi’s reaction. And do not allow yourself to be subjected to pointless verbal abuse by people who’ve drunk this particular form of vicious kool-aid.

Delete them. Hang up on them. Walk away. If you are in a situation where you can’t do one of these things, try coming here and asking the rest of us for ideas. We are, after all, in this together.

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Follow Jesus, Not the R or the D (Thank You Readers!)

Can a Christian be a Democrat?

That’s a loaded question in today’s America. We have one political party directly targeting Christians to the point of having paid organizers who “work” the churches for them. Meanwhile the other political party has become the outpost for every Christian-bashing group going. 

It would seem, based on that analysis, that the party providing the political home to the Christian bashers would be the one to avoid. That was the basic response of many of the commenters on my earlier post on this question. 

The arguments went back and forth, up and down, all along the political spectrum, but the upshot was that the Democratic party is hostile territory for traditional Christians, while the Republican Party is more welcoming to them. 

One commenter raised the question of what is a Christian. After all, there are some denominations who use the moniker Christian on their church bulletins and fit right in with the Democrats. Are they less Christian than the others?

In my opinion, all this begs the central question. Let me reframe it to be more specific. Can a traditional Christian who accepts, believes and tries to follow the 2,000 year old Christian teachings about human conduct and morality be a Democrat?

The converse question also bears a look: Can that same Christian be a Republican?

I think the answer to both these questions is yes … and no. 

You can certainly register as either a Democrat or a Republican. But you may not, on peril of your soul, budge one inch on the 2,000-year consistent teachings of traditional Christianity. 

Abortion? 

Can’t do it or support it.

Gay marriage?

Nope.

Stealing from the poor to give to the rich?

Uh-uh.

Unjust discrimination against other people?

Not allowed.

Following Ayn Rand?

Are you kidding?

The truth is that Christians can and should go just about everywhere in our society. We need to engage the culture at every level. But we cannot compromise the Gospels of Jesus Christ while we are doing it. 

If you follow that simple rule, believe me, you’re going to catch flak from whichever political party you join. Both parties torture the Gospels to make the Gospels fit themselves. Both parties have their toady churches who enable them to do this by providing theological cover. 

I’ve heard preachers quote take Bible verses out of context to justify everything from gay marriage to doing away with safety standards on food. The right wing does it for the corporations. The left wing does it for the gays and the abortion industry. 

This has reached the absurd point that people — intelligent people — will argue about which party is closer to Jesus. 

Repeat after me: Political parties are not churches. They are about getting power and keeping power. Everything else they say is a lie. 

The Republicans formed their pro life position as a strategy, not as a morality. They realized that it was an issue that could be used as a wedge to divide the Democratic party from their core constituencies of labor and working class people. This has been largely successful for the Republican Party.

It has not benefitted the sanctity of life or Christianity in this country. In fact, it has marginalized the whole concept of the sanctity of human life and turned it into a power issue in power politics. This over-zealous support by many religious leaders of the Republican Party and all its positions, including some that are quite evil, has tarnished the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity and weakened the leadership of Christian clergy.

People are sick of the Jesus-is-a-Republican heresy. Unfortunately, they tend to over-simplify and blame all Christianity for the sins of some of its more politically motivated leaders.

On the other side of the spectrum, good Christians are sick of hearing from the anything goes religious leaders who have searched the scriptures and come up with a namby-pamby version of Jesus that basically oks anything anyone wants to do except be against government hand outs.

Let me be clear about this. You can not say that killing unborn children is ok and speak for Christ at the same time. Conversely, you can not slight the needs of women or ignore the disgusting exploitation of and violence against women that is drowning our culture and be speaking for Jesus. 

You can not put your political party ahead of your fealty to Christ and be a faithful Christian. You can not do it. It makes no difference if you are a Republican or a Democrat, if you do not look at your party and see that it is doing things that are anathema to Christian teaching and following Christ, you need to get on your knees and pray for forgiveness and guidance. You have put the wrong god to the forefront of your life. 

Can a Christian be a Democrat?

Yes.

Can a Christian be a Republican?

Yes.

Can a Christian follow their political party instead of Jesus?

No.

We are called to convert the world, not let the world convert us. That includes our political parties. 

The One Person

Marriage

Everybody, it seems, is writing about what not to do if you want to stay married.

Everything I’ve read so far, which you can find here, here and here, is good advice.

But is staying married a matter of the things you don’t do?

I hope not. Because I am convinced that there is a lot more to a happy marriage than what you don’t do, or, for that matter, just “staying married.”

Did you notice my choice of words? I said “a happy marriage.” The goal of life — and marriage is life — should not be to just stay with someone. Marriage is a relationship that sustains. As such, it is about trust.

There are many levels of trust. When you leave your purse sitting on your desk at work without worry that your co-workers are going to riffle through it, that’s trust. When you drive through an intersection believing that none of the other cars are going to ram into you, that’s trust.

But married trust goes a lot deeper than these superficial trusts that make it possible for millions of people to live together in a society and function independently dependent on one another.

The trust of marriage involves that one flesh thing the Bible talks about. Your husband or wife knows you in a deep-down, all-the-way-through kind of way that precludes simple definitions of trust. You bind yourselves to one another at a spiritual level that goes deeper than any other relationship you will ever have, even and including relationships with your parents and the children you create with one another.

This person, this one person, is your helpmate, friend, lover, love and the steadying hand under your arm when you are shaky. That goes beyond simple lists of don’ts, even though it does include them.

You may not sleep around. You may not hit, disparage, gossip about or abuse your spouse in any way. Because, stupid, you and your spouse are one flesh. What you do to them, you do to yourself. Make them miserable, and you will be miserable, too.

So, rather than give a list of things you shouldn’t do, I want to give you one thing you must do if you want a true marriage that lasts: Love your husband. Love your wife. Cherish them and treat them as if they were your life’s companion; the one person you will share your days with all the days in this life that you have.

Because that’s exactly who they are.

The Pope and “Judging” Gay Priests, Redux

Pope francis and dove

The National Catholic Register has an excellent article by Edward Pentin. The article analyzes the press reaction to Pope Francis’ comments concerning homosexuality.

The Holy Father made these comments during his flight back to Rome from World Youth Day. I wrote about them here, and gave you a video of them here.

The point the NCR article makes is that the Pope did not overturn 2,000 years of Catholic teaching on this issue. He simply gave an example by his actions as to how it is lived out in real people’s lives.

The media not only misinterpreted Pope Francis’ comments, but it has consistently, and with what seems to me to often be deliberate malice, misinterpreted Catholic teaching on this subject in its entirety. This is so widespread that I can’t just offhand think of a major media outlet that represents Church teaching accurately.

I know this is due to some extent to the limitations of space and time in which they work. There is also the problem of shoddy workmanship in which they settle for quoting one another rather than checking things out. Whatever the causes, the media has consistently portrayed Church teaching concerning homosexuality inaccurately and negatively.

I was impressed and proud of the way Public Catholic readers responded to this dust up over Pope Francis’ statements. The comments to these two posts concerning the Pope’s remarks were thoughtful, well-informed and intelligent.

You were not stampeded by the press. Bravo!

One thing that I think you already know, but that I want to make clear, is that the Catholic Church does not “hate gays” and it certainly is not homophobic. The only way it could be judged “homophobic” is by self-serving definitions of the word used by people who claim that any limit on homosexual behavior is, de facto, “homophobic.”

The Church offers the same gifts of the sacraments to homosexuals as she does to everyone else. There is no bright line in Church teaching that says that homosexual acts are worse than adultery or other, similar, sexual sins. The Church — and the Pope in his press conference — simply refuse to deny that these acts are, in fact, sinful.

If the Church bowed to the dictates of trendy morality and started going along with people’s demands that it tell them that their sins are not, in fact, sins, it would certainly not be doing them any favors. In fact, it would be endangering their immortal souls, and denying its own mission.

The Church cannot do this.

The Church is here to be a pathway to heaven. It shines a light on the narrow path that will take all of us who chose to follow it Home.

Do you want to go to heaven? Then do what the Catholic Church teaches.

It’s as simple and easy as that.

For those Protestants who don’t fully understand what I am saying, doing what the Church teaches will lead a person into a close, intimate and fruitful relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They will be born again into the new life of truth and spirit. Doing what the Church teaches means accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I know this is hard to see from the outside, but I’ve lived it, and I know it’s true.

The Church cannot tell people that their sins are not sins. That would be the worst possible lie. It would wreak damage on them of eternal dimensions.

Churches who are falling into the trendy mindset of re-writing the Gospels to suit the fancies and fashions of the day are misleading their followers. They are ignoring their responsibilities to the people who trust them, and to the God they claim to follow.

The Catholic Church, for all the failings of its people, will not do this. It is the Rock and it will not lie to you in ways that can get you sent to hell.

This is not homophobia. It is love.

From the National Catholic Register:

Daily News

Misinterpreting Francis (1944)

NEWS ANALYSIS: A Vatican official chided the mainstream media for its conflation of the Holy Father’s remarks on homosexuality.

– CNA/Alan Holdren

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality during a press conference on the papal plane back from World Youth Day in Rio were largely misreported by the mainstream press, according to a Vatican official and a Church expert.

During a surprise and wide-ranging in-flight press conference Sunday that lasted 80 minutes, Pope Francis reportedly said: “If someone is gay, and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” the Holy Father went on. “It says one must not marginalize these persons; they must be integrated into society,” he said, and he reportedly made the distinction between homosexual acts, which are sinful, and tendencies, which are not.

“The problem isn’t this [homosexual] orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying, either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby,” he said. The Pope recently said a “gay lobby” exists in the Vatican, which protects some priests and threatens to blackmail others.

The Catechism states that the number of men and women who have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.” The inclination is “objectively disordered,” it continues, and “constitutes for most of them a trial” (2358).

It adds, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (2358).

The Catechism teaches that homosexual persons “are called to chastity” and that “by the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (2359).

 

Not Changing Doctrine

But large media outlets, such as the BBC, often accused of promoting same-sex rights, were quick to report the story in accordance with their own biases. The BBC splashed this headline across its news site: “Pope Francis: Who am I to judge gay people?” Others followed suit, misleadingly implying that the Holy Father “doesn’t judge gay people.”

“[The Pope] is not saying homosexual acts are not a sin, and he obviously isn’t changing Church doctrine, but he is making a change of emphasis,” one Vatican official close to the Pope told the Register on condition of anonymity.

 

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/misinterpreting-francis?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-07-30%2012:53:01#ixzz2aXmze850

In His Own Words: What the Pope Really Said

Pope Francis’ comments pertaining to the hot button issue of homosexuality have been over-interpreted by some members of the press.

I think that at least some of this is due to the fact that the over-interpreters don’t know very much about Catholic teaching. In truth, the Pope did not change existing teaching at all. He simply confirmed it.

The revolutionary act was in his willingness to address the question of homosexual priests openly and without embarrassment. That, far more than his words, signals welcome change.

However, this welcome change is not limited to questions of homosexuality. Pope Francis has demonstrated this same unflinching and unapologetic grasp of reality linked with traditional Catholic teaching in all of his actions and statements.

What interested me far more than his comments about homosexual priests was what he had to say about women.

Instead of making the mistake of over-interpreting things myself, I’m going to let you watch the video and decide what he meant. Based on the intelligent comments you’ve made to my earlier post on this topic, I think you are going to do a great job of it.

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The Holy Father Does Rio


These are videos of our beloved Holy Father’s time at World Youth Day 2013.

They include the Pope’s arrival at Copacabana Beach, his visit to Varghina Favela slum area, an enormous flash mob for the Pope, one home movie and Pope Francis’ farewell gesture of love from the helicopter as he was departing Rio.

 

Pope Francis Arrives at Copacabana Beach for Mass

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Pope Francis Visits Varghina Favela

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Swooning at the sight of the Pope

Massive Flash Mob for Pope Francis

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Pope Francis departs Rio.

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Go and Evangelize the Whole World

“The Church needs you,  your enthusiasm and joy,” Pope Francis told the 3 million assembled youth at the closing mass of World Youth Day.

“This experience must not remain locked up,” he said, urging them to go and evangelize the whole world.

The video below contains scenes from this last mass, including parts of the Holy Father’s homily.

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It’s a Rule

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You can’t make everybody happy.

It’s a rule.

I’m not sure where this rule is codified. Maybe in the back pages of the textbook for the school of hard knocks.

But it’s true. You can not make everybody happy. So, in my humble opinion, you should not try. It appears that Pope Francis is of a similar opinion, at least about the not trying part.

He has, from the moment when the announcement “Habemus Papem!” sounded and he walked out onto that balcony, been indisputably and absolutely himself.

That is an incredible accomplishment for someone who sits on a throne that is placed above the grave of Peter. Every move the Pope makes, from the things he wears, to the gestures he makes, are supposedly choreographed by centuries of other Popes who did it this way first. However, Pope Francis seems to have understood from the beginning just how much power the Papacy holds, including and especially the power to communicate by word and action.

He knew that he didn’t have to do these things. He could choose. And chose he has.

By the choices he’s made, he has focused on a Papacy of the Word, accompanied by a visual simplicity that symbolizes his message of concern for the least of these. This is a heartfelt pain for those who are what education professionals call “visual learners.” In Catholicism, we tend to call them “traditionalists.” But I think they are, for the most part, simply visual learners gone to Church.

These people groove on the same lace that I think looks like my great-grandmother’s doilies. They feel lifted up to heaven by the incense that sets off my asthma and raises worries of fire hazards. They love the sound of Latin and find awe and grandeur in pre-Vatican II liturgy, all of which I see as unnecessary barriers between the people and Jesus.

Some folk like pcs; some folk like macs. We are individuals who, due to His superior democracy, can come to God through whatever path opens in front of us. The same God who honors one person’s incense and Gregorian chant, will rock along with another person’s rap. What He wants is our love and obedience. How we get there is all good to Him.

There is neither Greek nor Jew, neither slave nor free, male nor female. For you all are one in Christ Jesus.

There is also neither lace nor non-lace, neither red shoe nor black shoe, neither miter nor non-miter. For we are all Catholic, united under the one Vicar of Christ, who is our Holy Father, Pope Francis.


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