Porta Fidei, The Door of Faith

These are excerpts from Porta Fidei (The Door of Faith) which was issued by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2011 calling for this Year of Faith. The emphases are mine.

Have a blessed Sunday.

 

The Door of Faith

During this time we will need to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2): in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfillment. The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offence received and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfillment in the mystery of his Incarnation, in his becoming man, in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection. In him who died and rose again for our salvation, the examples of faith that have marked these two thousand years of our salvation history are brought into the fullness of light.

By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion (cf. Lk 1:38). Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him (cf. Lk 1:46-55). With joy and trepidation she gave birth to her only son, keeping her virginity intact (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Trusting in Joseph, her husband, she took Jesus to Egypt to save him from Herod’s persecution (cf.Mt 2:13-15).

With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha (cf. Jn 19:25-27).

By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), she passed them on to the Twelve assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1-4).

By faith, the Apostles left everything to follow their Master (cf. Mk 10:28). They believed the words with which he proclaimed the Kingdom of God present and fulfilled in his person (cf. Lk 11:20). They lived in communion of life with Jesus who instructed them with his teaching, leaving them a new rule of life, by which they would be recognized as his disciples after his death (cf. Jn 13:34-35).

By faith, they went out to the whole world, following the command to bring the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15) and they fearlessly proclaimed to all the joy of the resurrection, of which they were faithful witnesses.

By faith, the disciples formed the first community, gathered around the teaching of the Apostles, in prayer, in celebration of the Eucharist, holding their possessions in common so as to meet the needs of the brethren (cf. Acts 2:42-47).

By faith, the martyrs gave their lives, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel that had transformed them and made them capable of attaining to the greatest gift of love: the forgiveness of their persecutors.

By faith, men and women have consecrated their lives to Christ, leaving all things behind so as to live obedience, poverty and chastity with Gospel simplicity, concrete signs of waiting for the Lord who comes without delay.

By faith, countless Christians have promoted action for justice so as to put into practice the word of the Lord, who came to proclaim deliverance from oppression and a year of favour for all (cf. Lk 4:18-19).

By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life (cf. Rev 7:9, 13:8), have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called.

By faith, we too live: by the living recognition of the Lord Jesus, present in our lives and in our history.

 

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

For Your Shopping Convenience: Five Christian Companies That Bring Their Faith to Work

Boycotts work best when you can narrow it down to one or two businesses. It’s impractical to boycott the whole wide world of commerce.

That’s a problem for Christians who want to their dollars to walk the talk of their beliefs. The amoral, anti-Christian ethos penetrates our corporate/entertainment industries to such an extent that it’s almost impossible to pick just one.

The logical thing for us to do is to turn the whole question on its head. Instead of boycotting the bad, we need to go out of our way to support the good. That’s why I was so glad when I found the following article which described five companies that bring their Christian faith to work.

I know Tyson Foods, Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby. I’m going to check in to the others. If there’s anything the sell that’s on my “buy” list, they’ll get my trade. If you know of other companies that deserve a mention, let me know.

I’m going to reproduce the article completely. If you want to read more great articles like it, check out the Blaze.  Here it is:

Chick-fil-A isn’t the only company willing to share its Christian faith with the world. While attaching a specific religious view to a product or service holds the potential to turn a portion of consumers off, some business leaders and companies stick to their values and intentionally include them in their packaging and messaging. Some of these brands include: Forever 21, Interstate Battery, Tyson Foods, In-N-Out Burger and Hobby Lobby.

5 Companies Like Chick fil A That Share Their Christian Faith

Forever 21:  Forever 21 is a clothing store that was founded by Don and Jin Chang, devout Christians who moved to America from Korea in 1981. The small store they opened in Los Angeles in 1984 has grown into a mass business comprised of hundreds of locations across the globe.

On the bottom of each bag, shoppers will find “John 3:16,” the popular Bible verse that reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

5 Companies Like Chick fil A That Share Their Christian Faith

Image Credit: Los Angeles Times

Interstate Battery: Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries, a company that sells — you guessed it, batteries — is also a believer who discusses his faith and salvation publicly. In fact, he even takes to the company’s web site to invite customers and visitors to write to him for prayer advice.

“Norm Miller is also a believer in God’s power to change lives, because it was that power that turned his own life around after years of drinking as hard as he worked,” reads Miller’s personal testimony on Interstate Batteries’ web site.

Click here to find out more!

 

But, the company goes well beyond merely mentioning God. Miller encourages everyone to accept Jesus Christ as personal savior — a central tenet of the Christian faith. Here’s more from the site:

You can accept Him right now, just like I did, by repeating this prayer and making it the commitment of your heart. Just pray…

“Dear God, I want freedom from the slavery of my sin. I believe Jesus is the Truth, and I accept Him now as my Lord and Savior. I ask you for forgiveness of my sins, because He paid for them for me. Please give me the power to live a life pleasing to You. Thank you for this gift of new and eternal life in Christ! In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

If you prayed this prayer, I’d like to send you some additional information that will help you grow in your understanding of Christianity and in your faith in God. Write to: Norm Miller, “Growth,” 12770 Merit Dr. Suite 1000, Dallas, Texas 75251.

5 Companies Like Chick fil A That Share Their Christian Faith

Tyson Foods: Tyson, yet another company that refuses to hide its faith, offers employees chaplain services at plants across America. If people are saddened after the loss of a loved one or coping with a family emergency, these individuals are brought in to pray and assist those in need with coping.

John H. Tyson, the current chairman of the company, is a born-again Christian who believes his values shouldn’t be pushed to the side when he enters Tyson’s doors.

“My faith is just an ongoing evolution, trying to understand what faith in the marketplace looks like, giving people permission to live their faith seven days a week,” Tyson said back in 2010. “If people can talk about the football game on Monday, why can’t they talk about their faith?”

Tyson Foods is also known for donating mass amounts of food to America’s poor.

5 Companies Like Chick fil A That Share Their Christian Faith

In-N-Out Burger: Much like Forever 21, In-N-Out Burger, a fast-food chain based in California, uses John 3:16 as a way to advertise its faith. In fact, the company places the popular verse on the bottom of cups. Here’s what 11Alive.com reports about the popular business:

Western U.S. burger chain In-N-Out has printed citations of Bible passages on cups, wrappers and other pieces of packaging since at least the late 1980s. For instance, “John 3:16″ appears on the bottom of soft drink cups, a reference to the Bible passage…

5 Companies Like Chick fil A That Share Their Christian Faith

Image Credit: In-N-Out.com

Hobby Lobby: Last, but not least, is Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based crafts store chain that very-openly embraces Christianity. Like Chick-fil-A, the company closes its more than 500 stories on Sundays and vocally mentions God on its web site. Here are just a few of the proclamations presented Hobby Lobby’s statement of purpose:

Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles. [...]

Providing a return on the owners’ investment, sharing the Lord’s blessings with our employees, and investing in our community.

We believe that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured. He has been faithful in the past, we trust Him for our future.

As TheBlaze recently reported, Hobby Lobby’s owners are also preparing to build a Bible museum in Washington, D.C., just blocks away from the National Mall. The museum, which is currently being organized, planned and designed, will provide visitors with thousands of Biblical artifacts along with a better understanding of the Old and New Testaments.

5 Companies Like Chick fil A That Share Their Christian Faith

While these certainly aren’t the only Christian companies out there, they are some of the most notable. Do you know of any other faith-based businesses that operate at the national level? Feel free to tell us about them in the comments section and we may include them in a future edition of “5 Christian Companies That Publicly-Proclaim Their Christian Faith.”

 

St Kateri, First Native American Saint, Canonized Today

Archibishop Lopez Quintano, the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, holds a basket made by Mohawk basketmaker Sheila Ransom that will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI by the Mohawk delegation to the canonization of Kateri Takakwith. To his right in the photo are Alma and Orlo Ransom; to his left are tribal police Detective Matt Rourke and former St. Regis Mohawk Tribe  Chief Wally Oaks.
Indian Country, Gale Courey Toensing

Most people in Oklahoma have Indian blood. 

I know that politically correct types are going to chide me because I didn’t say “Native American,” but I’ve called the Cherokee that flows in my veins Indian blood all my life. There’s also some Potawatomi mixed in there, but I’m not quite sure how. All I know for certain is that I have relatives who are elected officeholders in the Potawatomi tribal government.

My personal family history doesn’t matter except that it explains why I feel proprietary toward one of the new saints that was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI today.

Blessed Kateri Tekawitha is now Saint Kateri Tekawitha. Saint Kateri was a member of the Canadian Mohawk tribe. She suffered greatly for her conversion and faith in Christ, particularly because she refused to marry and took a vow of perpetual virginity. Considering the sexual mores that are foisted on young girls today, St Kateri’s insistence that her sexuality was her own, and that she could chose to NOT have sex seems especially apt.

As you might expect, the Mohawks came out in numbers to celebrate the canonization of their sister. According to an Indian Country article, almost 2,000 Mohawks made the journey to the Vatican for the celebration.

I share their joy. St Kateri, pray for us.

The Indian Country article says in part:

What is likely to be the largest delegation of Mohawk Indians ever to assemble in Rome will take place this weekend, October 20–21, for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Mohawk woman.

Almost 2,000 people from Akwesasne and Kahnawake will flock to the Vatican for the ceremony that will grant sainthood to Kateri Tekakwitha, the first indigenous woman of Turtle Island to be canonized by the Catholic Church. The canonization will take place on Sunday.

About 150 people—three busloads—left for the airport a week ago, and others, like Alma and Orlo Ransom and three members of their family, were leaving on Thursday, October 18, for the ancient city.

“The Vatican is topping off what we feel by making her a saint,” Alma Ransom told Indian Country Today Media Network. She has played a critical role in the canonization effort over the years.

“In Indian words she’s been a saint all along to us. When we refer to Kateri [pronounced Ga-da-li in the Mohawk language] we call her a holy person, and I think saints are holy people. We’re very proud and happy,” Ransom said, then added with a laugh, “We’re proud for her because she was so humble and timid—and we’re not!”

She and her husband were in the final stages of preparation for their trip when they were reached at their Akwesasne home.

“Oh, yes, we’re ready!” she said. “Last December when the pope declared that Kateri would be canonized, that was it. And the preparations, of course. We had travel agencies that wouldn’t take us because we didn’t have an exact date, but we have an Indian-owned, Mohawk-owned travel agency that cut to the chase and said it’s going to be this much no matter what, and we’re still with him.”

Read more here.

Christian Persecution: We Must Fight Persecution With Knowledge, Prayer, Courage and Unity

Standing Against Christian Persecution

Joanna Bogle is an author, journalist, and broadcaster living in London. She served for some years as a London Borough councillor and has also worked as a research assistant for Members of Parliament. She writes for various newspapers and magazines in Britain, America, and Australia, including Britain’s Catholic Times, and America’s National Catholic Register.

She is, in short, well-informed and well-spoken; a person that serious people take seriously. She has her finger on the pulse of European Christianity, particularly in the UK. When she says that persecution of Christians is in our near future, the statement carries weight.

That makes her recent article A Frightening Chat With a French Colleague an important read for all of us. Ms Bogle and her French colleague agree that the legal and social discrimination against Christians in Western Europe are growing. They also agree that the situation will probably worsen in the future.

Her fear that many Christians will fall away when the trials come are, I believe, accurate. I agree with her conclusion that, if we are to stand, we will need “a real knowledge of the Faith, a sincere and deep prayer-life, courage, and unity” with other Christians.

We must start standing up for our faith and we must stand together while we do it. I also think that we should pray for ourselves and for one another that we will each have the courage to stand for Jesus today and in the future.

I can think of no better time for us to begin this than now, in the second week of the Year of Faith.

Her article says in part:

A frightening chat with a French colleague.

We last met, very agreeably, in 2010 during the Pope’s visit to Britain which he was covering for a French Catholic newspaper. Late at night, after that glorious vigil in Hyde Park, we gathered at the house of friends, over glasses of wine and bowls of soup and slices of buttered toast, with lots of talk and a sense of rejoicing as the Papal visit was going so well and writing a memorable chapter in British history.

Today, still much talk and still a rejoicing in our shared faith and all that it means…but a gloomy sense of foreboding. Back in 2010, we knew full well that things were getting bad for Christians generally – that was why it was so good and necessary that the Pope’s visit lifted all our hearts and encouraged us – and now, two years on, things are measurably worse. Jean was in London to report on anti-Christian discrimination in Britain (problems over wearing a cross at work, nurses told they must take part in abortions, and the whole same-sex “marriage” horror, and so on). I had no good news to tell him, and he had none to tell me.

In France, as in Britain, the drive for same-sex “marriage” is going fiercely forward. Evangelicals and Catholics are united in opposition but face lethargy, confusion (“Surely if two people love each other, it doesn’t matter what sex they are…” etc), ignorance (“I can’t see there’ll be any problems!”) and prejudice. People who, ten years ago, would not have accepted that marriage could mean anything other than the union of a man and a woman now feel obliged to say that they think same-sex unions are really quite normal and right. It is harder and harder to achieve an open discussion as many people feel intimidated: a teacher, a social worker, a public official, can face sudden unemployment and possibly social disgrace for saying something deemed to be unacceptable and incorrect on this issue.
The conversation turned, as it so often does these days, to the future persecution of the Church. Nothing meriting the word “persecution” at the moment, we agreed, but young Catholics in their twenties assume it will arrive in their lifetime. It’s as if the New Movements and things like World Youth Day are boosting and helping them, urging them to get trained and ready and spiritually alert for tough times to come.
It will not be fun for any of us – those who talk eagerly about “a bit of suffering doing us good” or imagine fighting gloriously for noble traditions under a splendid banner may well be the first to succumb to pressure to abandon the Church…tough times call for real faith and love, and not for grand-standing. The need is for a real knowledge of the Faith, a sincere and deep prayer-life, courage, and unity.(Read more here.)

Miracle Story: Sometimes You Don’t Have to Ask, Redux

I published a post a few weeks ago telling the story of a young girl who saw a vision of Jesus while she was trapped in a sex-trafficking brothel in India.

The post said in part:

… taken as she was walking to school when she was around 7 and put in a brothel. She suffered terrible things which I will not go into here. She was confined in a tiny room and forced to have sex with many men each day. Her life was mostly that room and her tormentors. She had never heard of Jesus Christ in her young life.

She was alone in the room at one point, and she said that she saw a spot of glowing light in front of her. Then, she saw a man in the light who told her “I am Jesus and I will take care of you.” She did not know who this Jesus was, but she did understand that she was in the presence of God. In the face of every objective criteria to the contrary she believed Him when He said “I will take care of you.” Through a series of incredible events, she ended up here in Oklahoma, free from her captors, and living a new life.

When she talks about this experience, her face glows. Her life, even more than her words, are a testimony to the redemptive power of God’s love. She is going to school, and plans to be a missionary to the trafficked girls in her native India. (Read more here.)

Several readers told me that Jesus is coming to Muslims in visions all over the world. I did a small bit of on-line searching and found numerous links to stories of Muslims who have been converted by a personal visit from Our Lord.

I think many of these stories are true. When a person who says that Jesus has come to him or her, converts and then is willing to face prison, torture and death rather than recant, I accept that at the very least, they believe what they are saying is true.

People will lie for attention, for money, for a competitive or social advantage. Some people even lie for recreation. People will certainly lie to avoid torture and death. But very few people will stand up to imprisonment, torture and death to defend one of their lies. This willingness to die for Christ has been one of His strongest witnesses for 2,000 years.

I’m going to chose one article out of the many I found, primarily because I found it in an August 24 issue of Christianity Today, which is a reliable publication. The article says in part:

… Tom Doyle has spent the last 11 years working as a missionary in the Middle East. He was initially skeptical about reports that God was speaking to Muslims in supernatural ways.

But his mindset changed when his friend told him: “God showed me that my theology does not determine his action.”

He’s made dozens of trips out to the region as director of e3 Partners’ work there, and heard many stories from Muslims about how they came to faith as a result of seeing Jesus in a dreams or vision…

…In one amazing story, a Muslim kidnaps a Christian in Cairo, one of the most dangerous places in the world to spread the Gospel, and takes him at gunpoint to an abandoned warehouse. Inside, he meets a group of 10 imams, who tell him they have been having dreams about Jesus and ask him to teach them about the Bible.

Dreams and visions have become common among Muslims in the Middle East who have embraced the Christian faith. Doyle says the dreams open the door for Muslims to hear about Jesus in countries where spreading the Gospel is forbidden.

While the West associates Islam with terrorism, Doyle believes the majority of Muslims are peace-loving.

“I believe Islamic terrorism is Satan’s attempt to keep the Gospel message away from Muslims,” he writes.

But Tom knows that even Satan can’t stop the Gospel from spreading.

“More Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus today than ever before,” Doyle writes. “In fact, we believe more Muslims have become followers of Jesus in the last ten years than in the last 14 centuries of Islam.” (Read the rest here.)

The article runs parallel to discussions about the New Evangelization which took place at the Synod in Rome this past week. I am a strong supporter of the New Evangelization. These miracles serve to remind us that all evangelization of any era must begin with prayer and hearts that are yielded to the Holy Spirit.

God is not just the object of our desire. He is also the source of our strength and the guide for our actions. We have been timid for a long time about evangelizing anybody, particularly in areas of the world where such work is greeted with violence. I think it’s interesting that these places are the precise ones where Jesus is taking things into His own hands and beginning the work for us.

In this Year of Faith we would do well to remember that nothing we do is of or for ourselves. We the instruments of His grace in this fallen world, and the doorway to that grace is prayer and a humble heart.

Have a blessed Sunday.

But Leave it There

I respected the woman speaking to me. She and I had the same background, shared most of the same beliefs. But we were at odds that day. She looked at me with the hot-eyed stare of a person who is not to be reasoned with and pointed her finger at me to emphasize her words.

“You can go to church as much as you want,” she said, “but leave it there.”

She was angry with me because I had passed a bill that, among other things, required unemancipated minors to either get parental consent or a judicial bypass before elective abortions.

The abortion wars destroy friendships in politics, and my friendship with this lady was ending over this bill. I could have said a lot of things to her that day, but I sensed some deep wound driving her anger, and I didn’t want to hurt her. So, I held my tongue. I knew as I walked away that this woman who had been my friend was now my enemy.

I also knew that her request that I leave my faith in the church pews was both arrogant and common. Accusations that people who believe in the sanctity of human life are trying to “legislate their religion,” or that they want to “build a theocracy” are standard commentary from the other side of the debate.

I try my best to never reply in kind. I don’t call people who favor legal abortion names. I don’t attack them for slips of the tongue or research their personal lives looking for sexual peccadilloes, embarrassing photos from long-past fraternity parties or ugly divorce testimony.

I do all I can to let them have the low road if they want it so much and keep my focus on the one thing I care about in all this, which is my simple belief that it is wrong to kill people. I won’t use my job to kill people. And I won’t help anyone else kill them, either. I know that sounds almost comically simple. But adhering to it in a legislative environment can get you cursed, reviled, slandered, picketed and, yes, advised to leave your faith at church.

I’ve been getting these demands that I be a sham Christian for years. Go to church all you want. We don’t care. But leave it there. The people who say this are usually in a froth of self-righteousness when they do it. They can look at you with such hatred that it almost scorches your skin. And they almost always toss in a canard about “separation of church and state” to give dignity to what is in reality an outrageous thing to say.

It’s ironic. People are always accusing politicians of being hypocrites, but in this instance we have a large segment of the population actually demanding it of them.

“Go to church all you want, but leave it there” has nothing at all to do with separation of church and state. There is nothing in the First Amendment that says that elected officials may not reference their personal religious and moral beliefs in the decisions they must make.

I don’t believe this lady was worried about separation of church and state. I think she wanted me to live and vote according to her beliefs rather than my own. That’s the core of these attacks. It’s that you’re not doing what they want you to, and attacking you with bogus nonsense about separation of church and state and building a theocracy sounds better than just pitching a fit and saying “Do what I tell you or else!”

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning has advanced far beyond me and what an angry lady said to me in the hallway outside the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Today we have the Health and Human Services Department of the United States Government telling the largest religious denomination in America virtually the same thing and backing it up with what amounts to a draconian threat.

Teach what you want from the pulpit they tell the Church. But if you don’t bend to the government and violate those same teachings in your institutions, we will fine and penalize you out of business. That’s the gist of the HHS Mandate compelling the Catholic Church to provide insurance coverage for birth control and abortifacients for the employees of its institutions.

What it all comes down to is that the Federal Government is telling the Catholic Church “Say mass as much as you want. But leave it there.”

And, yes, this time it really is a violation of separation of church and state.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 8. Hate-Voting = Using the Devil’s Weapons Instead of the Armor of God.

Hate-voting for Christ is an oxymoron if there ever was one.

Hate-voting is the fine art of defaming the people you disagree with in order to punish, diminish and hurt them. Hate-voting destroys your Christian witness. When you say you are a Christian, other people will judge Jesus by you. When you spout a steady stream of invective aimed at people you disagree with politically, you are telling the world that following Jesus means being full of hate, rage and engaging in slander.

Hate-voting destroys your witness for Christ. It also separates you from Him in your heart.

I have no right to attack other people in the name of Christ and neither do you. As the bumper sticker says, we aren’t perfect; we’re forgiven. Stop for a moment. Think honestly about your own sins. You deserve to go to hell. So do I. We are saved, by the horrible price of the cross, from getting what we deserve. We owe a debt we can never repay. We who have been forgiven so much, do not have the right … we don’t have the right … to put ourselves in the place of AlmightyGod and viciously attack other people made in His Image.

It’s not all our fault. We’ve been deliberately manipulated into hate-voting by political pros who make extraordinary amounts of money for getting us revved up and full of hate. Remember the first equation: Your Vote = Their Power? That’s what this expensive manipulation of little ole’ us is about.

Political demagogues abound in our world. They mouth hatred at us from their “news” desks in the corporate press. Faux religious leaders, bent on gaining political patronage, follow suit, declaiming slander from their pulpits. Over in the cheap seats, bloggers chime in by passing along scandalous lies and making up a few of their own.

The political candidates themselves wage campaign battles focused on personal attack and talking about the other guy. We almost never hear one of them talk about what they would do with the power of government if we gave it to them. Even when they do, they confine their discussion of “the issues” to bullet points and bumper-sticker-speak. Both sides do it. Every election.

So, hating isn’t 100% our fault. Anyone who spends too much time listening to the loony hate-filled invective that passes for political discourse in our country today will find hate-voting hard to resist. However, no matter how much we are provoked, no matter how skillfully we are incited, each one of us is responsible for what we say and do. We’re not children. Children don’t hate-vote. Hate-voting is, by definition, the act of a legal and moral adult. I don’t think the old “the media thou gavest me” tempted me excuse will work for us any better than it did for Adam.

Hate-voting gives us the fruits of another, darker, spirit than the one we claim to follow. It’s fruits are bitterness, anxiety, self-righteousness and grandiosity.  It’s like a drug that clouds the mind, and like all mind-altering drugs, it is highly addictive. Hate-voters become addicted to the satisfying sense of power that comes from hurting other people, the grandiosity they feel from elevating the person they oppose to demonic status and then seeing their vote as a high moral drama with themselves as the hero of the story. This sense of power and grandiosity is the high of the drug hate-voting.

The search for another hate-vote fix leads people to keep on piling on the invective between elections, and then to continue hate-voting over and over, election after election. The names and faces of the candidates they oppose change, but their self-righteous certainty that this person is the devil incarnate transfers from one candidate to the next.

Hate-voting is the antithesis of how a Christian should approach their responsibilities as citizens in a democracy.

There is something evil in each of us, me included. None of us escapes original sin. We take nasty delight in repeating vile accusations. We enjoy the feeling of camaraderie that comes with being part of the crowd that hates together.

On the other hand, we do not like the aloneness of being the one who says “Wait a minute. I disagree with this person, but I don’t think he or she is a monster.”

Anyone who takes this stand will immediately find themselves on the outs with the hate-voters in their world. It is never enough for hate-voters that a person is willing to stand and fight for the issues they both believe. They will only accept people into their tribe who are willing to cast aside their thinking faculties and join them in their invective and hate. It is a tribal thing, and it has nothing, nothing, to do with Jesus Christ.

The cost of refusing to join in with the gang hate-offs that inspire hate-voting can be, will usually be, the loss of that cozy in-with-the-crowd belongingness that feels so good to most of us. Following Jesus almost always means standing for Jesus against the crowd. It just does. This is true even when the crowd in question is a group of professing Christians.

The surprising benefit to it is that refusing to hate-vote tends to clear your mind. The addiction to hate, bitterness, and slander fogs your brain. It swings the door to your heart wide open and lets the devil sashay his way in to control of your life.  From what I’ve seen, the more you focus on other people’s sins, the more you forget about your own. The more you forget about your own sins, the more self-righteous you become. The more self-righteous you become, the further away from God you move.

Refusing to hate-vote doesn’t mean you also refuse to say the truth of the situation. It doesn’t mean that you make excuses for sinful acts and give up your intellectual and moral capacities to weigh, evaluate and decide the right or wrongness of policies and behavior. It simply means that you focus on the wrong that is done, and not the person. This will make you more effective in your stand for what you believe, not less so.

The early Christians were confronted with living the Gospel in a world far more hostile and pagan than our own. It must have been tempting for them to turn to violence and terrorism. But St Paul told them to follow another way. “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil,” he said.

And what is that armor that he spoke of? Was it swords and shields and clanking breastplates? No. It is righteousness, truth, peace, faith, salvation and the Holy Spirit.

There is not one word in this about calling other people names or tearing them down to build someone else up. St Paul further said, that they — and we — are not engaged in a war against people. We are fighting “powers and principalities.”

We can not defeat the devil by using the devil’s weapons. That is why I am so emphatic that we must stop attacking persons and begin talking about the ideas and ideals that we believe. We must lay down the sword of defamation and put on the armor of God — truth, peace, faith, salvation, the Holy Spirit and true righteousness born of a humble awareness of our own sinful state.

This brings us to our final equation. It’s simple to understand and hard to accept. But if we want to live as Christians, we must make the effort.

Hate Voting = Using the Devil’s Weapons Instead of the Armor of God

The Gift and the Miracle

“Old age is a shipwreck.”

That quote is attributed to Charles de Gaulle, John Kennedy, Orson Welles and various others. It would seem that a plethora of famous folks feel that old age and its attendant ills and declines is a misery and a curse.

I am taking care of my 87-year-old mother in the weakness of her slow going home and I have to say I disagree with these famous men. Old age is a gift. It is a tenderness and a sweetness and a time of extreme clarity and trust.

My mother was a tomboy. She climbed trees and played baseball. When she wasn’t playing sports, she was an absorbed fan, watching from the bleachers or listening to games on the radio and later watching them on tv. Now, she walks with a cane, and I have to help her up and down, in and out.

My mother loved to drive her car, insisted on owning one. She got her driver’s license, in an era when girls didn’t always get a license, the first day she was eligible and she drove herself where she wanted to go every day after that. Until the day I had to take her car keys from her so that she wouldn’t hurt herself or someone else. Now, she waits for rides and comes and goes according to other people’s schedules.

My mother lit up her first cigarette when she was 17 and smoked like a diesel for the next 70 years. Until the day the doctor told her that another cigarette might shut down her copd-afflicted lungs and I had to ban them from her existence.

My mother, who was and is my most stalwart supporter, my cheering squad, my best friend. No matter what I’ve done, both good and bad, my mother was always there to back me up, stand by me and help me out. I’ve always known, never doubted, never for a single moment considered any other possibility, that she would lay down her life for me anytime, anywhere, any hour or day that I needed it.

If I needed a heart transplant, my mother would say, “Here, take mine.” If I started robbing banks, she’d get mad at the bank.

I talked about my father in another post. My parents were insanely proud of me, totally trusting of me, and they convinced me from an early age that I could climb the Empire State Building bare-handed if I wanted to.

So, why, now that my brave tomboy mother walks with a cane and is dependent on family for all her care, do I say that old age is NOT a shipwreck?

Because, well … because it’s not. It’s a time of life; a return to innocence and trust and a laying down of responsibility and worry. My mother was always a worrier, a half-empty child of the depression who knew that every silver lining has its cloud. But she’s past that now. At some point that neither one of us noticed when it happened, she turned all her worries over to me.

The same mother I’ve trusted all my life now trusts me to care for, manage and make right all the bothersome details of her life. She trusts me the way my children trusted me when they were babies. She is so sweet, so dear, so unbelievably precious, that I could never, ever, never, regard this time of care taking and leave-taking as anything but a gift.

Is taking care of my mother while managing a demanding job a “burden?” Is it something that I resent or wish was different? Nope.

It’s a gift and a blessing. All God ever wants to do is bless us. But sometimes His blessings look different than we expect. We pray, in the words of Janis Joplin, for a Mercedes Benz. We get instead blessings of love, life and the responsibilities for one another that are part of living and loving.

Old age is not a shipwreck. It is one of the times of our lives. It is a gift of grace and beauty; a return to innocence and childlike joy for the one who is aged; a time to cherish and give back for those of us who haven’t gotten there yet.

I would not miss one day of the time I’ve spent with my mother, not from the days she took my hand and walked me safely across the street, to now, when I do the same for her.

That is the gift and the miracle of love.

Religion and Politics Go Together if We Say They Do

Every four years, pundits lard on the commentary about how “religion” is having a “big impact” on the upcoming election. Every four years.

Each time they do it, they add on other comments about how this is “unusual” or “unprecedented,” as if religion just became a guiding force in how free people make decisions a week or two earlier.

In fact, religion has always been a matter of considerable importance in American elections. I don’t think there’s anything surprising about this. In fact, I don’t see how it could be otherwise. Are we supposed to shear ourselves loose from who we are when we are confronted with a ballot? Are we supposed to ignore our deepest values in making decisions about our country?

I think that all this talk is, at best, nonsense. Of course religious belief guides people’s decisions about how they vote. Of course it matters to people whether or not a candidate for an office shares their core values. We are talking about choosing who will run our government. Our votes place enormous governing power over the lives and welfare of millions of Americans into the hands of these candidates.

Are we supposed to elect someone who doesn’t share our values? 

Should we deliberately decide to ignore the faith that guides us and the teachings that hold our lives together when it comes to deciding who we want to make key decisions for us? Why dose anyone find it surprising that “religion” plays a part in our ballot-box decisions?

We cannot see into the hearts of the people who ask us for our votes. We have to base our decisions on what they’ve done, what they say and how they hit us. Fortunately, our Constitution does not require us to explain our votes to anyone. We do not need the approval of a committee or a commission as to how we go about picking who we will support in an election.

I can vote for a candidate because she’s a woman. You can vote for a candidate because he or she is black … or white … or maybe because they are left-handed.

And yes, we can all vote for a candidate because they espouse positions on issues that we’ve decided are important to us but which other people claim we are stupid to consider. This is usually where voting for someone because of “religious” reasons comes in. If you are a strong believer in the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining and also a strong believer in the sanctity of human life, then how do you balance these two considerations in your vote?

The answer is that every single voter gets to work out conundrums like this on their own, as they please, and without being obliged to share their thinking OR their decision with anyone else. That’s the power of the secret ballot, which may be the most wonderful political invention since the idea of the vote itself.

I make it a policy not to try to tell Public Catholic readers how to vote. I also make it a policy to talk about the good and bad of candidates on both sides of these questions. My third policy is that I won’t say how I’m going to vote. My votes as a legislator are public record — as they should be. My votes at the ballot-box are those of an ordinary citizen. I vote by secret ballot.

What I will tell you is that you should never let someone else’s values be the reason for your decisions. Don’t let pundits persuade you that there is any wrong criteria you can use as a basis for deciding how to vote. It’s YOUR vote. It belongs to YOU. You can vote how you want, for whom you want, for any reason that works for you.

Now, go out there and think it through. If you should feel like praying about your vote and asking God for guidance, that, my friend, is your right. Use it any time you want.

Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conservations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

Miracle Story: Sometimes You Don’t Have to Ask

I almost decided not to post this particular miracle story. It is so incredible that just by sharing it I open myself up to charges of being naive and soft-headed.

I finally decided to go ahead because I don’t think God intended for it to be kept a secret. It is the story of God’s direct intervention in the life of one of the least of these. I wish I could tell the whole story; of the rescue and tremendous experience the girl who tells this has gone through. But I can’t.

When you spend time with those who were the most completely lost, you find the most intense faith.

This miracle happened to a victim of sex trafficking from India.

The young woman who tells it was taken as she was walking to school when she was around 7 and put in a brothel. She suffered terrible things which I will not go into here. She was confined in a tiny room and forced to have sex with many men each day. Her life was mostly that room and her tormentors. She had never heard of Jesus Christ in her young life.

She was alone in the room at one point, and she said that she saw a spot of glowing light in front of her. Then, she saw a man in the light who told her “I am Jesus and I will take care of you.” She did not know who this Jesus was, but she did understand that she was in the presence of God. In the face of every objective criteria to the contrary she believed Him when He said “I will take care of you.” Through a series of incredible events, she ended up here in Oklahoma, free from her captors, and living a new life.

When she talks about this experience, her face glows. Her life, even more than her words, are a testimony to the redemptive power of God’s love. She is going to school, and plans to be a missionary to the trafficked girls in her native India.

Jesus went into a brothel, into the pit of one of our worst man-made hells, and reached out to this young girl. She didn’t pray. She didn’t ask for Him to come to her. She didn’t know Who He was.

It’s an incredible story and I offer you no proof. Believe it or don’t. All I can say is that those who know this young woman believe it. They see the proof in her life and rock-solid faith; in her unwavering purpose to bring Jesus to everyone she meets. She was rescued to be a rescuer.


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