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.

Co-Dependent Nation: Living in I Can’t Say No Land

YouTube Preview Image

Raise your hand if you have a family member or friend with drug or alcohol problems.

Are your hands at your side? If they are, think carefully.

What about that cousin no one talks about? You know the one; the family embarrassment that you haven’t seen for years but that you know is out there somewhere, tippling, shooting up, snorting or pill-popping their way to an early grave. What about your high school friend who started missing classes and ended up missing in action for life?

Now. I’ll ask again. Raise your hand if you have a family member or friend with drug or alcohol problems.

Ok. Has everybody got a hand in the air? Good. Now we can talk.

If everybody was honest, there were a lot of raised hands. There is a whole lot of drinking and drugging going on. That leads to the conclusion that there is probably an equal or even greater amount of codependence going on alongside it.

My untutored, unprofessional, entirely observational definition of codendence is that it is the fine art of making excuses for and buying into the lies of miscreants in such a way that you help them continue misbehaving. Meanwhile, you sacrifice yourself for them and their lies.

Codependence creates miserable people with no self-esteem. Codependents feel guilty about things other people do, look for happiness in all the wrong places and constantly try to rescue people who don’t want to be rescued. It doesn’t just apply to drinking, or even to drugs. You can be co-dependent about any kind of bad behavior out there.

Codependence has insinuated itself into the fabric of our society. Co-dependent standards have become our society’s measure for judging human behavior and even public policy. They determine our way of thinking, reacting, and interacting.

Codependence is not only allowed and encouraged, it is actually enforced through the unwritten rules of political correctness, phony tolerance and a self-conscious refusal to “judge,” which has become a block to using our higher thinking faculties when dealing with other people.

This ubiquitous societal codependence adds the burden of willful intellectual blindness to anyone who tries to help or heal the fallen people of this world. We become so confused that we don’t know and can’t react when people are using us and our kindness in a callous manner with no intention of reforming. We are prisoners of our own good intentions, unable to judge, discern, or react in intelligent ways. We can’t set limits, have been shorn of the language to express our concerns, and feel guilty about protecting ourselves from abuse and mistreatment. We are co-dependent.

Our whole society is co-dependent. It is so co-dependent that the only crime we consider really wrong is child molesting. All other crimes, including the most hideous rapes and murders, become, in our twisted reasoning, something we need to “understand” and which we say the victim themselves probably helped cause. We are so co-dependent that the only actions we are willing to condemn are failures to be co-dependent.

Pity the poor soul with the temerity to say that violations of moral law, of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, are sins, and that sin is the root cause of our social ills. The public shaming meted out to “intolerant religious fanatics” and “theists” who dare say things like this is equal to none other.

That’s why people who run helping ministries find themselves in a guilty conundrum over the resentment they rightfully feel about being used by the using users of our society. The moral half of their ministry has been taken from them by political correctness and our universal societal sickness of co-dependence. We need to help people who are caught in the consequences of their bad behavior, and we need to do it with love. There is no place in a Christian ministry for the condemnation of persons.

At the same time, we need to give ourselves the freedom to know and say that there was bad behavior and that sin is its root cause. Part of helping a person who is trapped in out of control behavior lies in helping them heal from the immediate physical and emotional damage they have inflicted on themselves. They’re down and they need help standing back up. 

The other part of helping them is to help them not do it again. That means telling them that what they did was wrong and, if they want a better life, they have to change. It means working with and not against the Holy Spirit in convicting them of their sins. It means not making excuses for them or letting them believe that sin plays no part in their actions. It means never explaining away the harm they’ve done or the debt they owe to try to make it right again.

Codependence enforcers are fond of quoting the words of Jesus to the woman taken in adultery, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” They use this verse as a club to guilt Christians into joining them on the co-dependent band wagon that masquerades as love and tolerance. What they leave out is that Jesus also said, “Go, and sin no more.” He didn’t stone the woman caught in adultery. He didn’t condemn her. In fact He expressly said that He didn’t condemn her. But He didn’t pretend that she hadn’t done anything wrong. He didn’t cite her poverty or even the rank misogyny of the men who were trying to stone her as excuses for what she had done. “Go. And sin no more.” he said. “Sin no more.”

People who want to misuse scripture to justify themselves often pull a verse out of context. The irony here is that many of the people who quote this particular verse in this particular fashion aren’t even Christians. They’re secularists, trying to bully Christians into accepting the rules of this world instead of the teachings of the Gospel. What they are asking Christians to do is to lie to people; to tell them that sin is not sin, wrong is ok, and that the harm they do to others is in some mysterious way the fault of the ones they have harmed. This is not love. It is also not ministry. It is societally enforced codependence.

If codependence is a sickness, then we are a very sick society. Forcing our minds to shear lose from our ability to see and discern, to evaluate and decide in this way does great damage to our ability to think coherently. It has, over time, left us at the mercy of the most obvious propaganda and lies. It makes us easy marks for demagogues and corrupt politics that would defraud us of all we have. 

“In an insane society, a sane man must appear insane.” That’s a quote from Mr Spock of Star Trek fame. Unfortunately for us, this is one time when science fiction speaks truth. Going against the co-dependent flow will make you the target of those who have an interest in the way things are. This is nothing new for true followers of Christ. We live in this world, but we do not follow it. We are part of this time and of this world. But we are not just that. We are also part of the Kingdom of God and while we live in this time, this epoch, we also live in eternity. Even though we live and work in the here and now, our membership in the Kingdom coming, our life in eternity, has and will always have, prior claim on us.

We are called to be the sane citizens in our insane society. Our yardstick for evaluating ourselves and other people must never be the fashionably codependent measure of relativism. We must live by the Gospels, which means that we obey the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

We do it because God Himself told us to.

Christian Persecution: It is Time for Christians to Stand Together

Do you read the stories?

Christians burnt alive, beheaded, stabbed, crucified, shot, gunned down. Christians tortured, imprisoned, raped, sold into slavery. Christians unable to work, forbidden to worship, forbidden to train new priests. Bibles, crucifixes, religious medals banned.

Have you lived the discrimination?

Christians mocked, ridiculed, belittled, slandered. Christians constantly forced to defend their faith in the face of aggressive jerks who feel an entitlement to force their way into private conversations, push themselves onto web sites and chat rooms to denounce the faith and belittle anyone who has the temerity to refer to Christ in public.

Have you seen the bigotry?

Christianity and Christ Himself, belittled, slandered, mocked, reviled and constantly lied about in a repetitive way by people who evidently feel an entitlement to leapfrog into any discussion or situation and unburden themselves of their verbal offal.

Have you seen this? Are you aware of it? Do you understand what it means?

We are at a fulcrum. If we do not stand for Christ now, here, in America, there is a tsunami of persecution out there under the water, waiting for all Christians, everywhere, including here.

It is time, it is past time, for us to stop sniping at one another over our narcissistic God ownership issues.

I am a Public Catholic. People who hate Jesus, or people who hate the Catholic Church, often seem to view me as the receptacle for their hatred and spleen. I think I may have heard every repetitive, factually inaccurate bit of pamphleteering claptrap anybody ever used to attack Christianity, Jesus, or the Catholic Church. I’ve heard it all. Several times a week. For years.

I do not reply in kind. I try to answer what are unreasonable attacks with reason. I use facts against lies. I do my best to answer gently and to keep on answering, even if it means I have to say the same things over and over again.

I never, ever, ever try to poke holes in other Christian’s beliefs. I do not feel called to deliver long-winded analyses as to why their particular denomination is wrong. I don’t do it because I think this kind of behavior is both nonsensical and destructive.

I am going to say this as clearly as I can:

There is only one Jesus.

We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’ve said before on this blog that I think that if we had the power to judge, no one would ever go to heaven. We’d all condemn one another to hell. I believe that’s the truth of it.

We are fallen people, living in a fallen world. These attacks on one another at a time when we need to unite and stand together are a symptom of the burden of original sin that we all carry. They are, to be blunt, the devil’s work, his weapon against us that we use on one another. If we are arguing over these silly things with one another, we are also wasting time, energy and intellect that we could be using to speak for Christ.

Almost all the attacks on the Catholic Church which I have to deal with are based on claims that are factually untrue. The same goes for the many attacks that I hear against Christianity as a whole and Jesus in particular.

I believe that in both instances — the attacks on the Church, and the attacks on Christianity — the people who do it are really acting out their own narcissism. If they were even slightly interested in the truth they would have checked these things out themselves.

Christianity is aggressively attacked all over the world, including here in America. It is ignoble that we are arguing over whose church is the best while Christians are dying for Jesus in Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia, and parts of Asia.

Millions of Christians will go to sleep tonight under the blood moon of Persecution. Christians in America allow Jesus to be mocked reviled and slandered and duck their heads in shameful silence. The courts push every mention of Christianity to the corners of life. The HHS Mandate puts the government itself in the business of forcing the church to abandon its teachings or face crippling government fines.

What does it take to get our attention?

If we don’t stop bickering among ourselves and stand for Christ as one redeemed Christian people, we may well be the generation that lets freedom of religion pass from the face of the earth.

It is time, it is past time, for us to grow beyond our narcissistic claims of God ownership on behalf of our various denominations. It is time for Christians to stand together.

Miracle Story: Selfless Prayers are Also the Best

It’s become fashionable to demand that God perform a miracle, “prove” Himself to you, as a condition of your belief. 

I have to be honest, I find this offensive.

I’m not talking about Bob Seidensticker and his request. I am referring to those “show me or else” lugs who seem to regard being offensive to Christians as their reason for living.

I can not lose the idea that no matter how ignorant these people undoubtedly are, they are still arrogant beyond comprehension.

I love Jesus. The idea that anyone would treat Him as a sort a divine trained seal appalls me.

Of course, I have to confess that did I try this kind of thing once, myself.

If I remember correctly, I was in the third grade. I sat at my desk in school and stared down at a sheet of math problems that I did not want to answer. Did I want to go play? Or did I just hate math? I don’t remember that part. But I do remember closing my eyes and praying; asking/telling God that when I opened my eyes, I wanted the math problems answered and ready to turn in.

I opened my eyes. The spaces for the answers would were still blank.

This wasn’t a faith-shattering experience for me. Even in the third grade, I knew that what I was demanding was a cheat. But it did teach me a small lesson about God.

Based on the thinking of some professional atheists, my unanswered math questions prayer would be a “proof” of a sort that there is no god. What they want is to put God in a test tube of their devising and then demand that He turn straw to gold or water to wine or some such while they time Him with a stop watch and tape it for future reference. They probably would also like for God to repeat this trick a few times just to be sure.

I have a feeling that if God actually did come through with a few tricks for them, they wouldn’t even so much as toss Him a fish. If your whole social structure is built on not believing in something, it’s going to take more than a few flaps of the celestial flippers to change your mind. Of course, I think I can make that assumption without testing it since I doubt that the Almighty is going to treat their demands for “proof” any differently than he did my demands for answers to math questions.

You see, while the comparison between the two events may seem a trifle extreme, they really are of a type. There isn’t much difference between an 8-year-old praying to be exempted from doing her math and a 40-year-old demanding a miracle or else he’ll keep on disbelieving.

Based on my walk with Christ, I am fairly certain that God doesn’t do parlor tricks for the enrichment and amusement of the jeering section. I doubt very much that you will ever be able to stand on a stage and perform answered prayers for a paying audience. I know that some people have pretended to do this down through the years, but deliberate frauds are … well … deliberate frauds.

What God does do, and rather consistently, is answer the humble prayers of true believers who are asking for things that contribute to the greater good rather than their own benefit. As a for-instance, I offer my friend Linda Cavanah.

I’ve written about Linda a couple of times before, and I expect I will write about her again in the future. God rescued her from the pit and she has followed through by rescuing others from the same pit where she was trapped. Her ministry, All Things New, rescues women and children from sex trafficking and prostitution.

The part of her story I find relevant to the discussion of prayer and miracles is the way she has raised money and put this ministry together. To be honest, she confounds me. I thought I had faith until I started working with her.

Here’s one example. Her car broke down. Linda drives many thousands of miles each month starting shelters for women and managing them. You have no idea how much work goes into this. She runs the wheels off her cars. This time, her car was irrevocably broken.

I asked her what she was going to do. She said, “I’m going to pray for another car.” A couple of days later, she called me and said that a family (who she did not previously know) had called her and said that while they were praying, it came into their heads to call her and offer to donate their car to her ministry.

Another time, she was trying to help a woman who had just been rescued and who needed a lot of medical care. There was no money for this kind of extensive care. I didn’t even ask her where she was going to get the money. I knew if I did, she’d tell me she was going to pray.

I can’t remember exactly how long it was; just a few days later, that we were talking and she said that she going to have lunch with a woman the next day. Just a networking meeting, the kind of thing she does all the time. No big deal. She called me after the lunch and said the woman just wrote out a check (without knowing how much was needed) that would exactly cover the medical expenses. Linda told her, “You just saved someone’s life.”

I could go on. I mean I could go on and on and on and on with these stories. Each one of these answered prayers might easily be a coincidence. But taken together (and I’m talking about years of examples like these) you start getting into a preponderance of the evidence type situation. One coincidence is a coincidence. Repeated, reliable coincidences begin to seem like they are most likely something else, especially when they seem so absolutely intentional.

God answers prayers when He wants to do so. He doesn’t appear to give a care about answering prayer as a performance art. I think this is because God isn’t a blind, unthinking and unfeeling force. He is a personality. He doesn’t just react. He chooses.

Notice, God didn’t set up a printing press and print off the money Linda needed. He didn’t erect a factory and build the car. He didn’t even go abracadabra poof! and conjure these things up. He sent another person. His gift of love was, to paraphrase Shakespeare, twice blessed in that it blessed both the women who are struggling to escape prostitution, and it blessed the person who wrote the check or donated the car. Like any loving and wise parent, God lets us do our part.

God loves us from death to life. Then He inspires us to do the same for one another. I think that is the most important miracle of all.

Miracle Story: Baby Prayers are the Best

Bob Seidensticker, an occasional atheist commenter here at Public Catholic,  has called for miracle stories in a post on his blog, Cross Examined.

I’ll be posting a few miracle stories in the next week. All from real life as I know it. This one involves my youngest son.

My son went to mother’s day out at a Methodist church near our house when he was a toddler. It was just a few hours, a couple of days a week, but it gave me a breather, and he loved playing with the kids.

His best friend was a little boy named Shane. One morning I took John in, and Shane came running out of the playroom.

“John!” he said. “Do you know what’s happened? We’ve got to pray!” 

He put his arm around my son’s shoulder and they walked into the playroom, golden-haired baby heads close together as they talked.

I went on my way and didn’t think anything about it. When I picked John up that afternoon, Shane’s mother told me that her father had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She said the docs had told her father that he only had a couple of months to live. I told her how sorry I was and she nodded, her eyes shining with unshed tears.

A couple of weeks went by and I happened to see her again as I was leaving John at mother’s day out for the day. I asked how her father was. She looked almost confused then told me that when they’d taken him in to begin radiation treatments, the doctors had taken new x-rays. Long story short: The cancer was gone. There wasn’t any sign it had ever been there. She and I didn’t say much at the time. There isn’t a lot to say about something like that. But later, I remembered Shane running out of the playroom and yelling “John! … We’ve got to pray!” 

I told Shane’s mom about it the next time I saw her. We both just sort of stared at one another. I think the magnitude of this made us feel shy about talking about it.

It might have been a coincidence of some sort. I have no problem with people who say they think that’s what it was. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m telling you this is what happened. I can also say that I never thought this was anything but a gift from God to two little children who prayed to Him. I will never forget those innocent little boys, walking off together, talking, and probably getting ready to pray.

The end of the story is that the cancer did come back in a few years. This time it was in Shane’s Grandpa’s brain. It took him fast, with little suffering. I always thought that this confirmed the original diagnosis. There had been cancer there. The x-rays had shown it; the biopsy had diagnosed it, and the recurrence seemed to confirm it again. The cancer, which was there, went away. Then, in a few years, came back to stay.

Those few years meant a lot of a little boy who loved his grandpa. Shane and his grandfather spent important time together during Shane’s most impressionable years. Who knows the impact the positive influence this loving, deeply Christian man had on that sweet little boy.

There are miracles. They aren’t even rare. But they don’t come with instructions on the lid. God doesn’t send a telegram saying, “Miracle coming now;” not unless it suits His purpose to do so. Most miracles are private gifts. Because He loves us.

I’ll post another miracle story tomorrow. I’ve got lots of them.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X