I haven’t written much about the mess with Ukraine/Crimea/Russia. I haven’t written at all about the missing airliner.
The reasons are simple.
I don’t have a lot of wisdom to share about Ukraine/Crimea/Russia, and I don’t know what’s happened to that airliner.
My guess is that Russia wants a sort of alliance with its former satellites states; something akin to the European Union. I doubt that Russia wants to re-occupy those countries. They’ve already done that. And it didn’t work out.
On the other hand, creating an economic alliance that resembles the European Union would greatly enhance Russia’s economic clout. This is especially true if Russia is the absolute, unchallenged first among equals with the member states of that “union.”
Russia, being Russia, doesn’t seem to have gotten the drift of negotiation in developing this economic union. They’re more into gunpoint diplomacy than the give and take of actual negotiating.
Of course, negotiating with people who were, until a couple of decades ago, Russia’s slaves, would be tough going, even for the most delicate of debaters. Russia has what might be called a bad rep among their former satellites. The brutal police states they ran that impoverished people, destroyed their freedoms and ended many of their lives in gulags make people chary of being their pals now. These folks aren’t too eager to go back under the Russian lash.
It appears that Russia is still the child of its evil past. The response to frustrating displays of disregard for what Russia wants in its satellites seems to bring that evil child to the fore. Russia’s means of conversation is to bring in the tanks and troops.
In addition to economic hegemony, Russia also wants and needs something that Crimea — and only Crimea — has. Americans, who live in one of the other great continental nations, take our plethora of deep water ports for granted. We’ve got so many of them, and they are all ice free year round, that the whole question is not a question to us. We don’t think about what it would be like to be a continental nation without a single ice-free, deep-water port.
But Russia, despite its mammoth coastline, hasn’t got anyplace to park a fleet of big boats. It can’t ship goods by sea because there’s no way to get the goods onto the seas. I won’t discuss the issue of a Russian Navy at this point. I think it’s obvious that you’ve got to have ports to have an effective Nary.
Little Crimea is the proud possessor of a deep water port that is ice free.
Do I need to connect the dots here?
At the same time that we’ve seen exhaustive and utterly confusing news reports about Russia/Ukraine/Crimea, we have also been partakers of the mystery surrounding a missing airliner. It seems that this airliner abruptly made a hard turn off its course, dropped to below radar level and flew on for several hours. Then, it vanished.
Nobody knows what happened. Nobody knows where it is now. Nobody knows anything except that the airliner, its crew and passengers are missing.
Speculation about hijackings and terrorists raises a hundred nightmare scenarios in all our minds.
We faced with other people’s tragedies as their countries are invaded and annexed for the use of more powerful nations. We imagine what it must have been like on that airliner. We feel for the families of these people. We speculate about whether or not the crew and passengers are still alive, and if they are still alive, what might be happening to them.
All this is laced with fear. Not lie-awake-at-night-and-churn-fear, but the cold frisson of fear that is part of living in an uncertain and dangerous world. There are so many good people. But the relatively few bad ones have the capacity to make a hell of this earth for all of us.
Both these situations seem to have a simple root cause, and that root cause is the assumption by some individuals and countries that other human beings are simple expedients to them getting what they want.
We deal with powers and principalities every day of our lives. We see the results of their control over human beings on the news every evening, and we live out the personal miseries they cause us in the dysfunctions of our relations with those around us.
I haven’t written about missing airliners and Russian tanks parked on the ground of other people’s countries because I’m not sure enough of the facts to say anything definitive. I decided to write about these things today because of the one thing I am sure of.
We will never get to the end of the evil that people do to other people in this life. That is why it is so important for us to remember that our primary citizenship is not in any country of this world. We are citizens of heaven, even now, as we live here.
I am not urging an otherworldly abandonment of our responsibilities in the here and now. We are charged with bringing the Kingdom. We are called directly and explicitly by Our Lord to be the light that shines in this darkness.
As Americans we have unique freedoms with which to do this. We need to use every opportunity we have to fulfill our call, and when we feel that frisson of fear that comes from living in a fallen world, we need to remember that we serve a risen Lord. This world is just the smallest part of our existence.
How to do Lent in the fast lane?
More to the point, how to do Lent when I’m catching myself running in circles?
This time of year is uber busy, fragmented and exhausting for Oklahoma House Members. How do I find time to pray more than Now I lay me and Bless us oh Lord?
What of the disciplines of fasting, alms and deep examination of conscience? Does all that go by the board when I’m stuck eating whatever is put in front of me and almost never get a moment alone?
I’m certain that I’m not the only person who finds themselves caught in a whirlpool of busyness during these days of Lent. That is, after all, our modern curse.
We are overwhelmed by a tsunami of too much: Too much stuff, too many activities and far too many people competing for our attention.
“Doing” Lent under those circumstances can easily reduce itself down to its lowest common denominator. Tuna sandwich for lunch on Fridays? Check. Grilled cheese for lunch on Ash Wednesday? Check. Confession, whether you need it or not? Check and check. And, oh yes, keep your sticky little fingers out of the candy dish at work.
Here we are, dealing with the fulcrum of history; the moment at which everything changed. We are considering the point at which the hopelessness of vanity, vanity all is vanity before Calvary was transformed into the birth of life everlasting after Calvary. Everything turns on that hilltop with the three crosses 2,000 years ago.
Lent is designed to take us there. It is meant to bring us to our knees before the foot of the cross where we can be born again.
But when you’re being drug by the runaway horse of overwhelming busyness that is our modern life, how do you do more than the minimum? How do you find the space, the quiet, the time to hear that still small voice?
I’ve dealt with this for years and to be honest, I’ve never found a fully satisfactory answer for it. Doing the minimum isn’t so minimum when it’s all you can manage. There is an element of faithfulness involved in those tuna sandwiches and skipped candy.
The trouble with doing the minimum is that it leaves you basically the same as you were before you did it. You don’t necessarily slide back spiritually the way you would if you didn’t try at all, but you won’t grow in Christ by doing the minimum. The minimum leaves you spiritually fed, but at a bare sustenance level.
Doing the minimum is just a step above not doing at all. It’s easy to slide from the minimum to less than the minimum and a deteriorating faith walk that leaves you half Christian.
How does anyone grow spiritually while living the lives we do, where emotional fracturing and distancing from faith seem built into the structure of it?
My advice, which is the advice of a woman whose Lenten practices are mostly a matter of minimums sandwiched into busyness, is to do at least the minimum, no matter what. Even if it means eating really substandard food like a spoonful of banquet carrots with a spoonful of banquet mashed potatoes with some kind of something that’s supposed to be gravy for lunch, do the minimum. Do it even if you can’t for the life of you remember your sins and have to search your memory while you’re standing in line outside the confessional.
I have a completely personal theology for doing the minimum that I call “God supplies the lacks.” What I mean by that is that I trust that if I don’t remember to confess every sin, or even my most important sins, God, Who knows everything about me, will supply the lacks and forgive me my forgetfulness, He supplies the lacks in my confession. God supplies the lacks. I don’t have anything but my own faith to base that on, but I believe it to a profound level.
I am not talking about deliberate refusal to do what you should when you have the opportunity to do it. I mean when you’re grinding metal in your life, God will supply the lacks to see you through it spiritually intact. All you have to do is your part, by which I mean those minimums offered up with the knowledge that the minimum is not really enough to keep you spiritually healthy for the long haul and a firm intention to do more and do better when you can.
This leads me to the “when you can” part of that. If your life is like Marine Corp boot camp 52 weeks out of every year, you really need to re-think your way of living. Otherwise, you’re going to be talking to God face to face a lot sooner than you expect. No one can use themselves up without breaking stride for their whole span of days.
You have to take time outs. It is essential to your sanity, health and purpose as a human being. For a workaholic, time out requires discipline. It is just as difficult for someone who is inured to a life of constant stimulation and overwork to take a pause as it is for a couch potato to get up and get moving. They are two sides of the same self-destructive coin.
Obeying the commandment to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” is your best friend in this. I didn’t know this a year ago. I didn’t even know it six months ago. I had one of those spoing! moments of insight that occasionally come along. I realized that I had been breaking one of the commandments without realizing the significance of what I was doing.
It’s not easy for someone like me to quit working for one full day each week. But I have found it to be my new best friend. I recommend it for anyone and everyone as a bare minimum of Christian living. It not only rests your mind; it opens your heart to God. I was surprised by the effect this simple act of obedience had on my closeness with Christ. If your job requires you to work on Sunday and you can’t get out of it, my advice is take your sabbath rest on another day. Do not cheat yourself of this great gift of the Sabbath.
Sunday rest is another bare minimum of Christian followership. But if you add it to the bare minimums of fasting, confession, weekly eucharist, you will find that they combine to lift you out of the basement Christian walk of maintenance spirituality and into a gentle curve of Christian growth.
Doing Lent in the fast lane is often about doing the minimum. The minimum will starve you spiritually over the long haul. But if you do it with love of Christ, you will be able to make up for it at other times.
That’s how I get through it. I do the minimum, and whatever else I can in addition to that minimum. And I trust God to supply the lacks.
Following the teachings of the Catholic Church means that you will always be on the right side of history, which is the side of human dignity.
A federal judge in Kentucky killed marriage this week.
A parliamentary vote in Belgium officially raised the Ashteroths and reinstituted the Baals in the name of medical Molochs.
It was the week that Western civilization, already weakened by the blood loss from the decades-long practice of cultural self-cutting, was given its death sentence. What we were and what we would like to think we still are is now a dead man walking, waiting for the final woof! of implosion that pushes us back down to the muck from which we came.
My first thought was to drape this blog in black crepe and declare a day of mourning. We civilized folk of the Western world now kill everyone, everywhere, with a pasted on silly-smile of patently bogus “consent.” The real consent is the one we have given ourselves; the consent to kill people from conception to the tremors and dependance of old age. No one is safe from the scythe.
And yet, the yammering for more continues unabated. Last night, when I googled euthanasia, I came across a forever-to-be-nameless blog that was chortling over the rise in public acceptance of medical murder, which polite folk like to call euthanasia. This blogger, who earns his literary bread by selling atheism, went on to say that this public approval of killing grandma pits Christians even more solidly against the culture of what’s happening now. This is, the writer said, an “opportunity” for him and his to gain converts.
The question arises: Converts to what?
Certainly not a disbelief in God, since that question never arises in this or most similar analyses. This wasn’t an argument against the existence of God. It was a smug rejoicing in the increasingly widespread public rebellion against God.
Rebellion and disbelief are two entirely different things.
But what of those of us who will not rebel against our Maker? We are free, unlike these self-appointed little g gods who have taken the power of life and death onto themselves, to not have to decide.
The burden of when to kill our elderly, murder our children, flush our unborn is removed from us. We know and accept that this is murder, plain and simple, and we will not do it.
By the same token, we do not eschew the pleasures of home and family. We still have our marriages between one man and one woman in lifelong fealty. We’re not burdened with the living death of empty sexual hooking up, polyamory, swinging and endless rounds of coupling and uncoupling. We have said “no” to the insect sexuality of modern day culture and the hollowed-out death of self that it ultimately brings.
We are human, and we know that means we are made in the image and likeness of the Eternal God.
We are free from these animalistic ways of living. Or we try to be. And when we fail, we go to Him to be washed clean so we can begin again.
What of us on this Valentine’s Day that falls on the Friday of the week that Western Civilization finally convicted itself and placed its life on death row?
We chose — of our own convictions — to withhold our support for this mass suicide of a whole world. We chose — through the enabling power of the merciful grace of a God Who loves us so much that He died for us — to go another way.
My husband of 30 years and I talked about the killing field that is Belgium over dinner last night. “Next, they will kill the disabled, the mentally ill, the mentally challenged,” he said. “That has already begun,” I told him, speaking of the two men who were euthanized because they were going blind, the many who have died because they were depressed, the untold numbers of the unborn who have been slaughtered for being disabled.
Who’s next for this “right” to be killed?
Marriage died in America the day before Belguim enlarged the killing fields of medical murder to include all of humanity. The symmetry is unmistakable. We destroy the home, the family, and the lives of our young and old, all in one week.
And yet, there are those of us who do not bend our knee to the Baals. If we are to be the remnant, a 21st century version of the 7,000 that God revealed to Elijah; if we are those whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him, then that is our honor and our privilege.
A husband of 30 years that I can share these thoughts with is a considerable reward for living the life Christ asks of me. Sons who are fine young men with values and kind hearts is another great reward.
But nothing, not even these wonderful things, can compare with the pearl of great price that is knowing and loving and walking with Jesus Christ.
He has saved me from the pit in which that other blogger I spoke of earlier, lies wallowing. He has lifted the deadly choice of killing grandma off my shoulders and left me free to love and, yes, to sacrifice for, my elderly parent.
He has given me the gift of love in my life and His own love, pouring down on me every day. He has spared me from the bloodguilt of killing my family members.
All of this in exchange for simply accepting that He — and not me — is God.
It’s Valentine’s Day. And on this day, those of us who follow Him have the many gifts of living good in this life, with eternal life ahead of us. In addition, He has also given us one another.
If we are today’s 7,000 who will not bend our knee to the Baals, then let’s rejoice and be glad for our salvation. Let us resolve to be the light that shines in this new darkness.
We, out of all this black morass of killing and license, are the ones who have chosen, by our free acceptance of the gift of God and His grace, to be blessed.
St Thomas said, “my Lord and my God.” My Lord, which means the One who decides. You decide, not me. You judge. I am the judged. You are the Lord of my life, which means I give fealty to you in all areas of my existence; in my work, play, home, and down to the secret corners of me that only You and I know exist. You are my Lord, my God. I do not confuse myself by thinking that I am the Lord. I know always, that the Lord of my life is you.
Jesus, born of a human mother, raised as the son of a carpenter, died at the hands of rapacious human power. You are human and I am human. You understand hunger, thirst, grief and temptation. You know what it is to be tortured, mocked, humiliated, shamed and murdered. You understand absolutely what it is to be helpless prey in the hands of human monsters in whom there is no pity, no remorse, not a shred of kindness. You are Jesus, my brother, who understands me with the tenderness of having been there with me in the depths of my experience.
Fulfiller of prophecy, God made human, the Great I Am; you are the Christ, the only Way to eternal life. Your death and resurrection are the unending testament to the Christ, the Savior of the World that you are.
Begotten, not made, You, who are the son of Mary, are also the great I Am. You declared “Before Abraham was, I Am,” and by saying that, you identified yourself forever with the One who has no beginning and will have no end.
OF THE LIVING GOD
God, Who lives and reigns over all creation. God, Who made everything, everywhere. God Who is outside time, outside the rules that govern existence, but Who, through the miracle of His greatness calls to every human heart. You, Oh Lord, are Son and One with Him.
Only faith in Your love could allow me to approach Your throne and ask for mercy. I do not deserve mercy. My hubris and sin define me too clearly as undeserving and lost. But You came to live among us, You died on the cross, for me and my lostness. You came to seek and find me, to redeem me, to bring me to You, and through Your sacrifice to restore me to what I was intended to be. You, Who have no sin, become sin, my sin, to pay the price and ransom me, to save me from getting what I deserve and from eternal death.
Me. The one and only me that ever was or ever will be. The beautiful, priceless, totally unique and beautiful me that You have created in Your image, and into whom You breathed the breathe of life. I not just a body that processes chemicals and will one day die and rot. I am a living soul, and my soul was made in Your Image. You gave me the power to chose, to decide, to go my own way and live according to whatever light I decide to follow. You made me free, even to reject You. Or, to turn to You to love You and accept Your guidance like the child I am, slipping my hand into the hand of my Father.
I am a child of the Fall, as well as a child of God. The stubborn stain of original sin mars my soul and leads me into the idolatry of self. I, who came to life on the breath of the Living God, am prone to iniquity. I can not stop myself. I can not do otherwise. I will sin. Of myself, there can be no salvation.
Which is why I pray,
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
“A Christian murderer…It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in History.” Pope Francis
I want to tell you two stories, both true, and both of which happened to me.
Back when I was running for office the first time around, I held a fund-raising party at a friend’s house. During the course of that campaign, I had been the target of a group of people who were strongly pro life. I had preachers at the largest churches in the district, preaching against me every Sunday. I had pro life people, walking door-to-door throughout the entire district, spreading outrageous lies about me.
For some reason, whenever a woman runs for office, the lies usually center around sex. I was denounced as a lesbian/prostitute/whore. I was also called a Communist.
When the fund-raising party took place, several of the pro life people showed up and took photos of the guests as they entered the house in what everyone thought was an attempt to intimidate them. They also made a point of writing down the license tag numbers on the guests’ cars.
That was back then, when I was pro choice.
Flash forward a couple of decades, and I am a converted Catholic, and what has been called the most pro life member of the Oklahoma legislature. (That’s the same Oklahoma legislature I was in back when I was pro choice.)
I hold another fund-raising event, this time a reception at the law office of a long-time friend of mine. Once again, I have been attacked by people who are passionate about the issue of abortion. Only this time it is the pro abortion people. I almost get censured by the Oklahoma Democratic Party. I am called a woman-hater/liar/whore. I am also called a (get ready for this) Fascist.
Now, at this fund-raising party, the pro abortion people show up. They — you guessed it — take photos of the guests as they enter the building, presumably to intimidate them, and write down the license tag numbers on the guest’s cars. The only difference between them and the pro life people who attacked me in my past is that they add the flourish of pickets with signs and chanting “traitor” at me in loud voices when I walk into the building.
Here’s my point: How, exactly, would a person on the sidelines be able to tell these two groups apart?
Answer: They’re can’t.
Both groups justify their behavior with claims that they are behaving badly out of a desire to create a greater good. The pro choicers claim that they are motivated by their love for women. The pro lifers say that they are motived by their love for unborn babies.
But if there is love in either group, you can’t see it by watching them. Their motivation appears to be hatred of one another.
In my humble opinion, if you can’t tell the difference between the behavior of pro life people and pro abortion people, then the pro life people are doing something wrong.
Evidently, my earlier post about slander and hate in political campaigns, felt like a personal attack to at least a few Public Catholic readers. That was not my intention. I know how hard it is to keep your religion when you are dealing with evil, and abortion is evil, right down to the ground. It perverts everything it touches, including good intentions.
It is the easiest thing in the world to convince yourself that sin is not sin if it is committed in the name of doing good. Politicians do this all the time. It’s why nobody trusts them. Politicians have extraordinary verbal skills and a good dose of legal sophistry at their disposal. They can spin up explanations about their own behavior and use those explanations to give themselves a green light to do just about anything. They excuse immoral behavior by claiming a moral imperative to behave immorally on just about every weasel vote they take.
Anyone who engages in the political battles of this world — even volunteers and well-wishers — is positioning themselves for a blast from the temptations of power. There are plenty of power brokers out there working full-time to grease the slide of ordinary people into the same self-congratulatory self-excusing self-justifications that politicians use.
But the truth itself remains untouched. In the end, the only ones we fool are ourselves.
What I’m trying to say is Do not let the evil of abortion and the venality of politics overwhelm your goodness and destroy your Christian witness. Do not tell yourself that sin is not sin if it is committed in the name of fighting abortion. Do not tell yourself that maliciously spreading ugly stories and gossip about other people is ok if it’s done to keep a pro abort out of office.
Because it is not ok. You may not do evil for a good cause. You also may not do evil because someone else did it first. It is wrong. It is sinful. For your own sake — for your own soul — do not become hardened in this sin of personal character assassination.
Several commenters have objected to the use of the phrase “murder with words” to describe the deliberate destruction of another person’s reputation for malicious purposes. I have looked into the eyes and seen the faces of people from both sides of the argument as they spit out vile epithets at me. I saw who sent them in their eyes. I never doubted that they were trying to hate me to death, that the only thing between their hate and actual, physical murder was fear of the law. The experience gave me an understanding of what Jesus meant when he said that a person who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and no murderer has eternal life within him.
Think for a minute. Consider the dark pleasure that you feel when you are venting your righteous rage. Ponder the ugliness that enters your soul, along with the anger that accompanies it.
I spent a good bit of time in church this weekend, praying about my own righteous anger over fallen Catholics in high places. I knew that I could not and would not take to the various forums that are open to me and begin calling them names and putting out Photoshopped versions of their faces, replete with horns and ugly expressions. I had no temptation to degrade them as human beings or to spread ugly stories about them to punish and hurt them.
But I knew that the anger I felt could fester into bitterness, and that this bitterness would separate me from the one place above all that I want to be, which is in a state of grace. I want to do what my Lord Jesus Christ requires of me. So, I prayed about this anger before it had time to grow roots and begin to own me.
It is ok, it is fine, in fact, to deal with issues and facts and to point out the areas where you disagree with a person. It is ok, when the facts themselves warrant it, to say something such as President Obama is the most pro abortion president in history. I think there is sufficient factual evidence to warrant that statement, and I also think that it pertains to his job performance.
As their employers, the American people are obliged to have opinions about their elected officials’ job performance. Judiciously considering the facts and making reasoned judgements about how our elected officials perform their jobs is part of our charge as citizens of this Republic.
It is also imperative that Christians engage the larger culture through their work, their politics and their ministries. We are called to be the light of the world. We need to go into the world and be that light.
But trashing another person for the pleasure of hurting them — which is the real reason people repeat ugly, personal stories — is sinful. Trashing another person as a tactic is just as sinful. I am not talking about legitimate political criticism. I am talking about attempts to destroy someone’s reputation by spitefully spreading personal stories about them in what amounts to a political vendetta. Use any excuse you want, that is a sin. If you will just look into your own heart, at the darkness it puts there, you will know it for the sin it is.
I can attest to this because I am a human being. I know about the dark pleasure of hurting someone with words because I have felt it. I can tell you, based on my sinful experience that this is a grave sin that not only inflicts helplessness, humiliation and scalding pain on the person you attack, it dips your own soul in the blackness of evil. It is from the pit.
The question is not whether or not “everybody else is doing it.” Of course they are. Our whole culture is rotten with the politics of personal destruction. That is not a question at all.
The real question is: When people look at pro life advocates, will they be able to tell a difference between us and the pro abortion advocates?
Unless the answer to that is a clear-cut and resounding “yes,” we will never, no matter how hard we try, convert this culture to Christ.
After I wrote this, I found these comments from Pope Francis on this subject. From CNA/EWTN:
Vatican City, Sep 14, 2013 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During his morning Mass homily in Santa Marta, Pope Francis focused on the topic of gossip – saying that when we participate in this sin, we imitate Cain’s gesture in killing his brother Abel.
The Pope began his homily Sept. 13 by echoing the words of Jesus in the gospel reading, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
He spoke for a few minutes on the virtue of humility, adding that Jesus addressed those who practice the opposite and who foster “that hateful attitude towards one’s neighbor when one becomes a ‘judge’ of his brother,” calling them “hypocrites.”
“Those who live judging their neighbor, speaking ill of their neighbor, are hypocrites, because they lack the strength and the courage to look to their own shortcomings.”
Pope Francis said that the “Lord does not waste many words on this concept,” and that “he who has hatred in his heart for his brother is a murderer.”
The Pope added that in his first letter, John the Apostle emphasizes that “anyone who has hatred for his brother is a murderer, he walks in darkness, he who judges his brother walks in darkness,” and that those who judge or speak ill of others are “Christian murderers.”
“A Christian murderer…It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in History.”
During this time when there is so much debate and discussion about war amid cries for peace, the pontiff pleaded that “a gesture of conversion on our own behalf is necessary.”
“Gossip,” he cautioned, “always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip.”
Quoting St. James the Apostle, the Pope imparted that the tongue is designed to praise God, “but when we use our tongue to speak ill of our brother or sister, we are using it to kill God…the image of God in our brother.”
Kevin Durant answered a simple question with his direct testimony to the power of Christ in his life. The reporter’s response?
Watch, and get a look at what Christians face more and more, even when they are famous athletes being interviewed by “professional” reporters of major cable networks.
These are strong words from Pope Francis. He goes on to say that we should be like King David who followed God, even when he disagreed.
So, we should.