One Man’s Story: From Drugs to Faith

 

I have a family member who has done time in prison over drug addiction. Her drug of choice was cocaine.

That makes this young man’s story especially poignant to me.

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How Can Public Catholic Help You Stand for Jesus?

Patheos is a great place to blog.

The primary reasons I say that are that (1) I can write anything I want, and (2) I can set the rules for my blog. Every blogger here at Patheos has those freedoms.

What that means is that there are a variety of ways that we deal with the conversations that arise in the com boxes. Deacon Greg Kandra doesn’t allow comments at all. Other bloggers allow any and all comments, no matter what they say. Some, such as Frank Weathers (who is another of my heroes, by the way) allow comments, but only those that advance the Kingdom. Frank also shuts down comments on posts from time to time.

Then there’s me.

I’ve taken an entirely different way with the comments question. I allow all sorts of viewpoints and ideas, but I do not allow insults, hectoring, bad language or bigoted attacks on groups of people. I also do not allow twenty comments all saying the same thing. In those cases, I allow a few and delete the rest. I will not allow people with an anti-Christian agenda to take over this blog and use the discussion to promote that agenda.

Also, unlike some of the other bloggers here at Patheos, I sometimes join in the commenting myself.

I’ve chosen this path because I think it serves the purpose of the blog. I blog at the intersection of private belief and public expression of belief, and I do it entirely from a Christian viewpoint. The whole purpose of Public Catholic is to equip people to take their faith out of the realm of private piety and speak about it, stand up for it and live it in the public sphere. It’s no accident of cutesy phrasing that led me to name this blog Public Catholic. Being Catholic in a public way, and doing it well, is what this blog is about.

I reassess where Public Catholic is going every so often and take a look at the question: Is it actually fulfilling its purpose?

Blogging, especially when I’m so busy in other parts of my life, can get harried and unfocused.

I’m writing this post to let you chime in here and tell me if Public Catholic has helped you in your faith walk. Has reading this blog made you more likely to take a stand for Christ? Has it given you information and understanding that makes you more confident about living your faith in a post Christian society?

Do the combox discussions sharpen your ability to answer attacks on the faith, or do they simply demoralize you?

Are you a better Christian, do you feel closer to Jesus, because of this blog?

I want feedback here. What challenges do you face when you try to take a stand for Jesus on your job, with your family or in your clubs and associations? What ways can this blog inform, inspire and strengthen you in your faith?

Our society is unwinding. We are destroying our community building blocks. Public discourse has become anything but discourse. We the people are leaderless, unless you honestly think that manipulation, propaganda and lies are leadership.

This is all symptomatic of the fact that we are living in a post Christian society. At the same time, it is a society in which the vast majority of people believe in Jesus Christ.

The problem is, Christians are just lying on the mat, ko’d by the various assaults against them and their faith. We’ve gotta get up off that mat people. How can Public Catholic help that happen?

 

 

World Watch List: Number of Christians Who Died for Their Faith Doubled in 2013

While Christians in the West grapple an almost-constant barrage of attacks on their faith from media and extreme secularists, Christians in other parts of the world are actually dying for Christ.

According to a Christian News Agency article, the number of Christians who died for their faith doubled in one year from 2012 to 2013. 

Washington D.C., Jan 9, 2014 / 04:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly twice the number of Christians were reported as dying for their faith in 2013 than the previous year, according to a new study by an organization monitoring global religious persecution.

The World Watch List, issued by Open Doors USA each year, documents oppression of Christians throughout the world. Based on data from the past year, it ranks the 50 countries that are home to the worst treatment of Christians.

Along with the release of the 2014 report, Open Doors USA also offered information about global Christian persecution on its website, explaining that it had gathered evidence of 2,123 Christians who were killed for their faith in 2013, up from 1,201 such martyrdoms in 2012.

“This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm,” said Frans Veerman, head of research for the organization, according to Reuters. He explained that the actual numbers could be much higher.

The Open Doors USA report estimated that around 100 million Christians were persecuted for their faith in 2013. (To read the rest, go here.)

Little Sisters of the Poor and Hiring a Hit Man to Kill Your Neighbor

Supporters of the HHS Mandate often refer to an “opt-out” as a reason why the Mandate does not put the government in the position of forcing Christians to violate their religious beliefs.

One commenter in the Washington Post even went to so far as to label the Little Sisters of the Poor and their ministry as “religiously affiliated” rather than “religious,” meaning, of course, they aren’t a “legitimate” religious enterprise. This is the sort of specious argument you can expect from people who are trying to thread the needle of the HHS Mandate without admitting that they are attacking the First Amendment. The same author called the arguments in the lawsuit filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor “hooey.”

I guess you could go with the obvious deep-thinking in that statement. But it might be more informative to consider what the arguments in the lawsuit actually are. The simplest analogy I can use to try to explain those arguments would be to say that even if all you do is hire a hit man to kill your neighbor, you are still guilty of your neighbor’s murder. By the same token, even if all you do is require someone else to commit a grave sin in your stead, you have still taken part in committing that grave sin.

Requiring a Catholic to hire a hit man to kill their neighbor is forcing them to violate their religious belief that murder is a sin. By the same token, requiring the Little Sisters of the Poor to hire an insurance company to provide contraceptives and abortion coverage to their employees is requiring them to provide those things themselves.

For those who aren’t acquainted with the concept, it’s called morality.

If you want to read the exact language in the Little Sisters of the Poor’s reply brief, you’ll find it here. Go to page 8 and read for a couple of pages to get the Little Sisters of the Poor’s position.

The real issue here is not the same old meaningless arguments that we keep hearing from HHS Mandate supporters. It’s why religious people are being forced to answer them by making obvious points over and over. Is this really the best they’ve got?

This isn’t rocket science. Only people who are deliberately refusing to see the truth can deny that the Little Sister of the Poor and their ministry to frail elderly people are a good deal more than just a “religiously affiliated” organization. If there’s any “hooey” going on here, it’s the attempt to claim (for political purposes) that the religious commitment of these nuns is not for real.

By the same token, I, at least, am weary of explaining that forcing someone to hire someone else to do something for them is not an exemption from that activity. I think the people who keep repeating this nonsense are just saying it because they have taken a position and this is the best argument they can come up with to defend it.

Instead of going around in circles by repeating the same completely bogus argument or resorting to crude religious bigotry, perhaps they should own their HHS Mandate for what it is and be done with it. The HHS Mandate is a blatant attempt to restrict the historic religious freedom given to all Americans by the First Amendment by limiting it to only organized and federally recognized churches. It is aimed directly and obviously at the largest single denomination in America, which is the Catholic Church.

It is an egregious attack not only on the Catholic Church, or even only on people of faith, but on the bedrock freedoms on which this country was founded and which has made it the great nation that it is today.

The HHS Mandate is an obvious and deliberate government attempt to destroy the moral and prophetic voice of the Catholic Church by forcing it to violate its own teachings. The HHS Mandate is designed to force the Church to kiss Ceasar’s ring.

Since the Mandate was first promulgated, the administration’s running dogs in the press have put forth these identical arguments over and over ad nauseam. Any time the administration gets its nose bloodied in court, all you have to do is count 3, 2, 1 and here they come with the same old stuff they’ve been peddling since the beginning.

Does anybody believe that these people all wake up in the morning with the same set of thoughts in their minds? I admit they do come across as the Stepford Columnists, but I think it’s far more likely that they’re working from the same script and that script was generated, either directly or indirectly, by the administration.

Here is a summary of the impact of the HHS Mandate.

Check out The Anchoress for more discussion on this topic.

What is it with MSNBC and Sarah Palin?

Why do the folks at MSNBC keep jabbing themselves in the eye with the Sarah Palin stick?

Are they mental?

Or, are they just so utterly and completely drunk with group-think expressed as hatred that they are verging on the non-functional?

In just the past few weeks, one of their commenters, Martin Bashir, has had to resign because of public outcry over an attack on Governor Palin. This particular rant was a deeply offensive mix of pornography, misogyny and just plain revolting vileness. Here’s the link, if you have the stomach for it.

If that was the only Governor Palin attack piece, it would be enough to discredit this news network as a legitimate journalistic body. Resignation or not, they put this on the air.

But Mr Bashir’s vicious speech was only the cherry on top of what amounts to an on-going Sarah Palin hate troupe passing for a news organization.

The latest salvo (that I know about) first came to my attention by way of a post from fellow Patheosi, Bristol Palin. The attack comes from a reporter named Joy Reid. This particular anti-Palin blast moves the news organization from the vicious and pornographic to the laughable and absurd.

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Ms Reid’s comments about the Governor appear to be primarily a side-step into a rather snotty attack on her faith. I don’t agree with many of Governor Palin’s political ideas. But I do agree with her about her faith.

Governor Palin is a Christian. I am also a Christian. If you want to know what I believe, look at the Apostle’s Creed.

While I have never seen a specific outline of the particulars of Governor Palin’s personal understanding of Christianity, I tend to think it aligns with the Apostles Creed that I believe. So, the Governor and I have our faith in common. We are also both women. More than that, we are women who have held elective office.

That gives me a lot in common with Governor Sarah Palin. I don’t, as I said, agree with all her political positions. But if you attack her as a woman, or if you attack her as a Christian, I am going to stand with her.

I think these constant attacks on her — which are totally unprofessional from a journalistic standpoint — are driven by a couple of things. First, she’s a woman who got close to the center of power in our country. Every time that happens, whether the woman in question is conservative Governor Palin or liberal Senator Clinton, the MSNBC misogyny team cranks up their attacks.

Does anyone besides me remember the 2008 presidential campaign? President Obama — President Abortion — used misogyny to get himself elected. One of his number-one spokesmen for the misogynist attacks against Senator Clinton in the nomination fight and then Governor Palin in the presidential election was MSNBC, in particular Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. For instance, guess who made the legs crossing comment Katie Couric refers to in the video below?

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I think that the continued attacks on Governor Palin are partly due to the overt misogyny of that news organization.

I think the second motivator in MSNBC’s obsession with Governor Palin is that she is a traditional Christian. Notice the way Ms Reid turns this attack on the governor’s family Christmas reminiscences into an attack on her faith. Notice also the last line challenging what Ms Reid seems to assume is the Governor’s belief that there is “one meaning to Christmas.”

That’s pretty ignorant. It is, after all, Christ – mas, as in Christ Mass. It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. That’s the meaning and reason for Christmas.

There is no law in this country and never has been forcing anyone to believe that. I have never seen a Christian try to deny those who don’t believe it their enjoyment in the tinsel, great food and presents of Christmas.

But those who don’t believe it seem hell bent (I meant that literally) on forcing Christians to stop talking about the birth of Christ. They even go so far as to make fools of themselves attacking Christians the way Ms Reid does in this video.

This is not the only time Ms Reid has exhibited an anti-Christian bias. In the video below she discusses the “homo-erotic appearance” of Jesus’ relationship with the 12 Apostles with — get this — a professor at Georgetown University. Georgetown University claims to be a Catholic school, run by Jesuits. Notice that the reason for this drubbing is that “bigoted” Christians support traditional marriage as it has been practiced for the past 2,000 years.

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Even a casual watch of these videos should raise the question as to what is going on at MSNBC.

More specifically, what is it with MSNBC and Governor Sarah Palin in particular and Christians in general?

Are they mental? Or are they just so full of hate that they don’t care about how shoddy and cheap they make themselves and their news organization look?

 

Billy Graham’s Last Sermon

Billy Graham has written what he says is his last sermon. I think it’s worth pondering as we look ahead to the New Year in front of us.

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2013 Favs: Street Preacher Recounts his UK Arrest

Reverend Tony Miano was arrested in London for using “homophobic speech.”

He was preaching on 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-12:

1 Thessalonians 4
Live to Please God

4 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.[b] The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Here is Reverend Miano’s testimony concerning his arrest and the treatment he received from the police. The questions he was asked sound bizarre, at best; hectoring and prejudicial at least. It sounds as if Reverend Miano consciously imitated St Paul during the time he was in jail.

Note: The original video has been removed from YouTube. Here is another one on the same subject.

 

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2013 Favs: 3 Million Line Beach for World Youth Day Vigil

Do you love Jesus?

You’re not alone.

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 Source: Capital Gazette, AP, Filipe Dana

From the Capital Gazette:

Pope Francis drew a reported 3 million flag-waving, rosary-toting faithful to Rio’s Copacabana beach on Saturday for the final evening of World Youth Day, hours after he chastised the Brazilian church for failing to stem the “exodus” of Catholics to evangelical congregations.

Francis headed into the final hours of his first international trip riding a remarkable wave of popularity: By the time his open-sided car reached the stage for the vigil service Saturday night, the back seat was piled high with soccer jerseys, flags and flowers tossed to him by adoring pilgrims lining the beachfront route.

“I’m trembling, look how good you can see him!” gushed Fiorella Dias, a 16-year-old Brazilian who jumped for joy as she reviewed the video she shot as the pope passed by. “I have got to call my mother!”

On the beach, pilgrims staked out their spots on the sand, lounged and snacked, preparing for an all-night slumber party ahead of the final Mass on Sunday. Many of those actually paying attention to the vigil had tears in their eyes, moved by Francis’ call for them to build up their church like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was called to do.

“Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup!” Francis said, drawing cheers from the crowd in this soccer-mad nation. (Read the rest here.)

2013 Favs: Gay Marriage: French Opposition Continues

 

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Opponents to France’s new law legalizing gay marriage say they will continue the fight. 

This unwise action by the French government in forcing the vote to legalize gay marriage on an unwilling population appears to have the potential to push France into a protracted struggle. Roe v Wade certainly did that here in America. This kind of government-created civil disturbance is almost always a bad idea.

I haven’t read the new law, but news reports about it say that it specifically allows medical technological interventions to create children for gay couples. Aside from the obvious commodification for children, this process also requires farming women’s bodies for eggs and then  using them for surrogates. The obvious misogyny in that is mind boggling.

This practice is widespread here in America. We have celebrities parading around with their manufactured children that were created by this use of women bodies. We also have a television show that “normalizes” the egregious practice. The violation of the basic human rights of both women and children to be treated as people and not commodities are entirely ignored in our public discussion of this issue. 

According to Vatican Radio, there are reports of “English-speaking companies offering to provide same sex couples in France with children at a cost of $100,000.” I would not be at all surprised if these companies were the same American companies that run baby-manufacturing mills here in America.

From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) Opponents of a new French law legalizing marriage for same sex couples are vowing to continue their campaign, one day after France became the 14th country to pass the controversial legislation.
A bill, which also allows for adoption by same-sex couples, passed by 321 votes to 225 in the French parliament yesterday, amid heated debate and protests both in and outside the National Assembly building.
French President François Hollande is expected to sign the bill once it has cleared any constitutional challenges. But a broad coalition of opponents, including the Catholic Church, says it will continue contesting the legislation and is planning further demonstrations.
Tugdual Derville is a spokesman for the opposition movement and a leader of the Alliance Vita, pro-life organization. 
Listen: RealAudioMP3 
He says this movement marks the birth of a real reawakening in France of those who are concerned that the most vulnerable people, children, the aged, the handicapped, remain a priority for economic and social policies….today, he says, we see English speaking companies offering to provide same sex couples in France with children at a cost of $100.000 – this is deeply shocking to us.
It is time, Derville says, to open a serious discussion about what we call human ecology, aimed at recognizing, protecting and transmitting to future generations the truth about our human procreation, our birth from a man and a woman. Beyond the public protests, the movement will continue to promote serious reflection and the development of a culture at the service of all human beings.

Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/04/24/french_opposition_continues_to_same-sex_marriage/en1-686133
of the Vatican Radio website

2013 Favs: Christian Persecution: Are We the ‘New Jews’?

Yesterday’s news of fresh scandal and rumors of scandal in the Church left me feeling like the little girl in Poltergeist. Her family had suffered a harrowing attack by demonic forces. As fresh attacks started, she turned to the camera and said, “No more.”

… no more

That’s exactly how I felt when Deacon Greg Kandra posted that another of our Church leaders has been accused of sexual misconduct. This came at the tag end of a day in which the Vatican issued a denial that the Holy Father’s resignation was in any way a response to what sounded like a cabal of homosexual cardinals within the Vatican and Cardinal Mahony loaded on with another of his weird, cardinal-from-space blog posts.

My reaction was exhaustion and depression and sadness, all rolled into a sigh. No more, indeed.

This is especially sad, coming as it does at a pivot point in history. The Catholic Church is the only unified Christian voice in the world today. Christianity is under attack as it has not been for 17 centuries, with Christians in many places quite literally under the gun. Even the Muslim invasion of Christian lands and the subsequent subjugation of entire Christian populations that took place in the Middle Ages did not have the universal, multi-faceted breadth of the challenges Christians face today.

What a terrible time for our leaders to become disgraceful, not for their fealty to Christ, which would inspire and edify all of us, but for their overweening self-absorption.

Before I went to bed last night, I read a remarkable post by one of my colleagues here at Patheos, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, who blogs at The Velvet Kippah. In this post, Rabbi Adlerstein asks Are Christians the New Jews?  He says:

“If you want to understand us, study our story, learn of our pain.” That is what Jews told Christians who wanted to build new bridges of respect after the Holocaust. Ironically, when Christians begin listening to the story of the Jews, they are finding reflections of themselves.

Christians who listened learned of a Jewish history written in blood from ancient to modern times. When they thought of Christian martyrdom, on the other hand, they had to turn for the most part to antiquity, to early Christianity under the thumb of Roman emperors.

That has all changed. While Jews feel threatened by the massive explosion of global anti-Semitism in the last years, coupled with Iranian and Islamist calls for the genocidal destruction of all Jews, very few Jews in 2013 are dying because of their faith or their roots. Christians, on the other hand, have become the New Jews. (Read more here.

The violent persecution of Christians in the Middle East, which is what Rabbi Adlerstein is describing, is part — but only a part — of the tsunami of persecution that is heading toward Christianity and Christians today. In truth, violent persecution of Christians has spread over a good bit of the world. Christians are burnt, beaten, beheaded, kidnapped, raped, tortured and imprisoned with impunity in much of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and various Pacific nations.

At the same time, hate speech against Christians and Christianity has long been tolerated in the so-called Christian West. It is not only tolerated, but actively encouraged on many of our university campuses. Christians are increasingly faced with the choice of losing their jobs or following their faith throughout what has been for many centuries the stronghold of Christian faith.

We need leaders, and, fortunately, we have them. Our bishops have provided courageous leadership this past year against the overt government attack on religious freedom that the HHS Mandate represents. I am proud of them for this. They have my complete support and gratitude for doing it.

We are, as I said, at a pivot point. If we are going to turn back this tide of Christian-bashing bigotry, we must do it now, before it gets stronger. It is a great sadness that we keep getting battered by scandals at the highest levels in our Church in this perilous time.

I know that God makes all things, even bad things, work to the good. Good will come of these scandals. One good that I think we will see is a more authentic and committed priesthood. I am not one to criticize our priests. Based on my experience, I think they do their very best, and that this best is quite good. However, tough times are ahead. We are going to need priests who are committed to Christ to the death. The day is coming when we will need priests who can lead us through the fire.

I believe that these repeated scandals are the result of the Holy Spirit, cleaning things out. I don’t have any more insight into this than anyone else, but it seems to me that God just got enough. These abuses had to stop, and, even though the cure is quite painful, I believe that the scandals and the misery they bring to all of us will stop them.

So it is with the revelations of scandal from yesterday. These things have to be exposed because the Church cannot fail. The gates of hell will not prevail against this Church. There are times when things must be laid open because sunlight and air purify and heal. I think we are going through such a time in Church history today.

This brings me to something Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1969, decades before he became Pope Benedict XVI. I am going to quote it in its entirety because I think it is pertinent to what we face today. Read it prayerfully, and remember that St Paul told us, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Do not let the sins of other people, including the sins of our religious leaders, lead you away from Christ or His Church. Do not throw away your salvation because someone else has sinned. Trust Jesus and endure to the end.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s comments in 1969 say in part:

The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.

It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek . . . The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain . . . But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes . . . she will lose many of her social privileges. . . As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members….

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.


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