This is Part 2. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch Part 1 here.
This is one test I wanted to fail.
In fact, this is one test that I have expended considerable political, social and emotional capital in an effort to fail.
NARAL’s so-called Women’s Reproductive Report Card is out, and Oklahoma got an F. Unfortunately, we’re not the best state in the Union in which to be an unborn child. North Dakota won that one.
But still … Oklahoma did “fail” the pro-abortion test, and I am proud to tell you that one of the pro life bills that Oklahoma passed last year to earn this failing grade was passed by me.
In fact, I went through the list of Oklahoma’s pro life regulations that NARAL dislikes, and I authored the bills that made quite a number of them law.
Now that I’ve told you how “proud” I am of this, I need to back off and back down and admit that I also, back in the years before my conversion, killed most of the same legislation that I have since helped pass.
Back when I was pro choice, I never heard a kind word from pro life people. In fact, they were pretty ugly to me. Fortunately for me, that was not true of a good many pro life legislators. It was their Christian witness of being able to love me just as I was (oftentimes while being excoriated for doing it by a few members of the pro life community) that softened me up.
This softening up played a big part in my ability to turn to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. But even then, I didn’t ask forgiveness for what I had done about abortion. That came later, after the Holy Spirit convicted me of the wrong I had committed. Christ Himself accepted me, as the hymn goes, just as I was; warts, sins and all. He forgave me for things I didn’t realize at that point that I needed to be forgiven for.
I think we need to take a page from His book in dealing with lost people.
That does not mean that I am advising you to tell people that their sins are not, in fact, sins. That would be a grave injustice to them. I am saying that none of us is as bad as the worst thing we’ve done and that none of us — and that means you and me, my friend — is fit to stand before God based on his or her own righteousness.
Our salvation is found at the foot of the cross. It is an unearned and unearnable grace; a free gift of love from the God Who made us.
Do not go around banning people from the Kingdom because they fall short of your idea of personal righteousness. Your standing in the order of things is that of the created, not the Creator. You do not get to ban anybody from the Kingdom. That is not your place in the order of creation. You are not the Judge. You are the judged.
Every single one of us should be grateful that God loves us and accepts us. That is what I believe the Holy Father has been trying to tell us this past year. We need to remind people that there is a remedy for their anomie and misery, and that remedy is the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
We live in a devolving, falling-apart culture that has gotten so turned on its head that evil is preached as good and good is preached as evil from every venue. It is maddening, I know, to see and hear people demand that Christians validate sin by denying the sinfulness of what is in truth moral depravity. We can not and must not do that.
It is even more maddening to have people who do not believe in Jesus and who actively mock Him, mis-use Christ’s clear commandment that we should not judge to mean that we are called to ignore the equally clear teachings of morality and purity. I understand the anger this provokes. I’ve felt it. I feel it many times when I encounter this smug sophistry.
But, I know that Jesus calls you and me to more than righteous anger. I know that righteous anger, if it is nursed and allowed to go on, destroys our relationship with Jesus. When we become anger and rage — and at least a few of the people who comment on this blog seem to have fallen into this trap — then we are not and cannot be following God who is love.
Never equate the person with their sin. If Christ looked at you like that, where would you be? I know where I would be. I know what I deserve.
Is there one person reading this who would not go straight to hell, if God judged us as harshly as we judge one another?
Sin is wrong. But the person who sins is a child of God who can be loved from death to life. It is not our job to play God and condemn them to hell. Our job is to show them the Way. Part of that, certainly, is an insistence on the truth of God’s teachings about personal morality. But the hardest part of it is an honest and forthright attempt to live those truths in our lives.
We are all prey to the world. I certainly am. If I do not fall into the sins of active behavior — which is almost impossible not to do — then I will fall into the sins of thinking that my righteousness is sufficient and that I can judge and condemn those who I see failing in ways that I do not.
The thing that saves me is the grace of God that keeps reminding me that I am only saved from eternal hell by unmerited love.
Pray without ceasing for the poor, sad people who are trying to live without Christ. Never stop praying for them or give up on them. Make the best witness that you can by living out your Christian commitment without flinching back from it.
Do it because it is what Jesus asked you to do.
Look to the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments and the Catechism of the Church for your guides on how to live. Do not pay attention to various gurus who would add to or take away from those things.
If an honest attempt to follow the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments and the Catechism doesn’t teach you humility, then re-read them and compare yourself to the requirements found there with a bit more honesty.
Stop comparing your personal edited and flattering version of yourself to the sins you witness other people committing. That’s the wrong way to look at it. It can cost you your soul. Look instead to Jesus. If you compare your righteousness to Jesus, hanging on the cross, it will bring you down to your knees, and on your knees is where you — and me, and all of us — belong.
My sins were and are great. I owe a debt that I can never repay.
The fact that God let me be the person who passed a few pro life bills was and is a measure of forgiveness that I did not and do not deserve.
What do you owe?
What, honestly, do you owe your Creator?
If it’s not more than you can repay, then you are not truly human.
Do not engage in attacks against people. Focus instead on the issues at hand, filtered through the Truth of God. Remember that we are all of us dust, and that we will each stand before God much sooner than we imagine.
Do not throw away your soul on the sad satisfactions of judging and unforgiving. That is a preposterous waste of the free gift of eternal life.
Pope Francis has called us to evangelize the world.
Jesus Christ also called us to evangelize the world.
That is our Great Commission as believing Christians.
It requires us to go out into the world wearing our faith on our sleeves. It means that we will have to consign ourselves to the barbs and slings that certain folk aim at Christians who stand for Christ. It is a call to give up the cheap grace of hiding our light under a bushel and to stand upright and live our love for Jesus out loud and in public.
I am not talking about becoming the mirror image of the atheist boor who goes around verbally assaulting and insulting Christians for entertainment and sport. We are not called to force our beliefs on those who will not hear them.
Our call is something much more difficult. We are called to live as if we believe what we say we believe and to do what Jesus told us to do in every aspect of our lives. That means we don’t lie, steal, cheat to get ahead. It means we practice personal chastity and sexual cleanliness. It means we do not defame, slander or try to destroy those who disagree with us, even when they do their best to defame, slander and destroy us.
It means that we study the faith so that we stand ready to, as Paul instructed, give a good report of what we have believed. It means we must know our faith and are always willing to talk about it in a positive and faith-filled way.
But there is one thing it does not mean. It does not mean that we throw our children to the secular and anti-Christian wolves when they are unformed babies. By that I mean specifically the schools where they spend most of their waking hours.
I hate saying this, hate worse that I think it’s true, but the schools have become a means of indoctrinating our children into a worldview that is not only anti-Christian, but is in many ways, anti-child. Consider this, this, this, this and this.
Do you really want your children going to schools whose sex ed courses hand out chemical birth control and give lectures on how any sexual behavior is “normal?” Do you want your daughters taking the morning after pill like candy? Do you want your kids confused with “gender identity” lectures?
And I’m not even talking about the other kids, coming from their messed up homes and the bullying and cruelty that, based on my experience when my kids went to the public schools, is ignored and allowed. There are kids who can manage to get through this intact. But most of them can’t. That means that the public schools, especially big city schools, are no longer a safe place to send your kids if you are a Christian who wants your children to grow up with Christian values.
Add to that the fact that the public schools do not provide a good education for everyone. Public education is at least two-tiered. We have the schools in the “right” neighborhoods where the best teachers teach, the facilities are top notch and everyone has access to all the learning equipment they could ever need. Then, we have the inner city schools where there aren’t enough textbooks for every child to have one, and, while some of the teachers have a missionary zeal, most are burnt out and just building time toward retirement.
Ironically, the parents in these inner-city schools are the ones who are least able to provide alternatives for their kids. Rich kids can always go to private schools. But inner-city kids are stuck.
Those of us who are adults need to assume an adult faith and stand up for Jesus in the larger culture. Not one of us is too precious to take a few slings and arrows for Our Lord. On the other hand, we also need to take a parallel stand for Christ by protecting our children from this toxic culture until they are old enough to engage with it without being overwhelmed by it.
We live in a bizarre world where adults run and hide, duck and cover, while they put their kids out there on the front lines. If we are going to stand for Christ, our first mission is to reverse that.
You need to stand for Christ while you simultaneously protect your child from evil influences until that child is an adult who can stand on his or her own.
The best way to illustrate this is by taking a look at the Holy Family. Joseph and Mary protected Jesus and kept Him safe throughout His childhood. They did not go around announcing “We’ve got the Son of God here! Come have a look!” They gave Him a childhood of normal time, safe and protected within His family.
Men, I want you to consider the role of Joseph. When Herod decided to kill the baby Jesus, God didn’t wake up Mary. He went to Joseph and told him to get his family out of danger.
Men, if you are not helping your wives to be the mothers to your children that those children need, then you are failing. It is your job to protect your families and keep them safe. That is why God made you strong. That is why God woke up Joseph, and not Mary, when it was time to flee into Egypt.
Women, I want you to consider the role of Mary. She is the Mother of God. The Archangel Gabriel greeted her, “Hail Mary!” which is the greeting extended to Caesars. She outranks every other human being. But her first and most important job was to deliver her baby son to adult manhood as a loved and fully-formed human being.
One of the things that amazes and touches me, as both a mother and the daughter of a mother, is that when mothers do their jobs right, their children never stop coming to them for comfort and support. Never. The safest place on earth for well-raised people is always Mama. Or, as a priest friend of mine once said, “Home is where your mother is.”
What about the single parent who doesn’t have a husband or wife to lean on? The mess we’ve made of marriage and the inability of our young people for form families of their own, has led to a whole generation of fatherless children. Mothers are stretched beyond what any one person was ever designed for. There are also some men raising their children alone.
How does a Christian single parent, who has to work full-time and who doesn’t have the money to provide choices in education or in life for their kids, manage to do it? We have one example among the Catholic Patheosi in Katrina Fernandez, The Crescat.
I think we need to support single parents in their efforts to raise Christian children. We need to help them as much as we can. Maybe God will call someone to develop a lay ministry to support children who are missing a parent and for parents who are trying to be two people. Things are in such a mess right now, that I think we need to begin by ministering to our own struggling Christian people before we move out to the rest of the world. In these trying times, Christians need ministry from other Christians.
We are called absolutely by both the Holy Father and Christ the Lord to take a stand in this life and this world for Jesus. No one should ever be in doubt that you are a Christian. None of the people who know you should have to guess that you follow a risen Lord.
But the single most important way we can do that begins, not in public, but in the safety of our own homes. Protect your children first. Whatever it costs you, protect your children.
Pope Francis is beginning a catechesis on the sacraments. It’s a fitting catechesis for today, the day we celebrate the baptism of Our Lord.
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.
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?