Jesus First: Reflecting on Life with JP2

Blessed John Paul II is one of my favorite thinkers. He said quite a few things which I think are worth pondering. I’ve listed some of them below for your prayerful reflection.

Have a blessed Saturday.

 

Jesus first

Following Christ in Daily Life

“When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.”

“True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school and at work, and in social and political involvement.”

“The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person.”

“Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.”

 

Elderly hands

The Value of Human Beings and Human Life

“The commandment you shall not kill even in its more positive aspects of respecting, loving, and promoting human life, is binding on every individual human being.” ~Evangelium Vitae-Gospel of Life Pope John Paul II-1995

“While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in it’s final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of ” the strong” against the weak who have no choice but to submit”.~Evangelium Vitae

“Man’s life comes from God: it is his image and imprint, as sharing in his breath of life. God therefore is the sole Lord of this life: Man cannot do with it as he wills.” ~Evangelium Vitae

‘The Gospel of life must be proclaimed and human life defended in all places and all times.” ~Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics- National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) 1998

 

Family on beach

The Family and Same-Sex Marriage

“It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this [gay marriage] is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

“Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church. ”

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.”

“The family, as the fundamental and essential educating community, is the privileged means for transmitting the religious and cultural values which help the person to acquire his or her own identity. Founded on love and open to the gift of life, the family contains in itself the very future of society; its most special task is to contribute effectively to a future of peace.”

 

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Abortion

“The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.”

“Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the per missive society, which confuses freedom with licence to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace. There are many examples of this mistaken idea of freedom, such as the elimination of human life by legalized or generally accepted abortion.”

“Abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, for example, risk reducing the human person to a mere object: life and death to order, as it were!”

 

Euthanasia

Euthanasia

“Euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person.” ~Evangelium Vitae, 1995

“Similarly, euthanasia and assisted suicide are never acceptable acts of mercy. They always gravely exploit the suffering and desperate, extinguishing life in the name of the “quality of life” itself.”

~Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics-National Conference of Catholic Bishops(United States)-1998

“Those who advocate euthanasia have capitalized on people’s confusion, ambivalence and even fear about the use of modern life-prolonging technologies. Being able to choose the time and manner of one’s death, without regard to what is chosen is presented as the ultimate freedom.” ~Statement on Euthanasia- National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) 1991

“The sickness of a family member, friend or neighbor is a call to Christians to demonstrate true compassion, that gentle and persevering sharing in another’s pain.” ~Ad Limina Apostolorum to Bishops of the United States-John Paul II -

 

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The Economy

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power … Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.”

“The distinctive mark of the Christian, today more than ever, must be love for the poor, the weak, the suffering.”

“I cannot fail to note once again that the poor constitute the modern challenge, especially for the well-off of our planet, where millions of people live in inhuman conditions and many are literally dying of hunger. It is not possible to announce God the Father to these brothers and sisters without taking on the responsibility of building a more just society in the name of Christ.”

“Hence in every case, a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the justice of the economic system… It is not the only means of checking, but it is a particuarly important one and in a sense the key means.”

“Wages must enable the worker and his family to have access to a truly human standard of living in the material, social, cultural and spiritual orders. It is the dignity of the person which constitutes the criterion for judging work, not the other way around.”

“Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.” ~Evangelium Vitae

 

Why are the Bishops Doing This?

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In honor of the Fortnight for Freedom, I am going to limit today’s quick picks on Christian persecution to the United States.

The list below comes from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. None of these examples involves burning down churches or mass murders of Christians. They do, however, show a huge change in the way that religious liberty is viewed by the government from just a few years ago.

I believe that this change has come about primarily through the almost non-stop Christian bashing that takes place in our media, academia and on websites. Christian bashing has become so popular that those who practice it as a profession, such as certain authors, speakers and bloggers, are not only able to continue their practice of Christian bashing without facing objections, they make an excellent living at it.

The rise of professional Christian bashers and the aggressive way that they ply their trade has certainly contributed to a cultural situation in which Christians must constantly be on the defensive. I think it has also fueled the attitudes which have led to the discriminatory practices listed below.

I’ve said a number of times that discrimination is a continuum. People do not move to violent persecution in one step. They work themselves into it by moving along a progression of prejudice and hatred. I believe that America is, as a nation, moving rather rapidly along that progression where Christians are concerned.

From the USCCB:

Current Threats To Religious Liberty

An Overview of Specific Examples

Pope Benedict XVI spoke last year about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened.  He called religious liberty the “most cherished of American freedoms.”  However, unfortunately, our most cherished freedom is under threat.  Consider the following:

  • HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services forces religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching.  Further, the federal government tries to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty. 

  • Catholic foster care and adoption services.  Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit. 

  • State immigration laws.  Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what they deem as “harboring” of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.

  • Discrimination against small church congregations.  New York City adopted a policy that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses.  Litigation in this case continues. 

  • Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services.  After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching. 

  • Christian students on campus.  In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

  • Forcing religious groups to host same-sex “marriage” or civil union ceremonies.  A New Jersey judge recently found that a Methodist ministry violated state law when the ministry declined to allow two women to hold a “civil union” ceremony on its private property.  Further, a civil rights complaint has been filed against the Catholic Church in Hawaii by a person requesting to use a chapel to hold a same-sex “marriage” ceremony.

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat?  Yes, Pope Benedict XVI recognized just last year that various attempts to limit the freedom of religion in the U.S. are particularly concerning.  The threat to religious freedom is larger than any single case or issue and has its roots in secularism in our culture.  The Holy Father has asked for the laity to have courage to counter secularism that would “delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”

Pew Research: Media Coverage Biased 5 to 1 in Favor of Gay Marriage

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It’s official. A new Pew Research study indicates that media coverage of the gay marriage debate is strongly biased in favor of gay marriage.

That’s in case you were wondering.

Was anybody wondering?

Personally, I think this falls into the “new study indicates that nuts roll downhill” kind of news. The study is based on coverage of the period a few weeks ago when the Supreme Court was hearing arguments on the issue of gay marriage. It turns out that news coverage, including that from Fox News, was 5 to 1 in favor of gay marriage.

Of course, the study is somewhat misrepresentative of the actual media bias in favor of gay marriage, since the media typically tries to paint a gloss of balance on their social-issue propaganda when they’re reporting big stories like Supreme Court hearings. I think day to day reporting is probably much worse.

Also, when you consider the total sell job that we get from outlets such as HBO — which also hard-sells euthanasia, abortion and polygamy, among other other things — it begins to look like 5 to 1 is actually a low number.

The people of this country, indeed, the people of the world, are being pushed, propagandized and often bullied into accepting destructive social changes. Gay marriage is one of those changes. At the same time, there is an almost equal attack on faith, particularly Christian faith.

From the National Catholic Register:

Daily News

Pew Reports Media Bias on Marriage Debate (1913)

As the U.S. Supreme Court weighed DOMA and Proposition 8, news stories favored same-sex ‘marriage’ 5-1.

 06/17/2013 Comment

WASHINGTON — The Pew Research Center released a report on June 17 that confirmed overwhelming media bias in favor of same-sex “marriage.”

Researchers evaluated news and opinion coverage of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court and related stories dealing with two landmark marriage cases and found that all mainstream media outlets favored “marriage equality,” including Fox News.

Pew reported that stories “with more statements supporting same-sex marriage outweighed those with more statements opposing it by a margin of roughly 5-to-1.”

This skewed treatment, researchers concluded, conveyed “a strong sense of momentum towards legalizing same-sex ‘marriage.’”

Now, as the nation awaits the high court’s rulings on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, which are expected by the end of June, the unbalanced news coverage will likely prompt intense scrutiny and debate on the media’s role in affecting the outcome of those cases.

Some constitutional scholars have predicted that the justices, mindful of the ongoing debate over Roe v. Wade, would be cautious about legalizing a social practice that lacked broad public support.

But if news stories indeed conveyed a sense of “momentum,” the high court’s deliberations might accommodate that shift.

“I have to think the justices — and especially the chief — are very cognizant of the shifting public opinion,” Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told The Hill in mid-May, during the period that Pew researchers charted the flow of coverage favoring one side of the issue.

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pew-reports-media-bias-on-marriage-debate?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-06-18%2002:11:01#ixzz2Was206vD

 

What’s It Like Being a Dad?

What’s it like being a dad?

It’s like life.

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Fathers and Daughters

Which is your favorite?

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Fatherhood Means Being There When They Need You

I always knew that nothing I could do would ever make my Daddy love me more or less. I always knew that he would always be there for me, no matter what I did or didn’t do. Children need this from their fathers. Those who do not have it are touched with frost all their lives.

Men, nothing you do in your lives matters as much as taking care of your children. No matter what.

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My Father’s Keeper

This is for those of you who have the blessing of caring for your elderly fathers. They are not a burden. They are a blessing.

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Sued by Government for Refusing to Provide Flowers for Gay Wedding, Elderly Florist Files Countersuit

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Arlene’s Flower and Gifts.  Is it the only place to buy flower in Washington? 

Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s attorney general, probably thought he was picking an easy fight when he took on 68 year old Barronelle Stutzman. After all, she not only had gray hair, she was a small business owner with very few resources to defend herself against the government. 

It probably looked like an easy way to earn kudos from the my-way-or-the-highway crowd that seems to be running parts of our government these days. Ms Stutzman, who has a history of employing self-identified homosexuals, as well as serving them, evidently draws the line when it comes to providing flowers for gay weddings.

I think I see where she’s coming from. Selling flowers to gay customers or employing gay people are both well within Christian behavior. In fact, treating gay people like people is pretty much a requirement of following Jesus. Providing flowers for a gay wedding, on the other hand, would have put Ms Stutzman in the position of actively participating in something that just about all traditional Christians regard as sinful. It is a violation of what Jesus intended for marriage to be, and, many people believe, will do great harm to the already damaged institution of marriage. 

To use an analogy, if someone who was getting ready to rob bank came into your store and wanted to buy a carton of milk for their lunch, selling them the milk would not make you part of their bank robbing. However, if they asked you to sell them a bag for the money, and they told you it would be used in a bank robbery, you would be part of the crime. 

I am not equating bank robbery with gay marriage. They are entirely different. I just used that as an illustration. 

The point here is that to compel someone to participate in an action that they regard as sinful is a violation of their human dignity and their right as human beings and American citizens to decide these things for themselves. Even if bank robbery was legal, if a store owner still believes that theft is a sin, they should have the right to refuse to sell the erstwhile robber the bag for the loot.

Ms Stutzman’s problems began on March 1, when Robert Ingersoll, who had known Ms Stutzman for 10 years, asked her to sell him flowers for his “wedding” to Curt Freed. Here’s Ms Stutzman’s description of what happened:

“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman said. “He thanked me and said he respected my opinion. We talked and gave each other a hug and he left.” She said it was the only wedding she had declined in 37 years.

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Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Attorney General Ferguson must not have too many serious crimes to deal with up there in Washington State because he immediately saddled up his white horse and rode out to hammer down on Ms Stutzman. He is using a consumer protection act to seek a $2,000 fine against Ms Stutzman, along with a permanent injunction which would force her to either sell flowers for gay weddings or to stop selling flowers for wedding ceremonies altogether. I do not know what jurisdiction passed the act the AG is using. 

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Barronelle Stutzman

The only legitimate reason I can see for the chief law enforcement officer in Washington state to take such an extreme interest in this incident is that Ms Stutzman’s shop, Arlene’s Flower and Gifts, must be the only place in Washington state where those poor people who live there can buy flowers. That’s kind of sad, when you think about it.

However, Ms Stutzman hasn’t rolled over. She has filed a countersuit through the Alliance Defending Freedom. Her lawsuit is based on federal constitutional protections of religious freedom and protections in the Washington State Constitution.  

According to American’s Defending Freedom:

ADF explains that the state’s lawsuit “is attempting to force Stutzman to act contrary to her religious convictions in violation of her constitutional freedoms.”

“In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not use its intolerance for certain viewpoints to intimidate citizens into acting contrary to their faith convictions,” said ADF senior legal counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “Family business owners are constitutionally guaranteed the freedom to live and work according to their beliefs.”

He added, “It is this very freedom that gives America its cherished diversity and protects citizens from state-mandated conformity.”

In additional to federal constitutional protections, the Washington State Constitution also protects “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief, and worship,” as stated in Article 1, Section 11.

Stutzman has set up a fund for her defense. Donations can be sent to:

Key Bank
1275 Lee Blvd
Richland, WA 99352
509-392-4638
Attn: Lindsey

Wasting Your Life and Unnecessary Funerals

Funeral

I don’t like going to unnecessary funerals.

You know the kind of funeral I mean. I’m talking about going to a funeral where the person who has died managed to kill themselves from overeating, undereating, drug abuse, alcoholism, or refusing to seek medical care.

Unnecessary funerals for people who threw their lives away are a drag.

However — and here’s the truth of it — each and every one of us makes choices each and every day that waste pieces of our lives.

How do we waste our lives? Here are a few examples I’ve seen, as well as a few examples I’ve practiced.

Freud

1. Nursing resentments over our childhood.

Freud taught our whole Western world that childhood is a minefield of damaging little bombs that our parents usher us through as they lead us to adulthood.

In Freud’s misogynist view of things, our mothers are the cause of just about every problem we will ever have. Most of what Freud thought has turned out to be tripe. In this case, it was sexist tripe. However, we have latched onto the notion that childhood is a time for us to re-visit ad nauseam  throughout our lives and that we can blame anything we do or don’t do in the span of our days on those musty memories of our littlest years.

Done this way, childhood is the ultimate cop-out. It is also the ultimate life-waster. I know people in their sixties who manage to turn every conversation back to the supposed wrongs of their childhoods. These are miserable, unproductive, resentful people that nobody who has anything going on wants to be around. Don’t waste your life like this.

Office work 2. Nursing resentments over things that happen on your job.

Making a living is a hard deal. We talk all the time in our society about “loving” our work. Well, I’m here to burst your bubble and tell you that even if you have managed to find some sort of work that is challenging, interesting and significant (lucky you, by the way) you are still going to find out that it’s also competitive, (and not always in a good way) ruthless, unforgiving and downright mean.

Making a living is hard.

For most people, who don’t have jobs that are challenging, interesting and significant, it can also be drudgery. However, bringing all this home and letting it inhabit all the rest of your time is a good way to waste your life.

Leave your job at your job. On the days you can’t do that — and we all have them — when the misery of your job crawls all over you and you can’t leave it there, remember that your family is support, not your enemy, and your home is your refuge. Don’t misplace your anger over your work onto the few people who truly love you.

Once you get past those total downer days, leave it there and go on. Earning a living is tough. Accept that and stop wasting your life on the fantasy that you are cursed because you have to earn a living and it’s not always fun. That fantasy leads to life-wasting resentment that can destroy your family and drain your days of happiness. Making a living is hard. Get over it.

Bucking bronc 3.  Nursing resentments about your failures.

My Grandfather told me once, “There is always some guy out there who can whip you in a fight. There’s always a horse that can throw you. That’s just the way it is.” What he meant is that if you get out there and mix it up with the world, the world is going to knock you flat from time to time.

You can waste your life running and hiding from every challenge. You can hide inside your house and not come out, or you can hide in the slow suicide of drugs and alcohol. But if you chose to live out in the world and walk free, you are going to get knocked down from time to time. Sometimes you eat the bear. Other times, the bear eats you.

Again, I know people who make their lives utterly miserable by picking at every failure until they turn it into a festering boil. They never admit that the failure was at least partly due to their own mistakes. They wouldn’t consider looking at it honestly and determining what they can change to not get knocked down in the future. No. They blame everyone and everything, often indulging in what are flat-out fantasies of supposed wrongs in order to keep from acknowledging the simple fact that this time the bear ate them.

Not only do they waste what could be a valuable learning experience that will help them figure out how to overcome these obstacles in the future, they waste the only thing they truly have. They waste their lives.

I’m going to stop with these three life-wasters. Three is enough for now. However there a many others. Notice that all these focus on one thing: Nursing and nurturing resentment over the inevitable vicissitudes of life.

If somebody told you that you will get through this life without having your parents make mistakes in how they raised you, without the drudgery of work, without humiliating defeats and embarrassing goofs, they were either deluded or they were lying to you.

Life is beautiful. It is wonderful. It is worth every single bit of drudgery and pain, failure and betrayal we encounter as we live through it.

But it is not painless. That is not a bad thing. The tough times often turn out, in retrospect, to be the most productive times. You just have to learn from them. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn what not to do and how to do it better the next time.

Life may be hard at times. It is hard at times. But it is always worth the struggle. Because the good times outnumber the bad, and because this brief life is a preparation for the eternal life on the other side of it.

Don’t waste this life God has given you on the three resentments I named.

Once childhood is done, live your life and love your parents. Forget about the rest.

Remember that work, even if it seems meaningless and filled with back-stabbing nonsense, is still an honorable activity that provides the stuff of our physical existence: food, clothing and shelter. If you are supporting a family, then your work has the immense dignity of homemaking and family making. Do not let resentment over work poison your whole life and destroy your relationships with the very people you are working to support.

When — not if, but when — you get knocked flat, go ahead and cry about it. Cry your little eyes out. Punch out a couple of walls. What you should not do is indulge in blaming everything and everyone else and building up resentments. I’m sure there are people you can point to who let you down, betrayed you, or just walked away from you when you were in need. It’s ok to be mad at them. But it’s not ok to make them the center of your life or of your analysis of what happened that led to your defeat. If you trusted the wrong person, you trusted the wrong person. Been there. Done that. Lots of times.

What you should do is take some time to grieve, making sure the time you give is commensurate with the loss. Two weeks of wailing and moaning is not enough time for a major flop, but it is excessive for a bad grade on a test. Then, straighten yourself out, sit down and figure out what you could have done to get a different result. Think it through with a mind to not make the same mistakes again. Then, get back out there and rejoin the fight.

I don’t like unnecessary funerals. I also don’t like being around people who are constantly angry and miserable about ordinary things that happened five, ten, even thirty years ago. I’m not talking about massive traumas. Those things usually need professional help to heal. I’m talking about the pits and scars of everyday life that happen to every single one of us.

Don’t waste your life using resentment to avoid reality. The reality is that your parents did their best, making a living is hard and everybody gets knocked flat from time to time. These things are not the meaning of your life. They are opportunities for growth. Overcoming them to lead a full, productive life that is filled with love is the challenge and the opportunity of living that everyone faces. Not just you, everyone.

Abortion on Demand After the 5th Month: Should It Be Legal?

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Rumors have it that the United States House of Representatives will vote on a bill that will extend the District of Columbia ban on abortions after 20 weeks to the rest of the country.

The bill passed out of House committee this week, and, according to some sources, is being marked up for a vote that may take place next week. I doubt that this bill will pass in the Senate, and it certainly will be vetoed by the President if it does. There is no chance the bill’s authors can convince both houses to override a Presidential veto.

Veto override

On top of that, Roe v Wade specifically set the limit for abortion on demand (with some regulations) at 26 weeks of pregnancy. Unless the Court changes that ruling, the bill is unconstitutional.

So, what is happening here?

I do not see any reason for late-term abortions. I’ve written about that here. However, I always wonder about the real reason for a vote like this, since it is definitely not to make a law and everyone involved knows it.

Do the bill’s authors view the vote as a statement designed to build consensus over time? Are they throwing down the political gauntlet and forcing people to declare where they stand on this issue by how they cast their votes? Do they want to use it as a way of defining an issue for upcoming political campaigns? Or is this some combination of all these things?

I would guess that almost any member of the United States Congress could take a roll sheet of either the Senate or the House and pinpoint with amazing accuracy how each member will vote on this. I imagine they could have pinpointed it at any time during this session. I’ll go a step further and say that they could probably predict what everyone who speaks on the issue will say.

So they’re not trying to convince one another. This is about something else.

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If they had a chance of passing this into law, it would be a powerful thing, indeed. It would force the Supreme Court to either rule against it or let it stand. That could be great, or, if they uphold it, it could make the situation worse; potentially much worse. Everything you do in when you’re in public office can go great or turn sour. In issues with generational punch and Court oversight like this one, strategy is everything.

The reason I’m raising these questions is that I want you to peel back the layers of propaganda and think about what is really happening with your government. I want you to look at the legislative process with understanding. If Christians are to affect change in the world, we need to do more than watch the game and cheer for our side. We need to be able to see through the game.

Thinking1

So, give a thought or two about this bill to limit abortions and tell me what you think they’re doing. Do you think it has any chance to succeed legislatively? Do you think that one of the many similar laws that have passed in the various states will wend its way through the appeals process and on up to the Supreme Court? Do you think there’s any chance the Supreme Court will uphold that law if it does?

These are big questions, and I can tell you, I don’t know the answers to all of them.

What do you think?


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