Timothy Putnam and the Weightiness of Becoming Catholic

Photo Source: Timothy Putnam, all rights reserved by Timothy Putnam.

Timothy Putnam and his wife, becoming Catholic. Photo Source: Timothy Putnam, all rights reserved by Timothy Putnam.

There is something weighty in the decision to become Catholic. Timothy Putnam

There is something weighty in the decision to become Catholic. Indeed there is. Sing it, say it, live it, my brother in Christ.

Timothy Putnam has “it.” That “it” is a genuine searching willingness to follow Jesus, even when — not if, but when — He leads us down pathways we would never have chosen on our own. It takes a bit more honesty and a lot more faith than most people are willing to commit to Jesus to stand up in front of the little g gods of this world, turn your back on them and walk away.

Faith, real faith, in the Living Christ is the key to following Him. If you don’t believe — really, truly, absolutely believe — that He is God, then you will not follow Him in this costly, unquestioning way of the Way.

Timothy Putnam follows.

He’s the best kind of follower, the only kind, that, when the bills are toted up, up yonder, matters. He’s the kind of follower who does not trim his faith to fit the world. He bases his activities in the world on his faith.

That is, indeed, a “weighty” thing. When it is coupled with the 2,000 year old teachings of the Church that Jesus founded and Peter first governed, the “weight” is the weight of a peaceful certainty that you don’t have to figure it out yourself. All you have to do is follow the path that is laid out for you in the Catechism, and that is explicated for you by the Pope.

Timothy Putnam has, like so many converts, a fresh and unalloyed love of the Church that comes from having been without it. Doing without the Catholic Church while you try to wend your way through the world can be hard going. It is the heavy slog of someone who has to make each and every decision for themselves.

Is it a sin to do this, or that, or whatnot?

We Catholics have that part easy. We can just put our foot down and slide to heaven by simply staying on the highway to heaven that is the Catholic Church.

But everything has a price. The free gift of eternal life was purchased for us by the ignominious crime of Calvary. We did our worst and God did His best and the result was our everlasting good.

The gift of following Christ has the continuous and ongoing price of being out of step with the world. There is no safe harbor for someone who does their best to follow Jesus and Him alone, no group of buddies, no political safe house where you can just do what your gang does and still follow Him.

If you try to follow Jesus, you are always going to end up an outlier. That’s just a fact.

For some folks like Timothy Putnam, it becomes even more fraught. Jesus calls a few people to step out on the ice of life and follow Him on a path the leads away from safe incomes and guaranteed benefits.

If you are single and He calls you to step out in faith into the shifting uncertainties of a ministry, then you risk a little. At most, you risk your own comfort. You alone suffer the loss of income. You alone must step through the chop of starting up, the long hours, the set-backs and the simple fact that faithful ministry does not and never will be a source of wealth.

But if you are the parents of what Timothy calls a “brood” of seven children, then stepping out is “weighty” for real.

I’ve met Tim’s family, and they are beautiful. His wife is as faithful and committed to Christ as he is. His children are intelligent, bright, inquisitive, fearless and good. Of all the things I know about Timothy Putnam, this is the best. He does not fail in his first vocation, which is to be a faithful father and husband.

He is a manly man in the for-real Christian way of being a manly man, which is to say that he loves, cherishes and cares for his family. This genuine manliness is a far cry from the tinfoil manliness of abusiveness and swaggering braggadocio that is being sold right now. One is the basis for civilization. The other is one of the roots of evil and destruction.

When Timothy Putnam and his wife made the decision to give up a job as the Director of Family and Pro Life for the Diocese of Tulsa and take up full-time ministry, it was a weighty decision. It meant giving up the benefits and security of steady employment and just following.

The result was the thoughtful, teachful blog here on Patheos, A Belief Observed. If you haven’t read it, you should give it a look. The “belief” it observes is that of a faithful Catholic father, husband and growing voice in Catholic media.

In addition to this blog and other activities, Tim hosts a great radio program called Outside the Walls.

Outside the Walls airs Saturdays at 4 pm central time, and on Sundays at 11 am central time. It’s on Breadbox Media, which has been endorsed by its local bishop for its fidelity to the Church. You can download it on iTunes, follow it on Facebook, and Twitter,  or just tune in on your computer or radio. You can also book Timothy as a speaker.

Outside the Walls  is a compendium of Church teaching, Bible study and thoughtful discussion about living Catholic in the world today. All this is put together and presented by an actual, faithful, Catholic husband and father who walks the walk.

I believe with all my heart that faithful Catholics need to support and uphold one another. Tune in and give it a listen. Then, tell you friends about it. You’ll be glad you did.

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Pregnant and Diagnosed with Cancer

Breast Cancer Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by crazy_dame https://www.flickr.com/photos/craftydame/

Breast Cancer Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by crazy_dame https://www.flickr.com/photos/craftydame/

These videos tell the story of one young family’s fight with cancer. Mom of the family had cancer, and she was pregnant when she was diagnosed, but the entire family fought the disease, which is how it has to be. Nobody fights cancer alone. God bless husbands and wives who go through this journey with their spouses. They are doing eternity work.

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10 Things You can Do to Save Your Family and Change the World

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Lars Ploughman https://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Lars Ploughman https://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/

I’m going to launch into the political ramifications of the Supreme Court Decision destroying marriage as a legal construct in a day or so.

But before I do, I want to make a simple point: Conversion of the culture does not begin at the ballot box or changes in the law. It ends there.

Conversion of the culture does not even begin with bringing your family and friends to Christ. That’s a mid-point.

Conversion of the culture begins with yielding your own self and your life to Christ in an absolute way. That is the beginning. Everything else — everything else — flows from that.

St Paul did not jump off his mule and start preaching. He was knocked off and into the dirt and left blind. He had to come face to face with Christ and his own sinfulness before he became the Apostle to the Gentiles.

We will not convert this culture by excoriating and condemning sinners, for the obvious reason that we are all sinners. Many of the people who are condemning gay marriage have trashed their own marriages and dumped their own children.

If they are divorced, they don’t spend time with their children, or they spitefully try to keep their children away from their former spouse. They don’t pay child support and they spend their days going over and over how they were wronged.

If they are married, they sleep around, or talk to their families like they were dirt under their feet. They harangue their children and spouses, or worse yet, they are physically violent with them. How many of the people who loudly proclaim the sanctity of marriage commit adultery? How many of them sit in front of the tv and ignore their families? How many of them ignore or even abuse their elderly parents? How many of them do not show up for school plays or be a trusted best friend when their spouse is in distress?

If we want to convert the culture, we have to begin with ourselves. It’s that simple.

Here are 10 things you can do to save your family in this family-despising, family-attacking culture of ours:

1. Go into marriage with the idea that this is your only spouse. If remarriage is off the table, divorce is not going to be such an easy option.

I know that there are times when divorce has to happen. If somebody’s beating up on somebody, if there is adultery or chemical abuse with a refusal to get help, then divorce may very well be the only door open. But divorce is a civil solution to a moral problem. What God has joined together, man can not put asunder.

Go into marriage with the knowledge that this person is your life’s partner, the only one who will walk with you through your days. That viewpoint will immediately raise your spouse’s value in your eyes. Keep that viewpoint in front of you, and remember: This person’s happiness and your happiness are bound with a life-long cord.

Hurting your spouse is hurting yourself. Never forget that.

2. Put Jesus Christ on the throne of your life and your marriage. Do not do this lightly. Prayerfully consider the option of a formal enthronement of Christ as the Head of your home. I have not done this, but my husband and I are talking about it. I have friends who have done it, and I’ve seen the fruits of it in their lives. For more information, go here.

3. Get on your knees and pray together every night before bed. My wonderful Aunt Tid and Uncle Ozzie did this every day of their married lives. They had a list of people and problems that they lifted up to the Lord together before they went to bed each night. This is true communion of spirits between a man and a wife. It is a powerful uniting of life and soul. Everyone I know who does this has a marriage that is filled with mutual devotion, love and happiness.

4. Do not harangue your family members who have fallen short of your Christian ideal, even those who have fallen far short of it. Love them, continue to be family to them, and pray, pray, pray.

Remember also the things you’ve done. I worry about my kids — a lot. But I know that they are much more together than I was at the same age.

My parents never stopped loving me and they never pushed me away. Love them. Love them. And pray. And remember St Monica. And pray some more. Then, trust Jesus.

If the Holy Spirit wants you to speak up, He will open the door. I’ve had this happen, and when I speak in His time and with the words He gives me, it never fails to be the right thing. Just … trust Him.

5. Go to mass. If you can, go to daily mass. But at least go to mass every Sunday. Every time you take communion, Christ heals you. I feel it, and so will you. I need it, and so do you.

6. Be loyal to the pope. Don’t follow internet popes who attack the Holy Father. Do not be so foolish as to make a little pope out of yourself.

I hate to say this, but the bishops are all over the map on a lot of things. The same politician will be told during election years (It always seems to be during election years.) that he or she may not take communion, in, say, Sioux City, but can take communion in, say, Dodge City. It’s the same politician; the same sin. But a different bishop.

What are those of us in the pews to make of this? Does it confuse you? It certainly confuses me.

We need the pope. The pope is the only world leader of his type. He alone speaks for over a billion people who live under every government, in every clime. His voice reaches from pole to pole; dateline to dateline.

That is why the press goes ga-ga over his every utterance. It is why politicians of every persuasion alternately revile and pander to him.

But it is not why we should be loyal to him. His temporal reach has nothing to do with our call to loyalty to the pope. We must be loyal to the pope because he stands in the shoes of the fisherman. He is Peter. And Jesus Christ said that on Peter He would build His Church.

Be loyal to the pope.

7. Pray the Rosary. Pray the Rosary in a meditative way, thinking about the Scriptures the decades represent and what they mean to you. Take your fears and problems, rejoicings and griefs to Our Lady and pray with her to Jesus. If praying with your spouse binds you to one another, think how praying with Jesus’ own mother will bind you to Him.

8. Ask God to show you your sins. We are all blind to our own faults. Everyone of us is capable of the intellectual sophistry which allows us to proclaim our sins a virtue and condemn those of the person next to us. That is the nature of our nature. It is a manifestation of our fallen state. It is us, listening to the devil without the slightest awareness that this is what we are doing.

The Holy Spirit is a loving guide to our own hearts. He will reveal your self to you to the extent that you are capable of comprehending and reacting with grace to this painful truth. Trust Him. He will not dump all your sins on you like an acid bath that destroys you. He will show you what you can take at the time. And then He will be with you as you face it and convert away from it.

The Holy Spirit is a great teacher of willing souls. But you must be willing. Ask God to show you your sins, then accept and repent of the sins He shows you. Realize that this is a life-long process. Be grateful for it. He is fitting you for heaven.

9. Forgive others. This is often the toughest one of all. It’s easy enough to forgive those you love and who love you. It’s not too tough to forgive anyone who sincerely admits they hurt you and asks for forgiveness.

It gets more difficult when you are dealing with a person who has hurt you and who continues to hurt you and who claims that you deserve the hurt. It is impossible under your own power to forgive certain violations of your humanity such as violent rape or torture.

In these areas, forgiveness is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it does not come cheaply. The cost is letting go of the great defense of anger that has freed you from victimhood.

Too often, people practice a phony forgiveness, a premature rush to proclaim forgiveness, which does not allow them the dignity of proclaiming their own worth and value in the face of what has been done to them. This is particularly true when they have suffered soul-destroying attacks on their humanity that can actually cause a kind of psychological death such as violent rape, torture, slavery or child sexual abuse.

Before we forgive, we must first know and believe to our depths that we were wronged, that we are not the receptacles for other people’s trash they these people have reduced us to. This is difficult if the world around us will not affirm this with us.

Anyone who faces this should read the book of Job. I don’t think the book of Job is, as is usually claimed, about suffering. I don’t think it is about suffering at all. I think it is about victim-blaming.

That’s what Job’s “friends” did to him. It’s what happens to any victim who is among those the culture proclaims may have “asked for” the evil that was done to them.

Forgiveness in the face of this is only possible when it comes from God. God alone can give us the certainty of our own humanity and worth that is so rock solid and absolute that we are free to lay down the defense of our humiliated rage and forgive from the heart.

This circles back to earlier points. Scripture tells us that if we “seek the Lord, He will draw near to you.” Everything I’ve listed above, including #1 is a way of seeking the Lord.

10. Accept God’s forgiveness. I’ve had a real tussle with this one and more than once. The most dramatic and public of these situations was after God showed me the full horror of what I had done by being pro choice.

I was plunged into grief, shame, remorse that went beyond the graces of confession. Long story short, after a long period of intense grief, I finally realized (this was probably from the Holy Spirit) that I had to have the humility to accept God’s forgiveness.

It is a kind of narcissism to think that your sins are bigger than God’s mercy. Nothing we can do is beyond the mercy of God.

There are times when it takes humility and trust to accept God’s forgiveness. But those moments plunge us into what He told St Faustina was the “ocean of my mercy.”

No matter what you have done, confess your sins and accept His forgiveness.

These are 10 things that you can do to save your family. Notice that not one of them is political. Not one of them involves any of the solutions that are usually recommended for marriages and families in trouble.

Every single thing I’ve mentioned is about you and your spouse, getting right with God and trusting Him.

That is how Christians change the world. We do it by giving ourselves without reservation to the One Who made us and loves us and who will be with us the end of time.

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Where I’m From, We Call Our Father’s Daddy

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Yvette T, who wrote, I love my father as the stars, he is a bright, shining light. https://www.flickr.com/photos/12327292@N00/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Yvette T, who wrote, I love my father as the stars, he is a bright, shining light. https://www.flickr.com/photos/12327292@N00/

This is a re-run of a post I wrote a while back. Happy Father’s Day Daddy. I love you. I miss you. I look forward to the day when I see you again.

Where I’m from, we call our fathers “Daddy.”

It’s not unusual to see 60-year-old cowboys, complete with the hat, the cattle and the big belt buckle, addressing their 80-year-old fathers as “Daddy.” It’s just the way we talk.

My Daddy was what pundits condescendingly refer to as “blue collar” or “working class.” What that means is that he was a highly skilled person who could pull an engine out of a car, take it apart, rebuild it like new, put it back in the car, test drive the car to see if all was right and still be home in time for eight hours sleep before he had to get up for work the next day.

The men I grew up around never worried about being man enough. The very notion of worrying about a thing like that was as foreign to them as worrying about being American or Oklahoman enough. They worked hard as mechanics, truck drivers, machinists, butchers and carpenters. Then they came home and put in gardens and maintained their houses. No one in my neighborhood would have considered calling a plumber, roofer or any other handyman to repair their homes. If the plumbing was broke (things were never “broken”; they were “broke”) they fixed it. If the roof leaked, they would get together with the rest of the boys from thereabouts and put on a new one.

My Daddy thought nothing of  getting together with my uncle and putting up a wall, complete with texture and paint, in one day. They could turn around and take it down the same way. They built their own garages, added rooms to their houses and dug their own tornado shelters.

Not one of the men I knew as a child would consider raising a hand to a woman. A man who would hit a woman was a coward, not a man, a nothing, in their eyes. Any man stupid enough to do a thing like that was very likely to have the other men thereabouts take them out some night and “knock some sense into him.”

It never entered my mind to be afraid of anything when I was little. Whatever bad was out there, I believed my daddy would make sure it never touched me. I can not remember a time when he didn’t seem as big and safe as a fort.

I also can’t remember the first time he lifted me astride a horse. I do remember sitting behind him on his horse as we rode for hours. I was maybe four or so when he got me my first horse, a gentle fellow named Shorty.

Owning a horse meant I had to learn to brush him down before saddling him, then brush him down again after the ride. I had to make sure he had water, hay and grain and that his hooves were free of rocks and other things that might harm him. I was responsible for soft-soaping my saddle and bridle, for cleaning the bits.

I didn’t know how to do all this at four, but I learned how from my daddy who taught me by doing it with me. He also taught me to never let the horse get the best of me by getting angry with the animal, jerking him around or failing to get back up and get on when I was tossed off.

He had a contempt that he imparted to me for the kind of man who would get panicky on a horse and then take it out on the horse by yanking the bits, yelling at the animal or digging his heels into the horse’s sides.

Shorty was a kindly horse with a lot of patience for little girls but not a lot of gas in his tank. As I grew from a tiny girl into a little girl, I became increasingly impatient with his lack of go. One day when I was about seven I decided I wanted to see if I could get a rise out of him.

I saddled up and climbed on Shorty, armed with a water pistol. I rode him for a while, then stood in the stirrups, leaned forward, and squirted. Sweet, gentle Shorty broke in half. I managed to ride it out, but I certainly did get a rise out of him. It was more than I bargained for, but it was fun. I finally got Shorty quieted and looked around to see my daddy standing across the lot, staring at me.

The word we use today is “busted.” I had been caught red-handed, abusing my horse. I had no idea what Daddy was going to do, but I expected something massive. What he did instead was much more effective.

“Becky Ann, you know better than that.” he said. That was all. He didn’t yell or threaten. He didn’t even ground me from riding; just, “you know better than that.” But it was enough. I have never abused an animal again.

Years before that, when I was a pre-schooler, I stole a pack of chewing gum from a store and got caught. Daddy didn’t yell at me. He took me back to the store and made me hand the gum to the clerk and say “I stole this.” That was a long time ago, but I can still feel the humiliation of that moment. Then, to add insult to injury, he bought the gum and gave it to me.

Another lesson learned. The temptation to steal left me that day and has never returned.

Daddy was teaching more than how to ride and care for a horse, more even than not to steal. He was teaching me a whole set of values. He was also, though neither of us was aware of it, teaching me about men. There wasn’t a plan in this. I feel confident that my daddy never read a single book on how to raise kids. He didn’t make dates to “have a talk” with me or attempt to manipulate me. He just talked to me as part of our daily interactions. Like I was a person. He spent time with me. That’s how he caught me with the stolen gum, how he saw me shoot water into Shorty’s ear; he was there.

Woody Allen has said that 90% of life is showing up. I think that more than 90% of being a father is being there. You don’t have to ride horses with your kids or break down engines to be a good dad, but you do need to be there. Share the one thing that is completely yours with your children: Share yourself. Teach them about men by being a safe and reliable man in their lives. Give them the gift of security by always being the dad on the beat, ready to protect and rescue them when they need it.

My father had a lot of faults. But he was there and he loved me without question. He used to embarrass me, bragging on me to people, but I realize now that having your very own Daddy think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread is loft to your wings for your whole life. Children, boys or girls, it doesn’t matter, need their Daddys. They need them home, with their Mamas, taking care of things.

My Daddy was there. And he loved me unconditionally. I’ve never read a child-rearing advice book that just plainly said that this is what children need, but it IS what children need. Nothing else will substitute.

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Watching Football with My Four-Year-Old

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Craig Sunter http://youtu.be/PnGIakNY7lk

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Craig Sunter http://youtu.be/PnGIakNY7lk

There was a time when I let my babies “style” my hair while I read or watched tv.

Now, I just give them money. :-)

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What New Dads Do

Real men love their kids. My life has been blessed by two wonderful real men: My father, and my husband.

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Pope Francis: Without Fathers Young People Feel Orphaned

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Yvette T, who wrote, I love my father as the stars, he is a bright, shining light. https://www.flickr.com/photos/12327292@N00/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Yvette T, who wrote, I love my father as the stars, he is a bright, shining light. https://www.flickr.com/photos/12327292@N00/

We have a nation of children who feel orphaned because their fathers are not in their lives.

Fatherhood requires something that a lot of people in our society have grown up thinking is immoral: It requires self-sacrifice and putting someone else ahead of yourself.

What it gives is something a lot of people in our society have been taught to think is worthless: Love and the incredible blessing of shielding and shepherding new life.

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Home and Family are Not Outmoded. They are Eternal Truths on Which People are Built.

 

A long time ago in a land not so far away, married couples often stayed married to one another, despite their disagreements and problems “for the children’s sake.”

It was assumed that destroying a child’s home would damage the child. Underneath that assumption was another: Children have a better start in life when they are raised in their own intact families with their own biological parents.

Along came the 60s and this notion of staying together “for the children’s sake” was tossed in the cultural ashcan alongside civility, honor and a belief in the common good.

The Me Generation wanted to opt out of all the constraints that came between it and its essential drive to all-out me-firstness. “It’s better to be from a broken home than to live in one,” was the new slogan. It was put up there on the living-by-slogans billboard just below the “quality time” slogan concerning child rearing.

We didn’t, we were told, have to concede to the onerous demands of full-time child-rearing. We could drop in once in a while for “quality time” and this “quality time” would be so incredibly powerful in shaping the child’s character, values, morals and overall mental health that it would wash away the deleterious abuses of being ignored and shunted around for the bulk of the child’s life.

It was magical stuff, this “quality time” — the elixir of having it all without the need to feel guilty about short-shrifting our young.

Ditto for being from broken homes rather than living in them. It was, we were told, oh so much healthier for a child to live part of his or her life in a tranquil, albeit it lonely, home without Dad, watching tv, and later, playing video games, while Mom worked, and then to shuttle off to Dad’s tranquil homespot to watch more tv and, later play video games, while Dad worked.

“Blended” families and live-in boy and girl friends became the new normal. After all, if it makes Dad/Mom happy, then it must, by definition, be good for the kids. Or so we were told.

A child who gets the wondrous experience of counseling their bereft parent over their broken hearts about the guy/gal who dumped them, who wakes up in the morning, never knowing who’s going to be sharing the parent’s bed down the hall, who has to dip and dodge from the advances and abuses of boyfriends and girlfriends, who finds themselves suddenly saddled with steps — stepparents, stepbrothers, stepsisters, step grandparents — of all types and then, in a year or two, finds themselves without the steps once again, is, in the parlance, “growing up fast.” After all, the new new normal says, they’re going to have to deal with these things someday, anyway. Right?

Believing that all this is good for kids requires a bit of willful neglect of the obvious. First, we have to overlook the adults that these kids become. We need to stare right past the drug addiction, insect sexuality, near psychopathic way they treat one another and their increasing inability to form families and raise children of their own.

Second, we need to stop believing that there is any connection between their total lack of respect for marriage as an institution coupled with the abject willingness to see it destroyed and the fact that these young people grew up in cold, chaotic circumstances with child parents who failed at every personal value except selfishness and self-indulgence.

I know that someone is going to raise the specter of violence and abuse in the home and the need for divorce in those circumstances. That happens. And when it does, it really is better for a child to be from a broken home than to live in one.

The interesting thing is that violence and abuse in the home are not going away. Divorce has not ended it. Domestic violence is escalating. Why? You’d think that if divorce was the answer to it, domestic violence would be moving toward extinction.

I think one reason violence in the home is on the rise is this bizarre method method of child rearing that amounts to buying our kids stuff, driving them to activities and ignoring them as people while we do whatever else pleases us. I think it is giving us adult children who are exactly the kind of people we have raised them to be.

Each generation of children we are producing with these methods is less able to commit to other people and raise a family of their own than the generation before it. They exhibit a kind of internal chaos that I think reflects the chaos in which they were raised.

We’re not only producing whole generations of young people who cannot commit to one another and love one another and then commit to and love and raise children of their own, we are also producing young people who are marked by profound alienation and rage. We are, in short, getting the kind of adults that abusive homes produce. Are our current child-rearing practices abusive to children?

Oh yes. I think so.

We were deconstructing family at a massive rate long before the debate about gay marriage reared its head. When demands for polygamy follow on the heels of gay marriage — and they will — we will just slide further into the abyss right behind it because we have no cultural center to hold us.

There is only one way to reverse this trend. You must do it yourself. You must, to paraphrase Ghandi, be the change you want to see.

That means you must commit to your wife or husband; you must cherish and protect them. You must put your family, your spouse, your children ahead of everything else.

I know this will sound like blasphemy, but you need to put your home and family ahead of your career, your craving for “fun” and your desire to live life as a perpetual adolescent. You need to take care of the people God has entrusted to you before you do anything else.

The way to stop this is for both men and women to stop putting me first and put their families first. It is not enough for wives to be good wives, or husbands to be good husbands. We are male and female. That is the human race. And both men and woman have a responsibility before God to put the welfare of their spouses and their children above every other consideration.

This is drastically counter-cultural. You will get a lot of flack for doing it. Men will be called some of the pejorative names used for women if they don’t go along with the fellas about things such as sleeping around, and going out on the town. Other men will do this to them ruthlessly. I’ve witnessed it for years in my life of working with 90 men.

Women will be told they are “wasting their lives” if they stay home with the kids. When I was a stay at home mom, I had more than one person look me right in the eye and tell me I was “wasting” my life. When I ran for office again later, I also had people chide me for trying to come back when I should not have left in the first place.

The truth is, as my grandmother used to say, misery loves company. Why should a bunch of men care if their male coworker doesn’t go out to the stripper joints with them after work? Why should they turn aggressive and ugly and tell him he’s “whipped” because he loves his wife and family while they do not love their wives and families?

Who’s the real man here? Is it the braggart good-for-nothing who dishonors the people he has stood before God and promised to protect and defend, the strong individual who stands up under the verbal hazing and honors his promises with his fidelity?

By the same token, who is wasting her life? The woman who builds people, or the woman who builds widgets?

You have one life. In this free country of ours, you can spend your life how you chose. At the end of the span, when you are like my Mama and cannot do for yourself, do you want to be wrapped in the love and care of grateful generations, or do you want the cold hardness of the alone?

When you look back over your life, do you want to view a wasteland of broken relationships, crazy and dysfunctional offspring and nothing much worth claiming, or do you want to see a life that gave life, that nurtured and loved and created? Do you want to see strong people going forward into tomorrow with your love in their hearts?

When you stand before God, what will be the sum total of the great gift of years that He gave you to spend?

Home and family are not outmoded ideas. They are eternal truths on which people are built.

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Kids Who Won’t Mind. What’s Wrong with this Picture?

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I’m under the weather today, so I’ve spent the afternoon watching the Spielberg version of War of the Worlds.

Every time I watch this movie, I end up losing interest in it because the kids are such totally messed-up people. Here they are, running for their lives, and they refuse to do what their father tells them to do. In fact, they are as difficult, obstructionist and consistently bratty as two kids can be.

I see this sort of thing in movies all the time. Parents will tell their kid or kids — movie families are always tiny — to “go home” because they are in a dangerous situation and the kid ignores them as if they hadn’t said a word. Maybe in the filmmaker’s world this is the way things are. Maybe in most of the world, this is the way things are.

But I homeschooled my kids and I can say without hesitation that I never saw this in my kids or the children of any of the other homeschooling families.

Take, for instance, the night of the May 3 tornado. This particular tornado went through Moore and South Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999. I woke up that morning aching all over. The cats got in grain barrels we used for storage in the garage and would not get out. (This was the first and only time they ever got in those barrels.) A friend of mine told me her chihuahua got under the sofa and wouldn’t come out.

I cooked supper while we watched the tornado form outside of Apache, Oklahoma on our television. I remember remarking, “We’ve been expecting you,” to the screen.

We watched that thing grow and stay down on the ground as it cut across the state and headed for us. When it got to Chickasha, I told the kids to put their shoes on. We pulled the cats out of their grain barrels and stuffed them into their cat carrier. When it came time to get the heck out of Dodge, we did just that.

The point?

The kids did exactly what my husband and I told them to do. No argument. No questions. No hysteria. No debate.

I don’t give my kids direct commands now that they’re grown. But they still come to me for advice which they don’t always follow, but do take quite seriously. If I flat-out give them an order, such as, bring my vacuum cleaner back – I didn’t give it you – It was a loan – they tease me, then do it. For that matter, I have a hard time ignoring my 89-year-old mother when she asks me to do something, even now with her dementia.

So, what’s wrong with these movie kids? Do other people’s children really ignore their parents the way movie kids do? Do they argue about every thing they’re told to do and even refuse direct commands from their parents?

I never encountered this in all my years of child raising. Neither did any of my homeschooling friends. The teens weren’t terrible, and the rebellions didn’t happen.

The poor children in The War of the Worlds come from a broken home. Their mother is expecting a baby with her husband, who is much wealthier than their father. Their father seems to have a family reputation for being inconsistent and unreliable where the children are concerned. They end up left with this untrustworthy father who they clearly know but don’t respect or trust, not even to love them unconditionally.

I guess, when you look at it through the lens of their messed up family, it’s understandable that they talk back/don’t obey/get hysterical when things are tough.  After all, if Daddy has exhibited a long-term pattern of not being there, why should they feel safe relying on him when aliens are killing everybody in sight? They’re running for their lives, with Daddy Every So Often as their only protector.

If they’ve been raised in a home where Mama — who is the only present parent — clearly does not completely trust Daddy to care for them properly, even for a weekend — as she clearly does not — then why should they believe that they have any hope of good decisions and protection from him when the chips are down?

These kids feel safer with their stepfather than they do with their natural father, and he’s just their mother’s husband who they call by his first name.

There are lots of reasons for kids who won’t mind. But our fractured families and terrible home lives have to be high on that list. Even if you give your kids a stable home with their own mom and dad, if you send them to the public schools, they are going to be spending most of their waking hours with peers who are growing up in bad homes.

They are going to encounter the full blast of politically correct education which trains them very deliberately in ideas about family that are antithetical to accepting the authority of their own parents. In fact, much of things they are taught in areas like sex education and social studies seem to be designed to break down parental authority in the key areas of moral, social and spiritual formation.

Kids who won’t mind in dangerous situations can quickly become kids who don’t survive. They can also lead to dead families.

If, say, an F5 tornado is heading your way, and the kids refuse to do what you tell them, the whole family can get caught out and killed. Ditto for many other situations.

I find it difficult to watch Spielberg’s version of War of the Worlds because the children are so damaged. It is a horror tale inside of a horror tale, watching these totally messed-up kids and this total failure of a father try to struggle through the mayhem of an interplanetary attack on Earth. If Spielberg had looked a little closer at what he was saying here, he could easily have created an allegory for the social deconstruction our culture is undergoing.

But he didn’t do that.

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Instead, he leaves it there, in front of us, without any real meaning. That’s the way destroyed families with their damaged children are routinely presented in film. We are shown these hideously messed-up families as if they were normal, when they are anything but normal. They are, in fact, dysfunctional to the point of being suicidal.

I don’t spend more time than I have to around ruined families. It’s too unpleasant. These people are too angry, their thinking processes too distorted and confused. People from ruined families don’t seem to be able to process reality. They are easy pickings for the next new thing. Their memories seem to go back to yesterday and not one minute further. No matter how high their native intelligence, they are profoundly stupid and gullible due to the damage that has been inflicted on their psyches.

I simply do not like to spend time with people who can’t think and process; who have no memory and are liable to rages and random contradictory behavior. I understand that they have been hurt and that they are profoundly disabled on an emotional and intellectual level by what their parents and our society has done to them. But they are untrustworthy, hurtful people to know.

There are many challenges in this for today’s Christians. The first and most of important is how we can protect our own children from becoming as damaged as the rest of our society. It’s important, it really, really maters to the future of your children, for you to love their father if you are their mother, and for you to love their mother if you are their father.

It is essential that you commit to the person you make babies with and spend your life working together with them to build your babies into productive, loving people who can form families and raise children of their own.

Do I make that clear?

You need to get married to the mother or father of your children and you need to love the mother or father of your children and you need to respect and treasure and cherish the mother or father of your children for the rest of your life. The two of you must be a team that is dedicated before God to raising the souls that He has entrusted to you. Nothing else you can do with your life matters as much as this.

You have to protect your babies from this poisonous anti-child culture and, as important as an intact family is, protecting them will take even more. This is a society that sacrifices its children in a wanton and uncaring fashion to every false god it sees. From manufacturing them before conception, to murdering them before birth, to destroying their bonds with their parents and subjecting them to social experiments to promote the latest politically correct fantasy, our society has organized itself into a child-sacrificing machine.

If you want your kids to come into their own adulthood undamaged by all this, you have to keep them out of it when they are little. If you do that, they will have the tools to handle it once they become adults. If you don’t, they will be overtaken by it.

That’s why I recommend homeschooling. It works academically. And, given the homeschooling groups and the many organizations available, it also works socially. Your kids will form life-long friendships with the other homeschooled kids. What will be different is that they won’t be forming relationships with kids who are from such damaged homes that they cannot function as whole people.

The second thing we have to do as Christians is to decide how we will convert this sick society of ours. How do we minister to ruined people who are so damaged they cannot form families and raise children of their own? How do we explain a loving God to people who have never been unconditionally loved by anyone in their lives? How do we help them to learn to live Christian lives after they convert?

These are huge questions that I am going to save for another post.

However, I am interested in what Public Catholic readers suggest as remedies.

Talk it over and let’s see what you come up with.

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Book Review: If Daddy is a Cipher, Who is God the Father?

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How the West Really Lost God, a New Theory of Secularization, is an important book. It’s the kind of book that is bound to provoke discussion. It will be lauded and excoriated.

That’s because it deals with important issues and advances an argument for a new explanation of much-discussed social trends. A lot of people have a social or professional stake in the old-school explanations of why secularism has taken hold in the West. Many social scholars have based their life’s work on the gradualist explanation of secularism.

Social scientist gadflies, such as Dr Richard Dawkins, are attempting to base new socio/political movements at least tangentially on those same explanations. When someone comes along and advances a new theory about what has become a kind of social science cant, the reactions will be strong and varied.

This is exactly what has happened with Mary Eberstadt’s fine book, How the West Really Lost God, a New Theory of Secularization. Ms Eberstadt’s premise is that the rise of secularism is linked to the demise of the family. She does a good job of establishing a historical correlation between these two trends, going back hundreds of years.

The theory she advances in her book is that this is more than a correlation, that the destruction of the family leads directly to a lessening of religious fervor, specifically as it relates to Christianity. In other words, she’s saying that strong families buttress the practice of religion and the loss of family weakens it. She is saying that the loss of family, which began with the industrial revolution, is the primary cause of the rise of secularism.

I am not sure exactly what I think about this. I agree that the correlation between the loss of family and the rise of secularism is there. I also agree that single people go to church less.

I do think she Ms Eberstadt is correct that the loss of family is a real factor in the rise of secularism. But I tend to think that there are economic forces at work here that underlie the loss of family that are probably the true, root, cause. I also think that the two things feed on one another. Declining religion also leads to a decline in family.

My opinion, which is not based on research, but is just my opinion, is that one of the main reasons that a smaller percentage of single people than marrieds go to church in today’s society is because they feel compelled to engage in sexual activities which the church forbids. Notice I said “compelled.” Sex is a powerful, even overwhelming, drive in young people. Young human beings go through a period of years in which their hormones are running so strong that no matter what they’re doing, sex is in their minds somewhere.

However, much of the sexual behavior they engage in today is being pushed on them by adults. Sex education, the media and even their own parents push them toward sexual awareness before they want it and then toward sexual activity before they are ready for it. They are often coerced into sexual activity at a point when they are actually scared of it and would, if allowed to make free choices, much rather just talk and giggle about it for a few years.

They are also forced, by the way adolescent social life is currently constructed, (again by adults) to engage in sexual activity whether they want to or not in order to be one of the group. At that point, their sexuality is no longer their own and it is not so much a response to raging hormones as it is a coerced situation.

Progressive churches often fail to offer a bulwark or any sort against this, while traditional churches, just tell young people to stay pure and not engage in sex outside of marriage. Church does not give kids, even those in intact families, the resources to deal with the cultural landslide of influences pushing them into early sexual activity. What churches do is make them uncomfortable about what they are doing. They are betrayed by progressive churches who are actually part of the problem. They are simply given mandates with no real comprehension of what they are facing or support in facing it from traditional churches. It is easier, once they reach the age where they can decide, just not to go.

Once they are married, they usually find it possible to comply with church sexual teachings and their social group, both at once. The dissonance is removed. They can go to church again.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. All this sexual activity weakens or even destroys the bonds that sex forms between spouses. It contributes to the rise of unwed births, and once people are married, their prior sexual promiscuity makes it easier for them to break their vows.

People aren’t as committed to their husbands and wives because they’ve left too many pieces of themselves with their priors. They find it easy to think of divorce in times of trouble. They also find it easy to engage in extramarital sex. Divorce is just as easy as sex for people like this, and for the same reasons.

The upshot of this is that more and more children grow up in partial families with only one distracted and overwhelmed parent. They may never have seen their father. They may not know who their father is. They may grow up in homes wrecked by divorce with absentee fathers or parents who hate one another and are constantly dragging one another into court over custody and child support.They can’t form families of their own when they grow up because they don’t have any idea what a family is.

This is more than the loss of family. It is the destruction of normal child parent relationships and the introduction of acute insecurity, abandonment and isolation on a primal level into children’s developing years. It leads to partially dismembered adults who cannot form normal permanent relationships or commit to any other person.

Meanwhile, the Church tells them that God is their heavenly father, the church is their home, and heaven is their ultimate home.

The best reaction those metaphors are going to get from children who’ve grown up in one of today’s chaotic, shattered and almost non-existent families, is huh? More likely they will respond with a rejecting anger.

After all, if Daddy is a cipher — or worse — then who is God the Father?

How the West Really Lost God, a New Theory of Secularization is an important book. It dares to break step with the accepted explanations for how we got here. The fact that it also raises questions as well as answers them, is a mark of its relevance to today’s world.

I think anyone interested in discussing why Western Civilization has turned toward an increasingly totalitarian form of secularism should read it.

 

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