Obama Didn’t Blink. We Can’t Either.

I’ve found that evil usually triumphs…unless good is very, very careful.

–DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”

I’m going to take my time commenting about President Obama’s recent “compromises” on the HHS Mandate. I want to let the fur fly for a while.

In the meantime, here are a few facts and a couple of opinions that I want you to think about as we winnow through the political/media chaff.

1. President Obama did not offer this “compromise” because he was being a statesman. He was responding to the fact that his administration was under a court order to live up to its promises concerning the mandate. I wrote about this when it happened. You can find that post here.

A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

2. Hobby Lobby’s attorney made a statement to ProLife News affirming what many people had already surmised: The President’s “compromise” will not help companies like Hobby Lobby. I will put an excerpt of this statement and another link to it below.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

3. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is taking much the same approach to this “compromise” that I am. They want to read through it and think. Their statement says:

In response to today’s release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provided the following statement on behalf of the USCCB.

“Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”

4. I gave my initial reaction to the “compromise” yesterday when I wrote HHS Mandate: Did Obama Blink? My feeling then as now is that no, he did not blink. And we shouldn’t, either.

5. My opinion is that President Obama did the least he could do and still give an appearance of cooperating with the federal court order that his administration was under. I also think that his slave dogs in the media will tout this as the “great compromise” that it is not and that members of the public who either (a) worship President Obama, or, (b) hate Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular will follow right along with this obvious lie.

The article published by ProLifeNews about the statement from Hobby Lobby’s attorney says in part:

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans. The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated,” Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, said.

He said, “The Becket Fund continues to study what effect, if any, the Administration’s proposed rule has on the many lawsuits on behalf of non-profit religious organizations like Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.” (Read more here.)

HHS Mandate: Did Obama Blink?

I’ve found that evil usually triumphs…unless good is very, very careful.

–DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”

Franks Weathers, who blogs at Why I am Catholic, posted some interesting news this morning.

There are signs that the Obama Administration is reading the court-ruling tea leaves and has decided to maybe, perhaps, accede on the HHS Mandate — at least to the point of living up to a few of the promises it made in the past.

After misrepresenting the HHS Mandate all the way through the 2012 campaign (“It protects ‘women’s health.’”) and steadfastly ignoring the promises that it made concerning the Mandate, the administration may be backing down just a bit.

As Frank Weathers notes, the probable reason for this move is that the administration has been losing in courts around the land precisely because of these very public promises it made and then failed to keep.

I’m a little chary of this. I expect that the White House will pump out a few “compromises” that are designed to offer as little relief as possible. Then, it will trumpet this action as having satisfied every problem with the HHS Mandate. I then expect the press and the Pavlovian Church haters to follow through by casting these minuscule changes as acts of great statesmanship and a total resolution of the problem.

The trouble I foresee is that the so-called compromises won’t resolve the problems with the HHS Mandate. They will not end the attack it represents to religious freedom. What these grand compromises will effect is to weaken the case of those who oppose the mandate without actually granting them relief.

Of course, I could be wrong. President Obama may actually back down. He might even  decide that attacking the First Amendment clause about the government not interferring with the free exercise of religion is a bridge too far, a legacy he doesn’t want.

The reason I’m cautious in my expectations is that I keep remembering that this president lied to Congressman Bart Stupak and other pro life Democratic Congressmen when he told them that the Affordable Health Care Act would not interfere with freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Our president is a good gamesman. He plays the public and the press like a harmonica. But he also has a track record on this very issue of promising much and then delivering the opposite of what he promised.

I’m waiting to see what he says he’s going to do. Then, I’ll wait again and see what he actually does.

Frank Weathers has written a great analysis of the current moves by the White House which says in part:

Back in December, I shared thoughts that perhaps the Administration will scuttle this ridiculous rule out of embarrassment alone. I mean, the phony war on women trope worked well enough to secure reelection, but in reality, it isn’t holding up in the courts.

Most likely they won’t scuttle it, but heavily modify it instead. The courts clamping down on the Administration to produce their promised changes certainly puts the HHS under pressure to get this done. CNN has sources who say the modification is forthcoming.

To read more, go to The Administration Rolling Back the HHS Mandate? CNN Thinks Yes.

Also, Elizabeth Scalia has an excellent analysis of the President’s “compromise” here and Frank Weathers posted an update here.  It’s pretty much what I predicted, including the orchestrated hosannas from the press.

Will Legalizing Gay Marriage in Britain Result in Coercive Attacks on Freedom of Conscience?


Great Britain’s government will vote soon on gay marriage. Christians have expressed concern that such a change in the law might result in attacks on freedom of conscience.

Supporters of the measure have rushed to assure the public that such fears are groundless.

Now, where have we heard things like this before?

Oh yes. It was President Obama, promising that Obamacare would not infringe on religious freedom and individual rights of conscience.

That was only a few months before a hand-picked committee of the Health and Human Services Department “passed” the HHS Mandate, which the same president who had made these promises signed and then misrepresented to the American people as being about “women’s health care.”

Good luck, British Christians. Judging by what has happened elsewhere, you’re going to need it.

A Christian Post article concerning the upcoming vote on same-sex marriage and freedom of conscience in Great Britain says in part:

UK Government Source: Teachers May Face Firing for Refusing to Teach Gay Marriage
Katherine Weber (“The Christian Post,” January 25, 2013)

As Great Britain’s government prepares to vote on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, an official from the Secretary of State for Education’s office reportedly has expressed trepidation toward the bill, arguing that primary school teachers in the country could possibly lose their jobs if they do not teach about gay marriage in the classroom.

One unnamed senior source from the office of Michael Gove, who serves as the country’s current Secretary of State for Education, has recently said that ultimately the U.K. government is not in control, should a teacher lose their job for refusing to teach same-sex marriage, and the case would ultimately go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, where the European Parliament is located.

“We have had legal advice, the problem is that there is this inherent uncertainty about such matters,” the source told The Telegraph in a Jan. 25 report.

“These are all under the control of nine guys in Strasbourg, it is just fundamentally uncertain because Britain isn’t in control of this,” the source added.

Additionally, those critical of the upcoming same-sex marriage bill argue that hospital chaplains and other people in authority may be faced with difficult decisions when their conscience conflicts with their work protocol.

These statements come after human rights specialist Aidan O’Neill of the Queen’s Counsel argued on behalf of the Coalition For Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage legalization, that he believes teachers, hospital or prison chaplains would be negatively affected by the legalization of the bill.

However, in response to these worries, Maria Miller, Secretary of Culture and Great Britain’s equalities minister, recently stated that teachers and the Church of England will not be put in a compromising position due to the same-sex marriage bill.(Read more here.)

Will Colorado’s Civil Unions Bill Encourage Religious Persecution If It Passes?

Opponents of Colorado’s proposed civil unions law raised concerns about the law being used limit religious freedom at a rally against the measure January 25.

Similar laws in other states have been used to force Catholic agencies to shut down.

What that says to me is that these concerns are legitimate.

A CNA/EWTN News article describing the rally says in part:

Denver, Colo., Jan 26, 2013 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Around 200 opponents of a Colorado civil unions bill rallied at the state capitol Jan. 25, warning that the legislation not only redefines marriage but could shut down Catholic adoption agencies in the state.

“We stand up today because we see that the real goal of civil union legislation is social endorsement of same-sex unions, and soon enough, the redefinition of marriage,” said rally speaker Kate Sweeney, assistant director of the Colorado-based Catholic women’s group ENDOW.

“Those with same-sex attraction have the right to live as they choose. But they do not have the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us,” she added.

Monsignor Thomas Fryar, the moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Denver, warned that the bill put religious freedom at risk.

“We have been involved in the state of Colorado for over 80 years in helping to take care of the children of our community and make sure they are placed in adoption and foster care in good, healthy, wholesome settings, for the good of our society,” he said.

Similar laws in other states forced the Catholic Church to end these programs.(Read more here.)

Don’t Take Government Money. Don’t Kiss Caesar’s Ring

“Do not take government money.” 

I have said this to every religious ministry who has given me a venue to speak ever since I came back to public office in 2002.

The only people who give you free money are people who love you, like your parents. The government does not love anybody.

Government money hooks you into government policies, including those that are anathema to you. Religious groups that take government money — and it does not matter which party is in power — will eventually face the requirement that they bend their knee to Caesar and kiss his ring.

I’ve seen leaders of whole Protestant denominations abandon things they have fought for like pro life in response to political pressure.

I remember a few years back reading that national Catholic Charities had received a huge grant from the federal Health and Human Services Department.

I was appalled.

I knew that this money would lead to demands that the Church compromise its teachings. Based on what I’d seen Protestant groups do, I assumed that the Catholic Church would accede to these demands. I thought the money would buy the Church’s moral and prophetic voice, the way I’d seen it buy other religious voices.

I knew that you can not be true to Christ and take government money. You. Can. Not. Do. It.

You can not be an authentic Christian leader and toady to secular power. You. Can. Not. Do. It.

I wrote a post Saturday in which I talked about our personal allegiances; our friendships. I said that sooner or later, you have to chose. You cannot maintain deep intimate friendships with anti-God people and follow Jesus. You have to chose.

This is a parallel post addressed to religious leaders. My point is the same. You cannot base your efforts to bring the Kingdom of God on politics and supporting politicians and political parties. You cannot follow a political party and follow Christ.

You have to chose, and I don’t mean sooner or later when the politically powerful rub your nose in the fact that you “belong” to them and demand that you abandon your beliefs for them. I mean from day one. You cannot bend the Gospels to fit the platforms and the behaviors of either political party and preach Christ.

You will either preach politics.

Or you will preach Christ.

But you cannot do both.

Many Catholic priests are just as guilty as their Protestant brethren of bending the Gospels to suit their politics. You find both Republican and Democrat apologists in their ranks.

They will spout Canon Law and attack good people who oppose the death penalty because, somehow, that isn’t being “pro life” enough about abortion. Not, mind you, that the people they attack support abortion, but that they aren’t focused on it to the exclusion of every other possible sin. Others will try to make us believe that ignoring abortion is the necessary price for concern for the poor.

This is bending the Gospels so they don’t discomfit the politics of one political party or the other. It is not preaching Christ. Both types of priest lead people astray from following Christ and teach them to follow politicians, instead.

The Church itself, however, has been amazingly faithful.

It didn’t take long for what went around to come back around concerning those federal grants. Before you could say three Hail Marys, the Church was embroiled in lawsuits and broadsides, demanding that it refer the women it was helping for abortions or lose the money.

“While the Catholic bishops were entitled to their beliefs, freedom of religion does not mean imposing religious doctrines on others with the use of taxpayer dollars,” said Sarah Wunsch, an ACLU staff attorney.

She was referring to a lawsuit to end a federal grant to Catholic Charities for work aiding victims of human trafficking. A few months after this lawsuit, the federal Department of Health and Human Services revised its guidelines for human trafficking grants to require all recipients to refer for abortion.

The Church could have done as so many others have and simply “wink-winked” its way through this. All it would take was a 3×5 card listing “abortion providers” tucked, ever so casually, into a pile of intake forms. Just touch your lips to the ring. It will be over quickly, and it won’t hurt for long.

Besides, “it was the law.”

That’s what the Church could have done. It’s what everyone else has done. It was the wide and easy way.

I’m sure the government coffers would have opened and rained down gold on the Bishop’s heads if they had just done this. It would have been money, money, money for whatever they wanted.

But they said no. They took the narrow road, the hard way.

The price is that the federal government is now attacking the Church with broadsides like the HHS Mandate.

There is nothing in the Gospels that says you must first acquire a government grant to help the least of these. Following Christ’s teachings means, among other things, that the Church must reach out to people like victims of human trafficking, regardless of what the government wants or does.

The Church has responded to this situation with a new ministry called Amistad.

“We lost a contract, but we’ve not gone away,” said Nathalie Lummert, special-programs director at the USCCB’s Office of Migrant and Refugee Services (MRS). “We’re taking a decade of experience and now are rolling out a new program that brings communities directly into the fight against human trafficking.”

I am so proud of my church for standing for the Gospels in the face of the federal government. I am just as proud of them for their concern for trafficked women and children.

The fact that the Catholic Church refuses to kiss Caesar’s ring on the one hand, or abandon the least of these on the other is, in my opinion, the single best hope we have.

A National Catholic Register Article concerning Amistad says in part:

WASHINGTON — A new innovative weapon in the fight against human trafficking and sex slavery is coming this year from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, more than a year after abortion politics led the Obama administration to kill federal funding for the Church’s top-rated outreach effort.

“We lost a contract, but we’ve not gone away,” said Nathalie Lummert, special-programs director at the USCCB’s Office of Migrant and Refugee Services (MRS). “We’re taking a decade of experience and now are rolling out a new program that brings communities directly into the fight against human trafficking.”

The new initiative of the U.S. bishops’ Anti-Trafficking Program is “The Amistad Movement,” an MRS program that puts the USCCB back in the fight against human trafficking in a major way.

Until 2011, the USCCB had directed a highly regarded, $15-million anti-trafficking program that networked victims with services offered by local interfaith groups, including the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services, as well as secular nonprofits.

The USCCB program came to a sudden halt, however, when the Department of Health and Human Services announced that “strong preference” would be given to groups that would refer all victims to family-planning services, including “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.” A Washington Post investigation revealed senior HHS political appointees threw out the strong recommendations of an independent review board to renew the USCCB’s contract and disqualified the USCCB over its refusal to reimburse groups that referred victims for abortion and birth-control services.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/u.s.-bishops-bring-new-weapon-to-human-trafficking-fight?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-01-28%2007:05:01#ixzz2JIFe2mvP

Parsing Killing With Impunity and Manufacturing Monsters

In case you were wondering, the devil is at work all over the world, not just here in America.

One case in point is a suggested revision to Dutch statutes that I mentioned in an earlier post to allow medical personnel to euthanize minors and Alzheimer’s sufferers. Ironically, these are two groups of people who are considered incompetent to make most legal decisions for themselves. The proposed law was drafted in part by Senator Philippe Mahoux.

Our world is so spiritually sick that we try to parse and channel legalized murder. We have laws that point to one group of people and say in effect, “you may kill them with impunity” then, we have other laws that point to another group of people and say “if you kill them it is an atrocity.”

Well, which is it? Is it an atrocity to kill the innocent, or is it something we may do with impunity?

Maybe it’s time for us as a society to stop allowing the controlled killing of innocents. Maybe we should stop cozying up to killing and making it our pal by calling it a “right.” Maybe we should simplify things and just say that, with the single exception of self-defense, it’s wrong to kill people. Period.

That’s an unsophisticated way to handle things, I know. It’s also bound to make things hard for someone out there who claims that their desire to kill someone else is, in fact, a kindness and their “right.” But it might have the effect of re-erecting that fence around human life once again. You know the one, the fence of law, morality and custom that keeps us safe from one another.

Instead of going out and putting ourselves into tiny prisons and police state boxes in our zeal to be safe, perhaps we should just simplify our thinking and go back to the fuddy-duddy Christian notion that every individual has an inherent right to life because they are a unique and irreplaceable human being made in the image and likeness of God.

I know that’s not a very politically-correct way to approach this. But our recent history of parsing the freedom to kill hasn’t worked so well for us. Our society has become a monster factory. Maybe we should ask ourselves why.

The France 54 International News article describing this proposed law says in part:

AFP - Belgium is considering a significant change to its decade-old euthanasia law that would allow minors and Alzheimer’s sufferers to seek permission to die.

The proposed changes to the law were submitted to parliament Tuesday by the Socialist party and are likely to be approved by other parties, although no date has yet been put forward for a parliamentary debate.

“The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases we must find a response to,” party leader Thierry Giet said.

The draft legislation calls for “the law to be extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate.” (Read more here.)

Walk for Life West Coast Videos

The Walk for Life West Coast was a huge success.

I wish I had been able to go. God willing, I will go next year.

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy viewing videos from the walk. I know that Public Catholic readers attended the walk. If you did, feel free to add your own experiences and photos in the comments section.

 

YouTube Preview Image

Strip Club Owner to Nuns: Don’t Impose Your Religious Beliefs on Me

Standing Against Christian Persecution

The strip club and the nuns story has gone on for a while and it appears it will continue.

Thanks to the city government of Stone Park, Il, the community of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles Boromeo Scalabrinians now have a strip club two feet from their property.

As we all know, the current reply to any request for official consideration or civil rights for Christians is to tell them to “stop putting their religious bigotry on other people.” We are told to keep our faith at home, to practice it at church and then to keep our mouths shut everywhere else.

The owner of the strip club is no exception to this charming behavior. His advice to the sisters? Keep your religion to yourselves, and oh, by the way, I pay taxes and you don’t.

Of course, none of this addresses the question of why the strip club owner wanted to put his “business” next to a convent in the first place. It also doesn’t address why the city planning commission went along with it. Stone Park’s mayor claims that the process was legal, but that does not in any way explain why this permit to build was approved.

We have a whole town, called Valley Brook, here in Oklahoma that some people believe makes its revenue from prostitution under the guise of strip clubs.

Why do elected officials deliberately corrupt and degrade the cities they are supposed to be working to build and govern? What would motivate them to turn their statutes into open doors for the lowest kind of commerce? Why would anyone think that putting these kinds of things into neighborhoods and next to convents is a good idea?

We’ve had to pass laws at the state level here in Oklahoma to keep them from putting these places across the street from grade schools. The upward-looking elected officials in Valley Brook must have used a measuring tape to make sure they built their school as close to the strip joints as they could without going over the line.

It’s an interesting world we live in where elected officials work to further the interests of the lowest common denominator in their society. It’s an even more interesting world when people who degrade and sell women as if they were chattel can lecture a group of nuns and tell them their viewpoints are unworthy because they are Christians.

I would call that world soul-sick and depraved. But then, I’m used to being told to keep my faith at home where it belongs. It no longer bothers me.

The Chicago Sun-Times article describing this situation says in part: (emphasis mine)

Proposed strip club to nuns: Don’t impose your religious beliefs on us
BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter sesposito@suntimes.com

Missionary Sister of St. Charl, Melrose Park, illinois. Sister Marissonia Daltoe, stands near the convent’s garden that shows the new gentleman’s club that is to close to the Sisters Convent. February 7Th,2012 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

The owner of a soon-to-be-built strip club in the western suburb of Stone Park has this to say to a group of neighboring nuns who don’t like his plans: Mind your own business.

“As a legal, tax-paying citizen of this community, we ask only to be judged fairly by what we have done and not through the recent religious fervor,” Bob Itzkow, the club’s owner, said in statement released Friday. “In reference to our non-tax-paying neighbors, we ask that you treat us as we have treated you, by not trying to unduly disturb us by imposing your religious beliefs on us or others. All throughout our plans for this project, we’ve followed the letter and spirit of the law.”

The Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo, who occupy the property next to the club, have moral objections to the project and have raised questions about whether the rules were followed properly by Stone Park officials during the 2010 approval process.(Read more here.)

Bill Maher, Prophecy Fulfiller or Just Another Atheist Crank in Love With Death?

Bill Maher, the aggressive atheist/talk show host, managed to fulfill a prophecy a few months ago.

Even though I doubt very much that this was his intention when he gave this interview, he comes pretty close.

Mr Maher says (jokingly) I love death. Then he goes on to list all the real-world ways that he really does support the Culture of Death.

Proverbs 8 says “Those who hate me, love death.”

That verse may be more of a direct assessment than a prophecy. Mr Maher may not have been entirely serious when he characterized himself as a death lover. But considering his consistent support for legalized murder in any form, it seems like an “if the shoe fits” deal. The shoe does indeed seem to fit. The only death he doesn’t appear to “love” is his own.

One of the points the commenter makes is that there are very few people who are both pro choice and in favor of the death penalty. People have said similar things to me, only in reverse. Mr Maher and I are somewhat mirror images of one another, at least on a few matters. He is an aggressive atheist. I am a Christian and a Catholic. He favors abortion on demand. I am pro life. He favors the death penalty. I oppose it.

Unlike Mr Maher, I don’t fulfill any prophecies, unless you want to include me among those from many nations who will follow Him.

Listen to this YouTube video (it’s a radio broadcast) and see if you think Mr Maher is a prophecy fulfiller, or just another atheist crank attacking the sanctity of human life.

YouTube Preview Image

Saying Good-bye to Old Friends and the Me I Used to Be

Conversion.

Three syllables. 

It’s not even a pretty-sounding word. Kun – vur – shun. 

But when the conversion in question is  a switch from an anti-god viewpoint to an allegiance to Jesus Christ, it has the power to sweep away everything in its path. Conversion means more than reciting a formulaic prayer. It isn’t about anything you do, at least not initially. In the beginning, conversion, at least as it was for me, is just a matter of saying yes.

I’ve tried many times to find the words to describe the feeling of that moment when I stepped from death to life. I have never found them. There may be no words.

I said, “Forgive me.” That’s all. Just “forgive me,” and I felt this Other, this ecstatic love and joy reach out to me. There was a physical sensation of love filling me. I believe now that what happened must have been the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that I’ve heard about, but I had no idea of this at the time.

I also had no idea what to do. None. I just waited for the new Being who was with me to guide me.

I do remember, as I entered into the life of a practicing Christian, that I thought that I wouldn’t be like the other Christians. I wouldn’t lose the friends I had before I converted. I would be cool. Nothing was going to change. I was going to keep on being the same person I had always been, believing the same things I had always believed. I would be the cool Christian with all her anti-God friends.

I didn’t tell anyone about my conversion at first. I wasn’t hiding it. I was reveling in the joy. Also, I just didn’t know what to do or say. A month went by before it came into my head to go to a large Methodist Church here in Oklahoma City.

It was the perfect church for the cool Christian I was trying to be at that time. It was the sort of place where I could be as cafeteria about my faith as my coolness required and still be exposed to what I needed to grow in grace with time. I didn’t hide my new church-going ways.  But I didn’t advertise them, either. I didn’t hide the fact that I was now a Christian, but I didn’t push it on anyone or bring it up in conversations when no one else was talking about it.

For no reason that I could discern most of my anti-God acquaintances pulled away from me, anyway. Cool as I was, they didn’t want any part of me. I was ok with that. I was still cool and still hanging on to the people who really mattered to me.

I didn’t reckon with the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. God didn’t seem to mind if I wanted to begin my Christian life by being cool. He just didn’t pay much attention to it. At that stage, He didn’t seem to be trying to change what I did. He was changing what I wanted to do.

That’s something that you don’t realize when you’re a baby Christian bent on being cool. God doesn’t start demanding more from you than you can do. He begins by loving you and teaching you; by changing you at the core instead of on the periphery where all your coolness is focused.

I was a slow learner and a slow changer. I tried with all my heart to hold onto my old ways; my old friends. When I began to change, I even went so far as to try to hide the changes from them, to somehow slip by without talking to them about it because I loved them and I knew that if they understood that I was no longer who I had been, it would be the end of our friendship.

I still remember the way I cringed inside when an atheist friend of mine looked at me and said, “You’ve changed.” It was both a challenge and an accusation, harsher than if he’d caught me stealing the family silver.

What he was responding to, identifying against my will, was that he saw the spirit of Christ in me. There is nothing anyone should be prouder of than that, but I felt caught. Exposed. I had tried so hard to be cool.

“You’ve changed.” he accused, and in that accusation was his acknowledgement that we were no longer intellectual and moral twins. I had become what he despised. “Changed,” he said. And he was right.

He was the first real friend to fall away. And the least painful of the lot.

I should have learned then, but I didn’t. I was deeply tethered to Christ, and emotionally and intellectually immersed in the Holy Spirit, but even though I faithfully attended the large Methodist Church each Sunday,  I felt no connection with the people there. Odd as this sounds, they were too lukewarm in their commitment to Christ. I wanted — hungered — for someone else who loved Him as I did. I went to that church for nine years and never made a close friend.

Was that why I tried to hang on to the friends of my past life? Or was it something else? In truth, I still struggle to understand myself. I just couldn’t, wouldn’t, see that the friendships I’d had were based on externals and not the deep bonding I craved.

This was wrong. It was cowardly. But it is what I did.

You cannot continue to be who you were before you became a follower of Jesus Christ. There is no middle ground between His teachings and what He requires of you and the intimacy of true friendship with unbelievers. It’s taken me a long time and more than a few heartbreaks to accept this.

You cannot serve two masters. Jesus said that. I am thankful that my attempts at being cool never led me so far astray that I questioned who my Master truly was.

Jesus had me at hello. From the first moment of my conversion, I was totally and completely in love with My Savior. Even though I tried mightily to avoid the consequences of lost friendships, when a choice was forced on me, I always chose Christ. It was not even a decision. I am His. That’s what and who I am.

Abortion and same-sex marriage divide people more than any other issues. That was true of me and that old gang of mine as well. I tried to avoid confrontations with my former pro choice friends, but there’s no hiding such things long-term. God had changed me. I truly was a pro life Christian.

Same-sex marriage took an even deeper toll. My best friend was a gay man. I love him like a brother. He is family to me.

If there was any way that I could keep my friendship with him without going against the teachings of my Church and turning my back on Jesus, I would do it.

But I can’t. And he can’t.

I have no problem as a Christian advocating for human rights for gay people. None. I am convinced and my Church teaches that unjust discrimination against gay people is a sin. If it wasn’t for the battlefield same-sex marriage has become, I think they would find that the Catholic Church, which defends human rights for all people, was their best advocate.

But to many gay people, same-sex marriage has become the sine qua non of their human rights. They see opposition to same-sex marriage as a repudiation of them as people. When their Christian friends come out against it, they feel betrayed and used. Friendship can not survive that kind of breach. So it was with my friend and me.

I found myself at the same pass over and over again. I tried to be cool and keep my old friends, but when I was forced to chose, I always, inevitably, chose Christ. The result of my many attempts to be cool, to hang onto my friendships from the past was hurt feelings and broken hearts all around.

If I have one piece of advice for a new convert, it would be to take the lick of lost relationships all at once and get it over with. Know that your old self is dying and a new self in Christ is being born. Turn your face to your future with Christ. I am not blaming anyone but myself for the mistakes I made, but I do wish I had had a Christian mentor to tell me that at the time. I might not have listened, but … I also might have.

Conversion is three syllables which mean “to change in character, form, or function.” That meaning is a good description of the long-term action of the Holy Spirit on a human soul. You change, not in a moment, but continuously, as God slowly “converts” you into what you were meant to be from the beginning.

Unfortunately, all change also means loss. In the case of a radical re-orientation of how you see yourself and all of creation, the loss will ultimately be everyone and everything that remains attached to your other life before Christ became your life. You can not serve two masters. You will, no matter how you try to avoid it, have to chose.

I think the fear of this is what drives so many Christians to hide their faith. The pain of loss when the people you’ve loved become your enemies is exquisite. This leads to a powerful temptation to go along to get along, to hide your faithfulness under a cloak of not saying much when you should be saying a lot. But you can’t hide forever. God won’t let you. At some point, you’ve got to come out, and when you do that, you will have to chose. Either you will chose to follow Christ and alienate those people who are against Him, or you will chose to follow them and lose Christ.

“Do you love me more than these?” Jesus asked.

He’s asking it of each of us today.

We live in a time when Christianity is being pushed to the corners of life, when our faith is challenged from all points of the compass in so many ways it’s difficult to enumerate them. Those of us who have walked the other side of the street are faced absolutely with the question, “Do you love me more than these?”

No matter how much we try to hide our light under a bushel, no matter the effort we make to be quiet and slide by when we are with old friends, we will, eventually, have to chose.

Despite all my weaknesses and many failings, my answer is and always has been, I chose Christ. 

 

YouTube Preview Image


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X