Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran was a gift to our state when he led us.
He was always willing to take the hard step up to the plate to defend the human person from the ravages of discrimination and hate.
About 10 years ago, Oklahoma passed an outrageous law aimed at Hispanics. This law made it a crime to help people, even when they were in dire situations, who had entered this country illegally. It was so draconian that it cut right across the mission of every Christian to serve and love the “least of these.” It was, in truth and in fact, a Jim Crow law for Hispanics.
I actually debated this point when I spoke against this law. I dug out the vote on the original Jim Crow law that Oklahoma had passed not long after statehood.
Do you want your name on a list like this, I asked my fellow legislators, pointing to the votes. It did no good. The state Republicans had whipped the public into a mindless and vicious anti-Hispanic hatred in order to win elections, and even legislators who saw that this law was a crime against God voted for it for fear of losing their next election.
My own district, which was a mix of all sorts of people — a true “rainbow” district of skin colors — was in a welter over it. Later, when the pro abortion people tried to defeat me in an election, they made an attempt to use that stand against this law to defeat me.
I had to take another stand, this time in my district, and tell the people there that I would not vote for something like this, and that if they wanted a racist who attacked people for political gain, then they should not vote for me. I won that election by a huge margin, with the full support of every racial group in the district.
What that meant — and continues to mean — to me is that the people of District 89 are far better people than you will find in much of the rest of our good state. They are some of the best people you will find anywhere.
Archbishop Beltran did not have the luxury of speaking to and for the Catholics of a small part of Oklahoma, like my House district. He wasn’t dealing with people who had known him all his life. He had to deal with the irascible and diverse Catholic population of his archdiocese. Many of the Catholics were just as thoroughly whipped up into anti-Hispanic hatred as the rest of the state.
So, when their Archbishop came out against this law with the full force of his prophetic and moral voice as their religious leader, they were irate with him for doing so. He did not let that stop him at all. The Catholic Church in Oklahoma stood tall against this dastardly legislation, just as it had stood for life and human dignity in an absolutely reliable way for years.
The Church was not able to stop passage of the law, but the Church, by taking this stand, raised the issue of the moral responsibility of lawmakers in an arena which was operating by a faux morality that justified harming other people. The Catholic Church was alone in taking a stand against this law. Others joined later, but in the beginning, the only voice against it was the Catholic Church.
The priests who were on the priest council here in Oklahoma all signed a declaration saying that they would not obey this unjust law. The statement declared that they would minister to everyone, regardless of ethnicity or legal status, even if doing so meant that they would go to jail.
These men made me proud to be Catholic. More than that, they made me feel that the Church was a refuge for those who were without other refuge, that Christ really did animate what they were doing as His priests. They sent the message with that statement that the Church was for real.
That taught me a simple lesson that I’ve seen enacted again and again around the world. When people are totally abandoned by everyone; when they become the object of such universal hatred that anyone who stands up for them is taking a big risk, the Church is their refuge.
That is what happened to black people during the long dark night of segregation. The black churches not only created community, they ennobled a people. Their message of Christ saved black Americans from falling absolutely into the pit of rageful despair which would have destroyed them in an absolute way that Jim Crow could not.
Archbishop Beltran was a young priest in Atlanta at the time of the Civil Rights Movement. He knew Martin Luther King, Jr. Father Beltran did in that time what Archbishop Betran did later. He stood with the weak and the hated against the powerful haters who wanted to destroy them. Archbishop Beltran marched with Martin Luther King when it was a dangerous thing to do. He marched with his bishop’s permission, but with the understanding that if he was arrested, his bishop would not try to get him out of jail.
This was a time when jail was a witness to truth. Father Beltran marched with the understanding that he might have to be just such a witness.
Among the many wonderful things that Archbishop Beltran did, he wrote a pastoral letter about violence against women. I treasure this deeply. The Church needs to use its moral and prophetic voice to speak out more decisively against violence against women. It could make such a difference if it did.
The Sooner Catholic recently published an article, discussing Archbishop Emeritus Beltran’s experiences in the Civil Rights movement. Here is a brief excerpt.
From the Sooner Catholic:
On a steamy Georgia morning in March 1965, Father Eusebius Beltran and three of his brother priests piled into the four-door sedan they borrowed from the Archdiocese of Atlanta and headed south toward Selma, Ala.
It had been two days since they’d heard news of a police shooting and beatings during a protest march in Selma that would later become known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The men were not strangers to marches during the Civil Rights Movement, having marched many times through the streets of Atlanta to protest discrimination by schools, restaurants, bus stations and other public venues. But, they hadn’t marched in a protest like this. The Selma marches became a national spark to protest the ongoing exclusion of African-American voters from the electoral process and from the discrimination they faced.
At the urging of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who they’d spoken with often at his father’s Baptist church, the Catholic priests sought approval from Archbishop Hallinan for the road trip to Selma and use of the archdiocese’s car.
“He told me that he wanted to see the boys, the priests, who were going with me before we left,” said Archbishop Beltran, who is now Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
“The four of us went to see Archbishop Hallinan in the hospital and that’s when he asked us ‘Do you guys know what you’re doing? Do you realize you’re breaking the law? Do you know that you could go to jail? And, that if you go to jail, I want to let you know I will not bail you out because part of standing for the truth is you take the punishment, and that’s part of the punishment.’ We said we all knew that, and he said ‘OK, God bless you.’”
After a nervous 4-hour drive to Selma, the priests each claimed a mattress on the floor of a hallway at the Catholic church and headed to join the crowds at a pre-march pep rally.
“The whole thing was well-organized and there was always a spokesman up there who was giving directions, reminding people no violence and to be ready to take a beating. It was scary in a way, but when you’re young, you don’t think about it. And, it had to be done too. It was part of the movement at that time. Selma brought together everything we were working toward.”
The next day, the march began in the same way it had two days earlier. Dr. King led the way across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the group of more than 2,500 marchers were met by state troopers. Since a judge had issued a court order prohibiting the marchers from continuing to Montgomery, Ala., they turned around and marched back to the church without incident. (Later that evening, three white pastors were attacked by members of the Klu Klux Klan, killing one Universalist pastor after the public hospital refused treatment.)
Following the second march, which became known as “Turnaround Tuesday,” Father Beltran and his crew returned to Atlanta where they continued their meetings and marches for several years – including a march to protest a segregated chicken restaurant owned by Lester Maddox, who later became Georgia’s governor.
I am having a blest life. In some ways, it is almost a charmed life.
I say that, not because everything has come easily to me, or because nothing bad ever happened to me. I say it because, in ways that I won’t talk about here, my life is one gigantic save.
I’m a survivor in that I’ve walked — sometimes crawled — away from a lot of crap.
I’m a survivor in that I’ve walked — oftentimes crying my eyes out — away from a lot of betrayal from people I trusted and loved.
I’m a survivor in that I’ve walked right through — oftentimes bitter and angry about it as I did it — right through repeated barrages of very public slams and whams.
I’m not writing this to talk about my grandiose survivability. In truth, I’ve survived things that should have put me down in the dirt because my surviving was to God’s purpose. I don’t understand it all, but it may have been, in a small part, so that I can write this post and say these things today.
Surviving requires one consistent thing of you, and that one thing is more difficult than all the gritty endurance that goes along with it: You can not allow yourself to be defined by other people.
If you are going to survive in this world you must — must — learn to think for yourself about yourself. You cannot allow any person’s cruel assessments of you determine your fate or your relationship with God.
I am writing today about one specific kind of person and one specific type of cruel assessment. I mean clergy and their condemnations and cruelties toward people who get on their bad side.
To my knowledge, there is no kind of clergy — Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim — who is immune to this dastardly misuse of clerical power. They are especially prone to it when someone challenges what they see as their authority, or when someone does something they find deplorable, or, most damning for them, when their followers get into a group hate of some poor hapless soul and they join in to keep them from turning on their preacher/priest/rabbi/imam.
As I said, this post is not the place where I’m going to talk about my deepest wounds. But I will talk about one very public happening that devastated me at the time. That very public happening was the very public refusal of a number of prominent protestant clergy to accept me as a Christian after I met Jesus. One of these clergy was someone who knew me, knew how sincere I was, and who joined in with his “brother” clergy rather than stand up for me.
I made the mistake of trying to talk to these pastors. That was more damaging to me as a Christian and a person than their initial — and I want to emphasize this, very pubic — attack against me had been.
It was, as I said devastating. I felt as if I had been cast out, banned, from Christianity.
It was one of the only times in my life when I hid in my bedroom for several days and wouldn’t get out of bed and just cried. I stopped going to church and withdrew from everyone but my family.
I stopped everything except believing in Jesus. That didn’t change or weaken. If anything, it grew stronger.
This wasn’t my first time to be attacked by clergy. Being attacked by clergy was my daily meat and bread during my first time in office. However, that didn’t bother me on any deep level. I was in my anti-God period at the time, and they couldn’t touch me inside my soul. I already thought they were cruel, so their behavior was little more than a confirmation.
The ability of clergy to do deep, permanent harm to another person is in direct proportion to how much that other person believes they are dealing with someone who speaks for God. When they cast off someone or “ban” them, they can only actually hurt the person who believes in their authority.
Their followers, the seekers and believers who look to them for leadership and relate to them in trust are the ones they can harm. Because nobody else gives a care what they think.
The fact that clergy can persuade people and that this persuasion can manifest in votes in elections has made them the target of a lot of people who don’t really give a care about what they think. This isn’t a matter of taking them seriously as men of God. It is a matter of tactical power politics. It’s a huge mistake to confuse that with the anguish and broken heartedness of those who believe and are seeking acceptance and love.
The person who saved me from total, absolute and permanent alienation from all organized religion was an Episcopal priest. I cold-called her because she was a woman. I could never have gone to a man. She didn’t know me, but she readily agreed to talk to me, came in to her office one day when the church was empty, just to meet me.
She saved me from the despair I was feeling, not so much by any deep eloquence, as her affirmation that I had a right to be there.
That whole experience taught me a number of lessons. It also deepened and re-taught me things I already knew.
First, I am convinced that women have a profound and necessary place in ministry. Men are only half the human race, and when they deal from positions of power with the other half of the human race, they can be extremely cruel.
Second, I know that surviving requires a refusal to give yourself over entirely to other people, and that includes clergy of all types. Because, in truth and no matter what they claim, they do not speak for God. Not always. They never speak for God when they are defending their power and privilege, when they are limiting God’s love and mercy to those whom they like or want to support. When they do that they are speaking from the depths of their own black and sinful hearts,
Third, no one, of any faith, is ever obligated to accept any other person’s degrading and destroying abandonment or cruel assessment of them as if that degradation, abandonment and cruelty is a judgement from God.
Because it does not come from God and is not His judgement. Degradation, abandonment, cruelty are not of God. Ever.
It is foolishness in the extreme to allow yourself to think that clergy are exempt from these sins. It can destroy your faith in Christ, Who, in the final analysis, is perfectly capable of speaking for Himself.
I want to emphasize that last point because it is so critical. I am a living testimony to that fact that Jesus Christ is absolutely capable of dealing with a fallen person directly and saving them all on His own.
In all my years of anti-Godism, I was roundly and soundly rebuked by various religious leaders. I was lied about and slandered from the pulpit on a regular basis. But I never had a single member of the clergy try to talk to me as one human being to another. I never had a member of the clergy talk to me about Jesus and actually try to convert me. Not once.
Years later, after my conversion, a member of the clergy in my district — who was the only one who had never lied about me — told me that he had once asked his fellow pastors, “Do any of you ever pray for Rebecca?” He said no one answered him.
There were people who did talk to me about Jesus, they even argued with me about my anti-Godism. Both of them were fellow legislators. One of them argued gently, lovingly. The other argued loudly and aggressively. Both of them had an impact on me.
I am writing this very personal and somewhat confessional post for one purpose. I want those reading it to realize that no person has the power to cast you away from the forgiveness and love of Christ.
Not only is the love of Christ greater than any sin you can commit, it is greater by far than the self-importance and narrow me-ism of all these bishops/priests/rabbis/imams who lay claim to Him and try to keep Him for themselves and use Him as their personal ticket to unmerited respect and power over other people.
I know this is not a very Catholic post, in spite of the fact that I am, in truth, very Catholic myself. But I am a child of the living God before I am anything else. And no one and nothing defines me other than that. This is the single great lesson of surviving that I have learned and re-learned and then re-learned again.
No person defines me. Christ defines me.
Those two sentences are the bedrock of survival in this world.
Do not let the petty wickedness of clergy and their ego-driven God-ownership issues convince you that you stand outside the circle of Christ’s beloveds. You do not.
Do not accept the cruel things they say to you as anything more than their own sinfulness. Nothing, not even Christ’s own Church, can separate you from the love of God.
Know that, and be unafraid.
It’s the new hot trend. Go online and pick an egg donor from photos and order up a harvesting of her body in order to design a baby, made to your specifications. Then hire a “surrogate” (read that breeder) to carry the baby to term for you. And if the thing goes wrong, as biology is wont to do, why, then, order the surrogate to kill the baby for you. You know, like a Roman Pater discussing the upcoming birth of his child with the family Mater in this love letter from the front:
“Know that I am still in Alexandria…. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered (before I come home), if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it.”
This lovely practice of “discarding” baby girls — along with babies with birth defects — runs throughout recorded history. It is still practiced in parts of the world today. Early Christians labeled the practice infanticide. They went out into the streets, got these baby girls, brought them home and raised them. The idea that there is no Greek nor Jew, no male nor female but all are one in Christ Jesus was a startling Christian innovation. The teaching, which was formalized in writing as early as the Didache, that all human life, including unborn human life, is sacred, is another peculiar Christian innovation. Today’s version of “discard it,” at least in the “civilized” West, is abortion. The neat tidiness of legal killing in a clinical situation has it all over any other mass killing field in history. There are no furnaces belching out smoke to run day and night disposing the bodies. No one sees the carnage except the medical staff. Even the receptionist who sits out front is left innocent of what is really happening. Combine this take-a-number-and-wait killing field with the highly-lucrative business of harvesting and renting women’s bodies as if they were farm animals in order to manufacture made-to-order babies for sale, and you have the total commercialization of human life and human beings. Call it “creating families” or whatever pretty little phrase you want to paste over its ugliness. This is the practice of commercialized medicine for hire, put to the service of creating, buying and selling people. It has nothing to do with the healing arts or medicine practiced to save lives. It is the ultimate prostitution, and the “doctors” who do it are the ultimate pimps. It degrades women and babies to the level of chattel for the express and openly acknowledged business of buying and selling people. The tripping up part, of course, is what if the baby-buyers decide at the last minute that they don’t want their new human widget. What if, say, there’s a divorce? Or the manufacturing process goes awry and the baby has a cleft palate or down’s syndrome or spina bifida. What if those designer genes turn out to be somewhat idiosyncratic? In that circumstance, our “modern” baby buyers do the modern thing. They order the baby killed. It is, after all, their possession that they bought in good faith that it would be delivered as ordered. Now, it’s defective. They’re behaving the way anyone would if the factory delivered the wrong purchase. They are sending it back. Consider these stories:
1. An Australian couple who was paying a woman from Thailand to carry their twin unborn babies as a surrogate asked the woman to abort one of the babies because testing had revealed one of the babies has Down Syndrome.The couple enlisted the woman, whose family was heavily in debt, to become their surrogate and to use IVF to become pregnant. She was subsequently found to be pregnant with twins but the initial joy turned to rejection when testing showed a boy nicknamed Gammy was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.The couple wanted the mother to have an abortion, but she refused and eventually gave birth to Gammy and his twin sister in Bangkok. The couple then refused to take Gammy back with them to Australia and left him in Thailand.
2. A British surrogate mother said yesterday that she is raising a disabled baby as her own after the child’s intended mother told her she did not want a ‘dribbling cabbage’ for a daughter.The healthy boy was taken home by the childless British couple whom the surrogate mother claims then rejected his unwell sister because of her disability.‘I remember her saying to me, “She’d be a ****ing dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled child”.’She is now raising the baby – identified only as Amy – with her partner and their other children.
3. A British woman who agreed to become a surrogate mother for an American couple is suing them for allegedly backing out of the deal because she is carrying twins.Helen Beasley, 26, claims Californians Charles Wheeler and Martha Berman demanded she abort one of the foetuses because they only wanted one child.When she refused, they allegedly refused to have anything more to do with her.Miss Beasley, who is six months pregnant, wants to put the twins up for adoption. But under Californian law, parental rights in a surrogacy agreement go to the intended parents, not the surrogate mother.Miss Beasley, a single woman from the Midlands, already has a nine-year- old son. The two of them arrived in the U.S. a week ago.She said she could not afford to support the twins, so adopting them herself was not an option. But she claimed to feel very responsible for the babies.’You can’t help but get attached to them, and I just want the best for them,’ she said last night. ‘When they’re born, what happens to them? I can’t have them. I can’t do anything with them. They’re not mine.
4. “The View” host Sheri Shepherd reportedly wants “nothing to do” with her unborn childnow that her marriage has folded. Shepherd reportedly used IVF to conceive a child with her husband Lamar Sally but now is not interested in caring for the baby, who is being carried by a surrogate mother. 5. Doctors told surrogate mother Crystal Kelley, 29,five months into her pregnancy last year that the baby she was carrying had a series of disabilities. When the child’s parents told her they wanted to abort the foetus, she fled from Connecticut across the country to Michigan, where under state law she had legal rights as the child’s mother. … The baby was suspected to have a cleft palate, a brain cyst and serious heart defects. Doctors were unable to locate the child’s spleen or stomach, and gave the baby only a 25 percent chance of living a normal life They offered her $10,000 to have the procedure but Ms Kelley refused, demanding $15,000 instead in what she says was a “weak moment”. The parents refused, and reminded her of her contractual obligation to abort the foetus if it displayed signs of abnormality. If she refused, she would be sued for the fee she had already received, plus all the medical expenses and legal fees.
ISIS recently released another video of their British Muslim terrorist, beheading an American journalist.
The journalist was Steven Sotloff, an American Jew with dual Israeli citizenship. According to reports, Mr Sotloff followed his religion, even in the extreme circumstances of captivity by ISIS.
He did not, understandably, tell his captors he was Jewish. He kept up his prayers and fasted on Holy Days by claiming that he was sick and couldn’t eat. The deep irony in all this is that Steven Sotloff is the grandson of holocaust survivors.
Think about that.
Mr Sotloff’s grandparents survived a genocide of Jewish people. Decades later in another part of the world, he was abducted and murdered as part of an attempt to force America to pay a ransom. The ransom would have been used to finance an Islamic killing machine which is bent on the genocide of Christians and other non-Muslim faiths.
The difference between Mr Sotloff and his captors is more than just the difference of the relative power of the murderer vs the murdered. It is, indeed, one of faith.
Steven Sotloff, James Foley and the man who murdered them each claimed to be men of faith. The difference is what their faiths inspired them to do.
James Foley, who prayed the Rosary while in captivity, and Steven Sotfloff, who fasted on Jewish Holy Days by pretending to be ill, were both capable of something that the members of ISIS are not: Compassion.
Their faiths inspired them to bring the stories of the helpless victims of war to the larger world view. They were the voices of the voiceless. They gave the whole world facts and information to help us view what is happening in the dark places of current history with at least some accuracy. Their work was a vital part of the empowerment of ordinary people, both in the Middle East and in the West.
ISIS, by contrast, is a destroyer. It does not build. It does not redeem. ISIS murders and rapes, tortures and lies. The videos it has put out showing the beheadings of these two brave men are themselves lies. These men were not murdered for some bizarre idea of retribution against American power. Their murders were acts of extortion in an attempt to get American dollars.
ISIS is not, as it styles itself, a great religious army. It is a band of pirates. There is no honor in ISIS. It is a disgrace to humanity.
Steven Sotloff’s faith, and that of James Foley, is evident in the good they did. We see what kind of men they were by the lives they lived. We see the life-giving power of true faith in the real God in these men’s goodness.
By the same token, we see what kind of men the adherents of ISIS are by the lives they live. When they stand before God, they will answer for their genocide, rapes, thefts, terrors, lies and destruction of whole societies.
God is real. And He is just.
I have no doubt that Steven Sotloff and James Foley took comfort in that as they knelt in the desert awaiting the knife. If their murderer has any knowledge of God at all, he will fear it.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
In a world beset with narcissistic -isms, Christianity is the one light.
Every other philosophy, sooner or later, gets around to death. But the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is a message of life. And that light of life and love not only illumines our deepest darkness, it plants hedges around our most pitiless impulses.
In a world where the power to kill helpless human beings is labeled “compassion” or a “human right,” both compassion and human rights become matters of definition, and the defining is done by those who want to kill at will. What is in fact, monstrous, we call good. And what is in fact good, we call monstrous.
Christianity, with its unyielding call to life and love, is the light that shines in this darkness. And the darkness hates it.
This attraction — I cannot call it love, for love is not in it — to ever deeper darkness grows from our most selfish impulses. It creates an upside down world based on language mis-used that demands that everyone — everyone — accede to the lies of manufactured definitions of our finest words. Killing, we are told, is a “right” of the killer, as in abortion is a “right.” Murder is compassion, as in euthanasia is compassionate. Genocide is godly, as in the bestial behavior of Boko Haram and ISIS.
In this upside down world of lying definitions, we can pretend that homosexual couples are the same as a man and a woman, is the same as groups of people consorting sexually, is the same as … whatever. We can label the deliberate killing of people who are slightly different from the norm — such as those with down’s syndrome — a moral necessity. We can reduce women and children to commerce with surrogacy and egg harvesting, sex trafficking, prostitution and porn and call it variously, freedom of expression, creation of families and, once again, the “right” of the purchasers.
Whatever our dark desire to degrade, exploit or kill other people, we can use our facile gift of language to construct a lie to convince ourselves that it is good.
This darkness slides over all life like sludge from a tar pit. It seeks, always, to take us back to the time before; before Christ, even before Abraham. It wants to take us back to the time when we used our big brains in the service of our reptile brains without the hedgerow of Christian teaching to fence them in.
Without God, without Christ, we are capable of anything. There is no bottom to our depravity, no end to our malignant craving for self-gratification. Because we are not animals. Or rather, we are not animals entirely. We are made of the same dust of this earth as any other living thing on this planet. But we alone of all the life on this planet teeming with life have the breath of God within us. We know that we are creatures. We know that we are finite and temporary.
And, if we will admit it, we also know that there is an Other, a being outside ourselves, greater than us, Who is both infinite and eternal. Our inchoate longing for this Other can haunt us. It can drive us to brittle anger and rageful hate that sends us screaming through our years, leaving a past of toppled lives behind us.
The terrors we weave of our unsatisfied longings for God and our refusal to live in the light of His life are the terrors that only a living soul, a creature made in His image who rejects that image in an irrational self-deification, could devise. We are not just animals. We are cathedral builders and bomb builders, poets and beheaders, we are slavers and freedom fighters, abortionists and mothers who lay down their lives for their child. We are the men who protect their families, and the men who kill their families. We are destroyers and builders, killers and nurturers.
No animal possesses this grandeur of good and bottomless capacity for evil. We do.
That is our darkness. It is the darkness of freedom that runs so frantic that it becomes a prison. We are, and we have always been, free. We are not spiders who spin the same web from one generation of spiders to the next. We are free. We can create. We can destroy. We can reject this Other, this God Who calls us but will not force us to love Him. We can even create alter-gods of our own devising, bastardized versions of the real God in whom we attempt to deify our deepest darkness.
The Light of Life that is Christ is the only beacon in the darkness of the hidden places in our own souls. The Gospel message is the message of life. Christianity is the religion of life.
The darkness fights to overcome it with weapons that appeal to our vaunting need to be our own gods. It uses our great facility for language, our enormous creativity, to shape the lies, excuses and bogus philosophies of false belief and disbelief that become tools for tearing down our common humanity and the walls of our civilization.
But the darkness, however many it pulls into its quagmire of lies, never overcomes the Light of Life. This Light shines through us, through ordinary weak and willful Christians who are as afflicted by the fallenness of this world as any other human. We are different in that, though we stumble on the path, we know the Way.
Christianity in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, is the bulwark against the forces of death. It shines the light of Life into the darkness of abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, egg harvesting, surrogacy, human trafficking, the destruction of the family and the whole range of degradations, humiliations, and destructions of the human person who is made in the image and likeness of God.
The howling hatred which is directed at Christians and Christianity is the rage of those who wallow half alive in the sludge and do not want to be awakened from their nightmare. Christianity is the religion of life. It defends life in this world, and, to those who are willing to accept Christ, it gives eternal life in the next.
We are not made for the sludge pits of evil that so many of us call home. We are eternal beings who are made for the Light.
Our great dignity is that of all the creatures and living things on this planet, we alone are free. God sets before us each and every day life and death. We can chose the life of His Light. Or we can chose the death of our many false gods and self gods.
It is no accident that the powerful ideas of the value of the individual, the splendid notion of inalienable human rights and the essential equality of all human beings came into existence within Christendom. Such ideas could not have come to fruition anywhere else. Only the Light of Christ, the enlightening mustard seed of Christianity which teaches that there is neither Greek nor Jew, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus, could have grown and blossomed into the progenitor of the idea of universal human rights.
This is not a Western notion. It is a Christian teaching.
Even the hairs of your head are numbered.
If you have done it for the least of these you have done it for me.
Blessed are the poor.
If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that you may have life and that you may have it abundantly.
Christianity is growing rapidly throughout the world, even as we are moving into a new age of martyrdom. It is growing the way it always has: By voluntary conversion. People who are attracted to the Light, who hunger for Life, are drawn to Jesus because He is the Light and the Life.
Christianity is the religion of life because Christ is the Light of Life.
And the darkness will never overcome Him.
If You Don’t Like Black People, You’d Better not Plan on Going to Heaven, Because There’s Going to be a Lot of Them There
Opio Toure was my friend.
We knew one another before either one of us was elected to office, back when we were both young and full of ourselves. Then, for a few blessed years, we served together in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
We differed, as people always do, on a couple of issues. But our hearts walked the same path. There was a time, and it wasn’t so long ago, when being black in the Oklahoma House meant taking a lot of guff. It was subtle guff, but guff, just the same.
Opio, back when we both were young and full of ourselves.
I remember one time when a battle of some sort of ugly guff-ism was coming down, I got overwhelmed. I turned to Opio in disgust. “You need to make me an honorary black person,” I said, “because I’m sick of these white folk.”
He looked at me and said, “Oh, you black. You black.”
That remains a treasured memory for me, and it will until I see Opio again.
When things got tough, Opio and I used to leave Bible verses on one-another’s desks. Those verses are also among my most treasured memories.
Opio was a Baptist preacher, who had Catholic relatives. One of his favorite items was a Rosary that had belonged to his aunt. He carried it around on the House floor, fingering the beads for comfort. We talked about the holiness of that Rosary, soaked with years of the prayers of his God-fearing, God-loving aunt.
It is not an exaggeration to say that I love Opio Toure, my brother in Christ.
Linda Richardson, prayed my asthma away.
Then, there’s the God-fearing, God-loving black women who grace this world.
I have asthma. A few years back, the asthma almost did me in. It got worse and worse, until every step I took felt like I was walking through knee deep mud. Then one day, my assistant, Linda Richardson, reached out with the authority of the Spirit-filled and laid her hands on me and prayed, rebuking the asthma in Jesus name.
This was totally spontaneous on her part, we were just talking when she did it. But I felt the power immediately. From that day forward, the asthma began backing off. It’s still there, but it’s quiet. I don’t need medicine for it, haven’t needed medicine for it for a long time.
Kurt David English
I remember when I was working on my Master’s degree. My fellow student, Kurt David English, and I teamed up to help each other through the degree process. Kurt is a black, Spirit-filled man. We prayed together and talked about Jesus together and supported one another through that degree process. I don’t think either one of us would have made it without the other.
Representative, soon to be Senator Anastasia Pittman, carrying a Martin Luther King sign.
Then there’s my seat-mate, office mate and best legislative bud Representative, soon to be Senator Anastasia Pittman and our assistant, the incomparable Miss Trena Byas, as well as Gracie Monson. These praying women have gotten me through a lot of deep water. During tough times in the legislature, they formed a kind of retreat around me, a safe place. They made a home for me when being a pro life Democrat left me otherwise homeless.
Representative Anastasia Pittman and Miss Trena Byas, my legislative homies.
The powerful praying woman of God, Gracie Monson
This is just the tip of it. I could write a book on the powerful praying black people who have blessed my life. In this world of politically-correct weak-and-worthless Christianity that tries to make itself small enough not to be a target of those who hate Christ, black Christians are the unafraid and anointed.
Democratic Floor Leader, Representative Opio Toure
I once asked Opio (I was pretty mad when I asked it) why it was OK for a black Democrat to be an outspoken Christian but a white Democrat Christian who talked about Jesus got slapped around by the party.
He laughed and shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. Even though he didn’t have an answer, the acknowledgement of what I was facing helped me enormously.
Back when Democratic activists were putting out flyers in the district I represented denouncing me directly for my Catholic faith in the most bigoted manner possible, it was Opio who said “This is outrageous.” No one else would stand with me.
This post is more reminiscence than anything else. But it does have a message: If you don’t like black people, you’d better not plan on going to heaven, because there’s going to be a lot of them there.
Saint Josephine Bakhita, captured by slavers, freed in Christ.
Another message I’d like to pass along is that if you’re a white Christian and you haven’t found yourself a few Spirit-filled, black, praying friends, you need to get out more, because you are missing your blessing.
Black spirituality, including Black Catholic spirituality, is different from white spirituality in the precise ways that we white folks need to improve ourselves. Black spirituality is unashamed of the name of Jesus. Black Christians don’t mess around trying to hide their Jesus so that no one will accuse them of all the things that Christians get accused of in this post Christian America. They aren’t afraid of being harassed and criticized for Christ. They step right out there and proclaim the Lord and His power, and they mean it. Nobody talks their Jesus down to them. They won’t allow it.
Black Christian power was shaped in the crucible of hundreds of years of slavery and second-class citizenship. It was black faith and that powerful black praying that allowed them to walk right out of those ghettos, to march through the fire-hoses and police dogs and cops with truncheons and lead this whole nation to a rebirth of equality.
Mother Mary Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence
Faith alone explains the power of the Civil Rights Movement that fought and won a war without bullets or guns against an opponent who had and used both those things.
We don’t make enough of what black people have accomplished for themselves and for this country by enduring and winning the Civil Rights fight. We emphasize the wrong things. The evil of their persecutors was true evil. But the focus should be on the nobility and power of the fight that black Americans made against that evil.
The Civil Rights Movement was faith with legs. It was truth spoken to power. It was, in a way that we don’t acknowledge, our finest hour as a nation.
And it was Spirit-filled from bottom to top. It was an expression of black Christianity and the power of a praying people.
White Christians need black Christians. We need to learn from them.
Try spending time in a black church once in a while. I promise you, you will be blessed.
Richard Dawkins on Down’s Syndrome Babies: “It Would be Immoral not to Kill Such a Baby in an Abortion”
I’m not going to say too much about this. It speaks for itself.
Dr Richard Dawkins got into this Tweet exchange earlier this week:
<@InYourFaceNYer I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.
>@RichardDawkins Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
That caused a bit of an internet dustup. So, Dr Dawkins clarified things by switching from the impetuous medium of Twitter to a column where he supposedly had more time to think through what he was saying and get it out as he meant it.
Here’s his more introspective take on the question of aborting babies with down’s syndrome.
“For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort,”
…“I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare,”
I only have two thoughts to add to this, and I’ll get through them as quickly as possible.
Thought one: Eugenics.
Thought two: This is where a “morality” based on “the desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering” leads to: Putting other people out of your misery by killing them.
That’s all folks.
Public Catholic reader Ken brought this to my attention.
The Vatican has released a statement condemning the crimes against humanity that are occurring in the Middle East. The statement lists what it calls “unspeakable criminal acts … which bring shame on humanity,” including beheading, crucifying, abduction of women and girls as spoils of war, the barbaric practice of infibulation and forced conversions.
From the Vatican Website:
The whole world has witnessed with incredulity what is now called the “Restoration of the Caliphate,” which had been abolished on October 29,1923 by Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Opposition to this “restoration” by the majority of religious institutions and Muslim politicians has not prevented the “Islamic State” jihadists from committing and continuing to commit unspeakable criminal acts.
This Pontifical Council, together with all those engaged in interreligious dialogue, followers of all religions, and all men and women of good will, can only unambiguously denounce and condemn these practices which bring shame on humanity:
-the massacre of people on the sole basis of their religious affiliation;
-the despicable practice of beheading, crucifying and hanging bodies in public places;
-the choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) or forced exile;
-the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly, pregnant women and the sick;
-the abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as spoils of war (sabaya);
-the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation;
-the destruction of places of worship and Christian and Muslim burial places;
-the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries;
-the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols as well as those of other
-the destruction of a priceless Christian religious and cultural heritage;
-indiscriminate violence aimed at terrorizing people to force them to surrender or flee.
No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity. This constitutes an extremely serious offense to humanity and to God who is the Creator, as Pope Francis has often reminded us. We cannot forget, however, that Christians and Muslims have lived together – it is true with ups and downs – over the centuries, building a culture of peaceful coexistence and civilization of which they are proud. Moreover, it is on this basis that, in recent years, dialogue between Christians and Muslims has continued and intensified.
The dramatic plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious communities and ethnic minorities in Iraq requires a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, as well as those engaged in interreligious dialogue and all people of good will. All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and in denouncing the use of religion to justify them. If not, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility can the interreligious dialogue that we have patiently pursued over recent years have?
Religious leaders are also called to exercise their influence with the authorities to end these crimes, to punish those who commit them and to reestablish the rule of law throughout the land, ensuring the return home of those who have been displaced. While recalling the need for an ethical management of human societies, these same religious leaders must not fail to stress that the support, funding and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible.
That said, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is grateful to all those who have already raised their voices to denounce terrorism, especially that which uses religion to justify it.
Let us therefore unite our voices with that of Pope Francis: “May the God of peace stir up in each one of us a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is defeated by peace. “
[01287-02.01] [Original text: French - working translation]