India: Faith Grows Among Persecuted Christians in Orissa

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We have been faced lately with the defection of a number of highly-placed American Christians on serious matters of faith. 

In particular, there has been a large retreat among political and intellectual Christian leadership on the question of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. They are either tossing marriage out the door altogether, or they are, as I was once counseled concerning abortion, urging the rest of us to leave our beliefs at home or inside our houses of worship. 

I’m not talking about one, specific, runner. I’m talking about a whole group of people who have grown fat off denouncing other people for not supporting the very values they are now running from themselves. Excuse me please if I won’t go along with their self-serving patter. 

But I’m not going to. 

I think they’re self-serving phonies. 

I also think that they should consider persecuted Christians around the world who are holding fast to the cross in the face of horrific suffering. 

A case in point is the persecuted Christian population of Orissa, India. Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (Orissa, eastern India) says,

“Faith in Orissa is growing because of the persecution. This mission, in the face of violent persecutions, has become the focus of religious and priestly vocations.”

Consider, for a moment, what sincere Christians face in India. According to Archbishop Barwa, 

… the district of Kandhamal, where the majority of Catholics of the Archdiocese live, has faced untold persecution”. The highest point were the pogroms of 2008: “During the persecutions, there was an ethnic cleansing of all Christians in 400 villages, more than 6,000 houses, 340 churches and chapels, clinics and schools were burned and destroyed. Thousands of believers were injured, several women and girls, including a nun, were raped and about 60,000 men, women and children were left homeless”. The Bishop recalled that 75 Christians (22 Catholics, 28 Baptists, 12 Pentecostals, 5 of independent churches) and 8 non-tribal Christians were brutally murdered.

The text continues: “Five years after the persecutions, visiting the affected communities, the faithful say to the Bishop: the persecutors burned our houses, property, and killed our loved ones, but they did not manage to destroy our faith and cannot separate us from the love of Jesus Christ .We are proud to be Christians and proud of our faith”. Words and actions of this kind “are clear signs of growth in faith. They may be poor and illiterate, but rich people of faith”, he comments.
The Archbishop explains that still there is no guarantee that persecution will not be repeated: “We live trusting in God and making every effort, as individuals and communities, to build peace in Kandhamal, but we surrender to God and say: Let there be your will”.

He goes on to describe what I believe is beginning to happen here in the “Christian” West when he says, “Each growth is a process that requires pruning, trials and suffering.”

The devil is collecting the low-hanging fruit with the runners who are running away from traditional marriage in America today. These folks don’t need persecution to make them tuck tail and skeedaddle. If you stop and think about it, they’ve never really talked about following Jesus. Their focus for decades has been on denouncing other people. They haven’t urged us to live by our faith or even to bring people to Christ. Their entire focus has been on manipulating us into believing that being a Christian was summarized by how we vote.

The purpose of all this wasn’t our souls or the conversion of our culture. It was their power.

All they needed to switch horses on these issues they were pushing in lieu of actual Christianity was for the manipulations to stop delivering enough votes to give them the power. They are switching — and trying to get us to switch along with them — on 2,000 years of Christian teachings because denouncing people over those teachings has stopped being profitable. The minute they see the money is leaving the fight, they leave the fight right behind it. 

Christianity is growing in India because the Christians there are following Christ. 

Cowardice and Christianity don’t mix. Opportunism and political manipulations don’t mix with Christianity, either.

They never have.

Christianity was so ascendent here in the West that its popularity covered for the manipulators and cowards in our midst. But things are changing. Faithfully following Jesus is beginning to be a career breaker, rather than a career maker. 

We shouldn’t be surprised when people who were only pretending to follow Jesus in the first place fall away under these circumstances. It is inevitable. 

I am humbled by the persecuted Christians in our world today, those in Orissa among them. I know that God holds them close, because I know that none of us has the courage to stand toe to toe with satan incarnate and not run unless the Holy Spirit is empowering them. 

We need to help our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in every way we can, including by praying for them every single day. I hope they in turn will pray for us.

Because their prayers avail much. 

Because they walk with God. 

 

The link to this article is courtesy of reader Fabio. 

The Heresy of Little g gods and Running Runners Who Run Away

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Don’t be alarmed by defecting Christians.

It’s just the Holy Spirit, pruning the dead wood. 

Christianity in America suffers from a blight that is choking out the Word and covering up the Light of Christ. 

That blight is the heresy of conflating Christ the Lord with partisan politics. This has gone on so long and become so endemic that a lot of people actually think that they are following Christ by how they register to vote. 

Even worse, people who confuse Jesus with the R and the D always seem to end up lopping off parts of Jesus in order to make Him fit into the partisan box. If you’re an R, this has historically meant that the Sermon on the Mount is just jesus (little j) blather that comes from the First Century and doesn’t mean much. I’ve had the experience of using the phrase “If you’ve done it to the least of these, if you’ve done it to Me,” in debate and seeing the bored, patronizing expressions cross those Republican faces. 

They don’t want to hear it. 

Likewise, anyone who has ever gone into a Democratic Party what-not with the idea that gay marriage or abortion or any trendy social sin is not a “human right” is going to learn what the word “cut” means in the Victorian sense. They will cut you dead. And that’s if they’re in a good mood. 

My point, which I’ve made over and over again, and which I’ll keep on making until it’s no longer pertinent, is that the R and the D aren’t Jesus. Party platforms aren’t the Gospels. 

We are now living with the inevitable consequences of this decades-long heresy of political jesus. People are increasingly sick and tired of the heresy. They find — quite rightly — that it is a sham and a flam and that partisan politics jesus is a bogus god not worth their time. 

Many outspoken Christian leaders have maintained so loudly and for so long that this perversion of the Gospels that they’ve been preaching is, in fact, the true Gospels of Christ, that they’ve managed to convince not only their besotted followers, but the larger population, as well.

A lot of people believe that political jesus; political party apologist jesus, mean and heartless django jesus, is actually Our Lord.

Why do they think this?

Because Christian religious leaders and their followers have been telling them so for decades.

This group of disenchanted, disaffected-with-Christianity reactors to political django jesus, has grown to the point that they are now able to affect the outcome of national elections. Which means that they are now players.

That also means that the same political parties who’ve used and abused the name of Christ for so long are now trying to get shed of Him. The stampede for the exit ramps among politicians and professional Christians of every stripe has become such a crowded field that it is a parody of itself. 

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The National Review published a whimsical essay today titled “A Form Letter for Defecting Conservatives.” This humorous article is an accurate representation of what is happening and the flabby, flimsy lies these runners are using to explain themselves. 

What interested me the most, however, is that the National Review’s title underscores the heresy I’m talking about. The “issues” these running rabbits are dumping are the same issues that traditional Christians have fought for these past decades. They are the issues that put the Rs in the winner’s circle. Hence, the use of the word “conservative” to describe these folks. 

However, what they are, are sham Christians who’ve used a faked fealty to Christ to win elections or build big careers in publishing, think-tanking or some other moneyed and powered endeavor. As anyone who isn’t wearing a mental blindfold can tell just by looking around, they haven’t done much good. But they have certainly done well. 

The reason they are hitting the door on these “issues” now is because they never believed them in the first place. I’m not saying that people can’t experience a change of heart, that they can’t be converted. But this mass stampede of political opportunists for the higher ground of a different take on traditional Christian teaching has nothing to do with conversion. It is pragmatic people being pragmatic and taking care of themselves. 

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They never believed it in the first place, and whatever they tell you now, they don’t believe that, either. 

The heresy here is that none of this — none of it — has anything to do with Jesus. By conflating politics with the Gospels, we have corrupted politics and defamed the Gospels. These aren’t “defecting conservatives. ” The reason they aren’t is that issues like the sanctity of human life and marriage are not issues. They are truths. The sanctity of human life and marriage are not “conservative” values. “If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me,” is not liberal spin. 

These are the law and the prophets of God Almighty. They are the teachings of Christ the Lord. 

We are beginning to reap the whirlwind that we have sown by lying about the nature of God for political gain. 

My advice is don’t be alarmed or dismayed by all these recanting Christians and born-again nihilists. 

Let them go their way and don’t worry. 

The Holy Spirit is pruning the tree of life so that it can bloom anew. 

 

Here, from Monty Python, is an anthem for the runners.

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Professional Christians, Pragmatic Jesus and Finishing the Race

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So some guy named Joseph Bottum wrote a flabby-blabby essay for Commonweal about how he’s a born-again gay marriage supporter.

In certain Catholic circles Mr Bottum’s decision to change political horses, is BIG NEWS.

I’m barely Catholic so far as the intellectual Catholic culture is concerned, which means that all this carrying-on and hand-wringing went right over my little Okie head. Everybody else seemed all worked up about it, so I googled the guy.

It appears he’s a former editor of a conservative Catholic publication called First Things and the author of several books. He basically sounds like a man who’s been making his living off being a Faithful Catholic bringing The Truth according to him to the uninformed masses. 

Based on what little I’ve read of First Things, it is a big sea change for its former editor to kick the real Jesus to the curb and recommend that we all follow politically pragmatic Jesus and “accept” gay marriage. In fact, such a thing would have been unthinkable — career suicide, if nothing else — for someone with Mr Bottum’s resume even a few months ago. 

But with respect to Bob Dylan, the times they are achangin’ and lots of Professional Christians are going to find that their bread is buttered on the opposite side of what it once was.

What I’m trying to say is that we’re going to see a lot of this. Successful people follow the money. That’s what they do. It’s how they got to be successful people. For a long time now, the easy money on the Catholic side of the street has been to try to out-faithful the faithful, at least in public. John Corapi road off on his Harley as a millionaire.

I have no knowledge of Mr Bottum’s finances. In fact, other than a quick read of his execrable essay and an even quicker google search, I have no knowledge of Mr Bottum.

I’m not writing this about him. I’m writing it about us.

We officially entered post Christian America with the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage last summer. A lot of Christians haven’t gotten the memo yet, but that doesn’t change the situation. As we move deeper into this new reality, the smart money types among us are going to betray Christ. 

They will try at first to broker themselves as negotiators for the other side of this culture war, as Mr Bottum has done in his essay. He’s being hailed as a hero in certain high-profile circles, but that won’t be true of the stragglers who switch further down the road. Professional Christian deserters lose their cachet when there’s a glut of them. 

Mr Bottum’s argument to other Catholics as to why they should abandon Church teaching on marriage is just about the crudest argument anyone can make. 

We’re gonna lose anyway, he contends, so let’s give this one to the culture and concentrate on areas where we can win. 

That, and he had a casual friend who is gay that he sees once in a while who won’t talk to him anymore, which proves that people hate the Church for its support of traditional marriage, which proves … I dunno … that Jesus was right when He said,

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. 

Mr Bottum’s viewpoint doesn’t exactly track with the Jesus who said that. In fact, it is so mind-bogglingly anti-Christian that it takes a moment for a Christian to grok it. Who told Mr Bottum that Christians are called to win, and if they don’t win, to walk off the field? For that matter, who told him that following Jesus wouldn’t cost him the loss of friends?

Not Jesus, that’s for sure. 

People are suffering and dying all over the world because they won’t turn their backs on Jesus. They aren’t being pragmatic. They are being faithful. 

More and more of the professional Christians who’ve been living high off the religious fat are going to cut and run. Christianity has been on the ascendant in Western society for so long that a lot of people have built lucrative careers and garnered our respect and trust by posing as super Christians while they were ripping it off the whole time. Now that we live in a post-Christian culture, they’re going to begin, as gay people say, to “come out.”

I don’t know if Mr Bottum is one of these. What I know is that he’s done well by being a professional conservative Catholic and now he’s backing up on an issue that conservative Catholics have long deemed “non-negotiable.”

My point is that we’re going to see more of this and we shouldn’t let it bother us. We certainly shouldn’t follow these guys. 

We need to keep close to God in prayer and through the sacraments and, as St Paul would say, finish the race. 


For more on this story see Why I Am Catholic, Feast of Eden and Catholic and Enjoying It

Note to Bishop Tobin: If You’re Looking for God in a Political Party, You Need a New Roadmap

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It is, in that grand Public Catholic tradition, roast and toast Rebecca time. 

Get out your flame-throwers and pitchforks folks. I’m going to talk about the two political parties. 

There are little g gods. And then there are little g gods. 

No little g god I’ve talked about on this blog draws quite the high octane, teeth-grinding I’ll-poke-a-stick-in-your-eye, flat-out mad as when I tell people that their political parties suck. When I pour on the gasoline and say things like they are both corrupt and you can not follow Jesus and follow either political party, I get walking-off, a pox-on-your-house-Rebecca disgust. 

The reason, I believe, is that we want an easy way out of our responsibility as Americans and Christians to engage the larger culture for Christ. When engaging that larger culture includes the rough and tumble world of politics, we really start scratching around looking for an easy way out. We want a pass. A haiku. A some little something to do that will make us feel good while we don’t risk much. 

We don’t want — all of us, including me — to go out there and take the hits that come from engaging the world, including our political parties — for Christ. 

Our problem is that the real Jesus, as opposed to the Hallmark Card Jesus, was a trouble maker. And He still is. Stick with Him in party politics, and you’ll end up getting booed and called names and probably nobody will eat lunch with you or talk to you. It will be time out in grade school all over again if you try even a little bit to follow Jesus first in the context of party politics. 

Nobody wants that. It hurt when we were kids. And it still hurts now that we’re grownups.

What we want — and we are willing to go along with just about any craven lie or manipulation of our consciences to get it — is a safe place where we can just vote straight party a few times a year and then shoot self-righteous arrows at all those fallen folks in the Other Party, which, we are sure, is the devil.

The truth is, boys and girls, as American Christians we have the power to affect how these political parties behave. But doing that means we have to do a few things. We have to,

1. Get up off our duffs and get involved in party politics at the local level.

2. Accept the fact that if we truly follow Jesus, we are going to be unpopular, whichever party we join. 

3. Stand for Christ even though we will get hit with brickbats and name-calling. 

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Deacon Greg Kandra wrote about Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, who recently made an announcement that he’s switched from Democrat to Republican. His reasons are sound ones. In fact, I know exactly how he feels. The Democratic Party, at least at the national level, has become the party of abortion. It is also the party of gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, and a number of other horrific things. 

If the good bishop feels that he can’t abide all this and wants to change his D to an R, I say go for it. However, if he’s got some idea that the Rs are going to be a safe haven where he can peacefully abide and get glad-handed and sucked-up-to without challenges to his leadership as a bishop, he’s living in fantasyland. 

Oh, he’ll get all the glad-handing, back-slapping and suck-uppage anyone’s heart could desire. But the no-challenges-to-his-leadership-as-a-bishop will only come if he hands over the keys to the party leadership and walks their wide and smooth way. 

My hope is that in all his newfound enthusiasm for political engagement he doesn’t sell out the farm to this party. He’s supposed to speak for Christ, and that means he needs to make sure that he doesn’t end up toadying to the Rs.

I’ve seen, up close and personal, how the Rs treat their toady clergy. My message to the bishop: You don’t want to be them. Not only that, but you can’t be them if you want to be who the Church says you are. 

There is plenty to address in the Rs economic and military policies that would keep the good bishop busy being a bishop and not a party stalwart, if he wants to do it. There’s also quite a bit he could do to get them off high center on some of the things that make Christians register R in the first place, such as life, family and religious freedom.

That said, anyone who is a D (like me) really does have their work cut out for them. If the Rs co-opt traditional Christianity and its religious leaders, the Ds are at war with them.

I could go on and on about HHS Mandates and gay marriage and falling down before the idol of Planned Parenthood, but you know the story. The point is, the official Democratic Party has lost its soul. It no longer even pretends otherwise.  

In my opinion — and this invariably raises combox ire — you can and will take this country and yourself both right down to hell by following either political party blindly. I also think that weak-as-water Christians have brought a lot of this trouble on us all by going along with their parties rather than following Christ. 

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Here’s the truth of it: There are plenty of Christians in both the Democratic and Republican parties, at least at the county and state level. But they’ve sold out Christ for the party line. They won’t stand up for Jesus because they want to be friends and pals with their other party faithful buds. They convince themselves to believe the drivel that these people talk, and the seriously evil drivel that sold-out, fallen religious leaders say to excuse the sinfulness of the party. 

There are a ton of sold-out, fallen religious leaders in both political parties. Go to any party convention, and you’ll see them there. They don’t speak for Christ when Christ’s teachings contradict the party’s teachings. Instead, they give tortured explanations about how Jesus really agrees with the party. They don’t use their prophetic and moral voice as religious leaders to speak for the light. They use them to give excuses for the darkness. 

These preachers have sold Jesus, and they’ve sold Him cheap: To be part of the R or the D.

I often — and I mean often — hear Christian people go on and on about “how can anyone be part of a party that is pro abortion” or whatever bad thing the Ds espouse. They do this right in front of me, as if they’ve forgotten than I am a rather public and unapologetic D. If I say anything, they tell me “Oh, you’re not like the rest of them.”

And they’re correct in that. I’m not “like the rest of them.” I try my best to do that thing which I believe down to the core of my political being that politically inclined people must do as their part to save this culture. I engage the party from a Jesus-first position. 

That is what I am trying to get the readers of this blog to do. Engage your political party with a Jesus-first outlook.

Stand. For. Jesus. 

Not the R or the D. 

There is nothing wrong — and I mean nothing — with being part of either political party, if you go into it with that attitude. 

In fact, I would say that there is something exactly right about it. 

Jesus told us to be the light of the world. But party faithful are faithful to the party first. Political Christians, whether they are R or D, almost always end up hiding their light under the party loyalty bushel.

My note to Bishop Tobin is that if he’s looking for God in a political party, he needs a new road map. He’s already in the place where people can find God, and that’s the Catholic Church.

I do not mean to say or imply in any way that Bishop Tobin should not be engaged in America’s political struggle. I back the bishops completely in what they are doing. But this nation is lost first in its soul. All the other things are just symptoms of that deep soul-sickness.

We need religious leaders who will equip the laity to fight the political battles by teaching and leading us in the Way of the Cross. The Church has the answer already and that is Christ and Him crucified. That, and not the R or the D, needs to be his message. 

Shacking Up, Gay Marriage and Now Wed Leases: Is Marriage as the Larger Culture Lives It Dead?

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Shacking up, gay marriage and now wed leases.

Given all this, I’m inclined to say as so many people do these days Why bother?

A reader sent me a copy of the Washington Post opinion piece excerpted below. The author, who is a divorce attorney, suggests that, given today’s revolving door marriages, we just set up marriage as a lease arrangement and forego all that “til death do us part” nonsense at the get-go. He sees it as a simplification of the court-laden bitterness of today’s divorce culture.

My first thought was that the guy deserves a couple of stars for innovative thinking and his willingness to legislate himself out of a job. But then I thought that he’s probably as sick of doing divorces as every other attorney I ever met. Setting up wed leases for his clients (His suggestions would require quite a bit of personalized legal tailoring for each couple.) would probably end up being, if not as lucrative as a high-dollar divorce, still a good living for an attorney, and without the need to Xanax.

So, I guess he’s not being entirely selfless.

However, he has put his finger on the truth of what is happening in our society.

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We’ve trashed marriage to the point that it no longer means much of anything. Gay marriage is the end of marriage as a legitimate institution. Now the flood gates on redefining marriage are open and you can bet that a lot of garbage is going to trot through them. Of course, none of this would have happened if heterosexuals hadn’t trashed their marriages (and their kids, homes and finances along with their marriages) for so many years.

Christians who want to follow Jesus instead of the world are going to have to make a decision about their marriages. Are they entering into Holy Matrimony, which is a life-long union on which God rains down sacramental graces? Or, are they entering into an elastic “so long as we both dig it” legal contract endowed by the state with nothing much but a lot of misery and legal gas?

The truth is, marriage, as it is practiced today has nothing — and I mean nothing — to do with the sacrament of Holy Matrimony as Jesus created it and as the Church has provided it for 2,000 years.

Which is it Christians?

Have you and your spouse entered into a Covenant before God Almighty that bonds you together in sickness and health, for richer and poorer until death does you part? Or are you just play-acting with some legally created contract that you can breach or nullify anytime there is sickness or poverty or you just don’t feel like it today?

For centuries, the legal definition of marriage corresponded closely enough to the Christian understanding of Holy Matrimony that the two could function almost as the same thing.

No more.

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In today’s brave new world, “marriage” is a legal construct. At best, it is a contract. At worst, it is a sham. Many times it is both — a sham contract.

Holy Matrimony, at least as the Catholic Church and some other denominations do it, remains unchanged. Outside of those churches that still treat marriage as the life-long Covenantal relationship between a man and a woman that God intended, there is no Holy Matrimony in our society today.

Christians who want to follow Jesus are going to have to learn to make this distinction, first in their own lives, and second as they regard the “marriages” in the wider world. There are things that redefining the law cannot change, and this is one of them.

True marriage, which, to distinguish it from the legal contracts of the wider society, I have decided to call Holy Matrimony, is a sacrament instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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It is up to you, my Christian brothers and sisters, if you want to be married in the eyes of God in Holy Matrimony, or you want a legal contract for sex and shared finances. If you want Holy Matrimony, then you must begin with the Church as the cornerstone of your marriage. By that I mean you must be married in the Church and you must make Christ the head of your home.

I do not think it will be possible for Christians to be the light the world so badly needs if we continue down this path of half Christian/half worldly.

More and more the world itself is demanding that we, as Joshua demanded thousands of years ago, choose this day whom we will serve.

Choosing to follow Christ begins in the individual heart, and it is first acted out in the home. The creator of home is Holy Matrimony.

Everything else is dead legalism.

From the Washington Post:

We all know that far too many marriages end in divorce, yet this institution does not adapt. Indeed, most Americans today want to expand conventional marriage to include same-sex couples.

So why is there no effort to improve the legal structure of marriage, when it shows itself to be deficient?

Marriage is a legal partnership that lasts a lifetime — one lifetime to be exact, that of the first of the spouses to die. Generally speaking, that is a long time for any partnership. People, circumstances and all sorts of other things change. The compatibility of any two people over decades may decline with these changes to the point of extinction.

In real estate, one may own a life estate in a piece of property. This is comparable to the term of a marriage — a lifetime. And in real estate, one may hold possession of property for shorter terms through a lease.

Why don’t we borrow from real estate and create a marital lease? Instead of wedlock, a “wedlease.”

Here’s how a marital lease could work: Two people commit themselves to marriage for a period of years — one year, five years, 10 years, whatever term suits them. The marital lease could be renewed at the end of the term however many times a couple likes. It could end up lasting a lifetime if the relationship is good and worth continuing. But if the relationship is bad, the couple could go their separate ways at the end of the term. The messiness of divorce is avoided and the end can be as simple as vacating a rental unit.

Being There: The Magic Means of Passing on Your Faith to Your Kids

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You can not control what other people do. That includes your adult children.

However, if you are lucky, and you’ve done a good enough job raising them, chances are that the things your adult children end up doing will be consistent, at least in an overall fashion, with the values you hold yourself. That does not mean that your adult children will always make the choices that you would make in the same situation. It also does not mean that they are going avoid all the mistakes you wish you’d never made.

One of the hardest lessons any parent has to learn is that you can’t always save your kids from the hard knocks you gave yourself when you were their age. You can’t — and this is hard to accept — impart the wisdom you gained from getting your nose bloodied to keep them from getting their noses bloodied.

Sometimes all you can do is sit back and watch and be there later with a cold wash cloth and an abundance of love. A lot of times what you will see when you do this is that your children are more like you than you would wish.

The best you can do as a parent is to give your children the tools to manage their own lives productively when they grow up and love them passionately, no matter what, after they do grow up.

My husband and I decided when I was pregnant with our first baby that the tools we could give that mattered the most were, (1) a stable and solid marriage between their mom and dad, (2) a strong grounding in faith in Jesus Christ, (3) a good education, (3) the security of knowing that we would always love them, no matter what mistakes they made in life.

My greatest fear as a parent was that I would lose one of these precious little ones that God gave me to the larger culture. I can’t imagine how anything else in life could matter if you mess up your own kids, and for me, messing them up would mean that they lose their immortal souls.

The trick to child rearing is to do such a good job giving them the right tools that they can manage their own lives and make the right decisions for themselves. This should begin long before they fly the nest. In terms of my Christian faith, that means I wanted to teach them to love Jesus and to give them some basic tools for discernment in matters of faith. The rest, I knew, was between them and the Holy Spirit.

I think it’s important for parents to raise their children. I don’t mean that it’s important for parents to send their kids off to daycare or school and let the people there raise their children. I think parents should do it.

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That means a lot more than being your kids best chauffeur and activities manager. When my kids were growing up, they each had one organized activity. At some times, it was chess club. At others, it was swim team or Boy Scouts or Little League. They picked and my husband and I came up with the scratch for the uniforms, lessons or whatever. We also went to tournaments and swim meets and games, etc.

But that was it. I did not want to spend all my precious years with my kids driving them from one activity to another. I saw parents who did this and in my opinion, they weren’t raising their kids. They were scheduling and chauffeuring them.

Kids need time with you. They need time in their own homes where it is safe and they can just play. They need unscheduled down time in which you are just with them and they are free to be.

Families need this, too.

So, the first thing I would advise is don’t-overschedule your kids. Let them be kids. And be there with them.

This business of being there with them leads to the single best way that I know of to raise your children in your faith. Do it as a natural part of interacting with them on a daily basis.

Read Bible stories to them, say prayers with them, take them to church. But don’t think that those are the ways you teach them the faith. Those things model faith in action, but teaching faith is something else.

You teach them the faith by being there when they have questions and giving them faith-filled answers. For instance, I have never been troubled by questions of evolution vs the Bible. I know people who have actually lost their faith in God over this quibbling nonsense.

The reason it never troubled me was that when I first had a question about it when I was little, I asked my mother. She explained to me that God’s days were not simple 24-hour solar days. God’s days were infinite. Later on, I realized that if God created time, that meant that God was outside of time. It all just fell into place from there. The result: No religious crisis over evolution.

The same thing happened with the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac. My mother told me that God asked Abraham to do this to make it absolutely clear to him and his descendants that God did not want human sacrifice. I learned later that there were other meanings to this story, but I’ve always thought my mother was basically right about this.

The point here isn’t that my mother is a great theologian. The point is that she was there to answer my questions and she did answer them in simple ways that insulated me for life from a certain set of attacks against the faith. All this took place as part of the casual give and take of daily life and living. It was not scheduled.

That’s the way it is with kids. The best and most important moments; the ones that determine who they are going to be, are not scheduled. They just happen, and when they happen, mom or dad need to be there. If you don’t want the larger culture or the mixed up kid from down the block raising your kids, then you’re going to have to step in and be there so you can do it yourself.

Homeschool

I made the decision to homeschool my kids. I think that was one of the best things I ever did for them. All the things people claim will happen to homeschooled kids — bad education, unable to associate with others, etc — did not happen to my kids. You have to work at it a bit, but the payback for protecting your children from the evil that’s out there until they are old enough and their personalities are formed well enough for them to handle it themselves are on-going and enormous.

My husband and I have somehow managed to raise a couple of fine young men who are good people and who have never caused problems for us or for themselves with their behavior or attitude, not even during the dreaded teen years.

How do you pass on your faith in Christ to your children? As nearly as I can tell, you do it by being there in their lives to answer the questions they have when they ask them. You do it by protecting them from being drafted into the sicko values of our larger culture when they are too young to fight back on their own. You do it by reading the Scriptures aloud with them, beginning with Bible story picture books when they are little and working up to the real thing when they are a few years older. You do this with a readiness to put down the book and chat about what it means at any time.

Pray for your children. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself praying for them and for wisdom to be their mom or dad in the way that God wants you to be their mom or dad several times a day. Pray with your children. Take them to church. Protect them from the world. Put them in places where they will have the opportunity to make friends with kids from families with values similar to yours.

Most importantly, enjoy them. Have fun with them. And love them with all your heart.

Then trust God with the rest. After all, they are His children, too.

Short-Circuiting the System to Play Elected Dictator

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Prosecutorial discretion.

Now there’s a nice phrase. 

Another phrase that’s almost synonymous with prosecutorial discretion is selective prosecution. One is considered a sometimes valid, if often abused, tool in the prosecutorial toolbox. The other heads off into the dark hinterlands of overt discrimination and flat-out corruption. 

From what I’ve seen, selective prosecution is closely aligned with those other destructors of justice: subornation of perjury and tampering with the evidence. 

Taken together, these little prosecutorial peccadilloes have the ability to overturn our justice system and make it into a tyranny.

Prosecutorial discretion, when mis-used for political demagoguery, can easily become a means of blocking the system and turning the whole legislative/judicial process into a sham. Prosecutorial discretion aligned with political demagoguery is so close to selective prosecution that it’s difficult to differentiate between them. 

My colleague, Leah Libresco, chimed in on the question of prosecutorial discretion yesterday with a fine post on the behavior of two elected officials. These two people are at the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum on what they are demagoguing about, but their misbehavior is based on an identical misapprehension of the powers of their office. 

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One is Kathleen Kane, the Attorney General of the State of Pennsylvania. Attorney General Kane announced a few weeks ago that she would not do the job the voters of the state of Pennsylvania elected her to do. She would not defend the state’s law defining marriage in court. Why? Because she doesn’t agree with the law. She seems to think that the law is immoral.

Her announcement was greeted by cheers from gay rights activists and uncomprehending silence from most of the citizens she betrayed. Attorneys General have gone about the business of doing their jobs for so long that most people just take it for granted that they will do them. In fact, a lot of people don’t really understand that when an attorney general flat-out refuses to do their job in this way, it is, and should be, an impeachable offense in most localities. 

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The other is a sheriff in Baton Rouge Louisiana who has been arresting homosexuals for violation of what sounds like the state’s anti-sodomy law. The Supreme Court overturned this law in 2003. I would guess that the sheriff didn’t agree with this decision. He may very well mirror Attorney General Kane by thinking that the decision is immoral.  

This debate about where personal morality ends and the responsibilities of office begin is not nebulous. It also does not apply to employment situations such as whether or not a pharmacist is required to fill prescriptions for RU486, a nurse should be required to assist in an elective abortion or a florist must sell flowers for a gay wedding. But it applies absolutely to elected officials. 

The difference — and it is an enormous difference — is between ordinary employment and elected office. An elected official who refuses to fulfill the requirements of their job or who deliberately oversteps the limits of their powers, is violating a public trust. They are violating the Constitutional privilege to hold office and execute the powers of the people in the name of the people.

Public office is not mere employment. It is the indispensable ingredient of the smooth functioning of a just and stable government. As such, it is incumbent on every and all elected officials to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and not the abuse the powers of their office. 

I react to both the situations described above, not, as Leah did, as a philosopher, but as an elected official who has been charged with fulfilling the duties of office for 18 years. I understand several key things that proponents of these two elected officials’ actions won’t accept.

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First, law enforcement, from top to bottom, is not law making. Law enforcement enforces laws. It does not write them. If Attorney General Kane wanted to work to overturn Pennsylvania’s marriage law, there were many options open to her, including running for election to a law-making position. Since she is an attorney, she might also have considered not running for office at all and filing cases against the law, maybe doing it pro bono. 

An Attorney General is not supposed to even take positions on the laws which they are sworn to defend and uphold. By that I mean that she should not be out making stump speeches against such laws — or for them, for that matter. Her job, and I keep saying this, but nobody seems to hear me, her job is to uphold and defend the laws of the State of Pennsylvania.

This is especially grave since, like all elected officials, she is the only person in her jurisdiction (in this case, the entire state of Pennsylvania) who holds the power of her office. If she refuses to do her job, the job can not be done by anyone else.

This is equally true of the sheriff in Baton Rouge. As an elected official, he is the only sheriff in that jurisdiction. No one else can do his job. Also, he is not a law maker or a law interpreter. He is a law enforcer. The decisions about what laws he should enforce are made by Congress, the legislature and the courts. 

Elected office is a privilege, not a sentence to be served. If any elected official finds that they cannot in good conscience perform the duties of their office, they have the free right to resign at any time.

Leah Libresco used a quote from a play and movie about my patron saint, St Thomas More, in her analysis. Thomas More was the Chancellor of England. Despite the enormity of this position, he resigned when his conscience would no longer allow him to discharge his duties as the King demanded. This is a good example for all of us who hold office. 

If Attorney General Kane can not in good conscience do the job that her office requires of her, she has the clear option of resigning. What she does not have is the option of refusing to do her job and thereby depriving the people of Pennsylvania of the legal representation they are Constitutionally entitled to. 

I am glad that Leah found this example giving the other side of this argument. Maybe it will help clarify what is at stake for those people who are so enthralled with their particular advocacy that they are willing to support overturning the very structure of government that gave them the right to advocate in the first place. 

From Unequally Yoked:

I’m a little troubled by the way same-sex marriage is becoming de facto legal in Pennsylvania.  When I was having SCOTUSblog parties back in June, I found the reasoning based on standing kinda messy.  If a law is challenged, it seems like the appropriate state officials should be obligated to defend it.  Ducking it seems like a odd kind of de facto veto.  And not a proper civil disobedience-y one, a la Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, who conducted then-illegal marriages and was charged for it.

And now this is playing out in Pennsylvania.  The PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane declined to defend her state’s ban on same-sex marriage, and it’s unclear who will pick up the baton, or if anyone will be left with standing to do so.  The proper way to overturn laws is repeal or, if they’re actually unconstitutional, letting them have their day in court.  Not short-circuiting the system over a conscience objection.

 

The One Person

Marriage

Everybody, it seems, is writing about what not to do if you want to stay married.

Everything I’ve read so far, which you can find here, here and here, is good advice.

But is staying married a matter of the things you don’t do?

I hope not. Because I am convinced that there is a lot more to a happy marriage than what you don’t do, or, for that matter, just “staying married.”

Did you notice my choice of words? I said “a happy marriage.” The goal of life — and marriage is life — should not be to just stay with someone. Marriage is a relationship that sustains. As such, it is about trust.

There are many levels of trust. When you leave your purse sitting on your desk at work without worry that your co-workers are going to riffle through it, that’s trust. When you drive through an intersection believing that none of the other cars are going to ram into you, that’s trust.

But married trust goes a lot deeper than these superficial trusts that make it possible for millions of people to live together in a society and function independently dependent on one another.

The trust of marriage involves that one flesh thing the Bible talks about. Your husband or wife knows you in a deep-down, all-the-way-through kind of way that precludes simple definitions of trust. You bind yourselves to one another at a spiritual level that goes deeper than any other relationship you will ever have, even and including relationships with your parents and the children you create with one another.

This person, this one person, is your helpmate, friend, lover, love and the steadying hand under your arm when you are shaky. That goes beyond simple lists of don’ts, even though it does include them.

You may not sleep around. You may not hit, disparage, gossip about or abuse your spouse in any way. Because, stupid, you and your spouse are one flesh. What you do to them, you do to yourself. Make them miserable, and you will be miserable, too.

So, rather than give a list of things you shouldn’t do, I want to give you one thing you must do if you want a true marriage that lasts: Love your husband. Love your wife. Cherish them and treat them as if they were your life’s companion; the one person you will share your days with all the days in this life that you have.

Because that’s exactly who they are.

Convos With My Two-Year-Old: The Pants

I love Convos with My Two-Year-Old.

These are the continuing episodes, 6 & 7, titled The Pants.

Enjoy.

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Pope Francis to Youth: Grandparents are Vital. Cherish the Elderly.

My kids adore their grandmother.

The word “dote” wouldn’t be too strong to describe their attitude toward her. It’s a mutual doting. She tells me constantly how “brilliant, sweet, generous and good” they are. They, in turn, seem to not mind one bit doing the yeoman labors of making sure she takes her medicine, gets her meals and is constantly looked after.

Caring for an elderly parent is not all that difficult when the grandkids stop their rounds of work, dates and classwork to take on far more than their fair share of the tending. It amuses me no end that the first person they introduce their girls to is my mother. She always knows all about their date lives, while I am usually far behind on the information curve.

They feel so strongly about their grandmother, that when I tried to take on more of her care — in the mistaken idea that I was lifting  a burden off them — they protested loud and long.

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I felt much the same about my own grandmother. Grandparents are a healthy relief from the intensity of the parent-child relationship. They give a safe place for kids to spread their wings in the relatively low-key and tolerant atmosphere of adoring grandparents. I remember once my mother told me “we don’t do homework at my house,” when I asked her to make sure the boys did some sort of schoolwork that needed doing at the time. I don’t remember if my lower jaw hit the floor or not, but I do remember the amusement I felt when she said that.

I had the urge to tap her on the forehead and ask, “Mama, are you in there?”

This clearly was not the same woman who had raised me.

And, of course, that was true. She wasn’t the same woman who had raised me. At that point, I was the one on the hot seat. I was the parent with the task of shaping these babies of mine into responsible, productive adults who could earn their living and found families of their own one day.

My mother had done her time in the parental labor yard, and now she was deep into that other role of Grandparent. It was not her job to make sure they did their homework, and she wasn’t going to do it. Her job was to adore them and give them the unalloyed love and adoration that only a grandparent can.

Judging by their attitude today, when she’s a little bit dotty and a whole lot in need of unalloyed love and adoration herself, she did well.

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Pope Francis spoke of this beautiful and unique contribution that grandparents make to the welfare of their grandchildren yesterday, on the feast of Joachim and Anna, who were Jesus’ grandparents. We often think of Joseph, Mary and Jesus as a totally isolated unit. But in truth, they existed within a community of relations and kinsmen, as do people in the Middle East, even today.

Scriptures mention this in the story of Jesus getting separated from Mary and Joseph when He stayed back to teach at the Temple when He was 12. There are oblique mentions of it later in His life when the Scriptures reference His mother’s relations, as well as His “brothers,” which is to say His kinsmen. Again, even today in the Middle East, people call their kinsmen, including cousins and more distant relations, “brothers.”

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We don’t have specific information about how Joachim and Anna lived out their grandparent role in Jesus’ life, but since God had chosen to be born to this particular girl who was part of this particular family, I think it’s a good guess that they did it well. After all, these were the people who raised Our Lady. That’s a powerful testament to their child-rearing abilities.

Pope Francis emphasized on the flight from Rome to Rio earlier this week that the elderly are as important to the future of the Church as the young. There is a symmetry to life and this Latin American pope seems well aware of it. Traditional families, based on a mother and a father, and backed up with the loving help and support of the generation before them, are the best, most stable and healthy way to nurture and guide children from birth to adulthood.

People who grow up in this environment have learned the value of all people at various stages of life by seeing that value acted out in their own families. They’ve learned love by being loved. They acquired stability by growing up in stable homes. They’ve been supported, first by their parents and then by their grandparents who could pitch in and broaden their experiences and also fill the gaps in their experience that parents could not reach.

I had many of the most profoundly shaping conversations of my childhood with my grandmother. She had time to just sit and listen to my childish rambles that my mother and father did not. She was removed from the pressures of getting it all done and could give me her undivided attention for hours at a time. I basked and flowered in the soft sunlight of this attention.

My mother did the same thing for my kids. And now, just as I adored my grandmother, they adore her.

My youngest son drives a pick-up that sits high off the ground. When he wants to take his 88-year-old Amah out for a spin, he picks her up like she weighs no more than a potato chip and lifts her onto the seat. Then, off they go on a ramble.

She invariably comes back all aglow, telling me “that boy is the sweetest thing.”

I was setting up some work on my house yesterday. The lady who took my order was here for a while, measuring and writing down the particulars. I got calls from my kids who were at work and my mother who was at adult day care all through my discussion with this lady. I didn’t think anything about it. They call me all the time.

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But as we were winding up our discussion the lady taking the order said, “Do you know how blessed you are?”

I said yes. And I do know. But it was lovely to have her remind me.

The generations, young to old, are good. The Holy Father is right: We should cherish the elderly, for they are vital to us and our well-being.


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