Evangelii Gaudium Cliff Notes Part 2: The Beam in My Eye

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. 

Jesus Christ

Pope Francis is calling all of us to take up what Protestants call the Great Commission.

That is the direct command from Our Lord to Go and make disciples of all nations. The Holy Father is teaching in exactly the same way Jesus taught by advising us to cleanse ourselves of our own sins before we head off diagnosing the sins of other people.

This is an call to evangelize the world, but like the good pastor that he is, Pope Francis calls us first to evangelize our own hearts through genuine conversion to Christ. Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document. If you read it with an honest and open heart, it will convict you of the need to change your ways.

No one is more prey to the error of condemning others while wrapping themselves in a cloak of self-righteousness than politicians and bloggers. It is an occupational hazard.

Since I am a politician blogger, I get a double dose of the temptation to become a bargain-basement Pharisee. Blogging at the intersection of faith and politics is a location fraught with all sorts of annoyances and frustrations. It’s easy to lose track of the love and desire to do good that brought me here in the first place.

Evanglii Gaudium reminded me that the joy of Gospel, the freedom of the Gospel, the absolute certainty that everything I do matters to God, belongs to me. It is a free gift from a God Who loves me so much that He was willing to suffer the extremities of humiliation, public torture and a hideous death to give it to me.

When I focus on protecting my petty little sins, I toss those joys to the ground and turn to the bitterness and alienation of the lost people I claim I want to help.

That, in the final analysis, is the price for clinging to your precious little sins: Anger, bitterness, self-righteousness. The fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, are all lost to us and replaced by an angry obsession with what is wrong with other people.

As those of us in the West move more deeply into a post-Christian world, we are going to find that the only thing that sustains us is the Spirit, and that our call to follow Christ will either be sustained by these gifts of the Spirit, or it will fail.

The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a call to personal housecleaning. It is a diagnosis of how we have cast ourselves out of the garden all over again by biting into the bitter fruit of our own cherished sins.

Since Evangelii Gaudium is a call to the whole Church to evangelize the whole world, it focuses its diagnosis of sin on the corporate sins we commit against one another as part of groups. The Pope doesn’t go over the obvious. He doesn’t remind us of what we should very well know: That when we live our lives built on the cheats of greed, lies of adultery and the brutality of murder we are not God’s people and if we do not repent, we will not go to heaven.

He focuses instead on what the political power brokers and money changers of our times don’t want us to see. That is the vast corporate and social ways in which we commit these same private sins and the enormous price in human suffering that this behavior exacts on so many of the 7 billion people living on this planet today.

A few paragraphs in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium have raised the ire of the corporatist apologizers in the media. Most of this particular group has spoken out against abortion down through the years, along with gay marriage. They have not been so eager to condemn other forms of killing, ranging from embryonic stem cell research to wars of conquest, and, as has been revealed from time to time, many of them do not practice a private sexual morality that matches their public statements.

This has confused many good Christians who’ve been taught — by fallen clergy and these same corporatist apologizers — that economics is entirely outside the reach of the Gospels. They have exempted themselves from the piercing eye of Gospel teachings in matters of money, and a lot of good Christians have bought this deal because these same people condemn abortion.

But the same Jesus Who taught that every life is valuable to God sent the young rich man away and said, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

It was Christ the Lord who drove the money changers out of the temple.

I would imagine that what some of these people are saying about Pope Francis would look mild and mannerly compared to what they might say about Our Lord.

Pope Francis is asking us to stop putting fetters on the Gospel and accept it in all its demanding power. He is asking us to throw off our chains of political fealty and approval seeking and step out on the ice and live the teachings of Christ as the transforming, Kingdom building powerhouse that they are.

Part of this is his condemnation of what he calls “the new idolatry of money.” The pope calls us directly and explicitly to work for economic systems that are based on the good of human beings.

Despite the media focus on these few paragraphs, they are a small part of the message of Evangelii Gaudium, and economic sins are just a few of the things the pope addresses.

He speaks eloquently about the challenges Christians face concerning Christian persecution (emphasis mine):

We also evangelize when we attempt to confront … the attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideology which has come about as a reaction to anything which might appear totalitarian.

The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal … completely rejecting the transcendent. It has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin and a steady increase in relativism.

… As the bishops of the United States of America have rightfully point out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid of everyone, “there are those in our culture who portray these teachings as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights … the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom.”

the negative aspect of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family.

Evangelii Gaudium takes an uncompromising position in support of the sanctity of marriage.

The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. The family … is the fundamental cell of society. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.

There is much more in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium. But I hope that you are getting the message. The document itself is a call to evangelize the world. The much-picked-over paragraphs about money are a small part of the message of the second chapter of the document.

The second chapter deals with the areas where we need to give ourselves, both as individuals and as a Church, a spiritual house cleaning. Money is a part of this. If economics have no moral requirements, then Jesus Christ Himself was a fraud, because that is certainly not what He taught.

People who attack the Pope for saying what has been Church teaching for two-thousand years and who try to subvert him when he challenges us to give up our greed and venality about money, are attacking the Gospels themselves.

But the primary injustice they are committing by focusing on these few paragraphs is that they are depriving the people of God of the convicting power of this document. If all you know about Evangelii Gaudium is what you’ve read in the press, then you know nothing about it all.

Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on the New Evanglization. The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on some of our most glaring social and personal sins. The Holy Father focused this second chapter on the sins that, as he says, damage or even destroy the ability of the Church and individual Christians to effectively evangelize the world.

He is calling us to reclaim for ourselves the joy of the Gospel by yielding up all our precious sins to the teaching, transforming power of the Gospels. He is calling us to conversion, to walk the walk of our Christian faith in the real world.

Powerful people hated this message two-thousand years ago. Powerful people hate it today.

Part of our job as Christians is to ignore them and follow our Christ. The teachings in Evanglii Gaudium help us do that.

 

 

To read part one in this series, go here.

 

Convos with My Two-Year-Old: The Dress

It’s time for a break. Nothing amuses me more than my favorite YouTube videos, Convos with My Two-Year-Old.

Watch for Dad’s reaction at the end. It’s priceless.

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Where They Have to Take You In

Thanksgiving weekend is an annual opportunity to kick back and enjoy the people who matter most.

Robert Frost said, “Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”

The same could be said for family. Just for today, let’s not trot out the laundry list of “bad” families and family dysfunctions and remember instead that when, as we say in these parts, push comes to shove, your family members are the only people who will stick by you.

As a long-time/small-time public figure, I can tell you that there are days when home is not only where the heart is, it is also the only safe place.

Enjoy your family this weekend. Your life will be better for it.

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Pope Francis Issues New Document. Calls for Missionary Church.

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis has issued a beautiful new document, called an Apostolic Exhortation, and a wonderful exhortation it is.

Needless to say, the popular press has already begun issuing their skewed interpretations of what he said.

I think the reasons for this constant re-writing of the Holy Father’s message is twofold. First, they are literally putting words in the pope’s mouth to advance their own social/political agendas. Second, the drive to pick out the most compelling headline and pull readers into their publication leads them to sensationalize Pope Francis’ statements.

I’m not going to write in detail about Evangelii Gaudium until after Thanksgiving. We’ve all got turkey on the brain right now. I’ve been steam cleaning and dusting and vacuuming. Then I’ve got to start preparing food for a small army of hungry family and friends.

That’s why I put the quote above. I can’t take the time to analyze the Holy Father’s statements until after Thanksgiving, but I can, and have, let him summarize himself.

The Holy Father did not, as one press report I’ve read claims, call for the dissolution of Vatican authority in the Church. What he did do was call each and every one of us to our universal Christian vocation of living for Christ and sharing the Gospel with the world. It’s a beautiful document that spoke to my heart as I read it.

He’s so right about what ails us and what we have to do to live out our vocation as Christian evangelists in this fallen world. Those of us who live in the post Christian West have our own unique challenges. Our first challenge — and it appears to be a tough one for most Christians — is to know and to believe that we live in a culture that is hostile to Christ and His message and to us as Christians. We have to choose this day whom we will serve. That choice has eternal consequences.

A lot of us don’t want to believe that uncomfortable fact. We don’t want to chose and make people mad at us by our choice. We want to slip by without incurring the wrath of the culture and still slide home to heaven after it’s all done.

We’d rather compromise our faith than face the wonderful fact that we are a new First Century generation, called to evangelize a libertine and openly anti-Christ culture. We have been entrusted with the gift of being able to stand up for Jesus and take a couple of verbal brickbats for him from our child-sacrficing, marriage-and-family-destroying, women-and-children-selling culture.

Our grandparents didn’t have the opportunity to stand for Him that we’ve got. They lived in the days of ez-pz faith in a country where saying you were a Christian opened doors instead of shutting them.

But we can stand for Jesus in a way that makes a difference. That is the challenge of, and the gift to, our generation.

Pope Francis is all about issuing that call to stop hiding our light and make a stand for Jesus. He is leading us to give up passively sitting in the pews and watching self-absorbed priests wave around incense and preach feel-good homilies that don’t address the human meat market world in which we live. We are, all of us, from the bishops on down, being challenged by a pope who sees the problem and knows that the solution is us and our fidelity to Christ.

The time for lukewarm ministers, politically correct bishops and social club laity is past. It is no longer a get out of jail free card to be a Christian. In fact, proclaiming your faith in Christ and the teachings of His Church will get you reviled, mocked and attacked.

Pope Francis has written a wonderful, much-needed document calling you and me, our bishops, priests and all the religious to our true vocation, which is proclaiming the Gospel of Christ by how we live, what we say, and what price we are willing to pay.

You can find Evangelii Gaudium: On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World here.

Religious Freedom and Gay Marriage: Are They Intrinsically Inimical?

Does the First Amendment apply to individual people or only to the institutional church, inside its church building?

This question would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. But that was before President Obama used Obamacare as a method to coerce churches and private citizens in areas where it had never gone before.

The HHS Mandate was the brainchild of a star chamber committee at the Department of Health and Human Services. It was signed by the president. It has the force of law, but it is not a law. It is a regulation, that was not written by elected officeholders who are answerable to the people. In fact, it is in direct violation of public promises that President Obama made to elected officials in order to get the votes to pass Obamacare.

As such, the HHS Mandate was, from its beginning, an end-run around Democracy.

It was and is an autocratic attack on religious freedom by a few people with a vested interest in the outcome.

It also ushered in an era of direct attacks on religious freedom by government such as has never been seen in America since its founding.

One manifestation of this is the demand by gay marriage advocates that the government force one-person business owners to provide services such as cake-baking, flowers and wedding photography for their “wedding” services. They have managed to successfully use the government to coerce people, even in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

I recently wrote a post asking the if it was possible to have personal freedom of conscience and gay marriage. In other words, is it possible to find a compromise between gay marriage advocates and traditional Christians that would allow both to exist without government coercion? If the response to that post is in any way indicative of the larger culture, the answer is no.

Gay marriage advocates swarmed the post. Most of them got deleted, but there weren’t any serious attempts to even address the issue of how to balance rights. Instead, the combox response to the post devolved down to the question of homosexuals’ “rights” in this matter trumping everything else.

Rather than give up, I’m going to ask the question again. Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

To put it another way, are we bound to decades of warfare over this issue in much the same way that we’ve suffered through the abortion debacle? The salient point is that this gay marriage debate comes after forty years of bad blood. This country is already divided in a dangerous manner. Can the government maintain its authority if those who seriously profess Christ come to believe that they have to chose between obeying their government and following their Lord?

The games that certain people in insulated thought communities are playing with these matters are far more dangerous than they allow themselves to understand.

The Supreme Court needs to turn back the HHS Mandate with a clear-cut decision that leaves no questions. Anything less will precipitate a Constitutional crises of generational proportions. Elected officials need to refuse to accede to demands from gay marriage advocates that they use the power of government to force people to participate in gay marriages against their will. We are talking about one-person or small family businesspeople who are being faced with losing their livelihoods if they do not violate their faith. There is no legitimate reason for this.

The questions at hand are not, as some like to claim, questions of civil rights such as that engendered by segregation. They do not pertain to basic matters of accommodation for a group of people who are forced to drink at separate drinking fountains, attend separate schools, sleep in separate hotels and watch movies in separate rooms. We are talking about isolated instances of one baker out of many or one photographer out of many saying they will not participate in a specific event based on their religious belief.

The businesses in question that I’ve read about have routinely served homosexual people. They just do not want to participate in this one specific event because it violates their religious teaching.

In this instance, the shoe of persecution and discrimination is on the other foot. Using the government to force people to violate their faith so that you feel validated is not only coercive, it is bigoted.

Gay marriage advocates have every right to advocate for their position by petitioning their government and working through the courts. But elected officials have a responsibility to honor the Constitutional freedom of religion of all citizens, including Christians.

No government can successfully enforce any law if a committed minority of people refuse to accede to it. That is a fact. The two political parties have manipulated and exacerbated the culture wars in order to get campaign donations and win elections until they have seriously damaged this country and all but destroyed themselves.

The political parties, for all their power and destructive force, are nothing. They do not care about this country or its people. Their silo mentality has contributed to this situation we now face in so many ways I cannot enumerate them all.

Given all this, it takes a person of stubborn hopefulness to ask the question: Can we reach a compromise?

I’ve never thought of myself that way, at least not the hopefulness part. But I’ve always had stubbornness aplenty. It would be easy to say that stubbornness is what drives me to put this question out there again.

However, that’s not true.

I am motivated by the stakes. I know which side I will come down on if I must choose.

I choose Christ.

But as an American, I do not believe that I should have to make that kind of choice. I believe that it is my right — my Constitutional right — to follow the dictates of my faith without government interference.

Which leads me back to the question with which I began: Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

Are gay marriage advocates and their allies in government seriously going to force me, and every other committed Christian, to chose between our country and following the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

 

Where’s My Princess Purse?

Convos with My Two-Year-Old.

This one is about playing princess with Daddy.

Enjoy.

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Patheos’ Beer Guy and Choc Beer

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Patheos’ Beer Guy, Frank Weathers

My husband and I took a rambling drive through the Oklahoma hills yesterday. 

We wound around the Talihina Drive and ended up at Pete’s Place in Krebs, Oklahoma. For those of you who don’t know, that means we were well and royally fed. 

I admired the beer menu, and the good folks at Pete’s gave it to me. Here it is, for the perusal of all you poor folks out there who aren’t Okies. (And, of course, Patheos’ own beer connoisseur, Frank Weathers) I’m not a beer drinker, but those who are say that Pete’s and Choc beer are beyond compare. 

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Convos with My 3-Year-Old: Ferngully and Gas Prices

Convos with My 3-Year-Old. My fav YouTube.

Enjoy.

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Is It Possible to Have Individual Freedom of Conscience and Gay Marriage?

The debate is boiling down to a wall-punching, head-butting disaster. 

On the one side, there are gay marriage advocates who decry religious freedom and personal conscience exemptions to participation in gay marriage except for the most isolated cases, and even that quickly comes into question as discussions proceed.

On the other side, are gay marriage opponents who decry the loss of personal freedom of expression and religious liberty. They quickly move to a position of banning gay marriage to preserve their freedoms. 

Those who advocate each position have worked themselves into such a froth that they are incapable of civil discussion, much less actual compromise. I have been a victim of this myself. I lost a friend who I thought of as my brother, a friendship spanning decades of our lives and which had given both of us a great deal of love, loyalty, fun and support. He ended this friendship with the finality of an amputation because I could not support gay marriage. 

That is the level of acrimony and nastiness this issue raises. 

But in truth, the argument itself is based on considerations which have ample precedence in American life and jurisprudence to allow any and all of us to live together in harmony. America has a historic tradition of honoring freedom of conscience as it pertains to religious faith. The most poignant example of this is the exemptions we allow for those whose religious faith demands that they not participate in combat. 

We even extend this to people who are not members of a faith which demands it.

I know because a friend of mine obtained conscientious objector status after he was in the military during the Viet Nam war. He made this request based on his personal conviction that killing anyone was murder. It was not based on his faith, since he was a member of a church that did not teach this. 

The United States Army granted him conscientious objector status. I have also known Mennonite men who were granted conscientious objector status because of their faith. 

So why can’t we work out something for gay marriage? I am not talking about exemptions for established churches, even though that is absolutely necessary if America is going to be America. I am talking about preserving the conscience rights and right to religious freedom of all American citizens. 

Gay marriage zealots can be single-minded, intolerant and destructive in how they approach their cause. They resort far too often to labeling everyone who disagrees with them as bigots or some such and then excoriating and slandering these people and institutions in a concerted way that can only be described as character assassination. 

My own friend, who I would have trusted with my life, has gone on the internet and written things about me to hurt me. None of these things he’s said advance the cause of gay marriage. They are simple expressions of hatred because we disagree over this issue. 

I’m not sure what causes this level of ugliness. People who fought the great Civil Rights battles of the mid twentieth century did not engage in it, and the level of oppression and suffering they were battling makes any complaints that homosexuals have pale by comparison. 

Perhaps the difference is that Martin Luther King Jr led from a Gospel standpoint. He based his cause in the inalienable human rights found in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. People sang hymns, prayed and talked about how they were saving the soul of America before they left to face the firehoses that were turned on them in Civil Rights marchers. 

Their bravery and their powerful witness to their own humanity not only won the day, it did indeed, ennoble the soul of this nation. 

No cause can do that if it stoops to the level that some of the gay rights advocates have chosen in their work for gay marriage. There is no nobility in slander, name-calling and bald-faced bullying. There is certainly nothing of a higher calling in attempts to advance your desires by attacking and limiting the basic human rights of other people. 

That, at root, is what freedom religion and freedom of personal conscience are: Basic human rights. The freedom to believe in God and to follow your own faith is second only to the basic right to life and freedom from violence in the hierarchy of human rights. It is what separates us from the animals. 

Alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that we are going to die. Also alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that there is right and wrong and dignity to every human soul.

Can there be human rights for gay people and freedom of religion for everyone?

Certainly.

Is gay marriage a human right for gay people? I don’t think so.

To be honest, I think that gay marriage, if it is regarded as the same as marriage between a man and a woman, is a delusion. Two men or two women are not the same as a man and a woman. There are basic legal rights that gay couples should have, simply because the laws of America have to be for everyone. But marriage between two men or two women is simply not possible. We can all pretend and call it marriage. But that won’t make it so. 

The next question is, should gay people have the same civil rights as other Americans?

Of course.

Should every American, gay or straight, have the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion?

Absolutely. That’s not only imperative, it’s easily done if people of good will try to do it. 

We can work it out. We can even work it out if we change the definition of marriage. 

But will we?

I don’t know the answer to that. 

We have the means and the power. The last question is simply, do we have the will?

Helping Others … Helps You

What sort of people take part in Catholic Volunteer Services? How does volunteering affect their lives?

The short answer is good people, whose lives are enhanced by the experience.

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