“Journalists” Receive Planned Parenthood’s Maggie Award Despite Horrifying Videos

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Women's E-News https://www.flickr.com/photos/wenews/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Women’s E-News https://www.flickr.com/photos/wenews/

Planned Parenthood recently recognized 16 publishers for their efforts to promote “reproductive rights.”

These recipients of the Maggie Awards for Media Excellence evidently feel no embarrassment about receiving an honor from an organization that sells the body parts of babies that it has killed.

You can read the whole story at Live Action News, but here’s an unofficial list of those who got the award. Do you see any of your favorite publications?

From Live Action News:

Buzzfeed – via Casey Gueren

Colorlines.com – via Akiba Solomon and Aura Bogado

Cosmopolitan – via Jill Filipovic 

Ebony – via Jamilah Lemieux

Elle – via Laurie Abraham and Leah Chernikoff

Esquire – via John H. Richardson

Mic – via Elizabeth Plank

MSNBC – via Irin Carmon

Pearl of Africa documentary – via Cleo Kambugu and Jonny von Wallström

Salon – via Valerie Tarico

Teen Vogue – via Phillip Picardi

The Nation – via Katha Pollitt

UpWorthy – via Ariel Azoff, Wagatwe Wanjuki and Lori White

Vice – via Fazeelat Aslam

Yahoo! Health – via Jen Gerson Uffalussy

Tai Beauchamp of InStyle hosted the event.

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Fourteen Things Laudato Si Says. Nine Things It Does Not Say.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

I’m pretty sure that most of the people who’ve been snarling and sniping about Pope Francis’ latest encyclical have not read it.

The reason I say that is that they are angry — purple in the face, hissing and spitting angry — about things it does not say. They are also angry about things they claim it doesn’t say that it in fact does.

Laudato Si has a simple underlying argument. Pope Francis reasons that our spiritual bankruptcy has led us into destroying our earth, along with destroying ourselves. He teaches that the loss of respect for the human through our attacks on the sanctity of human life have led us into an extreme individualism that has in turn led us to a destructive relativism.

This shallow and meretricious outlook on life has caused us to befoul and slime our own nest, our home, which is this planet Earth.

Our financial, economic, social and political institutions, all of which should serve the common good, now operate only for their own immediate competitive success, without the element of moral responsibility on the part of those who control them. This deforms human life on a mass scale and leads to the destruction of the planet on which we live.

He calls this destruction of human value and human community a destruction of the human ecology. His teaching is that the human ecology and the natural ecology are linked and interwoven, as they must be if human beings have dominion over the earth.

Laudato Si states at one point that the decision of whether or not to leave a dead planet to future generations is ours to make.

Media pundits have used false claims about what Laudato Si says to get gullible people worked up into a hysteria.

Here are 9 things that Laudato Si does not say, but that people have been told it does.

1. Laudato Si does not attack the free enterprise system.

2. Laudato Si does not advocate Marxism. (This would be laughable except that foolish people keep falling for it.)

3. Laudato Si does not advocate socialism.

4. Laudato Si does not support population control.

5. Laudato Si does not support abortion.

6. Laudato Si does not support contraception.

7. Laudato Si does not support a global tyranny of nutty “greenies” who would take away all our freedoms.

8. Laudato Si does not support doing away with private property.

9. Laudato Si does not recommend specific legislation or reforms.

Here are 14 things Laudato Si does say

1. Laudato Si recommends support for forming small businesses on a global scale.

2. Laudato Si directly links disregard for the environment with the cheapening of human life caused by abortion, saying that when human life becomes conditional, nothing else is protected either.

3. Laudato Si specifically condemns the idea that population control is the way to “save the environment.”

4. Laudato Si specifically condemns business practices which ignore human rights and encourage human trafficking, drug trafficking, disruption of populations, seizure of individual’s property and wars for profit. It also condemns embryonic stem cell research and attempting to destroy the complimentarity between men and women.

5. Laudato Si calls for respect for local cultures and economic reforms which take the common good and human life into consideration.

6. Laudato Si says that all of life is interrelated and that human beings, as stewards of the earth have a grave responsibility to care for it.

7. Laudato Si condemns the out-sized consumption of goods by some parts of the world (ouch) which leads to impoverishment of people in other parts of the world. It calls us to look beyond consumerism to God to fill the emptiness of our lives.

8. Laudato Si says that access to life-giving water is a human right.

9. Laudato Si says that technology, if we use it incorrectly, can isolate and divide us.

10. Laudato Si condemns keeping poor people under a load of debt that makes it impossible for them to build lives for themselves.

11. Laudato Si exhorts us to develop solutions for housing crises which leave so many people homeless.

12. Laudato Si emphasizes the kinship and value of every living being. It also condemns extreme animal rights advocates who place greater value on animal life than human life and who would create a false tyranny with their ideologies.

13. Laudato Si calls for reforms of corruption in our financial systems.

14. Laudato Si says that the evidence for global warming comes from reputable scientific sources.

 

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Why Weren’t the Laws Concerning Minors Followed in the Duggar Case?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tori Rector https://www.flickr.com/photos/124387535@N03/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tori Rector https://www.flickr.com/photos/124387535@N03/

I haven’t paid much attention to the case of Josh Duggar.

I never watched the cable reality show that brought his family to fame. I am neither a fan nor a hater of this family. They just aren’t on my radar.

When Josh Duggar’s juvenile records were revealed, my mind was elsewhere. I was vaguely aware that the situation surrounding Mr Duggar had developed into another round of the culture wars, but nothing more.

Then, I realized that, based on what I’d read, Mr Duggar did not receive the legal protection that he was entitled to as a minor offender. That made the situation interesting to me.

Here’s what little I know.

Josh Duggar, who is a member of a large family that has a successful reality tv show, evidently engaged in some sort of sexual touching of young females when he was 14 years old. His father subsequently filed a report with the police about this behavior. There is no reported history of repeat offense.

Josh Duggar is now an adult. He is married and has children of his own. The police report from his past has surfaced. This police report has become a means of attacking the philosophy and religion of his family. This has led to a media feeding frenzy.

My questions about this do not concern the treatment Mr Duggar is receiving from the media. I am wondering why, since he was a minor at the time these things occurred, his records were made public in the first place.

There is a reason for sealing the judicial and criminal records of minors. That reason is simply that minors can and often do commit criminal acts and then never do it again. Adolescent offenders are actually likely to go on to lead productive lives.

I personally know people who committed crimes when they were minors and who have lived long productive lives as successful members of the community. I grew up with these people. Their actions as youthful offenders in no way represents who they are now. They, quite literally, grew out of their violent adolescence and went on to live productive and respectable lives.

Our juvenile justice system is based in part on the understanding that minors, in particular adolescents, have an enormous capacity for positive growth. They are in fact and in truth, children. Their ways are not fixed. With proper intervention and with love, they can and they often do, change entirely.

That is why we do not put minors in adult prisons and do not, with a few exceptions for specific violent crimes, try them as adults. It is also why we seal their records.

The reasoning behind sealing the records of adolescents who commit crimes or who have various problems is that adolescents are not fully formed adults. They are not culpable for their actions in the same way that an adult would be. They also have a much greater potential for successful and life-long reform than an adult would have.

Sealing an adolescents’ records is a way of giving them a second chance. When they grow up to be productive adults who do not repeat the behaviors that got them into trouble, it is considered that they have demonstrated successful reform. Sealing their records, or even expunging their records, is a way our legal system has of giving minors a second chance at life.

My question in the Duggar situation is why wasn’t this done with his records?

I understand that he and his situation are being used as a weapon in the culture wars. I also understand that these culture wars are ruthless. Josh Duggar’s past is a tactical weapon. It will be used as a tactical weapon. The law does not enter into that.

However, the law still exists. Josh Duggar was a minor at the time of these offenses. So far as I know, there is no record of a repeat offense. Why was the law not applied to Josh Duggar as it is to other juvenile offenders?

His records should have been sealed. In fact, they probably should have been expunged.

Culture wars aside, the legal protections that are available to minor offenders were, for some reason, denied Josh Duggar.

There are a lot of other questions I could ask about this, but I’m not so sure they’re pertinent. I honestly don’t want to know the details of what he did that got him into this situation. I also don’t care if his family’s television show stays on the air or not.

What concerns me is that he was himself a minor child when these events took place and his rights as a minor offender were, for reasons unknown, denied him. As I said, there is a purpose for these laws, and it is a good purpose.

Contrary to prevailing perceptions, most adolescent offenders actually do grow out of their problems. A recent PBS documentary claimed that as high as 80% of youthful offenders never repeat their crimes. 

Actors Steven McQueen, Marc Wahlberg, Robert Mitchum and Merle Haggard are all entertainment industry examples of juvenile offenders who reformed. I’ve seen many adolescent offenders grow up and live productive lives.

The culture wars’ feeding frenzy notwithstanding, I have a question as to whether or not Mr Duggar’s legal rights as a minor offender were violated. So far as I know, we are dealing with a police report rather than a conviction, and this police report concerns the actions of a 14-year-old offender. If there are extenuating circumstances which required that his records not be sealed, I do not know about them.

This situation raises questions about youthful offenders and how they are treated generally. Most youthful offenders will not repeat their offenses. As Mr Duggar’s situation illustrates, youthful offenders who later become prominent citizens may in fact be facing a kind of social and cultural life sentence for their offenses if we do not seal their records.

Do we want to allow youthful offenders second chances, or do we want to treat them the same as we do adults?

That’s a question we need to consider. The situation with Josh Duggar illustrates just how serious it can become.

 

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This Just In: Catholic Church Will Forgive Your Abortion

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Miran Rijavec https://www.flickr.com/photos/miran/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Miran Rijavec https://www.flickr.com/photos/miran/

Christian bashers are characterized by a number of things.

First, they are bigots.

Second, they are full of hate.

Third, they very seldom get their facts straight.

Consider the headline to a story in the New York Post. Catholic Church Will Now Forgive Your Abortion it proclaims.

The New York Post has evidently learned that the Catholic Church forgives sins, and they are all agog over the discovery. They appear to think that forgiveness of mortal sins is a new fangled invention by Pope Francis. They see this as part of Pope Francis’ efforts to make the Church “relevant” to modern times.

Get an education Mr or Ms headline writer. Your bias is showing.

The Catholic Church has been in the forgiveness business for the past 2,000 years. Women who’ve had abortions go to confession and receive forgiveness every single day in the Catholic Church.

I once went to confession — and this was a couple of pope ago, I might add — for my sins related to abortion. I had a long list, and I must tell you, abortion-related sins were outnumbered. I had pretty much done in the Ten Commandments in my young life.

You know what happened? The priest told me that these were serious sins, but that I had confessed them with humility. Then he absolved me. I walked out of that confessional feeling as if the detritus of a thousand years had been lifted off me.

The Catholic Church is in the forgiveness business. It is in the following Jesus business. The Catholic Church is also in the eternal life business.

The media waxes eloquent about the ways that Pope Francis is supposedly “changing” the Church to make it more relevant. They should check their sources. Pope Francis has not and will not change one word of the consistent 2,000 year moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

That’s because Pope Francis is Peter, not Christ. Peter was a follower and Pope Francis is a follower. The Holy Father is the head follower of a billion other followers scattered around this planet. He — and we — follow a Risen Lord Who is the Way that leads to eternal life. Pope Francis follows Christ, and he is leading us in following Christ. He points the way to the Way, the Truth and Life.

The Catholic Church has always been the foremost agency that provides for the poor, educates the ignorant and heals the sick in any community in which it finds itself. These days in which we live have seen an outright attack on human life and human dignity in the guise of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, surrogacy, egg harvesting, sex trafficking, gay marriage and other moral innovations that ultimately lead to the disfigurement of the human.

Of course, the Catholic Church will stand against these things. To do otherwise would be to deny the Gospels, the prophets, and ultimately, to deny Christ Himself.

As for relevance, the media needs to think a bit more deeply. The Catholic Church is a highway to heaven. All any of us has to do is to believe and love Jesus and follow the Catholic Church and we can be assured that we are doing the right thing and are on the way to eternal life.

Is there something more “relevant” than that?

The Catholic Church is the highway to eternal life. It is the purveyor of the full witness of the Gospels, the whole Gospels, which include justice, mercy and hope for the darkest hours of our existence.

The media’s off the cuff and inaccurate analyses offer us nothing except Christian baiting bits of inaccurate and ignorant nonsense.

Christian baiters cherry pick facts and distort reality to justify their hatred of Christianity. Without severe editing of reality, their Christian bashing tropes fall over under the weight of their own lies.

Christian bashing is hate propaganda. I don’t think this particular headline is representative of everything the New York Post publishes on the subject. But it is soft Christian bashing that feeds hard Christian bashing.

There are lots of people who make their livings attacking Christianity. Hatred of Christians and Christianity is all they do.

Day after day, they write and publish blog posts that yammer at bias and bigotry against Christians and Christianity. They must spend their days combing the internet for anything they can use to attack Christians. They waste their talents on writing the filth of hatred, bigotry and discrimination.

They are to be pitied, not attacked. They have gone after the stone of death and abandoned the bread of life. It is up to us Christians to lead them to a better way, to redeem both them and this sick culture, by converting it and them, one person at a time.

The Catholic Church is the way to find the Way that leads to eternal life. I thank God for leading me to it.

From the New York Post:

Pope Francis will send an army of globe-trotting priests — his “missionaries of mercy” — to absolve women who’ve had abortions, in the latest Vatican bid to catch up with modern times.

The effort, which includes reaching out to doctors and nurses who’ve performed abortions, will commence in the Holy Year of Mercy, which Francis has declared will be celebrated between Dec. 8, 2015, and Nov. 20, 2016.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, announced the bold initiative and said the church should always be in the absolution business.

“The missionaries of mercy are priests sent out by the Holy Father . . . as a tangible sign of how a priest should be a man of pardon, close to everyone,” Fisichella said.

Vatican officials walked a tightrope on Thursday, celebrating forgiveness but standing firm that abortion is still very much against church teachings.

“There are a number of clergy with the ability to pardon abortions already, it is not that rare,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman.

Church hard-liners warned that stepped-up efforts to forgive those involved in abortions could “cause confusion” among Catholics.

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The Crusades, Christian Bashing and Our Two-Tier Educational System

NOTE: I noticed a couple of comments on other topics that reflect the popular ignorance about the Crusades. Since this ignorant and inaccurate mis-use of history has routinely been used for Christian bashing, I’m going to re-run the series on the history of the Crusades. I will probably run it many times. It’s just a bit of light, shining in the lies-about-history-Christian-bashing-propaganda darkness. 

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Our two-tier educational system has become essentially a trade-school education for people who live in most of the zips codes of these United States. Among other things that kids in most of our schools aren’t taught are music, philosophy, the arts and history.

It is entirely possible to graduate from our public school system, go on to college and earn advanced degrees and never learn anything of these subjects at all except a smidgen of anthologized literature and a gloss of textbook history, along with the state-mandated history of the state in which the schools exists.

No one reads original sources in most of our educational system. Except for those who are being fed the royal jelly at our elite schools, students are taught almost entirely from hideously expensive textbooks. That means everything they learn is shallow, predigested, committee-approved and edited to conformity of thought.  The “curriculum” is homogenized multiple-choice-oriented trade school stuff designed to train hirable employees for lower level positions — ranging from middle management on down — at one of our corporate or government bureaucracies.

Our educational system actually works against creating thinkers and decision makers. It works toward developing shallow thinkers who can blast through a multiple choice test. The trouble with that, of course, is that multiple choice tests always give you the answer. There’s no thinking involved.

This universal ignorance leads to a population that is like the proverbial goose, born into a new world every day. It also makes We The People easy pickins for the propagandists who seek to destroy Christianity — along with much of the rest of our societal structure — by lies and obfuscations that a truly educated person would strip clean immediately.

Every day, I delete a steady drip of Christian-bashing comments that are based on the stuff and nonsense of propaganda lies. These comments are not only based on lies, they are usually rancorous, rageful and almost identical with one another. Any politician worth his or her salt would recognize that the commenters have been programmed by misinformation and are speaking from somebody else’s script.

The first question an elected official asks when they get a wave of comments like this is “Who” (meaning which special interest) “is behind this?” That’s survival 101 for elected officials.

It’s also a skill We the People need to learn. In this day of propagandized history that is used to bash Christians and Christianity, coupled with an almost universal ignorance of history, theology, philosophy and the arts, its survival 101 for all of us.

One area in which lies and distortions of fact are used against Christianity is the Crusades. The Crusades are actually a rather small part of the misinformation and distortion used against Christians and Christianity. But, given the blank ignorance about the entire history of the Crusades in the general population, it’s also low-hanging fruit for the Christian basher, including, sadly, our own president.

The Crusades are being used to convict Christians of the beheadings, rapes, kidnappings, immolations, and mass slavery that is occurring right now, today. In an irony that belies any concept of truth or fair play, the Crusades are being used to convict Christians of the sins which are being right now, today, committed against Christians. We are facing a Christian genocide in the Middle East. This is not being done just by ISIS. It is on-going, has been on-going for a long time.

Only a truly ignorant population would “buy” the notion that Christians are somehow guilty of their own genocide because of the Crusades. Not only does that defy logic, it is a misrepresentation of the causes of Crusades themselves.

Here, for those who are interested, is the beginning of a series of videos I’m going to post about the Crusades. The videos are themselves only a brief introduction to the actual history of the Crusades.

When I was in Spain, I was struck by the passion of the people who had fought the fight to repel Islamic invaders. Even today, all these hundreds of years later, the depth of their commitment was right in front of me when I looked at the fortifications they built using their toilet seats, pig troughs and whatever else came to hand. These people had fought a desperate fight for their freedom, and their faith animated that fight.

When I was in Turkey, I encountered the bitterness of the Christians there, much of it still aimed at the Roman Catholic Church. I also encountered the gloss that is applied to the bloody history of Christian persecution in that region. There is so much history that Americans do not know and will never learn so long as they confine their thinking to the gloss and the sham.

I picked up several books about both the Crusades and the Inquisition while I was in Spain. The books were dense, and it took me a while to read them, but they taught me a lot. I also went back and plowed through the papal encyclicals that I could read (some were in French, which I don’t read) of the past 1000 years.

Reading books and original sources is a good way to learn more. It’s important when reading about a subject like this, which is being used as a propaganda tool, to read books written from all viewpoints. That’s an education in itself. If you put on your political eyes, you can often, just by reading the distortions from the angles of opposing distorters, arrive at something that is close to the truth.

Please share these with other Christians and encourage them to learn more. We can’t stop the propagandists from lying. But we can at least inform ourselves.

History of the Crusades.

YouTube Preview Image

 

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Are Gay Marriage Activists Too Needy to Take Yes for an Answer?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kreg Steppe https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyndle/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kreg Steppe https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyndle/

They’re going to keep going until they lose this war they’ve won.

Gay marriage is knocking over barriers everywhere. After a long, hard fight, it appears that gay marriage proponents are winning. If they were smart, they’d take “yes” for an answer and pick up their winning marbles before people start changing their minds.

But gay marriage proponents may be among the worst winners in political history. I’m beginning to think that, for whatever reason, they are just too dumb to take “yes” for an answer.

Maybe the reason is that it was never about marriage in the first place. It was always about affirmation.

It’s beginning to look like this whole debate over marriage was and is about forcing everyone, everywhere, to affirm to gay people that they are ok human beings. The trouble with that is that people who are that hungry for approval and affirmation from other people are also usually shot through with emotional holes that no amount of affirmation and acceptance will ever fill.

You can’t love people like this enough for them to feel lovable. You can’t accept them enough for them to feel good about themselves deep down where nobody’s looking. And you can’t affirm them enough to satisfy the gnawing empty spot in their souls.

The serious part of this is when, as so often happens in America, people with holes in their souls try to fill those holes with political action. That is one solution that, believe me, ain’t never gonna work.

Politics is never the place to go for affirmation, love or spiritual healing. Politics is the cold, cold world of power and more power. People who go into that world with some cockamamie need for affirmation hanging out are going to get used and abused and left in the dumpster when the users are through with them.

That’s as true of big-name preachers as it is of gay rights advocates. Politics is no place to find yourself. It is, rather, one of the deepest pits in which to lose yourself.

Gay rights advocates have played a mean, hard game, winning this fight to change the legal definition of marriage. They’ve enlisted many of the power players in our society, including the media and much of the corporate world in their column. They’ve resorted to personal attacks, public vendettas and character assassination. It has worked for them because they got the backing of the power players in the media in doing it.

But it would be a mistake bigger than Texas to think that these power players share an agenda with anyone based on touchy feely things like human rights, much less hungers for affirmation and acceptance. Those things are opportunities for manipulation and exploitation to power players. Nothing more.

They have their own agendas and those agendas are always about power and money. This current fight to restrict and entomb the First Amendment freedom of religion in a behind-church-doors coffin is at base about power and money and eliminating opposition to the agendas of those who hold power and money.

So long as the gay rights people, or the nitwit atheists, or any other group, serves the purposes of the power brokers — in this case weakening the one remaining societal force with the voice to challenge their hegemony — they will be bestest friends. But friends like that will leave you alone on a dirt road with a storm coming anytime it suits their purposes to do so.

Gay rights leaders need to consider carefully what they are doing by broadening and continuing this fight for what they said all along they never wanted, which was to force people to violate their religious beliefs and participate in gay marriage against their wills.

They need to consider it, because it does not advance their cause of gaining public support. In the long run, this kind of behavior will raise up an opposition against them that is unlike anything they have ever encountered before.

They also need to consider that the freedoms they are attacking keep them free as well as everyone else. They are seeking affirmation by attacking the basic freedoms on which they have been able to advance their own cause.

It would be a mistake of mammoth proportions to assume that the same power brokers who have aided them in this fight and who are gleefully using them to attack the one institution that speaks with force against the evils of corporatism are their friends. Gay rights leaders and these power brokers have been using one another.

But if gay rights leaders think the power in question is actually theirs, they are mistaken. If they also believe that this same power will not turn on them when it suits, they are naive to the bone.

When that day comes, these freedoms which they are now attacking may very well be the only thing that stands between them and whatever evil their erstwhile allies seek to visit on them. Tyranny is not the way to achieve freedom. Violating other people’s human rights is not the way to ensure your own human rights.

Crushing a few small business owners under the government heel will not assuage the gnawing hunger for affirmation that drives gay people in this fight. It will instead weaken the ability of all the people, everywhere, to defend themselves against the increasing hegemony of power brokers that seek to use all of us.

When gay rights no longer is useful to those in power, they will turn on gay rights. They’ll do it because corporate interests do not and will never act in moral ways. They are amoral and nihilistic to the core, and they always follow the money.

My advice to gay people is to take yes for an answer and be happy. Live your lives and try to heal those wounds inside you that won’t be filled. Find your solace in living and loving, not hating and attacking.

Politics based on coercing other people will not heal you. It will only wound you further. It also stands a very good chance of raising up a long-term and principled opposition that will reverse the things you have accomplished.

 

 

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Religious Freedom is the Right of Every American. Sincerity Doesn’t Enter Into It.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Indiana passed a law a couple of weeks ago with the purpose of allowing religious freedom.

I’m going to write several posts this week dealing with the many questions surrounding this law. The drama its passage has created brings all the pigs to the trough.

On the one hand, we have Christian bashing by a biased and bigoted media. On the other hand, we have corporatism, flexing its muscle and openly demanding that government pass laws to suit its true masters.

We have social Christians who are doing their usual drop kick of Christian teaching in favor of what’s happening’ now by coming out in full force against religious freedom. Sandwiched between these groups we have the uncomfortable Christians who are trying to parse the debate to the satisfaction of everybody concerned, twisting and turning like atonal wind chimes, blowing in a gale.

Meanwhile, most people, including most Christians, are going about their daily lives, pretty much ignoring the whole thing. They don’t know that this little drama is about them, their freedoms and whether or not they will be able in the future to practice their faith without government bullying.

Today’s post on the Indiana law will be a simple one. I want to address the stupidest argument in favor of doing away with First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion that I’ve heard in all my long life.

This argument, which has come from some surprisingly intelligent people, is based on the fact that human beings, no matter their beliefs, are inconsistent. Let me repeat that: People are inconsistent.

We are not mathematical formulas that always perform in a set pattern. We are, whether we will admit it or not, random. No human being, not one, is consistent.

However, the argument is being leveled at Christians that they must be absolutely consistent in how they live their faith. Otherwise, they should forfeit their First Amendment rights as American citizens and allow the government to coerce them into violating the 2,000-year old constant teaching of their faith concerning marriage.

The application of this bogus line of reasoning goes something like this:  If a baker bakes a cake for a wedding in which one or both of the participants has been divorced, then they are being inconsistent when they say they will not bake a cake for a gay wedding. Thus, they have no right to First Amendment protections of their religious liberty.

The things I’ve read don’t put it quite that crudely, but that is their reasoning.

Let’s take that argument and look at it in all its absurdity.

Constitutional Rights are not based on things like sincerity and consistency. No one asks, even in this age of gun control, if a gun buyer sincerely believes in the right to bear arms. There is no requirement for those who write letters to their elected officials or who seek redress in the courts to be consistent and sincere in how they live their convictions.

The idea that the First Amendment right of the free exercise of religion should be subjected to a consistency and sincerity test designed in parlor discussions by those who oppose these rights is obvious — absolutely obvious – twaddle. It makes me wonder what people are smoking that anyone takes this stupidity seriously.

I could easily raise serious questions about the underlying theology of the argument being advanced, based on teaching that even I, with my total lack of theological training, “get.” But I’m not going to muddy the water with that discussion.

The point here is simple. It is straight forward. It is, as I said, obvious.

Constitutional Rights are not predicated on ephemeral personal attacks about whether or not an American citizen is “sincere” or consistent in how they use that right. The First Amendment is the right of every American citizen. They may use it, or not, as they chose.

If Americans want to lobby their government, they can. If they don’t want to do that, they don’t have to.

If Americans want to speak freely about the issues of the day, no one can stop them. If they don’t want to do that, they can stay silent.

If Americans do not think it violates their religious faith to bake a cake for a gay wedding, they can bake cakes until their oven melts down. But if their faith has taught for 2,000 years that marriage is between one man and one woman and it violates their deepest conscience and the straightforward, well-known teachings of their faith for them to participate in a gay wedding, they are — or they should be — free to not participate in a gay wedding.

Attempts to create false parallels between gay marriage and the black Civil Rights movement do not hold. There is not and never has been a 2,000-year teaching in favor of segregation. In fact, there is a considerable body of Scripture that speaks against such practices. Civil Rights laws did not violate religious freedom for the simple reason that, no matter how strongly individual segregationists might have tried to deify their sins, segregation was not a religious practice. It was a matter of secular law.

Marriage, on the other hand, is defined as between one man and one woman in the first chapters of the Bible and was specifically sanctified as between one man and one woman by Our Lord.

That has been the constant teaching of Christianity for 2,000 years. It is the teaching of the vast majority of Christian religious leaders today.

Americans do not have to accept this teaching for themselves or believe in Christ to know that the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion should allow Christians to follow this teaching in their own practices. It is tyranny of the first order to use government to coerce people on penalty of losing their livelihoods to violate their faith in order to bake cakes and make floral arrangements.

The business owners in question do not turn away any group of people, including gay people. They simply do not want to participate in one type of ceremony because that particular ceremony violates their faith. The sheer hubris involved in bringing this kind of massive force against them in order to break them down and force them to violate their faith commitments is mind boggling. It is evil.

For years now, advocates of gay marriage have used the slogan “If you oppose gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”

They have legitimately exercised their First Amendment rights to lobby for gay marriage, to participate in the electoral process to work for gay marriage, and to petition the government through the courts to gain the legal changes to allow gay marriage. All of this, I might add, was based on their personal moral beliefs.

Now, they want to take the same rights that they used away from those who disagree with them. Even worse, they seem determined to use government force to bend everyone in the nation to their will.

They appear to be willing, even eager, to destroy the same First Amendment freedoms that empowered their cause in order to achieve the Pyrrhic victory of forcing people who do not want to participate in their weddings to do so against their will and in violation of their deeply felt religious beliefs.

This activity makes that slogan I quoted into a sham.

Was it a lie all along?

I don’t know. All I know is that it has become a lie today.

I also know, and I will repeat one last time, that Constitutional Rights are not subject to a sincerity or consistency test.

If someone advances this inane argument to you, tell them that.

 

 

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So What’s this “Agreement” with Iran that’s Got Everybody in an Uproar?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tavis Ford https://www.flickr.com/photos/itzafineday/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tavis Ford https://www.flickr.com/photos/itzafineday/

Plainly put, the “agreement” between Iran and President Obama (not, notice between Iran and the United States of America) is just that: It’s an agreement.

But, it appears to have many of the qualities of a treaty.

However, the Constitution plainly states that the United States Senate will ratify all treaties. If the Senate won’t ratify, the treaty is dead.

But presidents — not just this president — have been entering into these “agreements” unilaterally for quite a while now. These “agreeements” do not require Senatorial approval.

How did this happen?

It happened because the United States Congress wanted it to happen. They set this whole thing up to work this way.

Let’s talk about the “agreement” in question. It revolves around relaxing the economic sanctions against Iran. The most interesting part of these sanctions is that, for the most part, Congress did not create these sanctions. Congress passed laws that allowed the President to act unilaterally and create the sanctions himself.

So, when President Obama enters into an “agreement” with Iran in a unilateral, and dictatorial, fashion he is within the legal rights that Congress itself has given him. What he is negotiating in this particular “agreement” is a trade in policy change between Iran and himself.

He is offering to relax United States’ economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for a change in Iran’s nuclear arms development. I do not know what this entails. I can not guess if it’s a good idea or a bad one.

The reason he can do this unilaterally, without the Senate ratifying this “agreement,” is because presidents of the United States enacted these sanctions unilaterally in the first place. The reason they were able to do this is because Congress handed the power over to them. If Congress wants to rescind the statutes granting this power, it can do that. However, it needs a vote big enough to override a veto to get that done, which means that both parties have got to agree to it.

So long as We the People continue tolerating lock-step, straight-party-line voting, which is enforced by party discipline and big corporate campaign money which is also controlled by the parties, that won’t happen. We the People are a major player in this catastrophe precisely because we have allowed party propaganda to persuade us to regard our government like a football game where we cheer on our team.

We have forgotten that government is not a sport. It is deadly business that can kill people on a mass level and for generations. We have also forgotten that the only team that matters is team USA.

Let’s take a moment and look at the sanctions against Iran, since they are the main point of the agreement. Sanctions against Iran began after Islamic radicals of that day seized the American Embassy in Iran and took the staff hostage. This happened in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was president, and, in those relatively naive times, it was a huge deal. Huge.

The United States began its first economic sanctions against Iran during this crisis by ending US importation of Irani oil. This hardly crippled Iran, since lots of countries are willing to buy oil and they don’t care from whom. In 1983, President Reagan declared Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, and ended United States loans to the country. In 1987, the United States entered into an international embargo of Irani ships.

In the 1990s, fears of Iran developing nuclear weapons prompted President Clinton to ban all American investment in Iran and all trade with Iran. The administration froze the assets of companies who violated this ban.

Under President Bush, the United States began freezing the assets of foreign entities that did business with Iran, including companies, both foreign and domestic, who attempted to avoid sanctions by a loan-laundering process called a u-turn.

President Obama has been even more aggressive in his use of sanctions against Iran. He has issued sanctions against all trade with the country, even that involving food and medical supplies. In 2011, Congress got involved in all this by passing a bill that would freeze the assets of banks and other financial firms that did any business with Iran.

None of these Presidents were acting outside the law. Congress itself gave the presidency this power in much the same way that Congress has handed over its responsibility to vote on whether or not this nation will go to war. By the ruse of calling our wars “police actions” or “counter insurgencies” or some such, and bowing out of the decision, Congress has not only castrated itself, it has castrated the American people.

To get back to the “agreement” between President Obama and Iran, the whole thing involves these economic sanctions. The beauty of the sanctions is two-fold. First, not a drop of American blood was spilled on them. Second,  they are working. Iran wants out from under them, and is willing to deal to get there.

This has led us to the supposedly nefarious and at this point, nebulous “agreement” between President Obama and Iran. President Obama has not hidden the fact that an agreement with iran is in the offing. I posted a video from 2013 in which he announced to the American people that the agreement was being developed.

What has changed is the political character of Congress. Republicans now control both the United States House and Senate.

I am not advocating for this agreement. I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion, either for it or against it. I may, after I learn more, oppose it vehemently. I may, on the other hand, support it. At this point, I just do not know enough to say.

But it is clear to anyone who will take off their partisan blinders that the agreement, and the whole question of nuclear war in the Middle East, is being used as a political football.

My concern here has nothing to do with the fact that a good many members of Congress are worried about the ramifications of this particular agreement. Thinking about these things is their job. They should be concerned about it, precisely because it is a grave issue. It is their job to worry about things like this. 

I am also neither outraged nor dismayed because Congress invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of their House. It is their House, and they can invite anyone they want. Plus, I do not accept at all the idea that the President should be able to negotiate these agreements without input from both Congress and the American people.

We have a right to know. We also have a right to hear from all parties, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.

As I said, I have no quarrel with Congress wanting to be part of this process. I do not think they should have absented themselves from their responsibilities in the first place.

However, what I’m seeing is not a Congress that is doing its job. I’ve haven’t seen that in a long, long time.

From the 50 members who boycotted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, to the 47 Senators who signed the letter to Iran — what I’m seeing is a Congress that has moved its partisan gamesmanship from domestic issues to foreign policy issues.

We need clear, intelligent discussion of this most serious issue. We need members of Congress who are concerned about this nation and who are willing to cross party lines as if there were no party lines to take whatever position they think is right. We are not a nation of the R and the D. We are a nation of We the People.

The Congresspeople we have now are not doing their jobs, haven’t done their jobs for a long time. They are grandstanding for the ’16 elections. In the process, they are endangering American security and, as usual, American lives. Anything they do on this matter or any other matter is tainted from top to bottom by partisan positioning for the ’16 elections. It has reached the point that I do not trust Congressional sincerity in any matter.

Congress has the power to propose initiatives of its own. But it is not doing that. The reason it is not doing that is that taking positive action imposes political risk and political risk might harm their political party’s position in the ’16 elections. I can not say this strongly enough: Members of our Congress are acting on behalf of the two political parties and the money interests that control them, not the American people. 

I wish sincerely that Congress would use its clear Constitutional power to engage in the governance of this nation. That would require, first and foremost, that they start acting as duly elected representatives of the people and not party puppets. That would require them to start thinking and acting as individuals and not some sort of partisan Stepford Congress that marches blindly along party lines without any apparent sense of responsibility to this nation and its people.

The American people have become so inured to our elected officials voting along straight party lines that they have forgotten that this is the antithesis of democracy. These elected officials — of BOTH parties — are not representing their constituents. They are representing the special interests that control their political party.

I know, up close and personal, the price that political parties seek to exact against wayward elected officials who go off the reservation and vote their districts and their consciences. But that is what they are elected to do. 

We the People need to get wise. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be flim-flammed by these two political parties and their constant games.

I’ve said it twice before. Now I’ll say it again. If we let them get away with spreading the corruption of their partisan gamesmanship into foreign policy, they are going to get us killed.

 

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The R and the D: Destroying America to Win in ’16.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/

Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a stirring speech to a joint session of Congress.

Fifty Democratic members of Congress decided to boycott the speech because they didn’t want to involve the United States Congress in politics. That is a little like a doctor boycotting his patients because he doesn’t want his practice involved in medicine.

After that, (and we’ll get to this in detail in the next post) 47 Republican Senators of equal concern for this country to the Ds who boycotted the speech decided to send an open letter to Iran. Yeah. You heard that right. They sent an open letter to Iran about an agreement that hasn’t been made yet. Evidently, they forgot they were in the United States Senate.

All this leads back to the question I asked in an earlier post: Is beltway partisanship going to get us killed? 

We deserve better than the government we’re getting people. I mean from both political parties.

Now, back to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his excellent speech. What’d he say that caused all this ruckus?

Nothing.

I’m not saying that he said nothing. I’m saying that nothing he said should have caused this childish, destructive and utterly disgusting behavior on the part of our elected officials. Prime Minister Netanyahu did exactly what he should have done. He gave a stirring speech on behalf of the interests of the nation that he clearly cares about, his own country, Israel. I only wish that members of our Congress cared so much about America.

His concern in the speech was based on his fear of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. No one on any side of this situation argues that Iran is working to do this. There seems to be only one question: What are we going to do about it?

Before I get into the speech in a bit more detail, I want to backtrack a few years to our totally useless and ultimately destructive to everybody invasion of the nation of Iraq.

Before I do that, I want to back track a couple of decades to the first war in Iraq.

We fought the first war in Iraq under the leadership of President Bush 1. President Bush 1 did a lot of things right. First, he went to Congress and got actual, legal authorization for a war. Second, he put together a real coalition of allies. Third, he went into the war with clear military objectives.

The result was that we got the thing done quickly and got back out.

The salient phrase there is that we got back out. Why, when we had Iraq down for the count, didn’t Bush 1 go ahead and finish off Iraq? I think there were a couple of reasons. First, this was not the objective he had given the American people, Congress or our allies. Second — and this is the one that applies to our discussion today — Iraq served as a stopper in the bottle where Iran was concerned. With Iraq in place, there was a counterbalance to Iran, which kept America from having to be so exposed to the need to military intervention in that part of the world.

He did it for the now seemingly quaint and never considered reason in American politics of preserving future peace and saving the lives of American soldiers.

Enter Bush 2 and our pyrrhic “victory” in Iraq. People have been dying in that region of the world because of this ham-handed and destructive war ever since we engaged in it. Not only did President Bush 2 needlessly kill American troops, he created a political and military vacuum that has led directly to the slaughter under ISIS. He also pulled the stopper out of the bottle that was holding Iran in place.

Now, we are faced with the possibility of a nuclear Iran, which is to say with a possible conflagration of unimaginable proportions. Would Iran use such a weapon to kill on a mass scale immediately after obtaining it? Maybe not. But, given the instability of governments in the Middle East, and the obvious willingness of the various Islamic radical groups to kill, kidnap, torture, enslave on a mass scale, plus their evident love of genocide as a practice of domination, that is not reassuring.

From Prime Minster Netanyahu’s viewpoint, the first and most pressing fear concerning a nuclear Iran is the resulting change in the balance of power in the Middle East. Israel has the bomb. If Iran has the bomb, what would that do to Israel? Will we see another holocaut of the Jews?

That is clearly what Prime Minster Netanyahu fears.

Enter President Obama. Unlike every other president we’ve had, President Obama is opaque to the American people. I think that is the real reason why the people of this country distrust him on such a fundamental level. He does not make sense to us. I think the reason for that is that his history is not our history. He spent his formative years living in other countries as a native of those countries. He attended Muslim schools in Indonesia and clearly has a greater and more sympathetic understanding of the Muslim outlook than he does that of most of Christian America,

He spent the rest of his growing-up time in Hawaii. He attended Harvard, and then settled in Chicago. All this is to say that his experience of America is bi-coastal and, in terms of the life experiences of the vast majority of the American people, non-existent.

What does this mean to the questions surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech? It means that President Obama, for all his great speech-making ability, cannot communicate on the essential unspoken level where trust is built with the American people. This is nothing to do with his dark skin and everything to do with his almost total lack of an American ethos.

If he was an African American president, he’d be fine. But he’s more of an African-International president. American’s don’t “feel” him the way they have every other president. They don’t understand him, don’t “read” him on an unspoken level. He just doesn’t give off recognizable American vibes.

President Obama has done a good job of keeping America out of troop entanglement in the Middle East. He has done an excellent job of encouraging the countries of the Middle East to take on ISIS and wage war against them directly. This has done something that the war-sellers don’t seem to consider at all. It has saved American lives.

Now, he is engaged in an attempt of some sort to negotiate an agreement (not, notice a treaty) with Iran about the development of nuclear weapons by Iran.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is so alarmed by the potential for this agreement to let the nuclear Iran genie out of the bottle that he came across the ocean to address a joint session of Congress. Congress, for its part, doesn’t care very much about American lives or nuclear genies. They just want to poke the prez in the eye so that they can position things for the ’16 elections,

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech made three points: First, this agreement the President Obama is working to create will not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapon. Second, the agreement will enable Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Third, Iran cannot be trusted, as its interests are always antithetical to those of the United States.

The third point has certainly been true in the history of the past few decades, both for the United States and Israel. But is it always going to be true?

One question for America is how can we change that dynamic, without pulling another plug out of another bottle and setting off a holocaust of the Jews in Israel, as well as a third world war?

President Obama was trying to work out his agreement in secret, without informing the American people, or dealing with Congress.

He was outraged that Congress allowed Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak. Personally, I’m concerned that it took the speech of the head of another nation to inform the American people.

I don’t know enough about what our president is trying to accomplish to have a clear opinion of it, and that is the rub. We the people have a right to know. But I am very concerned about this new idea — which is being pushed by the press, by the way — that keeping the people in the dark about their government is patriotic.

I am also concerned about the total breakdown of governance in Congress. Even more than that, I am concerned about what these two political parties and their unending partisan power struggles are doing to all of us and to the future of this nation.

They are destroying America. They are dismantling and exporting our industry, keeping us constantly at war, bankrupting us with their constant war-time economy and allowing the nation to wallow and slowly degrade.

The only thing they care about is jockeying for the next election. I know people who were ecstatic after the election last November. They honestly thought that this new Congress was going to take any number of actions. These trusting souls actually believed the campaign rhetoric.

I knew this was not true. I knew that the only focus our newly elected Congress was going to have was the next election. The campaign for ’16 started the day after the votes were counted in ’14.

Now, this vicious, mindless and totally destructive partisanship has invaded foreign policy. I want to ask this Congress the same question that was once asked of Senator Joseph McCarthy: Have you no shame?

The bottom line is that this constant partisan bickering shows no sign whatsoever of abating. It is getting worse. If it doesn’t stop, it is going to get us killed.

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History of the Crusades: Richard the Lionheart, Genius and Virtue

 

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings of a thousand years ago. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost over a thousand years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2015/03/history-of-the-crusades-richard-the-lionhearted-defeats-saladin-1192/#ixzz3U6W1vnQn

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