Book Review: The Cross and Gendercide

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It is not often that I read a book that I could have written.

It’s even more rare when I read a book that is somewhat similar to one that I intend to write.

But that is what happened when I read The Cross and Gendercide, A Theological Response to the Global Violence Against Women and Girls.

I have devoted much of my adult life, beginning when I was barely out of my teens and going right through to this afternoon, to two majors issues: The way we treat our elderly, and a search for an end to violence against women.

Elizabeth Gerhardt, the author of The Cross and Gendercide, sounds like my sister from another mother. The differences between us are obvious, of course. She’s an academician/theologian and an administrator of shelters to protect and help women who are victims of violence. I have worked almost exclusively through the political arena.

She evidently has clung to her Christian faith throughout her career. I, on the other hand, left Christianity and God altogether for most of my early adulthood. My reason, ironically enough, was violence against women.

That leads me directly to the subject of Dr Gerhard’s book. I walked out of Christianity and spent around 17 years seething with anger toward Christ and his followers precisely because of the indifference and often the hostility I witnessed within the church toward women who were victims of violence. In particular, I was almost destroyed spiritually by the response I saw in one church toward a rape victim.

Dr Gerhard approaches this topic from a more scholarly perspective than I can muster. Even today, that old rage kicks off when I think about these things.

I think Dr Gerhard’s more measured approach is needed. But I also know from experience that my take-no-prisoners way of doing things has its place is this fight, as well. We are agreed on the topic of her book. The Church does not have an adequate theological response to violence against women. And that adequate theology is not difficult to find. It is right in front of every Christian in the cross of Calvary.

There is a reason why victims of human trafficking cry for hours after seeing The Passion of the Christ. The God they encounter in that movie is a God Who can understand them.

Watching Jesus being reduced to an object and then beaten, tortured and murdered resonates with them in a way that it does not with people who have never experience these things themselves. The cross changes God from a frowning figurehead off in the distance into a brother God Who understands and shares their anguish in a way that goes beyond words and does not need them.

Through the miracle of salvation, Christ dignifies their own dehumanization and lifts them out of the shame and loss of self that scars them.

That is the miracle of the cross. It is the message of Christianity.

The other miracle, and one which the Church ignores at its peril, is that these women from all over the world, including our own neighborhoods, who are victims of savage violence are our Jesus. They are Christ crucified, right in front of us. If we ignore them, we ignore Him.

That also is the miracle of the cross. It also is the message of Christianity.

I didn’t see this for a long time, for two reasons. First, I sought solutions in creating social responses such as rape crisis centers, and in changing laws. Second, I had x-ed both God and the church off my list of possible allies. I believed they did not care about violence against women, that in many circumstances, they promoted it.

My conversion experience was mostly an encounter with the living God. It was not intellectual. But it forced me to reconsider almost everything in my life, which was, many times, a deeply thoughtful and prayerful process. The first thing I had to learn is that my understanding of the nature of God and especially my understanding of His reaction to violence against women was wrong.

I learned, through prayer mostly, the depths of God’s love for womankind. I also learned the degree of depravity that violence against women really is. To call it a human rights violation does not touch it. Our God is Jesus Christ, Who was born of a woman. Everything that is human about Him came from His mother. She is the only human being who has ever or who ever will be elevated to the status of Queen of Heaven.

Violence against women is a direct sin against Our Lady.

After decades of starting organizations and passing laws and still encountering violence against women and indifference to that violence at every turn, I had a sort of epiphany. I had been too angry to see it before. In fact, it took me a long time to be able to think about it at all. And that epiphany was simply that the Church owes Jesus and Mary more than they have given where violence against women is concerned.

The victims of egregious denial of their basic human rights change from clime to clime. The group of people singled out to suffer varies from one location to the next. But no matter where you go, the one group who always has a firm grip on second place, and who is always subjected to violence and degradation of many sorts, is girls and women.

Women are bought and sold, marketed like chattel, all over the globe. With the crime against humanity that is egg harvesting, their bodies are harvested to be sold on the internet. With surrogacy, their bodies are rented out as incubators. With prostitution, trafficking and porn, they are sold and used as if they were appliances.

Women are subject to the most brutal violence imaginable in every country in the world. Women must fear being attacked for no reason wherever they go.

This is not random violence. It is a universal, global, culturally-sanctioned human rights violation that in terms of scale, persistence and ubiquity outweighs all others.

Where is the Christian outrage over violence against women? I’m not talking about a few seminars and a couple of tut-tut speeches scattered around. Where is the Christian response to this degradation of half the human race that the Cross demands?

The Church cannot sit idly by while Christ is crucified over and over again in His sisters all around this globe of ours. The Church does not dare be silent when Our Lady is degraded by this degradation of the female.

The Church needs to stand up on the whole issue of violence against women. Violence against women is a historic, endemic, universal human rights violation that spans humanity from dateline to dateline, pole to pole. It is the universal human rights violation of humanity.

The Cross and Gendercide raises the serious question of how we should develop a theology against violence against women. The author correctly points us to the cross in our search for this theology.

The Cross and Gendercide is is well worth reading. I recommend it.

 

 

Evangelizing the World Begins with Protecting Your Kids

Flight into Egypt

Pope Francis has called us to evangelize the world.

Jesus Christ also called us to evangelize the world.

That is our Great Commission as believing Christians.

It requires us to go out into the world wearing our faith on our sleeves. It means that we will have to consign ourselves to the barbs and slings that certain folk aim at Christians who stand for Christ. It is a call to give up the cheap grace of hiding our light under a bushel and to stand upright and live our love for Jesus out loud and in public.

I am not talking about becoming the mirror image of the atheist boor who goes around verbally assaulting and insulting Christians for entertainment and sport. We are not called to force our beliefs on those who will not hear them.

Our call is something much more difficult. We are called to live as if we believe what we say we believe and to do what Jesus told us to do in every aspect of our lives. That means we don’t lie, steal, cheat to get ahead. It means we practice personal chastity and sexual cleanliness. It means we do not defame, slander or try to destroy those who disagree with us, even when they do their best to defame, slander and destroy us.

It means that we study the faith so that we stand ready to, as Paul instructed, give a good report of what we have believed. It means we must know our faith and are always willing to talk about it in a positive and faith-filled way.

But there is one thing it does not mean. It does not mean that we throw our children to the secular and anti-Christian wolves when they are unformed babies. By that I mean specifically the schools where they spend most of their waking hours.

I hate saying this, hate worse that I think it’s true, but the schools have become a means of indoctrinating our children into a worldview that is not only anti-Christian, but is in many ways, anti-child. Consider this, this, thisthis and this.

Do you really want your children going to schools whose sex ed courses hand out chemical birth control and give lectures on how any sexual behavior is “normal?” Do you want your daughters taking the morning after pill like candy? Do you want your kids confused with “gender identity” lectures?

And I’m not even talking about the other kids, coming from their messed up homes and the bullying and cruelty that, based on my experience when my kids went to the public schools, is ignored and allowed. There are kids who can manage to get through this intact. But most of them can’t. That means that the public schools, especially big city schools, are no longer a safe place to send your kids if you are a Christian who wants your children to grow up with Christian values.

Add to that the fact that the public schools do not provide a good education for everyone. Public education is at least two-tiered. We have the schools in the “right” neighborhoods where the best teachers teach, the facilities are top notch and everyone has access to all the learning equipment they could ever need. Then, we have the inner city schools where there aren’t enough textbooks for every child to have one, and, while some of the teachers have a missionary zeal, most are burnt out and just building time toward retirement.

Ironically, the parents in these inner-city schools are the ones who are least able to provide alternatives for their kids. Rich kids can always go to private schools. But inner-city kids are stuck.

Those of us who are adults need to assume an adult faith and stand up for Jesus in the larger culture. Not one of us is too precious to take a few slings and arrows for Our Lord. On the other hand, we also need to take a parallel stand for Christ by protecting our children from this toxic culture until they are old enough to engage with it without being overwhelmed by it.

We live in a bizarre world where adults run and hide, duck and cover, while they put their kids out there on the front lines. If we are going to stand for Christ, our first mission is to reverse that.

You need to stand for Christ while you simultaneously protect your child from evil influences until that child is an adult who can stand on his or her own.

The best way to illustrate this is by taking a look at the Holy Family. Joseph and Mary protected Jesus and kept Him safe throughout His childhood. They did not go around announcing “We’ve got the Son of God here! Come have a look!” They gave Him a childhood of normal time, safe and protected within His family.

Men, I want you to consider the role of Joseph. When Herod decided to kill the baby Jesus, God didn’t wake up Mary. He went to Joseph and told him to get his family out of danger.

Men, if you are not helping your wives to be the mothers to your children that those children need, then you are failing. It is your job to protect your families and keep them safe. That is why God made you strong. That is why God woke up Joseph, and not Mary, when it was time to flee into Egypt.

Women, I want you to consider the role of Mary. She is the Mother of God. The Archangel Gabriel greeted her, “Hail Mary!” which is the greeting extended to Caesars. She outranks every other human being. But her first and most important job was to deliver her baby son to adult manhood as a loved and fully-formed human being.


One of the things that amazes and touches me, as both a mother and the daughter of a mother, is that when mothers do their jobs right, their children never stop coming to them for comfort and support. Never. The safest place on earth for well-raised people is always Mama. Or, as a priest friend of mine once said, “Home is where your mother is.”

What about the single parent who doesn’t have a husband or wife to lean on? The mess we’ve made of marriage and the inability of our young people for form families of their own, has led to a whole generation of fatherless children. Mothers are stretched beyond what any one person was ever designed for. There are also some men raising their children alone.

How does a Christian single parent, who has to work full-time and who doesn’t have the money to provide choices in education or in life for their kids, manage to do it? We have one example among the Catholic Patheosi in Katrina Fernandez, The Crescat.

I think we need to support single parents in their efforts to raise Christian children. We need to help them as much as we can. Maybe God will call someone to develop a lay ministry to support children who are missing a parent and for parents who are trying to be two people. Things are in such a mess right now, that I think we need to begin by ministering to our own struggling Christian people before we move out to the rest of the world. In these trying times, Christians need ministry from other Christians.

We are called absolutely by both the Holy Father and Christ the Lord to take a stand in this life and this world for Jesus. No one should ever be in doubt that you are a Christian. None of the people who know you should have to guess that you follow a risen Lord.

But the single most important way we can do that begins, not in public, but in the safety of our own homes. Protect your children first. Whatever it costs you, protect your children.

Seek Him this Christmas

The true meaning of Christmas.

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The Reason for the Season

This is the second day of Christmas, which is not too late to reflect once again on the Reason for the season.

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Virgencita Mexicano: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, the Americas and the New World.

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Immaculate Conception: The Door Opening

The Immaculate Conception is the door opening on our salvation.

It is God the Father, preparing the way for the birth of God the Son by first preparing a holy mother for Him.

The idea that God chose to enter the world as a helpless baby, born to a young girl and her carpenter husband in a backwater province of a conquered nation goes against everything we know and believe about what makes a person important.

We live in a world where might makes right and the biggest and meanest get to make all the rules. This disregard for the little people of the world was even more pronounced in that long-ago day when Our Lady was conceived. This tiny spark of humanity, who was destined to become the bearer of the hope of all humankind, was, if possible, even less important to the worldly world than her baby son would be at His beginning.

She was, after all, a girl in a world that to this day regards little girls as less than worthless. She was that half of humanity which was often exposed at birth and left to rot. Even today in large swaths of what we call civilization, baby girls are aborted because they are girls, and if they are born, killed shortly afterwards. Girls in these cultures often get less food, little education and almost no support in their development as people. They are subjected to brutalities ranging from female genital mutilation, to child marriages, rape and battering.

And yet, God chose, with every possibility possible at His disposal, to come into our world through the motherhood of a young woman. God entrusted Himself to a mother from His conception to His eventual death on the cross. It was a woman who gave Him life and who nurtured, shaped and reared Him into young manhood. This does not take anything away from Joseph’s contribution. Fathers are just as important as mothers. But today we are considering the one person who was with Jesus from conception to grave, and who then was there at Pentecost when the Church was born.

Mary is the mother of us all, the essential human contribution to the undoing of the curse of the Fall. She was prophesied at the Fall and she will be there at the real end when Jesus comes again.

And it began with her conception, when God re-created the lost innocence of Eden in a new Eve who would give birth to the salvific Child to undo our transgressions. This great re-wind started then, in her Immaculate Conception. It was the long-awaited door opening. This feast day is our chance to go back and re-learn what has been given to us by a young girl who, conceived without sin as the original Eve had been, did not falter in her mission as that earlier Eve did, but remained sinless until her own death.

God gave us Mary, and Mary, through her obedience and faith, gave us His son.

She is not, as some traditions try to treat her, a mindless incubator we bring out for Christmas pageants and then forget the rest of the year. Our Lady is woven into the story of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Everything that is wholly human about Our Lord comes from and through her. She gave us her Son, first at His birth and then later at Calvary; and He in turn, gave us His mother.

The Immaculate Conception is a door opening on the end of hopelessness and death. It is a cell-sized point of light shining in the darkness of our own devices. Mary, Our Mother, began the way we all did, as a single cell made in the image and likeness of God.

Christ’s humanity is her humanity. Her dignity is our dignity. She is our mother for the ages.

Litany of Our Lady

This litany is a wonderful way to pray today on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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Rush Limbaugh, Pope Francis and Frogs

Rush Limbaugh, who is nobody’s nominee for Nice Person of the Year, says that “somebody’s either written this for him … or gotten to” Pope Francis.

According to Mr Limbaugh, the Holy Father’s recent document, Evangelii Gaudium, is “pure Marxism.”

I’m going to write about Evanelii Gaudium in detail next week when we aren’t digesting turkey, spending time with our families and watching football. In the meantime, I want to toss this little bit of bile from Mr Limbaugh out there for your consideration.

I think it juxtaposes nicely with President Obama’s action of folding America’s Embassy to the Holy See into our Embassy with Italy. Mr Limbaugh’s comment and President Obama’s action form bookends of a sort. They illustrate both the right and the left wing angst that they cannot control the Pope.

Both the right and left wings of current political debate are Godless philosophies that try, each in their own way, to bend the Gospels into a perverted version of themselves that gives moral gravitas to the respective evils of their two socio-fiscal-political viewpoints. The left wing has confined itself to association with churches that bend the Gospels to suit Democratic Party Moral teachings, while the right wing has associated itself with those churches that edit the Gospels to suit Republican Party Moral Teachings.

Lately, the left wing has abandoned the churches altogether and headed out onto the ice of militant secularism. Even while their toady churches continue their slavish apologetics for what has increasingly become an amoral political viewpoint, they find themselves shunted aside as no longer necessary.

The right wing is a bit behind the curve on this, but not much. They are trying to ignore their religious supporters while still hanging on to their votes. It remains to be seen how successful they will be.

Mr Limbaugh, with his deft ability to say vulgar and hate-filled things, has pointed the way.

If the Pope, or any other Christian leader is going to preach a Gospel that includes moral imperatives relating to economics and concern for the poor, then that religious leader is no longer either useful or welcome at the right-wing party.

I’m not writing this to enrage my Limbaugh-following readers — although I imagine that will happen. I am writing it to point out to those who are willing to see it that a true follower of Jesus Christ is without a political country in today’s American landscape.

You can follow Jesus and His Vicar, or you can make up excuses for President Obama and Mr Limbaugh.

However, you cannot do both.

Either Jesus Christ meant what He said in those Gospels Pope Francis is trying to teach us, or He didn’t. Either Christ the Lord is your Lord in every aspect of your life, including your politics, or He is not your Lord at all.

Choose this day whom you will serve: The Rs. The Ds. Or Jesus Christ.

I am writing this in a hurry because I need to get ready to go to mass. This evening I will begin my own personal journey through one of the Church’s two great penitential seasons. Mass tonight marks the start of Advent, when we look at ourselves through a Gospel prism and confess both to ourselves and to our God the many ways in which we fall short of that Gospel ideal.

As such, it is an obvious time to consider where our loyalties in this world actually lie.

Do you love me more than these? Jesus asked Peter.

The question applies to you and me as we begin this Advent season. Who is your God? Does he stand behind a podium with an American flag as a backdrop? Does he wear headphones and spit out diatribes on the radio?

Or, perhaps, are we awaiting your God in this season of Advent, looking forward to the day when He will be born among us in a stable to a young carpenter and his innocent bride?

Do you love me more than these?

In this post-Christian America where Presidents can lie and everyone knows they are lying and no one cares, where commenters can rail against the Pope and still keep their cult-like followings, that question is not only salient, but urgent.

What is your answer?

From TheRawStory:

On his Wednesday radio show, Rush Limbaugh admitted being “befuddled” by the harsh words about “unfettered capitalism” released this week by Pope Francis.

… He also said that up to now he had admired the new pope, if he also thought that Pope Francis was putting on the “common man touch” a bit too thick. “I thought there might have been a little bit of PR involved there,” he said.

But … the pope’s latest Evangelii Gadium, or Joy of the Gospel

… didn’t sit well with Limbaugh. “Somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him,” Rush said. “This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.”

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Vatican Bans Medjugorje Apparitions in US Churches

Medjugorje

I don’t much about Medjugorje.

I’m not even really sure how to pronounce it.

For those who are even more uninformed that me, Medjugorje is the site of what has been regarded by a lot of people as authentic visits by Our Lady.

I know people who’ve gone to Medjugorje and experienced profound spiritual awakening as a result of the trip. Was that because of the Marian apparitions, or the work of the Holy Spirit, Who is always there when two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name?

I don’t know.

It appears that the Vatican doesn’t know, either.

In a move that evidently surprised those who are promoting the validity of the Medjugorje apparitions, the head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a letter concerning Medjugorje to the USCCB for distribution to all American bishops. The letter instructs that “clerics and the faithful” may not “participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations in which the credibility” of the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje “are taken for granted.”

After a bit of consideration, this instruction makes sense.

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is investigating these apparitions to determine whether or not they are valid. They are simply asking the bishops — along with the rest of us — not to indirectly put the Church’s imprimatur on the apparitions before they have made a decision about them.

It seems that this letter was prompted by a planned tour of the United States by Medjugorje visionary Ivan Dragicevic.

I think what the Vatican has done with this letter is a reasonable action. I know that Medjugorje inspires deep emotions. If the Church decides that these visions are valid, I will accept that and not worry about it. I will do the same if the Church decides that they are not valid.

At the same time, I believe the things my friends who’ve been there have told me about their personal spiritual awakenings. Since I believe that God works with all of us, all the time, I don’t see the two things as contradictory.

I think it’s good for us not to get ahead of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and promote the Marian Apparitions at Medjugorje as valid before they have made a decision about it.

I trust the Church in these matters.

From Medjugorje Today:

“His Excellency wishes to inform the Bishops that one of the so-called visionaries of Medjugorje, Mr. Ivan Dragicevic, is scheduled to appear at certain parishes around the country, during which time he will make presentations regarding the phenomenon of Medjugorje. It is anticipated, moreover, that Mr. Dragicevic will be receiving “apparitions” during these scheduled appearances” the papal nuncio opens his letter to the US Bishops that has been obtained by the Catholic news portal Spirit Daily.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on whose behalf the papal nuncio writes his letter to the US Bishops

CDF is also the body to which the current Vatican Commission for investigation of the events of Medjugorje is going to report, the fact next addressed by the papal nuncio:

“As you are well aware, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is in the process of investigating certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the phenomenon of Medjugorje. For this reason, the Congregation has affirmed that, with regard to the credibility of the “apparitions” in question, all should accept the declaration, dated 10 April 1991, from the Bishops of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, which asserts: “On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

The complete letter from the papal nuncio to the Catholic Bishops in the United States (click to enlarge)

“It follows, therefore, that clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such “apparitions” would be taken for granted.”

“In order, therefore, to avoid scandal and confusion, Archbishop Müller asks that the Bishops be informed of this matter as soon as possible” papal nuncio Carlo Maria Vigano ends his letter.

Akita: Fire Will Fall From Heaven

Madonna of Kibeho

We’ve already talked about Fatima in a previous post.

This is more information about Akita and what happened at Kibeho, Rwanda, before the genocide. Our Lady prophesied the Rwandan genocide and warned against it a decade before it happened.

Sister Agnes Sasagawa
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Kibeho with Immaculee

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Kibeho prophecy Immaculee

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