From Xyklon B to Machetes: Our Lady in the Age of Genocide

I wrote this a couple of years ago. Since I was too busy to write anything yesterday, I’ve decided to post it again today. It’s in serious need of updating in light  of recent events, (which I may do on Monday) but I think it’s still worth a look, as it is. 

Genocide was the 20th Century’s iconic crime. It was, for much of the world, a 100-year bloodbath.

Murderous governments used killers armed with everything from Xyklon B to machetes to wage war against civilians with the aim of wiping entire tribes and populations of people from the earth. It began with the Armenian Genocide and kept on rolling through to the Sudan. Other eras were guilty of genocidal war. But when it came to efficiency and numbers, nobody did it better than the genocidal warriors of the 20th Century.

Our hope, as we left the old century behind, was that we had somehow contrived to leave these impulses for organized murder behind us. We thought they belonged in the forgotten junk drawer of that era, beside the vacuum tubes and eight track tapes. Unfortunately, genocide trailed us into the 21st Century and is already making a real name for itself here.

Not so long ago, within living memory, we stood beside the mass graves and crematoriums of the Third Reich and vowed “never again.” But, as my grandmother used to tell me, “Never say never.”

Genocide led us on a blood-drenched march through the last half of the 20th Century. In 50 short years of history, it drug us from the Nazi death camps to the Killing Fields of Cambodia, through the slaughter in Rwanda, and on to the Sudan.
 Today, it is the Christians who are being targeted for extermination.

Each day brings a new and horrific story of Christians murdered because they are Christians in many places around globe, but particularly the Middle East and parts of Africa. Deacon Greg Kandra, over at The Deacon’s Bench, posted Monday on the plight of Christians in Syria.

In his post, Can Syria’s Christians Survive? Deacon Greg quotes a Wall Street Journal article that says in part:

“… Syria’s Christian communities are being severely tested by the uprising that has racked the country for more than a year. They think back to 636, when the Christian Byzantine emperor Heraclius saw his army defeated by Muslim forces south of present-day Damascus. “Peace be with you Syria. What a beautiful land you will be for our enemies,” he lamented before fleeing north to Antioch. In the 8th century, a famed Damascus church was razed to make way for the Umayyad Mosque—today one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Not a few Christians in modern-day Syria worry that the current crisis could end the same way for them if Bashar al-Assad and his regime are defeated by the rebel insurgency … ” Read more here:  Can Syria’s Christians Survive?

This is especially poignant today, on the Feast of the Assumption, since this feast honors Mary, Our Lord’s mother. Our Lady spent her last years in what is modern day Turkey. Her last home is believed to have been high on a hillside not far from the city of Ephesus.

When I visited this site last year, I was impressed by the long lines of believers who had traveled from all over the world to stand in the cool shade of this hillside. It was equally striking to see Muslims and Christians in line together, waiting their turn to enter the tiny rooms of the reconstructed ruin of Our Lady’s home.

You can touch the stones that formed the lower portion of her original house, hear the breeze riffling through the trees, and drink from a spring that may have supplied her water. It’s easy to imagine how peaceful this home would have been for her, especially after visiting the stone metropolis of Ephesus not far away. Her empty grave must lie a short distance from this place. She was assumed into heaven from here.

I wanted to attend mass at this spot, but we got there too late in the day. What I did instead was break the “no entry” rule posted beside the ropes surrounding the little outdoor chapel and take a seat in one of the chairs. I wanted to be alone, to feel the Presence in that place and to pray. The guard eyed me quietly and then respectfully backed away, his rifle hanging limp at his side.

When I had told one of my Muslim companions that I wanted to be alone to pray, he said, “Pray for me too,” and I did.

It was easy here, in this quiet bubble of grace next to the long lines of pilgrims chattering in their many languages, to believe that we could put it all aside. We could give up the things that divide us and remember the things that make us one.

We are all born of woman. We will all die. We are children of the same One God Who loves us the way any parent loves his children.

That should be enough. It should be more than enough to make us think long and hard about this nasty habit we have of killing one another.

What are we going to say when we stand before God and try to explain ourselves?

It was unfathomable to me, sitting in that holy place, that there are people so demented and lost that they honestly believe that God will reward them for the wanton killing of His children. But I know that such people exist. I’ve witnessed first-hand the carnage that terrorists cause.

If there is one message in this Feast of the Assumption, it’s that we not only have One Father; we have One Mother, as well.

I saw Muslims and Christians, standing in line together to honor her. A hardened Turkish guard respectfully backed away to let me pray my Christian prayers. From The Deacon’s Bench, to the bleached stones of Ephesus and on uphill to the riffling breezes of her last home, Our Lady does what mothers always do.

She makes us family.

Mary truly is the Mother of God. Jesus gave her to humanity when He told the Apostle John, “This is your mother.” She is mother to us all, Muslim and Christian alike.

I think her love is the bridge that will one day bring us together.

Update! Before We Go All Twittery Over the Muslim Denunciations of ISIS, a Couple of Questions

I published a post yesterday listing various denunciations of ISIS barbarity from Muslim political leaders.

As I was assembling that list, I noticed that the denouncers were Shia. Based on what I’ve read, I believe that ISIS is Sunni.

I don’t have much knowledge of Shia vs Sunni, but I think, from what I’ve read, that this is a blood feud that is largely tribal and historic.

After I published that post, I could almost hear the massive sigh from readers. At last, a few of them said, the Muslims are joining us in combating the genocide.

I don’t want to put a pin in that balloon. Not yet. Because I’m not sure of anything.

But I do have these niggling questions that I think we need to consider before we go all twittery and weak-headed. It is critical to not allow ourselves to believe what we want to believe because we want to believe it. Let’s think a bit and chew on it a while first.

Here are the questions:

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1. How did ISIS get all that American heavy armor from the Iraqi army? Press reports have said variously that they “took it in battle,” or that it was “abandoned.” That is too simplistic and too facile to mean anything.

What an Okie would say, is “that don’t add up.” And this Okie agrees.

I find it a little hard to believe that those pristine armored vehicles were “lost in battle.” I also find it hard to believe that a military with those armaments would be so easily overpowered. Frankly, that equipment would give the Iraqi army quite an edge in a battle.

As for those things being “abandoned,” give me a break. I think that Sunni members of the Iraqi army gave that American armament to ISIS. I may be wrong. But that’s what I think.

Shiavssunni

2. Are we being played by the Shias to use us against the Sunnis? If the only Muslims speaking out against the genocide are Shias, and ISIS is Sunni, and these people are at war with one another, well then, that sounds like politics to me.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing for any Muslims to speak out against the genocide, for whatever motivations. I’m also not saying that we should not welcome their help. The point here is to stop the barbarity. I sincerely welcome anyone whose actions add to that fight.

But that doesn’t mean I trust them like they were blood kin and just blindly assume that their motivations are the same as mine and that their future actions will be what I would do.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In this case the outraged American public is the unwitting enemy of the Sunnis, simply because the Sunnis are slaughtering innocents. That makes us the (temporary) friends of the Shias.

There’s a saying in Okieland — I don’t have a dog in that fight. We don’t have a dog in the Sunni-Shia fight. Our objective is to end the genocide.

Let’s remember that and not go all politically-correct gaga and attribute our motives to other people we know very little about.

These are my questions. These ideas of mine are conjecture. What do you think?

The videos below are a couple of months old. I don’t agree with everything said in either analysis, but they highlight a bit of how this situation developed and give us information about American arms falling in ISIS’ hands.

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UPDATE: Hind Makki, of the Patheos Muslim Channel shared this information with me.  I am very glad to hear that both Sunnis and Shias have denounced the barbarity in Iraq.

Dear Rebecca Hamilton, the denunciations against ISIS have been given by 
both Sunni and Shia leadership and lay people. Looking at piece you 
wrote yesterday, I would like to share some information with you. I hope
you will update your piece reflecting this information: Ayatollah 
Sistani – Shia. Indonesian Ulema Council – comprises all Muslim groups 
in Indonesia, Sunni, Shia and everything else. Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam -
Sunni. Lebanese Muslim Association – Sunni. International Union of 
Muslim Scholars – comprises all Muslim groups in the world and one of 
it’s missions is to counter sectarianism. Yusuf Qaradawi – Sunni. 
Organization of Islamic Cooperation – non-religious political group of 
all countries with large Muslim populations. Iyad Ameen Madani – Sunni. 
Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate – Sunni. Where did you get the 
information that they are all Shia?

 

Sign the Petition On Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISIL Barbarism in Iraq

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Several Public Catholic readers pointed me to this petition on behalf of victims of ISIS barbarism in Iraq.

The petition, which bears the signatures of prominent American academicians of many faith traditions, can be found here.

I’ve signed the petition.

Here from IraqRescue.org is the verbiage of the petition, and the primary authors/signatories:

A Plea on Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISIL  Barbarism in Iraq

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS/ISIL) is conducting a campaign of genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and others in Iraq.  In its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate, ISIS/ISIL has engaged in crimes against humanity by deliberately causing mass starvation and dehydration, and by committing unconscionable acts of barbarism against noncombatants, including defenseless women, children, and elderly persons.

It is imperative that the United States and the international community act immediately and decisively to stop the ISIS/ISIL genocide and prevent the further victimization of religious minorities. This goal cannot be achieved apart from the use of military force to degrade and disable ISIS/ISIL forces. President Obama was right to order airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL to stop its advance on key cities, as well as to provide humanitarian assistance to people fleeing their assaults. Much more needs to be done, however, and there is no time to waste.

We, the undersigned, are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.  We are conservatives, liberals, and moderates.  We represent various religious traditions and shades of belief.  None of us glorifies war or underestimates the risks entailed by the use of military force. Where non-military means of resolving disputes and protecting human rights are available, we always and strongly favor those means. However, the evidence is overwhelming that such means will not be capable of protecting the victims of the genocide already unfolding at the hands of ISIS/ISIL.  That is why Iraq’s Chaldean Patriarch Sako has requested military intervention.

Therefore we call upon the United States and the international community to do everything necessary to empower local forces fighting ISIS/ISIL in Iraq to protect their people. No options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table.  We further believe that the United States’ goal must be more comprehensive than simply clamping a short-term lid on the boiling violence that is threatening so many innocents in ISIS/ISIL’s path.  Nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims.

We call upon President Obama and the Congress of the United States to expand airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL with a view to eroding its military power, and to provide full air support for Kurdish and other forces fighting against ISIS/ISIL.  Further, we endorse the Washington Post’s call for the United States to provide arms, ammunition, and equipment to Kurdish forces, Sunni tribesmen, and others who are currently hampered in their ability to fight ISIS/ISIL by a lack of sophisticated weapons and other resources.  The U.S. should also assist with intelligence. We are hopeful that local forces, with adequate support and assistance from the U.S. and the international community, can defeat ISIS/ISIL.

The expansion of humanitarian aid to the displaced and fleeing is also urgent. Local churches and aid agencies are overwhelmed, and we have grave concerns about how these victims of violent religious persecution will be cared for this winter. The U.S. can and should take the lead in providing food, water, medicine, and other essential supplies.

We must be mindful that in addition to stopping the genocide, the U.S. and Europe have very concrete interests in disabling ISIS/ISIL.  As theWashington Post has warned:

“The Islamic State forces, which have captured large numbers of U.S.-supplied heavy weapons, threaten not only the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, but also Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. With hundreds of Western recruits, they have the ambition and capability to launch attacks against targets in Europe and the United States.”

It is also worth bearing in mind that our own nation is not without responsibility for the plight of victims of ISIS/ISIL genocide.  What is happening to these people now, and the further threats they face, would not be happening but for errors and failures of our nation’s own in Iraq.  This can and should be acknowledged by all, despite disagreements we may have among ourselves as to precisely what these errors and failures were, and which political and military leaders are mainly responsible for them. The point is not to point fingers or apportion blame, but to recognize that justice as well as compassion demands that we take the steps necessary to end the ISIL/ISIS campaign of genocide and protect those who are its victims.

Signers

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

Russell Moore, Ph.D., President, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

Benjamin S Carson Sr MD, Emeritus Professor of Neurosurgery,Oncology,Plastic Surgery and Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins Medicine, President and CEO American Business Collaborative, LLC

James R. Stoner, Jr., Professor of Political Science, Louisiana State University

Gerard V. Bradley, Professor of Law, Notre Dame Univesity

Edward Whelan, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Matthew J. Franck, Witherspoon Institute

William Happer, Professor of Physics Emeritus, Princeton University

Prof. Dan Robinson, Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University and Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University

David Mills

Micah J. Watson, Ph.D, Director, Center for Politics & Religion; Associate Professor, Political Science, Union University

Alan Charles Kors, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania

Anthony M. Esolen, Professor of English, Providence College

John Londregan, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

Fr. John Cassar

Thomas Kelly, Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University

Rabbi Eliezer Bercuson, Princeton University

Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

C. Ben Mitchell, PhD, Interim Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University

Thomas F. Farr, Director, Religious Freedom Project, Visiting Associate Professor, Georgetown University

Lauren Weiner

Ben Cohen, Writer and Political Analyst, New York City

Robert J. Lieber, Georgetown University

Michael Stokes Paulsen, University Chair & Professor of Lae, The University of St. Thomas

Katherine Kersten, Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis, MN

Patrick Lee, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Sol Stern, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Jonathan Brent

Josh Block, Chief Executive Officer & President, The Israel Project

Richard Weissman, Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado at Denver; Adjunct Professor, Portland Community College

Martin Peretz, Editor-in-Chief, The New Republic, 1974-2012;Lecturer in Social Studies, Harvard University, 1971-2008

Fred Litwin, President, Free Thinking Film Society

Leon Wieseltier

Abigail Thernstrom, Adjunct Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Stephan Thernstrom, Winthrop Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University

Jeffrey Herf, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park

John B. Sprung, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.)

Vladimir Tismaneanu, Professor of Politics, University of Maryland (College Park)

Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

Harvey Klehr, Emory University

Russell A. Berman, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University

Richard Landes, Professor of History, Boston University

Alfred Kentigern Siewers, Associate Professor in English, Bucknell University

Melissa Moschella, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Catholic University of America

Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, Department of Pediatrics, University of California at Los Angeles

Ralph (Benjamin) Stell, Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church

Victoria F. Gibson

Nina Shea, Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom

James Kirchick, Foreign Policy Initiative

Louis Menashe, Professor Emeritus, Polytechnic Institute of NYU

Sally Muravchik

Dulany Gibson, Princeton, NJ

Mitch Pearlstein, Ph.D. , Founder & President, Center of the American Experiment, Minneapolis

David A. Michelson, Assistant Prof. of the History of Christianity, Vanderbilt University

Affiliations are for purposes of identification only and do not imply institutional endorsement

Free Speech is a Civil Right: IRS and the Freedom from Religion Foundation Disagree

Free speech is a civil right bumper sticker

So … we’ve got an organization whose sole purpose is to drive religious expression from the public sphere by the use of threats of legal action and harassment.

This organization files a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and demands that the IRS join them in their harassment of religious people by “monitoring” churches for possible violations of IRS rules. In this instance, what they were suing about was the so-called “Johnson Amendment” to the IRS code.

The Johnson Amendment is the basis for the IRS rule that preachers may not endorse candidates from the pulpit if they are to receive tax-free status. The IRS rule itself is quite specific and narrow. Neither it nor the Johnson Amendment were intended to become the dreadnought by which churches are harassed and bullied in order to keep them from speaking out on moral issues. But that is exactly what has happened.

Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation routinely conflate the Johnson Amendment with a limitation on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, including freedom of speech in religion. They harass, bully and intimidate Christians all over the country with threats of lawsuits.  I say Christians because I am not aware of them doing this to other faiths.

It seems obvious to me that they are using the Johnson Amendment as a lever to try to destroy the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity, not only in the public sphere, but from the pulpit, as well.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States government settled this latest lawsuit by agreeing to become the FFRF’s hammer to beat down on free speech in the pulpit. They didn’t say this in so many words. What they agreed to do was to single out groups based on whether or not they are faith (read that Christian) organizations and “monitor” what their pastors preach for possible violations of the IRS code. If that is not a deliberately chilling government surveillance for the purpose of limiting free speech, what is?

It is particularly salient that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not just trying to stop churches from endorsing candidates for political office; it is also claiming that they violate the Johnson Amendment when they discuss legislation or political issues. Abortion is a political issue. Gay marriage is a political issue. The genocide in the Middle East is a political issue. Corporatism, the environment, divorce, pornography, sex trafficking, prostitution, taxes, jobs and most everything else in America is a political issue.

We are Americans, which means that we are political people. We have what is purported to be a government of, by and for the people, which means at its root that governmental matters belong to us to cuss, discuss, slice and dice however we choose. That should include every segment of our society, including the pulpit.

If we are also Christians, then our faith guides us in everything we do. Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. We try to follow the Gospels in everything. Our faith leaders have not just a right, they have a responsibility to lead us in the Gospel paths of living.

There is no line for Americans between themselves and their politics for the simple reason that our politics, and our government, are us. Our beliefs are legitimately pertinent to political debate because we are the government.

What this lawsuit by the FFRF — and other actions to censor and stifle religious discussion, opinions and activism —  amount to is an attempt to censor and silence a whole set of ideas. This lawsuit is a blatant push to silence people that the FFRF disagrees with by the use of government surveillance of selected groups, coupled with the threat of government action against those groups, and the government is going along with it. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is using the IRS to censor speech in the pulpit. This is not an attempt to drive Christianity from the pubic square through bullying. It is a direct mis-use of government power to silence free speech among a whole class of citizens because another group of citizens does not like what they are saying.

The IRS is going to “monitor” churches to see if the clergy talks about anything more pertinent to our daily lives than, say, Isaac blessing Jacob instead of Esau, for the purpose of hauling them up before the Man. It is as simple as that.

From New American:

The Internal Revenue Service continues to extend its already vast overreach, this time by agreeing to monitor church sermons as part of an agreement the government made on July 17 with the aggressively atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Freedom Outpost reported, “The Internal Revenue Service settled a lawsuit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The 2012 lawsuit was settled after the IRS agreed to monitor what is said in houses of worship, something that is a clear violation of the First Amendment, since no law can be written by Congress to this effect.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, brought the suit against the IRS, asserting that the group had been ignoring complaints that churches were violating their tax-exempt statuses. According to the group’s suit, churches promote political issues, legislation, and candidates from the pulpit.

FFRF asserted, “Pulpit Freedom Sunday … has become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity. The IRS, meanwhile, admittedly was not enforcing the restrictions against churches.”

FFRF claims that the churches are acting in violation of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which states that non-profits cannot endorse candidates.

A 2009 court ruling determined that the IRS must staff someone to monitor church politicking, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the IRS has not been adhering to the ruling.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and head of the Pulpit Initiative, told LifeSiteNews that “the IRS has no business censoring what a pastor preaches from the pulpit.” Stanley states that his organization is currently “attempting to bring the era of IRS censorship and intimidation to an end by challenging the Johnson Amendment, which imposes unconstitutional restrictions on clergy speech.”

He contends that churches should not have to choose between tax-exempt status and freedom of speech. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

Stanley insists that not only would it be unfair for churches to have to choose between one or the other, but that “churches are automatically tax exempt out of recognition that the surest way to destroy the free exercise of religion is to begin taxing it.” “Churches are constitutionally entitled to a tax exemption and that exemption cannot be conditioned on the surrender of constitutional rights.”

In celebration of its victory with the IRS, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a press release wherein it outlined its win:

The IRS has now resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations. The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations. While the IRS retains “prosecutorial” discretion with regard to any individual case, the IRS no longer has a blanket policy or practice of non-enforcement of political activity restrictions as to churches.

The press release also acknowledges, however, that the judge in the case could not order immediate action since a moratorium has been placed on the investigations by the IRS of tax exempt groups after the 2013 scandal in which the IRS was found to have been targeting Christian and conservative groups.

Governor Mary Fallin Condemns Black Mass

Governor Mary Fallin

Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin condemned black mass that is scheduled for Oklahoma City next month.

From the Governor’s website:

Gov. Fallin Condemns Black Mass Scheduled for Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today condemned a scheduled performance of a satanic black mass next month in Oklahoma City.

“This ‘Black Mass’ is a disgusting mockery of the Catholic faith, and it should be equally repellent to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” said Fallin. “It may be protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t condemn it in the strongest terms possible for the moral outrage which it is. It is shocking and disgusting that a group of New York City ‘satanists’ would travel all the way to Oklahoma to peddle their filth here. I pray they realize how hurtful their actions are and cancel this event.”

Fallin joins Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley in criticizing the event, scheduled for Sept. 21 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. The archbishop said the black mass “is a satanic inversion and distortion of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics, but of all Christians.”

Oklahoma City officials have said the Civic Center is a public building and the city must abide by the First Amendment and allow it to be leased to any group that agrees to abide by all laws and city ordinances.

The black mass in Oklahoma City reportedly is being organized by the Satanic Temple of New York City, which last year submitted plans for a public monument of a seated Satan on the state Capitol grounds to counter a monument of the Ten Commandments.

Video from Inside ISIS: What They Think of Themselves.

305087-e9a729cc-20f4-11e4-a212-44a8a3dd312bThey call themselves the Islamic State. This video from inside ISIS shows how they appear to themselves.

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If you want to see what they actually are, go here. But be warned, these are horrific photos of satanic depravity. If you would like to see the story behind the photo at the top, go here.

To put this in perspective, read Elizabeth Scalia’s post on how our lack of faith cripples the West. 

ISIS is a Rabid Dog. What Do We Do with Rabid Dogs?

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I saw the photo of the beheaded little girl and something in me shifted, rolled over and settled into a new slot, click.

Unlike my spiritual betters, I did not feel the need to go down to my knees and pray. I did pray, in snatches, like breathing, all the rest of the day. I prayed for conversion of the Muslims. I prayed for the people ISIS, Boko Haram, Hamas, et al are killing. I prayed for Europe, which is suiciding itself with the poison of political correctness. I prayed for the conversion of the United States.

But mostly, I kept going back to the photos: Photos of children, slaughtered. And what I felt was much the same emotion I felt when I shot water moccasins.

I don’t think I’ve ever told you about that one, gun control being the flash point that it is. I had a 22 from the time I was quite little. My Daddy taught me how to shoot right and he taught me gun safety as he was doing it.

There was a slough not far from our house, a brackish dead-end appendix of water that came off the North Canadian river and idled in place, breeding mosquitos and water moccasins. Daddy and I would sometimes get up early, take bacon for bait and go crawdad fishing in that slough. The water was crawling with water moccasins; revolting, stinking (yes, they smell bad) black things.

My part-time job one summer was to shoot and kill the water moccasins; thin them out so they didn’t kill the livestock, pets and people. I got paid a quarter for each dead moccasin.

I didn’t use the little bead on the end of the barrel and the gun sight to aim. That took too long with a moving target. I learned that all I had to do was concentrate on the target and by some magic of my autonomic nervous system, the gun would align itself and the bullet would go through the snake’s head and kill it.

The emotion I felt when I looked at those videos and the photos of slaughtered children was much the same as what I felt when I looked at a water moccasin. That’s because I wasn’t thinking about the dead babies. If I did that, I would be unable to move and my brain would fill with white noise. Breathing would come hard, if I did that. I. Simply. Can’t. Go. There.

I was thinking about those monsters who held the knives, the apostles of satan who are holding the guns pointed at the child in the photo above.

I looked at these photos, and something in me shifted, rolled over and settled into a new slot.

ISIS is a rabid dog. There is no cure for rabid dogs; no reasoning or counseling or whatnot. You don’t stop a rabid dog from being rabid by building it a better dog house or giving it higher grade kibble.

The only thing to do with a rabid dog is kill it. That is the only way the rest of us will be safe.

To carry the analogy further, rabies is highly infectious to humans. Once it gets into us, we are doomed to become rabid ourselves. Sooner or later, whether we want to or not, we are going to have to kill these people. There is no answer for ISIS but the sword.

As we consider this somber thought, we might also consider the less emotional, but critical, questions. ISIS is only a discreet entity in terms of name. It is in reality just another branch of the same well-funded army of satan that is flourishing in Nigeria under the label Boko Haram.

ISIS has managed to wage actual war against governments in Syria and Iraq. Funding, equipping, training, feeding and sustaining an army capable of waging war against two governments simultaneously takes huge amounts of money. It appears that this particular army is aided by traitors in the governments it is attacking, but that is another story. The point here is more basic:  Where is that war-waging money coming from?

I’m not talking about baklava sale money. I’m also not talking about individual money. It takes government money to fund war against standing governments on two fronts; three fronts, if you include Hamas.

Wealthy individuals are almost certainly contributing to the support of these human rabid dogs. But the kind of inexorable stream of big-time money that it takes to fund a war against governments on three fronts comes from another government.

Who is it?

It’s not Russia. They’re aiding the Syrians against ISIS.

I don’t think it’s a European country. It’s not Australia or Japan.

Who has that kind of money and a history of terrorist activities all over the world?

I don’t know, but when I was talking about this with my family last night, one of them said, “It may be China.”

That’s just a guess in a living-room conversation, but it certainly fits, doesn’t it?

We’ve got to figure this out. Who are we really up against here?

ISIS, Boko Haram, Hamas, et al, are the ones holding the guns, wielding the knives. They are the raping, murdering, little-girl stealing, baby-beheading rabid dogs.

But somebody is feeding these dogs. If it’s our Communist trading partner, China, they’re probably using our money to do it.

I Didn’t Know “Trickle Down Economics” Was in the Ten Commandments.

Pope francis funny

I didn’t know “trickle down economics” was in the Ten Commandments.

I also didn’t know it was in the Sermon on the Mount.

I remember things about “blessed are the poor” and “depart from me I never knew you.” But I missed that “trickle down economics” part. I guess it must be in the part that says that government should transfer the wealth of generations to a few corporatists under the guise of corporate welfare and “privatization.” Or maybe it’s under the demands that economies should only be built on making war and not manufacturing goods, providing for infrastructure and growing the nation.

I dunno.

I read the Bible every day. I read through the Bible — the Catholic Bible, complete with all those books that Martin Luther took out — every year and a half or so. But I don’t remember anything about taking from the poor to give to the rich, or trickle down economics being a requirement for heaven.

I have heard these claims. I heard them just about every single day I spent in the business of legislating. They are part of the wing nut teachings which political nut jobs on the right use to replace the Scriptures. Left wing nut jobs do the same thing, only in reverse.

In the left wing political religion, moral values only apply to economics. Everything else — sexuality, family, basic honesty, even human life itself — are fixed on their own, selfishly-defined constructs. In the right wing political religion, moral values only apply to sexuality, family and, human life — when it fits their vote-getting expedience. Economics is a absolute morality-free zone.

The one thing the right and left wing political religions both agree on is basic honesty. Neither one of them have any use for it at all.

Which leads us to what has become an entertaining stand-off in the United States House of Representatives. 

House Speaker Boehner invited Pope Francis to speak to the House when he visits the US next year. It’s customary when dignitaries come by like this to pass an attaboy resolution and present it to them with suitable legislative fanfare. Nobody takes this resolution stuff all that seriously. It’s just being polite; kind of like offering your neighbor a glass of iced tea when she drops by to say howdy. Neither you nor your neighbor think all that highly of the tea. The only issue would be your rudeness if you didn’t offer it.

In a show of bi-partisanship, the resolution slotted for Pope Francis has both an R and a D as primary co-authors. It congratulates Pope Francis on being elected Pope and compliments him for his “inspirational statements and actions.”

That sounds like plain vanilla do-dah politicking to me. You’d think the resolution would sail through without a comment, that even the pope-hating bozos would chill and keep their mouths shut.

But the true-believers of wing nut political religion can never be underestimated. Their breathtaking self-importance is only exceeded by their equally breathtaking self-righteousness. The pro forma attaboy resolution for Pope Francis’ possible visit to the House may not pass. It will not pass if the true believers of right-wing-nut political religion prevail.

Meanwhile, the Ds are giving the resolution a big huzzah. The party whose national convention booed God is all for Pope Francis as he is defined by their press right now. Their press has edited and parsed Pope Francis into what he is not, which is to say an apologist for laissez faire morality in all areas except economics.

That’s heady stuff for a party that’s been damned and consigned to hell-fire in the public imagination. Pope Francis may not be their cheerleader, but unlike every other pro-life, pro-marriage religio on the planet, he has not washed his hands of them and told them to go to hell. He thinks they’re still people that Christ died for who are in need of salvation. Over 200 Ds jumped on the resolution with co-authorship. They’d co-author the thing twice each, if they could.

The party that claims it speaks for God is all in a pope-hating funk because, as it turns out, he thinks that they are also people that Christ died for who are in need of conversion. They’re not used to being told they need conversion. And they don’t like it.

While anyone can see that the lefty press is twisting statements to lie about the Holy Father, there is no denying that he is laying claim to all those troublesome things Jesus (and the prophets before Him) said about rich men having a tough time getting into heaven and how we all have a responsibility to care for the poor. That’s discombobulating to a party that (1) is corporatist to its core, and (2) has made its vote-getting bones by self-deification.

So, this do-nothing, attaboy, courtesy resolution has become another opportunity for the two political parties to proclaim their own righteousness and teach morality to God. Or, as the case may be, teach morality to the Vicar of Christ.

Rather than just hold their little noses and rise about the stink of their own self-importance, the Rs have used their power as the majority party to sideline the resolution in committee where it is intended to quietly expire. About 19 brave Rs stepped up to co-author. Most of the rest — many of whom are Catholic — have folded their hands and are now studying their shoes.

There are a few convinced and convicted right-wing-nuts who are so apoplectic at the Holy Father’s confrontational attitude toward right wing nut political religion as it concerns economics that they’ve stepped up to set the record straight. They are against the resolution because, they say, “the pope sounds a lot like Obama” (Obama = Satan in their parlance), that he has “denounced trickle down economics” and that he “supports civil marriages.”

In the first place the pope did not say he “supported civil unions.” Go back and read the post about that and see.

But I’m pretty sure, based on dealing with these kinds of birds, that what’s got their feathers in a ruffle is not “civil unions.” They’re on their soapboxes because the pope “denounced trickle down economics.” The reason I say that is twofold. First, it’s what has given well-paid corporatist mouthpieces the temerity to say that the pope is “a marxist,” “following Lenin” and some other thing that’s too stupid to even talk about.

Those media moguls are the corporatist-apologists-without-any-pretense in today’s media. The nut-job Congresspeople are the corporatist-puppet-people-with-loads-of-pretense in elected office. They were beamed into office on a beam of corporate money. They are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporatist thinking and activism. If they weren’t, they’d be pulled and replaced like a bad spark plug.

As for me, I’m not all that alarmed about this resolution thingy. As we say here in Oklahoma, it don’t mean nothin’. The resolution is just a piece of paper with no force of law of any kind. It’s a Congressional attaboy that they hand out to visiting dignitaries and such like gum drops.

Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. He answers to Our Lord. I doubt very much that he’s going to cry himself to sleep because a bunch of political puppets with delusions of grandeur do not deign to gift him with a meaningless attaboy filled with compliments they clearly do not mean.

It’s entirely possible that the press flurry may embarrass these Congresspeople’s corporatist owners enough that they tell them to go ahead and vote the resolution through and be done with it. If that happens, it’ll slide through and we’ll go on to the next Congressional stupidity. If it doesn’t, no matter.

The beauty of this particular incident is that these folks have demonstrated rather candidly what they are and who they follow. In terms of its impact, the resolution itself is worthless. But in terms of its teaching powers, it’s priceless.

I keep putting this message out there. I’m going to continue putting it out there until it gets through.

Repeat after me: Political parties have nothing to do with righteousness. Political parties are about power; about getting power and keeping power. Everything else they say is a lie.

Do not follow the R or the D.

Follow the whole Gospel of Christ, all of it, including the parts that disagree with your political religion. The simplest and surest way to do that is to follow the teachings of our Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church constantly irritates both the R and the D. If you believe Jesus, you will not agree with either political party most of the time. If you follow Jesus with your life, you will not and cannot follow either political party.

There is one Way. The R and the D are not it.

From The Hill:

A popular piece of legislation that seeks to honor Pope Francis is stuck in Congress.

With time running out on the Capitol Hill calendar, the lawmakers who crafted the bipartisan measure are getting impatient with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The resolution, written by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Pete King (R-N.Y.), congratulates Francis on his March 2013 election and recognizes “his inspirational statements and actions.”

The seemingly innocuous resolution was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which hasn’t acted on it. The panel didn’t comment for this article.

The inaction and the lack of a white smoke signal from Boehner have sparked speculation that politics is at play.

Only 19 of the 221 co-sponsors are Republicans. The dearth of GOP members on the measure could be attributable to assertions that the pope is “too liberal,” according to a Republican backer of the legislation.

The source noted that Francis last year denounced “trickle-down economics.”

Some Republicans believe the pope is “sounding like [President] Obama. [The pope] talks about equality — he actually used the term ‘trickle-down economics,’ which is politically charged,” the GOP official said.

Iraq: We Made This Mess. What Are We Going to Do about It?

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Our war in Iraq was a totally unnecessary war fought on false premises that has led directly to the present-day genocide of Iraqi Christians.

We invaded Iraq on the premise that the leader of the country was a murderous crazy man who had “weapons of mass destruction” (read that nukes) at his disposal and we had to stop him before he … I dunno … he killed even more people than he had killed up to then. We got over there and couldn’t find these weapons of mass destruction.

I have always thought — oddly enough — that the simple fact that he didn’t plant weapons of mass destruction and then claim he’d found them, that he actually told the truth about this horrible mess, was President Bush’ finest moment. It vindicated his bad judgement in going to war in Iraq in the first place, at least so far as my opinion of him as a person.

However, we had gone to war when we didn’t have to, and now we had a destroyed country to deal with. Before the invasion, I had several arguments with gung-ho family members who were all for invading Iraq.

This is going to be a long-term, horrible mess, I told them.

Nah, they replied. We’ll go in there and whip them in short order. 

That’s not the problem. The problem is the occupation. 

My family members didn’t get it then, but they’ve figured it out by now. Before you go to war with anybody, don’t just think about delivering that first-round knock-out punch. Give a thought or two to the long-term follow-up. There are plenty of countries where the real price of going to war with them are the long-term consequences of winning. Iraq is just that sort of country.

We knocked them out, presto-chango.

But we didn’t fix anything. The idea that everyone, everywhere, is ready and waiting to take on American democracy just isn’t true. Democracy doesn’t seem to work in tribal societies. It doesn’t gain traction in places that are still stuck socially and culturally in the world of 900 AD.

We had great success “planting” democracy in Japan after World War II. But Japan, while it had tried to cling to its old social order, was far different from Iraq. Japan was a country that was able to stand on its own two feet. Japan built its own planes, ships, bombs and bullets. Japan trained a military that was able to conquer vast regions of the South Pacific, go across that big ocean and sink the Sixth Fleet.

They didn’t get their weapons from other people. They built those weapons themselves. They trained and equipped their own troops. They had the discipline and the social organization to wage a world war.

In addition, by the end of World War II, Japan was utterly friendless and destroyed. Everybody they had ever beaten in any war hated them, which is to say every country in their region of the world. Their industry was rubble, their people would have starved without us.

Japan adapted and learned and grew and became a great industrial power. Once again, and unlike China, they built their own factories and developed their own industry. Honda, Toyota, Sony are not American companies who’ve moved their plants to Japan to use slave labor. They are Japanese companies who’ve managed to develop superior products that are purchased because of their high quality the world over.

You can’t compare our success in transplanting democracy to Japan with the situation in Iraq. Iraq is a mess largely because it is a country and a place that has no real interest in building anything. Iraq does not want to go forward. It wants to go backward to the ninth century.

We went over there with the naive idea that we could knock Iraq out with a massive military throw down, find and destroy those fictional weapons of mass destruction, then pour a few billion dollars into the place and have another successful “save” of a country. We could transplant the world of democracy and economic growth into Iraq and build a great friend for ourselves in the region … just like Japan.

But Iraq isn’t Japan, and what we got was a country that can not function as a democracy, that, in fact, appears to be unable to function without a strong-arm dictator. Iraq can and will hold elections so long as American troops are there to keep the killer sharks who swim in their culture from stopping it from happening. But the minute — or, a couple of years after — we leave, what you get is what we’ve got.

What we have is a bunch of killers who’ve obviously gotten their arms from countries who are capable of making armaments, who are running around Iraq, engaging in mass murder as a quasi military tactic in another of those wars of civil destruction the region can’t seem to avoid. They are also killing every Christian in sight.

What we have is an on-going, real-time genocide of the Christians in Iraq.

We made this mess my friends. We pulled the Saddam Hussein stopper out of the bottle and now we’ve got something even worse. What we never considered, and what I hate to say and hope I’m wrong about, is that the only kind of government that can control these murderous mobs that run throughout society in this part of the world is a government that is under the thumb of a murderous dictator.

It appears that there is a large faction within this society that only understands and gives way to the tip of the sword.

We can talk all day about the obvious fact that most Muslims are good, kind people who would build a decent society if they had half a chance. The fact is, they don’t have half a chance. What passes for politics in this whole region of the world appears to be outside interests arming murderous thugs who then proceed to destroy whole countries by murdering at will.

Meanwhile, the Christians of Iraq are being raped, tortured and murdered. We are witnessing a genocide.

We made this mess.

What are we going to do about it?

HHS Mandate: NOW Obama Says He Wants to Compromise

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Talk about giving the last drop of political blood.

President Obama defended the HHS Mandate until it got swacked at the Supreme Court, then he and his supporters in the United States Senate tried to kill the court decision with statutes. Now, after all that, the White House announces that it will come up with an “opt-out alternative for Catholic and other religious employers.”

I am guessing this is in advance of what he sees as a catastrophic (at least to him) spanking from the Supremes over the Little Sisters of the Poor.

From CatholicPhilly.com:

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Obama administration has filed a brief with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver indicating it plans to develop an alternative for Catholic and other religious nonprofit employers to opt out of providing federally mandated contraceptives they object to including in their employee health care coverage.

Several media outlets, including AP, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, reported July 23 that the administration said it would come up with a “work-around” that would be different than the accommodation it currently has available to such employers.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as part of the health care law, requires nearly all employers to cover contraceptives, sterilizations and some abortion-inducing drugs for all employees in their company health plan. It includes a narrow exemption for some religious employers that fit certain criteria.

Currently, there is an accommodation for those employers who don’t fit the exemption but who are morally opposed to providing the coverage. They must fill out a self-certification form — known as EBSA Form 700 — to direct a third party, usually the manager of an employer’s health plan, to provide the contested coverage.

Many religious employers who have sued over the mandate argue that even filling out Form 700 makes them complicit in providing coverage they find objectionable.

According to an AP story, the alternative the Obama administration said it plans to draft would allow these employers to opt out of the coverage they oppose without having to submit the form.


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