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.

 

 

Praying the Divine Mercy Novena in a Time of Christian Persecution

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

I am not going to write about this week’s events until after Easter. But I do want to make one small point.

The nasty reaction to an Indiana law that would provide religious freedom underscores that we live in a post Christian America. That fact should not frighten us. It is an opportunity for us to serve the Lord in meaningful ways. We can stand for Jesus in these times and actually suffer for having done it. That is not a curse. It is a gift.

This situation fits the meaning and the purpose of the Divine Mercy Novena extremely well. Jesus gave the Divine Mercy Novena to Saint Faustina in the years before World War II. St Faustina was an unknown Polish nun.

The point of the Divine Mercy is that Jesus’ mercy towards us knows no bounds. It is Him, reaching out to us through this humble nun to try to tell us that He is always ready to forgive us, that His mercy is available to anyone who will accept it.

The Divine Mercy chaplet, Divine Mercy novena and Divine Mercy Sunday are all manifestations of that plea from our blessed Lord to accept His mercy before it is too late. Biblical prophecies are coming true at fast clip these days, beginning with the founding of the State of Israel. I am not equipped to comment on end times prophecies. In truth, I don’t think it matters. We are each of us hurtling toward our own end of days every moment we live.

Christ Jesus offers us mercy in the face of our depravations. That is the meaning of Holy Week. Christ’s Passion, his death on the cross, which we remember today, are an expression of the depth of His love for us, and His mercy towards us.

As we ponder the horrible events on Calvary, we must always remember that this is the price God paid for our salvation. This is how much He loves us.

The Divine Mercy is another gift of love to us. It is a way of underscoring once again that we, like the thief of the cross, can find salvation and eternal life at any time, in any extremity, no matter what we have done. The eleventh hour and 59 minutes is not too late to accept Christ’s mercy. The last moments of life are not too late.

But what a waste of good living and happiness — not to mention the danger of not doing it, ever — it would be to play brinksmanship with our eternal lives. My pastor said in a homily that when we die, someone will say to us: You belong to me. We get to chose who that will be. When you die, will you meet Jesus and have Him say, “You belong to me?” Or, will it be satan? The choice is yours, and you make it now, in this life.

The Divine Mercy novena is a series of prayers in which we take those who need His mercy before the throne of God in prayer.

Today is the first day of the Novena. We pray on this day for all of suffering humankind. The world is dying for lack of Christ. The satan in people’s hearts manifests itself in attacking Christians the world over. We are no longer safe from discrimination and even violent persecution for our faith here in America.

Our world bleeds on this Good Friday. It is dripping away its life blood from a thousand self-inflicted cuts. There is one answer for this, one Way out of the abyss of hatred and violence. It is the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of the Lamb of God, guarding our hearts against that day when we will stand on the threshold of eternity and someone says to us “You belong to me.”

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Pray for the whole human race, which is dying for lack of His love.

First Day
Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners,

and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me.”

Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law and Holy Week

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

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

Indiana’s governor is at the center of a firestorm because he signed a religious freedom law.

I am aware that any Catholic blogger, especially a Catholic blogger who writes about politics, should be all over this.

But I’m not going to do it. Not this week.

This is Holy Week, and I need the time with Christ. I think a lot of other people do, too. Sad to say, this issue, and its many ramifications, is not going to go away. Religious freedom is under attack in this country.

I could easily write a strong post about this, as well as the outrageous attempt at intrusion into Church governance that is occurring in San Francisco.

However, this is Holy Week.

I write this blog for one reason: To contribute to the work of equipping Christians to stand for Christ at the intersection of public life and faith. However, I understand something that I’ve seen a lot of Christian culture warriors forget: This is not about changing the culture to our viewpoint. It is about faithfulness to Christ.

We must take time to be with Jesus. That means, among other things, deep prayer on a daily basis, reading the Scriptures every day, and mass as often as you can get there. It also means relaxing a bit and trusting Him.

I’ll say this again: This is Holy Week.

This is the week when God showed all the world for all time the depth, width and breadth of His love for us.

We are in a serious struggle to retain religious freedom in this country. The reason we are in this struggle is not because we have failed at power politics — although by every objective criteria, we have failed.

We are in the situation of fighting for religious freedom in a culture that engages in Christian bashing because we have failed in our mission to be the light. While we were blasting away at our enemies with the full-tilt ugliness of power politics, we forgot that our first call is to bring people to Christ.

Redemption is not won at the ballot box. Redemption was won once and for all by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the cross.

This is Holy Week, when each of us should be thinking on that Cross. We should consider, for at least one week, the miracle of our salvation. We need to ponder and appreciate the unfathomable mercy of a God who poured out His life’s blood in an agony of public shame, humiliation and torture that we might be washed clean by that blood and given eternal life.

It is no accident that this final Passover on Calvary took place at the time of year when the first Passover is celebrated. In Egypt, the Israelites slaughtered a perfect lamb and then marked their doorways with the blood of the lamb so that the angel of death might pass them by. Scripture tells us that it was “the Lord’s Passover.”

When Jesus approached John the Baptist at the Jordan, John announced Him by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This was a clear prophecy of Jesus’ Passion. It was also a public testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus is our Passover from death to life. He is the perfect lamb whose blood redeems all humanity with one perfect atoning sacrifice. If we are marked with His blood, the angel of death will pass us by.

Jesus died that we might have eternal life. That is how much He loves us. It demonstrates as nothing else can the depth of His mercy towards us.

This is Holy Week. We need to think on these things, to take time apart from the yelling and carrying on of political fighting and pray for guidance and strength in how we proceed in the days ahead. Because we are not called to leadership in the broader world. We can called to followership in the Kingdom of God.

We need to go to the cross and kneel there in the dirt and blood of our own sinfulness and be converted to an ever deepening life of following Him, wherever that leads, whatever it costs.

We are going to be called to much more than ballot box Christianity. We have a harder task before us than political activism. We must convert the culture for Christ, and we must do it one person at a time.

This is Holy Week.

Take time to worship, pray, meditate and recommit to the fight ahead. Consider the viciousness of the attacks the Governor of Indiana is suffering and understand who is behind them. You are not part of that dark army. Turn your back on replying with equal viciousness.

Go to the cross and fit yourself for this battle by believing that this Jesus who is dying there is Lord of all creation. Understand that even though He is God, the God, He will not force us to follow Him. We, like Mary when the Angel Gabriel stood before her, must give our fiat to His grace and His dominion over our lives.

Give Him your will. Decide to do what He wants from now on instead of following your own understanding. Do the holy thing, even when it’s not the smart thing as the world reckons smartness. Enlist in the Lord’s army for real.

We need to be far more holy than any of us have been up to now. We need to become true disciples.

We can only do that if we follow Him without question. Trust and obey, the old hymns says. There is only one way to be happy in Jesus, and that is to trust and obey.

Scripture tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

Draw near to God this week. Therein is our strength and our power. We will not win this fight if we battle for our own selves and our goals. Forty years of political fighting that has left us with dust and ashes is proof of that.

We will only succeed in our call to convert the culture if we yield up ourselves and become part of that great army of the cross. Our message is salvation paid for by the incomprehensible price of the death of God.

That is our faith. It is who we are. It is who we must be if we are to be pleasing to Him. Before we convert the culture, we must first be converted ourselves.

Jill Stanek: “I Expect that From the Democrats.”

Jill Stanek Photo Source: Flicker Creative Commons by Pro-Life Unity https://www.flickr.com/photos/24711181@N05/

Jill Stanek Photo Source: Flicker Creative Commons by Pro-Life Unity https://www.flickr.com/photos/24711181@N05/

We have two goals today. First of all, in our own way we want to pressure the GOP leadership in the House to present the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act for a vote.

From various sources on Capitol Hill, I have heard that we have already had an impact. There really wasn’t any particular rush felt on this issue, and now there is.

The other goal is to reorient this discussion back to the babies, who are literally being drawn and quartered on a daily basis. People don’t seem to have any sense of urgency about making that stop.  Jill Stanek

Jill Stanek is pro life.

Her pro life convictions were acquired the hard way: From being forced to do the dirt of abortion’s toughest kind of killing.

Infants born alive from abortions are often killed, usually from neglect. I’ve talked to nurses in Oklahoma hospitals who were ordered, as Jill Stanek was, to let babies that are born alive during abortions die slowly and unloved.

That was the inspiration for the bill that brought me within 50 votes of being censured by the statewide Oklahoma Democratic Party. It was the motivation behind the bill that drove a wedge between me and my Democratic colleagues that made the rest of my time in the legislature a kind of purgatory. It was why I could never attend another Oklahoma Democratic Party function again, even though I was the state party’s longest running elected official.

Ms Stanek was a nurse, working in a hospital who had to let a baby die. Unlike the doctors who gave the orders and walked away, she was a witness to these deaths. I heard stories from nurses about what happened here in Oklahoma when babies survived abortions in our state hospitals. I heard the same stories from clergy who worked as chaplains in these hospitals.

These situations drove some of the nurses who were forced to do these deeds to a moral crisis. Most of them just did what they were ordered to do and went on. I don’t know if it hardened them into a deformed version of themselves that was indifferent to killing, or if they suffer deep grief in silence.

I do know that a few nurses were not able to go on with it. Both here in Oklahoma and in Illinois, they stepped out. That is how Jill Stanek became pro life. She held a dying baby in her hands and it changed her. Then, she got involved in seeking a political end to this killing, and that changed her again.

She met President Barack Obama when he was Senator Obama. She lobbied him to pass the law that would allow infants born alive in abortions to receive medical treatment. What she got instead was a dose of what legislators do when they want to kill bills by sleight of hand. The guy who took the hit for the whole pro abortion movement in Illinois was Senator Obama, chair of the committee where the bill died.

The fight for this bill went on for years. When it finally came to a vote, Senator Obama continued to fight it on the floor.

Then, presidential candidate Obama lied about having done this.

Jill Stanek was well-schooled in the ways of politics. But she harbored illusions. She thought that this behavior was a Democratic failing. She evidently honestly believed that Republicans were different.

If she had asked me, I would have told her the truth. But I doubt that she would have believed me. Because this is a hard truth, that people detest. It rips away illusions that make things easy and simple. The pretend that there is a moral safe house in politics simplifies and comforts. The truth, not so much.

When the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives withdrew the bill that would have stopped abortions after 20 weeks off the agenda, a good number of pro life organizations rushed to defend him. That’s the way it works, you know.

Some of these pro life organizations have become Republican organizations first and pro life second. Many of them receive substantial funding from the Republican Party. Others, including most big name Republican-backing clergy, enjoy the backslapping and the “access” to people in power so much that they will not jeopardize it by publicly calling powerful politicians out when they betray the pro life cause.

They have deified a political party, and, no matter what they say to the contrary, that political party is where they bend their knee.

Not so Jill Stanek. She didn’t come to the pro life cause through theological reasoning or political allegiance. She held a dying child in her hands. She was the unwilling participant in the murder of innocents.

Her pro life convictions, unlike that of these other folks, is why she’s involved in all this. She’s there because of the babies, not the political goodies on the periphery of elective office.

She had seen Democrats use legislative ruse to kill pro life bills. But she evidently did not believe that Republicans, once they were in power, would do the same thing.

She didn’t understand the core truth of party politics. I repeat this truth like a mantra. Here it is again: The political parties are about getting power and keeping power. Everything else they say is a lie.

I’m not saying that there are no differences between the Rs and the Ds. What I am saying is that  those differences are not as meaningful as the similarities. At their core, the Rs and the Ds are the same. Both of them are about gaining and holding political power.

So, Jill Stanek joined together with people from the Christian Defense Coalition and Operation Rescue to hold a prayer vigil in front of Speaker Boehner’s office. Ms Stanek said she was there to put the emphasis back on the babies. She ended up getting arrested, along with other pro life leaders.

I am going to add that in this, at least, the Rs and the Ds are different. The Ds treat their allies better than the Rs. I saw it in the Oklahoma legislature and I see it again in this arrest. The Ds don’t have Planned Parenthood people arrested. In all my years in office, I never saw the Democratic leadership disrespect liberal clergy the way I saw the Republican leadership tell pro life clergy to sit down and shut up.

Pro abortion advocates do not grovel before pro abortion Democrats. They work together with them as a team. That’s a huge part of why they’ve seen so successful at keeping abortion legal these past 40 plus years.

The Ds treat their allies on social issues better than the Rs do theirs. And that’s a fact.

According to Ms Stanek, the actions that she and her allies have taken have put the bill to end abortions after 20 weeks back on the legislative map.

Hopefully, she is right.

From Charisma News:

Since the U.S. House of Representatives pulled the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act from consideration on Jan. 21—the evening before March for Life 2015—pro-life blogger Jill Stanek has been relentless in calling for the bill to come back to the House floor for a vote.

With the bill yet to be reintroduced two months later, Stanek felt the voice of pro-life activists was not being heard.

When she teamed up with Rev. Pat Mahoney of Christian Defense Coalition and Troy Newman of Operation Rescue to announce a Sit-in/Pray-in at Speaker John Boehner’s Congressional office, within days the Speaker of the House responded.

Before the protest, Stanek agreed to an interview as her team met at Pete’s Diner on Capitol Hill—a location they knew was one of Speaker Boehner’s favorite spots for breakfast.

Within two hours, she was handcuffed and arrested by Capitol Police outside the Congressional office of Speaker Boehner along with seven other pro-life activists.

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Levi Pettit, OKC Black Leaders Hold Press Conference About Racist Video

Senator Anastasia Pittman Oklahoma State Senate File Photo

Senator Anastasia Pittman Oklahoma State Senate File Photo

Levit Pettit, one of the two young men who were expelled from Oklahoma University for their participation in singing a racist song at a fraternity gathering, apologized at a press conference this afternoon.

Senator Anastasia Pittman and other leaders in the Oklahoma City black community, including prominent members of the clergy, joined him at this press conference. At one point, one of the black community leaders reached out to pat him on the back while he was speaking.

Senator Pittman ended the press conference by saying that she and the community leaders who were with her wanted this event to lead to a growth in understanding and greater interracial harmony.

I am proud of and grateful to our Oklahoma City black community for the noble and loving way that they have handled this situation. These Christian leaders have shown us the positive way that true Christian leadership can function. Senator Pittman has demonstrated the best in what an elected official can contribute to her community.

They have shown us the healing power of forgiveness.

You can watch a video of the press conference with Senator Pittman’s comments here.

This is a video of the press conference. It does not contain Senator Pittman’s comments, which I regret. Her words about using this incident to bring us together are important.

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From KFOR.com:

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Former OU student Levi Pettit issued an apology this afternoon, weeks after a cellphone video showing him participating in a racist chant went viral.

20-year-old Pettit is accused of participating in the racist chant along with other Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members.

“Let me start by saying that I am sorry… Although I don’t deserve it, I want to ask for your forgiveness,” began Pettit.

Pettit, flanked on both sides by local leaders in the black community, gave his apology after meeting and speaking with Oklahoma Senator Anastasia Pittman, civic leaders, and local pastors about the incident.

“There are no excuses for my behavior. I never considered myself a racist,” said Pettit. “All the apologies in the world won’t change what I’ve done.”

Pettit and his family have reportedly spoken with Senator Pittman several times since the video was made public on March 9th.

 

Breaking: Speaker John Boehner’s Office Orders Arrest of Pro Life Demonstrators

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Pro life leaders were arrested for holding a prayer vigil outside House Speaker Boehner’s office today.

Pro life nurse Jill Stanek, who has been a vociferous critic of President Obama for lying about his history of killing the infant born alive bill when he was in the Illinois State Senate was one of those arrested. Other arrestees include Rev Pat Mahoney, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition and Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. Seven pro life protesters were arrested in all.

“We were told yesterday by Speaker Boehner’s office that this is the most pro-life Congress that has ever been installed,” Troy Newman told CNSNEWS.com.

The protesters were holding a vigil in an attempt to get Congress to pass the ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The bill is usually referred to as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

The bill was scheduled to come to a vote in the House on January 22, which is the anniversary of Roe v Wade. It was pulled at the last minute and a bill disallowing the use of federal monies for abortions in circumstances not pertaining to the Affordable Care Act was passed in its place.

I am grateful to these protestors for doing this. Maybe the bad publicity will force Speaker Boehner to bring the bill to a vote.

I’ve personally witnessed pro-life people back down and cover up for Republican leadership when they killed pro life bills here in Oklahoma. I’ve also seen big-name preachers take a pass on everything they’d been preaching to their flocks when leadership leaned on them.

This arrest underscores a simple fact that We the People are loathe to accept:  Politics is about power, not morality.

From CNSNEWS.COM:

CNSNews.com) – U.S. Capitol police on Wednesday arrested seven pro-life protestors while they were praying outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

hose arrested, who included prominent pro-life activist and nurse Jill Stanek, were protesting the House Republican leaderships’ failure to call a vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit aborting an unborn child in or after the 20th week of gestation.

The House Republican leadership shelved the bill less than 24 hours before it was set to come up for a vote on Jan. 22 after some Republican congresswomen, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), objected to the rape and incest exceptions in the bill, which they deemed too onerous. The exceptions said a baby 20 weeks old or older could only be terminated if the the baby had been conceived by an act of rape or incest that had been reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

In 2012, Ellmers had co-sponsored the District of Columbia Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which banned abortions in the 20th week or later in Washington, D.C., and had no rape or incest exceptions whatever. On July 31 of that year, the bill was brought up on the House floor under a suspension of the rules, which required a two-thirds vote instead of a majority. The bill failed to get two-thirds but did get a majority, with 220 voting yes, 154 voting no, 55 not voting and 2 voting present. Six Democrats voted for that bill with no rape and incest exceptions.

 

Rep Mike Shelton: OU Racist Video the Action of ‘A Few Ignorant Individuals’

Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Mike Shelton gave a powerful speech about the video of University of Oklahoma fraternity members singing a racist song.

It’s particularly pertinent in this season of Lent.

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Slander and Character Assassination are Murder with Words

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steve Jurvetson https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steve Jurvetson https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/

Living with shame is like walking barefoot on glass. If anyone knows about public shaming, it’s Monica Lewinsky.

I chose the video of a TED talk that Ms Lewinsky gave for this post because she does not believe the things I do, at least in certain areas. I want to make the point that neither this nor her previous behavior matters in what I’m about to say. You can find the video at the end of this post.

The current practice of using personal attacks and character assassination to advance political agendas is one of the great evils of our time. It slashes people’s spirits like emotional shrapnel. If it doesn’t absolutely destroy them, it hurts them so profoundly, alienates them so deeply, that most of them will never be the same again.

This is trauma on a deep, social/psychological level.

People engage in these merciless attacks on others in comboxes, on their own blogs or Facebook and twitter accounts, from in front of television cameras, and in personal conversations. They aren’t merely disagreeing with others, they are actively trying to destroy them with hazing, mockery, slander and character assassination.

There is a profound moral disconnect at work in all this. Invariably those who engage in character assassination to advance their views make all sorts of aggressive and self-righteous statements about themselves and their cause. It does not matter if they are pro life or pro abortion; in favor of gay marriage or against it; pushing for euthanasia or working to stop it. At some point they have fallen into the clutches of the devil.

You read that correctly. A person can be fighting for the sanctity of human life, working mightily to stop abortion and euthanasia, praying and fighting to defend the family; they can do all these things, and be working for the devil.

How can this happen?

It begins when we lay aside the armor of God — which St Paul tells us is peace, faith, truth, righteousness, salvation and reliance on the Holy Spirit — and take up the weapons of satan, which are self-righteousness, hatred, slander, mockery, lies, destruction and a refusal to forgive.

St Paul said that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  He also said that the acts of the flesh are debauchery, orgies, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy.

Now I ask you, which of these lists best describes the attitudes and behaviors of those who engage in attacking others with slander, mockery, hazing and character assassination? Christians who try to destroy others with words may not be attending orgies, but how much love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control do we see in them and in their behavior?

Who are they serving when they try to destroy people with their vicious words and ugly photos? If we do not see the Spirit of God in their actions, but we see instead the spirit of the flesh, then who is their master? Who is their lord?

I know that Christian-bashing blogs and books routinely engage in character assassination as a tactic and a lifestyle. I also know that many in these groups are hardened in this sin and refuse to consider the destructive evil of their actions.

But my focus in this Lenten season is Christians who have fallen into this pit alongside the people they claim they are trying to convert. I think these are Christians who have fallen away from Christ without realizing it. I think they are Christians who are trying so hard to do His will that they have exhausted themselves in the effort.

They have been overcome by the world unawares. They’ve forgotten that the first part of doing His will is trusting Him. These are people who need to retreat from the fight and seek Him with all their hearts. They have lost the battle in this spiritual warfare. If they continue, they may lose the war, as well.

St Paul counseled First Century Christians to let go of the legalisms that crippled them in their walk with Christ. He told them to forget about who was circumcised and who was not. He said that the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love. Elsewhere, he said that only faith, love and hope abide. In other words, we take three things with us when we leave this life: Our faith, hope and love.

This is the treasure that Jesus spoke of, that He told us to lay up for ourselves in heaven.

How much faith, hope and love are in character assassination, slander, and the social murder of another person? Who will we convert to Christ by this ugliness and hate? Why would anyone want our Jesus or believe that He is Love when we, His followers, do these unGodly things in His name?

It is not only possible, it is more effective in the long run, to avoid attacking people personally and confine yourself to a strong advocacy for what you believe. A firm and unyielding commitment to those beliefs will win out in time, even if it gets knocked down repeatedly at the beginning. Stand for life. Do not slander those who support abortion or euthanasia or egg harvesting or whatever.

Speak the truth of Christ crucified. Share the hope of forgiveness and eternal life. Do it especially with those who spurn Him and who will call you names for speaking of Him.

Never back away or back down when the question is Jesus Christ. Do not become silent for fear of being slandered and slimed yourself.

When others engage in character assassination, speak out against the practice. You may make a target of yourself by doing this. That is often what happens when people take a stand on the Gospels. But taking a stand for Jesus and His teachings is our universal vocation as Christians.

Do not attack other people on a personal level. Put your ideas forward with the absolute knowledge that He can persuade where you can’t. What I’m saying is don’t rely on yourself. Just do what He tells you and trust Him. Trust Jesus.

Do not sit silent when people you are with engage in these sins. Do not feed this behavior by watching it on tv or clicking on it on the internet. Do not use the anonymity of the combox to unhinge youself from your conscience. None of us is anonymous to God.

It is easy to become a slave to the approval, ratings, readership, votes or whatever that demagoguery, slander and personal attacks can bring. I would be the last to deny that those of little conscience and no fidelity to Christ make money, gain promotions, and acquire power by doing these things.

After all, what did satan offer Jesus when he tempted Him? He offered power, money, prestige.

You can get elected slandering people. You can get ratings and big careers and catapult yourself into bestsellerdom. What you cannot do is destroy other people — deliberately and maliciously inflict harm on them that pushes them to the edge of despair and scars them for the rest of their lives — and stand righteous before the living God.

The more you do this, the more it destroys you. That is what it means to deliberately and for your own pleasure and dark gratification to destroy another person with your words, your Photoshopped photos, your hazing, mockery and shunning. That is what it means to bring another person down like a lion bringing down a gazelle.

That is character assassination, and it destroys those who engage in it from the soul out.

We have become a nation of people who advocate for things we claim to believe by using character assassination instead of discussion. If someone disagrees with us, we try to destroy them and their standing in the community. We try to degrade them to death.

We do not talk about why we think their ideas are wrong. Instead, we try to vanquish their ideas by destroying their worth as people.

If you engage in character assassination, if you sit still and be quiet while others do it in front of you, if you enjoy watching while it is done to someone else, you are in sin. You are erecting a fence between yourself and your own salvation. You are putting a barrier between you and the Holy Spirit, between you and Jesus.

Slander and character assassination are murder with words. The damage they do to the people who suffer them is real and lifelong.

Do not inflict blood guilt on your own soul for the paltry pleasure of joining in with the crowd in the latest hate-off. Follow Christ. Say no to this sinful practice. It, like its author, is from the pit.

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America and Its Half Million Homeless Ghosts

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Poe https://www.flickr.com/photos/mockstar/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Poe https://www.flickr.com/photos/mockstar/

Foxes have dens, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. Jesus Christ

Sprinklergate, the story that the Cathedral of St Mary in San Francisco was using its sprinkler system to clear the cathedral steps of homeless people, is a symptom of a big-time problem.

That problem is that American cities are haunted by over a half million ghosts. These ghosts sleep on park benches, sidewalks and in shelters. They panhandle and go through dumpsters, searching for clothing, food, money, drugs.

These are not silent ghosts. They accost us as we walk to work, they wave signs begging for cash as we drive down the road. They take over the public libraries and, as St Mary’s has discovered, can block entrances to buildings with their vacant-eyed vigils.

The ghosts haunting American cities are the homeless. They are not in any way homogenous. Some of them are temporary down and outs. Others are mentally ill. Many are drug addicts and alcoholics. Others are panhandlers posing as homeless while they ply their trade.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by davejdoe https://www.flickr.com/photos/92414546@N04/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by davejdoe https://www.flickr.com/photos/92414546@N04/

Homelessness is the opposite of the American dream. It is the opposite of what, until a few decades ago, was the American self-image. I am old enough to remember a time when America did not have homeless people lying on its park benches, snoring in its libraries and blocking the entrances to its churches.

I was born in that era between the Great Depression with its hobos and today with our ubiquitous and ignored homeless.

America’s basic response to homelessness among so many of its citizens, including many children, has been to ignore them. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development issues a glossy report on the homeless every year. This report differentiates between types of homelessness. There are the homeless who stay with relatives, and are not, to my way of thinking, truly homeless at all.

Then there are those who sleep in shelters or whatnot. Finally, we get to the homeless that inspire us to such conflicting feelings of pity, indifference and annoyance, those who do not have shelter at all.

In the meantime, while we ignore the homeless, and refuse to even take a look at the government policies and social changes that made them homeless, we shift the burden for dealing with them onto whoever the homeless themselves chose to impose themselves upon.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Barth https://www.flickr.com/photos/a-barth/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Barth https://www.flickr.com/photos/a-barth/

Businesses, public buildings of all sorts, churches and other facilities can easily find themselves unable to perform their intended functions because of the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks at their entrance or sitting inside their buildings. Mothers won’t bring the kiddos to the library if the homeless take it over. Guests won’t check into hotels whose entrances are blocked or whose lobbies are filled with homeless people. Churches can’t hold services if the worshippers stay away rather than step over the homeless, sitting on the steps.

We ignore the homeless because we feel helpless to do anything decisive for them. We ignore them because we don’t truly understand what policies and practices of political and social corruption made them homeless in the first place. We ignore the homeless because they overwhelm us and baffle us and scare us.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Hood https://www.flickr.com/photos/131405116@N07/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Hood https://www.flickr.com/photos/131405116@N07/

Worse, we ignore them because if we acknowledged that many of our political and social ideas on both sides of the political spectrum have created this problem and allowed it to grow, it would require us to re-evaluate many of our simplistic viewpoints. We ignore the homeless because not ignoring the homeless would require us to change.

So, we dump them.

We dump them on the businesses and operators of public buildings. We dump the problem on the administrators of these businesses, public buildings and churches. Then, when they take any action to dislodge the homeless from camping out on their property and blocking access and use by those for whom it was intended, we excoriate these administrators for their heartlessness.

This public venting of moral outrage has nothing to do with compassion. It is just us, being our hypocritical selves about a problem we will not do anything to solve. We will not take a homeless person home and house them in our spare bedroom. We will not let them sleep on our porch. We will not change our politics to fit the realities of real life.

We will ignore them and what brung them.

They are not people to us. They are ghosts of what once was people like us. Somebody birthed them, taught them to write those signs they hoist and how to read the hours of operation on the signs in front of public buildings.

They were once part of the larger society.

But now they are ghosts.

And we ignore them.

And we denounce those on whom we dump them for being overwhelmed by them.

And we will not change.

Sprinklergate: Is it Real, or Is It Politics?

Market Street, San Francisco Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by William Welch https://www.flickr.com/photos/20098477@N02/

Market Street, San Francisco Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by William Welch https://www.flickr.com/photos/20098477@N02/

I’ve been sick as the proverbial dawg these past few days. I managed to put together a couple of posts, but then I fell back into bed and pulled the blankets over my head.

I’m not feeling all that great today, either, but I have roused myself from my coughing and hacking and moaning and complaining long enough to realize that there’s another oddball “scandal” about the Catholic Church leap-frogging around the internet.

From what I gather, a cathedral in San Francisco (of all places) attempted to use a sprinkler system to encourage homeless people to vacate the steps leading into their building. Or some such.

Needless to say, the story has fueled the tanks of Catholic bashers. It’s also brought out quite a few disappointed and sad comments from faithful Catholics, as well. The story seems to be all about whether or not the Catholic Church and the Archbishop of San Francisco should be keel-hauled and sentenced to extinction over Sprinklergate.

I haven’t read too much about a couple of issues that I think are somewhat pertinent.

First, the Archbishop of San Francisco is engaged in a battle over the future of the Catholicism in that great city, i.e., whether or not the Church will be run by its own teachings or by secular authorities and the mob actions of “activists” who don’t agree with those teachings. This particular argument is about homosexuals.

Second, digging up dirt on someone who opposes them is a standard tactic of the gay rights movement. Demands for  civil and human rights for gay people are just. Homosexuals have been subjected to unjust discrimination and violence for a long time.

But that does not justify advancing this cause by denying the human rights of other people. Far too often, the gay rights movement has advanced its cause by the ignoble method of organized and manufactured character assassination of those who oppose it.

Using character assassination as a method of political bullying is an effective tactic. It harms, sometimes destroys, the ability of the person who is attacked to put their ideas forward in a credible manner. It also serves as a warning to anyone who might be inclined to join them that they, too, will be destroyed. In this case, it sends a signal to other bishops to duck and cover or be personally attacked as well.

I’m not going to take a position on Sprinklergate in this post, but I am going to raise a simple question: Is the whole scandal and the sudden media focus on this rather obscure action by the cathedral an example of attacking the Archbishop because he’s standing for Catholic teaching?

I’m not saying that turning the sprinkler system on homeless people to get them to move off the church steps is a good thing. What I’m saying is that the reason it has been so widely reported may very well be politically motivated.

Archbishop Cordileone has been attacked, picketed and and smeared ever since he took office in San Francisco. These attacks are because  he has taught actual Catholic teaching as regards gay marriage. This latest series of attacks are precisely and directly because he has been doing his best to create a Catholic Church in San Francisco (again, of all places) that is actually Catholic.

In a back-handed way, Sprinklergate is a compliment to Archbishop Cordileone. If this is the best his opponents could do, then he must be an honest man.

There are other issues about Sprinklergate which need to be discussed. But that really is the topic for another post.

My point here, dear Catholics, is don’t be so quick to join in with public lynchings of our clergy when those public lynchings are so obviously linked to actions by that clergy to defend the teachings of the Church in a Catholic-bashing world.

Now, I’m going back to coughing and hacking, moaning and complaining. As soon as I feel up to it, I’ll write another post talking about other overlooked issues in Sprinklergate.


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