The Heresy of Little g gods and Running Runners Who Run Away

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Don’t be alarmed by defecting Christians.

It’s just the Holy Spirit, pruning the dead wood. 

Christianity in America suffers from a blight that is choking out the Word and covering up the Light of Christ. 

That blight is the heresy of conflating Christ the Lord with partisan politics. This has gone on so long and become so endemic that a lot of people actually think that they are following Christ by how they register to vote. 

Even worse, people who confuse Jesus with the R and the D always seem to end up lopping off parts of Jesus in order to make Him fit into the partisan box. If you’re an R, this has historically meant that the Sermon on the Mount is just jesus (little j) blather that comes from the First Century and doesn’t mean much. I’ve had the experience of using the phrase “If you’ve done it to the least of these, if you’ve done it to Me,” in debate and seeing the bored, patronizing expressions cross those Republican faces. 

They don’t want to hear it. 

Likewise, anyone who has ever gone into a Democratic Party what-not with the idea that gay marriage or abortion or any trendy social sin is not a “human right” is going to learn what the word “cut” means in the Victorian sense. They will cut you dead. And that’s if they’re in a good mood. 

My point, which I’ve made over and over again, and which I’ll keep on making until it’s no longer pertinent, is that the R and the D aren’t Jesus. Party platforms aren’t the Gospels. 

We are now living with the inevitable consequences of this decades-long heresy of political jesus. People are increasingly sick and tired of the heresy. They find — quite rightly — that it is a sham and a flam and that partisan politics jesus is a bogus god not worth their time. 

Many outspoken Christian leaders have maintained so loudly and for so long that this perversion of the Gospels that they’ve been preaching is, in fact, the true Gospels of Christ, that they’ve managed to convince not only their besotted followers, but the larger population, as well.

A lot of people believe that political jesus; political party apologist jesus, mean and heartless django jesus, is actually Our Lord.

Why do they think this?

Because Christian religious leaders and their followers have been telling them so for decades.

This group of disenchanted, disaffected-with-Christianity reactors to political django jesus, has grown to the point that they are now able to affect the outcome of national elections. Which means that they are now players.

That also means that the same political parties who’ve used and abused the name of Christ for so long are now trying to get shed of Him. The stampede for the exit ramps among politicians and professional Christians of every stripe has become such a crowded field that it is a parody of itself. 

STAMPEDE

The National Review published a whimsical essay today titled “A Form Letter for Defecting Conservatives.” This humorous article is an accurate representation of what is happening and the flabby, flimsy lies these runners are using to explain themselves. 

What interested me the most, however, is that the National Review’s title underscores the heresy I’m talking about. The “issues” these running rabbits are dumping are the same issues that traditional Christians have fought for these past decades. They are the issues that put the Rs in the winner’s circle. Hence, the use of the word “conservative” to describe these folks. 

However, what they are, are sham Christians who’ve used a faked fealty to Christ to win elections or build big careers in publishing, think-tanking or some other moneyed and powered endeavor. As anyone who isn’t wearing a mental blindfold can tell just by looking around, they haven’t done much good. But they have certainly done well. 

The reason they are hitting the door on these “issues” now is because they never believed them in the first place. I’m not saying that people can’t experience a change of heart, that they can’t be converted. But this mass stampede of political opportunists for the higher ground of a different take on traditional Christian teaching has nothing to do with conversion. It is pragmatic people being pragmatic and taking care of themselves. 

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They never believed it in the first place, and whatever they tell you now, they don’t believe that, either. 

The heresy here is that none of this — none of it — has anything to do with Jesus. By conflating politics with the Gospels, we have corrupted politics and defamed the Gospels. These aren’t “defecting conservatives. ” The reason they aren’t is that issues like the sanctity of human life and marriage are not issues. They are truths. The sanctity of human life and marriage are not “conservative” values. “If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me,” is not liberal spin. 

These are the law and the prophets of God Almighty. They are the teachings of Christ the Lord. 

We are beginning to reap the whirlwind that we have sown by lying about the nature of God for political gain. 

My advice is don’t be alarmed or dismayed by all these recanting Christians and born-again nihilists. 

Let them go their way and don’t worry. 

The Holy Spirit is pruning the tree of life so that it can bloom anew. 

 

Here, from Monty Python, is an anthem for the runners.

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Professional Christians, Pragmatic Jesus and Finishing the Race

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So some guy named Joseph Bottum wrote a flabby-blabby essay for Commonweal about how he’s a born-again gay marriage supporter.

In certain Catholic circles Mr Bottum’s decision to change political horses, is BIG NEWS.

I’m barely Catholic so far as the intellectual Catholic culture is concerned, which means that all this carrying-on and hand-wringing went right over my little Okie head. Everybody else seemed all worked up about it, so I googled the guy.

It appears he’s a former editor of a conservative Catholic publication called First Things and the author of several books. He basically sounds like a man who’s been making his living off being a Faithful Catholic bringing The Truth according to him to the uninformed masses. 

Based on what little I’ve read of First Things, it is a big sea change for its former editor to kick the real Jesus to the curb and recommend that we all follow politically pragmatic Jesus and “accept” gay marriage. In fact, such a thing would have been unthinkable — career suicide, if nothing else — for someone with Mr Bottum’s resume even a few months ago. 

But with respect to Bob Dylan, the times they are achangin’ and lots of Professional Christians are going to find that their bread is buttered on the opposite side of what it once was.

What I’m trying to say is that we’re going to see a lot of this. Successful people follow the money. That’s what they do. It’s how they got to be successful people. For a long time now, the easy money on the Catholic side of the street has been to try to out-faithful the faithful, at least in public. John Corapi road off on his Harley as a millionaire.

I have no knowledge of Mr Bottum’s finances. In fact, other than a quick read of his execrable essay and an even quicker google search, I have no knowledge of Mr Bottum.

I’m not writing this about him. I’m writing it about us.

We officially entered post Christian America with the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage last summer. A lot of Christians haven’t gotten the memo yet, but that doesn’t change the situation. As we move deeper into this new reality, the smart money types among us are going to betray Christ. 

They will try at first to broker themselves as negotiators for the other side of this culture war, as Mr Bottum has done in his essay. He’s being hailed as a hero in certain high-profile circles, but that won’t be true of the stragglers who switch further down the road. Professional Christian deserters lose their cachet when there’s a glut of them. 

Mr Bottum’s argument to other Catholics as to why they should abandon Church teaching on marriage is just about the crudest argument anyone can make. 

We’re gonna lose anyway, he contends, so let’s give this one to the culture and concentrate on areas where we can win. 

That, and he had a casual friend who is gay that he sees once in a while who won’t talk to him anymore, which proves that people hate the Church for its support of traditional marriage, which proves … I dunno … that Jesus was right when He said,

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. 

Mr Bottum’s viewpoint doesn’t exactly track with the Jesus who said that. In fact, it is so mind-bogglingly anti-Christian that it takes a moment for a Christian to grok it. Who told Mr Bottum that Christians are called to win, and if they don’t win, to walk off the field? For that matter, who told him that following Jesus wouldn’t cost him the loss of friends?

Not Jesus, that’s for sure. 

People are suffering and dying all over the world because they won’t turn their backs on Jesus. They aren’t being pragmatic. They are being faithful. 

More and more of the professional Christians who’ve been living high off the religious fat are going to cut and run. Christianity has been on the ascendant in Western society for so long that a lot of people have built lucrative careers and garnered our respect and trust by posing as super Christians while they were ripping it off the whole time. Now that we live in a post-Christian culture, they’re going to begin, as gay people say, to “come out.”

I don’t know if Mr Bottum is one of these. What I know is that he’s done well by being a professional conservative Catholic and now he’s backing up on an issue that conservative Catholics have long deemed “non-negotiable.”

My point is that we’re going to see more of this and we shouldn’t let it bother us. We certainly shouldn’t follow these guys. 

We need to keep close to God in prayer and through the sacraments and, as St Paul would say, finish the race. 


For more on this story see Why I Am Catholic, Feast of Eden and Catholic and Enjoying It

Governor Christie said … What Did He Say?

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Whenever political ambitions cut across Christian beliefs, the result is predictable.

It’s like watching one of those flickering silent movies of yesteryear as the train roars up on Little Nell who lies tied to the tracks. You just know that Little Nell is going to get out of the ropes and off the tracks before the train arrives, but it’s soooo fun watching her kick and mouth silent pleas for help as she awaits her rescuing hero.

When politicians get bit by the big-time bug, sincere Christian beliefs are kind of like Little Nell’s ropes, tying them down. Big-time national politics and sincere beliefs don’t mix. If you doubt that, consider what we’ve been electing these past few decades.

Once a politician feels the frisson White House Ambition running down his or her spine, all basic Christian beliefs become unnecessary ballast that may — probably will — need a heave-ho.

Some politicians handle this with a deft, even stylish touch. Some of them are stone, cold liars. Others flub their lines at first. It takes a while for them to get the hang of it. That, and if they’ve been around politics for a while (and most White House Fever types have) they’ve got earlier versions of themselves to sweep under various political rugs.

We used to call it flip-flopping. Before that, we called it lying. The new term is “evolve.” Today’s politicians don’t turn their backs on everything they told voters to get elected to earlier offices. They “evolve.”

The pull of White House Ambition signals that it’s time to Start Evolving.

It’s up to we the people to see if we can figure out what they are going to evolve into.

Because they won’t tell us.

Because they don’t know.

Until they read the latest polls.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, is, as everyone knows, a desperation hope for the Republican ticket for president in 2016. He put in a boffo performance during Hurricane Sandy, one that convinced a lot of people — including me — that he had an actual sense of responsibility to the people of New Jersey.

That alone was so refreshing — dare I say unique? — among today’s elected officials that it made him an immediate possibility in the upcoming fight for his very own front door key to the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue. It also, if his recent performance is any indicator, flooded his brain with political laughing gas.

Governor Christie is on record opposing gay marriage. He’s also on record supporting civil unions. So the water has always been murky in Christie land. But now he’s faced with running for nomination to the presidency in a Republican Party that is trying to “re-frame” itself on several critical issues. While the Rs have historically used the gay marriage issue as a vote getter in conservative states, they have begun to find it less than useful in certain big-state electoral vote mother lodes. Hence the “re-framing.”

As I’ve tried repeatedly to tell people on this blog, political parties are about getting and keeping power and everything else they say is a lie. That includes the lie of either party about supporting traditional marriage (or gay marriage, for that matter) if it becomes a loser in the vote-getting department. An internal report earlier this year recommended that the Republican party back off on its position against gay marriage.

The reaction of the party faithful was strong enough that the Republican National Committee approved a resolution reaffirming that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

But potential presidential candidates can and must be more coy than party committees. They’ve got to thread the vote-getting needle.

So, of course, there’s going to be some “evolving” taking place in their positions on hot-button issues.

In Governor Christie’s case, that meant signing a new law that would ban certain types of psychological therapy for children and announcing that being gay is “inborn and not a sin.” He even managed to conflate this statement with Catholic teaching.

The truth is, nobody really knows what causes homosexuality.  And of course being tempted to homosexual acts is not a sin. The next big leap into saying that actually going ahead and participating in homosexual acts is not sinful and that the Catholic Church teaches this is, well, just a Christie-ism.

News articles are now taking what the Governor said and putting it together with Pope Francis’ earlier statements to create a whole new teaching for the Catholic Church.

I wish the bishops would chime in with a correction. But until they do, I guess it’s up to us bloggers to do our best.

Here’s Catholic teaching as I understand it, which, since I am not running for president, is almost certainly going to be more accurate and less self-serving than anything Governor Christie will come out with.

As I said, it’s not a sin to be tempted to sin. If the sin is homosexual acts, the temptation is still not a sin. But committing the sinful act, even when that act is something as culturally sacred as having illicit sex, is a sin. Sex outside marriage is sinful. Period.

Second, Pope Francis did not say anything that contradicts this. He also did not overturn what Pope Benedict XVI taught.

Priests — both homosexual and straight — are supposed to be chaste, which, if you’re not married, means no sex. Both popes agree on that.

As for Governor Christie, my advice to him is to relax. It’s not anywhere near 2016. There’s plenty of time for him to “evolve” more gracefully than this.

Ding! Ding! Ding! And We Have a Winner!

 

The Christian Bashers Defense team has pretty much taken over the comboxes on my recent post Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee. 

They are as predictable as mosquitoes. Just say something really true about their behavior, and they show up, armed to buzz bomb you until you go inside and close the door.

In this instance, I asked the simple question: Do Constitutional rights apply to Christians the same as everybody else?

The answer should seem obvious. But of course it’s not. The reason it’s not is the bullies who want to limit other people’s rights always get mad and deny what they are doing when someone calls them on it. They do it every single time.

We’re all supposed to join them in their pretense that there’s nothing discriminatory or offensive in their attempts to drive Christians from the public square. No one is supposed to challenge their idiotic pretense that using government controls to limit the free exercise of religion in this country is actually a push for freedom, instead of the tyranny that it is. 

If we can’t be agree with them, they want us to sit down and be quiet and stop contradicting them. If we don’t, well then, they’ll scream and shout until everybody gives up and lets them have the day.

It has always been thus. People who do things like this always deny it, and they always get mean when someone calls them on their facile denials.

That’s why this particular post ended up being dive-bombed by a whole troupe of angry combox mosquitoes. Even though the readership of this blog is heavily — and I mean heavily – Christian, the Christian defenders were outnumbered. In fact, only three stalwart souls tried to stand up for Christ in these arguments. In the end, it got down mostly to one stubborn Christian, who is hanging in there to this very moment.

For all that, this lone fellow managed to push the whole mosquito assault into a slow unwinding of their lies until, one of them just came out with it.

And I quote:

No one is forcing anyone to do anything. And no one is driving anyone out. But if it does not believe it can conscientiously comply with the law, the Catholic Church can sell its hospitals, schools, universities and charity organizations. And the church and its members have the right to protest and encourage that the law be changed.

Of course, that would dramatically change the face of the church in the United States.

And then the commenter goes on, blah, blah, blahing with a lot of stats (which may or may not be accurate. I haven’t checked.) about the Church’s holdings.

How about that? Not, mind you, that forcing the largest denomination in the country to “sell its hospitals, school, universities and charity organizations” if it won’t violate its 2,000 year-old religious teachings due to government demands that it do so might be …  ummm …. a slight violation of the principles of that fictional “wall of separation between church and state” of which militant atheist are so proud. Also, not that it might be an outright dismissal and abrogation of religious freedom as defined in the Bill of Rights. Nor that it might be just a wee bit of outright tyranny.

Nope.

It’s just deserts for those who have the temerity to think that their individual rights as free Americans amount to a hill of beans to the post Christian, militant secularist demands for moral conformity (with moral being defined by them and them alone) that must govern us all.

I want to remind you that this is about birth control and abortifacients. Nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to free birth control and free abortifacients. Also, nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to force other people to pay for your birth control and abortifacients, even, or in this case, especially if it violates their religious beliefs to do so.

There is, however, a pretty strong Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Not even President Obama is debating that. What he’s trying to do is re-define this Constitutional Right to the free exercise of religion along the lines of how it is defined in Communist dictatorships. He wants to say that freedom of religion is actually just freedom of worship and that only in governmentally prescribed “houses of worship.” And, oh yes, behind the closed doors of your own house.

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It takes a combox firebrand to just come out and say what all this truly means and where it leads. It is leading to stripping the Church of all its “hospitals, schools, universities, and charity organizations” in what would certainly amount to a fire sale. It means driving the Church out of public life, totally and absolutely.

There’s nothing dishonest about what this person said. In fact what’s powerful about it is that it is the truth of where we are heading. It is exactly where we are going if this tyrannical abuse of the freedoms of Christians as citizens of the United States is allowed to continue.

If the Obama administration succeeds in redefining religious freedom in these terms, it will  have destroyed the First Freedom of the American people.

And all this so that it could bend this country over and bow it down to the little g gods of abortion and death.

I want to thank the strong-hearted Christians who have hung in there during this debate. I encourage some of the rest of you to get in the game along with them. Standing up for Jesus is not a spectator sport. We all need to do it.

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Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee

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In America, almost nobody has read the Constitution.

But …

Everybody is a Supreme Court justice.

Americans tend to regard the Constitution in much the same way they do God: As a true and absolute reflection of themselves. Americans think that God is made in their image, and they also think that their Constitutional rights are exactly what they want them to be. They include in this, oddly enough, the fact that those Constitutional rights do not belong to other Americans, but to them, or at most, their group, alone.

This willingness to abrogate the rights of other people on the basis of self-serving and entirely bogus Constitutionality is not only false, it is of fairly recent origin. It is also concentrated in the arguments of a few groups of people that I call (paraphrasing Mary Ann Glendon) “rights talkers.”

I don’t remember reading anything Martin Luther King, Jr ever said that implied that the Constitution did not apply to white people, native Americans, or anyone, for that matter. His arguments were based on the idea that the Gospels of Christ, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution applied to everyone.

His method of arguing his case elevated the debate of this whole nation. He made us better people by what he said and what he did.

But Martin Luther King was a great man and a Christian man who found his primary and basic claim to the humanity of all people first and foremost in the Gospels of Christ.

That is a transcendent difference between him and the rights talkers of today.

I think the change began with abortion.

There is no possible way that anyone can argue for the “right” to commit wholesale slaughter against a whole class of people without totally nullifying the basis of Martin Luther King’s arguments. His call for equality was based on a deep understanding of the essential equality of all humanity, created as it is in the image and likeness of God, and endowed, as our founding documents say, by that Creator with certain unalienable rights. Abortion on demand does away with that premise as an arguable point.

There can be no equality of human beings if some human beings are not even considered worthy of having a basic right to life.

The debate about legalized abortion opened the doorway for the bastardization of the basic principles on which this country stands. It was but a short step after that to begin redefining the freedoms we have always regarded as belonging universally to all Americans in new, selective and narrowed ways.

People who try to argue for human rights without access to the foundation of all human rights, which is our profound equality before God, end up discriminating. They very quickly begin to advocate for practices which are not only discriminatory, but are flat-out tyrannical.

Since the types of things and the manner of debate that is employed by these people almost by definition puts them at odds with the Christian ethos of the equality of humanity, they also put them at odds with Christians, themselves. Abortion, the killing of unborn infants, is anathema to Christians who have from the beginning of the faith stood against human sacrifice of all types, including the practices of abandoning and exposing unwanted infants.

The split in our civil society began when that civil society departed from its roots to enter into the violent discrimination against an entire class of human beings by defining them as non-humans who may be killed with impunity. Those who adhered to this logic sheared themselves loose from the moorings of American society.

As their various “rights movements” took shape, they were always rooted in other soil than the great American enterprise of freedom and equality for all humanity.

For two hundred years this idea of freedom and equality had marched forward, expanding as it went. The founding fathers made tortured accommodations to slavery which could not stand. We fought a great civil war over slavery in particular, and the principles in the ideas on which this country was founded in general. Women, half the people, used the freedoms in the Constitution and the arguments in the Gospels to gain voting rights for themselves. Martin Luther King based an ultimately successful case with the American people for an end to segregation on them.

But these new “rights” movements of the last quarter of the 20th century and now into the 21st century cut themselves loose from the essential American logic at abortion. All people were no longer created equal in their way of measuring such things. And they certainly were not endowed by their Creator with certain rights such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Clearly, in the logic of those who follow abortion, not everyone is entitled to the same rights. More to the point, this iron wall of the God of Gospels on Whom such ideas of the universal equality of all humanity are based, must be taken down, by force if necessary.

It was, and it is, either Jesus Christ or their right to kill with impunity. The two cannot coexist.

What has grown out of this ethos is a deadly rhetorical stew of bad ideas and bastardized Constitutionalism that seeks to apply the bill of rights to those who hold certain ideas and to withdraw those rights from those who disagree with them.

Traditional Christianity as it has been taught and practiced for 2,000 years can not and will not bend on questions that strike to the heart of what we are. The question of who is human is simple in Christianity. We are all human. The question of who matters is equally simple. We all matter.

No group that agitates for their “rights” need look further than that for their arguments.

However, if the definition of those “rights” begins to tamper with the essential question of who a human is in ways that deny the basic moral structure of functioning humanity, then they no longer have access to the Gospels as their support. That is what has happened in contemporary America.

The result has been that we find claims to “rights” that do not exist, either in the Gospels, or the Constitution. These so-called “rights” are not “rights” at all, but rather a limitation of the Constitutional guarantees found in the First Amendment.

Suddenly, we are faced with people who use rhetorical film-flam phrases which align in sound but not meaning to American values and freedoms to claim that Christians do not have the same rights that other Americans enjoy. Christians who engage the larger culture by use of free speech, freedom of assembly and the right to petition their government are accused of attempting to “force their religion on others.”

Christians who work together in groups, which is a clearly guaranteed Constitutional right used by every “rights talker” who is attacking them for doing it, are suddenly accused of violating “separation of church and state” and threatened with the tax man bogeyman.

At the same time, any “rights talker” group whose 501c3 status was challenged would yell about their “rights” and “freedoms.”

The question becomes do Christians have the same rights as other citizens?

Do Christians have the right to free assembly? Do Christians have the right to free speech? Do Christians have the right to petition their government?

The right to free assembly goes deeper, since people who attack the Constitutional rights of Christians are also actively seeking to limit the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. They do this based on a hypothetical construct we like to call separation of church and state. Separation of church and state does not appear in the Constitution.

What does appear is a prohibition against the government passing laws to form a state religion and a prohibition of the government passing laws to interfere with the free exercise of religion. This is found in the same amendment that gives us our rights to freedom of speech, assembly and to petition the government. It reads like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.

The courts have looked deep into their own navels in the past half century and created a “wall of separation between church and state.” They have increasingly determined that is “wall” that they created means that the government has a duty to censor religious free speech of all types, and religious freedom of assembly in public places ranging from schools, to athletic events to parks.

At the same time, our president has pushed the government into the business of coercing religious people to violate their beliefs, including beliefs based on 2,000 years of constant Christian teaching, under the guise of the HHS Mandate. There is also a combative and often hectoring subset of our population who try to break up Christian discussions on on-line web-sites and/or in public debate.

These people always seem to toss around phrases such as “freedom of worship” and “privacy of your own homes.” They seek to apply these limits to Christian activity. Christians, they tell us, have “freedom to worship” in their “own houses of worship” and to believe what they want “in their own homes.” But that they do not have the freedom to engage in public debate based on their beliefs the same as other citizens.

Christians who use their freedom of speech of speak out about their beliefs in the public square, or who organize to effect changes in policy by means of petitioning their government or exercising their right to vote are told that they are out of line. They are trying to “force their religion” on other people.

These exact same people are engaged in using their freedom of speech when they say these things. They are usually actively organizing into groups to seek redress in the courts and to petition their government.

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But they do not want Christians to have the same freedoms. They want Constitutional rights for themselves, but not for those who disagree with them.

This rhetoric is rooted in the fact that these rights talkers are the intellectual heirs and political allies of the abortion movement. They are, at their core, convinced that some people are more equal than others. In fact, one of their founding principles is that whole classes of human beings are not human enough to have an inherent right to be alive.

No good thing can come from a philosophy that is built on this murderous idea.

It is not an accident that rights talk has morphed so seamlessly into demands for limitations of the basic rights of those who disagree with the rights talkers.

It is a natural and inevitable outgrowth of a philosophy that is based on the darkest sort of discrimination. I am talking about a form of discrimination so dark that it says that the murder of a whole class of human begins is a “human right” of the murderer.

So long as “rights talkers” deny the human rights of whole classes of people, they are incapable of creating a consistent philosophy of human rights for themselves or the world they are trying to create.

Sisters of Life

 

The Sisters of Life are a new order. Their charism is a response to the evils of our times. I can think of no work more needed than theirs.

 

 

 

 

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Shacking Up, Gay Marriage and Now Wed Leases: Is Marriage as the Larger Culture Lives It Dead?

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Shacking up, gay marriage and now wed leases.

Given all this, I’m inclined to say as so many people do these days Why bother?

A reader sent me a copy of the Washington Post opinion piece excerpted below. The author, who is a divorce attorney, suggests that, given today’s revolving door marriages, we just set up marriage as a lease arrangement and forego all that “til death do us part” nonsense at the get-go. He sees it as a simplification of the court-laden bitterness of today’s divorce culture.

My first thought was that the guy deserves a couple of stars for innovative thinking and his willingness to legislate himself out of a job. But then I thought that he’s probably as sick of doing divorces as every other attorney I ever met. Setting up wed leases for his clients (His suggestions would require quite a bit of personalized legal tailoring for each couple.) would probably end up being, if not as lucrative as a high-dollar divorce, still a good living for an attorney, and without the need to Xanax.

So, I guess he’s not being entirely selfless.

However, he has put his finger on the truth of what is happening in our society.

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We’ve trashed marriage to the point that it no longer means much of anything. Gay marriage is the end of marriage as a legitimate institution. Now the flood gates on redefining marriage are open and you can bet that a lot of garbage is going to trot through them. Of course, none of this would have happened if heterosexuals hadn’t trashed their marriages (and their kids, homes and finances along with their marriages) for so many years.

Christians who want to follow Jesus instead of the world are going to have to make a decision about their marriages. Are they entering into Holy Matrimony, which is a life-long union on which God rains down sacramental graces? Or, are they entering into an elastic “so long as we both dig it” legal contract endowed by the state with nothing much but a lot of misery and legal gas?

The truth is, marriage, as it is practiced today has nothing — and I mean nothing — to do with the sacrament of Holy Matrimony as Jesus created it and as the Church has provided it for 2,000 years.

Which is it Christians?

Have you and your spouse entered into a Covenant before God Almighty that bonds you together in sickness and health, for richer and poorer until death does you part? Or are you just play-acting with some legally created contract that you can breach or nullify anytime there is sickness or poverty or you just don’t feel like it today?

For centuries, the legal definition of marriage corresponded closely enough to the Christian understanding of Holy Matrimony that the two could function almost as the same thing.

No more.

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In today’s brave new world, “marriage” is a legal construct. At best, it is a contract. At worst, it is a sham. Many times it is both — a sham contract.

Holy Matrimony, at least as the Catholic Church and some other denominations do it, remains unchanged. Outside of those churches that still treat marriage as the life-long Covenantal relationship between a man and a woman that God intended, there is no Holy Matrimony in our society today.

Christians who want to follow Jesus are going to have to learn to make this distinction, first in their own lives, and second as they regard the “marriages” in the wider world. There are things that redefining the law cannot change, and this is one of them.

True marriage, which, to distinguish it from the legal contracts of the wider society, I have decided to call Holy Matrimony, is a sacrament instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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It is up to you, my Christian brothers and sisters, if you want to be married in the eyes of God in Holy Matrimony, or you want a legal contract for sex and shared finances. If you want Holy Matrimony, then you must begin with the Church as the cornerstone of your marriage. By that I mean you must be married in the Church and you must make Christ the head of your home.

I do not think it will be possible for Christians to be the light the world so badly needs if we continue down this path of half Christian/half worldly.

More and more the world itself is demanding that we, as Joshua demanded thousands of years ago, choose this day whom we will serve.

Choosing to follow Christ begins in the individual heart, and it is first acted out in the home. The creator of home is Holy Matrimony.

Everything else is dead legalism.

From the Washington Post:

We all know that far too many marriages end in divorce, yet this institution does not adapt. Indeed, most Americans today want to expand conventional marriage to include same-sex couples.

So why is there no effort to improve the legal structure of marriage, when it shows itself to be deficient?

Marriage is a legal partnership that lasts a lifetime — one lifetime to be exact, that of the first of the spouses to die. Generally speaking, that is a long time for any partnership. People, circumstances and all sorts of other things change. The compatibility of any two people over decades may decline with these changes to the point of extinction.

In real estate, one may own a life estate in a piece of property. This is comparable to the term of a marriage — a lifetime. And in real estate, one may hold possession of property for shorter terms through a lease.

Why don’t we borrow from real estate and create a marital lease? Instead of wedlock, a “wedlease.”

Here’s how a marital lease could work: Two people commit themselves to marriage for a period of years — one year, five years, 10 years, whatever term suits them. The marital lease could be renewed at the end of the term however many times a couple likes. It could end up lasting a lifetime if the relationship is good and worth continuing. But if the relationship is bad, the couple could go their separate ways at the end of the term. The messiness of divorce is avoided and the end can be as simple as vacating a rental unit.

Short-Circuiting the System to Play Elected Dictator

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Prosecutorial discretion.

Now there’s a nice phrase. 

Another phrase that’s almost synonymous with prosecutorial discretion is selective prosecution. One is considered a sometimes valid, if often abused, tool in the prosecutorial toolbox. The other heads off into the dark hinterlands of overt discrimination and flat-out corruption. 

From what I’ve seen, selective prosecution is closely aligned with those other destructors of justice: subornation of perjury and tampering with the evidence. 

Taken together, these little prosecutorial peccadilloes have the ability to overturn our justice system and make it into a tyranny.

Prosecutorial discretion, when mis-used for political demagoguery, can easily become a means of blocking the system and turning the whole legislative/judicial process into a sham. Prosecutorial discretion aligned with political demagoguery is so close to selective prosecution that it’s difficult to differentiate between them. 

My colleague, Leah Libresco, chimed in on the question of prosecutorial discretion yesterday with a fine post on the behavior of two elected officials. These two people are at the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum on what they are demagoguing about, but their misbehavior is based on an identical misapprehension of the powers of their office. 

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One is Kathleen Kane, the Attorney General of the State of Pennsylvania. Attorney General Kane announced a few weeks ago that she would not do the job the voters of the state of Pennsylvania elected her to do. She would not defend the state’s law defining marriage in court. Why? Because she doesn’t agree with the law. She seems to think that the law is immoral.

Her announcement was greeted by cheers from gay rights activists and uncomprehending silence from most of the citizens she betrayed. Attorneys General have gone about the business of doing their jobs for so long that most people just take it for granted that they will do them. In fact, a lot of people don’t really understand that when an attorney general flat-out refuses to do their job in this way, it is, and should be, an impeachable offense in most localities. 

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The other is a sheriff in Baton Rouge Louisiana who has been arresting homosexuals for violation of what sounds like the state’s anti-sodomy law. The Supreme Court overturned this law in 2003. I would guess that the sheriff didn’t agree with this decision. He may very well mirror Attorney General Kane by thinking that the decision is immoral.  

This debate about where personal morality ends and the responsibilities of office begin is not nebulous. It also does not apply to employment situations such as whether or not a pharmacist is required to fill prescriptions for RU486, a nurse should be required to assist in an elective abortion or a florist must sell flowers for a gay wedding. But it applies absolutely to elected officials. 

The difference — and it is an enormous difference — is between ordinary employment and elected office. An elected official who refuses to fulfill the requirements of their job or who deliberately oversteps the limits of their powers, is violating a public trust. They are violating the Constitutional privilege to hold office and execute the powers of the people in the name of the people.

Public office is not mere employment. It is the indispensable ingredient of the smooth functioning of a just and stable government. As such, it is incumbent on every and all elected officials to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and not the abuse the powers of their office. 

I react to both the situations described above, not, as Leah did, as a philosopher, but as an elected official who has been charged with fulfilling the duties of office for 18 years. I understand several key things that proponents of these two elected officials’ actions won’t accept.

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First, law enforcement, from top to bottom, is not law making. Law enforcement enforces laws. It does not write them. If Attorney General Kane wanted to work to overturn Pennsylvania’s marriage law, there were many options open to her, including running for election to a law-making position. Since she is an attorney, she might also have considered not running for office at all and filing cases against the law, maybe doing it pro bono. 

An Attorney General is not supposed to even take positions on the laws which they are sworn to defend and uphold. By that I mean that she should not be out making stump speeches against such laws — or for them, for that matter. Her job, and I keep saying this, but nobody seems to hear me, her job is to uphold and defend the laws of the State of Pennsylvania.

This is especially grave since, like all elected officials, she is the only person in her jurisdiction (in this case, the entire state of Pennsylvania) who holds the power of her office. If she refuses to do her job, the job can not be done by anyone else.

This is equally true of the sheriff in Baton Rouge. As an elected official, he is the only sheriff in that jurisdiction. No one else can do his job. Also, he is not a law maker or a law interpreter. He is a law enforcer. The decisions about what laws he should enforce are made by Congress, the legislature and the courts. 

Elected office is a privilege, not a sentence to be served. If any elected official finds that they cannot in good conscience perform the duties of their office, they have the free right to resign at any time.

Leah Libresco used a quote from a play and movie about my patron saint, St Thomas More, in her analysis. Thomas More was the Chancellor of England. Despite the enormity of this position, he resigned when his conscience would no longer allow him to discharge his duties as the King demanded. This is a good example for all of us who hold office. 

If Attorney General Kane can not in good conscience do the job that her office requires of her, she has the clear option of resigning. What she does not have is the option of refusing to do her job and thereby depriving the people of Pennsylvania of the legal representation they are Constitutionally entitled to. 

I am glad that Leah found this example giving the other side of this argument. Maybe it will help clarify what is at stake for those people who are so enthralled with their particular advocacy that they are willing to support overturning the very structure of government that gave them the right to advocate in the first place. 

From Unequally Yoked:

I’m a little troubled by the way same-sex marriage is becoming de facto legal in Pennsylvania.  When I was having SCOTUSblog parties back in June, I found the reasoning based on standing kinda messy.  If a law is challenged, it seems like the appropriate state officials should be obligated to defend it.  Ducking it seems like a odd kind of de facto veto.  And not a proper civil disobedience-y one, a la Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, who conducted then-illegal marriages and was charged for it.

And now this is playing out in Pennsylvania.  The PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane declined to defend her state’s ban on same-sex marriage, and it’s unclear who will pick up the baton, or if anyone will be left with standing to do so.  The proper way to overturn laws is repeal or, if they’re actually unconstitutional, letting them have their day in court.  Not short-circuiting the system over a conscience objection.

 

A Non-Theistic Christian Now Running the Washington National Cathedral

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The Washington Post seems to love the guy.

He is, after all, a “Christian” after their own heart.

Rev Gary Hall, the new Dean of Washington National Cathedral believes that teaching people to wait for marriage to have sex is “unrealistic.” He isn’t too keen on the idea of life-long commitment or fidelity in marriage, either. But he’s in the bag for gay marriage and has personally assured Dr Richard Dawkins that he also “doesn’t believe in the God” that Dr Dawkins doesn’t believe in.

That sounds like a real dome scratcher, since Dr Dawkins has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t believe in any kind of deity. However it all comes into focus when the top priest at the cathedral that is often called our nation’s “spiritual home” announces that he’s a “nontheistic Christian.”

Aside from the fact that this sounds like he just announced he’s the drug dealer for Narcotics Anonymous, this preposterous statement does fit in the drawer alongside Dean Hall’s other commentary.

No wonder the Washington Post oozes all over him in this article. He’s the kind of religious leader they hanker after: A “priest” who gets his beliefs from reading polls just like everybody else does in Washington.

Dean Hall should fit right in on the beltway. His morals can “evolve” there along with everyone else’s.

A “nontheistic Christian?”

Puh – leeeez.

From the Washington Post:

Life experiences informed Hall’s unconventional views on marriage. (His parents were married seven times between them.) “We have this cartoon in America where you grow up, get married and stay the same person,” he says. “For the church to say, ‘No sex before marriage,’ is not realistic,” he argues.

… Under Hall’s leadership, the cathedral announced it will start performing same-sex marriages.

… He tells of sitting next to the renowned atheist Richard Dawkins at a dinner and discussing God. Hall told Dawkins, “I don’t believe in the God you don’t believe in either.”

“…I don’t want to be loosey-goosey about it,” he says, “but I describe myself as a non-theistic Christian.”

Christians’ Dual Citizenship and Engaging the Culture for Christ


In the video below, Cardinal Wuerl discusses what he calls the “subtle” loss of religious liberty in America.

From my viewpoint, the loss of religious liberty is only subtle to those who do not want to see what is happening. In truth, it has been snowballing for quite a while.

The sign of hope is that for the first time, there is real pushback. I’m not talking about angry speechifying and partisan political demagoguery, but actual pushback in the form of court cases, marches and a public engagement in favor of religious liberty by whole groups of people who heretofore opted out of the battle.

The HHS Mandate was a watershed moment in American history in this regard. By attempting to force the Church itself to violate its own teachings in a federalized, all-fifty-states manner, the Mandate forced the war upon religious leaders who had been committed to a policy of negotiation and compromise. The Mandate pushed things past compromise and into choosing this day whom you would serve.

The administration has since backed off parts of the mandate, but the essential core of its position on religious liberty: That the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion pertains only to churches and direct church institutions, has not budged. The question that this forces on thinking people is whether or not they will support our Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion without government interference or not.

Far too often, people allow their partisan political loyalties to make their decision in this matter for them. This is such a strong trend that I am fairly certain that if the party who was being criticized for attacking religious liberty changed from, as it is in this case, the Ds, to the (as it has been and will be again in other cases, the Rs) many people would switch their positions on the issues to follow their party.


I do not know how to get people to stop looking at the world through partisan-tinted glasses. But I know that this is essential — essential — if you want to be effective for Christ in our country’s political discussions.

One way that America is unique is that every citizen is a de facto politician. No American citizen is exempt from responsibility for the directions our government takes. Because of the great freedoms and the many powerful options to seek redress against our government that every American citizen possesses, we are all called to have opinions and engage the political world for change, at least on some level.

Our government and both political parties have become corrupted by the control of special interests and overweening government bureaucracies. I don’t know how else to say it. We, as American citizens, have a responsibility to stand back from that corruption and think for ourselves. As Christians we have an eternal responsibility to put the Gospels first in our considerations.


American Christians are citizens of two kingdoms simultaneously. We are American citizens and we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. One of the great things about America is that is has not, up until very recently, required its citizens to chose between these two kingdoms.

America has always honored the demands of conscience of its individual citizens. Those whose faith demands it are not required to fight in our wars and no one challenges their patriotism. We have never forced anyone to undergo a religious test to hold public office in this nation.

But now, there are groups which seek to push their ideas on other people to the point of abrogating their right of personal conscience. Rather than follow the time-honored American tradition of allowing those whose faith compels them to forego certain activities to do so, they are using the law and courts to force religious people to participate in everything from abortions to gay marriages. They base this on nebulous claims to their “right” to these activities which, they say, trumps the rights of other citizens not to participate in them.


The HHS Mandate is a sinister, tyrannical abuse of government power that attempts to shear the First Amendment loose from its time-honored moorings in the rights of individual American citizens to act and live according to their faith without government penalties, intervention or discrimination. It thrusts the United States government into areas where it has never gone before and into which it should not go now.

Other laws, such as those Cardinal Wuerl mentions in this video, have been bubbling up all over the country, which, at least in their local applications, set aside First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty almost entirely in favor of other new goals of government meddling in American’s private lives and religious institutions in order to force private citizens to participate in culture war objectives such as abortion and gay marriage against their will.

I am aware that a good number of the readers of this blog comfort themselves with the fiction that all they have to do to support religious liberty is to vote Republican. I am also aware of the fact that most people don’t have my experience dealing with these issues from inside government and seeing first hand what a shallow and ultimately bogus hope that is.

I can only tell you that I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, not once but many times, how completely craven both political parties truly are in these matters. I am not saying that many of the people in the Republican party are not wonderful, committed Christians. I am saying that when push comes to shove, they allow their party to tell them to back off, back down and shut up about everything from pro life to religious liberty. I have seen it happen.

In this respect, they aren’t all that different from the Democrats. There are devout Christians in the Democratic Party, as well. But they can’t withstand the pressure from their party.

The big difference is that Democratic party structure itself has become overtly hostile to traditional Christian morality as it applies to human sexuality, while the Republican party gives a lot of lip service to supporting it. The Rs do not attack Christian morality concerning human sexuality with legislation designed to undermine it. The Ds will and do.

But the Rs (again, I refer to the party structure, not individual Republicans) only take stands with words, or when they see a political advantage. In fact, in many instances, (I’m specifically thinking about the HHS Mandate here) the Rs take stands only with words and do not use their clout in Congress to effect change.

The point I am making, is that if you are a Republican, you should not stand for this. You need to stop buying the manipulative nonsense your party is pushing and demand they go at the HHS Mandate by making it a sticking point in their negotiations on budget issues or wherever else they can gain traction. People get what they want. If the Republicans wanted to stop this mandate rather than just use it for campaigning purposes, they could make a big difference.

On the other hand, Democrats like me are so isolated and besieged within our parties that only the most determined of us can stay the course at all. It is impossible to describe to someone on the outside the kind of pressures that Democratic lawmakers are under to compromise matters of faith concerning issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom.

If you are a Democrat, you need to step up to the plate and demand that your party stop attacking the pro-life, pro-religious freedom lawmakers in their midst. You also need to consider running for party offices, beginning at the precinct level, to replace some of these nuts who are running our party and get the thing back on track.

Americans do not have the luxury of sitting around and saying “what can you do?”

The truth is, any American, all Americans, can do a lot.

My father was a mechanic with an 8th grade education. I went to the worst schools in the poor part of town. I am a woman, from an era when women didn’t have the options we have today. And I have spent 18 years in elective office.

Why? Because I am an American citizen and I have Constitutionally guaranteed right to engage the larger culture about the things I believe.

The rest of you should try it. Politics can be both honorable and holy work. All you have to do is put Jesus first and let the chips fall.

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