Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 7. Democracy = We Are Responsible

Democracy is not a lazy person’s form of government.

If your idea of good citizenship is watching the dissolution of our society from the sidelines like an insomniac staring at a late-night movie, you need to move to a dictatorship. Democracy is too much work for you.

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Contrary to popular attribution, neither Thomas Jefferson nor Patrick Henry said this first. The truth appears to be less glamorous.

John Philpot Curran first said, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and punishment of his guilt.”

Personally, I like Curran’s original wording better. It’s not as pithy as the more popular version. It won’t fit as well in a speech or the lead of a news story, but it says what needs saying.

Liberty is our natural state under God. If you doubt this, all you have to do is consider the extreme and absolute freedom He bestows on each of us. God does not force us to follow Him. In His own words, He sets before us life and death; right and wrong. But he lets us chose. He allows us to live our lives exactly as we decide to live them, even if that means committing grievous sin and turning our backs on Him.

Liberty is our natural state under God. But we live in a devil-besotted world that is stained and weakened by original sin. Thus, liberty, which comes from God, comes also with the requirement that we must guard it well or we will lose it.

No one wants to be a slave, but it seems that there are a lot of people who want to own slaves. Curran rightly says that if we stop tending our liberties, we will lose them and we will end in servitude.

In our generation we acknowledge that members of our military pay with their life’s blood for our freedom. What we don’t acknowledge is that the real threat to our freedom is not military invasion. No foreign power I know of is hankering to land on our shores with troops and armaments, and as Lincoln said, “by force take a drink from the Ohio River.”

This generation’s challenges to liberty come from our two political parties, our own government, our corporations and from our lazy refusal to fight for the democracy which is our inheritance. It feels good to blame the propagandists on our televisions, the amoral political parties and the equally amoral corporations who own them. Disrespecting politicians is an American birthright, a natural outgrowth of freedom of religion and speech. If we ever see the day when we can not make fun of our elected officials, we are doomed. But, worthless as they are, puppet people politicians are not ultimately to blame for this mess.

We may have, as Will Rogers said, the best government that money can buy, but the ones wearing the biggest price tag on them are not the politicians. The many millions that are lavished on political campaigns in this country are spent for one purpose: To buy us. By the time the campaigning starts, the puppet people politicians are already bought. They’ve been recruited, programmed and polished to a marketable level. Now they’re set before us for our inspection like new cars on a lot.

As I said earlier, the object of all this sloganeering, hate-campaigning, and propaganda is the manipulation of us, of we the people. Or, to put it more bluntly, the object of all this expenditure of capital and slime is our vote.

The one thing that those who want to control our government for their own ends fear is an informed and aroused citizenry. That’s why they spend huge amounts of money to feed us a steady diet of propaganda and lies. We have brains. We’ve got to think something with them. So, they spend enormous sums to fill our otherwise very good minds with half-truths and lies.

We are the products of an educational system that no longer teaches young people our American story. We’ve been taught to take multiple choice tests and not a lot else. Our educational system produces wave after wave of people who’ve never read an original source. We have large numbers of people with higher-level degrees whose entire education is the product of the digested and massaged bits and scraps of thought found in incredibly over-priced textbooks.

We have actually been taught to take other people’s pre-digested opinions about great thinkers as the works of the thinkers themselves. And we don’t have to understand these thoughts. All we have to do is exercise the totally-useless-in-life skill of getting a high score on a multiple choice test.

This is our educational system from early childhood through university level. It is nothing more than a trade school, or what we used to call vocational-technical education, on steroids.

That makes us prey for the propagandists and manipulators who want to confuse us into believing whatever sheep dip they’re dumping on us. Coming as we do from churches who preach politics rather than Christ, who sometimes preach politics as Christ, we are shorn of the moral underpinnings that would keep us from jumping headlong into abusive language, vicious slander and hate-voting.

We are, in short, easy pickings.

We can blame the manipulators, both secular and clerical, for misusing their enormous talents to do such harm. They are certainly responsible for what they do.

But ultimately, no matter how much money is spent manipulating us, it’s up to us whether or not we will allow ourselves to be manipulated.

We are Americans. We are a free people. That makes us responsible. We are responsible for what we chose to believe, how we chose to behave and whether or not we value our liberty enough to do the work and exercise the vigilance to keep it.

Liberty is our God-given right. The God of all the universe, the creator of creation from bottom to top, set us free from our beginning. He gave us such absolute freedom that we can accept or reject Him. We can do anything we want. We can create or destroy, think or blindly follow, live free or become slaves.

The equation is, again, a simple one:

Democracy = We Are Responsible

Obama Didn’t Blink. We Can’t Either.

I’ve found that evil usually triumphs…unless good is very, very careful.

–DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”

I’m going to take my time commenting about President Obama’s recent “compromises” on the HHS Mandate. I want to let the fur fly for a while.

In the meantime, here are a few facts and a couple of opinions that I want you to think about as we winnow through the political/media chaff.

1. President Obama did not offer this “compromise” because he was being a statesman. He was responding to the fact that his administration was under a court order to live up to its promises concerning the mandate. I wrote about this when it happened. You can find that post here.

A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

2. Hobby Lobby’s attorney made a statement to ProLife News affirming what many people had already surmised: The President’s “compromise” will not help companies like Hobby Lobby. I will put an excerpt of this statement and another link to it below.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

3. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is taking much the same approach to this “compromise” that I am. They want to read through it and think. Their statement says:

In response to today’s release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provided the following statement on behalf of the USCCB.

“Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”

4. I gave my initial reaction to the “compromise” yesterday when I wrote HHS Mandate: Did Obama Blink? My feeling then as now is that no, he did not blink. And we shouldn’t, either.

5. My opinion is that President Obama did the least he could do and still give an appearance of cooperating with the federal court order that his administration was under. I also think that his slave dogs in the media will tout this as the “great compromise” that it is not and that members of the public who either (a) worship President Obama, or, (b) hate Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular will follow right along with this obvious lie.

The article published by ProLifeNews about the statement from Hobby Lobby’s attorney says in part:

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans. The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated,” Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, said.

He said, “The Becket Fund continues to study what effect, if any, the Administration’s proposed rule has on the many lawsuits on behalf of non-profit religious organizations like Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.” (Read more here.)

Book Review: The World Needs Quiet People, Too

To join the discussion about Quiet, or to buy a copy, go here.

I am an introvert.

I am also an elected official.

Many people assume that this makes me a walking, breathing contradiction in terms, an oxymoron, a rarest of the rare. However, they are wrong about this. Most of the politicians I know — and I know a lot of them — are introverts.

I’ve only known a few true extroverts who actually managed to make it into office, and they usually drive the rest of us crazy with their other-the-top, always-on, go-go-going. While extreme shyness would certainly be a problem for a politician, introversion, with its ability to focus, reflect and think things through, is, in fact, a huge advantage.

Susan Cain’s excellent book, Quiet, describes introverts quite well. It talks about the need introverts have to spend time alone, the powers of reflection, concentration and self-direction that are such a part of the introverted personality. In an earlier time, this was called “reserve;” as in “She’s not shy. She’s reserved.”

That’s what the school principal told my mother about me when I was in first grade. Mama commented that I was shy, and the principal corrected her with the astute assessment, “She’s not shy. She’s reserved.”

Personally, I like the word “reserved” better than introvert for the simple reasons that it’s both less clinical and more accurate. As Ms Cain describes, reserved people tend to think things through before they leap. They are prone to analyze and consider a move before they make it.

While the world needs people who will jump right in there when the occasion calls for it, it also needs more reflective and deliberate thinkers working alongside them. The excesses of either personality type can be destructive if they are allowed to run unchecked. They need the balance of association with the other personality type.

As with so much of what works with people, our personalities perform best in tandem with one another. The hard-charging extrovert will drive you right over a cliff if there isn’t someone sitting beside them with a map to find the way.

Unfortunately, as Ms Cain notes, American society is wired for extroverts. This can be downright punishing for young children in our schools. I suffered with it a bit when I was little, but I grew up in a much less chaotic time. One of my own children — who had inherited a good dose of his mother’s reserve — experienced public school as an isolating and utterly miserable box. I remember at the time thinking that our schools were designed for only a certain type of child and that all other children were judged defective to the extent that they failed to be that one type of child.

I took my child out of this environment. My only regret is that I ever put him there in the first place.

According to Ms Cain, many reserved people are forced to struggle to imitate their extroverted colleagues, even after they become adults. Her descriptions of life inside certain corporate environments explains at least in part why I knew instinctively that the corporate world was not the place for me.

Quiet is a good read and a needed book. The author makes the point that many of the tragedies of American life, including the economic debacle of 2008, are at least in part a result of the unbalanced emphasis we place on extroversion. Human beings were made from our beginning to work together in community. Our various parts fit together to create a whole that is civilization.

The author implies, and I agree, that our society would benefit from acknowledging the value that introverted people bring to any endeavor.

I highly recommend Quiet. It raises important points. It also is a necessary read for teachers, parents, and administrators who must learn to bring the best out in their children, students and employees who are “reserved.”

HHS Mandate: Did Obama Blink?

I’ve found that evil usually triumphs…unless good is very, very careful.

–DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”

Franks Weathers, who blogs at Why I am Catholic, posted some interesting news this morning.

There are signs that the Obama Administration is reading the court-ruling tea leaves and has decided to maybe, perhaps, accede on the HHS Mandate — at least to the point of living up to a few of the promises it made in the past.

After misrepresenting the HHS Mandate all the way through the 2012 campaign (“It protects ‘women’s health.’”) and steadfastly ignoring the promises that it made concerning the Mandate, the administration may be backing down just a bit.

As Frank Weathers notes, the probable reason for this move is that the administration has been losing in courts around the land precisely because of these very public promises it made and then failed to keep.

I’m a little chary of this. I expect that the White House will pump out a few “compromises” that are designed to offer as little relief as possible. Then, it will trumpet this action as having satisfied every problem with the HHS Mandate. I then expect the press and the Pavlovian Church haters to follow through by casting these minuscule changes as acts of great statesmanship and a total resolution of the problem.

The trouble I foresee is that the so-called compromises won’t resolve the problems with the HHS Mandate. They will not end the attack it represents to religious freedom. What these grand compromises will effect is to weaken the case of those who oppose the mandate without actually granting them relief.

Of course, I could be wrong. President Obama may actually back down. He might even  decide that attacking the First Amendment clause about the government not interferring with the free exercise of religion is a bridge too far, a legacy he doesn’t want.

The reason I’m cautious in my expectations is that I keep remembering that this president lied to Congressman Bart Stupak and other pro life Democratic Congressmen when he told them that the Affordable Health Care Act would not interfere with freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Our president is a good gamesman. He plays the public and the press like a harmonica. But he also has a track record on this very issue of promising much and then delivering the opposite of what he promised.

I’m waiting to see what he says he’s going to do. Then, I’ll wait again and see what he actually does.

Frank Weathers has written a great analysis of the current moves by the White House which says in part:

Back in December, I shared thoughts that perhaps the Administration will scuttle this ridiculous rule out of embarrassment alone. I mean, the phony war on women trope worked well enough to secure reelection, but in reality, it isn’t holding up in the courts.

Most likely they won’t scuttle it, but heavily modify it instead. The courts clamping down on the Administration to produce their promised changes certainly puts the HHS under pressure to get this done. CNN has sources who say the modification is forthcoming.

To read more, go to The Administration Rolling Back the HHS Mandate? CNN Thinks Yes.

Also, Elizabeth Scalia has an excellent analysis of the President’s “compromise” here and Frank Weathers posted an update here.  It’s pretty much what I predicted, including the orchestrated hosannas from the press.

Will Legalizing Gay Marriage in Britain Result in Coercive Attacks on Freedom of Conscience?


Great Britain’s government will vote soon on gay marriage. Christians have expressed concern that such a change in the law might result in attacks on freedom of conscience.

Supporters of the measure have rushed to assure the public that such fears are groundless.

Now, where have we heard things like this before?

Oh yes. It was President Obama, promising that Obamacare would not infringe on religious freedom and individual rights of conscience.

That was only a few months before a hand-picked committee of the Health and Human Services Department “passed” the HHS Mandate, which the same president who had made these promises signed and then misrepresented to the American people as being about “women’s health care.”

Good luck, British Christians. Judging by what has happened elsewhere, you’re going to need it.

A Christian Post article concerning the upcoming vote on same-sex marriage and freedom of conscience in Great Britain says in part:

UK Government Source: Teachers May Face Firing for Refusing to Teach Gay Marriage
Katherine Weber (“The Christian Post,” January 25, 2013)

As Great Britain’s government prepares to vote on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, an official from the Secretary of State for Education’s office reportedly has expressed trepidation toward the bill, arguing that primary school teachers in the country could possibly lose their jobs if they do not teach about gay marriage in the classroom.

One unnamed senior source from the office of Michael Gove, who serves as the country’s current Secretary of State for Education, has recently said that ultimately the U.K. government is not in control, should a teacher lose their job for refusing to teach same-sex marriage, and the case would ultimately go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, where the European Parliament is located.

“We have had legal advice, the problem is that there is this inherent uncertainty about such matters,” the source told The Telegraph in a Jan. 25 report.

“These are all under the control of nine guys in Strasbourg, it is just fundamentally uncertain because Britain isn’t in control of this,” the source added.

Additionally, those critical of the upcoming same-sex marriage bill argue that hospital chaplains and other people in authority may be faced with difficult decisions when their conscience conflicts with their work protocol.

These statements come after human rights specialist Aidan O’Neill of the Queen’s Counsel argued on behalf of the Coalition For Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage legalization, that he believes teachers, hospital or prison chaplains would be negatively affected by the legalization of the bill.

However, in response to these worries, Maria Miller, Secretary of Culture and Great Britain’s equalities minister, recently stated that teachers and the Church of England will not be put in a compromising position due to the same-sex marriage bill.(Read more here.)

2013 Favs: Don’t Be a Jerk About It

Jerk

I’m an elected official, which is a spiffy way of saying that I’m a politician.

I am also a blogger.

It would seem, based on those two things, that I must have an opinion about every single thing in the known universe. But that’s not true. In fact, I actually don’t have an opinion about most things. I don’t care if you wear blue shoes or brown, if you shave your head or grow your hair down to your waist.

It matters not to me if you believe that the moon landing was a fraud or that your favorite food is spinach with Kool-Aid. We can still be friends, no matter if you love Bill Clinton or loathe him. Ditto for both Bushes and President Obama.

Here, for your consideration, is a small sampling of the things that I do not care about. Feel free to add your own list of what you don’t care about in the com boxes.

1. I don’t care if you wear a veil to mass. I’m not going to. But if you feel it’s a statement you want to make, whether it’s about sanctity, modesty, or fashion, then be my guest. I’m for you putting whatever you want on your own head.

2. I don’t care if you wear a beard. I only kiss one man and he’s the only man whose hirsutedness matters to me. The rest of you can go slick or bearded or some version in between. It is, after all, your face.

3. I don’t care if you think Halloween is verboten, or you’ve been designing your costume for months. That is your call.Don t be a jerk

Now we come to the I don’t cares with a caveat, and that caveat is, don’t be a jerk about it.

4. I don’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

5. I don’t care if you are a vegetarian or a meat eater. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

6. I don’t care if you are an atheist or an evangelist. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

7. I don’t care if you are gay or straight. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

8. I don’t care if you are a Protestant or a Catholic. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

9. I don’t even care if you are smart or stupid. But if you are smart, for pete’s sake, don’t be a jerk about it.

What, exactly, does “don’t be a jerk about it” mean? I could reference Jehovah’s Witnesses on Saturday morning. But, Jehovah’s Witnesses on Saturday morning do not even begin to sink to the level of self-righteous, mean-spirited, carping jerkiness that born again Republican/Democrat/vegetarian/atheist/gay/straight/protestant/Catholic/smarties can be. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses on Saturday mornings are, in my experience, unfailingly polite and soft spoken. I have never had one of them call me a single name for telling them that I can’t talk now.

The jerks I’m talking about have their pictures in the dictionary right next to holier-than-thou and cross referenced with bully, rude and vulgar.

The trouble in describing this particular flavor of jerkiness is that we’ve lost the common basis for what constitutes healthy human interaction. We can’t define it, so we also can’t define what it’s not. That allows jerkiness to reign supreme and run amuck and generally tip over tables and pour people’s beer in their laps and then tell them the whole thing is their fault since everybody knows that it’s “immoral” by the jerk’s code to drink Coor’s (Budweiser/Tap/etc) beer.

I think that the best way to handle this glaring lack in our common language is to go back a few decades, or maybe even a century or so, to resurrect the Victorian word “boor.”

Picture a Victorian lady with a plumed hat and gloves, carrying a frilly parasol and looking down her little nose at you and pronouncing,  “sir or madam, you are a boor.”

That fits, doesn’t it? It sounds so … entitled … when it’s contrasted with the relatively wimpy “you’re being a jerk” of our day.

And that is what’s lacking here. The jerks of the world have given themselves endless entitlement to practice their jerkiness on people who were minding their own business and didn’t ask to interact with them. They feel entitled to go banging into other people’s lives to throw insults and non-sequiturs around because … well, because they’ve told themselves they are entitled.

What we need is for nice people to get a little entitlement to match that of the jerks of the world. I don’t mean that we should join them in their behavior. I am not advocating that people fight the jerks by becoming jerks themselves. Maybe it’s time we just tell ourselves that we are entitled to, among other things, not listen to people just because they get in our faces and demand that we listen to them.

Maybe we should tell the boors, that if they persist in their boorishness, we won’t play with them anymore. They’ll have to take their toys and go play with the other jerks over in their yard with no grass and broken glass scattered around.

If, on the other hand, they can manage to stop engaging in their bullying, defaming, chest-pounding gorilla act and tame their inner jerk, they can come around.

I can do that, if you can. I can shut jerks down like slamming a lid shut. I can also let reformed jerks come play in my yard.

Because I don’t really care if someone is a vegetarian/republican/democrat/atheist/gay/straight/protestant/Catholic/smartie with a beard who wears a veil while putting on their Halloween costume to go denounce trick or treaters.

But I will not put up with them being a jerk about it.

Will Colorado’s Civil Unions Bill Encourage Religious Persecution If It Passes?

Opponents of Colorado’s proposed civil unions law raised concerns about the law being used limit religious freedom at a rally against the measure January 25.

Similar laws in other states have been used to force Catholic agencies to shut down.

What that says to me is that these concerns are legitimate.

A CNA/EWTN News article describing the rally says in part:

Denver, Colo., Jan 26, 2013 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Around 200 opponents of a Colorado civil unions bill rallied at the state capitol Jan. 25, warning that the legislation not only redefines marriage but could shut down Catholic adoption agencies in the state.

“We stand up today because we see that the real goal of civil union legislation is social endorsement of same-sex unions, and soon enough, the redefinition of marriage,” said rally speaker Kate Sweeney, assistant director of the Colorado-based Catholic women’s group ENDOW.

“Those with same-sex attraction have the right to live as they choose. But they do not have the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us,” she added.

Monsignor Thomas Fryar, the moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Denver, warned that the bill put religious freedom at risk.

“We have been involved in the state of Colorado for over 80 years in helping to take care of the children of our community and make sure they are placed in adoption and foster care in good, healthy, wholesome settings, for the good of our society,” he said.

Similar laws in other states forced the Catholic Church to end these programs.(Read more here.)

What’d I Say?

One of the neat things about writing for Patheos is that there’s no censorship here. I am free to write what I want and say what I think. That goes for the other writers. We go off in different directions all the time. There is no “official” Patheos position on what we say. Our thoughts are our own.

Take, for instance, a post that I recently wrote in which I referred to a small town here in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area called Valley Brook. I’m sure that the various Patheos writers would have taken many different positions on this issue.

Here’s part of what I said,

We have a whole town, called Valley Brook, here in Oklahoma that makes its revenue from prostitution under the guise of strip clubs. Nobody anywhere gets police protection like the strip clubs of Valley Brook. It appears on the outside that the Valley Brook Police work for the strip clubs.

I want to be clear about what I meant. I did not mean that the Valley Brook Police get direct money from the strip clubs that line the main street of Valley Brook. What I meant is that there are people who think that the police may be too zealous about protecting those strip clubs because it appears that the clubs are a major source of revenue for the town.

The Valley Brook police have a history of troubles, including a former police chief who pled guilty to drug charges last November.

While I want to state emphatically that I have no personal knowledge of prostitution occurring in the strip clubs at Valley Brook, and I certainly don’t want to make people think that I do, the town is the subject of jokes and discussion like this, this, this, this, this, and this about what many people say happens there.

There also have been arrests made by the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department (not the Valley Brook Police, whose offices are a few blocks away from this club) for “lewd behavior” at the clubs in Valley Brook. For that story, go here. Based on these kinds of comments, conversations, and arrests it is my opinion that the stories about Valley Brook are probably true.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 6. Preach Christ = Preach Christ Crucified

Where there is no vision, the people perish.    Proverbs 29: 18

 … and he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.     Mark 6: 34

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.   Luke 12: 48

 

Demagoguery is not preaching Christ.

Protecting priestly privilege is not preaching Christ.

Pandering to your parishioners is not preaching Christ.

Pandering to your brother and sister clergy is not preaching Christ.

Pandering to political parties and secular powers is not preaching Christ.

Protecting your career and advancement in the Church is not preaching Christ.

We are like sheep without a shepherd. In fact, we are more than like sheep without a shepherd. We are sheep without a shepherd. Telling us how to vote is not telling us how to live. It does not equip us to be the salt and light that bring the Kingdom. It does not grow our faith in Christ. What it does is gather political power to the person who is telling us how to vote.

We are lied to, manipulated, whipped up into hatred and degraded with cheap slogans instead of intelligent dialogue by the media, the two political parties and the various candidates. We don’t need more of the same coming at us from the pulpits in our churches.

We need Christ and Him crucified. We need clergy who will preach the revolutionary, civilization-building, soul-saving Gospel of Christ in all its fullness.

When clergy panders to politicians, no matter where they begin, they end by whittling the Gospels down to the parts that they can twist to support the political agenda of the party or politician they are following. They usually leave the cross over their altars, but they might as well not. Your god is who you obey. Your god is who you follow. If these failed shepherds were being honest, they would remove the cross from their churches and replace it with the Republican elephant or the Democrat Donkey.

Right-wing preachers, who toady to the Republicans, either ignore or belittle the calls for social justice that pertain to the poor in particular and everyone who is in need in general. They basically dropkick the Sermon on the Mount off the front step of their churches. They pull verses and even parts of verses out of context to justify and support blatant corporatism and the economic destruction of the people in order to enrich those who control the political party they follow.

Left-wing preachers, who toady to the Democrats, carry this a step further. Rather then using proof texts pulled out of odd places in Scripture to justify themselves, they tend to obliterate the whole book.

These folks are big on applying literary criticism to the Bible. This method of scriptural analysis is the systematic application of fantasy involving a confabulated “Q Document” and weighty-sounding but baseless judgements based on authorial style and voice. It’s a kind of web-spinning that produces wordy exegesis that is simply a theoretical construct erroneously presented as hard fact.

This convenient acceptance of literary criticism calls the entire Bible into question. It provides the intellectual gloss for what is simply cherry-picking the Gospels for the parts you find consistent with your secular values. Scripture that demands justice and sets limits on our sexual and social behavior is expunged.

Left-wing preachers drop-kick the law. Their right-wing mirror images drop-kick the prophets.

Between these two sets of bogus shepherds, there is nothing of the Scriptures left. They have successfully edited and challenged the entire Bible out of relevance to today’s society. They have obviated everything that gives them the right to hold their jobs.

Is it any wonder that everyone from atheists to zealot pro-abortionists flings proof texts at Christians? They take these verses out of context and apply them ignorantly, true. They have zero knowledge of how the whole of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation fits together to tell a single, albeit convoluted, story. They certainly don’t see that the Bible is always, no matter how far afield it may seem to go, about Jesus Christ.  They’re ignorant, and they can be almost comically bombastic, but it’s hard to get really mad at them. After all, they learned to do this from our own clergy.

We are not like sheep without a shepherd. We are sheep without a shepherd. We’ve got lots of preachers. We’ve got them on television, making millions and preaching a heretical political gospel of greed. We’ve got feel-good preachers, giving us a Hallmark card Jesus made of cotton candy and sticky glue. We’ve got others reviling, slandering and attacking those on the other side of whatever political spectrum the preacher in question supports. We’ve got them hanging out in their rectories, living cozy lives and getting by without ruffling feathers.

Pick your flavor. There’s a preacher out there who will give you a phony jesus to match.

Today’s church has reduced Calvary to an Easter egg hunt and a pretty pageant. It has sanitized the scandal of our God Who was subjected to the most shameful disregard society could mete out; Who was left weak and piteous, Who appeared helpless; a criminal.

The cross was shameful then and it’s shameful now. Jesus was not only wrongly convicted, he was beaten nearly to death; tortured, mocked, reviled and when He hung on the cross in agony, His tormenters stood at its foot and made fun of Him, mocked Him the more.

The cross is shameful, embarrassing, hard. Christ and Him crucified is the whole message of the Bible. If you don’t preach that, you are not preaching at all.

I think it’s pertinent to our discussion that Calvary was an actual event in history. The blood was real. The pain, humiliation, helplessness, degradation were all real. They happened. Jesus was flesh and bone, just like any of us. He felt every single bit of it. He endured both the physical pain and the psychological death of the aloneness of being weak and helpless in the hands of human monsters.

The people who did this were a bunch of lying priests and a cowardly politician, all of whom put their careers, their power, their vaunting self-importance, ahead of doing what was right.

We live in a world where it’s getting harder to follow Jesus with each passing day. Christians are slaughtered in a genocidal fury in many places, subjected to overt discrimination, harassment and constant fear of worse in many others.

Here in America elected officials are scolded if they mention Christ in public. The name of Jesus is subjected to public ridicule and mockery.  Rank and file Christians of every denomination feel compelled to self-censor their speech concerning their belief in Christ to avoid being belittled, shunned and perhaps endangering their employment.

This is our cross. We have been running away from it and we’ve got to stop. We must, in the name of Jesus, take up these challenges, which are the challenges of our time in history. It is not shameful to be attacked and belittled for following Jesus. it is an honor and a privilege. It is a blessing.

We need shepherds who will tell us this. We need shepherds who do not pander, are not demagogues, who are indifferent to both of the two political parties. We need shepherds who do not care about their privilege and self-importance, who are willing to put ambitions for their careers aside. We need shepherds who follow Christ, even if it is to the cross. We need shepherds who will preach Christ and Him crucified.

I give you a promise. I promise that if you stand up for Jesus, you will pay a price. I promise that if you preach Christ and Him Crucified, some of the people in your congregation will get mad at you. Your advancement in the Church may be limited due to your “fanaticism.”

For those of us who are not clergy, I promise the same. True discipleship of Jesus is, has been, and always will be about the cross. It is never a way to get rich or do well in this world.

We follow a King. But His crown was not a crown of gold and jewels. His crown was of thorns.

Today’s equation goes to the heart of the only solution that will lead our society out of its death spiral.

Preach Christ = Preach Christ crucified.

Don’t Take Government Money. Don’t Kiss Caesar’s Ring

“Do not take government money.” 

I have said this to every religious ministry who has given me a venue to speak ever since I came back to public office in 2002.

The only people who give you free money are people who love you, like your parents. The government does not love anybody.

Government money hooks you into government policies, including those that are anathema to you. Religious groups that take government money — and it does not matter which party is in power — will eventually face the requirement that they bend their knee to Caesar and kiss his ring.

I’ve seen leaders of whole Protestant denominations abandon things they have fought for like pro life in response to political pressure.

I remember a few years back reading that national Catholic Charities had received a huge grant from the federal Health and Human Services Department.

I was appalled.

I knew that this money would lead to demands that the Church compromise its teachings. Based on what I’d seen Protestant groups do, I assumed that the Catholic Church would accede to these demands. I thought the money would buy the Church’s moral and prophetic voice, the way I’d seen it buy other religious voices.

I knew that you can not be true to Christ and take government money. You. Can. Not. Do. It.

You can not be an authentic Christian leader and toady to secular power. You. Can. Not. Do. It.

I wrote a post Saturday in which I talked about our personal allegiances; our friendships. I said that sooner or later, you have to chose. You cannot maintain deep intimate friendships with anti-God people and follow Jesus. You have to chose.

This is a parallel post addressed to religious leaders. My point is the same. You cannot base your efforts to bring the Kingdom of God on politics and supporting politicians and political parties. You cannot follow a political party and follow Christ.

You have to chose, and I don’t mean sooner or later when the politically powerful rub your nose in the fact that you “belong” to them and demand that you abandon your beliefs for them. I mean from day one. You cannot bend the Gospels to fit the platforms and the behaviors of either political party and preach Christ.

You will either preach politics.

Or you will preach Christ.

But you cannot do both.

Many Catholic priests are just as guilty as their Protestant brethren of bending the Gospels to suit their politics. You find both Republican and Democrat apologists in their ranks.

They will spout Canon Law and attack good people who oppose the death penalty because, somehow, that isn’t being “pro life” enough about abortion. Not, mind you, that the people they attack support abortion, but that they aren’t focused on it to the exclusion of every other possible sin. Others will try to make us believe that ignoring abortion is the necessary price for concern for the poor.

This is bending the Gospels so they don’t discomfit the politics of one political party or the other. It is not preaching Christ. Both types of priest lead people astray from following Christ and teach them to follow politicians, instead.

The Church itself, however, has been amazingly faithful.

It didn’t take long for what went around to come back around concerning those federal grants. Before you could say three Hail Marys, the Church was embroiled in lawsuits and broadsides, demanding that it refer the women it was helping for abortions or lose the money.

“While the Catholic bishops were entitled to their beliefs, freedom of religion does not mean imposing religious doctrines on others with the use of taxpayer dollars,” said Sarah Wunsch, an ACLU staff attorney.

She was referring to a lawsuit to end a federal grant to Catholic Charities for work aiding victims of human trafficking. A few months after this lawsuit, the federal Department of Health and Human Services revised its guidelines for human trafficking grants to require all recipients to refer for abortion.

The Church could have done as so many others have and simply “wink-winked” its way through this. All it would take was a 3×5 card listing “abortion providers” tucked, ever so casually, into a pile of intake forms. Just touch your lips to the ring. It will be over quickly, and it won’t hurt for long.

Besides, “it was the law.”

That’s what the Church could have done. It’s what everyone else has done. It was the wide and easy way.

I’m sure the government coffers would have opened and rained down gold on the Bishop’s heads if they had just done this. It would have been money, money, money for whatever they wanted.

But they said no. They took the narrow road, the hard way.

The price is that the federal government is now attacking the Church with broadsides like the HHS Mandate.

There is nothing in the Gospels that says you must first acquire a government grant to help the least of these. Following Christ’s teachings means, among other things, that the Church must reach out to people like victims of human trafficking, regardless of what the government wants or does.

The Church has responded to this situation with a new ministry called Amistad.

“We lost a contract, but we’ve not gone away,” said Nathalie Lummert, special-programs director at the USCCB’s Office of Migrant and Refugee Services (MRS). “We’re taking a decade of experience and now are rolling out a new program that brings communities directly into the fight against human trafficking.”

I am so proud of my church for standing for the Gospels in the face of the federal government. I am just as proud of them for their concern for trafficked women and children.

The fact that the Catholic Church refuses to kiss Caesar’s ring on the one hand, or abandon the least of these on the other is, in my opinion, the single best hope we have.

A National Catholic Register Article concerning Amistad says in part:

WASHINGTON — A new innovative weapon in the fight against human trafficking and sex slavery is coming this year from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, more than a year after abortion politics led the Obama administration to kill federal funding for the Church’s top-rated outreach effort.

“We lost a contract, but we’ve not gone away,” said Nathalie Lummert, special-programs director at the USCCB’s Office of Migrant and Refugee Services (MRS). “We’re taking a decade of experience and now are rolling out a new program that brings communities directly into the fight against human trafficking.”

The new initiative of the U.S. bishops’ Anti-Trafficking Program is “The Amistad Movement,” an MRS program that puts the USCCB back in the fight against human trafficking in a major way.

Until 2011, the USCCB had directed a highly regarded, $15-million anti-trafficking program that networked victims with services offered by local interfaith groups, including the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services, as well as secular nonprofits.

The USCCB program came to a sudden halt, however, when the Department of Health and Human Services announced that “strong preference” would be given to groups that would refer all victims to family-planning services, including “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.” A Washington Post investigation revealed senior HHS political appointees threw out the strong recommendations of an independent review board to renew the USCCB’s contract and disqualified the USCCB over its refusal to reimburse groups that referred victims for abortion and birth-control services.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/u.s.-bishops-bring-new-weapon-to-human-trafficking-fight?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-01-28%2007:05:01#ixzz2JIFe2mvP


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