Young nuns talk about their vocations.
Atheists in London have started their own church, called The Sunday Assembly.
The first services were conducted by a stand-up comedian, whose homily seemed to amount to jibes at Christianity. The whole affair appears to have been topped off with a singalong.
And reflective of the deep human longings which atheism denies. People want faith. They need it. There is, in each of us, a God-shaped hole. We can try to fill it with all sorts of things, but nothing will suffice except God Himself.
I think that is why atheists are the most God-obsessed people you will ever hope to meet.They read the Bible more than Billy Graham, talk about Church teachings more than the Pope and generally talk/think and obsess over God more than a while monastery of praying monks put together.
Witness their bizarre obsession with commenting on this blog. It would appear that they want nothing more out of life than to come in here, dump off a load of mindlessly repetitive atheist rhetoric and start a few fights. Part of this is due to their equally bizarre evangelistic fervor, but most of it seems to be just a plain old obsessive/compulsive demand that I allow them to smear their insults and nastiness all over this blog.
They act like Public Catholic was the last lifeboat off the Titanic and they were standing on the tilting deck, fighting for their lives.
Now I read that they’ve put together a faux church in England, which has been so successful that they’re planning to open a branch office in Scotland. There are remarks about how they can now have the community of church without all that tiresome dogma.
Excuse me, but are they seriously contending that atheism doesn’t have a dogma? If that’s what they think, I challenge them to go to one of these gatherings and say something even slightly traditionally moral such as … ummm … abortion kills a living child. Say it and back off and watch the fireworks.
Atheists most certainly do have a dogma; and an ugly, death-dealing dogma it is.
There should be nothing odd about this, since atheism itself is based on the ultimate death-dealing dogma of turning your back on God. After you’ve done that, there’s not much death dealing left that can top it.
I don’t know if these atheist faux church services will continue to thrive after the novelty has worn off. I do know that during my anti-God period, I never once thought it would be a good idea to get up on Sunday morning and go to a singalong. Sleeping in on Sundays was one of the perks of my anti-God state, and I enjoyed it to the max.
However, if they do continue to draw crowds to these things, it won’t be long before they develop an official dogma of some sort. Atheism is not all that supportive of free thought. It’s also not all that supportive of freedom of action. My experience of associating with mostly atheists back in the 17 years of my anti-God period is that they are fiercely clannish and fiercely intolerant of anyone who disagrees with the core tenants of their disbelief.
This business of aggressively and openly attacking people of faith is new. Back in the day when I was walking with them, they shunned people of faith, made fun of them and lied to them, then laughed about it when they were together. The open attacks are a new flavor of atheism spawned mainly by the insult polemics written by a few of their tribe.
I don’t know of any sin that could have gotten me drummed out of that merry band of atheists. I mean it. Nothing offended them. Save one thing, which is what I did. I found Christ.
I didn’t have to tell them I’d found Christ for them to know it. That was my first intimation that there was more going on under the surface than any of us knew. My atheist buddies reacted to me after my conversion in much the same way that Tribbles react to Klingons. They were appalled by my presence.
That came as a big surprise to me, since I hadn’t said anything to them. I was a secret Christian at that stage, still trying to figure out what this new thing that had happened in my life meant for me. But they knew on a visceral and unthinking level that I had changed, and they reacted by getting as far away from me as they could. All they needed to add was to hold up an atheist A and shout “I cast you out, clean spirit!”
I know now that we were both dealing with powers and principalities, that atheism is not a simple intellectual choice, anymore than following Christ is a simple intellectual choice. Both of them involve a spiritual dimension that shapes our actions and reactions without our being aware of it.
I remarked once that God didn’t change what I did. He changed what I wanted to do.
The other side of this coin does the same.
In all my years of anti-Godism, I never experienced this, at least not fully. I think this was because I was never a true atheist. I didn’t actually pretend to be one. I made fun of believers, of Scripture, of traditional morality, but I always told people that I still believed there was a God. I even refused to do certain things and told people I still had too much belief in God to do them.
So I wasn’t even a pretend atheist. I was anti-God. I was also anti-religion. In fact, I would say that I was specifically anti-religion, with a side dish of God-can’t-or-won’t-help me.
God never deserted me in those years, never stopped calling me.
I don’t doubt that He’s calling many of the atheist cranks who are so frantic to climb aboard the good ship Public Catholic and lay waste to the place.
These atheist faux churches are a reflection of what St Augustine observed when he said, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
I pray that these lost souls will find their way Home to that resting place before they die. How tragic for them if they don’t.
The suggestion is late to the party, but it is about time it finally came.
The Roman Catholic Bishops here in America have finally asked Congressional supporters of religious freedom to do what they should have done in the first place: Make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in political “cliff” negotiations.
I’ve maintained all along that if the House Republicans had made the HHS Mandate the bargaining chip in the 2012 cliff fight over extending the debt limit, the HHS Mandate would never have gone into effect. It was one of those rare opportunities when political brinksmanship might have been about something besides the egos of the players and the wishes of the moneyed interests who control them.
What they did instead was engage in their usual fight to get more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.
The bishops have finally decided to call for such action directly. They sent a letter to members of Congress, asking them to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining point in the next found of fiscal cliff stand-offs.
All I can say is, it’s about time.
In fact, it’s past time.
It’s not easy for political outsiders to see through the smoke and mirrors of political maneuvering. But it appears that the bishops are beginning to figure it out.
As usual, I support the bishops in this 100%.
A Reuters article describing the bishops’ letter says in part:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their battle against President Obama’s contraceptives policy on Friday by urging Congress to use its fiscal debate to free religious employers from a mandate requiring insurance coverage for birth control.
In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested two provisions to extend existing federal conscience protections to the contraceptives mandate and strengthen the ability of opponents to seek vindication in federal court.
“The federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” wrote Lori, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions … in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government,” Lori added.
The conference also plans to send out an action alert via email and text message calling on supporters across the country to visit local congressional offices next week when lawmakers are home on break.
Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance coverage through group coverage plans for all contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the so-called “morning after” pill.
The archbishop’s letter underscored a growing sense of urgency among church leaders over the birth control coverage rules that are due to take effect on August 1 for religiously affiliated employers including universities, hospitals and charities.
The bishops have tried several times to get Congress to act over the past year, amid numerous protests and more than 40 lawsuits by religious groups and employers. But Lori’s letter marks their first attempt to use the debates over deficit reduction, the debt limit and government funding.
“To many people, this looks like the main must-pass vehicle going through Congress this year,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the conference’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. (Read more here.)
This week’s six quick takes include examples of the increasing hostility toward Christians and Christianity worldwide.
They range from government punishment of Christian business owners for practicing their faith in Great Britain, to the rise of government harassments and arrests of Christian religious leaders in Eastern Europe. Also included are remarks by the Dali Lama that seem to blame the victims of violence for their own persecution. He specifically pointed to the martyrdom of a Christian missionary in India in which the missionary and his two children were burnt alive as his example.
Please pray for an end to Christian persecution.
1. Open Doors has released is annual World Watch List. This list details the persecution of Christians around the globe. You can read it here.
2. Great Britain: Christian Bed and Breakfast Punished for ‘Discriminating’ Against Gays In a victory for the gay agenda, the Christian owners of a Cornish bed and breakfast lost their appeal against last year’s ruling that their policy of restricting double rooms to married couples discriminated against a gay couple.
But, while upholding that ruling, the Court of Appeal warned that a new intolerance should not take root against Christians because of their beliefs about sexual ethics. (Read more here.)
3. Eastern Europe: Persecution on the Rise for Christians in Eastern Europe Citizens of the former Soviet Union are facing growing restrictions on their religious freedom. On Wednesday a panel of experts in Washington reported that governments are closing more churches, fining and arresting their religious leaders, and destroying church literature.
“Twenty years ago when the Soviet Union fell apart, collapsed, when the Berlin Wall fell, everybody was sort of excited about all the future possibilities. Twenty years later we are again talking about freedom. What happened?” Victor Ham, vice president for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association Crusades, said.
The situation might not be a return to the Soviet era, but the signs spell trouble.
“Churches are being torched, crosses are being burned. There’s a lot of anti-Semitism, a lot of negative things appearing in the press about different organizations. So there’s some reason for concern,” Lauren Homer, with Homer International Law Group, said.
The atmosphere is thick with intolerance in these countries. Individual pastors are reluctant to speak out against abuses and restrictions. (Read more here.)
4. China: Christian Persecution in China Rises Over 40 Percent in 2012 ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian non-profit organization that monitors religious freedom in China, said in its 2012 annual report on Monday that the Chinese government continues its uptick of persecution against Christians in the country for the seventh consecutive year.
The report examines 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people, finding that persecution incidences rose 41.9 percent from 2011. Additionally, the number of people sentenced in cases relating to religious persecution jumped 125 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the group’s finding.
5. North Korea: Most Difficult Place on Earth to be a Christian For the eleventh year running, this is the most difficult place on earth to be a Christian. One of the remaining Communist states, it is vehemently opposed to religion of any kind. Christians are classified as hostile and face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution. There is a system of labor camps including the renowned prison No. 15, which reportedly houses 6,000 persecuted Christians alone. Despite the severe oppression, there is a growing underground church movement of an estimated 400,000 Christians. (Read more here.)
6. Dalai Lama’s Statements Against Conversion May Increase Christian Persecution Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, said he was against conversions and changing from one religion to another. His position is likely to be seen as support for the policies of the radical Hindu groups and the anti-conversion laws that exist in some Indian states.
During recent speech, he touched on the issue of conversions. “I do not like conversions,” he said, because they have a negative impact [on society]. “The two parties, that of the converted and the community abandoned by him, begin to fight.”
As an example of the negative influence produced by conversions, he cited the violence against the Australian missionary Graham Staines, burnt alive in his car with his two sons, and the violence and destruction still ongoing in Orissa and Karnataka.
This is not the first time that the Dalai Lama has spoken against conversions. Last November, at Christ University in Bangalore, he repeated a similar concept: on the one hand, he spoke of religious freedom and on the other of the need to avoid conversions: “Any religion – he said – should be limited to service-oriented interventions, such as providing people education and health care, not indulging in conversions.”
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who personally knows the Dalai Lama, comments to AsiaNews that the freedom to change religion is a fundamental human right and can not be obscured for any convenience. (Read more here.)
An intriguing article in the Shanghaiist speculates that perhaps China is considering revising their one-child policy.
This article is based on recommendations that came from The China Development Foundation, which is a government think tank. The recommendations include going to a two-child policy in some provinces this year and moving toward a national two-child policy by 2015.
Whether or not these recommendations will be enacted, it sounds as if they will still leave the decision of how many children a couple may have in the government’s hands. Up until now, this had led to government mandated forced abortions and other atrocities against women.
The Shanghaiist article says in part:
Xie Meng, a press affairs official with the foundation, said the final version of the report wil be released “in a week or two.” But Chinese state media have been given advance copies. The official Xinhua News Agency said the foundation recommends a two-child policy in some provinces from this year and a nationwide two-child policy by 2015. It proposes all birth limits be dropped by 2020, Xinhua reported.”China has paid a huge political and social cost for the policy, as it has resulted in social conflict, high administrative costs and led indirectly to a long-term gender imbalance at birth,” Xinhua said, citing the report. (Read more here.)
Gay marriage laws moved forward in legislative bodies in Illinois and Colorado this week.
Colorado’s civil partnership bill and Illinois’ bill that would legalize same sex marriage passed the senate in each state.
Both of these still still have to go before the respective state’s Houses of Representatives and be signed by the governors. In both states, the governors have said that they will sign the bills, if they get them.
The move to legalize gay marriage is moving rapidly on a state by state basis. I don’t agree with changing marriage, but I do agree with doing it in this manner. By going state by state rather than using a judicial fiat, the supporters of gay marriage are avoiding a fiasco similar to what happened with Roe v Wade.
However, I, for one, will not give up on traditional marriage.
I don’t expect to deal with the issue directly as a legislator. Oklahoma has a Constitutional provision, passed by a vote of the people, stating that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, so I won’t be voting on whether or not to change the law itself. There is also no groundswell for gay marriage in Oklahoma, so I doubt that I will vote on an attempt to amend the Constitution to remove this provision.
It would, for these reasons, be easy enough for me to have dodged the whole question. There is no requirement for me to write about marriage on this blog as I have. However, I think that the assaults on marriage are a special sort of challenge for today’s Christians.
That is why I have written and will continue to write about marriage. Marriage is the basic building block of society. It is how we provide a stable and nurturing environment for society’s children. The destruction of marriage is suicide on a societal scale.
I will be writing about marriage quite a bit in the future. I honestly feel I would be failing in my calling if I didn’t.
CNN has a good article summarizing where the push to legalize gay marriage stands. It says in part:
(CNN) —The Illinois Senate passed a measure Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage, voting 34-21.
The state House will consider it next. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has indicated that he would sign the bill.
Illinois would be the 10th state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage, according to Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization.
Three other states are considering similar legalization, said Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal. A bill has passed the Rhode Island House and been sent to the Senate. A proposal has been introduced in the Hawaii legislature, and another is expected in Delaware, Taylor said.
Five states, including Illinois, have civil union laws, according to Lambda Legal and the National Conference of State Legislatures. The others are Hawaii, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
He “appeared wan and spoke very softly.”
His homily was interrupted repeatedly by applause and he received a standing ovation.
A banner was strung at the back of the room reading “Grazie Santita” (Thank you Your Holiness.)
Today, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his last public mass as pope.
“As you know, I have decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me on April 19, 2005,” he said. “I did this in full liberty for the good of the Church, after having prayed at length and examined my conscience before God, well aware of the gravity of this act … I was also well aware that I was no longer able to fulfill the Petrine ministry with that strength that it demands …”
“… the path of power is not the road of God.” he added.
“ … I have felt, almost physically, your prayers in these days which are not easy for me, the strength which the love of the Church and your prayers brings to me …
“… What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ, whose care and guidance will never be lacking …
“… Continue to pray for me and for the future Pope; the Lord will guide us!”
And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth …
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …
I am going to die.
You are going to die.
Public Catholic has enough regular readers that it is a statistical certainty that at least one of us, perhaps more, will die this year.
Our souls, as the Scriptures say, will be required of us.
We have unbelievers who post on this board who tell us that nothing awaits us when we close our eyes on this world, that we will simply drift into the nothingness of non-existence, go back to the dust from which we came, and cease.
Our ending, according to them, will be our end.
But this, quite simply, is not true. I doubt very much that the nonbelievers who say it actually believe it. They use it as a ruse to hide behind when dealing with the existential miseries that their bankrupt philosophy imposes on them. It is an odd and sad outlook on life that finds its comfort in a studied hope for annihilation.
The truth is, there is no death for us. We are immortal beings who will live on past our bodies. Most of us sense this in a deep and incontrovertible way that can either comfort or torment us, depending on what we do with this innate knowledge of our own natures.
God is real. I have felt and known Him. I experienced His Presence in my life as an inpouring of love that I neither expected or sought.
But — and this is something that so frightens unbelievers that they invariably become angry when you say it — the devil and his evil are also real. It is not fashionable to say that. I’ve had members of the clergy chide me and tease me for believing it. But I do not doubt the reality of a malicious personality that hates the light and craves annihilation. I have felt his presence, too.
“If you eat of the fruit, you will not die” he told the woman, and like all really effective lies, this one was partial truth. You will not die … today. That was the truth of it. Turn your back on God. Defy Him. Do your own thing. And you will not die … today.
God lies, Satan told the woman, just as he tells us today. God lies to you when He says “Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or covet.” He doesn’t mean it when He says “Put no other gods before Me.”
He lies. Because he doesn’t want you to have the pretty things of this world, to be able to enjoy the sexual pleasures He created for you, to live as you choose with your own free and preeminent will. He lies, and you are a fool for listening to Him.
Because you are not dust. You are the Lord of creation, the master of your fate, the god of your own life. There is nothing to fear because there is nothing that matters. At the end of our days, there is nothing but nothing. We stop. And we rot. We are carrion meat that walks for a time. So we should, again as the Scriptures say, eat, drink and be merry.
Like all effective lies, this one contains a bit of truth mixed in with the untruth. “Eat and you will not die … today.”
“Ignore God now and there will be no reckoning … today.”
Because you are dust, and you will die, regardless of how you live. You can run ten miles a day and your heart will still stop at some unknown time in your future. You can eat spinach and beans and forego fast food and steak, but your arteries will still cease to pump blood on some day you don’t know yet.
You can break every moral precept in the Scriptures, and you will not die … today. You will live for a time and you may even appear to triumph over those who do not indulge their darker natures as you do. There will be no reckoning … today.
But God is real. He gives us every opportunity to turn to Him and live life His way. He lets us choose. He sets before us every day life and death, and He lets us freely choose which of these we want.
That is what Lent is about. It isn’t a matter of giving up candy or foregoing wine for forty days. It is not about wearing ashes on our foreheads like religious jewelry or meatless Fridays.
Lent is about conversion. It is about renewal by means of awareness that we need to be renewed. The penances of Lent are signposts to guide us to a knowledge that we are but dust and we have sinned, but that we are also immortal beings who will one day stand before the God Who made us.
Lent is a time of turning again to the roots of our being. It is going back to the garden and acknowledging that we too “are naked and ashamed” before God. We, too are, to paraphrase St Peter, “sinful men and women.” But instead of crying out as Peter did, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” We can say, “come close to me Lord, for I am your broken child.”
The difference is the cross. The difference between despair and trust is the certain knowledge that we are bought at a terrible price and we do not have to be masters of our own fate. We do not have to feel our way blindly through life with no idea of what is right and wrong. We do not have to die an eternal death. We can have life, and have it abundantly. Because of the cross.
Lent is a time of penance and reflection in which we take an honest look at ourselves and our tawdry righteousness. Lent is for turning back to the One who can save us from ourselves. We are preparing to go to the cross where we will stand in solidarity with the rest of humanity, united in our sinfulness and our great need of Him and His redemption.
Lent is not about giving up candy and meatless Fridays. It is rather our gentle foretaste of Gethsemane.
President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address tonight.
There were no surprises in the speech. Most of what the President said has been in the news for a long time now. In fact, several of his major proposals, such as gun control, have been the subject of presidential speeches or press conferences in the past few weeks.
I agree with some of his ideas and disagree with others. Quite a bit of the speech was filler of one sort or the other, either introducing people who the president felt would exemplify the need for his proposals, or in just illustrating and explaining what he wanted.
I’ve attempted to boil it down to a few quick takes to make it easier to see where he wants to take the country. We’ve already discussed several of these proposals quite a bit here on Public Catholic. I expect that we will go over some of them in even greater depth in the future.
In the meantime, here are my quick takes on the President’s speech. If you think I left out something important, feel free to bring it up in the comments section.
Jobs, Taxes and Wages
1. … we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful … we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.
2. I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.
3. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.
4. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.
The Deficit, Health Care & Energy
1. Reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.
2. Save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected.
3. My Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water
1. We must do more to combat climate change.
2. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.
Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Take a vote, and send me that bill.
1. Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.
2. I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.
al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Cyber Terrorism
1. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.
2. Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.
3. America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.
International Trade Agreements
1. We intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.
2. We will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.
The Military and Defense Spending
1. We will maintain the best military in the world.
2. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.
3. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.
Long Voting Lines
When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.
1. Background checks
2. New laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.
3. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets.