What is Wrong — and Right — With the Role of Faith in American Politics Today?

Reprinted with premission from St Peter’s List

What is wrong — and right — with the role of faith in American politics today?

Several Patheos bloggers took a shot at answering this question before the November 6 election. To be honest, I’m more interested in what you think.

Before we devise a plan for what we’re going to do, let’s stop and ask ourselves how we got here. This question is a good one for beginning the process of thinking that through.

You may have noticed that what I’m doing with Public Catholic is building. I am trying to build a community of thinking, committed Christians who can take on the culture of death and win. Before we can do that, we’ve got a lot of thinking and a lot of learning to do.

I want to focus specifically on what is wrong and right about the way Christians and Christianity have conducted themselves in the political process. People who are not Christians are welcome to participate if they offer constructive thoughts and forgo diatribes and canned attacks on Christians and Christianity. It’s ok to talk about ways that you feel the Church in particular or Christianity in general have failed or succeeded in their political activities. Just do it in a constructive, idea-generating way.

Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.”

What fruits do you feel that 40 years of Christian political activism have borne? Why do you feel this way?

What, in your opinion, is wrong — and right — with the role of faith in American politics today?

Planned Parenthood Sues Oklahoma Over Funding

As this LifeNews article shows, even in the reddest red state, the fight goes on …

 

The Planned Parenthood abortion business is suing the state of Oklahoma after state officials yanked taxpayer funds it received through a taxpayer-funded program that provides food for low income women and children. In October, Oklahoma officials dropped the abortion giant so it could steer tax dollars to legitimate agencies helping women and children in need.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health ended its WIC contract with Planned Parenthood, whose CEO thinks the decision was politically motivated. The letter from the Health Department to Planned Parenthood is signed by Chief of WIC Services Terry Bryce and dated September 27 and says the contract will not be renewed and is ending September 30, but gives an extension to the end of the year.

The state also de-funded the abortion company because Planned Parenthood’s cost per participant exceeded those of legitimate centers.

Abortion business CEO Jill June told the Tulsa newspaper, “We’re going to do whatever we can to preserve our ability to continue to serve these women and children, because we know that’s what they want and we know that we are a very good provider.”

Today, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed its lawsuit in federal court on Friday against Terry Cline, Oklahoma’s Commissioner of Health.

The WIC program brings in 3,000 people a month to the abortion giant, and will help women and children find the same services at a location that does not also refer women for abortions. (Read more here.)

Bishops Vow to Continue Fight for Religious Freedom, Marriage and the Family

Cardinal Sean O’Malley speaks at USCCB Assembly. Archbishop William Lori looks on. CNA photo

 

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2012 / 03:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the aftermath of the Nov. 6 elections, the U.S. bishops stressed that they will push ahead with defending religious liberty from the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which cannot be lived with as it stands.

“Currently the HHS mandate is on the books,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who leads the bishops’ ad hoc religious freedom committee. “That’s what we actually concretely have to deal with now.”

“And as it stands, certainly we would not be able to live with it,” he explained, “especially the four-part definition of what Church activity is.”

“That’s just not who we are, and we don’t find it appropriate for any government to draw lines in our mission where we don’t draw them,” Archbishop Lori said.

The archbishop explained that Church leaders are monitoring and engaged in the ongoing federal rule-making process that will determine how religious organizations are accommodated under that mandate, and as that continues, “our range of options will probably become a little clearer.”

Archbishop Lori spoke at a Nov. 12 press conference during the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.

He and other panelists reacted to the outcome of various ballot measures in the Nov. 6 election. The bishops explained that the Church does not identify with any one political party because Catholic social teaching transcends party agendas.

And Catholic teaching should not be seen as divided, added Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who leads a conference subcommittee on defending marriage.

He called it unfortunate that “a lot of our people view these issues politically, rather than through the lens of the Gospel.”

If Catholics saw societal issues through the lens of the Church’s social teaching and the common good, Archbishop Cordileone said they would see “the consistency among all these issues,” including life, the economy and immigration.

The San Francisco archbishop said he was disappointed at the outcome of referenda in Maryland, Maine and Washington state that approved a redefinition of marriage, as well as the rejection of a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in Minnesota.

“But rather than being a cause for giving up, it is a call to intensify efforts to strengthen and defend marriage,” he said.

The archbishop observed that “this election is a symptom of a much larger problem,” namely, that many people do not understand what marriage is.

“Marriage is not a matter of two consenting adults simply coming together for the state to ratify their romantic relationship,” he said. “Rather, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children born of their union.”

“It’s child-centered, and its meaning is written in our nature,” Archbishop Cordileone told the press. “It’s either this, or it’s nothing at all.” (Read more here.)

So … What does it look like from your side?

A reader brought me up short yesterday with the observation that Oklahoma is not the center of the known universe and what I experience here doesn’t translate so well to her life as a Christian in Seattle.

She had a point, and a good one. In truth, I am an expert on what it means to be a female, pro-life, Catholic, Democratic wife, mother, member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. It’s kind of hard to top my knowledge of that itty bitty piece of the universe. But in other things, other places, other ways of living … not so much.

I hadn’t looked too closely at the election numbers until yesterday. I wanted to wait until all the votes everywhere were counted and on the tally sheet. When I did take a look, I saw that the only state that went harder for Governor Romney than Oklahoma was Utah. Interesting, but not surprising. What did surprise me was how razor-thin the popular vote turned out to be.

President Obama targeted his race and drove up his electoral vote count. He did it with carefully selected wedge issues designed to appeal to urban voters in the big population areas of the electoral bread basket states of the country. He also clearly let the rest of the country go. His goal was to win.

Now, he has to govern. The way he won will inevitably make governing far more difficult than if he had been elected by a wider swath of the electorate. It also spells trouble for Democratic Congressional candidates who have to run for re-election in two years in states that were left off the list by their president.

Make no mistake about it: The electoral vote will elect a president, but the popular vote affects his ability to govern.

How does this relate to the reader’s comments about my lack of understanding concerning the life of a pro-life Christian in a blue-state environment like Seattle? Just this: Obama won Washington State with a healthy 55.8% margin, but he didn’t landslide it. Romney came in at 41.8%, which leaves a little less than 3% of the voters who either voted for third-party candidates or didn’t vote in the presidential election at all.

Don’t misunderstand me; President Obama won Washington State, and he won it decisively. But 42% of the votes cast still went to the candidate nobody but his mother wanted. Why, with 42% of the voters demonstrating that they are in some sort of general agreement with her, would the commenter feel so isolated?

She said, “Here in Seattle I espouse conservative pro life ideas and get knocked over the head called names yelled at, etc. Forget the party elites, you are a fool to try to compete here with if you are a conservative.”

That’s isolation. It’s also outrageous behavior on the part of those who are treating her this way. However, even based on my almost total ignorance of what it’s like to live anywhere except what is called “flyover country” by those on the coasts, I can see the truth of what’s she’s saying. In my very brief visits to areas like San Francisco and Seattle, I’ve heard some of the same.

Based on the statistics I’ve looked at, the big vote totals for President Obama came, not just from the states he targeted, but from the parts of those states that he targeted. He went for the urban vote and he got it. One method he used to engage voters in those areas was to use things like abortion, same-sex marriage and an inaccurate representation of federal funding for contraceptives as wedge issues.

He didn’t have to do much to engage the Hispanic populations in those areas. The Republicans, with their attacks on Hispanics in the past, had done that for him. All of this was layered on top a base of passionate African American voters.

I can see how any traditional Christian living in one of these cities would feel isolated, beleaguered and totally outnumbered. The President not only won the commenter’s town, he won it by going in-your-face with traditional Christians like her. That says plenty about what the comfort level in the community would be for a  pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious freedom Christian.

I can also see that someone who is living through that would feel more than a little bit of exasperation with me for assumptions I make based on life in Oklahoma. I’m not trying to equate my experiences with hers, or to say I know what I don’t, but I have had some experience with being hazed for my faith.

Even though I live in the reddest of red states, I am still a Democratic elected office holder. I get my fair share of what traditional Christians who live in places like Seattle encounter. But the commenter is right when she says it comes from party activists and not the larger culture.

Actually, here in Oklahoma, most of the criticism I get from the larger culture is for my more Democratic opinions, such as my opposition to the attacks Republicans made on Hispanics. My feeling is that wherever you live, if you follow Jesus, you’re going catch flack.

One thing I’ve learned from doing this blog is that the blah, blah, blah of those who attack traditional Christians is virtually the same everywhere. I don’t just mean that it’s the same both in Seattle and Oklahoma. I mean it’s the same worldwide. The intensity may vary. The freedom these people feel to attack Christians surely varies. But the verbiage is identical to the point of boredom.

We can discuss what this identical messaging from these people means another time. For now, let’s focus on what life is like for a traditional Christian in an urban, blue-state environment. How can a Christian be effective for Christ in an environment like this?

Since I don’t live in that part of the country, I need to learn from those of you who do. Feel free to tell me these things. I really want to learn from you.

Cardinal Dolan’s Speech to USCCB General Assembly

This is Cardinal Dolan’s address to the Fall USCCB General Assembly. I’m going to put the entire address here for you to read it. I will add one spoiler: There’s talk about bringing back meatless Fridays. How would you feel about that if it happens?

Here’s the address, from the USCCB website.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York,
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

Address given at the USCCB General Assembly Fall meeting on November 12, 2012.

My brother bishops,

Yes, we have “a lot on our plate” as we commence our meeting, urgent issues very worthy of our solicitude as pastors — the suffering in vast areas not far from here caused by the Hurricane of two weeks ago, the imperative to the New Evangelization, the invitation offered by the Year of Faith, and our continued dialogue, engagement, and prophetic challenge to our culture over urgent issues such as the protection of human life, the defense of marriage, the promotion of human dignity in the lives of the poor, the immigrant, those in danger from war and persecution throughout the world, and our continued efforts to defend our first and most cherished freedom — all issues calling for our renewed and enthusiastic commitment.

But I stand before you this morning to say simply: first things first. We gather as disciples of, as friends of, as believers in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” who exhorted us to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”

We cannot engage culture unless we let Him first engage us; we cannot dialogue with others unless we first dialogue with Him; we cannot challenge unless we first let Him challenge us.

The Venerable Servant of God, Fulton J. Sheen, once commented, “The first word of Jesus in the Gospel was ‘come’; the last word of Jesus was ‘go’.”

Fifty years ago, on October 11, 1962, Blessed John XXIII courageously convened the Second Vatican Council “the greatest concern of which,” he insisted, “is that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.”(Allocution on the occasion of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudet mater ecclesia).

We gather for our plenary assembly in our nation’s premiere see, at the close of the XIII Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, still near the beginning of the Year of Faith. Both occasions have the same origin, the same goal expressed by Blessed John XXIII: the effective transmission of the faith for the transformation of the world.

A year ago we began our visits ad limina Petri et Pauli. I know you join me in expressing deep gratitude for the extraordinary affection, warmth and fraternal care with which our Holy Father welcomed us.

But Pope Benedict did not stop with his gracious hospitality. No. He also gave us plenty of fatherly advice — for our ministry as pastors of the Church and our personal role in the New Evangelization.

Here’s an especially striking example from his first ad limina address: “Evangelization,” the Successor of St. Peter noted, “. . . appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extrawe ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization. As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ’s truth.”

As we bishops at the just concluded Synod of Bishops confessed in our closing message:

“We, however, should never think that the new evangelization does not concern us as Bishops personally. In these days voices among the Bishops were raised to recall that the Church must first of all heed the Word before she can evangelize the world. The invitation to evangelize becomes a call to conversion.”

“We Bishops firmly believe that we must convert ourselves first to the power of Jesus Christ who alone can make all things new, above all our poor existence. With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus’ disciples, especially us, his ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission. We are certainly aware – we bishops first of all – that we can never really be equal to the Lord’s calling and mandate to proclaim His Gospel to the nations. We… do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins. We are, however, also convinced that the Lord’s Spirit is capable of renewing His Church and rendering her garment resplendent if we let Him mold us.” (Final Message of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God, October 28, 2012)

The New Evangelization reminds us that the very agents of evangelization – you and me — will never achieve that abundant harvest Blessed John XXIII described unless we are willing and eager to first be evangelized themselves. Only those themselves first evangelized can then evangelize. As St. Bernard put it so well, “If you want to be a channel, you must first be a reservoir.”

I would suggest this morning that this reservoir of our lives and ministry, when it comes especially to the New Evangelization, must first be filled with the spirit of interior conversion born of our own renewal. That’s the way we become channels of a truly effective transformation of the world, through our own witness of a penitential heart, and our own full embrace of the Sacrament of Penance.

II.

“To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance,” declared the council fathers in the very first of the documents to appear, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. (SC, n. 9)

To be sure, the sacraments of initiation – - Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist – - charge, challenge, and equip the agents of evangelization. Without those sacraments, we remain isolated, unredeemed, timid and unfed.

But, the Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance — a repentance from within that can then transform the world without.

What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance.

We became very good in the years following the Council in calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.That, too, is important; it can transform our society and world. But did we fail along the way to realize that in no way can the New Evangelization be reduced to a program, a process, or a call to structural reform; that it is first and foremost a deeply personal conversion within? “The Kingdom of God is within,” as Jesus taught.

The premier answer to the question “What’s wrong with the world?” “what’s wrong with the church?” is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming . . .none of these, as significant as they are. As Chesterton wrote, “The answer to the question ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ is just two words:’I am,’”

I am! Admitting that leads to conversion of heart and repentance, the marrow of the Gospel-invitation. I remember the insightful words of a holy priest well known to many of us from his long apostolate to priests and seminarians in Rome, Monsignor Charles Elmer, wondering aloud from time to time if, following the close of the Council, we had sadly become a Church that forgot how to kneel.If we want the New Evangelization to work, it starts on our knees.

Remember a few years back, when Cardinal Cahal Daly led us in our June retreat? Speaking somberly of the Church in his home country, he observed, “The Church in Ireland is in the dirt on her knees.” Then he paused, and concluded, “Maybe that’s where the Church is at her best.”

We kneel in the Sacrament of Penance because we are profoundly sorry for our faults and our sins, serious obstacles to the New Evangelization. But then we stand forgiven, resolute to return to the work entrusted to us – as evangelizers of the Gospel of Mercy.

I recall a conversation about a year ago with one of our brother bishops, newly ordained, attending his first plenary assembly. I asked his impressions of the meeting. “Well organized, informative, enjoyable,” he replied, but he went on to observe that it was one moment in particular that had the greatest impact on him. It was during our closing Holy Hour, as he entered the large room next to the chapel, to see dozens and dozens of bishops lined up to approach the Sacrament of Penance. This new Bishop told me that he felt that moment had more of an influence upon him than anything else at the meeting.

Who can forget the prophetic words of repentance from Blessed John Paul II, during the Great Jubilee, as he expressed contrition – publically and repeatedly – for the sins of the past? He mentioned the shame of the slave trade, the horrors of the holocaust, the death and destruction wrought by the crusades, the injustices of the conquest of the new world, and the violence of religious wars, to name only a few.

I remember during the celebration of the 50thInternational Eucharistic Congress in Ireland last June, when Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Papal Legate, expressed this so forcefully as he spoke on behalf of the Holy Father at the penitential shrine of St. Patrick’s Purgatory: “I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness, from God and from the victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics. . . In the name of the Church, I apologize once again to the victims, some of which I have met here in Lough Derg.”

And so it turns to us, my brothers. How will we make the Year of Faith a time to renew the Sacrament of Penance, in our own loves and in the lives of our beloved people whom we serve? Once again, we will later this week approach the Sacrament of Penance.

And we’ll have the opportunity during this meeting to approve a simple pastoral invitation to all our faithful to join us in renewing our appreciation for and use of the Sacrament. We will “Keep the Light On” during the upcoming Advent Season!

The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent. Our pastoral plan offers numerous resources for catechesis on the Sacrament of Penance, and the manifold graces that come to us from the frequent use of confession. Next June we will gather in a special assembly as brother bishops to pray and reflect on the mission entrusted to us by the Church, including our witness to personal conversion in Jesus Christ, and so to the New Evangelization.

We work at giving our people good examples of humble, repentant pastors, aware of our own personal and corporate sins, constantly responding to the call of Jesus to interior conversion. Remember the Curé of Ars? When a concerned group of his worried supporters came to him with a stinging protest letter from a number of parishioners, demanding the bishop to remove John Vianney as their curé, claiming he was a sinner, ignorant, and awkward, St. John Vianney took the letter, read it carefully … and signed the petition!

III.

As I began my talk this morning, my brothers, so I would like to end it, with Blessed John XXIII.

It was the Sunday angelus of October 28, 1962.The message the Holy Father delivered on that bright Roman afternoon never even mentions the phrase New Evangelization.But it strikes right at the heart of the mission entrusted to each of us as shepherds.

“I feel something touching my spirit that leads to serenity,” Good Pope John remarked. “The word of the Gospel is not silent.It resonates from one end of the world to the other, and finds the way of the heart. Dangers and sorrows, human prudence and wisdom, everything needs to dissolve into a song of love, into a renewed invitation, pleading all to desire and wish for the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ. A kingdom of truth and life; a kingdom of holiness and grace; a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

How could we not see it alive in those holy men and women of every time and place, the heroic evangelizers of our faith, including most recently St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope?

We have beheld it in the Church’s unrelenting corporal and spiritual works of mercy, in the heroic witness of persecuted Christians, in the Church’s defense of unborn human life, the care of our elders and the terminally ill, advocacy for the unemployed, those in poverty, our immigrant brothers and sisters, victims of terror and violence throughout our world, of all faiths and creeds, and in our defense of religious freedom, marriage and family.

And, I have suggested today, that as we “come and go” in response to the invitation of Jesus, we begin with the Sacrament of Penance.This is the sacrament of the New Evangelization, for as Pope Benedict reminds us, “We cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire to conversion.” (Homily for the Opening of the XIII Ordinary General Synod of Bishops).

With this as my presidential address, I know I risk the criticism. I can hear it now: “With all the controversies and urgent matters for the Church, Dolan spoke of conversion of heart through the Sacrament of Penance. Can you believe it?”

To which I reply, “You better believe it!”

First things first!

St Martin of Tours and Building a Christian Counter-Culture

St Martin of Tours offers an example for Christians in these times of aggressive secularism.

According to a recent CNA article, Professor John Bequette, of the University of St Francis, says that “Martin of Tours challenged a dying Roman culture by presenting a radical Christian counter-culture.”

The article says in part:

St Martin of Tours gives half his cloak to a beggar.

Washington D.C., Nov 10, 2012 / 04:04 pm (CNA).- St. Martin of Tours’ “Christian valor” is an example of how to sustain and rebuild Christian culture in a time of “moral exhaustion” and cultural decay, theology professor John P. Bequette said.

“Martin of Tours challenged a dying Roman culture by presenting a radical Christian counter-culture, rooted in Christian valor,” Bequette, a professor at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind. wrote in Crisis Magazine Nov. 8.

“This re-orientation saved what was truly worthwhile of Roman culture and give it new life within the emerging Christian culture.”

“As Christians, we have a responsibility to build a distinct, living culture in the twenty-first century, just as our forebears had the same responsibility in their time, a culture which will manifest itself in education and humanitarian institutions.”

Bequette recounted the life of St. Martin of Tours in the fourth century Roman Empire, comparing it to the contemporary United States.

He said the Roman populace had lost its traditional civic devotion and its readiness to sacrifice, instead engaging in “an impoverished attitude of hedonism and self-promotion.”

“The cultural foundation of Rome was disintegrating, and since political life follows culture, Roman civic life was collapsing,” he said. The Catholic Church was cultivating “an alternative culture and alternative civic life” by “transforming what was good in the Roman legacy .” ….

…. Bequette said that in the present day the Church is “increasingly under attack by a new, secular imperium which would strip the Church of her right to evangelize, educate, and minister.”

“This new imperium is possessed of the same ferocious hostility that beset the Church in reign of the pagan emperors,” the theology professor concluded. “In the face of this new, militant paganism, may God grant us the full measure of the Christian valor of Saint Martin of Tours.” (Read the full article here.)

After Long Battle and Theft, Veterans’ Cross Goes Up Again


This Associated Press story by Julie Watson highlights the sacrifices of our veterans and the fact that the freedoms they fight for are endangered here at home as well as abroad.

By JULIE WATSON Associated Press Writer
November 12, 2012 (AP)
A war memorial cross that once stood on a rocky hilltop in a national park before being deemed unconstitutional and ordered removed was resurrected on Veterans Day at the stunningly stark Mojave desert site, capping a landmark case for veterans fighting similar battles on public lands.

Henry Sandoz, who cared for the original 1930s cross as part of a promise to a dying World War I veteran, rededicated a new, 7-foot steel cross on the same hilltop before more than 100 people. The site is now in private hands as part of a land swap with the National Park Service that ended the longstanding legal dispute, which had become entangled in the thorny issues of patriotism and religion.

“Judges and lawyers may have played their roles, but it was the veterans who earned this memorial, and it is for them it rises once more,” said attorney Hiram Sasser of the Texas-based Liberty Institute, which represented veterans in the legal fight.

The settlement approved by a federal judge in April permitted the Park Service to turn over the acre of land known as Sunrise Rock to a Veteran of Foreign Wars post in Barstow and the Veterans Home of California-Barstow in exchange for five acres of donated property elsewhere in the 1.6 million acre preserve, about a four hour-drive east of Los Angeles.

The donated land was owned by Sandoz and his wife, Wanda, of Yucca Valley.

Sandoz, 73, has cared for the memorial as a promise to World War I veteran, Riley Bembry, who with other shell-shocked vets went to the desert to help heal and erected a wooden cross on Sunrise Rock in 1934. It was later replaced with a cross made of steel pipes.

Then Sunrise Rock became part of the Mojave National Preserve in 1994, putting the Christian symbol on public land.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2001 on behalf of a retired Park Service employee who argued the cross was unconstitutional on government property because of the separation of church and state, and federal courts ordered it removed.

Congress stepped in and ordered the land swap in 2003, but the courts rejected the transfer. The issue made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in April 2010 refused to order the cross removed. The high court directed a federal judge to review the congressional land transfer plan.

The decision was the latest on the issue by a Supreme Court that has signaled a greater willingness to allow religious symbols on public land amid a number of legal challenges in recent years by civil liberty activists and atheists.

Weeks after the 2010 court decision, the cross — which had been covered up to comply with court injunctions — was stolen. The stolen cross turned up earlier this month in the San Francisco Bay area tied to a fence post. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department plans to return the cross.

But veterans decided to start fresh and dedicate its replacement in Sunday’s ceremony, (Read more here.)

Red Sky At Morning …

Red sky at morning …

Long before this election, I felt that our religious leaders had focused too much of their attention on helping political parties gain power and too little on preaching and teaching their followers to follow Christ. One of the commenters on this blog made the point that it seems as if we have “two different ‘types’ of Christians.”

I believe that is a direct result of religious leaders in the different denominations cutting the Gospels down to fit the party platforms of either the Democrats or the Republicans. They have taught this false Gospel to their trusting followers for decades. The result is a Body of Christ that doesn’t follow Christ. It follows political parties and calls that following Christ.

The following article from CNA Daily News quotes various pro life leaders as they try to deal with the new political realities. Part of those realities is that the decades-long strategy of packing the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade is now officially a failure. Another reality is that the new administration is openly hostile to religious freedom and has already taken a huge step toward truncating it with the HHS Mandate. Yet another reality is that Christians’ over-concentration on party politics has not converted the culture. While our religious leaders have led us into the heresy of ballot box righteousness, the larger culture has been literally going to hell.

I’m going to spend a lot of time these next few weeks, encouraging Public Catholic readers to work together to examine these problems and gather our strength and resolve to move forward from here. But first, I think we should follow the advice that Billy Graham and the Catholic bishops have given us. We are called to repentance and prayer. That includes me and you and every single one of us. Before a Christian tries to do God’s work in this world, they get right with God.

It’s fortuitous that Advent is coming in a few weeks. I think that is the perfect time to examine our consciences in a deep and honest way and cleanse ourselves of the many ways in which we have not followed Christ. Until then, I would like to spend a couple of weeks, just re-hashing and healing. Thanksgiving is coming and nothing should dampen our joy at this uniquely American family holiday.

As for today, it is Sunday. The Lord’s Day. Do not waste it. Use this day to relax, pray and enjoy your life, your family and the sweet peace of knowing that you follow a risen Lord.

The CNA Daily News article says in part:

CNA Daily News 11/9/12 5:11 AM US
Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2012 / 04:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite pro-life setbacks in the Nov. 6 election, there is still hope and ample opportunity for progress in promoting a culture of life in the coming years, pro-life advocates are saying.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, explained that the election “confirmed for every pro-lifer that we cannot rely on politicians to abolish abortion.”

“We first must change the culture and then the culture will shape our politicians and laws,” she told CNA.

On Nov. 6, President Barack Obama was elected to a second term by the American people after committing himself to furthering tax-payer funded abortion without restrictions.

Deep political divisions between the U.S. House and Senate also make it unlikely that major federal pro-life legislation will pass in the coming years.

At the state level, a Florida measure that would have prevented taxpayer funds for paying for abortions failed, while a parental notification law for girls under 16 seeking an abortion in Montana was passed. An attempt to repeal the death penalty in California also failed to win voter approval.

But Hawkins believes there is still important work to be done in changing minds and hearts across America.

The election “showed that we can’t be afraid to talk about these ‘hard issues,’” she said, pointing to the Democratic Party’s strong emphasis on abortion at its national convention and throughout the campaign.

The Republican Party failed to respond with an equally strong emphasis, she said, and exit polls indicate that “there were a lot of pro-lifers missing” on Election Day.

“We need to march forward, courageously, doing what we have been doing for the past four years,” Hawkins asserted. She listed her priorities as reaching out to women in need, spreading the pro-life message and working through local efforts to expose and de-fund Planned Parenthood and remove its presence from schools.

“We need to work to develop better alternative and resource centers in our communities, so no women is ever forced to sacrifice her kids to and to put her life in the hands of Planned Parenthood,” she added.

Hawkins also stressed the importance of reaching out to young people. While support for Obama was down from 2008 among young voters, the president still captured a significant majority of the youth voting bloc.

“There is much more work to be done educating young people about abortion,” she said.

While Gallup polls indicate that this generation of young people is pro-life, it can be difficult for them – having been taught all their lives that truth is relative – to move from the understanding that abortion is wrong to the conviction that abortion should be illegal, she explained.

“We must continue forward, speaking to our young people about their worldview, why life is intrinsically valuable, and how making a horrific act such as abortion illegal is the morally right thing to do,” she said.(Read more here.)

The Price

Dietrich Bonnhoeffer lived and died in a time when much of the Church, both Protestant and Catholic, failed abysmally.

I’ve read that there were actually churches in Nazi Germany who took the cross down from over their altars and replaced it with the Nazi Swastika. Even many of those who did not do this in the physical sense did it in the moral and spiritual sense.

There were other Christian leaders who knew the Nazis were wrong and wanted to oppose them, but they confounded themselves by trying too hard to compromise and work with Hitler. They had the mistaken notion that they could find a way out of the crisis that didn’t involve going directly against the state.

Martin Niemoller’s famous quote was a result of his too-many and too-protracted attempts to negotiate with Hitler.

It should be remembered that Niemoller spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps. He was not a failed pastor or a failed Christian. He was simply wrong in his early understanding of the evil he was dealing with.

Here is Niemoller’s quote. It conveys a thought that Christians today need to consider quite seriously.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Bonnhoeffer, on the other hand, saw the dangers of Hitler and the Nazis early on. I often wonder what would have happened if the churches of every denomination in Germany had united and stood against Hitler’s murderous intentions from the beginning. Would he have succeeded in wreaking the havoc on the world that he did, or would the German people have forced him to alter his course?

Bonnhoeffer’s famous descriptions of cheap and costly grace are pertinent for American Christians today. Here they are:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Rev Billy Graham Calls Christians to Repentance and Prayer in Wake of Election

Billy Graham wrote a letter to America after the election this week which I think we should all read. He calls Christians to repentance and prayer. He asks us specifically to pray for America, for our leaders and for one another.

He also announced that he and his son, Franklin Graham, are starting a ministry called New Hope. They plan to “bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every possible place in America” during the next year.

This dovetails so well with the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization inaugurated by the Holy Father that I believe it signifies the Holy Spirit, speaking with one voice through the people He has given us as shepherds. It is time for Christians to unite and stand for Christ together. I feel the leadership to do this is stepping forward. It is up to us to be wise followers.

Here is Billy Graham’s letter in full. You can read more about it at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

A Fresh Vision for America
BILLY GRAHAM CALLS NATION TO REPENTANCE AND LASTING HOPE IN JESUS CHRIST

November 8, 2012 – A day after turning 94, Billy Graham writes: “I plan to spend the next 12 months, if God permits, doing all that I am able to do in helping to carry out a fresh vision God has given us—a vision to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every possible place in America by the time of my 95th birthday.”

At the climax of My Hope one year from now, if God enables me, I want to call the entire nation to repentance and lasting hope in Jesus Christ.

From the Desk of Billy Graham

All of us care a great deal about our country. The intensity of opinions and feelings during the long political campaign showed the depth of that concern.

Now with the votes counted, it is important to remember that whether we are personally pleased with the outcome or not, God wants us to pray for those chosen to be our leaders—at the national, state, and local levels. The Bible urges us to do so with both respect and thanksgiving (see 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Timothy 2:1–3).

We must also remember that no election will ever solve America’s most basic problems. That is because the trouble, at its root, is in the human heart, and the only path to true restoration—for a person or for a nation—is through repentance. The Bible says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20, ESV).

Only the Gospel, God’s Good News, has the power to change lives, heal hearts, and restore a nation.

I want that to happen in America, and I know you want that as well. I turned 94 on the day after the election. Although my age and health have limited me physically in recent years, I plan to spend the next 12 months, if God permits, doing all that I am able to do in helping to carry out a fresh vision God has given us—a vision to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every possible place in America by the time of my 95th birthday. It’s called My Hope, and I pray that you will partner with us.

In the days of the Prophet Jeremiah, God commanded His people to “seek the peace and prosperity” of the land where He had placed them and to “pray to the Lord for it” (Jeremiah 29:7, NIV). I ask you to join me in committing the next 52 weeks to faithful, even fervent, prayer for this land in which we live. You can start by making a list of people you know personally who need Jesus Christ and then begin praying regularly for them, individually by name.

Pray also for your neighborhood and your city, asking God to bring men, women, teens, and children—people from your own community—to Himself during the next 12 months. And pray along with me for the nation, asking God for mercy on America and for a great spiritual awakening.

My son Franklin is spearheading this vision and outreach, working in partnership with thousands of churches across every state in the country (ask your pastor if your church plans to take part). Franklin will be sending you more details on how this will work through the coming months and how you can participate.

At the climax of My Hope one year from now, if God enables me, I want to call the entire nation to repentance and lasting hope in Jesus Christ. The message I give will be presented in a fresh format, different from preaching at a Crusade, but the same Gospel. I believe we will see God work in a mighty way.

It is my passionate, heartfelt desire to see God change hearts and lives in every community in America, and I pray He will stir the same desire in you.

Will you join Franklin and me in this bold venture?

May God bless you,

 

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

Archbishop Chaput: Catholics May Not Be Able to Support Either Republicans or Democrats

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says that when it comes to voting, Catholics may not be able to support either the Republicans or the Democrats, now and in the coming years.

“The day may come when Catholics can support neither of the main American political parties or their candidates. Some think it’s already arrived,” Philadelphia’s archbishop wrote in a Nov. 6 essay for The Witherspoon Institute.

“Serious Catholics” who believe in the Church’s teaching on social and life issues “can’t settle comfortably in either political party,” he remarked.

But this is nothing new, Archbishop Chaput said, adding that Christians find their home and hope in heaven.

Saint Augustine, he recalled, “wrote the ‘City of God’ to remind us that we’re Christians first, worldly citizens second. We need to learn—sometimes painfully—to let our faith chasten our partisan appetites.”

The political tensions that Catholics are experiencing today flow from the cultural problems of individualism and a lack of virtue, he said. “In feeding the sovereignty of the individual, our public leaders fuel consumer self-absorption, moral confusion, and—ultimately, as mediating institutions like the family and churches wither—the power of the state.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded his column by calling on Catholics to live their faith, and so heal the culture. “In this Year of Faith, she (the Church) invites Catholics to a great new evangelization … our ambition must be to repair a culture of unbelief and to heal the inhuman politics that flows from it.”

“And if we can’t achieve that in concert with our fellow Christians, then we can at least live the Gospel more faithfully ourselves. It’s time, and long past time, to close the gap between our words and our actions; our preaching and our practice.”

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=6507#ixzz2BqcFXdNu

 

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

Standing Our Ground for The First Freedom


I’ve been saving this.

I’m not a seer. I don’t have a crystal ball. But I knew a couple of weeks out that President Obama was likely to be re-elected. I also knew that if I was right, we’d all need leadership from our bishops.

I guess they thought the same thing. The USCCB launched a website for religious freedom, FirstAmericanFreedom.com just before the election. We were all so caught up in casting our votes that I thought it would be better to wait and share it with you after the dust had settled a little.

There’s a message in this website, a partial answer to the questions I’ve been asking and the things I’ve talked about here and here. The answer, the plan, the message is this:

Stay the course.

If you are Christian and you know it, stay the course. Stand your ground. Re-think. Re-tool. Re-assess. Change your tactics to fit reality. But do not back down, go away or stop standing for Christ.

In fact, I would go the other way with this. I think one thing that has brought us here is that so many Christians are, in the words of Thomas Paine, “sunshine patriots and summer soldiers” in the cause of Christ. We must always be kind. We are required to avoid slandering and attacking other people personally. But we must also not back up, give up or quit in the hard work of being the light of Christ in a fallen world.

We cannot compromise the faith for anyone; including our political parties and our friends. Now is not the time to go along to get along. Now is the time to stand our ground for Christ.

Check out FirstAmericanFreedom.com. You might also drop you own bishop a note, telling him that he has your support in this great fight for the religious freedom of all Americans.

Battle for the GOP: Will Republicans Dump Pro-Life Issues?

That didn’t take long.

According to a LifeNews article, Republican political consultants are “calling on the GOP to abandon pro-life issues.”

The article goes on to explain all the reasons why this would be a foolhardy move for the Grand Old Party. I’m not going to go through those arguments. I’m not writing this blog for the people who run either of the political parties.

What I will say is, I told you so.

I’m not prescient. I have no crystal ball. But I work alongside Rs every day. Given the centralized way the Republican Party functions, working with Rs in Oklahoma plugs me into the party thinking from all over these United States of ours. What I mean by that is that local Rs take their positions, get their legislation and even their talking points from think tanks and centralized leaders who also give the same instructions to all other Republican elected officials.

The Democrats did not use this model at all until about 10 years ago. I know. I’m a Democratic elected official. They started moving toward it in the wake of Republican victories early in the 21st Century. The reason? It worked.

Now you have people running for local offices in both parties who have their campaign pieces printed and mailed from centralized party campaign headquarters that may be (in Oklahoma, they always are) thousands of miles away from them and their voters. Many times the candidate not only doesn’t approve the ad, they are downright appalled by it when it airs.

I’ve been spared this, largely because no one in the official end of the Democratic Party likes me enough to “help” me. The party faithful have done their best to defeat me in elections. The chances that the party machine is going to come swooping in to “help” me are slim to none. Think clouds and silver linings.

Both parties are somewhat controlled by centralized committees and think tanks; the Rs almost totally, the Ds becoming more so. Even though the Ds are moving rapidly in this direction, they still don’t have the party control two-step down as well as the Rs. We still write our own speeches, and some of us still get ourselves elected in do-it-yourself campaigns. Most of the Rs were beamed into office and not only don’t think for themselves, they don’t understand politics and the job of legislating well enough to be able to think for themselves, even if they wanted to.

I’ve seen these people get yanked around by party analysts over and again. One of the most ugly was when the money men who run the party showed their true colors on pro life issues. These money men not only aren’t uniformly pro life themselves, a lot of them are openly aligned with groups like Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has drawn its governing boards from among the wealthy in whatever communities it resides since Margaret Sanger began the organization. They interlock their boards with medical associations, chambers of commerce and, more importantly, the most powerful people in the various chamber’s back rooms.

A good percentage of the money men who actually own the Republican Party don’t like the party’s position on social issues. They don’t agree with them. They’ve been willing to put up with campaigns that were run on these issues because what they wanted was to control the power of government. Those issues delivered it to them. It worked. Now, they’re not so sure that it’s continuing to work.

I knew the pressure to dump social issues would start after the election was over. I knew it because I’ve seen this same pressure being applied to Republican office holders even before this election.

All this goes back to something I’ve been saying for a while. Don’t make a false god out of your political party. Don’t bend your knee to the R and the D. Without us, without our votes, both political parties are empty shells. Do not give them your vote or your support in a blind fashion.

Christians are going to have to “chose this day who we will serve.” We’re going to have to make this decision over and over as challenges rise from within our political parties, our circle of friends, our jobs, even our families and for some of us, our churches themselves.

My advice … my request … is that if you are a Republican, you need to contact the RNC and let them have it for even considering dumping pro life issues. Send them an email by going here.

Christian Persecution: What Does the Election Mean to Christian Freedom?

Standing Against Christian Persecution

What does Tuesday’s election mean to Christians?

We have two polarized political parties who have demonstrated repeatedly that their only concern is battling one another. One of them is increasingly hostile to traditional Christians, the other patronizes us.

The question: What does this mean for Christians in the years ahead? Will we be able to continue with our many ministries which serve the poor, provide health care and education without bowing before the false idols of government demand? Will we be able to speak about our faith openly on college campuses, at work and in public discourse without being harassed and penalized?

How many Christians will side with those who seek to limit Christianity and push us from the public sphere? Who among us will chose political party affiliation over following Christ? Who will chose popularity and keeping their friends over following Christ?

We are harassed, hazed, verbally assaulted right now. We see our faith and our beliefs openly insulted everywhere from cable tv to our workplaces. Much of the things that are said about Christians and Christianity today is clearly hate-speech. That is now. It is happening today.

What will happen now? The HHS Mandate was a bold move into the territory of government control of religion. What will be next?

I’m going to leave this open and let you give me your ideas. Please avoid fear-mongering. Let’s just think about what we honestly believe might happen so that we can begin to develop our ideas for how we will take a stand against it. Those who come on here to try to use this conversation to insult and offend Christians and Christianity will be deleted. Play nice and talk it through. I want to hear what you think.

 

Christian Persecution: UK Commission Refuses Charity Status to Church Over Communion

The UK Charity Commission is refusing to grant charitable status to a church because it restricts communion services to members only.

Parliament is currently holding hearings on the matter.

In a letter to Plymouth Brethren church leaders, the Commission cited a recent court decision to suggest that religion does not serve the public good.

“This decision makes it clear that there was no presumption that religion…is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England,” the Commission said in the letter.

A conservative member of Parliament said the Commission is, “Committed to the suppression of religion.”

A LifeSiteNews article reads in part:

LONDON, November 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Conservative Party MP has accused the government’s Charity Commission of attempting to suppress Christianity after the group denied charitable status to the Plymouth Brethren, a small denomination of conservative evangelicals. MP Charlie Elphicke has said that the Charity Commission has stepped outside its mandate telling the Brethren that their religion is “not necessarily for the public good”.

In a letter to the community, the Commission wrote of a tribunal decision that found “there is no presumption that religion generally, or at any more specific level, is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England”.

The Plymouth Brethren, of which there are about 16,000 adherents in Britain, have said they intend to pursue their dispute to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary. They have been embroiled in the dispute with the Commission for seven years since the Commission refused charitable status to one of the group’s churches in Devon. The group engages in street preaching, distributing bibles and visits hospital patients. These activities, said Garth Christie, an Elder in the group, more than qualifies them for charitable status under the “advancement of religion” clauses.

The matter became public when the Public Administration Select Committee discovered the letter as part of materials released as part of their investigation into the decision-making processes of the Commission.

The Charity Commission alleges that the group’s rule of only giving Holy Communion to full members means that their services are not open to all, a charge which the Brethren deny. The Brethren say that their public services are offered to everyone regardless of religious affiliation. If it is upheld, the rule could be extended to the Catholic Church which also officially restricts Communion reception to members.

The letter has promoted Elphicke, a member of the Select Committee, to call the Commission’s policies “anti-religion” and said that it is more evidence that it is a waste of public funds. Members of the Plymouth Brethren were giving evidence to the committee and Elphicke asked, if they thought the Commission was “actively trying to suppress religion in the UK, particularly the Christian religion”.

Christie responded, “I think we would share those concerns.” He agreed with Elphicke’s suggestion the Charity Commission’s decision could be seen as the “thin end of the wedge” with concern to other small religious groups.

Elphicke told the Brethren representatives, “I think they [the Commission] are committed to the suppression of religion and you are the little guys being picked on to start off a whole series of other churches who will follow you there.” (Read more here.)

Christian Persecution: Pakistani Court Returns Girl to Her Kidnapper

Rebecca Masih, a young Christian health worker, was on her way to work when she was kidnapped by armed men in Sukkur, a city in Sindh province of Pakistan, on October 2. The 23-year-old was later drugged and forcibly married to a Muslim man.

The Pakistan Christian Post reports that Younis Masih, Rebecca’s father, took the case to court, but has yet to get his daughter back. Rebecca remains with her abductors and is scheduled to reappear in court on November 2. Pakistan’s judiciary often favors Muslims while Christian girls are given few legal rights. More often than not, the girl’s family never sees her again.

The Pakistan Christian Post article says in part:

Pakistani Higher Court orders enforced converted Christian girl to go with Muslim man

Hyderabad: October 24, 2012. (Abbas Kassar) A Christian girl Rebbeca who was kidnapped from Sukkur in Sindh on October 2, 2012, was produced before the high court Sukkur circuit bench on 22 October on application of her father Younis Masih was handed over to her kidnapper husband by judge of Sindh High Court rejecting appeals by her lawyer to send her to Darul Aman.

In the court the girl did not speak a word because she appeared to have been so frightened and terrorized that she continued to mince her lips in helpless manner but did not utter a word. She was accompanied with Mian Aslam son of politically powerful Mian Mithoo the Member of National Assembly of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party PPP who has been accused of kidnapping non-Muslim girls, keeping them in her Haveli for few weeks and then managing their marriages with his servants or followers.

Manzar Dahar a man who kidnapped her and later married her on force on behest of Pir Mian Mithoo also accompanied her and later took her to his home. Despite repeated requests by father of girl Younis Masih and his advocate Mukesh Kumar to send her to Darul Aman as according to them she was under intense pressure and fright but the judge Justice Naamatullah Phulpoto rejected their requests and allowed her to go with her kidnapper husband and adjourned the hearing to 2 November. (Read more here.)

Christian Persection: Acid Attack Victim Describes Ordeal

Pakistani acid-attack victim finds new life in Houston

Julie Aftig
by Melissa Phillip, Houston ChronicleHouston Chronicle.

Houston Chronicle. She was 16 years old, working as an operator in a tiny, public call office in Pakistan, when a man walked in and saw the silver cross dangling around her neck.

He asked her three times: “Are you a Christian?”

Julie Aftab answered, “Yes, sir,” the first two times, and then got frustrated.

“Didn’t you hear me?” she asked.

They argued, and the man abruptly left the little office, returning 30 or 40 minutes later with a turquoise bottle. Aftab tried to block the arc of battery acid, but it melted much of the right side of her face and left her with swirling, bone-deep burns on her chest and arms. She ran for the door, but a second man grabbed her hair, and they poured the acid down her throat, searing her esophagus.

A decade and 31 surgeries later, Aftab is an accounting major at the University of Houston-Clear Lake with a melodic laugh. She spoke no English when she arrived in Houston in February 2004, but is poised to take her citizenship test later this month.

Doctors in Houston have donated their time to painstakingly reconstruct her cheek, nose, upper lip and replace her eyelids. Over time, her scars have faded from hues of deep wine to mocha.

And, with time, the 26-year-old said, she has learned to forgive.

“Those people, they think they did a bad thing to me, but they brought me closer to God,” Aftab said. “They helped me fulfill my dreams. I never imagined I could be the person I am today.”

Eldest of seven

Aftab was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan, the eldest of seven children in a Christian working-class family.

She dreamed of becoming a doctor, but dropped out of school at age 12 to work in a sewing factory after her father, a bus driver and the family’s sole breadwinner, broke his back in an accident. After the sewing factory closed when Aftab was 16, she took a job as a telephone operator helping people place phone calls from the small office in the city’s center.

It was June 15, 2002, two weeks into her new job, when the customer spotted her silver cross, a gift from her grand­father. She wore it despite knowing it branded her as Christian, a tiny minority in the Muslim-majority country.

You are living life in the gutter, the Muslim man told her.

She tried to ignore him, remembering what her mother had taught her since she was a child: “You are no one to insult someone’s religion. If someone is insulting religion, they have to answer to God.”

You are going to hell, the man told her. You are living in darkness.

“I am living in the light,” Aftab replied.

So you think Islam is in darkness? the man demanded.

Aftab was frightened. She knew Christians had been accused of violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws in the past when others had twisted their words, to make it sound as though they had attacked Islam.

“No, you said that,” she replied. “Not me.”

But the man was enraged and returned with the battery acid and his friend. When she finally broke away from them, the acid searing her skin and throat, she ran down the street. As she screamed, teeth fell from her mouth and hit the ground.

A woman heard her screams and threw her head cover on Aftab so she could touch her without getting burned. The woman took Aftab to her home and poured water on her. Others eventually came to help take her to the hospital.

People in the neighborhood detained the two men who assaulted her until police arrived.

Why did you do that? the men were asked.

They said Aftab insulted Islam, that she said Muslims are living in the darkness and are going to hell.

“They all turned against me,” she said. “Even the people who took me to the hospital. They told the doctor they were going to set the hospital on fire if they treated me.”

The police let the two men go, and did not even file an official report on the assault until Christian leaders complained, she said. (Read more here.)

Christian Persecution: International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

 

Next Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Click here to download and print a prayer calendar that will guide you through 60 Days of Prayer for Persecuted Believers. This special prayer guide is provided by Open Doors, an international non-profit ministry that supports and strengthens persecuted Christians.


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