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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’d I Say?

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

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

Here’s part of what I said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Demagoguery is not preaching Christ.

Protecting priestly privilege is not preaching Christ.

Pandering to your parishioners is not preaching Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preach Christ = Preach Christ crucified.

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

“Do not take government money.” 

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

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

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

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

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

I was appalled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will either preach politics.

Or you will preach Christ.

But you cannot do both.

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

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

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

The Church itself, however, has been amazingly faithful.

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

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

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

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

Besides, “it was the law.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A National Catholic Register Article concerning Amistad says in part:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parsing Killing With Impunity and Manufacturing Monsters

In case you were wondering, the devil is at work all over the world, not just here in America.

One case in point is a suggested revision to Dutch statutes that I mentioned in an earlier post to allow medical personnel to euthanize minors and Alzheimer’s sufferers. Ironically, these are two groups of people who are considered incompetent to make most legal decisions for themselves. The proposed law was drafted in part by Senator Philippe Mahoux.

Our world is so spiritually sick that we try to parse and channel legalized murder. We have laws that point to one group of people and say in effect, “you may kill them with impunity” then, we have other laws that point to another group of people and say “if you kill them it is an atrocity.”

Well, which is it? Is it an atrocity to kill the innocent, or is it something we may do with impunity?

Maybe it’s time for us as a society to stop allowing the controlled killing of innocents. Maybe we should stop cozying up to killing and making it our pal by calling it a “right.” Maybe we should simplify things and just say that, with the single exception of self-defense, it’s wrong to kill people. Period.

That’s an unsophisticated way to handle things, I know. It’s also bound to make things hard for someone out there who claims that their desire to kill someone else is, in fact, a kindness and their “right.” But it might have the effect of re-erecting that fence around human life once again. You know the one, the fence of law, morality and custom that keeps us safe from one another.

Instead of going out and putting ourselves into tiny prisons and police state boxes in our zeal to be safe, perhaps we should just simplify our thinking and go back to the fuddy-duddy Christian notion that every individual has an inherent right to life because they are a unique and irreplaceable human being made in the image and likeness of God.

I know that’s not a very politically-correct way to approach this. But our recent history of parsing the freedom to kill hasn’t worked so well for us. Our society has become a monster factory. Maybe we should ask ourselves why.

The France 54 International News article describing this proposed law says in part:

AFP - Belgium is considering a significant change to its decade-old euthanasia law that would allow minors and Alzheimer’s sufferers to seek permission to die.

The proposed changes to the law were submitted to parliament Tuesday by the Socialist party and are likely to be approved by other parties, although no date has yet been put forward for a parliamentary debate.

“The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases we must find a response to,” party leader Thierry Giet said.

The draft legislation calls for “the law to be extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate.” (Read more here.)

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Walk for Life West Coast Videos

The Walk for Life West Coast was a huge success.

I wish I had been able to go. God willing, I will go next year.

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy viewing videos from the walk. I know that Public Catholic readers attended the walk. If you did, feel free to add your own experiences and photos in the comments section.

 

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2013 Favs: Real Men Don’t Kill Their Children

My many dealings with pro-abortion liberal males has convinced me over and again that they are at heart unreconstructed misogynists.

I knew this long before I was converted to the pro life viewpoint. I knew it when I was the Oklahoma Director for NARAL. I knew it back when I was killing pro life bills as a young pro choice legislator.

All you have to do is hang out with them for a while, listen to their self-congratulatory talk about how they are the only men on the planet who “support women’s rights” (abortion.) Couple that with the contempt for women, the personal mistreatment they mete out to the women in their lives, the misogynist, sexualizing way they subtly degrade women and support the degradation of women in everything from porn to prostitution to rent-a-womb pregnancy surrogates.

Put the self-proclaimed “feminism” of these men alongside their actual behavior, and what you see is a hypocritical lie. They are misogynists who have been empowered by a corrupted feminist movement that has devolved down to nothing more than a pro abortion movement.

Abortion is the cad’s best friend in his treatment of women. Abortion allows misogynist men to pick and chose which of their children they will cherish and which they will encourage their women to kill. Abortion helps the rapist hide, and encourages the lothario to dump the woman he’s involved with at one of the most vulnerable times in her life; when she is pregnant with his child.

I ran across a video essay on NBCNEWS by Toure Neblett, in which he declaims proudly, “Thank God for abortion.” His reason? Abortion on demand allowed him, along with a woman he describes as “just not the right one,” to kill his first child. Abortion relieved him of the monstrous responsibility of fatherhood at “the wrong time.”

He tells us that he “would not be the person” he is today without this freeing experience of putting his baby to death. You get the feeling that he believes that this would be a loss of incomparable proportions for all humanity.

He goes on to admit that “family building is society building” and claims that the death of his first child has allowed him to go on later with “the right” woman to have “the right” child. He recounts how he accompanied her on her doctor’s appointments and felt a little distressed by the sight of this wanted baby on the ultrasound, by “how human they look.”

But he bounces back from this momentary lapse into something bordering conscience with assurances that it would be “misogynist” for him to regret the fact that he helped murder his own baby.

Watching this video saddens me. This unashamed and absolute lack of empathy by one human being for another human being is mind boggling. This is a man telling us with no doubt or regret that he helped kill his own child and that killing his child was the moral and right thing to do. Why? Because killing the child was the “best thing” for him, his career and his future.

I think he is right when he says that he wouldn’t be the man he is today if he had chosen differently. A man who choses to inconvenience himself by accepting the responsibilities of fatherhood, who actually loves all his children and not just the one who fits the self-indulgent, self-centered, self-deifying game plan he has worked out for his life, would not even resemble the man Toure is today.

“Thank God for abortion,” Toure tells us.

All I can say is Thank God for real men, like my husband and my father, who wanted and loved their children from the moment they began to exist. Thank God for men who do not choose to kill one child and cherish another, but who love, support and raise every child that God gives them.

Maybe I should just shorten that down to the actual point.

Thank God for real men.

If you want to see Toure’s essay, go here.

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Franciscan Friars and the Year of Faith

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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.

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Strip Club Owner to Nuns: Don’t Impose Your Religious Beliefs on Me

The strip club and the nuns story has gone on for a while and it appears it will continue.

Thanks to the city government of Stone Park, Il, the community of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles Boromeo Scalabrinians now have a strip club two feet from their property.

As we all know, the current reply to any request for official consideration or civil rights for Christians is to tell them to “stop putting their religious bigotry on other people.” We are told to keep our faith at home, to practice it at church and then to keep our mouths shut everywhere else.

The owner of the strip club is no exception to this charming behavior. His advice to the sisters? Keep your religion to yourselves, and oh, by the way, I pay taxes and you don’t.

Of course, none of this addresses the question of why the strip club owner wanted to put his “business” next to a convent in the first place. It also doesn’t address why the city planning commission went along with it. Stone Park’s mayor claims that the process was legal, but that does not in any way explain why this permit to build was approved.

We have a whole town, called Valley Brook, here in Oklahoma that some people believe makes its revenue from prostitution under the guise of strip clubs.

Why do elected officials deliberately corrupt and degrade the cities they are supposed to be working to build and govern? What would motivate them to turn their statutes into open doors for the lowest kind of commerce? Why would anyone think that putting these kinds of things into neighborhoods and next to convents is a good idea?

We’ve had to pass laws at the state level here in Oklahoma to keep them from putting these places across the street from grade schools. The upward-looking elected officials in Valley Brook must have used a measuring tape to make sure they built their school as close to the strip joints as they could without going over the line.

It’s an interesting world we live in where elected officials work to further the interests of the lowest common denominator in their society. It’s an even more interesting world when people who degrade and sell women as if they were chattel can lecture a group of nuns and tell them their viewpoints are unworthy because they are Christians.

I would call that world soul-sick and depraved. But then, I’m used to being told to keep my faith at home where it belongs. It no longer bothers me.

The Chicago Sun-Times article describing this situation says in part: (emphasis mine)

Proposed strip club to nuns: Don’t impose your religious beliefs on us
BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter sesposito@suntimes.com

The owner of a soon-to-be-built strip club in the western suburb of Stone Park has this to say to a group of neighboring nuns who don’t like his plans: Mind your own business.

“As a legal, tax-paying citizen of this community, we ask only to be judged fairly by what we have done and not through the recent religious fervor,” Bob Itzkow, the club’s owner, said in statement released Friday. “In reference to our non-tax-paying neighbors, we ask that you treat us as we have treated you, by not trying to unduly disturb us by imposing your religious beliefs on us or others. All throughout our plans for this project, we’ve followed the letter and spirit of the law.”

The Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo, who occupy the property next to the club, have moral objections to the project and have raised questions about whether the rules were followed properly by Stone Park officials during the 2010 approval process.(Read more here.)

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Bill Maher, Prophecy Fulfiller or Just Another Atheist Crank in Love With Death?

Bill Maher, the aggressive atheist/talk show host, managed to fulfill a prophecy a few months ago.

Even though I doubt very much that this was his intention when he gave this interview, he comes pretty close.

Mr Maher says (jokingly) I love death. Then he goes on to list all the real-world ways that he really does support the Culture of Death.

Proverbs 8 says “Those who hate me, love death.”

That verse may be more of a direct assessment than a prophecy. Mr Maher may not have been entirely serious when he characterized himself as a death lover. But considering his consistent support for legalized murder in any form, it seems like an “if the shoe fits” deal. The shoe does indeed seem to fit. The only death he doesn’t appear to “love” is his own.

One of the points the commenter makes is that there are very few people who are both pro choice and in favor of the death penalty. People have said similar things to me, only in reverse. Mr Maher and I are somewhat mirror images of one another, at least on a few matters. He is an aggressive atheist. I am a Christian and a Catholic. He favors abortion on demand. I am pro life. He favors the death penalty. I oppose it.

Unlike Mr Maher, I don’t fulfill any prophecies, unless you want to include me among those from many nations who will follow Him.

Listen to this YouTube video (it’s a radio broadcast) and see if you think Mr Maher is a prophecy fulfiller, or just another atheist crank attacking the sanctity of human life.

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Saying Good-bye to Old Friends and the Me I Used to Be

Conversion.

Three syllables. 

It’s not even a pretty-sounding word. Kun – vur – shun. 

But when the conversion in question is  a switch from an anti-god viewpoint to an allegiance to Jesus Christ, it has the power to sweep away everything in its path. Conversion means more than reciting a formulaic prayer. It isn’t about anything you do, at least not initially. In the beginning, conversion, at least as it was for me, is just a matter of saying yes.

I’ve tried many times to find the words to describe the feeling of that moment when I stepped from death to life. I have never found them. There may be no words.

I said, “Forgive me.” That’s all. Just “forgive me,” and I felt this Other, this ecstatic love and joy reach out to me. There was a physical sensation of love filling me. I believe now that what happened must have been the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that I’ve heard about, but I had no idea of this at the time.

I also had no idea what to do. None. I just waited for the new Being who was with me to guide me.

I do remember, as I entered into the life of a practicing Christian, that I thought that I wouldn’t be like the other Christians. I wouldn’t lose the friends I had before I converted. I would be cool. Nothing was going to change. I was going to keep on being the same person I had always been, believing the same things I had always believed. I would be the cool Christian with all her anti-God friends.

I didn’t tell anyone about my conversion at first. I wasn’t hiding it. I was reveling in the joy. Also, I just didn’t know what to do or say. A month went by before it came into my head to go to a large Methodist Church here in Oklahoma City.

It was the perfect church for the cool Christian I was trying to be at that time. It was the sort of place where I could be as cafeteria about my faith as my coolness required and still be exposed to what I needed to grow in grace with time. I didn’t hide my new church-going ways.  But I didn’t advertise them, either. I didn’t hide the fact that I was now a Christian, but I didn’t push it on anyone or bring it up in conversations when no one else was talking about it.

For no reason that I could discern most of my anti-God acquaintances pulled away from me, anyway. Cool as I was, they didn’t want any part of me. I was ok with that. I was still cool and still hanging on to the people who really mattered to me.

I didn’t reckon with the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. God didn’t seem to mind if I wanted to begin my Christian life by being cool. He just didn’t pay much attention to it. At that stage, He didn’t seem to be trying to change what I did. He was changing what I wanted to do.

That’s something that you don’t realize when you’re a baby Christian bent on being cool. God doesn’t start demanding more from you than you can do. He begins by loving you and teaching you; by changing you at the core instead of on the periphery where all your coolness is focused.

I was a slow learner and a slow changer. I tried with all my heart to hold onto my old ways; my old friends. When I began to change, I even went so far as to try to hide the changes from them, to somehow slip by without talking to them about it because I loved them and I knew that if they understood that I was no longer who I had been, it would be the end of our friendship.

I still remember the way I cringed inside when an atheist friend of mine looked at me and said, “You’ve changed.” It was both a challenge and an accusation, harsher than if he’d caught me stealing the family silver.

What he was responding to, identifying against my will, was that he saw the spirit of Christ in me. There is nothing anyone should be prouder of than that, but I felt caught. Exposed. I had tried so hard to be cool.

“You’ve changed.” he accused, and in that accusation was his acknowledgement that we were no longer intellectual and moral twins. I had become what he despised. “Changed,” he said. And he was right.

He was the first real friend to fall away. And the least painful of the lot.

I should have learned then, but I didn’t. I was deeply tethered to Christ, and emotionally and intellectually immersed in the Holy Spirit, but even though I faithfully attended the large Methodist Church each Sunday,  I felt no connection with the people there. Odd as this sounds, they were too lukewarm in their commitment to Christ. I wanted — hungered — for someone else who loved Him as I did. I went to that church for nine years and never made a close friend.

Was that why I tried to hang on to the friends of my past life? Or was it something else? In truth, I still struggle to understand myself. I just couldn’t, wouldn’t, see that the friendships I’d had were based on externals and not the deep bonding I craved.

This was wrong. It was cowardly. But it is what I did.

You cannot continue to be who you were before you became a follower of Jesus Christ. There is no middle ground between His teachings and what He requires of you and the intimacy of true friendship with unbelievers. It’s taken me a long time and more than a few heartbreaks to accept this.

You cannot serve two masters. Jesus said that. I am thankful that my attempts at being cool never led me so far astray that I questioned who my Master truly was.

Jesus had me at hello. From the first moment of my conversion, I was totally and completely in love with My Savior. Even though I tried mightily to avoid the consequences of lost friendships, when a choice was forced on me, I always chose Christ. It was not even a decision. I am His. That’s what and who I am.

Abortion and same-sex marriage divide people more than any other issues. That was true of me and that old gang of mine as well. I tried to avoid confrontations with my former pro choice friends, but there’s no hiding such things long-term. God had changed me. I truly was a pro life Christian.

Same-sex marriage took an even deeper toll. My best friend was a gay man. I love him like a brother. He is family to me.

If there was any way that I could keep my friendship with him without going against the teachings of my Church and turning my back on Jesus, I would do it.

But I can’t. And he can’t.

I have no problem as a Christian advocating for human rights for gay people. None. I am convinced and my Church teaches that unjust discrimination against gay people is a sin. If it wasn’t for the battlefield same-sex marriage has become, I think they would find that the Catholic Church, which defends human rights for all people, was their best advocate.

But to many gay people, same-sex marriage has become the sine qua non of their human rights. They see opposition to same-sex marriage as a repudiation of them as people. When their Christian friends come out against it, they feel betrayed and used. Friendship can not survive that kind of breach. So it was with my friend and me.

I found myself at the same pass over and over again. I tried to be cool and keep my old friends, but when I was forced to chose, I always, inevitably, chose Christ. The result of my many attempts to be cool, to hang onto my friendships from the past was hurt feelings and broken hearts all around.

If I have one piece of advice for a new convert, it would be to take the lick of lost relationships all at once and get it over with. Know that your old self is dying and a new self in Christ is being born. Turn your face to your future with Christ. I am not blaming anyone but myself for the mistakes I made, but I do wish I had had a Christian mentor to tell me that at the time. I might not have listened, but … I also might have.

Conversion is three syllables which mean “to change in character, form, or function.” That meaning is a good description of the long-term action of the Holy Spirit on a human soul. You change, not in a moment, but continuously, as God slowly “converts” you into what you were meant to be from the beginning.

Unfortunately, all change also means loss. In the case of a radical re-orientation of how you see yourself and all of creation, the loss will ultimately be everyone and everything that remains attached to your other life before Christ became your life. You can not serve two masters. You will, no matter how you try to avoid it, have to chose.

I think the fear of this is what drives so many Christians to hide their faith. The pain of loss when the people you’ve loved become your enemies is exquisite. This leads to a powerful temptation to go along to get along, to hide your faithfulness under a cloak of not saying much when you should be saying a lot. But you can’t hide forever. God won’t let you. At some point, you’ve got to come out, and when you do that, you will have to chose. Either you will chose to follow Christ and alienate those people who are against Him, or you will chose to follow them and lose Christ.

“Do you love me more than these?” Jesus asked.

He’s asking it of each of us today.

We live in a time when Christianity is being pushed to the corners of life, when our faith is challenged from all points of the compass in so many ways it’s difficult to enumerate them. Those of us who have walked the other side of the street are faced absolutely with the question, “Do you love me more than these?”

No matter how much we try to hide our light under a bushel, no matter the effort we make to be quiet and slide by when we are with old friends, we will, eventually, have to chose.

Despite all my weaknesses and many failings, my answer is and always has been, I chose Christ. 

 

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Christian Persecution: Activist Says Media Ignores Christian Persecution Due to Anti-Christian Bias

Is the media ignoring violent persecution of Christians in the same way that it once ignored lynchings of African Americans, attacks on Jews in Nazi Germany?

According to activists on behalf of Christians in the Middle East, the answer is yes.

CBN NEWS JERUSALEM, Israel — Tens of thousands of Christians are fleeing the Middle East because of persecution. Yet this modern day exodus is getting little attention in the West.

Now, a Jewish group is teaming up with Christians to help spread the word about this persecution.

Almost 200 million Christians are targeted each year, especially in the birthplace of their faith, the Middle East. Iraq is just one example.

“Since 2003, there has been a systematic attack launched against the Christian community and other minorities in Iraq,” Juliana Taimoorazy, with the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, said.

“Unfortunately the mainstream media and many churches really don’t talk about persecution of their brothers and sisters in Christ,” she added.

Taimoorazy is an Assyrian Christian. She had to be smuggled out of her home country because of religious persecution.

She said since the end of Saddam Hussein’s reign, Islamic persecution has forced about two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians to flee.

The persecurtion escalated from attacks on churches to forcing Christians to choose between converting to Islam or paying a protection tax.

“And the next step for the Islamic extremists were to go in and attack families — kill children, kidnap women, impregnating them, torturing men, beheading them. Then they started attacking clergy members,” Taimoorazy said.

Author Raymond Ibrahim said anti-Christian violence is widespread across the region.

“It’s kind of amazing to me to see that what’s happening to Christians by Islamic forces…Christian worshippers are in a church and it gets attacked and it gets burned, things like that,” he said.

Ibrahim was born in the United States to Egyptian Coptic Christian parents. He said the media ignores Christian persecution because it contradicts the media’s perception of Islam.

“If this idea gets out that Islam is intolerant to the other, then it kind of puts the struggle with Israel in a different light,” Ibrahim explained.

Taimoorazy blamed the lack of attention on an anti-Christian sentiment in the American media and throughout the world.

“This is something they don’t want to talk about because then they would be perceived as pro-Christian. But it’s a human rights issue,” she said.

Alan Schneider, with the B’nai B’rith World Center, a well-known Jewish organization in Jerusalem, agreed. (Read more here.)

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Less of Me: Gimpy Has a New Shoe

Gimpy the Foot.

Gimpy the Foot. Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

I don’t know for sure, but I think I’ve gained weight since I smashed my foot. It’s not that I’ve eaten such a lot. It’s more that I’ve been so confined. The most athletic thing I’ve done this past month is the gyrations I go through hoisting myself into and out of my wheelchair.

At least, that was true until Gimpy got her new boot. Now, I can actually walk-clomp around the house and even out to the car with a walker. Gimpy’s new boot is a marvel of technology. It has valves that let me puff air in and let air back out to inflate the balloons that line its insides. This way, I can cradle the Gimpster in pillows of air, while holding her firm and stable with the tough outer walls of the boot.

This new shoe isn’t exactly svelte. And I don’t have a matching boot for my other foot. I must be quite a sight with my walker, the boot on one foot and a walking shoe on the other foot. Add to that the glamour of untended hair and stretchy, loungey type clothes, and I’ve got the finest Halloween costume I ever owned.

The trouble is, it’s not a costume, and Halloween is long past.

However, all this big news pales beside the my horrible suspicion that when I finally can put both feet down and weigh myself again I am going to cause the scale to crack into pieces. I mean, I wasn’t exactly Peter Pan before I started my month of sitting and spitting.

I followed the advice you gave me about food. My girlfriends are great shoppers. They brought back lo-cal frozen dinners, little microwave deals of rice, cans of soup, bags of salad stuff, veggies. It has been great. I’ve enjoyed my food ever since. You guys gave me great advice.

However, all my big plans about exercising while confined have gone to rust. I’ve just now … just NOW … gotten where I can get out of the house, and that’s on a really short string. But I am hopeful that next week will be the turning point on that.

Gimpy is healing fast. Every single day is better than the one before. I have a date to get the hardware removed December 5. Even though I’m kind of dreading that, I’m also soooo looking forward to it. A metal free foot sounds like a little slice of heaven to me.

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The I Woulda Killed Him Deader Than You Did Debate

What’s a Christian to do when the political debate in the campaign for President of the United States descends to a question of who would have killed Osama bin Laden first and deadest?

Is this all these two candidates have to offer us? Is it what we can expect through the summer and fall as they slash and burn, trying to get themselves elected?

On the one hand, we have the president, who has attacked the Catholic Church and religious freedom. On the other hand, we have a man who appears to change his beliefs when it suits his ambitions, who, when he was governor of Massachusetts, signed into law a health care plan that actually used tax payer money to pay for abortions.

For the past few weeks, they’ve been tossing verbal grenades back and forth over the death of Osama bin Laden. President Obama was elected under something of a cloud four years ago. A lot of people thought he was a secret Muslim, that he would sell us out to Al Qaeda. Now, he points to the corpse of bin Laden and says, “See?”

Romney, not to be outdone, comes back with stout claims that he would have done the same thing if he’d had the chance, in fact, he would have done it sooner and meaner and, and, well, he would have killed bin Laden deader than dead, he would have killed him deadest.

Meanwhile, here I am, out on the Oklahoma prairie, trying to follow Jesus, trying to stand up for the First Amendment, trying, in the face of this barrage of unseemly non-squiturs and spin, to figure out what’s best for my country.

I love Jesus. I love my Church. I love America. I love my children and my family who will live out their lives in this country.

How do I be faithful to those four great loves and vote for either one of these guys?

Am I the only person in this country who’d like a better choice?

I know there are party loyalists, the yella dog Democrats and the die-hard Republicans, who would vote for anyone anytime who had a “D” or an “R” after their name on the ballot. I know also that some people hate the Catholic Church and its moral voice so much that they will throw the First Amendment under the bus if that’s what it takes to harm the Church. I know there are people who don’t care one way or the other about abortion.

But, I’m not one of them.

I’d like a president who had a center, beliefs and ideals, to see him through the challenges of the job. I’d like a president who honestly valued the lives of every person throughout their span of years, from conception to natural death. I’d like a president who respected the Constitution and religious freedom. I’d like a president who was grounded in a strong Christian faith.

These men are asking us to trust them with our country, with America. They’re asking us to put our lives, our futures and our children’s futures in their hands. It would be nice, in the course of this campaign, if they could elevate their discussion at least somewhat above the I woulda killed him deader than you did debate.

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Affixing Blame

It’s a fact that we learn more from our failures and tragedies than we do from our victories. 

When something goes right, we usually high-five each other and then sit around the proverbial campfire rehashing our brilliance and everything we did right. What we don’t do is learn anything. We’re too happy with the way things went.

But when something goes wrong; when we lose, when tragedy strikes, we go into paroxysms of self-analysis as we struggle to learn what went wrong and how we can fix it. This impulse to think tragedy through to ideas for avoiding another tragedy in the future is intelligent and useful. It’s the basis for things like painfully reconstructing crashed airliners to try to learn what broke or what happened to bring the bird down. It’s the reason for medical review boards. It’s why police go over and over an officer’s death.

Done this way, the self-analysis that comes after our painful flops and falters is good, productive and wise.

But there is another side. The aftermath of tragedy, the first quick take of emotion, is usually a blur of pain and confusion. Especially with something like the tragedy at Sandy Hook, there is a desire to avoid and blur both the questions and the answers to the omnipresent “Why?” that haunts us. We don’t want to face any part of it. So, we are tempted to go out searching for someone or something else to take the load of responsibility for facing up to what it all means. We want a scapegoat.

In truth, there are potential scapegoats aplenty in the aftermath of a mass murder, especially one so incomprehensible as these mass shootings and bombings by anti-social young men. But we have to be careful how we chose these scapegoats. We don’t want to pick something that would require us to change. We don’t want to point our fingers at ourselves.

No, we are looking for something or someone easy, outside our normal activities and unable to defend themselves. That’s the impetus behind the outrage of much of the pundit class against Mike Huckabee’s hapless comment. While most people are shocked into silence by these horrors, some people talk uncontrollably. They react to their own internal confusion in the face of tragedy beyond comprehension with cravings for a quick fix of faux outrage. If it hadn’t been Mike Huckabee, it would have been someone else. Every time we have a tragedy, the faux outrage crowd latches onto something some person says. They need a quickie scapegoat.

Of course, faux outrage at accidental verbal missteps wears thin after a time. It is about such a nothing and it is so completely devoid of significance that it simply uses up its own oxygen and goes out like a match.

This leaves the rest of us with the question of what slot we can fit these dysfunctional young men with murder in their hearts into. In truth, they are such bizarre little monsters that we find it difficult to identify with them enough to really have a good go at scapegoating them. Where’s the “out” for the rest of us in looking at people who are so emotionally ugly that they are flat and one-dimensional to the point of incomprehensibility?

We tend to exalt our mass murderers in this country. Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, the BTK Killer and Ted Bundy get more television coverage than any legitimate celebrity I know of. We hype serial killers into evil gods in our entertainment, making them not only glamorous, but in many ways better — more talented, intelligent and purposeful — than the rest of us.

But somehow, these one-off killers who go to our schools, our movies, our workplaces and just start killing don’t seem so interesting. Killing little Amish girls, blowing up day care centers and murdering first graders just doesn’t seem so much the effort of an evil god as it does the work of plain, unvarnished evil in all its ugliness and banality. More to the point, when someone goes into a movie theater and shoots people, it could have been us they killed.

Still, we do need our scapegoats. Otherwise, we might have to take an honest look at our whole suicidal society and acknowledge that we have become a people that raises up sociopaths in abundance. We would have to admit that there’s more wrong here than gun laws that are over 200 years old and never produced this mayhem before. We might have to see that our many excesses on numerous levels are so dysfunctional that they’ve turned our homes and our society into monster factories.

This lends an especially frantic quality to the search for scapegoats. We need someone to blame; someone who isn’t us.

Unfortunately for us, these young men often come from backgrounds and situations that we’ve been taught to admire and seek for ourselves. These aren’t ghetto kids. They aren’t minorities. They aren’t poor, uneducated or stupid. They aren’t even physically ugly.

Are we supposed to scapegoat the upper middle class? Are we expected to decry family life in our best neighborhoods, our wealthiest school districts and among our most well-educated and successful citizenry?

This is what we all want to be: Rich, successful, going to the best schools, regarded as brilliant.

No wonder we look at young men who kill and blame the guns they are holding. If we don’t, we’re going to have to take a look at something that not only comes from the abyss, but that defies all our well-oiled aspirations.

Blame is our game and we need something to hook that blame onto. We need an object, an idea, a reason that will answer the why of these killings without confronting us with ourselves. The problem with this approach is that it is the antithesis of the painstaking reconstruction that happens after an airliner crashes. It has nothing to do with the honesty and learning process of medical and police review boards.

Rather than helping us come to a true understanding of what is wrong so that we can begin the process of fixing it, the blame game and its hurry-up urgency to do something simple, makes sure we will never understand. If we can affix blame on inanimate objects and then rush, rush, rush to do something about them, then we will be able to avoid doing the painful self-analysis of a legitimate search for answers.

Until it happens again.

Which it will.

Because we didn’t do anything useful with our blame-game and quick fix.

Here’s a for instance. It is a fact that people with red hair are more likely to get skin cancer. So, in the blame-game way of thinking, we would blame the red hair. Ergo, what we should do to avoid skin cancer is to dye our hair black.

That’s the kind of thinking we are trying to employ in our dealings with these mass murdering young men. Maybe we should take away assault rifles. That may be one of the things we need to do. But if that’s all we do, I can promise you, it won’t stop these mass murderers from mass murdering.

Since I will have to vote on at least some of these issues, those are more than words, much more than a political pose to me. How to save lives and preserve freedom, how to convert a culture that finds offense in the idea that it needs conversion; those are the questions. I don’t believe that the answers lie entirely in political battles and legislation. Neither do I believe that the people of this nation are ready to hear that.

I’m not so sure that a nation of people who are addicted to pointing fingers at other people and who refuse to give even one inch in any of their personal opinions and shibboleths can deal with these murderers among us. I question whether we have the honesty and the will to save ourselves from ourselves.

I do know that these young men did not spring fully-formed from the forehead of Zeus. They were made over long periods of time, partly by their heredity, partly by their homes, but mostly by our society. We are teaching them to kill.

Until we face that, we will never “do something” that will end this long nightmare of violence.

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Fr Antoine Explains the Need for Eucharistic Adoration

 

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The Global Religious Landscape

A new survey from The Pew Forum, indicates that eight in ten of the world’s people identify themselves with a religion. Of these, 32% are Christian, 23% Muslim, 15% Hindu, 17% Buddhist, and 0.2% Jewish.

This information is important for those of us who are Christians to understand. The world is in need of conversion, and articles like this give us the information to know, in the words of Lincoln, whither we are tending as we go forward in this Year of Faith and the New Evangelization.

A Pew Forum article summarizing the data, says in part:

The Global Religious Landscape

A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010

ANALYSIS December 18, 2012

Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.1

At the same time, the new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith. (SeeReligiously Unaffiliated.) (Read the entire article here.)

 

 

 

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