When You Wander the Wilderness, Remember the Water and the Blood

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted by Satan.

Why did Jesus, Who was God made human, need to go into the wilderness? For that matter why did He need to be baptized?

Lent is the time when we remember Jesus’ Wilderness Days. The period of Lent mirrors the time He spent in the wilderness, which was forty days. We are heading into Easter, which coincides with the Passover.

It’s all symbol, piled on top of metaphor. But it is not symbolic. And it is not metaphorical. It is as real as hunger and thirst. As hard as torture, blood and death. Our salvation was obtained at a great price.

Jesus made the first step toward the cross when He went to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan river. This was the same John who first met Jesus when they were both unborn babies in their mothers’ wombs. It was the same John who leapt for joy at the presence of his Savior, even at that young age.

John’s birth was announced by the archangel Gabriel. He was a forerunner, the fulfillment of the prophecy that before the Messiah came, there would be a voice calling in the wilderness, to prepare the way for the Lord. 

Jesus approached the Jordan river where John was baptizing. His purpose was to be baptized Himself.

At first, John, demurred.

I need to be baptized by you, he said.

But Jesus insisted with enigmatic words about fulfilling all righteousness. 

When Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the spirit of God descended on Him in the form of a dove and the voice of God said this my beloved son. Again, it was symbolism, piled on symbolism but the reality was real. The water was wet. And the graces of baptism which are given to each of us are real.

Baptism, this fulfilling of all righteousness the Jesus referred to, opens the door we shut in the garden. It places us back in relationship with God.

Jesus followed His baptism by going into the wilderness. Why? Why did He, being wholly God, need to go into the wilderness at all?

Because He is our brother in every way. He was, as St Paul told us, tempted in every way. Just like us. Jesus is wholly God. But He is also wholly human.

He bleeds. He feels pain. He understands loneliness and anguish. He has a mother He loves with all his heart. He, at some point in His past, had faced the death of Joseph, His earthly father.

He is our brother, and as our brother, He had to experience what it was to be human, including the pain of temptation.

Temptation is not an easy thing. It is not a mosquito that we brush off, or buy the right spray and shield ourselves from. Temptation is the devil’s needle that he stabs us with over and over until it becomes a running sore.

Temptation is the chocolate cake left over from supper. Temptation is the beautiful man or woman at the office whose presence rivets us. Temptation is the money we could make, the success we could have, by, if we are a legislator, voting that one wrong way, or, if we are a cop, by looking the other way, or if we are a car salesman by telling the small lie, or if we are a doctor, prescribing that unnecessary procedure.

The list of temptations are endless. Most of them are minor things we can brush aside as if they really were that mosquito. But others get inside our souls and nag at us without mercy. These are the temptations whose temporary fulfillment fills some hole inside us.

The beautiful co-worker, the last piece of cake, the drive to have enough money to buy things and show off, all have one thing in common: They feed a hunger that goes deeper than the normal hungers which can be sated by a full meal, time with our spouse, and having enough to live a good life.

These temptations come from hungers that won’t be fed. They come from our unmeetable needs for solace, diversion, attention, and validation that go beyond legitimate needs and reach into the un-fillable holes in our souls.

Jesus was wholly human and wholly God. What that means is that He experienced our gnawing hungers for things we can not have. He understood our attempt to fill the un-fillable holes inside us with things, people, experiences.

He went into the wilderness to face the temptations we all face. It was, like the baptism that preceded it, a fulfillment of all righteousness. It was God made human, being fully and wholly human. He placed Himself before satan and let satan tempt and entice Him.

He did this when He was like we are when temptations work their worst on us: When he was alone, tired, hungry, thirsty and sore. He let satan lay out temptations when He was exactly where we are when we’re weakest: In the wilderness.

Lent is about the journey Jesus made from the Wilderness to the Cross. We spend forty days in Lent, just as He spent forty days in the Wilderness. It begins for us on Ash Wednesday when we have a cross put on our forehead made of ashes and are reminded that the ultimate end of our time in this life is the grave.

Lent is a time a reflection and prayer. But it is a faint copy of the real wilderness times of our lives. The wilderness is when your spouse leaves you and you are alone and bereft because half your life has been shorn from you. The wilderness is when you lose your job and cannot replace it and are sleeping in a house you can no longer afford. The wilderness is when the doctor says that there is nothing more he or she can do. The wilderness is when you are isolated by lies and gossip or when you must face the violence of our society alone and in the dark.

The wilderness is defeat; deep, grinding defeat that leaves you vulnerable to any form of solace you can imagine, including the ones that harm other people or that do harm to yourself. Temptation is the bottle of booze you gave up when you started going to AA. Temptation is the desire for revenge against those who have hurt you. Temptation is the pleasure we take in our enemies’ pain, the desire to one-up and out-do, no matter what the cost.

Jesus faced a bit of what I call The Alone in the wilderness. He would drink the full draught of that Alone later, in His passion.

But He did not go into the wilderness until after He had been baptized. That all righteousness may be fulfilled, He said to John the Baptist.

Lent is a forty day period that begins in water and ends in blood.

Baptism is the mark of God on our souls. It is our first entry into the family of those who are marked by the Blood of Lamb. We enter the doorway to salvation through baptism; first by water, then by blood.

Behold, the Lamb of God, John the Baptist said when Jesus approached the river. We are twice baptized. Our sins are washed away by the waters of baptism, and we are marked with the blood of the lamb of God on the doorway of souls. The message is there, for death to see: You may not enter here. It is the Lord’s passover. 

This great spiritual truth goes with us every day, and everywhere. It goes with us into the wilderness time of our lives. It is there when we suffer unjust treatment, when we are abandoned, when we are helpless before unimaginable violence, when we become the object of vicious gossip, lose our jobs, fail that test, endure that illness, lose that limb, face that diagnosis. It is there with us in the wilderness time of our Alone.

When you are in your wilderness, remember your baptism. Remember the mark of the Blood of the Lamb on the lintels of your heart. Remember, always, that your salvation was purchased with a great price, that you are indeed worth more than the grass of the field and the birds of the air.

Remember that God loves you with an everlasting love and that He has already saved you from the temptations of your wilderness time. You are not alone. You are never alone.

Not even in the arid wilderness of The Alone.

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Lent: Choose God and Be Happy

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by abcdz2000 https://www.flickr.com/photos/abcdz2000/

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by abcdz2000 https://www.flickr.com/photos/abcdz2000/

Ash Wednesday is a somber reminder that we are going to die one day.

This video reminds us that our deaths are also our birth into eternal life. Lent is a time when we should shake down our loves, fitting them for the journey through this life. Do not lose eternal life by rejecting Jesus in this life.

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This video give a good overview of the practices of Lent.

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Netanyahu Calls for Jews to Leave Europe, Migrate to Israel

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Dennis Jarvis https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Dennis Jarvis https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/

Israeli  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has issued a call for the remaining European Jews to immigrate to Israel. European leaders have repudiated this call, urging unity instead.

Europe’s Jews are a vanishing group.

In 1939, 9.5% of the world’s Jews lived in Europe. By 1945, that had dropped to 3.8%. That number reflects the catastrophe of the Holocaust which decimated the numbers of Jewish people on this planet. Hitler killed 35% of the world’s Jews in those six years.

The decline in the Jewish population of Europe was slow for the first 15 years after World War II, dropping from 3.8% in 1945 to 3.2% in 1960. Then, the pace of migration increased. Jews were 2% of the European population in 1991 and by 2010, they had dropped to 1.4%.

What that means in real numbers is that the Jewish population of Europe was 9.5 million in 1939 and 3.8 million in 1945. The death of such a large percentage of its people decimated world Jewry. Pew Research estimates that the 2010 world Jewish population was about 14 million, which is still less than it was in 1939.

Much of the migration of Jews from Europe in recent decades has come from immigration of Jews out of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Most of the migration of Jews from Europe has been due to them going to Israel.

The shooting in Denmark last week included the murder of a Jewish man at a synagogue at which a Bar Mitzvah was taking place. Hundreds of gravestones in a Jewish cemetery were desecrated in France, hours after the shooting. Five young men have been arrested in connection with this crime.

In 2014, more than 7,000 French Jews left for Israel. The numbers of migrants have been on the increase since March 2012 when Mohammed Merah stormed a Jewish school in Toulouse, and killed three children and a rabbi.

The graveyard vandalism came just a month after a gunman killed four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris. These murders were part of a three-day siege of violence that left 17 people dead.

In Brussels, four people were shot and killed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014. This came after pro-Palestinian rallies were marked by demonstrators shouting “Death to the Jews!” and “Gas the Jews!” in France, Belgium and Germany.

Later last year, a Jewish-owned pharmacy in Paris was destroyed by youths protesting Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. A synagogue in Wuppertal Germany was attacked with firebombs. A group of Muslim men patrolled the neighborhood wearing uniforms that said “Shariah Police.”

These violent attacks are accompanied by a “soft” anti-Semitism that sounds a lot like the hazing, bashing, hate speech that always precedes violent persecution.

“The fear is that now things are blatantly being said open, and no one is batting an eyelid,” Jessica Frommer told the New York Times.  “The Middle East is being imported into Europe,” said Philip Carmel, European policy director for the European Jewish Congress.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Monday that the French government would defend French Jews against “Islamo-fascism.”

“A Jew who leaves France is a piece of France that is gone,” he told RTL radio.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that her government would do everything possible to make sure Jewish sites are secure. “We are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again,” she said.

 

 

 

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History of the Crusades: The Arab Conquest of Spain was a Brutal, Horrible Event

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

This video deals with the propaganda lies being promoted in popular media “teaching” about the Crusades. The American people are the victim of a massive disinformation campaign by the media as regards history, in particular the history the crusades.

What actually happened then sounds a lot like the behavior of ISIS and Boko Haram today.

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings in 633-638 AD. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost 1400 years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity

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They’re Targeting the People of the Cross

Italy and Libya. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Italy and Libya. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

ISIS released its first video of mass beheadings last Saturday.

The victims of this murder were 21 Christian Egyptian men who ISIS marched onto a beach in Libya and then beheaded en masse. A CBS senior news analyst commented “They are targeting the people of the cross,” the Copts, which is an ancient Christian communion located mostly in Egypt. This isn’t much of an analytical leap, considering that ISIS named the video “A Message to the Nation of the Cross.”

France and Egypt have called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to deal with the “spiraling crisis of ISIS.” Meanwhile, Italy has closed its embassy in Lybia and also appealed to the United Nations as it attempts to deal with a huge influx of refugees who are fleeing Libya.

“This risk is imminent, we cannot wait any longer. Italy has national defense needs and cannot have a caliphate ruling across the shores from us,” Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti told Il Messaggero newspaper. She added that the risks of Jihadists entering Italy along with the refugees “could not be ruled out.”

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, said, “We have told Europe and the international community that we have to stop sleeping. The problems cannot all be left to us because we are the first, the closest.”

Egypt’s government has responded to the video with bombings of ISIS locations inside Lybia. Egypt has also asked for American assistance in this war.

 

For more information read The Anchoress  and Tom Zampino. 

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What New Dads Do

Real men love their kids. My life has been blessed by two wonderful real men: My father, and my husband.

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What are You Doing for Shrove Tuesday?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Shimelle Lane https://www.flickr.com/photos/shimelle/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Shimelle Lane https://www.flickr.com/photos/shimelle/

Lent is just on the other side of tomorrow. Come Wednesday, we’re all going to church and get an ash cross on our foreheads with the admonition to “Remember, thou are but dust.”

But before Ash Wednesday comes Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday as it is sometimes called.

Shrove/Fat Tuesday is the last day before Lent, and certain Catholics use the day to party hardy before shutting all that down for 40 days of penance and fasting. Or, at least that’s how the story goes.

“Fat” Tuesday gets its name from the practice in pre-refrigeration days of using up all the fats and rich foods before Lent. The reason was both practical and celebratory. Food went bad in those days in ways that we can’t imagine now. It was eat it or toss it. People, being people, turned this necessity into a cause for rich eating and celebrating. That’s also where the idea of eating pancakes on the last Tuesday before Lent comes from. An easy — and tasty — way to use up flour and fat is by making pancakes.

Today is the last Monday before the last Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, we enter a season of reflection and penance in which we consider deeply what it means to be Christian. We follow a Risen Lord. But we also follow a crucified Lord Who died because of the humanity-shattering ugliness of sin.

All we have to do is read the headlines to know that humanity is still being shattered by its proclivity for sin, and that Christianity is still the revolutionary and living expression of the Word that shines in the darkness and is hated by that darkness. Christians and Christianity are under attack all over the globe.

Lent is a perfect time for us to consider whether or not we are fit for the battle.

But before Lent, before we get those ashes put on our foreheads and remember that a grave awaits us one day, we have given ourselves Shrove/Fat Tuesday. My parish is having a dinner dance Tuesday night. If the roads aren’t icy, I plan to go. If the weather is bad, I’ll probably stay home and indulge in steak with my hubby.

What are you going to do before you strap on for Lent? Is there a party in your near future?

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History of the Crusades: The Second Arab Siege of Constantinople

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings in 633-638 AD. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost 1400 years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity

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Another Terrorist Shooting in Europe: This Time in Denmark.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Andrew Fresh https://www.flickr.com/photos/afresh1/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Andrew Fresh https://www.flickr.com/photos/afresh1/

Europe suffered another deadly terrorist attack on another person who had supposedly defamed the Prophet Mohammad. There was also a second attack at a Bar Mitzvah in which a Jewish man was murdered. This time, the shootings were in Denmark.

Film director Finn Norgaard was killed and three police officers wounded Saturday at a free speech rally in Copenhagen. Hours later, a gunman killed Dan Uzan outside a synagogue where a Bar Mitvah was taking place.

The attacker, who the press is calling a “native son” of Denmark, was Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussain. He was shot and killed by police after these two murders. Muslim organizations in Denmark condemned the attack.

Here are the links.

Copenhagen Shootings: Police kill ‘gunman after two attacks

Terror Attacks by Native Son Rock Denmark

Copenhagen Shooting During Debate on Islam

Denmark Holds Two After Copenhagen Attacks

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10 Reasons Not to See Fifty Shades of Grey

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Ira Gelb https://www.flickr.com/photos/iragelb/

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Ira Gelb https://www.flickr.com/photos/iragelb/

Fifty Shades of Grey did big box office yesterday. It pulled in $30.2 million. It is also, as the article I linked to shows, being regarded as something of a cultural event. I imagine today will be even bigger box office for the movie.

The fact that many of the viewers are women tells its own tale about the degradation of the female which has taken place in our world. There was a time when the feminist movement would have tarred Fifty Shades and women themselves would have been willing to march against it. It is the essence of failed feminism that, after decades of “advocating” for women’s rights, this is where we are.

In my opinion, that has everything to do with the fact that feminism replaced the just and prophetic cause of women’s rights with the fight for legal abortion. I feel so strongly about this that I’m writing a whole book about it.

If  you plan to give this movie a pass,  you need to congratulate yourself. You’re doing the right thing.

In case you need them, here are 10 reasons why.

1. Linking sex and violence is evil.

2. Depicting women as objects and degrading them for entertainment is evil.

3. Getting your jaw smashed is not liberating.

4. Men who abuse women shouldn’t be “rescued.” They should be put in jail.

5. Holding up the masochistic woman as a twisted ideal is the oldest misogynist game in the world.

6. There’s nothing romantic about excruciating pain.

7. Celebrating mental, emotional, spiritual sickness is not good for your own mind, heart, soul.

8. Blood, fecal matter, torture and abuse are not turns-ons … unless there’s something really wrong with you.

9. Your lifespan is finite. Why waste 125 minutes of it on this trash?

10. Your money is finite. Why waste a chunk of it on “art” that degrades the female half of the human race?

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The ‘Fifty Shades’ Controversy: Sicko Sex and Failed Feminism

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Ira Gelb https://www.flickr.com/photos/iragelb/

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Ira Gelb https://www.flickr.com/photos/iragelb/

What is it with women who read Fifty Shades of Gay and who will go to the movie? You got me.

Fifty Shades sounds like the classic masochistic nonsense: Woman redeeming the bad man by allowing him to abuse her. This sort of claptrap has been used to keep women in abusive relationships for millennia. It’s right up there with the “she asked for it” defense of rape.

It is interesting that it’s Christians who are speaking out most strongly against this misogyny. The feminist response, such as it is, has been much weaker and more muted. For instance, this is the only response I found on NOW’s website. There was no comment about Fifty Shades on the National Women’s Political Caucus website.

This is the same old sick stuff that feminists once rightfully condemned with all their force. In my opinion, the popularity of Fifty Shades after decades of feminist work is a sign and a symbol of a failed movement.

One of the commenters in the video below says that linking sex and violence is evil. I absolutely agree. That fact that this sicko movie is the  big box Valentine’s Day release says a lot, and none of it good, about our culture.

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Staying Married: Listen to Your Wife; Talk to Your Husband

Note: This post was first published a couple of years ago.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Dennis Skley https://www.flickr.com/photos/dskley/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Dennis Skley https://www.flickr.com/photos/dskley/

My husband forgot about the first Valentine’s Day after our marriage.

I didn’t get so much as a card.

That was what you might call a mistake on his part; one he has learned not to repeat.

The reason he’s learned this is because I told him. I didn’t go home from work that day (I was in the legislature at the time) and hit him with my purse. But I did tell him. And the next Valentine’s Day, I told him in advance.

Which leads me to half my point.

Women, if you want a happy marriage, do not assume that your husband understands what you want. Based on decades of happy marriage to the one and only love of my life, I can tell you that he does not.

He. Doesn’t. Have. A. Clue.

I grew up with an involved father-in-residence and then married another y chromosome type person and have lived out the rest of my life since then with him. This experience has led me to form a theory about the male brain.

It doesn’t think like ours.

From what I can tell, the male of the human species thinks that if he makes sure you go to sleep in a warm bed under a roof that doesn’t leak after eating three square meals and that every man around knows that insulting you will get him in a fight, well then, that’s love. And you should know it.

If he comes home at night and doesn’t dally with other women, if he would rather cut his arm off than raise a hand to you, if he provides for, protects and cossets you, he thinks he’s done everything any woman with half a brain could possibly want. He’s finished. Done. Through. In his mind, he’s got that good husband stuff handled and now it’s time to get a brewski and plop down in front of the television for some football.

You, on the other hand, need to be told that he loves you. You think that all this protecting, providing, cosseting stuff is just a sort of baseline that any decent person would do. You don’t want a bag of groceries … or … well … you do want a bag of groceries, but you want something that feeds your heart as well as your stomach. You want affection. And you want a few complimentary words thrown in with the affection.

The trouble is, he’ll never know this if you don’t tell him. In fact, if your way of telling him is to go off and throw a hissy fit and cry and slam doors and answer “Nothing!” when he asks you what’s wrong, he’ll never figure it out. Nothing comes of that kind of behavior except a husband who is convinced he’s married someone who has mental problems, and a wife who honestly thinks her husband does not love her and that she’s probably unattractive to him to boot.

So, the first half of the point I’m making is, wives, talk to your husbands. Tell him what you want. I don’t mean yell at him and demand what you want. Just … tell him. Be specific. If you want him to take you out to dinner, say so. If you want a box of chocolates, say that. Do not make him try to figure it out. He won’t. Because he can’t. His brain doesn’t think like yours.

After you’ve told him, let it go until the next Valentine’s Day or whatever it is you were telling him about rolls around again. Then, gently, gently remind him. As the big day comes into view (be it your birthday, your anniversary, Valentine’s Day or whatever) start reminding him a few weeks out. You don’t have to make an issue of it. In fact, you shouldn’t make an issue of it. Just use your knowledge of him and your relationship to go about the business of reminding him in the gentlest way possible. If you don’t remind him, he won’t remember. Not, mind you, because he doesn’t love you, but because he’s a man, and their brains don’t think the same way ours do.

Which leads to the second half of my point.

Men, if you want a happy marriage, listen to your wife. When your wife tells you and reminds you, that means she’s handed you the ball and you need to run with it.

Do not quibble about this. Listen to your wife. Go forth and buy chocolates, or make dinner reservations or whatever. It does not matter that you just rotated the tires on her car and filled it up with gas. If she wants dinner and a movie, give her dinner and a movie. And for pete’s sake, tell her she’s pretty. Stand in front of your bathroom mirror with the door locked and practice if you have to, but say it.

Wives, talk to your husbands. Husbands, listen to your wives.

And while you’re at it, forgive one another for the subtle differences between the sexes that make this post necessary. There’s a reason God made us like this. When husbands and wives cooperate with one another this way, love between them grows. Our differences, which can drive us apart if we are stupid about them, can also meld us together for life.

Now, husbands and wives, start talking and listening. Your lives and your family will be the better for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Are Wealthy US Foundations Paying to Suppress Religious Freedom?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy The Hague https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassythehague/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy The Hague https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassythehague/

Are wealthy US foundations paying to suppress religious freedom?

John Lomperis of the Institute for Religion and Democracy says that so far as the Ford Foundation and the Arcus Foundation are concerned, the answer may be yes.

From Catholic News Agency:

“The agenda of such groups in opposing basic conscience protections could hardly be more diametrically opposed to our nation’s great traditions of freedom of conscience and of religion,” Lomperis, who serves as United Methodist Director for the institute, told CNA Feb. 10.

He contended that the pattern of grants “serves a fundamentally totalitarian vision these foundations and their allied politicians have of ‘religious liberty.’” This vision is especially opposed to those who value traditional sexual morality and respect for unborn human life, he noted.

“Our society is now facing serious questions about to what extent Christians (as well as, to a lesser extent, followers of other faiths) will be allowed to have the same degree to live in accordance with our values without facing new and powerful coercions,” Lomperis said.

The Arcus Foundation’s website lists a 2014 grant of $100,000 to the American Civil Liberties Foundation supporting “communications strategies to convince conservative Americans that religious exemptions are ‘un-American.’” A two-year Arcus grant to the ACLU in 2013 gave $600,000 to support the ACLU’s Campaign to End the Use of Religion to Discriminate. Arcus Foundation tax forms describe this as a “multi-pronged” effort to combat “the growing trend of institutions and individuals claiming exemptions from anti-discrimination laws because of religious objections.”

 

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Are the Murders at Chapel Hill a Hate Crime?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word. https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word. https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Is the murder of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill a hate crime?

In some ways, that question is an oxymoron, because murder is always a hate crime. It doesn’t matter if we label the deed a “crime of passion” a “thrill murder” or the work of a serial killer, murder is always, at some level a crime of hatred.

Murder is also, always, at a slightly deeper point, an act of self-hatred by the murderer his or herself.

People kill other people by accident. But when they do it deliberately and with forethought, it is the worst single expression of hatred that they can put to action. At the same time, there is no way that anyone can take a human life without also killing a piece of their own humanity. That is one way in which murder is a self-hate crime.

But there is another, more direct, way in which it is a crime of self-hatred. Murderers kill other people to destroy something in that person that reflects a part of themselves, their past, or their rage. They kill a piece of themselves when they kill another person, and they do it in a direct and known-only-to-their-deeper-psyche clear-cut way.

Ted Bundy claimed that he was God when he saw the light of life go out in his victim’s eyes. He was nothing of the sort. He was just a man who was killing a hated part of himself every time he killed. Killing is easy. A child can do it. Children do do it.

What is difficult is life. Living together in love despite our differences is the real challenge to our courage. Cowards kill because killing is easy. Only people of courage and conviction reach across that which divides us and offer a hand.

Which brings us back to the killer in Chapel Hill. He has turned out to be an inconvenient hate killer. If he was an evangelical Christian, the story of his rage would be number one. The drums would be beating, pounding out the message that the hate-filled language of certain news outlets and a certain religion that it has become fashionable to bash and trash was the “cause” of his hatred.

But in this case, the killer is inconvenient in the extreme. He’s not an evangelical Christian. He’s an atheist. What’s more, he’s evidently a follower of the more radical and least civil expressions of the socio-political movements of aggressive/destructive atheism. By that I mean he’s “friended” such fine folks as the Freedom From Religion Foundation and other uncivil religion-bashing hate groups.

I want to pause here and make a simple point. Being an atheist is nothing. You don’t believe in God? Big whoop. That’s your business and nobody cares.

But the socio/political movement which has grown up around the hate tropes of such authors as the so-called Four Horsemen of Atheism is another thing altogether. That is an uncivil, dishonest Christian-bashing, religion-bashing hate movement that feeds its followers a constant line of slanders and personal attacks against those who have the temerity to hold other opinions and think other thoughts.

Did the killer of these three young people commit a hate crime in the legal sense? That is questionable, and will, I am sure, become political.

If the killer was an evangelical Christian, the big “yes” would already be out there in numerous media outlets. But this killer himself is all wrong. The group and the movement that he self-identifies with is the new trendy. And much of the media has itself engaged in Christian bashing and faith bashing.

If these murders are hate crimes, then they are among the enablers.

Which is not to say that anyone killed these three people except the man who pulled the trigger on the gun. He, and he alone is responsible for his actions. On the other hand, despite the fact the he and he alone pulled the trigger those who make money off slander and invective, are responsible for what they do, as well.

Were the murders of three innocent young people in Chapel Hill a hate crime? I think they were. I know they were.

Does this hate crime of murder fit the definition of hate crime under the law? Were these three young people murdered specifically because they were Muslim? Was their death a form of racial/religious execution?

I don’t know.

It certainly was a hate crime, as all murders are. The murderer was a sympathizer with groups that run on hatred. There is a blood red rope of hate that leads from the language and the bashing certain groups employ and the crazy mean brains that take it up.

Aggressive atheists are not alone in this, btw. Our public discourse is ugly to the max these days, and that ugliness comes from every point on the social and political compass.

Every day I delete comments that call other people names and seek to base arguments on personal attacks. If I let them through, they would drag this blog down to the hate-sewer in nothing flat. I also delete comments from people who are obviously — and I mean obviously — mental.

A lot of these people are crazy mean atheists, but certainly not all of them. I delete comments from crazy mean Catholics, crazy mean Muslims, crazy mean pagans, crazy mean right-wingnuts, crazy mean left-wing nuts. I even get comments from unaffiliated crazy means who just want to vent that they hate everybody.

The point is that for every single one of these crazy means, somebody out there on the internet is feeding them. The hate-sewers run deep and swift our society. They’ve become big money and a source of political power. When hate-filled invective and crazy mean collide, it can be dangerous.

It can lead to murder.

I can’t tell other bloggers/writers/politicians how to conduct their public discourse. I can’t edit all the books and vet all the movies and television documentaries that push hate.

But what I can do, I will do. And what I can do is keep this blog above that sewer.

I invite those of you who have had enough of these rageful killings to join me.

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History of the Crusades: First Siege of Constantinople 674-678

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings in 633-638 AD. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost 1400 years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2015/02/muslim-conquest-of-christian-syria-palestine-633-638/#ixzz3RdfAEqIp

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The Bad, Bad Law, IRS, Congress and Stealing from Grandma

Photosource: Flickr Creative Commons by Tax Credits https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/

Photosource: Flickr Creative Commons by Tax Credits https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/

If you give the IRS the legal power to seize money without cause, they’re going to take that legal power and use it to abuse everyday folks.

It’s kind of like one of Newton’s Laws of Motion. It just works that way.

It seems that back when Congress was in one of its rare bill-passing moods, this time in a holy zeal to wage “war on drugs,” it turned diarrheic and passed any stupid law that came into its collective head. Among these was a law that gives the IRS the power to seize monies of private citizens without preamble or proof of wrongdoing, without, in fact, suspicion of wrong-doing.

Here’s how it works. Suppose, say, you sold 3 prime acres of the old family homestead. Suppose you got the not-so-princely sum of fifty thousand dollars for the land.

Rather than deposit all of the money in one savings account, suppose you opened a second savings account and deposited 7 thousand you were setting aside to pay taxes on the sale. Then, you put another 5 thousand in an account set up to pay for the funeral of an elderly relative when the time comes. The rest of the money you put in your main savings account.

By doing this innocent, and even intelligent, bit of allocating of your own money, you would have committed a federal crime called “structuring.” Because you had “structured” your money to suit your needs, the IRS could seize it without warning.

The IRS does not have to prove that you had criminal intent for the money. It does not even have to believe that you had criminal intent for it. Your money could be seized and you could be prosecuted without having done anything wrong at all, simply for allocating your money to suit yourself like, say, a free American.

The law that allows this was passed with the supposed purpose of catching bad guys, specifically bad guys who are funding terrorists and laundering drug money and such. As will all bad laws, I would imagine that anyone who questioned its utterly stupid verbiage was accused of being “soft” on crime. This kind of emotional and political blackmail, writ as it is across the internet and in cable news talk-a-thons, can scare lawmakers into voting for bad laws.

When the force pushing for the law is none other than the IRS with their vast terror-tactic powers and the president of the United States, who is off on a legacy-building crusade, voting against even a law as obviously horrid as this one gets dicey. Political demagoguery and political cowardice are how grandma loses her life-savings to government forfeiture and ends up defending herself in federal court against charges that she has violated this nebulous and entirely unjust law.

The IRS has been seizing private monies with this law for a long time. According to Yahoo News, they seized $242 million in 2500 cases between 2005 and 2012. Fully one third of these seizures “were nothing more than cash transactions under $10,000.” Half of these were returned after owners challenged the IRS action.

That’s sounds sorta good. It means that half of these people were able to defend themselves. But think for a moment what defending yourself against the IRS entails.

Think of the anguish, the fear, the expense, the protracted and ugly battles and accusatory conversations, the search for an attorney who specializes in this stuff, the legal fees. Think about that and tell me that even the people who got their money back didn’t suffer a kind of legal purgatory because of this bad, bad law.

Consider also that not every innocent person whose money was flat-out stolen from them under this law was able to get it back. It takes determination and cash to fight these things. It takes willpower and nerves of steel. It takes a lot more fight than, say, an elderly person who had been depositing their spouse’s life insurance in separate accounts, divided up for the kids, would be able to muster.

The IRS has run into a bit of criticism because of the fact that it’s using the legal power that Congress gave it in the way the law clearly says that it can. As a result, the IRS is saying that it will stop being such a bad boy agency in this regard. They promise that they are going to stop seizing money that comes from legal sources. And we’re supposed to believe them and trust them and call it square.

What’s missing in this is the responsibility of our elected lawmakers in Congress to either repeal or amend this law. I know, it sounds like science fiction to expect our lawmakers to stop positioning themselves to either (1) take back the power if they are the Ds or (2) add the White House to the power they’ve got if they are the Rs, and do their jobs.

I know that’s not going to happen. Running for the next election is all they do in Congress. Governing this great country and representing the interests of We the People is not what they are about.

They aren’t going to change that just because the government is abusing the people they are supposed to represent due to a bad law that they passed themselves. That would be responsible. It’s the kind of thing that an actual public servant might do.

This is the United States Congress we’re talking about. They don’t do nothin’ but run for the next election and serve the special interests who pay for their campaigns.

This bad law won’t change so long as We the People continue to be bamboozled into thinking that either of the two political parties is the answer to our woes. So long as they can engage us in their ridiculous pie-throwing contests and keep us mesmerized with blind party loyalty, they’re going to continue with their bad governance and dereliction of duty.

So what we have is an agency saying that it’s going to change how it enforces a bad, bad law in order to stop a bit of bad, bad publicity. Meanwhile the people we’ve elected to write the laws are ignoring the problem and behaving as if lawmaking, actual lawmaking and law-fixing, has nothing whatsoever to do with them.

What’s wrong with this picture?

From Yahoo News:

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa widow is charged with a crime and had nearly $19,000 seized from her bank after depositing her late husband’s legally earned money in a way that evaded federal reporting requirements.

Janet Malone, 68, of Dubuque, is facing civil and criminal proceedings under a law intended to help investigators track large sums of cash tied to criminal activity such as drug trafficking and terrorism. But some members of Congress and libertarian groups have complained that the IRS and federal prosecutors are unfairly using it against ordinary people who deposit lawfully obtained money in increments below $10,000.

At issue is a law requiring banks to report deposits of more than $10,000 cash to the federal government. Anyone who breaks deposits into increments below that level to avoid the requirement is committing a crime known as “structuring” — whether their money is legal or not.

The IRS has increasingly used civil forfeiture proceedings to seize money from individuals and small businesses suspected of structuring violations, according to a review by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group. The agency seized $242 million in 2,500 cases from 2005 to 2012 — a third of which arose from nothing more than cash transactions under $10,000. Nearly half was returned after owners challenged the action, often a year later.

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History of the Crusades: Muslim Conquest of Christian Syria-Palestine 633-638

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings in 633-638 AD. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost 1400 years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity.

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Darrell Waltrip’s Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast

This is a video for Darrell Waltrip’s full speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last week.

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