Did the White House Exclude Reform Muslims from the Summit on Extremism?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

I’ve kept mum about President Obama’s careful choice of words concerning ISIS and the tragedy in the Middle East because I could see legitimate reasons for it.

Tarring all Muslims with the same extremist brush is bad policy for this country for the simple reason that, in the final analysis, if Muslim extremists are ultimately defeated, it will be by other Muslims. We only have two choices in this matter: We can help other Muslims defeat the savages who are trying to destroy civilization in the Middle East, or, we can kill everybody there.

That is not hyperbole. The media is fond of saying, “we can’t kill them all.” But that is not a true statement. The United States of America could kill everything that lives just about anywhere on this planet. A more accurate statement would be “we won’t kill them all.”

Given that we won’t kill them all, the question remains: How do we stop this civilization-destroying plague of terrorist activity? The answer is that we do it by partnering with the civilization-building people from that part of the world to drive these barbarians to the ground.

President Obama, by his careful choice of words, seemed to me to be trying to thread the needle of coalition-building while registering this country’s rejection of the genocidal brutality being waged against civilian populations by Islamic terrorists. That’s why I didn’t join in the chorus of those who were attacking him.

In truth, I was — and still am — rather disgusted with much of the over-the-top criticisms of him in this regard. It seemed to me, and still does, to be more of a partisan bid for votes in the 2016 elections than a genuine concern for either the welfare of people in the Middle East or for America.

There are people who have become a bit unhinged in their hatred of President Obama. No matter what he does, they are against it. No matter what he says, they find fault with it. They’ve made him into a shade of satan and they hate him with an unreasoning, bitter hatred that cancels out any hope of moving this country into good governance.

I object — and have objected strongly — to certain of the president’s policies. But I honestly do not feel either hatred or anger toward him as a person. I want him to succeed, if his success is good for America. I will oppose him when I think his ideas are bad for America.

I especially want him to succeed in his efforts to bring Islamic extremism to the ground. I want to see the bloody reign of ISIS and their satanic barbarism ended permanently. I would like to see the Middle East move out of the Middle Ages and become a prosperous and productive part of the world community. That will never happen so long as the blood feuds and murderous ways of those who have plunged this whole region of the world into an on-going blood-bath continue to hold the public imagination of large sectors of that society.

If President Obama just took off with a full-throated blood lust, denouncing all Muslims, it would end any hope of working with Muslims of good will. It would also push the whole world inexorably toward a kill or be killed stand-off that could indeed lead to nuclear annihilation of large numbers of innocent human beings.

This is a rather long explanation as to why I haven’t jumped on the dump-on-Obama band wagon for his measured verbiage concerning this crisis. It is also an explanation as to why it is with reluctance that I criticize him now. I want him to succeed in bringing ISIS to ground. I do not want more bloodshed than is absolutely necessary to do this. I also want to find a way to live in peace with our Muslim neighbors.

I do not — most emphatically do not — want to kill them all.

I’ve decided to take the president to task because of an article I read in the Washington Times. If this article is true, his actions seem more motivated by wing-nut political-correctness than what is best for this nation.

According to the article, the White House hosted a terror summit this week. Reformist Muslim groups are said to have been excluded from this gathering. The reason cited by the article is that these groups take positions which run counter to the President’s public position that ISIS is not motivated by Islam.

If this story is true, the president’s summit on terrorism seems to have been operating under the parameters of group think. If Muslims who hold viewpoints that run contrary to the group think of certain intellectual/academic/political circles were excluded from the conversation, then the whole event was a production and not a conversation at all.

What bothers me most about this is that it’s a life and death, bone and blood issue. The president needs input from people who think differently than he does because he is not — nobody is — smart enough to think his way through this on his own. He needs to hear from people who will make him uncomfortable by stretching his thinking outside whatever box he’s got it in.

Willingness to do this is part of his job. An unwillingness to do this can unfit him for his job. In fact, I would say that it already has unfitted him for his job in serious matters such as the HHS Mandate, which has both tarnished and weakened his administration since the day he signed it.

It concerns me in ways that have nothing to do with posturing for the next election that the President of the United States is trying to conduct a war by the tenets of politically-correct shibboleths.

For that reason, I hope this article is more political partisan yapping than actual fact. However, based on a lot of things I know that I cannot talk about, it rings true.

 

If You Get Real with God. He Will Get Real with You.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by pcstratman https://www.flickr.com/photos/32495192@N07/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by pcstratman https://www.flickr.com/photos/32495192@N07/

Corrie ten Boom called it dying grace.

St Paul referred to it as “the peace that passes all understanding.”

I have described it as a bell jar that was over me, protecting me.

It is the grace of God, and it comes to us when we need it to do His will.

There are many caveats about this grace, none of which I’ve read in books, but which I’ve learned by walking with Christ.

First, you don’t get this grace when you don’t need it. Dying grace is for the dying. The peace that passes all understanding is for times when you’re in such deep trouble that peace of any sort would confound. The bell jar was for a time when I was being attacked while trying to pass pro life legislation.

The elements I’ve observed about this big-time, empowering grace are that (1) It is not given just because you ask for it, because, say, the hot water tank broke and flooded the floor, (2) It is given when you need it and (3) It is given when you need it to do His will, and (4) You can count on it on those times.

Dying grace comes to the dying; not those who are twenty years from dying and hypering themselves into a panic over what will happen one day.

The peace that passes all understanding comes when you are faced with that which cannot be borne without the grace of God.

The bell jar came to me — unbidden, I might add — when I was gritting my teeth to bull dog my way through doing His will, no matter what.

Dying grace/the peace that passes all understanding/the bell jar are a function of the deepest humility there is: When you are on your knees before the cross with the full knowledge of your unworthiness.

If you want to follow Jesus, you need to be ready to find yourself in situations where you need this grace. Because they will come.

How do you get ready for situations where you face anger, gossip, slander, loss of livelihood, even death, attacks, and unfathomable terror as the price of your faithfulness to the Lord?

The Bible tells us quite clearly how we do this. The message is repeated all through it.

You reject burnt offerings, a broken and contrite heart you will accept. King David prayed that when he was lost in sin. We pray the same words every Lent.

But do we “get” what the words are telling us?

Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to pray. The Pharisee in the story stands for every holier-than-thou-sure-of-their-own-righteousness person in the world today. The tax collector stands in for the drug dealers, corporatists, rapists, murderers, adulterers, Christian bashers, abortionists, pornographers, bribe-taking officials — the in-your-face sinners among us.

The Pharisee stood before God and pointed to the tax collector. I thank you that I am not like that sinner, he prayed. The tax collector bowed down before God in misery because of his remorse for his sins and prayed Have mercy on me, a sinner. 

Jesus made it clear that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home that day justified before God.

You reject burnt offerings which means, among other things, all the good works we are so proud of and the goodness we see in ourselves. A broken and contrite heart you will accept, meaning, among other things, genuine sorrow for the things we’ve done to hurt other people.

When we get to heaven, I think the biggest surprise may be who else shows up. There is a universal (as in, I do it too) impulse to justify and understand our own sins while condemning without mercy those of other people. But if you stand before God, clothed in the garments of your own self-annointed righteousness, the Scriptures tell us that you will be clothed in filthy rags rather than heavenly garments.

Twenty-one Christians died proclaiming their faith in Christ on a beach in Libya a couple of weeks ago. Christians live the hell of violent persecution throughout that region of the world. Christian girls are sold into sex slavery, which, in my opinion, is a much deeper and more hideous martyrdom than the one those men suffered on the beach. If I had to chose, I would chose the beach over sex slavery any day.

How do they keep their faith? How do they find the grace to proclaim Jesus in those circumstances? How does a parent whose daughter has been taken, whose son has been beheaded, find the grace to continue their walk with Christ?

The answer is, they don’t. That grace comes from God. We don’t create it or deserve it. It is given to us, like eternal life, out of His love for us.

But what of those who stumble? What of those who recant their faith and “convert” to Islam to save their lives? What of those who wet their pants in terror and cry for their mamas? What of those who fall into the alone of being helpless in the hands of human monsters and crack apart, unable to pull themselves back from the horror?

Does God stop loving them?

Are we called to punish them?

The answers are no, and no.

There is another grace that comes to believers, and it is the grace of forgiveness. It isn’t so flashy as dying grace/the peace that passes all understanding/bell jar grace. But it is the their forerunner.

If you want grace that will see you through you personal apocalypse, you have to begin by living the graces of ordinary life. Perhaps the first and foremost grace we should consider in this Lenten season is the grace of forgiveness.

Lent is not just about going to confession and getting yourself cleaned up from your sins. It is not just about no meat on Fridays and “doing” the stations of the cross. Lent is also, and most painfully for just about all of us, about forgiving.

Look into your hearts this Lent, and if there is someone who is like a running sore in your life, someone who has wronged you and hurt you and who perhaps continues to hurt you, take a moment and pray for them. Ask God to be merciful to them and take care of them. You will be amazed what this will do for you. You pray for them, and God gives to you, as well.

If you want dying grace/the peace that passes all understanding/bell jar grace when you need it, you have to do the little things now. If you cannot do them in love, then do them in obedience.

Practice forgiveness this Lent. Even if you don’t show up for the Stations and you forget and eat chicken salad instead of tuna salad on Friday, remember to pray for those who persecute you and use you unjustly. Ask God to take the beam of resentment, self-righteousness and self-pity out of your eye. Do that instead of obsessing over whether or not you hit your head on the cabinet and took the Lord’s name in vain.

Get real with God. If you do that, believe me, He will get real with you.

 

The Price of Clean Hands: He Died for Refusing a Bribe

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Arlington County https://www.flickr.com/photos/arlingtonva/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Arlington County https://www.flickr.com/photos/arlingtonva/

Officials who take bribes are committing a crime against just and stable government. Considering the enormous harm that unjust and unstable governments do to vast numbers of people, this is, in a very real sense, a crime against humanity.

Countries that are mired in the corruption of bribe taking find themselves unable to defend their citizens against criminal organizations such as Boko Haram.

This is the story of one young Congolese young man who refused a bribe and paid with his life. The Vatican calls him a Christian martyr.

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History of the Crusades: Pelayo and the Dawn of the Reconquista 715-722

 

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

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

This video describes beginning of the Spanish Reconquista. It discusses people and events that are unknown to most of us today. I think the story of Pelayo, testifying to faith in Christ to the co-opted bishop, is especially dramatic.

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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Okies Receive This Much Snow …

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved. 

… and IT’S A SNOW DAY!!!

The school’s are closed, hubby is home from work and we’re cooking a turkey.

You Yankees don’t know the first thing about how to do cold weather.

Do You Qualify to Attend the Father Dan Stoning Party?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Artforthegloryofgod by Sharon's photo stream https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Artforthegloryofgod by Sharon’s photo stream https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other because Jesus Christ has also forgiven you. St Paul

My goodness we’re all perfect and holy.

We’re also fragile. Oh, so fragile.

I went off-line for the Sabbath and when I come back, what do I find? A veritable meltdown of comments both here and on Facebook declaiming that, since I plan — and yes I do plan to do this — to

Accept Father Dan Letourneua and his new bride as my brother and sister in Christ and,

I absolutely wish them all the best and,

I hope that they have a long, holy, happy marriage with a great, big Catholic family,

I am … what? … failing at my job of hating sinners to death????

Let me tell you something folks, it is a fortunate thing that you are not God, because if you were, every single person on this earth would go straight to flaming hell for lack of forgiveness.

And frankly, I find the cries of how badly Father Dan has “hurt” the people of his parish to be a bit … ummm … what’s that word? Oh yes, the word is ridiculous.

The people of this parish are supposed to be irreparably hurt because they found out that priests are human beings who commit sins? They didn’t know this?

Father Dan did not rape a child. Father Dan did not use a woman as a concubine for years and refuse to marry her while he went around ripping off the priesthood. Father Dan fell in love and sneaked around and got married outside the Church. Then he spent a few months running and hiding and living a double life. The good people at St Joe’s found out that their priest had a big, fat secret life.

Is that a sin?

Yes.

Is it our place to stone him for this? I don’t think so, or at least not most of us. There may be exceptions.

Here are the people who are qualified to attend the Father Dan Stoning Party:

1. Those people who never did anything stupid, sneaky, foolish or wrong because of falling in love

AND

2. Those who also never told a lie

AND

3. Those who also never tried to hide their sins

AND

4. Those who also never spent months and years in fear that something they’d done would be found out

AND

5. Those who also never went to a priest in confession expecting mercy and forgiveness and got mercy and forgiveness.

If you can tick off all these things, then you might have cause to go at Father Dan. However, you will be sinning — you know sin, like what Father Dan did — if you do.

There’s that Jesus guy and His admonitions about forgiveness, etc. You remember those words “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us?” Or, how about, “by what measure you judge, that measure shall be used to judge you?”

Think carefully before you pick up those stones, grab that hammer, erect that cross for Father Dan. The execution you’re planning may be your own.

How many of the people at St Joseph’s Old Cathedral in downtown Oklahoma City have gone to Father Dan in confession and received mercy and forgiveness from him? How many people at all the parishes where he’s been have gone to him in times of trouble or hurt and received support, love, mercy?

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. We have a priest who has sinned and then lied about it and got caught in his lie.

Let those holier-than-thous who never sinned go at him.

Everybody else needs to get real.

 

Dr John Wilke, Father of the Modern Pro Life Movement, Dies at 89

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by kambodza https://www.flickr.com/photos/49507393@N08/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by kambodza https://www.flickr.com/photos/49507393@N08/

From LifeNews.com:

Dr. Jack Willke, who was often considered the father of the modern-day pro-life movement, has passed away.

A medical doctor by trade, Willke, along with his late wife Barbara, crisscrossed the nation in the 1960s and 1970s teaching people about the fight for life and helping set up some of the first state and local Right to Life groups combating abortion before and after the infamous Roe v. Wade decision.

Willke is the past president of National Right to Life, and was president of the Life Issues Institute and president emeritus, International Right to Life Federation.

With Barbara, Dr. Willke co-authored twelve books on human sexuality and abortion. Together they created audio and visual materials that were proven to be basic teaching tools throughout the world. Their materials have been translated into 30 languages on all five continents. They frequently appeared on radio and TV shows and have spoken in 64 different countries.

Brad Mattes, of Life Issues Institute and a longtime close friend of Dr. Willke, said, “It breaks my heart to tell you that our beloved Jack Willke died this afternoon and is now reunited with his wife in heaven.”

Group Raises Funds to Open Abortion Clinic in Oklahoma.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by kambodza https://www.flickr.com/photos/49507393@N08/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by kambodza https://www.flickr.com/photos/49507393@N08/

Somebody, somewhere decided that Oklahoma is “underserved” by abortionists.

That’s what they think the women of Oklahoma need: More abortionists.

Personally, I can think of a whole slate of things the women of Oklahoma need more than they need another abortionist. I know a lot of Oklahoma women who’ve had abortions. Wish they hadn’t, but they did. Not one of them — not one — had any problem obtaining an abortion because of a lack of abortionists.

However, Trust Women, a group that may or may not open clinics around the country, has targeted Oklahoma for a fund-raising drive to open another abortion clinic. I’m honestly not sure how legit this organization is. They may be everything they say they are. I just don’t know.

How many clinics have they actually opened? That’s a good starter question for people to ask before donating money to them.

According to their web site, they are “partnering” with the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood of Central OK, Ok Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and are the Cofounder of Take Root at Oklahoma University.

Planned Parenthood has deep pockets. They also have a network that is wired in to community organizations such as the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and other public decision makers and influencers.

However, in terms of numbers, these organizations are like a small, highly incestuous, family. Their strength is in networking and organizing, not numbers.

I find this whole thing a bit disgusting. Not only does this attack on life disgust me, but I am a feminist and it disgusts me that this is what feminism has devolved down to. It wouldn’t take half a brain to see that what the women of Oklahoma need is something a lot different from more abortionists.

Time will tell if this group is just talk or if there’s beef in the sandwich. One thing I’m already sure of: They aren’t doing work that addresses the real needs of Oklahoma women.

OKC Priest Commits Marriage. Is Removed from Parish.

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

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

I know I’m supposed to get all in a lather about this.

But, frankly, I think it’s ok-ish.

Father Dan Letourneau, who until recently was the pastor at what we Okies call St Joseph Old Cathedral in downtown Oklahoma City, has been outed as a married man. It seems that last November, Father Letourneau secretly got married. He then tried to hide it and continue his work as a priest. He succeeded in this until just recently, when the Archbishop found out about his marriage.

Archbishop Paul Coakley, Archbishop of the Diocese of Oklahoma City, had this to say about the situation:

This is obviously a very serious violation of the commitments, obligations and duties of priesthood. I deeply regret his decision and the impact this has had on the Catholic community and the people he has served. I will continue to pray for Dan and for those who have been hurt by his actions.

Obviously, Father Letourneau should have been a big boy about this and left the priesthood before he tied the knot. But, I’m far more sympathetic than appalled by this turn of events. I would imagine that the embarrassment and humiliation are scalding for both Father Letourneau and his wife.

It’s painful, having your life with its human stuff paraded around in public, and that’s all this is: Human stuff. On a scale of one to ten, this “crime” barely makes a one. This is a personal and, on a human level, understandable, situation made of normal human emotions and normal human fear of fessing up.

Love makes a fool of all of us from time to time. It certainly has me.

The deeds are done and nobody was hurt except Father Dan and his bride. The months of lying and sneaking must have been miserable for both of them. His time as a priest is over. Now they can begin their lives as husband and wife out in the sunshine and for real.

Personally, I’m all ok with Father Dan and his bride. I wish them a long, happy, holy marriage and a great big Catholic family.

 

Libyan Bishop Stays with His Flock

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

This is an excellent news video from Salt and Light.

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Representative Kern Gets Gay Marriage Bill Out of Committee

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern’s HB 1599 passed out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee this week. The vote was 5 to 3 in favor of putting the bill on the House floor.

If it becomes law, HB 1599 would have four effects. I am going to put my comments in bold to help you follow the thinking on this.

1. HB 1599 would prohibit the expenditure of state monies for “any activity that includes the licensing or support of same-sex marriage.”

The Oklahoma legislature clearly has the power to determine how state monies will be apportioned. There is a real possibility that this part of the bill would survive court challenge. 

2. HB 1599 requires that any Oklahoma state, county or city employee who takes actions that would “officially recognize, grant or enforce a same-sex marriage license” would lose “their salary, pension, or any other benefit” that is funded by Oklahoma tax monies.

This is broader than just state-appropriated monies. It takes in any funding for salaries, pensions or other benefits that come from local taxes, as well. The legislature has the power to determine how Oklahoma tax monies may be spent. Whether or not it has such sweeping powers to determine how local tax monies may be spent is questionable.

The legislature also has the power to allocate salaries, pensions and benefits to state employees. The question that will almost certainly arise if this bill becomes law is whether or not this particular use of that power is discriminatory. 

3. HB 1599 requires that state courts dismiss challenges to the “any portion of the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act (HB 1599) with an award of costs and attorney fees to defendants.”

In my opinion, this is a violation of the separation of powers on which our government is built. I also think it is a violation of the First Amendment right to petition the government. 

4. HB 1599 mandates that judges who violate “this act” will be removed from office.

5. This is not an effect of HB 1599, but it is important to note that it has what is called a “severability clause.” A severability clause means that if the courts strike down one portion of the bill, the rest of the statute will still stand.

Now that HB 1599 is out of committee, it is, in legislative parlance, “on the floor,” referring to the “floor” of the full House of Representatives. The next step in its passage will be to get it on the House agenda where it can be brought to a vote of the full House.

Whether or not Representative Kern will succeed in getting this bill onto the floor agenda and then getting it called up for a vote is a matter of internal House politics. This has a great deal to do with the push and pull of what is happening with other legislation and how the various members align themselves on this issue. It is an internal, out-of-sight bit of legislating.

If HB 1599 comes to a vote of the full House, and if it passes the full House, it will then go to the Senate, where the Senate author will have to put it through the same process, all over again. If it passes the full Senate without amendments (unlikely) it will go to the governor, who has the power to veto it.

If it is amended in the Senate, it must come back to the House and, unless Representative Kern accepts the Senate amendments, would go through a conference process. If she accepts Senate amendments, HB 1599 would be voted on again by the full House. If the bill goes to conference, it has a lot of hurdles to get over before it can be voted on again. A lot of bills die in the conference process.

If it gets through the conference process, it must then be put back on the agendas of both houses, and be brought to a floor vote in both houses. If it survives all that, it still has to go to the governor, who can veto it.

Each of these steps is more complex than it sounds here. Each step has more variables than I can discuss in a blog post.

It is no small accomplishment that Representative Kern succeeded in getting this bill out of committee. She is a determined, hard-working legislator who does not attack or harm her colleagues.

If HB 1599 does not come to a vote of the full House before the end of the legislative day on March 12, it can not be voted on this year. That does not mean the bill is dead. It can be brought up for a vote next year.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few weeks.

History of the Crusades: Islamic Spain was NOT the ‘Ornament of the World’

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

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

The version of the Crusades being pushed by the media and much of our educational bureaucracy is not history. It is propaganda.

The idea that Islamic Spain was an Edenic “Ornament of the World” is obvious nonsense. I say that it is obvious for two reasons: The treatment of Christian populations throughout the rest of the territories conquered by Muslim invaders belies it. Even more to the point, the long-term and desperate war that the Spanish people engaged in to repel these invaders would not have occurred if these stories of conquered bliss were true.

Current history about the Crusades is deliberate propaganda that is being used as a political and social tool to bash Christianity. It is a lie that is so endemic that we heard it recently coming out of the mouth of the president of the United States.

Its purpose is to weaken Christian witness and tar Christianity in order to advance certain social and political agendas that are antithetical to Christian teaching. There is a lot of money at stake in this in the form of federal funding for things like embryonic stem cell research and Planned Parenthood.

The federal grant-making industry is the major industry and source of monies in several of the most prosperous zip codes in this country. It also dominates our most prestigious institutions of higher learning. It is fair to say that grantsmanship, rather than education, has become many of these institutions’ primary purpose.

For these reasons, Christian bashing is not only a social/moral/political evil: It is big business. In fact, it is the only business of large enclaves of prosperity and privilege that, at least so far, appear to be protected from the vicissitudes of a declining economy.

It is ironic that this declining economy is mostly due to the exportation of America’s industrial base to a Communist country. The irony lies in the fact that many of the apologists for this destruction of American industry and American jobs came from those same institutions of higher learning who continue to draw down the lion’s share of federal grant monies.

Enabling and encouraging Christian bashing in order to weaken the one institution that has any motive or chance of successfully standing for the ordinary people of this country is a rather obvious tactic for those who make their money from the way things are. Teaching ahistorical propaganda about the  Crusades as history is just one slice of this poisoned pie.

Despite the failings of its followers, Christian teaching is inclusiveness and that inclusiveness always wins out in the end. Christianity is a revolutionary force that proclaims that all human beings are made in the likeness and image of God. Christianity taught humanity that there is no Greek nor Jew, male nor female, slave nor free. All are one in Christ Jesus. 

Everything — the end of slavery in the Western world, the ideals of human rights and the unique value of each individual human being, grew from that mustard seed.

A social order that is built on defining specific groups of people as not human enough and thus liable to be killed at will, that excludes almost the entire country from prosperity and that siphons the wealth of a great nation into itself while promoting ideas that impoverish and disenfranchise the larger citizenry will, by its very nature, be inimical to the true Gospels of Christ. More and more, our institutions, whether they are institutions of higher learning or business or government, are isolating themselves from the larger culture.

They seek to create a self-sustaining enclosed system of thought and funding that loops back on itself and is powered by federal money. What I’m saying is that these people only talk to one another. They reference one another. They have created a false history of the Crusades — among other things — to protect the money machine that shelters their cushy existence from ideological interference.

The greatest danger to this walled-in system of exclusion and privilege is free-ranging Christianity with its empowering respect for the human.

 

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 of 1400 years ago. 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/history-of-the-crusades-muslim-conquest-of-christian-egypt-639-646/#ixzz3SIOIz3oD

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Coptic Christians Cry Out to Jesus

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by gkaruna karan https://www.flickr.com/photos/35888164@N06/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by gkaruna karan https://www.flickr.com/photos/35888164@N06/

This is the real deal. Coptic Christians know and understand martyrdom.

Evidently, before the 21 Christian men were beheaded by ISIS a few days ago, they testified to their faith in Jesus Christ. They are true martyrs, saints of the Lord, who are in heaven right now.

This video is, like so much that comes from our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, deeply humbling.

Lent is a good time for us to consider the question: What will we do with this Jesus they are crying for? How will we stand for Him?

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Coptic Christians of Egypt and Their Long History of Persecution

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maggu https://www.flickr.com/photos/maggu/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Maggu https://www.flickr.com/photos/maggu/

This video is from January, 2014. At that time, the Muslim Brotherhood was subjecting the Copts to violent discrimination, including kidnapping their women and girls, selling them into sex slavery, or forced marriages in which they are “converted” to Islam.

Two weeks ago, 21 Coptic Christian men were beheaded in a ritualized manner by ISIS. Before they died, these martyrs to the faith proclaimed their faith in Christ.

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Would Die for Your Ashes? Cardinal Wuerl Reflects on Modern Christian Martyrs

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston https://www.flickr.com/photos/bostoncatholic/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston https://www.flickr.com/photos/bostoncatholic/

Cardinal Wuerl delivered a powerful homily on the present-day Christian martyrs yesterday.

“We can go out those doors with ashes on our forehead … however … there are parts of the world where that will just as well be a death certificate,” he said.

“There are parts of the world where Christians are regularly martyred. Where their churches are destroyed, their homes burned, their children sold into slavery.

“The first thing we owe our brothers and sisters is a sense of solidarity with them. If they suffer, we should feel that suffering. And we owe them our prayerful support, but we also owe them our voice.

“It has gone on for the longest time, because of the silence. The silence of the world community, the silence of all of us in the face of this extraordinary violence against the Gospel of Jesus Christ”

These are powerful words, but I think we should go a lot further than they ask. We should — at the least — speak often of Christian martyrdom and Christian persecution. We should agitate to allow Christians who are being persecuted to seek asylum in this country. We should gather together in prayer services for persecuted Christians around the world.

We should write about these martyrs. Pray for them. Pray to them. Help the survivors. And get serious with our elected officials who don’t get the message. We are Americans. Our government is us. That means we have immense power to change things, if we will work together, and if we can keep our focus and not lose interest because of the next sensation.

We must not forget our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering and dying for His Name. Remembering is the least, the smallest thing, that we can do.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Catholics owe solidarity, prayer and a voice against injustice to their fellow Christians being martyred and persecuted around the world, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., stressed on Ash Wednesday.

“(W)e can go out those doors with ashes on our forehead” as a public display of faith, the cardinal said. However, “(t)here are parts of the world where that will just as well be a death certificate.”

Cardinal Wuerl spoke at the end of his Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the penitential season of Lent which culminates in the Easter Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday – followed by the celebration of Easter Sunday and the ensuing Easter Season.

On Ash Wednesday, Mass attendees may receive ashes on their forehead in the sign of a cross, to signify penance and the remembrance of human morality.

Focusing on the reality of Christian persecution in many parts of the world. Cardinal Wuerl pointed to Nigeria, India, Syria, Iraq and the Holy Land as particular areas of concern.

Brother of Two ISIS Victims Testifies to Their Christian Faith

 

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ted https://www.flickr.com/photos/frted/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ted https://www.flickr.com/photos/frted/

The brother of two of the 21 Coptic Christians murdered in Libya used live television (17 February) to thank their killers for including the men’s declaration of faith in the video of their execution.
Beshir called SAT-7′s weekly worship programme, We Will Sing and said how he and his entire village were proud of the 21 men including his brothers Bishoy Estafanos Kamel (25) and Samuel Estafanos Kamel (23), because they were “a badge of honour to Christianity”.

This video of the call is a blessing and a challenge to watch.

Twenty-one St Stephens were martyred on that beach. The challenge for us is, how can we carry their witness to the whole world?

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History of the Crusades: Muslim Conquest of Christian Egypt 639-646

 

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

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

Tom Zampino posted a fascinating discussion of the Christians in Egypt on his blog Grace Pending. It’s a good read that amplifies the information in the video below.

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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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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