Conscience Rights and the Obama Administration

Standing Against Christian Persecution

The USCCB released a new video today discussing the war on the right of conscience in America.

I think it’s a powerful video that expresses the issues far better than anything I could say. All Americans should be upset about what the Obama administration is doing to our First Amendment liberties.

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Our Papa’s Digs for WYD 2013

Take a look at the room Pope Francis will occupy during World Youth Day 2013 in Rio.

I’m not one who likes over-decorated houses. But this room is too spare for more than an overnight, at least for me. I like homey touches that say sit down, relax and stay awhile.

At the same time, this clean, calm space has a kind of simple elegance. I can imagine it would be quite restful after a day of dealing with intrusive cameras, huge crowds and the noise that goes with them. The only thing missing is a comfortable chair for relaxing. Hopefully, there is one off camera. 

Source: CNA

The room where Pope Francis will stay during his visit to Brazil for World Youth Day Rio 2013 Credit Intermirificanet CNA 7 15 13The room where Pope Francis will stay during his visit to Brazil for World Youth Day Rio 2013.

Credit: Intermirifica.net.

Is Pro Life Money Green?

Is pro life money green?

Evidently, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today and the LA Times don’t think so. 

Each of these publications refused to run this ad, which was sponsored by Heroic Media and designed to support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The ad was not a public service message, it was paid advertising:

Heroic media

According to a National Review article, these three publications said they refused the ad because it was “too controversial.”

The Chicago Tribune has agreed to run the ad below instead, with the proviso that the ad must say that the advertiser clarify that the ad is an advertisement for legislation. 

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I may be wrong, but I’m guessing the reason that they are chary of running the ad is at least partly due to the pro choice predilections of the editorial staff at these publications. I know that if someone wanted to run a post promoting abortion on this blog, I would almost certainly refuse. However, I would tell them that the reason is because I do not promote evil here. The editorial staff of a supposedly objective news publication does not have the luxury of saying things like that. 

I think that these ads are a bit too close to the reality of what late-term abortion really is. There’s no blob of flesh here. You are not dealing with a single cell. The humanity of these little persons is obvious; so obvious that a photo can show it. 

I think that the “controversy” is really fear on the part of the people who made this decision, and that the fear verges on primal terror of facing the horror of what they have supported and what they have done by being pro abortion. 

Can a Christian Be a Democrat?

Democrat

Every so often I do something that gets press coverage beyond the Oklahoma border.

If this coverage includes the fact that I am (a) a Democrat, and (b) pro life, I know that several commenters on whatever news story or blog my name appears are going to chime in with the opinion that no one can be both (a) a Democrat and, (b) pro life, and that I must be phony, bogus, a Judas goat and a liar. These verbal brickbats come from both sides of the political divide. 

It seems that my dual citizenship in both the Democrat and pro life political kingdoms makes me something of a universal hate object.

When it was just the abortion issue, this seemed a bit over the top. After all, the Republican party is not exactly true to the Gospels, either. Religious leaders and their followers in both the Democratic and Republican camps torture the Gospels to make the teachings of Christ conform to their political party. I see it all the time. 

However, it’s not just abortion any longer. It seems some days as if the National (as opposed to the local) Democratic Party has declared total, all-out war, not just on certain aspects of basic Christian morality, but on the First Amendment and Christianity itself. 

I stopped attending Democratic Party functions in Oklahoma a number of years back simply because it was such an unpleasant experience. I mean, who wants to go spend an evening with people who lie about you and slander you and call you names that you can’t even repeat in polite company? Why would I want to be around folks who attack my faith and tell me repeatedly in every way they can, that they want me to go away?

The question arises, if I’m not a phony about my religious beliefs and my positions on issues concerning the sanctity of human life and the family, then, why am I Democrat? Is it stubbornness, or is it stupidity?

In truth, I am stubborn.

Very. 

And I can be stupid. 

Very.

But in this instance of party affiliation it’s more complicated — or maybe more simple — than that. 

The things I described above broke my heart and made me so miserable that I did consider changing political parties. I wanted to get away from the political party that treated me like dirt. I just plain wanted out. 

I have a habit of asking God what I should do before I act on a decision this big. Sometimes I get an answer, other times, I don’t. This time I got an answer, and a strong one. I asked if I should change parties, and the answer was …

No. 

I waited a few weeks then asked again. This time, the answer was …

NO. 

A few months later, I asked one last time, and the answer was no, with an explanation that I won’t share here. 

After that, I decided to stop badgering God and accept His will. I didn’t understand it. But I knew that I could not change parties. 

And I continued to get kicked around by my fellow Democrats. And it continued to hurt me. And I wondered why God would want me to keep on taking this garbage. 

And God used me in the next few years to do things for issues such as pro life that I could not have done if I hadn’t been a Democrat.

That D after my name was like a key in a lock that turns it over, click, and opens the door. There was one time in particular where I was like a chess piece that He had moved into place and then left there until He needed me. We passed one monumental pro life bill that stopped horrible carnage only because I was a Democrat. If I had been sitting on the other side of the chamber, that bill would have died. There was a reason why I couldn’t change parties, and, in time, I saw it played out. 

The short answer to the question Can a Christian be a Democrat is, yes. In fact, I would say that He needs more Christians to be Democrats, and He needs them now more than ever before. 

Thumb throw christianity in the trash

We are now in a post Christian era in which Christians and Christian values are under attack from almost every quarter, including the political. This is, to paraphrase that great agnostic Thomas Paine, not the time for summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. These really are the times that try men’s souls.

Christians need to retreat to a life of prayer, scripture and the sacraments to build their spiritual strength. We need to find our deepest friendships with one another, where we can be accepted and loved for our faith. Then, we need to join the battle by engaging the world in a constructive, consistent and unwavering manner. 

There is no place where we should not go with our faith, including, absolutely, the Democratic Party. 

Book Review: Social Media Ministry and Community Building in Today’s Church

Join the conversation about The Social Media Gospel and order a copy here

Clergy talk a lot. Clergy usually also write, read and socialize a lot.

By a lot, I mean a lot. The average priest, preacher, deacon, rabbi, imam, probably has moments every week when he or she would like to drop their cell phone in the nearest toilet and flush. 

These people are intelligent and greatly gifted in verbal skills. 

You’d think they’d be naturals for thinking up ways to use the social media to promote their beliefs and extend their faith community past the church doors and into the world. 

For some of them, this is true. We have outstanding clergy bloggers here at Patheos. SQPN was founded by the podcasting priest, Father Roderick Vonhogen. But for most clergy, especially Catholic priests, not so much. 

Why do I say “especially” Catholic priests? Because it’s just a fact, at least concerning the priests that I know, that the good ones are somewhat reluctant to use the new media to preach, teach, organize and build community. Also, we’ve had some appalling falls from grace by “star” priests who either were corrupted by the attention, or were ripping off the priesthood as a vehicle to fame in the first place. 

It is important for us to tread carefully in the business of making “stars” out of people who may not have the anointing for the work. But social media does not have to make rock stars of clerics. It can be, and it should be, just another form of communication to a world that is dying for lack of social and spiritual nourishment.

The lack of community is an emotional poverty in many people’s lives. Social media can be a way of reaching out to these people with a Christian hand. It can bring them the Gospel they will never find inside a church because they won’t go inside a church in the first place.

It can also build community within existing church congregations. Too many people go to church kind of like they go to a movie. They go, sit through the service, then leave and never talk to anyone from the parish until they go back again the next Sunday.

Social media can allow parishioners to develop contact between one another, learn more about their faith and become engaged in a more intimate and companionable relationship with their parishes. 

But how is a religious leader to start the process of developing a social media presence for his or her church?

The Social Media Gospel, by Meredith Gould, seeks to answer that question. 

The book makes many important points. It is critical for church leadership to spend time planning and learning before beginning the social media adventure. The author says that it’s important to decide what you want to accomplish with social media and how you’ll know if you are accomplishing it. 

Also, church leaders need to build their social media activities around the beliefs that are the reason why their church exists in the first place. 

The book gives useful guidelines for the thinking it through part of developing a social media ministry. It does not provide technical information about the how-to phase of setting up this ministry. It is a worthwhile read for someone who is thinking about setting up a social media ministry for their church. It is especially useful if you are trying to decide whether or not your parish or church should engage in social media ministry.

I think the answer is an emphatic yes, churches should engage in social media ministry. I think the rewards of community building among existing parishioners alone will be astounding. 

For a parish to ignore social media in today’s world is a little bit like ignoring the need for sound systems. These things are tools, and those who bring Christ to the world should use every tool they can find to do this effectively. 

These two videos, Don’t Be That Church I & II, were created by Meredith Gould, the author of The Social Media Gospel.

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The Government Lost the Trayvon Martin Case. Now the Government Should Accept the Verdict.

Bill of rights 630

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that American citizens may not be put on trial repeatedly for the same crime. 

If a jury finds you innocent, the government can not turn around and re-try you again and again for the same crime. 

Do you see the reason behind this? If the government can just keep putting a person on trial over and over until they finally get a jury who will convict, then they will eventually win every case. Under circumstances like that, there is no reason to have a trial at all. 

It does not matter if lots of people watched a trial on tv and are angry about the outcome. It does not matter if the federal government meddled in what should should have been a state case in the first place. The verdict is the verdict is the verdict. 

In recent decades, the Federal government has taken to meddling in cases where the jury chose not to convict by charging the defendant with some other crime that is related to the first charge but is federal, rather than local. Every time they have done this that I’ve seen what they are actually attempting is to overturn the first jury decision by putting the defendant on trial over and over until they finally convict him or her.

The Constitution protects us from being tried repeatedly for the same crime. What they are doing is using statutes that address different aspects of the same crime to try people and void our Constitutional rights to freedom from double jeopardy in court.  

Justice Scales

Let’s say someone robs a convenience store and you are put on trial for the robbery. Let’s further say that the jury find you not guilty. You are free to go.

Unless the federal government steps in and says that the theft of a bag of chips that was also taken during the commission of the robbery makes it a federal crime. After all, the chips were manufactured in one state and shipped to the store that was robbed in another state. Ergo, the crime is interstate, and federal. The feds then put on you trial in a federal court on the chip charge.

Is this putting you in double jeopardy? I think so. Does it violate your Constitutional rights? I believe it does. 

I’ve read that the Justice Department of the United States Government is considering taking up the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case by charging Mr Zimmerman with federal aspects of this same crime for which he was found not guilty. I think this is because they don’t like the verdict the jury in Florida gave and want to, as a friend of mine said about an entirely different case, “try him until they fry him” on the Federal level. 

Mr Zimmerman was tried in open court by a jury of his peers and found not guilty. The government had the opportunity to use all of its massive powers to formulate a presentation in court that would convince the jury to convict. They did not convince this jury. The jury has spoken, and their verdict is not guilty.

I think the Justice Department should accept the verdict. 

From Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says it is looking into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case.

The department opened an investigation into Martin’s death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.

In a statement Sunday, the Justice Department said the criminal section of the civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida are continuing to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal probe, in addition to the evidence and testimony from the state trial.

Lord, You are My God


This song by Caedmon’s Call, puts us all in our place: At the foot of the cross.

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This is Your God

When was the last time the world promised satisfaction, and actually came through?

Great question.

I don’t agree with all of Jeff Bethke’s ideas. But this poem speaks truth to the contemporary world. Be warned: There are a few crude expressions and words.

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Creativity Done Right

Our creativity comes from our Creator, Who is the source of all creation.

God is love, and He is the source, not only of creation, but of all true creativity. Like every gift we have, our creativity can be used in the service of the darkness, but when it is, it always becomes destructive and a source of sorrow, rather than edifying and a source of joy.

Consider pornography, which destroys the humanity of human beings, both those who are the targets of the hatred that motivates porn, and those who make the stuff, and finally, those who view it.

Creativity gone bad is like Shakespeare’s lilies that, when they fester, stink far worse than weeds.

But creativity done right is a gift from God to the person who uses it and onward to us who enjoy its fruits.

This lovely video demonstrates creativity, done right.

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Texans have a New Abortion Law. Americans have a New Political Reality.

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Texans have a new abortion law.

Americans have a new political reality. 

The Texas legislature passed the much-ballyhooed abortion law which would require abortion doctors to have hospital privileges and abortion clinics to provide the same health and safety standards as other outpatient surgical clinics. They crossed the finish line on this bill late last night amid what can only be described as a mob assault on the Texas state capitol.

The reason I chose the words “mob assault” is that the focus of at least a good number of the citizens who came to the Texas capitol was to use mob action to shut down the legislative process. Consider, for instance, this statement issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety:

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) today received information that individuals planned to use a variety of items or props to disrupt legislative proceedings at the Texas Capitol.

Therefore for safety purposes, DPS recommended to the Texas Senate that all bags be inspected prior to allowing individuals to enter the Senate gallery, which the Texas Senateauthorized.

During these inspections, DPS officers have thus far discovered one jar suspected to contain urine, 18 jars suspected to contain feces, and three bottles suspected to contain paint. All of these items – as well as significant quantities of feminine hygiene products, glitter and confetti possessed by individuals – were required to be discarded; otherwise those individuals were denied entry into the gallery.

In the interest of the safety and security of Texas legislators and the general public, these inspections will continue until the conclusion of Senate business.

I am all in favor of citizens visiting their state capitols. I think the people of this nation should pay a lot more attention to what their lawmakers are up to than they do now. I believe that every person in this country has a right to talk to their elected officials and to petition them concerning the issues and legislation they are voting on. 

We are, every single elected one of us, representatives of the people who put us here. We can’t know what the people who elected us want from us unless they tell us. Polls and things of that ilk are not a substitute for direct personal input with the people themselves. 

On the other hand, when a group of people try to use mob action to shut down the legislative process, they are attacking democracy. The people who were so bent on disrupting the Texas legislature would not have needed to be there at all if they had been able to take their cause to the court of public opinion and win elections. By trying to disrupt the legislative session with mob action, they were, in effect, attempting to overturn the elections which put the legislators in that chamber to cast those votes.

Political Campaign

If you don’t like what your legislator does with the power you gave them when you elected them, then run against them for election. If  you don’t want to run, then go out and volunteer to help someone else run. Put up yard signs. Make phone calls. Hand out literature. Donate money. 

That is the way to change the face of government in this country. It is a power we all have, and which we are giving away to special interests and money men when we don’t use it. 

There is a new kid on the political block, and it’s a yammering, spoiled, mean-spirited little brat who wants what it wants when it wants it and doesn’t care what damage it does to this country to get it. The bad behavior of some of the protestors in Texas is paralleled by the sudden rash of elected officials, Attorneys General, in particular, who run for office, get elected, and then find that their superior morality requires them to refuse to do the job they were elected to. 

We’re going to have to start arresting these people who come to state capitols and try to use mob action to shut down the legislative process. I don’t want to do that. I want people to feel free to go to their capitols and to talk to their legislators about whatever is on their minds. But we cannot allow mobs of people who cannot win an election try to overturn elections by shutting down the Democratic process by means of creating such havoc that they stop debate.  

Impeach

At the same time, we need to consider impeaching or at least defeating at the polls duly elected chief law enforcement officers who refuse to speak for the people in court. When an Attorney General of a state will not represent the people who elected him or her in court, they are derelict in their duty. They are using a sort of don’t-show-up-in-court-and-deliberately-lose-the-case veto power over the legislative and referendum process. They are making themselves the judge of what it is not their job to be the judge — the will and the power of the people of their state to make their own laws. 

Both of these extreme behaviors — the mob actions in Texas and other states, and the newfound desire to veto legislation by not showing up in court on the part of Attorneys General — are attempts to subvert the will of the people, and to nullify the actions of a representative government. 

I view both these behaviors as the natural outcome of the moral depravity of the positions some citizens are taking. It corrupts and hardens a person to support killing unborn babies. It scrambles the normal thinking processes to convince yourself of something as stupid as the idea that two men or two women are the same as a man and a woman. This is untrue on its face. 

Genuinely pro choice (as opposed to pro abortion) people have legitimate points. Much of what concerns them about the misogynistic treatment of women is well-founded. By the same token, homosexuals have legitimate claims to civil rights and protection under the law. However, the pretense that an unborn baby is not a human being, or that a homosexual union is the same as the marriage between a man and a woman, flies in the face of reality. 

Laws enacted according to these fantasies are always going to cause great harm, because they are not based on the reality of the human condition. People who advocate for these positions, will, over time, harm themselves and their thinking abilities. 

It saddens me, but it doesn’t surprise me, to see the destructiveness to our political fabric ratcheting up with each twist of the political dial. It is the inevitable consequence of the fantastical thinking many people use in forming their worldview.  

Miracle Story: The God Who Doesn’t Care

A reader asked if I had written about my conversion. I wrote this a while back and republish it here.

I’ve written about other people’s miracle stories. Now, I’ll tell you about one of my own.

I think most Christians have miracle stories. Mine is the fundamental Christian miracle, the accessible and universally available miracle. I am going to tell you about the day I stepped, blundered actually, from death to life.

I lived about 17 years of my life in an anti-God mindset. There were reasons for this. To this day, I understand myself and accept that when I made the turn away from God, I did the only thing I could have done under that circumstance.

I didn’t decide that there was no god. I tried. I read the atheist books of the day; Passover Plot among them. I went back a few decades and read Why I Am Not A Christian. I actually wanted to believe there was no god. It would have been a great simplifier for me in those days.

But the books I read were essentially self-refuting. You can’t think them through too seriously and miss the train-sized holes in their line of reasoning.

In truth, I knew there was a god. I’m not sure how I knew. But I did. My problem wasn’t that I thought he wasn’t there. It was that I thought he didn’t care.

I didn’t come to a point where I decided Today I Will Become Anti-god. I just sort of segued into it, one decision, one discussion, one opposing commitment at a time.

By the time I was into my 20s, I was thoroughly launched on my anti-god way of living, thinking and reacting. The fight to defend Roe v Wade and legal access to abortion pushed me hard toward an aggressive anti-god mode.

What had been a walking away became, through the catalyst of my pro-abortion stand, a fierce resentment. I detested the various churches for their opposition to Roe. I thought, believed to my core, that they were utterly indifferent to the sufferings of women.

This wasn’t all just a web I wove in my own mind. I knew of actual instances of churches turning away from women who were in great distress; of them abandoning these women or even attacking them.

To say I was angry over this hardly touches it. I was enraged, bitter and hard as a diamond about it. I knew there was a god. But I also thought I knew that he didn’t care. I had no use for him.

I did a lot of things in this period of my life that I regret now. I wish I could tell you that everything I ever did that I regret I did then, but that isn’t true. However, my most dastardly deeds, including the one time I ever hurt another person deliberately, selfishly and with full intention, happened during those years.

I was, in the way I judged myself at that time, certain that I was a good person and that everything I was doing was not only right but morally superior. Even the one thing that I absolutely knew was wrong didn’t bother me.

This peculiar moral certitude of moral ingrates is, I believe, a direct consequence of being your own god. If you decide what is right and wrong, it’s pretty easy to be morally proud 24/7. I encounter it in people who are their own gods all the time. The difference being that now I know it for what it is.

As time went by, this one thing I couldn’t justify to myself ate at me. I knew I had hurt another person. Worse, I knew that I had decided to hurt another person and done it for entirely selfish reasons. I stood convicted in my own court by my own rules. That brought me face to face with one of the sadder realities of living life as your own god: When you come to that place where you see that you have really been wrong, you can’t make it right.

You are stuck there, you and your guilt, in a battle for your peace of mind that you can only win by hardening your heart and “going on.” If you do that, of course, it will be much easier to do the wrong again. And again. And again forever until you die. You become wedded to your sin and in time it becomes who you are.

I was stuck there, at that precise fork in the moral road. I could either tell myself to forget about it, or even, as many people do, blame the person I had hurt, or I could face my own fault. It’s never an easy thing to face the fact that you are really not such a good person. But in truth none of us are. We only pretend, and mostly we pretend to ourselves.

Fortunately for me, I wasn’t able to take that sharp turn into the abyss and send my healthy and completely justified guilt away. I knew what I had done.

I didn’t talk about it. Didn’t share it with anyone. I kept it inside me.

The tension grew.

I have tried many times to find the words to describe what happened next. But I can’t do it. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no words.

I was alone in my car, driving to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. Without thinking about it or really understanding what I was doing, I blurted out two words. Forgive me, I said. I said it out loud. But I wasn’t talking to myself. I was talking to the God who didn’t care.

Here’s where words fail me. I’ll try, but please understand: I have no words for what happened next.

I said Forgive me, and it was as if someone, some Being, Who had been right beside me all along without my knowing of it, reached out to me. I felt this Being’s joy for me, experienced His absolute, ecstatic love. I had a physical sensation of this love, pouring into me, filling me with His joy.

As I said, there are no words. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening. But I knew it was real. I also learned in one instant that the god who doesn’t care was my own creation. God, the real God, loves us beyond anything we can comprehend, or, in my case, describe.

I didn’t understand what had just happened. I went on to my meeting, made my speech, and said not a word about it to anyone. But it wasn’t an apprehensive silence. The Being I met in the car that day stayed with me. He kept me enveloped in love and I basked in it.

I also waited. Waiting is not something that comes naturally to me. I am most definitely not the waiting around kind. But this time, waiting came easily. I didn’t know what to do next, so I waited, with complete peace of mind that the answers would come, for this Being to tell me what to do.

About a month later, it came into my head to go to a large metropolitan church. I did, and over time, that path has led me to where I am now.

As I said, this is the most prosaic and commonplace of miracles. It is freely available to anyone who asks for it with a sincere heart. It’s free for the asking. But I wouldn’t say that it’s cheap. I’ll talk about the cost in other posts at other times.

Today, I just want to add one of my miracles to the ones I’ve been sharing. I also want to make it clear that the real miracle here isn’t that I experienced these things, but what they meant. I said two words from my heart to a God I had come to believe didn’t care, and I stepped from death to life.

That is the miracle that lasts for eternity.

 

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She Could Have Been Me

I wrote this post over a year ago. In light of questions raised by a reader concerning this post, I’ve decided to republish it today.

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She could have been me.

I didn’t get to that thought at first. My first reaction when I saw the Live Action undercover video The War on Baby Girls was anger. I’ve known this was happening, that women were aborting baby girls because they were baby girls, for quite a while.

My sources were nurses and chaplains who work in Oklahoma hospitals. I helped pass a bill which tried, within the straight jacket of Supreme Court rulings on the subject of abortion, to do something about it. The supporters of legal abortion claimed that the bill was unnecessary, that sex-selected abortions don’t happen.

It gets wearying, dealing with the constant barrage of lies that attend politics these days. No one tells the truth; not about their intentions, the legislation, or the objective facts of medical practice. Nothing — and I mean NOTHING — brings out the facile lying more than the fine art and practice of medical misogyny.

So, when I watched that video, my first reaction was anger. It took a few hours for the other reaction to come around. I kept remembering that counselor. She was careful with her words. She never said “abortion,” or “abort.” The word “kill” didn’t cross her lips. She talked about “terminate.”

“If you decide to terminate,” she said.

I replayed her face as she told the girl to avoid telling people that she was planning to abort her baby if the baby was a girl.

Some people might “place judgement,”  she said.

Nothing about the counselor shouted Monster! But what she was doing, what she was saying, what she was aiding, abetting and helping to happen WAS monstrous. How did she, how does anyone, get to this place? The grim logic of abortion and its illogical conclusions doubtless played a part in her actions. If a five month old baby (and that’s what a 20-week fetus is) is not human enough to have a right to life, then what does it matter why we kill her?

But the counselor’s words resonate: “Place judgement” she said. That’s the paralyzing ethos of our times at work. Judging, judgmentalism, are the evils in this upside down world, not the murder of an innocent baby girl.

I would guess that a lot of people look at that counselor with disgust and rage. But I feel sorry for her. I hate having to admit this, but the truth is, she could have been me. There was a time when I wasn’t just pro-choice, I was a stinking fanatic about it. I had seen and experienced first hand the violence, degradation and destruction that is misogyny and, like so many young women of my time, I saw abortion as a way out.

But when you go down that path of using one evil to justify another evil you end up committing even greater evils yourself. If you really aren’t a monster who has no conscience or concern for other people, you look for ways to hide what you are doing from yourself. The greatest lies of our times are the lies we tell ourselves to justify doing things that we know are wrong. What makes it work is that the whole culture conspires with us in the doing of it.

The culture, not just of Planned Parenthood, but of our whole American world, says that you can not, you should not, you must not “judge.”

As with most lies that are effective, this one has truth mixed into it. The desire to play God runs strong in all of us. I think that if we had the power to enact our judgements on one another, none of us would go to heaven. We would all condemn one another to hell.

But using the word “judgement” itself as a condemnation is not only idiotic, it’s destructive. The human brain is designed by Our Maker to observe, compare, think and conclude. These conclusions are just another word for “judgement.” When our culture labels this power to discern and decide an evil; when it shears our thinking brains away from us, we become a culture of co-dependence and mental decay.

It’s as if we’ve all suffered a cultural stroke and the words “this is wrong” have been erased from our minds. Instead of saying the plain facts of things, we go into mental gymnastics, trying to “understand” the most hideous behavior. We create fantasy motives for crimes against humanity which are tissues of lies we tell ourselves. These fantasy interpretations of the plain reality in front of us help us silence the thinking, analyzing parts of our brains. They allow us to avoid the social anathema of being labeled “judgmental.”We find ourselves unable to set standards for behavior for anyone, including ourselves.

That is how a basically kind-hearted person can become a monster.

The great irony is that the flip side of this is no better. If we take the untrammeled power to judge others onto ourselves, we unleash the monsters of condemnation, discrimination and, inevitably, killing of innocents. That’s where the gulags, pogroms, lynchings, rapes and murders come from. On the other hand, if we flee from this into a refusal to “judge,” we unleash the monsters of condemnation, discrimination and, inevitably, killing of innocents. That’s where the attacks on Christians, abortions, euthanasia, and starvation of millions for corporate greed come from.

We can whipsaw our human nature from pole to pole; from legalistic judging to fear of judging that becomes another kind of legalistic judging, and we always end up right back where we started from. We are caught forever in the morass and mess of original sin and we cannot think, moralize or fight our way out of it.

The only thing that can save us is the cross. The only One who can save us is Jesus.

I know. Because He saved me. My first reaction to that video was anger. Then, I indulged in a few minutes of self-righteousness by remembering what I went through trying to help pass a bill to lessen the practice of sex-selected abortion. Finally, I came around to the truth: That counselor could have been me, was me, is me, without Christ.

Human beings become monsters when we take the deciding of right and wrong, good and bad, on ourselves without reference to the One who made us. Nothing we can do, and I mean NOTHING we can do, can save us from this. You can go to church, sing in the choir, read the Bible, but if you do these things on your own power and by your own lights, you can and you will become a monster to somebody. You may not have an abortion. But you’ll do something.

We are not saved by ourselves, of ourselves, or even for ourselves. Our salvation comes through the humiliation of the cross and the only honest way we can approach that cross is with humility.

The only salvation we have is at the foot of the cross.

The counselor in that video could have been me.

When you look around at the sins of the world, which of them could be you?

Pennsylvania: Another AG Refuses to Do Her Job

Attorney General Kathleen Kane

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane

 

Kamala Harris has an astral twin in Pennsylvania

Ms Harris is the California Attorney General who refused to do her job when it came to speaking for the people of California and defending Proposition 8 in court. That is why the Supreme Court refused to rule on Prop 8, which let the lower court decision that overturned it stand. 

Now, we have another state Attorney General who says she is going to use the power of her office to aid in overturning a state law by the simple expedient of refusing to do her job. 

“I can not ethically defend Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced at a press conference attended by cheering gay marriage supporters, “We are the land of the free and the home of the brave and I want to start acting like that.”

I’m not sure how an Attorney General can claim that they are “ethically” refusing to do the job they were elected to do with a straight face, much less do it with such grade school rhetoric. 

I am a Democrat, but it’s no surprise to me that this latest la-dee-dah refusal to do the job which is the primary requirement of the office she holds comes from another Democrat. I have a suggestion for Attorney General Harris: If you find the laws of Pennsylvania so reprehensible that you cannot in good conscience enforce them and defend them in court, then do not file for the office and campaign for the job which requires you to do that. 

If Attorney General Harris wanted to be a lawmaker, she should have filed for the state legislature. Then, she could have worked to overturn this statute by acting in the full integrity of her office. However, she did not file for the legislature and she was not elected to that or any other lawmaking body. The office she sought and to which she was elected is the chief law enforcement office of Pennsylvania.

Cops at any level do not make laws and they do not chose which laws to enforce. It’s called separation of powers, and we have it to keep little caesars like this from taking over government. 

These two women have allowed their overweening concern with their own personal opinions to supersede the responsibility they owe the people of their states to do the job they were elected to do. If they were honest rather than demagogues, they would resign these offices on the basis that their consciences would not allow them to do the job in front of them.

To refuse to do their jobs and by so doing to aid in the overturning of a law they are bound by oath to enforce and defend is dishonest, callous, cheap demagoguery that denies the people who elected them the voice in the courts that they promised to give when they ran for election in the first place. 

From Reuters

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused on Thursday to fight a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first federal case since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that the U.S. government must recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal.

Kane, a Democrat who supports same-sex marriage, announced her decision at a press conference in the National Constitution Center in historic Philadelphia.

“I cannot ethically defend Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA,” Kane said, referring to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, overturned by the high court last month.

“It is now the time here in Pennsylvania to end another form of discrimination,” Kane said to a crowd of about 200 supporters gathered at conference, many carrying signs reading “Out for Freedom” and cheering her decision.

“We are the land of the free and the home of the brave and I want to start acting like that,” she said.

By declining to defend the state, Kane effectively tosses the issue to Governor Tom Corbett, who can decide to appoint another state lawyer to the task.

Kane and Corbett, a Republican who opposes gay marriage, are both named in the federal lawsuit that was filed in Harrisburg this week.

The ACLU sued on behalf of 23 people, including potential marriage candidates whose unions would not be recognized under current Pennsylvania law.

The lawsuit asks the court to allow the plaintiffs and all other same-sex couples the right to marry in Pennsylvania, and also asks that the marriages of same-sex couples validly obtained in other states be recognized by the state.

63% of Texas Babies Killed in Abortions are Black or Hispanic

1950s nun

Texans kill a lot of babies, and most of them are black and hispanic

Sixty-three percent of the 77,152 babies who were murdered in Texas abortions in 2009 are black or hispanic. 

That has to be balanced against the 435,480 babies who were killed in the 27 states that report these numbers plus the District of Columbia. The last time I checked, there were 50 states, not 27, which means that abortions are grossly underreported in America. The real number of dead babies in 2007 was much higher than the already overwhelming toll of 435,480. 

Fifty-six percent of the babies killed in these reporting states were either black or hispanic. That makes abortion a racial issue all over the country. But even more so in Texas. 

The question we have to ask is whether this is by design or simply a reflection of other currents in society. I think it’s by design, in a cumulative sense. 

Baby and mother s hand black

The population control movement has been shaped by a eugenics philosophy from its start. Proponents of the movement will argue against that in public, but turn around and make statements that are entirely in keeping with it in private. I have heard these comments myself, many times. 

One thing I’ve learned in this life is that people do what they want. They may tell you that they plan to work out 2 hours a day and get in shape, but they do what they want. If they sit on the couch instead of working out, it’s because sitting on the couch is what they really want. People say all sorts of things. But they do what they want.

By the same token, people usually get what they want. 

If say you want abortion to be for all women, but your put your clinics in the poorest parts of town and seek government grants to “educate” and “provide” for those without money or people of color, then you probably want to limit the number of poor and people of color. 

Abortion is the “answer” society gives poor women and women of color for the problems it dumps on them. Other groups of women have abortions, but if you doubt that abortion is the “choice” we’re giving primarily to poor women and women of color, just look at the numbers.

People do what they want and they get what they want. The abortion industry is getting a racially targeted number of abortions that reduces the percentage of black and hispanic babies being born. 

77,152 babies died in abortions in Texas in 2009.

Just writing these words grieves me. It oppresses me and pushes me toward despair. 

77,152 lives. 

In one state. 

How can anyone read that and not be sad?

Grandfather little girl hispanic

 

Lumen Fidei, Part 1: The Light of Faith and Conversion

Benedict francis

Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith, by Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict, is a wonderful piece of writing that I think is exactly right for us in this time.

It talks about the many ways that faith illumines our walk with Christ in this life, and how that faith leads us to the world beyond. It is about the transforming power of conversion. I was struck over and again while I was reading it by how completely its words seemed to speak directly to my own experience of conversion, from that first abrupt turn to Jesus and throughout the on-going conversion that has been my life since.

This experience of seeing my own walk of faith and my own needs — both intellectual and emotional needs — addressed in papal encyclicals is not new to me. I have been consistently amazed by the power the Holy Spirit infuses into the writings of the various popes to speak accurately of and directly to the broader human condition.

The fact that I saw my own experiences of conversion reflected in Luman Fidei leads me to believe that my conversion and my walk are far more universal than I had ever supposed. There is so much in Lumen Fidei that applies to us as individuals and as Christians in a newly post-Christian world that I am not going to attempt to summarize it in a single post. Instead, I’m going to unpack it a bit at a time and ponder what I learn from it.

Each of you would probably learn something different if you read it. Great spiritual writing is always like that. Ten people can read the Sermon on the Mount and experience 10 different insights. That is because the Sermon on the Mount has so many dimensions and also because the Holy Spirit guides us in our reflections to learn what we need at that time in our lives.

It is the same with this encyclical, or just about any of the encyclicals, for that matter. I encourage you to read it and reflect on it for yourself, then bring your thoughts here to try them out. Mind on mind generates better thinking that just going off alone. I think we can teach one another.

Conversion is not just a one-off, falling-off-a-cliff moment. It can be that, but, if it is real, it is always more than that. Conversion is a process of re-orientation.

The way I’ve always put it is that Jesus doesn’t change what we do. He changes what we want to do.

Lumen Fidei puts it like this:

Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time … faith is also a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond ourselves towards the breadth of communion.

In other words, God loved us before we were conceived, and has called us to Himself when we were apart from Him. That initial moment of conversion is built on the first spark of faith that allows us to say “yes” to this love. In my case, I said “Forgive me.”

My first conscious experience of God as Another was the instantaneous experience of love and joy pouring into me as soon as I said that. It was God’s answer to my “yes” to Him.

Just as the love of our parents when we are little gives us the security to explore the world and learn about it without fear, this powerful love of God that we can actually feel as a sensation transforms us from the inside.

The fact, the simple fact, that God Is, that He Is a reacting being whose first persona is ecstatic love and joy of a quality we have never known was possible, changes everything else. Faith, which was a spark of desperation when we said that first “yes,” becomes a certainty in the reality of this love.

Faith in Him, in His goodness and His love, teaches us a new kind and level of security. It is security built on a different reality at a different plane than the ones we ordinarily build our lives around.

The foundations and walls of security people try to erect for themselves are made of labor, blood and money. We amass wealth, commission armies, put up buildings and buy locks, all to give us security from the thief, the tyrant and the caprice of life. All these things are open mouths into which we feed our days erecting, maintaining and controlling them in the vain hope that they will keep us safe. Whatever safety they give is predicated on the fact that they themselves also devour our energies and strength. None of them can, in the end, save us from our own weaknesses and mortality.

The security of Christ is built outside of time and without our work. We do not supply it, and we do not maintain it. Time cannot erode it and death does not end it.

Christ light

Faith is the light, shining in the darkness of our narrow existences which illumines this security and lets us experience it. Faith does not create the security of living in Christ. Rather, it lets us experience it to its fullest.

Faith in Christ allows us to see the new path before us. It opens our hearts to the teaching and promptings of the Holy Spirit, which in turn, change us from the inside out. Over time, we are converted to a new way of looking at ourselves, other people and life. We are changed, re-oriented. The things that matter to us change, and the things we do change right along with them.

We become new creatures in Christ.

This is the full experience of conversion, which is on-going, life-long and radical. It is how Christ transforms the world; by transforming each one of us individually.

And it all depends on that first radical turn away from flat, one-dimensional life of no faith, no hope, and doing it all for ourselves. It depends on that initial “yes” of faith.

 

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

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

The Hydra-Headed DOMA Decision and Bankrupting the States

We all deserve the freedom to marry

Michigan state law allows health benefits for school employees and their spouses.

It does not allow health benefits for domestic partners.

US District Judge David Lawson struck down this law on June 28. He based his decision on the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the first half of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

State law determines what benefits public school employees will receive. These benefits are paid for out of the state coffers. One would think that this would be a state’s rights issue, determined by the state’s legal definition of what constitutes a spouse.

However, the recent Supreme Court decision has allowed the judge to overstep state definitions of marriage and require the State of Michigan to extend health care benefits to domestic partners.

According to CNA:

U.S. District Judge David Lawson’s June 28 ruling said it can “never be a legitimate purpose” to deny health benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees. He said the plaintiffs who lost benefits or had to pay for more expensive private health insurance have a “plausible claim” that the law violates the U.S. Constitution.

The 2011 law ended same-sex partner benefits for a few school districts, the counties of Ingham and Washtenaw and the cities of Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Kalamazoo, the Associated Press said.

Defenders of the law said it was passed in the spirit of a 2004 constitutional amendment that defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman. That amendment won 58 percent of the vote.

This, of course, raises other questions for Michigan, and for all states. The Supreme Court decision essentially overturned state definitions of marriage as between one man and one woman, at least for all practical purposes. The Michigan case is just one small example of how far-reaching this Supreme Court decision actually is.

Money down the drain

It will require a change in how the states pay for things such as employee benefits and entitlements. This district court decision pushes the envelope past legal marriages and into the area of domestic partnerships. Since our laws are required to be equal in their applications, that means that it does not just apply to domestic partnerships between same-sex couples, but between virtually anyone.

I realize that is not what the judge specifically addressed in his ruling, but that is the impact of the ruling. It may take a few court cases to make the point, but if this ruling stands up under appeal, that will be its effect in the long term.

The question immediately arises: How are the states going to pay for this? The answer, I’m pretty sure, is that they can’t. Oklahoma is actually in better financial condition than many states, and we would be flummoxed trying to provide benefits for every live-in “domestic partnership.” Of course, the federal government might decide to step in with huge subsidies for these benefits, but that raises the ugly question of how they are going to pay for it.

The only financially responsible answer that provides equal protection under the law that I can see is to either change state laws to redefine marriage to include gay couples and then wait for the next big trendy change allowing polygamy, followed by benefits to cohabiting heterosexuals, OR, do away with benefits for everybody. That is the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA on the states.

I have no doubt that in the long run — and I’m talking about years, maybe a decade, but not much longer — where we will end up is doing away with benefits for everyone. It will be a simple financial imperative.

Welcome to the brave new world of marriage is whatever we say it is today.

Congressional Budget Office: 30 Late-Term Abortions Each Day

Unbornbaby20weeks

Unborn, 20 Weeks

According to the Congressional Budget Office, doctors in the United States perform at least 30 late-term abortions each day.

The CBO analysisof HR 1797, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act said in part:

“Based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CBO estimates that, each year, about 11,000 abortions take place 20 weeks or more after fertilization.”

Any honest person who has dealt with this issue can tell you that this number is bound to be on the low side. Many doctors do not report late-term abortions. One reason for this is that pro choice people fight any attempt to require reporting with wildly erroneous claims that reporting would put undue hardship on doctors and endanger “women’s health,” as well as “turn back the clock” and “send women to the back alleys again.” They usually manage to work rape and incest victims into this somewhere as well.

This is standard boiler plate stuff that they trot out during any and every discussion of pro life legislation. The incredible thing is that, no matter how many times they do it, or how completely inapplicable it may be to the legislation in question, their true believers always buy it.

So, reporting of late-term abortions is, like every other sort of needed regulation, sparse, inconsistent and compromised by expensive court cases and constant hysterics from the pro abortion lobby.

Despite this, the CDC was able to document that American doctors kill at least 11,000 babies every year whose mothers are in the 5th month or later in their pregnancies. I’ve written before about the simple fact that late-term abortion is never medically necessary. A late-term abortion inevitably puts the woman through a labor and delivery anyway. So, if there is a medical reason to stop the pregnancy to save the mother’s life, doctors should just deliver the baby and try to save both their patients.

Baby21weeks

Baby born at 21 weeks. 

Doctors who do late-term abortions have to very carefully kill the baby by shooting poison into its heart before before they do the procedure. If they don’t, there’s a good chance that the baby will survive the abortion and become a problem. I’m no doctor, but that sure sounds like they are aborting babies that are at least potentially viable by any definition of the word except the hatched-up political science fiction of pro abortion Supreme Court decisions.

All the arguments about the woman having a right to her own body fall apart when we consider late-term abortion. If the baby can survive the birth, then the child’s body becomes the issue, not its mother’s.

We commit at least 11,000 of these killings every year in this country. I am against the death penalty. I have the votes and the scars to prove it. But think for a minute about the outcry if we were doing 11,000 executions each year. There would — and there should — be widespread condemnation and claims of barbarism.

The Congressional Budget Office included this paragraph in their report:

“HR 1790 would result in increased spending for Medicaid. Since a portion of Medicaid is paid for by state governments, CBO estimates that state spending on the program would increase by about $170 million over the 2014-2023 period.”

I’m not going to go off on this because I realize that it’s the job of the CBO to provide this kind of cost analysis on all pieces of legislation. They are not saying, as some people will claim, that the CBO feels this money is more important than the lives of babies. They are simply supplying the information.

Baby 22 weeks

Baby born at 22 weeks. 

The people who make the decision about what is important concerning this legislation are the duly elected members of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, together with the President of the United States. They are free to either disregard this financial analysis or base their entire vote on it. That is their choice.

I will say that $170 million is not very much money over a 9-year span in Medicaid funding. At 11,000 babies killed every year of that time period, we would have 99,000 dead children. That’s almost twice the number of soldiers we lost in Viet Nam. What the report is actually telling us is that the cost is minuscule, while the number of lives lost is huge.

One thing we need to decide as a people is do we want to continue this practice of killing viable babies? I would think that even people who favor legal abortion should be ready to re-consider late-term abortions by now.

It amazes me how angry and indignant people become when they see a photo of a baby murdered in an abortion. You’d think the photos, and not the killing itself, was the problem. I think the reason for all this outrage at the sight of photos is simple: They tell a truth that people don’t want to know.

It would be better by far if we stopped those photos by stopping the killing that they record. Think how simple that would be: No more late-term abortions = No more disturbing photos of murdered late-term babies.

 

Even Water Moccasins are Cute When They’re Babies

Even water moccasins are kind of cute when they’re babies.

Kind of.

However, it doesn’t take too long before they turn into fat, stinky, ugly poisonous death dealers that will come at you over the water like they were on patrol.

If they bite you, I guarantee that it will ruin your day, your week, possibly your life.

But they do look harmless when they’re babies. As, I would imagine, do Black Mambas and Gaboon Vipers.

Everything has its harmless-appearing phase. But some things are snakes right from the beginning, and if you take them in and try to cuddle up with them, it’s a matter of time before they teach you the reality of what they are and the damage they can do.

It’s much the same with blind hatred of groups of people. It can seem kinda cute at the beginning, when comedians and quipsters are making funny comments at their targets’ expense. It can even seem a good thing when social custom and the first few laws start the process of tamping down on what seems to the rest of the world as the excesses of behavior of the group in question.

After all, it’s reasonable. And besides, they’re bringing it on themselves.

But somewhere — and it’s not too far — along the line, the baby snake proves that even when it’s a baby it can kill you. Cuddle a baby rattler, and you’ll find out. It’s much the same with hatred of a group of people. Almost before you know it, you’ve tripped over into the dehumanizing concept of they-bring-it-on-themselves so saying-hateful-things-about-them and limiting-their-freedoms-is-reasonable-and-good.

The first serious victim of the poison of prejudice and discrimination is the purveyor of the prejudice, the practitioner of the discrimination. Once you believe it’s ok to hurt people just because, you’ve successfully chipped a bit of the gold-plate off your own goodness and let the cheap clay that’s inside come through.

You damage your own soul long before you begin to really damage the people you decide it’s ok to attack and hate.

I’ve said this a number of times, but the idea seems to float by some of the readers here without latching on and growing roots. Violent persecution is not the beginning of the process. It is the end result. It begins as the cute little snakey thingy of quips, mockery and derision that make up social practice.

I don’t know if it’s a refusal to see, or the concept really is difficult for some people. But life is not just a frozen section we call right now. It is a continuum. In fact, what we call right now is already past when we say the words.

Little hatreds grow into big prejudices, and big prejudices turn into discriminatory practices and laws, which turn into discrimination, which, over time, becomes persecution that leads to violence and ends, ultimately in genocide.

It really is almost like a row of dominoes falling over.

That’s why I find myself scratching my head and wondering “Are they for real?” every time I read a comment saying that, yes, there may be “some” violent persecution of Christians in “other places,” but in America, there is no such thing.

While it’s true enough that Christians are not jerked from their beds and drug into the streets to be beaten, raped and tortured here in America, it is also true that we are being subjected to overt pressure from our government and from social practice to restrict our beliefs to behind closed doors. It is true that what began just a few years ago as trendy criticism, some of which was even true, has, in some quarters, become nasty, Christian-baiting hatred that seeks to intimidate and isolate Christians.

We are faced with an increasing number of regulations and laws that seek to limit Christians in the free exercise of their Constitutional rights.

This is happening in America and in much of the rest of the Western world.

I am putting a brief video below about a street preacher in Britain who was arrested for saying that homosexuality is a sin. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with what he said or not, the question is, does he have the right to say it?  If the same restrictions had been placed on homosexuals a decade or so ago, they would not have been able to conduct their movement.

I would have been up in arms if anyone had arrested a gay activist for saying any of the many wacky things they’ve said down through the years, including when a queen in full drag sang “Your son will come out tomorrow” outside the National Democratic convention a few years ago. They’ve got a right to do this.

And so, if the West is going to continue to have free speech, does this preacher.

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