Funerals Cost Too Much Money

My father died in 1994.

His funeral cost $5,000.

The only reason we got away with costs that low was that Daddy had given us clear instructions that he wanted the least expensive casket and trimmings that we could get.

“My body is going to rot, anyway,” he said. “So why does it matter? Don’t you dare waste money on burying me.”

That helped us a lot when the funeral home people came at us with their vague suggestions about caskets that would leak and other subtle comments designed to guilt us into spending too much for what wouldn’t help my father one bit. The interesting moment in the negotiations came after every casket they showed us was well over $2000. My niece happened to spot a steel casket that was hidden away under another one.

I still remember how disgusted the funeral director looked when she found that $1000 casket. It was, I imagine, something they kept out of sight unless it was needed for people who really couldn’t afford to pay.

There was talk of life insurance all through the discussions. It turns out that funeral homes are very willing for you to sign the proceeds of your family member’s life insurance over to them in advance of your getting it. The implication we got was that if we didn’t, they would leave Daddy’s body parked out on the curb for the garbage collectors to take.

Fortunately, we had the money to pay for the funeral. And we had Daddy’s clear instructions. And we attended a wonderful church that didn’t charge us a dime for the use of their facilities.

Daddy got a warm, spiritual send-off, and we weren’t robbed blind in the process.

Things have been a little dicier for my sister this week. She and my brother-in-law didn’t have the cash on hand to pay for his funeral, so family members are chipping in to pay for it. My brother-in-law had evidently expressed a wish to be cremated, so that’s the way my sister is going with this.

It’s really rough for people who are ravaged by grief to be forced to cut corners on their family members’ funerals. I imagine it feels to many of them like the concern for money is over-concern and that they are disrespecting their loved one by not spending freely.

I think the funeral industry loves the survivor’s guilt that people feel after someone dies. I think they prey on it in subtle ways throughout the funeral planning negotiations. It is a simple fact that when someone you love dies, you are going to feel remorse for things you said or didn’t say; things you did or didn’t do. No one is perfect, and neither is any relationship between two people.

 

When you are confronted with the reality that you will never see them again in this life, it doesn’t matter how loving your relationship was or how steadfastly you may have cared for them; you will suddenly feel swamped with remorse for what you didn’t do, even if what you didn’t do isn’t worth a hill of beans.

That’s just the way it is. It happens to everyone. Unfortunately, that feeling of remorse makes you even more vulnerable to the manipulations of funeral directors who are trying to sell you upwards in what you do for your loved one’s funeral.

As I said, I still remember the talk about caskets that leaked when we were putting together Daddy’s funeral. Who wants to think about someone they love, lying in the ground with water running into their casket? What kind of person would be indifferent to that?

I guess the kind of person who could be, if not indifferent, at least immune to the manipulation the talk of leaking caskets represents, is someone whose father told them, “My body is going to rot, anyway, so what does it matter?”

I was with Daddy when he died. I had no doubt at all that he was dead. I also knew that only his body had died. He was still alive. His body had stopped and he had stepped out of it. He wasn’t gone, he had just gone on ahead of me. The body he left behind wasn’t him.

But, even though I knew he wasn’t in it anymore, I still loved his body. I remember when I was little and our family went to the zoo, he would lift me up and put me on his shoulders and I would ride around looking at the animals from that lofty perch. I loved those shoulders, love them still. Those arms held me when I cried, that face smiled when I walked into a room. I loved my father’s body, even though it was now just an empty shell that, yes, was going to rot.

So how we did his funeral, the way we treated what funeral directors so aptly call “the remains” mattered.

Families should not be put through guilt-enhancing manipulations and “sold” into spending more money than they can afford when they are so vulnerable with grief. I know that running a funeral home is a business. I believe that people who do it deserve to make a living. However, they have chosen this business which puts them in the position of selling their wares to vulnerable people. They should have accepted the responsibility to behave ethically that goes with that business when they chose it.

Funerals cost too much money. Part of the reason is that people overspend when they go to the funeral home to make “the arrangements.”

Funerals cost too much money. Most of the reason is that the funeral home business is a monopoly that, at least here in Oklahoma, is protected by laws that were written by and passed for the industry itself.

That’s an old, old story, isn’t it? I wonder: Is there any industry that doesn’t use the elected representatives of the people to write laws for itself that do harm to the people the representatives were elected to protect? I don’t know of one.

Funerals cost too much money. There are a lot of reasons, but corporate funeral homes that operate as chains certainly contribute to the overcharging.

I am not in a very good mood today. I am put out by the unkindness of the way that corporate policies, legislative indifference and guilt combine to make life so much harder than it needs to be for people when they go through losing someone they love.

Everyone dies and none of us like to think about it.

I think that is the ultimate reason that funerals cost too much. None of us want to think about it until we have to, so we let these forces conspire against us in the laws, the culture and our own hearts. That means that when we walk into that funeral home feeling shell-shocked and so grieved we have trouble standing upright and drawing in a breath both at the same time, we are easy prey for the pickings that are coming at us.

Is an IRS that Targets Religious Groups for Unjust Discrimination Unfit to Make HHS Mandate Decisions?

Suppose you were an IRS agent.

  1. Suppose you had been tasked with singling out a group of religiously-based non-profit agencies for audits because they express their religious beliefs about controversial issues in public. They do this on issues that put them at loggerheads with the President of the United States.
  2. Suppose you had also been tasked with ordering those tax payers to cease expressing their religious beliefs about these issues or face the loss of their tax exempt status.
  3. Suppose that you were also tasked with enforcing a government agency rule that gave you the power to arbitrarily fine the same tax exempt agencies you’d been selectively auditing because of their beliefs. Suppose these fines would put those agencies out of business.

What would you think you were supposed to do in this situation?

That is the question raised by Ashley McGuire. Ms McGuire is a senior fellow at the Catholic Association and editor of AltCatholicah, a Catholic women’s web magazine.

“The HHs mandate hinges on what constitutes a religious entity,” she told CNA in a May 10 interview.

The IRS has “authority in determining what a religious entity is” for purposes of deciding while employers fall under the mandate’s requirements.

The IRS has now publicly admitted that non-profit organizations have been audited and otherwise harassed by the agency based on whether or not their names indicated they might be opposed to gay marriage, be pro life, or otherwise traditionally Christian. Some of the groups that were subjected to this unfair governmental discrimination and harassment were: Christian Voices for Life, Family Talk Action, National Organization for Marriage and Samaritan’s Purse.

The IRS forced some of these groups to discloses lists of their donors, the contents of their publications and what prayers they said at events.

Read more at CNA:

“So the very enforcers at the IRS, whose own inspector general admits they systematically targeted conservative and religious groups, will now get to decide who is entitled to ladle soup into a bowl for a homeless person without violating his or her conscience,” McGuire wrote in the Weekly Standard.

In the midst of the scandal in which “religious values were indeed scrutinized by bureaucrats,” the IRS will “gain new authority to determine what constitutes religious activity and which religious employers are entitled to conscience rights,” she continued.

“If the case for repealing this unjust intrusion on the free exercise of religion was always strong, in recent weeks it’s gotten stronger still,” she added.

McGuire told CNA that the only way to ensure that the sort of political targeting that has occurred already by the IRS does not result in an infringement on religious freedoms via the contraception mandate is to either “completely repeal the mandate” or give a religious exemption to “anyone who asks for an exemption.”

 

Do Women Need Planned Parenthood?

 

Do women need Planned Parenthood?

Every time anyone raises the question of cutting government funding for Planned Parenthood, the organization’s supporters — who range from the President of the United States, through many people in Congress to much of the media and a large number of the wealthiest and most powerful people sitting on boards, and heading up corporations and organizations throughout this nation — raise a clamor about “women’s health.”

You would think that Planned Parenthood was the only organization in this country that offered pap smears and birth control. You would also think that pap smears and birth control were all there was to women’s health care.

It has amazed me for a long time that no one calls them on this propagandistic approach to the question. Many times, the people ringing this alarm bell about Planned Parenthood and “women’s health” are the same ones who want to legalize prostitution and not only support but avail themselves of the services of women who they can pay to undergo surrogate pregnancies and submit to egg harvesting. In the entertainment world, they are also the people who put out the various forms of entertainment that depict women as sex things and promote rape and violence against women as entertainment.

They are, in short, misogynists. I include the “feminists” who support pornography, prostitution, egg harvesting and renting women for surrogate pregnancies among them.

It’s mind boggling, when you think of it like that, that these are the people we have accepted as the guardians of “women’s health.” Is it any wonder that they will go to the wall to defend Planned Parenthood. I can’t speak for the whole country, but here in Oklahoma, the interlocking boards between Planned Parenthood and organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, ACLU, the State Medical Association and most other high-powered boards is striking.

All of this raises the question: Do women really need Planned Parenthood? Can they get the same pap smears elsewhere? Will it cost them more to go elsewhere? After all, Planned Parenthood is not free. It gets money from the government to provide these services, rakes in money from private donations and also charges the women when the come in for care.

This Live Action video answers that question. Have a look and see.

 

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The New Prostitution: Surrogate Pregnancy

I’m going to be writing about the “new” prostitution a lot in the months ahead. One of these new ways to objectify and exploit women is commercial surrogate pregnancy.

Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, is a stalwart battler for women’s human rights in the face of the new forms of dehumanization and exploitation that medical technology has placed in the hands of doctors. She has fought a hard and often futile battle against a money-hungry medical establishment which supports doctors in exploiting and harming their patients for monetary gain.

This technology is marketed as a solution for desperate families who can’t have children. In truth, what we have is the buying and selling of women and babies over the internet in what can only be described as a mass market for a new and virulent form of prostitution. The purchasers are wealthy people, including many powerful celebrities, who don’t want to be bothered with having children themselves, and homosexuals, especially gay men.

In  my opinion, one reason this misogynist abuse of women has been allowed to flourish is that the churches are, even now, tone deaf about women’s human rights. They focus on the lives of the embryos that are mass produced by harvested eggs without considering that the women whose bodies are being farmed, and whose health and dignity as human being is being comprised, are also human beings whose human rights as well as their health and well-being are compromised by this practice.

In truth, egg harvesting and surrogacy is a one-two punch of human rights violations. It reduces both the babies and the women to the level of commodities to be bought and sold with no regard for their well-being.

It comes as no surprise to me that a lawmaker in Washington DC wants to swing the doors wide open on the abuse of women and children with this egregious practice. The lawmaker is Councilman David Catania and he says he does not expect any serious opposition since all he’s doing is “remedying … an imperfection in the law.”

 

Oklahoma City Ads for Buying Women’s Bodies to Use as Surrogates. 

I just love the casual way people who are tone deaf to human rights, especially as they apply to women, decide that buying and selling women, using their bodies like appliances, and farming them like they were animals is not only an A-OK thing to do, it’s all for the greater good. Misogyny is truly a wonderment, isn’t it?

From National Catholic Register:

Surrogate Pregnancy Bill in D.C. Draws Criticism (725)

Women and children are exploited through this popular ‘rent-a-womb’ practice, Jennifer Lahl charges.

WASHINGTON — A lack of information about the dangers of surrogate pregnancy could soon allow the

practice to become legal in Washington, D.C., warned the founder of one bioethics organization.

“These issues aren’t on anyone’s radar,” said Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture. “By and large, people have accepted third-party reproduction. It’s not seen as controversial … because people are woefully misinformed.”

Lahl told Catholic News Agency that the average person sees nothing wrong with surrogacy, which is the practice of a woman carrying and delivering a baby for someone else. This could explain the lack of opposition to a new bill in the nation’s capital, she said.

Legislation introduced June 3 by D.C. Councilman David Catania would legalize surrogacy in the District. If passed, it would wipe away current local legislation prohibiting surrogacy contracts, which carry penalties of up to $10,000 in fines or a year in jail.

“I don’t expect there to be any significant opposition,” Catania told the Washington Examiner. “This is about remedying what I believe to be an imperfection in our law.”

Lahl, who worked as a pediatric nurse for 20 years, said most people are unaware of the negative repercussions of surrogacy. She noted that concerns with legalized surrogacy include a lack of research in the field and a failure to consider the impact on the child and the woman whose womb is being “rented.”

One of the biggest concerns, she warned, is that the relationship between a mother and a child in her womb is ignored.

“So much is going on in that womb,” Lahl explained. “The surrogate mom and child will be linked genetically, and there’s so much we’re learning about genetic diseases and how much the womb plays into that child’s health.”

The connection is more than simply physical, she continued.

“Newborns know one thing — they know who their mother is,” she said. “I’ve known of mothers who sing to their children in the womb or read them books. What happens when you tell a mother to intentionally not bond with a child in their womb?”

California lawyer Stephanie Caballero handles surrogacy cases and says 30% of her clients are homosexual. She told the Washington Examiner that, with proper screening, money is not the only reason women decide to become surrogates.

“The first reason is because they want to help someone,” she said. “They do it [in part] because they love being pregnant.”

However, as part of a new documentary for the Center for Bioethics and Culture, Lahl has interviewed numerous women who were surrogate mothers. By and large, she said, surrogate women “are women who have financial need — wealthy women are going to be buying the surrogacy contract.”


Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/surrogate-pregnancy-bill-in-d.c.-draws-criticism?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-06-10%2012:22:01#ixzz2Vr4nJEGJ

Six-Time Pro Bowler Matt Birk Skips White House Visit Because of His Catholic Beliefs

 

Matt Birk is more than a famous football player. He is also a devout Catholic and the father of six children. When the Ravens visited the White House recently, they did it without Matt.

“I have great respect for the … presidency … but our President made a comment in a speech … he said ‘God bless Planned Parenthood.’

“Planned Parenthood performs about 300,000 abortions a year. I couldn’t endorse that in any way. I’m very confused by (the) statement. For God to bless a place where they’re ending 300,000 lives a year? I chose not to attend.”

President Obama made the speech Mr Birk is referring to at the National Planned Parenthood Conference in April. He said, “Thank you Planned Parenthood. God bless you. God bless America.”

Mr Birk’s decision to forgo this White House function was a big one for him personally, I’m sure. Not only did he miss on the chance to be honored by the president for his super bowl win, he also had to step away from his teammates to do it. It is never easy to step out of line alone. 

But he put Jesus first. He put the lives of 300,000 murdered children first.

We all need to start doing this kind of thing. Just like Roy Costner IV who refused to censor his valedictorian address by removing all references to his faith, each of us needs to stop going along to get along when it concerns our faith. We do not have to condemn others or attack them in any way. We just need to stop letting them back us down and force us to deny Jesus by going silent.

President Obama said, “God bless America.”

I say God bless Matt Birk, Roy Costner and every other Christian who will stand for Christ.

 

We are Catholics

We are Catholics. And we will be heard.

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Gay Marriage, HHS Mandate and The Fortnight for Freedom 2013

Prayer, study and peaceful action.

What are you going to do for the Fortnight for Freedom 2013?

Bishop Francis Malooly of Maryland gives one of the most clear and easily understood outlines of the issues the Church and all Christians are facing in America today.

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Conversion Story: Anna

Anna’s beautiful conversion story that answers many questions about our faith.

Watch and be blessed.

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Pope Emeritus Benedict: I’m Fine. I Live Like a Monk.

Pope Emeritus Benedict gave a brief interview to a German journalist recently.

The journalist’s description of the Pope Emeritus paints a portrait of someone who is frail but functioning. “I’m fine,” the Pope Emeritus said, “I pray and read. I live like a monk.”

I hope he is happy and at peace in his retirement. The Church and the world needs his prayers.

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The Holy Father and the Children: Ask Me Anything You Want (And They Did)

Pope Francis tossed away his prepared remarks at an audience this week because, he said, they were boring. Rather than making a speech to the group of children who were on stage with him, he let them ask him unrehearsed, unedited, questions.

The result is one of the most charming — and revealing — exchanges I’ve ever seen with any pope. One little girl asked the Holy Father if he had wanted to be pope. He said no, he hadn’t wanted to be pope. Another asked him if is was hard to move to Italy and leave his family and friends behind.

He answered all of these questions in his usual open way.

Pope Francis is the real deal. He’s so in the bag for Jesus that he’s past the constraints of that inhibit most public people. He has the ability to reach right through the trappings of office and power and into our hearts.

The video below offers a look at this wonderful exchange between the Holy Father and the children.

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Obama’s Story

What does President Obama have to say about sweeping millions of Americans’ emails and phone calls into a government database?

Here it is.

I’m also including a video of a news report about it.

Please try to think all this through, put aside partisan ideas and focus on our country. I know this is tough, but it’s what we all need to do.

What do you think about all this?

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Nixon had an Enemies List. Obama has the Census.

 

I imagine that most presidents reach a point where they feel as if the White House is one gigantic, well decorated chicken coop and all — or at least many — of their chickens are coming flapping home.

President Obama appears to be in the chickens-come-flapping-home phase of his presidency. It turns out that his chickens look a lot like vultures and the carrion they’ve been feeding on is the Constitution.

Richard Nixon has his infamous “Enemies List” of people who got audited by the IRS and otherwise harassed by the government. He never got publicly called out on it, but I think Ronald Reagan did too.

The reason I say that about President Reagan (who, I realize, is a bit of a minor deity to a lot of people,) is because I, and a lot of my Democratic colleagues ran afoul of something that looked suspiciously like partisan attacks by the government. Many of us were audited by the IRS, and I don’t mean just audited, we were put through a heavy wash cycle in which we had to verify every single line on our income tax report. Married? Produce your marriage license. Own your home? Show us the deed.

The IRS camped out in our kitchen and audited our one page report for weeks. We didn’t own businesses or have complex issues in that report. We didn’t drive expensive cars, live in a fancy house or otherwise live large. We had our salaries, regular paychecks, and that was all. We spent thousands, producing records for them, but unfortunately, we couldn’t produce them all. Some of the bank’s records were fogged.

In the end, they said that every dime we deposited in our checking account that we couldn’t provide a record for was unreported income. This meant that every deposit on those fogged records was charged as unreported income. They charged us for wedding gifts and birthday presents of less than fifty dollars, for small (one or two hundred dollar) transfers from our savings to our checking. They even charged us for our income tax return from the previous year. Every single deposit to our checking account which we could not source in writing got charged as unreported income.

Then, they added fines and fees and interest on top this. It came to $5,000 we owed on a simple, one-page report.

On the other side of the coin, someone in the Oklahoma Tax Commission took a reporter on a trip through the tax returns of several Democratic legislators. The source told the reporter that I hadn’t filed my tax return. The result? I ended up with a photo of me as the lead story in the Sunday paper for not filing my tax returns. The only problem is that the story was untrue. The newspaper had to print a retraction.

The point here is that tax returns are supposed to be private. There are laws about this. Think about all the hullabaloo we have every four years about presidential candidates “releasing” their tax returns.

This is the reason I haven’t written about President Obama’s behavior. I could not just shake and rattle with indignation about him and not talk about the simple fact that I know he’s not alone. Presidents and other government officials are using their powers to harass their political enemies. More than one of them has done it.

It seems as if each president we elect has less respect for the Constitution and our freedoms than the one before him. Was I surprised that the president who has so little regard for the First Amendment that he signed the HHS Mandate also runs a government that spies on his enemies?

Nope.

What did surprise me is that some of the reporters the government was spying on seemed surprised that these violations of civil rights were directed at them. 

What did they expect?

Were they under some illusion that you can be half pregnant? When you start knocking down the Constitution in the blatant fashion of the HHS Mandate, you’re telling the whole wide world that you don’t much respect that document or the freedoms it protects.

Despite all this, I have to admit that this latest revelation did take me aback. Richard Nixon had his enemies list. But it appears that President Obama has the census. His “enemies” appear to be the American people.

All our phone records and emails are evidently being poured into that big government database in the sky. The law enforcement fishing expedition has broadened to include all of us.

7827The Patriot Act Posters1

The authority to do this is the Patriot Act, which leads me to our responsibility as citizens. Remember 9/11? Remember President George W Bush and his Patriot Act? Did you know what you were doing when you backed this guy in passing that law?

If you didn’t know before, you do now.

There are people who seem to have unlimited trust in the government to protect them. Not to protect everybody, mind you. Just them. They seem to think that we can enact laws repudiating the rights of all sorts of people, but those laws will never affect them.

The Patriot Act and this spying on all of us puts that fantasy to the lie rather soundly.

Now for the other dirty linen. It turns out that President Obama didn’t do this on his own. He informed every member of Congress, or, as he put it, our “duly elected officials” about what he was doing. In other words, all those guys in Washington, all those guys in Washington, have all of us on the government enemies list.

Sweet.

 

Christian Persecution: 6 Quick Takes from Around the Globe

This week’s 6 Quick Takes on Christian persecution around the globe include kidnappings, murders, beatings, false imprisonment and legal discrimination. 

In other words, these quick takes are the usual sad story of what Christians endure for Christ just about everywhere on this planet. Two of the stories involve legal discrimination in the “Christian” West. Both of them are instances of governments applying legal penalties for Christians who seek to practice their faith in the workplace. Ironically, they are examples of “tolerance” statutes carried to their illogical and intolerant extreme.

Every one of these stories is becoming almost cliche in today’s world. Violent persecution of Christians by government tolerated mobs occurs in places like Africa, the Middle East and India. Legal persecution by the government itself happens in totalitarian states like Viet Nam. Meanwhile, a move toward totalitarianism in which the state attempts to deprive its citizens of the rights to individual conscience and religious liberty that it has heretofore guaranteed occurs in both the UK and the USA.

Here, for your prayerful study, are the 6 Quick Takes on Christian Persecution for this week.

 

1. Three U.K. Christians’ Appeals Denied by European Court on Human Rights in the Name of “Equality”

persecution.org

Jun 3rd 2013

In a display of growing secularism, the European Court on Human Rights recently rejected hearing cases of alleged discrimination against three Christian U.K. nationals. Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane, and Lillian Ladele each claim to have suffered employment discrimination for expressing their faith—one having been demoted for refusing to remove a cross necklace at work, another was disciplined for refusing to conduct same-sex marriages, and the last having been fired for refusing to provide relational counseling to same-sex couples. Secularist groups praised the court’s rejection of the cases, claiming the rejection as yet another step in stopping “a small coterie of Christian activists [from] obtain[ing] special privileges for themselves”—”special privileges” like being able to sport cross necklaces and determine one’s own clients. (Read the rest here.)

2. Anti-Christian Violence in Vietnam

Anti-Christian violence is an ever-present danger for church leaders and members in Vietnam, which has been under Communist rule since 1975 and where Christians make up just 9% of the population. In just two incidents from 2012, a pastor was beaten unconscious with iron bars, suffering multiple injuries, and a woman was left with a fractured skull when a congregation was attacked as they gathered for a service; dozens of others were injured. The assaults were the work of thugs believed to have been hired by the authorities to harass and intimidate Christians.

It is striking that those injured in these incidents belonged to churches that were actually registered with the authorities. Registration is required by law and allows congregations to obtain official approval for their places of worship. But registered churches are regulated and controlled, and their legal protections are vague and uncertain. The registration process is also slow, and some applications are unsuccessful.

The position of Vietnam’s unregistered churches is even more insecure, and they are particularly vulnerable to harassment, arrests and imprisonment. In 2012 the pastor of a house church was jailed for eleven years on a charge of “disrupting national unity”.

Despite the authorities’ supposed approval of charitable work, the past year has also seen cruel attacks in the capital, Hanoi, on both a Christian orphanage and a church-run colony for leprosy patients. The children were beaten by the attackers, and the residents of the colony were terrorised by abuse and threats. (Read the rest here.)

3. Syrian bishops kidnapped in Aleppo still missing one month on


Officials say whereabouts of Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi remain unknown despite international efforts to secure release

Bishop Boulos Yazigi, left, and archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted by gunmen on 22 April in Aleppo, Syria. Photograph: HOPD/AP

One month after two Orthodox Christian bishops were kidnapped by gunmen in Syria, officials say they still have no idea what has happened to the missing prelates.

The clerics, the most senior church officials to be targeted since civil war engulfed the country, have not been heard of since their abduction at gunpoint in the northern city of Aleppo on 22 April.

“We are deeply worried for the lives of archbishop Mor Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and bishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, who chairs the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (Uscirf).

“These two religious leaders put aside their own safety by travelling to one of the worst areas of fighting to help those Syrians left with few basic necessities after more than two years of war,” she said in a statement released on Tuesday. (Read the rest here.)

4. Washington attorney general sues florist over refusal to provide flowers for same-sex wedding 

Bob Ferguson, the State of Washington’s attorney general, has announced that he is filing a consumer protection lawsuit against a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

“Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation,” Ferguson stated in a press release. “If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service.”

Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington, explained her decision not to provide flowers for a customer’s same-sex wedding.

“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through, I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” she said. “We hugged each other, and he left, and I assumed it was the end of the story.” (Read more here.)

5. MASSACRE OF CHRISTIAN VILLAGE IN SYRIA; ALMOST 40 PEOPLE KILLED

A Christian village in Syria was savagely attacked and almost 40 of its residents, including women and children, killed by opposition fighters, as UN investigators warned of increasing radicalisation among the rebels.

One of Barnabas Aid’s Syrian partners said that two of his relatives in Dweir were severely tortured by the rebels, who broke some of their bones and started to burn their bodies before shooting them in the head.    The village of Dweir on the outskirts of Homs, near the border with Lebanon, was invaded on 27 May. (Read more here.)

6. Christian Pastor and His Family Beaten in India


A pastor and his family beaten; a prayer meeting broken up; Christians forced from their village by a mob; children threatened and abused; a church building attacked and a cemetery desecrated – just a few examples of the repeated incidents of harassment and intimidation suffered by Christians in India in 2012.

In many parts of the country the small minority of Christians live at peace with the Hindu majority. But in some states they are acutely vulnerable to a militant Hindu nationalist movement called Hindutva, which is striving to make India a religiously “pure” nation. Recent years have seen numerous incidents of small-scale aggression such as those listed above, and also major outbreaks of anti-Christian communal violence in Orissa and Karnataka.

It is difficult for Christians to obtain justice for offences committed against them. Local police can be slow to respond to attacks, and often no-one is prosecuted. Corruption is also rife in the courts, and Christians’ unwillingness to play the system dishonestly works against them. Five years on from the Orissa violence, few people have been convicted. Christian leaders and human rights activists continue to campaign for justice, however, and in December 2012 twelve people were handed prison sentences for their part in the 2008 attacks.

(Read the rest here.)

Vatican to UN: 100,000 Christians Killed for the Faith Each Year

 

One hundred thousand people are

Murdered.

Martyred.

For Christ.

Every year.

 

Many more Christians are

Raped.

Enslaved.

Beaten.

Tortured.

Imprisoned.

Abducted.

Displaced.

For Christ.

Every year.

 

Meanwhile, here in the “Christian” West, Christians are

Censored.

Mocked.

Reviled.

Forced to violate their faith under penalty of law.

Harrassed.

Silenced.

Marginalized.

For Christ.

Every year.

That is the message Vatican spokesman Msgr Silvano Maria Tomasi brought to the United Nations earlier this week. Msgr Tomasi expressed the Holy See’s “deep concern for violations of religious freedom and systematic attacks on Christian communities” in some part of the world. At the same time, he pointed out that “in some Western countries … a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services.”

I think it is important to note that Msgr Tomasi was not merely protesting the violent persecution or the marginalization of Catholics. He was speaking out for the civil and human rights of all Christians, everywhere.

People who attack Christianity often try to divide us. For instance, several of the commenters on a recent post I wrote concerning a Christian basher and the Pentagon, tried to say that this Christian bashing wasn’t aimed at Catholics, but Evangelicals. The point, I presume, being that if someone attacks those “other” Christians, the rest of us should either join in with the attackers or at the very least turn our backs on the attacked.

No way.

I like Msgr Tomasi’s approach. It is the one I take on this blog. If you cut any Christian, anywhere, we all bleed. Because we are One Blood, and One Body, and that is the living body and blood of Christ in the world. Any persecuted Christian is my brother or sister.

Let me say that again: Any persecuted Christian is my brother or sister. 

From Vatican Radio:

Vatican to UN: 100 thousand Christians killed for the faith each year

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2013-05-28 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has expressed “deep concern” for violations of religious freedom and systematic attacks on Christian communities in regions of the world such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This was pointed out by Msgr. Silvano Maria Tomasi, who spoke Monday at the United Nations in Geneva.

“More than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year. Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders -as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in Aleppo (Syria).

Several of these acts have been perpetrated in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, the fruit of bigotry, intolerance, terrorism and some exclusionary laws. In addition, in some Western countries where historically the Christian presence has been an integral part of society, a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services. 

“It may be useful that the Delegation of the Holy See should recall some pertinent data on the current services to the human family carried out in the world by the Catholic Church without any distinction of religion or race. In the field of education, it runs 70,544 kindergartens with 6,478,627 pupils; 92,847 primary schools with 31,151,170 pupils; 43,591 secondary schools with 17,793,559 pupils. The Church also educates 2,304,171 high school pupils, and 3,338,455 university students. The Church’s worldwide charity and healthcare centres include: 5,305 hospitals; 18,179 dispensaries; 547 Care Homes for people with Leprosy; 17,223 Homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability; 9,882 orphanages; 11,379 creches; 15,327 marriage counseling; 34,331 social rehabilitation centres and 9,391 other kinds of charitable institutions. To such data about social action activity, there should be added the assistance services carried out in refugee camps and to internally displaced people and the accompaniment of these uprooted persons. This service certainly doesn’t call for discrimination against Christians.

Valedictorian Rips Up Approved Speech, Recites Lord’s Prayer, Instead

We’re all going to have to start doing things like this.  it’s not a question of forcing someone else to follow our Lord Jesus. It’s whether or not we will allow others to stop us from following Him.

The story began when the American Civil Liberties Union managed to find time in their heavy schedule of advocating for abortion, polygamy, gay marriage and euthanasia to send threatening letters to every school district in South Carolina, warning them of possible lawsuits if they were caught praying in public. The illustrious Freedom From Religion Foundation cranked up their word processor up in Wisconsin and followed through with threats of their own.

The Pickens Country School District, which is in South Carolina, responded to these threats by ending all invocations at all school functions. They replaced the prayer at graduation exercises with a moment of silence.

Pickins County high school valedictorian Roy Costner IV dutifully wrote a secular valedictory speech, which was approved before the graduation exercises by school officials.

He began his valedictory remarks by starting to deliver the approved speech. But a few minutes into it, he tore the speech up and made extemporaneous remarks, praising his parents for teaching him his religious faith and concluding by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Vineoflife.netdescribes it this way:

“Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today,” he said. “I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age.”
“And I think most of you will understand when I say…” he continued, surprising the crowd with what came next.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” Costner declared. “Thy Kingdom come…”

As attendees realized that Costner was reciting the Lord’s Prayer, applause began to break out in the colliseum. Within seconds, the applause was accompanied by loud cheers.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” he continued. “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

The crowd again broke into cheers and applause as Costner concluded, and one faculty member sat smiling behind him.

“I think it took a lot of courage to do that,” attendee Logan Gibson told reporters. “People were supportive that he stood up for what he believed in.”

(Pickens County School District spokesman John) Eby said that the district will not be taking any action against Costner.

“The bottom line is, we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths,” he stated. “He’s a graduate now. There’s nothing we can do about it, even if we wanted to.”

I think it’s time for Christians everywhere in this country to consider doing things like this. These bullying organizations can threaten to sue individual school districts and other entities. But there are at least 180 million practicing Christians in this country who attend church on a regular basis. They can’t sue all of us.

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Mind you, I am not in any way advocating that we try to force anyone to join us. If they don’t believe, that’s their choice. If they are afraid, that’s their fear. But if you believe in Jesus and you’ve got the guts to say so, then do say so. You may get some rough treatment for saying it. But don’t be afraid of that. Anyone who reviles you for Jesus’ sake is giving you the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead of being afraid of them, you probably should thank them.

 

Angelina Jolie, the Cancer Gene and My Friend

Judge Twyla Gray sat opposite me twirling her fork in the salad on her plate. 

She had just told me that she was going to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. Twyla, who was a cancer survivor, had learned that she carried the brca gene. This gene predisposed her to breast cancer.

It had been decades since Twyla went through a lumpectomy, chemo and then radiation to treat a small cancer doctors found in one of her breasts. At the time she was diagnosed, Twyla put her considerable wits to researching her cancer and interviewing treatment specialists all around the country. She had a small child and she wanted to live.

I remember quite clearly her husband reading the summary of a pathologist’s report concerning that cancer to me. It was an aggressive form of the disease, and the pathologist’s advice was that she needed aggressive treatment. Afterwards, I talked to a doctor friend of mine who told me that based on her experience with patients, a cancer of that type would eventually come back, no matter what Twyla did.

More than 20 years later, Twyla seemed to have proven the experts wrong. Test after test, check-up after check-up, she was cancer free. Her child grew up to be a fine person. Her marriage thrived. Her career took off and she ended up a district judge.

Everything was looking good for Twyla.

Then she had genetic testing and learned she had the brca gene. She would always be vulnerable to this type of cancer, which is what led her to make the appointment for what she had dreaded for a long, long time: Mutilating surgery.

I asked her how she was a few weeks later and learned that she had backed out of the surgery. Then, a few months after that, the cancer recurred. She beat it back.

Again.

Another year passed, and it recurred.

Again.

There was no beating it back this time. She would die of this disease. The docs gave her three months, but she fought and won a small, though costly, reprieve. Twyla lived another year after she got the three month prognosis. Some of that time was good time. But she earned those good days by enduring horrible treatments.

I have wondered if it would have made any difference if she had gone ahead with that surgery. In truth, I do not know. But part of me doubts it. I think that the time bomb had been ticking away in the form of an occult cancer cell hiding in a corner of her body for all those years she was “cancer free.”

That’s the purgatory of cancer. No matter how many times a cancer survivor gets a clean scan, they know, and everyone who loves them knows, that it may not be entirely true. The cancer may be playing its little waiting game before it comes charging back.

Angelina Jolie’s Appearance is Critical to Her Career

I read week before last about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. From what I read, it sounds as if Ms Jolie has the same gene my friend had. She has not had cancer, so maybe, just maybe, the surgery will save her.

All I know is that I am grateful to her for coming forward with the revelation that she has gone through this surgery. That can’t have been easy for a woman whose appearance and body are critiqued mercilessly every time she puts her foot outside her door.

Ms Jolie makes her living at least partly on the fantasies her audience has about her and her appearance. Prophylactic double mastectomies don’t quite fit with the sexy macho woman she plays in film. That kind of reality is part of our vulnerable human condition, not the cartoon character perfection of the characters she often plays.

It was a risk for her to share this. But it may encourage some other person (men can die of breast cancer, too, especially if they carry the brca gene) who gets the frightening news that they carry this gene the push they need to go under the knife for what can only be described as terrible surgery.

I want to add that the genetic testing to uncover this gene is expensive. Because of that, most people will not take the test. But if you have a history of cancer in your family, as Twyla did, especially if you have a history of breast cancer, it might be worth looking into.

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Size Matters: For Some Humans, Size is a Death Sentence

When does life begin? Back when I was pro choice, I used to field that question in debates all the time. 

I knew that the people asking the question meant human life. When does human life begin? 

The answer is no use to us in the besetting questions of our age. Life, human life, doesn’t begin. We pass it from one to another like a baton in a relay race.

The reason for this largely useless answer is that the question itself is poorly worded. We don’t really mean When does life begin? What the questioners were trying to ask was, When does human life that we owe legal protection begin?

Unfortunately, even that question begs the underlying issue. Individual human life, with all its complexities, begins at conception. This is not theology. It is simple and obvious science. A human conceptus is a unique, perfect human being. So is a human embryo.

I was a human embryo. I do not mean that I was the makings of something that would become me. I, myself, was a human embryo. I was just as much me then as I was me when I was a six month unborn baby and when I was a 5-year-old kindergartner and now that I am a rambling, writing, mom, state legislator and all-around trouble maker.

I was always me at each one of these stages of my life. Life is something we pass from one another like a baton in a relay race. But our lives, our individual existences as persons, begins at conception.

You were an embryo, too, you know. In fact, you still are that embryo, only in another stage of life. Your life began at conception. Your earthly life will end at your death. But you will go on after that, and then, as now, you will always be you.

A reader who seems intransigent in his advocacy for killing little humans ranging from unborn late-term abortion victims back to the earliest conceptus, commented “I just can’t get worked up about microscopic embryos.”

Is that the reason so many people are willing to denude human beings of their humanity early on in their lives? Is it a matter of size?

It is important to remember that calling someone an “embryo” is an entirely arbitrary designation that people created for convenience. As it is used in practice the designation of this stage of a person’s life lasts from shortly after conception up to about 8 weeks. The person is, admittedly, tiny during this whole time, but they aren’t always microscopic. The question still remains: Would their lives matter more if they were the size of dinner plates?

I’m being a bit facetious here to make a point. Size shouldn’t be a death sentence. But when we begin to deny the obvious fact that these are human lives we are taking, we find ourselves in the conundrum of defining what makes the rest of us safe from the long knives of science.

The same science that gives you central heat and air can snuff you out like the flame on a match. The only thing holding it back is law. 

The legal barriers we erect around human life are our only protection from the rapacious disregard for human beings that sits at the base of every godless philosophy. Science itself is neutral on the issues of God and morality. It is not inherently moral or immoral. It is, rather, amoral.

Our safety and security rests, not in the self-defined great minds of scientists, but in the little minds of politicians. It is politicians who have kept us from destroying every bit of life on this planet with the scientist’s great gift of nuclear weapons. It is politicians who erect the walls of legal safety behind which we hide against the darker impulses of those who have no regard for us at all. Politicians and the laws they write are the method we have for keeping the monsters beside us at bay.

Make no mistake about it, science has acquired the power to be a death-dealing monster that can destroy us all.

Are human embryos human beings? Of course they are. There isn’t any question about that. The question is, do we think we are capable of creating, exploiting and killing whole classes of human beings and not letting this death-dealing disregard for human life spread to the rest of us? The answer for any thinking person who has the least knowledge of human history is, no.

Once the law allows one group of people to kill other groups of people for any reason they chose, the gun is loaded, cocked and pointing at the rest of us, as well.

We already kill human beings throughout their pre-born life. We kill them because they are disabled. We kill them because they are “unwanted.” We kill them because they — unlike us, we seem to say — are going to die soon anyway.

Is that the new value on human life? To have a right to life, do you have to be “wanted,” or physically perfect, or not be going to die?

By that logic, there is no person on this planet who has a right to life.

Do you realize that? By the logic we apply to embryos, who are killed because they are too small to have a right to life, and for all unborn babies, who are killed because they are unwanted-disabled-going-to-die-anyway there is no person on this planet who has a right to life. 

Is that exaggeration? I think not. The agitation for euthanasia is growing. Already several nations and a few of our states have taken down the wall to killing people who are a burden to others, in pain, mentally ill, depressed, etc. They pass these laws under the guise of — you guessed it — they will be dead soon, anyway. We’ll just kill the terminally ill, they claim. Nobody will die except those who volunteer for death, they tell us.

But as soon as these laws pass, the criteria begins to broaden, and soon people are being euthanized without their knowledge, for all sorts of reasons.

Why? Because if any group of people may be legally killed for reasons of their murderer’s devising, then all our lives are forfeit.

The selling of death by those who want to kill has become slightly more subtle than it times past, but the underlying message is the same.

It’s only a small over-simplification to say that all these people at the vulnerable stages of life are dying because of money. Those who kill human embryos to harvest their body parts promise us miracles in a test tube that will give us cures for every dread disease. But what they are really about is massive amounts of government funding. Unborn children die because abortion is marketed by those who make money off it. They die because we would rather become murderers of our own children than write laws that protect women’s ability to have children and hold jobs, get educations and walk the streets without fear of rape. We kill the infirm, the depressed and the elderly, so they won’t be a “burden” on our health care industry.

We kill for money. We lie and twist the facts to claim that we are killing them for kindness’ sake. But in truth we have done away with the legal protections of the basic right to life of whole classes of people largely for money.

Does size matter? In the case of human embryos, size is a death sentence. But for other people we kill, it is just a matter of getting rid of what bothers us.

I haven’t mentioned theology or even morality as a reason for not killing whole classes of people with impunity. I don’t need to. There is an entirely secular reason for granting a universal right to life to all human beings at every stage of our earthly existence. That reason is self-preservation. 

Unless you are one of the gods of our little earthly universe — one of the powerful, the wealthy, the “decision makers” who live in shadowy enclaves inside super zip codes and pull the strings on the rest of us — unless you are one of them, you need this wall of law to protect you.

I Think Pope Francis is Channeling My Grandmother

 

I think Pope Francis is channeling my grandmother. 

“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry,” he said yesterday.

“Clean your plate,” my grandmother told me, “think of those that do without.”

I am not, as some people do, blaming these injunctions to eat what I put on my plate for my weight problem. I know what causes that, and cleaning my plate has nothing to do with it. However, I did get a wee bit of the giggles when I first read Pope Francis’ comments.

Then I sobered up.

He’s right, you know.

We buy too much stuff. Not just food, but all sorts of stuff. I know perfectly healthy people who spend their days shopping. They are using the precious hours and minutes of their time in this life wandering up and down store aisles, looking at things they don’t need in order to buy and then not use them.

I have a relative who used to show up at my house with sacks of uneaten food every time she cleaned out her refrigerator. It was, most of it, half-spoiled, but she would bring it to me and expect me to take it. The question of why she bought it in the first place was never asked, much less answered.

How do we turn this useless excess that burdens our lives with too much weight, too many things and an awful, aching hunger for more stuff we don’t need into something that is useful and productive in this world? What is the mechanism for channeling our excess to those who are wracked by hunger and illness; who live without the adequate shelter or sanitary conditions?

Where is the connection between my garbage disposal and their empty bellies?

According to an article in NewsMaxWorld, “about 1.3 billion metric tons of food, or one third of what is produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted very year.”

The article goes on with the usual guilt statistics about the enormous portions served in restaurants, etc. But making people feel guilty doesn’t help. What we need is a means and a method for distributing food so that no one goes hungry. According to the United Nations, 870 million people suffer from hunger, while 2 billion suffer from at least some nutritional deficiency.

That’s about one third of the human race, which, if all these statistics are accurate, is roughly equivalent to the portion of food that is wasted.

I can not scrape the food off my plate and into the hungry mouths of the world. I have to put it down the garbage disposal. I can — and should, for my own sake — buy less. But even that would not get the food to those who need it.

It takes more than a curb on wastefulness among the well-fed to fix this problem. It requires a will and a determination to do it. 

We’ve got plenty of food. We’re just not getting it to the people who don’t have any.

What would you do to end world hunger, if you were, say, a delegate to the United Nations?


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