Christian Persecution: 6 Quick Picks


This week’s 6 Quick Picks on Christian persecution deal with atrocities that have occurred in Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

All of them involve violent mob action from members of other religious groups. None of them would have occurred without the compliance of the police. Most of the time, the police arrest the Christians who have been attacked rather than their attackers. This, of course, is police corruption, as well as mob violence.

Most of these crimes occurred in countries which have legal guarantees of freedom of religion. Our Constitutional guarantee that the government may not interfere with “the free exercise” of religious faith is a precious freedom that Americans have had for so long that we take it for granted.

But freedoms can never be taken for granted if they are to be preserved. There are always those who will try to limit other people’s freedoms.

Here are this week’s 6 Quick Picks.

 

1. Islamic Hard-liners, Police Raid Christian-Muslim Interfaith Conference in Indonesia

By Amir Tedjo on 4:52 pm June 12, 2013.

Surabaya. A small group of religious hard-liners, backed up by police, disrupted a Christian-Muslim Interfaith dialogue on Tuesday night, claiming that the event was conducted without a permit.

They forced the organizers to go to the Surabaya Police station to be questioned.

“The weird thing is that the police officers who were present stayed quiet, regardless of what the group did,” Ahmad Zaimul Hamdi, a committee member and activist with the Anti-Violence Society Network, said on Wednesday.

“The police even provided a vehicle to bring the organizers to the police station.”

Ahmad said that the event was part of an academic discussion that analyzed the Koran and the Bible from both Islamic and Christian perspectives. Hundreds of people attended the event, and the discussion was going smoothly until the small group of hard-liners arrived on the scene.

From Jakarta Globe http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/hard-liners-police-interfere-with-interfaith-dialogue/

 

2. Mob of “Hundreds of Muslims” Attack Christians in Bangladesh

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Perpetrators Operate With Impunity as Government Fails to Protect Religious Minorities

6/14/2013 Washington, D.C. (ICC)-International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a group of radical Islamists have targeted and attacked Christians in Bangladesh. Two incidents in the last week have left priests and seminary students among those severely beaten. In both incidents the attackers have operated with impunity.

On June 5, Muslim extremists went to the Tumilia mission, a Catholic compound, and physically harmed Fr. Abel when he came out of his room.

On June 6, another attack by the same group of radical Islamists an attack on the entire village.

Two of the Christians fled and sought shelter at the Catholic Church’s mission compound in Dinajpur, in Northern Bangladesh. However, a mob of Muslims numbering over a hundred stormed in armed with local weapons. “They broke the main gate, destroyed the barb wire fence and entered the compound. They beat up Fr. Uzzal, and seminarians and destroyed parts of the buildings…vandalized and looted everything,” says an ICC source.

“The police arrested some of the Christians and took them to the police station but did not take any action against the Muslims who were trespassing on the Catholic Compound,” the ICC source continued. “The Muslims wait for any excuse to attack the religious minorities.”

Not one perpetrator has been arrested in either of these cases.

“The priests are afraid to do anything against the perpetrators,” says an ICC source. “Most of the time the Muslim extremists are protected by the [Muslim] ruling party. This is Bangladesh, where we [Christians] live without any security and protection from the government or law enforcing agencies,” the source continued.

Corey Bailey, ICC’s Regional Manager for Bangladesh says, “According to their Constitution, there is Religious Freedom in Bangladesh, but that exists only on paper. Muslims attack religious minorities with impunity. This is outrageous and must end.

I urge those interested in religious freedom to contact the Embassy of Bangladesh and demand better protection for religious minorities, as well as justice in these cases.”

Ambassador: H.E. Akramul Qader    202-244-2745   or 202-244-0183 (PABX)

For interviews, contact Corey Bailey: RM-Asia@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church.   For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

 

3. Hindu Militants Attack Christian Pastors in India

By BosNewsLife Asia Service

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Twenty Baptist pastors have been attacked by suspected Hindu militants in southeastern India and several church leaders required hospital treatment for severe injuries, representatives said Friday, June 7.

The All India Christian Council (AICC), which represents churches and mission groups, said the victims were from the Telugu Baptist Church who gathered for their monthly prayer meeting Tuesday, June 4, in the town of Maheshwaram Mandal, in the Indian state of Hyderabad.

About 50 followers of Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or ‘National Volunteer Organization’ (RSS) stormed the gathering and “brutally attacked” the pastors “with sticks and rods causing dreadful injuries” and verbally abused them, AICC added in a statement seen by BosNewsLife.

Seven of the pastors, identified only as Thimothy, Kumar, Krupaiah, Roberts, Rosaiah, Lazarus and Thinothy, were rushed to hospital for serious injuries, according to AICC officials.

The attack is part of a wider crackdown on devoted Christians in the heavily Hindu nation, said John Dayal, AICC secretary general.

“We are deeply concerned that anti-Christian attacks are taking place in the state. After Karnataka [state] such violence against Christians has started in Andhra Pradesh,” Dayal added.

He said police had been asked to investigate the case. About 1,000 local Christians were also planning a peaceful rally to protest against the attack and demand justice, according to AICC investigators.

From BosNewsLife http://www.bosnewslife.com/28646-india-militants-attack-baptist-pastors-several-injured

 

4. Third Christian Community in 50 Days Attacked by Muslims in Pakistan

Country/Region: South and East Asia, Pakistan

Christians in a village in Punjab, Pakistan were forced to evacuate their homes after they were attacked by armed Muslims who threatened to destroy their property; theirs is the third Christian community to come under attack in less than two months.

A mob of around 50-60 armed Muslims attacked Christians in Eassa Pur village, Khanewal district, on 26 April. The furious assailants opened fire on the believers after beating them and throwing stones at their houses, which they also threatened to torch.

Christian communities in nearby villages were also forced to flee their homes after receiving threats against their property.

Police have registered against a case against five Christians following the violence, but they have not pursued legal action against the Muslims who instigated it.

Muslims in the village had also threatened to burn down Christian property during a previous attack on 6 April. A group of Muslims beat local Christians severely when a dispute broke out because two Christian men were sitting on mats that were not facing towards Mecca.

Some local Christians believe that Muslims are using any excuse to create hostilities in order to take over Christian property.

Outbreaks of violence against entire Christian communities in response to personal disputes are becoming disturbingly frequent; this attack is the third of its kind in recent months.

In Joseph Colony, Lahore, a Muslim mob torched 178 Christian homes on 9 March after a local Christian was accused of blasphemy following an exchange with a Muslim friend.

Then, on 3 April, Muslim extremists attacked a Christian neighbourhood in Francis Colony, Gujranwala, following a minor dispute between Muslim and Christian youths. A church building was ransacked and dozens of shops and vehicles vandalised after Muslims were incited over mosque loudspeakers to “teach the Christians a lesson”.

http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/Archives/Third-Christian-community-in-50-days-attacked-by-Muslims-in-Pakistan.html

From Barnabas Fund http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/Archives/Third-Christian-community-in-50-days-attacked-by-Muslims-in-Pakistan.html

 

5. Churches Closed and Pastors Threatened by Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka 

Country/Region: Sri Lanka, South and East Asia

Buddhist monks have forced the closure of 18 churches in southern Sri Lanka, threatening pastors with death if they continue their activities.

Churches in Hambanthota have been under pressure for some time, but tensions have ratcheted up this month.

On 10 May, the district secretary of Hambanthota called a meeting of local officials, senior police officers and Buddhist and Christian leaders to discuss the situation. The legality of the local churches was questioned, and various accusations were levelled at the pastors by the Buddhist monks.

The Christian leaders were effectively told that they had to provide proof of the legality of their churches or else they would be closed down.

A follow-up meeting was held on 17 May at which the Buddhist monks said they had already closed down a number of churches – later confirmed as 18 by local pastors – and demanded that those still functioning also be shut.

The church leaders explained that, under Sri Lankan law, they have the right to practise their religion anywhere and that church registration is not required.

The authorities decided not to take any action against the churches at this stage, but a further meeting will take place in three months’ time.

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka said that the situation in the south remains tense. Local pastors told Barnabas Fund that the Buddhist monks have threatened them: “If you don’t stop your activities your destiny will be like Lional Jayasinghe”, a pastor who was martyred in Hambanthota in the 1990s.

BUDDHIST PROTEST

Meanwhile, Buddhist monk Bowatte Indarathana set himself on fire as a protest against the conversion of Buddhists by Christians and other minority groups, and also the slaughter of cattle, in Sri Lanka. The incident happened on Friday (24 May); he succumbed to his injuries the following day.

Supporters of Sinhala Ravaya, a Buddhist Sinhalese extremist group, praised Indarathana’s “heroic act” in defence of the nation’s values, while Udaya Gammanpila, a member of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party, promised to “transform his demands into reality” through a new law.

Christians in Sri Lanka are under pressure from the Sinhalese Buddhist lobby, which campaigns for laws to control religious conversions.

The government claims to uphold religious freedom but affords Buddhism the “foremost place”; around 70% of the population is Buddhist. The Religious Affairs Ministry recently announced that it intends to introduce legislation enabling the authorities to take action against religious groups that are deemed cults. This could threaten the country’s Evangelical churches, which are not recognised by the Religious Affairs Ministry.

From Barnabas Fund 

http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/News-analysis/Churches-closed-and-pastors-threatened-by-Buddhist-monks-in-Sri-Lanka.html

 

6. More Attacks on Pastors in Tanzania

VOM_MediaDev

June 13, 2013

Earlier this week, we shared a video report from Gary Lane in Tanzania that included the story of Pastor Mathayo Kachili, who was killed because of his faith in Christ. Pastor Kachili’s story is also included in VOM’s June newsletter.

The persecution of Christians in Tanzania continues. On the night of Sunday, June 2, the home of Pastor Robert Ngai in Geita town, northeastern Tanzania, was attacked by a large group of radical Muslims. The attackers broke into the home and attacked Pastor Ngai with machetes. The pastor received serious cuts on his hands and arms when he raised his arms to protect his head from the blows. Doctors at the local hospital said the injuries were beyond their ability to treat, and urged that he be rushed to a hospital in a nearby, larger city for treatment. Ngai is the pastor of the Evangelical Assemblies of God Church. At last word from VOM contacts, he was still in ICU.

Two nights before the attack on Pastor Ngai, the home of Pastor Daudi Nzumbi in Geita also came under attack. Pastor Nzumbi leads the Free Pentecostal Church of Tanzania (FPCT) congregation in Geita. Thankfully, the attackers fled after they were confronted by Pastor Nzumbi’s large, barking dogs.

When Pastor Nzumbi heard his dogs barking, he looked out the window and saw the attackers. He called the police, but the officer in charge told him, “I cannot protect every pastor!”

VOM contacts are working to get more details on these attacks, and to offer encouragement and assistance to these two pastors and other Christians in Tanzania affected by violent Islamic attacks. Please continue to pray for Christians in Tanzania as well as for their persecutors.

From Persecution Blog

http://www.persecutionblog.com/2013/06/more-attacks-on-pastors-in-tanzania.html

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Abortion on Demand After the 5th Month: Should It Be Legal?

 

Rumors have it that the United States House of Representatives will vote on a bill that will extend the District of Columbia ban on abortions after 20 weeks to the rest of the country.

The bill passed out of House committee this week, and, according to some sources, is being marked up for a vote that may take place next week. I doubt that this bill will pass in the Senate, and it certainly will be vetoed by the President if it does. There is no chance the bill’s authors can convince both houses to override a Presidential veto.

 

On top of that, Roe v Wade specifically set the limit for abortion on demand (with some regulations) at 26 weeks of pregnancy. Unless the Court changes that ruling, the bill is unconstitutional.

So, what is happening here?

I do not see any reason for late-term abortions. I’ve written about that here. However, I always wonder about the real reason for a vote like this, since it is definitely not to make a law and everyone involved knows it.

Do the bill’s authors view the vote as a statement designed to build consensus over time? Are they throwing down the political gauntlet and forcing people to declare where they stand on this issue by how they cast their votes? Do they want to use it as a way of defining an issue for upcoming political campaigns? Or is this some combination of all these things?

I would guess that almost any member of the United States Congress could take a roll sheet of either the Senate or the House and pinpoint with amazing accuracy how each member will vote on this. I imagine they could have pinpointed it at any time during this session. I’ll go a step further and say that they could probably predict what everyone who speaks on the issue will say.

So they’re not trying to convince one another. This is about something else.

 

If they had a chance of passing this into law, it would be a powerful thing, indeed. It would force the Supreme Court to either rule against it or let it stand. That could be great, or, if they uphold it, it could make the situation worse; potentially much worse. Everything you do in when you’re in public office can go great or turn sour. In issues with generational punch and Court oversight like this one, strategy is everything.

The reason I’m raising these questions is that I want you to peel back the layers of propaganda and think about what is really happening with your government. I want you to look at the legislative process with understanding. If Christians are to affect change in the world, we need to do more than watch the game and cheer for our side. We need to be able to see through the game.

 

So, give a thought or two about this bill to limit abortions and tell me what you think they’re doing. Do you think it has any chance to succeed legislatively? Do you think that one of the many similar laws that have passed in the various states will wend its way through the appeals process and on up to the Supreme Court? Do you think there’s any chance the Supreme Court will uphold that law if it does?

These are big questions, and I can tell you, I don’t know the answers to all of them.

What do you think?

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Iran: Trying to Stifle the Holy Spirit with Persecution

This story of Christian persecution has a twist.

Iranian government officials raided the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran May 21. They arrested the pastor, Rev Robert Aserian and seized his books, documents and equipment, including his computer.

The charge? Pastor Aserian had been conducting services in Farsi, which is the language that people speak in Iran.

This is akin to arresting someone in America for making speeches in English.

Why would they do this?

My guess is that the reason for trying to force the pastor and his church to conduct services in some other language than Farsi is precisely because people could understand Farsi. I think the Holy Spirit was working in that church and Iranian people were converting to Christianity. The fact that the church has discipleship classes on Saturdays for new Christians seems to indicate that there are a good number of converts.

The Assemblies of God Church in Iran began in 1955 with a single house church. Now there are congregations across the country. That sounds like people are converting, and they are doing it in significant numbers.

This has resulted in persecution of church members, especially the church leaders. For instance, Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh, who leads an Assemblies of God church in Ahwaz, Iran, along with his wife Shahaz Jeizan were recently sentence to one-year prison sentences.

Hundreds of Christian converts have been arrested and detained throughout Iran in the past few years. They have been subjected to intense interrogation and verbal and physical abuse. Some were prosecuted, while others have been forced to pay exorbitant sums for bail.

Several members of the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran have been killed, and, as a local source told Barnabas Aid:

The pressure has become unbearable. They constantly threaten the church leaders and their families with imprisonment, unexplained accidents, kidnapping and even with execution. We cannot go on like this.

The twist in this story is that it’s not about a shrinking population of Christians who are barely hanging on. It’s about a thriving and growing Christian ministry that is built on conversions. Will the Iranian government be able to stifle the Holy Spirit with persecution?

There are probably more of these stories than we know. These people need our prayers and any support we can give them.

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After the Election Comes the Scary Part

After the election comes the scary part.

It was a long time ago, but I remember it well. I won my first election over 30 years ago, before I met my husband, before my religious conversion, when I was at the height of my anti-religion period.

I won the election by defeating a 16-year incumbent most political deep-thinkers regarded as “unbeatable.” A couple of weeks later, I got a notice that I needed to show up at the Capitol to be sworn in. A friend of mine took me out and bought me a suit to wear. I didn’t have enough money to buy one for myself.

No one was ever more sure of herself than I was the day I marched into the Capitol building, all gussied up in my shiny new Representative Suit. I brought an escort of sorts. They were my running buddies (literally) my old junior high gang and a couple of bffs that I confided my every waking thought to. I led this little flock of mine up to the first man in uniform that I saw and blurted out, “Where’s the House?”

He looked us over, and said, “I think you mean the gallery. It’s up the stairs  …”

“No,” I told him. “I’m a House Member.”

Women were just starting to win elections. A sprinkling of women had made it, but my chirpy group of pals and I were something new in this echoey building. Truth told, our youth and overall giddiness would still stand out today. He stared at me, then said, “Uh sorry Ma’am.” and directed me to the House. I headed toward the big doors, and he slid an arm between me and my friends.

“Sorry,” he said. “Only the Representative can go in.”

That is how I learned one of the most frightening and inflexible truths of holding public office. Your friends can help you get elected. They can strategize, sympathize and support you through the rigors and nastiness of a political campaign. They can even go out to dinner with you after the day is done and hear all about what happened at the Capitol. But when you are functioning as an elected official, you — get ready for this now — you have to stand alone.

Despite my gaggle of friends and my blithe insouciance, I wasn’t a fool about politics, not even at that early point in my political career. I had just put together, executed and survived a winning campaign against a 16-year incumbent. I was the former state director for NARAL. I was a lot of things; some good and some bad, but I knew a lot more about what I was doing that my easy attitude indicated.

If I found this realization that I had to walk through those doors alone daunting — and I did — think how stunning it must be for one of the party candidates who are beamed into office on a beam of corporate money. There’s a world of difference between an elected official who has come out on top in a vicious do-it-yourself campaign and one who spent the entire process like a little kid riding in the back seat of mommy and daddy’s car. If I was self-confident, I had some reason to be. If they are confused and mulish, they also have reason to be.

People often assume that legislating is easy; just make a few half-baked speeches, cast a couple of obvious votes and get your picture taken. In truth, it’s a complex job that changes constantly. No two days as a legislator are ever the same. I’m starting my 17th year in office, and each day of it has been different than the ones that went before. It isn’t boring. But it can be and often is terrifying. And the pressures are indescribable to anyone who hasn’t felt them.

Most of the people I work with have only a handful of years on the job as legislators. They have zero memory of the twists and turns, tricks and finagling of the past. They are like 100 geese, born into a brand new world every single day. Combine this with the fact that most of them were recruited to run based at least partly on their malleability and willingness to go along to get along, and you have a recipe for a confused and troubled legislative process.

One of the most obvious traits of these beamed-in legislators is how easy it is to scare them. Not only that, but they have a real proclivity for being afraid of the wrong things. Most of them come from backgrounds where people didn’t actively try to intimidate and bully them every minute of every day. They aren’t used to being constantly lied to, flattered, made fun of and berated. This may be the first time in their lives that they have had to stand entirely on their own.

But that is the life of a legislator. On any given day, you’re going to be called a nincompoop or worse. You’ll see unflattering cartoons of yourself and get emails from all over the world calling you things you never even heard of before. In the next instant, somebody or other will be comparing you favorably to Moses or Abraham Lincoln. It’s the ultimate hero-jerk roller coaster, and it never stops until you leave office.

At the same time, you have in your hands the awesome power of government. You can literally kill people by putting a comma in the wrong place. Or, you can save lives, give people a hope and a future, do your share to create a just and stable government that will enable people to live their lives in freedom and safety.

What you do with it, how you handle it, is up to you.

You have to walk through those doors alone. And you have to figure out how to do this complex, ever-changing job by yourself. You have to find a way to deal with the demands and needs of tens of thousands of constituents, how to run the traps and do the work to pass legislation, how to discern who’s lying and who’s telling the truth, how to keep your balance in the face of alternating adulation and abuse, and how to keep from losing yourself to the hype and unreality of it, how to stay an authentic person. You have to do this, and you’ve got to do it by yourself.

It isn’t easy. But after 16 years of it, I can tell you, it is rewarding. It is meaningful work.

I don’t recommend it to everybody. But I do recommend it. Public office can and should be a form of servant leadership. We need men and women who are grounded in a deep faith and personal morality, with strong characters  and the ability to think for themselves to run for office.

Those are the kind of people who can handle it when they learn that no matter how rigorous the campaign, the scary part comes after the election.

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Feminist, as in I am a Feminist. Feminist. Fem. i. Nist. (And I Blog at Patheos.)

 

There.

I did it.

I said feminist.

Before I came to Patheos, I had a brief flirtation with that other biggie in the religious blogosphere. I actually debated with my silly self as to which was the best way to go.

Then today, I learned that, if I had decided to go to that other place, a large number of the posts I’ve written here at Patheos might very well have been round filed. Of course, I don’t know that they would have been round-filed. I’m just guessing, based on this article.

The reason for this possible round-filing of my deathless prose would, if I am making the right connections here, be that I use the word “feminist.”

I not only use it in connection with a socio/political movement that goes by that name, I use it in connection with myself.

As in, I am a feminist.

I am you know.

A feminist, that is.

The way that women are battered, beaten, raped, tortured, bought, sold and murdered around the globe outrages me. I am a feminist, and I will remain a feminist until our casual acceptance of this mass brutality ends. In fact, my question to every Christian reading this is Why aren’t you a feminist, too?

Do you really think that this sickening degradation and brutality directed toward the life-bearers, the mothers, of humanity comes for anywhere besides the deepest pit of hell?

Every time I say I am a feminist I am saying it for those women whose bodies lie in the dump, the lake, the woods and the shallow grave. I am saying it for the baby girls who are aborted for no reason other than that they are baby girls. I say it for the battered wives and the raped girls who feel shame when it’s the rapist who should be ashamed.

I am a feminist; a pro life, catechism following, Jesus loving unreconstructed feminist who will not give one inch on issues of human rights for my half of the human race.

There.

I said it.

In print.

On Patheos.

Where I can say anything I want.

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Pope Francis Says There Is a ‘Gay Lobby’ in the Vatican. What Does that Mean?

Pope Francis rocked a lot of folks with his frank admission that there is a ‘gay lobby’ in the Vatican.

The information we have about what he said does not come from an official Vatican statement, or recorded remarks. He made the comment in an audience with the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious. Our source for the Holy Father’s specific words comes from notes made by those in attendance.

According to those notes, he said,

“Truthfully, there are saintly people in the curia, but there is also a current of corruption, it’s true. There’s talk of the ‘gay lobby’ and it’s true it’s there. We have to see what we can do about it.”

The reaction from the public has been somewhat muted, although I’ve seen the usual nonsense accusing the Holy Father of being “homophobic” and “anti-gay.”

In truth, I don’t know what all this means, and I would guess that no one except the Pope and perhaps a few insiders do. What, for instance, does “gay lobby” mean? And what does “corruption” mean?

I’m not being naive. I don’t know. “Gay lobby” seems to imply more than just homosexual priests who are friends with one another, especially when it’s linked to concerns about “corruption.”

I am glad that Pope Francis is being open about these things. Corruption of any sort thrives on secrecy. The more open he is, the better the chance that the problems will be solved.

Rumors have swirled for quite some time about some sort of dark goings on in the Vatican. Pope Emeritus Benedict dealt with a problem concerning leaks of private documents, which I’ve never really understood, either. It might make more sense if I knew what the leaked documents contained.

These hints of stories that are not properly reported set us all up to imagine what we want.

Personally, I choose not to imagine anything, but to wait and see what shakes out over time.

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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.

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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.”

 

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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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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