Archbishop Coakley: Pray for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty

This letter from Archbishop Paul Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City was read in the churches in the archdiocese this weekend.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The year 2013 promises to be one of great consequence on many fronts for our Church and our Nation. With the looming threat to our religious liberty posed by the HHS mandate, the rapid erosion of respect for human life and the unprecedented assault on the institution of marriage taking hold in our nation we bishops of the United States are issuing a Call to Prayer.

St. Thomas Becket, whom the Church honors as I write this letter, was a martyr for the sake of justice. As Archbishop of Canterbury he steadfastly defended the rights of the Church against the unjust interference of his king. He wrote, “If we who are called bishops desire to understand the meaning of our calling and to be worthy of it, we must strive to keep our eyes on him whom God appointed high priest forever, and to follow in his footsteps.” In a similar spirit during our November Plenary Assembly we bishops of the United States determined that it is our duty as shepherds to mobilize the entire Church against the threats against people of faith in our day.

Consequently, we have issued a Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty. I want to join my voice to that of my fellow bishops in summoning the faithful, clergy and religious of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to embrace this coordinated spiritual effort to combat these looming challenges to the free and public exercise of our faith. We ought to understand this spiritual effort in conjunction with the Year of Faith, inasmuch as we are defending concerns that are integral to our faith as its public consequences. These threats call for a public witness and a concerted spiritual effort.

There are many ways to participate as individuals, families, parishes and schools. Here are five key components to this Call to Prayer.

Beginning now and continuing through Christ the King Sunday on November 24, 2013, cathedrals and parishes are urged to have a monthly Eucharistic Holy Hour for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty.
Families and individuals are encouraged to pray the daily Rosary, especially for the preservation of Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty in our nation.
At Sunday and daily Masses, we encourage that the Prayers of the Faithful include special intentions for respect for all human life from conception to natural death, the strengthening of marriage and family life and the preservation of religious liberty both in our nation and abroad.
Recognizing the importance of spiritual and bodily sacrifice in the life of the Church, we encourage abstinence from meat and fasting on Fridays for the intention of the protection of life, marriage and religious liberty.
There will be another national Fortnight of Freedom at the end of June and beginning of July 2013. This Fortnight effort will emphasize marriage in a particular way in the face of the potential Supreme Court rulings expected during this time. It will also emphasize the need for conscience protection in view of the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate. It will emphasize religious freedom concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption and humanitarian services as well. The focus will be on the God-given nature of religious freedom and the right to publicly witness to our faith in the public square as well as the rights of individuals and institutions to conduct their professional lives in accord with their religious convictions.
A website with the plan for the Call to Prayer and many additional resources is available at www.usccb.org/life-marriage-liberty. I urge you to participate in this important Call to Prayer for our Nation and our Church. With prayerful best wishes for you and yours during this New Year, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley
Archbishop of Oklahoma City

Is Christ Real to You?

Today is Epiphany. 

This feast celebrates the time when the wise men found the Christ child and offered him gifts in homage to his divinity. That is why we call it The Epiphany. Epiphany means the revelation of a divine being. In this case, it is the revelation of the divine being: God made human in the form of a baby.

The wise men, with their gifts and their homage, acknowledged this. Their action has become a symbol for more than just their own acknowledgment of Him. It also indicates what was to follow when all people, from all places, in all times, would do the same. In this sense, the wise men are you and me, the gentiles who no longer must stand outside the circle of the chosen people in their communion with God, but who, through the life and death of this baby, may enter in.

We also are chosen, along with the whole human race.

The Epiphany is the feast that memorializes the first understanding and acknowledgement of the divine being by people who were not Jews. It may also be the first time anyone besides probably Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, looked at Him and knew Who He was.

The question for us in this fracturing world of ours is do we know Who He is? Do we acknowledge Him? Are we aware that He is the divine being Who is our salvation and our only hope?

Homage for us is not gifts of precious items. Our gift is, as the Psalmist says, “a broken and contrite heart.” Our homage is fidelity and devotion to Him in the face of a world that is increasingly hostile to those who refuse to deny him by the things they do and say.

Is Christ real to you on this Epiphany Sunday? Will you stand for Him in the months ahead?

It is The Epiphany, the twelfth and last day of Christmas in this liturgical year. Will you live for Him the rest of this Year of Faith?

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

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

Is This a Surprise? White House Considering Broad Gun Control Measures, Including Executive Orders

White House weighs broad gun-control

agenda

The Washington Post

By Philip Rucker

The White House is weighing a far broader and more comprehensive approach to curbing the nation’s gun violence than simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, according to multiple people involved in the administration’s discussions.

A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said.

To sell such changes, the White House is developing strategies to work around the National Rifle Association that one source said could include rallying support from Wal-Mart and other gun retailers for measures that would benefit their businesses. White House aides have also been in regular contact with advisers to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), an outspoken gun-control advocate who could emerge as a powerful surrogate for the Obama administration’s agenda.

The Biden group, formed last month after the massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults, plans to submit a package of recommendations to President Obama this month. Once Obama’s proposals are set, he plans to lead a public-relations offensive to generate popular support.

“They are very clearly committed to looking at this issue comprehensively,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who has been involved in the discussions. The proposals under consideration, he added, are “a deeper exploration than just the assault-weapons ban.”

The gun-control push is just one part of an ambitious political agenda that Obama has pledged to pursue after his decisive reelection victory in November, including comprehensiveimmigration reform, climate-change legislation and long-term deficit reduction. Obama also faces a reshuffling of his Cabinet, and a looming debate over the nation’s debt ceiling that will compete for his time and attention in the coming months.

Seeking expansive mandate

In addition to potential legislative proposals, Biden’s group has expanded its focus to include measures that would not need congressional approval and could be quickly implemented by executive action, according to interest-group leaders who have discussed options with Biden and key Cabinet secretaries. Possibilities include changes to federal mental-health programs and modernization of gun-tracking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Read more here.)

 

Less of Me: Feeding the Deeper Hungers

To join the discussion on Cravings, or for a link to buy the book, go here

Cravings, by Catholic author Mary De Turris Poust, provides ideas for combining Catholic spirituality with the fight to control overeating.

It’s a book written from the outside, so to speak. Ms Poust has never suffered from a weight problem, and, aside from a brief adolescent foray into extreme dieting and overexercise that lasted a short time and was cured by going on a family vacation, she has no personal experience with the demons that drive those of us who are truly addicted to food and use it for our drug of choice.

I’m not trying to pick at either Ms Poust or her very fine book when I say that. But it’s an important caveat to consider when reading the book. What can a woman who writes sentences like “I will actually crave broccoli when I eat too much heavy food … something that has grown out of being a vegetarian, doing yoga, jogging regularly …” have to say to me?

It turns out that if she’s a good writer who does a lot of research and has a well-developed sense of Christian spirituality, she has quite a lot to say to me.

As I said in other posts, I am one of the legions of people in this country who use food as a drug of sorts. I soothe myself with food when frustrations get to me. I also use food was a way out of boredom and as recreation. I have somehow developed the ability to mimic many of the emotions and behaviors that real drug addicts attach to their addiction to things like meth, only I use food as the drug.

It’s not a question of what I eat. The real question is, what’s eating me?

Cravings isn’t another one of those try-it-lose-it-and-regain diet programs overeaters know so well. In fact, it comes close to abjuring diet programs. This book focuses on how to replace food as the go-to drug for what ails you by turning to God. It’s full of very useful ideas and plans in this quest. One of the main foci of the book is on what the author calls “mindful eating.” Mindful eating is the fine art of paying attention to what you’re doing when you eat and not just stuffing things down without even being aware of it.

I know that for a lot of people the idea of eating a meal and not being aware of it sounds far-fetched. But I’ve done it. I do it. Part of the reason that food soothes me is that I’ve learned to turn off when I eat.

Food, or at least the act of eating, has become a sort of stress and thinking off-switch for me. That doesn’t mean that I go into a trance or become a blubbering food drunk. I engage in conversations and actually enjoy myself. Food as a drug is at least part metaphor for the simple reason that food is no drug. It is an essential and highly enjoyable part of our physical survival. It is also an integral part of our social life. We bond to people over food.

What Ms Poust suggests is that we try to resurrect this original purpose of food as a means of survival/bonding/pleasure and make the most of them. She wants us to do this by refocusing our emotional hungers that we try to satisfy with food on the One who can actually assuage them.

The practical side of this book gives what I think are sound and useful suggestions such as eat at the dining room table, enjoy regular family meals, pray before meals, and when you crave food as an answer to pain, turn to God in prayer, instead. She gives lots of specific ideas, most of them worth trying and then hanging onto.

Where the book becomes tedious, at least for me, is the over-emphasis on what I think of as arcane references. Part of this feeling is due to the fact that I read a lot of Catholic books and I’ve noticed that the women authors, in particular, seem to have a strong monastic bent. They quote the desert fathers and talk a lot about their retreats to monasteries and conversations with monks.

Now that’s all fine, but it doesn’t compute with me. In the first place, Ms Poust tries to hold the monastic way of eating, which she says is based on simple food eaten in community with prayer and mindfulness, as an example of what the rest of us should do. This might resonate with me more if I didn’t know so many overweight monks. These guys have the same problems with food that I do.

I’m not saying that simple food, eaten in community with prayer and mindfulness is not a wonderful thing. But I am saying that living life as the monks do is not attainable or attractive for most people and besides, so far as weight control goes, it doesn’t always work, not even for the monks.

So far as overeating is concerned, we’re all down here in the pits together, and the sooner we get over the idea that “our” overeating problem is some terrible curse that hits us alone, the sooner we’ll begin to grow up foodwise. I say that, not as someone who has conquered her food problems, but as someone who has been consistently conquered by them.

Cravings is a thoughtful book with a lot to offer. Its basic premise, that some of us try to feed our emotional and spiritual hungers with food, is spot on. I personally am still trying to figure out how to turn to God instead of food for these things. I’ll write more about that later.

In case you didn’t notice, I’m resurrecting the Less of Me series for this blog. In the meantime, if you are looking for a starting point on how to combine spirituality with your battle with food addiction, give Cravings a read. It has a lot of good advice in it. Despite my picky caveats, I recommend it.

Why I Support Hobby Lobby

A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

“Our goal is to be a light to the world. Not to just talk the talk, but to walk the walk.”

How do you live a balanced life, honor God and keep your family while running a successful business? This inspiring discussion by the family that founded and owns Hobby Lobby answers that question. Their business practices and their courage in the face of the HHS Mandate are inspiring.

Watch it and then go buy something at Hobby Lobby. We can’t allow the government to destroy this fine business because of the Christian convictions of its owners.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Christian Persecution: The Not-So-Merry Christmas of Persecuted Christians

The angel of the Lord woke Joseph with a dream, instructing him to take Mary and the baby Jesus into hiding. This warning saved the infant Messiah from the slaughter of little boys that we remember as the Slaughter of the Innocents.

Many present-day Christians must re-live this terror with more than memorials. Violent Christian persecution ramped up in several places this Christmas. Then and now, the devil tries to stamp out our witness to Christ with murder. And now as then, wise men still seek Him.

Here is a brief summary of some of the acts of violent persecution Christians have suffered so far this Christmas season.

 

DOZENS OF CHRISTIANS SHOT AND SLAUGHTERED IN CHRISTMAS ATTACKS IN NIGERIA

NIGERIA
Dozens of Christians were killed during church services over the Christmas period in Northern Nigeria; others were murdered in their homes in raids by suspected Boko Haram militants.

Most of the attacks took place in Borno state; Islamist group Boko Haram had earlier declared that any Christians remaining in the territory by Christmas would be killed. Although it has not been confirmed who was behind the violence, it seems likely that the militants were carrying out this threat.

On Christmas Eve, six people were killed by gunmen at a church service in Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno state.

Another six were killed and two injured in a shooting at a church service in the early hours of Christmas Day in Siri village, near Potiskum, Yobe State. Gunmen entered the midnight service and attacked the congregation; the Rev. Yohanna Simi was among those killed.

Many residents fled Siri village to the bush during the attack. Around 20 homes and the church where the shooting had taken place were torched.

Then on Sunday (30 December), gunmen killed at least 15 worshippers at a church in Chibok, Borno state. Mohammed Kana, a regional official for the National Emergency Management Agency, said that some of the victims had had their throats slit.

It is the third consecutive year of fatal attacks on services during the Christmas season in Nigeria. (Read more here.)

TANZANIA: CHURCH LEADER INJURED IN CHRISTMAS DAY SHOOTING BY SUSPECTED ISLAMISTS

A church leader was critically wounded in a Christmas Day shooting by suspected Islamist separatists in Zanzibar.
The Rev. Ambrose Mkenda was shot in the face and shoulder by two attackers on a motorcycle. The shooting took place as the church leader returned to his home in Tomondo just before 8pm. He was rushed to hospital and later transferred to intensive care as his condition deteriorated.(Read more here.)

IRAN: 50 CHRISTIANS ARRESTED AT HOUSE CHURCH GATHERING

Around 50 Christians, mostly converts from Islam, were arrested at a house church Christmas gathering in Tehran.
The raid by 15 police and security agents happened on 27 December. The Christians had to hand over their mobile phones and personal information, including passwords to their email and social media accounts, and explain how they had come to accept Christianity. (Read more here.)

INDONESIA: ROTTEN EGGS, DUNG AND URINE THROWN AT CONGREGATION DURING CHRISTMAS EVE EVENT

Members of Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) came under attack by Muslims as they gathered in the open for a Christmas Eve service.
The assailants threw rotten eggs, dung and plastic bags full of urine at the congregation of around 200 people. HKBP had been subjected to a similar assault in May.
On Christmas Eve, the congregation gathered for a service in front of its property in Bekasi, West Java, which has been sealed off by the authorities. It was forced to flee and hold the service in the compound of a police station.
HKBP has been denied a building permit despite a Supreme Court ruling that one be granted and the site reopened. (Read more here.)

Bishop Poprocki: Proposed Gay Marriage Law is a Lethal Attack on Religious Liberty

Cardinal George and the bishops of Illinois have come out swinging against the proposed gay marriage law that has been introduced in the Illinois state legislature.

Illinois already allows civil unions between gay people.

I have not read this proposed law, but it sounds as if it would change the legal definition of marriage entirely. It also would not alter corresponding Illinois laws, which were probably originally intended to deal with discrimination based on race.

According to what at least one bishop is saying, this would lead to a situation where religious institutions which do not support same-sex marriage would be forced to participate in it.

This growing trend throughout the Western world to force religious people in general and Christians in particular to participate in activities which are against their faith is a huge step into active religious persecution under the law. For years the push has been to silence Christians by demanding that they not speak about or use any symbols of their faith in public places. This in itself is both discrimination and an attack on the civil liberties of Christians.

The new push is to broaden this move into legal discrimination in what amounts to a form of legal persecution of people of faith. It uses things like gay marriage and birth control to force Christians to actively violate their faith or face government fines and penalties. This is done in the name of  whatever lie is most useful. “Women’s health” is used in the case of using the ruse of birth control to advance the HHS Mandate. “Tolerance” is used in the push to force religious institutions to participate in gay marriages.

However, the availability of contraception is not at stake with the HHS Mandate. It is about using the brute force of government to attack religious liberty. In the same way, the push all over the Western world to force Christians to participate in same-sex marriages is not about tolerance. In fact, it is the exact opposite of tolerance. It is intolerance and active government discrimination against people of faith.

Bishop Thomas Poprocki of the Diocese of Springfield Illinois has written a letter to the people of his Diocese outlining his concerns about the proposed legislation. All the bishops of Illinois are writing similar letters and asking that they be inserted in Sunday bulletins.

I try to let you read full documents instead of excerpting them whenever I can. I also try to give you original sources. Whenever someone excerpts a document or paraphrases it, they are interpreting it. No matter how objective they try to be — and modern news sources don’t appear to try very hard — they must, by the nature of selecting what to quote and rewording things in paraphrasing, put their own interpretations into it.

I want Public Catholic readers to be able to form intelligent opinions based on the real facts.

Here is Bishop Poprocki’s letter in its entirety.


Christian Persecution: White House Petition Labels Catholic Church a Hate Group

When my Grandmother was totally flabbergasted, she would say, “If that don’t beat hens apeckin’ on  a hot griddle.”

I never knew exactly what that meant, since I had never seen hens apeckin’ on a hot griddle, but I got the gist of it from the situation and her tone.

That’s somewhat how I felt when I learned that a hater or haters out there had decided to put a petition on the White House web site asking the President to label the Catholic Church a “hate group.” The reason? The Catholic Church supports traditional marriage and that, as some people want us to believe, means that it is a hate group.

The press has already done a fine job of promoting this viewpoint. Anti-Christian propaganda of one sort or another is on most commercial channels on a regular basis. They have also done an even more aggressive job of promoting same-sex marriage.

This petition is a publicity stunt with the same motives: To create public hatred of Catholics and Catholicism and engender a culture in which discrimination against them is tolerated, and, as time goes by, codified into law. This petition has no official status … now. But the attitude it comes from is gaining power and beginning to move into legal changes, even as I type this. The HHS Mandate is perhaps the most egregious example.

Please be aware that this is NOT an official government action, and it has not been approved by the White House. These petitions come from the public. Any of us can start one. There is, for instance, a petition on this site asking the president to resign. (It only has a few signatures, and I am NOT suggesting that anyone who reads this should rush over there and sign it. That would be hateful and mean spirited. We need to focus on defending our rights in a positive manner.)

You can find the petition on the White House web site. If you want to, you can see the names of people who’ve signed it. I think I saw the names of a couple of people I know on there. Again, no one should be harassed for exercising their rights as free citizens to make public jerks of themselves by signing things like this petition.

This is the petition.

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:

Officially recognize the Roman Catholic Church as a hate group.

In his annual Christmas address to the College of Cardinals, Pope Benedict XVI, the global leader of the Roman Catholic Church, demeaned and belittled homosexual people around the world. Using hateful language and discriminatory remarks, the Pope painted a portrait in which gay people are second-class global citizens. Pope Benedict said that gay people starting families are threatening to society, and that gay parents objectify and take away the dignity of children. The Pope also implied that gay families are sub-human, as they are not dignified in the eyes of God.

Upon these remarks, the Roman Catholic Church fits the definition of a hate group as defined by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Created: Dec 25, 2012

SIGNATURES NEEDED BY JANUARY 24, 2013 TO REACH GOAL OF 25,000

23,315

TOTAL SIGNATURES ON THIS PETITION

1,685

A whitehouse.gov account is required to sign Petitions.

WHY?

If you’re logged in, but having trouble signing this petition, click here for help.

The Seven Most Provocative Religious Videos of 2012

 

 

This is a little late, but it’s still worth a look. Daniel Burke of Religion News Service has put together a list of 2012 religious videos he thinks were the most provocative. They range from the young star of a major television show criticizing its content to a video that is alleged to have set off tragic violence. Read and enjoy.

The seven most provocative religious videos of

2012

(RNS) Imagine if Martin Luther and John Calvin had YouTube.

Armed with Gutenberg’s printing press, the two reformers wrested Europe from the grip of the Roman Catholic Church and changed Christianity forever.

What would they have done with a medium that can zip text, music, and, perhaps most importantly, videos across the globe in a matter of seconds?

“The importance of YouTube, the importance of the Internet is huge for the next coming generation of the church,” Jefferson Bethke told NPR earlier this year.

The 23-year-old Christian poet should know. His four-minute video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” has been viewed more than 23.5 million times since he posted it on YouTube last January.

Bethke wasn’t the only religious figure to find an audience, or apostles, on the Internet. Indeed, among other epithets, 2012 might be dubbed the Year of YouTube – and that’s especially true on the religion beat.

Religious videos sparked international riots, stirred up the U.S. presidential campaign, sought to comfort LGBT youth and urged Christians to rethink their religious ideals.

In chronological order, here are seven religious videos that made headlines in 2012. (Read more here.)

 

 

Spend a little time and a little cash at Hobby Lobby this Saturday

Spend a little time and a little cash at Hobby Lobby this Saturday.

If you don’t live near a Hobby Lobby, you can still shop at their on-line site. Also, the family that owns Hobby Lobby also owns Mardels. Mardels is a Christian office supply/book-music-Bible/homeschooling supply store.

I shopped at Mardels for curricula and supplies back when I was homeschooling. I’ve also bought several Bibles, as well as Christian gifts, cards and Christmas ornaments there. It’s a great store. You can find it online, if there’s not a Mardel’s near you.

We need to stand with other Christians when they make a courageous stand for Christ. I’m going to buy something at either Mardel’s or Hobby Lobby this week, and every paycheck I get from now on until the government attack on them is over. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ and they are being attacked by our government for their faithfulness to Him.

Here is an interesting article from Christian News concerning the wellspring of support that is building for the Green family and their fine Christian businesses.

Christians ‘Stand With Hobby Lobby’ As Company

Faces Fine of 1.3 Million Daily for Defying Obamacare

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma –  Christians across the country state that they will be standing with Hobby Lobby this weekend as the popular craft chain continues to defy the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare.

Joe Grabowski of StandWithHobbyLobby.comhas named Saturday, January 5th as the official appreciation day for the company, when supporters will shop at their local Hobby Lobby outlet to show their support.

“On Saturday, January 5th, all Americans who value freedom of religion and oppose the HHS mandate’s unfair impositions upon religious individuals and corporate entities are called upon to show their support for Hobby Lobby by shopping either at their local retail Hobby Lobby store or online,” he writes. “[T]he justices of the Supreme Court will be watching on January 5th, be assured, and they’ll know the minds and hearts of the American people as to this matter — but only if we get the word out and stand up in large enough numbers to make an impact!”

As of press time, over 4,000 people stated that they would be participating in the event.

“I will be there spending my $$ to back this company,” writes supporter Eric Coval. “They are one of the few who are taking a stand against a federal government that seems hell bent to trample on our liberties, and when we cry foul they tell us to be good little subjects and that we are too extreme. Hobby Lobby, fight the righteous fight!”

“We love Hobby Lobby!” commented Beth Collins. “I won’t be able to make it in person, but I will shop online that day to show my support!”

Others stated that they have never shopped at their local Hobby Lobby outlet before, but will do so this Saturday in order to make their voice heard and support the cause. (Read more here.)

 

 

Cardinal George Opposes Proposed Illinois Law Legalizing Gay Marriage

Chicago, Ill., Jan 3, 2013 / 04:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Francis George and the six auxiliary bishops of Chicago have warned that a proposal to recognize “gay marriage” in Illinois is against the common good and will force Illinoisans to “pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race.”

“Civil laws that establish ‘same-sex marriage’ create a legal fiction. The state has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible,” the bishops said in a Jan. 1 letter.

Cardinal George has sent the letter to every priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago, asking that the letter be distributed in parish bulletins this weekend.

Illinois State Sen. Heather Steans and State Rep. Greg Harris, both Chicago Democrats, have said they will introduce the legislation before the Jan. 9 end of the legislative session. The bill, called
“The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,” would change the definition of marriage under Illinois law from “between a man and a woman” to “between two persons.”

Cardinal George, in a Jan. 6 column for the Catholic New World, said the mention of religious freedom in the proposed bill is “ironic if not disingenuous.”

“Those who know that marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the sake of family will carry a social opprobrium that will make them unwelcome on most university faculties and on the editorial boards of major newspapers,” the cardinal said. “They will be excluded from the entertainment industry. Their children and grandchildren will be taught in the government schools that their parents are unenlightened, the equivalent of misguided racists.”

“Laws teach; they express accepted social values and most people go along with societal trends, even when majority opinion espouses immoral causes,” Cardinal George noted. (Read more here.)

That explains it

I’m a homey.

I don’t mean that in the usual, slang way. I mean I’m a home-lover. Home to me is peace, safety, contentment. There is nothing more soothing after a terrible day at work than to walk into my home, shut the door behind me and leave all that black magic on the other side.

I love being home. Which makes me a homey.

I also enjoy watching the different “house” shows on HGTV. I can watch people tramp around houses with realtors, grumble their way through renovations and oooh and aaaah over the scrumptious results — all without having to spend a dime or move an inch.

This is bliss for a woman who is both a homey and curious about how other people live.

Some of these shows are obviously posed, at least a little bit. I mean, what straight man goes into a house and says “Oh I hate those countertops, and I’m just not feeling the color of that backsplash?” Get real.

And who calls every room in a house a “space,” as in “this is a great space.” Nothing ever needs remodeling or fixing. (an Okie term, I know, but this is an Okie blog) Everything needs “updating,” as in those horrid laminate countertops need updating to granite, and we’ve got to get rid of the perfectly serviceable white appliances and update them with stainless steel. Hang the cost and full steam ahead.

I just love watching that stuff. For someone from my part of the world, all this talk about updates and straight men twirling around kitchens and getting excited by backslashes is exotic and somewhat comical. It is high entertainment.

One of the more confounding things to this little Okie girl is the prices people pay for these domiciles. They’ll go into a house that’s smaller and more beat up than my little hovel and yack about how it’s “competitively priced” at half a million.

These people think nothing of plunking down upwards of half a million to a million or even more for what is just a plain, ordinary house. In fact, they often buy “fixer-upper” houses in this price range because their cool mill won’t get them something that’s “updated” the way they want it.

I watch this stuff and I think, “Where do these people live, and what on earth do they do for a living?”

It seems quite clear that my family income wouldn’t qualify me and mine for a pasteboard box under a bridge in their neighborhood. I couldn’t even afford one of their “needs updating” doormats. I keep wondering, do they rob banks or something? How do they afford this? And more to the point, why are they willing to spend so much for so little?

Then today, I came across an article that explains it all. It seems that in some parts of this country the incomes are totally out of sight by my standards. Unfortunately for the people who make all this good money, the cost of putting a roof over your head in these areas has kept pace with the incomes.

Of course, the other side of this extravagance is that somebody in those communities still works at fast food joints, still mops the floors and drives the delivery trucks. I have no idea how someone making that kind of wage manages to exist in that world. None.

I don’t buy real estate in places like Los Altos, San Francisco or Seattle, but every time I go there I am struck by the fact that it’s not just the real estate that costs more. A San Jose hamburger costs about two and a half times what an Oklahoma hamburger costs. Ditto for movies, hotel rooms and other things a traveler would notice.

This little article I found gives me a teeny bit of insight into the lives of people who think that a normal income for an ordinary family will support the purchase of a million dollar home that doesn’t exactly look like a million dollars. I’m not going to comment on what all this means to me and people like me. I’m still thinking about that. But I do find it interesting.

The 24/7wallstreet.com article says in part:

This is the most expensive house for sale in the nation’s most expensive housing market: Los Altos, California. …

U.S. home prices have begun to rebound in the past year. And in the most expensive markets, where the average home sells for well over $1 million, recoveries are among the strongest, increasing between 20% and 50% in most cases.
According to Coldwell Banker Real Estate, there are at least 10 U.S. cities where the average listing price for a home in the first six months of this year exceeded $1.2 million.

The majority of these cities are on or near the California coast. For example, in San Jose suburb Los Altos, homes sold in the first half of the year averaged a $1.7 million price tag. Based on data provided by Coldwell Banker, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the most expensive cities for buying a home.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Coldwell Banker Chief Operating Officer and President Budge Huskey explained that for the first time in years, residents of the country’s most expensive housing markets are largely professionals working in or very near their home. In prior years, he explained, many of the most expensive communities were simply very desirable for wealthy families or individuals, without necessarily being employment centers. Many of these people were retired or worked from home.
“Now,” Huskey said, “the emphasis is on those markets that are in proximity to true, strong business centers, where employment has been consistent, and the overall level of wealth and wages has been high relative to other opportunities within the country.”
These expensive markets are concentrated around the tech industry, which has remained strong throughout the recession. As a result, most of these cities and suburbs are near the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. These are areas driven by the tech boom, explained Huskey. “In an area like Los Altos, for example, you’re looking at a location that is 15 minutes away from the headquarters of such corporate giants as Google and Facebook.”
Income in the expensive housing markets is among the highest in the country. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, median household income in these cities far exceeds the U.S. median income by at least $20,000. In Saratoga, California, one of the cities on our list, median income is nearly triple the U.S. figure of $51,914.
Two cities outside California are on the top 10 list, one of which isn’t even the continental U.S.
Based on data published by Coldwell Banker in its annual Home Listing Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the country’s most expensive cities for buying a home. Homes in these cities had the highest average listing price between January and June of this year. Markets with less than ten four-bedroom, two-bath homes were excluded from the survey. We also examined data on vacancy rates, median price per square foot, and changes in price from real estate listing service Trulia. Information on income, educational attainment, and poverty rate, among other data, is from the U.S. Census Bureau. (For the list of cities and their prices, go here.)

Hobby Lobby Braces for Millions in Fines

Hobby Lobby braces for millions in mandate fines
By Michelle Bauman Washington D.C., Jan 2, 2013(CNA/EWTN News).-
Arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby says it is willing to pay fines of $1.3 million per day to follow its owners’ religious beliefs, which conflict with the federal mandate that requires coverage of abortion-inducing drugs.

“The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in the case.

“To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” he explained.

Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO, David Green, has said that his family – which has owned the company since its 1972 founding – will continue seeking to serve God through their business decisions.

In addition to making significant charitable donations, the company closes all of its stores on Sundays so that its employees can have time to worship and rest with their families.

However, the Greens’ ability to run their company in accordance with their religious beliefs is being threatened by the contraception mandate, which was finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services in Jan. 2012. (Read more here.)

Who Does Congress Really Listen To? (it’s not us)

Fiscal Cliff vote in the House.

Who forced a fiscal cliff deal? Try

foreign investors

Washington is now all too aware that foreign

creditors and investors will punish it for any

macroeconomic mismanagement. American

competitiveness was at stake in the fiscal cliff

negotiations.

By the Monitor’s Editorial Board | Christian Science Monitor 

Take a guess. Which of these put more pressure on US lawmakers to strike a deal and avoid the “fiscal cliff” – voters or global financial markets?

If you picked markets, you may be right.

On the day after the last-minute agreement, an uptick in global stock prices seemed far more welcome in Washington than the reaction of voters. The reason is that foreign creditors to the US Treasury had been near a tipping point in wanting their money back, possibly forcing a crisis for US debt.

Investors worldwide now demand the US government display more stability and trust. Globalization has given them a big say in the policy logjams of many countries, and the United States is not immune. Its lingering disputes over issues like taxes and spending have become a prime indicator of its ability to remain innovative, reliable, and productive.

Elections do have consequences, for sure. But today so does a country’s economic competitiveness, measured in part by its level of dependability, openness, and flexibility in governance. On those sorts of attributes, the US needs work. Consider these latest rankings:

On a global index of innovation, the US has dropped from No. 1 in 2007 to 10th. On economic competitiveness, it has dropped to seventh in the last few years. And compared with other countries, the trust by Americans in their government ranks 54th.

The greatest weakness of the US is seen in its lack of macroeconomic stability. On that measure it fell last year from 90th to 111th.

Economic freedom in the US has been falling and now ranks 10th – behind even the African country of Mauritius. It ranks fifth in the ease of doing business, according to the World Bank.

In 2012, the US fell from the top tier of a “global prosperity index,” which measures such nonmaterial factors as entrepreneurship, safety, education, and governance. It now ranks 12th. (Read more here.)

U.S. House Does the Deal

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio

House passes fiscal cliff deal, tamps down

GOP revolt

Despite a divided Republican majority, the House of Representatives late Tuesday easily approved emergency bipartisan legislation sparing all but a sliver of America’s richest from sharp income tax hikes — while setting up another “fiscal cliff” confrontation in a matter of weeks.

Lawmakers voted 257-167 to send the compromise to President Barack Obama to sign into law. Eighty-five Republicans and 172 Democrats backed the bill, which had sailed through the Senate by a lopsided 89-8 margin shortly after 2 a.m. Opposition comprised 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner voted in favor of the deal, as did House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, his party’s failed vice presidential candidate. But Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted against it.

Obama, speaking from the White House briefing room shortly after the vote, praised lawmakers for coming together to avert a tax increase that “could have sent the economy back into a recession.” (Read more here.)

Marry for Life by Marrying Right

To join the discussion about The Sacred Search, or for a link to buy it, go here.

Gary Thomas is a Southern Baptist pastor, a husband and the father of three children. This gives him a tri-fold source of insight into what it takes to make a marriage work. He uses this wisdom well in The Sacred Search. 

The book gives specific parameters about what to look for in a future spouse. It also outlines some of the reasons why and ideas about how to break up a relationship with the wrong person before it goes on too long.

Thomas sees a healthy marriage as a life-long commitment that will provide an environment for raising healthy children and build up the community of faith in which it subsists.

I agree with him about this. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the many divorces, fatherless children and serial marriages that we endure in this country contribute greatly to the increasing social and moral chaos we are experiencing as a nation and a culture.

Seen that way, the advice that Reverend Thomas gives in this book takes on a crucial quality. He believes that the purpose of each human life is to glorify the Lord and that the decision of whether or not to marry, or who to marry should be made in light of this one thing.

However, he does not support the idea that young people should just “wait for the Lord” to bring them the proper spouse and deliver him or her to their front door. He feels that the search for a spouse is an important activity that people should enter into in an intentional and intelligent way. While he acknowledges the power of infatuation, he dismisses it as a reason for marrying.

According to Reverend Thomas, a young Christian should consider a prospective spouse seriously by looking for character, a strong Christian faith and general compatibility in terms of temperament and interests.

I agree with all this. Where I part company with Reverend Thomas somewhat is in the lengthy laundry list of things he suggests that people look for in a prospective spouse. He advises just about everything except hooking them up to a lie detector to check them out. I just don’t think that this level of thinking it through is practical.

I also don’t think it’s necessary. Based on my experience of a long marriage, I think that people can and do change for one another (something that Rev Thomas dismisses out of hand) and that if the marriage is to work, they will have to. It isn’t necessary or even possible to marry someone who shares all your interests or who has the same temperament as you.

It’s more important that you are able to accept these differences and make space for your individuality in the marriage. I think it is also necessary that both of you be willing to change for the other. You can’t marry someone who is going to fit with you in every aspect. Any marriage that requires one person to do all the changing and the other person to do none of it is almost certainly bound to fail.

Sometimes, you have to do things that aren’t your ideal preference just for the simple reason that it makes your spouse happy. Both of you have to do this from time to time. I have no quarrel with what Reverend Thomas says in this book, except that I think he doesn’t give enough emphasis to the need to give to one another. Marriage is a mutual self-giving. You have to love your spouse so much that their happiness makes you happy; and both of you must feel that way about the other.

The Sacred Search is a good book. It’s full of wisdom and good ideas. I plan to give it to my sons to read. However, I also want them to know that, while it’s full of good ideas, it isn’t an iron-clad rule book.

New Congressional Motto: Country Last

The Senate passed the Biden/McConnell compromise bill last night. Now, it has to go to the House of Representatives.

Among other things, the bill delays some of the decisions that have been holding things up for two months. In other words, our elected leaders plan to put themselves and this country through this again in two months. All because they couldn’t manage to do their jobs now.

Evidently, if  Vice President Biden didn’t have the personal relationships with various senators that he does, we wouldn’t even have this compromise. The message in this, so far as I’m concerned, is that maybe civility does have a place in better government. This hate-filled what’s-in-it-for-me brinksmanship certainly isn’t doing us much good.

An ABC News article that explains the real issues behind this fight surprisingly well says in part:

Going over the “fiscal cliff” may seem irresponsible and self-destructive for the nation as a whole, but it’s a politically logical, self-preserving step for many individual lawmakers.

They come from districts where ideological voters abhor tax hikes, or spending cuts, that anybipartisan compromise must include. Many of these voters detest compromise itself, telling elected officials to stick to partisan ideals or be gone.

That’s why the fiscal cliff is just one in a continuing string of wrenching, demoralizing impasses on tax-and-spending showdowns, which threaten the nation’s economic recovery.

A breach of the fiscal cliff’s midnight deadline became inevitable late Monday when House leaders said they couldn’t keep waiting for the Senate to send a bill their way. The House may reconvene in a day or two to vote on a White House-blessed deal to curtail the new package of tax hikes and spending cuts, which technically start with the new year. But it’s painfully apparent that partisan warfare sent the government past a line that could alarm financial markets and further undermine faith in America’s leaders, at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, the political realities that made a bigger solution impossible will not change any time soon. That raises red flags for upcoming fiscal clashes, especially the need to raise the government’s borrowing limit in a few months to avoid defaulting on federal debt …

… The vast majority of congressional Republicans have vowed never to approve higher tax rates. It’s no idle promise. Many of them preferred to let the fiscal cliff deadline pass, causing tax rates to rise on nearly all American workers, at least for a time. Then, presumably this week, they can vote to cut taxes for around 98 percent of Americans, rather than vote in December to raise rates on the richest 2 percent and avoid the cliff. (Read more here.)

What that last paragraph means is that the House Republicans have deliberately left the country go past the fiscal cliff. The reason is that, since the effect of doing this is an automatic raise in taxes on ordinary Americans, they will be voting for a tax cut when they pass the Senate compromise bill.

It’s all a shell game designed to let them say that they voted to cut taxes on their campaign pieces. That’s why they’re putting this country through this.

A CNN article describing the compromise bill and the legislative process it faces says in part:

(CNN) – If a Senate deal to avert the fiscal cliff becomes law, all but a sliver of the U.S. population will avoid higher tax rates, some key issues will be put off for two months, and all sides in the battle will emerge with a mixed record: winning key points, while ceding ground on others.

The deal, which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate in an overwhelming 89-8 vote in the middle of the night, would maintain tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples earning less than $450,000. Technically, it would reinstate cuts that expired at midnight.

It would raise tax rates for those over those levels — marking the first time in two decades the rates jump for the wealthiest Americans.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House. GOP members planned to meet at 1 p.m., two aides told CNN.

“The purpose of this meeting is to review what the Senate has passed, discuss potential options, and seek member feedback. No decision on the path forward is expected before another member meeting that will be held later today,” one GOP leadership aide said. (Read more here.)

And away we go …

 

We’re going over the cliff folks, courtesy of the United States House of Representatives.

And please, don’t give me the partisan arguments about who is naughty and nice in this deal. It’s not the Republican’s fault. It’s not the Democrat’s fault.

It’s our fault.

We elected these bozos.

A lot of otherwise intelligent people are out there spinning up excuses for “their” political team like hamsters in a road race. Their story — and I’m sure they’re going to stick with it no matter what — is that their guys are white as new snow in this debacle. They’ll claim this in the face of the obvious realty that you can’t make a mess this big without everybody involved pitching in. That means both the Republicans and the Democrats and you and me  as well for letting them get away with it.

Will they vote on it tomorrow? Who knows? Whichever way it goes, they’re sure to pass something and do something that hurts people like me … and you.

I’m going to celebrate the New Year and have a fun evening. Then, tomorrow, I’m going to start my annual New Year’s diet. After I sleep in.

Somewhere in there I think we all need to think about housecleaning. And I’m not talking about the houses where we raise our families, cook our meals and mop the floors. I mean our political house.

Here, from the Washington Post, is the gist of the story. Read it and weep.

No Vote on “Fiscal Cliff” Package

Tonight: House Aides

The House will vote on other matters at 6:30 p.m.

and adjourn for 2012, House aides told NBC News

Monday, Dec 31, 2012

Members of the House of Representatives will not meet their midnight deadline to approve a “fiscal cliff” package, aides told NBC News. Instead, they will vote on a series of non-controversial “suspension bills,” before adjourning for 2012 without a new fiscal agreement.

The decision to leave “fiscal cliff” matters unsresolved came despite President Barack Obama’s earlier assessment that a deal was in sight but not yet finalized. The emerging deal he described would raise tax rates on family income over $450,000 a year, increase the estate tax rate and extend unemployment benefits for one year.

“There are still issues left to resolve, but we’re hopeful Congress can get it done,” Obama said at a campaign-style event at the White House. “But it’s not done.”

What was done, officials told NBC News, was a deal to raise the tax rates on family income over $450,000 and individual income over $400,000. Also, estates would be taxed at 40 percent after the first $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a couple, up from 35 percent to 40 percent.

Unemployment benefits would be extended for one year. Without the extension, 2 million people would lose benefits beginning in early January. (Read more here.)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X