St Martin of Tours and Building a Christian Counter-Culture

St Martin of Tours offers an example for Christians in these times of aggressive secularism.

According to a recent CNA article, Professor John Bequette, of the University of St Francis, says that “Martin of Tours challenged a dying Roman culture by presenting a radical Christian counter-culture.”

The article says in part:

St Martin of Tours gives half his cloak to a beggar.

Washington D.C., Nov 10, 2012 / 04:04 pm (CNA).- St. Martin of Tours’ “Christian valor” is an example of how to sustain and rebuild Christian culture in a time of “moral exhaustion” and cultural decay, theology professor John P. Bequette said.

“Martin of Tours challenged a dying Roman culture by presenting a radical Christian counter-culture, rooted in Christian valor,” Bequette, a professor at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind. wrote in Crisis Magazine Nov. 8.

“This re-orientation saved what was truly worthwhile of Roman culture and give it new life within the emerging Christian culture.”

“As Christians, we have a responsibility to build a distinct, living culture in the twenty-first century, just as our forebears had the same responsibility in their time, a culture which will manifest itself in education and humanitarian institutions.”

Bequette recounted the life of St. Martin of Tours in the fourth century Roman Empire, comparing it to the contemporary United States.

He said the Roman populace had lost its traditional civic devotion and its readiness to sacrifice, instead engaging in “an impoverished attitude of hedonism and self-promotion.”

“The cultural foundation of Rome was disintegrating, and since political life follows culture, Roman civic life was collapsing,” he said. The Catholic Church was cultivating “an alternative culture and alternative civic life” by “transforming what was good in the Roman legacy .” ….

…. Bequette said that in the present day the Church is “increasingly under attack by a new, secular imperium which would strip the Church of her right to evangelize, educate, and minister.”

“This new imperium is possessed of the same ferocious hostility that beset the Church in reign of the pagan emperors,” the theology professor concluded. “In the face of this new, militant paganism, may God grant us the full measure of the Christian valor of Saint Martin of Tours.” (Read the full article here.)

After Long Battle and Theft, Veterans’ Cross Goes Up Again


This Associated Press story by Julie Watson highlights the sacrifices of our veterans and the fact that the freedoms they fight for are endangered here at home as well as abroad.

By JULIE WATSON Associated Press Writer
November 12, 2012 (AP)
A war memorial cross that once stood on a rocky hilltop in a national park before being deemed unconstitutional and ordered removed was resurrected on Veterans Day at the stunningly stark Mojave desert site, capping a landmark case for veterans fighting similar battles on public lands.

Henry Sandoz, who cared for the original 1930s cross as part of a promise to a dying World War I veteran, rededicated a new, 7-foot steel cross on the same hilltop before more than 100 people. The site is now in private hands as part of a land swap with the National Park Service that ended the longstanding legal dispute, which had become entangled in the thorny issues of patriotism and religion.

“Judges and lawyers may have played their roles, but it was the veterans who earned this memorial, and it is for them it rises once more,” said attorney Hiram Sasser of the Texas-based Liberty Institute, which represented veterans in the legal fight.

The settlement approved by a federal judge in April permitted the Park Service to turn over the acre of land known as Sunrise Rock to a Veteran of Foreign Wars post in Barstow and the Veterans Home of California-Barstow in exchange for five acres of donated property elsewhere in the 1.6 million acre preserve, about a four hour-drive east of Los Angeles.

The donated land was owned by Sandoz and his wife, Wanda, of Yucca Valley.

Sandoz, 73, has cared for the memorial as a promise to World War I veteran, Riley Bembry, who with other shell-shocked vets went to the desert to help heal and erected a wooden cross on Sunrise Rock in 1934. It was later replaced with a cross made of steel pipes.

Then Sunrise Rock became part of the Mojave National Preserve in 1994, putting the Christian symbol on public land.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2001 on behalf of a retired Park Service employee who argued the cross was unconstitutional on government property because of the separation of church and state, and federal courts ordered it removed.

Congress stepped in and ordered the land swap in 2003, but the courts rejected the transfer. The issue made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in April 2010 refused to order the cross removed. The high court directed a federal judge to review the congressional land transfer plan.

The decision was the latest on the issue by a Supreme Court that has signaled a greater willingness to allow religious symbols on public land amid a number of legal challenges in recent years by civil liberty activists and atheists.

Weeks after the 2010 court decision, the cross — which had been covered up to comply with court injunctions — was stolen. The stolen cross turned up earlier this month in the San Francisco Bay area tied to a fence post. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department plans to return the cross.

But veterans decided to start fresh and dedicate its replacement in Sunday’s ceremony, (Read more here.)

Red Sky At Morning …

Red sky at morning …

Long before this election, I felt that our religious leaders had focused too much of their attention on helping political parties gain power and too little on preaching and teaching their followers to follow Christ. One of the commenters on this blog made the point that it seems as if we have “two different ‘types’ of Christians.”

I believe that is a direct result of religious leaders in the different denominations cutting the Gospels down to fit the party platforms of either the Democrats or the Republicans. They have taught this false Gospel to their trusting followers for decades. The result is a Body of Christ that doesn’t follow Christ. It follows political parties and calls that following Christ.

The following article from CNA Daily News quotes various pro life leaders as they try to deal with the new political realities. Part of those realities is that the decades-long strategy of packing the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade is now officially a failure. Another reality is that the new administration is openly hostile to religious freedom and has already taken a huge step toward truncating it with the HHS Mandate. Yet another reality is that Christians’ over-concentration on party politics has not converted the culture. While our religious leaders have led us into the heresy of ballot box righteousness, the larger culture has been literally going to hell.

I’m going to spend a lot of time these next few weeks, encouraging Public Catholic readers to work together to examine these problems and gather our strength and resolve to move forward from here. But first, I think we should follow the advice that Billy Graham and the Catholic bishops have given us. We are called to repentance and prayer. That includes me and you and every single one of us. Before a Christian tries to do God’s work in this world, they get right with God.

It’s fortuitous that Advent is coming in a few weeks. I think that is the perfect time to examine our consciences in a deep and honest way and cleanse ourselves of the many ways in which we have not followed Christ. Until then, I would like to spend a couple of weeks, just re-hashing and healing. Thanksgiving is coming and nothing should dampen our joy at this uniquely American family holiday.

As for today, it is Sunday. The Lord’s Day. Do not waste it. Use this day to relax, pray and enjoy your life, your family and the sweet peace of knowing that you follow a risen Lord.

The CNA Daily News article says in part:

CNA Daily News 11/9/12 5:11 AM US
Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2012 / 04:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite pro-life setbacks in the Nov. 6 election, there is still hope and ample opportunity for progress in promoting a culture of life in the coming years, pro-life advocates are saying.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, explained that the election “confirmed for every pro-lifer that we cannot rely on politicians to abolish abortion.”

“We first must change the culture and then the culture will shape our politicians and laws,” she told CNA.

On Nov. 6, President Barack Obama was elected to a second term by the American people after committing himself to furthering tax-payer funded abortion without restrictions.

Deep political divisions between the U.S. House and Senate also make it unlikely that major federal pro-life legislation will pass in the coming years.

At the state level, a Florida measure that would have prevented taxpayer funds for paying for abortions failed, while a parental notification law for girls under 16 seeking an abortion in Montana was passed. An attempt to repeal the death penalty in California also failed to win voter approval.

But Hawkins believes there is still important work to be done in changing minds and hearts across America.

The election “showed that we can’t be afraid to talk about these ‘hard issues,’” she said, pointing to the Democratic Party’s strong emphasis on abortion at its national convention and throughout the campaign.

The Republican Party failed to respond with an equally strong emphasis, she said, and exit polls indicate that “there were a lot of pro-lifers missing” on Election Day.

“We need to march forward, courageously, doing what we have been doing for the past four years,” Hawkins asserted. She listed her priorities as reaching out to women in need, spreading the pro-life message and working through local efforts to expose and de-fund Planned Parenthood and remove its presence from schools.

“We need to work to develop better alternative and resource centers in our communities, so no women is ever forced to sacrifice her kids to and to put her life in the hands of Planned Parenthood,” she added.

Hawkins also stressed the importance of reaching out to young people. While support for Obama was down from 2008 among young voters, the president still captured a significant majority of the youth voting bloc.

“There is much more work to be done educating young people about abortion,” she said.

While Gallup polls indicate that this generation of young people is pro-life, it can be difficult for them – having been taught all their lives that truth is relative – to move from the understanding that abortion is wrong to the conviction that abortion should be illegal, she explained.

“We must continue forward, speaking to our young people about their worldview, why life is intrinsically valuable, and how making a horrific act such as abortion illegal is the morally right thing to do,” she said.(Read more here.)

The Price

Dietrich Bonnhoeffer lived and died in a time when much of the Church, both Protestant and Catholic, failed abysmally.

I’ve read that there were actually churches in Nazi Germany who took the cross down from over their altars and replaced it with the Nazi Swastika. Even many of those who did not do this in the physical sense did it in the moral and spiritual sense.

There were other Christian leaders who knew the Nazis were wrong and wanted to oppose them, but they confounded themselves by trying too hard to compromise and work with Hitler. They had the mistaken notion that they could find a way out of the crisis that didn’t involve going directly against the state.

Martin Niemoller’s famous quote was a result of his too-many and too-protracted attempts to negotiate with Hitler.

It should be remembered that Niemoller spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps. He was not a failed pastor or a failed Christian. He was simply wrong in his early understanding of the evil he was dealing with.

Here is Niemoller’s quote. It conveys a thought that Christians today need to consider quite seriously.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Bonnhoeffer, on the other hand, saw the dangers of Hitler and the Nazis early on. I often wonder what would have happened if the churches of every denomination in Germany had united and stood against Hitler’s murderous intentions from the beginning. Would he have succeeded in wreaking the havoc on the world that he did, or would the German people have forced him to alter his course?

Bonnhoeffer’s famous descriptions of cheap and costly grace are pertinent for American Christians today. Here they are:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Rev Billy Graham Calls Christians to Repentance and Prayer in Wake of Election

Billy Graham wrote a letter to America after the election this week which I think we should all read. He calls Christians to repentance and prayer. He asks us specifically to pray for America, for our leaders and for one another.

He also announced that he and his son, Franklin Graham, are starting a ministry called New Hope. They plan to “bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every possible place in America” during the next year.

This dovetails so well with the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization inaugurated by the Holy Father that I believe it signifies the Holy Spirit, speaking with one voice through the people He has given us as shepherds. It is time for Christians to unite and stand for Christ together. I feel the leadership to do this is stepping forward. It is up to us to be wise followers.

Here is Billy Graham’s letter in full. You can read more about it at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

A Fresh Vision for America
BILLY GRAHAM CALLS NATION TO REPENTANCE AND LASTING HOPE IN JESUS CHRIST

November 8, 2012 – A day after turning 94, Billy Graham writes: “I plan to spend the next 12 months, if God permits, doing all that I am able to do in helping to carry out a fresh vision God has given us—a vision to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every possible place in America by the time of my 95th birthday.”

At the climax of My Hope one year from now, if God enables me, I want to call the entire nation to repentance and lasting hope in Jesus Christ.

From the Desk of Billy Graham

All of us care a great deal about our country. The intensity of opinions and feelings during the long political campaign showed the depth of that concern.

Now with the votes counted, it is important to remember that whether we are personally pleased with the outcome or not, God wants us to pray for those chosen to be our leaders—at the national, state, and local levels. The Bible urges us to do so with both respect and thanksgiving (see 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Timothy 2:1–3).

We must also remember that no election will ever solve America’s most basic problems. That is because the trouble, at its root, is in the human heart, and the only path to true restoration—for a person or for a nation—is through repentance. The Bible says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20, ESV).

Only the Gospel, God’s Good News, has the power to change lives, heal hearts, and restore a nation.

I want that to happen in America, and I know you want that as well. I turned 94 on the day after the election. Although my age and health have limited me physically in recent years, I plan to spend the next 12 months, if God permits, doing all that I am able to do in helping to carry out a fresh vision God has given us—a vision to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every possible place in America by the time of my 95th birthday. It’s called My Hope, and I pray that you will partner with us.

In the days of the Prophet Jeremiah, God commanded His people to “seek the peace and prosperity” of the land where He had placed them and to “pray to the Lord for it” (Jeremiah 29:7, NIV). I ask you to join me in committing the next 52 weeks to faithful, even fervent, prayer for this land in which we live. You can start by making a list of people you know personally who need Jesus Christ and then begin praying regularly for them, individually by name.

Pray also for your neighborhood and your city, asking God to bring men, women, teens, and children—people from your own community—to Himself during the next 12 months. And pray along with me for the nation, asking God for mercy on America and for a great spiritual awakening.

My son Franklin is spearheading this vision and outreach, working in partnership with thousands of churches across every state in the country (ask your pastor if your church plans to take part). Franklin will be sending you more details on how this will work through the coming months and how you can participate.

At the climax of My Hope one year from now, if God enables me, I want to call the entire nation to repentance and lasting hope in Jesus Christ. The message I give will be presented in a fresh format, different from preaching at a Crusade, but the same Gospel. I believe we will see God work in a mighty way.

It is my passionate, heartfelt desire to see God change hearts and lives in every community in America, and I pray He will stir the same desire in you.

Will you join Franklin and me in this bold venture?

May God bless you,

 

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.

Archbishop Chaput: Catholics May Not Be Able to Support Either Republicans or Democrats

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says that when it comes to voting, Catholics may not be able to support either the Republicans or the Democrats, now and in the coming years.

“The day may come when Catholics can support neither of the main American political parties or their candidates. Some think it’s already arrived,” Philadelphia’s archbishop wrote in a Nov. 6 essay for The Witherspoon Institute.

“Serious Catholics” who believe in the Church’s teaching on social and life issues “can’t settle comfortably in either political party,” he remarked.

But this is nothing new, Archbishop Chaput said, adding that Christians find their home and hope in heaven.

Saint Augustine, he recalled, “wrote the ‘City of God’ to remind us that we’re Christians first, worldly citizens second. We need to learn—sometimes painfully—to let our faith chasten our partisan appetites.”

The political tensions that Catholics are experiencing today flow from the cultural problems of individualism and a lack of virtue, he said. “In feeding the sovereignty of the individual, our public leaders fuel consumer self-absorption, moral confusion, and—ultimately, as mediating institutions like the family and churches wither—the power of the state.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded his column by calling on Catholics to live their faith, and so heal the culture. “In this Year of Faith, she (the Church) invites Catholics to a great new evangelization … our ambition must be to repair a culture of unbelief and to heal the inhuman politics that flows from it.”

“And if we can’t achieve that in concert with our fellow Christians, then we can at least live the Gospel more faithfully ourselves. It’s time, and long past time, to close the gap between our words and our actions; our preaching and our practice.”

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=6507#ixzz2BqcFXdNu

 

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.

Standing Our Ground for The First Freedom


I’ve been saving this.

I’m not a seer. I don’t have a crystal ball. But I knew a couple of weeks out that President Obama was likely to be re-elected. I also knew that if I was right, we’d all need leadership from our bishops.

I guess they thought the same thing. The USCCB launched a website for religious freedom, FirstAmericanFreedom.com just before the election. We were all so caught up in casting our votes that I thought it would be better to wait and share it with you after the dust had settled a little.

There’s a message in this website, a partial answer to the questions I’ve been asking and the things I’ve talked about here and here. The answer, the plan, the message is this:

Stay the course.

If you are Christian and you know it, stay the course. Stand your ground. Re-think. Re-tool. Re-assess. Change your tactics to fit reality. But do not back down, go away or stop standing for Christ.

In fact, I would go the other way with this. I think one thing that has brought us here is that so many Christians are, in the words of Thomas Paine, “sunshine patriots and summer soldiers” in the cause of Christ. We must always be kind. We are required to avoid slandering and attacking other people personally. But we must also not back up, give up or quit in the hard work of being the light of Christ in a fallen world.

We cannot compromise the faith for anyone; including our political parties and our friends. Now is not the time to go along to get along. Now is the time to stand our ground for Christ.

Check out FirstAmericanFreedom.com. You might also drop you own bishop a note, telling him that he has your support in this great fight for the religious freedom of all Americans.

Battle for the GOP: Will Republicans Dump Pro-Life Issues?

That didn’t take long.

According to a LifeNews article, Republican political consultants are “calling on the GOP to abandon pro-life issues.”

The article goes on to explain all the reasons why this would be a foolhardy move for the Grand Old Party. I’m not going to go through those arguments. I’m not writing this blog for the people who run either of the political parties.

What I will say is, I told you so.

I’m not prescient. I have no crystal ball. But I work alongside Rs every day. Given the centralized way the Republican Party functions, working with Rs in Oklahoma plugs me into the party thinking from all over these United States of ours. What I mean by that is that local Rs take their positions, get their legislation and even their talking points from think tanks and centralized leaders who also give the same instructions to all other Republican elected officials.

The Democrats did not use this model at all until about 10 years ago. I know. I’m a Democratic elected official. They started moving toward it in the wake of Republican victories early in the 21st Century. The reason? It worked.

Now you have people running for local offices in both parties who have their campaign pieces printed and mailed from centralized party campaign headquarters that may be (in Oklahoma, they always are) thousands of miles away from them and their voters. Many times the candidate not only doesn’t approve the ad, they are downright appalled by it when it airs.

I’ve been spared this, largely because no one in the official end of the Democratic Party likes me enough to “help” me. The party faithful have done their best to defeat me in elections. The chances that the party machine is going to come swooping in to “help” me are slim to none. Think clouds and silver linings.

Both parties are somewhat controlled by centralized committees and think tanks; the Rs almost totally, the Ds becoming more so. Even though the Ds are moving rapidly in this direction, they still don’t have the party control two-step down as well as the Rs. We still write our own speeches, and some of us still get ourselves elected in do-it-yourself campaigns. Most of the Rs were beamed into office and not only don’t think for themselves, they don’t understand politics and the job of legislating well enough to be able to think for themselves, even if they wanted to.

I’ve seen these people get yanked around by party analysts over and again. One of the most ugly was when the money men who run the party showed their true colors on pro life issues. These money men not only aren’t uniformly pro life themselves, a lot of them are openly aligned with groups like Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has drawn its governing boards from among the wealthy in whatever communities it resides since Margaret Sanger began the organization. They interlock their boards with medical associations, chambers of commerce and, more importantly, the most powerful people in the various chamber’s back rooms.

A good percentage of the money men who actually own the Republican Party don’t like the party’s position on social issues. They don’t agree with them. They’ve been willing to put up with campaigns that were run on these issues because what they wanted was to control the power of government. Those issues delivered it to them. It worked. Now, they’re not so sure that it’s continuing to work.

I knew the pressure to dump social issues would start after the election was over. I knew it because I’ve seen this same pressure being applied to Republican office holders even before this election.

All this goes back to something I’ve been saying for a while. Don’t make a false god out of your political party. Don’t bend your knee to the R and the D. Without us, without our votes, both political parties are empty shells. Do not give them your vote or your support in a blind fashion.

Christians are going to have to “chose this day who we will serve.” We’re going to have to make this decision over and over as challenges rise from within our political parties, our circle of friends, our jobs, even our families and for some of us, our churches themselves.

My advice … my request … is that if you are a Republican, you need to contact the RNC and let them have it for even considering dumping pro life issues. Send them an email by going here.

Christian Persecution: What Does the Election Mean to Christian Freedom?

Standing Against Christian Persecution

What does Tuesday’s election mean to Christians?

We have two polarized political parties who have demonstrated repeatedly that their only concern is battling one another. One of them is increasingly hostile to traditional Christians, the other patronizes us.

The question: What does this mean for Christians in the years ahead? Will we be able to continue with our many ministries which serve the poor, provide health care and education without bowing before the false idols of government demand? Will we be able to speak about our faith openly on college campuses, at work and in public discourse without being harassed and penalized?

How many Christians will side with those who seek to limit Christianity and push us from the public sphere? Who among us will chose political party affiliation over following Christ? Who will chose popularity and keeping their friends over following Christ?

We are harassed, hazed, verbally assaulted right now. We see our faith and our beliefs openly insulted everywhere from cable tv to our workplaces. Much of the things that are said about Christians and Christianity today is clearly hate-speech. That is now. It is happening today.

What will happen now? The HHS Mandate was a bold move into the territory of government control of religion. What will be next?

I’m going to leave this open and let you give me your ideas. Please avoid fear-mongering. Let’s just think about what we honestly believe might happen so that we can begin to develop our ideas for how we will take a stand against it. Those who come on here to try to use this conversation to insult and offend Christians and Christianity will be deleted. Play nice and talk it through. I want to hear what you think.

 

Christian Persecution: UK Commission Refuses Charity Status to Church Over Communion

The UK Charity Commission is refusing to grant charitable status to a church because it restricts communion services to members only.

Parliament is currently holding hearings on the matter.

In a letter to Plymouth Brethren church leaders, the Commission cited a recent court decision to suggest that religion does not serve the public good.

“This decision makes it clear that there was no presumption that religion…is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England,” the Commission said in the letter.

A conservative member of Parliament said the Commission is, “Committed to the suppression of religion.”

A LifeSiteNews article reads in part:

LONDON, November 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Conservative Party MP has accused the government’s Charity Commission of attempting to suppress Christianity after the group denied charitable status to the Plymouth Brethren, a small denomination of conservative evangelicals. MP Charlie Elphicke has said that the Charity Commission has stepped outside its mandate telling the Brethren that their religion is “not necessarily for the public good”.

In a letter to the community, the Commission wrote of a tribunal decision that found “there is no presumption that religion generally, or at any more specific level, is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England”.

The Plymouth Brethren, of which there are about 16,000 adherents in Britain, have said they intend to pursue their dispute to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary. They have been embroiled in the dispute with the Commission for seven years since the Commission refused charitable status to one of the group’s churches in Devon. The group engages in street preaching, distributing bibles and visits hospital patients. These activities, said Garth Christie, an Elder in the group, more than qualifies them for charitable status under the “advancement of religion” clauses.

The matter became public when the Public Administration Select Committee discovered the letter as part of materials released as part of their investigation into the decision-making processes of the Commission.

The Charity Commission alleges that the group’s rule of only giving Holy Communion to full members means that their services are not open to all, a charge which the Brethren deny. The Brethren say that their public services are offered to everyone regardless of religious affiliation. If it is upheld, the rule could be extended to the Catholic Church which also officially restricts Communion reception to members.

The letter has promoted Elphicke, a member of the Select Committee, to call the Commission’s policies “anti-religion” and said that it is more evidence that it is a waste of public funds. Members of the Plymouth Brethren were giving evidence to the committee and Elphicke asked, if they thought the Commission was “actively trying to suppress religion in the UK, particularly the Christian religion”.

Christie responded, “I think we would share those concerns.” He agreed with Elphicke’s suggestion the Charity Commission’s decision could be seen as the “thin end of the wedge” with concern to other small religious groups.

Elphicke told the Brethren representatives, “I think they [the Commission] are committed to the suppression of religion and you are the little guys being picked on to start off a whole series of other churches who will follow you there.” (Read more here.)

Christian Persecution: Pakistani Court Returns Girl to Her Kidnapper

Rebecca Masih, a young Christian health worker, was on her way to work when she was kidnapped by armed men in Sukkur, a city in Sindh province of Pakistan, on October 2. The 23-year-old was later drugged and forcibly married to a Muslim man.

The Pakistan Christian Post reports that Younis Masih, Rebecca’s father, took the case to court, but has yet to get his daughter back. Rebecca remains with her abductors and is scheduled to reappear in court on November 2. Pakistan’s judiciary often favors Muslims while Christian girls are given few legal rights. More often than not, the girl’s family never sees her again.

The Pakistan Christian Post article says in part:

Pakistani Higher Court orders enforced converted Christian girl to go with Muslim man

Hyderabad: October 24, 2012. (Abbas Kassar) A Christian girl Rebbeca who was kidnapped from Sukkur in Sindh on October 2, 2012, was produced before the high court Sukkur circuit bench on 22 October on application of her father Younis Masih was handed over to her kidnapper husband by judge of Sindh High Court rejecting appeals by her lawyer to send her to Darul Aman.

In the court the girl did not speak a word because she appeared to have been so frightened and terrorized that she continued to mince her lips in helpless manner but did not utter a word. She was accompanied with Mian Aslam son of politically powerful Mian Mithoo the Member of National Assembly of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party PPP who has been accused of kidnapping non-Muslim girls, keeping them in her Haveli for few weeks and then managing their marriages with his servants or followers.

Manzar Dahar a man who kidnapped her and later married her on force on behest of Pir Mian Mithoo also accompanied her and later took her to his home. Despite repeated requests by father of girl Younis Masih and his advocate Mukesh Kumar to send her to Darul Aman as according to them she was under intense pressure and fright but the judge Justice Naamatullah Phulpoto rejected their requests and allowed her to go with her kidnapper husband and adjourned the hearing to 2 November. (Read more here.)

Christian Persection: Acid Attack Victim Describes Ordeal

Pakistani acid-attack victim finds new life in Houston

Julie Aftig
by Melissa Phillip, Houston ChronicleHouston Chronicle.

Houston Chronicle. She was 16 years old, working as an operator in a tiny, public call office in Pakistan, when a man walked in and saw the silver cross dangling around her neck.

He asked her three times: “Are you a Christian?”

Julie Aftab answered, “Yes, sir,” the first two times, and then got frustrated.

“Didn’t you hear me?” she asked.

They argued, and the man abruptly left the little office, returning 30 or 40 minutes later with a turquoise bottle. Aftab tried to block the arc of battery acid, but it melted much of the right side of her face and left her with swirling, bone-deep burns on her chest and arms. She ran for the door, but a second man grabbed her hair, and they poured the acid down her throat, searing her esophagus.

A decade and 31 surgeries later, Aftab is an accounting major at the University of Houston-Clear Lake with a melodic laugh. She spoke no English when she arrived in Houston in February 2004, but is poised to take her citizenship test later this month.

Doctors in Houston have donated their time to painstakingly reconstruct her cheek, nose, upper lip and replace her eyelids. Over time, her scars have faded from hues of deep wine to mocha.

And, with time, the 26-year-old said, she has learned to forgive.

“Those people, they think they did a bad thing to me, but they brought me closer to God,” Aftab said. “They helped me fulfill my dreams. I never imagined I could be the person I am today.”

Eldest of seven

Aftab was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan, the eldest of seven children in a Christian working-class family.

She dreamed of becoming a doctor, but dropped out of school at age 12 to work in a sewing factory after her father, a bus driver and the family’s sole breadwinner, broke his back in an accident. After the sewing factory closed when Aftab was 16, she took a job as a telephone operator helping people place phone calls from the small office in the city’s center.

It was June 15, 2002, two weeks into her new job, when the customer spotted her silver cross, a gift from her grand­father. She wore it despite knowing it branded her as Christian, a tiny minority in the Muslim-majority country.

You are living life in the gutter, the Muslim man told her.

She tried to ignore him, remembering what her mother had taught her since she was a child: “You are no one to insult someone’s religion. If someone is insulting religion, they have to answer to God.”

You are going to hell, the man told her. You are living in darkness.

“I am living in the light,” Aftab replied.

So you think Islam is in darkness? the man demanded.

Aftab was frightened. She knew Christians had been accused of violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws in the past when others had twisted their words, to make it sound as though they had attacked Islam.

“No, you said that,” she replied. “Not me.”

But the man was enraged and returned with the battery acid and his friend. When she finally broke away from them, the acid searing her skin and throat, she ran down the street. As she screamed, teeth fell from her mouth and hit the ground.

A woman heard her screams and threw her head cover on Aftab so she could touch her without getting burned. The woman took Aftab to her home and poured water on her. Others eventually came to help take her to the hospital.

People in the neighborhood detained the two men who assaulted her until police arrived.

Why did you do that? the men were asked.

They said Aftab insulted Islam, that she said Muslims are living in the darkness and are going to hell.

“They all turned against me,” she said. “Even the people who took me to the hospital. They told the doctor they were going to set the hospital on fire if they treated me.”

The police let the two men go, and did not even file an official report on the assault until Christian leaders complained, she said. (Read more here.)

Christian Persecution: International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

 

Next Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Click here to download and print a prayer calendar that will guide you through 60 Days of Prayer for Persecuted Believers. This special prayer guide is provided by Open Doors, an international non-profit ministry that supports and strengthens persecuted Christians.

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Opposed Anti-Hispanic Law

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran

I was never more proud to be a Catholic than when my archbishop, Archbishop (now Archbishop Emeritus) Eusebius Beltran and the priest’s council signed this pledge. They were willing to face criminal prosecution for refusing to obey this unjust law which passed the Oklahoma Legislature in 2004. The debate and vote on this bill was one of those times when I hated my job, but was very glad that I was there to fight the losing battle against it.

Archbishop Beltrane also marched with Martin Luther King when he was a young priest in Georgia. He did this at a time when doing so was, as this was, highly controversial, even among Catholics, and downright dangerous.

The Catholic Church has stood with the poor, the downtrodden, the weak, hungry and helpless for 2,000 years.

Anyone who supported this law should be ashamed of themselves.

Here is a copy of the pledge they signed. The emphases are mine.

Archdiocese announces resistance to forthcoming anti-illegal immigration law

Ben Fenwick
October 26th, 2007
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced a pledge to resist House Bill 1804, Oklahoma’s new anti-illegal immigration law due to take effect Nov. 1. Archbishop Eusebius Beltran and members o…

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced a pledge to resist House Bill 1804, Oklahoma’s new anti-illegal immigration law due to take effect Nov. 1.

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran and members of the Council of Priests supporting this statement will present the following signed pledge of resistance to the law to Gov. Brad Henry on Friday, according to the Archdiocese:

PLEDGE OF RESISTANCE
“This letter has been authorized and signed in response to the recently approved law HB 1804. This law is fiercely anti-immigrant and does not reflect values that respect people or families.

With the advent of this new law, we unite ourselves in opposition and defiance of this unjust and immoral law. This law makes it a felony to aid, assist or transport any undocumented person in the state of Oklahoma and ‘on violating the provisions of subsections A or B of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not less than one (1) year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

Our faith teaches us to do good to all people. There is no exemption clause for those persons who do not have documentation of their citizenship status. We will not show partiality against those who are in need of humanitarian assistance. Because this law is overly punitive and makes a felony out of the act of providing humanitarian assistance to an undocumented person in need, we the undersigned clergy, religious leaders and lay people of conscience will not and can not obey this law. We will continue to aid and assist all people regardless of their legal citizenship status, with charitable care and spiritual counsel.

We people of faith and conscience refuse to allow ourselves to be intimidated by Oklahoma’s law which makes those who serve others into felons. To the contrary, as persons of faith, hope and love, we call for the repeal of this anti-immigrant law and for immigration reform that provides justice for all God’s children. We are united in solidarity and in defiance of this law because of our allegiance to a higher law, the love of God and humanity.”

What Happened With the “Catholic Vote?”

I have read and heard lots of comments saying that President Obama “won” the Catholic vote. This is misleading.

President Obama won the Hispanic vote heavily. Far more than half of Hispanics are Catholics. Based on the Hispanic people I know, they are devout, church-going, family-oriented people.

I have also witnessed and fought against the repeated, racist attacks on hispanics by Republican politicians here in Oklahoma. The Republican Party used the issue of illegal immigration as a wedge issue in at least three of the elections in the past 10 years. They referred to “illegals” as if they were insects rather than people. They passed laws here in Oklahoma that tried to deny hispanic people access to basic services and their civil rights. 

They did all this despite the fact that there were plenty of laws on the books already to handle illegal immigration. These laws just weren’t being enforced. The main reason they weren’t being enforced was because the business interests that pay for Republican campaigns did not want them enforced.

Hispanic people are not stupid. They know all this. So when they voted heavily to re-elect President Obama, they were not voting against their church. They were voting against the discrimination and racism which the Republican Party had callously directed against them to win elections earlier in this century. 

Now, we are faced with pundits and commenters who keep saying that “Catholics voted for Obama” as if this was a repudiation of the Church by its own people. In truth, for the Catholic vote to have been as close as it was, and for hispanics to have voted for President Obama in the percentages they did, most other Catholics must have voted heavily for Governor Romney.

Before you go off condemning your fellow Catholics for deserting the Church, remember that statistics can be used to lie. At the very least these statistics are not be used to represent the facts in a way that would lead anyone who reads them to draw accurate conclusions.

HHS Mandate: Obama’s Polarizing Bet and How It Played Out

President Barack Obama, official portrait

I’m going to write about the Democratic Party’s turn to polarizing wedge-issue campaigning quite a lot in the months to come. I think it’s one of the most important aspects of the 2012 election.

This tactic of using wedge issues to push segments of the electorate to vote the way you want has been used heavily by the Republicans for decades. They’ve built their constituency primarily around abortion, but they’ve also used attacks on homosexuals and hispanics that went so far as attempting to deny them basic government services and civil rights.

I know. I’ve had to vote against some of their egregious legislation in this area.

This wedge issue electioneering by the Republican Party made it easy for the Democrats to come along and use the other side of those wedge issues to drive their own votes to the polls.

The problems with this are many and extensive, but perhaps the worst of them is the damage it does to the country. Once you call out the dogs of inflamed hatred and blind rage in order to get people to vote the way you want, it’s a little difficult to shut it back down when it’s time to govern. That is especially true when the other side of the political war is still out there, firing things up in hopes of regaining the power you just took from them.

That’s the core reason we are already hearing that Congressional leaders are planning their votes on key issues dealing with major things this country needs to save it from going over the economic cliff as chips for the 2014 election. Two days after we vote, and these jerks are already talking about doing it again. They’ve completely skipped past any consideration of actually doing the job they were elected to do.

Governing the country, the common good, the welfare of the American people are all non sequiturs to wedge-issue politicians.

The article below describes the calculated considerations that were weighed with the creation and enactment of the HHS Mandate. Notice that the First Amendment, the good of the country, and right and wrong did not have a column on the balance sheet when this decision was made. The only consideration was: Will it work to drive votes to the President in the 2012 election?

That’s ruthless.

Unfortunately, it’s not confined to one man or even one political party. It’s the way business is done among the new politicians of both parties.

The Worldwide Religious News article reads in part:

Religion, marriage and the GOP’s demographic challenge brought to the fore by 2012 election
Eric Schulzke (“Deseret News,” November 6, 2012)

Salt Lake City, USA — America is sharply divided along multiple fault lines, but one of the sharpest, according to Tuesday’s exit polls, is religion. Polls showed that Mitt Romney won 59 percent of the votes of the 42 percent of people that attend church weekly. But Barack Obama won 56 percent of those who attend only rarely and 63 percent of those who never attend church.

Rather than seeking to smooth over this gap, the Obama camp decided during the early stages of this election cycle to magnify it to its advantage, according to Brookings Institution Fellow Bill Galston.

The Obama team strategically picked a fight with the Catholic Church last spring, Galston said, when it chose to draw a hardline on the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

“They made a decision way back in December 2011 that the only way to save the Obama presidency was to go all out to mobilize the core elements of the 2008 coalition,” Galston said.

When the Catholic hierarchy rose to the bait and fought aggressively against the requirement that Catholic institutions provide contraceptives with their health care, Galston said, the Obama camp did not “just stumble into that.”

The Catholic vote is one of two key voting blocks that were destined to play a central role in the 2012 election. The other was the white evangelical vote, a core Republican block that Romney had a delicate and doubtful relationship with due to his Mormon faith and his waffling on social issues over time.

“Catholics are swing voters that neither party can take for granted,” Galston said. “It is very rare for one party to get more than 55 percent of the Catholic vote.” Two keys heading into the election centered around which way Catholics would tilt and whether evangelicals would turn out in large enough numbers to vote for a man few of them wanted to nominate.

And, as Galston observes, all this was set against Obama’s gamble that he could mobilize his base to overcome Catholic pushback. By lighting a fiercely partisan fire, would the Democrats be able to turn out their base in sufficient numbers?

The answer turned out to be yes.

And in answering that question, America got a glimpse at the demographic challenges that now face the Republican party, which now finds itself squeezed on all sides — trying to lay claim to an ever-shrinking base of white, married, religious voters.

Risking backlash

A key policy adviser in the Clinton White House, Galston speaks wistfully of his former boss, who took a more centrist path to re-election and governance, winning huge swaths of red territory in two elections, and he sees difficulties in governing and healing a country that is now sharply divided. (Read more here.)

“I know for a fact that the Obama people were warned in advance. They were under no illusions about what the reaction of the Catholic Church and the Catholic community would be,” he said. “It wasn’t something they sought, but it was something they were willing to accept as part of a package, whose upside they judged to be greater than the downside.”

And so the Obama White House drove hard at the Catholic Church, refusing to budge, infuriating bishops and even drawing the ire of a number of liberal Catholics. “Even moderate and liberal Catholics thought the administration was pushing the church around,” Galston said.

But in the same motion, Obama pivoted to the “war-on-women” theme — casting a dispute over who pays for contraceptives as an effort by old, conservative men to control women’s bodies.

The upshot: the Obama camp was willing to cede the GOP a greater share of the Catholic vote in order to bolster its base, particularly its core constituency of unmarried women. (Read more here.)

The People Spoke. Case Closed. Done Deal.

The people spoke Tuesday, November 6, 2012. 

Barach Obama was re-elected President of the United States of America. Same-sex marriage won four important votes. Euthanasia got pushed back. Democrats strengthened their hold on the United States Senate. Republicans kept control of the United States House of Representatives.

These were fair elections.

Case closed. Done deal.

If you want a pity-party, we-wuz-robbed, how-DARE-they-vote-wrong post-election wail-athon, you probably should just walk right past Public Catholic, because you won’t find it here.

This is America. We decide things by election in this country. We had a big election Tuesday and decided a lot of things.

What we have to do is look at these events through the lens of the Gospels and, as much as we are graced to do so, through the directings of the Holy Spirit. I am going to go back over certain aspects of this election in fine detail in the weeks and months ahead. But everything I say will be aimed at helping us find a way forward. I am not going to re-hash things from the perspective of re-fighting yesterday’s fight. That’s not my way.

My sole aim with Public Catholic is to use what little I’ve learned in my not-so-young life to help equip Christians for what I’ve known for quite some time is coming. I am an elected official and have been for a long time. That gives me certain insights which I hope will help you develop your skills in dealing with the political side of being a Christian.

However, Christianity is not and never has been a political movement. What we have witnessed these past decades is a sharp turn toward heresy and idolatry on the part of many of our religious leaders. They have been abysmally bad shepherds because they have mis-used their prophetic and moral voice to shape the Body of Christ into a political machine and vote delivery system for one or the other of the two political parties. This has gone on so long and been pushed so hard that there are a number of Christians who actually confuse political party affiliation with following Christ.

These people have edited, twisted and manipulated the Gospels to conform the teachings of Christ to political party platforms. From what I’ve seen, these fallen shepherds will always kiss Caesar’s ring when Caesar demands it. They back up, sit down and go along, even when the political leaders they have sold their birthrights as Christians to demand that they turn their backs on everything … including the one or two issues they claimed were why they backed the politicians in the first place.

Never forget: Our Lord was crucified at the hands of a cowardly politician, a group of corrupt religious leaders out to protect their own power and the crowd that followed them.

The election Tuesday was not the end of Christianity in America. But it may have been the end of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace, at least for true Christians. Over seventy percent of Americans call themselves Christian. But many of them are wide-gate, easy-way Christians who consistently choose the world over following Christ.

I created this blog and will be speaking in the future to narrow-gate, hard-way Christians who want to follow Jesus and stand up for Him, no matter what.

You have to decide for yourself which one you are. For now, it’s enough for us to realize, accept and get past one simple fact: The people spoke Tuesday. Case closed. Done deal.

We’ll take one more day for post-election emotional adjusting, then I’m through with it.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7: 13,14

Gay Marriage, Euthanasia, Abortion, Marijuana: How Did They Vote?

Gay marriage

Did Maryland voters legalize gay marriage?  YES
Did Maine voters legalize gay marriage?  YES
Did Minnesota voters ban gay marriage?  NO
Did Washington state voters legalize gay marriage?  YES

Marijuana

Did Arkansas voters legalize medical marijuana? NO
Did Colorado voters legalize the sale and use of marijuana?  YES
Did Massachusetts voters legalize medical marijuana?  YES
Did Oregon voters legalize the sale of marijuana?  NO
Did Washington voters legalize the sale and growth of marijuana? YES

Euthanasia

Did Massachusetts voters legalize euthanasia? NO

Human trafficking

Did California voters raise the punishment for human traffickers?  YES

Blaine Amendment


Did Florida voters allow state funds to go to religious organizations?  NO

Gambling

Did Maryland voters approve expanded casino gambling?  YES
Did Oregon voters approve casino gambling?  NO
Did Rhode Island voters approve state-operated casino gambling?  YES

Death penalty

Did California voters do away with the death penalty?  NO

Abortion

Did Florida voters stop the use of tax payer money for abortions?  NO
Did Montana voters require parental notification for a minor seeking an abortion?  YES 


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