We had a death in the family last night.
My brother-in-law of 34 years passed.
I may not be able to check your comments for periods of time. Please forgive.
We had a death in the family last night.
My brother-in-law of 34 years passed.
I may not be able to check your comments for periods of time. Please forgive.
Prayer, study and peaceful action.
What are you going to do for the Fortnight for Freedom 2013?
Bishop Francis Malooly of Maryland gives one of the most clear and easily understood outlines of the issues the Church and all Christians are facing in America today.
Pope Emeritus Benedict gave a brief interview to a German journalist recently.
The journalist’s description of the Pope Emeritus paints a portrait of someone who is frail but functioning. “I’m fine,” the Pope Emeritus said, “I pray and read. I live like a monk.”
I hope he is happy and at peace in his retirement. The Church and the world needs his prayers.
Pope Francis tossed away his prepared remarks at an audience this week because, he said, they were boring. Rather than making a speech to the group of children who were on stage with him, he let them ask him unrehearsed, unedited, questions.
The result is one of the most charming — and revealing — exchanges I’ve ever seen with any pope. One little girl asked the Holy Father if he had wanted to be pope. He said no, he hadn’t wanted to be pope. Another asked him if is was hard to move to Italy and leave his family and friends behind.
He answered all of these questions in his usual open way.
Pope Francis is the real deal. He’s so in the bag for Jesus that he’s past the constraints of that inhibit most public people. He has the ability to reach right through the trappings of office and power and into our hearts.
The video below offers a look at this wonderful exchange between the Holy Father and the children.
The nightmares are back.
I had lunch with a life-long friend today. Our mothers were pregnant with us at the same time. That’s how long we’ve known one another.
My friend got caught in the storm last week and she confided that she’s had tornado nightmares since then. I don’t think I have. I sort of remember some kind of storm dream, but I don’t think it was a full-bore tornado nightmare. It may be have been, but I don’t think so.
I have decided that I’m putting in a shelter of some kind. Not now. Everybody and his dog is probably ordering a shelter right now. If I ordered one this afternoon, it would take weeks before they got around to installing it, and tornado season would be over by then. I’m hoping that if I wait a few months, the prices will drop and I can get a good deal.
Safe Room Shelter
Besides, I can’t decide what I want. I could get an in-ground cubby hole, the kind people put in their garages. Or, I could get a safe room that might go anywhere in my house. I’ve been reading about them, and safe rooms are only guaranteed for winds up to 250 mph. The tornado last Friday had winds that were almost 300 and the May 3, 1999 tornado had winds over 300.
So, the question is, will a safe room stand up to one of those things?
Cubby Hole Shelter
On the other hand, how, if I’m alone with her, would I ever get my almost 88 year-old mother down into a cubby hole shelter? If my kids were around, no problem. They can pick her up like she’s a potato chip and hand her down, no problem. But I can’t do that. What am I supposed to do if a tornado comes at us and I’m here alone with my mother, put a mattress on the floor of the shelter and throw her down there?
There’s also the question of cost. Safe rooms cost more than cubby holes. On the other hand, you can put one in a closet and use it for other things when you’re not ducking from a storm.
These questions aren’t a hypothetical to me. We lost two extended family members in the May 3 tornado. I know a number of people, including close friends, who lost their homes in both that tornado and the May 20 storm. I also know people who were grievously injured. My mother’s old house, which she still owns, lost its roof to a tornado that killed a number of people a couple of years ago. I went to a wedding a couple of weeks ago and many of the people there had attended a funeral for a tornado victim earlier in the day.
As I said, it’s not a hypothetical. It’s real. Whatever our family gets, we’re going to have to take out a loan to do it, which means we need to make the right decision.
Safe room, or cubby hole? I can’t decide. I think a cubby hole is the most likely to get us through a tornado alive. It also costs less. But if I can’t get my mother into it, it’s not worth much to me. If she can’t go down, I won’t go down. We’ll just live or die together in a closet.
I’m wondering if any of you have experience with these things and can give advice. The real question, much more than the money, is whether or not a safe room can take a direct hit from one of these big monster tornados. If they can, that’s probably how I’ll go. If not, I guess I’m going to have to rig up a hoist or something so I can get Mama into a cubby hole when the winds blow.
What does President Obama have to say about sweeping millions of Americans’ emails and phone calls into a government database?
Here it is.
I’m also including a video of a news report about it.
Please try to think all this through, put aside partisan ideas and focus on our country. I know this is tough, but it’s what we all need to do.
What do you think about all this?
I imagine that most presidents reach a point where they feel as if the White House is one gigantic, well decorated chicken coop and all — or at least many — of their chickens are coming flapping home.
President Obama appears to be in the chickens-come-flapping-home phase of his presidency. It turns out that his chickens look a lot like vultures and the carrion they’ve been feeding on is the Constitution.
Richard Nixon has his infamous “Enemies List” of people who got audited by the IRS and otherwise harassed by the government. He never got publicly called out on it, but I think Ronald Reagan did too.
The reason I say that about President Reagan (who, I realize, is a bit of a minor deity to a lot of people,) is because I, and a lot of my Democratic colleagues ran afoul of something that looked suspiciously like partisan attacks by the government. Many of us were audited by the IRS, and I don’t mean just audited, we were put through a heavy wash cycle in which we had to verify every single line on our income tax report. Married? Produce your marriage license. Own your home? Show us the deed.
The IRS camped out in our kitchen and audited our one page report for weeks. We didn’t own businesses or have complex issues in that report. We didn’t drive expensive cars, live in a fancy house or otherwise live large. We had our salaries, regular paychecks, and that was all. We spent thousands, producing records for them, but unfortunately, we couldn’t produce them all. Some of the bank’s records were fogged.
In the end, they said that every dime we deposited in our checking account that we couldn’t provide a record for was unreported income. This meant that every deposit on those fogged records was charged as unreported income. They charged us for wedding gifts and birthday presents of less than fifty dollars, for small (one or two hundred dollar) transfers from our savings to our checking. They even charged us for our income tax return from the previous year. Every single deposit to our checking account which we could not source in writing got charged as unreported income.
Then, they added fines and fees and interest on top this. It came to $5,000 we owed on a simple, one-page report.
On the other side of the coin, someone in the Oklahoma Tax Commission took a reporter on a trip through the tax returns of several Democratic legislators. The source told the reporter that I hadn’t filed my tax return. The result? I ended up with a photo of me as the lead story in the Sunday paper for not filing my tax returns. The only problem is that the story was untrue. The newspaper had to print a retraction.
The point here is that tax returns are supposed to be private. There are laws about this. Think about all the hullabaloo we have every four years about presidential candidates “releasing” their tax returns.
This is the reason I haven’t written about President Obama’s behavior. I could not just shake and rattle with indignation about him and not talk about the simple fact that I know he’s not alone. Presidents and other government officials are using their powers to harass their political enemies. More than one of them has done it.
It seems as if each president we elect has less respect for the Constitution and our freedoms than the one before him. Was I surprised that the president who has so little regard for the First Amendment that he signed the HHS Mandate also runs a government that spies on his enemies?
What did surprise me is that some of the reporters the government was spying on seemed surprised that these violations of civil rights were directed at them.
What did they expect?
Were they under some illusion that you can be half pregnant? When you start knocking down the Constitution in the blatant fashion of the HHS Mandate, you’re telling the whole wide world that you don’t much respect that document or the freedoms it protects.
Despite all this, I have to admit that this latest revelation did take me aback. Richard Nixon had his enemies list. But it appears that President Obama has the census. His “enemies” appear to be the American people.
All our phone records and emails are evidently being poured into that big government database in the sky. The law enforcement fishing expedition has broadened to include all of us.
The authority to do this is the Patriot Act, which leads me to our responsibility as citizens. Remember 9/11? Remember President George W Bush and his Patriot Act? Did you know what you were doing when you backed this guy in passing that law?
If you didn’t know before, you do now.
There are people who seem to have unlimited trust in the government to protect them. Not to protect everybody, mind you. Just them. They seem to think that we can enact laws repudiating the rights of all sorts of people, but those laws will never affect them.
The Patriot Act and this spying on all of us puts that fantasy to the lie rather soundly.
Now for the other dirty linen. It turns out that President Obama didn’t do this on his own. He informed every member of Congress, or, as he put it, our “duly elected officials” about what he was doing. In other words, all those guys in Washington, all those guys in Washington, have all of us on the government enemies list.
This week’s 6 Quick Takes on Christian persecution around the globe include kidnappings, murders, beatings, false imprisonment and legal discrimination.
In other words, these quick takes are the usual sad story of what Christians endure for Christ just about everywhere on this planet. Two of the stories involve legal discrimination in the “Christian” West. Both of them are instances of governments applying legal penalties for Christians who seek to practice their faith in the workplace. Ironically, they are examples of “tolerance” statutes carried to their illogical and intolerant extreme.
Every one of these stories is becoming almost cliche in today’s world. Violent persecution of Christians by government tolerated mobs occurs in places like Africa, the Middle East and India. Legal persecution by the government itself happens in totalitarian states like Viet Nam. Meanwhile, a move toward totalitarianism in which the state attempts to deprive its citizens of the rights to individual conscience and religious liberty that it has heretofore guaranteed occurs in both the UK and the USA.
Here, for your prayerful study, are the 6 Quick Takes on Christian Persecution for this week.
1. Three U.K. Christians’ Appeals Denied by European Court on Human Rights in the Name of “Equality”
Jun 3rd 2013
In a display of growing secularism, the European Court on Human Rights recently rejected hearing cases of alleged discrimination against three Christian U.K. nationals. Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane, and Lillian Ladele each claim to have suffered employment discrimination for expressing their faith—one having been demoted for refusing to remove a cross necklace at work, another was disciplined for refusing to conduct same-sex marriages, and the last having been fired for refusing to provide relational counseling to same-sex couples. Secularist groups praised the court’s rejection of the cases, claiming the rejection as yet another step in stopping “a small coterie of Christian activists [from] obtain[ing] special privileges for themselves”—”special privileges” like being able to sport cross necklaces and determine one’s own clients. (Read the rest here.)
2. Anti-Christian Violence in Vietnam
Anti-Christian violence is an ever-present danger for church leaders and members in Vietnam, which has been under Communist rule since 1975 and where Christians make up just 9% of the population. In just two incidents from 2012, a pastor was beaten unconscious with iron bars, suffering multiple injuries, and a woman was left with a fractured skull when a congregation was attacked as they gathered for a service; dozens of others were injured. The assaults were the work of thugs believed to have been hired by the authorities to harass and intimidate Christians.
It is striking that those injured in these incidents belonged to churches that were actually registered with the authorities. Registration is required by law and allows congregations to obtain official approval for their places of worship. But registered churches are regulated and controlled, and their legal protections are vague and uncertain. The registration process is also slow, and some applications are unsuccessful.
The position of Vietnam’s unregistered churches is even more insecure, and they are particularly vulnerable to harassment, arrests and imprisonment. In 2012 the pastor of a house church was jailed for eleven years on a charge of “disrupting national unity”.
Despite the authorities’ supposed approval of charitable work, the past year has also seen cruel attacks in the capital, Hanoi, on both a Christian orphanage and a church-run colony for leprosy patients. The children were beaten by the attackers, and the residents of the colony were terrorised by abuse and threats. (Read the rest here.)
3. Syrian bishops kidnapped in Aleppo still missing one month on
Officials say whereabouts of Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi remain unknown despite international efforts to secure release
Bishop Boulos Yazigi, left, and archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted by gunmen on 22 April in Aleppo, Syria. Photograph: HOPD/AP
One month after two Orthodox Christian bishops were kidnapped by gunmen in Syria, officials say they still have no idea what has happened to the missing prelates.
The clerics, the most senior church officials to be targeted since civil war engulfed the country, have not been heard of since their abduction at gunpoint in the northern city of Aleppo on 22 April.
“We are deeply worried for the lives of archbishop Mor Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and bishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, who chairs the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (Uscirf).
“These two religious leaders put aside their own safety by travelling to one of the worst areas of fighting to help those Syrians left with few basic necessities after more than two years of war,” she said in a statement released on Tuesday. (Read the rest here.)
4. Washington attorney general sues florist over refusal to provide flowers for same-sex wedding
Bob Ferguson, the State of Washington’s attorney general, has announced that he is filing a consumer protection lawsuit against a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.
“Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation,” Ferguson stated in a press release. “If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service.”
Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington, explained her decision not to provide flowers for a customer’s same-sex wedding.
“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through, I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” she said. “We hugged each other, and he left, and I assumed it was the end of the story.” (Read more here.)
5. MASSACRE OF CHRISTIAN VILLAGE IN SYRIA; ALMOST 40 PEOPLE KILLED
A Christian village in Syria was savagely attacked and almost 40 of its residents, including women and children, killed by opposition fighters, as UN investigators warned of increasing radicalisation among the rebels.
One of Barnabas Aid’s Syrian partners said that two of his relatives in Dweir were severely tortured by the rebels, who broke some of their bones and started to burn their bodies before shooting them in the head. The village of Dweir on the outskirts of Homs, near the border with Lebanon, was invaded on 27 May. (Read more here.)
6. Christian Pastor and His Family Beaten in India
A pastor and his family beaten; a prayer meeting broken up; Christians forced from their village by a mob; children threatened and abused; a church building attacked and a cemetery desecrated – just a few examples of the repeated incidents of harassment and intimidation suffered by Christians in India in 2012.
In many parts of the country the small minority of Christians live at peace with the Hindu majority. But in some states they are acutely vulnerable to a militant Hindu nationalist movement called Hindutva, which is striving to make India a religiously “pure” nation. Recent years have seen numerous incidents of small-scale aggression such as those listed above, and also major outbreaks of anti-Christian communal violence in Orissa and Karnataka.
It is difficult for Christians to obtain justice for offences committed against them. Local police can be slow to respond to attacks, and often no-one is prosecuted. Corruption is also rife in the courts, and Christians’ unwillingness to play the system dishonestly works against them. Five years on from the Orissa violence, few people have been convicted. Christian leaders and human rights activists continue to campaign for justice, however, and in December 2012 twelve people were handed prison sentences for their part in the 2008 attacks.
(Read the rest here.)
One hundred thousand people are
Many more Christians are
Meanwhile, here in the “Christian” West, Christians are
Forced to violate their faith under penalty of law.
That is the message Vatican spokesman Msgr Silvano Maria Tomasi brought to the United Nations earlier this week. Msgr Tomasi expressed the Holy See’s “deep concern for violations of religious freedom and systematic attacks on Christian communities” in some part of the world. At the same time, he pointed out that “in some Western countries … a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services.”
I think it is important to note that Msgr Tomasi was not merely protesting the violent persecution or the marginalization of Catholics. He was speaking out for the civil and human rights of all Christians, everywhere.
People who attack Christianity often try to divide us. For instance, several of the commenters on a recent post I wrote concerning a Christian basher and the Pentagon, tried to say that this Christian bashing wasn’t aimed at Catholics, but Evangelicals. The point, I presume, being that if someone attacks those “other” Christians, the rest of us should either join in with the attackers or at the very least turn our backs on the attacked.
I like Msgr Tomasi’s approach. It is the one I take on this blog. If you cut any Christian, anywhere, we all bleed. Because we are One Blood, and One Body, and that is the living body and blood of Christ in the world. Any persecuted Christian is my brother or sister.
Let me say that again: Any persecuted Christian is my brother or sister.
From Vatican Radio:
Vatican to UN: 100 thousand Christians killed for the faith each year
2013-05-28 Vatican Radio
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has expressed “deep concern” for violations of religious freedom and systematic attacks on Christian communities in regions of the world such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This was pointed out by Msgr. Silvano Maria Tomasi, who spoke Monday at the United Nations in Geneva.
“More than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year. Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders -as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in Aleppo (Syria).
Several of these acts have been perpetrated in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, the fruit of bigotry, intolerance, terrorism and some exclusionary laws. In addition, in some Western countries where historically the Christian presence has been an integral part of society, a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services.
“It may be useful that the Delegation of the Holy See should recall some pertinent data on the current services to the human family carried out in the world by the Catholic Church without any distinction of religion or race. In the field of education, it runs 70,544 kindergartens with 6,478,627 pupils; 92,847 primary schools with 31,151,170 pupils; 43,591 secondary schools with 17,793,559 pupils. The Church also educates 2,304,171 high school pupils, and 3,338,455 university students. The Church’s worldwide charity and healthcare centres include: 5,305 hospitals; 18,179 dispensaries; 547 Care Homes for people with Leprosy; 17,223 Homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability; 9,882 orphanages; 11,379 creches; 15,327 marriage counseling; 34,331 social rehabilitation centres and 9,391 other kinds of charitable institutions. To such data about social action activity, there should be added the assistance services carried out in refugee camps and to internally displaced people and the accompaniment of these uprooted persons. This service certainly doesn’t call for discrimination against Christians.
We’re all going to have to start doing things like this. it’s not a question of forcing someone else to follow our Lord Jesus. It’s whether or not we will allow others to stop us from following Him.
The story began when the American Civil Liberties Union managed to find time in their heavy schedule of advocating for abortion, polygamy, gay marriage and euthanasia to send threatening letters to every school district in South Carolina, warning them of possible lawsuits if they were caught praying in public. The illustrious Freedom From Religion Foundation cranked up their word processor up in Wisconsin and followed through with threats of their own.
The Pickens Country School District, which is in South Carolina, responded to these threats by ending all invocations at all school functions. They replaced the prayer at graduation exercises with a moment of silence.
Pickins County high school valedictorian Roy Costner IV dutifully wrote a secular valedictory speech, which was approved before the graduation exercises by school officials.
He began his valedictory remarks by starting to deliver the approved speech. But a few minutes into it, he tore the speech up and made extemporaneous remarks, praising his parents for teaching him his religious faith and concluding by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
Vineoflife.netdescribes it this way:
“Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today,” he said. “I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age.”
“And I think most of you will understand when I say…” he continued, surprising the crowd with what came next.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” Costner declared. “Thy Kingdom come…”
As attendees realized that Costner was reciting the Lord’s Prayer, applause began to break out in the colliseum. Within seconds, the applause was accompanied by loud cheers.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” he continued. “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
The crowd again broke into cheers and applause as Costner concluded, and one faculty member sat smiling behind him.
“I think it took a lot of courage to do that,” attendee Logan Gibson told reporters. “People were supportive that he stood up for what he believed in.”
(Pickens County School District spokesman John) Eby said that the district will not be taking any action against Costner.
“The bottom line is, we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths,” he stated. “He’s a graduate now. There’s nothing we can do about it, even if we wanted to.”
I think it’s time for Christians everywhere in this country to consider doing things like this. These bullying organizations can threaten to sue individual school districts and other entities. But there are at least 180 million practicing Christians in this country who attend church on a regular basis. They can’t sue all of us.
Mind you, I am not in any way advocating that we try to force anyone to join us. If they don’t believe, that’s their choice. If they are afraid, that’s their fear. But if you believe in Jesus and you’ve got the guts to say so, then do say so. You may get some rough treatment for saying it. But don’t be afraid of that. Anyone who reviles you for Jesus’ sake is giving you the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead of being afraid of them, you probably should thank them.
Judge Twyla Gray sat opposite me twirling her fork in the salad on her plate.
She had just told me that she was going to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. Twyla, who was a cancer survivor, had learned that she carried the brca gene. This gene predisposed her to breast cancer.
It had been decades since Twyla went through a lumpectomy, chemo and then radiation to treat a small cancer doctors found in one of her breasts. At the time she was diagnosed, Twyla put her considerable wits to researching her cancer and interviewing treatment specialists all around the country. She had a small child and she wanted to live.
I remember quite clearly her husband reading the summary of a pathologist’s report concerning that cancer to me. It was an aggressive form of the disease, and the pathologist’s advice was that she needed aggressive treatment. Afterwards, I talked to a doctor friend of mine who told me that based on her experience with patients, a cancer of that type would eventually come back, no matter what Twyla did.
More than 20 years later, Twyla seemed to have proven the experts wrong. Test after test, check-up after check-up, she was cancer free. Her child grew up to be a fine person. Her marriage thrived. Her career took off and she ended up a district judge.
Everything was looking good for Twyla.
Then she had genetic testing and learned she had the brca gene. She would always be vulnerable to this type of cancer, which is what led her to make the appointment for what she had dreaded for a long, long time: Mutilating surgery.
I asked her how she was a few weeks later and learned that she had backed out of the surgery. Then, a few months after that, the cancer recurred. She beat it back.
Another year passed, and it recurred.
There was no beating it back this time. She would die of this disease. The docs gave her three months, but she fought and won a small, though costly, reprieve. Twyla lived another year after she got the three month prognosis. Some of that time was good time. But she earned those good days by enduring horrible treatments.
I have wondered if it would have made any difference if she had gone ahead with that surgery. In truth, I do not know. But part of me doubts it. I think that the time bomb had been ticking away in the form of an occult cancer cell hiding in a corner of her body for all those years she was “cancer free.”
That’s the purgatory of cancer. No matter how many times a cancer survivor gets a clean scan, they know, and everyone who loves them knows, that it may not be entirely true. The cancer may be playing its little waiting game before it comes charging back.
Angelina Jolie’s Appearance is Critical to Her Career
I read week before last about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. From what I read, it sounds as if Ms Jolie has the same gene my friend had. She has not had cancer, so maybe, just maybe, the surgery will save her.
All I know is that I am grateful to her for coming forward with the revelation that she has gone through this surgery. That can’t have been easy for a woman whose appearance and body are critiqued mercilessly every time she puts her foot outside her door.
Ms Jolie makes her living at least partly on the fantasies her audience has about her and her appearance. Prophylactic double mastectomies don’t quite fit with the sexy macho woman she plays in film. That kind of reality is part of our vulnerable human condition, not the cartoon character perfection of the characters she often plays.
It was a risk for her to share this. But it may encourage some other person (men can die of breast cancer, too, especially if they carry the brca gene) who gets the frightening news that they carry this gene the push they need to go under the knife for what can only be described as terrible surgery.
I want to add that the genetic testing to uncover this gene is expensive. Because of that, most people will not take the test. But if you have a history of cancer in your family, as Twyla did, especially if you have a history of breast cancer, it might be worth looking into.
When does life begin? Back when I was pro choice, I used to field that question in debates all the time.
I knew that the people asking the question meant human life. When does human life begin?
The answer is no use to us in the besetting questions of our age. Life, human life, doesn’t begin. We pass it from one to another like a baton in a relay race.
The reason for this largely useless answer is that the question itself is poorly worded. We don’t really mean When does life begin? What the questioners were trying to ask was, When does human life that we owe legal protection begin?
Unfortunately, even that question begs the underlying issue. Individual human life, with all its complexities, begins at conception. This is not theology. It is simple and obvious science. A human conceptus is a unique, perfect human being. So is a human embryo.
I was a human embryo. I do not mean that I was the makings of something that would become me. I, myself, was a human embryo. I was just as much me then as I was me when I was a six month unborn baby and when I was a 5-year-old kindergartner and now that I am a rambling, writing, mom, state legislator and all-around trouble maker.
I was always me at each one of these stages of my life. Life is something we pass from one another like a baton in a relay race. But our lives, our individual existences as persons, begins at conception.
You were an embryo, too, you know. In fact, you still are that embryo, only in another stage of life. Your life began at conception. Your earthly life will end at your death. But you will go on after that, and then, as now, you will always be you.
A reader who seems intransigent in his advocacy for killing little humans ranging from unborn late-term abortion victims back to the earliest conceptus, commented “I just can’t get worked up about microscopic embryos.”
Is that the reason so many people are willing to denude human beings of their humanity early on in their lives? Is it a matter of size?
It is important to remember that calling someone an “embryo” is an entirely arbitrary designation that people created for convenience. As it is used in practice the designation of this stage of a person’s life lasts from shortly after conception up to about 8 weeks. The person is, admittedly, tiny during this whole time, but they aren’t always microscopic. The question still remains: Would their lives matter more if they were the size of dinner plates?
I’m being a bit facetious here to make a point. Size shouldn’t be a death sentence. But when we begin to deny the obvious fact that these are human lives we are taking, we find ourselves in the conundrum of defining what makes the rest of us safe from the long knives of science.
The same science that gives you central heat and air can snuff you out like the flame on a match. The only thing holding it back is law.
The legal barriers we erect around human life are our only protection from the rapacious disregard for human beings that sits at the base of every godless philosophy. Science itself is neutral on the issues of God and morality. It is not inherently moral or immoral. It is, rather, amoral.
Our safety and security rests, not in the self-defined great minds of scientists, but in the little minds of politicians. It is politicians who have kept us from destroying every bit of life on this planet with the scientist’s great gift of nuclear weapons. It is politicians who erect the walls of legal safety behind which we hide against the darker impulses of those who have no regard for us at all. Politicians and the laws they write are the method we have for keeping the monsters beside us at bay.
Make no mistake about it, science has acquired the power to be a death-dealing monster that can destroy us all.
Are human embryos human beings? Of course they are. There isn’t any question about that. The question is, do we think we are capable of creating, exploiting and killing whole classes of human beings and not letting this death-dealing disregard for human life spread to the rest of us? The answer for any thinking person who has the least knowledge of human history is, no.
Once the law allows one group of people to kill other groups of people for any reason they chose, the gun is loaded, cocked and pointing at the rest of us, as well.
We already kill human beings throughout their pre-born life. We kill them because they are disabled. We kill them because they are “unwanted.” We kill them because they — unlike us, we seem to say — are going to die soon anyway.
Is that the new value on human life? To have a right to life, do you have to be “wanted,” or physically perfect, or not be going to die?
By that logic, there is no person on this planet who has a right to life.
Do you realize that? By the logic we apply to embryos, who are killed because they are too small to have a right to life, and for all unborn babies, who are killed because they are unwanted-disabled-going-to-die-anyway there is no person on this planet who has a right to life.
Is that exaggeration? I think not. The agitation for euthanasia is growing. Already several nations and a few of our states have taken down the wall to killing people who are a burden to others, in pain, mentally ill, depressed, etc. They pass these laws under the guise of — you guessed it — they will be dead soon, anyway. We’ll just kill the terminally ill, they claim. Nobody will die except those who volunteer for death, they tell us.
Why? Because if any group of people may be legally killed for reasons of their murderer’s devising, then all our lives are forfeit.
The selling of death by those who want to kill has become slightly more subtle than it times past, but the underlying message is the same.
It’s only a small over-simplification to say that all these people at the vulnerable stages of life are dying because of money. Those who kill human embryos to harvest their body parts promise us miracles in a test tube that will give us cures for every dread disease. But what they are really about is massive amounts of government funding. Unborn children die because abortion is marketed by those who make money off it. They die because we would rather become murderers of our own children than write laws that protect women’s ability to have children and hold jobs, get educations and walk the streets without fear of rape. We kill the infirm, the depressed and the elderly, so they won’t be a “burden” on our health care industry.
We kill for money. We lie and twist the facts to claim that we are killing them for kindness’ sake. But in truth we have done away with the legal protections of the basic right to life of whole classes of people largely for money.
Does size matter? In the case of human embryos, size is a death sentence. But for other people we kill, it is just a matter of getting rid of what bothers us.
I haven’t mentioned theology or even morality as a reason for not killing whole classes of people with impunity. I don’t need to. There is an entirely secular reason for granting a universal right to life to all human beings at every stage of our earthly existence. That reason is self-preservation.
Unless you are one of the gods of our little earthly universe — one of the powerful, the wealthy, the “decision makers” who live in shadowy enclaves inside super zip codes and pull the strings on the rest of us — unless you are one of them, you need this wall of law to protect you.
I think Pope Francis is channeling my grandmother.
“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry,” he said yesterday.
“Clean your plate,” my grandmother told me, “think of those that do without.”
I am not, as some people do, blaming these injunctions to eat what I put on my plate for my weight problem. I know what causes that, and cleaning my plate has nothing to do with it. However, I did get a wee bit of the giggles when I first read Pope Francis’ comments.
Then I sobered up.
He’s right, you know.
We buy too much stuff. Not just food, but all sorts of stuff. I know perfectly healthy people who spend their days shopping. They are using the precious hours and minutes of their time in this life wandering up and down store aisles, looking at things they don’t need in order to buy and then not use them.
I have a relative who used to show up at my house with sacks of uneaten food every time she cleaned out her refrigerator. It was, most of it, half-spoiled, but she would bring it to me and expect me to take it. The question of why she bought it in the first place was never asked, much less answered.
How do we turn this useless excess that burdens our lives with too much weight, too many things and an awful, aching hunger for more stuff we don’t need into something that is useful and productive in this world? What is the mechanism for channeling our excess to those who are wracked by hunger and illness; who live without the adequate shelter or sanitary conditions?
Where is the connection between my garbage disposal and their empty bellies?
According to an article in NewsMaxWorld, “about 1.3 billion metric tons of food, or one third of what is produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted very year.”
The article goes on with the usual guilt statistics about the enormous portions served in restaurants, etc. But making people feel guilty doesn’t help. What we need is a means and a method for distributing food so that no one goes hungry. According to the United Nations, 870 million people suffer from hunger, while 2 billion suffer from at least some nutritional deficiency.
That’s about one third of the human race, which, if all these statistics are accurate, is roughly equivalent to the portion of food that is wasted.
I can not scrape the food off my plate and into the hungry mouths of the world. I have to put it down the garbage disposal. I can — and should, for my own sake — buy less. But even that would not get the food to those who need it.
It takes more than a curb on wastefulness among the well-fed to fix this problem. It requires a will and a determination to do it.
We’ve got plenty of food. We’re just not getting it to the people who don’t have any.
What would you do to end world hunger, if you were, say, a delegate to the United Nations?
I remember the swimming safety rules. One of the first was do not jump in the water to try to save someone who is drowning.
In their panic, they will latch onto you and drag you down with them.
The instructors went through dramatizations. One would pretend to drown, the other would jump in to “save” them and be promptly pulled under by the flailing arms of the “drowning” one.
After this graphic presentation, the instructors would show us the better way. Take a pole they said, as they lifted one of the long poles on the side of the pool, and extend it to the drowning person. Remain on the side of the pool, on dry concrete, while you do this. They extended the pole to their “drowning” colleague who reached out for it and was pulled to the side of the pool without mishap.
It was a great lesson in how to help and survive the act of helping. It would work at any well-equipped pool when the drowning person was still above water.
However, what do you do when you’re at a lake and the drowning one is too far away for poles and you don’t have a pole anyway? Do you just stand there and let them drown?
I suppose a wise person would always have a pole of some sort with them when they swim. That way, they could, at least theoretically, swim out to the person in trouble, extend the pole and then pull them back to safety. Of course, a panicky person is perfectly capable of coming up the pole at you and overwhelming you, anyway.
People are only tenuously at home in water. It’s not our natural habitat. Everything we do there is in some way a work-around, and those work-arounds can fall apart and leave us in trouble all too easily.
Drowning is evidently a quiet affair for those who observe it. People can drown right beside us in the water and we may not know it until it’s too late.
All these facts converged on Elizabeth Duffy, who blogs about perspectives on Catholic life, family and culture here at Patheos, when she was enjoying an early-summer swimming outing with her kids. Elizabeth nearly drowned, and her young son along with her. She was trying to rescue her child and his panicky latching onto her almost took them both out. Meanwhile, her other children continued to play, unaware that Mom and brother were in such peril.
It’s a gripping read about something we all hope never happens to us. The remarkable thing is the way Elizabeth rose above the panic and thought her way out of this situation. Her post says in part:
I could see that my boy had stopped moving in any direction and was barely keeping his head afloat. Quickly, I overcame the cold, and dove under to swim out to him. I thought I would be able to latch him onto my shoulders and walk him in, but I had not anticipated the water being over my head where he was treading.
As expected, when I reached him, he latched onto me, but walking in to shallower water was not going to be possible. Nor was swimming, as his weight on me prevented my getting above water for a breath. I would have told him to turn on his back and kick towards shore, but I couldn’t give him any instruction. Each time I opened my mouth, it filled with water.
This is how tragedy happens. I was under water. I couldn’t communicate. The boy couldn’t swim. The other kids were stranded on a raft in rough water. The five-year-old was unsupervised on the shore, and no one was around. (Read the rest here.)
Is DNA protected from illegal search and seizure by the Fourth Amendment?
If you are arrested for, say, drunk driving, do the police have the right to take a swab of your DNA and put it into police databanks?
The Supreme Court says “yes,” and that answer has set off a predictable firestorm on both sides of the civil liberties aisle.
We’ve been debating this issue most acrimoniously for several years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Proponents of taking DNA from people who have been arrested compare it to taking a fingerprint. Since fingerprints are routinely taken at the time of every arrest and put into databanks, why not DNA? Opponents express concerns about forced self-incrimination and illegal search and seizure.
There is no right answer to either set of arguments. Both positions have merit. Both concerns are valid.
This is the sort of disagreement that good people get into when they try to make laws. For several years running, the opponents of this legislation have carried the day. Oklahoma finally passed a weakened version of the original legislation that allowed law enforcement to take DNA samples from convicted felons.
I understand the problem with putting people’s DNA into police databanks. If it is abused, it can be tantamount to fishing expeditions where police round up “all the usual suspects” in hope that something pops us. On the other hand, I also understand that DNA is more accurate than fingerprints. I doubt that it’s foolproof. Nothing is. But if it is processed and interpreted by people who are both honest and who know what they are doing, it is more reliable than any other kind of evidence we have today.
DNA is particularly useful in solving violent crimes against persons such as rape and murder. It can pinpoint a rapist. It can turn around and free an innocent person who has been wrongly accused. DNA has been used to free a number of men who have been convicted of rapes they didn’t commit, as well as a several men (Everyone I know about who has been freed this way is a man.) who were convicted of murder.
I voted for this legislation for these reasons, albeit with some trepidation. Police state fears and mis-use of evidence are not paranoia. They are a reality in much of the world and throughout history. For instance, we had a scandal here in Oklahoma in which Joyce Gilchrist, Oklahoma City Police Department forensic chemist, was convicted of falsifying evidence.
It’s difficult to balance the needs of criminal justice to gather the evidence they need to successfully prosecute criminals with the right of the populace to not be afraid of their government. Inserting DNA into this will complicate the situation and require a major re-thinking of what protections are needed.
When the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement may take DNA swabs from people who have been arrested, it made this job of thinking and re-thinking both imminent and necessary. I assume that when a Supreme Court Justice votes on a ruling, he or she does it with the same awareness that I have when I vote on legislation. I know that no matter how much I try to weigh the pros and cons, I may make the wrong decision. I have made wrong decisions. No matter how hard I try to do my best, I will make wrong decisions again.
Such is the human condition.
Whether or not the Supreme Court was wrong with this ruling depends on how it’s used by law enforcement. Whether it opens the door to abuses, or it ushers in an era of much more accurate prosecutions depends on the integrity of the men and women who use it. Given that we are fallen people living in a fallen world, abuses are inevitable. That is why we need strong safeguards.
Imposing those safeguards is first of all in the hands of state legislators like me. This discussion leads directly to the reason why I pray the Rosary every day. My constant prayer is that God will protect me — and everyone else — from my own stupidity.
I expect I will vote on issues that arise concerning the enforcement of this recent Supreme Court ruling. Legislators all over the country will be doing the same thing. Congress will probably get into the act, as well.
The goal in all this is public safety. Public safety has, as it always does, two components. The first is safety from the bad guys out there who hurt people. The second is safety from the government itself.
Remember Michael, aka Mikey, Weinstein?
It’s not a name that falls trippingly off the tongue, but I’m beginning to think it is worth remembering. Michael Weinstein recently penned a diatribe against Christians that hails back to the hate-speeches of every genocidal maniac spawned in the 20th Century.
He is a self-proclaimed “guardian” of Constitutional freedoms in the military. His backers include the usual list of suspects, such as branches of the ACLU, the former Oklahoma Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and various atheist organizations.
According to “Mikey,” Christians are (and I quote), monsters, bloody monsters, well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters, carpetbaggers, senseless and cowardly, bandits who coagulate their stenchful subtances in organizations such as the Family Research Council … and who disingenuously bellow mournfully like the world class cowards they are, fundamentalist Christian monsters of human degradation, marginalizaton, humiliation and tyranny, who have a putrid theology… of their rapacious reign of theocratic terror.
I could go on, but I’ll bet you get the point. “Mikey” Weinstein is a world class Christian basher and bigot who foments hatred toward a whole group of people and then blames them for his personal moral and emotional viciousness.
Sound familiar? It you’ve read the history of the dehumanizing language that precedes every mass slaughter of whole groups of people, it should. It’s especially repugnant that Mr Weinstein chose to quote Elie Wiesel at the end of the rant I’m referencing.
After Huffington Post published this hate-article, an internet rumor sprang up that Mr Weinstein held an official position with the Pentagon under the Obama Administration. I found no evidence of this. However, I did find a sort of denial about it from the Pentagon.
I decided to leave the question with that.
The reason I’m taking the subject up today is another Huffington Post article titled The Pentagon Most Certainly is Listening to Mikey Weinstein. A reader sent me a link to this article, and when I read it, I decided that it is something you need to know about.
The author, Chris Rodda, is the Senior Research Director at Mr Weinstein’s organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. She is also the author of Liars for Jesus.
Ms Rodda admires her boss. The article she writes seems to be in a race with itself as to whether it will attack Christians or express over-the-top praise for Mr Weinstein. She makes him sound like the kind of guy who can change the course of mighty rivers with his bare hands and jump the Pentagon in a single leap.
I say this to caution you: This article is almost certainly at least partly hyperbole and self-promotion by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. It claims that an individual representing 22 airmen who, the article also claims, were all Christians of various denominations, contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation because they were offended by a poster or painting (I’m not sure which it was) hanging on the wall of the Air Force base where they work.
I don’t know what part of this to believe. It comes from an organization whose founder and leader has published hate speech labeling Christians, and by derivation me, my family and just about everyone I love, as “rapacious, bloody monsters.” Just call me small-minded, but that tends to color my opinion of the organization’s integrity.
The real question here is not whether or not I admire Mr Weinstein’s assessment of my faith (I do not) but how much he influences things at the Pentagon. The part of the article which is pertinent to that question relays how Mr Weinstein reacted to the appalling threat to the Constitution posed by this painting. The pertinent part of it says (emphasis mine):
The question: Is this claim of Mr Weinstein’s personal influence with the Pentagon brag, or is it fact?
Since we are dealing with people who specialize in braggadocio and scalding hot rhetoric, it’s difficult to know for sure. I am assuming that the basic facts of the article are true; that there was a painting which hung at an Air Force base, that there was some sort of complaint and that maybe the complainers may have gone to Sunday school or something and are claiming to be Christians, and that Mr Weinstein complained and the painting was taken down.
As I said, I am assuming these things are true. I do not believe that this painting was ever a “threat to the Constitution.” Artistic vision, perhaps. But not the Constitution. I also do not believe that you can trust what these people say.
I believe Mr Weinstein is a Christian-bashing bigot. The language I read in his article is inflammatory, hate-filled and ugly. If he told me it was raining outside, I would get up, go to the window, and look for myself.
This leads back around to the question: Does this Christian-bashing bigot and his inflammatory, hate-filled rhetoric have some sort of gravitas at and with the people who run our military? That is a sobering question.
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