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Book Review: Face to Face with Jesus

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To join the discussion about Face to Face with Jesus, A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love, or to buy a copy, go here

Face to Face with Jesus is a book for our time. Not because it deals with a Muslim girl’s conversion to Christ, but because it teaches every Christian about our own call to faithfulness.

Samaa Habib met Jesus in a powerful conversion experience. I know from my own conversion experience that, once you meet the living Christ in this way, you will never be the same again.

Every convert who has walked a path outside Christ will be forced to choose Jesus again and again as the tentacles that link them to their other life are amputated one by one. My advice to all Christians is to read this book and do it like Samaa did it. Don’t do it in the step-by-step, trying-to-cling-to-the-people-of-your-other-life way that I did it.

Samaa never stopped loving her Muslim family, even when they beat her for her faith in Christ and tried to force her to renounce Him. Instead, she prayed and fasted for them. It took much tragedy and suffering, but in the end, her entire family came to know Jesus.

Instead of hiding her light under a bushel as most of us do, she spoke of her faith to everyone she met. This resulted in threats to her life, shunning and persecution. But she never stopped speaking of Jesus.

As I said, this is a book for our time. We are under attack here in America. This attack is relentless and it is gathering steam. Samaa’s witness is for us, as well as all the rest of the world.

I don’t have the native courage that Samaa has. From what I’ve seen, most other American Christians do not have it, either. But in Christ, we can do all things.

The keys to Samaa’s walk with faith are worship, prayer, study and fasting. She went to worship services, even when it meant risking her life. She prayed deeply and often. She studied Scripture. And she employed fasting as a means of intercession for the conversion of others.

Her route to God was through a charismatic congregation. She was introduced to Jesus by charismatic missionaries who had left the safety and comfort of America to go to her country and evangelize for Him.

Even when jihadists bombed their church and many people were wounded and killed, they did not stop. Samaa was terribly injured in this bomb attack. She experienced a near-death experience in which she made a choice to give up her martyr’s crown and come back to bring more people, her family in particular, to Christ.

Reading this book inspired me to pray more. The ever-growing evil in our society saddens me deeply. I need to talk about this sadness with Jesus.

I recommend Face to Face to Jesus to all Christians. It is an inspirational story that teaches courage in Christ for our times.

Nobody Asked My Opinion. But that Doesn’t Stop Me from Giving It.

Patheos has been running a debate among high-profile thinkers about Christian engagement in politics.

I am not in the league of the intellectual/social/pundit gravitas of the writers who have addressed this. Also, nobody has asked my opinion. But that doesn’t stop me from giving it.

Let me begin by saying that political Christianity as it has been practiced in America for the past four decades is heresy. It is based on the totally incorrect but implicit teaching from a lot of wing-nut preachers, religious leaders and religio-politicians that righteousness before God is to be found in how you vote and who you hate.

That is heretical. It is also anti-Christ. It teaches self-righteousness, encourages slander and leads people away from the cross, not to it. It is the astral twin of the same kind of co-option of the Christian moral voice that took place in Nazi Germany.

Political parties have “claimed” the Christian moral voice as their means to getting votes to gain power for themselves that they then use to allocate the budget and government favor to those who pay the parties’ bills. They have not delivered on any of their promises to the Christians who blindly voted in their column, and they will not. That was never their intention.

This heresy of a political christianity (little c) has done a great deal of harm to the moral voice of real Christianity at a pivotal time in the moral decline of our nation. It has also, as time has passed and people have begun to gag on its hypocrisies and obvious lies, declined in its vote-getting ability. This has happened at the same time that members of the public who are disgusted with political christianity and who have become diametrically opposed to it have reached a critical mass in key electoral states and can now be big players in the outcome of presidential elections.

In other words, political christianity has become something of a liability to the people who have used it to gain power for these last four decades, largely by virtue of the fact that it has diminished and tarnished real Christianity in the public eye to the point that real Christianity itself is becoming besieged in the larger culture.

To put it bluntly, the smart money is beginning to be on the anti-Jesus crowd and for this reason, the smart money is backpedalling on their aggressive “moral” stands, which were nothing more than political poses in the first place.

Since Christianity has spent so much of its moral capital in lending itself to the election of people who are nothing more than puppets of an amoral corporate conglomerate, it is floundering a bit.

What to do?

Should Christians (real Christians) withdraw from the pubic sphere, head for the hills and comfort one another around the hidden campfires of our faith? Should we drop all pretense of taking our beliefs into the court of public opinion? Should we stop taking a stand for the things we believe because those beliefs no longer resonate with large groups of very vocal people?

Should we get smart in the worldly sense and go along to get along, even if that means giving up on what has been basic Christian teaching for 2,000 years?

Should we, in short, tuck tail and run now that the pay-off has become a pay-back?

That is what a good many political christians who have capitalized on the naiveté of the earnest believers they led into this heresy decades ago are hoping. Shut up and leave us alone, they tell their befuddled flocks. We’ve got deals to do and this morality stuff is no longer helping us do them. It has become a liability we want to shuck.

The answer, at least so far as I’m concerned, is that yes, the political christians who were using real Christianity to gain power for themselves need to take off their lamb’s wool and be the wolves they always were. I also think that the many political preachers who’ve been teaching the heresy of redemption through politics to their flocks need to stand down. In fact, I think a lot of them need to leave the pulpit altogether and go into the wilderness to find their Lord.

Does this mean that I think that Christians should give up on the sanctity of human life and holy matrimony, or that they should stop being engaged with the world?

Absolutely not.

We are the light of the world and we need to be that light. That is true especially now when we are becoming besieged and battered by a culture that is (rightfully so) turning its back on the heresy of political christianity.

There is a difference between genuine belief and political expedience. This difference manifests itself in a number of ways, one of which is standing firm when things go wrong.

My advice to Christians is that they should not become cowards about their faith because people who were using Christianity for their own purposes have begun to desert the ship. That’s what rats do, you know. Let them do it.

But you stand firm.

Catholics are being challenged by a Pope who is deliberately and directly addressing this heresy of political christianity and calling us to take on the whole Gospel of Christ. Political christians and their phoney-baloney religious leaders have taught a shorn and neutered political gospel that they have mis-interpreted to fit the political fashion of one or the other of the two political parties for a long time now. They have many well-intentioned but deluded followers.

There are several generations of American Christians who have grown up being taught the heresy of political christianity as if it was real Christianity. When Pope Francis goes in your face with this heresy and teaches us the whole Gospel instead of a truncated corporatist version of it, these people are confounded and offended. Some — perhaps many — of them will not follow the Pope, but denounce him for his failure to validate their allegiance to the false gods of political christianity.

That is sad, and it rests entirely on the doorstep of the political christian leaders of the past decades. By that I mean the same exact christian leaders who are now trying to turn the political christian ship away from the very things they once trumpeted as “non-negotiable issues” for “serious” catholics, or, ‘serious” christians.

There is no reason for people to be dismayed or frightened by all this. Christ will prevail. All we have to do is follow Him and not some bogus political christian leader who is manipulating us to maintain his or her access to the political halls of power.

There is no better way to do this than to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church as they are elucidated by His Vicar, Pope Francis.

Should Christians be engaged in politics?

Absolutely.

We are the leaven, the light, the salt and the hope of this fallen world. Involvement in politics is not our mission, it is an expression of our fidelity to Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives, including the political. For those of us who have a calling to active involvement in politics, this expression becomes both more compelling and more fraught than it is for those who are called to live out their faith in other arenas.

But America is somewhat unique in that every citizen is to some extent a politician. Government of, by and for the people is not only a privilege, it is a responsibility. No American can shrug off their responsibility to vote according to what they think is best. If you are a Christian, then what you think is best will be in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. To that extent, every Christian is political.

Genuine Christian involvement in politics at any level must be indifferent to party loyalties and the various demagogues who try to exploit our faith. You cannot follow Christ and these bogus religious leaders with their bogus gospel both at the same time. They lead down entirely different paths.

As I said earlier, I believe that the best way to follow Christ in any endeavor, including the political, is to be faithful to the teachings of the Gospel as interpreted by the constant, 2,000-year-old teachings of the Catholic Church.

We don’t need to re-invent the wheel or re-write the Gospels. We just need to be faithful to our call, which is always and forever, the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Battle of the Bulls

I want to write about the possibility of a government shut down this week, and I will write about it.

But today I’m up to my ears in alligators, family style.

So … I’ve decided that this post I wrote at the end of a legislative session here in Oklahoma might start you off. It doesn’t deal with the specific issues at hand, and the federal stand off is almost breathtaking in its ruthlessness. What I’m describing here is healthy political give and take. However, much of the psychology is the same. Read, and think about it. Then, we’ll take up what’s happening now tomorrow.

We shut down the session Friday and it wasn’t pretty. Oklahoma‘s constitution requires that we end the legislative session by 5 pm on the last Friday of May each year. What that means in the real world is that no matter what else we do, we must pass the budget by that day. Otherwise, all the money stops and the lights go out all over the state.

We did manage to get to the finish line with a budget of sorts, but not without a lot of drama. We skated to the edge of the cliff more than once in the last week, always barely avoiding the messy business of adjourning without funding the government. Egos were bruised, names were called, deals were done and legislators and staff drove themselves past simple exhaustion into incompetent somnabulence in the process.

By the end of session, most of us weren’t fit to drive a car, much less make laws for millions of people.

This annual exhibition of legislative histrionics makes the voters mad. In fact voter anger is why we have to shut it down by 5 pm on the last Friday of May. Back in the day, we used to cover the clock with a towel or sheet or maybe some unlucky legislator’s jacket, and just keep on fighting. We went right around the dial, 24-7, until the deals were done. The people of Oklahoma, in a disgusted pique, passed a constitutional amendment by means of a referendum petition that required us to take at least 8 hours off each day and to end the session on the aforementioned last Friday of May.

It was a good idea, but good ideas are very seldom a match for human nature. That’s the force driving these annual end of session train wrecks; testosterone-fueled human nature. The Oklahoma legislature is run by people with y chromosomes. It always has been. I don’t want to sound sexist, but it’s just a fact that when men who have more ego than brains start shoving each other around, the discussion quickly descends to an unacknowledged battle over who is the real alpha male around here.

All the talk about “the people” and “policy” and “rights” devolves down to who has enough manhood to make the other guy do obeisance.

I may get myself uninvited to lunch with the boys for saying all this. It’s definitely not politically correct. But it is the truth. Decisions are made which affect the lives and futures of millions of people, including people who haven’t been born yet, based on this chest-thumping battle of the bulls.

Those of us who don’t have quite so much testosterone get into it, too. Female legislators are quite as capable of standing our ground as the guys. The difference is we usually have some vague notion of why we’re actually doing it, and we aren’t nearly as likely to offer to “take it outside” and “settle it there.” In fact I can honestly say that in all my 16 years as a legislator, I have never threatened anyone with a right hook to the jaw for disagreeing with me.

Remember: This is Oklahoma. I’ve seen legislators come to blows more than once in my tenure in office. A year before I was first elected in 1980, one legislator brought a gun onto the floor of the House with the intention of shooting one of his colleagues. I met one of the legislators who disarmed him when I was elected the next year and married him a couple of years after that. Two kids and almost  30 years later, we’re still together.

I expect some people will be upset by this view from the inside of the legislative rumbles. But I have to admit, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind the yelling. I don’t mind the fist fights. I don’t mind the shoving and threats and bombastic carrying on. I don’t mind because, messy and ridiculous as it sometimes is, it’s also democracy in action.

I would much rather see a messy session shut down where everyone noisily had their say than a well-mannered tea-sipping shut down where only a few powerful nabobs made all the policy. We practiced hard-ball politics this week, but we also stopped some horrifically bad bills from becoming law. I am convinced that we saved lives and protected the state’s economy from ruin by the moves we made. It took both parties and every single one of us to do it.

I was so tired last Friday that I was dizzy-headed and nauseous. I had to concentrate to vote correctly on the rapid-fire procedural votes that we were shooting at one another, something I can usually do on automatic. I saw other legislators start making speeches on the mike when they were recognized to ask a question, debate the wrong bill and repeatedly get befuddled about what they were trying to do.

All of this was exhaustion, and exhaustion to that level when you’re making law is not good. It also wasn’t necessary. We wasted a lot of time twiddling our thumbs in the days leading up to this; time we should have spent hearing bills in a more judicious fashion than this last-minute onslaught.

But I still prefer that to any “reform” that would tamp down on it. When you bring  150 people together from all over a state as big as Oklahoma, from rural folks who live in counties with more cattle than people to city dwellers who worry about gangs, you’re going to get disagreement. The only way to avoid it is for some of them to sell out the people they’re representing.

That’s what usually happens. I’ve seen it over and over. I saw it this session. But something happened this last week and the House members rose up and started representing their constituents. That’s how the bad bills died.

But bad bills which are pushed by powerful people who stand to make a lot of money from them don’t die easily. The resulting fights were why we were all so tired.

Was it worth it? Oh yes.

But I’m sure glad I don’t have to do it again this week.

Book Review: Resurrection Year

ResurrectionYear 1 To join the discussion about Resurrection Year, or to order a copy, go here

Infertility treatment grinds you down, both physically and emotionally. It involves taking large doses of hormones that make you feel lousy. Your blood must be monitored on a daily basis to make sure the hormone levels in your body are not getting dangerous, and you have to go through daily ultrasounds to check your ovaries.

There’s a lot more to it than what I just said; the pain of all those procedures and needle sticks, the emotional roller coaster and the repeated monthly disappointments. It not only costs a great deal of money, it makes it harder for the woman to work, tethered as she is to the fertility clinic and her over-charged body chemistry.

Infertility treatment is more than just medical treatment. It is an all-consuming way of life that can destroy a woman emotionally and spiritually, as well as damage her physically. It is stressful for the marriage and for relationships with extended family and friends.

I know about this because I’ve been through it myself.

Resurrection Year is the story of how popular Australian radio show host Sheridan Voysey and his wife Merryn dealt with the aftereffects of years of failed infertility treatment. This devout Christian couple was left devastated by the combined trauma of years of aggressive medical treatments and the loss of their dream to have a child.

It is striking that Merryn appears to never have reproached her husband, even though the infertility problem came from his low sperm count. The person she reproached was God. In her own words, the experience left her wondering if “God is a meanie.”

When Merryn told her husband that she wanted to move away from Australia and “have an adventure” by moving to a new country, he agreed to do it, even though it meant leaving behind his thriving career and literally starting over. Merryn had lost her first dream of motherhood, and he wanted to give her this new dream. They moved to England where Merryn found meaningful work at Oxford University, but Sheridan floundered professionally, unable to get started again in this new country that didn’t know him.

The first year they spent in England was their Resurrection Year. It was a year in which Merryn healed from her traumas and losses to be able to go forward in acceptance. It was the time she needed to get to know God on a deeper level and not only regain, but advance in her love of Him and spiritual growth.

Sheridan, too, ended up growing and advancing in his life in Christ. But his growth came from the pain of loss that he felt for having given up a career he loved to start over in the same field as a nobody once again.

What the book is really about is the give and take of marriage.

Merryn and Sheridan exhibited the kind of love that makes a marriage work. She, as I said, never rebuked him for the pain she suffered because she couldn’t have children. For his part, he not only gave up his career to help her dream a new dream, he did it without begrudging her the happiness she found in moving to England and without becoming bitter or angry toward her over the pain he experienced while re-starting his career.

I think the reason they were able to do this lies in their Christ-centered lives and their deep love for one another. Even when Merryn “lost” God in the depths of her pain, she didn’t turn her back on Him. She just honestly asked the question that everyone asks when life beats them up unjustly: Why?

She asked this question within the framework of the Gospels, the love of other Christians and her own best friend in this life — her husband. The answers she found in the Resurrection Year were the same ones that Christians have always arrived at when the pain is too much, and that is simply that we may not understand why in this life, but we do know that He is there with us in that pain.

Sheridan had to walk his way with less support from other people. Most of us don’t realize that loss of career is a loss every bit as real and painful as any other. It drives to the heart of our self identity and feelings of worth. It changes the way other people treat us and what we think of ourselves.

Sheridan suffered through this in the same way Merryn faced her grief; by walking with Christ and reaching out to other people.

Resurrection Year is a gentle book that doesn’t slam you over the head with conclusions and bullet-pointed lists of things you should do. Even though it talks specifically about recovery from infertility treatment and childlessness, its lessons could apply to any of life’s trials.

Perhaps its most important message is what it says about Christian marriage. The role of helpmate shifts from one spouse to the next, depending on the circumstance, throughout every good marriage. We have to love the people we marry, and we have to accept the limitations they bring with them to the marriage without reproaching and blaming them.

Resurrection Year is a good book to read on a Sunday afternoon. It is short and easy to get through. Its life lessons on how to love your husband or your wife are something we all need to learn and re-learn each day of our married life.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 1: Your Vote = Their Power

Your Vote = Their Power 

Politics is about power.

The two political parties are not political parties as we once knew them. They are consortiums of special interests. They operate on behalf of these interests for one purpose: to get and keep power.

Everything else they say is a lie.

The next time you feel like bowing down to your political party, remember this, and stand upright.

Don’t bend your knee to the R and the D. Register for whichever party, or as an independent, as you please. Vote according to your own understanding and conscience. I have no desire to influence you in that. But do not confuse your party’s trumpeting claims of moral superiority with actual moral superiority. Do not, ever, take the cross down off your mantelpiece and put the Republican elephant or the Democratic donkey in its place.

Both parties actively encourage such idolatry. They do it because they benefit from it. They win elections with the votes of people who slavishly follow them and believe in them as if they were Christ Himself. Winning elections is how political parties get power. Power is how they control the purse strings and the facilities of government. Power is the payback for lying to you.

They get power by lying to you. They keep it by almost but not quite fulfilling their promises. Holding you on a leash of unfulfilled expectations by always trying but failing to do the things they promised when you voted for them is axiomatic to making sure that you keep coming back to them again and again. If they actually did what they said they would do, the vote-getting engine would go dead. It takes showmanship and adept political choreography to create an unending series of cliff-hanger battles that will keep you focused and rooting for your team.

It also requires an excuse for repeatedly failing to deliver. Political parties have to hide the obvious. They can’t just say, sure we’re the party of life, but even after 40 years of trying, we’re still too dumb to find a way to overturn Roe. The other guys can’t say, of course we’re the party of the American worker, but we’re such idiots that after 40 years of deep thinking we still can’t come up with a way to stop exporting your jobs. Even the most besotted kool-aid-drinking party loyalist might gag on this.

So … what’s a political party to do when it has no intention of doing anything it says but it wants to make sure that the voters don’t figure this out? Easy. They tell you that the Other Party is the Devil. They claim that they are still your white knight, trying desperately to ride to the rescue, but the Other Party, those black-hearted wraiths from the deepest pit of political hell, overcome them in spite of their heroic efforts. The only way to make this work is if the two parties play off against one another so they can keep the attempt-failure cycle spinning. If either one of them decided that the thing to do was represent the people, the jig would be up.

In truth, political parties have no use for working people except for their votes. Political parties don’t care about either a woman’s right to chose or an unborn baby’s right to life. What they do care about is using those issues to motivate you to send them money and march to the polls on election day to deliver your vote.

That’s how they get power. Power is what they want, and they will tell you anything it takes to get you to give it to them.

It’s a simple equation: Your Vote = Their Power.

What about the various alliances political parties form with religious groups? You know, the lefty churches who have mutilated the Gospels one way to suit the Ds, and the righty churches who have mutilated the Gospels the other way to suit the Rs.

Here’s how that works when the television cameras are off. Religious groups don’t have the power of government. They can’t enact taxes or call up armies. They can’t pass laws or issue mandates. Those are all powers of government. However, religious groups do have a potent power of their own. People think their religious leaders speak for God. They listen to religious leaders because they believe in their prophetic and moral voice.

We live in a country where the way you get control of the power of government is to win elections. You win elections by getting lots of people to vote for you. You can’t win elections by telling voters “I’m going to go in there and represent special interests and do things that will take away your livelihood, cost you your home and that fly in the face of every moral belief you cherish.” That’s not a winning strategy. So, they lie.

But lies, when they are such obvious lies as these have become, need a cover. What better cover than the moral gloss of religious leaders, lending their prophetic and moral voice to your self-serving, special-interest-supporting agenda?

Party leaders don’t care about religion and they don’t respect the religious leaders they con into supporting them. I know this. Let me repeat that: I know it. I’ve seen heads of denominations go in to talk to legislative leaders. These preachers are all puffed up and sure of themselves when they walk in. They are certain that these men who they got elected and who promised them, gave them their word, that they would be for something like, say, pro life legislation, just don’t understand what they are doing when they are killing this legislation. These religious leaders are sure they can set things right. I’ve had them tell me so in just those words.

“I’m going to talk to him and set things right,” they say. They are so sure, so certain of themselves and their relationship with these powerful men.

Then, I’ve seen them come back out of those meetings on their knuckles and their knees, totally bamboozled and beaten.

What’s even more disheartening is that I’ve never, with the single exception of the Catholic Bishops, seen even one of these religious leaders stand back up like men and go to war with the legislative leader. They smarm around to me and tell me things like “I’ve got to maintain contact with the Speaker,” or “I don’t want to lose access.” One of them even told me, “He lets me have his personal cell phone number.”

They keep on supporting these liars. What’s worse, they let them kill the pro life bills behind closed doors and never call them to task over it. They support them in the next election, proclaiming as if it was true that this is a 100% pro life politician.

I want to emphasize that I have seen and heard this myself. I’ve seen it not once, but over and over with different legislative leaders in different sessions of the legislature. If you want to know why nothing ever changes, this is a big part of the reason.

This is painful to witness. It hurts. I’ve argued with these religious leaders and tried unsuccessfully to get them to grow spines. I’ve railed at these legislative leaders for being hypocrites and bullies. When I do this, religious leaders hang their heads and shuffle their feet. The politicians usually turn mean and try to take revenge on me inside the process somehow. As for me, I go home and pray and go to confession and then pray some more.

I cling to certain scriptures. One of my favorite Psalms has the words, “If I fly to the highest heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in hell, You are with me. Your right arm sustains me.” Another one begins, “Contend, Oh Lord, with those who contend with me.” And a third says, “Oh Lord, how many are my foes … many are saying to me, ‘There is no help for you in God. But you are a shield around me.”

I pray these Psalms and I ask God to remind me of my own sins, to not let me sink into the pit of self-righteousness or bitterness, but to help me remember that I am just an instrument in His hands, to be used as He sees best.

That’s how I get through it. But it is difficult, and it’s getting more so. The government is doing more and more harm to the people. It is even attacking the Constitution and our basic freedoms. Religious leaders who have allowed themselves to become shameless political groupies for the two parties feed the contempt that supports a surging secularism. There is a war on, and we are losing it.

If you are a Christian, the only side you have in this war is Jesus’ side.

We all want someone else to come in and do the dirty work for us. We want “them” whoever they might be, to save our country, protect our freedoms and work in our interests. That’s probably why we are so eager to believe the absurd, repetitive lies the two political parties tell us. But the fact is that if we want to be saved we’re going to have to do it ourselves, and some of the first people we need to be saved from are both these pernicious political parties and their lying manipulations.

My first bit of advice as I wind down Part 1 of this series is to take down the donkey or the elephant and put the cross back up on your home altar. Give up your false idol of political party and turn back to the Only God, the only One Who can save you, and me, and our great nation, America.

 

 

But Leave it There

I respected the woman speaking to me. She and I had the same background, shared most of the same beliefs. But we were at odds that day. She looked at me with the hot-eyed stare of a person who is not to be reasoned with and pointed her finger at me to emphasize her words.

“You can go to church as much as you want,” she said, “but leave it there.”

She was angry with me because I had passed a bill that, among other things, required unemancipated minors to either get parental consent or a judicial bypass before elective abortions.

The abortion wars destroy friendships in politics, and my friendship with this lady was ending over this bill. I could have said a lot of things to her that day, but I sensed some deep wound driving her anger, and I didn’t want to hurt her. So, I held my tongue. I knew as I walked away that this woman who had been my friend was now my enemy.

I also knew that her request that I leave my faith in the church pews was both arrogant and common. Accusations that people who believe in the sanctity of human life are trying to “legislate their religion,” or that they want to “build a theocracy” are standard commentary from the other side of the debate.

I try my best to never reply in kind. I don’t call people who favor legal abortion names. I don’t attack them for slips of the tongue or research their personal lives looking for sexual peccadilloes, embarrassing photos from long-past fraternity parties or ugly divorce testimony.

I do all I can to let them have the low road if they want it so much and keep my focus on the one thing I care about in all this, which is my simple belief that it is wrong to kill people. I won’t use my job to kill people. And I won’t help anyone else kill them, either. I know that sounds almost comically simple. But adhering to it in a legislative environment can get you cursed, reviled, slandered, picketed and, yes, advised to leave your faith at church.

I’ve been getting these demands that I be a sham Christian for years. Go to church all you want. We don’t care. But leave it there. The people who say this are usually in a froth of self-righteousness when they do it. They can look at you with such hatred that it almost scorches your skin. And they almost always toss in a canard about “separation of church and state” to give dignity to what is in reality an outrageous thing to say.

It’s ironic. People are always accusing politicians of being hypocrites, but in this instance we have a large segment of the population actually demanding it of them.

“Go to church all you want, but leave it there” has nothing at all to do with separation of church and state. There is nothing in the First Amendment that says that elected officials may not reference their personal religious and moral beliefs in the decisions they must make.

I don’t believe this lady was worried about separation of church and state. I think she wanted me to live and vote according to her beliefs rather than my own. That’s the core of these attacks. It’s that you’re not doing what they want you to, and attacking you with bogus nonsense about separation of church and state and building a theocracy sounds better than just pitching a fit and saying “Do what I tell you or else!”

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning has advanced far beyond me and what an angry lady said to me in the hallway outside the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Today we have the Health and Human Services Department of the United States Government telling the largest religious denomination in America virtually the same thing and backing it up with what amounts to a draconian threat.

Teach what you want from the pulpit they tell the Church. But if you don’t bend to the government and violate those same teachings in your institutions, we will fine and penalize you out of business. That’s the gist of the HHS Mandate compelling the Catholic Church to provide insurance coverage for birth control and abortifacients for the employees of its institutions.

What it all comes down to is that the Federal Government is telling the Catholic Church “Say mass as much as you want. But leave it there.”

And, yes, this time it really is a violation of separation of church and state.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 8. Hate-Voting = Using the Devil’s Weapons Instead of the Armor of God.

Hate-voting for Christ is an oxymoron if there ever was one.

Hate-voting is the fine art of defaming the people you disagree with in order to punish, diminish and hurt them. Hate-voting destroys your Christian witness. When you say you are a Christian, other people will judge Jesus by you. When you spout a steady stream of invective aimed at people you disagree with politically, you are telling the world that following Jesus means being full of hate, rage and engaging in slander.

Hate-voting destroys your witness for Christ. It also separates you from Him in your heart.

I have no right to attack other people in the name of Christ and neither do you. As the bumper sticker says, we aren’t perfect; we’re forgiven. Stop for a moment. Think honestly about your own sins. You deserve to go to hell. So do I. We are saved, by the horrible price of the cross, from getting what we deserve. We owe a debt we can never repay. We who have been forgiven so much, do not have the right … we don’t have the right … to put ourselves in the place of AlmightyGod and viciously attack other people made in His Image.

It’s not all our fault. We’ve been deliberately manipulated into hate-voting by political pros who make extraordinary amounts of money for getting us revved up and full of hate. Remember the first equation: Your Vote = Their Power? That’s what this expensive manipulation of little ole’ us is about.

Political demagogues abound in our world. They mouth hatred at us from their “news” desks in the corporate press. Faux religious leaders, bent on gaining political patronage, follow suit, declaiming slander from their pulpits. Over in the cheap seats, bloggers chime in by passing along scandalous lies and making up a few of their own.

The political candidates themselves wage campaign battles focused on personal attack and talking about the other guy. We almost never hear one of them talk about what they would do with the power of government if we gave it to them. Even when they do, they confine their discussion of “the issues” to bullet points and bumper-sticker-speak. Both sides do it. Every election.

So, hating isn’t 100% our fault. Anyone who spends too much time listening to the loony hate-filled invective that passes for political discourse in our country today will find hate-voting hard to resist. However, no matter how much we are provoked, no matter how skillfully we are incited, each one of us is responsible for what we say and do. We’re not children. Children don’t hate-vote. Hate-voting is, by definition, the act of a legal and moral adult. I don’t think the old “the media thou gavest me” tempted me excuse will work for us any better than it did for Adam.

Hate-voting gives us the fruits of another, darker, spirit than the one we claim to follow. It’s fruits are bitterness, anxiety, self-righteousness and grandiosity.  It’s like a drug that clouds the mind, and like all mind-altering drugs, it is highly addictive. Hate-voters become addicted to the satisfying sense of power that comes from hurting other people, the grandiosity they feel from elevating the person they oppose to demonic status and then seeing their vote as a high moral drama with themselves as the hero of the story. This sense of power and grandiosity is the high of the drug hate-voting.

The search for another hate-vote fix leads people to keep on piling on the invective between elections, and then to continue hate-voting over and over, election after election. The names and faces of the candidates they oppose change, but their self-righteous certainty that this person is the devil incarnate transfers from one candidate to the next.

Hate-voting is the antithesis of how a Christian should approach their responsibilities as citizens in a democracy.

There is something evil in each of us, me included. None of us escapes original sin. We take nasty delight in repeating vile accusations. We enjoy the feeling of camaraderie that comes with being part of the crowd that hates together.

On the other hand, we do not like the aloneness of being the one who says “Wait a minute. I disagree with this person, but I don’t think he or she is a monster.”

Anyone who takes this stand will immediately find themselves on the outs with the hate-voters in their world. It is never enough for hate-voters that a person is willing to stand and fight for the issues they both believe. They will only accept people into their tribe who are willing to cast aside their thinking faculties and join them in their invective and hate. It is a tribal thing, and it has nothing, nothing, to do with Jesus Christ.

The cost of refusing to join in with the gang hate-offs that inspire hate-voting can be, will usually be, the loss of that cozy in-with-the-crowd belongingness that feels so good to most of us. Following Jesus almost always means standing for Jesus against the crowd. It just does. This is true even when the crowd in question is a group of professing Christians.

The surprising benefit to it is that refusing to hate-vote tends to clear your mind. The addiction to hate, bitterness, and slander fogs your brain. It swings the door to your heart wide open and lets the devil sashay his way in to control of your life.  From what I’ve seen, the more you focus on other people’s sins, the more you forget about your own. The more you forget about your own sins, the more self-righteous you become. The more self-righteous you become, the further away from God you move.

Refusing to hate-vote doesn’t mean you also refuse to say the truth of the situation. It doesn’t mean that you make excuses for sinful acts and give up your intellectual and moral capacities to weigh, evaluate and decide the right or wrongness of policies and behavior. It simply means that you focus on the wrong that is done, and not the person. This will make you more effective in your stand for what you believe, not less so.

The early Christians were confronted with living the Gospel in a world far more hostile and pagan than our own. It must have been tempting for them to turn to violence and terrorism. But St Paul told them to follow another way. “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil,” he said.

And what is that armor that he spoke of? Was it swords and shields and clanking breastplates? No. It is righteousness, truth, peace, faith, salvation and the Holy Spirit.

There is not one word in this about calling other people names or tearing them down to build someone else up. St Paul further said, that they — and we — are not engaged in a war against people. We are fighting “powers and principalities.”

We can not defeat the devil by using the devil’s weapons. That is why I am so emphatic that we must stop attacking persons and begin talking about the ideas and ideals that we believe. We must lay down the sword of defamation and put on the armor of God — truth, peace, faith, salvation, the Holy Spirit and true righteousness born of a humble awareness of our own sinful state.

This brings us to our final equation. It’s simple to understand and hard to accept. But if we want to live as Christians, we must make the effort.

Hate Voting = Using the Devil’s Weapons Instead of the Armor of God

Co-Dependent Nation: Living in I Can’t Say No Land

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Raise your hand if you have a family member or friend with drug or alcohol problems.

Are your hands at your side? If they are, think carefully.

What about that cousin no one talks about? You know the one; the family embarrassment that you haven’t seen for years but that you know is out there somewhere, tippling, shooting up, snorting or pill-popping their way to an early grave. What about your high school friend who started missing classes and ended up missing in action for life?

Now. I’ll ask again. Raise your hand if you have a family member or friend with drug or alcohol problems.

Ok. Has everybody got a hand in the air? Good. Now we can talk.

If everybody was honest, there were a lot of raised hands. There is a whole lot of drinking and drugging going on. That leads to the conclusion that there is probably an equal or even greater amount of codependence going on alongside it.

My untutored, unprofessional, entirely observational definition of codendence is that it is the fine art of making excuses for and buying into the lies of miscreants in such a way that you help them continue misbehaving. Meanwhile, you sacrifice yourself for them and their lies.

Codependence creates miserable people with no self-esteem. Codependents feel guilty about things other people do, look for happiness in all the wrong places and constantly try to rescue people who don’t want to be rescued. It doesn’t just apply to drinking, or even to drugs. You can be co-dependent about any kind of bad behavior out there.

Codependence has insinuated itself into the fabric of our society. Co-dependent standards have become our society’s measure for judging human behavior and even public policy. They determine our way of thinking, reacting, and interacting.

Codependence is not only allowed and encouraged, it is actually enforced through the unwritten rules of political correctness, phony tolerance and a self-conscious refusal to “judge,” which has become a block to using our higher thinking faculties when dealing with other people.

This ubiquitous societal codependence adds the burden of willful intellectual blindness to anyone who tries to help or heal the fallen people of this world. We become so confused that we don’t know and can’t react when people are using us and our kindness in a callous manner with no intention of reforming. We are prisoners of our own good intentions, unable to judge, discern, or react in intelligent ways. We can’t set limits, have been shorn of the language to express our concerns, and feel guilty about protecting ourselves from abuse and mistreatment. We are co-dependent.

Our whole society is co-dependent. It is so co-dependent that the only crime we consider really wrong is child molesting. All other crimes, including the most hideous rapes and murders, become, in our twisted reasoning, something we need to “understand” and which we say the victim themselves probably helped cause. We are so co-dependent that the only actions we are willing to condemn are failures to be co-dependent.

Pity the poor soul with the temerity to say that violations of moral law, of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, are sins, and that sin is the root cause of our social ills. The public shaming meted out to “intolerant religious fanatics” and “theists” who dare say things like this is equal to none other.

That’s why people who run helping ministries find themselves in a guilty conundrum over the resentment they rightfully feel about being used by the using users of our society. The moral half of their ministry has been taken from them by political correctness and our universal societal sickness of co-dependence. We need to help people who are caught in the consequences of their bad behavior, and we need to do it with love. There is no place in a Christian ministry for the condemnation of persons.

At the same time, we need to give ourselves the freedom to know and say that there was bad behavior and that sin is its root cause. Part of helping a person who is trapped in out of control behavior lies in helping them heal from the immediate physical and emotional damage they have inflicted on themselves. They’re down and they need help standing back up. 

The other part of helping them is to help them not do it again. That means telling them that what they did was wrong and, if they want a better life, they have to change. It means working with and not against the Holy Spirit in convicting them of their sins. It means not making excuses for them or letting them believe that sin plays no part in their actions. It means never explaining away the harm they’ve done or the debt they owe to try to make it right again.

Codependence enforcers are fond of quoting the words of Jesus to the woman taken in adultery, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” They use this verse as a club to guilt Christians into joining them on the co-dependent band wagon that masquerades as love and tolerance. What they leave out is that Jesus also said, “Go, and sin no more.” He didn’t stone the woman caught in adultery. He didn’t condemn her. In fact He expressly said that He didn’t condemn her. But He didn’t pretend that she hadn’t done anything wrong. He didn’t cite her poverty or even the rank misogyny of the men who were trying to stone her as excuses for what she had done. “Go. And sin no more.” he said. “Sin no more.”

People who want to misuse scripture to justify themselves often pull a verse out of context. The irony here is that many of the people who quote this particular verse in this particular fashion aren’t even Christians. They’re secularists, trying to bully Christians into accepting the rules of this world instead of the teachings of the Gospel. What they are asking Christians to do is to lie to people; to tell them that sin is not sin, wrong is ok, and that the harm they do to others is in some mysterious way the fault of the ones they have harmed. This is not love. It is also not ministry. It is societally enforced codependence.

If codependence is a sickness, then we are a very sick society. Forcing our minds to shear lose from our ability to see and discern, to evaluate and decide in this way does great damage to our ability to think coherently. It has, over time, left us at the mercy of the most obvious propaganda and lies. It makes us easy marks for demagogues and corrupt politics that would defraud us of all we have. 

“In an insane society, a sane man must appear insane.” That’s a quote from Mr Spock of Star Trek fame. Unfortunately for us, this is one time when science fiction speaks truth. Going against the co-dependent flow will make you the target of those who have an interest in the way things are. This is nothing new for true followers of Christ. We live in this world, but we do not follow it. We are part of this time and of this world. But we are not just that. We are also part of the Kingdom of God and while we live in this time, this epoch, we also live in eternity. Even though we live and work in the here and now, our membership in the Kingdom coming, our life in eternity, has and will always have, prior claim on us.

We are called to be the sane citizens in our insane society. Our yardstick for evaluating ourselves and other people must never be the fashionably codependent measure of relativism. We must live by the Gospels, which means that we obey the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

We do it because God Himself told us to.

Christian Persecution: It is Time for Christians to Stand Together

Do you read the stories?

Christians burnt alive, beheaded, stabbed, crucified, shot, gunned down. Christians tortured, imprisoned, raped, sold into slavery. Christians unable to work, forbidden to worship, forbidden to train new priests. Bibles, crucifixes, religious medals banned.

Have you lived the discrimination?

Christians mocked, ridiculed, belittled, slandered. Christians constantly forced to defend their faith in the face of aggressive jerks who feel an entitlement to force their way into private conversations, push themselves onto web sites and chat rooms to denounce the faith and belittle anyone who has the temerity to refer to Christ in public.

Have you seen the bigotry?

Christianity and Christ Himself, belittled, slandered, mocked, reviled and constantly lied about in a repetitive way by people who evidently feel an entitlement to leapfrog into any discussion or situation and unburden themselves of their verbal offal.

Have you seen this? Are you aware of it? Do you understand what it means?

We are at a fulcrum. If we do not stand for Christ now, here, in America, there is a tsunami of persecution out there under the water, waiting for all Christians, everywhere, including here.

It is time, it is past time, for us to stop sniping at one another over our narcissistic God ownership issues.

I am a Public Catholic. People who hate Jesus, or people who hate the Catholic Church, often seem to view me as the receptacle for their hatred and spleen. I think I may have heard every repetitive, factually inaccurate bit of pamphleteering claptrap anybody ever used to attack Christianity, Jesus, or the Catholic Church. I’ve heard it all. Several times a week. For years.

I do not reply in kind. I try to answer what are unreasonable attacks with reason. I use facts against lies. I do my best to answer gently and to keep on answering, even if it means I have to say the same things over and over again.

I never, ever, ever try to poke holes in other Christian’s beliefs. I do not feel called to deliver long-winded analyses as to why their particular denomination is wrong. I don’t do it because I think this kind of behavior is both nonsensical and destructive.

I am going to say this as clearly as I can:

There is only one Jesus.

We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’ve said before on this blog that I think that if we had the power to judge, no one would ever go to heaven. We’d all condemn one another to hell. I believe that’s the truth of it.

We are fallen people, living in a fallen world. These attacks on one another at a time when we need to unite and stand together are a symptom of the burden of original sin that we all carry. They are, to be blunt, the devil’s work, his weapon against us that we use on one another. If we are arguing over these silly things with one another, we are also wasting time, energy and intellect that we could be using to speak for Christ.

Almost all the attacks on the Catholic Church which I have to deal with are based on claims that are factually untrue. The same goes for the many attacks that I hear against Christianity as a whole and Jesus in particular.

I believe that in both instances — the attacks on the Church, and the attacks on Christianity — the people who do it are really acting out their own narcissism. If they were even slightly interested in the truth they would have checked these things out themselves.

Christianity is aggressively attacked all over the world, including here in America. It is ignoble that we are arguing over whose church is the best while Christians are dying for Jesus in Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia, and parts of Asia.

Millions of Christians will go to sleep tonight under the blood moon of Persecution. Christians in America allow Jesus to be mocked reviled and slandered and duck their heads in shameful silence. The courts push every mention of Christianity to the corners of life. The HHS Mandate puts the government itself in the business of forcing the church to abandon its teachings or face crippling government fines.

What does it take to get our attention?

If we don’t stop bickering among ourselves and stand for Christ as one redeemed Christian people, we may well be the generation that lets freedom of religion pass from the face of the earth.

It is time, it is past time, for us to grow beyond our narcissistic claims of God ownership on behalf of our various denominations. It is time for Christians to stand together.


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