Note to Bishop Tobin: If You’re Looking for God in a Political Party, You Need a New Roadmap

Democrats vs republicans 34294548846

It is, in that grand Public Catholic tradition, roast and toast Rebecca time. 

Get out your flame-throwers and pitchforks folks. I’m going to talk about the two political parties. 

There are little g gods. And then there are little g gods. 

No little g god I’ve talked about on this blog draws quite the high octane, teeth-grinding I’ll-poke-a-stick-in-your-eye, flat-out mad as when I tell people that their political parties suck. When I pour on the gasoline and say things like they are both corrupt and you can not follow Jesus and follow either political party, I get walking-off, a pox-on-your-house-Rebecca disgust. 

The reason, I believe, is that we want an easy way out of our responsibility as Americans and Christians to engage the larger culture for Christ. When engaging that larger culture includes the rough and tumble world of politics, we really start scratching around looking for an easy way out. We want a pass. A haiku. A some little something to do that will make us feel good while we don’t risk much. 

We don’t want — all of us, including me — to go out there and take the hits that come from engaging the world, including our political parties — for Christ. 

Our problem is that the real Jesus, as opposed to the Hallmark Card Jesus, was a trouble maker. And He still is. Stick with Him in party politics, and you’ll end up getting booed and called names and probably nobody will eat lunch with you or talk to you. It will be time out in grade school all over again if you try even a little bit to follow Jesus first in the context of party politics. 

Nobody wants that. It hurt when we were kids. And it still hurts now that we’re grownups.

What we want — and we are willing to go along with just about any craven lie or manipulation of our consciences to get it — is a safe place where we can just vote straight party a few times a year and then shoot self-righteous arrows at all those fallen folks in the Other Party, which, we are sure, is the devil.

The truth is, boys and girls, as American Christians we have the power to affect how these political parties behave. But doing that means we have to do a few things. We have to,

1. Get up off our duffs and get involved in party politics at the local level.

2. Accept the fact that if we truly follow Jesus, we are going to be unpopular, whichever party we join. 

3. Stand for Christ even though we will get hit with brickbats and name-calling. 

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Deacon Greg Kandra wrote about Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, who recently made an announcement that he’s switched from Democrat to Republican. His reasons are sound ones. In fact, I know exactly how he feels. The Democratic Party, at least at the national level, has become the party of abortion. It is also the party of gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, and a number of other horrific things. 

If the good bishop feels that he can’t abide all this and wants to change his D to an R, I say go for it. However, if he’s got some idea that the Rs are going to be a safe haven where he can peacefully abide and get glad-handed and sucked-up-to without challenges to his leadership as a bishop, he’s living in fantasyland. 

Oh, he’ll get all the glad-handing, back-slapping and suck-uppage anyone’s heart could desire. But the no-challenges-to-his-leadership-as-a-bishop will only come if he hands over the keys to the party leadership and walks their wide and smooth way. 

My hope is that in all his newfound enthusiasm for political engagement he doesn’t sell out the farm to this party. He’s supposed to speak for Christ, and that means he needs to make sure that he doesn’t end up toadying to the Rs.

I’ve seen, up close and personal, how the Rs treat their toady clergy. My message to the bishop: You don’t want to be them. Not only that, but you can’t be them if you want to be who the Church says you are. 

There is plenty to address in the Rs economic and military policies that would keep the good bishop busy being a bishop and not a party stalwart, if he wants to do it. There’s also quite a bit he could do to get them off high center on some of the things that make Christians register R in the first place, such as life, family and religious freedom.

That said, anyone who is a D (like me) really does have their work cut out for them. If the Rs co-opt traditional Christianity and its religious leaders, the Ds are at war with them.

I could go on and on about HHS Mandates and gay marriage and falling down before the idol of Planned Parenthood, but you know the story. The point is, the official Democratic Party has lost its soul. It no longer even pretends otherwise.  

In my opinion — and this invariably raises combox ire — you can and will take this country and yourself both right down to hell by following either political party blindly. I also think that weak-as-water Christians have brought a lot of this trouble on us all by going along with their parties rather than following Christ. 

BroadandNarrowWay

Here’s the truth of it: There are plenty of Christians in both the Democratic and Republican parties, at least at the county and state level. But they’ve sold out Christ for the party line. They won’t stand up for Jesus because they want to be friends and pals with their other party faithful buds. They convince themselves to believe the drivel that these people talk, and the seriously evil drivel that sold-out, fallen religious leaders say to excuse the sinfulness of the party. 

There are a ton of sold-out, fallen religious leaders in both political parties. Go to any party convention, and you’ll see them there. They don’t speak for Christ when Christ’s teachings contradict the party’s teachings. Instead, they give tortured explanations about how Jesus really agrees with the party. They don’t use their prophetic and moral voice as religious leaders to speak for the light. They use them to give excuses for the darkness. 

These preachers have sold Jesus, and they’ve sold Him cheap: To be part of the R or the D.

I often — and I mean often — hear Christian people go on and on about “how can anyone be part of a party that is pro abortion” or whatever bad thing the Ds espouse. They do this right in front of me, as if they’ve forgotten than I am a rather public and unapologetic D. If I say anything, they tell me “Oh, you’re not like the rest of them.”

And they’re correct in that. I’m not “like the rest of them.” I try my best to do that thing which I believe down to the core of my political being that politically inclined people must do as their part to save this culture. I engage the party from a Jesus-first position. 

That is what I am trying to get the readers of this blog to do. Engage your political party with a Jesus-first outlook.

Stand. For. Jesus. 

Not the R or the D. 

There is nothing wrong — and I mean nothing — with being part of either political party, if you go into it with that attitude. 

In fact, I would say that there is something exactly right about it. 

Jesus told us to be the light of the world. But party faithful are faithful to the party first. Political Christians, whether they are R or D, almost always end up hiding their light under the party loyalty bushel.

My note to Bishop Tobin is that if he’s looking for God in a political party, he needs a new road map. He’s already in the place where people can find God, and that’s the Catholic Church.

I do not mean to say or imply in any way that Bishop Tobin should not be engaged in America’s political struggle. I back the bishops completely in what they are doing. But this nation is lost first in its soul. All the other things are just symptoms of that deep soul-sickness.

We need religious leaders who will equip the laity to fight the political battles by teaching and leading us in the Way of the Cross. The Church has the answer already and that is Christ and Him crucified. That, and not the R or the D, needs to be his message. 

Book Review: American Militarism vs the Kingdom of God

Fight To join the discussion about Fight A Christian Case for Nonviolence, or to order a copy, go here

Fight is an ironic name for a book that is a polemic on the Christian call to nonviolence.

The book’s author, Preston Sprinkle, wrote the book in response to and as a conversation with America’s militaristic evangelical community. Even though I have a few problems with some of his interpretations of specific scriptures, I think he’s got a point. In fact, I think he’s dead-on accurate in many of his conclusions.

I remember seeing a video of one of our preachers here in Oklahoma City. This preacher was speaking (I can not regard his speech as a sermon of any sort) to a thoroughly roused-up and enormous congregation. Since the speech was going out over the airwaves, his actual audience was much larger.

This preacher was charging up and down the stage, mike in hand, using all the theatrics at his disposal. He would bend over and lower his voice to make a bottom dropping point at one place, and then straighten up and shout out his next point. It wasn’t a sermon. It was a performance.

And it wasn’t even vaguely Christian.

This man was taking verses out of the Bible to weave a totally fallacious case that somehow or other Jesus supported invading Iraq.

He had his audience in the palm of his hand. After all, most of them came to this particular church because they liked performances for their sermons and because they wanted “christian teaching” that would get them going emotionally while making them feel great about whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

The audience cheered and yelled like they were at a football game.

I haven’t seen many things that disgusted me more than this performance sermon and its clearly heretical mis-use of Holy Scripture to support a war.

I knew, even then, that the whole Iraq invasion was a sham. This was an unnecessary war that we were going into for reasons that had nothing to do with what we were being told. I have never understood why anyone would have had trouble seeing through the excuses for this war.

I also saw that if America’s Christian community did not stop using Christ to justify war, it would eventually destroy itself. People will follow the theological heresy of militarism so long as if feels good. But, as Europe has shown us, bombed out buildings and gas ovens do tend to dim the luster of it.

War is an almost preposterous evil. The Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, the same General Sherman who burned Atlanta and waged war on the civilian population in his infamous march to the sea, said that war is hell.

He was right.

A friend of my husband’s went to view the federal building after the bombing here in Oklahoma City. “That is nothing,” she said as she gazed at the ruins. “Nothing.”

She had lived through war waged on a large scale. She had, in her youth, seen whole cities razed to bombed out hulks, human beings burnt to ash as they hid in their bomb shelters.

We are so soft when horror comes to us. We can not bear our losses, cannot abide our pain. But we treat war itself, which is savagery writ unimaginable, as if it was a computer game. Maybe we do that because we can switch our wars off in the same way that we switch off computer games.

There is very little reportage of what is happening on the perpetual warfront that America has embarked on. We bomb and slay without the rest of us here at home knowing about it. Our best hint of what is happening is when we see our own soldiers, returning to us with shattered bodies and — often — shattered minds.

Something ugly is out there on the other side of the endless rambles of the talking heads debating their endless gaffe reporting about what some politician said to a friend in an elevator or mumbled under his or her breath when he or she thought the mike was off. Something really ugly is out there, but we can’t see it, don’t know about it.

Our only real intimation is that we hear constantly about our national debt. We are told that the cause of this debt is us. It’s Social Security and Medicare. It’s the public schools. The whole debt and economic malaise of this country is the fault of those who pay the bills: The American people. No one mentions, no one even whispers, that we are funding a war colossus that asks for more, more, more ever single year and has been doing so since World War II.

We never talk about that 800 lb gorilla sitting in the middle of the room eating all the bananas. Such talk would be unpatriotic. It would mean that we don’t want to “defend ourselves” against all those people out there “who want to kill us.”

Militarism is a false idol. It is also, according to the author of Fight, anti-Scriptural and anti-Christian.

Fight takes the reader on a survey of the Scriptures from the viewpoint of looking at God’s teachings about war and militarism. Notice that militarism is a category that is distinct from war. One is an action of government-sponsored violence. The other is an outlook, a belief in war itself. It is an idol.

A large part of what Mr Sprinkle writes about the Old Testament necessarily focuses on discerning what God meant, rather than what He said. This is important to all Christians because the Old Testament seems in many ways to challenge the New Testament. Western Civilization is at its best when it is responding to the clear teachings of the New Testament, and at its worst when it looks for excuses for its murderous impulses in the Old Testament.

How are Christians meant to understand the seeming contradictions in attitude between the two covenants?

Mr Sprinkle does a fine job of presenting his answer to this, at least so far as it concerns war and war making. Fight is a well-written, well-researched presentation of his viewpoint concerning violence, war and the call of all Christians to follow Christ, even to the cross.

I don’t honestly know what I think about some of the points he makes. I need to think them through first before I can say. But I do think the book is a good read that opens a debate American Christians need to have.

I do not want to see Christians in this country fall into the trap that Christians fell into in Nazi Germany of supporting militarism right down to the pit of hell.

I am not and never have been a pacifist. I believe in self defense. That would seem to put me outside the ideal Mr Sprinkle is advocating. However, I cannot deny that his presentation is compelling.

My main interest in his book is that it starts a needful conversation. I remember that preacher charging around the stage, preaching what was clearly the heresy of militarism to a cheering crowd. I see this country edging ever closer to economic ruin while we feed our resources into the maw of a war machine. And I know that we must change or die.

 

 

little g gods, the Real God, and Finding Your Way Home

Deacon greg

I want to congratulate Deacon Greg Kandra

He has managed to make the devil mad at him. 

How do I know this?

Some of the devil’s hate mail to the Deacon has been landing in my box here on Public Catholic. Not much, mind you, but it is mindlessly nasty stuff. 

How did a kind and intelligent man like Deacon Greg Kandra inflame the devil so much?

He stood in front of a camera and said that the Catholic Church loves gay people, but that sex belongs in Holy Matrimony, between a man and a woman. He included both gay and straight people in this injunction concerning sex outside of marriage.

The reason for the hate mail is that, by stating this 2,000-year-old consistent teaching of the Church, and indeed, up until the last few years, all Christian churches, he crossed swords with one of the false gods of this world. 

For many people and indeed a growing number of churches, god the (little g) god, resides halfway between their waist and their knees. His worship is random sex, his vestments are contraceptives and his sacraments are azt, penicillin, abortion, et al.

Sadly, many of the “Christian” churches are in the process of walking away from the real God to follow after this little g god of our age. They’re drop-kicking the commandments off the front steps of their churches and replacing them with “statements” they write themselves full of meaningless gibberish about “inclusiveness and tolerance,” which basically mean that their little g god follows the world in pelvic region worship and eschews the Christ of the Cross. 

Down the road we have other churches which give a lot of lip service to the commandments involving the pelvic regions of the human body, but twist the Scriptures in much the same way their heretical brethren do on other matters. Their little g god is the almighty $ sign. 

I’ll talk more about that later. The point for now is simply that little g gods are being worshipped in lieu of the real God in many of our churches. 

Whatever your sin, you can go find a little g god worshipping church to tell you that (a) it’s not a sin, and (b) the people who claim it’s a sin are in fact sinning when they say it. 

Spiritual warfare

However, that’s not enough. The devil who is the real little g god behind all these false idols, is a ravening hunger that craves annihilation. He can not rest so long as there is one matchstick of light and truth out there, anywhere. He doesn’t attack the little g worshipping churches. It doesn’t matter to him if he’s snared them with their lust for sex or their lust for money. Their light is cold and dead and they are his.

What he attacks — and as the world grows darker, his attacks become more focused — is any beam of the light of the real God, anywhere. 

I don’t think it’s an accident that the Church which is under the most aggressive attacks today is the Catholic Church. The devil appears to hate the Catholic Church above all others. Why should this be so?

After all, the Church is full to the top with sinners. We’ve got all-too-human priests trying to shepherd a laity that aborts, divorces, lies, steals and watches porn. All of humanity is represented somewhere in the Catholic Church, including every single human sin. 

So, why would a Church like that make the devil mad? 

Because, this Church, for all its failings, does not put a little g god on its altars. Its sacraments are conduits of grace and the real presence of the living Christ. This Church will not tell people that their sins are ok. It does not comfort them and sustain them and support them in their sinfulness as it leads them down the wide path to their own eternal damnation. This Church, for all its many faults, is not in league with the devil.

Unlike the rapidly multiplying fallen churches out there, the Catholic Church does not encourage people to sin. It tells them their sins can be forgiven, but they must repent of those sins from the heart and try to change their ways. The Catholic Church doesn’t teach sin, it forgives sin. 

And for that, it is hated. For that, it is attacked. For simply saying that the Church is following Christ with its teachings, even little people like me can get smacked with a few brickbats. 

Sometimes, I get the by-blows of attacks that are really aimed at someone I admire. In this case, that someone is Deacon Kandra who had the honesty to tell people that the Church loves them and stands ready to support them in their life in Christ, no matter their sexual orientation, but that their sins are, in fact, sins, which need the forgiveness of God.

These poor, sad souls who come swooping in over the internet to drop their load of anger need prayer. They are lost and their fallen churches with their little g gods are even more lost. I am talking about pastors, and even whole denominations who claim to be shepherds of souls, but who deliberately lie to people about the state of their souls in order to be popular in the here and now. 

This is sad beyond sad. 

We need to do two things.

Silhouette woman praying

We need to examine our own hearts and cast out everything that comes between us and Christ. We need to pray for forgiveness and the grace to follow Him faithfully through the minefield of this world. 

Then, we need to pray for our fallen brothers and sister who are being misled by little g god worshipping pastors and churches. We also need to pray for these churches and pastors. They are in grave peril.

We need to do this because rewriting a church’s mission statement doesn’t change anything but the church’s mission statement. The reality of sin and death, salvation through the cross and eternal hell still exist. Coming onto this blog or staging demonstrations that involve yelling and insulting and throwing tantrums to demand that God change the way things are doesn’t accomplish anything, either.

These things may feel like they are accomplishing something. They can bully other people. Enough of this kind of thing can get laws changed. It can even push whole denominations into denying themselves and re-writing who they are. But no amount of wind-milling temper tantrums can change the ultimate order of things. 

God is God and we are not.

Little g gods are just reflections of our worst, most venal selves in action. Following them leads us wandering in circles in the wilderness of life. 

However, we don’t have to be lost. If fact, we are only lost if we chose to be. There is an easy-to-follow, readily-accessible, true compass that will lead you home. That true compass is the 2,000 year old consistent teachings of the Catholic Church. 


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