Archbishop Carey: Church of England ‘One Generation Away from Extinction’

“One generation away from extinction in Britain” is the phrase.

Lord George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, used it in a speech at the Shropshire Churches Conference.

The news stories I’ve read conflict as to whether he said that “Christianity is one generation away from extinction” or “The Church of England is one generation away from extinction.”

There are news stories with quotes around the phrases saying it both ways.

The point is still the same. Decades of blundering around, chasing the culture and trying to be politically correct rather than preaching Christ have taken their toll. Acceding to the monster of extreme secularism (which, when it’s carried to its most aggressive end is a form of tyranny that seeks to wipe out religious belief) has backed the church in England into such a tiny corner of insignificance that it can no longer behave as a church.

In an odd sort of way, this is exactly what I’m trying and failing to talk about when I keep calling for the leadership in the worldwide Catholic Church to stop talking to one another and begin talking to the laity and to use simple, direct language to do it. They must stop hiding behind mush-mouthed theology-speak and start communicating with the larger culture.

Lord Carey talks about a need for ministries for young people as a way to revitalize the Church of England. My advice is far simpler: Preach Christ and Him crucified.

When Church leaderships, whatever the denomination, fall in love with themselves and their access to the various halls of power, they have fallen for the first and most pernicious form of corruption Christianity can know. I see it in a small form at the Oklahoma legislature when I see religious leaders subvert the Gospel they claim to follow in order to cozy up to political power.

This form of corruption happens in both the right-wing and left-wing churches. It is done by both the Rs and the Ds, although I will say that the Ds are much kinder in how they treat “their” religious leaders who step out of line than what I’ve seen from the Rs. The point here is that I’ve seen religious leaders toss their religious leadership out the window in order to not lose their access to political power.

The Church — and by that I mean all denominations that make up the body of Christ — has become too much in love with the world and too addicted to sitting at the big table at the front of the room at political gatherings.

The reason the Church of England is foundering is that it has made too many accommodations of the Gospels of Christ to fit the various political and social fancies of the days through which it has passed. There is no reason to get up on a Sunday morning and go sit on a hard pew to hear the same social/political claptrap that you hear outside the Church. That is especially true when the social/political claptrap in church is spoken in a mumbly, sneering manner.

My family attended the Episcopalian Church (which is the American version of the Church of England) for several years. Our first vicar was a good man. When he left, the bishop put a replacement in who was, in my opinion, a charlatan. This man, who also taught at one of our universities, stood up in the pulpit and bragged about how he had destroyed the faith of a Southern Baptist student who had come to him for counseling in a time of doubt.

He preached that Christianity was just one faith among many and that the miracles in the Bible were lies and that most everything in the Scriptures was untrue. He didn’t believe in the trinity, the Virgin Birth or much of anything else.

Why would anyone continue to go to a church that preached this nonsense? These are not the words that lead to eternal life. This is the teaching of the evil one, wearing vestments.

This is, hopefully, an extreme example. But tepid faith and compromised Christianity deserve to die because they are not the words that lead to eternal life.

If you preach Christ and you don’t back down or run away when the resistance comes, people will begin to fill your pews.

The world is a butcher shop. Young people today are so damaged by the excesses of their parents with their divorces and obsessions about jobs and career and me, me, me lifestyles that vast numbers of them cannot marry and form families of their own. Their values are so degraded by the sex education and oppressive amoral training in relativism that they receive in the schools that they cannot see themselves or other human beings as children of God.

They are easy prey for any amoral, destructive teaching that comes down the road. They are ignorant of Christianity. When a young person asks, in all honesty, “Who is Jesus?” as a young person asked a friend of mine recently, you know that the culture is post Christian.

People are dying spiritually, our whole Western world is dying spiritually. This vast spiritual vacuum will be filled with something, and it will not, in the end, be atheism. That philosophy is too cold, hopeless and shallow to sustain a culture.

The question becomes what will fill the God-sized hole in the people today if the Church continues down its road of self-absorption and cowardly accommodation to its own demise?

The possibilities  are many, but the one true fact remains. Nothing and no one but Christ and Him crucified will suffice. Only Jesus Christ has the words that lead to eternal life. Our only hope as a culture and as individual people is the empty tomb.

People need Christ.

Let me say that again.

People need Christ.

They also need clergy who will stop pandering to the larger culture and preach Christ. The larger culture, which is increasingly dominated by the values of the pit, will react with anger to anyone who preaches Christ. The belittling, smearing and slandering will follow close on the heels of anyone who speaks for Jesus. That is no reason to stop doing it. It is confirmation of how badly it is needed.

The Church of England needs clergy who mean it. They don’t need ministries. They need faith. And courage. And conviction. And a willingness to live and die for Jesus.

Preach Christ.

The rest will follow.

From iOL News:

London – The Church of England is just “one generation away from extinction”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said on Tuesday.

Lord Carey laid the blame at the feet of Church leaders who he said should be “ashamed” of their failure to bring youngsters into their services.

His stark message was echoed by the Archbishop of York, who told the General Synod that compared to the need to attract new worshippers, “everything else is like re-arranging furniture when the house is on fire”.

The Most Reverend John Sentamu told the Synod – where leaders will debate how to persuade traditionalists to accept women bishops – that they spent too long “arguing over words and phrases, while the people of England are left floundering amid meaninglessness, anxiety and despair”.

Lord Carey, who stepped down from Lambeth Palace in 2002, remains among the most high-profile campaigners for Christianity in the country. He said: “We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We are one generation away from extinction – if we do not invest in young people there is going to be no one in the future.”

The series of high-level warnings about a looming crisis comes at a time when Christian belief and the Church of England appear under attack on a number of fronts. Recent census figures have shown a decline of more than 10 percent in a decade in numbers of people who call themselves Christian, and the courts have rejected a series of pleas from Christians for respect from the law for their beliefs.

Last month, one of the most senior judges struck a blow. President of the Family Division Sir James Munby declared the courts are not Christian and “the days are past when the business of judges was the enforcement of morals or religious beliefs”.

Ministers – who ignored the Church of England’s objections to same-sex marriage – have gone so far as to threaten the autonomy of the Church of England by hinting that the government will intervene to force its hand if it cannot bring itself to approve the appointment of women bishops.

Lord Carey’s warning was delivered in a speech at Holy Trinity Church in Shrewsbury as part of the Shropshire Churches Conference 2013.

Christianity in China

This video talks about Christianity in China. Christianity is growing, despite persecution.

It is interesting that the communists do not make Christianity illegal, they put it under state control. This is similar to the way that our government has begun to try to control Christianity here in America; by reducing the First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion to worship services in houses of worship and the privacy of our own homes.

This is tyranny.

 

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Ding! Ding! Ding! And We Have a Winner!

 

The Christian Bashers Defense team has pretty much taken over the comboxes on my recent post Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee. 

They are as predictable as mosquitoes. Just say something really true about their behavior, and they show up, armed to buzz bomb you until you go inside and close the door.

In this instance, I asked the simple question: Do Constitutional rights apply to Christians the same as everybody else?

The answer should seem obvious. But of course it’s not. The reason it’s not is the bullies who want to limit other people’s rights always get mad and deny what they are doing when someone calls them on it. They do it every single time.

We’re all supposed to join them in their pretense that there’s nothing discriminatory or offensive in their attempts to drive Christians from the public square. No one is supposed to challenge their idiotic pretense that using government controls to limit the free exercise of religion in this country is actually a push for freedom, instead of the tyranny that it is. 

If we can’t be agree with them, they want us to sit down and be quiet and stop contradicting them. If we don’t, well then, they’ll scream and shout until everybody gives up and lets them have the day.

It has always been thus. People who do things like this always deny it, and they always get mean when someone calls them on their facile denials.

That’s why this particular post ended up being dive-bombed by a whole troupe of angry combox mosquitoes. Even though the readership of this blog is heavily — and I mean heavily – Christian, the Christian defenders were outnumbered. In fact, only three stalwart souls tried to stand up for Christ in these arguments. In the end, it got down mostly to one stubborn Christian, who is hanging in there to this very moment.

For all that, this lone fellow managed to push the whole mosquito assault into a slow unwinding of their lies until, one of them just came out with it.

And I quote:

No one is forcing anyone to do anything. And no one is driving anyone out. But if it does not believe it can conscientiously comply with the law, the Catholic Church can sell its hospitals, schools, universities and charity organizations. And the church and its members have the right to protest and encourage that the law be changed.

Of course, that would dramatically change the face of the church in the United States.

And then the commenter goes on, blah, blah, blahing with a lot of stats (which may or may not be accurate. I haven’t checked.) about the Church’s holdings.

How about that? Not, mind you, that forcing the largest denomination in the country to “sell its hospitals, school, universities and charity organizations” if it won’t violate its 2,000 year-old religious teachings due to government demands that it do so might be …  ummm …. a slight violation of the principles of that fictional “wall of separation between church and state” of which militant atheist are so proud. Also, not that it might be an outright dismissal and abrogation of religious freedom as defined in the Bill of Rights. Nor that it might be just a wee bit of outright tyranny.

Nope.

It’s just deserts for those who have the temerity to think that their individual rights as free Americans amount to a hill of beans to the post Christian, militant secularist demands for moral conformity (with moral being defined by them and them alone) that must govern us all.

I want to remind you that this is about birth control and abortifacients. Nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to free birth control and free abortifacients. Also, nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to force other people to pay for your birth control and abortifacients, even, or in this case, especially if it violates their religious beliefs to do so.

There is, however, a pretty strong Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Not even President Obama is debating that. What he’s trying to do is re-define this Constitutional Right to the free exercise of religion along the lines of how it is defined in Communist dictatorships. He wants to say that freedom of religion is actually just freedom of worship and that only in governmentally prescribed “houses of worship.” And, oh yes, behind the closed doors of your own house.

FireSale

It takes a combox firebrand to just come out and say what all this truly means and where it leads. It is leading to stripping the Church of all its “hospitals, schools, universities, and charity organizations” in what would certainly amount to a fire sale. It means driving the Church out of public life, totally and absolutely.

There’s nothing dishonest about what this person said. In fact what’s powerful about it is that it is the truth of where we are heading. It is exactly where we are going if this tyrannical abuse of the freedoms of Christians as citizens of the United States is allowed to continue.

If the Obama administration succeeds in redefining religious freedom in these terms, it will  have destroyed the First Freedom of the American people.

And all this so that it could bend this country over and bow it down to the little g gods of abortion and death.

I want to thank the strong-hearted Christians who have hung in there during this debate. I encourage some of the rest of you to get in the game along with them. Standing up for Jesus is not a spectator sport. We all need to do it.

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Creating a Culture of Christian Persecution in the West

Instead of bashing one another, maybe Christians should unite against the barbarians at the gate.

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Militant Secularism, Atheism and Rising Legal Discrimination Against Christians

Martin Niemoller

Militant secularism is on the march throughout the Western world.

It began with court cases concerning what were clearly government entities in nature. The first court cases focused on things that were problematic.

It didn’t take long for these court cases to move past the clearly problematic to a frontal assault on any mention of faith in any guise in even the most quasi of public situations anywhere in the country. In a few years, it broadened to include attacks on Christian public officials, which I have experienced myself. Verbal hazing and hectoring became such a commonplace that many public Christians began to self-censor their remarks to avoid it.

The reason for this is that public life is difficult and insecure enough without adding extra problems to it. Public officials and other public figures get worn out from the constant harassment and misery of being attacked 24/7. Also, the use of slander and mockery, can, over time, destroy their reputations and make it impossible for them to do their jobs.

So, they backed down. They self-censored Jesus out of their vocabularies. It was easier to keep quiet about their faith than to take it on the chin, especially since most of the American Christian world was cocooned in a rock-a-bye world of their own and largely indifferent to what was happening.

However, public figures are not the only targets these days. More and more, the courts have become a means of harassment and oppression of Christians who are private citizens simply trying to live their faith in their private world. Thus we have bans on student-initiated prayers in school, censorship of religious viewpoints from valedictory speeches and, lately, the banning of Christian groups from college campuses.

It was and is the Martin Niemoller poem, coming to life again.

I wrote a post yesterday, Atheist Governments: Failed Experiments in Godless Goodness which referred to this situation. This post is an extension of that.

One of the more interesting examples of forced removal of Christian art from public grounds is the Soledad Cross. This cross was designed by architect Donald Campbell and is part of a memorial for war veterans.

Americans were outraged when Al Queda blasted ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan because they offended their religious sensibilities. But they do not see the parallel in the forced removal of religious art from public places in our own country at the behest of a well-organized movement of militant secularists.

Mt SoledadYou can find a list, of the cases the Freedom From Religion group in Wisconsin is involved in now on their website. I would guess that this list is relatively small compared to the numbers of threatening letters concerning Christian art, speech and actives that it churns out on what appears to be a continuous basis. The Supreme Court has ruled that historic monuments may be preserved, but there are no guidelines as to what constitutes a historic monument.

The deluge of court cases that are brought by a couple of groups and dumped on public entities, coupled with the threat of costly litigation, usually results in people backing down without a fight. This is using the courts as a club to bully and intimidate ordinary citizens into giving up their rights.

The ACLU has joined with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in some of these lawsuits. They have also filed suits of their own. They claim, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, that they are “defending” the Constitution and the American people from the dangers of statues in parks, plaques, and commentary in graduation speeches.

Both these groups often file lawsuits that are aimed, not so much at government policy, but the individual expressions of faith by government employees. They have worked assiduously to drive religion in general and Christianity in particular from the public square. In case after case they have filed suit against city parks, state governments, and courthouses all over the country. They have forced them to remove statues, and ban celebrations that smacked in any way of a Christian viewpoint.

You would think the mere sight of the Ten Commandments on a plaque was a threat to our liberty equal to say, banning prayer in schools, even when they are student-led, censoring personal religious comments out of student speeches or requiring college faith-based student groups to put atheists in charge.

Of course, that is exactly what has been happening in more and more places around the country. Here a few examples that I found of censoring student speech and attempting to force student religious organizations to admit unbelievers as members and leaders of their groups. I found these with a simple google search that took about 10 seconds.

Censorship of Christian’s Free Speech in Schools Christian’s Valedictorian Speech Censored by Principal District Pulls Plug on Speech  Attorneys Win Settlement in Cases Involving Censorship of Religious References from Valedictory Speeches Student Says Testimony About God Censored From Speech 

There are a number of cases of Christian student groups being kicked off college campuses because they refuse to put non-believers in positions of leadership in their organizations, or because they require that members be people of faith. There are many of these incidents. Some of them involve numerous press releases with denials and counter charges that go back and forth. However, I doubt that there would be any back and forth if the initial discrimnatory actions by the universities in question had not been taken.

Discrimination on College Campuses University of Michigan Kicks Christian Club Off Campus Campus Crackdown: Restricting Religious Freedom  Vanderbilt Christian Groups, Citing Religious Freedom, Follow Catholics Off Campus Rollins College Boots Student Religious Group Off Campus College Forces Christian Group Off Campus  Christian Groups Face Hostility on Campus  Universities Across Nation Kick Christian Groups Off Campus Christian Group Kicked Off Campus at Brown University 

If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. That’s one of the nifty little sayings pro-abortion advocates are fond of tossing around. However, in real life, they are using political clout with the president to create an abortion hegemony in which organizations, including the Church are forced to refer for abortions or be severely penalized.

The same kind of thing is at work with gay marriage. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, don’t get gay married, the slogan goes. But Christian groups on college campuses are being penalized for following their faith concerning what is rapidly becoming a gay hegemony. At the same time, Catholic adoption agencies in many states have been forced to close because they will not place children with anyone except a married man and woman.

This is militant secularism run amuck. It not only violates the religious freedom of American citizens, it deprives orphan children of loving homes and trafficked women of the help they need to get out of that life and move forward. Here are a few examples I found, again, with a quick google search.

Direct Discrimination Against Churches and Church Ministries Illinois Catholic Charities Closes Adoption Over Rule  Same-Sex Law Forces Catholic Charities to Close Adoption Program Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Religious Freedom Discrimination Against Catholic Adoption Services  Oregon Catholic Charities Loses Grant Because It Will Not Refer for Abortion Kentucky Catholic Charities Shutters Aid to Traffickers Over Refusal to Refer for Abortion

 

I could go on with this, but I think I’ve made my point. The increasing harassment and move toward overt legal discrimination of Christians is so widespread and has been in the news so often that I honestly believe it is public knowledge. Anyone can find all the cites they want about it in a matter of a few seconds. I’m sure that what I’ve given here are not the best examples. I didn’t aim for that. I literally just took the ones at the top of the many pages of hits I got when I googled. They are also not meant to be comprehensive.

They are indicative. They indicate what is happening and why the concerns of Christians about the rise in overt anti-Christian activity on an official as well as a social level is well-founded. They also indicate a growing problem with how ideas like “inclusion,” “tolerance” and “equality” are being  codified and used to create enforcement that produces exclusion, intolerance and inequality for Christians.

Atheist Governments; Failed Experiments in Godless Goodness

Christian persecution in our world today seems to occur at junctures where competing ideas meet.

In the Middle East, the juncture is mostly between Islam and Christianity. In India, it is mostly between Hinduism and Christianity.

Atheists often claim that if we would just do away with faith, these types of bloody conflicts would end. But the juncture of competing ideas between Atheism and Christianity has proven just as bloody and even more oppressive in every government that has been dominated by atheists and atheist philosophy. Also, the people saying this ignore that they are themselves engaging in hazing, hate speech and other forms of attacks against Christians of a type that always leads to violent persecution if it goes unchecked.

A

Militant secularism in the West has become just as much a competing idea with Christianity as Islam and Hinduism is in the East. Militant secularists in America and Europe are quite aggressive in their verbal attacks against Christianity and Christians. They also have managed to pass laws which interfere with the practice of Christianity and the freedom of Christian churches to function. This move toward discriminatory laws appears to be gaining momentum as each new law is passed.

The specific junctures where Christianity runs into the most aggressive attacks varies from culture to culture. In the West, the movement right now is to strip Christianity and Christians of legal protections concerning their right to practice their faith, while at the same time creating ever-broadening restrictions on any expression of Christian thinking in public life.

We have prayer bans, attempts to either deface or destroy public monuments that mention God and constant threats and demands aimed at public Christians to refrain from mentioning God in conversation, debate or speeches. By far the most draconian expression of this move to destroy Christian influence in Western society is the HHS Mandate. This is an all-out government attack on the rights of religious institutions to follow the teachings of their faith.

Norman rockwell golden rule do unto others saturday evening post cover april 1 1961

This kind of secularism is distinct from the healthy secular society that most people, including me, support. Healthy secularism keeps government out of faith and allows people space to believe and practice their faith in peace and harmony. Militant secularism, is the antithesis to this.

Its practitioners use the tools of unjust discrimination to further their aims, including hate speech, verbal harassment, shunning, social isolation and legal discrimination to further their goal of driving those who don’t share their ideas from the public sphere. They also show up at religious discussions and try to take over the discussion and hijack the debate, thus making it impossible to religious people to interact in a positive manner. This is especially widespread in on-line discussions such as this blog.

All this tawdry behavior is done in the name of a utopian claim that if only religion were driven from the world, evil would go away along with it. One of the many debating tricks these people use is to hold God (who they say does not exist) guilty for human depravity. Thus, if children die of starvation, they ask why a “god” would allow this. If five men rape and torture a young girl, they condemn god for allowing it, not the five men for doing it.

Underlying this logic is an extreme disrespect for human freedom. This disrespect for human freedom manifests in their attempts to use the law, shunning, slander, and verbal hijacking to silence anyone who speaks about faith. They don’t believe that other ideas should be heard, and they use every tool available to them to stop this from happening. The things they try to blame on God are results of human freedom, used to sinful aims.

The question arises, what if they win? What if they succeed in driving faith and people of faith into intellectual and actual ghettos of silence and subservience? What kind of society will we have where the only people who can hold responsible jobs, ranging from government officials to medical personnel to court typists and clerks, are those who are willing to violate their faith and bend their knee to the secular god of license?

Will our society be better when the Churches either close their hospitals and schools and do away with their charitable organizations or recast those organizations to follow whatever the latest anti-Christian fashion dictates? Will our society improve when religious leaders are silenced and afraid to say one word about what they believe outside their sanctuaries?

Is the key to world peace, prosperity and endless harmony, simply a matter of destroying the civil and human rights of people of faith? That is the basic claim of militant secularists and atheists. Do away with religion and we will do away with sin.

What sort of world will we have if they succeed in their goals? Sadly, we already have a number of examples of what happens when religion is driven to ground in a society. All we have to do is consider the bloodbath of the 20th century. From Stalin to Pol Pot, we have a wide swath of godless governments to chose from in our consideration. If what they offer is utopia, I do not understand the word. 

Stalin hitler photomontage zpscf3e7967

There are two ways of bringing religious faith under the government heel. The first is to suppress it, as the Communists, or those on the left, do. The other is to co-opt it as the Nazis and those on the right do.

If you want to see a fine example of government co-opting Christianity, look no further than the Third Reich. Hitler overtook and controlled Christianity, first by claims of phony fealty, and later by brute force. He didn’t shut down the churches, he twisted them to his own propaganda ends. This is a form of militant secularism that we ignore at our peril. I call it militant secularism because it puts government in control of the churches and destroys them just as surely as the secularism which seeks to end religion.

With either form of militant secularism, we end up with a tyranny of the mind which leads to human beings reduced to chattel which their government may dispose of as they wish. The end result of militant secularism appears to be slavery, misery and mass murder of millions.

Atheist governments are failed experiments in godless goodness. Rather than leading us to a utopia where freedom reigns, they inevitably take us to the pit, where freedom is abolished and murder becomes arbitrary. 

Brave new world1

Militant secularists promise us a brave new world with lots of drugs, sex and rock and roll. They teach us the moral value of killing and degrading with impunity with their support of abortion, euthanasia and medical experimentation on embryos, “designer” children, farming women for eggs to sell, drive to legalize prostitution and support of pornography. They trample the building blocks of society with their attacks on family and home.

They seek to gain power by selling us on the fun of participating in our own cultural suicide.

But what, when they gain power, do they actually give? A world in which people are without self-discipline is a world that requires severe government discipline. A world in which people do not value any life but their own becomes a world in which no life is safe. A world that admits of no power higher than brute force is a world in which the biggest and the meanest get to make all the rules.

Instead of freedom, the governments we find at the end of this yellow brick road of license are totalitarian and cruel. Instead of being expressions of our liberty, the abortion clinics and on-line sites where women are bought and sold are harbingers of our universal future in this world of godless goodness.

Atheist governments have been tried. Many millions of people have died in their goodness. Millions more have lived their lives as chattel slaves of the state.

It is time we exposed the lies at the core of these promises of a utopia for all of us if we just oppress religious people into silent subservience to the state. They are lies told by liars who are pied pipers of people who want what they want and do not care what or who they destroy to get it.

 

Cardinal Dolan: Three Challenges Facing the Next Pope

Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently gave an interview to Catholic News Service in which he discussed what he feels are the three critical challenges our next pope will have to address.

I think Cardinal Dolan’s assessment is well worth watching.

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HHS Mandate: Bishops Say Obama’s Proposed Compromise “Falls Short.”

I held back on extensive comments on President Obama’s recent “compromise” to the HHS Mandate.

My personal feeling when it was announced was that the compromise would, in the words of today’s announcement from Cardinal Dolan, “fall short.”

My reasons were political, based primarily on my understanding of how politicians behave when they are forced to give the appearance of doing something that they really don’t want to do. I expected smoke and mirrors, and in at least one very serious way, that is exactly what the President gave us.

He left private employers out of his “compromise,” and by doing so essentially stopped the First Amendment at the church door. There is, if you’ve been thinking about the militant secularism in our world, nothing new in this position.

Evangelical atheists and militant secularists (who often but not always overlap) have said repeatedly that their goal is for Christians in particular and religious people in general to “keep their faith at home.” They allow (for now) that we can worship inside the confines of our churches without government interference, and that we can believe within the privacy of our homes (again, for now) as we choose.

But they declaim loudly and vociferously that we should not, must not, may not carry our faith further than that. They do not want us to pray in public, speak about faith in debate or follow our faith when we go to work or interact with other people. They carry this so far in other countries that they have attempted to cost people their employment for wearing a cross around their neck. This happened in Britain and was recently overturned by a court order.

It is entirely consistent for President Obama to attempt to divide Christians and other religious objectors to his HHS Mandate by “giving in” to allow Church related institutions out of the trap, but to turn around and leave private enterprises such as Hobby Lobby in a position of either compromising on core beliefs or facing massive government penalties.

The question then is, does the First Amendment stop at the church door, or does it apply to all Americans as we go about our daily lives, including those of us who do not wear clerical collars?

This is a massively important debate, striking to the heart of what it means to be a free people. Does the Bill of Rights apply to people, or is it only for institutions?

I don’t know of course, but I believe that President Obama expected the Catholic Church to accept his compromise and abandon the Hobby Lobbies out there. I am happy to report that, if that’s what he expected, he was wrong.

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came down on the side of individual liberty and freedom of conscience. They reiterated their opposition to the HHS Mandate and proclaimed their support for all people of faith in their right to practice their faith without government bullying.

I am, once again, proud of the bishops. I am determined to stand with them and with my brothers and sisters in Christ of every denomination in this fight.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

Cardinal Dolan’s entire statement is below. You can find more information at the USCCB website.

Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS

For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare.As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same.We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.

Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions.The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue.With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year.We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study.Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.

In evaluating Friday’s action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.

In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate’s “exceedingly narrow” four-part definition of “religious employer,” one that exempted our houses of worship, but left “our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need” subject to the mandate.This created “a ‘second class’ of citizenship within our religious community,” “weakening [federal law's] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity.”And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring “among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith.”

On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test.This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest.The Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an “accommodation,” rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously—the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed “religious employers” would suffer the severe consequence of “be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our “accommodated” ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.

Third, the bishops explained that the “HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.”This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it.Friday’s action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this “third class.”In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York
February 7, 2013

Atheists to Obama: Remove ‘So Help Me God’ From Oath of Office

President Barack Obama, official portrait

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the following letter to President Obama two days after his re-election.

Among other things, they asked the president to remove the words “so help me God” from the presidential oath of office and to not place his hand on a Bible while taking the oath. They supported this demand with the interesting assertion that the words “so help me God” are unconstitutional since they “alienate the demographic elected officials must rely on in the coming years,” meaning, I assume, atheists.

This odd claim that it is unconstitutional to “alienate” unbelievers is only slightly more arrogant than the rest of the letter.

If you want a good summary of why Christians need to stop being so cavalier about their faith, read this letter.

November 8, 2012

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

Congratulations on your re-election. I write to respectfully ask you to re-examine the use of religion as a political tool in your second term as President. The November election highlights the country’s rapidly shifting demographics. The electorate’s religious affiliation is changing more quickly than any other metric, including race. In 1990, 8% of Americans were nonreligious. When you were elected in 2008, 15% of Americans identified as nonreligious. Now that number is 20%.

More strikingly, 1-in-3 Americans under 30 now identify as nonreligious. This is the demographic that, by a wide margin, elected you in 2008 and again in 2012. It is the 30-and-unders who are our greatest supporters and are the future of this country. Their votes will decide future elections. More and more they are tired of leaders injecting religion into politics.

The shifts towards marriage, sex, and race equality, and the acceptance of non-nuclear families all coincide with the secularization of America. For secular America, religious rhetoric is empty. Religious justifications for government action are hollow arguments invoking an authority that we reject. Politicians often use religion to pander to their base, but we find such rhetoric exclusionary and distasteful.

You called Nov. 5 “the last day that I will ever campaign.” This term limitation is a gift. You are not beholden to any future constituency. This term is a chance to do something that no president in recent memory has done: reach out to secular Americans. In the past, that might have been politically costly.   But this recent election shows that it will be politically costly notto reach out to secular America. We are the future. Use this second term to build a legacy by rejecting the way this country politicizes religion.

You can start on January 21. When you stand to reaffirm your oath, do so using the language of the Founders. Eliminate the religious verbiage. While you’re at it, why not place your hand on the Constitution instead of a bible? The oath, laid out in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, is secular (no hand on the bible, no “so help me God”): “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The “so help me God” tradition violates the Constitution in the act of promising to uphold it. The ritual alienates the demographic that elected officials must rely on in the coming years. It excludes the people that put you into office and runs against the wishes of the people that created your office. The Constitution does not mandate religious oaths; it prohibits them.

Use this term to create a legacy worthy of the Founders. Restore the presidential oath to its original form and begin the necessary process of divorcing American politics from religion.

I will never forget the lines of your first inaugural address, recognizing nonbelievers:

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolvethat as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

 The final tribal allegiance that must dissolve is not sex, or race, or sexual orientation. It is religion.   Private citizens are free to maintain that allegiance if they choose, but it is time our government abandoned it.   Please do not passively wait for a revelation of “our common humanity.” Lead us into that new era of peace and unity by separating politics from the division religion sows.

Start small. Start by honoring the secular intent of the oath. In its altered, religious form, the oath is a symbol of the disregard this country has shown for its Constitution in the name of God. Our once silent minority will no longer remain silent as politicians trample the document we hold sacred —the Constitution. Honor the oath as you recite it on January 21 and lead us into the new era you promised four years ago.

With hope,

Andrew L. Seidel
Attorney
Freedom From Religion Foundation

St Martin of Tours and Building a Christian Counter-Culture

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

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

The article says in part:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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