Blessed are the peacemakers. Jesus Christ
Blessed are the peacemakers. Jesus Christ
It began with a young man who decided that the American people had the right to know that their government had them under surveillance.
Not, mind you, that the government had possible criminals under court-ordered surveillance by virtue of having produced evidence of probable cause. Our government has been sweeping all of our emails and cell phone convos into a big database and sifting through it looking for crimes, potential crimes, or anything it deems “suspicious.”
In the brave new world of Fourth-Amendment?-What-Fourth-Amendment?-Patriot-Act-land, we’re all potential criminals and we’re all under government surveillance.
The amount of data that our government has swept into its intelligence gathering maw has become so vast (remember these are electronic 1 and 0s, not piles of space-consuming paper) that the NSA is building a gi-normous file cabinet in the Utah desert to warehouse it all.
The minute that this young man stepped up and made this information available to the general public, the government smear machine and its trusty operatives in the press (perhaps I should say, it’s trusty operative, the press) swung into action, claiming and proclaiming that this young man, Edward Snowden is his name, was the worst American traitor since Benedict Arnold.
Shortly after giving this interview:
Michael Hastings died in this car crash:
The public was interested in Mr Hastings’ too convenient death until the same press that pushes the government line on us distracted the public with a trial about a shooting in Florida. This trial so transfixed the public that it completely forgot that Uncle Sam was watching its every move.
Unfortunately for the government, Mr Snowden decided to run rather than take his chances in a kangaroo court.
The president of the United States brought out all his big bully artillery and fired it off at every nation that might give Mr Snowden sanctuary. He huffed and he puffed and one by one the various nations put up the No Vacancy sign in front of Mr Snowden.
Russia finally took the wandering whistle-blower in, and President Obama promptly cancelled a scheduled G4 Summit talk with President Putin. I don’t know if President Putin cried himself to sleep that night or not. But I do know that the world is balanced on a razor’s edge. It might be nice if these two guys talked things over, even if President Putin is sheltering that dreadnought Snowden.
But then, that would presume that somebody involved in the government end of this mess actually cared about this country. It seems safe to say that they only care about covering their own backsides.
Meanwhile, our ally, the United Kingdom, decided to get into the act. Rather than huff and puff, they picked up their guns and clubs and went a-huntin’ and a-smashin’ in the offices of the British publication, The Guardian.
The Guardian had actually had the temerity to behave like a — I know this is hard to believe — member of the free press, and report Mr Snowden’s revelations about the work our governments were doing to put all of us on both sides of the Atlantic in the surveillance crosshairs.
The Brits, who are not troubled by niceties like First and Fourth Amendments, evidently took advantage of their government’s relative freedom to oppress its citizens and barged into The Guardian’s offices like Elliott Ness raiding a gin mill. They smashed computers and generally, as we say in these parts, tore up jack.
Of course, these tyrannical nitwits forgot (as tyrannical nitwits often do) the very essence of what they were dealing with. Evidently, nobody told them about backups.
I doubt that The Guardian lost a lot of data in this raid. But the British people lost a tremendous amount of freedom.
The question on this side of the Atlantic, not to even try to put it nicely, is did members of our government use the computer in Michael Hastings car to murder him because he was a danger to their careers?
It’s not even a question on the other side of the Atlantic. The answer is yes, the UK is in the bag for Obama and his spying on the populace of this country and probably theirs, as well. They don’t need a whistle blower to come forward and release evidence that their government has become a danger to the freedom of its citizens.
They went over to The Guardian’s offices and demonstrated that fact for all the world to see.
What is happening here?
Are we going to sit around and watch trashy televised trials and allow ourselves to be flim-flammed out of all our freedoms? Does anybody see how outrageous it is that the government has the entire American populace under surveillance?
He’s got the whole world in his files.
That means you.
What happened in Britain isn’t a fluke. It’s a harbinger.
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.
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:
I just can’t face writing about Christian persecution today, even though that’s my usual Friday practice. I’m going to delay it until tomorrow.
I want to talk about Cardinal George, instead.
Cardinal George’s cancer recurred late last summer. I read in February of this year that he had been given a clean bill of health and was cancer-free.
I have no idea why, but just out of the blue I’ve been getting this impulse to pray for him. It’s like a soft little dinging in the back of my mind.
I don’t know if it has anything to do with his health. All I can say is that I almost never think about Cardinal George. Because it’s so odd for me to suddenly feel that I should pray for him, I am assuming that for reasons I don’t know and may never know, he probably needs a little extra prayer.
I’m passing this along to the rest of you so that you can join me in saying a Hail Mary for the Cardinal now and again.
In the video below, he is discussing the HHS Mandate.
At one point he talks about the “definition” being so narrow. I believe that he is referring to the definition of religious institutions as it is used in the HHS Mandate, and not the First Amendment. Among other things, the Obama administration has been trying to narrow the meaning of “religious freedom” to only include the freedom to attend services in “places of worship” and behind the closed doors of our homes.
This should be anathema to any freedom-loving American, irrespective of their religious beliefs or lack of belief.
Here is Cardinal George:
From my viewpoint, the loss of religious liberty is only subtle to those who do not want to see what is happening. In truth, it has been snowballing for quite a while.
The sign of hope is that for the first time, there is real pushback. I’m not talking about angry speechifying and partisan political demagoguery, but actual pushback in the form of court cases, marches and a public engagement in favor of religious liberty by whole groups of people who heretofore opted out of the battle.
The HHS Mandate was a watershed moment in American history in this regard. By attempting to force the Church itself to violate its own teachings in a federalized, all-fifty-states manner, the Mandate forced the war upon religious leaders who had been committed to a policy of negotiation and compromise. The Mandate pushed things past compromise and into choosing this day whom you would serve.
The administration has since backed off parts of the mandate, but the essential core of its position on religious liberty: That the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion pertains only to churches and direct church institutions, has not budged. The question that this forces on thinking people is whether or not they will support our Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion without government interference or not.
Far too often, people allow their partisan political loyalties to make their decision in this matter for them. This is such a strong trend that I am fairly certain that if the party who was being criticized for attacking religious liberty changed from, as it is in this case, the Ds, to the (as it has been and will be again in other cases, the Rs) many people would switch their positions on the issues to follow their party.
I do not know how to get people to stop looking at the world through partisan-tinted glasses. But I know that this is essential — essential — if you want to be effective for Christ in our country’s political discussions.
One way that America is unique is that every citizen is a de facto politician. No American citizen is exempt from responsibility for the directions our government takes. Because of the great freedoms and the many powerful options to seek redress against our government that every American citizen possesses, we are all called to have opinions and engage the political world for change, at least on some level.
Our government and both political parties have become corrupted by the control of special interests and overweening government bureaucracies. I don’t know how else to say it. We, as American citizens, have a responsibility to stand back from that corruption and think for ourselves. As Christians we have an eternal responsibility to put the Gospels first in our considerations.
American Christians are citizens of two kingdoms simultaneously. We are American citizens and we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. One of the great things about America is that is has not, up until very recently, required its citizens to chose between these two kingdoms.
America has always honored the demands of conscience of its individual citizens. Those whose faith demands it are not required to fight in our wars and no one challenges their patriotism. We have never forced anyone to undergo a religious test to hold public office in this nation.
But now, there are groups which seek to push their ideas on other people to the point of abrogating their right of personal conscience. Rather than follow the time-honored American tradition of allowing those whose faith compels them to forego certain activities to do so, they are using the law and courts to force religious people to participate in everything from abortions to gay marriages. They base this on nebulous claims to their “right” to these activities which, they say, trumps the rights of other citizens not to participate in them.
The HHS Mandate is a sinister, tyrannical abuse of government power that attempts to shear the First Amendment loose from its time-honored moorings in the rights of individual American citizens to act and live according to their faith without government penalties, intervention or discrimination. It thrusts the United States government into areas where it has never gone before and into which it should not go now.
Other laws, such as those Cardinal Wuerl mentions in this video, have been bubbling up all over the country, which, at least in their local applications, set aside First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty almost entirely in favor of other new goals of government meddling in American’s private lives and religious institutions in order to force private citizens to participate in culture war objectives such as abortion and gay marriage against their will.
I am aware that a good number of the readers of this blog comfort themselves with the fiction that all they have to do to support religious liberty is to vote Republican. I am also aware of the fact that most people don’t have my experience dealing with these issues from inside government and seeing first hand what a shallow and ultimately bogus hope that is.
I can only tell you that I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, not once but many times, how completely craven both political parties truly are in these matters. I am not saying that many of the people in the Republican party are not wonderful, committed Christians. I am saying that when push comes to shove, they allow their party to tell them to back off, back down and shut up about everything from pro life to religious liberty. I have seen it happen.
In this respect, they aren’t all that different from the Democrats. There are devout Christians in the Democratic Party, as well. But they can’t withstand the pressure from their party.
The big difference is that Democratic party structure itself has become overtly hostile to traditional Christian morality as it applies to human sexuality, while the Republican party gives a lot of lip service to supporting it. The Rs do not attack Christian morality concerning human sexuality with legislation designed to undermine it. The Ds will and do.
But the Rs (again, I refer to the party structure, not individual Republicans) only take stands with words, or when they see a political advantage. In fact, in many instances, (I’m specifically thinking about the HHS Mandate here) the Rs take stands only with words and do not use their clout in Congress to effect change.
The point I am making, is that if you are a Republican, you should not stand for this. You need to stop buying the manipulative nonsense your party is pushing and demand they go at the HHS Mandate by making it a sticking point in their negotiations on budget issues or wherever else they can gain traction. People get what they want. If the Republicans wanted to stop this mandate rather than just use it for campaigning purposes, they could make a big difference.
On the other hand, Democrats like me are so isolated and besieged within our parties that only the most determined of us can stay the course at all. It is impossible to describe to someone on the outside the kind of pressures that Democratic lawmakers are under to compromise matters of faith concerning issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom.
If you are a Democrat, you need to step up to the plate and demand that your party stop attacking the pro-life, pro-religious freedom lawmakers in their midst. You also need to consider running for party offices, beginning at the precinct level, to replace some of these nuts who are running our party and get the thing back on track.
Americans do not have the luxury of sitting around and saying “what can you do?”
The truth is, any American, all Americans, can do a lot.
My father was a mechanic with an 8th grade education. I went to the worst schools in the poor part of town. I am a woman, from an era when women didn’t have the options we have today. And I have spent 18 years in elective office.
Why? Because I am an American citizen and I have Constitutionally guaranteed right to engage the larger culture about the things I believe.
The rest of you should try it. Politics can be both honorable and holy work. All you have to do is put Jesus first and let the chips fall.
Deacon Greg Kandra has the story.
This is the latest cover of Time Magazine in Europe, Asia and South America:
This the latest cover of Time Magazine here in the good old USA:
I guess it makes sense. You know us Americans; we do love our lynch mobs. We’d rather glue our well-rounded rear ends to the sofa and drool over the misery of others before taking to the streets to yell for more blood than anything else.
We don’t want to hear about how our government has all of us under surveillance or that we are playing footsie with another war that has nothing to do with us or, or, or …. certainly and for sure we don’t want to hear anything good, like say, about the Pope.
After all, we’re Americans and our interests revolve around Friday night wrestling, “reality” tv shows that depict maladjusted people with gross obsessions and fetishes and talking heads on “news” shows yelling at one another.
Are we really this stupid?
Are we truly this trashy?
And if we are, who do you think made us this way?
As I said in another post, it’s time we turn off our televisions and go outside in the sunlight and fresh air. We need to spend some time talking to real people and doing real things that involve our own lives.
Get your head out of the trash bin, America. Before you make yourself as mentally, morally and socially ill as the people you watch for your entertainment.
I did not watch the Zimmerman murder trial. I did not watch the OJ trial. I haven’t watched any of the televised trials that obsess the public.
I also didn’t follow the Timothy McVeigh trial, even though I had a personal interest in its outcome.
From the way that Americans seem to react to these trials, I think perhaps a lot of other people should consider skipping them, too. Trials that put people’s lives and freedom to the test are not some sort of call-in entertainment where the audience picks the winner.
The people who are tasked with the terrible decisions these trials require are the citizens who sit on the jury. I leave it to them, and when I do it, I am grateful that I am not one of them.
Even with Timothy McVeigh, I did not want to sit on the jury that tried him. I did not want to watch his execution. I didn’t want any part of it. However, with McVeigh, I was so trapped in the horrible web of near victim obsession with this particular crime and criminal that I could not stop thinking about it. I oppose the death penalty, but it was a relief when he finally shut up and I knew I would not have to hear about him anymore.
I cannot imagine how I would have felt if the jury had turned him lose. However, I do know two things: My job would have been to go on from there and live, and watching the trial would not have helped me deal with an unwanted verdict.
I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through trials where people I know are involved. Believe me, you don’t want that to be you.
These trials are about horrible events that shatter people’s lives. They are usually about twisted situations that have been brewing and stewing; distilling their malice and meanness for years. There is nothing pretty or edifying about them. The people involved, on both sides, are at the extremities of grief, terror and desperation. This is not a fictional movie or television show in which actors pretend to be in anguish. These are real people, and they are suffering agonies.
These televised trials are becoming a sort of Hunger Games gone real, with vast audiences entertained by watching people suffer horribly. There are no winners in trials like this. The person who has been murdered has already lost their life. In a very real way, the person who is on trial has lost their life, as well. They are suffering extremities of fear that are unimaginable for those of us who haven’t been in the judicial barrel. The judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will usually end up with tarnished reputations and, due to the massive television audience, the full grief of public notoriety.
The public, in many ways, is the biggest loser, for the simple reason that they have the most to lose. They aren’t dead. Their loved ones haven’t been murdered. They are not on trial for their lives. They don’t have to make the agonizing decision as to guilt and innocence. They are safe, free, unburdened by the responsibility of holding another person’s life in their hands.
But by watching this trial hour after hour, day after day, they become enmeshed in the terrors and miseries of other people’s tragedies to the point that they start feeling as if it did happen to them, and it is about them. This is empathy turned self-destructive. It is obsession that removes the person watching from the simple reality that none of this is about them and none of it happened to them.
These viewers let this trial eat up their days and consume their emotions and thoughts. They take on the responsibility of the jury and sit there in front of their tvs, allowing a cheap obsession to take over their thinking and their lives.
When the verdict comes down and they don’t agree with it, they go into paroxysms of rage and outrage, demanding a re-trial, another charge, another dose of vengeance. Or, if they like the verdict, they feel sated and smug, released of the tension-producing competitiveness that their understanding of the evidence might not prevail.
There is a word for this. The word is obsession. The so-called “news” stations who run these trials are not even vaguely trying to report news. They are going for inexpensive ratings. They are ignoring serious news stories that the public needs to know about to put these trials on the air.
I didn’t watch it, but I gather that the President of the United States had to make a speech about this latest public trial. I see photos of protesting mobs, and grief stricken people, including little children, who are enraged, bereft and emotionally scarred by this verdict.
Make no mistake about it: The events that set this trail in motion are tragic. It was and is a gut-wrenching, heart-tearing tragedy that should not have happened. The people who are close to it will never be the same. But it didn’t happen to that vast television audience or those enraged mobs or even to the President and his Attorney General.
The people it did happen to will suffer for it all their days. But the rest of us will forget it and move on to the next new televised tragedy. In a matter of weeks, we’ll be wringing our hands over something else. Because, you see, it didn’t happen to us. It’s not our lives that are torn apart. It is our cheap entertainment, our obsession that blocks out the pain of whatever really is happening to us. It is our hunger games.
From my I-didn’t-watch-it perspective, all this obsessive rage over this trial looks crazy. I can not fathom it, and that, my friends, is the fruit of not watching. I’m not enraged and distraught. I have not spent my days suffering through a tragedy I can’t change. I am clear of all this craziness and pain.
I know I’m going to get thrashed for saying this. But people need to turn off their televisions and go outside. They need to take a walk or go to a movie about a fictional trial where nobody really dies and nobody really suffers.
Spend time with your families. Pay your bills. Read a book. Play some golf. Go swimming, kiss your babies, say your prayers.
And realize: This didn’t happen to you.
I’ve read the news reports on several outlets, and I’m not exactly sure what the judge did, except that it’s clear that he stopped the government from dropping the guillotine on Hobby Lobby next month.
The draconian HHS Mandate, which is scheduled to go into effect in August, would probably, in the judge’s own words, “cut the legs from under” any “individual or corporation” who is so bold as to say “no” to it. Judge Joe Heaton ruled that Hobby Lobby is exempt from compliance with the HHS Mandate, at least until higher courts rule in the matter. He also put the case on hold until October 1 to give the Obama administration time to respond.
What does this mean?
Well, it means that the government can’t start putting Hobby Lobby out of business because it won’t pay for abortifacients for its employees, at least not next month.
It also gives the Obama administration a bloody nose. The administration originally contended that First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion only applied to churches. Then, when it began losing in court, the administration widened that out to include direct affiliates of churches. The administration has not budged in its position that the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion does not apply to you, me or any other individual.
I think this latest ruling puts other judges on the hot seat. Are they going to allow corporations and individuals to go down the tubes next month, or are they going to step up and grant similar stays for everyone?
One interesting fact: Judge Joe Heaton is the same judge who denied a somewhat similar request by Hobby Lobby in November 2012. His reasoning then read like Obama administration boilerplate.
What has happened to change his mind?
It may be that the reasoning of other justices who did not agree with him made him re-think the issue. It may also be that he finally wised up to the fact that the HHS Mandate is a challenge to the Constitution itself. It may also be that he came to understand what I saw when I first read about the nascent HHS Mandate months before it was promulgated: This thing has the makings of a Constitutional crisis of a magnitude not seen in this country since the Civil War.
There has been a huge overstepping of individual liberties in the culture wars lately. Whether the issue is abortion or gay marriage, those who promote these positions are not satisfied with laws that allow them to do what they want. They are pushing hard for laws that force other people to participate in doing it with them.
The HHS Mandate, by directly targeting the Church itself, along with its many ministries, stepped up the fight and made it something that was impossible to ignore. The days of going along to get along ended for believers in religious liberty and freedom of conscience when President Obama signed that thing.
It’s possible Judge Heaton got his wits together and realized the magnitude of what he was dealing with. It’s also possible that Hobby Lobby’s lawyers wrote a better brief this time around.
I don’t know.
I do know that this ruling today is a good and hopeful one for all of us who hold our Constitutional liberties dear.
The USCCB released a new video today discussing the war on the right of conscience in America.
I think it’s a powerful video that expresses the issues far better than anything I could say. All Americans should be upset about what the Obama administration is doing to our First Amendment liberties.