Play Nice or Play Elsewhere

Photo Source: flickr commons, by Kim Siever, public domain https://www.flickr.com/photos/kmsiever/

Photo Source: flickr commons, by Kim Siever, public domain https://www.flickr.com/photos/kmsiever/

There’s a new/old sheriff in town, and she’s had cancer.

What does that mean?

It means that I’m going to attempt to post here on Patheos once again in a fairly regular fashion. But I’m tired, worn and no longer have the energy and patience for nasty people who come here to exercise their inner jerk.

The main reason I’m back here at all is that Public Catholic has become a safe and happy on-line community for some of the most wonderful people I’ve interacted with in a long time. I enjoy the wealth of thinking and good-will that you bring to discussions of public events, and I treasure your good hearts and the camaraderie you’ve developed.

I guess what I’m saying is that the good people here at Public Catholic have formed into such a generous and thoughtful group, that they make the trolls and bizarros worth the candle.

However, I am not able or willing to suffer the emotional angst of dealing with abusive and nutty people. I’m also not going to allow this blog to become a dumping ground for anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, thinking. I don’t write for that purpose and I will not allow my blog to become a forum for those who want to destroy the things I believe in.

The reason Public Catholic developed such a warm community of good people who are able to interact without fear of being flamed is that I never tolerated that kind of behavior. The difference now is that I’m all through mud-wrestling. I don’t have the gas in my tank to deal with these folks. They have many places, right here on Patheos, indeed, right here at Patheos Catholic, where they can act out to their hearts’ content.

But Public Catholic exists to empower Christians to engage the world for Christ. That is its only reason for being. I don’t demand that those who comment here actually be Christians — several regulars are not — and I certainly do not demand that we all agree about issues. That would be counter-productive. Thinking together helps us grow and find solutions for the issues and problems facing us as Christians, Americans and human beings.

However, I’m going to be exceedingly quick to delete the nasties and tribal attackers. I will do whatever I have to do to keep my own energy and peace of mind going, and that means limiting my engagement with the negativity and hate of Christian bashers.

There’s a new/old sheriff in town. And she’s had cancer. What that means to Public Catholic readers is that I cherish each of you, and want to provide you a safe place for thinking through the issues of the day together. Public Catholic’s regular readers are such good people who elevate the public debate with their thoughtful thinking. You are the reason I decided to come back to Patheos.

But this is fair warning to the trolls: I’m not going to allow even the least little bit of nasty. Play nice or play elsewhere.

This is a Catholic, Christian blog. That viewpoint is the one that I promote with both pride and passion. There is no reason to come to Public Catholic and then feign surprise and outrage because the viewpoints it expresses are actually Catholic.

You don’t have to agree with me, but if you find my commitment to Jesus Christ so offensive that you can not put a leash on your vitriol, I encourage you to go to another blog where that kind of behavior is welcome, and express yourself there.

I’m going to close this down now and turn to other matters. Have a holy and happy Sabbath, my friends. Public Catholic readers are the best, most thoughtful folks out there.

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The Difference Between Writing and Legislating Is …

2014 05 23 18 15 05

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All rights reserved.

The difference between writing and legislating is, to put it in Okie parlance, writing don’t matter.

I’ve heard the old canard “The pen is mightier than the sword” all my life. Sounds great, doesn’t it? After all, Marx and Hitler both wrote books that laid waste much of the 20th century and whose insidious damage not only lingers, but is still active, like occult cancer cells in the social bloodstream that just won’t die.

It appears that some people are willing to kill just about anybody and everybody based on what they think is written in the Koran. And other people are willing to die for what is written in the Bible, and still other people (get ready for this) are ready to tear down the structure of society based on what is written by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al.

The pen, is, or a least it can be, mighty. But I can tell you as a former sword holder that there’s nothing like brandishing the bludgeon of law around to scare the you-know-what out of people, including yourself.

The difference between writing as I do it and legislating as I did it is that writing don’t matter.

I can write a different blog post after I finish this one commanding everyone who reads it to go find a bridge and jump off of it. But, it won’t matter if I do.

In the first place, nobody has to read what I write. There’s zero penalty for just taking a pass on reading my words. In the second place, such a command, coming in a blog post, is far more likely to inspire laughter than obedience, because nobody — and I mean nobody — has to do what it says. In the third place, anything I write, whether its drivel or genius, will be forgotten in about 36 hours, max.

Writers are a lot more sensitive and emotional than legislators, and I include myself in that category. I’ve done a couple of things as a writer that I would not have dreamed of doing as a legislator. The reason?

It don’t matter.

The anger of a writer is more like a child, throwing their toys around in a pique. When a lawmaker gets angry, people get scared. Because the anger of a lawmaker can have huge consequences. By the same token, and appearances aside, lawmakers don’t take off after each other in public all the time, again for one simple reason. Such behavior can have consequences.

I know that sounds untrue, given the verbal fisticuffs that lawmakers engage in 24/7, but believe me, there are rules; things you don’t say, things you don’t do and confidences you don’t violate. The consequences are too high.

I went through a long period where I was hated and despised by my colleagues because of the fact that I would run right over them if I had to in order to pass pro life laws. The weakness in all their nasty that they heaped on my head was that I might have been hated and despised, but I was also Representative Hated and Despised. They could — and did — break my heart. But they had to be careful about taking it past the capitol doors, because there could be — would be — consequences.

There’s a saying in politics: Forgive and remember.

Nobody wants to get on the business end of that saying. It’s just stupid to put yourself there.

And it is also what I love most about not being a legislator. I can write whatever I want as a blogger and not get all in a snit about it because It. Don’t. Matter.

Lawmakers can kill people by putting a comma in the wrong place. Not only that, but bad laws don’t go away. They have a shelf life that runs into generations. Make a mistake with a law, and you can ruin people’s lives, even end people’s lives, for decades into the future.

Not only that, but lawmaking is always an exercise in who to hurt. Just about every vote I cast in my 18 years in office was at some level a decision as to who to hurt.

The pressures, the responsibility and the inevitability of making mistakes that will do harm were like living in a pressure cooker with the heat cranked up. Add to that the responsibility for thousands of constituents, and you’ve got a whole mountain on top you.

Nobody calls a blogger at three in the morning because their son was just murdered in the jail. When it rains, I don’t worry if Brock Creek will flood and drown people. The other day when I was taking Mama to the doc, I saw a cloud of smoke in the general area of my district. I looked at it, said a prayer for those involved, and felt grateful with the gratitude of someone who does not have to deal with it and try to make it right.

If a tornado wipes out your neighborhood, you’ve got to rebuild, but you don’t have to put on your boots and hard hat and go out, walking from one smashed home to another, making a list of things that people are needing that you have to figure out how to get for them. Of course, helping them is the good part. Having them cling to you like wounded children is what humbles and drains you to the depths.

I no longer have to convince gangs to stop killing people and work to keep the police and the people on the same congenial page. I look at things like Ferguson and I know that somewhere in all this there were lawmakers who weren’t doing their jobs, who didn’t get these things worked out and taken care of before they got to this pass.

Because legislating isn’t all or even mostly lawmaking. It’s taking care of thousands upon thousands of people. It’s protecting and building community. It’s loving and caring and using yourself up in the service of others.

Writing a blog, on the other hand, is mostly a kind of thinking out loud. A blog has a wide, wide sweep. It gets into the thinking of almost limitless numbers of people all over the globe. It can engage them and give them an opportunity to express their own thoughts and feelings. It can, at its best, help them to develop those thoughts and think things through.

Blogging is a form of teaching and a kind of entertainment.

But it does not — ever — reach the point where it really matters all that much.

Because if I made a law telling people to jump off a bridge, they would have to do it or pay fines, go to prison or find the scratch and spit to take on the government in court. But if I write a blog post telling people to jump off a bridge, they can — and will — laugh at me and turn the page.

On the other hand, if I write a blog post that gets people all worked up and wanting to lynch me, I can shut down the computer and go to a movie. They can’t do anything more than hiss and spit and disagree.

Blogging is fun precisely because It. Don’t. Matter.

It’s taken me a while to “get” that. In fact, I’m working on it still. I have to learn and know and believe what I’m saying to you here does not have the gravitas and will never be as deadly as law. The only consequence it has is what you, of your own free will, chose to give it.

I can help you think. I can provoke you to take ideas and noodle with them, disagree with them, support them, or dissect them. But I can do this only if you chose to do it. The contract between you and me, writer to reader, is our mutual freedom.

That’s the essence of what I’m trying to learn about my new life. I am slowly coming to grips with the sudden and as yet incomprehensible degree of freedom that is mine. I’ve traded a straightjacket for wings. I’ve cashed in my blazer with the target on it for a computer that turns off and an office door that shuts.

Because, in the final analysis and at the end of the day when the rubber meets the road and we get to the bottom line all in a collision of cliches and final thoughts, It. Don’t. Matter.

Ladies and gentlemen, put on your reading glasses, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to roll.

I am free.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year My Friends!

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Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus

What would it take to make you deny Christ?

Would you deny Jesus to save your life? Would you deny Him to save your child’s life?

What would it take for you to turn your back on Jesus?

Christians die for their faith all over the world, right now, this minute. Christians are raped, splashed with acid, stoned, beheaded, sold into slavery every minute of every day because they refuse to deny Jesus. They are the martyrs of our times, and we, who are not facing martyrdom, do very little to support them.

That doesn’t mean that those of us who are safe, fed and fat are not challenged in our soft and cozy faith. It just means that the challenges come at us in more subtle, less costly ways that we  don’t always recognize. Take, for instance, the insistent request in certain circles that we not “offend” people of other faiths or no faith by talking about our Jesus. This kind of gentle push to deny Our Lord can come from surprising sources, sources which disarm us by who they are.

My friend and fellow public catholic, Linda Cavanah, is an example. Linda is the founder and director of All Things New, an Oklahoma ministry which engages in the life-saving work of rescuing, sheltering and healing women from sex trafficking and prostitution. Linda makes a lot speeches about sex trafficking and prostitution in many different venues. When she was asked to speak at a large mainline church near one of Oklahoma’s two major universities, she assumed that this particular speech would be on Christian-friendly grounds.

A few days before the speech the church’s assistant pastor emailed her. He asked her to avoid mentioning Jesus or talking about her faith in her speech. He said that people from many faiths, including people of no faith, would be in the audience, and his church didn’t want to offend them by talking about Jesus. Linda emailed back, telling him, no, she couldn’t do that. If that was his requirement, he would have to find another speaker.

When the pastor did not reply to her email, she sent another. When he didn’t reply to that, she was in a quandary. Was she supposed to show up for the speech or not? She finally decided to go ahead and show up and see if they still wanted her to speak. She went, prepared to leave if that was what they wanted.

When she got there, no one told her to leave, but she wasn’t exactly welcomed, either. The associate pastor who had sent the email and his senior pastor huddled on the other side of the room, glancing at her while they talked and rolled their eyes in what anyone who’s been treated this way would recognize as distaste. Despite their obvious contempt and woeful lack of hospitality, they let her speak.

She talked about how Jesus had saved her from the same thing from which she was working to rescue other women. She said straight out that her ministry was based on faith in Christ. Of course, she also (and mostly) talked about the horrors of sex trafficking and what we can do to stop it. No one in the audience raised any objections.

So. Two “pastors,” men who are supposed to be shepherds of Christ’s flock, try to stop a woman from saying the name Jesus while speaking to a gathering in their church. They do this in a church that has the image of Christ in its stained glass windows and the name of Christ on its altar. I could do a whole post on that. But the real point is that my friend didn’t let them bully her into silence about Jesus. She stood firm. She refused. She got dissed by two “men of God” for her effort, but I have to think that God Himself was pleased with her.

This leads me back to my first question: What would it take to make YOU deny Christ?

Assuming that you are not one of the people who is facing death for standing for Jesus, what would it take to make you deny Him?

Would you do it to keep your job?

Would you do it to keep or get government funding for your ministry?

Would you do it to satisfy government regulations that conflict with your faith so you could keep your ministry’s doors open?

Would you do it to avoid having your classmates, co-workers, even your family, belittle, mock and make fun of you?

Would you do it to avoid the humiliation of a public trashing on the internet and by media talking heads?

Would you do it to avoid being labeled a “bigot,” a “hater,” or a fool?

Would you do it to get into a fraternity or sorority?

Would you do it to get a date with the best looking, most popular guy or girl in school?

Would you do it to get an “A” from that professor who talks about “theists” and claims that only atheists are rational?

What would it take to make you deny Christ? Before you answer, consider this: You’ve already done it. I have. You have. We all have.

I don’t think there’s one Christian in our entire American culture who hasn’t at one time or another gone along to get along in matters of faith. We’ve kept quiet; at family dinners, political gatherings, in the classroom, on the job. We’ve laughed at jokes belittling God or Christians, even when we felt dirty for doing it. We’ve joined in and repeated these jokes ourselves.

We have all denied Christ in the simplest way possible; by what we’ve said and what we haven’t said. I’ll talk another time about how we deny Him with what we do. For now, let’s just stop and consider how many times and in how many ways each of us has denied Him with what we’ve said or not said.

Public Catholics get pushed every day to deny Christ. We are bullied, badgered, belittled, mocked and shamed for our faith as a matter of our daily work. In the case of politicians, most of this is a not-so-subtle attempt to change the way we vote on issues of public policy. The interesting thing is that it works. Not with me. I’ve kept my mouth shut to keep the peace when I shouldn’t have. But nobody ever bullied me into voting against my faith. I just won’t do it.

Linda Cavanah is also a Public Catholic. She’s not an elected official, but her work and ministry place her in the public eye. She passed the test with that speech. I’ve seen her pass the test over and over again.

I think the reason the two of us are so stubborn about this is that Jesus forgave us for so much. He loved us from death to life and we know it. Deny Him? Deny the One Who saved us from the living pit of our self-made hells? No. The very thought is anathema.

If you came to Christ by an “easier” way, you may not realize quite so graphically what He saved you from. You may not feel to the marrow of your bones that you owe a debt you can never repay. You may even think, as some Christians evidently do, that it was God’s lucky day when He got you. It may be easier for you to overlook the seemingly small requests to accede to the larger culture and keep quiet about Jesus. Maybe, down deep where not even you know it, the truth is that Jesus doesn’t matter to you as much as the good opinion of the people around you.

Besides, you ask, what good would it do? After all, you are just a drop of faith against the tsunami of secularism and nihilism that is rolling over our society. What does it matter in the great scheme of things what you do?

The answer is simple: It matters to Him.

We are called to be the leaven, the mustard seed, the light and salt that brings the Kingdom. It does not matter who you are or what you do, you will be faced each day with opportunities to speak for Jesus or keep silent. You will decide a thousand times in every thousand days you live to either stand up for Jesus or sit down and say nothing. That may seem like a trial, but it is in reality the great opportunity to speak for Christ which is available to every one of us in our present world. It is your chance to do something that matters for Christ.

I am not talking about being strident. This is not a call to lecture, hector, speechify. What I am suggesting is that we, all of us, every Christian man, woman and child, stop being silent when Our Lord is attacked, when our faith is belittled, when the only Hope of humankind is drug through the mud of incivility and debasement that has become our public debate. Most of the time, all you have to say is, “I am a Christian, and I am not comfortable with this discussion.” That will cause an uneasy silence, but it will also make the point.

Every once in a while you may come across one of those devil-driven souls who feel a sense of self-righteous entitlement when it comes to attacking Christians. They may turn on you and say ugly, degrading things to you and about you. If you are female, they may even band together with others of their kind in an attack on you as a girl or a woman.

I can tell you from personal experience, that is hard to take. I’ll blog another time about Christian men who stand by and do or say nothing while this happens. It’s enough for now to tell you that I have been called every degrading name our misogynist culture uses to attack women, including all the vicious names for women’s body parts. Ironically, most of this was done in the name of “women’s rights.” It was a way of punishing me for converting to pro-life.

It hurts. It has to hurt. But remember: They did the same thing to Jesus. He warned us about this. He said that if they did it to Him, they would do it to us, too. It is not a curse to suffer for Jesus. It is a privilege. As Jesus told us, “rejoice and be glad,” when people attack you for standing up for Him. They are giving you the Kingdom of Heaven.

There’s an old hymn that goes, “Stand up, stand for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross.”

In our world, we might better sing, “Don’t be embarrassed by Jesus. Don’t be ashamed of His Name.”

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WordPress to Patheos, What’s Happenin’

Dear Friends:

Moving a blog is a little bit like moving to a new house. There’s a lot more to it than you thought when you bought the thing.

Public Catholic Patheos will have its formal debut next Monday. I’m going to start publishing posts at Public Catholic Patheos before that. In fact, I plan to start in the next day or so. I hope you come over and look at things and give me feed-back.

My understanding is that if you come to the old Public Catholic site you will be re-directed to the new one, but that this won’t happen until everything is up and running on Patheos. Let me know if/when this starts working.

In the meantime, the site, which will be all-singing, all-dancing in a couple of days, can be found at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/. We’re still polishing the rough edges, but go over, have a look and tell me what you think. I welcome your feedback.

In Christ,

Rebecca

PS: Be sure to add that link to your bookmarks so you can find me later! You can also get Public Catholic Patheos by rss feed and a number of other methods that are on the site.

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WordPress to Patheos, Oh My!

Dear Friends:

If all goes well, Public Catholic will start publishing through Patheos on Monday, August 6.

As to what happens if things don’t go well, I’m kinda clueless. I have never done anything like this before so it’s a learn-as-you-go and hope-you-get-it-right process.

I’ve been told that the experience will be seamless for people who follow Public Catholic on Twitter. Hopefully, the same is true of Facebook and Tumblr. It’s the people on WordPress who have me a little worried. I think, if I’ve got this straight, that you will see a link the first couple of days, then it will also be seamless. I may be wrong about that, but I think that’s it.

However it comes down, I hope you’ll be patient and stick with me. One of the things I’m trying to accomplish with Public Catholic is to build a community of Christians who support and learn from one another in our struggles to stand up for Jesus. The world is becoming increasingly hostile to us. That means we need each other. We are the brothers and sisters God has given us to help us make our way in doing His will.

I’m not and have no ambition to be a big-time blogger. I am just a small-time pew-sitting Catholic from Oklahoma who has walked what her pastor once called “a twisted path” to where I am now. I have a passion for encouraging Christians to return to our roots and be the light of the world that our Master told us we are. I want to share the things I’ve learned in walking my twisted path for you to use — or not use — as they will help you be the light of Christ shining out to the people around you.

The reason for the move to Patheos is to gain a wider audience for the things I’m trying to share. We’ve begun something special here at Public Catholic. You are among the finest, most intelligent Christians it has been my pleasure to know. I don’t know if you’re learning anything from me, but I learn from you every single day. My hope is that the move to Patheos will broaden the reach of what we’re saying.

This process has been in the works for a while. I had the honor of being able to decide between moving to Beliefnet or Patheos. They are both big-time web sites that, to be honest, I find a little intimidating. I decided on Patheos because it fosters community among its bloggers and encourages dialogue between them. It just seemed like a Public Catholic kind of place.

Money, that great bugaboo for Christians, is not an issue here. Patheos does pay, but frankly, I’m not big-time enough to hit their pay scale. Even if I did, the money is minuscule. I’m talking about maybe taking my husband out for a hamburger once a month minuscule.

Rest assured that if Public Catholic should ever start making substantial money, I’ll alert you to wear your galoshes and carry your umbrella when you leave the house. You’ll need them because there are going to be lots of pigs flying around. The reason for doing this is reach for my ideas, not jingle-jangle for my pocketbook.

That’s everything I know about this for now. I’ll try to keep you informed as things move forward. Say a prayer about this move, that everything about it will be within God’s will and plan.

In Christ,

Rebecca

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It’s the Last Week of Session

It’s the last week of session.

What that means to me as a person is that I make arrangements for people to keep my mother entertained, kiss my family goodbye with promises of all the fun we’ll have “when it’s over,” and pack up my Timbuk2 messenger bag in much the same way I pack a carry-on bag for an ocean-crossing flight.

I know and my family knows that I will come home long after they’re asleep and wouldn’t be fit company for civilized people even if they did get to see me. The fights and conflicts I encounter this last week of session keep me so jazzed that I can’t converse or even think about anything else for days after it ends.

The last week of session is every bit of conflict and angst that the entire process has engendered, stuffed into a few days’ time. It beats me up emotionally, physically and spiritually. Not only is the work load overwhelming, but this is the time when all the ugliness comes down.

The last week is when leadership passes the bills with the hidden zingers and out-front corruption. It’s a week when crony capitalism takes over and we do the really big deals for the special interests. It’s a week full of “Swahili moments” when legislators refuse to hear that what they do affects millions of people. This is when we make the laws that make the rich richer, the poor poorer.

After seeing the things I see during the last week of each legislative session, I always feel as if I need to have my mind washed out with soap. Fighting and losing these fights year after year wears at me, leaves me half sick with indignation and anger. It takes a while after the session is done to get over it. I know I’m going to have to go to confession to cleanse myself of the anger I will bring home from my job. I do every year.

So I pack my messenger bag with my personal version of legislative survival gear, including things to use as a distraction when the tension gets so great that I have to pull back from it for a moment. Surviving this job requires that you learn how to take a break in place, sometimes in front of the television cameras. It’s a trick of the mind, of absenting yourself from the fight while still being engaged in the fight. I can’t begin to tell you how to do it. You just learn how, or you don’t make it in this job.

The last week isn’t a fashion show. I wear my most comfortable shoes and least binding clothes that can pass muster as “professional.” I usually start the week in slacks and end it in jeans. The “professional” part comes from the ubiquitous three-button blazer I pull on over the jeans and shirt.

That’s not exactly Vogue photo quality, but this is Oklahoma where most of the male legislators show up for work in cowboy boots and Stetsons. My sandals, shirt, jeans and jacket never cause a ripple in this crowd. We all know the work load in front of us. Besides we spend so much time together that we’re kind of past that.

In addition to packing a messenger bag to the point that its weight makes me walk lop-sided, I always, no matter how long the hours, pray the Rosary each day. I ask God to use me for His purposes and to not let me do anything really stupid. Then, I trust that I am under His protection and head out for battle.

I have no idea if I’ll have time to blog this week. I probably shouldn’t even try since there is no way to predict what I might say in the midst of a week of full-bore legislating.

So, I guess I’ll close off for a few days with the same promise I make to my family: I’ll be back, and we’ll have a lot of fun when it’s over.

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