Faith Challenges of 2013: Repenting of My Self-Sufficiency

This has been the year of two living popes.

It’s been a year of new mass shootings, government shutdowns, spies turned whistleblowers and the revelation that our government is doing everything but looking up our skirts and down the fronts of our blouses in its efforts to spy on and criminalize the entire American populace. I’m not ruling the skirts and and blouses part out, but we have no confirmation of that.

It’s been the year when the Supreme Court drop-kicked DOMA and took gay marriage off the leash, the year when we the people actually got our fill of senseless war and stopped the bombing in Syria. It was the year when the economy rotated in place and a big piece of my part of the world was blown to smithereens.

There’s been the flop of the Obamacare start up; the push for gun control and a nervy stand-off in Texas over a commonsense pro life bill that would simply require abortion clinics to provide the same levels of safety to their patients as any other free-standing surgery clinic.

My brother-in-law died, leaving my sister as one of the walking wounded. My mother has been in and out of the hospital.

And me, I’ve just kept on passing bills and writing blog posts. I still haven’t lost weight and I still can’t make my hair do one single thing that it doesn’t want to do. I have taken up piano lessons, and I am the proud possessor of a new camera.

Life, as they say, goes on.

One surprise to me has been how hard it is to blog about matters of faith and still keep my religion. I’ve spent years dealing with that very thing as a legislator. The process of getting whammed around because of my beliefs has toughened my faith and made it stronger. But I’ve also found, as I’ve started writing about it, that it has made me more than a little impatient with people who aren’t as willing to go out there on the ice for Jesus as I am.

I’ve forgotten how I was before the pro abortion people made me the target of an orchestrated campaign of character assassination. They forced me to choose over and over between them and Jesus, between the Democratic Party and Jesus, between having friends at work and Jesus, between anybody even speaking to me on the job and Jesus. I’ve forgotten what it was like back in the days when I hadn’t been called every ugly name I can think of.

Who was I back then?

I honestly can’t remember.

All I know is that talking about these things with you good people here at Public Catholic and witnessing your attempts to work through them yourself has acquainted me with the simple fact that I’m different now than I was before these things happened to me. I see the world differently than I did before I chose Christ in an active way during adversarial politics.

One of the purposes of this blog is to provide a forum where we can work through the process of finding our voice in the face of the often daunting ugliness of attacks on the faith in this post-Christian society of ours. It’s ironic how often the blog and I get targeted by people who make it their business to attack Christians and Christianity. That can be disruptive to what I’m trying to accomplish here, but it is, in its own backhanded way, a great privilege.

Whenever anyone targets me for personal attacks and vendettas because of my stand for Jesus, I am blessed.

But this blessing leads me to the faith challenge that has troubled me most of this past year. It is easy to get caught up in these attacks and start feeling besieged. Instead of drawing me closer to Christ, that kind of thinking can build a barrier between me and Him.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of regarding these things as being about me. It’s also easy to fall into the parallel trap of trying to deal with them on my own.

One of the surprising pitfalls of blogging about faith is that I can spend too much time talking about Jesus and cheat myself of time spent talking to Him. It seems some days that the more I talk about Jesus the less I talk to Him.

This tendency to talk about Christ without talking to Christ is a dangerous road to take. I think it would lead me inevitably down the path of becoming my own little g god. I could eventually come to a point where I lose my relationship with Jesus and begin to lecture and hector about Him without any guidance or input from Him. These attacks from the Christian-bashing peanut gallery — and my own temper — push me hard down that path.

That would be disaster, not for you who read the stuff I write, but for me. I can not allow anything to come between me and my relationship with Christ, even if that thing is my attempt to stand for Christ. I can’t because to lose Christ is to lose life itself and all that matters.

The only way I know to avoid this is by retreating. I don’t mean by not writing this blog. I mean by not making the writing of this blog into what passes for my relationship with Christ. The life of a Public Catholic should be mostly Catholic and only a little bit public.

What I mean is that any public statements or actions about my faith should be the outflow of a fruitful walk with Christ that is mostly hidden and that is nurtured, sustained and informed by the quiet times of simply being with Him. If most of my faith is what people see, then it is an anemic and ultimately destructive excuse for real faith. The way to achieve this kind of fruitful walk with Christ is not by pushing on, but by making regular, nourishing retreats away from the public part of life.

This is similar to the lesson that I learned in how to live a real life while in public office. I had to withdraw and go home to my real life. You have a real life by living one. By the same token, you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ by spending time with Him.

I am not talking about going to mass, although going to mass and partaking of the Body and Blood of Our Lord is essential. I am talking about spending time in prayer, and by that I mean mostly just being with God. I certainly don’t mean dumping out a laundry list of wants and needs and then going back to your busy-busy life. Prayer is, or it should be, mostly companionship. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a wonderful way to get some alone time with God. But it’s not necessary, if it’s not do-able.

I experienced the profound conversion that changed my life while I was driving my car on the way to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. God is with you, always. You only have to start talking to Him.

I’m still learning the blogging ropes. At the same time, I’m also trying to learn how to live my first vocation, which is simply and always to love Jesus and let Him love me. The challenge to my faith in 2013 has been the surprising reality that I need to learn how to speak about Jesus in a public forum and then just go home to Him the rest of the time.

I think talking about this on this blog is highly appropriate. It is, after all, called Public Catholic and is dedicated to helping all of us, you and me both, learn to live our faith in the public side of our lives. We live in a society where the public debate, the media and most educational institutions are dominated by an anti-Christian viewpoint that is not the least bit ashamed to engage in Christian bashing that rises to a discriminatory level. We have reached the point where at least in some quarters verbal abuse and hazing directed at Christians is considered a form of righteousness.

Every one who stands for Jesus is going to pay a price.

The only way this blog can help to empower Christians to find their voice for Christ in the face of that overt and ugly resistance is if we talk honestly to one another. We need, all of us, to base our efforts to speak for Jesus on a real faith that is nourished and sustained in the private side of our lives.

Nobody told me this rock was out there under the blogging water when I began doing this. I did not realize that I would learn that I had to repent of my self-sufficiency. I had to hit the rock of spiritual dryness and feel the unpleasant thunk all on my own.

For all I know, the other Christian bloggers here at Patheos have never come up against this. I tried a few months ago to talk to a priest about it because I thought that, of all people, a priest who has to go out there and wear his faith on his collar all the time would understand. He just stared at me like I was speaking Klingonese.

I decided then that I was on my own with this, or, rather, I was on my own with Jesus. But that’s how I became a Christian in the first place; just me and Jesus.

What that means for me is making time for the simple things: Pray the Rosary, read the Bible, go to mass. I can leave the heavy lifting to the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to sustain my relationship with Christ by my actions. All I need to do is stop ignoring Him in my zeal to defend Him and simply talk to Him. I am a child of God, and like all true parents, He will always answer when I call.

President Obama: The Gun Lobby and Its Allies Willfully Lied

“This bill represented moderation and compromise,” President Obama said after his gun registry bill went down to defeat yesterday. The President appeared angry at the press conference discussing the bill. He vowed, “This effort is not over … so long as the American people don’t give up” on the effort.

What this means in terms of real politics remains to be seen. The President used political blackmail against Democratic senators to force them to support the Affordable Health Care Act. He also lied to Democratic Congressmen, saying that he would support religious and conscience exemptions to the bill. He then signed and has stood by the HHS Mandate.

I think this led to mistrust of the president in some quarters. I would guess that this played a part in why gun owners were “upset” about this bill and why they did not trust the president’s statements in support of it.

There is a large segment of the population that believes the president absolutely. Unfortunately for him, those were not the citizens whose support he needed to push this bill over. In order to pass gun control, the president needed the votes of Senators and Representatives who are from areas in the country who do not trust the president and who are also strongly in favor of the right to keep and bear arms.

Blaming the “gun control lobby” for “willful lying” seems disingenuous, considering the attitudes of the people in those states. I doubt very much that they needed to lie, willfully or otherwise to get people in those areas to let their elected officials know how they felt about these pieces of legislation.

This is a clip from President Obama’s statement on the gun control vote yesterday.

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We are Going to Have to Learn to Live with This

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We have to learn to live with this.

Aurora, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon.

The names are like a slow beat sounding out grief and sorrow.

They don’t cover the “smaller” tragedies and the near tragedies. They also don’t speak of the Amish girls, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City.

We talk about gun control, but gun control is no defense against pressure cookers loaded with ball bearings or rental trucks filled with fertilizer mixed with jet fuel.

In truth, we can not seal ourselves in a room small enough, we can not pass laws limiting enough to be safe. We are dealing with murderous humans. Humans are too smart for us to ever stop them with our prohibitions, metal detectors and regulations. We are like dogs, chasing our own tails with that approach.

Our society, our world, needs conversion.

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But before we can even begin that basic task we have to face a single reality: We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

The “this” we must learn to live with is the steady beat of the murderous metronome of casual killing that has become part of the fabric of our lives. Whether the killer of the day is a mass murdering young man with a high-powered weapon, a terrorist with a recipe for mayhem or a serial killer hiding in the shadows, the thing that drives them is always the same. It is, as a reader of this blog said in an unconnected quote, an ability to “not consider the person” who will die.

Murder is made possible by a disconnect from the suffering of others. It is, in the final analysis, the most extreme failure of empathy. Not, notice, as we like to say, a “failure of love.” It is not necessary to love someone to refrain from killing them. But it is necessary to separate from their humanity, to objectify them and to not “consider” them and what you are about to do to them.

This nation has been raising up psychopaths the way we once raised up artists and inventors. At the same time, we live in a world of directed psychopathy that creates terrorism, which is nothing more than the murder of innocent civilians.

If we are ever going to change any of this, we will have to face the fact that we need to do more than reach for another quick fix through regulation, safety protocols and prohibitions. We can not give up enough of our freedoms to make ourselves safe from one another.

The only way to become safe from other people is to structure our society in such a way that we end the continuous abuse and disregard of our children. We must stop raising up psychopaths. To do that, we’ve first got to admit that we are doing something wrong. I see a complete refusal to acknowledge that running throughout our public discourse.

Even if we woke up tomorrow, resolved to re-shape our homes, families, schools and institutions along healthy, nurturing lines, it would take time to turn this vast ship of  disintegration away from its current path toward the rocks of social dissolution. Since there is very little hope that we will do this, we are out of alternatives.

Aurora

We are going to have to learn to live with this.

If we are going to stay sane as individual people, we must accept the reality of our lives for what they are. That means accepting that Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Amish school girls, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Oklahoma City and even 9/11 are not isolated events. They are part of our national life. They are what happens. We have to face the horror of their having happened and add the certainty that they will happen again on top of it, then learn to live with this bitter knowledge.

I am not preaching and teaching a course in despair with this post. I am trying to bring us down to the hard cold reality of our situation.

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We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

That does not mean that we have to learn to accept it. It means that we have to stop viewing each horror as a separate event and realize that they are all connected in the psyches of those who commit them. This indifference of killers to the people they kill is not new. The blood of innocents has cried out from the ground since people left the garden.

God gave us the only answer to this. Those of us who are Christians have it, if we will just use it.

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We are going to have to get used to this, this blood-soaked world in which we live. But we do not need to dive into despair and hopelessness because of it. We must, for the sake of our sanity, stop letting these horrible events take us over and cast us down. We have to get used to it and live with it and move on past it.

We need to focus on the message that we as Christians are the only ones equipped to bring: There is no death. Life has meaning. Everything we do in this life matters in eternity. 

Get up off your bed of grief and despair and Catholic on. Turn off the tv and go to work. Take care of your family, clean your house, do your job and live. Pray for the injured, the dead and those who love them. If you are able to help them directly, do it. If not, you can help them best by maintaining the order and stability of the society in which they live.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. The time to begin is now. 

Marriage is Dying Because We are Killing It

Remember this? 

This was the million-strong march in support of traditional marriage that took place in Paris a few weeks ago. President Hollande said at the time that he would push gay marriage through, anyway.

And he did it.

This Associated Press story describes the vote in his Cabinet on the bill legalizing gay marriage that took place shortly after this protest. The bill is not law at this point, but this vote puts it on the way to becoming law. The story reads in part:

PARIS (AP) — President Francois Hollande’s Cabinet pushed ahead with a controversial French bill Wednesday that could see gay marriage legalized early next year, defying vocal opposition in the majority Catholic country from religious leaders, the rural heartland and the conservative opposition.

The French leader’s top ministers approved the bill legalizing marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, sending it to the legislature for debate, only one day after two American states, Maine and Maryland, became the first in the U.S. to approve same-sex marriage in a popular vote.

Gay marriage has become a contentious issue in France, where Hollande made it a liberal cornerstone of his campaign, hoping it would create a clean break from his conservative predecessor. At the time, it appeared to have the backing of a majority of the population, but it has since turned into a politically sensitive issue.

Though France would become the 12th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage if the bill passes, the country of 60 million people would become the biggest so far in terms of economic and diplomatic influence. (Read more here.)

Yesterday, the British House of Commons passed a bill that would redefine marriage so that it is no longer between one man and one woman.

These changes in the law will, if they pass, effectively destroy marriage as a cradle for raising children in both France and the United Kingdom. I am going to argue that this destruction of marriage — and the concomitant destruction of its ability to create and raise children who become stable, productive adults — did not begin with gay marriage.

But that is the subject of another post.

What I want to say here is simpler, and it is not a statement. It is a question.

What price will we  pay for destroying marriage? 

Where will the absolute destruction of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman — people who, by the nature of their being, are capable of producing new life together — lead us?

We have been steadily trashing our marriages and our homes for decades.

The result has been waves of feral young people who are increasingly emotionally incapable and unwilling to marry and provide stable homes for their own children. The young people we are producing as a result of our destruction of marriage also appear to have a frighteningly high number of violent psychopaths in their midst; young men are willing to commit mass murder in our theaters and in our schools.

The solution which is being offered for these mass murders — gun control — is an attempt to lock everyone in a box because we find we cannot control these psychopaths in our midst. No one – no one – is willing to make the obvious link between these mass murders and the crumbling moral and social structure of our society.

Gay marriage did not start the destruction of marriage. Heterosexuals have done a fine job of that up to now all on their own. Sadly, gay marriage is not even the end of the attacks on marriage.

There are other depths we will plumb if we legalize gay marriage in a universal fashion. That is because gay marriage utterly unhinges marriage from its moorings as an institution designed to facilitate the creation and nurture of children and makes it a matter of fashion. Once we’ve legally established that marriage has nothing to do with protecting our young, there is no limit to the “rights” for marital experimentation that will be claimed.

Marriage is dying because we are killing it.

We’re killing it, and we’re the only ones who can bring it back to life. We need to stand for traditional marriage under the law. But perhaps even more importantly, we need to start living it in our lives.

The Day When Nobody Died

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Pray to St Michael

The prayer to St Michael seems especially relevant today.

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If you have young children …

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I don’t want to talk about what happened in Connecticut. Not yet. But I feel compelled to say a few words about one area of this tragedy.

What if you have young children?

My advice is to do your best to shelter them from this. They might find it terrifying in a way that no little child should be terrified. Keep your tv tuned to other things. Don’t talk about it in front of them.

If they go to daycare or school, you need to prepare them for what they will hear there. Tell them about what happened in as few words as they will understand. Do it calmly. Then tell them that they are safe. Inoculate them against fear.

If, on the other hand, they encounter something that does scare them — through other kids at day care, their school, or maybe seeing the news coverage — then it’s very important for you to be calm and not over dramatize it. No “how could anyone do this?” in front of your babies. I don’t mean downplay it. What I mean is don’t scare them further. You have to tell them that you will keep them safe. Mommy and Daddy will take care of you. That has to be the message.

I would make a point of going to my child’s school or day care and having a frank talk with the teachers and principal about how they are going to handle this. In fact, I might decide to be in the classroom when it is discussed. If your child is scared, take off work and go spend a few hours at the school or day care, just sitting in. It does wonders for your child to see you there. If, for some reason, the school objects, then keep them home. In fact, at that point, I would consider alternative educational choices.

I know that right now you feel like you’re whistling your way through the deepest dark. I know that you are asking yourself how can any parent keep their child safe in a world like this. But don’t share those fears with them. Talk, instead to your spouse, that other person who loves them as much as you do. If you are a single parent, share your fears with an adult you trust, not your children. Divorced parents should, if possible, still unite in talking to their children about this and making them feel safe. If that’s not possible, do the best you can, and do not use this as some back-handed way to attack your former spouse.

My children went to public schools for a brief while; two and a half years for one of them. Quite frankly, that is the one thing I regret most about how I raised them. I’ll go into more details about why I feel that way in another post. The point for what I’m saying now is that one of my sweet babies was in school the day of the bombing here in Oklahoma City. Someone deliberately killed little children, parked a bomb under a day care, that day, too. Children who were in that bombing and who were grievously injured are members of our parish.

I am not going to say any more. I don’t have any magical advice that will make this easy for parents of young children. You are faced with a serious situation here. Do all you can to keep this tragedy from stripping your children of their security and innocence.

I will pray for you and for all parents of young children in the days to come.

Blessings.


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