2013 Favs: Christian Persecution: Holy Father Warns Bishops of Coming Persecution

Pope Francis has spoken of Christian persecution. So did Pope Benedict XVI. The papacy is continuity, going back to the words, Thou art Peter. Unfortunately, Christian persecution is a continuity, as well. More Christians have died for their faith in the last century than all the previous centuries combined.

Far from abating, Christian persecution appears to be worsening and spreading, including socially accepted Christian baiting and bullying of Christians here in post Christian America. 

I wrote this post on January 11, 2013. 

 

The Holy Father cautioned bishops that they will inevitably face persecution for standing for Christ in the increasingly secular world of the future.

He issued this warning in his homily for Epiphany. Even though the warning was directed to bishops, I think it applies to all Christians. The day of cheap grace is passing for all of us.

We must, as Joshua instructed the Israelites, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” I hope that we will be able to say along with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

ROME, January 9, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “What sort of man” must a bishop be? The kind of man who can face persecution without flinching, Pope Benedict XVI said at the Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany at St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

At the Mass, the pope ordained four priests to the episcopate, one of whom is his close confidante and private secretary, Msgr. Georg Gaenswein.

Pope Benedict XVI

“Inevitably,” the pope said, faithful bishops will be “beaten by those who live lives opposed to the Gospel, and then we can be grateful for having been judged worthy to share in the passion of Christ”.

The Pope’s comments follow his recent pattern of especially strong statements on Dec. 14Dec. 21and Jan. 7  in response to the increasing push for abortion, acceptance of homosexual behaviour and general fierce opposition to the Church’s moral teachings from both inside and outside the Church.

“Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs,” Pope Benedict said.

“Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous.” Seeking the “approval of the prevailing wisdom,” he said, “is not a criterion to which we submit.”

“The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves,” said the pope. “The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.” (Read more here.)

Trendy Jesus, Gonzaga, and MIssion Drift in Catholic Universities

Logo GonzagaPrimary

Catholic education cannot be Catholic unless it is also faithful to the Church and its teachings. 

Trendy Jesus is not the Lord of all Creation who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The Catholic Church, with its 2,000 year witness of absolute fealty to Christian teaching, is irreplaceable. It has handed the Gospels, the creeds and the sacraments forward through the millennia to us and it will send them forward again to our children and grandchildren.

CatechismoftheCatholicChurch

Catholic education is part of that handing forward of an unblemished faith. When Catholic universities start spinning off into their own trendy little orbits around the moral fashions of the day, they cease to be legitimately Catholic and they fail in their mission.

Catholic schools are pressured to forego their first mission of upholding and teaching the faith, even here in the Oklahoma backwaters. In my town, it’s the schools in the wealthier areas who get the most pressure and who most often accede to it.

This pressure does not usually come from Catholic parents. It comes from non-Catholics, including a surprising number of atheists, who send their children to these schools for the excellent education outside the troubled public school system. I’ve listened to these parents decry the “backwardness” of the Catholic schools they send their children to. They can sneer and belittle with the best of them.

The schools often bend to this nonsense and shear themselves clean of large parts of their reason for existing in the first place.

It appears that this process of mission betrayal is far advanced in a number of the elite Catholic Universities in this nation. I’ve written before about “elite” Catholic Universities that have become expensive funnels for tracking their students from wealthy zip codes back into those same zip codes. Rather than being the leaven of society that Americans have long thought education to be, they are becoming markers of a new and isolated ruling class. I’ll go back to that aspect of this scandal in other posts.

Georgetown obama

Today I want to talk about the loss of Catholic identity in some of our most well-known Catholic Universities. This ranges from Georgetown University and its willingness to cover the cross so that it wouldn’t be photographed with President Obama, to Gonzaga University and its refusal to give official status to the Knights of Columbus.

If Catholic Universities do not offer anything different than secular universities, then why do they matter? If all they give the Church is bragging rights about their famous graduates — many of whom appear to go out and fight against Church teaching in their careers — then why are we, the faithful — supporting them?

Gonzaga University is not alone in its mission drift. But its refusal to give the Knights of Columbus official status has certainly spotlighted what is happening there.

Dr Eric Cunningham, faculty adviser of the Knights of Columus council at Gonzaga, gave an interview to the National Catholic Register that speaks for itself in this regard. I’m going to pull quotes from the article, then link to it so you can read it all.

From The National Catholic Register:

A professor at Gonzaga University has countered claims by the school that it supports the campus’ Knights of Columbus Council after the group’s application to be a student organization was denied.

“Honestly I don’t see that they’re supported in any way,” Dr. Eric Cunningham, assistant director of Catholic Studies and faculty adviser to the university’s Knights council, told CNA April 15.

“If they’ve been denied club status, the only way they exist here is that the members of the Knights of Columbus council are enrolled here,” Cunningham stated.

This year the council has met at a seminary attached to the university, but has not been affiliated with the university, according to university paper The Gonzaga Bulletin.

Cunningham has noticed that the council is “listed in our advertising materials,” specifically in a brochure “that goes out to parents” showing the group listed as a student organization.  “So in other words, we’re kind of using them as recruiting tool, telling parents that we have a Knights of Columbus council that their sons can certainly join if they come here.”

Cunningham understands that roughly $1,000 of the council’s funds had been frozen by the Gonzaga student body association, and he said that “what I hear from the membership, is that hasn’t been returned yet.”

“Not only are they not being supported, they haven’t had their money returned to them. There’s no official support.” Cunningham has been associated with the council since 2006, and noted that he has made available to them the Catholic studies house, after “they were asked by the director of university ministry to stop meeting there.”

“They don’t have a chapter house, they were actually asked to stop meeting in the house they had been using. So I’d really love to know what Gonzaga is defining as support for the campus council.”

Cunningham lamented that this is typical of numerous Catholic universities, saying that “there’s nothing new about this” and that it “goes on I’m sure at every Catholic college campus in America, that hasn’t made its decision to reform itself as a more ‘Magisterial’ school.”

“Catholic universities are leading the way in turning Catholicism into a purely secular discourse and are restricting a serious intellectual engagement with what it means to be Catholic.” (Read more here.)

 

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.

 

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

So … What does it look like from your side?

A reader brought me up short yesterday with the observation that Oklahoma is not the center of the known universe and what I experience here doesn’t translate so well to her life as a Christian in Seattle.

She had a point, and a good one. In truth, I am an expert on what it means to be a female, pro-life, Catholic, Democratic wife, mother, member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. It’s kind of hard to top my knowledge of that itty bitty piece of the universe. But in other things, other places, other ways of living … not so much.

I hadn’t looked too closely at the election numbers until yesterday. I wanted to wait until all the votes everywhere were counted and on the tally sheet. When I did take a look, I saw that the only state that went harder for Governor Romney than Oklahoma was Utah. Interesting, but not surprising. What did surprise me was how razor-thin the popular vote turned out to be.

President Obama targeted his race and drove up his electoral vote count. He did it with carefully selected wedge issues designed to appeal to urban voters in the big population areas of the electoral bread basket states of the country. He also clearly let the rest of the country go. His goal was to win.

Now, he has to govern. The way he won will inevitably make governing far more difficult than if he had been elected by a wider swath of the electorate. It also spells trouble for Democratic Congressional candidates who have to run for re-election in two years in states that were left off the list by their president.

Make no mistake about it: The electoral vote will elect a president, but the popular vote affects his ability to govern.

How does this relate to the reader’s comments about my lack of understanding concerning the life of a pro-life Christian in a blue-state environment like Seattle? Just this: Obama won Washington State with a healthy 55.8% margin, but he didn’t landslide it. Romney came in at 41.8%, which leaves a little less than 3% of the voters who either voted for third-party candidates or didn’t vote in the presidential election at all.

Don’t misunderstand me; President Obama won Washington State, and he won it decisively. But 42% of the votes cast still went to the candidate nobody but his mother wanted. Why, with 42% of the voters demonstrating that they are in some sort of general agreement with her, would the commenter feel so isolated?

She said, “Here in Seattle I espouse conservative pro life ideas and get knocked over the head called names yelled at, etc. Forget the party elites, you are a fool to try to compete here with if you are a conservative.”

That’s isolation. It’s also outrageous behavior on the part of those who are treating her this way. However, even based on my almost total ignorance of what it’s like to live anywhere except what is called “flyover country” by those on the coasts, I can see the truth of what’s she’s saying. In my very brief visits to areas like San Francisco and Seattle, I’ve heard some of the same.

Based on the statistics I’ve looked at, the big vote totals for President Obama came, not just from the states he targeted, but from the parts of those states that he targeted. He went for the urban vote and he got it. One method he used to engage voters in those areas was to use things like abortion, same-sex marriage and an inaccurate representation of federal funding for contraceptives as wedge issues.

He didn’t have to do much to engage the Hispanic populations in those areas. The Republicans, with their attacks on Hispanics in the past, had done that for him. All of this was layered on top a base of passionate African American voters.

I can see how any traditional Christian living in one of these cities would feel isolated, beleaguered and totally outnumbered. The President not only won the commenter’s town, he won it by going in-your-face with traditional Christians like her. That says plenty about what the comfort level in the community would be for a  pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious freedom Christian.

I can also see that someone who is living through that would feel more than a little bit of exasperation with me for assumptions I make based on life in Oklahoma. I’m not trying to equate my experiences with hers, or to say I know what I don’t, but I have had some experience with being hazed for my faith.

Even though I live in the reddest of red states, I am still a Democratic elected office holder. I get my fair share of what traditional Christians who live in places like Seattle encounter. But the commenter is right when she says it comes from party activists and not the larger culture.

Actually, here in Oklahoma, most of the criticism I get from the larger culture is for my more Democratic opinions, such as my opposition to the attacks Republicans made on Hispanics. My feeling is that wherever you live, if you follow Jesus, you’re going catch flack.

One thing I’ve learned from doing this blog is that the blah, blah, blah of those who attack traditional Christians is virtually the same everywhere. I don’t just mean that it’s the same both in Seattle and Oklahoma. I mean it’s the same worldwide. The intensity may vary. The freedom these people feel to attack Christians surely varies. But the verbiage is identical to the point of boredom.

We can discuss what this identical messaging from these people means another time. For now, let’s focus on what life is like for a traditional Christian in an urban, blue-state environment. How can a Christian be effective for Christ in an environment like this?

Since I don’t live in that part of the country, I need to learn from those of you who do. Feel free to tell me these things. I really want to learn from you.

Patheos Election Month: The Most Important Issue For Catholics Is …

I almost took a pass on this one.

Something about Catholics picking out one issue and saying “That’s it! That’s the only thing you need to care about in this election!” seems wrong to me. I don’t think you can trim the Gospels down to an issue, or for that matter to an election, or the democratic process itself.

Following Christ means giving all of you, your whole life, and not just your vote. Too many people these days have convinced themselves that voting right is the equivalent to living right, and living right is all the grace or goodness any of us will ever need. My main complaint about that tidy little approach to Christianity is that I don’t believe it’s Christianity at all.

What kind of Christianity can it be that leaves out Jesus, the Gospels and the Cross?

However, no matter how broad our call, we are also tasked with living out our faith by the decisions we make when we go to the polls and cast our votes. We do this not as a substitute for following Christ day by day, but as part of it.

Clearly, the one issue that threatens my Church, which is the Catholic Church, above all others is the HHS Mandate. I would argue that this Mandate threatens not only Catholics, but all churches. I would follow that argument with another; that the HHS Mandate threatens not just religious people, but secularists, as well.

The HHS Mandate is a broadside fired straight through the First Amendment. The First Amendment not only protects the right of religious people and churches to practice their faith without government interference, it also protects the rights of those who are not religious to ignore and argue against faith without religious interference.

The First Amendment is a wall built around individual conscience and freedom of belief which has allowed us to believe and not believe in harmony with one another for over 200 years. It’s ironic that the forces which seek to tear down this wall are the ones who benefit from it the most.

Atheists are fond of pointing to the excesses of religious practice in the hands of fallen people, even while they seek to practice those same excesses themselves in their attacks on religious faith. What they leave out of their calculations is that the same First Amendment they are working so hard to turn into an instrument of oppression can, once it is fashioned, become an instrument to be used against them.

We live in a time when political activists have become so enamored with their various visions of a brave new tomorrow that they seek to abandon the basic freedoms of speech and religion on which they base their own claims. They would deny those who disagree with them the same freedoms of self-expression and right to organize that they used in their own march to a successful presentation of their arguments.

Thus we have laws and campus rules that deny Christian clubs the right to organize on college campuses because they require their members to express a commitment to traditional Christian principles. The argument is simple: Those principles are opposed to views that other people want to further, in particular same-sex marriage and abortion. So, the clubs must either bend to those views or disband.

All these acts of religious oppression were forerunners and foundation builders for the HHS Mandate. They created a large group of people who have been taught to hate Christianity and Christians so much that they are willing to toss away their own freedoms, if those freedoms also protect the rights of Christians. When these people were presented with the HHS Mandate, they rallied around it in a knee-jerk, hating-Catholics-is-cool reaction.

That leads us back to the question of our votes in two weeks. There is no single issue that, to my mind, trumps the HHS Mandate. I view it as one of the most serious challenges to our Constitutional government since the Civil War.

All this is not to say that we should abandon every other issue and ignore whole chapters of the Gospels in order to fit our faith to political party dictates. Whoever wins this election, Christians are in for a real fight. Political candidates who patronize Christians in order to co-opt them are just as dangerous to our faith as those who attack us outright.

My hope is that no matter how this election turns out, Christians will awaken to the threat the HHS Mandate represents and realize that, even if it should be overturned in the future, it still represents a current threat.

To continue with my use of nautical terms, the hull has been breached. Simply rescinding this mandate does not change the fact that government has stepped over this line. It most certainly will happen again. We can not trust our freedoms to electoral whim, nor can we vest our defense of them in politicians.

We must begin, as Christian people, to take on the responsibility of standing up for our faith ourselves. Every time we have acceded to a diminishment of our rights, we have been faced with another, more extreme, demand that we accede further.

Catholicism is a comprehensive approach to the Gospels. If we are to be true to our Catholic faith, we must work to bring the Kingdom  by our faithful attempts to follow the whole Gospels. The reason why is simple: Jesus doesn’t ask for what’s left over after we give ourselves to everything else first. He wants all of us.

 
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But Leave it There

I respected the woman speaking to me. She and I had the same background, shared most of the same beliefs. But we were at odds that day. She looked at me with the hot-eyed stare of a person who is not to be reasoned with and pointed her finger at me to emphasize her words.

“You can go to church as much as you want,” she said, “but leave it there.”

She was angry with me because I had passed a bill that, among other things, required unemancipated minors to either get parental consent or a judicial bypass before elective abortions.

The abortion wars destroy friendships in politics, and my friendship with this lady was ending over this bill. I could have said a lot of things to her that day, but I sensed some deep wound driving her anger, and I didn’t want to hurt her. So, I held my tongue. I knew as I walked away that this woman who had been my friend was now my enemy.

I also knew that her request that I leave my faith in the church pews was both arrogant and common. Accusations that people who believe in the sanctity of human life are trying to “legislate their religion,” or that they want to “build a theocracy” are standard commentary from the other side of the debate.

I try my best to never reply in kind. I don’t call people who favor legal abortion names. I don’t attack them for slips of the tongue or research their personal lives looking for sexual peccadilloes, embarrassing photos from long-past fraternity parties or ugly divorce testimony.

I do all I can to let them have the low road if they want it so much and keep my focus on the one thing I care about in all this, which is my simple belief that it is wrong to kill people. I won’t use my job to kill people. And I won’t help anyone else kill them, either. I know that sounds almost comically simple. But adhering to it in a legislative environment can get you cursed, reviled, slandered, picketed and, yes, advised to leave your faith at church.

I’ve been getting these demands that I be a sham Christian for years. Go to church all you want. We don’t care. But leave it there. The people who say this are usually in a froth of self-righteousness when they do it. They can look at you with such hatred that it almost scorches your skin. And they almost always toss in a canard about “separation of church and state” to give dignity to what is in reality an outrageous thing to say.

It’s ironic. People are always accusing politicians of being hypocrites, but in this instance we have a large segment of the population actually demanding it of them.

“Go to church all you want, but leave it there” has nothing at all to do with separation of church and state. There is nothing in the First Amendment that says that elected officials may not reference their personal religious and moral beliefs in the decisions they must make.

I don’t believe this lady was worried about separation of church and state. I think she wanted me to live and vote according to her beliefs rather than my own. That’s the core of these attacks. It’s that you’re not doing what they want you to, and attacking you with bogus nonsense about separation of church and state and building a theocracy sounds better than just pitching a fit and saying “Do what I tell you or else!”

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning has advanced far beyond me and what an angry lady said to me in the hallway outside the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Today we have the Health and Human Services Department of the United States Government telling the largest religious denomination in America virtually the same thing and backing it up with what amounts to a draconian threat.

Teach what you want from the pulpit they tell the Church. But if you don’t bend to the government and violate those same teachings in your institutions, we will fine and penalize you out of business. That’s the gist of the HHS Mandate compelling the Catholic Church to provide insurance coverage for birth control and abortifacients for the employees of its institutions.

What it all comes down to is that the Federal Government is telling the Catholic Church “Say mass as much as you want. But leave it there.”

And, yes, this time it really is a violation of separation of church and state.

Number of Unchurched in USA Increases to One in Five

According to a recent Pew Forum poll, one in five American adults say they do not have a religious affiliation. This is up from 15% of those polled five years ago and reflects a strong trend in religious affiliation in the United States.

I think this trend is at least in part a result of the increasingly aggressive evangelism by secularists and atheists in our society.

This secularist/atheist evangelism is probably most effective in the enclosed environments of  our college campuses.

Late adolescents who yearn to hear their professors say they are brilliant are easy marks for lecture hall propaganda. The atheist pose becomes even more wish-fulfilling when the other students adopt it, giving them the chance to use it to fit in. It also fits neatly with the late adolescent’s need to find to stage a cost-free rebellion. In short, going atheist gives them the cachet of brilliance they want, the acceptance from their peers they need and the pose of being a rebel in a trendy and safe way. It’s a social win-win-win for them.

Evidently, insulting Christians and verbally harassing them and then bragging about it to one another is part of the social culture of their newfound unbelief. I read a lot of blogs, including a few atheist blogs. One thing that impresses me is the derivative quality of the thinking on the atheist blogs.

They quote from very popular books as if the thought was their own and advance arguments that are at least a hundred years old and then high-five one another for their cleverness. There is such a lot of bragging on these blogs, including obvious lying, about verbal jousts they claim to have had with “faith heads”

This might be funny. It is funny. But when this adolescent boorishness is multiplied by thousands of individuals, all trying to outdo one another in insulting and verbally assaulting a group of people, it becomes verbal harassment, hate speech and the fuel that can run the engine of legal and social discrimination.

Verbal attacks on people of faith are ubiquitous in our society. You see them very time you turn on the tv or listen to the radio. I’ve had to delete and ban to keep this blog from being overrun by them.

It doesn’t surprise me that the number of people who do not chose to identify themselves as part of any particular church is climbing at a time when verbal attacks on people of faith and faith itself are so rampant in our society. People are running away from religious affiliation to keep from being labeled and harassed. They are avoiding any consideration of faith so that they can appear cool and trendy.

I’ve been aware of this trend for some time. My work as an elected official has made me the target of the verbal harassment and hate speech unbelievers feel free to dump on people of faith. I not only saw the harbingers of what was coming, I lived through some of them.

I knew there was a constant agitation through the courts to limit the freedom of speech and expression of religious people, as well as remove any vestiges of Christianity from our public monuments and art. But the HHS Mandate took even me by surprise. I did not expect legal discrimination against people of faith to move so far, so fast.

These things are why I began Public Catholic. Christians must take their blinders off and allow themselves to see this. We need to stop running away from these bullies and begin standing up for Jesus.

The Pew Report underlines that we also need to do a much better job of talking about the wonderful things that Christianity has given and continues to give civilization. The attacks on Christianity that I’ve seen and read are based on biased, bogus scholarship that is basically propaganda used to justify hate speech. All we have to do to counter that is stop letting them badger us into silence and begin telling the truth.

As Bob Dylan said, the times, they are achangin’. It’s up to us to decide what part we’ll play in shaping those changes.

The Pew Forum article describing their report says in part:

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).3

No religious affiliation in America has grown to 19.6%

This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.

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The growth in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans – sometimes called the rise of the “nones” – is largely driven by generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones.4 A third of adults under 30 have no religious affiliation (32%), compared with just one-in-ten who are 65 and older (9%). And young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives.

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These generational differences are consistent with other signs of a gradual softening of religious commitment among some (though by no means all) Americans in recent decades. Pew Research Center surveys conducted over the last 10 years, for example, find modest growth in the number of people who say they seldom or never attend religious services, as well as a declining number who say they never doubt the existence of God. (Read more here.)


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