You’ll never guess this priest’s clever idea for conservative Christians asked to serve gay weddings *UPDATED*

Gay marriage wedding cake photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 26-1-2008.If you’re wondering why we’re suddenly hearing so many stories about conservative Christians (not Muslims, mind you, just Christians) being dragged before the thought-police for failing to bake cakes, make bouquets, or take photographs at gay weddings, you need wonder no more.

Coincidence is not at work here.  These small business people are being targeted. While the true civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s targeted the government that denied them their constitutional rights, as well as big businesses that cooperated with the government, we now have the flip side of that:  Those people pushing an agenda antithetical to individual citizens who claim their rights under the Constitution are working hand-in-hand with the government to destroy them.  The message from the institutional Left is clear: Get with the program or we will bankrupt you.

One priest, however, has come up with a clever idea that, if broadly applied, will bring that tactic to a complete halt. Father John Zuhlsdorf says that conservatives who don’t wish to have their freedoms of speech, religion, or association impinged upon by being forced to participate in ceremonies offensive to their core religious beliefs, don’t need to become martyrs.  Instead, with politeness and good cheer, they can disarm completely the Left’s economic terrorism:

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Some random last thoughts about RFRA and gay marriage

A friend sent me this poster:

Wedding cake ordered to make

I emailed my friend back, and thought I’d share with you the random thoughts the poster triggered in my fevered brain:

We know that gay lefties, each thinking of him or her (or its) self as a modern-day Rosa Parks, aren’t just stumbling into these bakeries or photographic studios by accident, but are, instead, deliberately targeting Christians. It’s the nature of the target, of course, that explains why these self-styled activists are no Rosa Parks. Parks targeted government discrimination. These lefties are targeting individual freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. Huge difference.

And here’s another “one more thing” to say about this gay mafia: Because they’re targeting good Christians, I can bet you the Lefties assume that the same people who place such value in their relationship with Christ would never dream of spitting in food — or doing something even nastier. If you watched that icky movie The Help, you remember that the black woman got audience applause for baking her own feces into a pie. The Left knows, however, that someone who will sacrifice a job rather than betray his faith won’t really do something like that.

Jesus would have supported RFRA

Jesus-and-Cross-BR550The useful thing about the Left’s willingness to expose its ignorance is that analyzing its errors often leads one to greater truths.  For me, the greater truth flowing from a poster highlighting Leftist stupidity is that Jesus almost certainly would have approved of Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as similar acts in other states and under federal law.

Being Jewish, I have to admit that I don’t usually run things through a “What Would Jesus Do” filter.  However, I started thinking along those lines when a large number of my Leftist Facebook friends got very excited about this Easter poster:

Flog a banker

My first thought was that, in general principle, the man who preached the Sermon on the Mount would not have approved of that poster. Jesus was not generally a fan of flogging:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

***

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

Still, there’s a grain of truth in that anti-Christian poster. Upon his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus did yell at the money changers and tip over their tables. What enraged him, though, wasn’t their profession, even though he did castigate their enclave as a “den of thieves.” Instead, he was upset because they were profaning the holy area of the Temple.  Matthew describes an angry man:

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

John describes a man willing to use the lash to clean God’s house:

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

What Lefties, who are “instruction” learners, rather than “principle” learners, take away from John is very specific:  Flog people who handle money.  In fact, that’s completely wrong.  I’ve already noted that, as a general. matter, Jesus did not believe in using violence against his fellow man, even if said fellow man was doing something mean or sinful.  There was a bigger principle at stake here.  What drove Jesus to a violent frenzy was the desecration of the Temple.  Jesus had a clear hierarchy:  Treat your fellow man with love and kindness; but treat God, his house, and his words, with absolute reverence, untainted by government or commerce.

Jesus’s clear delineation between religious and secular matters appears again when he was called upon to talk about taxes. When hostile questioners tried to get Jesus to reject as a matter of faith the taxes that Rome imposed on Jews, he instead drew a bright line in the sand: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

The Founders, all of whom were steeped in the Bible even if they were not practicing Christians, knew about Jesus’s efforts to keep commerce and government away from the purity of faith. They were also aware of their own history: For more than 100 years, Christians and Jews had come to America to escape the stifling, and often deadly, restrictions imposed upon them by European governments because of their faith. It was in this context that the First Amendment came into being:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Thanks to the 14th Amendment, the individual states are also barred from making laws that impinge on religious freedom. The only exceptions are laws that advance a clearly compelling state interest. For example, assuming we don’t lapse into complete dhimmitude any time soon, our laws against murder would prohibit sharia’s insistence that gays are an offense to Allah and must be hanged, thrown off buildings, or beaten to death.  Outside of abortion, which is a discussion for another day, American morality has been such that the State’s compelling state interest is to protect people’s lives, if at all possible, not to take them.

Given that both Jesus and the Founders upheld an inviolable sphere in which people are free to practice their faith without the sullying influences of government and commerce, what would Jesus think of Indiana’s new RFRA laws?  My feeling is that he’d approve.

Rich Lowry sums up precisely what Indiana’s RFRA law is and what it is not:

All the Indiana law says is that the state can’t substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, unless there is a compelling governmental interest at stake and it is pursued by the least restrictive means. The law doesn’t mandate any particular outcome; it simply provides a test for the courts in those rare instances when a person’s exercise of religion clashes with a law.

The law does not mandate casting stones at gays nor does it require Christians to hate gays.  And interestingly enough, the vast majority of Christians did not cast stones at gays, nor do they hate them (although they disapprove of their sexual practices).

The only thing that the law does is to say, consistent with both Jesus’s teachings and the Constitution, that people of conscience cannot be forced to bring commerce or government diktats into their own inviolable area of faith.  Put another way, to the extent marriage is a core sacrament to the faithful, the law cannot force them to sell themselves out — in effect, to become coerced money changers in their own temple.

Incidentally, while I’m on the subject of the gay lobby pushing ever harder on Christians and Christian doctrine, let me say that all of this was predictable.  Years and years ago, I warned that gay marriage had nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with toppling religion.  Here’s what I had to say on the subject in 2009, when Prop. 8 (defining marriage in California as being between a man and a woman) was a hot ballot item:

As you know, one of my main reasons for supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, was because I believe that the move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religious organizations — especially the Catholic church — into a head-on collision.

Liberals, when confronted with this notion, will often argue that, while the Catholic Church objects to abortion, that’s never created a constitutional crisis. What they ignore is the fact that, while the church is not in the business of providing abortions, it is in the business of providing marriages. ***

Keep in mind that, for Catholics, marriage isn’t just a white dress, cake and Mendelssohn’s wedding march. Instead, it’s a sacrament. A basic tenet of the religion is the joining of man and woman before God. Marriage is one of the sacraments.

So imagine this scenario: Two men go to the local Catholic parish and demand that it marry them. The priest, sympathetic to their love for each other, nevertheless states that he cannot, at a purely religious level, marry them. The men turn around and sue the Church for violating their Constitutional rights. Suddenly, the judicial system is called upon to examine doctrinal issues to determine whether they mesh with Constitutional issues. It’s a scary scenario for anyone who takes seriously the principle that government may not interfere with religious doctrine.

The RFRA fight is not about protecting gays from discrimination. While the ignorant sheeple who are going around screaming about boycotting Indiana are incapable of understanding this, the people spearheading the charge know perfectly well that RFRA is in essence a shorthand for the established constitutional principle that states may not impose on religion without a compelling reason.

These same operators have a clear ultimate goal, which is to see religion overturned. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, and all the other Leftists who took over Judeo-Christian countries understood that traditional religion, with its emphasis on personal responsibility, justice, morality, and grace, is the enemy of socialism and tyranny. In America, though, because the Constitution precludes direct attacks on Christianity, gay marriage represents a back door way to destroy both the faith and the faithful.  The tactic is working too, as Gov. Pence has already pretty much surrendered.

For more on the upcoming attacks on traditional religions, check out this Ben Shapiro post.

I can’t think of a better way to end this post than to quote Servo1969 about the nature of those groups that seek to overturn the Judeo-Christian tradition in this country — and their nature is not aligned with Christ’s principles about our responsibilities to our fellow man:

The thing to remember about all these modern “rights” groups is that no matter how much they use the word “equal” they don’t really mean it. They don’t want to be regarded as equal with their oppressors; They want to be regarded as better than their oppressors. They want to be given special treatment in all situations and they want it entered into law.

Modern radical feminists are actually female supremacists. They believe they are better than men and that men deserve to be punished collectively for their past transgressions against women.

Modern radical gay rights activists are actually homosexual supremacists.They believe they are better than Christians and that Christians deserve to be punished collectively for their past transgressions against homosexuals.

Modern radical [insert minority here] equal rights activists are actually [insert minority here] supremacists.They believe they are better than whites and that whites deserve to be punished collectively for their past transgressions against [insert minority here].

Christ, with his emphasis on the fact that we are all responsible for ourselves and all equal before God, would not approve.

The Bookworm Beat 2-6-15 — the “Fearless Friday” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingObama’s adversarial relationship with Christianity

What did we expect already from yesterday’s Prayer Breakfast? Obama long ago put the world on notice that he’s going full Bulworth (i.e., after six years in office, he intends, finally, to stop lying and speak the truth).

While before Obama just let out peevish little trickles of animosity, anyone paying attention could tell that:

(a) he’s profoundly ignorant about history — not just American history, but any history, including Muslim and Christian history;

(b) he hates Christians and Christianity;

(c) he hates America, no matter that this nation twice elected him as president (with a little help from the IRS, of course); and

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An amazing Holocaust story plus thoughts about the Big Bang and the human soul

Allies during WWII Hitler and the Grand MuftiHitler loved Islam.*  If you didn’t know that he loved Islam, you might think that Hitler, with his race-based obsessions, would have been hostile to a religion primarily centered on a Semitic people.  To Hitler, though, Islam was a manly religion that shared his goals:  the eradication of the Jews coupled with world domination.  That abiding respect for Islam as practiced by the world’s Muslims, led him to ally  himself closely with Muslims whenever possible:

As David Motadel writes in “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War,” Muslims fought on both sides in World War II. But only Nazis and Islamists had a political-spiritual romance. Both groups hated Jews, Bolsheviks and liberal democracy. Both sought what Michel Foucault, praising the Iranian Revolution in 1979, would later call the spiritual-political “transfiguration of the world” by “combat.”

 

[snip]

By late 1941, Germany controlled large Muslim populations in southeastern Europe and North Africa. Nazi policy extended the grand schemes of imperial Germany toward madly modern ends. To aid the “liberation struggle of Islam,” the propaganda ministry told journalists to praise “the Islamic world as a cultural factor,” avoid criticism of Islam, and substitute “anti-Jewish” for “anti-Semitic.” In April 1942, Hitler became the first European leader to declare that Islam was “incapable of terrorism.” As usual, it is hard to tell if the Führer set the tone or merely amplified his people’s obsessions.

The above historical fact is important to know because it explains one of the most amazing Holocaust survival stories I’ve ever heard.  My learning the story came about in a peculiar way, too.  I was speaking with a friend about our memories.  His is and always has been excellent, but is failing ever so slightly with age.  Mine has always been idiosyncratic, in that I can remember anything that interests me, but have almost no success with brute force, rote memorization (explaining why I’ve never been able to master a language in a classroom).  This conversation about memory reminded my friend of the story behind his Jewish relatives’ survival in wartime Paris.

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Atheists make fatuous arguments that don’t debunk God; Christianity is virtuous; and radical Islam is illiberal and monstrous

Why do atheists care if others prayMy sister watched The Unbelievers, a documentary that follows Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they try to convert people to atheism, with science as the true faith. That’s all fine. If they want to proselytize to willing listeners, good for them. I have just a few comments, based upon what my sister told me, and what I know generally about Krauss and Dawkins:

1. My sister said that Krauss and Dawkins spoke scathingly of people who believe in transubstantiation (the conversion of the wine and wafer into the blood and body of Christ during the Catholic service).

My response was “Thank God [no pun intended] for the people who believe in transubstantiation or for those who don’t believe in transubstantiation but just believe that Christ died for humankind’s sins.” Since we’re Jewish, and I’m an undifferentiated theist, she was surprised at my vehemence.

I explained that the belief in the body and blood of Christ, combined with the story of Isaac, which forbids human sacrifice, is one of the few delicate strands keeping modern civilization from slipping back into human sacrifice. The desire to shed human blood to propitiate random Gods or to take on the strength of the dead lies very close to the surface.
Don’t believe me? Just witness the way the Islamists are boasting about eating parts of their bodies. Even their beheadings and crucifixions are intended as a sign of their worshiping on the Islamist altar.

2. My sister also told me that Dawkins and Krauss claim that the Greeks and the Romans understood higher mathematics, that fundamentalist Christians destroyed that knowledge during that Middle Ages, that moderately religious Muslims raised it up again during our Middle Ages, and that fundamentalist Islamists are destroying knowledge. From this potted history, Dawkins and Krauss conclude that religion is bad because, when fundamentalists grab hold of it, knowledge vanishes. (Yes, it is hearsay from my sister when I say that Dawkins and Krauss relied on this potted history for their conclusion but I still accept it as true because (a) I’ve heard other atheists make the same argument and (b) my sister has proven reliable on these things. Now, back to how dumb this argument is.)

First, for so-called logical people, the syllogism that (a) fundamentalists destroy knowledge; (b) some religions have fundamentalists; (c) therefore all religion is stupid, is obviously false. Do I need to explain why or can I take a short cut here and assume that you are all with me on this one?

Second, as I explained to my sister, what brought about the Dark Ages wasn’t Christianity, which was small potatoes when the Roman empire (which was the inheritor of some Greek knowledge) collapsed. It was the pagans who destroyed the Empire and, with it, its store of knowledge. It was the Christians, starting with monks sequestered far away in Ireland who began the laborious process of bringing light and knowledge back to the darkness. This process was not a straight line and there were definitely people and nations who perverted Christianity to suit evil ends. Ultimately, thought, it was this Christian journey that led to the Enlightenment, to the end of the slave trade, to the end of child labor, to the beginning of the 40 hour work week, and to most other civilized beliefs we have long taken for granted in the Western world.

As for the Muslims, yes, the Muslim world had preserved some of the Greek and Roman mathematical and scientific knowledge, and as well as the marvelous Indian numbering system that goes under the misnomer of “Arabic numerals.” During laxer periods in medieval Muslim history, some people — mostly Jews or former Jews — relied upon this knowledge to come up with important ideas.

But mostly, no, moderate Muslims were not a Renaissance of discovery and creation. Just as was the case when 19 al Qaeda terrorists used an airplane to destroy the Twin Towers, the medieval Muslim world created nothing. It simply hijacked knowledge from the people it conquered. This isn’t to say that I’m not grateful that those Medieval Muslims, unlike today’s fundamentalist Muslims, chose to salvage, not destroy, books and some limited ideas. I’m just saying that only the uninformed could pretend that they actually had an intellectually dynamic and creative culture.

So, to the extent that Krauss, Dawkins, and other atheists attack religion using a crude, false syllogism and a lot of historical ignorance, I’m neither persuaded nor impressed.

3. Dawkins and Krauss advocate science as a substitute for faith. I firmly believe in science, which I define as things that are proven true through careful observation or reliable experimentation, or everything that can be inferred from observation and experimentation. Nevertheless, science is no substitute for faith and, indeed, becomes just as dangerous as any other fundamentalist faith when people fall into that error.

Simply put, history proves over and over that substituting science for faith results stupid ideas. The most obvious example is the claim that the Big Bang disproves God’s existence. Huh? I currently believe in the Big Bang as the most reasonable theory to prove observable phenomena, but someone has to explain to me how the Big Bang disproves God?

It’s true that the Big Bang arguably challenges the Genesis version of creation. However, some would say that the Genesis version is an allegory, since it tracks the earth’s development, both geological and biological with rather uncanny accuracy, rather than a Bronze Age creation fantasy. Whatever. Whether Genesis is a truth, a fable, or an allegory, it doesn’t mean there is no God.

But why get caught up in origin stories. Let’s talk about the world in which we live. Moreover, let’s talk about my favorite example of elevating a scientific theory to the realm of faith.

Where to begin? Every prediction has proven wrong. Every allegedly new phenomenon is, in fact, same old same old. Despite being wrong again, and again, and again, nothing shakes the believer’s faith in the “science” of climate change.  When a doctrine is infallible, it’s not science; it’s faith.

We can also look at a less contentious subject than climate change to prove how wrong science is.  When it comes to diet, it seems as is everything science has ever taught us is wrong. We were told to give up all fat, eat carbs, and use fake sugar. We promptly become obese and diabetic. It turns out that natural fats in moderate quantities are beneficial, that carbs in excess are bad, and that fake sugar messes with our bodies. It’s Sleeper all over again.

Just the other night, on 60 Minutes, scientists proudly admit that, despite humans living with them for 15,000 years, scientists know next to nothing about dogs. I could even argue that they know less than nothing about dogs.  For years many scientists have claimed that dogs do not know “love,” something every dog owner knows is a manifestly false statement. Only now are scientists catching up to the love our common sense always knew was there.

Over and over again, scientists are forced to concede their ignorance and errors — and yet the true believers consistently assert that anthropogenic climate change is unfalsifiable. It must always be true. If that’s not faith — and one in which Dawkins (or, at least, his foundation) and Krauss (who is not a “climate scientist”) unquestioningly believe (see here, beginning at 13:30), I don’t know what it.

(For those interested, Lord Monckton does a beautiful job of debunking the climate faithful who try to debunk the skeptics.)

Having said all of the above about The Unbelievers, I have to say something nice about two famous atheists, one who is incredibly rude and vulgar (that would be Bill Maher) and the other of whom is polite (Sam Harris).  Both of them stood against Ben Affleck, who desperately tried to argue there’s nothing illiberal about Islam.  Amusingly and expectedly, Affleck supported his position by throwing out the term “racist.”  This is an idiocy that could only come from a Leftist who doesn’t understand that Islam is not a race but is, instead, a religion that can be and is embraced by people all over the world, regardless of race or natural origin.

Thinking about Affleck’s last-ditch argument, I have to say that Leftists are constantly unable to separate ideology and behaviors from skin color.  You know, I think they have a name for people like that.  Wait.  Wait.  It’s coming to me.  Oh, yeah!  Racist.  Affleck’s a racist.

And yes, I loved it when Affleck says “we’re endowed by our forefathers with inalienable rights.”  No wonder the Left is so willing to throw those rights overboard.  They don’t come from a Creator; they come from dead white men.

Anyway, you  have to see the video to appreciate it fully.  Here it is:

I disagree with Harris and Maher on many things, but they are brave and honest about this and deserves kudos. Also, to the extent I’m vaguely religious, I pray constantly for their safety, and hope that they don’t end up like Theo Van Gogh.

Also, since I’ve wandered into the subject of Islam, I’d like to commend to your attention an incredibly solid post explaining why it would be an incredible mistake for America to define itself by fear of radical Islam. Our culture may mot be perfect, but the Islamist culture is monstrous and, for that very reason, fundamentally weak.

Barack Obama, in his own words, on Islam and Christianity

obama-churchBarack Obama self-identifies as a Christian.  He seems, though, to find Christianity troubling.  Meanwhile, although he denies being a Muslim, he obviously finds it an emotionally and aesthetically attractive belief system.  Why do I say this?  Because someone was good enough to assemble a list of his statements about both religions, and to put them side-by-side:

Obama on Islam:

1. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”

2. “The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer”

3. “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”

4. “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

5. “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.”

6. “Islam has always been part of America”

7. “we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities”

8. “These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

9. “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

10. “I made it clear that America is not – and will never be – at war with Islam.”

11. “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”

12. “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed”

13. “In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.”

14. “Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

15. “Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality”

16. “The Holy Koran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’”

17. “I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.”

18. “We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe.”

19. “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

20. “I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”

Obama on Christianity:

1. “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation”

2. “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”

3. “Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”

4. “Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.”

5. “The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.”

6. From Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope: “I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.”

7. Obama’s response when asked what his definition of sin is: “Being out of alignment with my values.”

8. “If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn’t have to keep coming to church, would they.”

9. “This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell.”

10. “I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.”

11. “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.”

12. “I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know … I do not believe she went to hell.”

13. “Those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God’s will–they have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths.”

14. On his support for civil unions for gay couples: “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount.”

15. “You got into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

16. “In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology”

17. “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”

18. “We have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own”

19. “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra— (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)”

20. “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

The list doesn’t mean that Obama isn’t a troubled, doubting Christian, or that he’s a closet Muslim.  As Queen Elizabeth I said, it’s not up to us to make windows into men’s souls. But the list of those statements, all of which I remember him making in real-time, strongly indicate that, whatever his actual beliefs, Obama’s affinity (which is different from his faith) seems to hew towards Islam, rather than to the Judeo-Christianity that has for so long underpinned our nation.

Currently, you can find the list here and here.  I found it at American Thinker.

 

Secularists: It’s Christians who are killing Christianity

A joyous full immersion baptismBefore I explain how Christians are killing Christianity (at least according to Alternet and Salon), a short anecdote:  I have friends who used to joke that they would take up smoking when their kids were teens.  Why?  So that the kids, who they assumed would be rebellious, would rebel against Mom and Dad by not smoking.  And now back to Alternet/Salon, where an atheist triumphantly reports that, not only is Christianity dying in America, but also that children raised in Christian homes are part of the demographic most enthusiastically embracing atheism:

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.

Speaking facetiously, I would suggest that, as children in Christian households become teens, their parents ought to indulge in a little Satan worship to help drive their rebellious youngsters back into the religious fold.  On a more serious note, the fact is that young people do rebel . . . and that older people seem to crave faith.  It’s natural when you’re invincible (as all young people are) to feel that you don’t need a God.  And it’s equally natural that, as you age, and see the chaos inherent in the world and feel mortality breathing down your neck, that faith starts to seem like a light and a refuge.  I wouldn’t immediately start panicking about non-religious millennials.

Another analogy relevant to this issue:  Imagine a family with a dog.  One owner hates begging dogs and refuses to feed the dog table scraps.  The other owner loves feeding table scraps.  Torn between the two owners, it’s no contest:  The dog will become a beggar.  The lowest common denominator behavior always wins.

Christianity makes demands upon its adherents.  You have to elevate yourself against your baser instincts.  American secularism, by contrast, encourages people to indulge their baser instincts (mostly their sexual ones).  In a competition between the two, the lowest common denominator behavior will prevail.

Here’s hope, though:  Humans aren’t dogs.  Dogs will beg until they’re too fat to move and everyone hates having them around . . . and they’ll still beg.  Humans, however, have a sense of self-worth that dogs lack.  Unlike dogs, humans have to look at themselves in the mirror and many of them who have spent years living the self-indulgent life of the secularist don’t like what they see.  Religion promises redemption.

Anyway, this is a bit of a choppy post, so I’d very much like to hear what you have to say on the subject.  I think what I’m trying to say is that Christians shouldn’t give up the fight to raise their children in the faith, no matter the numbers.  And having said that, here’s one more choppy point:  secularism ultimately is very thin gruel, since it doesn’t offer answers addressing every thinking person’s existential anxiety.  Faith always fills the vacuum . . . and Islam is the most aggressive faith in the world, one that has no compunction about alternately enticing and bullying lost souls to get on board.

(And while we’re on the subject of faith, David Goldman analyzes the faith underlying modern secularism.)

The gift of forgiveness

Matthew, a firefighter, fell asleep on the way home from a 24 hour shift.  When he awoke, he had caused a crash that killed 30-year-old June and her unborn son.  Left behind were her 18 month old daughter, Faith, and her husband, Erik.  What Erik did next will astound you:

You can read more about Erik and Matthew here.

These are the types of stories that explain (a) why people who subscribe to the religious part of the Judeo-Christian doctrine are happier* and (b) why I envy religious people their deep faith.

_____________

*I subscribe to the moral part of the Judeo-Christian doctrine.  While I’m no longer the atheist I was when I was young, I would be lying if I said that I believed in a personal God, the way these two men do.

Pope Francis’s Marxist economic analysis reflects the Left’s long march through the Catholic Church

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’s recent “Apostolic Exhortation Evangeli Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis, to the Bishops, Clerk, Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World” outraged conservatives, most notably Rush Limbaugh, because it attacks capitalism.  Even though I trust Rush, he admitted that he was just relying on Reuters when he expressed his dismay that Pope Francis would take on the free-market.   I therefore decided to read the Exhortation myself to see if Reuters (which approved of the exhortation) and Rush (who did not approve) were right.  I ended up skimming the 224-page document to get a sense of context and to assure myself that Rush was not misled by Reuters and that Reuters was not misled by its own ideology.   As it happens, both Reuters and Rush were right.

Before I begin, though, let me say that the Pope’s economic remarks are only a small fraction of a larger work that should not be ignored.  Indeed, when Pope Francis is not addressing specifically economic issues, the faithful should pay attention to his words if the Church is to survive in a world with increasing competition for people’s souls.

Pope Francis points out that these external pressures on the Catholic Church include competition from other religions, as well as pressure from what the Pope describes as a world “pervaded as it is by consumerism,” that breeds “the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”  Because of this this highly competitive ideological market, the Pope says — rightly, I think — that the Church must update and adapt its tactics, both among the faithful and to outsiders, while still keeping to its core mission of spreading Christ’s words and ministering to his flock.

But what about his Marxist language? Yes, it’s there and it’s really Marxist. Here are just a few excerpts to give you the flavor:

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality.

[snip]

Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized:without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

At one level, these words repeat what the Church has said since its inception, which is that the faithful have an obligation to the poor. What’s new, and what cannot be denied, is that the words the Pope uses — e.g., “inequality,” “exploitation,” and “oppression” — have a definite pink, Marxist tinge. In the next paragraph, that tinge goes full red as the Pope makes an explicit attack against capitalism:

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

It’s rather peculiar that Pope Francisco says that capitalism “has never been confirmed by the facts.” The history of world economic successes and failures should prove all the facts that anyone could want.  The countries with the highest standards of living have always been capitalist. Moreover, as I noted in an earlier post, true capitalism has social and economic mobility. In a free market, while poverty inevitably exists (“For ye have the poor always with you,” Matthew 26:11), it’s a way station for people on their way to greater economic security, rather than an end point. In non-capitalist societies, however, the same families are mired in poverty for generations. This situation reaches its apex in communist societies, where entire populations are mired in poverty for generations.

The Pope doubles down on his Marxist economic analysis when he defends a managed economy as the best way to relieve income “inequality.” He seems unaware that economic inequality is not a byproduct of capitalism but is, instead, a byproduct of managed economies with their inevitable “crony capitalism” (which is a fancy word for corruption).

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control.

There’s no way to pretty this up. The Pope is not saying that the best economic system is a free market system tempered by a moral citizenry.  Moreover, if he’s saying that poor Third World countries suffer from free-market systems, and that these systems explain their appalling poverty, he’s just wrong. The fact is that poor, Third World countries don’t suffer from an excess of free-market systems. They suffer from corrupt governments, medieval theocracies, and socialist economic systems, all of which use the strong hand of government to interfere with the marketplace.

The laws of economics are both as abstract and as inexorable as the laws of physics. Governments that try to override them only end up perverting their inevitable, implacable outcomes. Icarus soared for a few minutes until his poorly designed wax wings ended in his fatal fall to earth. Government interference works for a few years as it pumps paper money into the economy, or redistributes from rich to poor, but then true wealth disappears and the managed, manipulated economy collapses, leaving a few winners (usually government cronies) and a lot of desperately poor losers. We give our losers welfare, but they’re still losers in a system in which true wealth diminishes as the government continuously impoverishes the wealth-creators in our society.

Okay. So the Pope went full Marxist. Why did he do that? I think the answer is a simple one: he’s from Latin America. The Latin American Catholic Church went Leftist in the 1950s and 1960s, when it developed “liberation theology.” This time line coincides perfectly with Pope Francis’s coming-of-age as a Catholic priest.

“Liberation theology” is a pure Leftist doctrine tacked onto Catholicism:

Liberation theology proposes to fight poverty by addressing its alleged source: sin. In so doing, it explores the relationship between Christian theology — especially Roman Catholic theology — and political activism, especially in relation to social justice, poverty, and human rights. The principal methodological innovation is seeing theology from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed. For example Jon Sobrino, S.J., argues that the poor are a privileged channel of God’s grace.

Some liberation theologians base their social action upon the Bible scriptures describing the mission of Jesus Christ, as bringing a sword (social unrest), e.g. Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 10:34, Luke 22:35–38 — and not as bringing peace (social order)[better source needed]. This Biblical interpretation is a call to action against poverty, and the sin engendering it, to effect Jesus Christ’s mission of justice in this world.

Gustavo Gutiérrez gave the movement its name with his book A Theology of Liberation (1971). In this book, Gutierrez combined populist ideas with the social teachings of the Catholic Church. He was influenced by an existing socialist current in the Church which included organizations such as the Catholic Worker Movement and the French Christian youth worker organization, “Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne”. He was also influenced by Paul Gauthier’s “The Poor, Jesus and the Church” (1965). Gutierrez’s book is based on an understanding of history in which the human being is seen as assuming conscious responsibility for human destiny, and yet Christ the Savior liberates the human race from sin, which is the root of all disruption of friendship and of all injustice and oppression.

Gutierrez also popularized the phrase “preferential option for the poor”, which became a slogan of liberation theology and later appeared in addresses of the Pope. Drawing from the biblical motif on the poor, Gutierrez asserts that God is revealed as having a preference for those people who are “insignificant,” “marginalized,” “unimportant,” “needy,” “despised” and “defenseless.” Moreover, he makes clear that terminology of “the poor” in scripture has social and economic connotations that etymologically go back to the Greek word, ptōchos. To be sure, as to not misinterpret Gutierrez’s definition of the term “preferential option,” he stresses, “Preference implies the universality of God’s love, which excludes no one. It is only within the framework of this universality that we can understand the preference, that is, ‘what comes first.'”

As you can see, liberation theology’s defining concept is “social justice,” which is what all Leftist faiths (Unitarians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Reform and Conservative Jews, etc.) espouse. The United Nations, in 2006, explicitly defined “social justice” as economic redistribution:

The United Nations’ 2006 document “Social Justice in an Open World: The Role of the United Nations”, states that “Social justice may be broadly understood as the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth…” The same document reports, “From the comprehensive global perspective shaped by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, neglect of the pursuit of social justice in all its dimensions translates into de facto acceptance of a future marred by violence, repression and chaos.” The report concludes, “Social justice is not possible without strong and coherent redistributive policies conceived and implemented by public agencies.”

So no, you’re not imagine that Pope Francis is preaching Marxism to the flock. He is a product of his time and place: namely the Catholic Church in Latin America from the 1950s through to the present. The Church there is a Marxist institution and he has absorbed those teachings.

What we are seeing is simply another example of the Left’s march through institutions. The Quakers, once pacifists, now promote the Palestinian’s genocidal ambitions against Israel. The Girl Scouts of America, once a youth organization promoting wholesome values for children, now sponsors pro-abortion speakers and is basically run by a far-Left drag queen who made anti-woman, pseudo-snuff videos.  The Boy Scouts of America now allows gays (showing that, on the Left, its okay if troop leaders or older scouts molest little boys into the future, but it’s not okay if priests in the 1960s once molested little boys).  Notre Dame, once a bastion of Catholic education in America, now invites Barack Obama to give pro-abortion speeches on its campus.  Hollywood, which once was run by patriotic Republicans, now promotes anti-American Leftism throughout the world.  And of course, there’s the pervasive Leftism that now permeates America’s public schools and all of its universities.

When we read the Pope’s words, it’s important to understand that he doesn’t see himself as a Marxist.  He is, instead, preaching core Church doctrine as he sees it.  The problem is that, while no one was really paying attention, core Church doctrine in Latin America fell victim to the Left’s long march through institutions.  When Francis was given the papacy, he simply took that ingrained doctrine with him.  Now that he is Pope, he’s not just spreading Christ’s gospel, he’s spreading the gospel of Liberation Theology, which he was trained to see as inextricably intertwined with Catholicism itself.

There is no doubt in my mind but that Pope Francis is a truly good man, graced with extraordinary compassion.  He loves the Church and does not wish to see it destroyed.  The primary purpose of the Exhortation is to allow the church to grow and thrive in modern times.

Given Pope Francis’s mission and his goal, it’s tragic that he fails to see that the Marxist, redistributive policies he genuinely believes are part of Catholic doctrine also spell the death knell for the Church.  Why do I say that?  I say that because I defy you to name me one society in the world that managed to be both socialist and communist, and still be genuinely (as opposed to nominally) Christian.  To the extent that Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant, revolves around the individual — his conscience, his soul, his redemption, his relation to Christ, his worthiness to live (“I say to you, choose life”) — Christianity is antithetical to socialism, which promotes the collective at the expense of the individual and replaces the individual’s conscience with the demands of the state.

Remembering C.S. Lewis

I am not exaggerating when I say that C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books were an important element in my moral development.  I read them as a child because I loved the fantastic stories.  I appreciate them as an adult because I value their spiritual and moral underpinnings.  I have no doubt that the books’ foundational ideas seeped into my subconscious when I was too young to realize that I was reading a series of beautifully crafted moral and religious allegories.

Sadly, my kids do not share my passion for the Narnia books.  They did, however, love the first movie, which I thought had some important lessons about honor and manliness.

Why am I suddenly talking about C.S. Lewis?  Because (unbeknownst to me) tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of his death.  Peter Wehner has a lovely homage to Lewis, who was one of the last great 20th century moralists and thinkers.

A joyous picture

I don’t know what the story is behind this baptism picture that I found while writing up this post for Mr. Conservative, but I like the joyousness it radiates.  (When I say “I don’t know what the story is,” what I mean is that, while I understand that it’s a full-immersion baptism, I don’t know who the people involved are.  I just like their expressions, which speak of intense happiness.)

A joyous full immersion baptism