November 27, 2014

Black Thursday

Major retailers are staying open on Thanksgiving Day this year. Another sign of America’s vacuous, materialistic decline?

http://www.christianpost.com/news/should-christians-shop-on-thanksgiving-christian-leaders-offer-their-opinion-109094/

Jim Wallis, President of the Christian social justice group Sojourners, offered a frank assessment of the season’s manic shopping tendencies.

“America celebrates the coming of Christ with an orgy of consumerism,” Wallis told The Christian Post.

“It’s not only the amount we spend but the amount of time we spend worrying,” Wallis said, adding that he sees many Christians stressed out during November and December “trying to find parking in shopping malls” or ensuring they have all the right gifts for their children.

“Is this really how we want to celebrate the coming of Christ?” Wallis said.

You did not build that. God did.

The right wing’s Horatio Alger myth and rugged individualism worldview is incorrect.

Mitt Romney and the Republicans are wrong. They did NOT build their businesses by themselves. They had to deliver their goods and get their employees to work on roads paid for by the taxpayers. Have you ever tried starting a business in Somalia or Bangledesh? I have done some mission work in developing countries. Americans take infrastructure investments and law and order for granted. We have a government and law enforcement agencies who enforce the rule of law and make the country safe for business. This is paid for by the taxpayers, not by the businessmen themselves alone.

It takes two to tango. I do not know of any businessman who did not have a good mentor to coach them on the best practices of their trade. I do not know of any businessman who became successful living on an island without interacting and working with colleagues in the industry. I do not know of any businessman who became wildly successful without leveraging his time and talents through quality, reliable employees. I do not know of any businessman who lasted in business for long who did not have clients and customers who trusted them in order to purchase their products and services. Every successful businessman I know, despite their rhetoric of “building it themselves,” reflects on and thanks the numerous individuals who impacted his or her life in a meaningful way to allow them to be successful themselves. They did not wake up one day on an island with all the knowledge in the world and make money.

You did NOT build that.

President Obama is actually right. His worldview is accurate. Unfortunately, many on the far left in my political party promote policies that are quite antithetical to business. I don’t mind paying taxes to enjoy the benefits of living in a civilized society. However, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to tax hustling (income tax) in order to fund the government. We should be taxing the crass consumerism of our culture that has led to the secularization and commercialization of Christmas, but I digress.

God made this world and “every good and perfect gift comes from above.” That money you just made, ultimately is not yours. I concur with the right wing that the money does not belong to the government, but it does not quite belong to the individual either. It belongs to God. God gave you the talent and opportunity to succeed. God also blessed you through the work of others who made your success possible. You did not physically build that store, stocked those shelves, made all those products, set up that security system, paved those roads, supplied electricity, and physically take part in all five vertical phases of production from resource extraction to final sale. You sell diamonds? Did you go to Congo and mine those diamonds yourself under the sweltering hot sun? I think not. No man is an island. You did not build that.

The only thing you can take full credit for as a human being is your sin (Credit to Reverend Monsignor Charles Pope of Washington, DC for this thought). God had no part in that. That sin was all you, baby.

Thank all those you work with and learned from who made you who you are today. Humble yourselves and acknowledge that you need God’s help directly and through others for your success. Give it all back in the end because you can either store up your treasures on this Earth or store up your treasures in heaven. Where your treasures are, there you will be.

“You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” Listen to the sermon that inspired my thoughts here.

The Secularization of the GOP

Let’s clear a few things first. I am a theologically small-o orthodox Christian – the term “conservative Christian” is loaded with improper connotations. I am a social conservative.

I also believe that the Religious Right has done untold damage to conservative Christianity and has actually sped up the secularization of America. In my unscientific estimation, for every 1 new convert the Religious Right wins over from secular America or liberalized, watered-down, mainline denominations, the Religious Right’s coarse rhetoric, the greedy hypocrisy of the Religious Right’s leaders, and its use of big government right-wing social engineering*** has driven away and radicalized 1.5 new secularists.

(***Side note: “Marriage incentives.” Remember that plank on the GOP? What a way to disrespect unlucky single people on the dating scene. The idea that tax breaks and government entitlements will help a man find a wife is ludicrous.)

The Religious Right consisting of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, along with its political mouthpieces in Jesse Helms, Tom Delay, and others of that ilk, has been an abject failure to Christianity. I don’t care about what they did to tarnish the GOP brand so much because I care about Christianity above all, but because the Religious Right used the power of the state vis-a-vis the GOP to create a Dominionist-Dispensationalist Christian world, the Religious Right took down the GOP as they destroyed the public image of Christianity.

In the 1970s, the Religious Right drove out the Neslon Rockefeller Republicans – and I hate Nelson Rockefeller Republicans! But the enemy of my enemy is…my enemy.

With that said, it should be of no surprise to see non-profit social conservative advocacy groups on the ropes after the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA. Despite their steely resolve to save an America they “no longer recognize,” they are on their last legs.

It is a sad state of affairs for the public image of Christianity when most secular people don’t connect Christianity to Bishop Fulton Sheen. They connect Christianity to the flame-throwing Bishop E.W. Jackson.

Of course, the negative connections go all the way back to Jerry Falwell whose ideological adherents like Jesse Helms and Tom Delay made people believe that narrow-minded, hypocritical, power-hungry Christianity = GOP. Worse, it made people believe that narrow-mindedness, hypocrisy, and power hunger = Christianity.

The Religious Right will go the way of the dinosaurs. Pun intended. Thank goodness, but we are not going to see an intellectual, historical Christian revival take place despite my hope. This is because young Republicans are the most secular Republicans we have seen since, well, the Nelson Rockefeller Republicans.

Young Republicans are growing up in an America that competes with Western Europe for the most secular society in the Western world. The South is the last region in the U.S. where people talk about religion casually like they talk about the weather, but even its religious culture is slowly giving way to secularization. On any college campus, College Republicans are almost as likely as College Democrats to be non-church going people. I guarantee you that many College Republicans are just as sexually libertine as College Democrats, probably even worse!

Yet, the reason why the GOP will continue to be relevant is because it has a pipeline of new adherents in the schools. The unifying factor is fiscal conservatism. One look at the ferocious dedication of Ron Paul followers and you will realize that this is a new GOP. Gone are the socially liberal, elitist, urban-industrialist Rockefeller Republicans (ahem, crony capitalist). Gone are the rural, backwoods, fire-breathing Religious Right that married fiscal conservatism to gain power. In are the new Ayn Rand secular objectivists.

Margaret Hoover documented this well in her book, “American Individualism.” The typical young Republican supports fiscal conservatism, limited government, marijuana legalization, sexual freedom, and gay marriage. For many young people, it is all about prioritizing the last three, but the unifier is that the typical young Republican wants the government to get out of his life so he can start a business, keep more of his money, blaze that chronic, fornicate, and respect other people’s living styles equally.

It is an image that is repulsive to Republicans over 70 years old, who grew up in the romanticized, male-dominated 1950s (think Leave It To Beaver). Some young Republicans are like their elders, but their numbers are small.

Even though the record is mixed (ex: losses in 2009, victories in 2012), Democrats continue to campaign on social issues because they are listening to young people. They are hearing on the college campuses that new fiscal conservatives are also secular and that they place their social liberalism on a higher priority than fiscal conservatism. In due time, this strategy will prove wildly successful in demolishing the GOP if trends continue.

Social conservative activists will argue that trends will not continue. They argue that young people have always fallen away from church and stats prove that by the time they are in their 40s, they return to church and become more socially conservative. The activists leave out a crucial detail. The studies were done on people who grew up in church. Today’s generation of young Republicans did not grow up in strong church settings and Christian culture. So we don’t have research numbers for this generation of young Republicans that are still in their 20s. I surmise that it will be harder to evangelize these young Republicans in significant numbers given their distaste for the Religious Right which I explained did a ton of damage to the Christian brand.

So brace yourselves. In about ten years time, America will be a Western Europe type of secular society. Secular progressives will battle it out with secular conservatives in politics. Low taxes, limited government, and a strict Constitutional adherence might very well win the day, but the churches will be empty.

Is Easter sacred anymore? Not even for Republicans?

I took a little a hiatus to go on my “I Told You So: Anti-Mitt Romney Republican Tour” and tend to other work.  I hope the GOP never nominates another stiff, flip-flopping, exclusive, elitist, entitled, patrician, power-hungry politician like Mitt ever again.  Gee, Big Gipper, tell us how you really feel…

Well, other than my utter, total disdain for Mitt Romney, I am a Republican through and through.  I am a fiscal conservative AND, I know it is not popular these days within the GOP, a social conservative.

I remember growing up a long time ago.  We actually took time off for Easter.  Spring break did not double up with Easter.  They were two separate holidays so kids would get one full week off for spring break and a five day weekend for Easter that started on Holy Thursday and gave us the next Monday off so we could recover from feasting and visiting with friends and family.  Non-believers existed back then too and no one protested against more holidays regardless of the occasion for such holidays.  Many stores closed to observe Easter.  To the best of my recollection, as long as I have been involved, politicians took Easter off as well.

Today, spring break doubles up with Easter for political correctness.  The Easter Bunny and Easter Egg Hunts have been renamed Spring Bunny and Spring Festivals.  Many stores and restaurants stay open through Easter weekend.

Arguably worst of all, politics continues as usual with politicians, including the so-called “Christian, conservative” Republicans, holding meet-and-greets, door knocks, and last minute fundraising appeals if Easter falls on the last weekend in March – an important filing deadline.  You can find these Christian Republicans giving Easter praise and platitudes on the campaign trail.  You just won’t find these Christian Republicans praising His Resurrection in church.  How Pharisaic of these people!

I guess one could write a treatise about the secularization and Western Europeanization of America and some already have.  For now, I will just say that for those who are sympathetic to this viewpoint, we are where we are today not wholly through the fault of government policies that have driven faith away from the public square into the private home, but it is mainly the fault of many mainstream Christians and Christian denominations that have capitulated to the demands of secular culture and modified their theology to appease the secularists and not offend them.  In doing so, the orthodox Christians (small “o” orthodox – traditionalist – not to be confused with Eastern Orthodox, but they are orthodox as well) have abandoned those denominations in search of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestant churches that still “cling” to a historical understanding of the faith and the secularists are happy about the changes in the liberal churches (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, etc.), but the secularists are not converted to Christianity.  In fact, a watering down of the Christian faith (ex: denying the Resurrection and the miracles like Thomas Jefferson did) makes it easier for Christians to become secularists.  Some of these liberal mainline Protestant churches have clergy who are atheist.  Some of our Christian seminaries employ teachers, tasked with training Christian ministers, who are atheist (see Bart Ehrmann). Can you believe that?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Politics flows downstream from culture.  Politics does not influence culture.  It merely reflects culture.  Easter is just not that important to our public sector and private sector anymore.  It sure isn’t that important with our politicians, Democratic and Republican, either.

I am afraid that we will soon see the following two political parties in an increasingly polarized America.  There will be a liberal party that admires Karl Marx and there will be a conservative party that worships Ayn Rand.  Karl Marx and Ayn Rand have one thing in common.  They are both outspoken atheists.

I am dropping out of politics all together if it ever gets to this point.  I may be a fiscal conservative, but my money is not more important than my soul.

Thoughts on Abortion and Gay Marriage

I thought that title would get your attention. Your resident theologically conservative Christian “socialist” (per my critics on the right) is back from a mission trip in Africa. I have some musings as to what is going on back here at home.

I remind you that I am Christian social worker who adheres to a traditional, historical, Biblically-based, orthodox theology. I stand against modernism and relativism. Yet, economic issues are separate from moral issues and so many people with a lack of understanding on my rationale for the policies I support, write me off as a “socialist.” With the talk I get from conservative Republicans, you would think that Republicans value capitalism more than they value Christianity and have been more than willing to search for and reinterpret Sacred Scripture to be a subordinate mouthpiece for capitalism. In fact, secularism is rapidly creeping up on the Republicans as the younger generation tends to be atheist/agnostic/secularist Ayn Rand acolytes and older conservative Christians seek cultural accommodationist strategies out of a fear of jeopardizing their free market goals by holding fast to the traditional tenets of Christianity against the rapid advance of secularism among the voters. But I digress. This is what is on my mind in stream of consciousness fashion.

Gay Marriage

It seems like these days, one cannot oppose gay marriage without being criticized as being against gay rights. This demonization is mostly unwarranted. It is sad that our discourse has fallen into this state.

Just because a person is against gay marriage does not mean the person is against allowing gays to go to school, get a job, start a business, and be free from harassment. I support gay rights and I also support traditional marriage. I have ministered to gay people and I respect them as human beings and find many of them to be pleasant, hard-working people. However, if you believe the Bible to be the inspired, infallible Word of God that possesses incredible continuity across time and a diverse array of writers, the Bible is clear on what is inappropriate behavior and marriage is not a man-made construct. Marriage is a matter of natural law that can only be changed by man at great peril to society.

Still, man has always messed around with the natural law of marriage. The fallen state of man since Adam and Eve led to polygamy and other marriage laws we would consider bizarre today (see the weird laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus). However, with Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, humanity was washed clean and we began anew. From the “reset” button forward, the concept of a “traditional marriage” was actually a radical idea in the 1st century A.D. that influenced the entire Western World at a time when Romans were living libertine lifestyles.

Still, man had to find a way to mess this all up. Here in America, we banned interracial marriage for a long time. That was despicable and went against Natural Law, God-made law. It was a great thing to overturn those laws banning interracial marriage. However, some people have decided to use that landmark Supreme Court decision to justify all sorts of things beyond that realm.

If this debate is about “love” and being able to marry the person you love and have that recognized and respected by society, I ask politely, why are incest laws still supported on a bipartisan basis by the overwhelming majority of the population? Why are two consenting adults who are a first cousins unable to marry? If not for the Bible and Natural Law, what is the rationale to keep laws banning incest in the books?

I don’t believe that homosexuality is a choice. I don’t see why people would choose a lifestyle that invites ostracism from a significant, but declining number of people in society. The large amount of research available today point to an unchangeable orientation. Like handedness, people can choose to write with their non-dominant hand, but that does not change the fact that one of their hands is more dominant than the other.

Should society do its best to accommodate the needs of homosexuals like any other human being? Absolutely, YES. Everyone deserves an opportunity to pursue careers and set up living arrangements free from harassment.

Should religion do its best to accommodate the needs of homosexuals like any other human being? Some may be surprised by the answer, but in short, yes. All human beings are created by God. However, we are all sinners, whether we are straight or gay. Among law abiding citizens, no one’s sins are better or worse than others and we all need salvation offered to us through the grace of Jesus Christ.

Should religion accommodate the needs of homosexuals by revising theology to satisfy the current needs of mankind, Thomas Jefferson style? Respectfully, no. This is where it gets nuanced.

I find it strange that overly patriotic conservatives have historically done revisionist history on our nation’s founding. America is NOT a “Christian Nation.” The founders like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, et al, held personal views that, if they were not American and instrumental in the founding, would be considered by Evangelicals and conservative Catholics as raging secularists today.

By my faith and profession, I pledge allegiance to God. Forgive me if I do not pledge fervent allegiance to America.

The moment religion bends to accommodate society, no matter how good the intentions, a watered-down Christian faith loses its value. Liberal mainline Protestantism (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, Lutherans, some Methodists) has seen a sharp, unstoppable decline since they have decided that conforming the Bible to society in the 1920s and 1960s would attract more adherents. It has been the opposite.

Surprisingly, conservative Evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics are starting to waver as well when it comes to watering down the Christian faith to make secularists happy. Some who are wavering are strictly clergy who are concerned about the future of the church in the face of the challenges of secularism. Some in the flock don’t know their theology well enough to make an intellectual defense. Still, others who are wavering are conservative Republican politicians who fear losing elected office and losing the opportunity to advance free market principles because their personal religious values are not embraced by the public.

This gives me legitimate reason to believe that conservatives are not who they claim to be in matters of faith and morals. Republicans only care about the Christian faith in so far as it advances their priority of greedy corporatist capitalism. Now that secularism has taken over America, a new generation of Republicans are quickly gaining credibility among conservative Christians and non-Christian conservatives because of their promise to save free market principles by deemphasizing or discarding traditional notions of morality (the Libertarians).

To that, I say, “down with the bourgeoisie!

I have spoken to theologically-conservative Episcopalians (Republican and Democratic) who left the Episcopal church and were looking for a new home. Most non-religious observers think it was all about not accepting a gay bishop and gay marriages in the church. While that was true, it was not the overarching issue.

The real reason Episcopalians are leaving the church is because of its accommodations to secularism. Blessing gay marriage in the church was the minor result of denying the reality of the Resurrection, denying the miracles, and denying the God-inspired authorship of the books of the Bible (paging Thomas Jefferson…). When there is a belief that there is no infallible God-ordained Natural Law, human beings are left to their own devices and “reason” to make laws that intrude upon Natural Law as they see fit.

If you believe that human beings are ultimately good, you will be apt to put your faith in humanity and human reason to chart a path for society. However, studying history, we learn that great atrocities have been committed by humans since the dawn of humanity. Nothing in humanity’s track record gives me reason to believe that anything is going to get better by human effort.

That is why I place my faith in God, regardless of what laws humans make. Humans are sinners who do not possess the capacity to save themselves. That is why God came down to Earth in the person of Jesus Christ to show us the Way, the Truth, and the Life, suffered death, and rose again on the Third Day to atone for our sins and prove that in the end, God is real and seeks a relationship with us.

So after all that nuance and side-tripping, do I support legalizing same-sex marriage? I really don’t care honestly. The church has bigger issues to deal from within. Did you know that African churches have sent missionaries to the First World in recent years? Yes, a lot has changed in the last 100 years in the Christian church in America.

The easiest solution is to revoke the entitlements offered to heterosexual marriages. When these entitlements are revoked, the gay marriage debate will end because everyone will be equal.

Abortion

After all that Theology 101, I will say this about abortion. I respect life from natural conception through natural death. I am against abortion, anti-war, anti-euthanasia, and anti-death penalty. Only God can take away a life.

Proponents of gay marriage say that it is the biggest civil rights issue of our time and they compare it to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

Well, I say that ending abortion is the biggest civil rights issue of our time. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the pro-life feminist organization Susan B. Anthony List compared the struggle to end abortion with the struggle to end slavery. I agree. Children in the womb are the most helpless, voiceless people in our society today and abortion is a threat to their life and liberty. In fact, abortion hurts minority communities the worst. This is unacceptable.

Yet, I see few Republicans coming to Marjorie Dannenfelser’s defense. They would rather safely win elected office to advance anti-tax agendas than put it all on the line to educate the public about a civil rights issue.

Republicans from 1854 to 1876 did not care if it was unpopular; they were going to stand for the civil rights of blacks come hell or high water. “Electability” be darned. Republicans today are all to eager to capitulate in order to be “electable.” Imagine if Republicans capitulated from 1854 to 1876. I shudder the thought.

If I was a Republican politician (I am not. I am a Democrat.), I would not give into gay marriage so easily even if I support it. I would play hardball with the Democrats. Here is a compromise. We will pass gay marriage if you will end abortion.

Of course, that will never work for reasons I won’t get into here, but the fact that Republicans are not trying to broker a compromise on some hot button social issues tells us exactly where they stand.

Republicans don’t care about ending abortion. They only care about keeping their base perpetually agitated so they can raise money and recruit volunteers for get-out-the-vote operations. Therefore, they will tease the base with legislation against abortion on the margins, but ultimately do nothing about it.

Now that Republicans are caving in to the reality of a secularized nation and a secular conservative, Ayn Rand takeover of the GOP by the up and coming new generation, they are ready to cast aside abortion to the periphery. Chances are that if the GOP goes pro-choice, they could win some new voters and regain some power as the old voters lose their numbers and the young voters stay secular throughout their lifetimes. (Newsflash: America already is Europe in terms of secularization. The kids won’t find religion after they get married and have kids like previous generations.)

However, I have no use for a GOP that is pro-choice. I do not agree with the GOP on economic issues. Their stance on defending the rights of the unborn is all they got. If they discard this, they lose my consideration.

Christmas Reflections

I work plenty of political and non-political events across DC, Maryland, and Virginia for my business. I was photographing staff and volunteers with an elected official at an event somewhere in the DMV when the elected official said in self-deprecating fashion, “Why does everyone want a photo with me? You should get your photo with someone important like [the featured celebrity in attendance].”

Here is the reality of the situation. The people who want their picture taken with you when you are “not important” are the people who will be with you for the long haul. You should welcome it. You don’t have to be a high ranking government official, sports star, or entertainment personality on television to win the loyalty of these people. These people are your real friends. Your real friends like you because of who you are regardless of your current status in life. You may have done good in this world, but when the world eventually moves on to find someone else to capture their fancy and advance their own self interest, your real friends will be the last ones standing by your side. There is nothing more you can humanly do to justify that type of loyalty and dedication from your real friends. You have already won.

For Christians who believe, profess, and live the faith, we already have at least one cheerleader in our corner regardless of our stature or status in life. We are God’s creation and He stays true to us even when we are not acting right toward Him and others. We have already won.

This Christmas season, and every season, our challenge is to be more proactive and intentional in our interaction with others. With whom are you willing to stand and walk beside? We desire to walk with those who live in the public limelight, but are we willing to walk with those who are down and out?

Here is one easy action item. We all know a friend close to us or an acquaintance out in the periphery who is struggling with unemployment. Many of these people continue to look for jobs and can’t find any. What you can do is to be a close advisor and mentor to your unemployed friends and acquaintances. I am helping one of my long lost buddies from college here in DC who just got unexpectedly laid off before Christmas as we speak.

Pick up the phone and schedule a meeting with your unemployed friends to let them talk and vent about their situation. Listen to their concerns, motivations, and ambitions. Lead them in the right direction so that they can find gainful employment on their own AND actively go to bat for them by calling potential employers to inquire of openings on their behalf. You have connections. Use them for your friend’s benefit, not just for yourself. Be your friend’s best advocate and I guarantee you that the rewards will be tremendous. Don’t ask for anything in return. Give joyfully. Just tell them to pay it forward and let society reap the benefit. It all comes back to you eventually anyway.

Maybe you don’t know anyone who is unemployed and needs help. Perhaps you know some people who could use some extra motivation and encouragement. Don’t we all need that? A buddy of mine who is an educator mentored a college student whose graduation was delayed seven months due to disciplinary infractions. He helped the student stay on the right path and the student graduated last week.

On a more somber note, depression is a serious condition that we have all suffered in mild to severe form at some point in our lives if we are totally honest with ourselves. Identify someone in your network who could be at risk for the type of depression that is debilitating like those who are unemployed, who are dissatisfied with their current condition, who are injured, who are struggling in school, who are lonely, who are having family problems, or who are having relationship problems and reach out to motivate and encourage.

Depression has been a proximate and direct cause of many suicides. Six suicides happened in the National Football League in the past two years. Two of my college football teammates committed suicide in the past three years. Preventing this needless loss of life is personal issue for me. We say we are good friends to one another, but we must do better. Collective action begins with individual action.

Let us resolve to be more open and honest with each other. Let us resolve not to hide behind shame. If you see a friend struggling or sending questionable or cryptic messages, taking the initiative to save a life is worth the risk of an awkward situation. If you are experiencing overwhelming challenges and difficulties in your own life, don’t let a sense of shame or pride prevent you from asking for help. In the end, the best present we can offer to one another is our presence. Our presence is a gift we all possess and are all ready to give. Our presence is a gift that lasts.

If we all went the extra mile for one another, the road we all have to travel individually would be much shorter and smoother.

Pat Robertson’s Double Standards

Pat Robertson excuses David Petraeus, a favorite among Republicans, for his affair. Robertson was nowhere near as forgiving toward Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

I say this as a theologically traditionalist-leaning Christian social worker. Perhaps, no single religious leader has done more harm to the image of Christianity and severely hurt our evangelization efforts in the modern era than Pat Robertson. Well, Jerry Falwell might claim the top spot.

A friendly question for pro-life Romney enthusiasts

Phil Lawler of CatholicCulture.org writes,

If you were already so certain that Mitt Romney is a great champion of the pro-life cause, why are you exulting over a single sentence in his speech?

“As president, I will protect the sanctity of life.” That was it. One sentence—9 words—in the course of a 38-minute speech. Not a developed thought but a throwaway line. Not a concrete promise, not a plan of action or proposed legislation, but a stock phrase.

Is that really all it takes to make pro-lifers happy? Are we really so desperate that when a presidential candidate makes a polite nod in our direction, we swoon—like the smitten high-school sophomore who is so excited that the star quarterback smiled at her, and doesn’t notice that he already has a steady girl?

Look: Romney’s pro-life credentials are shaky. His campaign now says that his latest gaffe–a virtual acceptance of the Roe decision—was a misstatement of his real beliefs. But it’s the sort of misstatement that could only be made by someone who has not devoted enough attention to the issue to recognize the pitfalls in the language.

Etch-A-Sketch, flip-flopping, power-hungry candidate indeed. Read the rest of the article here.

http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/the-city-gates.cfm?id=399

Paul Ryan and Catholic Social Teaching

Interpreting Scriptures and putting faith into action is a difficult task.

Consider Catholic Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan here.

“The preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenets of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government,” he said in an April interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. He also cited, as a way to serve the common good, “the [Catholic] principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best.”

Until recently, Paul Ryan cited Ayn Rand as a large influence. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said in 2005 speech to the Atlas Society. “The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” Rand’s objectivism, which emphasizes individual happiness and laissez-faire capitalism, is diametrically opposed to the Catholic social thought embedded in documents like Rerum Novarum and the writings of John Ryan, which emphasized the obligation of individuals to the community. More recently, Ryan has distanced himself from the controversial thinker. “I reject her philosophy. It’s an atheist philosophy,” he told Robert Costa at the National Review. “It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.” He said he preferred Thomas Aquinas to Rand.

Now consider what Monsignor John Ryan (1869-1945), one of America’s most prominent theologians of the 20th century, did.

John Ryan never forgot his first reading of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (“Of New Things”), the 1891 encyclical that would transform the landscape of Catholic social doctrine for decades to come. When he read those words, Ryan was a seminarian studying for the priesthood in St. Paul, Minnesota. “The doctrine of state intervention which I had come to accept and which was sometimes denounced as ‘socialistic’ in those benighted days,” he wrote in his journal in 1894, “I now read in a papal encyclical.” The encyclical emphasized government’s obligation to ensure the dignity of the worker in the industrial world. Its message has been reiterated in papal teachings ever since (most recently in Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 Caritas in Veritate). The pope’s letter gave Ryan the tools he needed to bring his Catholicism to bear on his ideas about the economy.

John Ryan’s exacting and pivotal work, A Living Wage (1906), sought to quantify how much an average family needed to survive. Ryan advocated a legal minimum wage when there was none; indeed, he drafted the legislation for Minnesota which, though slightly modified from his original version, became law in 1914. He pushed for federal legislation on a range of basic employee rights, from the right to unionize to unemployment insurance. In 1919, he authored the Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction, which advocated for these measures as well as for public housing, a national employment service, and regulation of public utility rates and monopolies. Although the 1919 Bishops’ Program was largely forgotten in the economically uninhibited 1920s, once the Depression began, Roosevelt’s administration was much more receptive to Ryan’s ideas than Hoover or Coolidge had been. The priest-scholar served on various committees within the White House, advising the president on labor and social security legislation. Ryan was delighted with much of the New Deal agenda and publicly advocated for its provisions. When he died in 1945, many of the measures he had championed 40 years earlier had become policy.


The full thought-provoking article is here.

Christianity does not equal capitalism

I don’t think it equals socialism either, but check this out.

“Here is what is peculiar. Many conservative Christians, mostly Protestant but also a number of Catholics, have come to believe and proudly proclaim that the creator of the universe favors free wheeling, deregulated, union busting, minimal taxes especially for wealthy investors, plutocrat-boosting capitalism as the ideal earthly scheme for his human creations. And many of these Christian capitalists are ardent followers of Ayn Rand, who was one of – and many of whose followers are — the most hard-line anti-Christian atheists you can get. Meanwhile many Christians who support the capitalist policies associated with social Darwinistic strenuously denounce Darwin’s evolutionary science because it supposedly leads to, well, social Darwinism!” – Gregory Paul

I believe in God. Gregory Paul does not. Nevertheless, he presents some very accurate observations about how prosperity and politics have weakened religion. It is an observation that believers and non-believers alike can see. Read more of this thought-provoking article on the Washington Post.