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Archive for September, 2014

Jesus had harsh words for the hypocrites of his time in Matthew 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites…You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”  He soundly condemned teachers of the law and religious leaders for performing good works only to impress others, coveting places of honor, and for appearing clean on the outside, but “inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence…and every kind of filth.”  Ouch!

Some Christians are confused about this verse, and think that Jesus condemned ‘religion’. To clarify, Jesus actually condemned hypocrisy in religious leaders; He never condemned religion. The definition of ‘religion’ from Dictonary.com is “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects”.  So baptizing babies or even adults, the sacrament of marriage, belief in the Trinity and basically every doctrine of Christianity is considered ‘religion’.  Since Jesus Himself established the Church in Matthew 16:18, He certainly did not condemn ‘religion’.

Some of the most blatant cases of hypocrisy today are from politicians, who will say anything, and do whatever it takes to get votes. The more successful they become, the more their arrogance and blindness grows. John Edwards claimed to be a paragon of virtue and small town family values.  But it turns out he fathered a child by his mistress, and callously carried on his affair for years, even during his wife’s agonizing battle and eventual death from breast cancer. When the web of lies he was spinning was finally ripped open and the truth was revealed, Edwards explained “I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.” (From article 10 of the Most Hypocritical Statements From Politicians We Have Come Across).

Edwards also proclaimed himself as an advocate for the poor, but Business Week magazine reported that he opened a poverty center and combined it with his political action committee when he was running for President. “The nonprofit center spent a staggering 70% of the money it raised on a speaking tour for Edwards and on salaries for staffers who in short order just happened to join his presidential campaign.”  This powerful politician is basically a sleazy scam artist stealing from funds targeted for the poor.  But Edwards isn’t alone among politicians for his private jets, magnificent mansions, and $400 haircuts.  Opulent lifestyles in Washington DC seem to be prevalent in both parties, but it is especially painful to witness by those who profess to be the strongest advocates for the poverty stricken.

Have you ever wondered why so many Congressmen are all filthy rich? A dirty little secret called ‘insider trading’ has been legal for decades; when these politicians obtain knowledge ahead of an important sale or change to a company, our esteemed Congressmen could legally use this information to make a fortune from trading stock.  The moral laws that apply to the rest of Americans seemingly escape the moral compass of our esteemed politicians.  After public outrage about this ‘perk’ of politicians, the law was changed to curtail these activities in 2012, but was again quietly modified in 2013 to give greater leeway.

Spiritual leaders can also be hypocritical when it comes to guiding their flock; author and speaker Joyce Meyer owns a private jet, luxury cars and five magnificent mansions.  Televangelist Benny Hinn tops that with a 10 million dollar home near the ocean.  Outspending them all is German Catholic Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, who stole a whopping 40 million dollars from the Church to renovate his private residence.

One prime example of hypocrisy is shown by politicians and others who fiercely criticize Americans for wasting valuable resources and harming the environment by driving SUVs, but then in their arrogance travel on their own private jets to accommodate their ‘important’ schedule, or use gas hog limousines for transportation.  There is even a term for these hypocrites called “Limousine Liberal”; the Urban Dictionary describes these individuals as one “who considers themself a champion of the poor and downtrodden, but live a lifestyle of wealth and luxury”.

But hypocrisy is not limited to politicians and spiritual leaders, or even a particular political party.  Jesus’ own apostle, Judas, was outraged in John 12 when Mary “anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfumed oil” and complained that instead this perfume could have been sold and the money “given to the poor”.  Claiming to be so concerned about the poor, Judas was secretly a “thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.” He was greedily coveting the money for himself!

Ordinary Christians can be just as hypocritical; take some time and take a long, hard look at yourself.  Do you criticize and judge others, while missing the “wooden beam” in your own eye?  Are you puffed up with pride and conceit, but look down on others because they aren’t as educated or wealthy?  Do you ask God for forgiveness for your sin, but hold a grudge and refuse to forgive those that have hurt you?  Are you the ‘pillar of your church’, but rant and rage at your wife and children?  Are you two-faced and pretend to like someone, but gossip about them behind their back?  Are you out ‘saving the world’, but neglecting your own family?

Another prime example of hypocrisy are those who loudly condemn Muslim extremists for their barbaric actions in beheading, persecuting, kidnapping and killing Christian men, women and children, but then either support infanticide, or support politicians who are aligned and financed by Planned Parenthood, an organization that performs over 300,000 abortions annually.  No matter how much a politician ‘claims’ to care about the poor, can you really lend support if he or she publicly promotes the heinous dismemberment and burning of precious babies in their mother’s wombs, thousands of whom are viable and perfectly fully formed?  Even if this politician is expanding food stamps to help the poor, isn’t it hypocritical to support such atrocities, but then condemn Middle Eastern barbarism?

What are factors that lead devout, committed Christians to become two-faced hypocrites?  First, the more power a person has over others, or the wealthier one becomes, the more likely they are to abuse that power and justify their actions.  The old expression “power goes to your head” is appropriate, since the more powerful and famous politicians, CEO’s, spiritual leaders and other individuals become, the more narcissistic and arrogant they seem to be.  Those who are ultra educated with multiple higher degrees, need to be careful not to become puffed up with conceit over their ‘superior’ knowledge.

If you are deliberately rejecting 2,000 years of wisdom proclaimed by the  Catholic Church handed directly from the apostles to our present day bishops as ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘out-of-touch’, and you search for a denomination that tickles your ears, you may want to carefully examine your heart for any pride.   It was the “wise and learned”, the arrogant scribes and pharisees who rejected Jesus’ profound word; and it was the “childlike” and humble that were open to His wise teachings.  Remember St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome and the first Pope, was a simple, ignorant fisherman.   “At that time Jesus said in reply, ‘I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Matthew 11:25)

Some of the symptoms of narcissism described by The Mayo Clinic are:

  • Believing that you’re better than others
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Believing that you’re special and acting accordingly
  • Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
  • Taking advantage of others
  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
  • Being jealous of others
  • Believing that others are jealous of you
  • Having a fragile self-esteem

Just look at Martin Luther King, Jr., icon for his speech “I have a Dream”, and for the courageous role he played in the Selma, Alabama march; facing angry armed policemen, sprayed with powerful fire houses, and jailed for his work to smash discrimination and wrest equality from a racist culture.  Yet this beacon of morality, revered by millions, violated every vow he made as a husband and pastor, repeatedly committing adultery throughout his entire marriage.  King felt he was above the moral rules that bind most Christians.  If you have achieved a high level of success in your career, be extremely cautious to guard against being pompous and full of your own importance.   St. Robert Bellarmine warned against seeking wealth and fame if they become a block to your spiritual growth, and to seek them only “if they contribute to the glory of God and your eternal happiness”.

Interestingly enough the sin of hypocrisy often springs from success and fame; is it any wonder some of the most intelligent, ‘intellectual elite’ can be so blinded that they believe falsehoods as blatant as the denial of Hitler’s holocaust?  Are you honest enough to search your heart for any conceit or condescension toward others?  Spend time meditating on the above verses about the “wise and learned” and ask God to reveal those dead and barren areas in your heart.   It takes humbleness and courage to let God peel away the layers and carefully examine any proud or arrogant tendencies.  But you sure don’t want to reach the Pearly Gates and have Jesus say to you “Woe to you vipers and hypocrites”!

Related Articles:

Narcissistic Personality Disorder
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20025568

John Edwards’ Poor Scam
http://www.latimes.com/la-oe-goldberg29may29-column.html

Pride Goes Before a Fall
http://maryscatholicgarden.com/2012/08/16/pride-goes-before-a-fall/

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‘Til Death Do Us Part’

Recently Pope Francis was criticized for marrying 20 couples that had been living together. My friend, Lisa Wheeler, beautifully described the predicament “I see the main objection from most people is that the Pope has potentially caused scandal by the public ‘marrying’ of the couples. The concern I have with the public hand wringing has been and will continue to be that I don’t think people know how to pick their battles. Do we want couples to continue to live a lifestyle that is not in conformity with what the Church’s teachings are on faith and morals or do we want them to be embraced by a Church that extends mercy, shows compassion, and provides teachable moments to ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.'”

Couples that live together before saying their marriage vows statistically have a much higher chance of divorce, as there is an attitude of ‘trying it out’ and lack of commitment that carries over into their marriage. There is no question that it is a grave sin to intentionally reject doctrine as sacred as marriage, and just simply move in together.  So the priest who will be preparing a couple for marriage in these circumstances has to simultaneously present the Church as caring and loving, while at the same time convey the gravity of their sinful choices and the sacredness of their marriage vows.  Hopefully the marriage preparation will be more extensive than the one hour the priest spent with my husband and I before our wedding.  The only memory I have from that meeting was that I had to promise to raise the children Catholic.

One young lady that I know, who doesn’t attend any church, decided to find a minister who would marry her and her fiance.  She was quite shocked to discover most of the ministers she contacted refused to perform the ceremony, since she was not part of a faith community.  I did my best to explain the importance of God’s presence in a marriage, as well as the importance of being joined with other Christians, which is the body of Christ.  Eventually she found a ‘rent-a-minister’ to perform the ceremony.

I think those who skip the wedding and move in with a man or woman don’t realize the severe disservice to themselves, nor the long-term repercussions. In marriage you are giving 100% of yourself to your spouse, but when you jump the gun and just live together, you withhold significant parts of yourself.  Without  the vow to commit yourself ’till death do you part’, you are at risk emotionally and financially, and of course there is always the chance of pregnancy and abandonment. When just 25, actor Jeff Bridges met his wife Susan and fell head over heels in love with the gorgeous blonde, but he wasn’t ready to commit himself to marriage and children. So the two moved in together, and fell into the dilemma of many similar couples; Susan was ready for marriage and children, but Jeff continued to waffle, unwilling to commit.

As Jeff relates “She (Susan) actually talked to my mother about what she should do; they’d become the best of friends. And my mom, Dorothy — my own, wonderful, loving mother — counseled Sue to leave, forcing me to make a decision. My mother said, “Don’t stay with him.” “So we ended up living apart for six months, though we still saw each other. Then, when Sue got a job offer in Montana, it struck me that she was really leaving. The pressure was on! Finally I came to my senses. I thought, If I let this girl go, I will always know she was the one. So I got down on my knees and asked Sue to marry me.” (From link below)  But their marriage wasn’t a bed of roses; Jeff continued to pout for the next year about being ‘forced into marriage’. His saintly wife stuck it out and he finally realized that this stunning, enchanting woman, radiant inside and out, was the love of his life, and the greatest treasure he would ever find.  They were able to settle down into a life-long, successful marriage.

Was Bridges ‘forced’ into marriage? Of course not! He was ‘forced’ to make a decision. Too often young men and women date, get seriously involved, and then after a few years experience an agonizing breakup, because one or the other isn’t ‘ready’ for marriage. Some single people foolishly think you have to date hundreds just to find the perfect mate, as though finding a spouse can be reduced to purchasing a car or horse. My husband was just 19 when we married, but he valued me enough to marry me. I think women need to value themselves more and understand that they are ‘worth’ marrying.  If the other person doesn’t respect or treasure you enough to marry you, dump him or her and find someone else who thinks the world of you, and will treat you with dignity and honor. Don’t settle for second best. Just like the L’Oreal commercial touting their ultra expensive shampoo “You’re worth it”.

In the movie Pretty Woman, with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, Roberts played a prostitute paid by Gere to be a companion for his business trip.  The sassy prostitute is transformed into a woman of beauty and grace, and Gere falls madly in love with her.  At the end of the trip he asks her to move in with him.  The harlot-turned-princess tells him she knows it is a “really good offer”, but flatly turns him down claiming unless they married, he was still just ‘using’ her.  I was surprised that more people weren’t affected by this prophetic message about co-habitation, which I felt clearly portrayed the true meaning of ‘shacking up’.

I met my future husband at the ripe old age of 15, and being an active participant in the ‘sexual revolution’, we moved in together when I was 17. It was a really confusing time for me, because I felt I was way too young for marriage, but I was deeply in love. We separated for a few months, and I realized that of course I was too young for marriage, but I simply couldn’t imagine life without my ‘soul mate’. So one afternoon Paul said “let’s get married”, and I nodded “okay”. I knew that if regrets came later, I would remind myself it was the best solution for the quandary I found myself in.  Paul had changed jobs and moved an hour away, so we wound up constantly driving back and forth to see each other.  We made the decision to quit commuting and had a bare bones, do-it-yourself, wedding six weeks later, with simple finger sandwiches and fruit punch at the local VFW.

I was basically an atheist at that point in my life, but I knew having a mass with the wedding would please my in-laws, so I did it for them. Heaven only knows how much I needed the grace! After our wedding I was so surprised at the difference in my heart; being married just felt ‘right’. I think the natural law God places in our hearts nudged me that living together was a grave sin, in spite of the pervasive condoning of premarital sex in our culture.

My husband and I have now been married almost 39 years; was it always smooth sailing? Not hardly! We both had tremendous baggage and anger issues from both of our fathers being alcoholic and abusive; and I had the added problems of parents with multiple divorces and re-marriages. Plus, in the early years of our marriage, our faith was non-existent.  It got pretty rocky at times, but we made the decision that we were going to stay together, no matter what. So we vowed to never mention the ‘D’ word (divorce).  We discovered that love is a choice and you have to make the commitment to continue loving, no matter  how tedious or stressful.  Finally after 18 years of marriage our faith deepened considerably, and two years later we renewed our wedding vows.  We were just glowing as we promised again to ‘honor and cherish’ each other for the rest of our lives.  It was marvelous including God in our marriage this time.  He was there with his grace all along; we just didn’t realize it!

I am highly amused when I hear couples claim they want to first live together to make sure their marriage will be successful.  I assure them the man I married 39 years ago is definitely NOT the same man today; nor I am the same woman.  We have both grown spiritually and emotionally, and our hobbies and interests have also changed.  When I met Paul, he was an avid sports fan and enthusiastic gardener, while I had never watched a sports game or even touched a plant, much less planted one.  He disliked cats, while I couldn’t imagine life without one.  Now we spend most of our days off pruning, planting, and weeding our multiple gardens that are filled with fuschia bouganvilla, and lush hydrangeas, rhododendrums and azaleas.  I can proudly yell “go Dawgs” when I watch our favorite football team or “chop-chop” when we follow our local baseball team.  And of course we have two annoying kitties!

Many couples have an unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky view of wedded bliss, and spend years searching for the ‘perfect’ spouse.  Currently, men and women are delaying marriage until they are 28-30, as they spend more time pursuing their master’s and doctorate degrees, living unencumbered without children or other major responsibilities.  This leaves them free to lead active social lives and travel the globe seeing the wonders of the world.  Financial success is a priority to these young people, and they want to achieve their goal of a more affluent lifestyle before they delve into married life.  Some elect to skip marriage all together; consequently marriages are at a historic low.

The main purpose of marriage according to the Catholic Church is first and foremost procreation; joining with God to create new life.  Secondly, husband and wife are to support and help each other in all ways, especially to grow in holiness and attain heaven. Throughout their years together, they provide companionship for each other, and give emotional and physical help as well.  Third is to fulfill the innate need for sexual intimacy.  So marriage involves physical intimacy, friendship, support and child-rearing, but many idealize marriage as a means to eke out as much fun and joy as possible.  Of course marriage should be filled with laughter and love, but it is also accompanied by dedication, hard work, sacrifice and selflessness.

Several months ago a letter surfaced that was written by a young woman, Samantha Pugsley who claimed that because of the chastity program at her church, she was brainwashed into believing sex was “sinful and dirty” and that “I would go to Hell if I did it”.  She stated that because she was so traumatized by the program at church, sex after she was married was a horrible, painful experience, that didn’t get any better.  Finally, after two years the bride had a mental breakdown and was unable to have sex; she sought therapy and decided that she couldn’t be both sexually active and “religious” at the same time.  The troubled young woman explained that her trauma “controlled my identity for over a decade, landed me in therapy, and left me a stranger in my own skin. I was so completely ashamed of my body and my sexuality that it made having sex a demoralizing experience.”   She felt “soiled and tarnished”, that she she “wasn’t special anymore” and made the decision to embrace sensuality, and utterly reject her Christian faith.

Obviously this young lady has severe emotional issues, especially when you look at her biography and realize that she is bisexual (and has been since she was a teenager), suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks and writes for a web page that celebrates a bizarre, hedonistic lifestyle, sexual addictions and perversion.  Someone with this much gender confusion and emotional trauma generally has been abused; I have no idea of the extent of other trauma Samantha experienced, but I find it doubtful that a chastity program, no matter how poor or inadequate, could leave this girl so deeply disturbed.

So this confused young woman advises others that it is extremely detrimental to ‘wait’ until marriage.  There is no way of knowing the negative influence her words have had, and the number of women and men who take those words to heart and decide to give away the most precious part of themselves, leaving themselves open to shame, guilt, insecurity, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  Since marriages are taking place even later in life, it is getting even harder to stay chaste while you are single.  Only with supernatural grace can you stay pure before and after marriage; only with God’s mystical grace can you stay ‘in love’ monogamously for decades.  Only with ‘amazing grace’ can you get through the sick times, the financially disastrous times, the times of sorrow, anger, unkind words, and rudeness that happen in any marriage, until ‘death do us part’.  Only with the explosive power of the Holy Spirit can you weather the storms of cancer and job loss, or rebellious or drug addicted teens.

Related articles:

Pope Marries Cohabiting Couples
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2014/09/pope-marries-cohabiting-couples-no-news-here-folks/

The Marriage of Jeff and Susan Bridges
http://marriage.about.com/od/academyawards/p/jeffbridges.htm

On the Primary Purpose of Marriage
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5822

Did Pope Francis Push the Envelope
http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/was-pope-francis-pushing-the-envelope-by-presiding-over-the-marriages-of-cohabiting-couples-5812648557936640

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Today is 9/11; on this day 13 years ago the unthinkable happened.  Muslim extremists hijacked four planes, turning two into gigantic fireballs destroying the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  The third was flown directly into our nation’s symbol of security, the Pentagon, causing massive destruction and carnage, injuries and death.  Due to the quick thinking heroes on the last plane, instead of being used as a devastating weapon, the remaining jetliner was driven into the ground in a rural area, where it exploded and killed everyone on board instantly.

Over three thousand people were slaughtered that day; Americans were shocked and stunned at the blatant assault on American soil.  Eager to root out the barbarians responsible for this attack, on October 10, 2002, the House of Representatives passed a resolution authorizing military force, and the Senate gave authorization the next day.  This resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority by both democrats and republicans who desperately wanted to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” (From article Congress Passes Resolution to Invade Iraq below).

“Shock and Awe” was supposed to be quick and easy, but of course the expensive and deadly ‘war on terror’ dragged out for a decade.  The invasion of Iraq was supposed to keep Americans safe, as well as keep the Muslim extremists on the run, which it did for a while.  Its mission was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”  (Congress Passes Resolution to Invade Iraq).  Unfortunately it turned out Hussein had already moved the weapons of mass destruction, most probably to Syria.

Thirteen years later and two trillion dollars later, around 115,000 troops have been killed, about 500,000 veterans have lost limbs, suffered massive concussions or other ghastly injuries, and approximately 460,000 veterans cope with post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies on a daily basis.  And even though we captured Hussein and killed Osama Bin Laden, we don’t seem to have made any further progress in our ‘war on terror’.  Currently seven countries in the Middle East are governed by Muslim extremists, who maintain control through fear, intimidation and barbaric cruelty.

The group of Muslim extremists called “ISIS” is sweeping through the Iraqi town of Mosul forcing Christians and other minorities with “the stark choice to abandon their homes, convert, pay the harsh tax or die”.  In their takeover of Nigeria another terrorist group “ravages villages, kidnap children and burn churches, while across the Middle East Christians are persecuted, denied their civil rights and marginalized by a range of Islamic-based regimes”.  (From article Conquest or Conversion in link below).

But it doesn’t seem to matter how many extremists are driven underground or killed, more pop up like a jack-in-the-box to continue their merciless Jihad of spreading Islam.  The list is endless; Hamas, Al Qaeda, the Taliban,  Fatah al-Islam, Hezballah, Ex Boko Haram and many, many more.  For centuries the Middle East has been a hotbed of conquest and bloodshed, and unwisely Americans have been intervening by arming the ‘rebels’ against the evil terrorists, sending soldiers and air strikes to fight the spreading threat of extremist Islam.  The CIA foolishly picked Bin Laden as the ‘good guy’ and for years sent arms and financial support to his cause.

Our politicians haven’t learned that in the Middle East quite often there is no group that has the moral high ground; quite often BOTH sides are murderous butchers.  With the recent gruesome beheading of two journalists by Islamist extremists, and with the plight of millions of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East, last night President Obama vowed that “America will lead a broad coalition to ‘take out’ ISIS by expanding airstrikes beyond Iraq into Syria, fortifying Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground, drawing on counterterrorism capabilities and continuing humanitarian efforts in the region” (According to the Boston Herald).  Once again America is embroiled in the Middle East snakepit of violence, waging a futile war against Muslim extremists.

Pope John Paul II was raised in Poland and grew up during the time when World War II was raging and Nazi persecution of Christians was fierce and widespread, so he was well aware of the suffering Christians experienced from those determined to stamp out Christianity.  Yet in March, 2003, the Vatican envoy to the White House carried a message from him that the Iraqi invasion was “unjust and illegal”.   The Pope’s representative, Laghi, said “before going to war the United Nations should take into account “the grave consequences of such an armed conflict: the suffering of the people of Iraq and those involved in the military operation, a further instability in the region and a new gulf between Islam and Christianity.”  He said that any war without U.N. approval “is illegal, it is unjust, it’s all you can say.” (from the Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau).

Several years ago a Muslim who converted to Christianity was interviewed and advised that lodging missiles and sending soldiers into the Middle East would never quell the violence, nor would it ever bring peace.  The only way peace will come to the Middle East is through conversion.  “The long term, and only real solution to the problem of radical Islam is conversion to the fullness of the Christian faith. Like everyone else Muslims need to be attracted to the radiant goodness, truth and beauty of Jesus Christ. They must see the radical love that Christ offers and compare it to the radical violence their own extremists offer. How can this happen? It can only  happen through the supernatural intervention of God’s Holy Spirit.”  According  to Evangelical missionary David Garrison “large numbers of Muslims across the world are indeed converting to Christianity as a result of powerful personal experiences.”  He explained that “… tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iranians in the last few decades have come to faith in Jesus Christ and followed him in baptism.” (from Conquest or Conversion).

A spiritual leader as great as Saint John Paul II, who helped President Reagan bring down the Berlin Wall, felt that violence begets violence, and would be useless in fighting Islam extremism.  When you stack up the toll of hundreds of thousands American veterans whose lives have been shattered physically and emotionally from the Iraqi invasion, against the elusive endeavor to quash terrorism, you have to really consider whether the cost has been worth the effort.  My brother was a Viet Nam veteran who was wounded physically and emotionally during his deployment.  The trauma this sensitive soul experienced rendered him mentally unbalanced, subject to flashbacks of those frightful events in Viet Nam.  On February 24, 1991, during Desert Storm, the news showed non-stop images of our soldiers freeing Kuwait.  Those images brought back abhorrent memories that were simply too much to bear, and that evening my brother overdosed on prescription drugs, desperately trying to block those haunting memories, finally committing suicide.  It seems so pointless to send more men and women to the Middle East and subject them to such grim experiences.

It is interesting, but even though President Obama sought out and killed Osama Bin Laden through increased espionage, I haven’t heard anyone suggest this as a means for fighting ISIS.  Nor have I heard anyone suggest  increased scrutiny of immigrants from terrorist nations, or even blockage of entry for these individuals.  We have a gigantic web of government agencies from the National Security Administration, to Homeland Security, to Immigration available with wide resources, so why don’t we tap into these agencies, rather than arm the people we ‘hope’ are the ‘good guys’.  I realize that it is useless to reason with these monsters, but increasing intelligence makes so much more sense than sending more airstrikes, killing innocent people, destroying homes, hospitals and businesses, and fueling the fire of hatred and destructiveness.  And as always, we must pray and fast for the protection of the persecuted Christians, and for the hearts and minds of the terrorists to be open to the light of the Gospel.

Congress Passes Resolution to invade Iraq
http://blog.legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/legal-research/today-2002-congress-approves-iraq-war-resolution/

Conquest or Conversion
http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/is-conquest-or-conversion-the-christian-answer-to-islam-5846904411783168

 Iraqi War Unjust
http://www.chron.coUnjust m/news/nation-world/article/Pope-says-war-against-Iraq-will-be-unjust-and-2109326.php

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Warped Minds

It is so hard to believe that a woman who has been slapped, punched and knocked down, slamming her head on a handrail and renray rice janay rice presserdered unconscious, and dragged her back to their room, could ‘stand by her man’.  But that is exactly what Janay Palmer did when she posted this on Instagram about the indefinite suspension of her husband, Ray Rice, from the NFL:

“To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his [butt] off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!”

Real love?  Knocking someone unconscious is real love?  Of course we know Janay is furious; after all Rice’s 35 million dollar income is gone.  Gone are the lavish houses, exotic vacations, private jets, expensive sport cars…all gone, just because she got knocked around a little.  Beyond the obvious loss of all their “happiness”, why would a woman stay Stone Mansionwith a man that is abusive to her?

Abuse is way too prevalent; millions of women have been hurt.  I once had an aunt who claimed women must “like the abuse” if they stayed with their abuser.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.  My father was physically abusive toward my mother and older siblings, but thankfully my mother couldn’t stand the alcoholism and violence any more, and left him when I was nine years old.  Many women never break away and stay trapped in the vicious cycle of agony, apologies and fervent promises that it “will never happen again”.  But of course it does.

When my husband and I owned a small cafe, we had a waitress who would occasionally call in sick because her boyfriend would beat her senseless.  We offered to assist her in any way possible to break free, but she simply couldn’t disconnect from their turbulent, codependent relationship.  So why in the world does a woman stay with her abuser?  First, realize that most abusers have severe emotional issues; they suffer from insecurity, wild mood swings, negative self-image, are manipulative and controlling, fear rejection, have problems with anger and rage, and with drugs or alcohol, are excessively jealous, and most come from a family background of violence or abandonment.

Most, but not all abusers are men, and will play mind games with their spouse by constantly belittling them, taunting them that they are ugly and unwanted, criticizing and insulting them, desperately trying to tear down their self-image and isolate them.  When a woman or man lives with someone so emotionally sick, the emotional and physical battery simply wears them down, causing their minds to become warped.

If you are a single young man or woman, before you seriously date someone, get to know them, and their family background.  Was there abuse?  Addictions?  Violence?  Does the person have a violent temper, or rage when something goes wrong?  Take time to get to know the person before you let the relationship get serious.

85% of domestic violence victims are women.Do you have a loved one in your family that is a victim of domestic violence?   Try to get them professional help, financial assistance or anything they need to break free.  But realize the abused person is the only one that can make that decision to end the brutality.  And sadly when someone has been in a long term relationship of abuse, the chaos and daily drama can become addictive and even ‘normal’, making it even harder to escape the volatile relationship.  They simply lose the ability to live calm and peaceful lives.

It can be heartrending when a family member stays locked in an abusive situation.  As painful as it is, try to maintain contact.  After all, the abuser would like nothing more than to isolate them from you.  If your loved one does finally decide to leave their abuser, make sure they get professional help, as this can be a critically dangerous time.  Many abusers threaten to kill their spouse if they leave, and too often that threat IS carried out.  Just four weeks ago one of the ladies in my own church decided to leave her abusive husband, and moved in with her mother.  One morning her maddened husband came in and shot her multiple times, then pulled the trigger on himself, leaving their teenage daughter an orphan.

Of course there is an enormous spiritual element in this kind of explosive violence, and I will refer you to the link below, Antidote to Evil, which I wrote after a neighbor on our street shockingly tried to kill his wife; she was able to escape, but her husband then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

Most abusive relationships are codependent; the rules of codependency are that you “don’t talk, don’t trust and don’t feel’; you NEVER talk about the assaults.  Instead, everyone tiptoes around the huge elephant in the living room and pretends it isn’t there.  So break the rules!  If you are abused, or have a family member suffering, bring it out in the open and talk about it.  Don’t let shame make you keep the violence a ‘dirty little secret’.  Discuss it with your pastor, get professional counseling; tell someone.  Only by letting the light into the darkness can we helped abused men and women break free of those ugly chains!

Related Articles:

Antidote to Evil
http://maryscatholicgarden.com/2013/05/13/antidote-to-evil/

The Real Enemy
http://maryscatholicgarden.com/2012/12/16/the-real-enemy/

Domestic Violence
http://www.pbs.org/kued/nosafeplace/studyg/domestic.html

Domestic Violence Facts
http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet%28National%29.pdf

Codependent Relationships
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/co-dependency

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Common Sense

Has common sense completely disappeared from our culture?  There seems to be emotional, knee-jerk reactions to anything and everything. The latest tempest in a teapot was a complaint filed by an atheist family against a volunteer coach at Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida.  The Head Coach, Kerry Wiggins, is a pastor, and even though he isn’t a chaplain, the atheist family claimed the coach lead the team in prayer when his son, one of the players, was injured on the field.  Heavens to Betsy!  As my mom used to say when she was extremely stressed.

How dare a dad pray for his son out loud after an accident!  Except the team says he didn’t.  They claim they just spontaneously prayed, which certainly wouldn’t surprise me.  Sanford is a midsize town boasting of over a hundred Christian churches, with a fairly large Evangelical population.  Spontaneous prayer when someone is injured is a natural response for an Evangelical, even though nearby Orange County, Florida has banned chaplains from leading students in prayer.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation was outraged and fired off a letter of complaint to the Seminole County School Superintendent, claiming Wiggins was secretly the chaplain of the team, not just Head Coach.  With such extreme reactions to any display of faith, is it any wonder our teens are so lost emotionally, and that suicide is the leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds.  How shocking that a teen might have to listen to other teens pray, or even GASP!, have to hear the name of Jesus spoken!

The age old question is why can the rights of atheists take precedence and steamroll over the rights of Christians?  The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech in regard to religion, and the ‘free exercise thereof’.

“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.”

It seems pretty clear neither the coach nor the boys on the high school football team were ‘establishing a religion’, but it does sound as though their ‘free exercise thereof’ was limited.

The Zero Tolerance toward weapons has also been taken to extremes.  Several kindergartners at an elementary school in New Jersey, were playing ‘cops and robbers’ during recess, using their fingers as guns.  For this grievous crime, the children were suspended for three days.  There have been many other instances of children being suspended because of shouting “pow, pow”, or from accidently leaving an empty shotgun shell in their pocket. A butter knife was found in a teen’s car that had fallen out of box being taken to Goodwill, and one little boy brought home a plastic knife from lunch so he could show his mother that he could butter bread.  For their heinous crimes, all of these otherwise well behaved children were disciplined severely, some being placed in alternative schools.

Whenever something tragic occurs, or if there is a problem, there is a tendency to over correct causing what I call the ‘rubber band effect’.  Religious education in the forties and fifties contained a lot of rote memorization. If you asked any child why God created them, the response would be “to love and serve the Lord”.  Did they fully understand what that meant? Probably not, but at least they could articulate an answer.

Currently the majority of children attend public school, and have religious education weekly, or PSR, as it is called in the Atlanta area. Usually the year is shorter than public school, and unfortunately if there is a school holiday that week, PSR classes are cancelled.  Some children don’t attend PSR every year, so there are huge gaps in the religious formation of many children.

Consequently when these Catholic children reach the age for Confirmation, many are absolutely clueless about their faith. Most have no idea what the Trinity is all about, have no concept of the Eucharist, confession, Mary or anything else about their faith. Those that attend Catholic schools have had a much better formation and generally have a far better grasp of their faith.

So what is the answer to restore common sense to a paranoid, politically correct world? The definition from Wikipedia for common sense is “a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things, which is shared by (“common to”) nearly all people, and can be reasonably expected of nearly all people without any need for debate.”

How do we interject rational thinking into a culture that seems to be more divided and polarized by the day, on every issue.  From politics, to the national debt,  to same sex marriage and sex before marriage, to abortion, to the violence the Middle East,  to even whether suicide is a choice, Americans are becoming more fractured than ever.

The virtue ‘good judgment’, also known as prudence, is a cardinal virtue that is formed by good habits and through sanctifying grace.  “As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, Aristotle defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, “right reason applied to practice.” The emphasis on “right” is important. We cannot simply make a decision and then describe it as a “prudential judgment.”  Prudence requires us to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Thus, as Father Hardon writes, “It is the intellectual virtue whereby a human being recognizes in any matter at hand what is good and what is evil.” If we mistake the evil for the good, we are not exercising prudence—in fact, we are showing our lack of it.”  (From the Blog About Religion).

So apparently in our secular culture we have difficulty in simply discerning between right and wrong! If you are trying to restore prudence and reason to your neighborhood or city, keep praying and don’t give up.  Stand firm and proclaim the truth; teach others how to discern between good and bad, and help them to consider and calculate long term repercussions of an action.  In Luke 14:28 we are warned to be prudent in any undertaking. “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.”

Since prudence can have a supernatural element that comes from grace, we should listen carefully to the opinions of our popes and other spiritual leaders.  On the question of going to war, we should consider the Pope’s pronouncement on whether a war is ‘just’ or ‘unjust’.  We should value the advice of a spiritual leader far more than the opinion of a politician or someone who might profit financially from the war.

Just as on the safety and morality of using the birth control pill; do you listen to the pharmaceutical companies and doctors, who profit substantially from selling the pill?  Or to Hollywood and their message of ‘total sexual freedom’ and the money they make from sexually explicit movies?  Instead, you should give more weight to the Pope, such as when Pope Paul VI warned in 1968 that widespread use of the birth control pill would result in “a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.”  How amazingly prophetic…

In Proverbs 8:12 we are told that wisdom goes hand in hand with prudence.  Refusing to consider the warnings of those whose opinion differs from ours is a sign of imprudence.  Of course the other person may be wrong, but then again, they might be right.  Use prudence to examine the moral character of the person whose judgment is the opposite of yours; are they upright?  Is their judgment generally morally sound?  Have they had good spiritual formation?  Examining these questions can help you gain some ‘common sense’ and practice the virtue of prudence!

Related Articles:

High School Football Team Prayed
http://www.clickorlando.com/news/seminole-county-group-upset-over-high-school-football-game-prayer/27762778

Zero Tolerance
http://www.vlrc.org/articles/105.html

About Religion
http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/p/Prudence.htm

Pope Paul VI’s Predictions
http://www.catholic.org/news/national/story.php?id=28718

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