Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Mitt Romeny’s Speech And Religion: What He Should And Shouldn’t Say To Evangelicals About His Mormonism

August 30, 2012

As I write this, Mitt Romney is yet hours away from giving his RNC convention speech later this evening.  That said, his speech is obviously already written, and moreover he and his speechwriters wouldn’t have listened to a pissant like me, anyway.

So I’m not really writing this to Mitt Romney; I’m writing it to his audience – especially to his evangelical audience (of which I happen to be a member).

Should Mitt Romney talk about his [Mormon] religion?  My answer is, “Yes and no.”  Let me talk about the “no” part first.

What should Romney NOT say to the evangelicals who make up a whopping portion of his voters?

Mitt Romney should not try to convince evangelicals – who know better – that he is a Christian just like they are.  He simply isn’t; Mormonism has a very different understanding of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ than do orthodox, Trinitarian, evangelical Christians.

If Mitt Romney tries to tell evangelicals that Mormonism – which holds that “God” Himself was merely once a created being (punting on the question of who created our particular “God”), and that this same “God” who was Himself created then later created Christ who is only an angel (and in fact the spirit brother of Lucifer the devil) – is no different from evangelical Christianity, he will do nothing more than offend us and actually LOSE our vote.

This is where the more troubling aspects of Mormonism come into play:

From Brigham Young (as in “Brigham Young University”):

“When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom WE have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.”

and:

“When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family”.  Young explained that Adam “was begotten by his Father in heaven” in the same way that Adam begat his own sons and daughters, and that there were “three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael.” Then, reiterating, he said that “Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven.”

Hey, Mitt, whatever you do, please don’t tell me you’re a Christian just like I am.  Because I will be legitimately offended and start wondering what else you might be lying about.

Adam Smith likewise made it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that Mormons are NOT Christians like orthodox Christians:

18 My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

 19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

 20 He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.

Joseph Smith very specifically said that no orthodox, historical Christian denomination was valid.  Which is to say that from the very beginning, Mormonism recognized the gulf between Mormons and those who had called themselves “Christian” for 2,000 years before Mormonism.

Please don’t contradict your own Mormon history and tell us that you’re a “Christian,” Mitt.  Because unless you repudiate your Mormonism, you just aint a Christian by any orthodox or historical standard.  And if you just flat-out try to deny the crucial and critical differences between Mormonism and Christianity, you will outrage the very people you need to depend upon most for your election.

That’s the “no” part to the question, “Should Mitt Romney talk about his religion.”  What about the “yes” part?

Mitt Romney should talk about faith in the generic sense of the term; not the specific content of his faith, and not that his “faith” is a Christian faith.  Mitt Romney should indicate that he is a religious person with a religious worldview.

And I submit that Mitt Romney should – without directly claiming himself a “Christian” – affirm a Judeo-Christian worldview.

Because while Mormons do NOT embrace the same theology as historic, orthodox Christianity as understand by evangelicals, Mormons most certainly DO have a Judeo-Christian view of the world and have a Judeo-Christian view toward morality in general.

And given that, I am comfortable having a “Mormon” who isn’t going to do anything in any way, shape or form to propagate his Mormonism, as my president.  Especially given the fact that the man he is running against has a form of “Christianity” that is even FURTHER away from historic, orthodox Christianity than Mormonism.

When the militant homosexual agenda is “Christian,” as it is on Obama’s view; when the militant abortion agenda that has murdered 54.5 million babies since Roe v. Wade was imposed in 1973 is “Christian,” as it is on Obama’s view; when “Christianity” is a Marxist core with a candy coating of “liberation theology,” as it is on Obama’s view; when “Christianity” allows you to spend some 25 years in a Marxist, racist, anti-American “church” as Obama’s “Christianity” allowed him to do in Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church” (and see here); when “Christianity” means explicitly rejecting individual salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone into a Marxist “collective salvation” as Obama’s “faith” does; you are very far from “Christian,” indeed.

The true nature of Obama’s “salvation” in his own words:

“… working on issues of crime and education and employment and seeing that in some ways certain portions of the African American community are doing as bad if not worse, and recognizing that my fate remain tied up with their fates, that my individual salvation is not going to come about without a collective salvation for the country.

“Collective” as in “collectivist.”  And “collectivist” as in “communist.”  Because Obama’s “Christianity” is a candy coating over a hard nut of Marxism just as Jeremiah Wright’s “Christianity” is.

Any orthodox Christian can tell you – and quote the Bible to prove it – that individuals are saved by their individual and personal faith in Jesus Christ in a dependence upon His righteousness and His substitutionary death in our place on the Cross.   My faith – regardless of the color of my skin – is not “tied up” in ANYTHING other than the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who shares in and participates in the divine essence of the eternal Father.

Barack Obama does NOT have a Judeo-Christian worldview in any way, shape or form.

Obama’s “Christianity” is Jeremiah Wright’s “them Jews” Christianity:

And it most definitely is NOT “Judeo-Christian.”

This will very probably be the very first election in American history in which neither major party candidate is a true Christian.

That said, I am FAR more comfortable as a Christian and particularly as an evangelical Christian voting for Mitt Romney than I am voting for a radical Marxist heretic like Barack Hussein Obama.

Mitt Romney needs to convey those significant ways that he thinks just like evangelical Christians without insulting us by saying he’s no different than we are.  He needs to focus on morality and on worldview and get away from specific content of the Christian – or Mormon – faith.

Thanking God For The Rescued Miners: Today I’m A Chilean

October 13, 2010

The Chilean miners have spent 69 days in a dark, hot, humid hellhole.

They were under the ground for seventeen days, surviving on 200 calories a day, drinking water they salvaged from equipment radiators, or groundwater they dug out of the earth, before anyone knew they were alive.

It was after those 17 days that the surface world managed to send a probe down to the 2,000 feet underground depths where they were holed up.  The miners scratched a note on the probe that said, ““Estamos bien en el refugio los 33,” or, “All 33 of us are well in the shelter.”

Amazingly, against all odds, and beyond all hope, they survived.

Even more amazingly, they survived without killing each other.

What a feel-good story, as these men come out of their graves, one by one!

Their country reached out to the world for help – and help came.

But this is Chile’s moment.  And I hope the whole country basks in the same light that I’m sure those miners are or will soon be joyfully basking in.

I heard a billion people have watched at least part of the rescue.  I’m one of them.  And I’ve had tears in my eyes.

When I heard about the collapse, I prayed with hundreds of millions of others for survivors.  But when I heard that 33 men had survived, and that it would be months before they could be rescued (if they even could be rescued), I was daunted.

What would it be like to spend that kind of time with 32 other men in a dark hot hole 2,000 feet under the ground, not knowing if you’d ever come out of that hole alive?

I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like.

And then I saw the video of the miners, who seemed … content, even happy.

What amazing men.

And what amazing faith.

One of the miners named Jimmy Sanchez said, “There are actually 34 of us, because GOD has never left us down here.”

Another miner, Mario Sepulveda, said, “We 33 miners are walking hand in hand with God.”

That same minder also said, when he finally came up from what should have been his tomb, “I was with God and I was with the Devil, they fought me, but God won. He took me by my best hand, the hand of God and I held on to him I never thought for one minute that God wouldn’t get me out of there.”

The 27th miner to come out of the depths of the earth had the word “Dios” written on his mining helmet.  “Dios,” of course, means “God.”  He knew who got him out of that hole.

It was a miracle that those miners survived.

It was faith that enabled those 33 men to survive their ordeal.  Just as it was faith that motivated the magnificent men above to labor unceasingly to free those 33 men.

We can all imagine the hell that could have descended upon those men 2,000 feet under the ground; fighting like raving animals for the shrinking food supply, or banding into gangs that fought each other.  Faith kept them together.  Faith made them selfless.

In the same way, did the rescuers know that their rescue efforts would succeed?  Of course not!  It was faith, taking a step into the unknown, doing what was right, and praying that God would help them, that sustained that rescue effort for 69 long days and nights.

God can do anything.  But He loves most of all to work through people.

And today, after more than two months of working through people, we can all rejoice in a miracle.

May the world look at Chile, and bask in the very same sunshine that those dead-but-now-alive miners get to see this day.

Update, Oct 17: The shirts that most of the miners wore out of the mine said, “Thanks to God” on the front, and had Psalm 95:4 (“In His hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also”) on the back. And then under the Psalm appear the words, “To God be the honor and the glory.”

And on the sleeve of the shirts was the name “Jesus.”

[Youtube link]

The miners also asked that 33 Bibles be sent down to them.

The Manhattan Declaration As The New Barmen Declaration

November 25, 2009

Christians are hearing about the Manhattan Declaration with great excitement.  It is a tremendous document with tremendous support from some tremendous Christian figures.

The actual declaration (linked to above) is some 4,000 plus words long, and is available to read at the link above.  But here is the nutshell version:

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I hope you stand with me – and with (at last count as of November 24, 2009) 106,738 other believers – and sign this declaration.

It reminds me of another time, and another declaration: the Barmen Declaration of 1934, which was a point-by-point denunciation of the fascist and racist ideological doctrines of Nazism and a positive expression of true Christian faith against a government and a culture that had become evil.

Adolf Hitler attempted to redefine – or “Nazify” – the Church and transform it into a component of his ideological agenda.  At one point in its history Germany had been the seat of the Protestant Reformation, and while Germany had since become the most secular humanist nation in Europe, there was still a vestige of Christianity remaining.  And Hitler wanted to harness that still-influential vestige toward his own ends.  The government thus passed resolutions to limit the influence or dictate the agenda of the church.  One demanded the purging of all pastors who rejected “the spirit of National Socialism.”  Another resolution categorically rejected the very foundations of Judeo-Christian transcendent morality even as it tried to conflate “being a German” with “being a Christian”:

“We expect that our nation’s church as a German People’s Church should free itself from all things not German in its services and confession, especially from the Old Testament with its Jewish system of quid pro quo morality.”

The German Confessing Movement was a reaction against the German government’s attempt to impose its agenda upon the Christian Church in Germany.  As Gene Edward Veith put it in his book Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview:

The Barmen Declaration thus sets itself against not only the German Christian aberration but against the whole tradition of modernist syncretism that made it possible.

[Article 1 affirmed Christ as the transcendent authority and source of values (as opposed to the German race, the Nazi revolution, or the person of Adolf Hitler)].  Article 2 asserts the sovereignty of Christ over all of life.  Article 3 asserts Christ’s lordship over the church and rejects “the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political conventions.”  That is to say, the world does not set the agenda for the church.  Article 4 teaches that church offices are for mutual service and ministry, not for the exercise of raw power.  Article 5 acknowledges the divine appointment of the state, but rejects the pretensions of the state to “become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church’s vocation as well.”  Article 6 affirms the church’s commission to proclaim the free grace of God to everyone by means of the Word and the sacraments.  “We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans [pp. 60-61].

One article, entitled “Hitler’s Theologians: The Genesis of Genocide,” takes time to describe how various key German liberal theologians systematically tore apart the Bible and orthodox Christianity – and in so doing systematically undermined the ethics and morality of the German people in preparation for the hell to come.  The author begins with Friedrich Schleiermacher, called “the founder of Liberal Protestantism,” and profiles the “contributions” of Friedrich Nietzsche, Julius Wellhausen, and Adolf von Harnack.

Georg Lukacs has observed that tracing the path to Hitler involved the name of nearly every major German philosopher since Hegel: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dilthy, Simmel, Scheler, Heidegger, Jaspers, and Weber [page 5, The Destruction of Reason].  And Max Weinreich produced an exhaustive study detailing the complicity of German intellectuals with the Nazi regime entitled Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People.  Ideas have consequences, and it was the ideas of these liberal theologians, philosophers and scholars who provided the intellectual justification and conceptual framework for the Holocaust.  Thus Nazism did not merely emerge from a liberal theological system, but from a distinguished secular humanist intellectual tradition as well — a distinguished intellectual tradition that had repudiated all the moral and spiritual values inherent to the orthodox Christianity of the Confessing Church.

Josef Hromadka wrote that:

“The liberal theology in Germany and in her orbit utterly failed.  It was willing to compromise on the essential points of divine law and of “the law of nature”; to dispose of the Old Testament and to accept the law of the Nordic race instead; and to replace the “Jewish” law of the Old Testament by the autonomous law of each race and nation, respectively.  It had made all the necessary preparation for the “Germanization of Christianity” and for a racial Church.”

Veith subsequently says, “in deciding whether or not to sign the Barmen Declaration … the dividing line was clear.”  And he states, “The German Christian theologians predictably denounced the confessional movement as being ‘narrow’ and ‘fundamentalist.'”  He rightly described the opponents of the Barmen Declaration as being “modernists,” “existentialists,” and “dialectical” in their thinking.  The theologians who rejected Barmen were men like Emanuel Hirsch, who taught that the resurrection of Christ was only a spiritual vision, and that the idea of a physical resurrection distorted Christianity by focusing attention to the hereafter rather than to the culture and community of the present.

In short, it was Christians who thought like the evangelicals and fundamentalists of today who signed the Barmen Declaration and openly opposed Nazism, and it was “Christians” who thought like the mainline liberals of today who stood for the German Christian Nazification of Christianity and for the resulting Nazification of German ethics and morality.

Confessing Church pastors and priests who resisted this Nazification of the church paid dearly.  Thousands of clergymen were hauled away to the concentration camps.  According to the Niemoller archives, 2,579 clergymen were sent to Dachau alone – and 1,034 of them died in the camp.  And that only refers to the priests and pastors – not the untold thousands of devout Christians such as the Ten Booms who perished in the death camps for their opposition to Nazism.

An article entitled “Asking ‘Why Nazism?’” reviewing a book by Dr. Karla Poewe has this:

“One of the dangers of liberal Christianity, where all sorts of interpretations are permitted, is that it can easily slip into becoming a new religion,” Poewe says. “This is what happened. In a bid to rid Germany of what it saw as Jewish Christianity, several home-grown practices sprang up, including some that incorporated Icelandic and pre-Christian sagas, as well as ideas from German Idealism.”

Although initially these new religions were separate and disorganized entities, they eventually came under the umbrella of what was known as the German Faith Movement. Hitler saw in it a mechanism for transmitting and reinforcing the National Socialist worldview. “He shaped its followers into a disciplined political force but dismissed its leaders later when they were no longer needed,” Poewe says.

We’re clearly not to the point where Jews, or Christians, or anyone else are being gathered by the thousands and placed in death camps.  But we’re beginning to see a trend that is frightening, as government, with the assistance of liberal “Christian” churches and organizations, are trying to impose their will upon the church and its agenda.

We’ve had a “hate crimes” law imposed upon us that makes homosexuality a protected behavior.  And one evangelical expresses the Confessing Church position in a nutshell:

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a written statement the bill “is part of a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality.”

In another recent case, a Christian mother who has homeschooled her child is being forced to put her ten-year old child in public school, not to improve her academic education, but to limit her exposure to Christianity and forcibly expose her to a government-approved “public” point of view:

According to the court order, the guardian concluded that Amanda’s “interests, and particularly her intellectual and emotional development, would be best served by exposure to a public school setting in which she would be challenged to solve problems presented by a group learning situation and…Amanda would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior.”

This is a shocking case, in which the government is usurping both parental and religious freedoms.  And there are many similar usurpations today, in which our government is actively opposing Christian values.

Nearly fifty million babies have been killed in this country by a government-sanctioned “pro-choice” system.  Gene Edward Veith addresses the “pro-choice” movement and its philosophical underpinnings:

Existential ethics brackets the objective issues on abortion entirely.  At issue is not some transcendent moral law, nor medical evidence, nor a logical analysis.  The content of that choice makes no difference.  If the mother chooses to have the baby, her action is moral.  If she chooses not to have the baby, her action is still moral.  If she bears a child against her will or aborts a child against her will — then and only then is the action evil.  Those who believe that abortion should be legal do not consider themselves “pro-abortion.”  They are “pro-choice.”  The term is not only a rhetorical euphemism but a precise definition of existential ethics.

Existentialism is also reflected in those who are “pro-choice” but personally oppose abortion.  They do not believe in abortion for themselves, but refuse to impose their beliefs on others.  In this view, a belief has no validity outside the private, personal realm of each individual.  Moral and religious beliefs are no more than personal constructions, important in giving meaning to an individual’s life, but not universally valid.  Or, to use another commonly accepted axiom, “what’s true for you may not be true for me.”

Such a view of truth flies in the face of all classical metaphysics, which sees truth as objective, universal, and applicable to all” (page 96, Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview).

We can return to the historical analysis of Nazism presented by Karla Poewe, and what happened when such “anything goes” belief systems were allowed to rule.  [I have written an article describing how existentialism became a primary component of Nazism, and link to it HERE].

Before we leave the issue of abortion as a vile violation of Christian ethics and morality, let us consider one more voice:

“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” — Mother Teresa

Christians should fight for life.  And allowing a human being to live should not be a “choice,” but a duty.

In 2003 one David Allen Black wrote an article bearing the question, “Do We Need A New Barmen Declaration?”  No Christian with a knowledge of history can answer any other way than, “YES!

The Barmen Declaration was written in 1934, but in many ways it was already too late: The Nazis were already in power.  Hitler was in his second year of power; and the ideas of the liberal theologians, the existentialist philosophers, and the amoral intellectuals were already firmly in place.

It is my fervent hope that we finally have that “New Barmen Declaration” to answer the evils of our own day.  If we already should have written one, then every day that passes is one more day wasted; if we are acting pro-actively, then let us thank God that we acting before it is too late.

From the UK Telegraph:

At last, Christians draw a line in the sand against their PC secularist persecutors

By Gerald Warner UK Last updated: November 24th, 2009

At long last, Christian leaders have faced up to their persecutors in the secularist, socialist, One-World, PC, UN-promoted axis of evil and said: No more. In the popular metaphor, they have drawn a line in the sand. For harassed, demoralised faithful in the pews it will come as the long-awaited call to resistance and an earnest that their leaders are no longer willing to lie down supinely to be run over by the anti-Christian juggernaut. This statement of principle and intent is called The Manhattan Declaration, published last Friday in Washington DC.

It is difficult to believe that so firm an assertion of Christian intransigence in the face of persecution will not have some beneficial effects even here. For this Declaration is no minor affirmation by a few committed activists: on the contrary, it is signed by the most important leaders of three mainstream Christian traditions – the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and Evangelical Protestants. For an ecumenical document it is heroically devoid of fudge, euphemism and compromise.

The Manhattan Declaration states that “the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions”.

For Barack Obama, the PC lobby, the “hate crime” fascists and, by implication, their opposite numbers in Britain, the signatories have an uncompromising message: “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.” That is plain speaking, in the face of anti-Christian aggression by governments. The signatories spelled it out even more unequivocally: “We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we will under no circumstances render to Caesar what is God’s.”

In a world where a Swedish pastor has been jailed for preaching that sodomy is sinful, similar prosecutions have taken place in Canada, the European Court of Human Rights (sic) has tried to ban crucifixes in Italian classrooms, Brazil has passed totalitarian legislation imposing heavy prison sentences for criticism of homosexual lifestyles, Amnesty International is championing abortion, David Cameron has voted for the enforced closure of Catholic adoption agencies, and Gordon Brown’s government has just been defeated in its fourth attempt to abolish the Waddington Clause guaranteeing free speech – this robust defiance is more than timely.

The signatories are unambiguously expressing their willingness to go to prison rather than deny any part of their religious beliefs. Those signatories are heavyweight. On the Catholic side they include Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia; Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop Emeritus of Detroit; the Archbishops of Denver, New York, Washington DC, Newark, Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Louisville; and other Bishops. The Orthodox include the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and the Archpriest of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. There are also the Anglican Primates of America and Nigeria, as well as a host of senior Evangelical Protestants.

In terms of influence on votes and public opinion, this is a formidable coalition. It has served notice on the US government that further anti-Christian legislation will provoke cultural trench warfare and even civil disobedience. As regards the sudden stiffening of resistance among the usually spineless Catholic leadership, it is impossible not to detect the influence of Benedict XVI.

We need more declarations like this, on a global scale, and the requisite confrontational follow-up. This is Clint Eastwood, make-my-day Christianity – and not before time. From now on, any governments that are planning further persecution of Christians had better make sure they have a large pride of lions available for mastication duties. The worm has turned.

As a young Christian, I was inspired by the music, lyrics, and album cover of Keith Green’s album, No Compromise.  The cover says it all:

The Manhattan Declaration – like the Barmen Declaration – calls for Christians who are willing to stand up and be singled out even in the face of persecution or punishment.

I hope you are willing to be one of those Christians.

Wow, That Hot Sarah Palin Sure Looks Good In Her… Character

August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin is a real pretty lady.  She’s got that “hot librarian” thing going on, no doubt about it.

But this former Miss. Alaska runner-up looks best of all where it counts the very most: on the inside.

This woman is simply amazing.  I am looking at her with increasing admiration building toward awe.

This is a woman who – shortly after being elected as Governor – fired the Governor’s chef because “her children could fix their own breakfast and sandwiches.”

This is a Governor who put the private jet purchased by the previous Governor with state money on eBay.

This is a Governor who sold the Governor’s limousine and instead drives her Volkswagon Jetta to work.

This woman is better than any giant-killer; she’s the slayer of the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.”

Last year, this woman “vetoed 13 percent of the state’s proposed budget for capital projects. The cuts, the Anchorage Daily News said, ‘may be the biggest single-year line-item veto total in state history.'”

Now, that is a woman I can look at all day!

Sarah Palin is a pulchritudinous champion of the people against pork, corruption, and pretentious hoity-toity disconnect between leaders and the people they are supposed to serve has a remarkable personal story.  If you read on, you’ll get to see a titillating picture… (more…)

Memorial Day: A Time to Reflect on the Big Picture

May 26, 2008

Memorial Day and Christmas have one thing in common: both holidays celebrate giving. Christmas celebrates God’s gift of salvation in the birth of Christ; and Memorial Day celebrates the gift of freedom by men who secured it with their lives and their blood.

Neither divine grace nor political freedom is “free.” Both have been provided for us at great cost.

And whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, I hope you took time to contemplate the image of the rows of crosses marking the graves of our fallen warriors. We owe such men – as well as the warriors who survived the battle – a debt that we can never repay.

There is a saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I’m sure there have been some atheists in some foxholes at one time or another, but the real point of this bit of folk wisdom is that one tends to pay attention to the Big Picture when one’s life is on the line. When you know you could be blown to bits at any moment, the question as to whether there is a heaven and a hell suddenly becomes more than simple abstract speculation.

To that end, let me talk about the faith that drives men to acts of greatness. I’m not talking about faith in God (although that helps a LOT); I’m talking about faith in a better world, and faith that one’s personal sacrifices can help create that better world.

Faith gets ridiculed in today’s cynical society (e.g. “faith vs. religion,” where the latter is meaningful and the former trivial). And the faith of religious people is all too often dismissed as some kind of enabler for weak minds (e.g. “Religion is the opiate of the masses”; “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion…”) to continue living their simpleminded, idiotic lives.

But it occurs to me that faith is as essential to our democracy as it is to the our religion.

And it occurs to me that the life of faith is not an easy one.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Cynics and skeptics think of faith as belief in things that don’t exist, but this is by no means true.

Rather, it is confidence in principles, ideas, and truths that are there even if we can’t see them immediately before us.

Our forefathers, who established what would become the greatest nation in the history of the world were religious Pilgrims, seeking to build their vision in a strange land. The first years were difficult; so many died that the captain pleaded with them to abandon their quest and return to England. But their faith in what they believed was their divinely appointed destiny gave them the courage and the motivation to endure hardship and death.

Our founding fathers, in choosing to devote “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to separate from the injustices of subjugation without representation chose to risk everything for their belief in a better world. The system of government they envisioned had never been tried in the history of the world, but they fought the greatest superpower of the world at the time in order to give a democratic republic a chance. We can imagine them enduring the sufferings of Valley Forge, in which men’s frostbitten feat bled as they stumbled across the snow. They were fighting for a better world, a world they had never seen.

We can think of the faith of our ancestors who faced death on an unprecedented scale in the Civil War. It was the faith of men such as Abraham Lincoln who persevered the cries of shock and outrage, and continued to fight for the better world that he envisioned. There are no better words than the words of Lincoln himself, in what is regarded as the greatest speech ever given:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in
a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so
conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great
battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of
that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their
lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and
proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot
dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.
The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated
it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will
little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never
forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be
dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here
have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here
dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these
honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which
they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly
resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this
nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that
government of the people, by the people, for the people shall
not perish from the earth.

We can think about the faith of those who stormed the beaches at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. We can think about the Marines who landed on beaches such as Iwo Jima to fight horrendous, bloody engagements against fanatic opposition. Fascism, Communism, and totalitarianism had consumed the world like a plague, and gained the upper hand. Nazi fascism and Imperial Japanese totalitarianism had seized most of the world in their bloody claws, and men of faith had to pry those claws away by force, finger by finger.

What was on the mind of the soldier who stumbled over the bodies of his fallen brothers while machine gun fire raked across the sand in front of him? What sustained him? What was it that kept such men moving forward, when “forward” seemed to lead only to violent death?

It was faith, hope, and love.

One rabbi, who survived the horrors of the death camp at Auswitzch summed up his experiences by saying, “It was as though a world existed in which all of the Ten Commandments had been reversed: Thou shalt kill, thou shalt lie, thou shalt steal, and so forth. Mankind has never seen such a hell.”

Against such evil stood ordinary men who were motivated to acts of greatness by faith, hope, and love. They died by the millions, but they fought on because they had faith that their sacrifices would not be in vain. And in enduring through faith in a better world that – even when the world before their eyes was nearly consumed by evil – they prevailed over that evil.

And I would add to that list the men and women who are wearing the American flag on their shoulders as they fight to secure liberty in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been magnificent. I have been so proud of them. Through danger and in spite of every kind of opposition, they have fought men who would impose their will by means of force and terror, and they have prevailed.

On this Memorial Day, we stop to honor those who have fallen in the struggle to provide a better world for succeeding generations. We stop to consider the faith that such men must have had to endure incredible deprivation, danger, and terrible death. And we reflect on the content of their faith: what Lincoln called “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

We know that the vision of such a world has been under attack throughout history, by men who have harbored a darker, more terrible vision of the world. And we know that apart from our warriors, and the faith that sustains them, we will not be able to prevail in the continuous struggle against evil.

Please say a prayer for our warriors, who have placed themselves in harm’s way just as our warriors who came before them. Pray for their safety. Pray for the success of their mission. And pray for their faith, which gives them the courage that sustains them.

And let us honor every one of our veterans – both the living and the dead – who have worn the uniform of the United States of America.

Pope Benedict: The anti-Maher, anti-Wright Christian leader

April 20, 2008

I was so pleased that Fox News gave the Pope’s celebration at St. Joseph’s Seminary full coverage. I am not Catholic, but I would have gladly kissed that ring today.

I think about Bill Maher’s recent comments against Pope Benedict (see my article, “Bill Maher vs. Pope Benedict: and the winner is…). I think about the remarks of Trinity United Church of Christ’s (and Barack Obama’s) paster, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In contrast to such bitter men, it was so inspiring to see a wise, gracious Christian giant demonstrate the true virtues of the Christian faith.

My home page is set to MSNBC. It really shouldn’t be, but I’m too lazy to change it. I am glad that their forecast (something like, “Pope Benedict is visiting America, but nobody cares”) was so completely dead-wrong.

The Pope, addressing an audience of mainly young people, was able to draw on his own experiences as a youth in Germany under the “monsters” of Nazi fascism. He said, “My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew — infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion — before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good. Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.”

The Pope praised God for the strength of Democratic governments who finally stood up and removed the evil that marred his youth even as it marred the world, and called upon continued resolve to stand up for freedom. “Let us thank God for all those who strive to ensure that you can grow up in an environment that nurtures what is beautiful, good, and true: your parents and grandparents, your teachers and priests, those civic leaders who seek what is right and just,” he said. He urged the young people and the future priests in the seminary to faithfully carry on their Christian works while enjoying the liberties that they were blessed to have.

“The power to destroy does, however, remain. To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated. This is the essence of the hope that defines us as Christians; and the Church recalls this most dramatically during the Easter Triduum and celebrates it with great joy in the season of Easter! The One who shows us the way beyond death is the One who shows us how to overcome destruction and fear: thus it is Jesus who is the true teacher of life (cf. Spe Salvi, 6). His death and resurrection mean that we can say to the Father “you have restored us to life!” (Prayer after Communion, Good Friday). And so, just a few weeks ago, during the beautiful Easter Vigil liturgy, it was not from despair or fear that we cried out to God for our world, but with hope-filled confidence: dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds!”

“The German-born pope lamented that what he called “the joy of faith” was often choked by cynicism, greed and violence. Yet he drew an analogy to show how faith can overcome distractions and trials. ‘The spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline, yet in the heart of this busy metropolis they are a vivid reminder of the constant yearning of the human spirit to rise to God.'”

These words were as beautiful as they were inspiring:

“The Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, tells us that God does indeed find a place among us. Though the inn is full, he enters through the stable, and there are people who see his light. They recognize Herod’s dark closed world for what it is, and instead follow the bright guiding star of the night sky. And what shines forth? Here you might recall the prayer uttered on the most holy night of Easter: “Father we share in the light of your glory through your Son the light of the world … inflame us with your hope!” (Blessing of the Fire). And so, in solemn procession with our lighted candles we pass the light of Christ among us. It is “the light which dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride” (Exsultet). This is Christ’s light at work. This is the way of the saints. It is a magnificent vision of hope — Christ’s light beckons you to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ’s way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace.”

Pope Benedict did not turn a blind eye to the darkness that constantly threatens to eclipse the world. Rather he defines it, and describes the path to attaining victory over it:

What might that darkness be? What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope? A first group of examples pertains to the heart. Here, the dreams and longings that young people pursue can so easily be shattered or destroyed. I am thinking of those affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation — especially of girls and women. While the causes of these problems are complex, all have in common a poisoned attitude of mind which results in people being treated as mere objects ? a callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being. Such tragedies also point to what might have been and what could be, were there other hands — your hands — reaching out. I encourage you to invite others, especially the vulnerable and the innocent, to join you along the way of goodness and hope.

The second area of darkness — that which affects the mind — often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister. The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations. I have already mentioned the many liberties which you are fortunate enough to enjoy. The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded. It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum. Yet freedom is a delicate value. It can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.

Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person? Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good. In some circles to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere. And in truth’s place — or better said its absence — an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism. But what purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong? How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life? Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others (cf. Spe Salvi, 28).

How then can we as believers help others to walk the path of freedom which brings fulfillment and lasting happiness? Let us again turn to the saints. How did their witness truly free others from the darkness of heart and mind? The answer is found in the kernel of their faith; the kernel of our faith. The Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, tells us that God does indeed find a place among us. Though the inn is full, he enters through the stable, and there are people who see his light. They recognize Herod’s dark closed world for what it is, and instead follow the bright guiding star of the night sky. And what shines forth? Here you might recall the prayer uttered on the most holy night of Easter: “Father we share in the light of your glory through your Son the light of the world … inflame us with your hope!” (Blessing of the Fire). And so, in solemn procession with our lighted candles we pass the light of Christ among us. It is “the light which dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride” (Exsultet). This is Christ’s light at work. This is the way of the saints. It is a magnificent vision of hope — Christ’s light beckons you to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ’s way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace.

At times, however, we are tempted to close in on ourselves, to doubt the strength of Christ’s radiance, to limit the horizon of hope. Take courage! Fix your gaze on our saints. The diversity of their experience of God’s presence prompts us to discover anew the breadth and depth of Christianity. Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship. Sometimes we are looked upon as people who speak only of prohibitions. Nothing could be further from the truth! Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder. We stand before the God we know and love as a friend, the vastness of his creation, and the beauty of our Christian faith.

Some more marvelous words that reveal the genuine transformational power of the Christian faith, as well as an incredible source of power to do good in the world:

“In the liturgy we find the whole Church at prayer. The word liturgy means the participation of God’s people in “the work of Christ the Priest and of His Body which is the Church” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). What is that work? First of all it refers to Christ’s Passion, his Death and Resurrection, and his Ascension — what we call the Paschal Mystery. It also refers to the celebration of the liturgy itself. The two meanings are in fact inseparably linked because this “work of Jesus” is the real content of the liturgy. Through the liturgy, the “work of Jesus” is continually brought into contact with history; with our lives in order to shape them. Here we catch another glimpse of the grandeur of our Christian faith. Whenever you gather for Mass, when you go to Confession, whenever you celebrate any of the sacraments, Jesus is at work. Through the Holy Spirit, he draws you to himself, into his sacrificial love of the Father which becomes love for all. We see then that the Church’s liturgy is a ministry of hope for humanity. Your faithful participation, is an active hope which helps to keep the world — saints and sinners alike — open to God; this is the truly human hope we offer everyone (cf. Spe Salvi, 34).

Your personal prayer, your times of silent contemplation, and your participation in the Church’s liturgy, bring you closer to God and also prepare you to serve others. The saints accompanying us this evening show us that the life of faith and hope is also a life of charity. Contemplating Jesus on the Cross we see love in its most radical form. We can begin to imagine the path of love along which we must move (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 12). The opportunities to make this journey are abundant. Look about you with Christ’s eyes, listen with his ears, feel and think with his heart and mind. Are you ready to give all as he did for truth and justice? Many of the examples of the suffering which our saints responded to with compassion are still found here in this city and beyond. And new injustices have arisen: some are complex and stem from the exploitation of the heart and manipulation of the mind; even our common habitat, the earth itself, groans under the weight of consumerist greed and irresponsible exploitation. We must listen deeply. We must respond with a renewed social action that stems from the universal love that knows no bounds. In this way, we ensure that our works of mercy and justice become hope in action for others.”

I hear and read these great, wise, potent words, and then I compare them to the cynicism of Bill Maher and the bitterness and divisive racism of Jeremiah Wright. The gulf is astronomical. Such a beautiful description of such a beautiful worldview. Contrary to the sickness that has come out of the mouths of Maher and Wright, the first German Pope is the anti-Hitler, the anti-Wright. The light he offered to the young people at Yonkers contrasts dramatically with the darkness we have heard from others.

Daniela Rizzo brought her husband and their infant son from Connecticut. “You can feel the energy,” Rizzo said. “You can feel the faith.”

I felt it too.

Welcome to America, Pope Benedict. May your visit be as happy as the joy you are bringing to millions.

A full transcript of the Pope’s remarks at St. Joseph’s is available at

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/19/nyregion/19popeyouth.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ei=5088&en=2a1a37f9f94e066d&ex=1366344000&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss


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