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Kresta in the Afternoon – May 1, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 1, 2015

 

4:00 – Little Boy: A Film on Faith and Family

Little Boy is the story of a young boy who will do whatever it takes to end World War II and bring his father home. The indescribable love between father and son is the basis for a heartwarming tale. We speak with the film’s producer and director, Alejandro Monteverde

 

4:20 – Back to Basics: Forming Intentional Disciples

Consider the following statistics: Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing. 10 percent of all American adults are ex-Catholics. Only 60 percent of Catholics believe in a personal God. As we’ve said before, we’re surrounded by Catholics who have been Sacramentalized but not Evangelized. A lot of people see this as a sign of the end, that the Church in the US is on the way out. Sherry Weddell sees it as an opportunity to regrow the Church on a solid foundation of committed, intentional Disciples of Christ. She joins us today.

 

5:00 – Kresta Comments: Charges Filed against Baltimore Police Officers

 

5:20 – Never Enough: One Lawyer’s True Story of how he Gambled his Career Away

Gambling addicts often say it’s the thrill of winning, not the money, that keeps them addicted. We ask Michael Burke if he agrees. Michael was a successful lawyer who spent over $1.6 million of his client’s trust account funds on gambling. He was eventually jailed for his actions. He joins us today to talk about how to identify and help people afflicted with gambling addiction.

In Praise of the Teen Summer Job

by Dave Shiflett via WSJ.com

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Among the signs of my advancing age is bafflement at hearing younger parents talk about what their teenagers are going to do over the summer. Some mention internships with documentary filmmakers. Others say that their offspring will spend the hot months building latrines in distant corners of the developing world. A few speak of expeditions to measure the disappearance of glaciers or a period of reflection at an ashram in Tamil Nadu.

What on Earth is an ashram? And when did teenagers start doing all these exotic things instead of working summer jobs?

I wish them well, of course, and hope that they build the finest latrines ever to grace the Guatemalan countryside. I should also acknowledge that I wish such opportunities had been available to me when I was growing up.

At the same time, there is value in recalling the grit and glory of traditional summer work, which has taught generations of teenagers important lessons about life, labor and even their place in the universe—which turned out to be nowhere as close to the center as we had imagined.

Most of these jobs were anything but glamorous. Newspaper delivery, for example, was the first rung on many an economic ladder. The paperboy (or girl) had to rise early, pull heavily laden wagons up and down dark streets, and later go door-to-door collecting money from customers. It was amazing how gruff some could be, especially if you had innocently thrown a morning post or two through a window.

Construction work was another staple of the summer circuit, and it taught the glories of digging holes, hauling bricks and watching a house or building slowly fill a hole in the landscape. These jobs also introduced many of us to the phenomenon known as workplace danger. Countless youngsters picked up their first work scars on a construction site.

So let’s leave behind, momentarily, the allure of ashrams, glaciers and humanitarian latrine work and travel back to the early 1970s. The British band Mungo Jerry had a hit with “In the Summertime,” which sang the praises of fishing, swimming and dining with the girl of your dreams: “If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal / If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel.” My girlfriend was a doctor’s daughter, so I needed to make as much money as possible. Which led me to a gray cinder-block opportunity zone called Pitzer Transfer and Storage.

Pitzer was a combination warehouse and furniture-moving company located near the then-festering Roanoke River in Roanoke, Va. This sprawling edifice (long ago razed) incubated few if any plutocrats, but it was an excellent showcase of Darwinian endurance. Among the more memorable tasks was the unloading of 100-pound bags of salt and sugar from railroad boxcars. In the summer, the boxcars became ovens—an effect enhanced by the forklifts that darted in and out to remove the loaded pallets. Some ran on natural gas, but others belched deep blue smoke reminiscent of fighter planes that had taken a stream of tracer bullets through the gas tank.

All of which worked wonders for a youngster’s self-esteem. Not only were we lifting and stacking bags fairly close to our body weight (I tipped the scales at around 135), but we were inhaling and exhaling the near equivalent of a forest fire and remaining upright. We often celebrated by using our 10-minute breaks to smoke a cigarette. If the surgeon general had happened by, he might have stroked out.

Another valuable part of the experience for a middle-class white kid was getting to know people from different backgrounds. Several co-workers were black; all were blue-collar. A few constantly radiated bourbon fumes, while one somewhat odd fellow seemed to be addicted to boiled eggs. This was our first close encounter with the melting pot—our version, perhaps, of joining the military, which had introduced wartime generations to the demographic rainbow of America. The older workers didn’t take us young bucks very seriously, but if we paid attention, we could learn a few things from them, including something about the dignity of common labor.

While prospects for job advancement were slim to none, many of the full-timers (lifers, as we called them) took pride in a job well done. And while you didn’t run into many prima donnas in that warehouse, there were world-class good people whose enthusiasm for life was as great as any king’s. I will never forget the day our foreman’s grandson graduated from high school—a first for his family, as memory serves. You would have thought the lad had found the cure for cancer and the common cold too. The foreman’s name was Percy. I assume he’s dead by now.

Perhaps he amuses himself, in some celestial bower, with recollections of how terribly his summer boys sometimes did their jobs—especially when we were allowed (for unknown reasons) to operate the forklifts. Among my most vivid memories is sending a set of forks through the picture tube of a large console television, which produced a magnificent explosion. Oil drums, foodstuffs—all were lanced, often fatally. I shudder to think what I could have accomplished if texting while driving had been possible back then.

Inanimate objects weren’t the only entities to suffer. Humans also took their licks. One day, while moving furniture, we rolled an upright piano over a co-worker, a seasoned professional who immediately sprang up and kept working. This was impressive, and no doubt reflected a desire not to be fired, which in those days seemed to be a common response to injury. The injured were not victims. They were liabilities.

I personally experienced this phenomenon after I had an unpleasant encounter with an arc welder. It all happened very quickly. An older guy (probably not my boss, but we respected our elders back then, which turns out not to be a uniformly wise policy) told me to weld together a broken hatch of some kind. I had absolutely no experience but went at it with youthful exuberance. Later that evening, I became aware of a sensation resembling having sand poured into my eyes, which I treated with cucumber slices. “Flash burns,” the boss noted when I returned a few days later, just before giving me the boot. I should add, on his behalf, he didn’t follow that with, “And good riddance!”

But what’s a little eye-roasting compared with being crushed by a tractor? That teaching moment occurred the summer before my senior year, on my second day of a brand-new farm job. The boss, who seemed to believe that city-raised teenagers instinctively knew how to handle farm equipment, sent us up to a plateau to discard some rain-ruined hay. On the way back down the hill, we lost control of the tractor. In the resulting crash (which I have no recollection of), both lungs were punctured by my ribs and began taking on blood. One filled completely. The other was edging that way when I arrived at the hospital. Some of the emergency-room team thought I was a goner.

But one doctor (my girlfriend’s father) saw a dim spark of life and helped revive me, which (after I regained consciousness) taught me once again the value of perseverance. There were other lessons as well. I carried from the incident a memory of looking down and watching the revival process. Perhaps a delusion, but perhaps one of those “near-death” experiences that have launched many a literary career and a cult or two.

Disaster, of course, is a very good teacher, so long as you survive the course. No one values their own heartbeat more than the person who has nearly had his slip away. Besides that, a close brush with death teaches you to be a bit more careful. There was another lesson as well: The doctor’s daughter dumped me, a reminder of the fleeting nature of love.

Those were far different days. We didn’t consider suing the farm owner, while today the first response might be to phone a lawyer before summoning the ambulance. Indeed, if I had hooked up with the right counselor during those early working years, I might today be living in the Taj Mahal. And while I wouldn’t trade these experiences for a year in an ashram with Elizabeth Taylor (circa 1970, please), I wouldn’t want my grandchildren spending their summers inhaling exhaust fumes.

Sadly, one of the biggest challenges facing today’s teenage worker is finding a job at all. A recent report by J.P. Morgan Chase says that only 46% of young people who applied for summer-employment programs were enrolled in 2014. “In the 14 major U.S. cities surveyed,” a release about the report added, “local officials also project that tens of thousands of economically disadvantaged youths looking for jobs will not be able to find them during the upcoming summer months.”

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the labor-force participation rate—that is, the proportion of a given population that is working or looking for work—for all youth last July was “17.0 percentage points below the peak rate for that month in 1989.” And the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis says that young workers “between 16 and 24 years of age constitute the demographic group that has experienced one of the most substantial declines in labor force participation”—though part of that change, this study noted, could be due to more youths spending summers on educational pursuits.

May the Force be with them, and may the older generation start doing as good a job supplying them with jobs as saddling them with debt. Meanwhile, today’s teens may find some comfort in knowing that plenty of free advice is floating around about how summer jobs are often the first step on the yellow brick road to success.

As a part-time musician and full-time geezer with delusions of musical grandeur, I am struck by how often this sort of story gets told by big-time performers of my generation. I got in touch with a few musicians who got rich and famous playing songs about White Rabbits and rocking ’n’ rolling all night but who earlier threw papers and cut grass. These days, they sing something of a different tune—one that might have set Dale Carnegie’s toes to tapping.

Gene Simmons, the bass player of the rock band Kiss (also famous for his anaconda-length tongue), was quick to respond to my query about his summer-job experiences. “I have done everything from delivering newspapers, scrubbing the fat off of a butcher’s block in a meat store, and being a secretary for hire,” he reported via email. Those were pre-Internet days, he added, when you had “roll up your sleeves and do it all yourself. You had to go to the newsstand. You had to buy your own newspaper. You had to look in the want ads columns. You had to pick up the phone and make your own appointment.”

But he didn’t have to travel far to find his blueprint for success. “The best life lesson and clarity of the capitalist business model I ever learned was from Junior Achievement,” he adds, referring to the youth-oriented program started in 1919 to teach financial literacy and entrepreneurship to students. “I would recommend young people do the same.”

Jorma Kaukonen, who grew up to play guitar for Jefferson Airplane (and now Hot Tuna), also delivered papers and learned to type his grandfather’s translations of Russian technical documents for the U.S. Department of Commerce, a skill he says still serves him well. The job also allowed him to dip his toe in the great melting pot. “I not only learned how to type,” he said, but “found myself surrounded by Russian émigrés. As a hot-rod-driving American kid, strangely enough, I found myself completely at home with these wonderful people from a different place and time—and also found them to be completely All-American.”

Like most other parents, he passed these values on to his children, including his son, who worked a food-prep job in a restaurant in the fancy Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Georgetown. “He called me when he got his first paycheck,” Mr. Kaukonen recalls. His son said, “I can’t believe how much they took out for taxes and Social Security”—to which Mr. Kaukonen recalls responding, “Welcome to my world!”

Mr. Kaukonen’s Jefferson Airplane bandmate Jack Casady, who also grew up in the D.C. area, remembers being a paper-delivering prodigy. “I started when I was 11 years old,” he said while waiting to play a recent gig in Florida. “On Sundays, I got up at 3 a.m. and delivered 400 papers.” He adds, “I made good money”—some of which he used to start the grass-cutting business that paid for his first musical instruments, including an amplifier kit he put together with help from his father.

“All of that taught me the thought process of setting your goal and then putting together the steps to reach that goal,” said Mr. Casady. “I learned that work was a means to independence and that if something you want is not available, you can make it yourself. There was no drudgery involved for me. Work was a means to freedom.”

His advice to young workers: Live and toil “with integrity,” and adopt a no-slacking attitude. “Luck and timing can make a big difference,” he said. “But Lord knows, prepare. If you prepare properly, you’re ready for luck and timing if they come your way.”

Besides sounding like candidates for higher office, including the presidency of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all three of these guys ended up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—a source of pride and inspiration for the nation’s former paper carriers. In addition, those of us who drove forklifts and flirted with rogue tractors salute them—and are happy to still be around to welcome the new summer season.

A “War” between Science and Religion?

by Randall Smith via TheCatholicThing.org

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Someone told me a few days ago that something like ten percent of Catholics leave the Church because they think there’s a “war” between Catholicism and modern science. I don’t generally put much faith in such statistics because there are many variables. Whom did they ask? How dedicated to the Catholic faith are respondents? Were they pretty much already headed out the door anyway? People oftentimes like to “dress up” their loss of faith with some intellectual justification. The purported enmity between science and Catholicism is as good as any.

But let’s suppose for a moment, just for the sake of argument, that these numbers are roughly accurate. The thing that really bothers me about this news is this: there is no conflict between Catholicism and modern science. Catholicism has never denied the reality of what Thomas Aquinas used to call “secondary causality.” The Church has always affirmed that God can work in and through natural causes.

So, for example, there is no more problem for Catholics over evolution than there is over normal human reproduction. On the one hand, we say that God “intended” your existence from all eternity. And yet, Catholics have never denied that the proximate cause of your existence is father and mother, sperm and egg, meiosis and mitosis, and all the rest.

Besides, no serious historian of science takes seriously anymore the thesis that the relationship between science and Christianity is one of constant, irreconcilable “conflict.” The “conflict” thesis has been replaced by what is sometimes called the “complexity” thesis. Sometimesthere was a conflict, but at other times the Church was a key supporter of scientific development, and in other cases the two simply didn’t overlap.

So why are these people leaving?

I mean, let’s say that we found out that people were leaving the Church because they said that they didn’t want to be part of a Church that made use of albino assassins: “What? The Churchdoesn’t make use of albino assassins. That’s just silly.” We might suspect that the people in question had been reading Dan Brown’s idiotic book, The Da Vinci Code. And we’d probably say to ourselves: “They left the Church over that? They threw over a centuries-old tradition of worship and theological reflection, with all its amazing saints like Francis and Dominic and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and all the intellectual firepower of fathers and doctors of the Church like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, Athanasius, and so many others because a minor con man, trying to make a buck, told them that the Church makes use of albino assassins. Do they believe that there are sacred monkeys in the Vatican? People spread that rumor too.

There are all sorts of reasons why people decide to leave the Church. Catholicism can be hard. It asks a lot. And the rewards are not exactlymaterial: no new cars, large screen televisions, yachts, and the like. There’s an old reply to the saying, “You’ll get your reward in the next life” which goes: “You’d better, because there’s certainly no reward in this one.”

And then, of course, there’s the problem of evil, which is in fact a real problem, not a made up problem, like the “conflict” between science and Catholicism. People experience real suffering, real pain in the world, and they have every reason to ask: Where is the supposedly “all-good God” in the midst of all this?

When C. S. Lewis was an atheist and thought about this problem, he realized that he actually had no basis for complaint – not as an atheist. What had caused him to think that the universe should be “good” at all? Indeed, what right did he have, apart from a belief in some ultimate Goodness, to make any distinction between “good” and “evil”? Quite frankly, it’s only the rumor that there just might be something like an “all-good God” that produces the so-called “problem of pain” in the first place. Without a caring, loving God, anything is possible. And as Dostoyevsky famously said, “Without God . . . everything is permitted.”

Still, evil and suffering, pain and death: these are hard realities to bear. And it’s easy to get angry with God when you expected Him to treat you better. Like all good relationships, the one with God takes work.

But to leave the Church because of some supposed “conflict” between science and Catholicism? That’s like leaving your wife because some dubious character tells you he thinks she’s secretly a Russian spy. If it were true, no one would blame you for leaving. But if you just took someone’s word for it, and left your wife on that basis alone, I think we’d have to say you should have been a little more circumspect, that perhaps your beloved wife deserved a little something better from you: something like a little faith.

And yet, the reality remains: someone is filling young people’s heads with this false story. If you want to see an example of it, I suggest watching a little piece of anti-Catholic bigotry entitled “Galileo: On the Shoulders of Giants,” an “award-winning” after-school special for kids that has almost nothing to do with Galileo, and everything to do with instigating hatred of the Catholic Church. You might also take a look at two patently anti-Catholic tracts: John William Draper’s The History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science and Andrew Dickson White’s A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. These are the geniuses who started the fairy tale about everyone believing the world was flat until Columbus proved it wasn’t.

The truth, of course, was that no one in Europe thought the world was flat (just read Dante). The story is absolutely false. It’s pure propaganda – just like the story about the “war” between science and religion.

Nigerian Bishop: Hillary Clinton’s Remarks About Religious Beliefs Show She “Thinks She Is a God”

by Diane Montagna via Aleteia.org

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ROME—In this far reaching, follow-up interview to a story Aleteia brought you in February, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, who serves as Director of Communications for the African Bishops, discusses with Aleteia the latest developments regarding Boko Haram, and his fellow Nigerian bishop’s claim that he had vision of Jesus Christ, who told him the terrorist organization would be defeated through the power of the rosary.
He also offers his perspective on Hillary Clinton’s statement last week that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth”; and calls the US administration’s recent appointment of its first “LGBT” envoy evidence of a growing “dictatorship of the minority”.

Your Excellency, let’s begin close to home. In our conversation in mid-February, you spoke at length about the nature and activities of Boko Haram. At the time, you stated that you wouldn’t be surprised if there would be an attempt made by the terrorists from different parts of the North of Africa and the Arab world — ISIS, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram — to link up, and that this needs to be prevented.

Since then, Boko Haram has in fact pledged allegiance to ISIS. What can you tell us about recent developments in the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria?

It all sounds like prophecy now, but it was quite easy for me to see at the time. Evil tends to find strength in other evil. I was sure that Boko Haram, ISIS, and Al Qaida were going to somehow try to link up resources and strength to do more harm than they’ve been doing, because they’re simply evil. I was wondering why that was so difficult for the powers that pretend to want to help us to see.

What I said in the February interview about the current US administration actually making aids and grants to Africa conditional on our accepting anti-life values seemed absurd to some ears at the time. But this is exactly what has been happening, and I think they are coming out even more in the open now.

I heard it in a radio discussion, and I agreed with it, although it sounded absurd. For some reason, a week after our interview, there were so many reports in the Nigerian newspapers and media that America was actually helping us technically. I don’t know who was behind it.

The hope we have now is that we have had our elections. Thank God, they were largely successful, and we are hoping that the approach will be different.

Six weeks before the elections, the government stepped up activities against Boko Haram. And the bombing and the killing has largely diminished. In many parts of the north of Nigeria where you couldn’t go before, now you can hear a pin drop. People are returning to their homes, and Boko Haram is largely consigned to the borders of Nigeria.

To what do you principally attribute the positive shift?

For one thing, the government that is outgoing needed to win elections, and needed to convince Nigerians that it could do what it had never been able to do for 6 years.

As the elections approached, the government communicated their desire to postpone them by 6 weeks. Of course, this met with great disapproval. One of the reasons the government gave for the postponement was to have time to rout Boko Haram and ensure safe elections.

There followed a massive build up of arms and alleged mercenaries fighting for the purpose.  Surprisingly it has been effective. The government managed to do in 6 weeks what it could not do in 6 years.

Secondly, I think that Boko Haram had caught the Nigerian government in bed, so to speak. For many years, the Nigerian army had not been actively engaged in combat. Corruption was a large part of the problem, and so it was an army that had obsolete equipment and undertrained officers. The army itself has admitted this several times. Therefore, it took time to prepare and obtain the necessary equipment.

Much has changed now. The Nigerian army recovered so much territory from Boko Haram, arrested so many and freed up so much space that people are able to continue activities in very many areas. In fact, in many areas where we thought elections could never be held, elections we successfully held.

Last week, for the first time in 6 years, the army actually entered into the dreaded Sambisa forest to confront Boko Haram, a feat considered unimaginable before now. So there is success against Boko Haram at the moment.

However, Boko Haram is not dead. And the danger is particularly acute given that ISIS has linked up with Boko Haram. In fact, it would seem that Boko Haram has modified its name now to relate to ISIS. However, I think that if the civilized world decides that terrorism is going to be eliminated, it can be eliminated, if there is sincerity and commitment.

One of your brother bishops — Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, Nigeria — recently revealed that he had a vision of Jesus Christ, who told him that Boko Haram would be defeated through the power of the rosary. Your thoughts?

Bishop Oliver in my view has not said anything completely extraordinary, for two reasons.

First, the rosary has always been the strength of Catholic spirituality. Throughout Church history, the rosary has played a great role not only in bringing people closer to God, but also in giving them strength to conquer many wars, also in times of combat. Now, if you sit here to discredit what happened at Lepantoand other battles many years ago, you’ll have trouble convincing anyone that you have good reason to do so.

In the Marian centers of the world which have been approved by the Church — like Fatima and Lourdes — the rosary has always been recommended. Messages were given to people at these places that battles —whether spiritual, physical, or military — can be conquered through the power of the rosary.

Bishop Oliver said he had a religious experience. Religious experience is legitimate and one doesn’t need to be against it. I think very many people question this kind of thing because they have really, actually stopped believing actively in God.

We call Jesus ‘Emmanuel’. If he is ‘with us’ all the time, why can’t he show himself to us? And the fact that I have not had that kind of vision does not mean that Bishop Oliver cannot.

Religious experience is sacred. I have spoken to Bishop Oliver on the phone. We are quite close. I’ve been close to him because he and his people are on the front lines, and we try to support them in whatever way we can. I spoke to him on the phone and he is convinced about what he saw.

I am particularly happy that when he said Jesus handed him a sword, this sword became a rosary. Thank God. Better the rosary than the sword. Christianity has always fought its battles by prayers, not by arms. And so what Bishop Oliver said is, I believe, very consonant with Catholic theology and Catholic practice.

I myself have contributed along with a religious organization in distributing about 1 million rosaries in Nigeria, and I believe that the rosary has the power to help change situations, and that includes the situation with Boko Haram.

Turning to other international issues: Last Thursday at the 6th annual Women in the World Summit, Hillary Clinton said: “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.” Your Excellency, what are your thoughts — as a Catholic bishop and specifically a Catholic bishop of Africa — on the former US Secretary of State’s remarks?

My personal opinion of Hillary Clinton is: She is seeking election in America so you can expect that, like most politicians, she will say just about anything to pander to the thoughts of whatever audience she is speaking to.

So I really think that Hillary Clinton is just speaking for votes, rather than speaking for reason.

I believe there are three groups of people in this world: those who believe in God, those who do not believe in God, and those who think they are gods. Hillary Clinton I think is one of those who thinks she is a god. And I’m not obliged to believe that.

From the way she spoke, people like herself very clearly don’t want to hear anything about God. Even if they say they believe in God, they really don’t.

It’s evident even in her language: she talks about “deep seated cultural codes”. I feel she’s gotten too wrapped up in technology and has stopped realizing that there are values, there are things that are innate to people, that are not just “codes” that can be taken up and thrown out.

We talk about the dignity of life, the sanctity of life, etc. Is she saying they ought to be changed? Well, I don’t know what she is talking about. What are human beings going to change to?

We are saying that there is something innate in us as Africans that makes us Africans.

And I am saying that God, in His infinite wisdom — which I think might be a little bit more than Hillary Clinton’s — decided to create us in these forms to add to the beauty of his creation. So those who work to have one generalized, undifferentiated world certainly don’t know the meaning of beauty, which is found in variety, in color.

If these values are not precious to Hillary Clinton, I think she has no right at all to call for a change in religious values and religious beliefs.

She also called them “structural biases.” Again, that is a misuse of language. “Biases,” to many people, are the things that make them who they are.

So that’s as much importance as I attach to Hillary Clinton’s statement about cultural beliefs. It is my desire that the American people open their ears and their eyes and know exactly what kind of people are running to be the next President of the United States.

In February 2015 the Obama administration appointed Randy Berry as the first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of “LGBT” persons. What are your thoughts on the recent appointment, especially in light of your previous comments regarding a new “cultural imperialism” being carried out by the US administration in Africa?

I think the appointment of Randy [Berry] just shows how little the current US administration respects the democratic values it seems to preach, especially when they preach them abroad.

If the current American government is investing so much effort in appointing a special envoy to promote what it calls the “rights” of homosexuals and gays and the rest of it, as I have always said, I think there is a mix-up between what are actually “rights”, and what are behaviors. And human behaviors cannot be put on the same level as human rights.

We have a right to live. I do not think that homosexuals ought to be killed, by no means. Life is a basic human right. But the right to do things that are considered abnormal are not.

I do not think that homosexuals, as people, are evil people. But I do think that their activities are sinful and disordered. And if we invest so much money and effort into imposing the orientation of this minority — this particular minority — onto the entire world, then we are guilty of what I like to call a “dictatorship of the minority.” So where is democracy? How can America claim to be a champion of democracy in the world?

In any case, take for example something that is happening across the world in a different place. In recent months so many immigrants have been trying to get to Europe, to a better life, which by the way they have a right to, have been killed on the seas in Italy. Some have been killed in the desert, so many, tens of thousands.

Now, the United States and the countries of Europe have not felt any need to appoint a special envoy to help to protect the rights of these human beings who are dying just because they are looking for better opportunities. But the US administration is so concerned about imposing the “rights” of homosexuals on countries of the world that don’t consider these to be the values that they need.

Now if democracy is supposed to be a system that makes available the best for the most, without actually crushing the minority, then where is the meaning of democracy in America?

So I question that. And I say that people ought to open their eyes to the cultural imperialism that America is promoting, and promoting so blatantly.

Kresta in the Afternoon – April 30, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 30, 2015
4:00 – Kresta Comments: What are the Protests Trying to Accomplish?


The protests in Baltimore have spread to major cities throughout America, including New York, Seattle and Denver. In the past, racial protests had a clearly defined and achievable goal: the right to vote, to sit anywhere on a bus, to eat at any restaurant and so on. Today’s protests are over the right to…not be killed by white cops?  What should the protesters be doing to have an actual positive effect on the lives of the people they fight for? Jesus asks in Luke, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” He commands us to consider the consequences of our actions. Will we see this in future protests? Al has comments.


4:20-6:00 – Direct to My Desk: Should your teen get a summer job? What does it say about our culture when people spend thousands on a boxing match?

 

Christendom is gone, long live the Christ’s Church

by Al Kresta

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Public relations guru Sam Singer is proud of his reputation as a cynical manipulator. In his world, power always trumps truth. Public opinion is always sweeter than authentic knowledge. Right now, Singer is pitting sacramentalized but unevangelized San Francisco Catholics against their “hateful, intolerant Archbishop” who he compares with racist Southern governors during Jim Crow.

Singer even circulated a petition among uncatechized Catholics to force the “progressive”, “merciful” Pope Francis to “fire” that “traditionalist”, “obstructionist” Archbishop Cordileone. Singer doesn’t care that Popes don’t settle these matters by popular referendum. His interest is shaping public perception because perception is the only reality he believes in. For such cynics, lying to the uninformed is a justifiable means to that end.

cordileoneHere’s one lie: “Cordileone wants to control the private lives of his teachers.” In his handbook revision, teachers must not act, in their professional and public (not their private) lives, to undermine Catholic teachings. Surprised? This is about as uncontroversial as not biting the hand that feeds you.

For Singer’s ilk, however, this is exhibit A of intolerance. Really? Should candidate Hillary Clinton been forced to retain a communications spokesperson who told CNN that candidate Obama would make a better president? Of course not. In war, even “culture” war, truth is the first casualty. Unfortunately, Singer is but one professional hired by gay activists to circulate misinformation about the Church. These tactics of distortion are now daily events.

Most analysts expect the U.S. Supreme Court to permit same sex so-called marriage. Should we who dissent, just shut up? American Catholic leadership doesn’t think so.

Last week, the president and the three bishops who lead the USCCB committees overseeing marriage and religious liberty joined Orthodox, Protestant, Muslim and Mormon religious leaders affirming their “commitment to promote and defend marriage—the union of one man and one woman.”

They know that marriage is not, first of all, about politics; it is about culture. Marriage is pre-political. Biblically, Adam and Eve united in marriage before the the first government. Marriage is a natural, divinely created institution not a civil, legislated one. So even if the immediate political battle ends, the cultural necessity of demonstrating authentic marriage remains. If the nations of the earth collapse, the Catholic Church will still teach authentic marriage. In a culture that imagines marriage can be redefined, talking won’t be enough. Catholic husbands and wives must show forth the relationship between Christ and his Church. It is a fruitful love that establishes the social environment to create and nurture new life. The final apologetic for marriage is a gallery of loving, joyful, fruitful homes. “Show, don’t tell”, as the writer’s motto goes.

As one watching this cultural issue for nearly forty years, our opponents will not rest with a Supreme Court victory. They aim to portray the Catholic Church as hateful and connect those who rejected black persons at lunch counters to those who turn homosexual couples away from church altars.

If American culture retains even a residual respect for the Catholic Church, many will reject same sex so-called marriage. Those who bear witness to God’s design for marriage, will be told that we can’t abide with the gay marrieds in the same political space. They will talk “diversity” when it suits them, but genuine pluralism, especially moral pluralism, threatens them.

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So expect a new wave of anti-Catholicism and “gird up your loins” which is a biblical phrase that always sounds like “tighten your belt.” It’s closer, however, to “get ready to rumble” than “pull up your tighty-whities”. We rumble not as the world rumbles. The weapons of our warfare are spiritual.

They will ridicule us for what we believe. We must learn to defend our faith with gentleness, respect and with a good conscience.

They will gleefully dangle our real failures out for all to see. We must be ready to admit our sins and correct our failures. We cannot protect the tribe if our own members become enemies of the truth or the common good.

They will claim we have no place at the table of political discussion because we believe in divine revelation. We must remind them that we also believe in human reason and the importance of humanistic debate. We are not here to impose but to propose. We must persuade those around us according to the same rules as everyone else.

They will hold our most vulgar moments out for public shaming. We must remind them that no person or people should be defined by their worst moments, including them. And then gently remind them that it was our Creator and Master who taught the world to see that the worst sinner can be redeemed and the best saint was once such a sinner.

America will be great if American retains the good. But America has no divine promise that it will. The Church does have Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. His promise is true for he has conquered sin and death. We are united to the Resurrected One as a body to a head. Yes, the body often seems a bit uncoordinated but the union is real. His resurrection power guarantees that final victory.

The Church will be great if she remains united as the bride to her divine bridegroom. Fidelity to Christ, not conformity to the world, forms our path for the future. Lament the passing of Christendom, but get excited about this new apostolic era of evangelization. The twentieth century has passed, the first has just been born again.

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (April 29th, 2015)

by Fr. Steve Grunow

st-catherine-of-siena-wiki-detail-featured-w740x493

 

Today the Church celebrates the witness of the great saint Catherine of Siena, one of the most renowned and influential people of her time.

Saint Catherine was born in the year 1347 and died at the age of 33 in the year 1380. She was the 22nd child to be born into her family. (Her mother would deliver 25 children, though most of the children did not survive infancy).

Catherine was a gregarious child whose parents nicknamed her “joy” on account of her pleasant disposition. At the age of five she witnessed an extraordinary vision in the streets of her native city of Siena, a vision of Christ, attended by the apostles, with the Lord Jesus wearing the vestments and crown of the pope. This vision left an indelible impression on Catherine. Catherine’s biographers recall this strange experience as a foreshadowing of her mission.

Over against the protests of her parents, Catherine aspired to be a tertiary of the Order of Preachers, the religious movement that we know as the Dominicans. What this meant is that Catherine would never marry and would live in accord with the evangelical counsels- vowed to poverty, chastity and obedience. But unlike the religious women of her time, she would live this radical way of life, not within the enclosure of a convent, but out in the world. Accepted as a Dominican tertiary, a movement soon surrounded young Catherine, and she found herself the spiritual mother of a new religious family- comprised mostly of lay people and priests who were engaged in the ordinary tasks of life.

Catherine was a mystic, whose vivid experiences of Christ, gave rise to extraordinary acts of witness and works of mercy. Her relationship with Jesus Christ was deeply personal and she knew him as a living, divine person who loved her as a husband loves his wife. Though uneducated and barely literate, the great sages of her time sought her counsel and her bold, creative witness to the practices of discipleship warmed hearts grown cold towards the Gospel.

Catherine the mystic who knew the Lord Jesus personally is often overshadowed by her participation in the political and cultural struggles of her time, which were many. Catherine’s reputation for holiness and the confidence the people had in her gave her access to the powerful. The powerful men and women of her time likely saw Catherine as a curiosity, a useful idiot, who could be manipulated for their own purposes.

They were mistaken.

Catherine was no fool and had the determination and zeal that comes to a person who knows the Lord and has fully accepted the mission that he gives his disciples. She was forthright with the powers of the world, the elites of politics and culture- the Church was not to be used as a means towards satisfying their rapacious appetite for wealth, pleasure, power and honors. The Church didn’t belong to the powerful, or even the people, the Church belonged to Christ, and as such, the Church served what Christ served, not the ambitions of the worldly. All should repent of the manner in which they had blasphemed Christ by using his Church as a means to their own egotistical ends.

Distressed that the papacy had been co-opted and was being used by political and cultural elites, she insisted that Pope Gregory XI assert the independence of the Church from the worldly powers who were dominating it. Emboldened by Catherine’s persistent counsel, Pope Gregory XI did this at great personal risk.

Catherine was also distressed at the ways in which Christians were prioritizing their political allegiances over that of the Gospel and their shared baptismal identity. These conflicts were enervating the faithful and a detriment to the accomplishment of the Church’s mission. Time and time again she intervened, even placing herself in harms way in situations that had exploded in rioting and violence. Peace would not come to the society of the Church unless there was sincere repentance and acceptance of Christ’s way of life.

Exhausted from her tireless evangelical witness, her body broken by the extreme asceticism that she practiced so as to make her very life an offering on behalf of those who lived in alienation from Christ, Catherine died at the age of 33 in the year 1380.

The witness of Saint Catherine demonstrates the possibilities that open up for us if we allow Jesus Christ to be the priority of our lives. A relationship with Jesus Christ initiates a great adventure, drawing us out of the narrow, confined life of the ego, that cannot seek beyond the desire for personal fulfillment and safety. A relationship with Jesus Christ emboldens the disciple to take great risks and to engage in great acts of faith, hope and love. Living in Christ, the disciple can become, like St. Catherine, a force to be reckoned with. This force is not like the force exercised by the world, which is will to power exercised on behalf of self-interest, but the compelling power of the Lord’s word of truth that calls all people, great and small, to repentance and to acceptance of the way of Jesus Christ.

Life in Christ does not position disciples on the sidelines or in the safety of domesticity, but sends the believer out on mission. Saint Catherine’s life is the example of this par excellence.

Finally, a word about Saint Catherine’s relationship to the Church- Saint Catherine’s outspoken advocacy of the independence of the Church from the political machinations of her time has at times been used as means of justifying causes that oppose the Church in our times. This is, to use Pope Francis’ words “solemn nonsense”. At no time did Saint Catherine position herself as an opponent of the Church, particularly of the papacy, but always as an advocate. Her advocacy was not that the Church change to meet the world on its own terms. In fact, it was precisely this attitude that had led to the Church’s captivity to worldly powers. Saint Catherine’s advocacy was not about changing the Church, but about the Church being freed from worldliness so the faithful could accomplish their divinely ordained mission.

The Church does not change by conforming itself to this or that age or cause or political party or ideological construct. Nor is it the purpose of the Church to balance these elements of worldliness within herself, and in doing so, give divine sanction to our self centered worldliness.

The accommodation of the Church to our worldliness can bring worldly comforts to Christians, but as the life of Saint Catherine of Siena attests, Christians are not created by Christ to be comfortable. Christians are created by Christ so that the worldly can be liberated from their worldliness by saints.

The Church is meant to be a missionary endeavor, a society of people who, like Saint Catherine of Siena, have allowed Jesus Christ to be the priority of their lives. Only when we allow Christ to be our priority is the Church truly free to accomplish her mission.   Saint Catherine of Siena’s life witnesses to this truth, but what about our lives?

On Sustainability

by James V. Schall, S.J. via TheCatholicThing.org

“The Great Day of His Wrath” by John Martin, c. 1852 (Tate Britain)

“The Great Day of His Wrath” by John Martin, c. 1852 (Tate Britain)

The phrase “objection sustained” comes from the law court – a judge agrees with a lawyer’s objection to procedure. His “sustaining” guarantees that the trial follows established rules. Today, in an enormous literature, what is to be “sustained” is not legal procedure, but the supposed “rules” that keep this planet viable down the ages.

Almost all universities have “sustainability” courses. We have Earth Days. We observe ecological, environmental, earth-warming, ocean-saving, anti-fossil fuel, and sundry species-preserving movements. All endeavor to “sustain” the Earth. Theologians and philosophers write books about it. Biologists and animal lovers find that it justifies their existence. Economists cannot decide whether it helps or hinders the purpose of wealth production for everyone. Most “modern” governments pour money into this noble effort to prevent the Earth from going under.

More perceptive thinkers, however, suspect that “sustainability” is probably the most “useful” ideology ever invented. It brings everything, especially messy human beings who are the real problem, under direct state jurisdiction. It makes Marxism look like child’s play when it comes to absolute control of man and society.

Geir Asheim, at the World Bank in 1994, defined sustainability thus: “A requirement of our generation to manage the resource base such that the average quality of life that we ensure ourselves can potentially be shared by all future generations. . . .Development is sustainable if it involves a non-decreasing quality of life.”

That is quite a definition. The key concept, besides “requirement,” is that “our generation” is to manage future generations. For what end? That “future generations” will “potentially” be able to live as the average “we” lives today.

Let us suppose that the generation of 1800 or 1200 “responsibly” acted on the same philosophical premises. We would still be happily enjoying life as they did in 1800 or 1200 (AD or BC).

The next question is this: Just how do we know how many “future generations” will need managing – ten, a hundred, a thousand, and infinite number? Which generation are we saving for? Or are we saving for all subsequent eons? Of course, “sustainable” means that, from now on, we all start out with the same resource base. Resources are not to be used lest they be used up.“The Great Day of His Wrath” by John Martin, c. 1852 (Tate Britain)

This thinking assumes that the present limited intellectual and technical base is thrust on future generations. Contemporary men evidently think that they know enough to decide what future generations will want, need, or be able to do. They must be content with what we have now. What if the only way that we can guarantee the well-being of future generations is for us not to impose our limited ideas of sustainability on them?

When I look at this “sustainability” issue, I detect an “apocalyptic” or gnostic root to it. Augustine would have been amused over a generation that thought it could engineer the future of mankind on this basis.

The root of the “sustainability mission,” I suspect, is the practical denial of eternal life. “Sustainability” is an alternative to lost transcendence. It is what happens when suddenly no future but the present one exists. The only “future” of mankind is an on-going planet orbiting down the ages. It always does the exact same, boring thing. This view is actually a form of despair. Our end is the preservation of the race down the ages, not personal eternal life.

“Sustainability” implies strict population control, usually set at about two or three billion (current global population is around 7.3 billion, so many of us will simply have to disappear for sustainability’s sake). Sin and evil imply misusing the earth, not our wills. What we personally do makes little difference. Since children are rationed or even produced artificially as needed, whatever we do sexually is irrelevant. It has no real consequences in this life, the only one that exists.

Some talk of saving the race by fleeing to other planets. This leaves existing billions stuck here. The planet will disappear as the Sun cools. So the final “meaning” of the human race was that it “sustained” itself as long as possible. What is missing from this whole scenario is the notion of man’s “dominion.”

The earth and its resources, including its chief resource, the human mind, are given for the purposes for which each individual was created. Enough resources, including human mind and enterprise, are given for man to accomplish his purpose. When this purpose is accomplished, no more “resources” are needed. In this sense, the revealed doctrine that this world will end is the one that frees us from the dismal “sustaining” cycle that, presumably, goes on and on.

No doubt, while here, we should ”sustain” the world as a “garden” the best we can. But, as in the “beginning,” our key problems will not arise from the abundant Garden itself. They originate in our wills. The Garden does not exist for its own sake but for what goes on in it. This confusion is what is wrong with “sustainability.”

You Have Just Enough Time

by Jon Bloom via DesiringGod.org

A close-up of an old style antique clock.

 

“I don’t have enough time.”

I have said this countless times over the years. I have thought it many times more than I’ve said it. But I have not ever seriously considered that thinking or speaking this way reflected poorly on God. Until the other day on “Ask Pastor John” I heard Prof. Bruce Hindmarsh say,

Busyness is moral laziness [because it is often a statement of our self-importance and our excuse to be inattentive to people]. . . . But God has given us just enough time to do what we need to do moment by moment to respond to him. And his grace is there; it is eternally present. Every moment is a sacrament where time touches eternity and there is exactly enough time to do what God has called us to do.

I had to replay this a number of times. It wasn’t even the main point in Prof. Hindmarsh’s remarks about the importance of Sabbath. But it was the main point for me. Busyness is moral laziness, God has given us just enough time, every moment is a sacrament — these are massively important truths I need to soak in.

“Busyness Is Moral Laziness”

We all know busyness. Everyone is busy. And everyone complains about being busy. Busy, busy, busy. Busy is a buzzword (even phonetically). Most of us have grown fairly comfortable with busyness.

But to call busyness (meaning a frenetic, distracted lifestyle) “moral laziness” suddenly makes us uncomfortable. It means that busyness is not something that merely happens to us. It is something we choose. As objections begin to rise in our minds, it is helpful to remember what Jesus said to busy Martha: “Mary has chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:42). Martha, you have chosen something else.

So why do we choose busyness? Prof. Hindmarsh says that too often we make it a “statement of self-importance.” We use busyness as a way of telling ourselves and, maybe more importantly, others how essential we are. Busyness is a way of posturing our significance. Ouch. I’ve done this.

But a more serious issue is that we choose busyness as a way to avoid having to make harder, sometimes more costly choices (which is why Tony Reinke calls it “lazy busy.”). Busyness can easily be an escape. It provides a convenient way to opt-out of wrestling through ambiguity to make a difficult, complex decision that we will be responsible for. It’s much easier to be the victim of circumstances than to be responsible for a mistake. And an overflowing schedule can become a shield protecting us from the unpredictable, inconvenient, time-consuming needs of other people. It’s an effective cover. Who can argue with you if you have too many things to do? Jesus can (Luke 14:15–24).

Busyness provides a convenient way to opt-out of wrestling through difficult decisions.

Now, of course there is such a thing as being legitimately too time-taxed to take on another need. We really are finite, as Jethro reminded Moses in Exodus 18. But that’s what makes busyness a moral and faith issue. Stewarding time is simply hard work. There are helpful tools, but there is no formula. Each person and each calling is unique and it requires our prayerful discernment and the humility of receiving (and seeking) counsel.

“Just Enough Time”

I need to break the very bad habit of saying I don’t have enough time. When I say this, I’m not only blaming my own moral laziness on my circumstances, I’m actually blaming God. I’m essentially saying that God is either insufficient or he’s stingy.

In reflecting on this I’ve become more aware of my lack of faith for God’s provision of time. I tend to have more faith that God will supply for our financial needs than he will for our time needs. For a while I’ve been bothered about not being more directly involved in personal discipleship and evangelistic relationships. But I’ve chalked it up to particular leadership and phase-of-life busyness — too easily, I now believe.

Toward the end of last year it dawned on me that my reticence (in part, selfishness and fear of man are also at work) is significantly due to my lack of faith that God would provide sufficient time if these unpredictable relationships proved more time-consuming than I could manage. I felt the Spirit’s conviction of my lack of faith and prompting to confront it. So since the turn of the year, my wife and I have been giving more freely of our time to these relationships and experiencing God’s provision.

God has given us just enough time to do what we need to do.

Prof. Hindmarsh is right on when he says, “God has given us just enough time to do what we need to do moment by moment to respond to him. And his grace is there; it is eternally present.”

“Every Moment Is a Sacrament”

“Every moment is a sacrament where time touches eternity and there is exactly enough time to do what God has called us to do.”

What a beautiful and fearful statement. It’s beautiful in that every moment belongs to God (therefore every moment is holy) and he gives each moment to us as a gift. And he gives us enough sacramental moments to provide for our sacred callings, whatever they are. It is fearful in that we are stewards of these gifts and we will be held accountable for their investment (Matthew 25:14–30; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Fear and trembling is what we’re supposed to feel (Philippians 2:12). We are to handle holy things with great care.

Yet in our trembling we are also to remember that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15). If we come to him humbly through Christ confessing our sin and asking for help, all sinful stewardship is forgiven (1 John 1:9) and he will give us everything we need to steward the time entrusted to us (Luke 11:9; John 15:7; Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 13:20–21).

“His Grace Is There”

So let us lay aside the weighty sin of morally lazy busyness (Hebrews 12:1) and resolve to stop using it as a badge of self-importance or as an excuse to avoid what we don’t want to do.

And let us stop dishonoring God by saying that we don’t have enough time. God may, and frequently does, fill our time-plates full, which means that there are many things we must refrain from doing in order to remain faithful to our callings. But God always gives us enough time to do what he calls us to do.

And let us remember that this moment and every moment is a sacred gift from God. God’s sufficient grace is here, right now, where time touches eternity. As we prayerfully trust him, he will give us “just enough time to do what we need to do moment by moment to respond to him.”

Kresta in the Afternoon – April 29, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 29, 2015

 
4:00 – Johns Hopkins Students Say No to Chick-Fil-A

The Student Government at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has voted to prevent Chick-fi-A from opening a restaurant on campus. The students cited Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s opposition to gay marriage, saying the presence of a store on campus would be a microaggression against LGBT members of the community. We discuss the situation with Andrew Guernsey

4:20 – What You Can Do When Motherhood is Overwhelming

Mothers Day is coming up. Do you want to be a better wife and mother? To have more order in your life? To grow in union with God? Holly Pierlot can help you.


4:40 – Kresta Comments: Gay Marriage Arguments Continue at Supreme Court

 

5:00 – Abraham: Father of Faith and Works

Steve Ray is here to take us on a journey through the footprints of Abraham as we examine the life of one of the earliest fathers of our faith.

5:40 – Nepal: We Didn’t Know if our Son was Dead or Alive

The horrific Nepalese Earthquake has a special meaning to Ken and Patti Cousino of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their 19-year-old son, Owen, was in Nepal and they did not hear from him for about 24 hours. Owen contacted his family early Sunday morning to let them know he was ok and he is now working to help those affected by the disaster. His parents join us today.

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