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U.S. probes possible international terrorism link with Texas jihad shootings

by Robert Spencer via JihadWatch.org

It isn’t as if it is hard to find such a link, but U.S. authorities under Obama are so determinedly clueless that it takes them a great deal of effort to arrive at the obvious. At very least, the shooter appears to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (Amirul Mu’mineen is Leader of the Believers, i.e., the caliph, and bay’ah is allegiance). Whether it was orchestrated from there or not doesn’t shed much more light on what happened, but since officials are forbidden to study or understand the jihadis’ motivating ideology, they make a great deal out of such matters, however little they warrant such treatment.

“U.S. probes possible international terrorism link with Texas shootings,” Reuters, May 4, 2015:

(Reuters) – U.S. authorities are investigating possible links between gunmen shot dead by police at an anti-Muslim event near Dallas and international terrorist groups, a U.S. government source said on Monday.

The source said the FBI and other U.S. agencies believed the incident on Sunday could have been instigated or directed by foreign-based militants such as Islamic State, which operates mainly in Syria and parts of Iraq.

Here we go: McClatchy suggests limits on free speech after Texas jihad shooting

by Robert Spencer via JihadWatch.org

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You knew this was coming. It was inevitable. We have seen it before.

When the Obama Administration blamed the Benghazi jihad attack on a video about Muhammad, there were calls in the mainstream media for restrictions on the freedom of speech. Eric Posner in Slate derided the First Amendment’s “sacred status” and declared that “Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order.”

In the Los Angeles Times, Sarah Chayes noted that “the current standard for restricting speech — or punishing it after it has in fact caused violence — was laid out in the 1969 case Brandenburg vs. Ohio. Under the narrower guidelines, only speech that has the intent and the likelihood of inciting imminent violence or lawbreaking can be limited.” She then argued at length that the Muhammad video did indeed have the likelihood of inciting imminent violence, and should thus be banned. Her article was a sleazy and dishonest sleight of hand, as the law is that speech that calls for violence can be banned, whereas she was arguing that speech that doesn’t call for violence, but that might make people who oppose it behave violently, should be banned. That would be to enshrine the heckler’s veto into law and to enable Islamic jihadis to silence anyone they disliked simply by killing someone.

And in the Washington Post, the vile gutter thug Nathan Lean (who has repeatedly published on Twitter what he thinks is my home address and places I frequent, in a transparent attempt to endanger me and those around me, and/or to frighten me into silence) declared: “The voices of hate that hope to fracture our society along religious lines should have no place in our public discourse.” Who would decide which are the “voices of hate” that should be silenced? People like Nathan Lean, of course – that is, purveyors of the “Islamophobia” myth who are determined to silence anyone and everyone who dares raise the slightest objection to the advancing jihad.

And now, Lindsay Wise and Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy wish that Pamela Geller and I could be prosecuted for standing for free speech against violent intimidation, and describe completely wrongly the concept of “fighting words,” which is actually about words spoken in an actual fight situation, not about an innocuous activity that others find so provocative as to commit murder.

The free world is going quietly.

“After Texas shooting: If free speech is provocative, should there be limits?,” by Lindsay Wise and Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy, May 4, 2015 (thanks to Jerk Chicken):

WASHINGTON — Organizers of the Muhammad Art Exhibit in Garland, Texas, knew violence was a possibility.

They shelled out $10,000 for extra security to patrol the controversial event, which featured a speech by a Dutch politician who’s on al Qaida’s “hit list” and a contest for the best cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. Local law enforcement was on the alert. A SWAT team and a bomb squad patrolled.

The two gunmen who opened fire with assault weapons outside the exhibit on Sunday were killed by a police officer. They have been identified by law enforcement as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, both of Phoenix. They appear, from social media posts, to have been motivated by a desire to become mujahedeen, or holy warriors.

The attack highlights the tensions between protecting Americans’ treasured right to freedom of expression and preserving public safety, and it raises questions about when – if ever – government should intervene.

There are two exceptions from the constitutional right to free speech – defamation and the doctrine of “fighting words” or “incitement,” said John Szmer, an associate professor of political science and a constitutional law expert at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“Fighting words is the idea that you are saying something that is so offensive that it will lead to an immediate breach of the peace,” Szmer explained. “In other words, you are saying something and you should expect a violent reaction by other people.”

The exhibit of cartoons in Texas might have crossed the line, Szmer said.

“I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect what they were doing would incite a violent reaction,” he said.

Organizers knew, he said, that caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, which many Muslims consider insulting, have sparked violence before. In a recent case that drew worldwide attention, gunmen claiming allegiance with the self-described Islamic State killed 12 people in an attack on the Paris offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was known for satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

On the other hand, “fighting words can contradict the basic values that underlie freedom of speech,” Szmer said. “The views being expressed at the conference could be seen as social commentary. Political and social speech should be protected. You are arguably talking about social commentary.”

It’s unlikely that the issue will be tested in the Garland case, however, because prosecutors in Texas almost certainly won’t press charges against the conference organizers, he said.

The anti-Islam group that organized the art exhibit and contest in Garland is the American Freedom Defense Initiative, whose mission is the preservation “of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and equal rights for all,” according to its Facebook page….

The gunmen’s violent actions will end up drawing undeserved attention to the hateful message spread by Geller’s group, said David Schanzer, a professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

“Any efforts to censor them or restrict their rights will just play into their agenda, which is to antagonize and spread a pretty vile message,” Schanzer said.

What exactly is vile about standing up for the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law, Schanzer? You’re just libeling, not giving a reasoned argument.

The best way to fight against people you disagree with is to confront their ideas, he said.

“I think their ideas are both wrong and actually makes problems worse through their actions,” Schanzer said. Echoing Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ well-known sentiment from 1927, he added: “I say we go against them by fighting speech with more speech.”…

This is rich. I have offered to have a public discussion or debate with virtually every significant Muslim leader on the scene. They have all contemptuously refused. They don’t want to fight speech with more speech. They don’t want to confront our ideas. They want to smear us, defame us, marginalize us, and destroy us utterly. That is how the Left and the Islamic supremacists work these days.

The Catholic Church Young People Actually Want

by Marc Barnes via Patheos.com

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Young people are human. If we understood this reality we wouldn’t have crappy youth ministry programs, worse catechesis, politicians on Twitter, the wild success of Ke$ha, and a bored and banal culture.

But we do suffer these tortures, for we are convinced that being young and able to navigate Facebook transforms the human person into a locus around which the universe turns, the deciding, haloed blueprint for the construction of culture, religion, and politics.

The Youth Vote, the Young Voice, the You-are-the-future speeches, the desperate refashioning of event, creed, and tone for the sake of “reaching teens”, the impulse which screams “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” — This is the Cult of Youth. Its liturgy is weird and its prophets are idiots. Its condescensions demean young people into something subhuman. It deserves every sullen, selfish, apathetic, and uninterested teenager it haphazardly creates in its frenzied effort to be relevant.

We “reach teens” by way of “relevance”. As Annie Selak points out in her wonderful opinion piece, “The church young Catholics want”, young people “want the church to ask the questions we are asking, rather than ones that seem trivial at best and irrelevant at worst. Catholicism can recover from mistakes, but one thing the church cannot recover from is being irrelevant.”

Quite the claim. But what is relevance?

The popular conception of the word springs from a moronic sense of etymology. “Relevant” comes from the present participle of relevāre, which means to raise orlift up. But when we say “relevant” we really mean “relatable”. (So our author frowns at the “new translation of the Roman Missal”, for what relation does that have with the experience of young Catholics? (We don’t even go to Mass.))

Behold the ethos: All things must be relatable to teenagers, because teenagers, man.

Kids like funny things — let’s perform skits at their youth groups, make shirts with Jesus puns, and hire those Catholic speakers that crack everyone up with just howgoofy they are! (See? Faith can be fun!)

 

Teenagers like pop music — why else would it be popular? — so Christian music should sound like pop music! Four chords, four-on-the-floor, uninspiring lyrics, uninspired song! Relate, dammit. “Young people are all on Facebook” — the phrase deserves some sort of award for being the most abused during “reach the teens” meetings of any kind — and thus there is the inevitable and awkward shift of every ministry, event, and slice of human reality to the non-event and non-reality of the Facebook page, the Twitter account and the Tumblr.

I do not believe that the skit or the Facebook page are inherently bad ideas, but I do believe that relevance is the worst factor for determining the goodness of a thing since we dunked witches in the river to see whether they’d float.

If relevance is the true measure of worth, then youth ministry events should feature pixelated porn, an atmosphere of diverted boredom, and a self-imposed speech impediment that negates every fragment of syntax bold enough to make an actual claim with the words “like”, “I feel like”, and that ever-present plea for affirmation, “ya know?” That’s what teenagers relate to, but relevance does not imply value. Relation is not always good relation, and that something is related to teenagers does not mean it ought to be. Which brings me to my point.

Teenagers are humans. As humans, our fundamental desires are for the good, the true, and the beautiful. These three transcendentals are analogues for our Transcendent God, and through them we meet him. The transcendentals are the truly relevant, in the sense that they are raised up before us. They are not valuable as pop music, flash mobs, and t-shirts are valuable — related to us by accident, incident, or the semi-conscious absorption of a bored culture. No, they have value in themselves as the natural ends of everything we do. Truth is that which is sought by our intellect, Goodness by our will, and Beauty by our emotion.

But we are frightened to give teenagers the transcendentals because we are frightened to treat them in any way that might end their fun, and thus have them leave the Church. And let me be absolutely clear: The transcendentals hurt. They call the human person from where he is to where he is supposed to be, and thus amount to a wrenching, a tearing, and a purifying fire.

The truth that I will suffer and die before or after watching my loved ones suffer and die is hardly skit material. The doctrine of Hell is something difficult to convey in a K-Love escapade into the miraculously relevant realms of G, C, Em, D, repeat. I may react against Mozart’s Requiem in favor of dubstep. I may react against the truth that the use of contraception is detrimental to the human person. Goodness, Truth and Beauty are not necessarily relevant, to reuse our modern misuse.

But this is the fault of the teenager.

A rejection of the Transcendentals is not the result of a lack of relevance, it is the result of sin. We deny the Truth, avoid the Good, and reject the Beautiful, because — for various reasons and under the protection of various excuses — we suck. The Good reveals to us our evil. The Truth reveals to us our ignorance. The Beautiful reveals to us our mediocrity. The question of the “church young Catholics want” is utterly meaningless compared to the question of what Church young Catholics need. Relevance is a ridiculous in the face of Transcendentals. It should be killed.

And so I disagree in all fervor with “The church young Catholics want” for it is a work of fear, hiding beneath the banner of relevance. Selak critiques the Church in her claim that the “Vatican has repeatedly shut down any dialogue surrounding the ordination of women and church teaching on homosexuality” and insinuates that the young of the Church are on her side, demanding “dialogue”. I’m calling her bluff.

Not only has the Church had a far more intellectual, consistent and conclusive dialogue on both of these issues, but it has told the truth about these issues. Women will never be priests, homosexual actions will always work against the nature of the human person.

Granted, dialogue is relevant to our dear, beloved youth insofar as we never shut up. We live in the age of the comment box. What isn’t relevant is coming to a conclusion, actually saying something, arriving at the end of discussion with words of authority — awful words that separate Truth from falsehood regardless of popular sentiment. We can’t relate to that. And so the relevant coddles while the transcendental hurts, but the Truth is needed and gasped for. It alone contains within itself the power to fulfill the human person, and it is precisely what the Church offers us. Selak’s discontent is not that the Church hasn’t engaged in dialogue over these issues, it is that the conclusions of the Church are entirely counter-cultural. Continued talk would be far more comfortable, a forever vague and fuzzy dialogue that goes on into Hell itself is sick of it, but we were not made for comfort. We were made for greatness and declarative sentences.

Kill relevance, seek transcendence.

4 Common Tactics of the Devil

by Msgr. Charles Pope via ADW.org

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One of the key elements in any contest is to understand the tactics of your opponent and to recognize the subtleties of the strategy or moves they may employ. In the spiritual battle of life we need to develop some sophistication in recognizing, naming, and understanding the subtleties of common tactics of the Devil.

A 2011 book by Fr. Louis Cameli, The Devil You Don’t Know is of great assistance in this matter. Having read it recently, I think it would be of value to reflect on four broad categories of the Devil’s tactics that Fr. Cameli analyzes.

While the four categories are Fr. Cameli’s, the reflections here are largely my own, but surely rooted in Fr. Cameli’s excellent work, so recently read by me. I recommend the work highly to you where these categories are aptly and fully described more than my brief reflection here can do.

And thus we examine four common tactics of the devil.

I. Deception – Jesus says The devil was a murderer from the beginning he does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44).

The devil deceives us with many false and empty promises. Most of these relate to the lie that we will be happier and more fulfilled if we sin, or deny aspects of the truth. Whatever passing pleasures come with sin, they are in fact passing. Great and accumulated suffering eventually comes with almost all sinful activity. Yet, despite this experience, we human beings remain very gullible, we seem to love empty promises and put all sorts of false hopes of them.

The devil also deceives us by suggesting all sorts of complexities, especially in our thinking. And thus he  seeks to confuse and  conceal the fundamental truth about our action. Our minds are very wily and love to indulge complexity as a way of avoiding the truth and making excuses. So we, conniving with the devil, entertain endless complications by asking “But what if this….and What about that….??!”  Along with the devil, we project all sorts of possible difficulties, exceptions, or potential sob stories, to avoid insisting that we or others behave well and live according to the truth.

The devil also seeks to deceive us with “wordsmithing.” And thus the dismemberment and murder of a child through abortion becomes “reproductive freedom” or “Choice.” Sodomy is called “gay” (a word which used to mean “happy”). Our luminous Faith and ancient wisdom is called “darkness” and “ignorance.”  Fornication is called “cohabitation.”  And the redefinition of marriage as it is been known for some 5000 years, is labeled “marriage freedom.”  And thus, through exaggerations and outright false labeling, the devil deceives us, and we too easily connive by calling good, or “no big deal,” what God calls sinful.

The devil also deceives us through the sheer volume of information. Information is not the same is truth, and data can be assembled very craftily to make deceitful points. Further, certain facts and figures can be emphasized, in exclusion to other, balancing truths. And thus even information or data which is true in itself  becomes a form of deception. The news media, and other sources of information, sometimes exercise their greatest power in what they do not report. And this too is a way that the devil brings deceptions upon us.

We do well to carefully assess the many ways Satan seeks to deceive us. Do not believe everything you think or hear. While we ought not be cynical, we ought to be sober, and seek to verify what we see and hear and square it with God’s revealed truth.

II. Division – One of Jesus’ final prayers for us was that we would be one (cf John 17:22). He prayed this, at the Last Supper just before he went out to suffer and die for us. As such, he highlights that a chief aspect of his work on the Cross is to overcome the divisions intensified by Satan. Some argue that the Greek root of the word “diabolical” (diabolein) means to cut, tear, or divide. Jesus prays and works to reunify what the devil divides.

The devil’s work of division starts within each one of us as we experience many contrary drives, some noble, creative, and edifying, others base, sinful, and destructive. So often, we struggle within and feel torn apart, much as Paul describes in Romans chapter 7:  The good that I want to do, I do not do…, and when I try to do good, evil is at hand. This is the work of the devil, to divide us within. And as St. Paul lays out in Romans 8, the chief work of the Lord is to establish within us the unity of soul and body, in accordance with the unity of His truth.

And of course the devil’s attack against our inner unity, spills out into many divisions among us externally. So many things help drive this division, and the devil surely taps into them all: anger, past hurts, resentments, fears, misunderstandings, greed, pride, and arrogance. There is also the impatience that we so easily develop regarding those we love, and the flawed notion that somehow, other more perfect and desirable people should be sought. And thus many abandon their marriages, family, churches and communities,  always in search of the elusive goal of finding better and more perfect people and situations.

Yes, the devil has a real field day tapping in to a whole plethora of sinful drives within us, but his goal is always to divide us within ourselves, and among ourselves. We do well to recognize that, whatever our struggles with others, we all share a common enemy who seeks to divide and destroy us. As St Paul writes, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). Feuding Brothers reconcile when there is a maniac at the door. But step one is notice the maniac, and then set aside our lesser divisions.

III. Diversion – To be diverted is to be turned away from what is our primary goal or task. And for all of us, the most critical focus is God and the good things waiting for us in heaven. Our path is toward heaven, along the path of faith and obedience to the truth, love of God and love of neighbor.  And thus the devil does all that he can to divert, that is, turn us away from our one true goal.

Perhaps he will do this by way of making us to be absorbed in the passing things of the world. So many claim that they are so busy that they have no time to pray, or get the church, or seek other forms of spiritual nourishment. They become absorbed in worldly things which pass, and ignore lasting reality which looms.

Anxieties and fears also cause us many distractions. And by these, the devil causes us to fixate on fears about passing things, and thereby not to have a proper fear of the judgment which awaits us. Jesus says Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt 10:28). In other words, we should have a holy reverence and fear directed towards the Lord, and in this way, many of our other fears will be seen in better perspective, or will go away altogether. But in this matter of fear, the devil says just the opposite: we should fear 10,000 things that might afflict us on this passing earth, and not think at all of the one most significant thing that awaits us, our judgment.

At the heart of all diversion is that the devil wants us to focus on lesser things to avoid focusing on greater things, such as a moral decisions, and the overall direction of our life.

Once again, we must learn to focus on what matters most, and decisively refuse to be diverted to lesser things.

IV. Discouragement – As human beings, and certainly as Christians, we ought to have high aspirations. This is good. But as in all good things, Satan often seeks to poison that which is good. For having high aspirations, it is also true that we sometimes lack the humility that recognizes that we must make a journey to that which is good, and best. Too easily then, Satan temps us to impatience with our self or others. And,  in our aspirations, expected in unreasonably quick time, there comes a lack of charity toward our self or others. Some grow discouraged with themselves or others and give up on the pursuit of holiness. Others give up on the church because of the imperfections found there.

The devil also discourages us, because aspirations are generally open-ended. The fact is, there is always room for improvement, and we can always do more. But here the devil enters, for, when we can always do more, it is also possible to think we’ve never done enough. And thus the devil discourages us, sowing thoughts of unreasonable demands within us as to what we can or should do they day by day.

The devil also discourages us through simple things like fatigue, the personal failings that we all experience, setbacks, and other obstacles that are common to our human condition, and common to living in a fallen world with limited resources.

In all these ways to devil seeks to discourage us, to make us want, at some level, to give up. Only a properly developed sense of humility can  help to save us from these discouraging works of Satan. For the fact is, humility, which is reverence for the truth about ourselves, teaches us that we grow and develop slowly and in stages, and that we do in fact have setbacks, and live in a world that is hard, and far from perfect. Recognizing these things, and being humble, helps us to lean more on the Lord, and trust in his providential help, which grows in us incrementally.

Here then are four common tactics of the devil. Learn to recognize and name them. In this way we start to gain authority over them. Consider buying the book by Fr. Louis Cameli to learn more.

In this song I like to think that the “Mama [who] loves me” is Mother Church.

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 5, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 5, 2015

 

4:00 – Kresta Comments: Should Catholics Permit the Trashing of the (False) Prophet Mohammed?

 

4:20 – God in a Brothel

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Protection Month. Sex trafficking is rampant, even in developed problems like the US. Thousands of people, especially young girls, suffer in sex slavery every day. We talk to Daniel Walker about his undercover investigations into sexual trafficking cases around the world.

 

5:00 – Against All Odds: Bella Santorum’s Gift to the World


Rick
and Karen Santorum’s eighth child was born with Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, an extremely dangerous genetic disorder. Only 10% of babies with this syndrome survive birth; of the children who do survive, 90% die within their first year. Bella Santorum is one of the survivors. She has overcome numerous scares and has brought joy and inspiration to the world. Rick and Karen are with us to talk about the daughter’s journey.

 

5:40 – Kresta Comments: Should Catholics Permit the Trashing of the (False) Prophet Mohammed? Also, The Way of Beauty as an Aid in Evangelism and Therapy

Will Climate Change Split the Church?

by Candida Moss via TheDailyBeast.com
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American conservatives may freak out over Pope Francis’ environmental message, but they’re out of touch with the mood among global Catholics.
Later this summer, Pope Francis will release his encyclical on the environment and human ecology. While Francis’s predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II regularly spoke on environmental issues, this will be the first papal document to focus on the relationship between human beings and creation.A historic meeting at the Vatican this week on climate change and sustainable development suggests climate change—and, more importantly, humanity’s role in the destruction of the planet—are going to be key features of the encyclical’s message.This comes as unwelcome news to skeptics who deny that global warming is man-made. The encyclical isn’t even out yet and at least one climate-change-denying conservative group has claimed that the Pope has been misled and misinformed.

As a result, media commentators are already speculating about whether or not the issue of climate change will be a schismatic one for the Roman Catholic Church. If Francis pushes too hard on the issue, some claim there could be a new polarization in the church.

To help muddle through the issues, I discussed politics, the environment, and Francis’s forthcoming encyclical with Dr. Christiana Peppard, author of Just Water and a specialist in environmental ethics who teaches in the theology department at Fordham University.

Break out your crystal ball for me, what do you think the encyclical will say?

Many people are focusing on the document as a “climate encyclical.” Surely it will address climate change, and that’s crucial. But it will be about morality, not just science—or what I like to say are the values needed in relation to scientific facts and contemporary global political economy.

The term “integral ecology” will probably figure into the encyclical, which I see as Francis’ distinctive way of talking about how economic development must be oriented towards the quality of relationships—among humans, of course, but also between humans and the earth.

When Benedict talked about ecology he linked the degradation of the environment with—what he saw as disordered—sexual orientation. Can we expect more of the same from Francis?

I doubt it—he’s more likely to take a structural lens, and to condemn greed and throwaway cultures and sexual trafficking.

Those who would like to see a sexual revolution in the Church’s teachings on contraception will most likely be disappointed. The papal legacies leading up to this ecology encyclical suggest a focus on consistent “ethic of life” teachings. We might hear about the human right to a clean, healthy environment; in fact, the Vatican has already referred to fresh water as a “right to life issue” but we probably won’t hear about rights to choose birth control.

Speaking of birth control, or lack of it, is there a tension between Catholic teachings on contraception and the family and Francis’s position on the environment? 

Population debates are where sexual, social, and environmental ethics collide in vexed ways. [But] Pro-life stances are not always pro-natalist. Historical papal statements suggest the virtue of prudence in family planning. [And] from a sociological vantage point, it’s pretty clear that many Catholics choose to use birth control when given the option.

Some might say that providing iPads and sweet sixteen cars for wealthy consumerist Western babies will unduly burden the planet. Isn’t population control an issue?

Yes, it’s a huge factor. But let’s be clear: not all people around the world are equally resource-consumptive. In fact, viewed from the angle of consumptive impact, it would be super-developed countries like the U.S. that need to slow our reproductive rates in order to be proportionate consumers of the earth’s goods. Blaming “population” in general can be pernicious because it’s a way to make the problem seem “out there” (with rapidly reproducing groups) than to take a self-critical look at our own patterns of consumption.

What about issues that irk conservatives? Namely, human responsibility. Can we expect Francis to stress the issue of manmade climate change or will he shy away from the issue?

Up until a few weeks ago, I was skeptical that he’d hit hard on anthropogenic climate change. After several Vatican statements [by Cardinal Peter Turkson and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences], I’m willing to say that I think he will push hard on it! Not only do I now think he’ll affirm scientific consensus: I think he’ll mince no words in stipulating how “super-developed,” industrialized countries like the U.S. bear a lion’s share of the responsibility for anthropogenic climate change and thus—crucially—for its remediation. He’s not going to let anyone off the hook, nor is he going to get sucked in to U.S.-style partisan antics. He’s got bigger scope and is not (a) servant to election cycles, fiscal quarters, or industry lobbies.

Bravo il Papa, but are there any risks for Francis in engaging this particular issue in this way? Many media commentators worry about Francis’s relationship with the political and religious right.

I don’t think Francis cares very much what most American pundits and lobbyists think. You know, all the rhetoric about whether he’ll “break the Church,” or is somehow under the misguided spell of Al Gore … is a form of self-justifying navel gazing. It universalizes a very particular, biased American vantage point; and in so doing, it misses the moral point about planetary interdependence across time and space. Catholic also means “catholic,” as in “everyone,” not just “white American male pundits.”

Have any of those commentators happened to ask people in, say, the Philippines what they think about the Pope’s anticipated teachings on ecology, or whether they feel that he might break the Church by talking about climate change? Because guess what: [people] have been talking about climate change and environmental degradation as moral responsibilities and theological issues for over a decade. As one Filipino colleague said to me in mid-April: “Of course, it makes sense.”

Beyond the politics of this, is there anything important that you think really needs to be on the table here?

I see Francis’ amplification of Catholic environmental ethics as the latest iteration of the Catholic Church’s long history of navigating the relationship between scientific knowledge and theological tradition. That legacy is multifaceted, of course. But when the Pope and Pontifical Academy of Sciences take science and scientists seriously, it’s a legacy that I look forward to watching unfold. Forty years from now I think we will look back on this time as a cognitive-moral revolution of its own kind, one for which denialism and inaction constitute moral failures.

I assume you mean if we have a planet to look back upon. Otherwise we can all play “I told you so” in heaven.

St. Athanasius Against the World

 

by Fr. Steve Grunow via WordonFire.org

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“The Eternal Word, the Son, was in no way degraded by receiving a human and mortal body. Rather, he deified what he put on; and more than that, he bestowed the gift of his divinity upon our humanity.” 

— St. Athanasius

St. Athanasius lived when the blood of the Church’s earliest martyrs was still fresh in the memories of Christians—and the intensity of his faith was a tribute to those who had suffered and died rather than recant the Apostolic Faith. He is described by biographers as being small in stature and stark in appearance with a body that bore clear signs of his rigorously ascetic life. Athanasius was an Egyptian, his skin dark, eyes deep set and piercing, with a mind as penetrating as his gaze.

He did not suffer fools. His disposition challenges our conception of holiness as being nice and well-mannered. Athanasius was more than willing to fight if provoked, and when the Church was threatened he did not just speak up, he shouted.

Providence chose him for high office as bishop of the See of Alexandria, but this appointment would not bring him a comfortable existence or easy honors.

The great issue that was dividing the Church at the time was Arianism, a heresy that purported that the Lord Jesus was less than God— not, as our creed professes, “consubstantial with the Father, God from God and Light from Light,” but instead, Christ was akin to something like the demigods of pagan mythology.

Athanasius would have none of this.

He stubbornly insisted that it is integral to the Apostolic Faith that God in Christ accepted a human nature, while at the same time in no way compromising his divine nature. This revelation is called the Incarnation, and it is the central claim of the Gospel. God has in Christ assumed our flesh and shared with us the full experience of what it means to be human, even knowing for himself suffering and death.

The implications of this are profound; Athanasius insisted that because of what God had accomplished in Christ, “that which is made of earth can now pass through the gates of heaven.”

In other words, God in Christ is the singular instance in which two natures, human and divine, co-inhere in one divine person. Because God has done this, he has effected for us, in Christ, a “marvelous exchange”- accepting a human nature so that humanity could share in his divine nature.

Athanasius knew that a denial of the Incarnation would ultimately result in a wholesale repudiation of the totality of the Church’s Faith, indeed in a refusal of the whole Christian practice of life, which flows from and returns us to the densely textured revelation of God become man in Christ. At times, his uncompromising insistence that the integrity of the Apostolic Faith regarding the Incarnation be maintained resulted in much suffering and scorn, and it seemed that Athanasius was alone and “contra mundi.” But Athanasius was unyielding.

If faith in the Incarnation was lost, not only would the Church fall, but the great gift of participation in the divine life that Christ offered to humanity could not be appreciated or received. The stakes were high.

The witness of St. Athanasius clarifies just how much theology matters. How we conceive of the truths of the Faith is of pressing importance. The great truths we profess in our creed and celebrate in our liturgy are not to be taken lightly or dismissed as abstractions that are best left to experts. We have a responsibility as disciples to know the Church’s teachings at a measure of depth, or the mission Christ gives us will be imperiled. A disciple cannot be content with a spiritual life that is built on the sandy foundations of platitudes or slogans. Christ comes into this world as a man so that we might know him as God. The Christian spiritual life is a continual intensification of our experience and understanding of this revelation.

The tendency to dilute or deny the truth of the Incarnation has been a temptation in every age of the Church’s life. Some prefer that Christ’s divinity be emptied of all significance and meaning. Others would make his humanity incidental to his revelation. Neither option is congruent with the Apostolic Faith or expresses who the Lord Jesus truly is “for us and for our salvation.”

The world may prefer another kind of Christ, but if that is the world’s preference, Athanasius invites us to stand with him “contra mundi.”

2 Men Shot Dead After Opening Fire Outside Muhammad Art Exhibit In Garland, Texas

by Adam Goldberg via HuffingtonPost.com

Two men have been shot dead after opening fire outside of an exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Garland, Texas, according to reports from WFAA andNBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

The two men fired towards the Curtis Culwell Center and hit security guard Bruce Joiner, who was shot in the lower leg and suffered non-life threatening injuries, per WFAA. NBC 5 reports that Joiner has already been released after being taken to a local hospital.

The Muhammad Art Exhibit & Contest was organized by Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an anti-Islamic organization that is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The local CBS affiliate also notes the two suspects were shot dead.

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NBC 5 has more details on the Muhammad Art Exhibit:

The Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest was organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. The group claims the event is an effort to stand up against violent intimidation.

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The exhibit, according to CBS DFW, was organized by Geller in response to a Muslim event held earlier this year at the same venue which was meant to combat Islamophobia. A representative of the local Council of American Islamic Relations chapter spoke to the CBS affiliate in February about Geller’s event:

Alia Salem of the DFW Chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations says supports free speech. “We should have free speech, and nobody’s stopping her from doing this, go ahead, maybe there’ll be some Muslims entering this, who knows.”

But Salem says she hopes the Muslim Community will ignore this event. “While it is her right, it’s not really in good taste to be honest because it’s just a shameless attempt to get a reaction out of the Muslim Community, that’s how we view it. It’s not any attempt to promote free speech.”

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) praised the police response to the shooting:

“Texas officials are actively investigating to determine the cause and scope of the senseless attack in Garland, Texas,” Abbott stated. “This is a crime that was quickly ended thanks to the swift action by Garland law enforcement. Our thoughts and prayers remain with all those affected tonight.”

MORE FROM THE AP:

GARLAND, Texas (AP) — Two gunmen were killed Sunday in Texas after opening fire on a security officer outside a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of Prophet Muhammad, and a bomb squad was called in to search their vehicle as a precaution, authorities said.

The men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in the Dallas suburb of Garland as the event was scheduled to end and began shooting at the security officer, the City of Garland said in a statement. Garland police officers returned fire, killing the men.

Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said it was not immediately clear whether the shooting was connected to the event inside, a contest hosted by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

But he said at a late Sunday news conference that authorities were searching the gunmen’s vehicle for explosives, saying, “Because of the situation of what was going on today and the history of what we’ve been told has happened at other events like this, we are considering their car (is) possibly containing a bomb.”

Drawings such at the ones featured at the Texas event are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous.

The Curtis Culwell Center, a school-district owned public events space where the Texas event was held, was evacuated after the shooting, as were some surrounding businesses. The evacuation was lifted several hours later and police were not aware of any ongoing threat, but a large area around the center remained blocked off late into the night.

Police helicopters circled overhead as bomb squads worked on the car. Harn said the bodies of the gunmen, who had not yet been identified, were not immediately taken from the scene because they were too close to the car. He said they would be removed once the car was cleared.

The wounded security officer, who was unarmed, worked for the Garland Independent School District, Harn said. He was treated and released from a local hospital.

Harn said the district hires security for events at its facilities, but noted additional security also was in place for Sunday’s event. The sponsoring group has said it paid $10,000 for off-duty police officers and other private security.

Harn said the city had not received any credible threats before the shooting.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said state officials are investigating, and Dallas FBI spokeswoman Katherine Chaumont said that agency is providing investigative and bomb technician assistance.

The event featured speeches by American Freedom Defense Initiative president Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker known for his outspoken criticism of Islam. Wilders received several standing ovations from the crowd and left immediately after his speech.

Wilders, who has advocated closing Dutch doors to migrants from the Islamic world for a decade, has lived under round-the-clock police protection since 2004.

After the shooting, authorities escorted about 75 contest attendees to another room in the conference center, where a woman held up an American flag, and the crowd sang “God Bless America.”

The group was then taken to a separate location, where they were held for about two hours until being briefly questioned by FBI agents before being released.

Johnny Roby of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who was attending the contest, told the Associated Press he was outside the building when he heard around about 20 shots that appeared to be coming from the direction of a passing car.

Roby said he then heard two single shots. He said he heard officers yell that they had the car before he was sent inside the building.

Geller told the AP before Sunday’s event that she planned the contest to make a stand for free speech in response to outcries and violence over drawings of Muhammad. She said in a statement issued Sunday night that the shooting showed how “needed our event really was.”

In January, 12 people were killed by gunmen in an attack against the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions and used depictions of Muhammad. Another deadly shooting occurred the following month at a free speech event in Copenhagen featuring an artist who had caricatured the prophet.

Tens of thousands of people rallied around the world to honor the victims and defend the freedom of expression following those shootings.

Geller’s group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site and for buying advertising space in cities across the U.S. criticizing Islam.

When a Chicago-based nonprofit held a January fundraiser in Garland designed to help Muslims combat negative depictions of their faith, Geller spearheaded about 1,000 picketers at the event. One chanted: “Go back to your own countries! We don’t want you here!” Others held signs with messages such as, “Insult those who behead others,” an apparent reference to recent beheadings by the militant group Islamic State.

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 4, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 4, 2015

 

4:00 – Kresta Comments: Transgendered Renée Richards and Regrets: A Cautionary Tale  

 

4:20 – Why the New Evangelization Needs a Focus on Fathers

So many problems in our society can be traced back to the lack of a solid father figure. Countless studies have shown that kids who grow up without a positive relationship with their dads are much more likely to drop out of school, be arrested, use drugs and experience other problems. Despite their importance, fathers are regularly mocked in our popular culture and advertisements. Steve Wood of Family Life Center International joins us to talk about the critical role of fathers in the New Evangelization.

 

5:00 – Kresta Comments: Does the Pope think Nature has Rights?

 

5:20 – When the Church was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers

How much do we really know about the early days of the Church? How do we know truths such as the concept of the Trinity if they don’t explicitly appear in Scripture? The answers lie in the lives of the early Church fathers. Marcellino d’Ambrosio joins us.

Workers of the World, Unite!

by Dr. Tom Neal via WordonFire.org

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Today’s Feast of St. Joseph the Worker was instituted in 1955 by Pope Pius XII as a Catholic liturgical response to the Communist version of the May Day celebration. But, celebrating work seems a bit oxymoronic, doesn’t it?  Didn’t work start after the Fall of Adam and Eve?

St. John Paul II, the Pope who emerged from within the Communist world, in his powerful encyclical, Laborem Exercens, argues that human labor is not in itself a punishment for sin, but rather our participation in God’s creating, governing and redeeming “labor.” This is why St. Paul calls us synergoi Theou, God’s co-workers (1 Cor. 3:9). In our work we are invited to participate in God’s labor that, in the beginning, brought the universe into existence; that sustains and orders the cosmos at every moment; and redeems us fallen creatures from the corruption of sin and death.

Work is not merely a means of achieving wealth and capital, but rather is good in itself when carried out in concert with the moral law in service to the authentic and common good of humanity, along with the due reverence required of us as stewards of the world’s limited natural resources.

In addition, work is a school of virtue that allows us to perfect our gifts to the glory of God and for the good of our neighbor. In this sense what is most important in my work is not what I produce and achieve, but who I become as I work and toil and make a living by the sweat of my brow. Here I recall Mother Teresa’s oft quoted words: “God calls us not to success, but only to faithfulness.” Success is outside of us, but “faithful” is who we are.

The effect of sin on work, as St. John Paul notes, is to make work into toil and drudgery.  Sin has dis-integrated our moral character, alienating us from work’s genuine goods and ends. Those alienations are many and varied. I think, for example, about the temptation to become enslaved to work, as the Hebrews were in Egypt. As slaves we can unjustly compromise and fail to attend to the goods of leisure, like worship, friendship, marriage or family life. Or I think of the temptation to complain endlessly about the hardships of work, and to miss the immensely valuable grace planted in the heart of our struggles and hardships. It’s only struggle that grows virtue and permits us to collaborate intimately in Jesus’ hard redemptive work.

In regard to this last point, it’s interesting to note that the vice of sloth is not simply to be equated with inactivity (which can sometimes be very good and necessary!). Rather, sloth is identified with avoidance of the difficult, arduous, tedious, laborious goods that our vocations so often demand of us. The slothful seek the path of least resistance, and so forsake both the small and great heroisms daily life can afford us. The best way to overthrow sloth, I’ve found, is simply to identify those things I like to do the least and then do them first, best, and most often. Such a first resolution, mixed up with divine grace, can do wonders in dismantling our pleasure-seeking ego’s tyranny over seed of divine charity that struggles to grow within our hearts.

Let me end with a final word on a subject dear to my heart, the lay vocation. The call of the lay faithful — those who have been baptized into Christ — is above all else to be fully engaged in the secular world, animating it with the spirit of the Gospel as salt, light, and leaven. Today, on this feast, I would add that it is principally by their labor in marriage and family life, in culture and in politics, in business and economics — in all the various arenas of human work — that the laity discover their way of perfection; their path to holiness; their journey to union with God laboring in Christ. Let me leave you with my favorite quote from the Second Vatican Council:

“For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them.

For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.

Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.”

So let’s celebrate today the gift of labor, and the saving power Jesus’ cross has infused into your thankless, tedious, and sweaty toil.

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