Persecution

Persecution takes many forms.  It doesn’t have to be torture, exile, execution, etc. Persecution can be stigmatization, ostracization, or prosecution.

How many soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines, and coastguardsmen are Christians?

In 2003, 67.53872% of the military was identified as some denomination of Christianity (Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodox).  The next largest subset of declared religious affiliation within the military at that time was 26.92228% as “No Stated Preference.”

According to a 2012 Department of Defense set of statistics on religious identification, 92.36% of all members of the United States military consider themselves to belong to a Christian denomination.

Good luck prosecuting just 10% of those should they choose to share their faith openly within their unit.  I say – bring it.  Let’s see that come down into practice.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,

with the cross of Jesus going on before.

Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;

forward into battle see his banners go!

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;

on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!

Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;

brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;

brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.

We are not divided, all one body we,

one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,

but the church of Jesus constant will remain.

Gates of hell can never against that church prevail;

we have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,

blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.

Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King,

this through countless ages men and angels sing.

The Bishop of Rome

Viva Papa Francis.

I am not Catholic, but I respect the Catholic Church and the devoted people within it that daily follow Christ’s calling to be His emissaries in this world.  So today, I celebrate that Spirit-led election of the new Bishop of Rome and the titular head of the Church.  I pray that he is received a double-helping of the Spirit, the courage, bravery, and boldness of Christ in all that he does.

The elevation of this man to the head of the Church comes at a crucial moment, not only in our time as Christians, but also for Americans and lovers of liberty alike.

Why is that you might ask?  I wasn’t even so sure myself until I spoke with my Jesuit-educated bride about it.

The Church will benefit from a man that has lived a life of humility and service despite his titles and authority formerly as a Cardinal and the Archbishop of Argentina.  He seems to deeply believe that the calling of Christ is not to be taken lightly or to be abused, but rather it is a calling to service first and foremost.  The Church will also benefit from a man dedicated not only to service, but also justice.  The man himself, while open to “free-thinking” as espoused by the Jesuits is a rigid defender of the Faith and of Catholic doctrine, not just when it comes to Christ’s teachings, but how those teachings apply in the modern world.  He has come out against gay marriage, gay adoption, and a litany of other social issues that leftists and outsiders use to try to cleave the Church in two.  The arguments and defenses that the Jesuits use in defense of the Church doctrine are usually exceptionally well-thought out, well-versed in Scripture, but also well-versed in science, history, and philosophy.

What it ultimately comes down to for Pope Francis as he begins his tenure as the most visible ambassador of Christ in the physical world is that he will enter this post with humility, but I do not expect him to be timid or meek.  He will rather seek to emulate the founders of his order, Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis.

The man may be 76 years old, but he is one of God’s Marines.  And to steal a saying – only two kinds of people understand marines: marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

Thirst

Are you thirsty today?

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 42:2

My oldest son is being used by God to show me something and it’s not subtle.  Everyone is born with fundamental questions within their soul that need to be answered.

Where do I come from?

Why I am I here?

Where am I going?

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why is the world like this?

Is there a God?

What is good?

What is evil?

What is truth?

How can I be happy?

When you boil down every world religion and philosophy, they are all attempting to answer these questions.  There is a thirst for knowledge and truth within us all and the driving element in our life is our attempt to answer these questions.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

My oldest son has an intense focus on books and puzzles. Being four years old, he studies things incredibly and remembers the smallest details about these things that capture his interest.  He will spend hours in his room quietly playing with a single puzzle, memorizing every single piece to the point where I believe he could assemble it in the dark if he really wished to do so.  My son’s thirst is well-developed and he is attempting to quench it.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6

For Christmas, my son received a gift to help quench this thirst and encourage it to grow within him.  He received a bible for Christmas (mind you, he is not quite four years old yet).  Most kids would put the bible aside and attack the toys still waiting under the tree or already unwrapped.  He on the other hand promptly sat down and started to read.  It has only been a few short weeks since he received this gift, but he is addicted.  If this is the addiction (and we all have one) he suffers from in his life, praise be to God.

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

John 7:37-38

My son truly clings to the Word.  He wants to know where it is always.  He wants to bring it with him to everything we do (eating dinner, playing with cars on the floor, to the gym, or to Nana’s house).  He wants the Word close to him as often as possible.

Shouldn’t we all feel that way?  When the trials of life hit us, we may turn to the Word for reassurance, but do we do it daily?  Do we cling to it?  I thought I understood what Christ meant when he said the following.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Matthew 19:14

Children are able to put such amazing faith into things.  They believe them fully – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Spiderman, and untold numbers of other completely fictional creations, but there is something else… children are not yet corrupted by pride or personal success, they have a thirst that seems so unquenchable that when they are exposed to the Wellspring, they fear to leave it behind as it is exactly what their souls need – knowledge, truth, strength, courage, faith, righteousness, perfection.

My son CLINGS to the Word at just shy of four years old.  Do I?

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.

Isaiah 55:1

Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 4:14

spring-water

 

Happy Thanksgiving

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.

Thomas Jefferson

Give thanks as you enter the gates of his temple.
    Give praise as you enter its courtyards.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
The Lord is good. His faithful love continues forever.
    It will last for all time to come.

Psalm 100:4-5

Food for Thought

Virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone that renders us invincible.  These are the tactics we should study. If we lost these, we are conquered, fallen indeed.  ….so long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger.

Patrick Henry

The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals.

Samuel Adams

No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.

Samuel Adams

Can the Republic be restored?  Are you willing to look within yourself for the answer to that question?    What have you done today to deserve the blessings of liberty and freedom?

The Argument

Recently, I answered a challenge from an acquaintance to provide a non-religious argument that provides a rationale for limiting abortion.  Always up for a challenge and hyper-competitive, I got my legal mind rolling.

Back in college, I was at one point a legal clerk, a legal assistant (pseudo paralegal), and eventually the accounts receivables manager for a small law firm in town.  The benefit of such a firm was that my role in the firm was not just limited to filing papers, sending bills, collecting on delinquent customers, and drafting letters.  I actually did legal research and helped formulate pleadings.  So I am not a stranger to the ballet that is jurisprudence.

In light of the Presidential debate on social issues tomorrow night, let’s delve into this.

If someone were to stab a woman in the belly outside of an abortion clinic (before she went inside to have an abortion) and she survived but the baby didn’t, he would be charged and convicted of murder in 38 states. So is it murder or not? Civil law acknowledges that life within the womb, when terminated (by someone other than the mother), is murder. Why is it different when it’s the mother? The life within the womb is forced to take a back seat in that case simply because it is dependent on the mother for survival. Is this not a legal paradox that conveys a superceding right to the mother over anyone else?

The counter to that statement was that the mother had not gone through the abortion yet and could have backed out.  There is merit to that statement, but let’s expand the legal paradox a bit more.

The child must have some sort of legal protection which merits the prosecution and ultimately the conviction due to an attack from outside regardless of the mother’s intent. Opponents of fetal homicide laws, which I linked to above, argue that those same laws could endanger abortion as a right.  The end result is the same in both situations where the child is concerned, yes? Pro-abortionists argue that the laws are a slippery slope and could lead to severe restrictions or prohibition of abortion.

Let’s embrace the slippery slope.  If it’s not murder when the mother is the decider (I know it’s not a word, but it works in this case) then what does the gestational state matter?

Let’s say at one year the mother decides that they no longer want the responsibility of motherhood. They drop their kid off a cliff and go back to being childless (same end result). Why do we equate that last action with murder and abortion, which is effectively the same thing, as an healthcare issue?  This is not a question of morality or religion at all anymore when you view it in this light.  When it is a moral or religious issue, opponents of abortion can be isolated and minimized due to their “dogmatic theology.”  What we have here is an issue of equality before the law.  Is the child, whether it is born yet or not, have equal standing before the law as the mother?

My acquaintance then made the following statement: “Depending on the method used abortion is an operation or administration of drugs to end a pregnancy. Whether or not a separate entity is using her to live her body is still her own. So if a woman does something to her own body which results in what could be considered an abortion then she has every right to do so because it is her own body regardless of another being requiring it to maintain a certain state to survive. This avoids the drop kicked baby cliff problem.  On a more emotional level I feel mid to late term abortions are abhorrent. I think there is a responsibility of the mother to protect the life of the child after a certain point. Perhaps after it can survive outside the womb or maybe once a heart beat/brain is developed… I’m not a doctor and don’t understand such things well enough to make a certain decision one way or another on that.”

Side note: according to a quick internet search, the baby’s heart rate (or “pole”) can be detected as early as 5 to 6 weeks after conception. You’d find many women hard pressed to even know they were pregnant 5 or 6 weeks in beyond a suspicion.

I believe that by splitting hairs between chemical extermination and surgical extermination is the same as saying that putting arsenic in someone’s food is somehow less of a moral wrong than taking their head off with an axe. It’s less “bloody,” but the end result is the same.

They countered “I do understand why you might think I’m “splitting hairs.”  I don’t this “bloody” idea has anything to do with my argument. A person has rights to their own body. Why does a pregnancy suddenly remove these rights from a woman? Do the rights of the unborn child take precedence?”

They do not take precedence, but they must be treated equally if you want to have a fair, just, and legally sound society.

The paradox that you have legally with rights of the mother to her body and the rights of the child are that you have an inequality under the law with the current status quo.  So the paradox in this issue is that your rights only go so far until they limit the rights of someone else. If the fetus has legal protection in the case of a murder, they have been acknowledged as having the right to life, so the mother’s right to her body only can go so far as to not intervene on the fetus’ right to life if we acknowledge equality under the law.

So what is equality before the law?

Webster’s New World Law Dictionary defines the concept.

The doctrine that all persons, regardless of wealth, social status, or the political power wielded by them, are to be treated the same before the law.

So, the crux of the issue is personhood.  When is the fetus a person entitled to legal protection?

Biologically, life is defined from the cellular level up.  Between one and two weeks from conception, the blastocyst will adhere to the uterine wall and begin receiving oxygen and nutrients that allow it to grow and develop into an embryo.  However, at just three days post-conception, the cellular organization of the blastocyst is classified as an human organism by science (How Should We Define Life and Personhood?).

So, how can we reduce personhood to a definition that all accept?

When considering the criteria for personhood, we would do well to ponder if we should reduce personhood to a set of capacities or a biological marker. Should moral significance come from who we are or from the functional capabilities we express at a given moment of our existence (How Should We Define Life and Personhood?)?

Can we remove religion from the abortion debate and maintain an ethical system grounded in the value of life?

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart.

Jeremiah 1:5

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Luke 12:7

Coexistence

Can light coexist with dark?

Can nonviolent men coexist with violent men?

Can truth coexist with falsehood?

Can good coexist with evil?

In every case, the answer is no.  One side must cave in as these polar opposites can not coexist, just as oil and water can never be blended together.  For a long time, the falsehood of this bumper sticker has been like a thorn in my side.  I have known how malicious this is to the Truth, yet I have not said a thing.  How dare I not stand up for the Truth when it is under such a profound attack?  I am ashamed that I did not do so at first, but I am done sitting back and watching the world come apart at the seams.

Is it truly possible for the following religions to coexist as the bumper sticker proclaims?  Islam’s Star and Crescent, Judaism’s Star of David, Wicca’s Pentacle, Taoism Yin and Yang, and Christianity’s Cross are all present.  Is it truly possible for any of those religions to come together under a banner of peace?  The only two that have done so are Judaism and Christianity due to their shared history and value system.

Can Islam which has the shahada, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, ever reconcile with any of the others?  The shahada states “There is no god but god, Muhammad is the messenger of god.”

Can Judaism with it’s core tenets ever accept Islam or any other religion except that which is prophesied with the coming of the Messiah?

Can Christianity coexist with any other religion when Christ Himself states “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)?

Moreover, even the peaceful religion of Taoism cannot coexist with Islam, Christianity or Judaism, all of which are monotheistic.  Taoism is multitheistic, which means that it believes in a number of gods both major and minor.

So the bumper sticker’s advocated mindset is one of willful disregard for all of these religions. It advocates that they all drop central tenets of their religions in order to “coexist.”

The writer of this blog did a decent breakdown of the tensions inherent in this idea of “coexistence.”

Let’s break it down. We’ll call each worldview by the letter it’s supposed to represent. So:

  • C = Islam
  • O = Pacifism
  • E = “Gender equality” (=the LGBT agenda)
  • X = Judaism
  • I = Wicca / Pagan / Bah’ai
  • S =Taoism / Confucianism
  • T = Christianity

And let’s assume a very broad definition of “coexist”: living together without calling for the destruction of each other. Here are the problems with that:

  • C wants to kill E, X, T, and (by implication) O. If they achieved the world they wanted, I and S would also no longer exist.
  • O doesn’t allow for effective resistance or defeat of C.
  • E stands in direct opposition to C, X, and T, and accuses those who speak against them of hate speech. Also, they’re trying to edge X and T out of public schools in favor of their own agenda. (They’re afraid C will be offended, so they get less trouble.) E is actually very, very intolerant.
  • X’s existence is threatened not only by C but also by O, who invariably supports C over X.
  • I and S are statistically insignificant and are mainly on there to complete the bumper sticker.
  • T is who the bumper sticker is really arguing against, but poses no physical threat to any of the others.

Historically, T has brought about more tolerance- “coexistence” if you will- than any other movement. But the kind of “coexistence” the people who make this sticker envision is one where at least X and T are completely marginalized.

These tensions will not just go away with some wishful thinking.  These belief systems are fundamentally at odds with each other and to pretend otherwise is a falsehood and despicable in terms of actually finding true peace.

As Christians, what are we to do?  How can we coexist in a world that is completely at odds with us?  Do we lay down and tell the world that we’ll go along to get along or do we refuse to compromise?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world

Romans 12:2

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Romans 12:9

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:21

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it so perfectly when he wrote a letter, much like the Apostle Paul, from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Do you want to coexist with the world or do you want to exist as God Himself intended, unblemished and purified by the blood of Christ?

You cannot do both.

 

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