The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

We’re In a Religious War, But Don’t Know It

Note: the first part of this post was written over a week ago. Since then President Biden and the Taliban have confirmed that we will indeed pull all American forces out of Afghanistan on August 31. I simply got very busy with a number of ministry demands and hadn’t the time to complete the post.

I think it’s time to tell the truth about the so-called “War on Terror.” No country, no civilization wages war on a tactic, for that’s what terror is. Terror is simply a means used to wage war on an enemy. It’s not unlike the use of air power, or submarine warfare, or blitzkrieg waged using armor (i.e., tanks). 
A military force can take steps to counter a particular tactic, but it certainly doesn’t wage war against it. It wages war against its enemy, and in most instances the enemy is a nation or an alliance of nations. But war can also be waged against an ideology, one that can motivate a large number of people. An ideology may be driven by religious beliefs, ethnicity, economics, or combinations of these. The ideology may be geographically fluid, and transcend the usual national, ethnic, and geographical boundaries. This makes Ideological warfare particularly challenging because the enemy can not always be easily identified and located. 

Today, whether or not we accept it, we are involved in an ideological conflict, a war with a determined enemy. Our enemy wants nothing less than the complete destruction or unconditional surrender of everyone who is not one of them. At least from our enemy's perspective, it is a war of survival -- our survival, for they are convinced they will ultimately prevail. 

The enemy are Islamists and they are waging war on everyone else, throughout the world. You might think they have no real hope of succeeding because they must contend with superpowers like the United States. They have, however, a number of real advantages. Perhaps foremost is the fact that very few of their enemies understand the nature of the conflict or even realize they are at war. It's always less of a challenge to defeat an enemy that refuses to accept it is engaged in a war with a determined foe. If we were to approach the average man or woman on the street in, say, Frankfurt or Copenhagen or Naples or Los Angeles or Charleston, and ask, "Is your nation at war?" I'm pretty sure every one of them would answer, "No, of course not." And that's the problem we face today. Only the enemy knows we are engaged in a war for survival. 

Now let's tighten things up a bit. This war isn't just ideological. At its core, it is a religious war. And that, dear friends, is something most Westerners, particularly West Europeans, don't want to hear. Indeed, they refuse to hear it, and in some nations to say we are in a religious war with Islam might well be a criminal offense. I'm sure I don't exaggerate when I say a significant majority of West Europeans are no longer believers. If a European discounts the importance of religious belief in his own life -- that is, if religion means absolutely nothing to him -- he's far more likely to project that unbelief on others. By ignoring the evidence of religious motivations, he will assume other causes lie behind the hostility he sees and cannot ignore. How can these Islamists be motivated by religion? After all, who would actually wage war for meaningless religious beliefs? No, they are obviously driven by poverty, or anti-colonialism, or resistance to Western imperialism, or pervasive Western arrogance, or climate change, or whatever...and, believing this, they ignore almost 1,400 years of history.

One need not be a historian to recognize the long and consistent record of Islamic belief put into practice. And yet our national leadership has been equally consistent in their failure, or perhaps simply their unwillingness, to face the truth about those who wage this war against us and all who do not share their hateful beliefs. We saw this when President Jimmy Carter and his foreign policy staff rejected the Shah and disregarded everything the Ayatollah Khomeini had preached before he took control of Iran. The result was predictable and led to the long hostage crisis that, along with a dozen other failures, cost Carter a second term, and led our enemies to underestimate us. Fortunately, Ronald Reagan came to the rescue, at least for a time.

The goals of the Islamists haven’t changed over the centuries. Back in the 14th century, the Islamic Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) wrote, “In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam by persuasion or by force.” This isn’t an opinion of just one Muslim. This is the universal Koranic call to Jihad. Quite simply the desire is to create a worldwide social order based on the tenets of Islam and the imposition of Sharia law. That’s the goal. The means call for “persuasion or by force,” including violence of every kind, even terrorism and suicidal martyrdom. It also uses the infiltration of Islamists into Western nations through migration, both legal and illegal. Our response to this was the nation-building approach of multiple administrations, under the false assumption that the installation of a quasi-democratic political system and all it’s trappings would overwhelm these religious beliefs that have motivated Muslims from the beginning. Pick up a copy of the Koran, a good translation, and you can read exactly how Muslims are commanded to deal with unbelievers. 

Many Muslims, of course, do not accept the calls to violent Jihad that we hear from Islamist terrorists and leaders of such nations as Iran. They manage to follow the religious precepts of their faith without turning to hatred of those whose beliefs differ from theirs. But I  suspect many of these Muslims do not speak up and castigate the terrorists publicly for fear of their lives and the lives of those they love.

Note: these final words were written today, August 31.

Today I am ashamed to be an American. Our government, a government that represents us, has, for completely political and largely irrational reasons, abandoned hundreds of American citizens and their families, plus thousands of Afghan allies who worked and fought alongside American troops over the past 20 years. But we didn’t just abandon these people. That would be bad enough. No, we left them in the hands of a collection of barbaric terrorists who enjoy torturing and butchering those whom they consider their enemies. And, believe me, their most hated enemies are Americans and any Afghans who supported us.

Today we mourn the deaths of 13 young Americans — marines, soldiers, and a Navy corpsman — who lost their lives in Kabul while serving their country by helping others in dire need. They and the many other Americans and Afghans wounded in that terrorist attack are the latest casualties of this centuries-long religious war. Pray for their immortal souls and for their families who are suffering today and will mourn for years to come. Listening to the president as he spoke to the nation just moments ago, it’s apparent how completely out of touch he is. Based on how he acted in his meetings with those families as the bodies of their loved ones arrived at Dover AFB, one also realizes how completely self-centered he is. More worrisome, he and his foreign policy team certainly don’t realize they’re in the midst of a religious war.

This is a religious war, and if we do not actually come to understand this, we will lose…unless, of course, our living and loving God, the God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, takes pity on us and in His mercy answers our prayers and comes to our aid. Faith and trust, brothers and sisters…

“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth, so that very day their plans perish. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God” [Ps 146:3-5].

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Francis and Urban

Last week on the Marian Solemnity of the Assumption, Pope Francis addressed the faithful: 
"I join in the unanimous concern over the news coming from Afghanistan. I invite you to pray with me to the God of peace so that the din or arms may cease and solutions may be found at the table of dialogue. Only in this way will the tormented population of that country -- men, women, elderly and children -- be able to return to their homes and live in peace and security in full mutual respect."
Based on his words, it would seem the Holy Father believes the Taliban will be just fine so long as we sit down with them "at the table of dialogue." He appears not to accept that the Afghan population is "tormented" because of the murderous intent of the Taliban. They kill all -- "men, women, elderly and children" -- who refuse to accept their rule and evil ideology, and they do so with particular brutality. As for "mutual respect," I doubt we can achieve this in a relationship with a terrorist organization like the Taliban, and definitely not through appeasement. 

Given the situation President Biden has created, prayer is certainly needed. It is always needed, so Pope Francis is absolutely correct in asking us to pray that the "God of peace" will led us to real solutions that will result in better lives for Afghans and for all who face the threat of terrorism. But the Church has also long taught that nations, like individuals, have the right to self-defense, and "just war" can be a valid, moral option. Indeed, I can think of few situations that would justify its application more than the current situation in Afghanistan. 

Previous popes have understood this and even gone so far as to instruct the Christian world to wage war against those whose evil intent and actions represent a distinct threat. Almost a thousand years ago, specifically on November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II addressed a large gathering of clerics and noblemen at the local Council of Clermont in France. He hoped to call the often bickering, evolving nations of Europe to unity of purpose. He called them to join together in a righteous war to protect Christians in the East and to take back Jerusalem from the Muslims. For several hundred years Islamic armies had overrun Christian nations across North Africa and throughout the Middle East. They had even entered Europe and claimed much of Spain for Islam. And despite how they are sometimes depicted by revisionist historians, often enough they were too much like the Islamist terrorists we encounter today. 

As he spoke, Pope Urban described the atrocities committed against Christians and urged his audience to take action. From contemporary reports of those who heard and quoted him, Pope Urban made an impassioned, rousing plea. Ashamed that the knights of Christianity had shed blood fighting each other, he challenged them to "liberate fellow Christians from pillage, fire, rape, and tortures." He continued:
"You should raising a violent hand against Christians; it is less wicked to brandish your sword against Saracens [i.e., Muslims]. It is the only warfare that is righteous, for it is charity to risk your life for your brothers."
Pope Urban likened the Crusade to a pilgrimage, a holy act of penance in which the knights would save their souls if they gave their lives battling the Saracens. For the  pope, therefore, the knights were pilgrims doing God's work. He begged the warriors to reject selfishness and relieve the holy city of Jerusalem.
"This city the Redeemer of the human race has made illustrious by His advent, has beautified by residence, has consecrated by suffering, has redeemed by death, has glorified by burial...This royal now held captive by enemies, and is in subjection to those who do not know God...She seeks and desires, therefore, to be liberated and does not cease to implore you to come to her aid."
What became known as the First Crusade was by no means a war of aggression, but rather a defensive action by Christendom to protect the Faith from decades of continuous Muslim aggression. At some point in the future, given the vast stores of American weaponry the Taliban now control, the impact of Islamist terrorism might well grow so large that it brings death and destruction to all nations. Perhaps then a contemporary pope will call for a new crusade. I have no problem with that, although I suspect few will listen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Afghanistan: Asian Perspective.

Every so often I turn to to get a different view of world events. It’s a Catholic website published in Italy in Italian, English, and Chinese and pays particular attention to world news, especially news related to Asia, much of it from a religious perspective. Operated by the PIME Missionaries (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), it's been providing this unique perspective for years. Always worth reading, it often covers events ignored or simply unknown to the Western mainstream media. I thought I’d share a few recent stories that caught my eye, all touching on the events in Afghanistan. To read a particular AsiaNews article, simply click on the highlighted links.  

Afghans in Kazakhstan. Many Americans have probably never heard of Kazakhstan, or if they have, really don't know where it is. (For reference, it's a large Central Asian country north of Afghanistan, but not bordering it.) It turns out that Afghans are not just leaving their country via the Kabul airport, but according to AsiaNews: 
"Thousands of people are trying to cross the Afghan borders to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, on foot or by any other means, including 'illegal planes.' Several of them are precisely trying to reach Kazakhstan, considered the safest of the Central Asian countries for Afghan refugees."
The article, however, focuses on a small group of Afghan students who have been studying in Kazakhstan at a university in the city of Turkistan. Because of COVID their studies have been online, so most had returned home to Afghanistan. But now classes are resuming and they're stranded, unable to return to the university. One young woman described how dire the situation is for female students because of the Taliban's vile treatment of women. 

Taliban a Threat to Indonesian Islam. This is a story I never expected. Said Agil Siroj, the President of Nahdluatul Ulama (NU), the world's largest Islamic organization, fears that the Taliban victory in Afghanistan will ultimately pose a severe threat to Indonesia, "giving rise to a new wave of radicalism." This is important for several reasons: Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and radical Islam has been far less influential in East Asia when compared to Central Asia and the Middle East. According to the AsiaNews article, NU is a relatively moderate Islamic organization that has participated in inter-religious initiatives with Christians and others. They have also strongly resisted the radical fundamentalism of the Islamists. I suspect the Biden administration never considered the unintended consequences of their foolishly conceived and executed plan. The effects will be far-reaching.

The article also describes the evacuation of Indonesians from Afghanistan by the Indonesian Air Force, a flight that included five Filipinos as a result of a request by the Manila government. Filipinos, because they are mostly Christian, are in real danger from the Taliban. 

To show how some Islamic nations are reacting to the Taliban takeover, Indonesia also moved its diplomatic mission from Kabul to Pakistan. 

Afghan Christian Family Rescued. This is a wonderful story of a family forced to hide its Christianity because to do otherwise would mean death. A few weeks ago AsiaNews reported on an Afghan exile, Ali Ehsani, who write a book (in Italian) about his experiences as a child and a Christian during the Taliban's earlier rule. He spoke of his own family's need to hide their Christianity:
"My parents always put an extra plate at the table for guests. I said to them: 'We are poor, how can we have others?' My father replied: 'Jesus shared everything with others.' Then I asked, 'Who is Jesus?' And he said: 'We are Christians. Not a word more.'"
As an 8-year-old in the 1990s, Ehsani saw his parents killed and his home destroyed, so he and his brother fled Afghanistan and now live in Italy. Speaking of the Taliban now, he said, "Today I see them destroying the lives of people who have nothing, cutting their throats in front of their relatives. What kind of people are they?" He then added, "Don't leave  Afghanistan alone." 

Ehsani's more recent concern has been for a Christian family in Kabul. Describing the lives of these "hidden Christians," he said, "They move from area to area. They want to leave the country but have no one to help them. I am looking for a humanitarian channel that can help them."

As a result of that earlier article, AsiaNews was contacted by the Fondazione Meet Human, a branch of the Fondazione San Michele Arcangelo. Working with the Italian military, the foundation was able to extract the family and fly them to Rome. Endorsed by one of my heroes, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the foundation was created to "meet and support experiences of true humanity in the world committed to the integral realization of the person." I think a more concise translation of that little piece of foundation-speak is simply to say, "We help people in need." And they certainly helped this family which included eight children. As Daniele Nembrini of the Foundation said, "It might be a drop in the ocean, but the ocean is made up of drops." 

If you want to understand better the events of this important part of our troubled world, I suggest making an occasional stop at AsiaNews.

Monday, August 23, 2021

CDC Advice on Hurricanes.

Understand up front that I am all for getting vaccinated against COVID. Diane and I received our two Moderna shots back in February and March, and survived the process. Unless people have serious health issues that argue against receiving the vaccine, I’m sure their doctors would encourage them to go ahead and get the shots. For most adults getting vaccinated is far safer than getting COVID. I do not, however, agree with vaccine mandates or any similar coercive measures by government agencies, whether local, state, or federal. Such health decisions should not be made by politicians and government bureaucrats, but rather by individuals in consultation with their doctors. 

The bureaucrats at the CDC would, of course, like the federal government to require all to be vaccinated. Presumably those who refuse should be punished in some significant way. Driven by this mindset, and lacking a universal mandate, they apparently grasp at the irrational, anything they believe will motivate the unvaccinated. Their latest pronouncement is timed to the current hurricane season and includes the CDC’s advice on preparing for a hurricane. The first and presumably most important item on their list:

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can. COVID-19 vaccines help protect you from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19 and may also help protect people around you.
The pronouncement continues by listing the standard advice on hurricane preparation of the sort published by emergency agencies and widely available elsewhere. (You can read the entire CDC announcement here.) I suppose the CDC really isn’t telling us the COVID vaccine will protect us from hurricanes. They probably just hoped to find another way to demand the unvaccinated comply. Of course, the other question: How many people would actually turn to the Center for Disease Control for advice on hurricane preparations? One person who apparently did check with the CDC in advance of the current storm is the President. On Sunday evening he issued a warning to those in Henri’s path. Rather than telling them to make the usual storm preparations, he focused on COVID: 

“To those in Henri’s path: Don’t forget that you may need to seek shelter while we’re still battling COVID-19 and the Delta variant…So wear a mask and try to observe social distancing…And to everyone across the country, don’t get caught by the next storm. Get vaccinated now.”

So comforting to find the President and the CDC of one mind. At least someone in his administration agrees with him.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Church in Afghanistan

Thanks to omnipresent cellphone videos, we can all experience the trauma faced by those Afghans and American citizens trying to make their way to the Kabul airport. And as we watch this disaster unfold in Afghanistan, we begin to wonder what the future will bring. Only the most optimistic could find anything positive about all that has happened and likely will happen as a result of President Biden’s historic national security blunder. 

And then I heard an Afghan mention that things would be especially dangerous for Christians in the country. I’ll admit I didn’t realize there was a Christian presence in Afghanistan. I was aware that Afghan law — law established by a government we helped set up — considered apostasy from Islam a capital offense. The punishment for men who convert from Islam is execution, and for women, life imprisonment. Because of this, I just assumed there were very few Afghan Christians. It seems like 1st-century Romans and 20th-century Soviet and Chinese communists, I had underestimated the faith and courage of Christians. As it turns out, there are very few Christians in Afghanistan, but there are some. To find out more, I began to nose around. I was especially interested in the Catholic Church’s presence, if any, in Afghanistan.

I decided to check out the website listing the worldwide Catholic Hierarchy and there I found Fr. Giovanni Scalese, a 66-year-old Italian priest, a member of the Barnabites (The Clerics Regular of St. Paul) who is listed as the Superior of Afghanistan. This good priest might be, from what I can discover, the only Catholic priest in Afghanistan. I suspect there are probably others, but Fr. Scalese must not even refer to this possibility lest he place them in physical danger. Anyway, his name rang a very distant bell and so I checked my favorite journal, First Things, and sure enough, back in 2017, they published an interview with Fr. Scalese that gave a clear picture of the Catholic presence in Afghanistan four years ago. One need not be a prophet to realize things are far worse today. Here’s a link to the interview: The Church In Afghanistan.

After reading this interview, I decided to look for something more current from Fr. Scalese and, wouldn’t you know it, I found it. Fr. Scalese is today pleading for prayers for the people of Afghanistan. In his words, “We are living in days of great apprehension as we await what happens… pray, pray, pray for Afghanistan! Thank you.” Here is a link to the article: Kabul Catholic priest pleads for prayers…

I found another article — Fr. Scalese: Afghans Fear Another Civil War — published online in April of this year, in which Fr. Scalese is asked his opinion regarding the decisions by Presidents Trump and Biden to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan. Even though he is hopeful a Taliban victory will not completely eradicate the freedoms many Afghans have come to cherish, one can sense his fears for the people he has come to love.

I’ll return to this subject soon, but in the meantime pray for the people of Afghanistan, that the Lord of All will grant them the peace and the hope for which they yearn and which only God can provide.

Praised by Jesus Christ! Now and forever!

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Joe Biden, the Neighbor

It’s hard to believe a president could do so much in so short a time to set our nation on a course to disaster. If you think I’m just expressing a little hyperbole, believe me I’m not. Things have become so critical I have concluded we might well have passed the point of no return, and that, dear friends, is the intention of the president and the puppeteers who control him. 

My understanding of Joe Biden began to take form years ago. Let me pass along the catalyst for this emerging opinion. Over 35 years ago, during my consulting days, I was conducting some management training for a group of sales and marketing managers, among them a executive for a major chemical company. During one of our evening “happy hours,” as our conversation turned to politics, this executive laughed and said, “My immediate neighbor is Senator Joe Biden, and I’ve gotten to know him just because he’s my neighbor. He’s also one of the stupidest men I know.” He went on to describe several casual interactions with his neighbor, the senator. The stories were not about Joe Biden’s politics — that wasn’t the man’s concern — but rather the things he said and did in those normal interpersonal activities in which people engage. I’ve never forgotten his final comment: “The man just lacks basic common sense. I expect he has some very good handlers.” 

At the time, I’ll admit, I’d barely heard of Joe Biden, but over time I paid more attention to the man and came to understand and accept what his neighbor had told me so long ago. It was reinforced during Joe Biden’s years as Obama’s Vice President and confirmed during the 2020 campaign. Those same handlers made good use of COVID and locked Joe away in his basement so he could say or do nothing too damaging. His campaign then focused not on the Joe Biden of 2020, but on his past “stability” and how only this man could cure the divisiveness in Washington and the nation, a divisiveness, we were told, caused by the Trump presidency. Since his inauguration…we’ll, I’ll you decide how effective our president has been. 

Will President Biden still be president in 2024, when the American people get to vote once again for a president. Eight months ago, back in December 2020, I made a prediction that the president would not last two years in office. (Here’s the link: Strange Times, Stranger Thoughts) Such predictions are probably foolish and to repeat them even more so, but what the heck! I don’t know how the Vegas odds-makers view Joe Biden’s longevity as president, but it would be interesting to see if they agree with me.

A Look To the Past

A parishioner sent me a link to one of my own posts, written 13 years ago, telling me how prophetic it was. I disagreed strongly. It was not at all prophetic, but merely a statement of the reality we faced at the time. I also chided him for spending any time reading stuff I wrote years ago. I’m sure he had far better things to do.

Anyway, the post was written on September 28, 2008, just weeks before the election of Barack Obama as president. I did not support Obama for many reasons, but primarily because he denied the right to life and the sanctity of marriage. I firmly believe that anyone who supports abortion cannot honestly claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Such people are morally and spiritually dysfunctional. We must pray for their conversion.

All the issues I addressed in that post remain with us today. They differ only in their degree of acceptance by the American people. We are still aborting millions of unborn children and a large percentage of American Catholics and other Christians continue to support and elect pro-abortion politicians. Despite the scandal surrounding former Cardinal McCarrick, too many bishops still tolerate active homosexual priests. Sadly, the scandals of the past will likely continue into the future. As for our society, greed has penetrated every level, and has especially driven our largest corporations. In particular, the huge social media multinationals have become so big and so supportive of big government that our nation is beginning to mirror the traditional fascist state in which complete control of the population becomes the overriding goal. 

That these evils remain among us today is not at all prophetic, but merely a reflection of what happens when a society, when our nation, turns its back on the God who loved us into being. God asks for a response. He asks for our repentance, our faith, and our obedience. Did not Our Lord Jesus begin His public ministry with the words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” [Mk 1:15]?

Here’s a link to that earlier post: Elections and Disintegration

Take some time to pray today and thank God for creating you, for giving you the wondrous gift of life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Beyond Incompetence

There is so much wrong with the implementation of President Biden’s "plan" for the exit of our military forces from Afghanistan that one suspects it was a plan devoid of any planning. His so-called plan ignored or contradicted the very basics of conducting military operations and diplomacy. Indeed it is hard to believe the leadership of our defense and state departments could sign on to such an utterly incompetent plan.The only other possibility is one no American wants to believe: that the results we have all witnessed were actually desired. In other words, all was done with intent not through incompetence. Sadly I’ve come to believe this might well be true.

It’s highly unlikely the president actually crafted this plan. First of all he’s not smart enough to put together even such a disastrous strategy. Perhaps his remarkably artistic son, Hunter, devised the plan. After all, Hunter and the Biden family have reaped the benefits of his extensive global connections. And did his dad not call him “the smartest man I know?” The truth is, a growing number of Americans are asking whether Joe Biden, unlike his son, is simply stupid or well on his way to complete senility. Then again maybe he actually is the supreme planner, and his handlers have been unable to take control. But when we see the fruits of the president’s actions, from a geopolitical perspective it would seem he’s focused on aiding our enemies, specifically Communist China with whom, coincidentally, many of his most senior advisors also have long-standing personal and financial relationships. It’s all a mess.

To make matters worse, the rest of the president’s team are mostly hacks, a collection of fawning toadies who don’t have the courage to tell him his ideas are sheer idiocy. If the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs actually advised the president to maintain a significant troop presence or disaster would follow, and if he rejected their counsel, they should have resigned immediately. But like far too many senior officers today, they are mere politicians who care far more for their own careers than they do for their country. I know, harsh words. But in all those years I spent as an officer in the U. S. Navy, I got to know many flag officers. Most were true warriors, men of honor, unlike today’s batch of woke “leaders” who deserve no respect.

There are just so many things wrong with all that’s happened…

Was our intelligence so bad that we not only underestimated the strength and tactical capabilities of the Taliban but also overestimated that of the Afghan government forces? Did it completely overlook the effect of our military’s precipitous departure on the morale of Afghan troops? Was the anticipated timeline of the subsequent chaos completely wrong? Or was our intelligence solid but simply ignored by the Commander in Chief? I suspect a sad combination of all.

Why on earth did we not prioritize the extraction of American citizens, Afghan special visa people, and their families? There appears to have been no plan to handle this rather large task prior to pulling our troops out of the country. And now the entire process is bogged down by the red tape of State Department bureaucracy and the scarcity of competent personnel to process the folks trying to leave. Yesterday both the Department of Defense and the State Department admitted they “had no idea” how many American citizens are in Afghanistan trying to get out. In other words, they did absolutely no planning once the decision was made to leave the country. 

The British and French are sending their special ops folks into Kabul to extract their citizens, but yesterday our Secretary of Defense stated we are not able to do this same. Are we unable, or have our forces been prohibited by their incompetent, cowardly senior commanders and commander in chief from doing so?  I can guarantee that our special ops troops would be happy to accept this mission. It’s what they do. They simply need the complete support of a Commander in Chief who would be willing to explain the consequences of interference to the Taliban.  

We’ve also been told that F18s from the USS Ronald Reagan have been overflying Kabul. I suppose the big question is, why? General Taylor of the JCS stated they are there to provide air support for the ground commander. How can they do so in an urban environment in which the Taliban are completely enmeshed in the civilian population? Do we think the Taliban fighters are afraid of these aircraft? It would seem the F-18s are flying simply because we have them and we might as well show everyone we can get them to Kabul. ”…a prudent and responsible thing to do,” according to Admiral Kirby. They might have been useful if we had not abandoned the airbase at Bagram; but since our only presence now is within the small perimeter at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Airport, it would seem their purpose is largely psychological.

And then there’s the billions of dollars worth of U.S. military equipment now in the blood-soaked hands of terrorists. Recent reports indicate they now possess over 40 aircraft, including Black Hawk attack helicopters, upwards of 2,000 armored vehicles, high-tech drones, night-vision equipment, over a half-million infantry weapons, and so much more. Tomorrow’s Al Qaeda will be one of the best equipped and armed pack of terrorists we’ve ever had to face, thanks to President Biden’s feckless plan.

I could go on…the shameful way the President treats American citizens, as well as our allied partners; the constant lies about Taliban brutality toward those trying to leave; the President’s avoidance of the media and the American people as he hides out at Camp David and in Delaware…and so much more, but It just makes me ill to relate it. 

Of course, if the pressure within his own party forces him to leave office we’ll be left with Kamala who rushed off to Saigon, probably watching videos of our shameful departure in 1975. So many ironies, but so very, very sad.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Biden Makes LGBTQI+ a Foreign Policy Priority…As Afghanistan Crumbles

Following the lead of former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, earlier this year President Biden stated that the United States must, in his words, “repair our moral leadership…You know, we’ll ensure diplomacy and foreign assistance are working to promote the rights of those individuals, included by combating criminalization and protecting LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers.”  He then published a remarkable memo with a subject line that read: “Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World.” In the memo he directs our foreign policy establishment to promote this distorted view of morality by applying sanctions against any nations that don’t agree. Here’s an excerpt:
“I am directing all agencies abroad to ensure tha United States diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons…agencies engaged abroad are directed to strengthen existing efforts to combat the criminalization by foreign governments of LGBTQI+ status or conduct and expand efforts to combat discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBTQI+ status or conduct.”
The State Department followed up with a clarifying statement:
“Today, President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum directing all U.S. government departments and agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persona around the world.
The struggle to end violence, discrimination, criminalization, and stigma against LGBTQI+ persons is a global challenge that remains central to our commitment to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals. In the Biden-Harris administration, the United States will lead by the power of our example and pursue a policy to end violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. Today’s action by President Biden demonstrates the U.S. governments’s firm commitment to advance this goal.
Under President Biden’s leadership, the United Staes will work with like-minded governments and strengthen civil society advocacy to fully support and advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons. 
…and so, this effort has become a key priority of our foreign policy. It would seem the implementation of this policy suffered a serious failure as Afghanistan was overrun by the Taliban, an Islamist group that doesn’t treat the alphabet folks very well…that is, they behead them. Makes you wonder what the Afghans thought as the U.S. Embassy in Kabul flew the Rainbow Flag in June to mark Pride Month. Of course, now the Taliban flag flies over the former embassy. If the events of recent days are any indication, the protection of U.S. citizens and Afghans who supported us for 20 years took an obvious back seat to the promotion of sexual perversion on a global scale. What a country! 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Clueless in Washington

I happened to catch an article today by Christian Datoc. It was published online Friday in the Washington Examiner and was titled, “Three Afghanistan claims from the Biden team that aged poorly.” It’s really a pretty good article, and highlights three claims repeated again and again:
  1. The situation in Afghanistan does not remotely resemble the situation that faced the US in Vietnam in 1975. As President Biden stated: "They’re not remotely comparable…There’s going to be no circumstance when you’re going to see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan." Well, maybe not live on the news, but those helos are sure flying a lot of folks from the embassy to the airport.
  2. Chinese involvement with the Taliban is “positive.” That’s what our Secretary of State believes. Last month members of the Taliban leadership met with Chinese officials in China. Their purpose was to discuss future peaceful relationships between China and a new, Taliban Afghanistan. As Secretary Blinken said later, "No one has an interest in a military takeover of the country by the Taliban, the restoration of an Islamic emirate," and indicated it was good China was encouraging a "peaceful resolution of the conflict.” It’s hard to believe an American Secretary of State could be this naive.
  3. Jen Psaki, the President’s translator, stated the administration is certain the Taliban won’t be returning Afghanistan to a kind of pre-2001 medieval Islamist society. Why? Because they will have “to make an assessment about what they want their role to be in the international community.” She then added words that must have sent chills down the spines of the Taliban leaders. Our negotiators, she said, have made it clear “the international community is going to watch closely how the Taliban behaves.” I suppose the big question is: What exactly will the international community do, especially since Afghanistan’s neighbors seem willing to congratulate the Taliban on their victory over the hated Americans?
Sad, sad, sad…especially for all those who served honorably in the blasted place. I wonder, too, what the Taiwanese and South Koreans are thinking about their chief ally today?

Afghanistan Down

It’s about noon on Sunday and the reports out of Kabul are far less than optimistic. And yet I just heard a D.C. policy wonk, a former State Department “expert” who helped devise our 20-year Afghanistan involvement, state that he was confident we would withdraw all our people safely. He had worked for several administrations, totally focused on Afghanistan so he must know what’s going on. But as he spoke we discover that the embassy has told Americans to “shelter in place” and not to go to the embassy. Why? Because the embassy has closed. The flag has been lowered. We also hear that the ambassador is “working” at the airport, probably with one foot on the steps of an aircraft. The president of Afghanistan, and his VP, have already fled the country so they can reap the benefits accrued in their foreign bank accounts. Our president is at Camp David for a little, five-day vacation, presumably toasting marshmallows as our citizens scramble to survive the onslaught. Even more troubling is what the Afghan people will face, particularly those who have aided our forces. Of course, the Afghan women face what can only be described as a horrendous future.

The Taliban are also releasing thousands of prisoners, former Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, and arming them. The big tactical question seems to be: Can a relatively small US force hold the airport? And if not, what will happen? Do the Taliban really care about the possibility of US air strikes, especially since there are no battle lines? The Taliban have been very effective by integrating with the local population, so who and what would we attack from the air, especially with no ground support and direction? 

I actually heard another expert yesterday downplay the idea that the communist Chinese would cozy up to the Taliban. They have nothing in common, he told us, so the Chinese have no reason to help them. What he doesn’t seem to understand is the eastern concept that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I expect the Chinese, the Iranians, and the Russians will all get involved after the fact, and soon. It’s what I would do were I in their shoes. After all, the Taliban will be the recipients of all kinds of US arms, no doubt some pretty hi-tech stuff. They’ll probably have an open auction in Kabul a few weeks from now.

I am not confident that all will go well tonight and tomorrow. We must pray for a safe withdrawal.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Another Fall

On 30 April 1975 I was a Navy lieutenant, a helicopter pilot, who was then repaying the Navy for my graduate degree by teaching computer science at the U.S. Naval Academy.  I remember watching the nightly news images of Navy and Marine helicopters lifting people from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon and wondering how so many politicians could have been so remarkably stupid for so many years. If someone were to write a book on how to lose a war, part one would describe the military, diplomatic, and political actions taken by the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford administrations in Vietnam. Part two would relate our 20-year involvement in Afghanistan. It, too, has already been written, but by another four administrations: Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden. Makes you long for Ronald Reagan, doesn’t it?

It also makes you wonder. All the best and the brightest, the D.C. in-crowd, as well as the politicians we elect to implement the will of the people they represent, are really among the most clueless people in the country. I’d rather be represented by the average farmer here in rural Florida, or the guy who frequents one of our gun shops, or the vet enjoying a beer at the bar of the nearby American Legion hall. The nation’s civilian leadership at least has the excuse that they can’t be expected to understand military and national security issues because too many are lawyers, pragmatists who lack a solid moral foundation. Unfortunately, they’re certain they’re smarter than everyone else, so they’re unlikely to listen to anyone. They occasionally turn to the clever staffers they hire to advise them on issues that demand some degree of political and common sense. But, sadly, most hire in their own image and hear only echoes of their own skewed, highly malleable beliefs. Should they feel the need, they can also obtain counsel from military and national security professionals, but these too must share their opinions or they won’t be heard. The flag officers at the top of the military structure, if they really understand the strategic and national security issues involved — as most certainly do — have simply proven themselves to be moral cowards. If they had any backbone they would resign or at least retire when asked to implement decisions that imperil our national security. But they didn’t get to that level by being apolitical.

In mid-1976, a little more than a year after that 1975 debacle in Saigon, as a new Lieutenant Commander I reported aboard the USS Okinawa, a helicopter carrier that happened to be one of the key players in the fall of Saigon. Marine and Navy helicopters from the USS Okinawa were the primary vehicles that airlifted embassy personnel and others and flew them to the many ships off the coast. I was fortunate to talk with those who had piloted and crewed those helicopters. Their stories were heartbreaking because they realized so many loyal Vietnamese friends of the United States were left behind. As we later learned, those who managed to survive were either imprisoned or sent to “re-education camps” to become loyal communists. Those who could, escaped or became “boat people” and hoped they’d make it to safer shores.

As for Afghanistan, I suppose I’ve been influenced by my Vietnam involvement. As my wife Diane said to me today, “When I hear what’s happening now in Kabul, I immediately recall that horrible day in Saigon and how very tragic it was.” She said this with tears in her eyes. Memories like that remain, even after 46 years.

Twenty years ago, when President Bush stood before the rubble of the World Trade Center and in effect declared war on Al-Qaeda, few Americans disagreed with him. At the time I had hoped our plan was to take the battle to Afghanistan and attack the terrorists who had attacked us. And that’s exactly what we should have done. We should have done everything in our power to destroy Al-Qaeda and the Taliban who were harboring and supporting them. Once we had done that, we should have left the country and said, “People of Afghanistan, you brought this on yourselves. Don’t let terrorists use your country as a base of operations. If you do, we will come back again and you will not like it.” Instead, we tried to turn what is perhaps the most tribal, fractured, Islamic nation in the world into a Western democratic republic. What foolishness!

Then the American people elect as president a man who has been consistently wrong on every foreign policy issue for the past 40 years. And, guess what? Surprise, surprise, he’s wrong once again. 

As one vet put it yesterday: “Don’t blame the boots, blame the suits!”

The Bad, the Ugly, and the Stupid

Reading the news these days has become like a visit to one of those Ripley’s Believe it or Not “museums” where one is confronted by the outlandish, the truly weird, and the absolutely screwy. Things are happening in our nation and in the world, unexpected odd things, irrational things, that make us question the very sanity of many of our human race’s most esteemed members. Let me just toss a few recent headlines your way and perhaps add a word or two of explanation where explanation is even possible.

U.S. Threatens Taliban with Isolation if Kabul Falls. Not only did the U.S. threaten the Taliban with the horror of isolation, but they were joined in this threat by even more forceful words from both the European Union and the United Nations who also threatened global isolation. Let’s see, the Taliban are a vicious, sadistic, self-isolated collection of radical Islamists who could not care less about being isolated by a world they despise. The U.S, the E.U., and the U.N. Represent everything they hate, everything they want to destroy. I can think of nothing they fear less than global isolation. 

“Come get us,” they will cry to the world once they take control of the entire Afghan nation. “Come get us,” just as so many in the past have tried to conquer the Afghan people. They all failed. Who does the E.U. and the U.N. plan to send? Belgian and Norwegian military police, U.N. Peacekeepers, or perhaps a judge from the European Court of Human Rights? That’ll work.

Perhaps we have finally learned — although I doubt it — that we cannot turn an Islamic nation with an ingrained, millennial-long, militaristic, tribal, misogynistic mindset into the mirror image of a modern European parliamentary republic by telling Afghans about the glories of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the works of Thomas Paine, which most couldn’t read even in translation. 

Scotland: 4-year-olds Can Change Gender Without Parental Consent. Yes, indeed, the Scots, who once stood tall and even fought vigorously for the clan, now cede parental authority to the state. It’s all about the government’s new LGBT inclusivity guidelines, which among other things, allow young children to change their genders and names without parental consent. London’s Daily Telegraph reported that the guidelines claim students of any age can change genders. Schools must also design gender-neutral uniforms and use recommended reading lists promoting transgender inclusivity. Do you think, perhaps, any citizen who voices opposition will likely be accused of a hate crime?

We’re not Scotland, you might say, and you’re right. But, believe me, we’re not that far behind. And if you listen to our modern movers and shakers, they’re already talking about doing exactly what the Scots have done. Just a guess, but I suspect Scotland doesn’t permit home schooling.

Dr. Anthony Fauci Says Criticism of Him Is “Inexplicable”. That’s right, the ubiquitous immunologist and “live-shot” TV star, has expressed concern that some of his viewers have been criticizing him, and doing so openly, in public. This man, the highest paid federal employee, finds such criticism “inexplicable” and says everyone should realize the virus, not he, is the enemy. He said this and much more in an MSNBC interview with Joy Reid who, of course, absolutely loves the doctor. Not discussed was Dr. Fauci’s increased politicization of the “science,” all too apparent by his frequent flip-flops on almost every aspect of how we mere peasants must deal with the pesky virus. Does anyone who really matters still listen to this man? I certainly don’t, although admittedly I probably don’t matter very much. 

Here’s one more, a very sad story that should put all Americans on guard when we hear the left waxing eloquently about the glories of government-run healthcare. 

UK Government to End Life of Two-Year-Old Jewish Girl. I won’t provide a detailed report since you can read the entire story yourself, but here are the basics. This little girl, Alta Fixsler, whose parents are Israeli citizens (The father is also a U.S. citizen.), must not be kept alive by the UK’s medical authorities. This decision by the ironically named European Court of Human Rights declared her parents do not have the right to keep her alive even though treatment is available elsewhere, specifically in the U.S. and Israel. To show how the state has completely usurped the rights and authority of parents, the court stated, “Alta is not of an age, nor in a condition to have knowledge of and adopt her parents’ values.” The parents, of course, are believing, practicing Jews and want to take their child to Israel, but even this is prohibited. 

The Israeli president wrote to Prince Charles in June requesting his help for little Alta. According to Yeshiva News his letter included the following plea:

“It is the fervent wish of her parents, who are devoutly religious Jews and Israeli citizens, that their daughter be brought to Israel. Their religious beliefs directly oppose ceasing medical treatment that could extend her life and have made arrangements for her safe transfer and continued treatment in Israel. 

“I know that representations have been made to HM [Her Majesty’s] Government on this matter, but I feel that the unique circumstances warrant a personal intervention on my part to you. It would be a tragedy if these parents’ wishes could not be accommodated in a way that respects both the law and their religious beliefs.”

Back in June a large number of Republican U.S. senators requested that President Biden ask Prime Minister Johnson to help this little girl. And just last week a group of Democrat senators asked the UK ambassador to “facilitate the travel of Alta Fixsler from the UK to the United Staes, where care for her is waiting.” Senator Schumer even obtained a visa for the little girl’s travel. Wow! It looks as if little Alta Fixsler might actually have led the Senate to some form of bi-partisan agreement.

I pray for this little girl and her family, and ask the Holy Spirit, the “Lord and Giver of life” to move the hearts of those who have become so seduced by the world’s culture of death. I also pray to Blessed Margaret of Castello (if you don’t know of her, look her up) that she intercede for the sake of Alta’s life.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Pro-Abortion Voter

I keep encountering Catholics, truly an alarming number of them, who voted for President Biden last year, and have consistently voted for politicians at all levels who are unapologetically pro-abortion. 

When asked why they voted for President Biden, I received a variety of responses: "Because I despise Trump," or "Some things are worse than abortion," or "Republicans just support the wealthy and Wall Street," or "The death penalty is just as bad," or "Trump's a racist," and one of my favorites, "Joe Biden's a Catholic." None really addressed the moral theology of behind their voting decision, and I suppose that's to be expected. Most Americans vote based on habit -- "I always vote Democrat (or Republican)" -- on one or two issues that have the greatest or most direct effect on them personally, or even on their personal like or dislike of a candidate.  

I won’t dance around the issue, because it’s obvious: the vast majority of pro-abortion politicians are Democrats. That's not to say all Republicans are pro-life, because some certainly are not; but the "right" to an abortion is a solid plank in the Democrat Party's national platform. Indeed, for a Democrat politician to publicly oppose abortion -- an extremely rare event these days -- is to run the risk of censure by the party and the loss of any financial support from the party's coffers. 

Considering the Church's consistent teaching on abortion, I suppose, then, Catholic voters must answer the question: May I vote for a pro-abortion politician if I disagree with his opponent's stance on other issues? Let's see what the Church teaches on this as well.

Back in 1995, the Holy Father -- now Saint John Paul II -- wrote the following in his wonderful encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae, 73):
Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.
From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. “They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live” (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: “the midwives feared God” (ibid.).
It is precisely from obedience to God -- to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty -- that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for “the endurance and faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10).
In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it”
John Paul II went on to write:
"I repeat once more that a law which violates an innocent person's natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is not valid as a law. For this reason I urgently appeal once more to all political leaders not to pass laws which, by disregarding the dignity of the person, undermine the very fabric of society."
St. John Paul teaches us that laws permitting abortion or euthanasia are "intrinsically unjust" or, as the Church consistently teaches, "intrinsically evil." But what does this mean? Briefly, if an act is "intrinsically evil," evil is inherent to that act. In other words, the act is always evil. It is always sinful. It is never good and, therefore, never acceptable. There can be no situation, no place, and no time when it is not evil. There's no compromise here, no shading of good or evil based on the consequences of the act. Intrinsically evil acts may never be done. 

Sounds very absolute, doesn't it? And that's because it is. A lot of folks don't like to hear truths stated so absolutely. They'd much prefer to hear a softer, more malleable opinion; or even better, a bunch of opinions from which they can choose one that best corresponds to their own pliant thought. The world, of course, is more than ready to supply such opinions; but the Church is not. 

In June 2004 the future Pope Benedict XVI, who was then the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a letter to all bishops on "The Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion." It's a brief letter, well worth reading, but of particular interest is the final paragraph, words misinterpreted by many:
“A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”
Many people who vote for pro-abortion candidates use Pope Benedict's final sentence to justify their actions. The question then becomes: what exactly does it mean to be "permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons?" 

I can only assume Pope Benedict used the word, "proportionate" to mean what I've always taken it to mean: that any comparison must correspond in intensity, or amount, or size. Since abortion in our nation results in the deaths of approximately 1.5 million innocent unborn children every year, or about 6 million deaths during a presidential four-year term, "proportionate reasons" would necessarily involve something equally tragic. In truth, though, I can think of no issue germane to the 2020 presidential election that is "proportionate" to such a horrendous slaughter of innocents -- certainly no other intrinsically evil policy of such magnitude.

Interestingly, in an interview on EWTN not long before the 2020 election, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was asked if a Catholic could vote for a candidate who supports the Democrat Party's strong opposition to Church teaching on family and religious freedom. "Can a Catholic support somebody like that, much less vote for them?"

In response, Cardinal Muller stated, "We are citizens in a pluralistic state with religious freedom. I don't support a candidate in Germany because he is Catholic but because he has the right understanding of life and the basics for human rights. And it's better to vote for a good Protestant than for a bad Catholic. We must judge according to what they are doing and not only according to their words. That is biblical criteria. Look to the fruits."


Thursday, August 5, 2021

Homily: Tuesday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time (Year 1)

Note: I preached this homily a few weeks ago, but actually just winged it from a few scribbled notes. Several people asked if I could put it on the blog, so I finally got around to doing so. I think it's pretty much what I said when I preached it.


Readings: Gn 32:23-33 • Psalm 17 • Mt 9:32-38


The Gospel passage we just heard really had a lot to do with my becoming a deacon. I have to go back 40 years. I was a naval officer, in my early 30s, and our ship was in Keelung, a port in Taiwan.

On one of my days off I took the train to Taipei, the capital city, and just spent the day sightseeing. As I roamed about town, I stopped by an art gallery and bought a couple of prints, actually temple rubbings, and then found a bookstore with lots of English language books. While browsing I came across a very fancy New Testament, all leather-bound and very reasonably priced…so I bought it.

Hungry, I stopped by a restaurant for a late lunch and, sitting alone, managed to overcome the language barrier enough to order some rice and chicken and a cup of hot tea. As I waited for my food, I opened the New Testament and discovered it was in both Chinese and English – on opposite pages. I turned to the page marked by a ribbon – the final verses of Matthew Chapter 9:

"The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest" [Mt 9:37-38]

As I was mulling this over, thinking about what Jesus might have meant, a young Chinese man, probably in his early twenties, approached my little table and asked if he could, as he phrased it, "eat with me." I thought that a bit odd, since I was not only a stranger but also a foreigner, but of course I agreed.

Immediately he began to talk, telling me he was earning his degree at a local university and had to demonstrate some fluency in English. Pretty sure I was an American, he wanted to practice his English on me. He then noticed my open New Testament and asked what I was reading. When I told him it was a Gospel passage from the New Testament, he asked, "What's the Gospel? What's the New Testament?"

I told him it was about Jesus' life on earth, His teachings, and His death and Resurrection, but he looked very puzzled and asked, "Who was Jesus?" At that moment I realized the Gospel had not yet been preached everywhere, that we had not yet made "disciples of all nations."

And so, we ate and talked about Jesus. When I got up to leave, I handed him my newly purchased, fancy New Testament. You would have thought I had given him the Emperor's jewels.  You see, it was then I decided that God wanted me to do something related to that harvest Jesus told his disciples about. I just didn't yet know exactly what that work would include.

But in that moment, with those few verses, I really believe I was given a glimpse into the very Heart of Jesus, for that's what the Gospel does. By asking His disciples to pray that way He was trying to convey to them the desires of His own Heart. He wants us to see as He sees, to lay aside all our worldly desires and pursue only that which God pursues.

So often, you and I pray that God will raise up others, you know, priests, religious sisters and brothers, even deacons, but they're not the only laborers. It was over that chicken and rice in the presence of that young man that I realized "laborer" was just another word for disciple, and that's what Jesus was asking for. And that means each of and me. We are all called to go out into that vineyard for the harvest...every single one of us. We are all God's laborers.

I don't know if that Chinese-English New Testament had an impact on that young man who's probably now in his sixties. But his conversion wasn't my work. All you and I do is the little bit the Holy Spirit leads us to do. The rest, all the heavy lifting...that's God's work.

Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner

If you’ve ever been to London, you might have taken the time to visit the Speakers’ Corner at the northeast corner of Hyde Park, not far from the Marble Arch. It’s a place where a person can stand up and speak on pretty much any topic, so long as it isn’t terribly profane or overtly illegal. The latter, of course, once included very little, but no longer, as the content of free speech has been seriously limited in the UK. I suppose today it's a bit of a challenge to speak publicly on any controversial subject, particularly when your opinions challenge the prevailing dogma of the woke crowd or incite those easily incited. 

When Diane and I visited the UK back in 2013, we strolled through Hyde Park and eventually made our way to the Speakers' Corner. Diane, knowing how I love to talk, thought perhaps I might say a few words in support of the right to life or some other principle near and dear to our Christian hearts. But as we approached the famous Corner, we were shocked to find it deserted. As you can see from the photo at left, I was a speaker with no audience. Okay, there were three large dogs that seemed somewhat interested, no doubt sensing my fondness for all things canine. But their heartless and probably agnostic master dragged them off before I could utter a single sentence. One can see how dejected they appeared as they were led away.

Today I came across a news story far more troubling than my ineffective visit to the Speakers' Corner. It's a story that sheds light on the treatment Christians can increasingly expect to receive if they express their views publicly, or actually try to "make disciples of all nations."

It seems a young woman named Hatun Tash decided to say a few words at Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner in defense of Christianity. Reading about her called to mind Frank Sheed, Maisie Ward, Fr. Vincent McNabb, and other soapbox orators of the Catholic Evidence Guild who were such effective street apologists in London back in the early 20th century. I believe the league still operates as a street ministry in London, New York City, and elsewhere. (I actually wrote a post about these folks back in 2011: Want to be a Techno-Evangelist? )

Hatun Tash, an Evangelical preacher, is a convert from Islam to Christianity who left her native Turkey and emigrated to the UK. For years she spoke frequently at the Speakers' Corner because it was generally a safe, welcoming place where freedom of speech was respected. Things have certainly changed.

Because of her Muslim background, she often addresses the errors of Islam. Like any convert from Islam to Christianity she does not accept Muhammad as a true prophet. In truth, neither do I, and neither does any believing Christian I know. For this, however, she has become a target. 

In her words, "We don't live in Pakistan, we don't live in Saudi Arabia. I am Christian and by default, I believe that Muhammad is a false prophet. I should be allowed to say that in the UK...In my early days, Speakers' Corner was a much calmer place. Now it is not and I am regularly attacked by Muslim mobs." 

Several weeks prior she was arrested because her Charlie Hebdo shirt enraged some Muslims who were threatening her. She has since filed legal action against the police who it seems arrested the person being threatened rather than those threatening her.

She was wearing that same shirt on Sunday, July 29, when these attacks became brutally physical. A hooded man approached, then stabbed her and slashed her face. Fortunately she survived the attack. 

Convinced her attacker was trying to kill her, she later related, "My attacker was not even afraid of the police as he did it right in front of them." Although the police arrived within seconds of the attack, they made no arrests. The police, who apparently are completely clueless when it comes to things religious, have since stated that a motive has yet to be determined.

It obviously takes a special kind of Christian to take to the streets today and proclaim the Word of God to unbelievers. God bless them and protect them.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

A Christian Society?

So often we hear people, particularly religious people, speak of our nation as a "Christian Society." Of course, I've never heard one of these folks actually define what that means. To be fair, I suppose it's not a particularly easy thing to define. 

For example, is a Christian society simply a society in which a majority of its citizens call themselves Christians? In the United States this was certainly the case for most of its history, although I'm not sure it remains so today. Anyway, just because a citizenry calls itself Christian, doesn't mean it believes and lives the Christian faith. Such contradictions are apparent with individuals, so why not with nations as well?

Or perhaps a Christian society means the nation is governed by what we consider to be Christian principles; that is, principles based on the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus Christ. Well, if we actually examine the policies and laws of our current government at local, state, and federal levels, the presence of Gospel values seems to be rather rare. Not only are the Ten Commandments increasingly ignored, but the Beatitudes? Well...they're considered irrelevant, certainly nothing on which to base legislation.

These thoughts popped into my aging brain the other day as I re-read the Gospel according to Mark for an upcoming Bible Study session. Mark, who likely wrote the Gospel while in Rome, must have experienced first-hand the persecutions instituted by Emperor Nero. He and the Christians in Rome, who lived under the Empire's totalitarianism and the personal tyranny of Nero, suffered from a level of persecution probably not seen again until the 20th century. I suspect many of these early Roman Christians hoped for a day when the empire might actually be motivated by Christianity. 

Today we have a world in which Christianity is by far the most persecuted religion in the world, By some estimates Christians are actively persecuted in over 160 countries. And I expect this doesn't count the more subtle denigration, social exclusion, and media attacks of Christians increasingly common in the countries like our own.

True Christianity, of course, cannot abide any form of totalitarianism, an ideology  which demands complete control of all aspects of human life by the state. Here in the good ol' USA, a nation populated by those who have historically prided themselves on their love of freedom from all forms of tyranny, we are witnessing a movement toward a form of authoritarianism wielded by those who have forgotten that "we the people" are sovereign. Constitutional rights -- rights endowed by our Creator -- are considered expendable when national crises arise and push those who represent the people to the limits of their authority and capability. And so, they try to exceed both and assume essentially unlimited powers. Although freedom, once lost, is hard to regain, far too many citizens today don't seem to care. 

Some wise sage, I can't recall who, once said that when we give up our freedom we soon forget its value. Even those who regain it often find freedom too much of a challenge and let it slip away once again bit by bit. And those whom we empower? Although they publicly express a loathing of totalitarianism, they privately admit much admiration for its supposed efficiency. I guess it's just the way of the world, really nothing new, simply a symptom of a fallen, sinful people.

Last evening I turned to a volume I hadn't read in a dozen years and was struck by the wisdom of the author. The book was published in the UK in 1940. This was a  time when Great Britain was at war with Hitler's Germany and yet was also aware of the threat posed by another totalitarian state, the Soviet Union. What follows are a few pertinent passages I think worthy of sharing.

"To speak of ourselves as a Christian Society, in contrast to that of Germany and Russia, is an abuse of terms. We mean only that we have a society in which no one is penalized for the formal profession Christianity; but we conceal from ourselves the unpleasant knowledge of the real values by which we live."

Today, sadly, many in both the UK and the USA, are "penalized" for their profession of faith, especially by the technocrats who run social media, which has become perhaps our primary means of interpersonal communication. 

The author went on to write: 

"...a society has ceased to be Christian when religious practices have been abandoned, when behavior ceases to be regulated by reference to Christian principle, and when in effect prosperity in this world for the individual or for the group has become the sole conscious aim."

The author, speaking of the UK of 1940, asks if his society is still Christian simply because it had not yet become something else. He seems to believe that, yes it is, because it wasn't completely pagan. I suppose 80 years ago he was correct. Although I would disagree with his use of the word "pagan" when really we are faced with something quite different from traditional paganism. The growing tendency, at least today in the United States, is to become a-religious, which is certainly not a pagan trait. I suppose this, though, is just a matter of semantics.

The author then turns to one of my heroes, Christopher Dawson, who wrote that non-dictatorial states stand not for traditional liberalism but rather for democracy. Dawson continues "to foretell the advent in these States of a kind of totalitarian democracy." To many this would seem a contradiction, but it's not. Democracy, unchecked by constitutional limitations, inevitably becomes a dictatorship of the majority, often an emerging majority, in which minorities -- for example, Christians -- suffer persecution. 

We then read the following, which should give us pause today as we witness the rapid deterioration of our constitutional rights:

"By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of getting on to which the alternative is hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos."

As all of this happens, as Liberalism brings about its own destruction, we still "insist upon the preserves of 'private life' in which each man may obey his own convictions of follow his own whim: while imperceptibly this domain of 'private life' becomes smaller and smaller, and may eventually disappear altogether."

Where does this most easily happen? According to the author materialism is both a symptom and a cause.

"The more highly industrialized the country, the more easily a materialistic philosophy will flourish in it, and the more deadly that philosophy will be...And the tendency of unlimited industrialization is to create bodies of men and women -- of all classes -- detached from tradition, alienated from religion, and susceptible to mass suggestion: in other words, a mob. And a mob will be no less a mob if it is well fed, well clothed, well housed, and well disciplined"

And so, today many of the institutions that define our society have left neutrality behind and become openly anti-Christian. Should this trend continue, and I can think of no strictly human effort that will stop it or slow it down, eventually Christianity and Christians will be considered and treated as enemies of the state. In our author's words, the course for the Christian then becomes "very much harder, but it is simpler."

As you can see, even from the few passages I have quoted, the author was prescient in his understanding of where Western society was headed 80 years ago, and where it is today. The essay, written by the poet, T. S. Eliot, is included in the book, "Christianity and Culture." It's one of those books I turn to every decade or so just to remind me that God is in charge and that, without His guidance, humanity will make a mess of pretty much everything. I addressed only a few of Eliot's thoughts, those that set the stage for his major thesis. Read the book. You'll enjoy it.