VIDEO: In Iowa, Christians Need Not Apply!

You don’t have to be a Trump nominee to face the Christian inquisition. Just ask Iowa conservatives. The bad blood that’s turned the hearings of Mike Pompeo, Russell Vought, and Amy Barrett into anti-faith slugfests seems to be spilling over into state politics, too. And at least one military wife is out of a job because of it.

By every other measure, Katherine Asjes was “more than qualified” to join the Iowa Board of Medicine. With a strong background in hospital PR and the support of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, most people thought Asjes was a shoo-in. So, when her nomination failed to get the 33 votes she needed for confirmation, the one question most people had was: Why?

According to the liberals who opposed her, it was simple. She was too religious for the job. Critics, including liberal ringleader state Sen. Tony Bisignano, a Democrat, urged his party to reject Asjes because of a single comment she made on a Catholic World Report post. The article, “Re-Rebuilding a Bridge: The Connection between Contraception and the LGBT Community,” raised “red flags,” Democrats said.

Although Asjes didn’t write the column, she did tell the author that she agreed with it. And that single act, Bisignano insisted, disqualified her from the state’s Board of Medicine.

The governor’s office was stunned. “Senate Democrats voted down a well-qualified nominee who wanted to give her time and talents to the state of Iowa,” a Reynolds spokesperson said.

State Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican, who’d been one of Asjes’ most outspoken defenders, was outraged by the other side’s bias. “I am disgusted by what has been done,” he fumed on the floor of the Senate. “She made a comment on a blog. One comment … So we bring her down, her whole family down.” Apparently, he fired back, “Freedom of speech only works on this side of the aisle.”

For Asjes, whose husband is a NATO flight officer, the decision stung. She’s never shied away from her conservative roots, explaining that her “beliefs on marriage are in line with traditional mainstream views” and Catholic teaching. None of that, the Constitution would argue, should disqualify someone from public service. “I think that this speaks to a lack of open-mindedness and the intolerance of Democrats,” Asjes said after the vote.

For hundreds of years, we’ve been a country that’s not only been proud of our differences, but thrived off them. Now, as far as these liberals are concerned, believing as almost half of Americans do can cost you a seat at the government table.

It’s time for the left to stop penalizing people of faith. No one should be required to choose between their career and their convictions.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


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Army Chaplain Bombarded for Marriage View

Army Chaplain Scott Squires has been to battles all over the world — but he never imagined he’d be fighting his biggest one right here at home. For Squires, who’s spent 25 years serving his country, no one was more surprised than he was that the same military who hired him for his faith is now punishing him for exercising it. Turns out, some Obama-era habits are hard to break.

Like a lot of chaplains, Scott watched the military change under the last administration. He saw morale tank. He heard the unbelievable stories of airmen, sailors, and Marines who were targeted for their faith. And until Wes Modder nearly lost his job, he might have thought military chaplains were safe. Squires found out this year how wrong he was. The administration may have changed, but the intolerant attitudes of some have not.

When he was transferred to Fort Bragg last year, Squires picked up where he’d left off at other bases with the Army’s Strong Bonds program. For years, he’d been speaking at the event, trying to help soldiers develop healthier relationships in a stressful military life that’s led to some of the highest divorce rates in the country. When a lesbian couple wanted to join the marriage retreat, Scott realized he couldn’t, in good conscience, participate. So, he did what Army regulations demanded: he found another chaplain to oversee it.

Now, even though he followed Army policy, he could lose his job! To this couple, Scott’s actions weren’t an accommodation, they were “discrimination.” An official military investigation was launched — and Squires, despite his chaplain status, is being recommended for discipline! “The Army E.O. policy states that no service will be denied to any member of the Armed Service, regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation,” the report reads. “CH Squires should be reprimanded for his failure to include (name deleted) in the initial Strong Bonds Retreat.”

Asked how he was taking the news, Squires said he was “shocked.” After all, his attorneys at First Liberty point out, he was following the Army’s own policy! He couldn’t lead the session, so he found someone who could. If anything, this should be a lesson in the art of compromise. His solution accomplished the perfect balance of accommodating his faith and serving these women. Even so, he points out, “…[T]he investigator concluded that I should be reprimanded for doing something I’m required to do under Army regulations and my endorser’s rules. I hope the Army sees that I was simply following Army regulations and the tenets of my church.”

Remember when the Pentagon said religious liberty wouldn’t be a casualty of open homosexuality in the military? So do we. Unfortunately, it’s just another broken promise of the same-sex marriage movement. Now, because of the culture of hostility created in the military under Obama, the Army refuses to accept a compromise that should have satisfied everyone. But, as we should all know by now, the Left isn’t interested in coexistence. Instead, it wants to punish a father of three, who served multiple tours in Afghanistan, Africa, and the Middle East.

And of course, there’s the other piece of this, which is Chaplain Squires’s sponsoring organization: the Southern Baptist Convention. As Fox News’s Todd Starnes explains, the SBC’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) doesn’t support same-sex marriage — and its 2013 memo reiterated as much. “NAMB endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union, assist or support paid contractors or volunteers leading same-sex relational events, nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off a military installation, that would give the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle or sexual wrongdoing.” He’s not only bound by his own conviction — but the conviction of his military sponsors. And yet, this investigator thinks Chaplain Squires should be punished just for explaining his beliefs to the offended soldier!

Mike Berry, Squires’s attorney at First Liberty, can’t believe the terrible precedent this would set. “That would mean a chaplain can’t even talk about their religious beliefs without being accused of discrimination. That would strip thousands of chaplains across our military of their most basic freedoms under the First Amendment.” Something this president, who’s fought to restore religious liberty, would never stand for.

As FRC’s own Lt. General Jerry Boykin has said, “If the military wants a chaplain corps, then they have to be prepared for chaplains to be chaplains. A chaplain isn’t worth anything if he isn’t allowed to minister and counsel according to his faith. If the Army won’t allow him to be a chaplain, then he becomes nothing more than a social worker.”

If anyone should be free to exercise their faith, shouldn’t it be chaplains? It’s time for the Army to refresh its memory on a little thing called the First Amendment and reread the president’s executive order on religious liberty. Both documents ought to be all the proof they need that Chaplain Squires is guilty of nothing but doing his job. And, by all accounts, doing it well.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


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Of Truth and Idols

Pope Francis celebrated and preached at the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday morning. He addressed the concelebrating priests on the themes of the closeness of God and the closeness that priests should have to their people. This priestly closeness is “an attitude that engages the whole person.” He praised street priests“who are ‘close’, available, priests who are there for people, who talk to everyone.”

Closeness, he believes, is “the key to mercy” and “also the key to truth.” Further, “truth is not only the definition of situations and things from a certain distance, by abstract and logical reasoning. It is more than that. Truth is also fidelity (émeth). It makes you name people with their real name, as the Lord names them, before categorizing them or defining ‘their situation.’”

Then Pope Francis made a startling claim:

We must be careful not to fall into the temptation of making idols of certain abstract truths. They can be comfortable idols, always within easy reach; they offer a certain prestige and power and are difficult to discern. Because the “truth-idol” imitates, it dresses itself up in the words of the Gospel, but does not let those words touch the heart. Much worse, it distances ordinary people from the healing closeness of the word and of the sacraments of Jesus.

These words are troubling. An idol is a false god. Idolatry is rendering worship to something other than God – a grave offense against the First Commandment. Idolatry is essentially man worshipping himself through the medium of some created reality. He makes the choice of what idols are important to him. His false god is his own creation, and thus it serves him. This is the complete reversal of the true worship that man owes to his Creator.

Abstraction is the mental process by which we come to know metaphysical realities by considering those material things our reason grasps and drawing rational conclusions. By abstraction, we understand what underlies the reality before our eyes. Thus seeing individual men and abstracting from this knowledge, we come to know the category of humanity, and we begin to understand what constitutes human nature. Abstraction allows reality to reveal itself to our minds.

Truth is the conformity of mind and reality. The truth about God is understood when we accurately grasp the nature and purpose of His creation (natural theology), and when we believe in any supernatural revelation He may make. Jesus told us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. All truths have their origin in the Truth who is God made man. The Christian understands that the truth is a Person.

Dogmatic and moral truths come from and lead to God. The truth banishes error, especially idolatry, because all truth is found in the Word made flesh. What is true is good and beautiful because it unites us to the good and beautiful God. He created us so that we may know Him by knowing the truth that He is.

Given this, is it possible to make the truth into an idol? Can Catholic dogmatic teachings and the truths of the moral law become false gods that we worship so as to gain “a certain prestige and power”? It’s not possible. The truth as taught by the Church is what unites us to the true God and frees us from the errors of idolatry. Truth is not an idol, it is the remedy to idolatry.

Pope Francis states that “the ‘truth-idol’ imitates, it dresses itself up in the words of the Gospel, but does not let those words touch the heart.” Is the Gospel obscured or falsified by truths taught by the Magisterium of the Church – which are drawn from that Gospel?

If the truth could be an idol, then naturally any use of the Scriptures to illustrate that particular truth would be a charade. But the truth of God cannot be an idol because what God has made known to us is our means of entering into His reality – the goal of our existence.

Francis states that this “truth-idolatry” in fact “distances ordinary people from the healing closeness of the word and of the sacraments of Jesus.”

Here we have the interpretative key to what I think he is getting at. He is defending his decision in Amoris Laetitia to allow some people who are living in adulterous unions to receive the sacraments of penance and the Holy Eucharistic while intending to continue to engage in adulterous relations.

This doctrinal and disciplinary innovation, which contradicts all previous papal teaching and legislation, was confirmed as his unequivocal intention in his letter to the Argentinian bishops of the Buenos Aires region.

Those who defend the Church’s constant teaching and practice on this matter have been subjected to various aspersions. Now they are being categorized as engaging in a horrific violation of the First Commandment because they treat Catholic doctrine as inviolable, and thus binding upon all believers.

If truth could ever lose its quality of being the means to know the will of God, and become something false, and thus evil, then mankind is lost. Without immutable truth, we have no way to live in unity with God, with reality, and with one another.

The good news is that truth can never be false. It’s not an idol, and to defend the truth is not to lead people away from God towards false worship, but rather to invite them to embrace what is, in fact, their deepest desire for goodness, happiness, and peace.

The truth will set you free, it will not enslave you in error and darkness. Those who seek to be healed by coming close to Christ in his sacraments will only realize that goal by knowing and doing what Jesus asks of them. To reject in practice his words about the permanence of marriage and the obligation to avoid adultery, and then assert a right to receive the sacraments risks making an erroneous opinion into an idol.

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City.

EDITORS NOTE: © 2018 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own. The featured image is of His Holiness, Pope Francis [Franco Origlia/Getty Images].

The Church and Islam: Nostalgia for the Sixties

William Kilpatrick notes that many (including the pope) adhere to an outdated, multicultural view of Islam, which has lately reverted to its 7th-century militancy.

I recently received an email from a reader who took issue with my skeptical view of Islam. Between 1963 and 1965, he worked for the Peace Corps in a Muslim area of Nigeria. He came away from the experience convinced that “all people are basically the same” and “all want the same basic things.” Cultural differences, he maintained, were merely surface phenomena.

His view is common among people who came of age in the Sixties and Seventies. And, since many of our society’s controlling narratives were developed in that period, that optimistic view is still widespread. But times change, even if narratives don’t.

For example, the reality in Nigeria today is quite different from what my correspondent experienced in the mid-1960s. It no longer seems that all want the “same basic things.” In fact, many Muslims want to deny Christians some of those basics – such as the right to worship in peace, and even the right to life.

Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of Kafanchan (in northwestern Nigeria) reports that in his diocese alone: “53 villages burned down, 808 people murdered and 57 wounded, 1422 houses and 16 Churches destroyed.” Moreover, last year a report by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law revealed that 16,000 Christians had been murdered in Nigeria since June 2015.

What’s happening in Nigeria has been happening all over the Muslim world. Open Doors USA reports that globally some 215-million Christians face severe persecution, mostly at the hands of Muslims. The question is, which is the real Islam: the peaceable Islam experienced by my correspondent in the mid-Sixties or the aggressive Islam of today?

In the context of Islam’s 1,400 years of aggression, the relatively peaceful interval that began with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century seems to be the aberration. At the time my correspondent worked for the Peace Corps in Nigeria, the Muslim world was far more moderate than it is today or was in the past. The Islam he experienced was a marked departure from traditional Islam.

Some of the flavor of that period is captured in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Ali A. Allawi, a former Iraqi cabinet minister:

I was born into a mildly observant Muslim family in Iraq. At that time, the 1950s, secularism was ascendant among the political, cultural, and intellectual elites of the Middle East. It appeared to be only a matter of time before Islam would lose whatever hold it still had on the Muslim world. Even that term – “Muslim world” – was unusual, as Muslims were more likely to identify themselves by their national, ethnic, or ideological affinities than by their religion.

The face of Islam in Nigeria

In short, Muslim societies were more moderate in those days because they were moving away from Islam. As Allawi notes: “To an impressionable child, it was clear that society was decoupling from Islam. Though religion was a mandatory course in school, nobody taught us the rules of prayer or expected us to fast during Ramadan. We memorized the shorter verses of the Koran, but the holy book itself was kept on the shelf or in drawers, mostly unread.”

The more moderate Muslim world of the last century was not the result of deeper piety, but rather of increased secularization. There are still remnants of that moderation in Muslim lands, but it should be clear to anyone who is paying attention to current events that traditional, by-the-book Islam is once again ascendant. Mini-skirts are no longer worn in Tehran and Kabul as they were in the Seventies, and the hijab has made a comeback almost everywhere in the Muslim world. In other words, the process of secularization has been reversed.

The amazing thing is that much of the Western world hasn’t caught up with the changes. Why? Perhaps because the return of 7thcentury Islam undercuts the multicultural belief that all cultures share the same values. Hence, many prefer to think that the Muslim world is still much the same as it was in the days of King Farouk and the Shah of Iran – that relatively brief moment when “secularism was ascendant.”

Unfortunately, one of the important organizations that still lives in the past in regard to Islam is the Catholic Church. Many in the Church seem to think and act as though it’s still 1965, and that Nostra Aetate (which was promulgated in 1965) is still the last word on Islam.

The section on the “Moslems” in Nostra Aetate reflects the multicultural notion that cultural differences are unimportant, and that all people have the same basic desires. Thus, the writers of the document took pains to emphasize the similarities between Christianity and Islam, even going so far as to suggest that the two faiths share the same moral values.

Of course, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the radicalization that so many Muslims have undergone since 1965. But in their anxiety to preserve the Nostra Aetate “narrative” about Islam, Church leaders have found a way to get around this inconvenient fact.  Muslims who persecute and terrorize non-Muslims are said to have “distorted” or “perverted” their religion because, in the words of Pope Francis,“authentic Islam and a proper understanding of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Indeed, as recently as March 16, Pope Francis told the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that there is no link between Islam and terrorism. On other occasions, the pope had even said that the remedy for radicalization is for Muslims to go deeper into their faith, and find guidance in the Koran. That, of course, is the very opposite of Allawi’s first-hand observation that moderation is the result not of deepened faith, but of “decoupling from Islam.”

Church leaders are still clinging to a view of Islam that should have gone out with the Seventies. Unless and until they acquire a longer view of Islam, they will continue to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

William Kilpatrick

William Kilpatrick

William Kilpatrick is the author of Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West, and a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, The Turning Point Project.

EDITORS NOTE: © 2018 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

The New York Times Best-Seller List: Another Reason Americans Don’t Trust the Media

About half the American people do not believe the mainstream media tell the truth. They believe the media are more interested in promoting their left-wing views than reporting the truth.

I am, I note with sadness, a member of that half.

Here is but one more example: The New York Times best-seller list.

As a writer (who, for the record, had a previous book on that list), I have long known it isn’t a best-seller list, and I don’t pay attention to it. But I paid attention last week to see if my recently published book, which opened up on Amazon as the second best-selling book in America, was on the list. It wasn’t.

The book, “The Rational Bible: Exodus,” the first volume of a five-volume commentary on the first five books of the Bible (the Torah), was No. 2 in nonfiction on The Wall Street Journal best-seller list; No. 2 on the Publishers Weekly nonfiction best-seller list; No. 1 on Ingram, the largest book wholesaler in the country; and, according to Nielsen BookScan, the organization that tracks 75 to 85 percent of book sales, No. 2 in hardcover nonfiction.

In fact, according to BookScan, it outsold 14 of the 15 books on The New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list. But again, it is not even listed on The New York Times best-seller list.

I was told years ago that the Times best-seller list almost never includes overtly religious books. I believe it but cannot prove it. I was told the Times doesn’t even monitor Christian bookstore sales (though many Christians have bought my commentary, few of its sales thus far have been through Christian bookstores).

At least as suggestive of bias is that the No. 1 hardcover nonfiction book on The Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly lists, “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, is also not listed on The New York Times best-seller list.

Is it a coincidence that Peterson is a conservative, and that I am a conservative and my book is a Bible commentary?

In order to think it is mere coincidence, you have to believe The New York Times more than reality itself, which about half the country seems to. While the Times occasionally lists conservative books and, very rarely, religious books, after comparing the list and the BookScan list, the Observer concluded in 2016:

If you happen to work for The New York Times and have a book out, your book is more likely to stay on the list longer and have a higher ranking than books not written by New York Times employees. … If you happen to have written a conservative-political-leaning book, you’re more likely to be ranked lower and drop off the list faster than those books with a more liberal political slant.

In other words, The New York Times best-seller list is not a best-seller list—which even The New York Times once acknowledged.

In the early 1980s, William Peter Blatty, author of the monumental best-seller “The Exorcist,” sued The New York Times for only listing his novel on the list one time, even though it sold in the millions. In defending itself before the court, as reported by Book History, the annual journal of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (Penn State University Press), the Times said, “The list did not purport to be an objective compilation of information but instead was an editorial product.”

Yet when asked last year about the announcement by Regnery Publishing (my book publisher) that it was no longer referencing The New York Times in any author publicity, New York Times spokesman Jordan Cohen told the Associated Press: “Our goal is that the lists reflect authentic best sellers. The political views of authors have no bearing on our rankings, and the notion that we would manipulate the lists to exclude books for political reasons is simply ludicrous.”

According to The New York Times, it is “simply ludicrous” to question why a conservative book and a religious book, which are the No. 1 and No. 2 books, respectively, on every best-seller list other than that of The New York Times, do not even appear on the Times list.

Here’s a different view: What is “simply ludicrous” is wondering why the “fake news” charge against mainstream American media resonates with half the American people.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a columnist for The Daily Signal, nationally syndicated radio host, and creator of PragerU. Twitter: .

A Modern Day Gideon: Is President Donald J. Trump a ‘mighty warrior’ who is delivering us from evil?

 Washington Times column titled “Evangelicals, under fire, still stand by Trump” wrote:

Evangelicals have been taking quite a hit in the media for standing by President Donald Trump.

But why should they?

Simply put: Putting those of faith in a box and expecting they only support the candidates who meet the moral codes and standards imposed by the media — the morally adrift media — means they’d never vote.

And very likely, that’s exactly where the media like to see those of faith — cowering in corners, afraid to be called hypocritical for daring to stand by a politico who’s been accused of impropriety.

But the campaign’s not working.

To this day, evangelicals are still supporting Trump. [Emphasis added]

The anti-Trump media is trying to drive a wedge between those of faith and President Trump. As we pointed out in our recent column “A Wedge: An Adversary’s Most Powerful Tool“:

Divisions are used to gain power over others. Many create a division when there is none. Division is used to start wars, oppress one group, pit one group against another group. Division is the most powerful tool ever created.

The way one begins to create divisiveness is to use a wedge.

We read about wedge issues every day via the media, in newspapers, on television, in our neighborhood and within families. Wedge issues are used in politics, business, by organizations and even between religions.

Chuck Swindoll in his overview of the Book of Judges notes:

The time of the judges brought about great apostasy in Israel. The nation underwent political and religious turmoil as the people tried to possess those parts of the land that had not yet been fully conquered. The tribes fought among themselves, as well, nearly wiping out the tribes of Manasseh (Judges 12) and Benjamin (20–21).

The pattern of behavior in the book of Judges is clear: the people rebelled through idolatry and disbelief, God brought judgment through foreign oppression, God raised up a deliverer—or judge, and the people repented and turned back to God. When the people fell back into sin, the cycle started over again. [Emphasis added]

The primary message of Judges is that God will not allow sin to go unpunished

President Trump may be the modern day Gideon who delivered the Israelites from evil. In Chapters 6-8 of Judges God sends a messenger, an angel, to Gideon. God’s message is:

11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine press to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” [Emphasis added]

On November 8, 2016 Evangelicals and Americans were looking for a mighty warrior. Did God deliver Trump, a flawed man like Gideon, to save America from “the people [who] rebelled through idolatry and disbelief?” Has Washington, D.C. turned it’s back on God? Has America experienced foreign oppression?

Has God raised up a deliverer, a judge, in the most unexpected of men, Donald J. Trump?

How else to you explain his miraculous win? How else do you explain the hateful arrows slung against him?

God gave Gideon a small army of 300 to defeat the enemies of Israel. Are Evangelicals his small army?

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of President Donald Trump speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road To Majority conference in Washington, Thursday, June 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Pope Francis Apologizes for Handling of Sex Abuse Scandal

VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) – Pope Francis is apologizing for his response to a priestly sex abuse scandal in Chile.

In a letter to the bishops of Chile published Sunday, Pope Francis discussed the handling of the sex abuse cover-up scandal surrounding a prelate in Chile, Bp. Juan Barros.

For years, Bp. Barros has been accused of covering up priest sex abuse back in the 1980s. During his visit to Latin America in January, Pope Francis said that sex abuse victims were slandering Bp. Barros. During an in-flight press conference on January 18, the pope said, “The day they bring me proof against Bp. Barros, I’ll speak. There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

In Sunday’s letter, the pope apologized for the way he handled the Barros situation, writing:

As for my own responsibility, I acknowledge, and I want you to faithfully convey it that way, that I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially because of the lack of truthful and balanced information. Right now, I ask forgiveness from all those I offended, and I hope to be able to do so personally, in the coming weeks, in the meetings I will have with representatives of the people who were interviewed.

According to the translation by Catholic News Agency, the pope’s letter to the Chilean bishops invited them to come to Rome “to discuss the conclusions and the aforementioned visit and my conclusions.”

In the wake of the backlash to his remarks about Bp. Barros during his visit to Latin America, the Holy Father revived a dormant sex abuse commission to investigate the Bp. Barros scandal and to meet with the accusers.

The pope’s controversial comment in January was not the first time he spoke in defense of Bp. Barros. In 2015, Pope Francis called those who criticize Bp. Barros “dumb,” claiming they are “led by the nose by the leftists who orchestrated all of this.”

There was further controversy when Pope Francis denied receiving a letter from one of Bp. Barros’ accusers. The author of the letter, Juan Carlos Cruz, claims he was abused by Chilean priest Fr. Fernando Karadima in the 1980s. Cruz claims Bp. Barros, then just a priest, was witness to Fr. Karadima’s abuse of Cruz and did nothing about it. Cruz was a seminarian at the time of the alleged abuse.

Pope Francis claimed he never received any letters from the abuse victims, but Cruz came forward to say that he did, in fact, send a letter to the pope back in 2015.

In February this year, the Holy Father sent an investigator to meet with Cruz and hear his story. Specifically, the pope sent Abp. Charles Scicluna of Malta to meet with Cruz at a parish in  New York City.

Regarding this and other parts of the investigation, Pope Francis wrote in the recent letter to Chile’s bishops, “Now, after a careful reading of the proceedings of this ‘special mission,’ I believe I can affirm that the collected testimonies speak in a stark way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives, and I confess to you that that causes me pain and shame.”

The pope’s letter also stated, “I am writing to you … to humbly request your collaboration and assistance in discerning the short, mid and long-term measures that must be adopted to re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the goal of repairing as much as possible the scandal and re-establishing justice.”

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A Wedge: An Adversary’s Most Powerful Tool

In the world today we hear about divisions among humanity. There are those who want to promote these divisions. These include, but are not limited to, the following categories of divisions:

  • Social divisions
  • Political divisions
  • Economic divisions
  • Cultural divisions
  • Religious divisions
  • Sexual divisions

Each of these are imposed divisions. These divisions are promoted to create inequity and inequality. Divisions are used to gain power over others. Many create a division when there is none. Division is used to start wars, oppress one group, pit one group against another group. Division is the most powerful tool ever created.

The way one begins to create divisiveness is to use a wedge.

We read about wedge issues every day via the media, in newspapers, on television, in our neighborhood and within families. Wedge issues are used in politics, business, by organizations and even between religions.

Merriam-Webster defines a wedge as:

a something (such as a policy) causing a breach or separation
b something used to initiate an action or development

Who created the First Wedge?

Answer: Satan

Bodie Hodge in Answers in Genesis writes:

The first use of the name Satan is found in 1 Chronicles 21:1; chronologically, Job, which was written much earlier, surpasses thisSatan is found throughout Job 1 and 2Satan literally means “adversary” in Hebrew.

Another name appears in the Old Testament in the King James Version:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isaiah 14:12; KJV).

The first time Satan used his wedge was in the Garden of Eden when he separated man from his Creator. Satan, in the form of a serpent, caused “The Fall” of Adam and Eve. From that time on mankind had knowledge of good and evil.

What did mankind forfeit when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of wisdom? Life everlasting.

As Genesis 3 reads:

22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

What did mankind gain from eating the fruit from the tree of wisdom? Pain and suffering.

What lies between Good and Evil?

Answer: The Truth

Knowing the truth is tantamount in the fight against Satan’s wedge. It is important to use mankind’s wisdom to know the truth when Satan uses his wedge to divide us socially, politically, economically, culturally, religiously and sexually.

Satan’s wedges are the absurdities one reads, hears and learns.

Uncontested Wedges

Ayn Rand wrote:

“The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other – until one day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology.”

Uncontested absurdities have become today’s slogans. Below is list a top 20 uncontested absurdities of today:

  1. You are a racist.
  2. You are homophobic.
  3. You are Islamophobic.
  4. You are a misogynist.
  5. A male can choose to be a female and visa versa or both.
  6. The nuclear family is bad, divorce/single parenthood is good.
  7. God is dead.
  8. Islam is the religion of peace.
  9. Believing there is no religion (Atheism) is a religion.
  10. Hate speech is any speech I disagree with or that causes me to be uncomfortable.
  11. Facts no longer matter.
  12. Truth is relative.
  13. Me, Myself and I feeling good is the only thing that counts.
  14. People don’t kill people, only guns kill people.
  15. Welfare is better than work.
  16. Self defense is bad.
  17. Killing the unborn is necessary to save the planet.
  18. Communism is better than Capitalism.
  19. I need to be protected from free speech.
  20. In order to “save humanity” we must give government more power.

Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Satan lives so long as he can drive a wedge between you and me.

Can Evangelicals Save the GOP?

In an election that will almost certainly come down to turnout, there’s some genuine anxiety that Republicans won’t be able to close the midterm gap. What role will evangelicals play in that equation? A big one, some strategists say.

They were the winning ticket for Donald Trump — a 2016 base of animated churchgoers. But will they do the same for Congress’s Republicans in the midterm? Conservative leaders are worried the answer is no. In a new column for McClatchy News, a scrambling GOP thinks the evangelicals who supported Trump aren’t as motivated to save them in 2018.

They’re right to be worried. Despite majorities in the House and Senate, most pro-lifers were hoping for a bigger return on their congressional investment. The inability to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood only frustrated voters more. With just a handful of months to keep their grip on Washington, if Republicans want to convince Americans they can be trusted with the reins of government, they need to be focused on making good on promises made.

And while some in the Left-leaning media have pinned the flagging excitement on the rumors about Donald Trump’s past, the problem isn’t the president. On the contrary, I think the president is actually the key to a successful midterm election. Evangelicals are motivated by the agenda that Trump has embraced — which is, in most ways, ouragenda. If Republicans want to generate more enthusiasm, they need to point to the policy gains of the Trump administration and remind voters that the only way to protect them is to elect conservatives who will defend them.

Yesterday, I spoke to a group of Southern Baptist Convention mega-church pastors here in D.C., and I can tell you: evangelicals aren’t frustrated. They’ve watched the president restore the understanding of religious freedom in the country — which is giving pastors the ability to fulfill their calling. Like us, they understand that the way to transform the culture is by transforming lives, which is only accomplished by the gospel, and that’s given many pastors a sense of urgency. Now is the time to reach out and evangelize — to challenge people to live out their faith. I challenged the pastors to seize this moment and reminded them that the people in the pews will only be as courageous as the pastors in the pulpit.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.


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Pope Francis’ Call to Holiness

Robert Royal notes that in the pope’s new, inconsistent apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, much in Catholic tradition is well-presented.

Among the many sad consequences of the divisions Pope Francis has exacerbated within the Church, we’re now forced to live with an undeniable reality: even when he says good things – and there are many such in his new Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World”) – they inevitably get drawn into the trench warfare he helped create.

His supporters often argue that opposition to the kind of changes he made in a document like Amoris laetitia stems from something like Franciphobia, an irrational dislike. It’s true that some Catholics now show a kind of blind fury at what they believe he is doing. But for many more, as Ross Douthat explains in his must-read book To Change the Church, it didn’t have to be this way.

That’s quite evident in how Rejoice and Be Glad invokes many traditional elements of Catholic spirituality and shapes them for current use. The pope states early on that he hasn’t written a comprehensive treatise on holiness, though in his meandering and sometimes self-contradictory way, he touches – helpfully – on almost everything.

The overall aim is exactly right: “The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.”

And most of the pages that follow show ways we can all –whatever our state in life – walk that path. Pope Francis even warns near the end:

We will not admit the existence of the devil if we insist on regarding life by empirical standards alone, without a supernatural understanding. It is precisely the conviction that this malign power is present in our midst that enables us to understand how evil can at times have so much destructive force. . . .Hence, we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. . . .When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities.

Still, despite such robust warnings, many Catholics now are wary about where such papal sentiments “cash out.” And there are particular problems, some stemming from Francis’s inattention to consistency.

For example: “It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service. Everything can be accepted and integrated into our life in this world, and become a part of our path to holiness.”

Quite true, of course. But this might equally describe a problem that doesn’t much exist in the modern world – overly “spiritual” Catholics – or refer to contemplative religious orders. The Church admits of many vocations, including contemplative lives, which elsewhere in the document receive praise.

I, for one, wish the pope had put greater emphasis on the Catholic contemplative tradition, which is on a par with anything Westerners – especially young people – are seeking in Buddhism or Hinduism.

Instead, he spends pages denouncing contemporary forms of Gnostic and Pelagian heresies, which do exist. But it’s rather obvious that we should be neither too otherworldly nor worldly.

Every reader will have to judge for himself. But for me, amidst the good insights, the pope seems to be wrestling with a world that perhaps once existed, but not very much anymore. His constant pressure here and elsewhere to turn people away from “abstract” theological knowledge or an excessively individual spirituality, towards an otherwise commendable love of God and neighbor, addresses, exactly, who these days?

It would be one thing if Catholic universities, seminaries, chanceries, charities, hospitals, relief agencies, religious orders, lay groups, etc. were bursting with people rigidly and reductively clinging to bare theological formulas – as Francis often seems to suggest. The reality, as even secular commenters recognize, is that we’re living in a post-truth, profoundly chaotic world, and Church. To seek stable principles in order not to be swept away by the tsunami of secularism and heterodoxy is not “rigidity,” but sanity.

I’ve said it before, but in our circumstances, Francis’ famous “field hospital” needs doctors who have studied real medicine. Otherwise, they may have a good bedside manner, but they can’t really cure anything.

There’s more. Pro-lifers were stung early in the pontificate by his harsh language about Catholics “obsessing” and “insisting” about abortion. They will be once again upset about his own insisting: that social questions such as poverty and immigration are life issues “equally sacred” compared with violent death in the womb and at the end of life.

This version of the “seamless garment” contradicts what the Church has taught since legalized abortion became common. The numbers don’t tell the whole story, of course, but if – say – American border agents were killing 3000 people daily trying to enter the country (roughly the number of children killed daily in America in the womb) the whole world would be outraged.

Refugees, for example, should be of deep concern to Christians, but how to deal with them is a question of prudential judgments, not an absolute like the prohibition against killing innocent life.

The peoples of the world know that this is more than an argument about welcoming the stranger. All over Europe – from Britain to Poland, Scandinavia to Hungary – there is a populist backlash against easy admission of hard-to-assimilate immigrants, often not refugees fleeing war and oppression, but economic migrants seeking a better life. The United States and even Mexico police borders, like Australia, New Zealand, and every sane nation.

In spite of such questions, Catholics will benefit from reading this text. There’s much here in the tradition that it’s good to have presented anew. Besides, perhaps the greatest spiritual challenge for Catholics in the modern world is how to practice an authentic spirituality even amid division – and to find the deep spiritual resources that may help us overcome it.

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

EDITORS NOTE: © 2018 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Underestimating Christ

Bevil Bramwell OMI on meeting the true Christ, who made the world and is in it. To place Him anywhere but at the center is the gravest possible mistake.

One of the underappreciated sides of John Paul II’s teaching is something that applies to all of us. In his encyclicals Fides et Ratio and Ex Corde Ecclesiae, his overall aim was to show just how vast is the influence of Jesus Christ.

This is not influence in a cultural sense. This is influence because: “All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race.” (John 1:3, 4) This is influence, not at the level of society, but at the level of being.

The significance of this is undervalued because our culture has its roots in the anticlericalism and the anti-Christianity of the Enlightenment. Unfortunately, therefore, we often think the way the Enlightenment would want us to. To the Enlightenment, Jesus Christ was just another founder of one religion among many.

The truth, first of all, is that everything comes to be through the Divine Word of God who is Jesus. The things of Creation themselves speak of their divine origins by their beauty and truth. Then, second – and this is the light of which John spoke  – when we use our reason in a disciplined way, and allow it to be elevated by faith, we can truly learn about creatures and, even more excitingly, we begin to meet Christ more fully too.

Meeting Jesus Christ in faith draws us to Him. He is “the person” par excellence. He draws us into the best inter-personal relationship we will ever have. We get drawn into being persons in the fuller sense. In Hans Urs von Balthasar’s words: in meeting Christ, God freely “offers [us] . . . the greatest possible chance of becoming a person, of laying hold of his own substance, of grasping that most intimate idea of his own self – which otherwise would remain undiscoverable.” This is something that takes one’s whole life to appreciate.

Further, meeting Jesus Christ does not remain an individual, private experience: “[A]ccording to the laws of the communion of saints, [the individual] can offer himself to God on behalf of other people. . .by asking, suffering, and being for them.” Communion comes about through Christ taking on human nature and redeeming us. But we gain a role in this great process of redemption. He intervened in history and he empowers us to intervene too.

This communion is called the “Church.” And it is constituted by Christ. Liturgically, which does not mean theatrically, He continues to be born and lives and dies and rises again in the life of the Church, until He comes again in judgment.

But back to the notion of truth: the great truths of the faith are expressions from the mouth of Christ, in his life and in his Body, the Church. Bishops do not speak for the absent Christ. They speak Christ’s words as his presence. They do this well or badly depending on their personal abilities, the gaps in their knowledge and their sinfulness. They do it best when they use the words of Scripture, or the Tradition of the Church – guaranteed divine revelations in our world.

There is an interesting line in the Breviary about the Church only using the resources of the Church. The resource of the Church is Jesus Christ, who pours out his gifts for the enrichment of the Church including the Scriptures (the work of the divine Word) and the Tradition (Christ speaking through Liturgies and his Mediators).

I raise this point because, in a way that probably has not happened with such frequency since the times of Martin Luther, we are hearing teachings from bishops that are contrary to established doctrines. Let us be clear: this does not put Christ at issue. He is still with the Church in full-force. So catastrophic thinking like thinking Christ has left the Church is, for a Christian, simply nonsense.

If a bishop makes a statement, such as, for example, expressing the thought that some homosexual unions might be blessed (German Cardinal Reinhold Marx, recently), then he is simply speaking contrary to the Judeo-Christian Tradition. The Tradition has not changed; he has simply and erroneously departed from it.

The Church contains many people who contradict Church teaching. I meet them every day. But as a grown-up Catholic, I know that my faith does not depend on people who deny Catholic teaching. Faith is not reactive; it is an ever growing, deepening spiritual union with Christ and his Church.

A bishop who has been seduced by the politics of meaning, wherein a political constituency imagines that it can flip established teaching on its head, does not change established teaching.

Yes, teaching “develops” (in Newman’s very precise and limited sense). It develops – and there is continuity and consistency of meaning in authentic teaching over time. But Cardinal Marx’s personal view is not a development of doctrine. It is simply a sign of an individual aberration.

To think any differently is to underestimate Christ’s presence in the Church and hisability to co-exist, even with bishops who do not think very clearly. The wheat and the tares coexist until the harvest comes. But we should be in no doubt about which is which.

Bevil Bramwell, OMI

Bevil Bramwell, OMI

Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI, PhD is the former Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. His books are: Laity: Beautiful, Good and TrueThe World of the Sacraments;Catholics Read the Scriptures: Commentary on Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini, and, most recently, John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae: The Gift of Catholic Universities to the World.

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EDITORS NOTE: © 2018 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own. The featured image is the Resurrection fresco, artist unknown, c. 1320 [Church of the Holy Saviour (Chora Church), Istanbul] Now the Chora Museum.

Victory for Religious Liberty in the U.S. Air Force!

AFA urged supporters to sign a petition to reverse Obama’s hostility toward Christians in the Air Force, and the voice of AFA supporters made a difference.

Over 50,000 supporters signed the AFA petition urging Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to restore the religious liberty of U.S. Air Force Col. Leland Bohannon.

Col. Leland Bohannon was asked in May 2017 to sign a “certificate of spouse appreciation” for a retiring master sergeant in a same-sex “marriage.”

As a devout Christian, Bohannon refused to sign the document stating it would violate his religious belief of marriage being between one man and one woman. As a result, the Air Force suspended the colonel and effectively ended his career.

As a result, “Bohannon was relieved of command. Additionally, a letter sent by a superior officer recommended against Bohannon’s promotion to brigadier general, effectively ending his career.”

But Col. Bohannon’s religious liberty was restored after an appeal to the Air Force Review Boards Agency. Secretary Wilson announced Monday that the Agency ruled in favor of the religious liberty of the colonel saying:

The director [of the Agency] concluded that Colonel Bohannon had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate of appreciation for the same sex spouse of an Airman in his command. (Emphasis added.)

This is a tremendous victory for religious liberty in President Donald Trump’s administration and in the armed services. The glory for the success belongs to God alone.

Christians who work together and stand for righteousness can make a difference.

If our mission resonates with you, please consider supporting our work financially with a tax-deductible donation. The easiest way to do that is through online giving. It is easy to use, and most of all, it is secure.

Air Force Throttles back War on Faith

For combat pilot Leland Bohannon, it’s been a turbulent year. One promotion shy of his first general’s star, the Air Force colonel watched his 24-year career flash before his eyes last May when he was asked to sign a certificate of appreciation for a same-sex couple. When his religious accommodation wasn’t granted, Bohannon asked a higher-ranking officer to sign it instead. Now, months after wondering if he’d ever be able to return to the military he loved, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson gave him the answer he’d been waiting for: yes.For Bohannon, who’d been grounded, suspended, and virtually guaranteed that he’d never be promoted for his beliefs on marriage, the news of his reinstatement was almost as shocking as his temporary dismissal. As most service members understand all too well, religious hostility in the military didn’t disappear when Barack Obama did. President Trump has had to walk a long and determined road to weed out the bureaucrats still loyal to the intolerance of the last administration. And thankfully, he has leaders like Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to help him do it.

Wilson had been clear before she was confirmed: “Air Force policy must continue to ensure that all Airmen are able to choose to practice their particular religion.” This week, she proved it — vindicating Bohannon and creating an important precedent for other branch leaders to follow. As our own Lt. General Jerry Boykin points out, that was no easy task. An Equal Opportunity investigator had already determined Bohannon was guilty of discrimination, even after his request for a religious accommodation.

“When you overrule an inspector general or independent investigator, that’s a big deal,” General Boykin insisted. “That takes a lot of time and a lot of nerve. It’s very rare.” Still, Wilson had plenty of motivation to try. Eight senators had called on the Air Force to stop punishing Bohannon’s beliefs, along with House Armed Services members like Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.). In December, supporters of FRC and American Family Association piled on, giving Wilson 77,024 reasons to reconsider the attack on this airman’s faith. “We not only delivered 77,024 petitions,” General Boykin said, “we delivered a message: We will not back down from defending the religious liberty of those in the military.”

Message received. “The Air Force places a high value on the rights of its members to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all,” Wilson explained in a letter to House and Senate leaders, absolving the colonel of wrongdoing. “…Colonel Bohannon had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate of appreciation for the same-sex spouse of an Airman in his command,” the secretary went on. “The Air Force has a duty to treat people fairly and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation and (Bohannon) met that duty by having a more senior officer sign the certificate,” she concluded.

For our friends at First Liberty Institute, who represented Bohannon, it was cause to celebrate – not just for this colonel, but for the thousands of men and women who are witnessing this president’s commitment to religious liberty. “This is clear evidence that the Trump administration is helping to right the ship at the Pentagon,” attorney Hiram Sasser told Fox News’s Todd Starnes. No one should be forced to check their faith at the base’s gates.

So the next time you wonder if signing a petition or calling your congressman makes a difference, think of Colonel Bohannon. You have the power to help shape the direction of this country — use it!


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


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Paul, Apostle of Christ: Ancient Rome is a grim reflection of Today’s World

I went to see the film “Paul, Apostle of Christ.”

The film is about the Bible’s Acts of the Apostles, the second book written by Saint Luke, which serves as a sequel to the Gospel of St. John and precedes the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans in the New Testament. John Mulderig from Catholic News Service notes:

In the long history of the church, perhaps no partnership has been more consequential than that between St. Paul the Apostle and his disciple, St. Luke.

Between them, they account for at least 15 of the 27 books of the New Testament, and Luke accompanied Paul on some of the journeys during which the Apostle to the Gentiles sowed the seeds of faith across the Roman Empire.

The film dramatically presents three “F’s”: Faith in God, faith in the family and the faith in the church.

Paul, Luke and others’ of the faith in Jesus, the Son of God, are tested. The family of husband and wife Aquila and Priscilla. And finally the faith of the church community in Rome in A.D. 64 under Imperator Nero Cladius Divi Claudius filius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.

This film is relevant today. Why?

Faith in God, faith in the family and faith in the church are under siege!

Emilie Kao, Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, in a column titled “Americans Grapple With Evil Amid Decline in Religious Faith” wrote:

In 2014, a Pew study found that 23 percent of Americans considered themselves “nones” (atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular”). Sunday school, once a staple of childhood for many Americans, is becoming a thing of the past.

The one area of the supernatural that now attracts the millennial generation’s interest is the occult. Spurred on by the hyper-connected world of social media, occult trends like the Charlie Charlie game are fueling a “witchcraft renaissance.”

Obsession with the fictional horror character Slender Man even led two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin to brutally stab their classmate.

As Michelle Goldberg writes in The New York Times, “Often when traditional institutions and beliefs collapse and people are caught between cultural despair and cosmic hopes, they turn to magic.” Self-described witch Dakota Bracciale says of the collapse of traditional religions, “It left this huge vacuum, and that vacuum had to be filled with something.”

New York Magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan points to the spiritual vacuum as the source of the opioid crisis. “Even as we near peak employment and record-high median household income, a sense of permanent economic insecurity and spiritual emptiness has become widespread.”

Similarly, Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton and Princeton University economist Anne Case attribute the rising suicide rate to the declining spiritual health of white, middle-aged men. If adults are finding it harder to cling to self-control, sanity, and life itself, is it any wonder that an unprecedented number of youth are finding it harder and harder to get through their teenage years?

Professor emeritus of psychology at New York University Paul Vitz attributes teens’ skyrocketing anxiety, self-harm, suicides, and school shootings to their poor spiritual health. Despite being born into a world with more material comforts and mental health resources than ever, the next generation seems increasingly drawn toward self-destruction.

Vitz observes that without belief in objective truth, goodness, and beauty, including the belief that they are created in the image of God, the next generation clings to external sources of identity: social media, sexual experiences, and material possessions.

In a sea of ever-changing cultural and social trends, such flimsy sources of meaning can predictably leave some of them bewildered and overwhelmed. “Countless young people … feel there is nothing for them to believe in,” he writes. “Emotional numbness is one of the consequences. They … no longer find self-worth in their efforts to lead lives based on truth and love.”

Vitz proposes that Americans re-examine the value of faith and its power to help people live happier, healthier, and longer lives. [Emphasis added]

Ancient Rome is a reflection of the world today

As it was during the time of Nero we see history repeating itself. Christians are still being persecuted. Families are still being tested by the evils in the world outside. People are still being crucified and burned alive. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, children and the unborn are being slaughtered globally. Hate and revenge have replace love and compassion in the hearts of mankind.

But their is an answer. An answer that has always been there for mankind. Kao ends with this, “Sullivan writes that our country will not overcome its demons until we resolve the deeper problems that have led to the breakdown of faith, family, and community.”

The answer is FAITH in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the message given in “Paul, Apostle of Christ.”

As George Michael said in the lyrics to his hit song “Faith”:

‘Cause I’ve gotta have faith
Unh I gotta faith
Because I gotta to have faith, faith, faith
I gotta to have faith, faith, faith

Faith in God and in his son Jesus. Faith in our family and finally faith in the Church, which resides in the hearts and souls of each of us.

EDITORS NOTE: Below is a map of the four journeys of St. Paul as he spread the word of Jesus to the four corners of the earth.

Americans Grapple With Evil Amid Decline in Religious Faith

Blaise Pascal once described a “God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man.” But in modern-day America, few statements can raise eyebrows more swiftly than expressing faith in the transcendent.

From Joy Behar mocking Vice President Mike Pence as mentally ill for believing that God guides him, to former President Barack Obama ridiculing “bitter” people who cling to guns or religion, the “enlightened” claim to have progressed past the simplistic explanations of those who still believe in the existence of good and evil.

In a world where we can drive vehicles, communicate globally, and change the temperature of our homes with the touch of a finger, it is easy to believe that we have mastered our physical environment. Yet we are stumped when the age-old problem of evil rears its ugly head.

It’s no surprise, then, that in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, we fixate on a material solution—gun control—to solve what we assess as a material problem.

But what if the problem is much deeper than raising the gun-buying age by a few years or making it harder to get certain types of guns? What if the roots of the problem are actually internal and moral, and even spiritual?

Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz told investigators that the voices of devils told him to shoot his classmates. To those who believe in Freudian explanations of violence, his confession is a mere smoke screen for psychological problems. And, for a growing number of Americans, Cruz’s statement is simply irrelevant because the transcendent is nonexistent.

In 2014, a Pew study found that 23 percent of Americans considered themselves “nones” (atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular”). Sunday school, once a staple of childhood for many Americans, is becoming a thing of the past.

The one area of the supernatural that now attracts the millennial generation’s interest is the occult. Spurred on by the hyper-connected world of social media, occult trends like the Charlie Charlie game are fueling a “witchcraft renaissance.”

Obsession with the fictional horror character Slender Man even led two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin to brutally stab their classmate.

As Michelle Goldberg writes in The New York Times, “Often when traditional institutions and beliefs collapse and people are caught between cultural despair and cosmic hopes, they turn to magic.” Self-described witch Dakota Bracciale says of the collapse of traditional religions, “It left this huge vacuum, and that vacuum had to be filled with something.”

New York Magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan points to the spiritual vacuum as the source of the opioid crisis. “Even as we near peak employment and record-high median household income, a sense of permanent economic insecurity and spiritual emptiness has become widespread.”

Similarly, Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton and Princeton University economist Anne Case attribute the rising suicide rate to the declining spiritual health of white, middle-aged men. If adults are finding it harder to cling to self-control, sanity, and life itself, is it any wonder that an unprecedented number of youth are finding it harder and harder to get through their teenage years?

Professor emeritus of psychology at New York University Paul Vitz attributes teens’ skyrocketing anxiety, self-harm, suicides, and school shootings to their poor spiritual health. Despite being born into a world with more material comforts and mental health resources than ever, the next generation seems increasingly drawn toward self-destruction.

Vitz observes that without belief in objective truth, goodness, and beauty, including the belief that they are created in the image of God, the next generation clings to external sources of identity: social media, sexual experiences, and material possessions.

In a sea of ever-changing cultural and social trends, such flimsy sources of meaning can predictably leave some of them bewildered and overwhelmed. “Countless young people … feel there is nothing for them to believe in,” he writes. “Emotional numbness is one of the consequences. They … no longer find self-worth in their efforts to lead lives based on truth and love.”

Vitz proposes that Americans re-examine the value of faith and its power to help people live happier, healthier, and longer lives.

In the wake of Parkland, local leaders are seeking to restore a sense of the transcendent. Legislators in Florida introduced a bill to put the national motto “In God We Trust” into classrooms and administrative buildings. Democratic state Rep. Kim Daniels said, “The real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart. … We cannot put God in a closet when the issues we face are bigger than us.”

Rabbis from the Parkland community urged Florida Gov. Rick Scott to reinstate a moment of silence in schools. Educators at an elementary school in Brooklyn found that it enriched students’ lives and their relationships with each other.

“Our students required new ways of dealing with emotions and crisis, [they] needed the time and an outlet that would provide an opportunity to understand the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of their experiences,” one administrator said. School officials observed the students became more introspective and developed greater appreciation, empathy, and understanding of their peers.

neighbor of the Parkland shooter said, “He was dealing with something dark. I just didn’t know what.” Many Americans can still recognize that there are forces of good and evil in the world that cannot be simply controlled through technology or psychology.

But as elites show increasing hostility to faith and regular Americans eschew traditional religious and moral frameworks, we may become increasingly blind to this dimension.

Sullivan writes that our country will not overcome its demons until we resolve the deeper problems that have led to the breakdown of faith, family, and community.

Note: This article has been updated to correct the year and percentage of Americans who in one poll said they were atheist, agnostic, or “nothing at all.” The percentage was 23 percent and the survey was taken in 2014.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Emilie Kao

Emilie Kao is director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: .

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A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of Parents and students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, mourning the deaths of their friends. (Photo: Orit Ben-Ezzer/Zuma Press/Newscom)