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.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Dark Side of the Enlightenment – Wall Street Journal

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.

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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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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)

Eye for an Eye: One of the Greatest Ideas in Human History

Nowadays, many people, particularly those living in Western civilization, no longer regard their society as morally superior to any other. In this video, Dennis Prager lays out how this view does not spring from intellectual rigor, but from intellectual laziness.

EDITORS NOTE: Dennis Prager’s new book, The Rational Bible, is now available.  Order today.

What’s Wrong With Hailing Mary Magdalene as a Biblical #MeToo Poster Child

In a story distributed for Good Friday, the Associated Press claims Mary Magdalene was a biblical “Me Too” figure who was “long maligned” by the West.

The story, filed from Israel with the headline “Long-maligned Mary Magdalene now seen as stalwart disciple,” asserts that Magdalene was not a reformed prostitute but rather a “strong, independent woman” who supported Jesus.

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The article also conflates the virtues of Magdalene’s figure with the “Me Too” movement. This latest iteration of U.S. feminism uses the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter and other social media to publicize the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in the wake of the exposure of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.

“If there’s a feminist figure from the Bible for the #MeToo era, it could very well be Mary Magdalene,” the article reads.

The claim that Western churches have maligned Magdalene is dubious at best, however.

The article’s authors, Alon Bernstein and Isaac Scharf, posit that Pope Francis’ 2016 promotion of the Catholic Church’s June 22 Magdalene memorial to a major feast day was “the biggest step yet to rehabilitate” her image.

The Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican churches, however, revered Magdalene as a saint long before that promotion.

The AP story asserts that the feast day proclamation helped rehabilitate Magdalene’s image from Pope Gregory the Great’s incorrect 6th-century assertion that Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the sinful woman accused of adultery whom Jesus saved from being stoned to death were all the same person.

Arguments to the contrary, though, are hardly new and began with the Scriptures themselves.

The Gospels of Luke and Mark record that Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene. She subsequently joined a group of women whom Jesus also “cured of evil spirits and diseases.” These women, “out of their own means,” chose to follow Jesus and support him and other disciples.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John all record Magdalene as the first witness to the aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection—which Christians celebrate at Easter—and the first to report it to other followers.

The Gospel of Luke recounts that Magdalene was among the first group of witnesses to the empty tomb, all of them women.

The Gospel of John identifies the woman as Mary, who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume and washed his feet with her tears. She was the sister of Martha and of Lazarus, whom Jesus brought back to life.

Pope Gregory conflated the sinful woman mentioned in Luke with the Mary who anointed Jesus with perfume in the Gospel of John because the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke identify Jesus’ anointer only as a “sinful woman.”

Gregory then conflated this composite of the sinful woman and Mary of Bethany with Mary of Magdalene, according to his belief that the seven demons Jesus cast out of her represented the seven vices. Apparently, in all of biblical Israel, there could be only one sinful woman mentioned in Scripture.

Gregory’s incorrect teaching on Magdalene persisted in the Catholic Church until 1969, when the church clarified that Magdalene was not actually a reformed prostitute or the same woman as the one accused of adultery in Luke.

Some scholars believe Mary Magdalene to be Luke’s woman accused of adultery. To say, however, that calling her a reformed prostitute maligns her character is to misunderstand Christian beliefs and Christ’s teachings as recorded in Scripture.

Scripture first introduces Mary Magdalene as a woman possessed by seven demons. Which is worse: to have seven entirely evil spiritual entities possess you, or to be a reformed prostitute?

That is a mandatory question to be asked when considering whether conflating Mary Magdalene with the reformed prostitute maligns her character. The Jesus of Scripture never asks that question or considers which person is more broken.

In the case of the alleged adulterous woman, Jesus did not condemn her. Rather, he rebuked the Pharisees who called for her to be subjected to violent judgment for her perceived sin.

In the case of the Mary who anointed Jesus with perfume, Jesus rebuked those who saw her only as a sinner wasting the precious liquid. What she did for him was a beautiful thing, Jesus said.

No woman or man in Scripture who comes into contact with Jesus is shown to be without sin. The point in their recorded stories never is to elevate them as people considered saintly because of their own virtues. In other words, see them as broken men and women made righteous as a result of Christ’s forgiveness.

In that light, it hardly matters whether Mary Magdalene was a reformed prostitute or a healed demoniac or both, so long as the power of Christ’s transformation of her life was made evident.

Were Mary Magdalene an actual prostitute, she would have stood in good company.

Rahab, an Old T­­­­­­­­­estament prostitute from the city of Jericho, not only hid Joshua’s spies from harm and aided the Israelites in their conquest of the biblical Promised Land, she was also one of only five women to be listed in Jesus’ genealogy. Rahab was held up as an example of righteous faith in the New Testament books of James and Hebrews.

As for Mary Magdalene’s being a figure of fourth-wave feminism—a movement that rejects male authority over a woman’s life and gave rise to “mansplaining”—the idea is ludicrous.

Mary Magdalene spent her life following Jesus, whom Christians believe was fully man and fully God. Magdalene submitted herself to his teachings and authority, and worshiped him as God.

She is, however, a radical example of the equal value the Christian God bestows on women and men—given she was one of the first people to witness and report Jesus’ resurrection, in a time and culture where society valued the word of a woman less than that of a man.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Joshua Gill

Joshua Gill is the religion reporter for The Daily Caller News Foundation. He is a former member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: .

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of “Mary Magdalene at the Tomb of Christ,” by Artemisia Gentileschi circa 1620, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. (Photo: Fine Art Images/Newscom)

The Controversy of the Cross

The latest episode of controversy over the public display of a cross was argued in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals when the full court upheld an earlier ruling declaring the 40-foot-tall cross, known as the Peace Cross, as unconstitutional. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, the memorial will have to come down.

The Peace Cross has stood in Prince George’s County, Maryland for nearly 100 years as a tribute to the 49 WWI veterans of the county who died during the war. The monument bears their names on the base along with the words “Valor,” “Endurance,” “Courage,” and “Devotion.” But in the growing tide of attacks on public symbols connected with Christianity, the American Humanist Association sued to have the cross removed, claiming the Latin cross is a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

In their 8-6 decision, the court agreed with the atheists, saying the cross is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. Hopefully, this is not the end of the matter — and our friends at First Liberty, who are representing the American Legion in this case, will be able to make a case for the Peace Cross at the Supreme Court.

This ongoing conflict over the cross shouldn’t surprise us in the least. After all, there’s a reason that the cross is controversial. The cross symbolizes both the condemnation we are all under because of our sin, but at the same time, it offers the cure for sin.

Jesus spoke to both the purpose and the power of the cross in John 12:32, as He was eluding to His pending death on the cross, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself.”

Like the brass serpent that God instructed Moses in Numbers 21 to lift up in the wilderness, Christ is the cure for the condemnation our sin has brought upon us. The brass serpent, the divinely designed healing for those bitten by the snakes that were unleashed on the people because of their sin against God, was lifted up so that no matter where one of the children of Israel may have been in the camp, they could look up in faith and be healed. This elevation of the healing standard was a visual display of God’s mercy and grace.

In like manner, Christ was lifted up on the cross — and for those who will by faith, look up, they will, by God’s grace, find not the temporal deliverance from the physical death of a snake bite, but the deliverance from the consequence of sin, eternal damnation.

The cross is controversial because it is the path to peace. It was through the cross, Paul said, that Jesus “reconcile[d] all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

While the humanists and atheists fail in the majority of their challenges to the public display of religious symbols like the cross, don’t expect the conflict to subside. In fact, expect it to intensify as a spiritually darkening world sees the message of the cross as foolishness. Meanwhile, we must cheerfully and optimistically contend for the cross, lifting its message high, for it is in the cross that we see the power of God.


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


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Urge Jesuit College to Stop Teaching ‘Drag King’ Blasphemy Against Our Lord

“See if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow” (Lamentations 1:12)

TFP Student Action in an email reports:

Your attention is vital because the theology program at the Jesuit-run College of the Holy Cross is teaching out-and-out blasphemy to its undergraduates.

According to The Fenwick Review, Prof. Tat-Siong Benny Liew, Chair of New Testament Studies, is attacking Our Lord with the vilest claims:

Blasphemy #1:  Prof. Liew attacks the sacred manhood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, claiming that He was a “drag king.”

Blasphemy #2:  Prof. Liew twists the Gospel of Saint John, claiming that Our Lord was an impure “cross-dresser” who had “queer desires.”

Blasphemy #3:  Prof. Liew eroticizes the Passion and Crucifixion of Our Lord.  As the chair of the College’s primary New Testament class, Prof. Liew uses unrepeatable language to attack the holy purity of Jesus and His Apostles.

Call for Prof. Liew’s removal.

Urge the College of the Holy Cross to apologize.

Please sign and share this peaceful protest.

TFP Student Action asks that you contact Holy Cross directly with polite firmness:

Fr. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.
President, College of the Holy Cross
Fenwick Hall 119
P.O. Box PRES
Worcester, MA 01610-2395
Phone (508) 793-2525
Fax (508) 793-2347

CLICK HERE TO SIGN A PETITION TO JESUIT COLLEGE

ABOUT TFP STUDENT ACTION

Networking with thousands of students and concerned parents, TFP Student Action defends traditional moral values on college campuses. Inspired by the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, TFP volunteers are on the front lines of the culture war, working to restore the values of Christian civilization.

TFP Student Action networks with college students on more than 719 college campuses and tackles hot-button issues that are at the forefront of the moral and cultural debate of the day. Volunteers frequently travel to campuses across America to distribute pro-family literature, sponsor talks, defend the unborn and stand up for true marriage.

Politics from the Pulpit: Silence is NOT an Option [video]

In February 2017, at his first National Prayer Breakfast address after taking office, President Donald Trump vowed “to get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.”

The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code, since 1954, which reads:

(3) Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

Liberty Council has put together the below video explaining how pastors, priests, rabbis and imams can use their pulpits to address political issues without consequence or loss of their non-profit status.

ABOUT LIBERTY COUNSEL

Liberty Counsel is a Christian ministry that proclaims, advocates, supports, advances, and defends the good news that God in the person of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins and offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who accept him as Lord and Savior. Every ministry and project of Liberty Counsel centers around and is based upon this good news, which is also referred to as the gospel. Liberty Counsel is a corporate expression of Christian believers who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and join together in regular prayer, study of the Bible, praise and worship. Liberty Counsel has a Doctrinal Statement and a Worldview Statement affirmed by every employee, staff member, and person who works for or represents the ministry.

We believe every person is created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect. We believe that discourse should be civil and respectful. We condemn violence and hatred and do not support any person or group that advocates or promotes violence or hate. Learn more.

Polish Priest prays for the ‘happy death’ of Pope Francis

Pope Francis is the most controversial Holy See in modern history. The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church and his duty is to uphold the tenants of the Holy Bible.

Many question weather Francis is the Pope or a politician.

Most recently in The Telegraph column titled “Polish priest wishes Pope early death over call for Catholics to take in Muslim refugees” 

Father Edward Staniek, a parish priest in the southern city of Krakow, had apparently been angered by the pope’s call for Catholics to take in Muslim refugees because it was their Christian duty.

In a sermon delivered last month Father Staniek said: “I pray for the Pope in his wisdom to open his heart to the Holy Spirit, but if he does not, I pray for his quick departure to his Father’s house. I can always ask God for a happy death for him because a happy death is a great grace.”

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis and Saint Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis and his namesake Saint Francis of Assisi have totally opposite views on Islam.

In a column titled “PBS Broadcasts Crusade Myths & Falsehoods” Andrew E. Harrod writes this about Saint Francis of Assisi:

Francis’ behavior exemplified the common practice of his order in which friars often sought martyrdom by direct rhetorical challenges to Islam. Reflecting the negative judgment of Catholic saints upon Islam throughout history, Francis in Rega’s book tells the sultan that “if you die while holding to your law [sharia], you will be lost; God will not accept your soul.” As Notre Dame University Professor Lawrence Cunningham has observed, Francis “saw himself and his friars as Knights of the Round Table fighting a spiritual crusade.” [Emphasis added]

Saint Francis of Assisi sounds more like President Donald J. Trump than Pope Francis. President Trump during his Speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit said:

Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED. [Emphasis added]

Perhaps it is time for Pope Francis to emulate his namesake when it comes to Islam or pass on the miter of the Holy See? Certainly Father Staniek prays that this comes to pass.

As George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Are We Bad or Good by Nature?

NOTE: The Catholic Thing is sad to report that one of our frequent contributors, Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a remarkable man and priest, died this past week after a long bout with cancer. You can read about his life and many accomplishments here. He will be greatly missed. – Robert Royal


David Carlin asks: If we are naturally good, what’s the point of Salvation? We’re fallen creatures in need of repentance, of St. Augustine not Rousseau.

Catholics have offered conflicting explanations for the decline of American Catholicism over the last half-century or so.

Catholics of the “left” say the Church has remained too attached to a traditional, individualistic morality that places an exaggerated stress on sexual purity and abortion while neglecting social justice concerns. From this point of view, we should be less concerned about the chastity of our sons and daughters and more concerned about their compassion for poor people, for racial and ethnic minorities, for gays and lesbians, and for anyone who is suffering oppression.

Catholics of the “right,” of course, say just the opposite. They say the Church in America has become too tolerant of sexual impurity and abortion and has grown too enthusiastic about a compassion that isn’t so much Christian compassion as it is the compassion agenda of anti-Christian secularists.

Both those of the left and those of the right have been critical of our Catholic bishops. Those on the left find fault with bishops for having too little commitment to social justice, while those on the right fault the bishops for showing too little commitment to old-fashioned Catholic virtue.

Those on the right are divided in their opinion of Pope Francis. Most have the traditional Catholic reverence for the Vicar of Christ, an exaggerated reverence that almost believes that a pope can do no wrong and can make no mistakes. More than a few on the right, however, have their doubts about Pope Francis. They suspect that he may be undermining Catholic doctrine on sexual morality. They suggest, for instance, that in Amoris Laetitia he has given a green light to adultery in certain hard cases. And they fear that he is too “soft” on homosexuality.

Those on the left, while not perfectly happy with Pope Francis (after all, he has not recommended the priestly ordination of women and gays, and has not said that he will nullify the ancient ban on contraception), are generally pleased with him. They particularly like his concern with global warming – an indication that he’s willing to come out of the Middle Ages and deal with present-day problems. And they like his humility, his democratic touch.

I myself am of the right, but I think our rightist explanations for the decline of the Church in America (and in Canada and Europe too) don’t go deep enough. I think our fundamental problem is that we are living in a modern world characterized by a repudiation of Augustinianism. By “Augustinianism,” I have in mind St. Augustine’s teaching (something he derived from St. Paul) that human nature is corrupt, radically sinful; and has been so ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve.

We are afflicted by Original Sin. If we occasionally behave in a non-sinful manner, and if some few people (the saints) behave habitually in a non-sinful manner, this is because of the grace of God, which is a countervailing force to the power of our corrupt nature. For a moment at least, and much longer and more habitually in the case of saints, the power of grace overrides and nullifies the power of sin. And lo! We do a genuinely good deed.

This Augustinianism was the prevailing Christian view throughout the European Middle Ages. The Renaissance, with its feeling for the human potential for greatness, tended to undermine this view. But the Protestant Reformation, which was just as much an anti-Renaissance as an anti-Catholicism movement, strongly re-asserted the Augustinian view of human sinfulness.

Scholars may dispute whether or not Luther and Calvin had a precisely correct understanding of Augustine; but in intention at least, nobody has ever been more Augustinian than those two leading Protestant reformers. As Hamlet said that actors often “out-Herod Herod,” so we may perhaps say that Luther and Calvin “out-Augustined Augustine.”

The beginning of the end of Augustinianism came in the 18th century as people, especially up-to-date people who wrote books, gradually came to believe that human nature, so far from being bad, is basically good. The writer who most famously and effectively expressed this view was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Ironically, Rousseau was a native of Geneva, the very city in which Calvin had been a kind of religious dictator two centuries earlier.

The triumph of anthropological optimism (as Rousseauism may be called) over anthropological pessimism (or Augustinianism) didn’t happen overnight. It was a long and gradual process. But by now, the early 21st century, it is pretty nearly complete.

It has led almost everywhere to the triumph of the idea of democracy (if not always actual democracy); for if we are good by nature we can be trusted to govern ourselves. It has led to the universal spread of capitalism; for if we are good by nature, our passion for wealth must be good. It has led to the sexual revolution; for if we are good by nature, we can give free rein to our sexual impulses.

But if we are good by nature, what’s the point of Christianity? Christianity is a religion of salvation. Salvation from what? From sin. But if we have no sin, at least no sin deeply rooted in our nature, who needs Christianity? Who needs the suffering and death of Jesus? What need is there for the Atonement?

Just as Augustine explained virtue by saying that grace overrides the wickedness of our fallen nature, so Rousseau explained vice by saying that the badness of society overrides the goodness of our nature. What we need, then, on the Rousseauvian view, is social reform or revolution. Straighten out society, and we’ll all be happy and prosperous and good.

On the Augustinian view, what we need is repentance for our sins, and we’ll be happy and prosperous and good when we reach heaven.

Catholics of the right are basically, whether they realize it or not, Augustinians; and Catholics of the left, whether they realize it or not, are basically Rousseauvians.

David Carlin

David Carlin

David Carlin is professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.

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 titled The Garden of Eden (English, artist unknown), c. 1575 [The Met, New York] The embroidery (approximately 18 ft. x 6 ft.) is on velvet.

No Way Out

Anthony Esolen writes that the Church must not instruct us how we can be comfortable with sin. We must not nibble at the bad fruit.

I’m meditating on the most recent debacle at my old place of work, Providence College. A young man has been harassed (crowds outside of his room several nights in a row, so that he couldn’t brush his teeth in peace; campus-wide condemnation; a demonstration approved by the school’s authorities) and threatened with anal rape (in an obscene cartoon on his bathroom mirror, which met with a shrug from the authorities), for affirming on a bulletin board the truth and beauty of marriage according to nature, the Church, and Jesus Christ. The administration, far from protecting him, has given aid and comfort to the wolves.

The Women’s Studies Program has howled, which is predictable, but predictably insane, because what’s obvious to anyone with eyes is that the sexes are made for one another. People used to say that a certain private vice made you go blind. Politicization of everything is a public vice. It fogs up the brain. In this case you can’t even see the birds and the bees aright. The birds evidently don’t build nests. They build prisons. The bees don’t make honey. They make belladonna.

The Board of Multicultural Student Affairs has gathered for the kill, which is also predictable, and predictably incoherent, because until two minutes ago, and still everywhere in the world outside of the exhausted post-Christian West, the people of every single culture, in all climates, from all language groups, of all races, at all stages of technological development, have taken for granted that marriage means a man and a woman. Replace the “multi” with “uni” or “non” and you will hit the mark.

They have all bowed down with awful reverence prone before the sexual revolution. And the administrators of the college, peeking up and glancing at a crucifix dangling crooked on a wall, now ask how they can “go forward” in charity from the controversy, welcoming into their midst people of all manner of sexual self-identifications, affirming those identifications, yet somehow managing to keep their Catholic identity.

Lots of luck with that. Belial too is a jealous god.

At the end of what he intended as a prophetic work, Eros and Civilization, Herbert Marcuse called for an irreversible detachment of sexual mores from the structures, the instincts, and the teleological orientation of the organs of the body male and female, so that libido would be liberated not just for the genitals but for the whole person.

We needn’t worry that such liberation would sink us in the mire. It would no longer be as Shakespeare puts it, that “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame / Is lust in action.” In the brave new world of total libido, man would be transformed: he would be washed bright and clean on the sexual heights.

I am reminded of the serpent in Paradise Lost, suggesting to Eve that if the forbidden fruit made a rational creature out of a beast, who knows what it will do for man? We shall soar beyond civilization and its discontents, Marcuse says. “Let the sun shine in,” sang the Fifth Dimension. “Polymorphous perversity,” as Marcuse called it, would free us in the body and from the body.

If you buy the principle that Marcuse is selling, you buy all that the principle entails. You buy the weird extra-corporeal notion of the self, using the body as an instrument for pleasure. You buy fornication, since sexual activity is no longer considered as the child-making thing, and thus to be limited to – and fostered within – the haven of marriage.

You buy abortion, since pregnancy, which implies the health of the reproductive organs, is considered a dis-ease, an atavistic survival from the times when knuckle-dragging men haled their women by the hair and made them big with babies, in caves.

You buy the “liberation” of children from their innocence, since that is considered no longer as innocence but as repression.

You buy easy divorce, and pornography, and all the consensual works of self-abuse, sadism, and treachery.

You buy a world in which men and women no longer know what they are, and in the confusion they do plenty of bad things to one another, not all of them with malice aforethought.

The Church is in this world, but she is not to be of it. She may not say to those who sacrifice children to Moloch that they should reduce the number of their victims. She may not say to those who fornicate that they should do so with good taste. She may not say to someone in the grip of confusion that he should cut off only one of his testicles.

She may not say, to take a case that will apply to but a single person out of ten million, that you should not put away your husband or wife and take up with another, but if you do, the adultery wears off after a while, especially if you remain a part of the mangled lives of your children.

I’m a sinner. I don’t want the Church to show me how I can be comfortable with my sins. I want the damned things out. All the deadlier is the principle of sin. The principle of the sexual revolution is a lie. Its root is in hell.

The tree has borne terrible fruit. We must evangelize those who still believe that they dwell in an orchard of knowledge, and that the fruit is pleasing and apt to confer wisdom. We must evangelize in charity. Jesus commands us to do so. But we must not nibble at the bad fruit. We must not celebrate the bad fruit. We must not give out the bad fruit in the cafeteria. We must not shade the Church with trees bearing the bad fruit. We must not squeeze the bad fruit for Eucharistic wine.

We go forward by being just in our principles, and then we minister to sinners, ourselves and everyone else. Nothing else will do.

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. His latest books are Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. He directs the Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts.

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.

PODCAST: Call to ‘Save the Persecuted Christians’

THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN ADDRESS | Prepared Remarks by Frank J. Gaffney

The Queens Village Republican Club | New York, New York | 18 March 2018

It is one of the greatest honors of my life to be asked to deliver the 143rd annual Abraham Lincoln Address to the Queens Village Republican Club. I want to start by expressing my deep appreciation for being afforded this opportunity to pay tribute to a man I admire more than virtually any other, to be allowed to join thereby the distinguished company of others who have done so with you in the past and, most especially, to be afforded approximately eight minutesmore for this purpose as President Lincoln took to make his immortal remarks at Gettysburg!

Of Abraham Lincoln’s many admirable attributes, two are particularly relevant to our own time: One, he led our nation through a tumultuous and costly civil war that pitted American against American, that led to the deaths of over 600,000 of us and that threatened to destroy our Republic. And two, he emancipated people enslaved for the color of their skin.

If Abe Lincoln were alive today, I believe he would perceive something that has yet to dawn on most of us. Our nation is once again in the midst of a civil war, albeit it an undeclared and, to date, largely non-violent one.

As it happens, just this morning, I received an email from a distinguished veteran of our special operations community. In it, he shared an analysis attributed to a man I do not know by the name of David Vincent Gilbert. I found it to be a profoundly troubling, yet quite insightful depiction of the state of our polity and its future that suggests we may be in the greatest trouble domestically since Lincoln’s day. Permit me to share with you a few of Mr. Gilbert’s observations:

  • “How do civil wars happen? Two or more sides disagree on who runs the country. And they can’t settle the question through elections because they don’t even agree that elections are how you decide who’s in charge.”
  • “That’s the basic issue here. Who decides who runs the country? When you hate each other but accept the election results, you have a country. When you stop accepting election results, you have a countdown to a civil war.”
  • “The Mueller investigation is about removing President Trump from office and overturning the results of an election. We all know that. But it’s not the first time they’ve done this. The first time a Republican president was elected this century, they said he didn’t really win. The Supreme Court gave him the election. There’s a pattern here.”
  • “What do sure odds of the Democrats rejecting the next Republican president really mean? It means they don’t accept the results of any election that they don’t win. It means they don’t believe that transfers of power in this country are determined by elections. That’s a civil war.”
  • “There’s no shooting. At least not unless you count the attempt to kill a bunch of Republicans at a charity baseball game practice. But the Democrats have rejected our system of government.”
  • “This isn’t dissent. It’s not disagreement. You can hate the other party. You can think they’re the worst thing that ever happened to the country. But then you work harder to win the next election. When you consistently reject the results of elections that you don’t win, what you want is a dictatorship. Your very own dictatorship.”
  • “The only legitimate exercise of power in this country, according to Democrats, is its own. Whenever Republicans exercise power, it’s inherently illegitimate. The Democrats lost Congress. They lost the White House. So what did they do? They began trying to run the country through Federal judges and bureaucrats. Every time that a Federal judge issues an order saying that the President of the United States can’t scratch his own back without his say so, that’s the civil war.”
  • “It’s not a free country when FBI agents who support Hillary take out an ‘insurance policy’ against Trump winning the election. It’s not a free country when Obama officials engage in massive unmasking of the opposition. It’s not a free country when the media responds to the other guy winning by trying to ban the conservative media that supported him from social media. It’s not a free country when all of the above collude together to overturn an election because [of] the guy who wasn’t supposed to win.”
  • He concludes: “Have no doubt, we’re in a civil war between conservative volunteer government and a leftist Democrat professional government.”

One can, of course, only speculate on what Abraham Lincoln might have done about all this. One of his most memorable lines, however, surely offers an indication of what his attitude would be. It certainly serves as a warning to us all.

160 years ago, in a speech in Springfield, Illinois following his selection to be the new Republican Party’s candidate for U.S. Senator that year, Mr. Lincoln referred to Jesus’ admonition to the Pharisees: ““Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

He added, “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

In the end, of course, this nation became all free because of Abraham Lincoln’s courageous and unflagging determination to make it so, whatever the cost in lives and treasure. He took seriously his presidential oath of office first sworn on March 4, 1861 – just six weeks before the attack on Ft. Sumter started the Civil War – to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” So help him God.

And not least, the nation was made “all free” by the Emancipation Proclamation, preliminarily issued in September 1862 by President Lincoln, five days after the bloodiest single day of battle in the Civil War at Antietam, Maryland where 22,000 men lost their lives. When it was formally issued four months later, Mr. Lincoln described it to be “an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity” and invoked “the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”

I feel certain that similar considerations would prompt Abraham Lincoln today to be seized with another affliction in our times: the enslavement – and worse – of hundreds of millions of people worldwide simply because they believe, as he did, that Jesus Christ is Almighty God’s only begotten son.

At the risk of being presumptuous, I believe Abe Lincoln would have been a leader in a new movement that is inspired by his abolitionist agenda, which was, of course, the impetus behind his Republican Party.

The “Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition” is, moreover, modeled after a more recent effort that was mounted half a century ago on behalf of Soviet Jews. With the Lord’s grace and the hard work of countless Jews and Christians alike – including two of my former bosses, Sen. Scoop Jackson and President Ronald Reagan – that campaign proved to be monumentally impactful.

What began modestly with signs displayed outside of synagogues and churches saying “Save Soviet Jewry,” turned into a political force. That political force, in turn, spawned legislation in 1974, the Jackson-Vanik amendment, that denied the Kremlin Most Favored Nation (MFN) status unless it allowed free emigration.

When the Soviets refused that quid pro quo, it was effectively the death knell for the policy of “détente” rooted in the idea of appeasing and propping up what the Gipper rightly called “the Evil Empire.” Without the financial safety net MFN would have given the Kremlin, when Mr. Reagan became president, he was able to use economic pressure, among other tools, to help bring down the USSR.

The rest truly is history. It is no exaggeration to say that those signs, and what flowed from them, contributed to the liberation of not only millions of Jews, but hundreds of millions of others who had been enslaved by Soviet communism.

So today, the Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition and a campaign it is mounting on behalf of the estimated 215 million Christians around the world being not only enslaved but raped, tortured, expelled and murdered for their faith is as simple as it is ambitious: to complement and help the many organizations currently, and often very courageously, working to alleviate the symptoms of such persecution through action aimed at addressing this crisis systemically, as well.

As with the Save Soviet Jewry campaign, we are beginning with signs. I hope you might help place one outside of your church or synagogue, ideally between now and Good Friday. You can get one for that purpose for free at SavethePersecutedChristians.org.

Tell them Abe Lincoln sent you.

Navy Floats Idea of Atheist Chaplains

If there aren’t atheists in foxholes, why should we put them in the Chaplain Corps? Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) can’t imagine. Like most leaders, he’s astounded that the Navy is even considering letting someone who doesn’t believe in God join the chaplaincy. Three years ago, the idea was so absurd that even Obama’s military attorneys went to court to stop it. Now, with Secretary Jim Mattis at the helm, no one can quite understand why the topic is even up for discussion.The bizarre storyline started in 2015 when Jason Heap tried to sue his way into the chaplaincy. Not surprisingly, the Navy rejected him because he planned to associate with two humanist groups instead of an actual religious denomination. Ultimately, the military ended up in court defending the notion that religious leaders should serve a religious purpose. They won. But this year, Heap is trying again — and, according to Senator Wicker — the Chaplain Appointment and Retention Eligibility Advisory Group is actually recommending the Navy accept him.

Wicker, an Air Force veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is doing everything he can to keep the application from moving forward. And he’s enlisted 22 other senators and 40-plus House members to help. In two separate letters to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, both chambers explain how radically this would alter the Chaplain Corps. Obviously, the dozens of leaders explain, no one is saying that atheists don’t belong in the military. But allowing them to serve and allowing them in the pulpit are two different things.

“The Navy has sufficient authority to create programs for humanist or atheist service members,” the senators write. “The Chaplain Corps is not the appropriate place. The Chaplain Corps serves religious needs, not philosophical preferences. Approving a secular-humanist chaplain would open the door to other applicants representing other philosophical worldviews. Over time, this situation would erode the distinct religious function of the Chaplain Corps.”

The idea is even more ridiculous when you consider that barely three percent of our service members even identify as atheist or humanist. To fling open the chaplaincy to any ideology or philosophy would fundamentally change an institution that’s older than the country itself! Not to mention, the House letter reminds the Navy, that “The Department of Defense’s own guidelines also reinforce the uniquely religious purpose of the chaplain corps, defining ‘religious organization’ as ‘an entity that is organized and functions primarily to perform religious ministries to a non-military lay constituency’ and defining a religious ministry professional as ‘an individual endorsed to represent a religious organization and to conduct its religious observances or ceremonies.’”

Throughout the years, the Supreme Court has been clear, the House members go on, that “non-religious beliefs may not rely on the Religion Clauses for protection.” Groups like the American Humanist Association, who helped hatched this crazy idea, argue that nonbelievers suffer the same fear and pain that affects every service member. But isn’t that why the military has psychologists? And, as Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a reserve Air Force chaplain, pointed out, nothing is stopping atheists from visiting the chaplains who are already available.

“No one is arguing that atheists do not have the same First Amendment rights of free expression as their neighbors of Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other faiths,” Wicker explains in a new op-ed on Fox News. “This is not the subject of scrutiny. The central question here is how an atheist chaplain can be expected to fulfill a role that, by its very nature, is supposed to serve the religious needs of our service members.” By definition, a chaplain’s duties are to offer prayer, spiritual counseling, and religious instruction. If that doesn’t disqualify a non-believer, I’m not sure what would!

The Trump administration inherited plenty of messes from the Obama military — but this isn’t one of them. It’s time for Secretary Mattis to step in and protect the integrity of chaplaincy.


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


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