politics and religion

In Germany in the 1930s, there were many different issues that concerned the local populace. The economy was a huge issue. Germany was suffering under heavy World War I reparation debt. People were without jobs. Food was scarce and rationed. Hitler promised everyone jobs and the unlifting of that massive debt by, well, going to war with the rest of Europe that was oppressing them. He was a liberator, really. Yeah.

Looking back, now, the economy hardly seems to be what the God-fearing Christians of Germany SHOULD have been thinking about. The first concentration camp was opened in 1929 in Dachau, just outside of Munich. Sure, they all like to say that they didn’t know what was going on behind those walls. Maybe they didn’t know what was going on behind the walls, but the Germans were very aware of Hitler’s policy of confining Jews to ghettos and concentration camps. They knew Jews were going IN to Dachau…they turned a blind eye to the fact that none came OUT.

Hitler had convinced the general population that the fate of the Jews was no concern to them. They really shouldn’t care…after all, they were just Jews. Eventually, Hitler convinced many that the Jews were sub-human. Perhaps some were not convinced of that idea, but didn’t feel that they could do anything about it. And of course, by the time things really got going, Hitler was no longer an elected official…he was dictator.

The problem is, when any group of people is deemed second class or sub-human or inferior, we ALL suffer. And none of us is truly safe from being lumped in with those who are persecuted. If we don’t actually fit into that category (Jew, slave, disabled), we are labeled a sympathizer and our own freedoms are jeopardized.

When you have a situation like that of Germany in the 1930s, there is no other issue about which to concern yourself more than the treatment of the persecuted. If one among us is not free, then none of us is free. If Jews are being deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then it’s NOT the economy, stupid, it’s freedom.

When you have a situation like that of the United States in the early 21st century, there is no other issue that is more important than that of abortion. Millions of babies are killed every year. Yes, euthanasia is a good issue to be concerned about, but euthanasia does not kill a million innocent people every year. Yes, the war in Iraq is a good issue to be concerned about, but the war in Iraq does not kill a million innocent people every year. Yes, the economy is a good issue to be concerned about, but the economy, even if you blame the economy on all the poverty in this nation, is not responsible for the deaths of a million innocent people every year.

Do you ever wonder how the Germans could tolerate living in a society that killed people just because they were Jewish? Do you think you’d have had the guts to stand up for their rights? Do you think that when they voted for Hitler, his suporters had any idea where he’d be leading their country? Do you know that when the Reichstag voted for him to be their Prime Minister (or whatever he was called), he won be one vote?

We must take the stand now. Do not tolerate legislators or presidents or governors who think it’s ok to kill an unborn baby. Do not allow anyone to distract you with other issues that are not as important as abortion. There are very few issues that are clearly a case of right versus wrong. It is a moral obligation to vote on moral issues in a moral manner. The economy, the environment, the war: there are multiple sides to these issues. We are free to discuss them and to agree or disagree. THERE ARE MULTIPLE RIGHT ANSWERS. On abortion, there is only ONE right answer.

If you want more information, I recommend www.priestsforlife.org. They have links to voting guides and apples to apples comparisons of different politician’s opinions.

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Witness for Christ

“As soon as I believed there was a God, I understood that I could not do anything other than live for Him.” Charles de Foucauld

M. de Foucauld lived from 1858 until some time in the early 1900s. The exact date is not in this article sitting in front of me, but I could find it on-line…if I cared enough to interrupt my train of thought to look it up. I don’t.

His whole life (after his conversion) was given to being a witness for Christ. He lived by example, rather than by preaching.

Back when I first came to know and love God, all I wanted to do was share Him with everyone. I guess it’s like someone who has just fallen in love and can’t stop talking about the new man in her life. It took some time to realize that it is impossible to set someone else on fire unless they want to be on fire.

It’s like a candle held up to another candle. If you hold the flame of a lit candle to the wick of another one, it will light it. If you hold the flame of a lit candle to the wax of another candle, it will destroy the other candle. I have no desire to destroy another person’s candle. I will happily light one, but will do everything I can to avoid burning the wax.

Made in God’s Image

For my Christian friends who believe that faith alone will get you into heaven, I present a portion from the Letter from James:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26)

Every friend I have ever pressed on this point doesn’t really believe that a person’s actions don’t matter. If I walked around saying “Praise Jesus” while shoplifting or beating my children, most people (and certainly God) would recognize the hypocracy. If we believe in Jesus, we are called to imitate Him and ACT like Him.

On the other hand, it is true that our bad actions do not prevent us from entering Heaven. And this is true only because of the sacrifice made by God’s son.

We are made in God’s image, not the other way around. We cannot say, “If I were God, this is how I would do things.” And that’s exactly what we do when we say that this person or that person cannot possibly get into Heaven unless they do XY and Z. God does not have to follow our rules, and we have no right to expect Him to do so.

On the other hand, clearly, God has certain expectations and has given us ways to discern His will. First of all, we have the Bible and primarily the Ten Commandments. Then we were given Jesus to teach us and to redeem us. Jesus had His 12 apostles to continue to guide us after He left, and when He returned to Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to be our advocate. God does not want it to be impossible to love Him and join Him.

I think it was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said that there wasn’t one person in America who hated what the Catholic Church is…but there were millions who hated what they THOUGHT the Catholic Church is.

The Catholic Church does not believe that anyone can earn or buy his way into Heaven. It is the doctrine of the Catholic Church that one must be baptized in order to enter (recognizing that God can change His mind on this point and also recognizing that God is ALL-LOVING and would not likely punish someone with eternal damnation if that person had never been exposed to the Gospel). Catholics recognize Jesus as the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

Jesus is the Paschal Lamb, the ultimate Passover sacrifice. Without his blood, none of us would be able to enter Heaven. But Catholics also recognize that our nature is sinful. Only through God’s grace do we not continue to sin after baptism. How then, is it possible to appear before the Lord with our white baptismal garments all sullied, and then expect to join Him?

The Church recognizes that there are ways to obtain God’s grace. The 7 sacraments are one way to be given grace. Having God’s grace does not mean that we are perfect or sin-free, nor does it mean that we have a free pass to Heaven. It simply gives us fortification to withstand the temptation to sin or at least to keep us from mortal sins (big, bad sins like adultry or stealing).

The Church also wants us to be able to clean those baptismal garments. In our legal system, it is not enough to just be sorry for doing something. If you get drunk and drive and kill someone, you can’t just be sorry. You also get punished. Likewise, if you sin, you have to do penance. This is not a new concept. The inhabitants of Ninevah didn’t just say “sorry God” when Jonah pointed out their errors. They put on sackcloth and fasted and prayed for forgiveness. And they reformed themselves, too. This is the point of confession: admitting your sins, saying you’re sorry, doing penace, reforming your ways.

And all the sacraments have a biblical basis, too. But I’ll save that for another time…