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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Does It Actually Make Sense To Sign A State-Level RFRA?

Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was an act of Congress in 1990, in response to a Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Native American, who lost a job on account of peyote used in a religious ritual. Congress acted to conform the law with the dictates of the decision. On a more whimsical note,  it was back when liberals stuck up for people with unpopular religious convictions. In any case, the federal RFRA neither obligates, nor was understood to mean automatic deference to religious liberty claims.

Of course, in response to government-backed religious bigotry, and viewpoint discrimination, many states have passed their own versions of RFRA. It seems to me that this is a wasted effort. Anything stronger than the federal RFRA would correctly be struck down as a violation of the supremacy clause of the Constitution anyway. And among activists, who have used the courts as an unaccountable legislature for decades, it is doubtful that legislative intent, history, and procedure means anything at all. It can be set aside by results-oriented judges at every level.

In political terms, does it make sense to antagonize more temperate pro-gay advocates and allies, to little effect? For a great many people, the victories of the gay rights movement symbolize acceptance of people as such, as reductionistic and mistaken as that is. If the advocates of traditional morality offer only symbolism and tribal self-identification, they lose, on these emotional terms.

I would rather make a natural law argument, and take the heat up front, than fight defensive actions on the terms of legal positivism, which traditionalists have already lost. If the majority of Americans are willing to persecute traditional viewpoints by way of government, the battle is lost. I wouldn't sign an RFRA as the governor of a state. Bad politics, bad advocacy, bad everything.

The Passion Of The Christ

I watched it yesterday with some friends. It had been a few years. This was my second time as a Catholic. Forgive the expected, but the Marian scenes were harder to watch this time. There must be some mystery to the piercing of her heart, also that I need to meditate on. We get to enter into the suffering; it's not out there, it's ours.

The other thing I noticed was the Stations of the Cross. Especially in contrast to the first time I watched it as a Protestant. I saw St. Veronica wipe Our Lord's face, the holy women weeping, St. Simon helping, and all the rest. I wasn't longing for it to end; it seemed necessary and beautiful.

I was watching with a friend whose vision is poor, so I had to read the subtitles aloud. Some time, you should try this. Or pick up the Scriptures, and read the same scenes. It's a movie where tears are highly possible, but I found that hearing the words of Jesus is moving, perhaps more than one would expect.

It's a film you don't want to watch often; I don't want to become desensitized to what I see. May our hearts never dull to His love for us.

Friday, March 25, 2016

As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

This is what we say right after we ask the Father to forgive us. And I realized that God makes it this way, for His own glory. You can't just forgive someone; even if you find it easy in one case or another, it's not you. God's grace goes before you. "...to forgive, divine." It's not human. We forget this, because we expect some standard of decency to be met, one that relies on grace as much as forgiveness does.

The easiest way to turn a person who hurts us into a non-person is to forget how much God needs to forgive us. It's easy to call names, comfortable in the false knowledge that we are ordinary good people, who are good by our efforts.

The scariest people in the world are those who can't apologize. That's as close to Hell as you can get on this side.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Mystery Of Love

I can tell you about the love of God; I know more about it by faith than I do in the core of my soul. It seems to me that this is the secret of life. It is true that there is nothing guaranteed to us, in terms of eternal life, and perfect happiness forever. Sin and hell are both real. The enemy is real. But there is no more real reality than the love of God. Anywhere at any time.

Who is Jesus Christ? It's almost too big a question. And even as we want to make the answer as simple as possible, because ordinary folks don't just walk around using words like "substitutionary atonement" and the like, the Bible is a big story that's both simple and complicated.

The Old Testament tells the story of the children of Israel, another name for a man named Jacob, a descendant of Isaac, the child of the promise given to Abraham. Another man named Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and it was after this that God gave them the Law of how they were supposed to live as His chosen people. You know the summary of it as The Ten Commandments. Let's say that met with more failure than success, just like we would say, if we were honest.

They don't really need a king, because God is their king, but God gives them one. The first guy, Saul, goes astray, consumed by jealousy for this kid named David, whom God chose as his replacement. David was a man after God's own heart, says God. But he's weak like us, too: an adulterer, and a murderer. God forgives, but the damage is done. The kingdom splits in two, and it goes downhill from there, with only a few bright spots. Their worshiping of false gods and injustice to one another gets so bad that God allows pagan nations to enslave and deport them. God promises to restore them, and in a way, to save them from themselves, since even after all that God had said and done, most people didn't get it.

He'd restore them by making a new covenant, (it's like a contract, but more personal) forgiving them, and writing a new Law on their hearts. He would lead Israel in a new age of conquering the pagans...with love, and forgiveness. They'd become Israelites, too. The new King, a descendant of David, would lead them. Here's the twist: He's God. He'll take on a human nature, be born of a virgin, and eventually die. By human terms, a blasphemer and a revolutionary. In the heart of the Father, though, a most pleasing sacrifice, that takes away all the sins of His people. His throne is a cross, and His victory is an empty grave. God the Holy Spirit reminds the followers of Jesus the Anointed One, (Christ), the King, of the things he taught them. Those followers, little priests in their own right, carry the message of that final, perfect sacrifice that announces reconciliation and friendship with God, to the ends of the Earth. We proclaim it every time we meet. It's our gift to the Father, the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, with which He is most pleased. We eat the flesh and blood of Jesus as the pledge and hope of being with God forever. We wait for Jesus to return, and set everything finally right again.

It's that last part I can't quite get, because frankly, I'm not sure I know what "right" is. I have enough hope to want to know, and that's a start. This is a short summary of the whole story, and a shabby one, for all I know. But Love is the answer. It's the point. What's it all about? This, man. Just this.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Obama Is Right: Radical Jihadists Can't Destroy Our Society, Unless We Let Them

I'm sure you all know of the attacks in Belgium. As of this moment, 36 people are dead. The people who took their lives are cowards. They don't deserve the dignity that a civilized society affords the accused, and even the guilty.

It still remains true that if this is the worst they can do, we're not going anywhere. We don't help ourselves by turning them into this dominant force, like the Soviets. They are some trolls with bombs, hoping if they can scare most of us, we'll fold. I don't think so, Sport.

Let's pray for them, and show as much love to our Muslim neighbors as we possibly can. Even if there are more radicals than we think, "Perfect love drives out fear."

I expect my leaders to say things like, "These radicals don't define all Muslims, and we're not going to let fear define us," because it's obviously true, and because the enemy wants us to overreact. It's the only way they win.

The Myth Of Obama's Weak Foreign Policy

For your consideration. If you want to get critical, I suppose you could say the president showed his cards. The second most important gift we were given is that of exploding a hawkish Republican myth: that Democrats are reluctant to use military force, to the detriment of the United States.

The Reagan myth is the cause of most of this. The Iranians were not scared of Reagan; they just didn't like Carter. Moreover, what if the "malaise" myth surrounding Carter is also false? The Democrats in my lifetime are no more dovish than George W. Bush; they simply have different criteria for what the "national interest" is. The big twist is that Bush is more the liberal internationalist, while Obama is much more the realist. Opting to balance power as much as possible takes some of the moral force out of humanitarian motives for the use of force. It at least opens the possibility of a damaging hypocrisy.

We should be grateful each day that force is absolutely a last resort in this administration. The situational ethics surrounding many possible instances of its use is more troubling than the willingness (or unwillingness) to pull the trigger, so to speak.

I think we can fault President Obama for (apparently) allowing personal political considerations to determine the outcome in Benghazi. Yet I am willing to consider that some secret information influenced those actions, and he would rather be painted as a callous traitor to America, rather than reveal whatever that is. If true, that's actually what a patriot would do.

Most of the popular perception of Obama closely tracks the absurd caricature that conservatives have of liberals, and that should be the first clue that it's wrong. But we're not used to giving our political enemies the benefit of the doubt.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Temper, Temper

Sigh. I have a temper. It's bad. Most people don't know this, because I don't get angry often. When I do, however, look out.

Of course, I think I'm right. I usually do, and I usually am. You can't really accomplish anything in life without confidence, and it could border on arrogance, depending on who's observing.

It seemed still right to go to Holy Communion, because I didn't wish harm on anybody or anything that crazy. But I still feel angry about it. I keep saying to nobody in particular, "If you're going to call me a liar, you'd better own it." I guess sometimes folks don't think through the implications of what they say. It happens. I'm not the clearest thinker I know.

Pray for me.