Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Squeezed in a Hellish Vise

Between terrorist cultists and militant Islamists, the Christians of Africa are having a tough time of it.

A story that broke Tuesday gives details of an attack in Sudan by the crazed followers of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army in which parishioners at prayer at Our Lady of the Angels Church were abducted and then crucified in various macabre ways.
Marauding bands of guerrillas have crucified seven Christians during a series of raids on villages in Sudan.

One of the men was tied to a tree and mutilated while six other victims were nailed to pieces of wood fastened to the ground and killed.

Villagers who found their bodies near the town of Nzara said it was like a "grotesque crucifixion scene".

Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio has now appealed for international help to stop the attacks by members of the Lord's Resistance Army.

He said his government appeared powerless to prevent attacks by members of the guerrilla force based in northern Uganda. He spoke out after a spate of killings and abductions in two towns near the borders of the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In one instance guerrillas stormed into Our Lady Queen of Peace church in Ezo during a novena prayer and desecrated the Host, the altar and the building before abducting 17 people mostly in their teens and 20s. One of the captives was later tied to a tree and killed while 13 others in the group are still missing, according to Aid to the Church in Need, a charity helping persecuted Christians.
The terrorists are based in neighboring Uganda. Sudanese Christians have asked their government, controlled by Muslims, for help in repelling the attacks. The help has not been forthcoming.

Which ought to tell you something.

We may not be able to do much, but we can pray for them.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Are You Ready for International Blasphemy Day?

On the subject of prayer, I'm planning to set aside Wednesday for special prayers for the conversion of the hearts of those responsible for (are you ready for this?) International Blasphemy Day.

No kidding. The first ever coordinated day to blaspheme God, Jesus and any other religious targets that come into range of an assorted group of mostly artistic "free thinkers," skeptics and free-speech advocates.

The events in Washington, D.C. will feature art such as "Jesus Painting His Nails" with blood by "artist" Dana Ellyn who calls herself an "agnostic atheist." Which means that she doesn't believe God exists but she can't prove it.

You can find more about the event HERE. A few of the relevant facts should be stated:

Atheists, skeptics, freethinkers and free-speech advocates around the world will mark Blasphemy Day by mounting their soapboxes—figuratively and literally—and uttering words and displaying images that may cause offense.

And they’re making no apologies.

“We’re not seeking to offend, but if in the course of dialogue and debate, people become offended, that’s not an issue for us,” said Justin Trottier, a Toronto coordinator of Blasphemy Day and executive director of the Ontario chapter of the Center for Inquiry. “There is no human right not to be offended.”

He's right. There is no human right not to be offended. Upon that we can agree. However, it is hard enough not to offend people even when you try to be nice. Deliberately provoking people seems a bit stupid, sort of the opposite of "How to Win Friends and Influence People." I guess Mr. Trottier could write a book entitled, "How to Turn People into Enemies and Piss Off Others."

But if he is wrong about God -- and he is -- there is one friend that he might want to think twice about tweaking.

St. Thomas Aquinas described blasphemy—deliberately showing contempt or irreverence for something considered sacred—as a sin “committed directly against God ... more grave than murder.” In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
If it were me, I'd err on the side of caution, just in case God is paying attention.

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A Day of Fasting & Prayer on Monday

Many of us are going to fast and pray on Monday, September 28, as a personal Day of Atonement. It also happens to be the traditional Jewish Day of Atonement.

This takes nothing away from the Jewish celebration. Remember, even the Ninevites, led by their king, heard the words of the prophet Jonah and repented in sackcloth and ashes. They were not Jewish, but they heard the Word of God and responded in a positive manner.

Contrition and conversion are always good things, even for those who consider themselves in pretty good shape, spiritually speaking. I think it is safe to say that in modern-day America there are a considerable number of us who could use quite a bit of contrition for our pride and arrogance, our personal neglect of the poor and suffering, our callousness to offenses against public decency and morals.

These are not the same sins for which our president seeks absolution from the world community. I could not care less about the opinion of the world community, but I do care about the opinion of the Almighty, and I do not mean the Obama.

Understand that I am not a big "fasting" guy. I believe in it because I believe that denial of the physical appetites can sharpen the spiritual senses, but I am so fond of eating -- and it shows -- that I have great difficulty in rousing my will to cover my pledge. So I typically fast only to the minimum required.

That must change, and starting Monday it will. I'm going to do bread and water.


The State is No Substitute for You

This is for those who insist that Pope Benedict XVI does not understand the dangers of the welfare state. Writing in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," which to the Latin-challenged means "God is Love," the Pope writes:

“The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person — every person — needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need . . . . In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3) — a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human”

The emphasis is mine, because that is the crux of many arguments between conservatives and progressives over the relationship between men and government. Progressives believe that rights devolve out of social arrangements -- the State -- and are constantly in flux with the needs of the whole. Classic conservatives -- perhaps I should refer to them as libertarian -- believe that all rights come from God, are given to each of us as individuals as a birthright, and that each of us has the responsibility -- call it free will -- to exercise those rights.

And while we may lend or even cede some of these precious rights voluntarily through freely chosen decisions, none of our individual rights and responsibilities can be taken from us by force without violating the arrangement we have with God.

But, you may counter, a majority of people on this planet do not have this understanding, and certainly they do not enjoy the individual freedoms of Americans. How can you reconcile your beliefs with this reality?

And I will answer, just because the history of mankind is awash with the abrogation of God-given rights does not justify any of it. Evil allowed to flourish, even for the most benign or beneficial of reasons, is still evil and perhaps is even a greater evil because it presumes to call itself "good." God will deal with all of this in His own good time.

We, on the other hand, have been given a set of tremendous blessings and responsibilities by an enlightened and inspired group of founding fathers who recognized God's hand in the creation of these United States. We must relearn the wisdom of the founding and meet the challenge of defending individual liberties for all Americans from those who would strip them from us and our posterity.

For if freedom dies in America, it may be a long time before it blooms again anywhere else.

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The Oklahomilist Has Returned

To all three of my loyal readers/viewers, I sincerely apologize for having been AWOL these last couple of weeks. I could do a Joliet Jake litany to explain, but it wouldn't change the time line, would it?

So I will let this photo explain for me:

Yup, vacation!

Sometimes you need to recharge your spiritual energies, and I find that I can do that best in the Rocky Mountains. The sad by-product, in middle age, is that I deplete my physical energies in the process, so it takes a few days of bodily re-acclimation before I feel like doing much more than what is barely necessary.

It didn't help that I had a ton of things to handle before we left, and since our return I've acquired a couple of new responsibilities that require my time and mental focus.

I appreciate Anthony stepping up to the plate a couple of times in my absence. Thanks! Don't stop now!

I do not, however, intend to depart from the field of the Battle of Ideas, as I believe we are in one of the more important, and interesting, times of our nation's existence, if not the world's. I will "endeavor to persevere" to post daily henceforth.

To the other Dave, whose comment was stuck in "approval limbo" for a couple of weeks, my sincere apology. I don't know if it will make you feel any better to know that I was living the "high life" exploring the ghost town of Animas Forks, oblivious to today's world, but I'll try not to let that happen again! My daughter tells me to get an I-phone and stay connected to reality. Hmmm ...

Okay. That's it for my "apology tour." I -- not you -- am to blame, and I promise to change. Wouldn't that be refreshing if someone will all know would adopt this course instead of blaming US?

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

First Oklahoman to work for the Holy See!

For those that missed this six-week-old news.

We have our first Oklahoman serving in the Holy See in Rome...aka he is one of the big wigs at the Vatican, working as the Assessore of General Affairs for the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

This is very exciting for Oklahoma Catholics and something for us to be very proud of. Anyone else with any aspirations of working in the Vatican, though ... might want to think about donning a Roman Collar and learning as many languages as possible.

Congratulations and Blessings, Msgr. Peter Wells!


Oklahoma Catholic News

Hello readers! Since Dave welcomed me awhile back, I was excited to start blogging with Dave and Benedictus, and have until this point only a handful of posts. I chose the title "Oklapologist" because apologetics, the defense of the faith, is very important to Catholics and all Christians. On this blog, we write from a Catholic-Christian perspective, and there are plenty of great blogs out there that do likewise. Until now, the posts I have been able to contribute have been Catholic commentary on a national stage. Dave's past contributions, especially those dealing with Transubstantiation, have also been from a national perspective.

The thing is, there are plenty of other blogs out there that are doing a fantastic job giving this commentary, and they can all be linked on our blogroll. From time-to-time, (speaking for the Oklapologist and not the entire cast of the famed writers at Oklahomily) I may still need to throw my two cents into some of these national or worldwide Catholic issues.

It seems to me, though, that there are plenty of reportable Catholic things: some wonderful, some great, some not-so-great, and some a little ... off-putting (for Catholics that believe in the truth of Scriptures, Tradition, and the authority of the Pope and the Bishops), that are happening in the Oklahoma Catholic world ... meaning the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa. It is my goal to bring these to light, and hopefully to attract a few more minions to the great readership we have already come to enjoy here at Oklahomily in the last several years.

Happy reading.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Real Unemployment Rate 16.8%

The nation's "official" jobless rate hit 9.7 percent at the end of August.

Inside the numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is another number: total jobless. It includes all those who are out of work and who have been removed from the labor force by government statistical rules. Adding those in you get an even grimmer number, and one that compares quite closely to the numbers of the Great Depression.

That number is 16.8 percent.

Ol' George in east Texas does a pretty good job of number crunching these government reports. He points out if it were not for the creativity of the good people in Washington, D.C., the numbers would look even worse.

No, he's not talking about the Stimulus Projects jobs that Joe Biden hallucinates.

He's talking about the fact that since January 1 the government has "invented" one million new jobs simply by "estimating" them into existence.
This is the 'statistically made up because we think so" department. Hmmm, lemme see here: 15,000 new jobs in construction...sure, whatever... 26,000 in professional services, and 24,000 leisure and hospitality. Uh huh. In all, 673,000 new jobs have been 'estimated into existence' since January and if you back out January, it's more than a million jobs that have been 'estimated into existence' so far this year.

No fair reaching for a swig of Jack Daniels - too early for that. It's only a 26-year high for unemployment.

No one knows for sure if these new jobs exist because there is no paperwork to prove they are there. On the other hand, no one can prove they aren't, so I guess it's your gut logic against their pipe dream.

This paragraph from today's report tells you all you need to know about the phoney-baloney unemployment numbers:
About 2.3 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in August, reflecting an increase of 630,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
Did you get all that? "Marginally attached" means jobless, but officially not unemployed because they hadn't tried to look for work in the past four weeks.

You gotta keep knocking on doors and telling Uncle Sam about it or he'll just assume you're as happy as a clam, and no one need worry about you.

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The Creepy 'Superintendent in Chief' Maneuver

Barack Hussein Obama is not Superintendent in Chief of America's public schools.

No president is, ever was, or should ever be.

The U.S. Constitution gives to the federal government no authority to establish, regulate, finance or control any public school for students Pre-K through 12. Zilch, zero, nada. It ain't in there. Look for yourself.

Congress has no such authority. The president has no such authority. The courts have no such authority.

I do not mind if a president of the United States, from time to time, wants to visit a classroom and read a story to the kids. Whatever. It's a public relations thing, and I recognize its value, but I would hope that most presidents have better things to do. (Yes, I know that George W. Bush was reading to school children on the morning of 9-11. I'm sure he felt it was very inconvenient.)

But for a president to schedule an address to all the public school children of America, as Mr. Obama has done, is entering dangerous constitutional and social waters.

It doesn't even matter what he will say. He could declare that "you kids need to pay attention, do your homework and bring your teacher an apple at least once a month" and I will still maintain that it is the wrong thing to do.


Because it sets a precedent. Presidential precedents can be persistent things.

William Howard Taft rose from his seat for a stretch in the middle of the 7th inning of a game between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Washington Senators on April 14, 1910. The crowd stood immediately, thinking he was leaving. His aching legs rested, he sat again, and the crowd followed suit. A legend, and a tradition was born.
I can live with that one, although I wish Mr. Taft had chosen the middle of the 5th inning instead.

Something similar happened with the State of the Union report. The Constitution requires a report from the president to the Congress. It doesn't say it has to be in the form of a speech. After presidents Washington and Adams left office, President Jefferson dropped the speech before Congress as "too monarchical." And that's the way it stayed until the Progressive Woodrow Wilson took office and reinstituted the "speech" before the joint sessions.

At least there's a constitutional underpinning for it.

Even if President Obama says nothing controversial or propagandistic next Tuesday, it sets a precedent that he and others will surely follow. There is something deeply creepy about the chief executive talking directly to the young people of the country. It is too reminiscent of the efforts made by Mussolini and Hitler to shore up their credentials with the young people of Italy and Germany on their campaigns to institute national socialist regimes, otherwise known as fascistic.

We do not need an Obama Youth movement in America. Sorry.

When the Department of Education (explain where the Constitution allows for that?) sends out materials suggesting that teachers direct their students to write how they will be of service to President Obama, it only reinforces the creepiness factor. It leaves a skeptic with the inescapable feeling that Mr. Obama truly wants to transform our country.

If you are a parent, keep your kids home. An extra day of vacation won't hurt them.

If you are a school administration, just say "no" to this creepy encroachment. Isn't the federal government already involved enough in the classroom?

If you plan to vote in 2010, remember this.

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Back in the Saddle Again

Life is surely interesting.

If you had told me nine days ago that I would not be posting until the end of the next week, I would have said, "No way!"

But that's before my computer's power supply frizzled out, a cousin died, and I spent three days "on the road" taking care of family matters.

There's no way that I can honestly say that everything "happily" is back to normal with the exception of the computer which, when I finally had time to attend to it, cost me the princely sum of $43.65 to repair. (I have discovered the most fantastic group of tech-savvy guys in America, I believe. They may never be wealthy because of the low rates they charge, but they will surely enter the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven for the way they treat their neighbors.)

Despite my absence I have paid careful attention to what is happening. In fact, I believe that most bloggers should take periodic sabbaticals -- planned would be better than impromptu -- because I believe it sharpens one's outlook. Too often I find myself ready to dash a response to events in the now when I'd be better served if I took more time. But maybe that's just me.

Anyway, I have several observations to share today and tomorrow, then my productivity will be somewhat hit or miss for the next week or so.