The Strategy Behind Banning Public Religiousness

Here are the results of a poll that I’m sure will ruffle a few feathers on both sides of the political and church isle.  A recently released Gallop poll found that one’s “religiousness” is a great predictor of his political affiliation.  It found that those who practices their faith regularly are more likely to lean conservative while someone who is secular leans more liberal.  According to the story on the Blaze:

Among the survey’s findings: Forty-nine percent of very religious people support the GOP, compared to only 29 percent of nonreligious people who do.  Just 36 percent of very religious people support the Democrats, while 52 percent of nonreligious people support the party.

This is where the anecdotal evidence comes out where someone says the poll isn’t true because their sainted grandmother also votes Democrat.  Or their non church-going uncle is an avid Republican.  Of course there will be exceptions to every poll which is why they are reported in percentages to reveal general trends.  It won’t always reflect someone’s personal experience.  Polls also reveal correlations, but not necessarily causation.  We can’t say with any degree of certainty why nonreligious skew towards voting Democrat while religious lean towards voting Republican.

Check your religion at the door!

Now that we have the legal disclaimer out of the way, let’s explore political strategy.  If this poll is true then it explains a lot about our current political climate.  If Democratic policies and their vision for American society appeal more to nonreligious, then the Democratic party will have a vested interest in making society as secular as possible.  A more secular population equals more Democrat votes.  You don’t have to look very hard to see various tactics at play towards that goal:

  • The HHS mandate and rhetoric that one’s faith cannot play any role in how they run their business.
  • The vitriol many liberals show to any pro-life groups or any organization wishing to place any limits, no matter how reasonable, on abortion.
  • The attempt to redefine our Constitutional freedom of religion to freedom of “worship.”
  • Freaking out at any open display of anything even vaguely religious like a piece of twisted metal shaped like a cross at the Ground Zero museum.
  • Openly rigid enforcement of the “separation of church and state” (although that phrase does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution).

My point isn’t to just merely bash Democratic strategy.  I’m sure many of my readers could probably come up with an equally long list of Republicans promoting religion to gain votes and influence.  I just want to point out that we need to tread carefully and explore possible underlying motives whenever a politician either promotes or tries to curb the role of religion in public life.  Call me jaded, but I don’t think many politicians actually act on religious issues from deeply held beliefs, but because it will land their party more votes.

Teach children religion for a better community...
Teach children religion for a better community — religion means reverence – obedience – order, irreligion means chaos – crime – social collapse, parents, wake up! American Legion (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

The Rosary Connection

When I think of religious vs. nonreligious and Democrat vs. Republican, the Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary comes to mind.  When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left His mission to build His Church in the hands of His disciples.  Very early in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples decree that Jesus’ Church wasn’t exclusive to the Jews but open to everyone.  We also must remember, as Jesus’ disciples today, that we must invite all to experience Jesus’ love and saving grace whether they be religious or nonreligious, Democrat or Republican, Dodger fan or Giants fan, etc.  Some groups may put up more of a fight than others to Jesus’ message and our tactics may need to change based on the situation.  But in the end, the mission hasn’t changed since the disciples saw Jesus ascend into Heaven centuries ago — share His love with everyone.  Jesus didn’t discriminate nor fear the response to the truth.  Neither will we.

Our Prayer

Oh Lord, may we follow in Jesus’ early disciples footsteps and find the energy to promote His truth.  May we not be afraid to promote that truth with anyone regardless of their political affiliation, nationality, gender, or personality.  May we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find the right tactics so that Your love best shines forth to all of those who need to hear it.  May we not forget Your charge to the early Church when you ascended into Heaven — spread My Word to the world.

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The Pope Said What Now?

Update: This article is not about the pope’s recent statements in America magazine and commented on in the Huffington Post and New York Times.  It is about something he wrote in an Italian newspaper a few weeks ago.  But don’t worry, I’ll discuss the America magazine article in an upcoming post.

A few days ago, Pope Francis wrote a lengthy article responding to some questions proposed by Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder of the newspaper La Repubblica and an atheist. First of all, I find it amazing that the pope can even find the time to read an editorial in a local newspaper, let alone respond to it. I think it shows just how well Pope Francis understands modern tactics of evangelization. He knows that encyclicals are great for diving deep into questions of the Catholic Faith, but if you really want to connect with people you need to communicate in a more casual way using popular media. He might have done more good and educated more people about the Catholic faith in his letter to Mr. Scalfari than what he would have done in ten encyclicals.

The main purpose of Pope Francis’ letter was to address how the Church views atheists regarding their salvation and entrance into Heaven. The pope wrote:

First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith. Given that – and this is fundamental – God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.

Now the popular media jumped all over this statement essentially declaring the pope said something like “all atheists go to Heaven” or that He reversed some doctrine; neither which is true. This isn’t the first time the media completely misreported the pope’s comments and certainly won’t be the last. The pope did not unveil a new doctrine, but only reiterated what the Church has taught for generations. The fact that this seems new to everyone, including many Catholics, shows just how little we understand about the Catholic faith.

The Church has always taught that there is no way any of us here on Earth know who will go to Heaven and who will end up in Hell. Yes, we have a lot of guidelines, teachings, and commandments passed on from God through the prophets, His son Jesus Christ, and Church tradition. But there is always that unknown factor that the pope mentions — God’s infinite mercy. We just cannot know who God forgives and why.

Remember, the Church teaches that non-Catholics can go to Heaven if they’ve never had an opportunity to know God’s Church but live according to the natural laws of morality. When we think about this scenario, we often think of some isolated tribe out on a tropical island somewhere who have never seen a bible. But what about the person who never went to Mass growing up? What about the person who is surrounded by people who actively hate the Church or just don’t place any value on organized religion? What about the person whose view of the Church comes solely from sources that misreport the Church’s teachings? What about the fallen away Catholic who just went to Sunday Mass out of obligation but never really participated? Aren’t these also people who never really “knew” God’s Church? The Catholic faith has always taught that these people, including atheists, are also able to find mercy and forgiveness just like the stereotypical “isolated native” that has never seen a church or opened a bible.

Whenever I think about our ultimate fate, I’m reminded of the Second Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Ascension. When I pray and meditate on that rosary mystery, I remember that Jesus took His rightful place in Heaven at the right hand of God and acts as our final judge. We know that our actions, combined with God’s mercy, will decide whether we spend eternity in God’s kingdom or Hell. We should be thankful that God is infinitely merciful and that whether we end up in Heaven isn’t an in/out, true/false, on/off proposition. Because if it were, I dare say that most people would probably fall short of meeting the requirements to enter Heaven. We all have our failings, but it’s God’s mercy, both through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and at our final judgement, that allow us to live for eternity in His kingdom.

But why must we understand and live by the Catholic teachings when the pope said anyone, including atheists, can go to Heaven? Are devout Catholics just suckers wasting their time going to Mass and receiving the sacraments? Far from it. Remember, the pope said that God’s mercy is infinite, but not automatic. Ask yourself, do you want to rely solely on God’s mercy to enter into His kingdom? Or would you like to actually increase your odds, as it were, by following His Word? Let’s put it another way. Suppose there was a way to learn the winning numbers in the lottery ahead of time. But to learn those numbers, you have to put in years of hard work. Would you do it? After all, you could always avoid the work and just leave it up to chance. Maybe you will get lucky and guess the right numbers. The same goes for salvation, but the stakes are much higher since it’s dealing with our eternal souls. Are you going to leave such an important decision solely on God’s mercy or do you want to put forth the effort now to really earn your place in God’s kingdom?

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Our Lady’s Messages: May, 2011

May 02, 2011

Dear children; God the Father is sending me to show you the way of salvation, because He, my children, desires to save you and not to condemn you. That is why I, as a mother, am gathering you around me, because with my motherly love I desire to help you to be free of the dirtiness of the past and to begin to live anew and differently. I am calling you to resurrect in my Son. Along with confession of sins renounce everything that has distanced you from my Son and that has made your life empty and unsuccessful. Say ‘yes’ to the Father with the heart and set out on the way of salvation to which He is calling you through the Holy Spirit. Thank you. I am especially praying for the shepherds (priests), for God to help them to be alongside you with a fullness of heart.

Confession

Remember when you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary that God assumed Mary, body and soul, into Heaven so she could be our guide to eternal salvation.  Also remember the Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary.  Jesus ascended into Heaven to judge the living and the dead.  However, while He is our ultimate judge, He does not wish to condemn us but instead wants us to live with him forever in happiness.  May we try to avoid sin and receive mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation to show that we want to live in God’s grace as much as He wants to give it to us.

May 25, 2011

Dear children! My prayer today is for all of you who seek the grace of conversion. You knock on the door of my heart, but without hope and prayer, in sin, and without the Sacrament of Reconciliation with God. Leave sin and decide, little children, for holiness. Only in this way can I help you, hear your prayers and seek intercession before the Most High. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Think about Mary’s message when you pray the Third Luminous Mystery and remember that Jesus calls all of us to lead a life of conversion.  May we turn away from sin and strive to live in God’s grace.  We should remember that each day is an opportunity to forge a deeper relationship with God.

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Gospel for April 3, 2011 — Judgement

Gavel | Andrew F. Scott: P6033602
Image by afsart via Flickr

The Gospel for April 3, 2011 is John 9:1-41 (yep, it is a long one).  Jesus angers the pharisees by healing a blind man on the Sabbath.  The high priests are outraged because they see Jesus as someone who undermines their authority and performs miracles without their approval.  But Jesus says that He came to open the eyes of the spiritually blind while also blinding those who see through a lens of self-righteousness like the pharisees.  We remember in The Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary, The Ascension, that Jesus will one day judge us and so we must not be blind to His teachings.

The pharisees question nearly all of Jesus’ miracles throughout the Gospel and the healing of the blind man is no different.  They throw out the usual accusations — Jesus must derive His power from Satan or that He is not sent from God since He disobeys the Mosaic laws.  Each time the pharisees question Jesus they end up embarrassing themselves as Jesus points out the flaws to their blind adherence to the Mosaic Law. You would think they would have learned their lesson the first couple of times Jesus set them straight.  By interrogating the blind man, his family, and Jesus we get a sense of the pharisees’ growing frustration with Jesus since He threatens their authority.  Like modern-day politicians, the pharisees’ goal is not to show God’s truth but keep as much earthly power as possible.

Jesus’ response to the pharisees’ criticism is found in verses 39-41:

Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”  Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin;  but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

We see like the pharisees in that we know the truth of Jesus’ divine nature.  We know Jesus’ will through the teachings and traditions of the Church, the Bible, in prayer, and the natural law written on each of our hearts.  God gave us the law through Moses and completed that law through Jesus Christ.  And yet, despite making His will known to us we often disobey Him through sin.  As Jesus implies in the Gospel, our sin remains because we can see the difference between right and wrong but we choose to sin anyway.  We look at the silliness of the great lengths the pharisees went to to discredit Jesus.  And yet we too go through great lengths to sidestep living according to Jesus’ teachings.  If you think about all that Jesus, the saints, and prophets have revealed to us about God’s will we also look very silly when we choose to sin in the face of all that knowledge.

We often take a self-righteous view of ourselves and believe that God approves of all that we do in life.  Like the pharisees, we holler and yell when the Church tells us that our world view conflicts the truth of Jesus Christ.  We shout, “How dare you say abortion is evil!”  Or, “The Church’s teachings are so out of touch regarding premarital sex!”  To many, the idea that we must humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation seems draconian.  No one likes being told they are wrong or punished for bad behavior.  But instead of avoiding bad behavior we seem to go out of our way to redefine what is bad and what is good.   We try very hard to make God conform to our worldview instead of changing our worldview to fit God’s plan.   Do we see that we are like the pharisees in the Gospel when we argue and rebel against God’s teachings instead of embracing them?

Jesus said in the Gospel that He came into this world for judgement.  We remember Jesus’ coming judgement when we pray the Second Glorious Mystery.  He ascended into Heaven to judge the living and the dead.  Jesus will judge us based on His divine law.  That judgement may be harsh since we have knowledge of His laws and yet chose not to follow Him.  Remember, because we can see God’s truth, our sins remain.  God will not care whether something was legal in some worldly court.  He does not care about popular opinion.  And so, an important goal in life should be following God’s laws because in the end, that is how He will judge us.  When you pray the Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary acknowledge that we are all subject to God’s judgement one day.  And may that knowledge translate into the courage to live according to God’s will by avoiding sin.  Pray that we can humble ourselves and admit when we do stray from God’s path and embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation, especially in this period of Lent.

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Our Lady’s Messages — August 2010

In Mary’s first August message at Medjugorje, she asks us to live for God’s Kingdom of Heaven which is echoed in my rosary meditation on the Third Luminous Mystery. In Her other message, she asks us to pray.

Statue of Virgin Mary in Medjugorje - Bosnia H...
Image by gnuckx via Flickr

In Mary’s first August message at Medjugorje, she asks us to live for God’s Kingdom of Heaven which is echoed in the rosary meditation on the Third Luminous Mystery.  In Her other message, she asks us to pray.

Mary’s message to Mirjana on August 2, 2010:

Dear children! Today I call you, together with me, to begin to build the Kingdom of Heaven in your hearts; that you may forget that what is personal and – led by the example of my Son – think of what is of God. What does He desire of you? Do not permit Satan to open the paths of earthly happiness, the paths without my Son. My children, they are false and last a short while. My Son exists. I offer you eternal happiness and peace and unity with my Son, with God; I offer you the Kingdom of God. Thank you.

Mary’s message echos one of the main themes of the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  She wants us to understand the temporary nature of this life and the permanent nature of God’s kingdom in Heaven.  As Christians, we do believe that there is a Heaven where we hope to spend all eternity.  But how many of us work in this life for that Kingdom?  Mary wants us to take a hard look at ourselves and how we live and ask, “Am I on the path that leads to God’s kingdom or an earthly one?”

“My Son exists.”  Mary’s short sentence is very telling.  The fact that She has to tell us that shows that many of us forget that Jesus Christ does exist and is seated at the right hand of God in Heaven.  As I said in the Second Glorious Mystery — The Ascension, we often forget that we must one day account before God for everything we do in this life.  We forget that admission into Heaven is not free.  We must earn our spot by genuinely loving God through good works and avoiding sin.  God desires all of us to experience the eternal happiness of Heaven, but He doesn’t force it on us.  We have to want it and work towards it.

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on August 25, 2010:

Dear children! With great joy, also today, I desire to call you anew: pray, pray, pray. May this time be a time of personal prayer for you. During the day, find a place where you will pray joyfully in a recollected way. I love you and bless you all. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary doesn’t get clearer than this.  Pray!  Before you flip to another web page or email, just take a minute, ONE MINUTE, to say a small prayer.  Or pick up a rosary and pray a decade.  Who knows, you might even like it.

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Rosary Meditation — The Second Glorious Mystery

This rosary meditation focuses on The Second Glorious Mystery — The Ascension. After rising from the dead in the First Glorious Mystery, Jesus physically ascended into Heaven. We profess this every time we recite the Apostle’s Creed — “On the third day He rose again; He ascended into Heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” We must remember that ultimately we will have to account for our thoughts, words, and actions in front of Jesus who reigns in Heaven. However, the Church gives us tools that allow us to remain close to God and correct our faults before facing our final judgment.

Ascension of Christ
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This rosary meditation focuses on The Second Glorious Mystery — The Ascension.  After rising from the dead in the First Glorious Mystery, Jesus physically ascended into Heaven.  We profess this every time we recite the Apostle’s Creed — “On the third day He rose again;  He ascended into Heaven,  He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  We must remember that ultimately we will have to account for our thoughts, words, and actions in front of Jesus who reigns in Heaven.  However, the Church gives us tools that allow us to remain close to God and correct our faults before facing our final judgment.

“He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  Like many people, I find the idea of judgment scary.  The word “judgment” conveys a trial, assessing guilt, and handing out punishment; none of which are very pleasant.  In life, judging has a very negative connotation.  We hear how we shouldn’t be so judgmental.  Even when we are guilty (either legally or morally) many of us try to avoid admitting our faults and accepting the consequences.  Instead we hide, we lie, or play the “blame game.”  Deep down we want to be innocent, sinless, and virtuous but we often miss that mark.  But in professing our inevitable judgment in the Apostle’s Creed we remind ourselves that we need to work at becoming more Christ-like.  Understanding that our actions have consequences motivates us to avoid sin.  And we avoid sin, not just to avoid punishment, but also realizing that sin separates us from Jesus Christ whom we love.

The purpose of knowing of our coming judgment is not to scare or depress us.  In fact, God does not want to punish any of us.  He desires all of us to one day enter into His kingdom.  And He provides tools to help us avoid a harsh judgment.  The most obvious tool He gives us is the Sacrament of Confession.  This is our opportunity to set things straight with the Lord and remain in His grace.  It’s our way of doing small course corrections so that we can remain on the path that ultimately leads us into His kingdom of Heaven.  To put it another way, by routinely confessing our sins we confront our shortcomings while they are still small and manageable.  Without acknowledging our sins those small shortcomings can turn into major problems and separate us from God’s grace not to mention make our lives miserable.

Another tool at our disposal to live in God’s graces is prayer.  When we center our lives around God through prayer, that means we are not centering it around sin.  In other words, earnest prayer can never be sinful so when we live a life of prayer we live without sin (unfortunately, no one has been able to obtain this lofty goal 100% of the time).  The fact that we pray means that we acknowledge that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and hears our prayers.  After all, what would be the point of praying if we did not believe that Jesus hears us and guides us?  When we pray we focus, even if only for a short time, on the Lord and ask for His help, thank Him, and listen to how He calls us to live.  In short, we ask for the strength to live for His kingdom and earn our place that He has prepared for us when he ascended into Heaven.

When we meditate on this mystery, may we remember that our ultimate destination is Heaven.  May we show our love for the Lord by not delaying our arrival in Heaven with a detour in Purgatory.  And may we avoid mortal sin and risk loosing His kingdom entirely.  Remembering our final judgment is not a terrible thing.  Like remembering the consequences of breaking civil laws, we must always be mindful of the natural law that God imprints on our hearts and minds.  Doing so will not only have its benefits in the afterlife, but will also manifest itself as an inner happiness in this life.  Let us also remember to pray for those who are far from God’s graces.  Let us pray for those who do not want to confront their eventual judgment but instead choose to hide, lie, and redirect blame.  Because, as the old saying goes, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

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