Obama’s Failed Poker Bluff

It has been a big two weeks for both the pro-life and religious freedom causes.  We saw the Supreme Court rule unanimously that the 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in Massachusetts violated the pro-life advocates and sidewalk counselors right to free speech.  And this week we saw the Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 “Hobby Lobby” decision, rule that the government cannot force private employers to provide health plans that include coverage for operations, procedures, and medications that run counter to their personal religious beliefs.

U.S. Supreme Court building.
U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really liked what Creative Minority Report wrote about the unintentional consequences of Obama‘s efforts to limit the role religion plays in the public square.  It’s a short article that reads:

The great irony of Obama’s unrelenting assault on religious freedom may have had the unintended effect of strengthening religious freedom.

When the Obama administration went to the mattresses on arguments such as declaring that religious schools do not have the right to hire and fire for mission they got unanimously smacked down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, the Administration is red-faced again with the high court ruling that it doesn’t have the power to force “closely held companies” to provide contraceptive coverage. That’s a big deal.

It would be ironic if the overall effect of the Obama administration on religious liberty is a strengthening rather than a deleterious one.

Politics is a lot like a giant poker game.  I enjoy playing poker.  Sometimes I win, but more often I lose.  I lose when I try to force every hand into a big win.  Even when I don’t have a good hand I think to myself that I can bluff my way into winning.  I essentially get impatient and just want to take every pot which is not a smart way to play.  When I take that impatient, “go big all the time” strategy I will usually be the first one to bust out.  I win (or at least stay in the game longer) when I play strategically and take small losses when I’m in an unfavorable situation and moderate gains when I  can.

Like a game of poker, the pro-choice and big government crowds have been playing a very strategic game the last few decades.  It wasn’t overnight that a majority of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion rather than birth.  It wasn’t overnight that Planned Parenthood started receiving millions of dollars in federal funding and built massive clinics in every city in the US.  The pro-abortion crowd has built up their “winnings” by taking small wins here and there and never trying to force a win under unfavorable conditions.  It also helped them by staying away from imposing large, sweeping changes all at once.  That would be like broadcasting to the poker table that you have a straight flush by putting in too much money too quickly.

Poker Night
Poker Night (Photo credit: IanMurphy)

But in recent years, the pro-choice crowd flipped and started playing more of the “go big or go home” strategy to their disadvantage.  Maybe they felt emboldened by their earlier victories that they felt like they could make some big plays to really solidify their position in US law.  Maybe they thought that their opposition was so weak that they could continue to push their agenda even further without anyone putting up fight.  Fortunately for the pro-life cause, Obama went “all in” with the HHS contraception mandate and lost.  He looked at his two pair and thought that would be enough to win the hand.  Unfortunately for him, the US Constitution was sitting at the table with a full house and didn’t fold.

But this isn’t the beginning of the end of the debates over abortion, life, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.  Rather, it’s the end of the beginning.  Although the pro-life battle has been going on for decades, the millions of lives lost to abortion have really hinged on a few court cases and laws.  And our basic freedoms of speech and religion have only been tested a few dozen times in the high courts.  And while sometimes the legal precedent generates a unanimous 9-0 decision like in the Massachusetts case, other times it really comes down to a single justice’s interpretation of the law.

Given just how fragile and how quickly the pro-life cause and our freedoms can change, it is doubly important to maintain those prayers.  Much like how the Hobby Lobby decision came down to a single justice (I have no idea why it wasn’t a 9-0 decision), these cases may also come down to a single prayer.  We should never think that our prayers don’t matter or influence our world.  Our mother Mary has repeatedly said that prayer is the greatest tool we have to further God’s kingdom and bring His grace to others.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s your rosary prayer and intentions for our government officials that might tip the scale in the next important policy decision.  It may be our prayers that plant a seed in a judge’s heart to look at a case one more time and possibly have a change of heart.

The Battle Over Religious Freedom Intensifies

Prayer warriors, consider this article as your declaration of war and your rosaries as your draft card. Now that the election is over the government’s battle on religious freedom will turn from covert, guerrilla warfare to an all out, open attack. I wrote a few articles about the attacks on religious freedom such as the Health and Human Services Contraception Mandate and liberal Catholics marginalizing authentic Catholic teachings. But these issues are just the “opening shots” in the war against religion and morality (particularly against the Catholic Church). It’s a test of what type of defence the faithful will put up when attacked. The answer so far — not a very good one. And now the anti-religion lobby will feel all the more powerful to lay down a political blitzkrieg on the United States of America.

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957There were many wasted opportunities for the people of the United States to show that we would not stand for an assault on religious freedom. When the Obama administration announced the HHS Mandate, it was still questionable whether Obamacare was going to stand in the Supreme Court. But it did. It was then questionable whether Obama was going to win re-election. He dodged both of those hurdles with relative ease. But the HHS contraception mandate is really just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I think the HHS mandate isn’t so much about contraception as it is about the Obama administration testing to see the effects of attacking a pillar of American democracy — the freedom of religion. Unfortunately, the Obama administration learned that they can get away with their attacks on religion since nothing he did stopped the American people (even 50% of the voting Catholics) from re-electing him. If Obama can force employers to pay for contraception or force states to fund Planned Parenthood and still get support from the American people, what’s to stop him from pushing the assault on the faithful even further?

Many people and groups are really starting to ratchet up the pressure to compromise on issues of morality and religious freedom. Right after the election, the president of Planned Parenthood called on the GOP to drop their pro-life base. Basically, she said that the Republicans tried that whole pro-life message and failed to beat Obama. So they should give up that “extreme” position to win the women’s vote. Similarly, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal called on conservatives to “tone down the abortion extremism.” How dare people pray in front of abortion clinics! Evangelical writer Jim Wallis said that ” it appears that a strategy of citing a “war on religion”— and doubling down on the long-failed strategy of citing abortion and traditional marriage as the two “non-negotiable” religious issues — once again failed.” And the Department of Justice said that you give up your freedom of religion when you go into business.

In my opinion, the people who want to curb religion’s influence on society are striking while the iron is hot after a large Obama victory. They want to plant those seeds of doubt on organized religion, morality, and natural law now so that later restrictions on religious freedom might become codified in the law. If they continue to present this narrative that traditional values and morality just don’t work in today’s world, people will start to buy into it making it easier for government to curb religious liberty even further. And why would government want to do that? Morality based on a natural law is something that the government cannot control. It means that they have to accept that a higher power than government guides peoples’ views. But if government and the groups that heavily depend on the government (I’m looking at you Planned Parenthood) can lead people to believe that natural law and Church teachings are wrong or short-sighted, then the government can control morality through the law. The country becomes a place where right and wrong are defined by the law (and hence political campaigns, lobbyists, and other influential sources), and not the other way around where the law recognizes and enforces what is intrinsically good or bad.

What Does the Rosary Teach Us?

When looking at the challenges religious liberty in the United States faces, it’s important to meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery — the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. There are several analogies between this mystery and current events. First, look at how Mary and Joseph, when travelling away from Jerusalem, didn’t realize that Jesus was not with them. I think this symbolizes the state of many Catholics today who have drifted away from the core teachings of their faith and don’t even realize it. Because they don’t make understanding the authentic Catholic faith a priority in their lives, politicians’ passionate speeches that tug at the heartstrings but might run contrary to Church teachings lure people away. The Fifth Joyful Mystery reminds us how important it is to keep Jesus “in our sights.” It’s important to do routine spiritual “gut checks” through prayer, meditation, reading the Bible, learning the Church’s teachings, attending Mass, and receiving the sacraments. When we make an effort to embrace our faith, we will have a better awareness when people are trying to influence us to act contrary to that faith.

The other important aspect of the Fifth Joyful Mystery is that Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him. In this politically charged environment, it is so easy to become depressed when you see your deeply held beliefs torn down by the institutions that are supposed to protect them. Much like how Mary and Joseph’s search was fruitless for several days, so it may seem like our efforts of praying and living the faith do not lead us or this world to a better place. But our faith tells us that our efforts will bear fruit one day if we just keep searching for Jesus in our lives. If we are lucky, maybe there will be an awakening of conscience and a call from the people for our leaders to protect our religious freedom, not attack it. But even if the world spirals permanently downward we can take comfort that we will find eternal joy and perfection in Heaven. And in the end, isn’t that what truly matters? The politicians may strip religion from our laws but they can never strip the reality of morality, God, and Heaven from our souls.

Fight the good fight and live to pray another day!

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Contraception Mandate Hook

The Health and Human Services contraception mandate is behind us now, right?  After all, the Obama administration announced it in January and then made the appropriate accommodations in February.  So everyone is happy, right?  The only people left complaining are those religious, woman-hating extremists who will never be satisfied, right?  That’s probably the impression you get listening to many media sources.  But the truth is that the war for religious liberty is far from over.  We look to the rosary, Mary, the saints, and our Lord Jesus on what we can do to defend ourselves against the assault on our God-given religious freedoms.

Do you like to fish?  Any experienced angler will tell you that when you hook a big fish you can’t just reel in your line as fast as you can.  Doing so will create too much tension on your line resulting in it snapping and your fish getting away.  Instead, you let the fish run a little followed by reeling it in a little more.  You give the fish ten feet to run, you reel it in eleven feet.  Eventually, the fish gets tired fighting and you’ve brought it close enough to the boat that you can scoop it up in your net and hang it on your wall as your trophy.

Obama treats the contraception mandate much like hooking a big fish.  ObamaCare passed in 2010 after a vigorous fight in both houses of Congress.  But Obama delayed the announcements regarding conscience protection.  Like a good angler, he didn’t try to “reel us all in” at once.  He let the emotions die down a little so the objectors would tire out.  He then announced the contraception mandate in January, 2012.  But he quickly followed with a toothless accommodation speech.  With help from a willing media, the dialog turned from religious freedom to health-care and a “war on women.”  When you take a step back and see what’s happening, you realize that all this give and take is part of a well-orchestrated strategy.  Everything in this campaign is a calculated movement of knowing when to press and when to fall back.  But ultimately the administration is slowly getting what it wants — universal contraception and abortions for anyone and funded by every tax-paying citizen.

When did abortion enter into the conversation?  Again, our political Angler and Chief is just using contraception as his opening attack.  Once you get people reeled in and destroy conscience protection with contraception, it becomes so much easier to extend those policies to cover abortion.  Don’t believe me?  Read this article about how there is nothing in the ObamaCare text that really prevents the federal government from mandating abortion coverage in government-backed health exchanges.  Read the article on how the law states that these health-care exchanges cannot call attention that they even provide abortion services.  Read how Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, has no issues with the plan and Obama’s many accommodations (that speaks volumes).  Again, Obama appears to give a little to his opponents by delivering fancy speeches and signing worthless executive orders.  But all this time we’re getting reeled into taxpayer-funded abortions.  If that gets put into place, who’s to say that a one-child policy or other abortion mandates won’t make an appearance on Capitol Hill?  We’re getting ever closer to conscience protection and the freedom of religion becoming something caught, killed, gutted, and hung as a trophy as big government’s victory over personal liberty.

Part of Krzeszów Abbey "Stations of the C...

I think we need to look at the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary — Jesus Carrying His Cross.  Jesus fell three times during His Passion.  And each time no one from the crowd offered to help Him up.  Everyone stood watching either in sorrow, fear, or contempt.  And while some had pity for Jesus, no one came to help Him.  Maybe they were scared of what the Roman soldiers might do to them.  Maybe they just didn’t want to stand out as a follower of Jesus fearing what their friends and neighbors would think.  Regardless of their motivation, Jesus was left to carry His cross alone while everyone just looked on.

We find ourselves in the same situation with the HHS mandate.  Many times we look around and think it’s someone else’s fight.  We don’t want to get involved and create a lot of tension between friends and family.  We often think that somehow things will just turn out fine so what’s the point of sticking our necks out?  But in not speaking up, in not publicly defending our faith, we are like the bystanders who watched Jesus fall and did nothing to help Him.  Like St. Peter, we deny Jesus and His teachings because we are afraid of what others may think.

Now is not the time to sit around and hope that our situation will magically change.  Remember the Second Joyful Mystery of the rosary — The Visitation.  I mentioned in my meditation how personal prayer is important.  But prayer is not an end in itself.  We must use prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to go out and publicly show God’s glory as Mary did when she visited Elizabeth.  That may mean taking the difficult road of speaking up when remaining silent would be easier.  We may not have wanted this fight much like how the fish doesn’t intend on getting hooked.  But we’re on the hook now.  And our only option is to fight and, with God’s help, snap that line big government has on religious liberty so it can remain free and flourish.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Obama Contraception Mandate LinkFest

The articles regarding President Obama’s contraception mandate keep piling up.  Everyone is weighing in, whether it be Catholic bishops or secular sources evaluating the Constitutional consequences of this mandate.  President Obama stirred up a hornets’ nest with this decision as it has now brought to the forefront questions of religious freedom, healthcare, and conscience in America.  Unfortunately, this issue also has brought out the deeply seated prejudice against the Catholic Church that many still harbor in this country.

We really do stand at a juncture in the USA.  This is not like previous political fights like raising the debt ceiling or passing a budget.  In those fights, the various sides can make compromises and deals since the issue at hand is usually morally neutral.  But various religions cannot compromise their morality.  Unlike the typical politician that usually bends in whatever direction that will result in reelection, religions just can’t redefine intrinsic evils to make their situation politically convenient.  And it doesn’t matter if Obama gives Catholics one year, ten years, or ten centuries to comply with this mandate.  The Church’s position will be the same because morality is not a democracy.

I encourage you to read these articles and share them.  Sign petitions, make donations, and spread the word as we face this very real assault on our religious liberty.  I wish I had the time to comment on each one of these articles, but there are just too many outlets now covering this story.  Read the articles, read the comments, and pray for the conversion of hearts in our politicians and those who have so much hatred towards the Church.

Remember the Fourth Joyful Mystery and how Simeon’s patience and endurance eventually paid off when he finally saw the baby Jesus.  He waited in the temple his whole life when others probably told him his mission was pointless and silly.  Pray that we too will show that same level of steadfastness as Simeon in this assault against our cherished values.  Right now we are like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in the First Sorrowful Mystery.  I fear that we will have trials ahead.  But like Jesus, we will find strength through God and the Holy Spirit to endure any challenge this world throws at us.


Enhanced by Zemanta