Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What Every Catholic Needs to Know Before Voting


It's 2016 and the US is rapidly approaching the presidential elections. In case you live under a rock or you just don't follow politics or the news, it all started in Iowa. Iowans began preliminary voting (Ted Cruz won) and the rest of the states will follow until the two major parties each decide on a single front runner. We're told that every vote matters because it really does. So if you're an American citizen and you're not already a registered voter, I very highly recommend registering as soon as possible.

But before you cast your vote, take some time to research the candidates. This year we have tons to choose from and while some have lofty promises like "free college" and others ride on snappy slogans and late night television ads, voting is a responsibility that Catholics need to take more seriously. It's obvious that our current administration won't be taking serious action against Planned Parenthood and while these concerns are fresh in the public mind, now more than ever is the time to vote for a truly Pro-life candidate.

In the most recent Republican debate Chris Christie stated that (if elected president) defunding Planned Parenthood would be his top priority. The moderators then asked if there was anything else that he felt was more pressing or important and, in a shining moment which made me want to stand and cheer, Christie replied he could think of nothing more important than stopping the murder of thousands (and thousands) of children. He was off in his estimates as nearly 1 MILLION American children are aborted every year. Christie was definitely right in stating that there is nothing more important, and as Catholics, the issue of abortion should be the very first one that we consider when choosing a candidate to vote for.

In case you weren't already aware ... it's actually a mortal sin to vote for leaders that are Pro-Choice. By voting for a pro-choice candidate you vote to not only prolong but actively cultivate one of the greatest evils society has ever faced. If you'd like to read more about this, I recommend starting with A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters

Democrats 

It's probably no surprise that Democrats consistently rank lowest in putting forth Pro-Life candidates. Basically, if you're Catholic and still trying to decide who to vote for, you probably won't find anyone here. All the same, here's a look at the presidential candidates for 2016. 

Bernie Sanders 
Um ... I guess we're supposed to call him a "Democrat" since that's the party he's running with but he's actually a self-professed Socialist or "Democratic Socialist" which is basically a more Cold-War-Friendly way to repackage the same old ideas. You might know him as the really old guy who is promising everyone free college (or if you watch SNL, the guy with only one pair of underpants). Aside from promising everything for free, his biggest platform is basically that he isn't Hillary Clinton. But when it comes to voting Pro-life, his track record is not all that different from hers. He has a solid history of voting to expand the funding of abortion and contraception. In 2012 he claimed "The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman, her family and physician to make, not the government." If you'd like to read more about his views on abortion, click here

If we were to grade him on being Catholic-friendly, he gets a big fat F.

Hillary Clinton- (Or as my sister calls her - The Pantsuit Princess) She's basically a walking billboard for the Democratic Party. Or, at least, she was until her recent email scandals (and other failures while working in the Obama Administration). It probably goes without saying but she's not only not Pro-Life, she is actively Pro-Choice and seeks to expand so-called Reproductive Rights whenever the opportunity presents itself. Like Sanders, she has a voting record which is consistently pro-abortion.

If we were to grade her on being Catholic-friendly, she also gets a big fat F

Republicans

Republicans are a mixed bag this year. All of the candidates are more Pro-Life than Clinton or Sanders but if you're looking for a Pro-Life candidate (and you definitely should be) Conservative doesn't always means Catholic-friendly. In no particular order ...

Donald Trump- Aside from a few controversial comments, Trump plays with his cards close to the vest. He's quick to spout that he "has a plan" to deal with political issues but transparency doesn't seem to be all that important to him. So then, what are his views on abortion and the Right to Life? Well, it's difficult to say. Unlike other candidates, he doesn't have much of a track record to consult since, like Fiorina and Dr. Carson, he has virtually no political experience. But unlike Fiorina and Carson, Trump is quick to dodge a question he doesn't want to answer. Or, if you publicly embarrass him by mentioning his past involvement with the opposing party, to just not show up at all. He's conveniently changed his stance (just in time for elections!) So, while he now claims to have seen the light and embarked on an epic journey of conversion to Conservative family values, you can't blame America for being skeptical. While we are overjoyed at the thought that he would leave the Dark Side, his song and dance touting his new-found dedication to being Pro-Life is generally not convincing.

Though Trump is well known for being controversial and vocal, so far he's been astoundingly silent on the issues that matter. D-

Ted Cruz - Winner of the Iowa Caucus. Like Trump, Cruz is bold only he comes off as more genuine and actually has the track record to prove that he isn't easily swayed. Cruz seems to place a higher value on government transparency and rather than claiming to "have a plan", he actually tells the American people exactly what it is (usually in the form of "check out my website" but at least he makes the effort). Cruz is a staunch Conservative who sees no shame in connecting his political views with his religious beliefs (not complaining). If you'd like to read more about his views, click here

When it comes to being Pro-Life, Cruz gets a pretty solid A. 

Marco Rubio - He's running at a strong # 3 for the Republican party- just barely behind Trump in Iowa. He's been under heat for allegedly changing his stance on immigration (he claims he has been consistent and that others have misunderstood him). Rubio comes from a middle class background with parents who were immigrants. Like many in the GOP, his platform includes strong Family Values. Rubio claims he is Pro-Life but still understands that Women's Rights are currently the Law of the Land. Given the opportunity to limit abortion he has had a firm stance and repeatedly votes Pro-Life so his track record certainly seems to uphold his claims. The only concern some Catholics may have is that he will be too passive when it comes to backing legislation reform and the fight to not only defund Planned Parenthood, but to also overturn Roe vs. Wade - the 1973 Supreme Court case which resulted in the legalization of abortion in the US. On the other hand, Rubio's more moderate approach and willingness to reach across the aisle may be our best hope for actually getting things done. Really, it could go either way. To read more about his views on abortion, click here.    

His solid track record proves he really means it when he says he's Pro-Life, Rubio gets an A-/A 

Ben Carson - You might know him as the doctor or the guy Healing Hands (the 2009 film staring Cuba Gooding Jr.) is based on. Carson generally appears soft spoken and non-confrontational. There's no doubt that he's an intelligent man but many are seriously concerned about whether he would be willing to take the heat which inevitably accompanies a firm Pro-Life stance. And speaking of his stance on Life, he's been decidedly passive. Though he claims he would like to see more restrictions placed on abortion, he advocates the administration of abortafacients in "exception" cases. Carson seems to believe that overturning Roe vs. Wade would be "ideal" but he seems to lack faith in our ability to actually do it. If you'd like to read more about his views, click here

Of course, Carson is not a politician so he has no track record to consult which made it difficult for us to weigh against his campaign promises. So, for being anti-abortion but not fully Pro-Life, Dr. Carson gets a C

Chris Christie - Chris Christie (or as a family friend calls him, "the Jersey dough boy") has done a fantastic job lately. Unfortunately, so has pretty much everyone else in the GOP so it has been difficult for him to really shine through. It's no secret that he has caught some slack for his weight (weird - considering most Americans are, themselves, overweight). He speaks well and, in the debates, has really held his own - answering tough questions on national security and deflecting accusations right and left. If there was any confusion concerning Christie's Pro-Life beliefs, he laid them to rest at the Iowa debates. What you might not know about him is that he is Catholic (as are Rubio, Santorum, and Bush). I can't vouch that he is practicing or even that he's in full communion with the Church but one thing is for certain, no matter where he stands, he makes an infinitely better Catholic than Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi- admittedly not a hard thing to do.  

Chris Christie is Pro-Life and not afraid to be vocal about it. For this and his strong record, he gets high marks: A+. 

Carly Fiorina - As the only Republican woman running for president in the 2016 elections, she kind of stands out. You might know her as the former CEO or the lady that's always trash talking Hillary (also memorable attributes). What you might not know is that, while others were campaigning or facing potential snow-ins, she was the only presidential candidate to attend the 2016 Walk For Life in Washington DC. But don't let this get your hopes up. Her record reveals she has a more complex stance on abortion than you might assume. Like Carson, she seeks to lessen abortion in the US but with "exceptions". She's definitely a better candidate than Clinton but, luckily, we still have other more Pro-Life Conservatives to choose from. 

So, for being a vocal advocate for the Pro-Life movement but being more liberal in her interpretation of Rights to Life, we give her a B.

PLEASE NOTE: Rick Santorum dropped out of the race earlier today and has apparently chosen to back Rubio. I chose to leave his information because he deserves to be a household name and I wanted to provide  information on him all the same. This isn't the first time he's run for the executive office and I doubt it will be his last.

Rick Santorum -  Santorum has been a true crusader for Life. Of course, if you follow the Pro-Life movement, you probably already know that. His views were recently under fire at the Iowa debates but it was quickly laid to rest when Fiorina spoke up on his behalf. When it comes to abortion, Santorum doesn't stand for special exceptions or "only in the case of" certain circumstances. He doesn't just seek to defund Planned Parenthood, he actively seeks to overturn Roe v Wade which he openly claims there is no constitutional basis for. Santorum wrote legislation to outlaw Partial Birth Abortion. He opposes fetal stem cell research and human cloning. You can read more about his views here
For his rock-solid track record and across the board Pro-Life beliefs, Santorum gets an A++

John Kasich - If you've been following the debates you might know him as the guy from Ohio. What you might not know is that Ohio has been working to defund Planned Parenthood and like several other Conservative candidates, it's a cause that Kasich stands behind. He also voted to ban partial birth abortion.Unfortunately, he believes it is "reasonable" to include exceptions in the case of rape and incest.  To read more about John Kasich's views, click here. (Did I mention he's from Ohio?)

Yet another "except special circumstances" Pro-Lifer, Kasich's lack of dedication to all Pro-Life beliefs places him in conflict with the teachings of the Holy Mother Church. For this reason, he gets a C.

Jeb Bush- He obviously comes from the Bush family and therefore doesn't need much of an introduction. He's softer on Pro-Life issues than many of the other candidates but he was definitely a hard one to call. Of course you can decide for yourself after reading his views here but we felt it best to go with a B- /C+



I'll admit - This was a rather long article and I got a bit lazy with hyperlinks so for anyone I neglected to cover or post a link for, check out OnTheIssues.Org.  Please do your homework and choose responsibly.

A special thanks to my sister Jordan who has been following everything very passionately and who helped me decide on a rating for each candidate.  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Whitebread Protestants : A Book Review


"Protestants like to think religion is not materialistic. Its theology, spirituality, and liturgy are rooted in concepts and words and any religious practice that involves material objects or invokes the senses is suspect -- dismissed as papist or shunned idolatrous. But the place of food within American Protestant church life calls this anti-materialism into question. There is nothing more material than food ..." (Back Cover) 


Daniel Sack's "Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture" has been sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me to dust it off and give it a proper review. I bought the book several several years ago for an undergraduate Religion course. The first time I sat to read it I had a difficult time reading the text as the more I learned about American Protestantism the more I realized just how off base it is with true Christianity. I've since reread it many times and I now find it to be a wonderful resource for any Catholic (especially those in regular communication with Protestants). 

The book itself is not that long, hovering somewhere around 220 pages or so, but it tackles the hows and whys of American Protestantism better than most books on the subject. "Whitebread Protestants" is broken into five chapters entitled: (1) Liturgical Food:Communion Elements and Conflict, (2) Social Food: Potlucks and Coffee Hours, (3) Emergency Food: The Development of Soup Kitchens, (4) Global Food: Hunger Politics, and (5) Moral Food: Eating as a Christian Should.  

The whole thing begins with an excellent examination of the history of Protestant involvement with the Temperance Movement and their subsequent changes and reinterpretations of the Bible in order to fit their new concerns over alcohol.Sacks explains the origins of contemporary Protestant "Communion" trends that had previously baffled me (such as using grape juice) and some that I was unaware of (like the use of individual paper cups and prepackaged "Communion" products). Sacks continues on to paint us a vivid picture of mainline American Protestantism and culture all through their relationship to food.   
     
Throughout the book it is apparent that American Protestantism has been (and continues to be) committed to ignoring tradition and changing theological interpretations in order to justify preconceived notions and social anxieties. And, again and again, we see case after case of American Protestants not only changing their own minds, but expecting the rest of the world to fall in line with their new personal revelations.

We see the story of a people banishing doctrine in favor of "community" (perhaps to validate their "personal interpretations") that ironically uses church practices like Communion to separate the community and emphasize personal worship. It probably shouldn't be surprising then that they feel the need to augment their desire for "community" and "fellowship" with shallow attempts to forge ties through Potlucks and "community" events. While these things are always nice to have in a community, it's best to keep in mind that religion is delicate. It is not unlike a house of cards. If you start removing a piece here and a piece there it will either collapse or need to be rebuilt to accommodate the changes. Sacks does a wonderful job putting this into perspective as he traces the struggles and changes of "Whitebread Protestant" religion and culture. For as much as we hear their religions are supposedly based on a "deep personal relationships with Jesus Christ" it was intriguing to learn that the focus is more accurately about "relationships" with one another than the Big Guy Upstairs. 

After reading this book you'll have gained deeper insight into the hows and whys of "Whitebread Protestants" and, if you're like me, with every page you'll see just how much they miss the mark. While frustrating at times (through no fault of the author), this book has helped me to grow deeper in love with Catholicism and to more clearly see the necessity of stability and tradition in Christianity.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Battling Trolls: Apologetics and New Evangelism

St. George battles the dragon.
As Catholics we are called to make "disciples of all nations" and since most nations have now heard of Christianity it is our duty to go deeper and dispel the lies surrounding the Church and her teachings. In the modern world evangelism is no longer a one-size-fits all effort. You no longer have to travel to remote villages in order to engage with people who grew up differently than you. For many of us, all it takes is hopping onto a computer or flipping on our phone. International and interfaith communication has literally never been easier than it is now. 

Trolls


Of course with increased access not all voices are helpful. You're probably well aware that religious sites (yes, even this one) receive its fair share of trolls and occasional death threats. And while it can be spiritually and even emotionally exhausting dealing with these people, we must remember to remain calm and patient. We must wade through the badgering with perfect resilience and view every interaction as what it really is - an opportunity to teach others about the True Faith.

So when you are faced with the persistent troll, remember, they are people too. God created them and no matter what they say to provoke you, you must never stoop down to their petty methods. 

If is Smells like a Troll ...     


It can be difficult to determine whether someone is truly a troll or if they are just ignorant. Not every creature that smells like a troll is a troll. Some people just smell. 

If you engage in Apologetics and interfaith discussions with others it is important to remember that not everyone is a troll. Sometimes people ask questions because they are genuinely curious. They might use the same tired fall backs and phrases that we all know "whore of Babylon," "adding to the Bible," "Sola Scriptura" etc. and while it might seem that they are barraging you with endless questions, a closer look will likely reveal genuine interest. With my whole heart, I really do believe that every man and woman in the world was meant to be Catholic. When non-Caths come and ask questions it might very well be because they feel God calling them towards the True Church but their hearts are filled with fear. 

Don't give them another reason to resist. Please remember to be kind and patient. Don't give answers for things you don't know. It's okay to be honest and say "I don't know" if you don't. It would be better to admit that than to give false information. 

It's Not a Contest... 


New Evangelism and Apologetics are not about "winning" or "losing" arguments. They are really about listening to the concerns of other peoples and calmly dispelling them with arms open and ready to accept anyone-- because you never know where converts will come from. 

New Evangelism and Apologetics are about shouting the truth over the cacophony of lies in the world. They are about dispersing seeds in the hope that something will take and grow.   

Keep in mind why you are doing it and pray that God guide you in your endeavors. 


May God keep and Bless you now and forevermore! 
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Checking Your Connection

Image comes from Creative Commons.
It’s important to build our relationship with God in many ways - through forms of prayer and service. Prayer is like communication. There are many different ways to communicate (written letters, email, Social Media, texting, Skype etc. and face to face conversation) and in the same way there are many forms of prayer (repetition, reading scripture, contemplative, expressive praise and worship, charismatic etc.).

 A lot of people have developed an annoying habit of constantly checking their connection, worried they might have lost a call or missed a message from a friend. Our connection to God does not depend on a tower or a satellite. Our connection to God is constant. He always has a new message waiting for us, we just have to take some time each day to check it.

We don’t need to ask him “Can you hear me” because the answer is always yes. He can hear you and He’s listening. I don’t want to discourage you from using technology. It really is a marvelous modern miracle. But we need to be careful with the way we use it. We need to find some balance in our life and remember our connection to God is more important than our WiFi.


“And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [your] mind, that ye may prove what [is] the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” 

It can be easy for us to get lost in documenting life and forget to actually live it.

The Bible is full of people well-connected to God. It would be hard to imagine Noah or Ezekiel stopping to talk on the phone. The thought of Jesus playing Candy Crush is ridiculous and not just because it is anachronistic. The only connection they worried about was God.

Growing up, my mother always had a rule, no technology on the Sabbath. We could have chosen any day but with homework and daily life, Sunday seemed to work the best. We quickly found that without the television or radio or phones and pagers, we were forced to actually spend time with one another. Our cabinet of board games was soon overflowing and we can now boast of library with literally more than a thousand books. But more than anything, our No-Tech days gave us hours of all that time that you think you “don’t have”. It gave us time to sit together and pray or read scripture or even just impress each other with political and philosophical debates.

When we removed ourselves from the world, we found a whole new world of opportunities presented themselves. We learned how to connect with one another and more importantly, we strengthened our connection to God.

You don’t have to completely cut technology out of your life in order to be a good Christian but you should be mindful of how much you use it and how you use it.

 Especially during Holy Week we should all take a little bit of time to focus on our connection with God. Your signal is strong and constant. He’s just waiting for you to check in.


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Friday, March 13, 2015

Still Alive ...

Image is Creative Commons.
I haven't been very active on this blog. I've been busy with work and life but in the next few months I'll be working towards revamping it. I'm currently working on reformatting it and I will hopefully have a real post soon.

-Pax et bonum 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Catholic Fantasy Fiction:MY NEW BOOK!

Hey! I'm in the middle of writing a Catholic Historical Fantasy novel (series). I'm a strong believer in creating a thoroughly Catholic culture. It's the only way we will be able to overcome the evils of our current Culture of Death.
Here's a quick view of my map! For a better look
visit me at The Catholic Crow
I am trying to write it all in a way that mimics other fantasy classics (like The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings) which are not overwhelmingly religious/political (any audience can enjoy it) but Christians are likely to find it extra appealing for its subtle implications. Though I want it to be open to a wide audience, I believe my conservative Catholic views are highly integrated into the complex story which centers around the need for Religious Freedom, Family Values, and (my favorite) TRADITION!
The West is essentially a land rife with Paganism while the Easterners are more or less allegorical for Protestants. The mystical people following the "Ancient" religion (who even pray in the "Ancient" language) are the heroic Catholics of the tale.

Beyond this there are political struggles of ambitious men (young and old alike) as well as ethnic and religious tensions between the different groups and competing cultures. Of course no Fantasy Fiction is complete without fantastical creatures- for which I am incorporating my own elements in addition to using many older Medieval creatures [which those well versed in Medieval Literature are sure to appreciate]. Oh! And there's sibling rivalries, love triangles, betrayal, death, magic, and a pretty strong statement about finding fulfillment in parenthood (without birth control). This is not to say that it is all in-your-face, there are selfish Feminist characters just the same but they are honestly not intended to be the characters one identifies with. Here it is the Radical-Feminist which is portrayed for what she really is- hypocritical and self-serving, to the point of even exploiting other women for the sake of her own "independence". This should hopefully be a breath of fresh air for those that are used to the genre as well as for those that do not typically read Fantasy. (To be honest, though I love fantasy film, I read WAY more Historical Fiction than I do Fantasy so I'll hopefully avoid some of the same old tired conventions- perhaps including just a few for comfort. I'm not sure yet, we'll see.)    
 
I have been posting a few updates and even a preview (don't worry- it was a VERY rough draft). You can read all about it at The Catholic Crow. I would very greatly appreciate your support. Thanks! - Peace and Blessings!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

20 Signs That You're a Traditional Roman Catholic

Admit it, you take our faith pretty seriously which can often confuse many people- especially those dreaded “contemporary” folk. You probably avoid Youth Masses like the plague and, in college, stayed far far away from your Newman Center. [30 minute drive to a VALID Mass- worth it!] You know you’re really blessed to be a part of the True Church and, unlike many, you actually know and actively practice your faith. Here’s some signs you’re a Trad Cath.


For the 20 Signs- please visit my post on Buzzfeed. 

http://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniev777/20-signs-that-youre-a-traditional-roman-catholic-ofml