France bans Down Syndrome ad from TV because smiling kids might ‘disturb’ women who had an abortion

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Years ago I was a substitute teacher just outside Chicago. There were days when I had the opportunity to join special education classes, which included kids with Down Syndrome. I am not lying when I say that those were some of the best kids I ever had the privilege to meet.

Given that experience, you can see one of the many reasons why a story out of France caught my eye just before Thanksgiving.  It turns out that a commercial by CoorDown titled “Dear Future Mom” is now officially banned from the airwaves. The reason? It might “disturb the conscience” of women who elected to have an abortion.

The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed on the story Wednesday:

“Abortion is legal in most of Europe, but its proponents are bent on suppressing efforts to change the minds of mothers considering it. Witness France’s ban on a television commercial showing happy children with Down Syndrome (DS).

Produced to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, the commercial showed several cheerful children with DS addressing a mother considering abortion. “Dear future mom,” says one, “don’t be afraid.” “Your child will be able to do many things,” says another. “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” “He’ll be able to speak and tell you he loves you.”

France’s High Audiovisual Council removed the commercial from air earlier this year, and in November the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, upheld the ban, since the clip could ‘disturb the conscience’ of French women who had aborted DS fetuses.”

Ask yourself this question: If French courts are permitted to ban a television commercial that features smiling kids because it might “disturb the conscious” of some viewers, then what is off limits?

Answer: Nothing.

Whether you agree or disagree with abortion, then I hope you can see just how incredibly terrifying this court’s logic is from a free-speech and religious liberty perspective. People often behave like the liberties enjoyed by the western world will be around forever, but that is not the case.

“But Doug!” you said, “Why should we care about France? We sort of expect that kind of thing from the French and Europe as a whole, right?”

The truth, sadly, is that every nation has Thought Police — even the U.S.

One merely needs to check out BuzzFeed’s hit piece on the hosts of HGTV’s hit series Fixer Upper. Writer Kate Aurthur founder herself a juicy target to destroy because a popular married couple is suspected of a Mind Crime. That’s why she wrote “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage.”

Shocker — Christian family belongs to a church that does not approve of homosexual relationships.

Perhaps Allahpundit over at Hotair put it best:

“The BuzzFeed piece is proof that we’re past the persuasion stage now in the culture wars, particularly as regards gay rights, and into the bludgeoning stage, where the left feels secure enough in its gains to try to strongarm the holdouts.”

Boom.

In France, smiling kids with Down Syndrome cannot appear on television. In America, Christian couples with hit television shows have giant websites trying to find ways to destroy their career.

In France, powerful legal councils keep you off the air if you  disturb the conscience of women who had an abortion. In America, liberal reporters will try to derail your television career if you “disturb the conscious” of secular Democrats.

And with that, I will leave you with a quote by John Philpot Curran:

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” — John Philpot Curran.

If you do not think you have anything to learn from men who were born in the 1700s, then think again.

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‘Letters to a Young Catholic’: George Weigel hits a literary home run

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George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic is a wonderful book, but oddly enough I must begin this review by griping about the title — it’s something that Catholics of any age should read. In fact, the publisher does not lie by billing the book as “a modern spiritual classic,” which is why I recommend it to anyone who is interested in such issues.

Like many Catholic kids, my parents took me to Mass every Sunday growing up. And, like many Catholic kids, I was not exposed to the writings of G.K. Chesterton, George Weigel or other intellectual heavyweights. What I did have access to were kind adults who lacked the ability to articulate the faith in a way that “clicked” for me. I drifted from the Church as a young man and did not come back until I learned many painful lessons. If I were exposed to a book like this as a teenager then it probably would have saved me a lot of lost time, although I admit to having a largely impenetrable chip on my shoulder in those days. (And yes, I know that some of you would argue that it’s still there!)

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Letters to a Young Catholic is that in many ways it doubles as a must-read for those who are wondering why America’s political institutions are crumbling before our eyes. The way in which the author travels the globe, goes back in time, covers essential questions about the Catholic faith that all young people ask, and then ties it into our contemporary political landscape is like watching a gymnast who puts everything out on the floor before the judges — and nails it.

Mr. Weigel writes:

If American popular and high culture could ever agree on a theme song that captured the idea of freedom driving much of contemporary life, it would almost certainly be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” I did it my way seems to sum up the widespread notion that freedom is a matter of asserting myself and my will — that freedom is really about choice, not about what we choose and why. Suggest that certain choices are just incompatible with human dignity and with growth in goodness, and you’ll get some very strange looks these days, whether on campus or in the workplace.

Catholicism has a different idea of freedom. In the Catholic idea of freedom, freedom and goodness go together. A great contemporary moral theologian, Father Servais Pinckaers, OP, explained all this. […] Learning to play the piano, he reminded us, is a tedious, even dreary business at first: well do I remember my own distaste for a book of technique-strengthening tortures entitled Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios. But after doing one’s exercises for a while, what originally seemed like a burden comes into clearer focus — learning to do the right thing in the right way is actually liberating. You can play anything you like, even the most difficult pieces. You can make new music on your own. Sure, Father Pinckaers writes, anybody can pound away on a piano. But that’s a rudimentary, savage sort of freedom,” not a truly human freedom. …

I did it my way teaches us an idea of freedom that Father Pinckaers calls “the freedom of indifference.” Doing things “my way,” just because it’s my way, is like banging idiotically on the piano or talking gibberish. The richer, nobler idea of freedom the Catholic Church proposes is what Father Pinckaers calls freedom for excellence — the freedom to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, as a matter of habit. That’s the truly human way. Because that’s the kind of freedom that satisfies our natural desire for happiness, which itself reflects our desire for God, who is all Good, all the way.  […] What’s all this got to do with democracy? Everything. Freedom untethered from moral truth will eventually become freedom’s worst enemy. — Weigel, George. Letters to a Young Catholic. Basic Books, 2015. 305-306.

A friend of mine texted me on Monday and said she hoped that I would cover the first U.S. presidential debate on the blog. In many ways, the text from Mr. Weigel’s book shown here tells us everything we need to know.

Why is America forced to choose between a woman who should be wearing an orange jumpsuit in a federal prison, and an egomaniac with occasionally orange skin?

Answer: Because America long ago decided it wanted to untether freedom from moral truth.

There really is no way to read Letters to a Young Catholic and not have a crystal clear understanding as to why civil society in the U.S. is unraveling. Our cultural influencers embrace a kind of nihilism “that enjoys itself on the way to oblivion, convinced that all of this — the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history — is really just a cosmic joke,” and we are now paying the price.

Mr. Weigel counters that “against the nihilist claim that nothing is really of consequence, Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence, because everything has been redeemed by Christ. And if you believe that, it changes the way you see things. It changes the way everything looks.”

If for no other reason, wayward Catholics should read this book to realize that what they thought was Catholicism growing up was in all likelihood a grossly watered down version of the Faith that denied them knowledge of its true richness and beauty. There are numerous reasons for this, and the author does a masterful job spelling it all out. I found myself thinking, “Finally! Someone who gets it,” and I am sure you will too.

‘Proof of Heaven’: Neurosurgeon turns NDE into fascinating read for skeptics, believers

Proof of Heaven

Skeptics have fascinated me for many years because they will often hear a supernatural story from a trusted source — a long-time friend who no history of mental illness or a reason to lie — and still find ways to dismiss it. Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who also worked at Harvard Medical School in Boston, was one of those skeptics until he contracted a case of E. coli meningitis, which attacked his brain and left him in a coma for seven days.

What makes Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife such a compelling read is that its author a.) was a secular man, b.) is a doctor who specializes in the brain, and c.) knows that his illness attacked the very parts of the brain that give skeptics an “out” in terms of believing that neath death experiences (NDEs) offer proof of the spirit world.

Dr. Alexander’s NDE is important because he isn’t just some random guy who drowned and was resuscitated; it is important because he knows about “endogenous glutamate blockade with excitotoxicity,” the limbic system, the lateral amygdala, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) “dumps,” cortical function, etc.

In short, he is not a man who can be “out-scienced” because he has dedicated his life to medicine.

Random blog posts by a lucid dreamer who was visited by a floating purple orb can be easily dismissed — but a Near Death Experience by a neurosurgeon with over 25 years experience, who uses science to back his claims, is much more difficult to deny.

Dr. Alexander says at one point:

Depending on whom you talk to, consciousness is either the greatest mystery facing scientific enquiry, or a total non-problem. What’s surprising is just how many more scientists think it’s the latter. For many — maybe most — scientists, consciousness isn’t really worth worry about because it is just a by-product of physical processes. Many scientists go further, saying that not only is consciousness a secondary phenomenon, but that in addition, it’s not even real.

Many leaders in the neuroscience of consciousness and the philosophy of the mind, however, would beg to differ. Over the last few decades, they have come to recognize that ‘hard problem of consciousness.’

Like many other scientific skeptics, I refused to even review the data relevant to the questions concerning these [supernatural] phenomena. I prejudged the data, and those providing it, because my limited perspective failed to provide the foggiest notion of how such things might actually happen. Those who assert that there is no evidence for phenomena indicative of extended consciousness, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, are willfully ignorant. They believe they know the truth without needing to look at the facts.”

For those still stuck in the trap of scientific skepticism, I recommend the book Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, published in 2007. The evidence for out-of-body consciousness is well presented in this rigorous scientific analysis. Irreducible Mind is a landmark opus from a highly reputable group, the Division of Perceptual Studies, based at the University of Virginia.” — Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven, (Simon and Schuster, 2012), 151-153.

I do not want to spoil any details of the doctor’s experience in the spirit realm, so I will refrain from mentioning them here. I will say, however, that Proof of Heaven is a quick and worthwhile read for anyone interested in the subject matter. The paperback edition is $16 for a new copy, but it is money well spent.

DeGrasse Tyson pushes Matrix-like theory of reality, still mocks Christians

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Your friendly neighborhood blogger is always perusing the internet for science-related news. Given that fact, it did not go unnoticed that two stories pushing the idea that reality is all an illusion gained widespread media attention over the past month.

The first piece came when Neil DeGrasse Tyson said it was “very likely” humans are living in a simulation. The second story involved Princeton University scientists who think free will may just be a trick the brain plays to rewrite history. None of this would be very fascinating if it weren’t for the fact that Morepheus DeGrasse Tyson and his atheist followers take pot shots at Christians on a regular basis.

Extreme Tech reported April 22:

“At the most recent Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, recently held at New York’s Hayden Planetarium, scientists gathered to address the question for the year: Is the universe a computer simulation? It’s an older question that you might imagine, and if we interpret it a bit more broadly then it’s really one of the oldest questions imaginable: How do we know that reality is reality? And, if our universe were a big, elaborate lie, could we ever devise some test to prove that fact? At the debate, host and celebrity astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson argued that the probability is that we [‘very likely’] live in a computer simulation.”

The U.K. Independent reported Sunday:

Free will might be an illusion created by our brains, scientists might have proved.

Humans are convinced that they make conscious choices as they live their lives. But instead it may be that the brain just convinces itself that it made a free choice from the available options after the decision is made.

The idea was tested out by tricking subjects into believing that they had made a choice before the consequences of that choice could actually be seen. In the test, people were made to believe that they had taken a decision using free will – even though that was impossible. …

In one of the studies undertaken by Adam Bear and Paul Bloom, of Princeton University, the test subjects were shown five white circles on a computer monitor. They were told to choose one of the circles before one of them lit up red.

The participants were then asked to describe whether they’d picked the correct circle, another one, or if they hadn’t had time to actually pick one.

Statistically, people should have picked the right circle about one out of every five times. But they reported getting it right much more than 20 per cent of the time, going over 30 per cent if the circle turned red very quickly.

The scientists suggest that the findings show that the test subjects’ minds were swapping around the order of events, so that it appeared that they had chosen the right circle – even if they hadn’t actually had time to do so.

Is it more likely scientists “proved” free will is an illusion, or that they reestablished people are capable of lying?

Is it more likely scientists “proved” free will is an illusion, or that they reestablished the human brain is a beautiful box of paradoxes?

The human brain is incredibly sturdy, yet fragile. It is awe-inspiring in its complexity, yet ultimately a sponge-like mass of neurons, blood vessels, and tissue. It can turn science fiction into reality, yet it often falls for “tricks” played by researchers in white lab coats. The list goes on and on.

Matrix

Imagine what the world would look like if billions of people simultaneously listened to Morepheus DeGrasse Tyson and researchers at the University of Free Will Is Just an Illusion. Tyson likes to lump “crazy” Christianity in with Scientology, but my guess is that he would soon yearn for a world solely populated by “cracker”-eating Catholics if 7 billion people concluded a.) they were living in a glorified video game, and b.) they did not need to take responsibility for their actions.

Regardless, men of faith should smile. DeGrasse Tyson’s acknowledgment that humans “very likely” have a Creator will prompt some of his supporters down a spiritual path in the years ahead.

Why does God seem absent at times? ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ explains

Dark Night of the Soul

The questions “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” and “Why does God sometimes seem absent in my life?”  have repeatedly come up in conversations with my friends over the years. Many times people beat around the bush, but the underlying point is always transparent. A stellar resource on this subject — and quite honestly one of the toughest books I have ever read — is St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul.

First, it should be noted that if anyone had a right to question why bad things happen to good people, then it was St. John of the Cross. The Spanish mystic and Catholic saint, born in 1542, was once kidnapped (by monks), thrown in a dark jail cell, and beaten for months until he managed to escape.

A man who could have looked at his circumstances and concluded that God does not exist instead found God within the darkness.

Key points to consider when contemplating the dark night of the soul include:

  • Man’s nature is both sensual and spiritual.
  • Man is inclined to judge God by Man’s standards instead of Man by God’s standards.
  • Just as looking into the sun forces a man to close his eyes because it is too bright, individuals often cannot grasp that what they perceive as darkness is actually a reaction to incomprehensible light.
  • Just as a small child becomes anxious when its mother seems to have disappeared, humans are confused when God creates the illusion of distance so that they might spiritually grow.
  • Souls cannot approach God without being purged of imperfections. Trials and tribulations serve a greater purpose.

Given all this, St. John says:

“It follows from this that the greater is the darkness wherein the soul journeys and the more completely is it voided of its natural operations, the greater is its security. […] Hence, at the time of this darkness, if the soul considers the matter, it will see very clearly how little its desire and its faculties are being diverted to things that are useless and harmful; and how secure it is from vainglory and pride and presumption, vain and false rejoicing and many other things. It follows clear, then, that by walking in darkness, not only is the soul not lost, but it has even greatly gained since it is here gaining the virtues.” — St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul.

Astute readers will note that St. John was talking about a spiritual darkness that envelops the soul as it continues on its path towards God, as opposed to physical ailments or obstacles that plague us all. That is true, but the physical and the spiritual overlap. It is often very difficult for an individual to discern which is which, and more so in an age where individuals are conditioned to believe they must be happy at all times or consider themselves broken.

It is incredibly difficult to see the blessings bestowed upon us through mental, physical and spiritual pain, but they are there.

Paradoxically, we must often embrace the darkness to see the light.

Good health, popularity, and financial success may be nice, but much is expected of the individual who has them all. Life’s difficulties are fertile ground for virtue, which is why we must not lament adversity.

If you have questions on the dark night of the soul, feel free to ask below. I’ll do my best to articulate St. John’s message for interested readers.

G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Everlasting Man’ — perfect Easter reading

Easter is here — that wonderful day when Christians rejoice and atheists shake their head and ask, “Why the heck are we still talking about that guy Jesus after 2,000 years?!” That is a fair question, which is why today seems like an ideal opportunity to revisit G.K. Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man.”

“If Christ was simply a human character, he really was a highly complex and contradictory human character. For he combined exactly the two things that lie at the two extremes of human variation. He was exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge. What he said was always unexpected; but it was always unexpectedly magnanimous and often unexpectedly moderate.

Take a thing like the point of the parable of the tares and the wheat. It has the quality that united sanity and subtlety. It has not the simplicity of a madman. It has not even the simplicity of a fanatic. It might be uttered by a philosopher a hundred years old, at the end of a century of Utopias. Nothing could be less like this quality of seeing beyond and all round obvious things, than the condition of an egomaniac with the one sensitive spot in his brain. I really do not see how these two characters could be convincingly combined, except in the astonishing way in which the creed combines them.” — G.K. Chesterton.

Every year countless YouTube videos pop up by wannabe Joe Rogans, who blast the so-called “fairy tale” known as Christianity. They go apoplectic over said “fairy tale” and its longevity. Generation after generation after generation picks up the Bible, studies it, and then billions of people conclude that Christ was exactly who he claimed to be.

The reason for this, as Chesterton points out, is that Christ spoke with authority while simultaneously being “exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge.”

The Jesus of the New Testament seems to me to have in great many ways the note of something superhuman; that is of something human and more than human. But there is another quality running through all his teachings which seems to me neglected in most modern talk about them as teachings; and that is the persistent suggestion that he has not really come to teach.

If there is one incident in the record which affects me personally as grandly and gloriously human, it is the incident of giving wine for the wedding-feast. That is really human in the sense in which a whole crowd of prigs, having the appearance of human beings, can hardly be described as human.

It rises superior to all superior persons. It is as human as Herrick and as democratic as Dickens. But even in that story there is something else that has the note of things not fully explained; and in a way there very relevant. I mean the first hesitation, not on any ground touching the nature of the miracle, but on that of the propriety of working any miracles at all, at least at that stage; ‘my time is not yet come.’

What did that mean? At least it certainly meant a general plan or purpose in the mind, with which certain things did or did not fit in. And if we leave out that solitary strategic plan, we not only leave out the point of the story, but the story.

The imitation Joe Rogans often preface their derision of Christianity with lines like, “I went to Catholic school” — as if they weren’t like every other high-school kid who slept through classes, wrote notes to girlfriends, and generally just goofed around with buddies for four years. The same people who cannot understand basic economics in their 40s would have us believe they fully understood Christianity by age 16, but I digress.

The more one studies the Bible, the more obvious it becomes that Christ was unlike any man who walked the earth up until that time — and that He maintains that distinction to this very day. All the “flying spaghetti monster” jokes in the world cannot diminish the genius and goodness dispensed by Christ in ways, as Chesterton says, “more than human.”

Christ was born. His primary purpose in life was to die a horrible death — and then rise again. He did.

Chesterton states:

“I willingly and warmly agree that it is, in itself, a suggestion at which we might expect even the brain of the believer to reel, when he realized his own belief. But the brain of the believer does not reel; it is the brains of the unbelievers that reel. …

I care not if the skeptic says it is a tall story; I cannot see how so toppling a tower could stand so long without foundation. Still less can I see how it could become, as it has become, the home of man. 

Had it merely appeared and disappeared, it might possibly have been remembered or explained as the last leap of the rage of illusion, the ultimate myth of the ultimate mood, in which the mind struck the sky and broke. But the mind did not break. It is the one mind that remains unbroken in the break-up of the world.

If it were an error, it seems as if the error could hardly have lasted a day. If it were a mere ecstasy, it would seem that such an ecstasy could not endure for an hour. It has endured for nearly two thousand years; and the world within it has been more lucid, more level-headed, more reasonable in its hopes, more healthy in its instincts, more humorous and cheerful in the face of fate and death, than all the world outside.

Happy Easter, everyone. I am grateful for all of you who regularly give me precious time out of your day and I pray for your regularly.

Best,

Doug

Scupoli’s ‘Spiritual Combat’: Advice from 1589 for modern men seeking virtue

Spiritual Combat

It has always been my belief that the vast majority of men, if not all men, have seriously wondered at some point how they would fare on the field of battle. War, for all of its wretchedness, offers men a clear picture of their inner virtue — or lack thereof. These “What if?” games are unnecessary, however, as Dom L. Scupoli Apulia’s The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul demonstrates.

The Italian author pointed out in 1589 what many men in 2016 fail to realize — bombs are already dropping all around us. Spiritual warfare rages in all directions. A man not only can be a war hero, but he must — his very soul depends upon it.

What men often fail to realize is that they are stuck in a no-man’s land reminiscent of World War I. This is a bad place to be. Man’s rational faculty is called from both sides in the only war that matters: “God moving it by His grace, and the flesh by its appetites.”

Being “neutral” in this war is not an option, and since tomorrow is never guaranteed it is best to pick a side now.

Fully mastering patience, humility, obedience and numerous other virtues is a difficult task. Scupoli details a few of the stumbling blocks we experience:

There are some who are so overwhelmed by their sins that they never even consider the possibility of breaking their chains. Others want to free themselves from this slavery, but they do nothing to accomplish this. Some think they are secure, and for that very reason are very far from being so. Others, after attaining a high degree of virtue, fall all the more heavily.

When the devil has enmeshed the soul in sin, he uses every means at his disposal to distract its attention from anything that would enable it to recognize the terrible condition into which it has fallen.

The devil is not content to stifle every inspiration from Heaven, and to suggest evil thoughts in their place. He endeavors to plunge it into new faults, either of the same or a more vicious nature by supplying dangerous opportunities to sin.

Thus the soul, deprived of Heavenly guidance, heaps sin upon sin, and hardens itself in its evil ways. Floundering in the mire, it rushes from darkness to darkness, from one pit to another, always moving father from the path of salvation and multiplying sin upon sin, unless strengthened by an extraordinary grace from Heaven.” (Scuplio, Dom. The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul. Tan Classics, 2010. 89-93)

In many ways the soul is the beacon which directs a man towards virtue. If a man is not careful, a sinful calcification can take place around the soul. It soon becomes difficult, if not impossible, to hear or see the beacon and before long the captain of the ship “rushes from darkness to darkness.”

If you seek to become a virtuous man or woman, then The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul is a must-read. If you are a Christian who has ever wondered, “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God foist trials and tribulations upon me?” then Scupoli’s work is for you. I would rank it with Francis De Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life and Saint Augustine’s Confessions as an essential addition to your library.

Editor’s Note: I will send a copy of “The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul” to the first regular reader who asks.

Schools: ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ bad, shahada good

Charlie Brown Christmas

For a glimpse into the politically-correct minds of school administrators in the U.S., one simply needs to consider two stories concurrently unfolding in the news cycle.

In one instance a Kentucky public school district cuts any reference to Christianity during a theatrical version of A Charlie Brown Christmas. In the other, a Virginia school district defends a calligraphy lesson prompting students to write: “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

America 2015: Linus Van Pelt is too dangerous for the minds of elementary school children, but the shahada — the Muslim statement of faith — can be an official assignment given to high school students.

calligraphy VA school

Fox News reported Wednesday:

A Virginia school district is defending a classroom assignment that required students to practice calligraphy by writing the Muslim statement of faith, “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

Female students at Riverheads High School in Augusta County, Virginia, were also invited to wear Muslim clothing — a story first reported by The Schilling Show. …

“Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief,” the district said in a statement provided to Fox News.

Students were also asked to try wearing traditional Islamic attire as “a part of an interactive lesson about the Islamic concept of modest dress.”

The district asserts that the teacher — who knew exactly what she was having students write — was merely asking her class to explore Arabic’s “artistic complexity.”

Meanwhile, Johnson County Schools in Paintsville, Kentucky, are adamant that a rendition of A Charlie Brown Christmas is tantamount to endorsing religion.

WSAZ reported Superintendent Tom Salyer’s statement Wednesday:

Superintendent Tom Salyer said the district received a complaint last week about the play having religious references.

The district then announced it would remove any religious references from all of its Christmas plays. …

Salyer gave WSAZ this statement:

“As superintendent of Johnson County Schools, I recognize the significance of Christmas and the traditions and beliefs associated with this holiday. Over the past few days, there have been several rumors indicating that there would be no Christmas plays this year at our elementary schools. I want to clarify that all programs will go on as scheduled. In accordance with federal law, our programs will follow appropriate regulations. The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are official capacities and during school activities. However, our district is fully committed to promote the spirit of giving and concern for our fellow citizens that help define the Christmas holiday. With core values such as service, integrity, leadership, and commitment, our staff and students will continue to proudly represent our district as recently demonstrated by our many student successes.”

Got that? Schools can have Christmas plays — provided the holiday’s core inspiration, the birth of Christ, is never directly or indirectly addressed.

In the same month that an Islamic terror attack killed 14 and wounded 21 in San Bernardino, California, high school students are asked to practice writing ,“There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” but a classic Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon is somehow deemed a violation of federal law. Classic.

This is why home-schooling looks increasingly attractive to young parents with each passing year.

The power of prayer: A blueprint for realizing faith’s potential

It is incredibly tough to get those who do not believe in prayer to understand how it works. Even those who do believe in God often pray in strange ways and then get frustrated by the results. Since prayer recently helped me regain my work-related Twitter account after it was unjustly suspended, I will try to use that story to explain how it works.

First, a recap:

  • After I wrote a story on Iran for work, an apologist for the regime Tweeted “I will find you and kill you … death to America.”
  • Twitter said it “could not determine” if that violated its terms of service. When I publicly questioned that decision, my account was suspended. Countless appeals were ignored over the course of one month.
  • The company’s press account ignored my emails and the emails of my co-workers.
  • A Washington, D.C. spokesman for Twitter ignored an inquiry by my employer.
  • Public pressure from countless Twitter followers and a story by WND did nothing to forward the process along.
  • My attempts to get certain conservative media outlets and personalities to take up my cause fell on deaf ears.
  • Well-connected people said they were at a loss as to how to help me. They essentially said my cause was hopeless.

During this whole ordeal I had a conversation with a friend about well-known personalities who did nothing to help me. I told my friend that it didn’t bother me because if God ultimately wanted to use them to help me, then He would. I prayed for an entire month, and last night I prayed throughout most of the night when an idea came to me: I would email Twitter’s CEO. I would make the case that he needed to intervene on my behalf. Then the words came to mind. When work started I didn’t know his email, but I took a chance on what I thought it might be — and I was right. Within 30 minutes of emailing him, my suspension was lifted and I received an apology from Twitter. A friend of mine said that what I did was something straight out of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I must admit, I did feel like the “The Sausage King of Chicago: Abe Froman.”

I nearly broke down into tears, knowing that my prayers had been answered. For someone who writes news for a living, Twitter is indispensable. Six-years worth of contacts and personalized news lists were restored.

Twitter apologyThis is just one story of many that I can tell where prayer has worked miracles in my life. If you’re interested in understanding how I pray and prepare for prayer, then here is the general blueprint:

  • A man’s heart must first be open to the possibility that God exists and that He and His angels hear our prayers.
  • We all have a lot to be grateful for, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Prayer should take place after acknowledging those blessings. I often try to think about all the things that I am grateful for — to the point where I almost become overwhelmed with emotion.
  • Pray for the ability to discern God’s will and strength carry it out. If you are doing God’s will, then success is guaranteed.
  • Realize that what you may perceive as setbacks or failures on God’s part are never such things. If a man with night-vision was guiding you through a dark path and you occasionally slipped, would it make sense to get angry at him? How foolish would you feel if the path was suddenly illuminated and you realized that without the man’s help you would have fallen into a giant crevasse? In my story with Twitter, what would have happened if I shook my fist in anger and gave up when at least 10 different so-called media allies turned down my requests for help? Answer: I would not have come to a point where I would successfully email an insanely-busy CEO with a net worth of roughly $450 million.
  • Believe that the crosses that you carry are the burdens you must bear. There are very good reasons why hardship exists. With each obstacle we overcome, there are lessons to be learned. You should find a way to be grateful — even for those things in your life that cause pain or, at a cursory level, seem unwanted. Pray for the ability to understand the lessons God is trying to teach you.
  • Work hard. Prepare. Know your God-given talents and then hone them to perfection. Take my situation with Twitter. Imagine that I prayed, “God, if it is your will, please assist me in regaining my Twitter account,” and then sat on my butt waiting for a miracle that seemed to be denied. Now imagine me asking God why he denied my prayer and His response: “I made you a talented writer, but instead of writing to Twitter’s CEO and trusting in me, you took that talent for granted and expected some sort of dazzling light show. That was kind of a weird move on your part, don’t you think?”

I can probably add to this list, but that is a good start. I’m confident that someone who takes this advice will see amazing results over time. It is a humbling experience to see just how prayers can be perfectly answered. Often I reflect on how seamlessly some of them have been answered and cannot help but well up. A passing glimpse at perfection — true perfection — is a thing of beauty, but at the same time it can be emotionally crippling. Perhaps others have had a different experience, but my own brief tastes of infinite knowledge and infinite love can only be dwelt in for mere moments. It is a paralyzing epiphany to realize that on many levels we are comically insignificant beings, yet infinitely loved by our Creator.

If you believe in God, then I hope my prayer blueprint can be of use to you. If you do not believe in God, then hopefully I have given you some worthwhile insight into a Catholic mind that’s been around since 1979. In either case, thanks for reading and know that there’s a good chance that on random nights I am praying for you, too.

Bono channels G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis to affirm his faith in Christ

Bono on JesusIt’s not often that a giant rock star gives an interview where he unflinchingly affirms his belief in Christ. That is exactly what U2’s Bono did during a March 2014 interview that is making the rounds again just in time for Easter. However, what is perhaps most interesting is how Bono appears to be well-versed in the writings of G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.

Here is what Bono said in his interview with RTE One’s Gay Byrne, which comes across at times like an FBI interrogation or a courtroom cross examination:

Bono: I think it’s a defining question for Christian. Who was Christ? I don’t think you’re let off easily by saying a great thinker or great philosopher because, actually, he went around saying he was the Messiah. That’s why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God — or he was nuts. Forget rock-and-roll messianic complexes. This is, like, I mean Charlie Manson-type delirium. And I find it hard to accept that all the millions and millions of lives, half the Earth, for 2,000 years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter. I don’t believe it.

Byrne: So therefore it follows that you believe he was divine?

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: And therefore it follows that you believe that he rose physically from the dead?

Bono: Yes. I have no problem with miracles. I’m living around them. I am one.

Byrne: So when you pray, then you pray to Jesus?

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: The risen Jesus?

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: And you believe he made promises that will come true.

Bono: Yes. I do.

Friendly note to Bono: Your observation is actually more awe-inspiring than you originally thought because billions — not just millions — have been touched by the words of Christ. Regardless, here is what G.K. Chesterton said when “The Everlasting Man” was published in 1925:

“If Christ was simply a human character, he really was a highly complex and contradictory human character. For he combined exactly the two things that lie at the two extremes of human variation. He was exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge. What he said was always unexpected; but it was always unexpectedly magnanimous and often unexpectedly moderate.

Take a thing like the point of the parable of the tares and the wheat. It has the quality that united sanity and subtlety. It has not the simplicity of a madman. It has not even the simplicity of a fanatic. It might be uttered by a philosopher a hundred years old, at the end of a century of Utopias. Nothing could be less like this quality of seeing beyond and all round obvious things, than the condition of an egomaniac with the one sensitive spot in his brain. I really do not see how these two characters could be convincingly combined, except in the astonishing way in which the creed combines them.” — G.K. Chesterton.

Here is what C.S. Lewis said when “Mere Christianity” was published in 1952:

“Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is “humble and meek” and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” — C.S. Lewis.

Chesterton and Lewis beautifully articulate the case before us: either Christ was who he said he was, or he was insane. But, as they both keenly observe, even his biggest detractors generally regard him as a profound thinker and a beacon of light whose example we should all follow.

Think of how many great men and women there were throughout all history, whose names are forgotten within weeks, months, or at most a few decades after they’ve passed away. Then consider Jesus, who for over 2,000 years has captivated the world and changed billions of lives — even those who don’t believe his claims. Like G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, a modern Irish rock star named Bono, and billions of other individuals throughout the course of history, I firmly believe he was exactly who he claimed to be.