I Know Who I Am’: We are a chosen generation at the ECWA USA 2018 International Conference in Chicago, IL, USA.
by Deacon James H. Toner | “This is not the important thing. The inner life of faith and morality can remain, while the outer political order changes. What matters is that we love one another and practice that love.” Such noble practice might well change the world, said Pope Francis. (Images: Raphael: Raphael Rooms, The School of Athens)
“We simply cannot,” said Pope Francis. His interlocutor was puzzled, wondering what it is that we cannot do. The answer came swiftly and inexorably.
“Fight another war. The error came in the early Church when its fathers made a false peace with Rome and allowed Christians to serve in its legions. The only way to have peace is not have armed forces. The Quakers have been right all along on this. The Church must make pacifism an integral part of its moral teaching.”
The Holy Father’s interlocutor was stunned, perhaps understanding the ramifications of this declaration by Pope Francis, who continued: “How can it be moral for mass armies to kill each other as well as innocent civilians? Or for Christians to join those armies? Christ was a pacifist. He preached pacifism, and he practiced it in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Calvary. There is simply no way you can love your neighbor and then go about preparing to murder him.”
The interlocutor had to object. “Holiness,” he began, “what about our ancient Catholic moral and philosophical tradition of ‘just war’?”
Pope Francis responded: “How can there be ‘just murder’?” After a moment, the Pope continued: “We must not only condemn war but categorically forbid all Catholics—yes, all humans—to participate.”
But what would happen when the forces of evil saw all Catholics, and others, refuse military service? Would they then not conquer the world?
Pope Francis responded: “This is not the important thing. The inner life of faith and morality can remain, while the outer political order changes. What matters is that we love one another and practice that love.” Such noble practice might well change the world, said Pope Francis.
The conversation above, which is, of course, fiction, is taken from chapter 33 of Walter F. Murphy’s novel, The Vicar of Christ.
If, in time, we can abolish the death penalty, or at least forbid Catholics from approving it, the current pope, taking a cue from the fictional Francis, might well reason that, in time, we can also abolish war, or at least forbid Catholics from approving it or participating in it.
Is it not now time to abolish capital punishment, life imprisonment—and war? One is reminded, after all, of the saying so often and fondly quoted by Senator Robert F. Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.”
But in George Bernard Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah, the speaker of that line was the devil. The call to a man-made utopia is the ancient and perennial heresy (Gen. 3:5).
The abolition of the death penalty and the exaltation of pacifism are signs of a quixotic mentality which Monsignor Ronald Knox knew as “Enthusiasm.”
Saint Thomas More called it “Utopianism.” Joachim of Flora preached it as the “Third Age.” A host of modern philosophers are associated with various strains of secular chiliasm. If we can dream a sufficiently revolutionary dream and thus change the political or economic structure in a way that it is sufficiently modernized—so goes the Panglossian pipedream—there will be peace. And progress. And prosperity. And paradise.
What is always missing from the progressive agenda is the failure to recognize evil. “Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure” (CCC #387). As the French writer Charles Peguy put it: “It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of not looking progressive enough.” Moreover, the New American Bible offers this translation of 2 John 9: “Anyone who is so ‘progressive’ that he does not remain rooted in the teaching of Christ does not possess God.” Or perhaps such people possess a false god.
Can it be that the death penalty deters murder and that its abolition will result in more violence? Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette, in By Man Shall His Blood be Shed, think so. Can it be that the U.S. armed forces help to deter terrorism and that pacifism may lead to more violence? The late Jean Bethke Elshtain argued this affirmatively in Just War Against Terror.
Can it be that the root of the problem is failure to perceive evil? In his novel The Apostle, Brad Thor quotes George Orwell: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
That the decision to “work with determination” to abolish the death penalty is a Micawberish foray into secular politics; that it is ultra vires, i.e., beyond papal authority as the custodian of doctrine and not its progenitor; that it ignores the traditional properties of punishment (the medicinal and the vindictive [see CCC #2266]); that it ignores and traduces settled Church and biblical teaching; and that it creates a precedent with conspicuously dangerous probabilities—all these matters, and others, again suggest that the Church is altogether too eager to please the liberal, progressive, and secular society to which it is supposed to be witnessing and preaching (John 12:43; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4).
As Feser and Bessette prophesy: The abolition of the death penalty “will tend to reflect, and to reinforce, a trajectory away from theological orthodoxy and traditional morality. Abolitionism thus inadvertently provides powerful ‘aid and comfort’ to ideas and movements that any Catholic must regard as morally and socially destructive” (207).
The abolition of the death penalty is based upon a metaphysically mistaken notion of human dignity (CCC #1881), which places man at the center of all human institutions. “Dignity” provided by human customs can be repealed by human institutions. The Church has always insisted, despite the trendy liberalism of the past half-century, that human dignity is grounded in our ensoulment and in our reflection of God’s image. When that truth is twisted to mean human exaltation, liberty becomes license; moral freedom (which means sinlessness [cf. John 8:34]) becomes moral autonomy; and moral agency can be socially detached from objective and universal norms. We begin, in short, to worship the creature and to forget the Creator (aversio a Deo, conversio ad creaturam).
It is, in short, not only heterodox theology—but it is also deranged politics—to mistake respect for the dignity of every human and the nature of our relationships with others as our highest duty and chief virtue as somehow more important than the duties and virtues which lead us and bind us to God. There is a reason, in short, that the First Commandment is first (Dt. 6:5).
In pridefully exalting human dignity (cf. Jer. 17:5), we fallaciously conclude that there can be no such thing as just war; that the moral law against sodomy is somehow an assault upon our prized human dignity; that civil laws forbidding same-sex “marriage” are demeaning; and that the time and circumstances of our deaths are to be matters of personal choice and of private convenience.
Considerations of space preclude lengthy rehearsal here of the many reasons which tell us clearly and cogently that pacifism and the abolition of the death penalty are more than merely Pollyannaish. We can, though, point out here that they are perilous, and that they will result in moral and political catastrophe because they misjudge human nature. They are saccharine and sentimental, for they are, at heart, Pelagian, and they look forward to a time and place where no grace is necessary. They hope for peace and healing, but “terror came instead” (Jer. 8:15, 14:19). And when murderers and aggressors do come, the Pelagian progressives can’t beat them; so, too often, they join them. It’s all right, they think, for the prevailing ideology determines the boundaries of right and wrong, and dignity comes from allegiance to the morals of the day. Taste matters, it seems; truth doesn’t.
The romance of the political left is always grounded in the belief that we can be as gods. If we have within us the seeds of our own magical flowering, surely we can dispense with reminders that we are inclined to evil thoughts and deeds. The days of the death penalty—for any offense—and the days of military service—and just war against aggressors—will finally be ended. We will have achieved harmony, and we will have done so ourselves. The Tower of Babel will finally be built, and there won’t be any need for police, soldiers, or weapons inside it for defense.
Criminals of every sort and stripe will listen to sweet reason; international aggressors will be deterred by the reinstitution of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, in which nations pledged not to use force to resolve disputes; and the lion will lie down with the lamb—if only we imagine it, as John Lennon taught us so memorably:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today.
Imagine there’s no countries [or borders]
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
John Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980. On that tragic night, when Lennon was shot in the back multiple times, there was present no rough man in a blue suit ready to do “violence,” if need be, to save the life of the singer/song writer. John Lennon would be 77 today if vigilant, and armed, police had been able to deter his murderer.
Lennon’s woolly-headed imaginings clash, and not only with historical knowledge and political experience; they deny—“and no religion too”—the biblical teaching which is at the heart of the ancient and ever-new faith, expressed most succinctly in Job: “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (19:25). I know I need a Redeemer, for I cannot save myself. As Jeremiah put it: “Who can understand the human heart? There is nothing else so deceitful; it is too sick to be healed” (17:9). The Catechism teaches that “Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile” (#386).
However, the belief that we alone can conquer sin is more than “futile”; it is blasphemous and debauched. When we lose sight of the need for defense against criminals and aggressors or terrorists, abandoning the idea of protecting the innocent and of punishing the guilty, “the very idea of justice will go with it,” say Feser and Bessette, “[and it will be] replaced by a therapeutic or technocratic model that treats human beings as cases to be managed and socially engineered [rather] than as morally responsible persons.”
Progressives—utopians—think that we stand at the threshold of a brave new world. We are dreaming dreams and asking why not. We are soaring! “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High” (Is. 14:14). Like Icarus, however, we crash and burn when we seek self-exaltation, denying the objective truth of sin and our personal and institutional need to always guard against it.
The Church has always faithfully taught the need for repentance, for accountability, for daily conversion to Christ, and for working out our salvation in “fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). This is the call to redemption, not to social engineering. By the grace of God, it is not yet too late to restore our understanding of the divine mission of Holy Mother Church.
Deacon James H. Toner, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Air War College, a former U.S. Army officer, and author of Morals Under the Gun and other books. He has also taught at Notre Dame, Norwich, Auburn, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Holy Apostles College & Seminary. He serves in the Diocese of Charlotte.
Amanda Casanova | We can not just sit and keep watching what they are doing because indifference is the most tragic tool that puts people to death and kills them, (images: KNS/AFP/Getty).
A Christian woman, who defected from North Korea, said the world cannot “just sit and keep watching” as North Korea persecutes Christians and others.
Ji Hyeona spoke at the U.S. State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom event at the Harry S. Truman Building this week. She told her story of abuse and torture while trying to escape North Korea.
“Since I first escaped from North Korea in 1998, I have since escaped from the North a total of four times and got repatriated to the North three times until I finally came to South Korea in 2007,” Ji said, “In between, I fell victim to human trafficking and I was also subjected to abortion violently forced on me even with no anesthesia because the North Korean regime couldn’t accept what they call ‘mixed love.'”
She said she was repatriated three times and interrogated about her beliefs.
“Just like Peter denied Jesus three times, I lied each of those times that I got repatriated and got interrogated,” she said.
Ji first tried to escape with her family in 1998. Her father was arrested and she never saw him again. She was then arrested and sent back to North Korea.
That same year, Ji was arrested for trying to leave North Korea. She was sent to North Korea’s Jeungsan Camp No. 11 and held at the camp for more than a year.
Then, in 2000, she escaped a third time, but was repatriated back to the country in 2002. She escaped for the last time in 2007 to South Korea.
“We can not just sit and keep watching what they are doing because indifference is the most tragic tool that puts people to death and kills them,” she said, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: ‘The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.’”
by Fr. Jerry J. Pokorsky | In our day, can we expect better than those apostolic ratios? We certainly have the means, provided we respond with faith to the fullness of the graces of Pentecost. Our faith in Jesus Christ is holy, beautiful, true, and good. The Church is the spotless Bride of Christ worthy of all our love and devotion. The Catholic faith is not the problem; the Catholic faith is the solution (image: YouTube)
The majority of saints canonized by the Church over much of her history are priests and bishops. I used to quip that this proves it is possible for a priest or bishop to get to heaven. This is no longer a playful quip but a wry truth.
You may know by now that within the last month, another senior prelate has fallen from favor. As a priest and a member of the clergy, and to the extent that I have the authority, I apologize. In my view, he should be in leg irons or at least under harsh interrogation in Gitmo.
Jesus, of course, is the Good Shepherd. And he established the Church to be governed by shepherds—priests and bishops, the clergy. So it is helpful for context to take a look at the leaders in ancient Israel during the time of Jesus. By and large, the priests, the chief priests, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees—Jewish equivalents of the clergy—do not make a very favorable impression.
Jesus recognizes the authority of the scribes and Pharisees: “Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you….’ He adds: ‘…but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.’” He also supports their official teaching: “Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
The Pharisees are corrupt almost to a man. They malign the mighty deeds of Christ: “It is only by Be-el′zebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” They try to set Jesus against the teachings of Moses: “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” They try to entrap Jesus: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” They have disdain for the miracles of Jesus: “And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him.”
But Jesus denounces these clergy-equivalents with courage and in no uncertain terms: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” Also: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
He warns his disciples: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Also: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The clergy-equivalents respond with murderous indignation: “But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him, how to destroy him.” The conspiracy reaches the highest levels: “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.”
Like prosecuting attorneys coming up short, the clergy-equivalents tamper with the evidence: “Now the chief priests and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death….” And “the chief priests and the elders persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.”
But the office of the clergy-equivalents at the time of Jesus was necessary to preserve and transmit the teachings of Moses and the Prophets. Despite their exalted role, the portrait of the clergy-equivalents in the Gospel is foul and obnoxious.
There are, of course, exceptions. Nicodemus emerges under the cover of the night to engage Jesus in a sincere theological discussion, admitting, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” In the infancy narratives, the priest Zechariah, initially flawed in his trust in God, becomes the father of John the Baptist and ultimately reclaims his honor. In the Temple, Simeon piously prophesies as to the destiny of the child Jesus and the sword of sorrow that will pierce Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
But for the most part, the goodness and holiness of those in the Gospel are not found among the clergy-equivalents. They are found in the laity-equivalents: Elizabeth, Martha and Mary, Lazarus, the holy women at the foot of the Cross, and the Blessed Mother herself.
Hence, the faith of the good people of Israel is not the problem. The faith of Mary and the holy women at the foot of the Cross is not the problem. The lawful structures of transmitting the faith in Israel are not the problem. The problem is the infidelity and the evil scheming of the clergy-equivalents.
Among the true clergy, the Twelve ordained by Jesus at the Last Supper, the apostolic ratio of bad bishops is disturbingly high: Judas represents 1/12 of them. The apostolic ratio of good bishops who joined Jesus at the foot of the Cross is disappointingly low: John, alone, represents 1/12 of them.
In our day, can we expect better than those apostolic ratios? We certainly have the means, provided we respond with faith to the fullness of the graces of Pentecost. Our faith in Jesus Christ is holy, beautiful, true, and good. The Church is the spotless Bride of Christ worthy of all our love and devotion. The Catholic faith is not the problem; the Catholic faith is the solution.
Fr. Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Fr. Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal.
| Jeff Woodke had served in Niger for more than 29 years, providing food, water and other services to nomadic people. (Photo: You Tube)
The wife of an American missionary abducted 20 months ago in Africa’s Sahel region has put out a new video pleading for his safe return.
In the 4’10’’ footage released on Tuesday (26 June), in French, Els Woodke reiterated her despair and desire to be in touch with her husband’s kidnappers.
Jeff Woodke, who was working for Jeunesse en Mission Entraide et Développement, a branch of the US-based Youth With a Mission, was abducted by unknown assailants late in the evening of Friday 14 October, 2016, from the town of Abalak in northern Niger.
For 20 months, there has been no news of Woodke, but on 4 June, Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, told TV channel France24 that both Woodke and a German aid worker kidnapped in April this year are alive.
It was the first proof of life since their kidnapping.
Just a day before, on 3 June, at the end of the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan, a coalition of jihadist groups operating in Sahel, Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (the ‘Group Supporting Islam and Muslims’), affiliated to Al-Qaeda, released a video showing footage of two women being held hostage in the Sahara: the French aid worker Sophie Pétronin, abducted in Mali’s northern town of Gao in December 2016, and the Colombian nun Gloria Argoti, kidnapped on 7 February 2017 from her convent in Karangasso, southern Mali.
In the video, Pétronin was allowed to listen to a telephone call from her son and to send a message back to him, while Sr. Argoti was also permitted to give a message.
“It was a humane and merciful act during Ramadan to allow these hostages to communicate with their families and friends,” said Els Woodke in her latest of three videos since her husband’s kidnapping. “But my husband Jeff has been held for a very long time and I have received no word from those who are holding him.”
She recalled that in July last year the kidnappers released a video showing six foreign hostages detained in the Sahara, but that her husband was not featured, nor mentioned, though the families were told to contact the kidnappers directly.
“So now I want to address myself to those who gave that instruction,” she said. “I want to talk to you. I am ready to negotiate the safe return of my husband. I only want Jeff to come home. If you are not able to negotiate yet, please allow Jeff to send his family a message, just as you have done with these other hostages.”
Jeff, in his 50s, had served in Niger for 29 years, providing food, water and other services to the Tamasheq, Fulani and other people groups.
In recognition of his commitment, he received the United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction in 2009, given to individuals or institutions that have advocated for the reduction of disaster risks in their communities, or taken active steps to prevent disasters.
Christmas, as everyone knows, commemorates the birth of Jesus and is a major religious celebration for Christians around the world.
But what many people don’t know is that Jesus is an important figure in Islam, too, even though most Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas (though some, especially some American Muslims, do).
In honor of the holiday, here are six things you may not know about the role of Jesus — and his mother, Mary — in Islam:
- Jesus, Mary, and the angel Gabriel are all in the Quran (as are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and a bunch of other Bible characters).
- Muslims believe that Jesus (called “Isa” in Arabic) was a prophet of God, was born to a virgin (Mary), and will return to Earth before the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat al-Masih ad-Dajjal (“the false messiah”), also known as the Antichrist. All of which may sound pretty familiar to many Christians.
- Mary (called “Maryam” in Arabic) has an entire chapter in the Quran named for her — the only chapter in the Quran named for a female figure. In fact, Mary is the only woman to be mentioned by name in the entire Quran: As noted in the Study Quran, “other female figures are identified only by their relation to others, such as the wife of Adam and the mother of Moses, or by their title, such as the Queen of Sheba.” Mary is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the entire New Testament.
- Just as with all the other prophets, including Mohammed, Muslims recite, “Peace be upon him” every time they refer to Jesus.
- Muslims believe that Jesus performed miracles: The Quran discusses several of Jesus’s miracles, including giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, raising the dead, and breathing life into clay birds.
- The story of Jesus’s birth as told in the Quran is also the story of his first miracle, when he spoke as an infant in the cradle and declared himself to be a prophet of God. Here’s the story:
And remember Mary in the Book, when she withdrew from her family to an eastern place. And she veiled herself from them. Then We [God] sent unto her Our Spirit [the angel Gabriel], and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said, “I seek refuge from thee in the Compassionate [i.e., God], if you are reverent!” He said, “I am but a messenger of thy Lord, to bestow upon thee a pure boy.”
She said, “How shall I have a boy when no man has touched me, nor have I been unchaste?” He said, “Thus shall it be. Thy Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me.’” And [it is thus] that We might make him a sign unto mankind, and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter decreed.
So she conceived him and withdrew with him to a place far off. And the pangs of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date palm. She said, “Would that I had died before this and was a thing forgotten, utterly forgotten!” So he called out to her from below her, “Grieve not! Thy Lord has placed a rivulet beneath thee. And shake toward thyself the trunk of the date palm; fresh, ripe dates shall fall upon thee. So eat and drink and cool thine eye. And if thou seest any human being, say, ‘Verily I have vowed a fast unto the Compassionate, so I shall not speak this day to any man.’”
Then she came with him [the infant Jesus] unto her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary! Thou hast brought an amazing thing! O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not an evil man, nor was thy mother unchaste.” Then she pointed to him [Jesus]. They said, “How shall we speak to one who is yet a child in the cradle?”
He [Jesus] said, “Truly I am a servant of God. He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. He has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I live, and [has made me] dutiful toward my mother. And He has not made me domineering, wretched. Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised alive!”
That is Jesus son of Mary— a statement of the truth, which they doubt.
So although Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the son of God — an important distinction between Muslim and Christian views of him — Muslims do revere Jesus as an important prophet.
Prof. Dr. Pr. Jairo Goncalves | The city of Rio de Janeiro is now experiencing a dramatic transformations characterized by several urban city of its size; unemployment, poverty, violence, increase slums, urban degradation, and violence. | connect via www.jairogenoma.com.br
The President of Brazil decreed on February 16, 2018 “federal intervention” in the Security System of the Rio de Janeiro State (first intervention since the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution). Mayor Crivella (Bishop of IURD) and Governor Pezão (MDB) have demonstrated that they can not fight the shootings, robberies and other crimes in the daily war between organized crime factions; can not guarantee public safety to reassure the population of Rio.
However, this will not solve the serious problem. On the contrary, it will aggravate it for the following reasons.
- The situation of public calamity in Rio has been deeply rooted, since its foundation and disorderly and unjust socio-economic growth, with thousands and thousands of Portuguese, German, Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Swiss, Jews, Lebanese, Spanish, French, Argentine, Chinese, and a large contingent of Brazilians from the Northeast who have fled the drought and poverty. Particularly in 1808, when 15,000 noblemen and people from Portuguese high society (Hereditary Capitany) settled in Brazil, because of the establishment of the Royal Portuguese Family in Rio de Janeiro, and the relative proximity of the mine deposits/MG (discovered in the 18th century).
- Another factor that is impeding is that Commerce & Industry, Samba Schools & Families & Leisure in the favelas were born and developed at the expense of subordination of all and all financial support in exchange for shelter and hiding, imposed by the rival gangs of drug and arms traffickers. According to the 2010 (IBGE census), about 1,390 million of the city’s 6,290 million inhabitants live in subnormal clusters.
- Another impeding factor is the terrible religious contribution:
a) from the Catholic Churches, which has been materialistic and confused since Cabral who changed the name “Land of Holy Cross” to “Brazil”, in a demonstration in which Commerce and Industry of Wood Brazil “would become stronger than the” Christian Faith “;
b) from the Evangelical Churches, which has been disastrous since the “selfless missionaries” – all directly and indirectly linked to Freemasonry (Templar Jews – according to Internet news on the “Masonic pagan Obelisks” erected in Sta. Barbara d’Oest/SP and in front of the 1st I. Batista de Campos/RJ, to commemorate the 140 years and 100 years of the Baptist work in Brazil) came to preach here a “simplified and broken Gospel”.
This contributed to the fact that the State of Rio de Janeiro, which nowadays has the largest number of evangelical believers and churches in Brazil, became, unfortunately and paradoxically, a world reference of “a more carnival, more violent and more ungoverned State.”
Note: To learn more about this “simplified and broken Gospel” that is preached in all churches, read the warrior book: “Gospel of the Glory of the Cross of Christ – All Truth” – “The Mystery of the Christ-Lamb”, published and offered on the revolutionary site:www.jairogenoma.com.br).
CHRISTIAN MISSION RESTORED LIVES
Clinic of Soul and Spirit – Psychopedagogic and Biblical Genome Project
Jairo Gonçalves (Theology – Pedagogy – Psychology)
Maria Syllene Andreazzi Street, 154 / Shop 1 – Frei Eustáquio – Belo Horizonte / MG
Tels. (031) 2514-8759 / 99114-7038 (Free Service)
Above Left : During the 1944 campaign for president, anti-Semites scrawled hate messages on a shop window in the Bronx, New York. (FPG / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
Above Right: In 1844, an anti-Mormon mob murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum while they were held in an Illinois jail cell. (Granger Collection, New York)
By Kenneth C. Davis | The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring—and utterly at odds with the historical record
Wading into the controversy surrounding an Islamic center planned for a site near New York City’s Ground Zero memorial this past August, President Obama declared: “This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.” In doing so, he paid homage to a vision that politicians and preachers have extolled for more than two centuries—that America historically has been a place of religious tolerance. It was a sentiment George Washington voiced shortly after taking the oath of office just a few blocks from Ground Zero.
In the storybook version most of us learned in school, the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620. The Puritans soon followed, for the same reason. Ever since these religious dissidents arrived at their shining “city upon a hill,” as their governor John Winthrop called it, millions from around the world have done the same, coming to an America where they found a welcome melting pot in which everyone was free to practice his or her own faith.
The problem is that this tidy narrative is an American myth. The real story of religion in America’s past is an often awkward, frequently embarrassing and occasionally bloody tale that most civics books and high-school texts either paper over or shunt to the side. And much of the recent conversation about America’s ideal of religious freedom has paid lip service to this comforting tableau.
From the earliest arrival of Europeans on America’s shores, religion has often been a cudgel, used to discriminate, suppress and even kill the foreign, the “heretic” and the “unbeliever”—including the “heathen” natives already here. Moreover, while it is true that the vast majority of early-generation Americans were Christian, the pitched battles between various Protestant sects and, more explosively, between Protestants and Catholics, present an unavoidable contradiction to the widely held notion that America is a “Christian nation.”
First, a little overlooked history: the initial encounter between Europeans in the future United States came with the establishment of a Huguenot (French Protestant) colony in 1564 at Fort Caroline (near modern Jacksonville, Florida). More than half a century before the Mayflower set sail, French pilgrims had come to America in search of religious freedom.
The Spanish had other ideas. In 1565, they established a forward operating base at St. Augustine and proceeded to wipe out the Fort Caroline colony. The Spanish commander, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, wrote to the Spanish King Philip II that he had “hanged all those we had found in [Fort Caroline] because…they were scattering the odious Lutheran doctrine in these Provinces.” When hundreds of survivors of a shipwrecked French fleet washed up on the beaches of Florida, they were put to the sword, beside a river the Spanish called Matanzas (“slaughters”). In other words, the first encounter between European Christians in America ended in a blood bath.
The much-ballyhooed arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England in the early 1600s was indeed a response to persecution that these religious dissenters had experienced in England. But the Puritan fathers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not countenance tolerance of opposing religious views. Their “city upon a hill” was a theocracy that brooked no dissent, religious or political.
The most famous dissidents within the Puritan community, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, were banished following disagreements over theology and policy. From Puritan Boston’s earliest days, Catholics (“Papists”) were anathema and were banned from the colonies, along with other non-Puritans. Four Quakers were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for persistently returning to the city to stand up for their beliefs.
Throughout the colonial era, Anglo-American antipathy toward Catholics—especially French and Spanish Catholics—was pronounced and often reflected in the sermons of such famous clerics as Cotton Mather and in statutes that discriminated against Catholics in matters of property and voting. Anti-Catholic feelings even contributed to the revolutionary mood in America after King George III extended an olive branch to French Catholics in Canada with the Quebec Act of 1774, which recognized their religion.
When George Washington dispatched Benedict Arnold on a mission to court French Canadians’ support for the American Revolution in 1775, he cautioned Arnold not to let their religion get in the way. “Prudence, policy and a true Christian Spirit,” Washington advised, “will lead us to look with compassion upon their errors, without insulting them.” (After Arnold betrayed the American cause, he publicly cited America’s alliance with Catholic France as one of his reasons for doing so.)
In newly independent America, there was a crazy quilt of state laws regarding religion. In Massachusetts, only Christians were allowed to hold public office, and Catholics were allowed to do so only after renouncing papal authority. In 1777, New York State’s constitution banned Catholics from public office (and would do so until 1806). In Maryland, Catholics had full civil rights, but Jews did not. Delaware required an oath affirming belief in the Trinity. Several states, including Massachusetts and South Carolina, had official, state-supported churches.
In 1779, as Virginia’s governor, Thomas Jefferson had drafted a bill that guaranteed legal equality for citizens of all religions—including those of no religion—in the state. It was around then that Jefferson famously wrote, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But Jefferson’s plan did not advance—until after Patrick (“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”) Henry introduced a bill in 1784 calling for state support for “teachers of the Christian religion.”
Future President James Madison stepped into the breach. In a carefully argued essay titled “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” the soon-to-be father of the Constitution eloquently laid out reasons why the state had no business supporting Christian instruction. Signed by some 2,000 Virginians, Madison’s argument became a fundamental piece of American political philosophy, a ringing endorsement of the secular state that “should be as familiar to students of American history as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” as Susan Jacoby has written in Freethinkers, her excellent history of American secularism.
Among Madison’s 15 points was his declaration that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every…man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”
Madison also made a point that any believer of any religion should understand: that the government sanction of a religion was, in essence, a threat to religion. “Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Madison was writing from his memory of Baptist ministers being arrested in his native Virginia.
As a Christian, Madison also noted that Christianity had spread in the face of persecution from worldly powers, not with their help. Christianity, he contended, “disavows a dependence on the powers of this world…for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them.”
Recognizing the idea of America as a refuge for the protester or rebel, Madison also argued that Henry’s proposal was “a departure from that generous policy, which offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country.”
After long debate, Patrick Henry’s bill was defeated, with the opposition outnumbering supporters 12 to 1. Instead, the Virginia legislature took up Jefferson’s plan for the separation of church and state. In 1786, the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, modified somewhat from Jefferson’s original draft, became law. The act is one of three accomplishments Jefferson included on his tombstone, along with writing the Declaration and founding the University of Virginia. (He omitted his presidency of the United States.) After the bill was passed, Jefferson proudly wrote that the law “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”
Madison wanted Jefferson’s view to become the law of the land when he went to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. And as framed in Philadelphia that year, the U.S. Constitution clearly stated in Article VI that federal elective and appointed officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
This passage—along with the facts that the Constitution does not mention God or a deity (except for a pro forma “year of our Lord” date) and that its very first amendment forbids Congress from making laws that would infringe of the free exercise of religion—attests to the founders’ resolve that America be a secular republic. The men who fought the Revolution may have thanked Providence and attended church regularly—or not. But they also fought a war against a country in which the head of state was the head of the church. Knowing well the history of religious warfare that led to America’s settlement, they clearly understood both the dangers of that system and of sectarian conflict.
It was the recognition of that divisive past by the founders—notably Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison—that secured America as a secular republic. As president, Washington wrote in 1790: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. …For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”
He was addressing the members of America’s oldest synagogue, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island (where his letter is read aloud every August). In closing, he wrote specifically to the Jews a phrase that applies to Muslims as well: “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
As for Adams and Jefferson, they would disagree vehemently over policy, but on the question of religious freedom they were united. “In their seventies,” Jacoby writes, “with a friendship that had survived serious political conflicts, Adams and Jefferson could look back with satisfaction on what they both considered their greatest achievement—their role in establishing a secular government whose legislators would never be required, or permitted, to rule on the legality of theological views.”
Late in his life, James Madison wrote a letter summarizing his views: “And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
While some of America’s early leaders were models of virtuous tolerance, American attitudes were slow to change. The anti-Catholicism of America’s Calvinist past found new voice in the 19th century. The belief widely held and preached by some of the most prominent ministers in America was that Catholics would, if permitted, turn America over to the pope. Anti-Catholic venom was part of the typical American school day, along with Bible readings. In Massachusetts, a convent—coincidentally near the site of the Bunker Hill Monument—was burned to the ground in 1834 by an anti-Catholic mob incited by reports that young women were being abused in the convent school. In Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, anti-Catholic sentiment, combined with the country’s anti-immigrant mood, fueled the Bible Riots of 1844, in which houses were torched, two Catholic churches were destroyed and at least 20 people were killed.
At about the same time, Joseph Smith founded a new American religion—and soon met with the wrath of the mainstream Protestant majority. In 1832, a mob tarred and feathered him, marking the beginning of a long battle between Christian America and Smith’s Mormonism. In October 1838, after a series of conflicts over land and religious tension, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs ordered that all Mormons be expelled from his state. Three days later, rogue militiamen massacred 17 church members, including children, at the Mormon settlement of Haun’s Mill. In 1844, a mob murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum while they were jailed in Carthage, Illinois. No one was ever convicted of the crime.
Even as late as 1960, Catholic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy felt compelled to make a major speech declaring that his loyalty was to America, not the pope. (And as recently as the 2008 Republican primary campaign, Mormon candidate Mitt Romney felt compelled to address the suspicions still directed toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Of course, America’s anti-Semitism was practiced institutionally as well as socially for decades. With the great threat of “godless” Communism looming in the 1950s, the country’s fear of atheism also reached new heights.
America can still be, as Madison perceived the nation in 1785, “an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion.” But recognizing that deep religious discord has been part of America’s social DNA is a healthy and necessary step. When we acknowledge that dark past, perhaps the nation will return to that “promised…lustre” of which Madison so grandiloquently wrote.
Kenneth C. Davis is the author of Don’t Know Much About History and A Nation Rising, among other books.