Politics & faith: the conflict myth

Stuck in False Narratives That Constrain

Read a good book

This week my public library called to let me know that it was my turn to borrow If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas. Though only nearing the end of chapter two, I’m prepared to say that every American needs to read this book. Liberals. Conservatives. Moderates. Fiscal this/social that. Greenies. Whatever label that you like to wear so long as you care about the United States of America and freedom, read this book.

If you think we need to rewrite the constitution, then maybe you won’t like this book. But give it a try and decide for yourself. If you are unclear about why and how American liberty is at risk, read this book. If You Can Keep It is the perfect read as we sail toward the upcoming election — not because it is a guide for how to vote, but because it reminds us why America is exceptional and has the role of city on a hill for the whole world.

A call to action

If You Can Keep It is a call to action and a call to hope. Metaxas talks about “keeping” America (preserving and maintaining our liberty). I prefer “save” rather than “keep.” My language is a bit more dire, but not unwarranted given the threats to religious liberty, not just from lobbyists, but from President Obama and his administration, and activist Supreme Court justices.

Metaxas wants to educate, inspire, and remind We the People of our responsibilities to the republic. While Metaxas does not believe all is lost, he does caution that American liberty is a fragile thing that requires work. It’s not something to be taken for granted. While there is no need to wallow in despair over the symptoms of our time (i.e., our choices for president), we must resist the urge to disengage.

What is required of us—of each one of us who are “we the people”—is something we have mostly forgotten. — Introduction: The Promise, p 3

Start a conversation

So start a book club and begin the conversation about how We the People must save America. Now is not a time for political correctness. Americans need to both speak up and listen. Thankfully, for the most part, American liberty is a unifying theme.

No shouting, no name-calling, and no nice-nice

When I say start a conversation, I don’t mean just with people who agree with you, think like you, look like you, talk like you, went or go to the same school or church as you. I’m thinking more along the lines of having a National Politically Incorrect Day (or week or month). On this day America turns of the TV, tunes out the mouths with megaphones that yell, talk at, and name call. Leave off the mass media narratives, and rally the ground troops. Passion is human, but nobody shouts or gets hostile. On the other hand, nobody plays the nice-nice game of self-censorship for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

One minute of mass media would have us believing that respectful dialogue is impossible. I disagree. The problems of our day are serious, and if we do not work together at the local level to start solving them, We the People will be tempted to look toward the government. Too many already do look to the government as savior. We the People need to step up before the government steps in and intrudes on, or worse, chips away at our liberty, especially the freedom to exercise our religion.

A key point Metaxas makes is that the first responsibility of We the People is self-government. And by that he means not politics, but living lives of virtue. The more we are able to govern ourselves, the smaller and less intrusive our federal government can be.

True freedom must be an “ordered freedom,” at the center of which is what we call “self-government.” …People would not have freedom from government, but would have freedom from tyrannous government, or from government that might easily become tyrannous. — Chapter 1, The Idea of America, p 29

What was required was a virtuous people who were prepared to handle the great freedom being proposed….The founders understood that the more each person governed himself, the less there would be a need for strong government, and by their estimation the American people were ready. The faith and the virtue of the American people made possible the most free nation in the history of the world. — Chapter 1, The Idea of America, pp 36–37

An obstacle to overcome: a critical yet misleading myth entrenched in pop culture

As it is with the myth that faith and science are opposed to each other and incompatible, so it is with the myth that faith and politics, too, must be divorced. Where these myths come from and how are they perpetuated are questions worth asking, but not the consideration of today.

If we are to “keep” this republic, we have to see it afresh and really understand what we’re keeping, must have a clear grasp of what this American republic is and how it works. — Chapter 1, The Idea of America, pp 17–18

A second obstacle to overcome: not everyone wants to have a conversation

I talk politics and religion. I don’t care if we agree; the conversation is often more interesting when we don’t. But respect for self and other is essential. To my dismay, I meet too many people who do not want to have a conversation at all or who are so afraid, they lower their voice, less the PC police come after them. It breaks my heart to see so many caring and intelligent people trapped in fear, more difficult though are those who are unwilling to listen, consider other perspectives, or have their preferred narrative challenged.

When I bring up issues facing our country and try to bring a moral component to the topic, some people quickly pronounce “separation of church and state!” It is a mantra to stop the conversation. Don’t hold me accountable to a standard set by your God. The best strategy I’ve come up with when this happens is to ask the person to explain what they mean by that. Many people do not understand that separation of church and state does not mean that you check your morals at the door, that you can’t pray at school or in the halls of government. It means that the federal government cannot establish a religion and compel the people to join it or support it financially.

When religious liberty falls in America, so America falls

Religious freedom is a foundational concept of American liberty. Everyone should care about this freedom, even atheists. Without the foundation of having the freedom to act or not act in accordance with your conscience, all other liberties are at risk.

But it was impossible for the founders to see where after two centuries the things that were secure in their day would change, that faith could be greatly eroded and then pushed out of the public square via a misunderstanding of the concept of separation of church and state; and that via many things, such as Vietnam and Watergate, trust in the institutions of government could be damaged — and yet how ironically and predictably, the people would increasingly assume the government itself could and would do what was necessary. — Chapter 1, The Idea of America, pp 48–49

Only We the People can save America

The only way to save America is to get involved. Citizen, arise and rediscover your duty as an American. Read a good book. Talk politics. Talk faith. Talk freedom. Release yourself from the censorship of political correctness. Discern how to share your God-given gifts for the common good. Take courage! If someone calls you a mean name, smile, and forgive, because the person you are talking to has run out of intelligent and thoughtful things to say.

As I said, I am just finishing up chapter two, so I don’t know where Metaxas will take me next. But I do know that Christians have a responsibility to bring Jesus to the public square. We are not just trying to preserve America, we also have a mission to bring the Good News to everyone.

Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. — Jesus, Matthew 10:32–33; Luke 12:8–9

Let secular France be a warning to us.

We invite catastrophe by sincerely believing that the religious affiliation of a citizen has no political bearing or effect.

Read Good Books 07-04-15

Quotes From Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe

True freedom is not so much something man wins for himself; it is a free gift from God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, received in the measure in which we place ourselves in a relationship of loving dependence on our Creator and Savior. This is where the Gospel paradox is most apparent: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In other words, people who wish to preserve and defend their own freedom at any cost will lose it, but those willing to “lose” it by leaving it trustingly in God’s hands will save it. Their freedom will be restored to them, infinitely more beautiful, infinitely deeper, as a marvelous gift from God’s tenderness. Our freedom is, in fact, proportionate to the love and childlike trust we have for our heavenly Father. (pp 14–15)

Very often we feel restricted in our situation, our family, or our surroundings. But maybe the real problem lies elsewhere:  in our hearts. There we are restricted, and that is the root of our lack of freedom. If we loved more, love would give our lives infinite dimensions, and we would no longer feel so hemmed in. (pp 20–21)

Often, we fail to accept others because deep down, we do not accept ourselves. If we are not at peace with ourselves we will necessarily find ourselves at war with other people. (p 43)

The most painful suffering is the suffering we reject … there will always be sufferings that have no remedies, and these we must make an effort to accept peacefully. (p 46)

Our human wisdom needs a very thorough shake-up. Not to destroy it, but to purify it, and free it from its limitations. It is always marked by a certain measure of selfishness and pride, and by lacks of faith and love. Our narrow vision needs opening up to God’s wisdom; we require an in-depth renewal. Sin, by its nature, is narrowing; holiness is openness of spirit and greatness of soul. (p 51)


Quote/Scripture/Song of the Day 06-06-15

“Bless God and give him thanks before all the living for the good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song. Proclaim before all with due honor the deeds of God, and do not be slack in thanking him. A king’s secret should be kept secret, but one must declare the works of God and give thanks with due honor. Do good, and evil will not overtake you. Prayer with fasting is good. Almsgiving with righteousness is better than wealth with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold, for almsgiving saves from death, and purges all sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, but those who commit sin and do evil are their own worst enemies.”
— Saint Raphael speaking to Tobit and Tobiah, Tobit 12:6–10

And so the Song of the Day is “How Can I Keep From Singing?”

Evening Rabbit Report 06-04-15

Tonight I watched Raymond Arroyo (The World Over) interview Father Cassian Folsom, the prior of the Benedictine monastery in Norcia. While discussing the monks’ new release Benedicta:  Marian Chant from Norcia, the following ideas were expressed (not exactly in this order), but this is the general sentiment:

When King Saul, enslaved by an evil spirit, experienced a fit of madness, David would play the harp to calm him (see 1 Samuel 16:23). This mad world is in great need of the vibration of truth, beauty, and goodness.

Benedicta certainly transports me out of the muck of the earth (more often the muck of my own making) and lifts my spirit. I would add that this is the vibration of reverence and humility, and the creature’s gratitude for being loved by his Creator.

So let us listen to the monks chant, and ask God to pour his peace into our souls and into the this mad world.

Read Good Books – Dante’s Inferno

First Sentence of the Day

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.

— Dante, Inferno, The Divine Comedy (translated by Robert and Jean Hollander)


For the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis recommends that Catholics read Dante as a spiritual guide.

Dante is therefore a prophet of hope, a herald of humanity’s possible redemption and liberation, of profound change in every man and woman, of all of humanity. He invites us to regain the lost and obscured meaning of our human journey and to hope to see again the bright horizon which shines in the full dignity of the human person. Honouring Dante Alighieri, as Paul VI previously invited us to do, we can be enriched by his experience to pass through the many dark woods still widespread in our land and to complete happily our pilgrimage through history in order to arrive at the goal dreamt of and yearned for by every man and woman: “the Love that moves the sun and all the other stars” (Par. XXXIII, 145).

Art exhibit: Picturing Mary Closes April 12, 2015

Worth Your Time

What:  Picturing Mary:  Woman, Mother, Idea
explores the concept of womanhood represented by the Virgin Mary as well as the social and sacred functions her image has served through time. This landmark exhibition organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts brings together more than 60 Renaissance- and Baroque-era masterworks from the Vatican Museums, Uffizi Gallery, and other museums, churches, and private collections in Europe and the United States.

Where:  National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave Washington DC

Closing Date:  April 12, 2015