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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Roman Catholics throughout the world are in the midst of the season of Lent.

Lent occurs over the six weeks stretching between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. It is recognized by Catholics as a season of renewal, a time for Christians to repent of their sins and draw nearer to God.

And while prayer is essential to renewing one’s relationship with one’s Creator, Sustainer, and Savior, unless prayer is accompanied by the love of one’s neighbors, it is in vain.

There are two things that every Christian knows: (1) The love of neighbor transcends any and every boundary that human weakness—human sin—disposes us to draw; and (2) This agape (highest form of love) can be expressed in any number of ways.

These facts considered, Christians in America—particularly during this Holy Season—should bear in mind the plight of their brothers and sisters in the faith around the globe who are made daily to endure persecution of a kind that few of us can scarcely conceive.

The victims are men, women, and children to whom we are now and probably always will be strangers. They are almost always people of color, not infrequently (but by no stretch invariably) Africans and Middle Easterners.

And most (but not all) of the time, their persecutors are Muslims.

As black multimillionaires boycott the Oscars for Hollywood’s failure to nominate blacks for this most prestigious of its awards; as black and white agitators in the “Black Lives Matter” movement and among the Democrat Party’s presidential candidates continue to bemoan “systemic ‘racism’” in America; as the History Channel remakes the plagiarist Alex Haley’s Roots; and as Islamic activists bemoan such “Islamophobic” policies as “profiling” passengers boarding airplanes, black African Christians are regularly enslaved, beaten, separated from their families and murdered—usually by African Muslims.

Yet not a peep do we hear from Westerners who decry “racism” and religious bigotry as the most egregious of evils.

Open Doors, a site committed to serving oppressed Christians wherever they may be, shares stories of the victims of the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. The latter has been especially cancerous for the residents of Nigeria.

In April of 2014, the world watched as Michele Obama launched her “hashtag” campaign against Boko Haram when the thugs abducted 276 school girls from their secondary school in Chibok in Borno State. Chibok is an essentially Christian village. On May 5, less than one month after the kidnappings, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, made a video in which he acknowledged that the girls were targeted precisely because they were not Christian: “The girls that have not accepted Islam, they are now gathered in numbers” but “treated…well the way the Prophet Muhammad treated the infidels he seized.”

He added: “Slavery is allowed in my religion, and I shall capture people and make them slaves.”

The girls shouldn’t have been in school to begin with, Shekau insisted, for as long as they are at least nine years of age, they are suitable for marriage.

Open Doors has touched base with the father of one of the Chibok girls. The man’s name is James. James’ “heart aches every day” for his daughter, yet he continues to pray for her safe return.

Lydia survived one of the random bomb attacks that Boko Haram launched in Gobe State (Nigeria). Open Doors assures us that, “miraculously, amidst such a nightmare, she still has sure hope in the Lord.”

There’s also Esther. Open Doors reports: “At the hands of Boko Haram, she has now become a widow. Her husband would not deny Jesus, even to the point of death, and that brings her joy when her mourning is overwhelming.”

Things have only gotten worse for these beleaguered people.

In just one year, from 2014-2015, the rate of Muslim-on-Christian murder has risen by 62 percent in Nigeria. In 2014, Open Doors recorded 2,484 murders and 108 attacks on churches. In 2015, however, it determined that there were at least 4,028 murders and 198 church attacks.

Open Doors joined with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to conduct a report on the violence. According to “a partner director for West Africa,” the report—“Crushed but not defeated, the impact of persistent violence on the church in northern Nigeria”—reveals that “the extent and impact of the persistent violence on the church…is much more serious than previously expected.”

This may come as a surprise to Westerners who would love to believe that only a small handful of aberrant or heterodox Muslims—“extremists,” as Barack Obama calls them—is responsible for the infamous violence perpetrated in the name of Allah, but this report also notes that even if Boko Haram was destroyed tomorrow, the threat to Christians would persist.

For starters, the 30 million or so Christians in the region “have suffered marginalization and discrimination as well as targeted violence” for several decades: This oppression wasn’t born with the relatively recent rise of Boko Haram.

Nor will it end with the ending of the terrorist outfit. “Once Boko Haram is defeated,” comments the West African partner director (who, for obvious reasons, wished to remain anonymous), “the problem will not be solved.” The director explains: “Christians living under Sharia law are facing discrimination and marginalization and have limited to no access to federal rights.”

The report on the persecution of the northern Nigerian church identifies three principal sources of the epidemic to which it speaks—and Boko Haram is only one of them. The other two are the Muslim Fulani herdsmen and “the Muslim religious and political elite that dominates government in norther Nigeria.”

This Lenten season, and every season, as the racial and religious-grievance mongers of the Racism-Industrial-Complex here at home seek out increasingly incredible instances of bigotry, Christians and all decent people should muster the courage to speak for real victims of evil.

Some of those real victims are Christian men, women, and children in places like Nigeria.

 

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To My Fellow Catholics,

On March 7, our brethren in the faith, Robert P. George and George Weigel, published an open letter in National Review addressed to the Catholic world.

Trump’s “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice,” they assure us, “are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility [.]” Nor is there anything “in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to subsidiarity and the principle of limited constitutional government.”

The authors also add that Trump’s position in favor of torturing terrorist suspects and killing their family members are not only condemned by the Church. Such policies “would bring shame on our country.”

George and Weigel “urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to reject” Trump’s “candidacy…by supporting a genuinely reformist candidate.”

And that candidate, of course, is one of the Republican candidates, for while the GOP is “imperfect, like all human institutions,” it is nevertheless a “serviceable” vehicle “for promoting causes”—like the “legal protection for unborn children, the physically disabled and cognitively handicapped, the frail elderly, and other victims of what St. John Paul II branded ‘the culture of death’”—that are “at the center of Catholic social concern in the United States.”

Where to begin?

The authors essentially make the same bipartisan Everything-and-the Kitchen sink argument against Trump that the hard and moderate left in the Democrat/Republican axis have been making against him for months. The only difference here is that this ad hoc hodgepodge line of reasoning, this GOP Establishment boosting, is decorated with the veneer of religiosity.

Inasmuch as George and Weigel don’t substantiate any of their assertions, theirs is, in effect, an extended ad hominem assault against the Republican presidential frontrunner.

For starters, Trump has most decidedly not made “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice,” as the authors insist. He has noted, indisputably, that a not insignificant number of Mexican immigrants to the United States have been criminals. Not only is this documentable; those masses of working-class Americans whose persons and communities have suffered first-hand from the ravages of unrelenting immigration and who George and Weigel condescendingly suppose are animated by raw, irrational prejudice recognize Trump’s claim for the self-evident truth that it is.

As for Trump’s call to temporarily halt immigration from Islamic countries until we can insure that we aren’t importing jihadists who want to slaughter Americans, this too is something that sounds eminently sensible to countless numbers of everyday Americans—however politically incorrect and professionally dangerous it sounds to Princeton academics and Beltway journalists.

George’s and Weigel’s charge of racial demagoguery fails. In leveling it, though, they “strain out the gnat while letting in the camel”:

Castigating Trump for allegedly stoking racial and ethnic division in advocating a position designed to spare injury to Muslim and non-Muslim alike out of one side of their mouths, they endorse Republican politicians who favor—and who have executed—the invasion of Third World lands of people of color. Consequently, well over 100,000 lives have been ended, families decimated and displaced, ancient Christian communities destroyed, and many more lives severely injured.

Trump opposed and remains strenuously opposed to the war in Iraq. He is the only presidential candidate who has not spoken belligerently about Putin or the heads of any other states. On the other hand, George’s and Weigel’s “serviceable” party and its “reformist” candidates continue to stand by the incalculable blood that’s been shed for most of this century as the price necessary for the sake of exporting “liberal democracy” to the Middle East.

Yet it is Trump who George and Weigel promise will bring “shame upon our country.”

The authors think that Trump will not serve the victims of “the culture of death”—but, presumably, Rubio, Kasich, and Cruz will.

This point is especially puzzling. What exactly do they expect for the President of the United States to do for, say, abortion? Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for over 40 years. Republicans have not only made no attempts to overturn this Supreme Court decision; they repeatedly assure their opponents that they will make no such attempts.

It’s true that Republicans continue to espouse their commitment to “life.” Trump does the same. As far as action is concerned, however, he can’t possibly be any worse in this regard than those of his fellow GOPers who have spent decades in Congress funding Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

George served on the President’s Council on Bioethics under Bush II, who also awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal. But Bush II is the first president to have authorized federal funding for embryonic stem cell research—a move that certainly didn’t advance those concerns at the heart of “Catholic social concern.”

And then there’s the author’s contention that Catholics should vote for any other Republican but Trump because the latter is the one candidate who is not interested in “limited government.” This is probably true of Trump. As should be obvious to anyone who’s been alive for more than a handful of years, it’s at least as true of the other candidates and the GOP as a whole. But I will not elaborate upon the obvious here.

If the GOP is “serviceable” for us Catholics, then Trump may be all that much more serviceable.

In truth, however, George and Weigel are trying to make Catholics “serviceable” to the GOP.

 

 

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On Friday, March 11, members of Black Lives Matter and illegal immigrants’ “rights” groups joined with supporters of Bernie Sanders and other assortments of hard leftists to descend upon a Donald Trump rally in Chicago.

Consequently, the GOP frontrunner, informed by Chicago’s Finest of the potential dangers that lay in store for attendees, cancelled the event.

Contrary to what they and their accomplices in the media would have the public believe, these “protesters” or “demonstrators” are in reality barbaric, violent thugs.

Protest, at its finest, enriches the national dialogue. Regardless of whether one endorses the ends realized by various protest movements at different times and places, that there indeed is an honorable tradition of civil protest seems inarguable.

The militant leftists who have been crashing Trump rallies generally, and the Chicago event specifically, are eons apart from this tradition, for they are anything but civil.

Genuine protest must be lawful: If the civil liberties, the person and property of others, are violated, it is not protest.

It is criminal.

The “protesters” in Chicago engaged in violence—armed violence—against both the police as well as those who invested their resources in money and time to assemble peacefully to hear out a presidential candidate. Bricks, bottles, and even guns were among the weapons with which these “protesters” besieged the attendees.

The “protesters” ripped signs from the hands of Trump’s supporters, shouted in their faces, and assaulted them. The thugs also sported signs of their own, profanity-laced signs expressing their thoughts on the police. They blocked the streets, including an ambulance, and left at least one officer bloodied.

That the media, including and especially the so-called “conservative media” (e.g. Fox News), insists upon referring to these savages as “protesters” is a tragic commentary on the age, for it reflects a profound loss of moral perspective. We may as well as refer to Al Capone’s chief enforcer, Frank Nitti, as a security officer.

Yet it isn’t just the media that is guilty on this score; Trump’s opponents also see the thugs as “Social Justice Warriors,” i.e. otherwise idealistic, virtuous citizens who were simply reacting to the “fascism” of a demagogue.

The only thing more disturbing to this author than the spectacle of vicious goons preying upon innocents for no reason other than that they disagree with their victims’ politics is the readiness on the part of Democrats and Republicans alike to excuse their ghastly behavior.

To note but two prominent examples of the bipartisan consensus that immediately emerged on Friday, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders were of one mind in condemning for the orgy of violence not the thugs who perpetrated it, but Donald Trump.

“The protesters are behaving abusively and wrong,” Cruz said. “But, at the end of the day in any campaign, responsibility starts at the top.”

Translation: Trump is responsible for the violence that thugs visit upon his attendees, the police, and anyone who dares to be caught with a Trump sign.

Yet Cruz wasn’t finished: “I’m troubled by the rallies that Donald holds, where he asks all of the people there to raise their hand and pledge their support to him.”

Ah. Read carefully: Cruz is here exploiting the Trump-is-like-Hitler narrative that the liberal media has been laboring to weave around an innocent photograph featuring attendees at a Trump rally with their right arms raised in support of their candidate. Cruz is clearly trying to insinuate that the agitators in Chicago are responding to Trump’s fascism. Unless this was his aim, there would have been no point in mentioning the arm salute. Cruz could’ve simply read from the same playbook as everyone else and noted the manhandling of agitators on the part of Trump supporters who crashed other Trump events.

But he decided to go one step further and make, albeit subtly, the Nazi connection.

A couple of points should be borne in mind.

First, it is a disgrace—it is unconscionable—that any remotely decent person, whether he loves or despises Trump, would do anything less than unequivocally condemn what we saw in Chicago. It is not for the sake of Trump, but for the sake of righteousness, of civilization, that the evil of thuggery must be renounced without qualification.

That Cruz and John Kasich failed to rise to the occasion should, at the very least, leave the hearts of traditional conservative voters troubled.

I know of otherwise decent Democrats who also equivocated on this score: It’s time for them to disengage, even if only temporarily, from politics, for there isn’t a doubt in my mind that they would never tolerate their own children so much as going near the sorts of people who shut down Trump’s Chicago rally, let alone engage in the riotous conduct themselves.

Second, for all of the media spin about Trump’s encouraging violence among his own supporters, it should be noted that there isn’t a single incident reported of Trump’s supporters crashing Bernie or Hillary rallies. Not a single incident. When there has been rough play at Trump’s events, it hasn’t been anything at all like what we saw in Chicago. And it has always been in response to thugs who have crashed Trump’s events, insulted and accosted those in attendance, and attempted to deprive them of their opportunity to participate in the political process.

Moreover, that the sole face of violence on the part of a Trump proponent that the media has to select from among the tens of thousands of folks who have attended Trump’s rallies is that of a 79 year-old man who (unjustifiably, to be sure) punched a “protester” in the face proves just how few these exceptions are.

To repeat, there is no moral ambiguity here. Violence is never permissible except for when it is necessary to protect a victim’s life. The difference between those who recoil in disgust at the anti-Trump thugs and those who equivocate on their behalf is the difference between those who love civilization and its enemies.

 

 

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The sight of Marco Rubio knocking Donald Trump—or anyone—for allegedly being weak on illegal immigration is a sight to behold. Nor is it any less bemusing to hear Rubio (repeatedly) criticize Trump for being a “con-artist.”

There is no one in this presidential race, save perhaps Hillary Clinton, with a stronger command of con-artistry than Rubio.

Of course, everyone now knows that Rubio, via his enablers in “conservative” talk radio, aggressively promoted a “pathway to citizenship,” i.e. amnesty, on behalf of the Gang of Eight. Even though Rubio denies that he ever favored amnesty (while self-contradictorily confessing to having learned his lesson on this score), his opponents—those who know the truth about his past—have succeeded in branding him with the “A” word.

However, it is when we look at Rubio’s history here that we see the depths of his dishonesty.

Keli Carender, a self-described “30-something Ditto Head” and “founder of the modern day American Tea Party movement,” authored an article last month entitled: “Rush [Limbaugh], I Love You, But You’re Dead Wrong About Marco Rubio.” The latter she describes as a “sleazy snake” whose “electability is a myth.”

In 2003, when he was a member of the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio co-sponsored a version of the DREAM Act: The bill allowed illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition if they decided to attend college. Carender notes that Rubio stood by this position as recently as this past January, remarking that it didn’t “legalize” anyone and established specific eligibility standards.

In 2006, when Rubio was Speaker of the Florida House, he blocked six immigration enforcement bills from even being debated. The commonsense measures in the bills—provisions “denying public benefits to illegal aliens, denying public jobs to illegal aliens, and a memorandum of understanding between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement to remove criminal aliens”—Rubio condemned as “draconian.”

It wasn’t until Rubio began his run for the state Senate against the pro-amnesty Charlie Crist that he began whistling a dramatically different tune. Carender notes that Rubio witnessed the massive voter pushback against Crist’s position and recalibrated accordingly.

On December 22, 2009, Rubio met with Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, the leader of the Tea Party of Fort Lauderdale, and a local Tea Party activist. Carender recalls: “He looked them in the eyes and promised that he heard them; he would opposed any form of legalization, including the DREAM Act and amnesty, for anyone that was in the country illegally.”

Carender quotes Rubio’s remarks from a Tampa Bay Times article from 2009. Then, Rubio declared that “amnesty…will destroy any hope of having a legal immigration system that works.” He opposed the DREAM Act and even said—wait for it!—that an “earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty” (emphases added).

So Rubio admitted then that what he would co-sponsor a few years later was indeed amnesty.

Yet Carender continues, alluding to another Youtube interview in which Rubio insists that amnesty is indefensible. We can’t, “in essence…say, ‘Look, well you’ve been here for so long that even though you broke the law we’re going to let you stay,’” The problem with this is that “it demoralizes the people that are going through the legal process [.]” Moreover, “it demoralizes the people enforcing the law.”

To those who may object that Rubio’s Gang of Eight plan was not amnesty because it affixed penalties to law-breakers, Carender has a reply ready at hand: Rubio’s own words from 2010. Six years ago, Rubio said that amnestyin any form, whether it’s back of the line or so forth,” will “destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works here in America” (emphases added).

In an interview with Human Events from 2010, Rubio unequivocally rejected any pathway to citizenship. “Well,” he remarked, “we have a path for citizenship. It’s called coming legally into this country.” As for those who have already entered illegally: “You can’t do it.”

Rubio even said that while “it’s gonna feel weird” for “young kids that were brought to this country at a very young age [and] who don’t even speak Spanish…to be sent back to Nicaragua or some other place,” in order “to have an immigration policy that works,” deportations there must be.

Rubio added that if we “provide a path for people to enter this country illegally,” people who ‘stay[ed] here long enough and pa[id] enough in taxes,” then “why would anyone come in through the legal process?”

Conservative movement giant, the inimitable Phyllis Schafly, agrees with Carender’s assessment of Rubio.

Schlafly claims to have been the first person to endorse Rubio when he ran against Crist for the Senate. She regrets her decision now. “He said he was against amnesty and against the establishment. And once he got in, right away, he became an agent of the establishment. And now, of course, he’s big for amnesty and letting all the illegal immigrants in.”

Schlafly’s verdict is that Rubio “betrayed us all…a number of times” on the issue of illegal immigration/amnesty” (emphasis added).

And Schlafly is incredulous at how blatant—“so public”—Rubio’s betrayal has been.

“He’s a lackey for the establishment now,” she said, “an establishment agent.”

The next time we hear Rubio or any of his boosters accuse Trump of being a “con-artist,” we’d be well served to recall the depths to which Rubio himself has gone to advance his own interests.

 

 

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