Sunday, February 23, 2014

Protestant/Catholic rivalry

As the great steamroller of secularism rumbles towards them, Christians generally have become much less mindful of denominational differences between them.  Unbelief and Leftist oppression have become the current enemies for all Christians.  So true Protestants (NOT including Anglicans and other "social" churches, who are generally too "modern" to believe in anything much) appreciate the solid opposition to abortion and homosexuality from Catholics, for instance.  And Christians do need to band together.  The secular steamroller has largely crushed belief and church loyalty in Britain, Western Europe and Australia.  Only in the USA, Russia, Poland and Latin America is belief in the risen Lord still strong.

Young people therefore may not know that Protestant/Catholic rivalry was once intense -- and not long ago at that.  Within living memory we were all rather like Ulstermen.

When I was a kid I went to a State (government) school and the Catholic school was just down the road.  And we all used to walk home in those days -- none of that namby-pamby nonsense of parents picking us up.  So there was opportunity for us to get into mischief.  And one sort of mischief was that the kids from the two schools used to chant sectarian rhymes at one another.  I suppose it was better than coming to blows.  I remember the rhymes very well but I am a bit embarassed about it all now so I will repeat only one of the rhymes:  "Mary, Mary, mother of God, baked a cake and it was a sod".  Apologies from my 70-year old self for my 10-year old self.

And at that time Protestants and Catholics even tended to go to different shops.  Two big Department stores in Brisbane exemplified that:  McWhirter's and T.C. Beirne's.  Protestants shopped at McWhirter's and Catholics shopped at T.C. Beirne's.  It actually felt weird to go into the "wrong" one of those.

And the thought of a Catholic marrying a Protestant was quite rage-provoking.  A Protestant father contemplating one of his children marrying a Catholic would utter the most dire warnings against it and back up the warming with threats of disinheritance etc.  Catholics were equally vehemently against "intermarriage" but would acquiesce in it as long as the children of the marriage were brought up Catholic.

Now here is the amusing thing:  Despite all the rage and heartburn, young Catholic and young Protestant people still married one-another at a great rate.  I take some interest in genealogy and when you look at genealogical records in Australia, the number of intermarriages is astounding.  It is true of my own relatives and forebears, of course. I have both Irish and English ancestry.   Young Catholics and Protestants clearly found one-another fascinating.  Forbidden fruit?  That could be part of it.

There is a rather good novel by Ruth Park called "Harp in the South" about a Catholic family in Australia about 100 years ago which captures it all rather well.  There are two friends -- one Catholic and one Protestant  -- who get on very well with one-another  -- except on one day of the year -- the day when the Orange order marches and they sing of how "King Billy slew the Papish crew at the battle of Boyne water" etc.

So even in the old days there was goodwill lurking, despite different traditions  -- JR

Survey: Christians Have Lost the Culture War

The culture war may be lost and religious liberty might not be that far behind, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.

Seventy percent of senior pastors at Protestant churches say religious liberty is on the decline in the United States and 59 percent of Christians believe they are losing the culture war. Eleven percent considers that war already lost.

The survey results are staggering– indicating grave concerns about the moral direction of the nation from both the pulpit and the pew.

“Ten years ago we were talking about who would win the culture war and now we’re talking about how will Christian rights be protected after the culture war,” Ed Stetzer, the president of LifeWay Research told me. “We’ve lost our home field advantage. There are going to be some things that are different.”

Stetzer said it’s a big shift.  “And it’s a shift I would not have guessed,” he told me.

Over the past few years, I’ve documented hundreds of instances of religious persecution in the United States. And the targets have been exclusively Christians.

The military labeled evangelical Christians and Catholics as religious extremists. Christian organizations like Family Research Council and American Family Association were labeled by the military as domestic hate groups. Bibles were briefly banned from Walter Reed Medical Center.

The Internal Revenue Service targeted Christian ministries engaged in pro-life activities. The government demanded to know the content of one group’s prayers. A Wyoming church was ordered by government officials to turn over their membership rolls. A Baptist newspaper in North Carolina was audited – as was America’s evangelist – Billy Graham.

The list of attacks on Christians goes on and on – from students ordered to stop praying in front of the Supreme Court to chaplains being told the could no longer pray in the name of Jesus.

In recent days, the battleground has pitted gay rights groups against Christian-owned businesses who cater to the wedding industry. Christian bakers, florists and photographers have been hauled into court and brought up on state discrimination charges for declining to participate in same-sex weddings.

And in every single instance – lower courts have ruled that gay rights trump religious rights.  So perhaps it should not be a surprise that 70 percent of pastors and 54 percent of Americans believe religious liberty is on the decline.

Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, said the concern is widespread.  “Half of Americans say that religious liberty is on the decline,” he said. “That’s a lot of people.”

Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Tex., conceded that Christians are losing the culture war and they are losing ground every day.  “The primary reason Christians are losing the culture wars is that pastors are AWOL when it comes to informing and energizing their congregations,” Jeffress told me.

Unless Christians stand up and engage the political process, Jeffress said he fears there may come a day when religious liberty is extremely curtailed.  “A religious leader once said, ‘my successor will see the tax exempt status removed from churches and his successor will go to jail,” Jeffress said. “That is probably on the horizon.”

But there are some pockets of resistance – like the town of Greenwood in the Mississippi Delta.  Jim Phillips is the senior pastor of North Greenwood Baptist Church. He told me that Greenwood still has a “very high respect for the historical Judeo-Christian ethic.”  “Every one of my son’s community college football games around the state last season began with a prayer on the loud speaker – in Jesus’ name,” he told me. “Will that eventually be challenged? I suspect so at some point.”  But right now he said “pockets of religious boldness still exist.”

Phillips said national trends, though, are disturbing. “Christians have slowly given away their impact on culture by becoming more and worldlier instead of confronting the culture to become more and more godly,” he said.

So who is to blame for the loss? Phillips blames Christians.  “Sadly, Christians have often wimped out and grown silent instead of being bolder for the Gospel,” he said. “Christians get subdued into thinking they’re not supposed to rise up.”

Jeffress agreed with that assessment and said the church must involve itself in the political process.  “There are 50 to 80 million evangelicals in America,” he said. “Only half are registered to vote and only half of those voted in the last election.”

Jeffress said it’s imperative for people of faith to engage the culture.  “Every time we go to the voting booth we are casting a vote for righteousness or unrighteousness,” he said.

Pastor Phillips also urged his fellow pastors to step up to the plate.  “My calling is to keep leading the charge,” he said. “As a local pastor, my goal is to keep encouraging my church to seek to raise the bar and not lower it when it comes to confronting culture.”

Stetzer said he hopes the survey will spark a “fruitful national conversation about religious liberty concerns.”  “The perception was that the culture war was once a winnable war,” Stetzer said. “But it’s switched from an offensive battle to a defensive battle.”

Pastor Jeffress urged Christians to stand their ground.  “We ought to do everything we can to push back against this encroachment on religious liberty and protect our right to spread the Gospel,” he said.

I write about this very issue in my new book, “God Less America.” It will be published in May. But I’m reminded of a quote by President Ronald Reagan.  “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under,” Reagan once said.

A few years ago, A New York public school teacher was ordered to remove that quote from her classroom wall. She was told that it violated the U.S. Constitution.  I’m afraid we may be “gone under.”


The Church of England has become an outpost of the Labour Party

Earlier today on Twitter, Tim Montgomerie expressed amazement that 26 Anglican Archbishops had chosen to write to the Mirror, of all papers, to express their discomfort over the government's welfare reforms:

In fact, the Archbishops' decision to air their grievances in a Labour paper should come as no surprise. The Church of England is no longer the Conservative Party at prayer. To all intents and purposes, it is an outpost of the Labour Party.

Let's begin with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Just because Justin Welby is an Old Etonian friend of the Prime Minister's, do not assume he supports his policies. On the contrary, he's repeatedly made his sympathies for Ed Miliband clear. Last October, he joined the Labour leader in attacking the Big Six energy companies and let's not forget that in his first significant political intervention since taking office Welby attacked Iain Duncan Smith for capping increases in welfare payments at 1 per cent a year. "These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the government," he said.

In taking up the cudgels against the Coalition's welfare polices, Welby was following in the footsteps of his predecessor Rowan Williams, who made little attempt to conceal his own support for the Labour Party.

In what was described as the most overtly political intervention by an Archbishop of Canterbury in a generation, Williams wrote a leader for the New Statesman in 2011 in which he dismissed the Prime Minister's "Big Society" rhetoric as a smokescreen for enacting "radical policies for which no oen voted". “The Government needs to know how afraid people are," wrote the Archbishop.

It won't surprise anyone to learn that Tim Livesey, Rowan Williams's Head of Current Affairs, is now Ed Miliband's Chief of Staff or that the Rev Arun Arora, the Church of England's Director of Communications, is a Labour Party supporter. You only have to follow him on Twitter to realise this.


Heart attack patient and lifelong Catholic outraged after claiming priest refused to read him last rites because he is GAY

If he is not true to what the church requires, how can he expect the church to treat him as eligible for what the church has to offer?  Receiving extreme unction presupposes repentance for sin but this guy is obviously not repentant of his sinful behaviour -- JR

A heart attack patient has claimed a Roman Catholic priest refused to read him his last rites because he is gay.

Lifelong Catholic Ronald Plishka is reported to have asked a nurse at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, in Washington D.C., to send a priest to him the day after he was admitted.

But he said the priest that arrived at his bedside would not administer the last rites or communion, after he had told him he was gay.

Mr Plishka told the Washington Blade, Father Brian Coelho never specifically said he was refusing to administer the last rites.

But he said: 'He would not do it. By him not doing it I assumed he would not do it because why was he getting ready to do it and all of a sudden when I say I'm gay he stops?'

The retired travel agent said the priest offered no explanation for refusing to offer the sacraments but did say he would pray with him.

In a statement to the Washington Post, the hospital said officials had taken the 'patient's concerns very seriously'.

The statement said: 'While the priest is not an employee but rather is assigned by the Archdiocese to provide spiritual care at our hospital, it is our expectation that all who support our patients adhere to our values.

'This includes offering pastoral and spiritual support to all patients, regardless of their faith traditions.'

The hospital said it was last year recognised as a 'Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality' by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, adding it wanted to 'hold true' to this commitment to the LGBT community and all of its patients.

The statement said: 'Our Department of Spiritual Care has reinforced our expectations with this particular priest and his superiors.'

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington told the Blade it would not be making a comment at this time. Father Coelho has also not responded to requests to comment by the media.

But a retired Catholic priest, who is now chairman of Dignity Washington's Pastoral Ministry, a Catholic LGBT organisation, said 'any baptised Christian ought not to be denied the sacraments at his or her request'.

Mr Plishka, who was discharged three days later, was given communion after the hospital sent a Methodist pastor to him.

In December Pope Francis was chosen by The Advocate, America's oldest gay rights magazine, as the 'single most influential person of 2013 on the lives of LGBT people.'

'While 2013 will be remembered for the work of hundreds in advancing marriage equality, it will also be remembered for the example of one man,' wrote the online magazine in announcing its choice.

The pontiff famously said earlier that summer he would not 'judge' homosexuals. Those remarks, the Advocate said, 'became a signal to Catholics and the world that the new pope is not like the old pope.'



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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