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Swimming the Tiber, Part II

What’s a nice Jewish boy like you doing in the Roman Catholic Church?

(I have been asked more times than I can remember about my journey from Evangelical Christian to the Roman Catholic Church.  Although I’ve often doubted whether anyone else would have the least interest, I will present that journey – well, parts of it anyway – here.  This is not an apologetic.  It’s a narrative.  To say that it was a struggle for me would be an understatement.  So would it be to say that I still struggle.  If there is any encouragement, any help, any edification to be found here, I hope you find it.  I am, after all, only a beggar telling other beggars where to find Bread.  This is Part II of that narrative.  Part I can be found here.)

From juice and bread to Real Presence.

I was aware of the Catholic Church’s long standing defense of life. But I also learned that there were other things that the Church was right on too; guided, of course, by my own infallible lights. I then made a fatal mistake: I started reading Church history. In the words of Newman, “to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”

But I remain grateful for the family from whence I come. To have two parents who both love God and love each other is something more precious to me than words can adequately describe.

We have the distinct privilege and blessing to have a wealth of information and history at our fingertips. We are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. For the last two decades, I have been a reluctant traveler on a path looking at some of that history. When I try a case, I often say, let’s seek out the truth and see where it takes us.

So that is what I’ve endeavored to do. I think of that great line from Chariots of Fire when Eric Little was asked if he had any regrets. His answer was, “Yes, but no doubt.” And so it has been for me.

The short of it is that after twenty years of internal – and sometimes external – wrangling, my wife and seven of our thirteen children became Catholics.  After years of reading, praying, and seeking, I could protest no longer. The family created by marriage is an organic unity. Husband and wife share the mutual pledge of their lives, live together under one roof, raise the same children, and share the same food. I certainly could not bear the thought of living separated from any of my family. I could no longer live apart from most of my Christian family.

There were interim stops along the way. There was a long stay in conservative Presbyterianism where I enjoyed some of the intellectual rigor; Reformed Episcopal, with its liturgy and appreciation for the Sacraments; and, then Orthodoxy with its valid Sacraments, deep liturgy, and mystery.

I deeply appreciate the beauty and consistency of the Eastern Rite in the Catholic Church. As the Catechism notes, the Eastern Church more consistently reflects the unity of Baptism and the Eucharist. Except for the sage advice of a priest friend, I was inclined to go there. Sadly, there is, it seems, an impenetrable cultural divide that keeps outsiders, well, outside. Perhaps it is this mentality that has spared much of the Eastern Church from the scandals and innovations that are all too familiar to us in the last half century.

My decision to enter into communion with the Catholic Church is the culmination of a journey begun in earnest when I was working full time in the pro-life movement. In this journey, I feel a fulfillment of my years of desiring a truly comprehensive and consistent Christianity. Along the way I was particularly drawn by two unavoidable truths.

First: jurisdiction. While I think I’ve always appreciated that reality, being in law school catapulted me in my journey. In the law, jurisdiction is everything. And underscoring the importance of jurisdiction in law school highlighted the futility – and ultimate disintegration – of protestantism. There is no real mechanism for resolving disputes or determining what God has to say about anything. Every debate eventually ends with, “Well, I just don’t see it that way, brother.” And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just go start my own church. Indeed, protestantism has within itself the seeds of its own destruction.

Second: the Eucharist.  One of the chief criticisms I’ve heard my entire life is that “Catholics don’t believe the Bible.” Yet it is precisely at that place where the Church adheres most closely to Sacred Scripture that there is the sharpest divide: This is my body. I am no grammar scholar.  Thankfully, you don’t have to be to diagram that sentence.  If the Church is wrong about everything else but right about the Eucharist, I wanted in.

I have not and will not repudiate my upbringing. It is precisely my upbringing – this relentless pursuit of Truth – that has led me to where I am today. I have come to see that the Catholic Church provides the coherent foundation for an unyielding commitment to the sanctity of every human life, of marriage, the family, and respect for all the seasons of life.

And it’s not just about being right, but about being made right . . . with God.  I am a sinner.  I have offended a holy God, who is all good and deserving of all my love.  I have caused injury to others.  I need salve for the wounds, mercy for the wrongs, and food for the journey.  These I found in the Catholic Church.

In becoming a Catholic, I leave nothing behind and forsake nothing but division. I am born-again to new and living hope.  I am Bible believing.  I am filled with the Holy Spirit.

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Swimming the Tiber, Part I

What’s a nice Jewish boy like you doing in the Roman Catholic Church?

(I have been asked more times than I can remember about my journey from Evangelical Christian to the Roman Catholic Church.  Although I’ve often doubted whether anyone else would have the least interest, I will present that journey – well, parts of it anyway – here.  This is not an apologetic.  It’s a narrative.  To say that it was a struggle for me would be an understatement.  So would it be to say that I still struggle.  If there is any encouragement, any help, any edification to be found here, I hope you find it.  I am, after all, only a beggar telling other beggars where to find Bread.)

I am a Catholic.

There, I said it. It comes more easily now. But it has taken two decades to get here. Not only did I struggle with many theological and practical issues, my wife and I have 13 very well trained Protestants. So our family vessel moved more like an aircraft carrier, less like a speedboat.

From gefilte fish to bacon.

Both my wife and I grew up in evangelical homes. My wife’s father was a minister for decades. We loved the Bible as the very Word of God. We memorized it voraciously. We had “sword drills,” competing to be the first one to find a particular verse. I was the champion several years running.

Driven by love of God and man, we were concerned for the eternal destiny of everyone everywhere. We called it witnessing, sharing the Gospel, and evangelism.

My Dad – God rest his soul – would witness at every opportunity, whether to the guy at the next table in a restaurant or the clerk at the motel desk. Even the fact that the dentist had both his hands in my Dad’s mouth didn’t deter him from sharing the Good News. If you were going to hell, it sure wasn’t going to be my Father’s fault.

My dear Mother still does it. In rehab following a severe stroke, she’d share the Gospel with every therapist, roommate, orderly, and nurse that crossed her path. Despite the pain, humiliation, and Herculean efforts of recovery, she never complained. At times she was almost giddy with the opportunities she had to share her deep faith. She is probably the only person in history to have fun in therapy.

We were in church just about every time the doors were open. Sunday morning for worship and Sunday School; Sunday night for another service or two. There was Wednesday night for prayer meeting following a covered dish supper.

If you were really plugged in, you went to Tuesday night “visitation” to invite neighbors to come join you in church on Sunday. A fleet of school buses got you there if needed. We had more days of obligation than Catholics ever thought about. But it was not as much about “obligation” as it was about obedience – and its greatest motivator – love.

We loved God and we loved each other. Church was the center of where we worshipped. And it was the center of our lives. It was the gathering place for friends. We called it fellowship.

Both my parents grew up in non-observant Jewish homes. They were married in a Jewish ceremony, but were otherwise non-observant as well. According to my grandparents, you could be nothing or you could be Jewish. Each had approximately equal validity. Six years of marriage and a few children later, my parents underwent a divine transformation and became Christians.

My Mother’s parents weren’t thrilled with this conversion, but they tolerated it. It was not, however, a topic of conversation for polite company as far as they were concerned. We five children, of which I was the eldest, loved them and enjoyed their involvement in our lives. We were saddened by their passing, especially since they departed this world in darkness.

Dad’s parents were a different story. With my parents’ conversion, my grandparents were righteously indignant with a sense of religious fervor. My grandparents did what they could to humiliate their son. In Jewish history, many families will tear their clothes and even conduct a funeral, treating the new Christian relative as though dead.

That would have been a marked improvement. We only saw them a handful of times growing up, and they used every one of those opportunities to be berate my Father.

Dad was no shrinking violet. His six and a half foot, two hundred sixty pound frame cast quite a shadow. He was an accomplished snow skier and a champion equestrian. He was naturally gregarious and never met a stranger. But he never complained about or criticized his parents. He did pray for them and for their conversion. Only after I entered adulthood could I comprehend the depth and breadth of their ire. How it must have grieved my Father’s heart.

When my Father lay dying in his hospital bed, I sat by his side. During the last few days of his life, he was unconscious. By his bedside, I read to him, spoke to him, and asked him questions. He never responded but I kept on anyway. One question was, “Dad, now that you are at the end of your life, what is most important to you?” He instantly awoke, pushed his oxygen mask aside, lifted his head slightly off the pillow, looked straight at me with his eyes wide open and proclaimed: “The Lord and your Mother.” He immediately closed his eyes. Two days later he slipped from this life into the presence of the God he loved. He never said another word.

He ended his life as he spent it: expressing his love for God and for his wife. He even got them in the right order.

During Dad’s final illness my Mother graciously tended to him virtually single-handedly. He was bed-ridden for the last year of his life. Mom took care of him with great joy and affection. She personified the term “labor of love,” accepting this role as if assigned to her from God himself.

So if I have anything of merit to say, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants. They taught me how to think, taught me to be relentless in my pursuit of the Truth, taught me how to raise a family, and taught me how to live. Finally, by walking the last leg of their journey together – his suffering and her service – they taught me how to die.

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What would you do for a beer?

The producers of this beer  commercial borrowed a small150 seat cinema playing a popular film, and filled 148 of its seats with rough-looking, tatooed bikers, leaving only two free seats in the middle of the theater. They then allowed theater management to sell tickets for the last pair of tickets to several young couples.  What would you do?

H/T to Don Akridge.

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A few good men.

And the Marines apparently found them.  Shoplifters should be more careful.

H/T to G.Polk

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Put Ann down as undecided.

No reference to “Giving the devil his due” would be complete without a commentary on the false religion of Islam.  Since my rhetoric tends to be too inflammatory, I thought I would give some space to a – how do I say it – a voice of moderation.

Meet Ann Barnhardt.  She’s young, single, a convert to Roman Catholicism.  And besides all that, she’s apparently attracted the attention of some ungentlemanly cowards from across the pond, including one erudite islamist (screen name Shariyah4pakistan) who opines that Ann “should be killed in a bad way.”

Ann responded to this threatening entreaty by providing her home address as well as the directions to her abode.   She also offered the following, ahem, expression of mutual affection:

You are more than welcome to come to my home, or to send other musloids here in the U.S. that you have recruited, to try to “kill me in a bad way”. Please do. I have multiple weapons systems that I would like to try out in a live tactical engagement. There are several mosques in Colorado. Here is the contact information for the main mosque here in Denver, which is not terribly far from my home. Please feel free to contact this mosque, or any other, and recruit jihadis to come and “kill me in a bad way”. . . .In fact, if you are a devout musloid, you are absolutely required by the koran to do just that, and if you don’t, then your belief in and devotion to the fake pagan moon deity “allah” and the pedophile cult-leader mohammed (pig diarrhea be upon him) is in question. Are you REALLY a muslim? Or are you so terrified by a young, single Christian woman in the United States that you have been driven by your own trembling fear into apostasy?

It has been almost seven months since I burned my koran on YouTube, and not a single musloid has made even the slightest attempt to punish me. Every day that I live is another day in which the people of the world stand and LAUGH at islam. How weak and impotent islam is! Every single muslim man on earth PUT TOGETHER can’t even stand against ONE Christian female, alone, carrying the Banner of Christ.

Read the rest of Ann’s missive here.

So, Mr. Shariyah4pakistan, seems like you’ve got your invite.  I really, really look forward to hearing how your visit went.  Toodles.

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So long Privacy. We hardly knew ye.

Google has been publishing statistics on how many requests it receives from the various world governments for a couple of years now. These requests fall into two categories. In the first case they asked Google to divulge user information, such as their personal contact information, or what they did using Google’s services. In the second case, they asked Google to remove pieces of content from their services. Google is the only major company to publish data about the requests they get, and they do so every six months. The last report, published last week, reveals that in the first six months of 2011, these requests went up 29%.

The information shows things like 757 items being requested to be removed by the US Government, 646 by South Korea, 121 by China, and so on. Then, Google says how many of these requests it complied with. In some cases, like for the US, they specify how many were for copyright issues, defamation, and so on. They also divide the requests by service, such as YouTube, Blogger, AdWords, and so on. When it comes to obtaining user data, the numbers are even more impressive. The various United States government entities asked for information on 11,057 users or accounts. Google complied with 93% of those. The second highest number is India, with 2,439 requests. In that case, the company complied with 70%.

Not everything is shown by the Google transparency report. For example, in many cases data is omitted when the company isn’t allowed to talk about it. Also, when the number of requests was low, they may have been omitted entirely. The overall stats show which countries are more likely to censor versus those who aren’t. They also show which services are most likely to cause issues with governments. Private parties however are not part of this report, so when a company such as a music label asks to remove content from YouTube, that isn’t included.

The very fact that Google publishes these stats is an anomaly. No other large company does, even though they certainly receive requests as well. We know, for example, that all four major cellphone carriers in the U.S. have web portals that law enforcement and government officials can use to get user information. But there’s no indication from them how many requests they receive, if they review them, or if they comply with all of them. Google is part of a group called the DueProcessCoalition, a group that attempts to bring reforms to U.S. laws that allow broad, warrantless tapping of information by government officials. Yet, none of the other members of this group, such as AOL, AT&T, Facebook, or Microsoft, publish any such transparency information.

Then, there’s the so-called National Security Letters. Those are the letters that the FBI can send to anyone, asking for information about anything, without a warrant. These letters almost always come with a gag order as well, so the party who receives it cannot talk about it. The FBI issues over 50,000 such letters every year, and those cannot be part of any transparency report, since their very existence is kept secret. While they are supposed to be used in drug or terrorism cases, it’s long been suspected that they are being widely abused, and used for cases with nothing to do with national security. The Department of Justice confirmed that, indeed, this was the case.

Read the entire article here.
 
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Eye of Newt

I don’t think Newt stands much of a chance to win the nomination.  Frankly, I have some issues with him.  Notwithstanding, he does have a grasp of history and his talk of abolishing the 9th Circuit gets me a little bit giddy.

 

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National Democrat Night

Tonight’s the night that my children and I will celebrate our annual National Democrat Night.  Actually, it will be just my younger children and some grandchildren.  My older ones think they are too old, too mature for such frivolity.

With all of the sense of entitlement of government school kids, we will menacingly prowl our neighborhood and demand that others – who clearly have more than we do – give the fruits of their labor to us.  After all, it’s only fair!  And it better not be any lame apples.

In keeping with the theme, we dress up like our favorite Democrat.  I use the word “favorite” very, very loosely.  Like everything Democrat, it’s a relative term.  Some of the favorite costumes include:

  • Nancy Pelosi mask.  It has a drawstring in the back so you can make the face as tight as you want.
  • Barack Obama mask.  It’s popularity is down this year.
  • Joe Biden mask.  I hate this one.  It won’t stop saying really stupid things.
  • Eric Holder mask.  It didn’t even know about Halloween until a couple of weeks ago.
  • Hillary Clinton mask.  Enough said.

This year we are adding a nod to the plight of the Occupy Wall Street crowd.  I mean, we gotta stand together against the corporate greed of mega-corporations like Hersheys, Brachs, and m&m’s.  So instead of saying “Trick or Treat” we are chanting, “What do we want?  We don’t know.  When do we want it?  Now!

It should be fun.  And really, really scary!

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The reformation Summarized.

More can be found at http://swordofpeter.blogspot.com/; H/T to Creative Minority Report.

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House of Horrors: Abortion workers plead guilty to murder.

Two former employees of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell have pled guilty to 3rd degree murder charges for their roles in the deaths of an abortion patient and one baby born alive during a failed late-term abortion. This is reportedly the first time that an abortion worker has been found guilty of murder for killing a baby.

Lifesite News has the whole story.
 
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