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Updated: 1 hour 13 min ago

‘Good Samaritan’ Who Shot Texas Church Gunman Needs Prayers, Friend Says

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 23:41

The Good Samaritan who shot the Texas church gunman needs prayers, said close friend John Wood.

Stephen Willeford, who confronted and shot Devin Kelley, then chased him down the highway, is distraught, said Wood. "I talked to him immediately after it happened, basically before any of the law enforcement arrived," Wood told The Christian Chronicle. "He called me and said, 'I just killed a man.'" Although Willeford, shot Kelley twice -- once in the leg and once in the torso -- police now believe Kelley died by a self-inflicted shot to the head.

Wood -- a retired minister and Air Force chaplain -- said that he’d just arrived home after church when Willeford called. Relying on his training in counseling, Wood said he did a lot of listening and encouraging. “He doesn’t want to be thought of as a hero -- but just kind of like the Good Samaritan, somebody who was willing to step up when it had to be done.”

“I’m no hero, I am not,” Willeford told KHBS/KHOG-TV. Described by friends as a faithful Christian, Willeford gave credit to God. “I think my God, my Lord, protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done. I just wish I’d gotten there faster.”

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Willeford, clearly emotional, described hearing the shooting from his home nearby. "I didn't have any time because I kept hearing the shots one after another -- very rapid shots, just pop, pop, pop. And I knew every one of those shots represented someone, that it was aimed at someone, that they weren't just random shots.”

“I was scared like you can’t even imagine, I was scared,” said Willeford. “But I knew something had to happen, because I love those people there, I love the people that are in there.” Willeford is asking for prayers for his community.

"He has the character of a man," Wood said, about Willeford. "In everything he does, God is glorified."

"That PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is going to be something that's with him and the whole family for a while," Wood said. "He is a blessing to many. They need lots of prayers and blessings to get through this situation themselves."

Mattis Launches Investigation Into Error That Allowed Texas Shooter to Buy Gun

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 22:50

Secretary of Defense James Mattis is requesting the Department of Defense Inspector General review a procedural reporting error which allowed Texas mass killer Devin Kelley to legally purchase a firearm, a Monday memo released by the Pentagon reveals.

#SecDef broadens review of whether military criminal records are properly reported to .@FBI to all services

-- Tara Copp (@TaraCopp) November 8, 2017

The memo broadens the purview of the inquiry to the entire Pentagon's reporting procedures to the FBI for entry into a background check database used by firearms sellers. The procedures have come under intense scrutiny after the Air Force admitted culpability Monday in failing to report Kelley's military conviction for domestic assault to the FBI.

Kelly was convicted of domestic violence by the Air Force in 2012 after he badly beat his wife and fractured his stepson's skull. He served a year in military prison before receiving a bad conduct discharge from the service. U.S. law dictates that any conviction of domestic violence or dishonorable discharge within the U.S. military must be reported to the FBI NICS system to prevent future firearms purchases.

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The Air Force's error allowed Kelley purchase firearms four times after his release and bad conduct discharge from the military, including the weapon he used to kill 26 people in cold blood. Mattis's widened investigation and a Daily Caller News Foundation review indicate the error could be far more widespread than one-off.

The FBI's NICS system only has a single record from the Department of Defense on a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. The errors and lapses may even go back decades. The AP discovered a 1997 report that detailed massive fingerprint reporting lapses of military criminals with the U.S. Navy and the Navy failed to report 94 percent of cases. "The lack of reporting to the FBI criminal history files prevents civilian law enforcement agencies from having significant information on military offenders," the report warned 20 years ago.


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Copyright 2017 Daily Caller News Foundation

10 Quotes to Rock Your World

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 21:27

Over the years, I have committed to memory numerous quotes that have stirred my heart and impacted my life.

To help a light a spiritual fire in your own heart, here are 10 of my all-time favorites.

1) "For the sake of a dying, suffering world count the cost, pay the price, and set the captives free." (John G. Lake) It is true that God freely shares his gifts with his children. It is also true that many times, there are obstacles to overcome and prices to pay before we attain the goal of our faith. How badly do we want to see Jesus touch this dying world by his Spirit through us?

2) "How shall I feel at the judgment, if multitudes of missed opportunities pass before me in full review, and all my excuses prove to be disguises of my cowardice and pride." (W. E. Sangster) I read this quote more than 30 years ago in Leonard Ravenhill's classic book Why Revival Tarries, and I have reflected on it as much as I have quoted it. It still pierces the heart.

People who are sick sometimes lose their appetite, and when the appetite returns, it is often a sign of health. The same applies spiritually.

3) "The man whose little sermon is 'repent' sets himself against his age, and will for the time being be battered mercilessly by the age whose moral tone he challenges. There is but one end for such a man -- 'off with his head!' You had better not try to preach repentance until you have pledged your head to heaven." (Joseph Parker) This quote was another of the jewels found in Why Revival Tarries, and it ultimately inspired Keith Green to write the song, "I Pledge My Head to Heaven." Are you really ready to preach repentance?

4) "When I really enjoy God I feel my desires of him the more insatiable and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable. O' this pleasing pain. It makes my soul press after God." (David Brainerd) People who are sick sometimes lose their appetite, and when the appetite returns, it is often a sign of health. The same applies spiritually. How hungry are you? That says a lot about your spiritual health.

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5) "Satan is so much more in earnest than we are -- he buys up the opportunity while we are wondering how much it will cost." (Amy Carmichael) This lifelong missionary challenges us afresh today. Why are Satan's people often so much more devoted to their cause than we are to ours? And why were some of us more zealous for sin before we were saved than we are zealous for the Lord now that we are saved? (While I'm at it, here's a bonus quote from Amy: "I don't wonder apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has.")

6) "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." (G.K. Chesterton) This brilliant thinker had a way of getting straight to the point, and he nailed it here. What is stopping you (or me) from taking God at his Word and going for it? That question leads right into this next quote.

7) "One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed." (Leonard Ravenhill) Enough said.

God is not impressed with our great abilities and frenzied activities. He is looking for a surrendered life.

8) "The world may frown -- Satan may rage -- but go on! Live for God. May I die in the field of battle." (James B. Taylor) I have said for many years that what the world calls fanaticism and much of the church calls extremism, God calls normal. So it is with this quote.

9) "If God were not my friend, Satan would not be so much my enemy." (Thomas Brooks) The Puritans had a way with words and specialized in short, pithy sayings, ideal for tweeting. Let the 17th century meet the 21st century, and let's be sure that God is our friend and we are his.

10) "The greatness of a man's power is the measure of his surrender." (William Booth) Here's another one that's easier to tweet than it is to live out, but God is not impressed with our great abilities and frenzied activities. He is looking for a surrendered life. How powerful in God are you really?

As we close out this volatile year, the greatest change will come to America as you and I live our lives to the full in the service of God and man.

These quotes should help us do just that.

Forward in faith and with fire!

7 Insights From Traveling to Israel

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 20:58

Last week I had the chance to visit the beautiful land of Israel. My wife and I went with Israel Collective, a group dedicated to peace-making in Israel. We saw remarkable sites, met unique people (Israelis, Palestinians, Druze) and heard powerful lectures. And we ate some of the best food I have ever had -- period.

There are so many insights that I could share. I will probably blog on some of these themes again in the future. But for now, I just wanted to highlight seven big takeaways from my trip:

1. The Peace Process is Inordinately Complex

During our trip, we heard a lecture from a Palestinian Muslim reporter who lives in Jerusalem. He gave two reasons (as a Palestinian Muslim) why the peace process with Israel continues to fail. First, there is a massive campaign to delegitimize Israel within Palestine. The Palestinians are radicalizing their own people against the Jews. Second, there is a lack of leadership among Palestinians who are authorized to make a deal with Israel. The reporter said that he has not been able to find one Palestinian leader who has the courage to promote genuine peace and accept the right of Israel to exist. Unbelievable. Of course there is so much more than these two points, and many other perspectives. But anyone who thinks a solution between the Israelis and Palestinians should be easy simply doesn't understand how complex the issue is.

2. Modern Israel is a Miracle

Virtually all ancient cultures have dissolved (Moabites, Canaanites, Sumerians, etc.). And yet Israel remains. A powerful argument can be made that God has miraculously preserved them to be a blessing to the world. Ezekiel 36:10 says, "And I will multiply people on you, the whole house of Israel, all of it. The cities shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt." Israel is flourishing unlike any nation in the world. They have the most Ph.D. per capita, explosive tree growth, business success, are a water superpower and have developed remarkable technology (such as Waze).

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3. Israel Deeply Cares About Human Rights

Israel is consistently criticized in the Western media for human-rights violations. In fairness, Israel certainly has not been perfect. But I am not sure there is another nation that cares more about human rights than Israel. Here is one small example. We had a tour of the Israeli security wall from Danny Tirza, a former colonel in the Israel Defense Force's Central Command. He acknowledged the wall is a barrier to peace. But it was necessary when Palestinian terrorists murdered over 1,000 Israelis in the early 2000s. At the end of the tour, he described how he would love nothing more than to see his government sign a solid peace agreement with their Palestinian neighbors and tear down the wall.

4. The Palestinian People are Profoundly Oppressed

After meeting Palestinians in Bethlehem, which is in the West Bank, my heart was broken for what they suffer. Unemployment is nearly 30 percent. Many evangelical Christians have experienced persecution from the government. The educational system is limited and extremely prejudiced. And there is a looming hopelessness, especially amongst the young. While many want to blame Israel, the reality is that the corrupt Palestinian government and the leadership of other Muslim countries are using them as a political tool against Israel. Regardless, current efforts to help the Palestinians are simply not working and need radical reform.

5. Judeo-Christianity is a Historical Religion

You too can make a difference. Pray for the people and the land. Consider visiting Israel. Support efforts towards peace.

While many people think of faith as blind, the Judeo-Christian faiths are uniquely rooted in history. It was amazing to travel throughout Israel and see some of the sites where the biblical stories took place. I saw Bethlehem, the Valley of Boaz, the altar of Jeroboam, the tomb of Jesus, the shores of Joppa, the Western Wall of Jerusalem and more. The Bible does not consist of stories "in a land far, far away." Rather, it is based on real people, in real time and real places. While many of the biblical sites have been destroyed, many still endure. And the remains testify to historical nature of both Judaism and Christianity.

6. Food in Israel is Amazing

I have traveled to many places in the world and eaten some tasty food. But in my humble opinion, there is no place in the world with better food than Israel. The fruit and vegetables are fresh, the coffee is rich, the bread is soft and the meat is savory. The people take tremendous pride in their food.

7. You Can Make a Difference

Given the religious differences, the history of tension, and the existing suffering in Palestine and the Gaza strip, it is easy to get discouraged. And yet one of my big takeaways from the trip was seeing different people -- lawyers, journalists, pastors and more -- aiming to make a difference towards peace. It was humbling to see people committing their lives towards advancing the good. You too can make a difference. Pray for the people and the land. Consider visiting Israel. Support efforts towards peace. Or educate yourself by reading a good book, such as Reclaiming Israel's History by David Brog.


Originally published at Reprinted with permission.

The Free Market Beats Government Planning Every Time

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 18:59

One of the most challenging and important jobs for an economics professor is to teach students how little we know and can possibly know.

My longtime friend and colleague Thomas Sowell says, "It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance." Nobel laureate Friedrich August von Hayek admonished, "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."

The fact that we have gross ignorance about how the world operates is ignored by the know-it-all elites who seek to control our lives. Let's look at a few examples of the world's complexity.

According to some estimates, there are roughly 100 million traffic signals in the U.S. How many of us would like the U.S. Congress, in the name of public health and safety, to be in charge of their actual operation?

Congress or a committee it authorizes would determine the length of time traffic lights stay red, yellow, and green and what hours of the day and at what intersections lights flash red or yellow.

One can only imagine the mess Congress would create in the 40,000 cities, towns, and other incorporated places in the U.S.

But managing traffic lights -- and getting good results -- is a far less complex task than managing the nation's health care system and getting good results, which Congress tries to do.

Here's another task I'd ask whether you would like Congress to control.

The average well-stocked supermarket carries 60,000 to 65,000 different items. Walmart carries about 120,000 different items.

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Let's suppose Congress puts you in total control of getting just one item to a supermarket -- say apples. Let's not make it easy by having the help of apple wholesalers. Thus, you would have to figure out all of the inputs necessary to get apples to your local supermarket.

Let's look at just a few. You need crates to ship the apples. Count all the inputs necessary to produce crates. There's wood, but you need saws to cut down trees. The saws are made of steel, so iron ore must be mined, and mining equipment is needed. The workers must have shoes.

The complete list of inputs to get apples to the market comes to a very large, possibly an unknowable, number. Forgetting any one of them, such as spark plugs, would probably mean no apples at your supermarket.

The beauty of market allocation of goods and services, compared with government fiat, is no one person needs to know all that's necessary to get apples to your supermarket. Free markets, accompanied by free trade, including international free trade, make us richer by economizing on the amount of knowledge or information needed to produce things.

Think about this morning's breakfast. Let's suppose you and your spouse each had four slices of bacon and two eggs. You had coffee, and your spouse had cocoa.

The breakfast might have cost you $22. But what might it have cost you if instead of being dependent upon others, you were independent and produced your own breakfast?

What do you know about raising pigs and their subsequent slaughter? Do you know how to cure pork to make bacon? Then there are the eggs, which require knowledge about the care of chickens. What about getting pig and chicken feed?

You'd have a big problem with the coffee and cocoa. I doubt whether you could simulate the growing conditions in Brazil and West Africa.

One thing that's guaranteed is that your breakfast would be far costlier than in the case where you depended upon the benefits of skills of others that emerge from the division of labor and trade.

The bottom line is that each of us is grossly ignorant about the world in which we live. Nothing's wrong with that ignorance, but we are stupid if we believe that a politician can produce a better life than that which is obtained through peaceable, voluntary exchange with our fellow man anywhere on earth.


Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

Keith Olbermann Says Trump’s Worse Than ISIS

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 18:30

I saw a clip of Keith Olbermann’s performance on The View last week. It was melodramatic stage-hogging from an arrogant flame-thrower. He felt it clever and insightful to pronounce that Donald Trump has done more harm to America than Bin Laden and ISIS combined.

President Trump -- more dangerous than ISIS. The president doesn't threaten America. So why is Olbermann so upset? Because Trump threatens the liberal agenda.

Think About This Rationally

Let’s be rational about this. Worse than bin Laden? Worse than ISIS? How many people has Donald Trump beheaded?

How many times has he detonated a bomb in a crowded coffee shop, or a place of business, or a train?

How often has he driven a truck into a crowd of people walking down the street?

All this hatred for the president is about an agenda. No one, especially not the president, can be allowed to violate the liberal, secular agenda.

How many times has he flown a jet plane into a building?

How many schoolgirls has he kidnapped, raped and sold into slavery?

How often has he decimated entire towns of Christians, razing their homes, ancient buildings and churches?

How many innocent civilians has he killed while shouting “Allahu Akbar”?

I do not even need to tell a rational, decent person the answer. There is no comparison.

It’s Not President Trump. It’s the Agenda

Olbermann’s a good leftist. The big problem with the Left is that it doesn’t apply its own principles fairly. The Left makes a good show these days of condemning intolerable behavior from men and standing up for the dignity of women, or whatever, but it’s all self-serving hooey. I doubt they’d find the President’s past sexual offenses so offensive if only he didn’t wear the wrong initial.

They heaped adulation and praise on Harvey Weinstein for decades, and they still heap adulation and praise on Roman Polanski. They still adore Bill Clinton. Ted Kennedy left a woman to drown after he saved his own skin, and they praised him for decades afterward.

All this hatred for the president is about an agenda. No one, especially not the president, can be allowed to violate the liberal, secular agenda. President Trump is a threat to that agenda, and that's what makes him "dangerous."

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I think they despise President Trump largely because he isn’t willing to replace the American flag with the rainbow flag. Every person unwilling to march in the Pride parade must be punished and bankrupted. They will shame every person who objects to the trans-indoctrination of our children. Those who believe marriage can only exist between a man and a woman must be driven into the outer darkness.

That’s not the only reason they despise him, of course. They despise him for every way he resists the Left's mission. Take the liberal issue of the week. Trump hasn’t moved to pass whatever gun restriction laws they are so certain will solve the tragedy of murderous violence in America.

Reckless Rhetoric Only Feeds the Hate

Isn’t this politics as usual? Why does it matter? Hatred is burning through America, and stunts like Olbermann’s only stoke the fire. 

Now, yet another horrific shooting, this time at a Texas church on a Sunday morning. The shooter was mentally unhinged and filled with hate for whatever reason. He was a violent man with a violent past. There are other violent people like him out there, all being pushed to violence by the hatred and anger that dominates our media.

We need to douse those media flame-throwers. Childish, bullying, hysterical blowhards like Keith Olbermann didn’t build this country. They will certainly help destroy it.

When Olbermann said the President is worse than ISIS, security should have led him out the back door. Nobody has time for such thoroughly reckless nonsense.

What Recent Mass Murderers Have in Common

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 15:31

What have mass murderers Dylann Roof, Stephen Paddock, and Adam Lanza had in common? Other than their acts of great evil?

All came from troubled homes.

Dylann Roof: The killer of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church grew up in painful circumstances. His parents divorced when he was small. His father divorced his first wife after a few years of marriage. And he reportedly was abusive of his second wife, Dylann's step-mother.

According to the Associated Press, "Court documents and nearly two dozen interviews show Roof’s early childhood was troubled and confused as well, as he grew up in an unstable, broken home amid allegations of marital abuse and infidelity."

Stephen Paddock: The man who slaughtered 58 concert-goers in Las Vegas was the son of a top criminal.

Paddock's father was named Benjamin. He "was on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list in the 1970s for robbing banks and was described as psychopathic in an arrest warrant. According to the warrant, the suspect’s father carried a firearm and was considered ‘armed and dangerous.’"

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Benjamin Paddock was arrested and put in prison. But "six months after his sentencing, he escaped and robbed a bank in San Francisco before being recaptured in Oregon."

How did this heritage affect his family?  Stephen Paddock made moral choices for which he alone is responsible. Yet could the shadow cast by his father eventually have darkened him? Even enough that he decided to commit a horrid act?

Adam Lanza: The son of divorce, the Sandy Hook Elementary School killer struggled with mental health issues for years.

Lanza's parents divorced in 2009 after 28 years of marriage. Adam, then 17, was experiencing severe mental and emotional illnesses. How much did his parents' breakup drive him further into darkness?

How Divorce and Abusive Relationships Affect Children

There’s a massive research showing that divorce has a profoundly adverse effect on children. If a youth is mentally ill, how much more might living as the child of divorced parents impact him?

We don't know, and I don't want to over-speculate. But it would seem logical that a troubled young person will only become more troubled if his parents end their marriage.  Especially if they do so amid their child's mental trauma.

Knowing there are people who love you deeply and are there for you, not just today but permanently, can help a mentally ill person realize he's not in his pain alone.

Let me be clear about a couple of essential things:

First, not everyone whose parents divorce or who have troubled childhoods become mass murderers! If they did, we would have a sparsely populated country. Children of divorced parents will bear wounds from their family struggles. But the great majority go on to live generally healthy, normal lives.

Second, nothing can excuse murder. Period. People are responsible for their actions. They make choices and are accountable for them. However, if mental illness is a factor, the equation changes if that illness overwhelms a person's basic judgment.

With those things said, common sense tells us that mental instability only increases if one's parents divorce and/or have an abusive relationship.

Families Matter -- And There is Help For Yours

The takeaway, for Christians, is this: Families matter. So does mental health. Strong families are needed to come alongside mentally ill children so that those kids can learn to function well. And even, in some cases, overcome the mental problems plaguing them.

A healthy home is an environment of love, acceptance, forgiveness, and hope. Knowing there are people who love you deeply and are there for you, not just today but permanently, can help a mentally ill person realize he's not in his pain alone.

There are many resources available to families who are living with a family member who is mentally ill. From websites listing the signs of mental illness to support groups, there are many organizations that offer help and hope.

Focus on the Family joined with Lifeway Research in conducting a study of families where mental illness is present. Among their findings:

"Impacted individuals and their families deal with a significant amount of shame and social stigma. "Many assume the person has 'done' something to cause the illness. "There are too many parents whose children suffer from mental illness that deal with denial and grief. "In most cases, the illness needs stabilizing before spiritual growth will take place -- but on the other hand, strong faith does not make a mental illness go away."

In addition, Focus has published a helpful e-book, Serving Those with Mental Illness, a guide for pastors to help families that need help. 

Christians know that even in the darkest hours, there is One Who sticks closer than a brother. Christ will guide those in need to the medical, emotional, and spiritual resources they require to move toward recovery or, at least, stability.

And if you know families that need help with mentally ill children or parents, remember people like Adam Lanza, Dylann Roof, and Stephen Paddock. Mental illness is not feeling a little down. It can be very serious. And these evil men have shown just how serious it can be.

Liberals Have a Screaming Problem. So Do I

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 13:45

Thousands of people in cities across the country will “scream helplessly at the sky” today.

Why? The New York group invites you to “Join us cucks and snowflakes, safe spacers and libtards, as we enjoy a collective cathartic yell into the heavens about our current political establishment.” One organizer told Newsweek they want to remind anti-Trumpers “we are part of an enormous community of activists who are motivated and angry, whose actions can make a difference.”

By screaming for a hour.

That’s incredibly childish. You can’t deal with life by screaming at everything you don’t like. We teach toddlers to “use your words” when they’re upset, rather than throw temper tantrums. Why should we encourage adults to throw a tantrum?

But wait a minute. Those of use sniffing at the Nov. 8 screamers should look in the mirror. Chances are, we’re not as guiltless as we think.

When I Fail at Civil Dialogue

I say this because for the last few days, I’ve been meaning to write this article. Except a different version. One where I scoff at the immature scream-at-what-you-can’t-accept culture of the modern left.

This morning I was thinking about how I’d write it. And I heard God say, What about you? Don’t you scream at things you don’t like?

Me, defensively: What? Pshaw. I appreciate respectful debate. Civil dialogue. I write about listening to people we disagree with.

God: Yeah, but how often do you really exhibit such self-control in your personal life?

God, as always, was right.

Before we go on a rampage against screaming snowflakes, we might do well to look inward.

I love to talk about promoting civil dialogue. I really do. Even still, my initial reaction to political craziness is often a biting tweet or disparaging comment rather than healthy debate.

But this knee-jerk tendency goes beyond public debate. It affects my personal and spiritual life, too.

When my own husband says something I don’t like, disagree with or don’t want to hear, I tend to respond in frustration, anger, and … well, you get it.

And when life’s suddenly not going so great, when things happen I don’t want, my initial reaction isn’t to have, um, civil dialogue with God. It’s to scream at God. Or forgo dialogue altogether, avoiding his Word when I need it most.

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

The truth is that the tendency to throw tantrums at what we don’t like is an epidemic. Not just a leftist epidemic; a human one. And it permeates all areas of life, including how we relate to political opponents, loved ones, and yes -- God.

We’re told in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (emphasis mine). What’s inside will eventually force its way out. If we really listen to ourselves, we may find out that there’s ugliness in our hearts we don’t want to admit. But those who listen to us scream, they know. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

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This isn’t to say we shouldn’t criticize people being ridiculous, like the upcoming “scream helplessly at the sky” gatherings. Or that we shouldn’t call out college students who can’t tolerate diverse viewpoints. These behaviors indicate real threats to the future of our republic.

But before we go on a rampage against screaming snowflakes, we might do well to look inward and analyze our own scream habits. What’s in our hearts? How often do we scream helplessly at the sky, when we should be talking and listening to others and talking and listening to God?

Of Flesh Markets and Egg Donations

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 13:33

I've been asked to sell my motherhood. I've been asked, over and over, to never see my children again.

No, I've never been approached by slave traders or perverts on the street offering me cash for my kid. I'm not even a mother. But I keep getting offers in the form of online ads. Ads that ask me -- as a young college-educated woman who meets other criteria -- to "donate" eggs in exchange for a four or five-figure payment.

What if I Did It?

What would happen, if I did sell eggs?

My child or children would be raised by someone who did not have to go through an adoption-style screening process.

I'd never know how many children I had, or whether they were boys or girls.

I'd wonder whether every little girl I passed on the street was my daughter, whether she'd grow up to accidentally date her brother -- my son. My children, whoever they were, would wonder the same.

Yes, technically egg donation isn't selling a person. But when you "donate" an egg (or sperm) you sell someone's fate, someone's existence.

I'd never know if my children were being raised well or treated like dogs.

I'd wonder whether my children suffer because they know that they weren't created in love by their mother and father to be received unconditionally with gratitude, but created in a lab by a mother (and father?) for cash, to be received by parent-customers who will examine the product to see if they got their money's worth from a white, college-educated, healthy mother with the correct eye color, height, IQ, athletic abilities, etc.

All these are serious concerns. Yet the advertisers act like egg donation is a noble act, and a catch-free way to make a lot of money.

Yes, technically egg donation isn't selling a person. The ovum isn't a human, only half of the “ingredients” needed to make one. But when you "donate" an egg (or sperm) you sell someone's fate, someone's existence. It's letting someone look you in the teeth like a horse, to guess your future prospects.

How is Choosing an Egg Donor Different Than Choosing a Spouse?

But when you choose a spouse, won't you be choosing what your children will look like, who they will take after? How is choosing an egg donor any different?

First, when you decide to marry someone, you don't wash your hands of responsibility for your offspring. You commit yourself to staying together and raising your children together.

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Also, while superficial preferences might influence your choice of a spouse, if you are sensible you will also consider your beloved's parenting abilities.

And even if on your wedding day you delight to think of how your children will resemble your spouse, that is probably more because you love your spouse than because you find his race and height desirable. In other words, you love him as himself, not as a means to an optimal product.

Isn’t Egg Donation Like Adoption?

But egg and sperm donation are like adoption, and adoption is a good thing! Don't pro-lifers always say "Choose adoption, the loving option"?

Adoption is about taking care of a child. People who put their babies up for adoption do so because they believe that an adoptive family will provide a better home for their child than they themselves can. (Yes, a woman might put her child up for adoption for selfish reasons, but it would still be more loving than aborting the child.)

And when a child is adopted, the adoptive parents are screened to filter out those who would likely mistreat the child. Egg and sperm recipients are not screened. Adoption is about loving a child; gamete donation is about treating children as a product for consumers.

What About Infertile Women?

What about infertile women? Don't they deserve to bear children?

Some women can't conceive a child. This is heartbreaking, and I never want to minimize that pain. However, the sad fact of life in this vale of tears is that we aren't guaranteed everything we want. They at least have a path to parenthood, and a way to rescue a child who might otherwise become an orphan, by way of adoption. They even have a path to pregnancy and childbirth -- adoption of a leftover embryo from someone's IVF.

America realized eugenics and slave markets were evil. It's time we realize the same about sperm and egg donation.

The desire of the infertile woman for a child of her own is a healthy desire, but some means of reaching that goal are not healthy or wholesome for any of the parties involved. Selecting and purchasing child-making parts dehumanizes a human being, turning a child into a commodity. It tempts the biological mother into monetizing something that she should view as sacred.

And it places the purchasing agent -- the woman who will raise that child -- in the position of consumer, with the expectation that her purchase will be satisfactory or … what? What happens when you pay for a smart, pretty, athletic, tall daughter, and end up with someone who falls short in some area? When you end up, in other words, with a normal ordinary child?

I suppose everyone wants smart, good-looking children. But children are people, not products. America realized eugenics and slave markets were evil. It's time we realize the same about sperm and egg donation. Rating and appraising, buying and selling, these activities belong in the realm of things, not people.

Your Smartphone, Your Brain, and What Can be Done About It

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 13:26

In tech news: the new iPhone X is available! How great is that? So let's have three ... or possibly two ... or, now that I think of it, one less than enthusiastic cheer.

For years I've answered, "How old are you?" with, "Old enough to remember when email was fun." (Cue the fuzzy, buzzy dial-up modem sounds and then a cheerful, "You've got mail!")

Now I've changed my answer: "I'm old enough to remember when smartphones were fun."

But wait! Aren't smartphones still fun? Hmmm. Read on and then you tell me.

We Love Our Smartphones

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Nicholas Carr notes that the average person pulls out the smartphone about eighty times a day. Take out eight hours for sleep and that's once every 20 minutes, more than 29,000 times a year.

Studies confirm that smartphones with their incessant beeping and buzzing make mental concentration difficult to impossible.

And why not? My rather sparsely populated iPhone has three email accounts, weather, phone, messages, music, camera, maps, Latin study helps, The Wall Street Journal, the Bible, books, magazines, breviary, Aquinas' Summa Theologiea, prayers, Church documents, fly fishing and ski reports, recipes, podcasts and my favorite online wine source.

As Nicholas Carr writes, "We love our phones for good reasons. It's hard to imagine another product that has provided so many useful functions in such a handy form." Then he goes on,

But while our phones offer convenience and diversion, they also breed anxiety. Their extraordinary usefulness gives them an unprecedented hold on our attention and vast influence over our thinking and behavior. ... Not only do our phones shape our thoughts in deep and complicated ways, but the effects persist even when we aren't using the devices. As the brain grows dependent on the technology, the research suggests, the intellect weakens.

Smartphones and Intellect

First and most obvious, we don't have to remember anything. The phone remembers for us. The phone knows everyone's phone number, tells me how to get anywhere, and warns me a week before my grandchildren's birthdays. Why remember?

More than that, however, studies confirm that smartphones with their incessant beeping and buzzing make mental concentration difficult to impossible. "The division of attention," writes Carr, "impedes reasoning and performance."

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He cites a study in which undergraduates were given tests to measure their ability to focus and to solve unfamiliar problems. The variable was the physical location of their smartphones.

"In both tests," he reports, "the subjects whose phones were in view posted the worst scores, while those who left their phones in a different room did the best. The students who kept their phones in their pockets or bags came out in the middle. As the phone's proximity increased, brainpower decreased." Or at least it was dissipated.

Another study found that if students came to class with their smartphones, they could expect to score a full letter grade lower than those who left them behind.

The Effects of Screen Time

In another article, "Why Personal Tech is Depressing," clinical psychology professor Stephen Ilardi points out the negative impact of smartphones and all on our emotional health.

As St. Paul said long ago, "'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything."

Ilardi cites a study in which undergraduates from around the world were asked to give up all screens for twenty-four hours. Ilardi writes, "Most students dropped out of the study in a matter of hours, and many reported symptoms of withdrawal associated with substance addiction." That's the bad news.

There's also good news. "But those who pushed through the initial discomfort and completed the experiment, discovered a surprising array of benefits: greater calm, less fragmented attention, more meaningful conversations, deeper connections with friends and a greater sense of mindfulness."

Carr comments,

When we constrict our capacity for reasoning and recall or transfer those skills to a gadget, we sacrifice our ability to turn information into knowledge. We get the data but lose the meaning. Upgrading our gadgets won't solve the problem. We need to give our minds more room to think. And that means putting some distance between ourselves and our phones.

Taking a Break From Technology

How do we do that? More and more I'm choosing to walk away from my smartphone. I don't want it near me during my daily devotions, when I walk the dog, while cooking, at church, during meals, studying or anywhere near my bed. The email, messages and voice mails are always there when I come back. And since I like the idea a weekly Sabbath from technology, I'm trying Screen-Free Sundays.

Let me be clear, I'm not getting rid of my iPhone. In fact, I'm due for an upgrade. But I have a strong sense -- and research confirms -- that getting the thing under control is critical to wellbeing.

As St. Paul said long ago, "'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything."

Soldiers, Jumping Children Greet Trump at Beijing Airport

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 13:23

BEIJING (AP) -- China pulled out all the stops for President Donald Trump’s Beijing airport arrival: honor guard, marching band, jumping children.

The ceremony accompanying Trump’s arrival Wednesday afternoon was elaborate even by China’s lavish standards. Heads of state are usually given a low-key reception at the airport, with the real pomp and circumstance reserved for his or her arrival at the Great Hall of the People in the center of Beijing.

As they exited Air Force One, Trump and first lady Melania Trump were met by Chinese and American dignitaries, soldiers standing stiffly at attention, a band playing martial music and smartly attired children waving miniature Chinese and American flags while chanting, “Welcome, welcome.”

The president and first lady appeared pleased, smiling and accepting flower bouquets, with Trump at one point throwing his arms open and appearing to exclaim, “Wow.”

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As Trump’s motorcade pulled away, the tempo increased, with children jumping up and down while they waved and chanted.

Protocol is extremely important in Chinese governance and diplomacy, and such events are always carefully choreographed down to the smallest detail. Spontaneous interactions between visiting leaders and ordinary Chinese are rare, although visiting U.S. presidents have in the past been permitted to deliver speeches and meet with university students.

Welcoming ceremonies have grown increasingly elaborate under Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has lavished more time and energy on advancing China’s diplomatic agenda than any of his predecessors.

That’s included devoting hundreds of hours a year to welcoming ceremonies, meetings and receptions, in addition to hosting major multilateral events such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting and the G-20 summit.


Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Trump to Kim Jong Un: ‘Do Not Underestimate Us, Do Not Try Us’

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 13:22

President Donald Trump delivered a strong message to North Korea in Seoul Wednesday, warning Pyongyang not to challenge the U.S.

Delivering a rare address before the South Korean National Assembly, Trump issued a stern warning to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, as well as a message of hope should he choose to change course. "Do not underestimate us. Do not try us," the president warned. "America does not seek conflict or confrontation, but we will never run from it. History is filled with discarded regimes that have foolishly tested America's resolve. Anyone who doubts the strength and determination of the U.S. should look to our past."

"The regime has interpreted America's past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation," he explained, asserting "this is a very different administration than the U.S. has had in the past. We will not be intimidated."

"Now is the time for strength. If you want peace, you must stand strong at all times," Trump stated before the South Korean parliament, advocating peace through strength. He stressed that the world cannot "tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens the world with nuclear devastation," making it clear to countries like Russia and China that have long enabled the North Korean regime that the weight of whatever comes of this crisis will be on their conscience if they fail to act to resolve this situation.

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During his speech, the first U.S. presidential address before the National Assembly in over two decades, the president issued a message directly to Kim.

"The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer," Trump said, referring to Pyongyang's tireless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them to distant shores. These weapons are "putting the regime in danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face."

"North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned, it is a hell that no person deserves," Trump stressed to the North Korean leader. "We will offer a path to a much better future," the president added, calling for an end to North Korean aggression and weapons development, as well as the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Until that day comes, Trump explained, the U.S. and its allies will face this challenge with strength.

"We stand strong and alert," Trump said. "Our eyes stay fixed on the North."

Trump received a standing ovation from South Korean lawmakers after his speech, which reviewed the modern history of the Korean Peninsula -- specifically the rise of the South and the fall of the North -- and set a course for a stronger U.S.-South Korean alliance standing firm before a growing North Korean threat.

After wrapping up his visit to South Korea, Trump made his way to China, where he is expected to press Beijing to increase pressure on a belligerent Pyongyang.


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Touching Jesus

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 10:00

Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48

I was surprised to see her.

We were down by the lake, a big group of us. It was a beautiful day, not too hot and with a breeze coming over the water, and we were waiting for Jesus. He had gone to the other side of the lake, and now he was coming back.

We could see the boat getting nearer and nearer, bouncing a little on the waves. By the time it reached shore an enormous crowd had gathered, men and women and children, so many that Jesus could barely get out of the boat. Everybody wanted to talk to him; everybody wanted to say they'd met him.

I was hoping he'd do a miracle right there in front of us. Someone farther along the shore was cooking fish -- I could smell it, the wood smoke and the salt -- and it was making me hungry. Maybe Jesus would conjure up some dinner for us all.

But that didn't happen. Before Jesus could do anything interesting, Jairus showed up. Jairus was the synagogue ruler, an important man, so important that the huge crowd parted and let him through.

When Jairus reached Jesus, he knelt down on the ground and clasped his hands together. "Master," he said, "my little daughter is very sick. My only child. Please, will you go with me to my house and heal her?"

A sick child. The synagogue ruler. Of course Jesus went.


Jesus walked off with Jairus, and the rest of us sort of followed along, because what else were we going to do? We wanted to see what would happen. We wished we were as important as Jairus, so we could get our own personal miracles too.

Somehow, in all the pushing and shoving of the crowd, I ended up close to Jesus, and I thought well, at least I'll get a good clear look at him.

Right about then, Jesus stopped walking. "Who touched me?" he said.

His disciples looked at each other, and then they looked at him. I could tell they didn't want to be smart-alecky, not to the man who could cast out demons and make the sea give up its fish, but finally one of them said, "Um, Jesus? Look around. Everybody's touching you."

But Jesus shook his head. "No," he said. "I felt power go out of me. Somebody touched me."

That made us all go quiet. Such a big crowd, noisy, with crying babies and kids roughhousing, but every last one of us fell silent. Jesus had that much power? He could heal people without even trying?

To be honest, it was a little scary. It made us a little afraid of him. So we stepped all back -- it was like a stone dropping into a pool of water, rippling out -- and Jesus was left standing alone in this open space in the middle of the crowd.

"Someone touched me," he said. "Who was it?"

I could see his face, and I got this strange feeling that Jesus knew exactly who had touched him in some particular way. He knew, but he was going to stand right there in that spot until the person confessed.

I could see Jairus, too, fidgeting, looking worried. His little twelve-year-old daughter was sick, and he was in a hurry, and one of us had screwed things up. One of us had distracted Jesus, and now Jesus was standing there as if he had all the time in the world. Waiting. As if he would wait forever.

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Then she stepped out of the crowd.

I couldn't believe my eyes. She had touched Jesus? She wasn't supposed to be touching anyone. She was unclean. Anyone she touched became unclean. People who are unclean are supposed to stay away from the Temple and the synagogue. They're supposed to stay away from anything Holy.

And she had touched Jesus.

Jesus, a man so holy that the synagogue ruler bowed down to him. Jesus, a man so holy he healed people accidentally.

The Way

She looked terrified by what she'd done; I could see her trembling. She knelt down at Jesus's feet, like Jairus had done, and all in a rush she said,

I'm sorry. It was me. I touched you. I shouldn't have done it, but I was so desperate -- I've been bleeding for twelve years. It's like I'm having a period, but it never stops. I've been to doctors, lots of doctors, and they all had advice, they all had treatments, and I did exactly as they said, but I never got any better, and then I ran out of money, and I was so very tired.

But I wasn't going to impose on you. I didn't mean to slow you down. I thought if I could just get close enough to stretch out my hand and touch the edge of your cloak, that I'd be healed.

And I am. It worked.

I could tell by looking at her that it was true. She didn't look pale and exhausted anymore. She looked strong. She looked healthy. Terrified, but healthy.

And I held my breath, waiting to see what Jesus would say. Would he reprimand her? Would he punish her for stealing power from him? Would he take back the gift of healing, make her start bleeding again? Some people thought he would. Some people thought he ought to.

But I saw how he was looking at her. It almost made me wish that I were in her place.

"You healed me," she said.

And Jesus reached down a hand and lifted her to her feet, and he said, "Daughter, your faith has healed you."

Now, obviously, Jesus was the one who had healed her. He was the one with the power. But I knew what he meant. She had come to him.

She had risked public humiliation and scorn. She had pushed her way through that crowd, keeping her head down, hoping no one would recognize her. She had interfered with the plans of important people. She had broken the rules.

And Jesus was saying that was good.

He could have let her slip away secretly. He knew he'd already healed her, and he could have let her go. But instead, he called her out in front of all those people to make sure she understood: It was good that she had come to him. It was good that she had touched him.

He wanted her to know that.

He wanted us to know it too. He looked around the crowd, making eye contact, making sure we understood. Making sure we had heard him call her daughter.

Go in Peace

Then he said to her, "Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering."

That was when I really wished I were in her place.

I didn't need healing. I didn't even need a miraculous meal of loaves and fishes, though that would have been fun. But peace? I needed that.

"Go in peace," Jesus told her, a blessing for the entire rest of her life -- whatever she faced, whatever came up, in all the years to follow. Illness, bereavement, conflict, death. Go in peace.

And she did.

She didn't leave peace behind her. Not where I stood. Because while she was talking to Jesus,

Jairus's servant showed up.

"It's too late," he said to Jairus. "Your daughter is dead. Stop bothering Jesus. It's too late."

Jairus looked stricken, and the rest of us felt stricken too. That woman had gotten her miracle -- but she had gotten it by stealing it from a little girl.

Jesus didn't look at all concerned. He put a hand on Jairus's shoulder, and he said, "Don't listen to them, and don't be afraid. Trust me."

He wouldn't let the rest of us go with him then, but news gets around. We all heard, later, what he did next. He went to Jairus's house, and he brought that little dead girl back to life.

Then I finally understood.

Jesus doesn't have to pick and choose. He doesn't have to decide who to heal, who to bless. He has plenty of power to heal all the hurts of this dark world.

And he has plenty of time. He's never too late. If he doesn't heal us today, he'll raise us from the dead tomorrow.

All we have to do is go to him, and kneel at his feet.

Military Photo of the Day: USS Leyte Gulf Homecoming

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 08:00

A sailor greets his daughter during an October 6, 2017, homecoming ceremony for the USS Leyte Gulf following a six-month overseas deployment.

Welcome home, hero!





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Democrats Take Both Virginia and New Jersey Governor’s Races

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 01:39

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Democratic candidates in Virginia and New Jersey who sought to tap into anti-Donald Trump sentiments won contests on Tuesday to become their states’ next governors.

In Virginia’s closely watched contest, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie. In New Jersey front-running Democrat Phil Murphy overcame Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to succeed unpopular GOP Gov. Chris Christie.

Northam rode to victory in part by tapping into voters’ regret at Trump’s victory in last year’s national election.

Murphy had an easier pathway in New Jersey, where Guadagno contended with Trump’s and Christie’s unpopularity.

Democrats were eager to show they could harness anti-Trump energy into success at the polls, while Republicans hoped to prove they could put together winning blueprint in blue-leaning states.

While local politics and issues weighed heavy on voters’ minds in Virginia, some also were driven by lingering resentment from Hillary Clinton’s loss or still excited by Trump’s win.

Vickie Williams, a stay-at-home mom, voted for Gillespie “because I’m a Republican. I voted for Donald Trump. I like the policies, that’s the only reason,” she said. “I want to feel like America is safe. I want to feel like we have more control, less government. I feel like the other way is big government.”

In New Jersey, Murphy defeated Guadagno, who was at Christie’s side for the past eight years.

“If I could get rid of Trump I would be even happier. I’ve never seen our state so miserable and I’ve never seen our country so miserable,” said John Holpp, 88, who said he voted for Murphy because he’s “hoping to get rid of” Christie, who is term-limited.

FEMA Rethinking Ban on Giving Disaster Aid to Churches

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 01:17

When disaster strikes, houses of worship are often on the front lines, feeding and sheltering victims. Yet churches, synagogues and mosques are routinely denied aid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency when it comes time to repair or rebuild their damaged sanctuaries.

Pressure is mounting to change that after this year’s series of devastating hurricanes damaged scores of churches in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

FEMA is rethinking its policies in the face of a federal lawsuit, heard in court Tuesday, by three Texas churches hit by Hurricane Harvey. President Donald Trump has signaled his support, via Twitter, for the religious institutions.

At the same time, several members of Congress have revived legislation -- first proposed after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy -- that would force FEMA to pay for repairs at places of worship.

Two Key Questions

The debate centers on two key questions: Does providing such aid violate the First Amendment separation of church and state? Or is it an infringement on the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion to deny churches the same aid available to numerous other nonprofit organizations, such as libraries, zoos and homeless shelters?

“It seems like the only reason churches are excluded is because they’re churches, and it just seems discriminatory to me,” said Bruce Frazier, pastor of Rockport First Assembly of God Church, which is part of the lawsuit.

Religious entities already can receive some government help in disasters. They can be reimbursed by local governments for sheltering evacuees and can receive U.S. Small Business Administration loans to repair their buildings. FEMA grants are available to religiously affiliated schools, health care providers and nursing homes. And FEMA also can provide money to repair church-run facilities that function like community centers, but only if less than half the space or use is for religious purposes.

Over the past five years, FEMA has authorized a net of $113 million for about 500 religiously affiliated entities such as schools, medical clinics and community centers after hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other disasters, according to an AP analysis of data made public as part of the lawsuit.

But FEMA hasn’t supplied money to repair sanctuaries, and its 50 percent rule excludes many other types of church facilities.

“It is the faith community that responds so robustly to the need. And then to say, ‘Tough luck, we’re not going to help you put your own facility back together’ is wrong,” said Rep. Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican sponsoring the bill that would change the policy.

Not everyone shares that view, noting constitutional concerns.

“I really can’t see anything more core and more of an establishment of religion than building a house of worship,” said Maggie Garrett, a lawyer who has lobbied against FEMA aid to religious institutions on behalf of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Justice Department Reconsidering

FEMA declined to comment, citing the lawsuit. But in a court filing, the U.S. Justice Department said the challenged policies are being reconsidered.

High winds and flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 damaged more than 1,000 buildings owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. FEMA later came through with more than $300 million, an amount the archdiocese’s chief financial officer, Jeff Entwisle, described as “extraordinary assistance.”

Even so, he estimated that FEMA deemed less than one-third of the buildings eligible for funding. The archdiocese opted not to rebuild nearly one-quarter of its churches and schools.

When Hurricane Harvey slammed Texas in August, it blew down the steeple, ripped away the front doors and destroyed the roof of Frazier’s church, causing extensive water damage. The church applied for FEMA disaster aid but was directed instead to private insurance coverage and the Small Business Administration for a loan.

Frazier said the church of about 125 members couldn’t afford wind-storm insurance and can’t even afford the loan payments that would be necessary to fully rebuild.

“We’re just asking to get help,” Frazier said. “I mean, we’re struggling.”

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and Congregation Torah Vachesed, a Houston-area synagogue flooded by Harvey, filed briefs in support of the churches that are suing. The synagogue asserted that the “pernicious effect of FEMA’s policy of explicit discrimination” is “to deter and discourage the exercise of the Jewish faith.”

The Lawsuit

The lawsuit contends hundreds of other places of worship also are being denied access to FEMA funding, but it’s hard to say how many would seek federal aid if given the opportunity or how much money is at stake.

First Baptist Rockport Church, a mile from the First Assembly of God, sustained about $1 million in damage when Hurricane Harvey collapsed a choir room wall and caused leaks in the roof. Senior Pastor Scott Jones said he doesn’t fault others who seek FEMA aid, but his church won’t be doing so.

“We believed that God would provide for us another way, and that we were going to respect the separation of church and state, and not expect or count on help from the federal government,” Jones said.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court found that a Lutheran church in Columbia, Missouri, had been wrongly excluded from a state grant program to install a soft playground surface made of recycled tires. Chief Justice John Roberts called it “odious to our Constitution” to deny an otherwise eligible recipient solely because it’s a church.

Richard W. Garnett, a University of Notre Dame law professor who runs the school’s program on Church, State and Society, said that based on that ruling, there is a good chance the high court would allow FEMA to provide aid to rebuild places of worship.

“The purpose of the support would not be to subsidize religious worship but rather to clean up the community and help local institutions that themselves provide important relief services to those in need,” Garnett said.


Associated Press writer Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa, contributed to this report.


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Christians’ View of Sexuality: Not Singling Out a Sin, But Pursuing the Positive

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 01:00

I'm often asked why the sin of homosexuality is singled out. The answer is simple: it's not. Scripture identifies it as merely one type of sexual activity that's prohibited. There are several others. But it's important to back up a bit to understand the context.

The Bible is not merely a book of prohibitions or rules with a list of dos and don'ts. It also paints a positive picture (a beautiful one at that!) of what life is supposed to be like, how humans were created to flourish, and what sexual activity should be like. It makes sense that Scripture includes those parameters because God is our creator, designer and engineer. He knows best how we're supposed to function. Just like the engineers of a car know best how it's supposed to operate, so God knows best how we're supposed to operate. The Bible is that "owner's manual" for human life, explaining our Engineer's intended purpose for sexual activity.

The Bible Paints a Positive Picture of Sex and Marriage

The Genesis account of creation lays the foundation for our design and explains God's plan for our sexual activity (e.g. Gen. 1:27-28, 2:24). In a nutshell, God created human beings as male and female, designing them to function sexually in a heterosexual/complementary way, and only within the covenant of marriage. This isn't merely an Old Testament (or outdated, as some suggest) teaching. Jesus identifies this teaching as valid in the New Testament, as well. When asked about marriage and divorce, Jesus says,

Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and [God] said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh"? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

God is our creator, designer and engineer. ... He knows best how we're supposed to operate.

Notice Jesus not only quotes Genesis but also adds His own commentary ("they are no longer two, but one flesh..."). He believes that what the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to write about sexuality is true. When it comes to sex and marriage, Jesus believes it's about one man, with one woman, becoming one flesh, for one lifetime. That's Jesus' view. That should be our view as well.

This is the positive picture the Bible paints of sex and marriage (of course it says a lot more than this).

Defining Sexual Sin

If sex should only occur between a husband and wife, then all other forms of sexual activity are prohibited. Fornication (sex before marriage), homosexual sex, adultery (sex outside marriage), incest, rape and bestiality are all examples of sexual activity outside Jesus' parameters.

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Notice, homosexual behavior is not singled out. There's no special condemnation reserved for people who engage in homosexual sex. People who satisfy same-sex desires through sexual fantasy or homosexual contact are not special. They're just like anyone else in sexual sin. In fact, there are probably far more heterosexuals engaged in sexual sin (fornication, adultery, etc.) than there are homosexuals engaged in sexual sin.

That means if someone says homosexual sex is sin, they are not saying anything substantially different than if they were to say sex before marriage is sin or sex outside marriage is sin. One statement is not more hateful than another. In fact, neither statement is hateful at all. It was Jesus who taught this ethic, and therefore, it's His view. If someone believes this sexual standard is hateful, then their view entails the idea that Jesus is hateful.

Sexual activity is reserved for a married man and woman. All other forms of sexual activity are prohibited.

God’s Message on Sexual Activity

Someone might reply by asking why Christians talk more about homosexuality than, for example, heterosexual fornication, divorce, and other sins that seem to be more common. I think that's a fair question, but I don't think that it's always true of every church. There are consistency problems within some churches, and fornication and adultery are sometimes treated differently than homosexual sin. That's a problem, and why that occurs needs to be answered and addressed, but it's not the point of what I'm saying here.

I'm simply describing what seems to be the message of God's word. Sexual activity is reserved for a married man and woman. All other forms of sexual activity are prohibited. Homosexual sin is not singled out, though. It's just one of many types of sexual sin.

That's God's message and what Jesus taught.


Originally appeared at Stand to Reason. Reprinted with permission.

‘Where is Your God Now?’ The Atheists Sneer as We Mourn Our Dead

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:27

It takes a lot to shock me. I've been at Operation Rescue protests where cops obeyed orders to brutalize pro-life teens and seniors. I saw a pro-abortion crowd shout down and silence Democratic Governor Robert Casey and Village Voice columnist Nat Henthoff. As a grad student in English, I took part in the pro-life "Summer of Mercy" at Baton Rouge abortion clinics -- only to find most of the senior faculty of the department (people who could stymie my degree) lined up on the other side. One of them was carefully videotaping each of our faces. (I waved and carefully spelled out my name for him.)

But this weekend, after the slaughter in Sutherland Springs, Texas, even I found myself stunned. I summed it up briefly on Twitter:

Atheist massacres Christians, then atheists taunt Christians for praying about it. Yes, it’s our tolerant liberal society all right.

-- John Zmirak (@JZmirak) November 6, 2017


Hey Christers, where’s your God now? One of us sure got plenty of you yesterday. Oh, now give up all your guns to the atheist govt. Ok?

-- John Zmirak (@JZmirak) November 6, 2017

And finally:

So now we should turn over all our guns to the nice folks who are twerking on Christians’ fresh-dug graves.

-- John Zmirak (@JZmirak) November 6, 2017

Ruining Popular Culture for Us

You've already probably seen some of the appalling outbursts to which I referred. Most depressing, perhaps, were those from celebrities whose work I had admired. Michael McKean from This is Spinal Tap. Marina Sirtis from Star Trek: Next Generation. I hope it doesn't sour my next try at viewing their work.

To get a fresh take on how shocking the anti-Christian backlash has been while the bodies of the slain were still being identified by family members, try this thought experiment:

Imagine if an atheist ex-Muslim had shot up a peaceful mosque, including small children and pregnant women. Can you imagine any educated person chiming in to taunt grieving Muslims about the crimes of ISIS?

Heck, we get the Clockwork Orange brainwashing treatment every time a politicized Muslim slaughters Christians, Jews, gays, Yezidis, or anyone else on his (very long) enemies list: Beware of Islamophobia! Careful! Mass slaughters like this could lead customers to be rude to their Uber drivers! But Christian blood isn't yet dry, and atheists are taunting us about the "futility" of our prayers.

To see a theological answer to this insult, read this profound essay at The Federalist, on how God answers our prayers even when we are martyred. It's just that His answer is a deeply distressing "Join me. Up here. Today. Right now, ready or not."

I was about to add something about a slaughter in a synagogue -- but sadly, I think that the most committed Israel-haters out there might well go ahead and blame the crime on the IDF's latest measures against Palestinian terrorists. The peoples of both real Covenants are fair targets, nowadays.

A Sickness in the Souls of Men

The hate out there is real. It runs deep. It's not aimed at guns or gunowners, but God. It really exploded in the wake of last year's election. The closest analogue I can find in our nation's history for the sustained, politicized hatred we have seen since that election, which culminated after the recent bloodbath, is this one: Unrepentant white supremacists in the wake of the Civil War.

The hate out there is real. It runs deep. It's not aimed at guns or gunowners, but God. It really exploded in the wake of last year's election. The closest analogue I can find in our nation's history for the sustained, politicized hatred we have seen since that election, which culminated after the recent bloodbath, is this one: Unrepentant white supremacists in the wake of the Civil War.

The Confederates like Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet who fought for Southern independence despite slavery generally went peacefully and urged reconciliation. Those who had fought for slavery's sake, for the ongoing power to crack the whip and exploit their fellow men ... they reacted much like the abortion lobby did after Clinton's Appomattox. They formed the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize the freedmen. (The Klan was hooded, just like Antifa.) They called the new governments in their reunited states "illegitimate," and "foreign-imposed." One of them, Edmund Ruffin, a fireater who'd fired one of the first shots at Fort Sumter, blew his own head off rather than accept the Yankee victory.

And one of them wrote a song about which I learned while doing my doctorate on Southern literature. It is here, in this catchy, bloodthirsty song, that we sniff the same brimstone that rises from today's sneering atheists:


Hate, Hate, and Hate

Here's the money quote from the song:

I hates the Yankee nation And everything they do. I hates the Declaration Of Independence too. I hates the glorious Union ‘Tis dripping with our blood. I hates the striped banner And fought it all I could. ...

I caught the rheumatism Campin’ in the snow, But I killed a chance of Yankees And I’d like to kill some more. Three hundred thousand Yankees Is stiff in Southern dust. We got three hundred thousand Before they conquered us. They died of Southern fever And Southern steel and shot. I wish they was three million Instead of what we got.

Doubling Down on Evil

Yeah, that's the spirit we're dealing with, of an embittered elite who know that their cause is fundamentally evil, but have chosen to brazen it out. Who know that the nation rejected them, so they're committed to sabotage -- to fake investigations, false charges, "sanctuary" policies that violate federal law and national sovereignty. America's most dogged leftists will try their own local "Jim Crow" policies aimed at Christians and conservatives.

They will intimidate, harass, threaten, and try to destroy those who resist them -- just as Southern elites did, eventually wearing down the North's will to impose Civil Rights for another 100 years. (Their final blunder, which helped seal the victory of the Civil Rights movement, was bombing a church and killing little black schoolgirls.)

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We must be just as dogged as our enemies. We must stick to our guns, both figuratively and literally. And for doing that, prayer is not just useful. It's crucial. (Pun intended.) We pray for their salvation, but also for their defeat. For their systematic political and cultural surrender, till their cause is seen by all as just as disgraceful as the Klan's.

Yes, action and prayer. For we strive not against men, but with principalities and powers. How do we know that? By whom they target: the child in the womb. Babies with Down Syndrome. Christian families with their eyes closed in prayer. Just so in 1793, they hunted the peasants of the Vendee, and in 1936 the priests and nuns of Spain who served the poor.

It's not really human to hate such helpless, harmless things. For that, you really need to summon your Lower Power.

100 Years After Bolshevik Revolution: President Declares Today a National Day for the Victims of Communism

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:26

Today’s the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution.That Revolution created the Soviet Union, the world’s first communist state. President Donald Trump declared today the National Day for the Victims of Communism.

The White House statement called communism “incompatible with liberty, prosperity and the dignity of human life.” It noted that communist regimes have killed more than 100 million people. These regimes, “under the false pretense of liberation, systematically robbed innocent people of their God-given rights of free worship, freedom of association, and countless other rights we hold sacrosanct.”

Today is a day to remember those who lost their lives or suffered under communism, the statement said. “In their memory and in honor of the indomitable spirit of those who have fought courageously to spread freedom and opportunity around the world, our Nation reaffirms its steadfast resolve to shine the light of liberty for all who yearn for a brighter, freer future.”

Pentagon Has Known of Crime Reporting Lapses for 20 Years

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 22:31

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon has known for at least two decades about failures to give military criminal history information to the FBI, including the type of information the Air Force didn’t report about the Texas church gunman who had assaulted his wife and stepson while an airman.

The Air Force lapse in the Devin P. Kelley case, which is now under review by the Pentagon’s inspector general, made it possible for him to buy guns before his attack Sunday at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six people were killed, including multiple members of some families. About 20 other people were wounded.

In 2012, in addition to his conviction in the domestic violence case, Kelley had escaped from a mental health center, a Houston TV station reported Tuesday, citing police. The Air Force said federal privacy laws prohibited it from commenting on the report.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was appalled at the Air Force mistake and unsatisfied by its plans to investigate the matter.

“I don’t believe the Air Force should be left to self-police after such tragic consequences,” he said, adding that he fears the failure to report domestic violence convictions may be more widespread.

John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said he is working on legislation that would require swift reporting of military criminal history data. The requirement currently is based on an internal Pentagon rule that does not have the force of law.

An FBI database known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which contains information for use in background checks on prospective gun buyers, had only one Pentagon entry for domestic violence convictions as of Dec. 31, 2016. Most federal agencies had zero entries in that category.

An FBI status report on that database noted, however, that this apparent lack of participation by federal agencies could indicate that they submitted their information to other relevant databases.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday he has directed the Pentagon inspector general to review circumstances of the Kelley case and “define what the problem is.”

At its core, the problem is that military criminal investigative organizations have too frequently, for too long, failed to comply with rules for reporting service members’ criminal history data to the FBI.

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As recently as February 2015, the Pentagon inspector general reported that hundreds of convicted offenders’ fingerprints were not submitted to the FBI’s criminal history database. The report found about a 30 percent failure rate for submitting fingerprints and criminal case outcomes. It did not determine the reasons for the lapses.

In February this year, the inspector general’s office launched a new review to assess compliance with updated reporting requirements. A spokesman, Bruce Anderson, said that review is ongoing.

The problem has persisted much longer.

A February 1997 report by the Pentagon inspector general found widespread lapses. Fingerprint cards were not submitted to the FBI criminal history files in more than 80 percent of cases in the Army and Navy, and 38 percent in the Air Force.

Failure to report the outcome of criminal cases was 79 percent in the Army and 50 percent in the Air Force, the report said. In the Navy, it was 94 percent.

“The lack of reporting to the FBI criminal history files prevents civilian law enforcement agencies from having significant information on military offenders,” the report concluded. It cited several reasons for the lapses, including ambiguous Pentagon guidelines and a lack of interest among the military services in submitting information to an FBI viewed as chronically overburdened with data.

“In their view, little benefit in solving cases is achieved by providing timely information,” the report said.

The 20-year-old review was prompted by an act of Congress rather than a specific instance, like the Kelley case, in which a reporting lapse allowed a violent offender to purchase weapons. Federal law prohibited him from buying or possessing firearms after his conviction. But because it was never added to the FBI’s database for background checks, Kelley was able to buy his guns.

Air Force records show Kelley initially faced charges of domestic violence for seven alleged incidents in 2011 and 2012. Five were withdrawn as part of a plea agreement, including two involving Kelley pointing a loaded gun at his wife. He pleaded guilty to striking, choking and kicking his wife and hitting his stepson “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”

He was sentenced in November 2012 to one year in confinement and reduction in rank to E-1, the lowest enlisted rank. He was given a bad conduct discharge, which was carried out in 2014. The officer overseeing the case was Robin Rand, then a three-star general and now the four-star commander of Air Force Global Strike Command in charge of the service’s bomber force and nuclear missiles.


Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed from Brussels.


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