Category Archives: Politics

Silence Does Not Equal Love

My friend Rosie D. responded to my recent post, How I Can Support Traditional Marriage and Not be a Hater, with this comment:

Great blog post. But one question enters into my mind. How many times did your mom have ‘the talk’ with you? Did she remind you over and over again that you were living in sin? Or did she let you know how she felt, then went on loving you, silent about her objections? I don’t know the answers to these questions. What I see is most of those who don’t believe in marriage equality have to let others know over and over again how wrong they are, instead of accepting the other person. That is truly loving them in my mind. Accepting that they have different beliefs than you do, and loving them anyway. And who knows, as your mom found with you, they may just see the light!

Of course, being the long-winded person that I am, I couldn’t write my response succinctly enough to fit in a comment box, so I decided to turn it into another blog post.

Thus, while I do not want this blog to fall into a single-issue black hole, here is my response:

First, Rosie, thank you for your comment. It is very thoughtful and well-worded, and I see the very good intentions behind it.

In answer to your question, my mom just talked with me the one time. But, while I might have started avoiding her if she brought it up too frequently, I would not have faulted her for further discussing her reasons at a later date, or sharing informative materials with me… though I might not have read them! While I don’t think we need to constantly berate our friends and relatives with the truths of our faith, neither should we remain silent.

Indeed, in a world where we struggle constantly against a culture that seeks to normalize the LGBT lifestyle and generate acceptance for it, it becomes increasingly important that we Christians speak out.  Most television shows these days have at least one gay couple. The mainstream media covers and celebrates gay pride parades and NFL football players kissing their boyfriends and proposing to them at St. Peters IMG_9601.JPGBasilica. Rainbows, once a Jewish and Christian symbol, have been high-jacked by the LGBT cause, superimposed over profile pics and used to illuminate the White House. Even the equal sign is no longer free from socio-political attachments! Few mainstream cultural outlets are covering stories like pastors being brutally beaten during gay pride festivals, churches in the UK being sued for refusing to perform gay weddings, or near naked little boys dancing provocatively at gay pride events (I refuse to share the link to that particular video, as it is seared on my mind and I would not wish that upon anyone. Google it if you must).

Thus, we traditionalists post our opinions, and supporting articles, facts, and videos such as the one below in hopes that we can, in some small way, have our own influence on a culture that’s been taken over by the liberal, feel-good, anything goes left.

A good friend once told me that, if Jesus were alive today, she thinks you’d be as likely to find him in a gay bar as in a church. After all, as he himself said, “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick.” (Matt 9:12) I think that’s very true. But I don’t think you’d have found Jesus there, turning water into wine for a “wedding” celebration. Instead, I think you’d find him befriending the patrons, leading them by gentle example closer to his Father. I think he might have a parable or two to share. I think he would teach and he would pray and he would love, with the intent of nurturing them into a place where their greatest desire was to know, love, and serve God.

Okay, you’re not going to find me in a gay bar. But, I would love to have coffee with one of my gay friends or cousins today. They know my values, so they know where I stand. I’m not going to bring it up. But, if they wanted to have a conversation about that, I would prayerfully enter in.

For now, I’ll just borrow Lisa Mladinich’s words in response to her nephew when he asked what she wanted for gay people:

“I want them to be drawn by their hearts to a profound love for God, so that they are willing to do anything or sacrifice anything to be close to him and in right relationship with him. If that happens, they will be truly happy.” (source: #GayMarriage, Love, and Lessons from Canada, on www.patheos.com)

 

Pope Benedict XVI’s message for Lent in 2012 speaks volumes on this subject:

In his message, the Pope then calls on people not to “remain silent in the face of evil,” even though there is a mentality that dominates society today, that reduces life to mere earthly dimensions and therefore “accepts any moral choice in the name of individual freedom.”

Indeed, he warns, for those who believe, “admonishing sinners” is part of the work of “spiritual mercy” and Christians must not, “for human respect or for convenience,”  adapt to “common thought” and stop “warning their brothers against the ways of thinking and acting that contradict the truth and do not follow the path of good.” (source: Vatican Insider, bold in original)

Silence does not equal love. Love equals love. We give that love through our example, through our generosity, through our prayers, and through sharing truths we know.

How I Can Support Traditional Marriage and Not be a Hater

Anyone who follows this blog in any way, shape, or form would probably correctly assume that I am opposed to gay marriage.

More precisely, I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Why? Because marriage is an institution created by God to serve a very specific role within his creation – to procreate, and then to provide a stable, loving environment for those little beings who were procreated.

As our pastor pointed out recently, it’s pretty obvious how’s it’s supposed to work. Just look at the anatomy. A man and a woman fit together in a way that no two women or two men can. Man and woman were made for one another.noahs-ark1

When God told Noah to load the ark two by two, would the whole plan have worked if he loaded two male elephants and two female horses? I think not.

Okay. We’ve established where I stand on the subject. And now many of you have made a few judgements about me.

I’m a hater. A bigot. A close-minded, ignorant, bullying jerk.

I can handle that.

And I’ll still love you.

Go ahead. Unfriend me on Facebook. Erase my contact info from your phone if you feel you must.

After you read the rest of what I’ve got to say.

Because here’s the news flash: it is possible to disagree with someone’s actions and still love them.

Case in point:

Most of you know that I wasn’t always the Bible-loving Catholic woman that I strive to be today. In fact, in my earlier years, I “lived in sin” with my boyfriend. Of course, at the time, I joked about that whole living in sin thing. Sin wasn’t something I really took seriously. Cohabitation seemed practical and convenient, not to mention that it was what everyone else was doing, and I was in love and we planned to get married.

But I digress. What I’d actually like to examine here is my parent’s response to my lifestyle choice.

Guess what?

My parents did not approve.

I knew this without them saying a word. But, because she loved me, my mom had a very, very difficult conversation with me. One in which she had to use that three letter “s” word no mom born before the sixties wants to have to use with her daughter.

I’ll give you a hint. It ends with an “x” and has an “e” in the middle.

This had to be an incredibly difficult topic for my mom to broach. But she did it anyways. Why? Because she loved me. And, in her love for me, she did not want to stand back and let me enter into a sinful situation without doing everything she could to prevent me from making a mistake. A mistake that she knew would drive me further from God.

Did you catch that one sentence?

Because she loved me…

Imagine that.

In today’s world, people seem to think that, if we love someone, and they do something we believe to be sinful, we should keep our mouths shut.

No. Scratch that. Keeping our mouths shut is not enough.

We must actually change our value system and accept that the actions of the other are perfectly fine.

Otherwise, we’re haters, bigots, and close-minded jerks.

Thank God I got married to that live-in boyfriend. Otherwise, I’d have to feel offended by my parents, who would not have changed their views and thus, by today’s standards, must surely hate me.  I’d have to call them haters and  bigots and close-minded throwbacks.

But wait. They never did hate me. They stuck to their value structure and shared it with me.

Out of love.

Imagine that.

Let the trash talk begin. Feel free to comment below.

(Be warned that all comments are moderated. While I will attempt to respond to all respectful comments, I reserve the right to edit any inappropriate content. I also reserve the right to take a really long time to respond because it’s hard to focus with five kids running around the house. But I’ll do my best.)

My “Point” About the New Indiana State Standards and Common Core

Yesterday, the AP picked up this story: Indiana Approves Common Core Replacement Standards, complete with this photo:

Common Core Indiana
It ran with this caption: “Stephanie Engelman makes a point as she and other community members speak to Board of Education members, who will be voting on controversial new academic standards that would replace Common Core in Indiana, Monday, April 28, 2014, Indianapolis. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Robert Scheer)”

Hey, that’s me!

So, what’s the hubbub all about?  What point was I making, exactly?

Well, actually it wasn’t just me, but literally twenty to thirty concerned citizens who came down to the Indiana Government Center to express our views.

I was but one speaker yesterday, and so many of them were excellent,  making their points, backed by facts, figures, personal anecdotes and emotional pleas, that I feel humbled to have wound up as the “face” of us all in this AP article which is now gone global.

Sadly, our voices made little difference and the State of Indiana now boasts new educational standards which are being widely mocked as inferior, even to the Common Core from which we had worked so hard to disentangle ourselves.

The news outlets really did not present our side of the story well, even though they used sound bites from yours truly. 🙂  Here and here and here.  (Yes, I do look like I’m about to cry when talking to Derrick Thomas.  I wasn’t, really.  I guess I just look a little tragic when I’m nervous.)

So I’d like to attempt to succinctly share why so many of us would take time out of our lives to fight for this cause.  Not an easy task, and I’m sure I’ll leave much out.  (Hoosiers Against Common Core is an excellent resource on this topic.)

Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin, but here goes.

First, let’s just get this out of the way:  The new Indiana State Standards contain 70% of the same content as the Common Core.  One can easily identify many standards that were literally cut and pasted from CC into the Indiana standards.  This is not “for Hoosiers, by Hoosiers” as Gov. Mike Pence is claiming.  (here’s a great article from Michelle Malkin).

These new Indiana standards are, indeed, a sloppy rewrite of Common Core, with a few things added in, but it didn’t come together to form a meaningful whole, and Dr. James Milgram, in an open letter to Hoosiers, has described them as “a dramatic example of what not to do.”

But what’s it matter?  After all, the standards are only a guideline of what needs to be taught, and it provides the floor, not the ceiling, right?

Sadly, that’s not true.  For one thing, the teachers want to teach what’s going to be on the standardized test, close to the time at which it’s going to be tested, so that the students will perform well, the school will receive good marks, and the teacher will keep her job.  This prevents teachers from reaching for the ceiling, as they fear the students will forget what’s on the floor… the floor being that which will be tested in the next few months.

In addition, the standards drive our curriculum.  That’s why nearly every school in the country has purchased new textbooks in the past few years.

(Do you hear that “CHA-CHING!” coming from Pearson, Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill? And people wonder what’s driving this!)

So what’s wrong with those text books?  Well, if you have elementary school kids in a mainstream school, you’ve seen the “fuzzy math” that they’re bringing home in their backpacks!  Math that’s filled with confusing story problems.  Math where they’re asked to explain their answers – a task that I would find difficult, and which is definitely developmentally inappropriate for elementary school children!

This is math where students learn three or four different methods to arrive at a solution, before finally learning the standard algorithm at the very end.  They then practice that algorithm nine times before moving on to the next topic.

What’s missing?  MASTERY.  They never MASTER their basic math facts, let alone that standard algorithm.  I’ve seen my own very bright son struggle with this very challenge.

Sadly, Stanford Math Professor, James Milgram, has evaluated the Common Core and maintains that, by the eighth grade, American students under Common Core will be two years behind their international counterparts.  (Here’s a good article.) In a world where our children compete with international students for college placement, this is especially concerning.

How about the English Language Arts standards?  Board of Ed member Andrea Neal addressed these beautifully yesterday, a bit of which was quoted here.  Another excellent critic is Dr. Terrence Moore, professor at Hillsdale College and author of The Story-Killers: A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core.  Moore refers to the “dumbing down” of our education, and reflects on the fact that the focus is taken off of true literature, and placed on informational texts and short stories, which do not contribute to a student’s understanding of “the human condition.” A great article can be found here.

I could go on and on, my friends, but the bottom line is this:  The Common Core standards will not drive our educational system to produce students who are brilliant thinkers.  Instead, it will lead to students who are automatons.  Students who might be ready to do a job, but will not be ready to use their God-given talents to create, develop, and innovate in order to make the world a better place.

And make no mistake.  Common Core is very much alive and well in the state of Indiana.

Many thanks to the leadership of Erin Tuttle and Heather Crossin here in our Hoosier state.  Without these two powerhouse women, our fight against Common Core never would have gotten off the ground. And thanks, also, to my sister, Suzanne, who brought this issue to my attention and finally convinced me to (begrudgingly) get involved.

I know that I’ve only begun to make the case here, and I’m sure there are many who agree and disagree with what I’ve said.  What would you add? Please tell us what you think!

Big Brother is Watching

I just got an email from our electric company.  I think they believe they are doing me a favor by informing me that I am using more electricity than my “more efficient neighbors”.

Huh.  Really?  You mean my family of six uses more electricity than my empty-nest neighbors?  I’m shocked.

Geez.  You mean, that I, who am home all day, use more electricity than neighbors who go away for ten hours?

I mean, come on!  With whom are they comparing us??

Our “more efficient neighbors” have, on average, two children!

Our “more efficient neighbors” leave the house and go use electricity elsewhere all day long!

I know that the government is probably monitoring my Verizon account.  They may very well be reading my emails, and goodness knows they are well aware of every “contentious” person on Facebook (a label that could surely be applied to me, though I post so infrequently that I’ve probably escaped their notice.).

But somehow this idea that Big Brother is monitoring my electric usage gets to me more than anything.

It gives me the creepy-crawly feeling that, one of these days, Big Brother’s gonna come a-knockin’.

That one of these days he’s gonna tell me to use less – or else.

That one of these days he’s gonna say a person shouldn’t have four kids, because they use too many resources.

I’m not a fan of Big Brother.  I don’t want his hands on my phone records, my emails, my electricity usage, or my tax records.  I certainly don’t want him controlling my children’s education.  I don’t want his drones flying around.  I don’t want his medical care.

Sadly, despite being “pro-choice,” Big Brother doesn’t give us much choice in such matters.

Boy Scouts: What Would Jesus Do?

Following a heated discussion of the Girls Scouts’ latest bed-fellows, the Boy Scouts briefly became the focus of conversation at book club tonight.

I’m going to say something that – I think – will be largely unpopular.

I totally agree with the change the Boy Scouts have made.

As the parent of a Boy Scout, I was encouraged to respond to the survey they issued in order to help them decide where to draw the line on the involvement of homosexuals in scouting.  As I read and prayerfully answered those questions, I realized what a difficult position the organization was in.  And it comes down to this:

What would Jesus do?

Would Jesus put people in leadership who openly professed beliefs and lifestyles that were contrary to his teachings?

No.  He clearly chose as his disciples men who would lead by example.  Men who would thwart conventions of the day to follow the convictions of their God.  Thus, I am very supportive of the Boy Scouts decision to continue to prevent openly gay adults from holding leadership roles.

Would Jesus tell a nine year old boy who openly professed homosexuality that he could not be a part of a group?

No.  In fact, he would encourage that boy to surround himself with good, Godly people, who could support and strengthen him in leading a life of sacrifice – a life in which he will be forced to deny his fleshly desires in recognition of God’s will for his life.

As a friend once told me: “I think, if Jesus were walking the Earth today, you’d be more likely to find him in a gay bar than at a Bible study.”  Jesus would go where he is most needed.  The well do not need a physician, after all.

And thus, as unpopular as my opinion may be, I do believe that young, homosexual boys should not be turned away from the Boy Scouts.  Or from youth group, or a group of friends at school, etc.  That smacks of bullying to me.  Quite frankly, it also smacks of cruelty, heartlessness, and any other number of not-so-nice things.

If you don’t like it, don’t put your son in Boy Scouts.  There are other options out there – options which, quite frankly, I myself am going to explore simply because I feel that Boy Scouts is too light on the faith and character aspect.

But I don’t think that having a gay boy in your son’s pack is going to turn your son gay.  It might raise some uncomfortable questions, but I think those questions will provide parents with valuable teaching moments.

And let’s face it. What are the chances, really, of a ten year old boy being openly gay and wanting to join Boy Scouts.  Pretty slim, I think.

 

Conversion

I was the first to spot them – the Catholic school kids walking past our playground on their way home from school.  I knew nothing of these kids, only that the girls wore red plaid skirts and that they were different in some way.

We must have been learning about the Revolutionary War in social studies class.  I led the charge: “The British are coming! The British are coming!”  Several classmates joined in, running along the fence line and teasing the passing children.

The tables have turned… Bonita on her first day of Kindergarten.

I wonder what those kids thought, how they felt, and what they told their parents when they got home.  I wonder how their parents responded?

I wonder if one of those families had the kindness and charity to pray for me and my misguided friends?  I wonder if my conversion to the Catholic Church, my conversion to Child of God, can be attributed to the prayers of those persecuted children and their parents?

And so the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul has me thinking of my own conversion.  A conversion from the person that I was, long ago, in elementary school, to the person I became in high school, college, professional life, newly married, newly mommied, newly catechized, newly confirmed.  The conversion is far from complete and I have a long way to go to completely overcome the person I was and become the person I’m meant to be.   But with God’s grace, I can decide, every moment of every day, to make choices that keep me moving in the right direction, baby step by baby step, toward Him and His love.

Today’s Feast also has me thinking about the people who remain misguided and misinformed.  Coinciding with the March for Life, it reminds me to pray for the conversion of those who support abortion, those who are considering abortion, and those who actively take part in the abortion industry.

Just as Saul persecuted the Christians, just as I persecuted those Catholic school children, so today we Catholics and Christians are experiencing persecution.  And so I am reminded to pray for an end to the HHS mandate, for the judges and justices who will determine the outcome of the lawsuits, and for the organizations that are practicing civil disobedience in obedience to God.

Those who advocate abortion and the destruction of our religious freedoms will probably never experience what Paul experienced – Jesus, standing before him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  But through our prayers and fasting, our willingness to stand up for what we believe in and to share the Truth, these people can come to recognize their status as children of God.  In so doing, they will recognize the earliest life as a child of God, and the Church as a blessed assembly of us all.

Image courtesy www.liveaction.org

To see last year’s reflection on the Conversion of St. Paul, click here.

Knowing Christ – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 14

What a morning!  The kids have been tired and cranky, I’ve been tired and cranky, and I feel like I’m walking through waste deep water – everything seems much harder than it should be.  Prayers that we all can make it through this day loving each other as Christ loves us!

Here’s today’s reflection:

December 14 (Person – David, Symbol – Shepherd’s Crook or Harp)

“I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm… I will be a father to him, and he shall be like a son to me.” 2 Sam 7:12, 14

Read 1 Sam 16:1 – 17:58, 2 Sam 5:1-5, 7:1-17

In today’s reading, God’s first covenant with Abraham, the promise of land, had already been fulfilled – the Israelites are now in the Promised Land.  Now, the second covenant – the promise of a kingdom – is fulfilled as well.   God provides David as a king for his chosen people.  The promise that God makes, “I will raise up your heir after you… and I will make his kingdom firm” was fulfilled in David’s son, Solomon.  But it was fulfilled in a much bigger way with Jesus.  You see, both Mary and Joseph were descendents of David, and Jesus was called “the Son of David.”

There are several similarities between Jesus and David.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just as David was from Bethlehem, and, just as David was a shepherd, Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.”(John 10:14, 15)   Think of some of the people that you know really well – your family and friends.  Do you spend time with them?  What are some things you do with them?  Jesus says that he knows his sheep, and his sheep know him.  If you want to know Jesus, you need to spend time with him!  What are some things you can do to spend time with Jesus? (pray, read the Bible, go to Mass and adoration, etc.)  That’s right! And did you know that you can actually invite Jesus to join you in everything you do?  When you’re playing football or dolls, doing your chores, or working on homework, you can ask Jesus to be with you, to give you the peace and joy that only He can give!

Let’s pray: “Jesus, please be with me in everything I do.  When I’m playing or working, when I’m happy or sad, please be with me and give me your peace and joy.  Show me the way to be more like you, so that I may enjoy God’s promise of eternal life with you in Heaven.”

(You may choose to pray this prayer, or one like it, with your children before their activities, to help them learn to make a habit of inviting Jesus into their everyday lives!)

Tied Up in Knots

I was stressed out in 2008, and worried in 2010.  Tonight I’m literally sick to my stomach with worry.

Rather than watching the results trickle in, I took long a walk, during which I prayed the Rosary, the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Better to pray than to fret, I figure, but I confess that my prayers were still fraught with fretting.

I know that tons of Catholics across America have spent much of their days in prayer.  I just got a text from a friend who went to two Masses, a prayer service with adoration, and wrapped up two novenas today.

I didn’t fast.  I wish I had fasted.

But, in the end, I must apply to the results of this election the same words that I’ve used to defend Richard Mourdock’s campaign misstep:

No matter what happens,
God can make good come of a seemingly terrible circumstance.
We must simply be open to His will, and
seek out how we can be His servants
in bringing about His plan.

We don’t know the road ahead of us, but He does.

 

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.” Jer 29:11

 

Big Bird Doesn’t Need a Hand Out

The eight year olds at school are talking politics.  And guess what?  Word on the street is that if Romney gets elected, Big Bird will die.

First, let’s agree that these kids haven’t been watching the news, reading the Huffington Post (btw, thanks for the image, Huffi), or checking out memes on Reddit.  No, this is coming from the parents.

Way to go, parents.  Way to focus on the big, important issues.  I mean, who cares about which president will lead to the death of more human babies?  If one of them is going to kill Big Bird, that’s the end of the discussion.

But let’s just take the human babies out of the equation, since I know some grown ups are uncomfortable approaching that topic with children.

So here’s what I told my eight and six year olds (after explaining that, first and foremost, we as Catholics must vote for the candidate who upholds the sanctity of life):

“Sweetheart, right now, under President Obama, our country’s debt – money that we don’t have, and owe to someone else – has reached $16 Trillion dollars.  Sixteen trillion.  Can you wrap your head around that?  I can’t.

“Who do you think is going to pay that money back?  It won’t be your father and I, or our generation.  It’s going to be you, and your children, and your grandchildren.

“So, here’s the question.  Do you want to watch Big Bird now, and work until your 90, trying to pay back all of that money?  Or, would you rather do without Big Bird – and some other things that are nice to have, but we can live without – and be able to retire when you’re 62, and enjoy the rest of your life?”

Being an insightful child, Dude responded, “Do without Big Bird.”  It may help that he’s way to cool for Big Bird these days.

“That’s an excellent answer, honey.  But you know what?  PBS has lots of Big Bird and Elmo stuff that they sell to make money, so that show’s not going away.”

“Big Bird can support himself.  He doesn’t need a hand out.”

(for more information on Big Bird and PBS, who gets $450 million annually from the feds and pays only $1.5 Million in licensing for Sesame Street, check out this excellent article from the Washington Examiner.)