The struggles of a catholic progressive

Perhaps the most frightening aspect regarding the control of weapons of mass destruction amongst our citizenry at present is that the same group that insists on no control or regulation of weapons seems to be the same group which have an irrational hatred toward the President of the United States. In fact, this group has been irrational about a lot of things, including their support for the Tea Party intimidated House of Representatives which has been totally neglectful in their responsibility to govern. It seems that there is a faction of the population, which, although perhaps small in percentage, is extremely loud and threatening in influence. Goaded on by the Limbaugh types, which are plentiful throughout the nation on local AM radio, they seem to be living in their own reality, where taking up arms against the duly elected officials of this nation if they don’t like the result of elections is a real possibility. In support of such positions, they argue as reasonable that the founding fathers intended that the citizenry be armed and ready to overthrow the legally constituted government of the United States of America, and use as support such an outlandish interpretation of the second amendment that it is beyond belief. Contrary to the fable of the NRA, the second amendment clearly states that the purpose of having weapons in the hands of the citizenry was to have a militia capable of defending the nation against very real enemies of the time, including the British, who still had a strong presence in the New World, and there were no guarantees that the British would remain defeated and allow the fledgling nation to continue without hostile action against it. The fact is that it remains a treasonable offense to advocate the overthrow of the government of the United States by force and violence, and the penalty is still death. These people who trumpet their super-patriotism are in fact in violation of the laws of the nation they swear to uphold. There is no question that the idea of a group of people whose irrational hatred and anger is so strong against the President, who think nothing of speaking of his death, who have no regard for the truth when speaking of him, who insist on brandishing weaponry as they please, and who speak of overthrowing the government without apology, are, in fact, a threat to domestic tranquility and to the rights of all of us to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and, as such, should be facing federal sedition charges instead of holding the nation hostage.

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The NRA wants you to believe that a Bushmaster is not an assault rifle because a). It only shoots a .223 caliber bullet, and b). You have to pull the trigger each time to fire.

First of all, the Bushmaster is an AR-15. The M16 (officially Rifle, Caliber 5.56 mm, M16) is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for semi-automatic, three-round burst and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge. The .223 Remington is a cartridge with almost the same external dimensions as the 5.56×45mm NATO military cartridge. The name is commonly pronounced either two-two-three or two-twenty-three. It is loaded with a 0.224-inch (5.7 mm) diameter jacketed bullet, with weights ranging from 40 to 90 grains (2.6 to 5.8 g), though the most common loading by far is 55 grains (3.6 g). When loaded with a bullet that expands, tumbles, or fragments in tissue, this cartridge is capable of delivering devastating terminal performance.

The M-16 rifle entered United States Army service and was deployed for jungle warfare operations in South Vietnam in 1963, becoming the U.S. military’s standard service rifle of the Vietnam War by 1969, replacing the M14 rifle in that role. Since the Vietnam War, the M16 rifle family has been the primary service rifle of the U.S. armed forces. The M16 has also been widely adopted by other militaries around the world. Total worldwide production of M16-style weapons since the design’s inception has been approximately 8 million, making it the most-produced firearm of its caliber. In 2010, the M16 began to be phased out in the U.S. Army and is being replaced by the M4 carbine, which is itself a shortened derivative of the M16A2.

So we need to keep in mind that for all intents and purposes, the Bushmaster, or AR-15, sold by the millions by Walmart, and the number one selling civilian rifle in the world, is an M-16, the most used military weapon in the world for the last 40 years. The difference is that the AR-15 has been modified so that it does not operate in semi-automatic or automatic mode. Nevertheless, with a clip of 60, for example, it takes less than one minute to fire 60 shots. And these are shots that are accurate over long distances, and when hit in the head, the bullet, rather than passing through the brain and exiting, will rattle around inside the skull, turning the brain to mush.

So when you assured by LaPierre and the NRA and your rifle toting friends that the friendly sounding Bushmaster is nothing like an assault rifle, they are in fact lying or they have been misinformed. The number one used rifle in war and peace in the world today is the AR-15/M-16, and it is the same rifle that has been used repeatedly to perform mass murders in this country.

Gun control may not solve all our problems. But making it next to impossible to get your hands on weapons of mass destruction, making it a crime to lose control of your weapon, and taxing the hell out of purchasing and possessing one is just pure common sense!

I should add here – there are those, of course, who will immediately say, “I have a right…blablabla…!!!” All I can say to that is that those of you who insist that you have a right are starting to really irritate the rest of us, because we have a right to live, to liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have run out of patience with those who insist that their right to play with weapons of mass destruction outweighs our children’s right to live, to grow up, and fulfill the promise of their young lives. We have a right not to wake up in the morning and hear that another school full of children, of teachers, another theater full of people just living their lives, etc., have sacrificed their lives for your right not to control the weapons you do have, to keep them locked up in a safe place, or to ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands. You expect society to forebear with these minor “inconveniences” and to come up with ways to protect ourselves from you irresponsibility. Any human being with an ounce of decency would be horrified that your right to a hobby has cost others their lives!

I’M DISCOURAGED TODAY

I’m discouraged today. We seem to have lost the ability to reflect in a sober and responsible manner as a society. Everyone has their sacred cows, and they will stand for them to the death of all of us rather than look for ways that everyone’s interests can be accommodated. It doesn’t matter what subject we talk about, everyone seems to take the most extreme position possible and then stand pat and hold their hands over their ears. It reminds me of a bunch of children who were raised without parents. The issues on the table right now in the political realm are concrete; mass maniacal murders are taking place in our society because of the easy availability of repeating weaponry which are capable of taking out large numbers in a very brief period. Whether you have to pull the trigger each time or if the weapons do it all automatically, no one can ever explain any need for such weapons to be available to ordinary citizens for any purpose. Yet, a segment of our society will fight to the death to keep any kind of responsible regulation on them that might save a classroom full of kids or a theater full of kids and adults. Our politicians are fighting about who is going to pay for government. A reasonable person would agree that those who benefit the most from the amenities of a developed society would contribute the most to supporting that society. The super-rich en masse have gone to Washington and begged the politicians to tax them more and the middle class less for the good of all of us. But for some reason, those who have the most contribute the least in our society. At a time when both parents have to work, sometimes two jobs, to make ends meet in the middle class, their are those in positions of leadership that they are not contributing enough, and that the very richest corporations and the super-rich are contributing too much when they often contribute a very tiny fraction already, or not at all. There are those who would go after the social safety net, claiming that it is too generous, when, in fact, we have entire families living in their cars in the dead of winter in the richest country in the world. We have millions of children in our society who go to bed hungry most nights, while corporations and the super-rich experience earnings from their investments that break all records. There are those who would try to gouge those who have contributed to the Social Security Trust Fund by limiting their ability to access those promised benefits when needed when they have contributed all their working lives on the promise of having something at the end of their lives. This, despite the fact that we already know that the government has been “borrowing” the surplus in the fund for decades. Now they want to rob the entire thing. We have had a jobless recovery in this society, where those who have the most have made record returns while highly qualified and educated people are unable to find employment, or are dramatically under-employed, and are labeled unemployable by the very corporations who have trained and worked them thousands of uncompensated hours on the thin promise that better days were ahead when things got better, and then were rewarded with layoffs – staff-reductions – down-sizing, and exportation of their jobs to the other side of the world. Those who played the game as it was defined, getting educated and working night and day for decades are now dependent on often non-existent unemployment and training programs, and end up settling for jobs which pay a third of what they were making, if those are even available. It seems as though somewhere in here, would be an opportunity for some of these smart politicians to step forward and do something good for the people of this country. But we don’t see any of that. Instead we see the peoples representatives who are bought and paid for by special interests. I go to my church seeking some solace, and I hear right wing political speech from my priest, instead of words of spiritual comfort and perspective. I turn on the news, and I find that all there is is propaganda, a channel for each sub-group of political elite. The late night comedians make jokes about the end of the world, and the failings of mighty generals who have been taken down by their own lack of character, senators destroying careers devoted to public service for frivolous political gain. But hey – Happy Holidays! Right?

We have seen the facts, figures and charts over the last 4 yrs. indicating profit by corporations at record levels and the rich owning more and more of the riches. We have also seen the figures on the fact that wages have remained stagnant or worse over the last 20 yrs. or so, while CEO pay has ballooned 100 times over the same period. Why is it, then, that the GOP leadership finds it onerous that those who have gained the most should pay more, or at least something, toward the support of the government? I honestly don’t understand why the GOP leadership continues to protect the interests of the top 1% or 2% when they themselves are not, for the most part, a part of that interest group. While most of Congress is made up of millionaires, few of them are what would be considered “rich” by today’s standards. What is it that motivates them to turn against their own peer group and protect the interests of the super-rich and corporate above their own? I don’t get it.

The Question of Abortion

I am primarily a “feminist” in the sense that I support the empowerment of female individuals to self-determination to the same degree that males have been empowered. Throughout history, there is no question that women have been limited in what they could do by social mores. It has only been in the recent past that women have been able to have the same opportunities for education, voting, owning property and many other things males take for granted. There continue to be feminist issues, such as equal pay for equal work. One of the major issues is that of women making their own health care decisions, which involves, among other things, the right to abortion as a medical procedure, for whatever reason the woman may deem necessary. The alternative, of having a group of mostly male legislators ruling the womb of a woman they don’t even know, is disgusting to me in a way few things are. The idea that an employer could hypothetically tell my wife whether we can have contraception as part of our medical insurance is beyond repugnant. I have never felt that it was my option to tell a woman to have an abortion, or pressure her to have an abortion, and have never been in the position of even thinking about advising a woman to end a pregnancy, thank the Lord. I have always felt that, understood correctly, Christianity would lead to the same stance on feminist issues. After all, St. Paul is the one who taught clearly that in Christ, there is no division between man and woman, Greek or Jew, slave or free. So it comes as a surprise to me to find that the early Church Fathers taught strongly against abortion in any event. Here are some examples:

The second commandment of the Teaching: “Do not murder; do not commit adultery”; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; “do not steal”; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant. (Didache, 1st c.)

Canon 68: If a catechumen should conceive by an adulterer, and should procure the death of the child, she can be baptized only at the end of her life. (Council of Elvira, AD 305)

Canon 21: Women who prostitute themselves, and who kill the child thus begotten, or who try to destroy them when in their wombs, are by ancient law excommunicated to the end of their lives. We, however, have softened their punishment and condemned them to the various appointed degrees of penance for ten years. (Council of Ancyra, AD 314)

In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the foetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man – killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in the seed. (Tertullian, Apologia, late 2nd / early 3rd c.)

What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? For the same person would not regard the fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore and object of God’s care [and then kill it]…. But we are altogether consistent in our conduct. We obey reason and do not override it. (Athenagoras, Legatio 35, late 2nd c.)

Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder. (Jerome, Epistle 22, late 4th c.)

She who has intentionally destroyed [the fetus] is subject to the penalty corresponding to a homicide. For us, there is no scrutinizing between the formed and unformed [fetus]; here truly justice is made not only for the unborn but also with reference to the person who is attentive only to himself/herself since so many women generally die for this very reason. (Basil the Great, To Amphilochios of Iconia, mid 4th c.)

…those who give the abortifacients and those who take the poisons are guilty of homicide. (Basil the Great, ibid.)

There are many other examples. I still believe that it is not in my purview to influence a woman who feels she needs an abortion one way or another – and so I simply present this as a matter of intellectual honesty, I can no longer argue a Christian foundation for believing that having an abortion is not murder in some sense. As a feminist, I still argue that those who have no interest in the health of the Mother also have no rights or duties to impose their will upon the Mother. Nevertheless, as a Christian who reads the teachings of the Church Fathers with great respect, I must admit that there is an early teaching that abortion is murder which I was not aware of previously. I realize I am walking a fine line here. Thankfully for me, I will never have to face that choice. Honestly, there is a part of me which must attribute the teachings above as a reflection of the culture of the times, in which women continued to be “second class citizens,” and the culture paternalistic in nature. Submitted for your consideration and comment.

According to Simon Blackburn, although the Golden Rule “can be found in some form in almost every ethical tradition”, the rule is “sometimes claimed by Christianity as its own”. The “Golden Rule” has been attributed to Jesus of Nazareth: “Therefore all things whatsoever would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12, see also Luke 6:31). The common English phrasing is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. A similar form appeared in a Catholic catechism around 1567 (certainly in the reprint of 1583). The Golden Rule also has roots in the two old testament edicts, found in Leviticus 19:18 (“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself”; see also Great Commandment) and Leviticus 19:34 (“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God”).

The Old Testament Deuterocanonical books of Tobit and Sirach, accepted as part of the Scriptural canon by Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Non-Chalcedonian Churches, also express a negative form of the golden rule:

“Do to no one what you yourself dislike.”

—Tobit 4:15

“Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do, and keep in mind your own dislikes.”

—Sirach 31:15

At the time of Hillel, an elder contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, the negative form of the golden rule already must have been proverbial, perhaps because of Tobit 4:15. When asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, he answered:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

—Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Two passages in the New Testament quote Jesus of Nazareth espousing the golden rule:

Matthew 7:12

12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Luke 6:31

31And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

A similar passage, a parallel to the Great Commandment, is Luke 10:25-28

25And one day an authority on the law stood up to put Jesus to the test. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”

26What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you understand it?” 27He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength and with all your mind.’(Deuteronomy 6:5) And, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ”

28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do that, and you will live.”.

The passage in the book of Luke then continues with Jesus answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?”, by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating that “your neighbour” is anyone in need.[46] Jesus’ teaching, however, goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing what one would not like done to themselves, to the positive formulation of actively doing good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them. This formulation, as indicated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, emphasises the needs for positive action that brings benefit to another, not simply restraining oneself from negative activities that hurt another. Taken as a rule of judgement, both formulations of the golden rule, the negative and positive, are equally applicable.

In one passage of the New Testament Paul the Apostle refers to the golden rule:

Galatians 5:14

14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this;Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The Golden Rule is implicitly expressed in some verses of Qur’an, but is explicitly declared in the sayings of Muhammad.

From the Qur’an: the first verse recommends the positive form of the rule, and the subsequent verses condemn not abiding the negative form of the Golden Rule:

“…and you should forgive And overlook: Do you not like God to forgive you? And Allah is The Merciful Forgiving.”

— Qur’an (Surah 24, “The Light,” v. 22)

“Woe to those… who, when they have to receive by measure from men, they demand exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due”

— Qur’an (Surah 83, “The Dealers in Fraud,” vv. 1–4)

“…orphans and the needy, give them something and speak kindly to them. And those who are concerned about the welfare of their own children after their death, should have fear of God [Treat other people’s Orphans justly] and guide them properly.”

— Qur’an (Surah 4, “The Women,” vv. 8-9)

“O you who believe! Spend [benevolently] of the good things that you have earned… and do not even think of spending [in alms] worthless things that you yourselves would be reluctant to accept.”

— Qur’an (Surah 2, “The Calf,” v. 267)

“They assign daughters to Allah, Who is above having a child [whether male or female] and to themselves they assign what they desire [which is a male child]; And when the news of the birth of a female child is brought to one of them His face darkens and he hides his inward Grief and anger… They attribute to Allah what they dislike [For themselves] and their tongues assert the lie that the best reward will be theirs! Undoubtedly, the Hell fire shall be their lot and they will be foremost [in entering it].”

— Qur’an (Surah 16, “The Honey Bees,” vv. 57-62)

From the hadith, the collected oral and written accounts of Muhammad and his teachings during his lifetime:

A Bedouin came to the prophet, grabbed the stirrup of his camel and said: O the messenger of God! Teach me something to go to heaven with it. Prophet said: “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don’t do to them. Now let the stirrup go! [This maxim is enough for you; go and act in accordance with it!]”

—Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146

“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

—An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith 13 (p. 56)

“Seek for mankind that of which you are desirous for yourself, that you may be a believer.”

—Sukhanan-i-Muhammad (Teheran, 1938)

“That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.”

“The most righteous person is the one who consents for other people what he consents for himself, and who dislikes for them what he dislikes for himself.”

Ali ibn Abi Talib (4th Caliph in Sunni Islam, and first Imam in Shia Islam) says:

“O’ my child, make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should desire for others what you desire for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do not oppress as you do not like to be oppressed. Do good to others as you would like good to be done to you. Regard bad for yourself whatever you regard bad for others. Accept that (treatment) from others which you would like others to accept from you… Do not say to others what you do not like to be said to you.”

—Nahjul Balaghah, Letter 31

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