Friday, September 11, 2015

The Pope in DC Means Hope in DC

In case you don't follow the news and didn't see my first blog in three months yesterday, Pope Francis will visit the Untied States later this month. Though my church of the past 10 years is Episcopal (also called "Catholic Light"), I am all over this pope -- as are many non-Catholics. He epitomizes the anti-Capitalist principles of Christ -- which is surprising when you consider the fact that he comes from a country whose economic system is similar to ours. Then again, it's not so surprising when you consider the fact that Latin America has given us such saintly people as Oscar Romero and Hugo Chavez -- the latter being more of a revolutionary, and thus, more my type. I can appreciate the pope's penchant for confronting Capitalism -- even if he isn't calling for full-on revolution. That said, global Capitalism is the root of much social injustice and many other evils in the world.

I don't know what the pope will say to Congress or to the general public while here, though his every word is music to my ears. Maybe he'll point an accusatory finger at the U.S. Government for its imperialism and for being the chief promoter of global Capitalism. Let's hope. Maybe he's heard about our localized Fascism whereby city governments oppress the poor with laws that criminalize the life-sustaining activities of homeless people and outlaw feeding them -- the latter being in direct contrast with Galatians 5:22-23. Maybe the pope will hear about the HEARTH Act and the Obama administration's efforts to decrease homelessness. He'll feed the homeless and be briefed on the issue while at St. Patrick's cathedral on September 24th. St. Patrick's houses the offices of Catholic Charities for the archdiocese of Washington, DC. It also sits right across the road from a library where many of the city's homeless spend their days. Maybe he, like many visitors to the U.S., will be surprised and appalled to find that there are homeless people in the capital of the (second???) wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth.

It's safe to assume that Mayor Muriel Bowser will accompany the Obamas to Andrews Air Force Base to welcome the pontiff on the 22nd or she'll figure significantly into some part of the pope's schedule. Well my critique of her is, by all means, a mild one. She is keeping her promise to focus on ending homelessness and to decrease extreme poverty, even if her logic seems a bit skewed and her plan ill-advised. One might even question whether or not she is housing families so that she can build an Olympic village on the site of the DC General Family Shelter before 2028. Maybe the pope has gotten the pulse of the poor community in this country and will tell Ms. Bowser that the Black Lives Matter Movement, recent actions by the Black Panthers and DC's recent spike in violence are indicative of a revolution that is brewing within our borders. Maybe Bowser will replace her policy of increased policing with a full-on social justice agenda after Pope Francis helps her to see the light. Let's hope.

Maybe the pope will hear about Washington, DC's rich past in terms of fighting for social justice and about how the CCNV Shelter which stands as a testament to both the successes and unfinished work of that era has had its future called into question -- with the current mayor having been silent hereto now about her plans for the building (though media is rife with negative coverage of the city block where the shelter is located). Maybe pope Francis will get the sense that we're losing the fight against homelessness and the fighters. Maybe he'll inject a new sense of hope into the weary warriors who remain. Let's hope. After all, that's all we CAN do. Hope.


Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Cell phone: (240) 305-5255 
425 2nd St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2003  My Blog
[Click] Forcing Results from Government:
Asking an advocate for the poor to be nice is like asking a soldier to fight a war without a weapon.

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Pope Francis, Atheist America and Rampant Idiocy

Kim Davis refused to issue same-sex marriages, claiming that it went against her religious beliefs. That set off a national firestorm of responses and put her small, quiet Kentucky town on the political map irreversibly. Social media is fraught with comments about the separation of church and state and people's disdain or support for Kim Davis. All of this is taking place even as Pope Francis plans to tour all three cities that have served as U.S. capitals -- and on feeding the homeless of our nation's current capital while here. Sadly, this public pubic debate is exposing the idiocy that decades of poor education have rendered in the U.S.

I have no particular interest in Kim Davis. I don't laud her for taking a stand against gay marriage. I'm actually indifferent to the gay marriage issue. (From an anti-gay perspective, it makes more sense to be against sodomy and lesbian sex than it does to try to prevent those who already live the LGBT lifestyle -- sex included -- from obtaining a piece of paper that documents the state's recognition of their condom-mitment.....err commitment to each other.) I'm not promoting stronger enforcement of separation of church and state (SOCAS). However, I AM appalled by people's misguided characterization of the issue as a SOCAS issue. I'm angered beyond words by their irrational views toward religion: dismissing the existence of a god before making any effort to find out if one exists, expecting a person to put human law before that of a god, demonizing religious beliefs that they neither hold nor understand and using Bible scripture to support ideas that God is most likely against.

When it comes to matters of religious freedom, all people should ask themselves, "Is there a god???" instead of asserting that they won't have religion crammed down their throats. While I won't assert here that there is a god, I WILL assert that the facts should be considered before a person's feelings. It stands to reason that, if God DOES exist and Revelation is right about the doom that awaits non-believers, then these people who don't want religion crammed down their throats will pay eternally. (I actually don't believe God puts women in Hell; but, I won't cram that down your throat.)

It is important to note that SOCAS forbids the establishment of a state religion by government and it forbids government to interfere with any person's exercise of that person's religious beliefs and practices. Kim Davis didn't prevent gays from marrying in Kentucky. She refused to be personally involved in the process, as her religious beliefs forbid her to partake in such activities. If anyone's religious freedoms were threatened, hers were.

Many are they who suggest that Kim Davis should readily marry same-sex couples because it is the job she willingly took on. Let's not forget that the Supreme Court made gay marriage legal AFTER Kim Davis took office. This puts her on the short end of a bait and switch. It makes sense for all governments in the country to design a system whereby various elected officials can navigate the issue of now having as part of their jobs certain duties that they are adverse to and which they didn't have when they initially were elected.

Throughout this public pubic debate people have insisted that Kim Davis should obey human law over God's Law. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever (unless you can prove that there is no god). Irrespective of a person's religion, others should understand that the person's religion is first and foremost in their life and that they fear what their god -- real or perceived -- will do to them if they fail to do His will. It is not just religiously insensitive, but also quite stupid, to suggest that a person obey the laws of people who can imprison over the laws of a god who can damn eternally.

Idiotic Americans who wrongly put their feelings before the facts and often don't make any effort to learn the facts also tend to use irrational sensationalism to demonize beliefs that they don't hold or understand. Just to be clear, what makes a statement sensationalistic is a person's use of emotionally charged words that are intended to elicit feelings and take the place of a longer, bilateral reasoning process. Such is the case when folk refer to devoutly religious people as "homophobic". Try having a calm, rational conversation with such a person about the basis for their beliefs. What if they were to call you evil, satanic or lawless before hearing your views??? Let's replace name-calling with reasoning.

Not only do many on the left have short memories; but, they have actually forgotten their initial argument against those who are against gay marriage -- that people fear what they don't understand. "Phobia" comes from Greek and describes a fear that is so intense that it renders a person motionless. (For reference, see the blonde woman cowering in the corner in the scary movie of your choice.) This definition was recognized in America as recently as 35 years ago. Since then, the left has co-opted the term and extended its meaning to include dislike of something such as homosexuality. Now, instead of fostering understanding in both directions, the left labels the devoutly religious as homophobes and alienates them altogether. So much for keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

To the left's credit, they've read parts of the Bible for themselves and/or been advised by left-wing Christians who never held the views of people like Kim Davis. For that reason, some have concluded that Mrs. Davis is required by Scripture to obey government. While that assertion is correct on its face, it fails to draw out the conflict between obeying God's marital laws and obeying God's command to obey government. It also fails to recognize that God Himself was displeased with various rulers -- a truth that calls into question this notion of blind obedience. All of this makes it necessary to juxtapose numerous scriptures and to objectively discuss how a devout believer might obey each one simultaneously. In any instance, the left needs to stop its hypocrisy whereby it is intolerant of the religious beliefs of the people whom it accuses of being intolerant of alternative lifestyles. The left should also recognize when an organization such as the church was founded on doctrines that are now thousands of years old but with the understanding that those doctrines were meant to stay the same. If you don't like the nature of a non-governmental entity, don't join it.

Quite idiotically, this country that has claimed that the Catholic Church and/or Vatican was wrong for upholding centuries old doctrines which include an all-male priesthood and forbid birth control. Furthermore, the contracts that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC has with DC Government were called into question when gay marriage was legalized in the nation's capital and Catholic Charities refused to extend employee benefits to same-sex spouses. The left often tries to force its views on the right without any regard for the views of the right -- the very thing they don't want done to them. Furthermore, if you follow the logic that a person should comply with the policies of an entity that they join as a member or employee, that makes the maverick U.S. nuns and the gay employees of Catholic Charities wrong.

Now I'm smart enough to know that this blog post seems extremely right-wing to some. I prefer to see it as extremely right-thinking. There are some basic sensibilities that should come to mind any time that a person considers a faith other than their own. However, people let their feelings get in the way and they insist that they are right either before or without hearing the other side argue its case. That said, I'm using the Kim Davis situation to revisit an issue that has bothered me for years -- the dumbing down of America.

In closing, I'll say that I associate with the left, having come to the social justice fight as a homeless advocate. I would learn after committing myself to the cause that I was expected to align myself with all tenets of the left. I decided to simply remain silent on matters where my stance differs from that of the majority of American leftists. But for what it's worth to you, I have attended the Church of the Epiphany for 10 years and preached my first sermon ever on August 9th, 2015. My church (which is four blocks from where Pope Francis will feed the homeless on September 24th) currently has a female rector and performs gay unions. I haven't even considered leaving it.


Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Cell phone: (240) 305-5255 
425 2nd St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2003  My Blog
[Click] Forcing Results from Government:
Asking an advocate for the poor to be nice is like asking a soldier to fight a war without a weapon.