Religious Persecution: Let’s NOT?

Irish crossRESOLVED: That the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition. –ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Published in a book written in 1920 titled Abraham Lincoln, Man of God by Dr. John W. Hill, this quote rang in my head when I read it today in a news story.

I loathe involving myself in any conversation that is political in nature.  It causes uncomfortable disharmony interiorly, and I value harmony much more than I care to admit.  That desire to distance myself from some flavors of discord is sometimes holy and other times not so much.

Today I’ve bumped up against a problem.  So, here I go stirring the pot.

My oldest son is 16.  He mumbles.  His room smells like the inside of a sneaker after practice.  I try not to pick fights too much but he’s driving me to stick my tongue out at him after he leaves the room these days.  That’s why it blows my mind that he is the one who made me realize I have to go on the record on this whole dreaded matter of “Obamacare”.

I’m not going to discuss our silly government who closes down the WWII Memorial to vets and leaves open the fitness center for Congressmen.  I am assuming that all reasonable people are with me on that one.  So, I’m sticking my neck out for one reason.  I don’t want to show up at the pearly gates and have to explain why I run off at the mouth about so many things that don’t matter a lick and chose to keep quiet on this one.

“Mom?  The Little Sisters of the Poor have a crappy choice.  Do I have this right?  Poor Nuns, like literally poor—it’s in their name– who take care of equally poor old people with nowhere else to go have to either agree to pay for abortion drugs or else give the government like a million dollars a day?”

“Yes, hon. “

“Well, don’t you think the people who work there knew they were going to be working for Catholics when they took the job?  I mean, obviously you’re gonna offend a nun if you ask them to do that.  They’re NUNS.  It seems like you would just not work there if you wanted that.   I mean the place is called SAINT Augustine.  Why not just apply for a job at Starbucks or something instead?”

So, my teenager wants to understand what’s happening?  The same kid who barely seems to notice there are others even in his space some days?  The kid’s observation seems pretty spot on.  You see, freedom to WORSHIP is not the same as freedom of CONSCIENCE.  Abraham Lincoln understood it very clearly.   Despite being a teenager, Nick seems to find the logic mind-bending too.

This is America:  Land of the free and home of the brave.  Today it’s my turn to be brave and go on the record.

Everyday, the Catholic Church feeds, clothes, shelters and educates more people than any other organization in the world.  It truly makes me proud to be Catholic.  Without freedom of conscience rights, this is in jeopardy.  If the statistics I read today are correct (and it is possible since Google has been wrong before), 13% of medical care institutions in the United States are Catholic.

Here’s what I think.  I think anyone who truly believes in God (by any name), respects the freedom of conscience rights of others.  Even kids know this interiorly.  Well, those that are blessed do.  That’s why Nick was thrown.  He understands the problem very easily.  Why?   It’s because he is a believer.

When I was about nine years old, we used to play “kick the can” in the backyard with the neighbors.  I would occasionally complain about the choice of game (mostly because I was slow and somewhat afraid of the dark).  One of the Benjamin boys would inevitable yell “What you’re problem?  Is it against your religion or something?”

I would argue this oft heard phrase indicates that even children recognize one ought not to interfere with matters of faith.  It’s sacrosanct.  A smart guy named Lincoln apparently thought so too.

“NO Brian, it’s not against my religion but how about let’s NOT and say we did?  Cuz I am so sick of this game!”

Those who argue that we Catholics are being “intolerant” on this matter of Obamacare  or are “overly sensitive” are largely unchurched people, I would guess.  Those who love God and choose faith in whatever tradition generally appreciate freedom of conscience and grasp the difference between that and merely the “freedom to worship” mindset that is prevalent in our overwhelmingly secular culture.

A Jewish friend with whom I have shared this debate quietly,  quickly came to understand my perspective once we chatted.  She believes in freedom of religion, not just freedom of worship.  That’s because Judaism is not just a set of beliefs about God, it’s a comprehensive way of life filled with rules and practices that affect every aspect of life:  what you can and cannot eat, what you can and cannot wear, how to conduct business, who you can marry, how to observe holidays, how to treat others.  This set of rules is called halakhah.  What I have been told is that traditional Jews believe that properly observed, it turns the most mundane or small things into acts of religious significance, which in turn leads one closer to God.

So, here’s the deal.  What’s being asked of Catholics now is a violation of conscience.  Or as Brian Benjamin would prefer “it’s against my religion.”

If violating the conscience rights of another doesn’t turn one’s stomach, then what I think we have is a person who does not realize that God loves them.  Our intense prayers are needed.  There is only one, and he cannot prevail, who wishes for a soul to lack a relationship with God.

For me personally, I know that I fail over and over.  I try not to worry too much about perfection but just persist giving my best effort.  I just try to give my heart to Jesus.  I know that He will take it, mold it, and fill it with the fire of His love if I keep asking.  Therefore, there’s no judgment here on this matter of making your own choices.  In Shelly’s world, YOU ARE FREE TO MAKE YOUR CHOICE about your own life, lifestyle, and healthcare.  God gave us all the gift of free will.

Don’t ask me, however, to give up my freedom of conscience rights to pay for another man’sfree will choices.

That’s called religious persecution.

This is America:  land of the free.

Let’s NOT?  I’m sick of it.

Sidebar:  Did you know my given name is actually Michelle?  That will help here below.

Here’s the prayer to my patron Saint, a fitting prayer for my petition today:  That all souls may know the love of God in this life and ever after.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

2 thoughts on “Religious Persecution: Let’s NOT?

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