Follow Pope Francis on Twitter

tweets“I get most of my news from Twitter.”

No, not me – someone I was listening to on a podcast…someone highly educated, articulate, respected.  Perhaps someone who isn’t the world’s deepest thinker or has an attention span of only 140 characters.

I don’t spend much time on Twitter, and the selection of people I follow is a bit narrow.  Someone I urgently recommend is the Pope.

Pope Francis has more than 35 million followers on his Twitter accounts in nine languages, according to Vatican Radio

The numbers for the various languages: 13.6 million in Spanish, 12.1 million in English, 4.52 million in Italian, 2.79 million in Portuguese, 894,000 in Polish, 854,000 in French, 825,000 in Latin, 472,000 in German, 378,000 in Arabic.

The @Pontifex account, opened by Pope Benedict XVI on Dec. 3, 2012, is among the most followed in the world and the one that records the most retweets. Since March 19, 2015, Pope Francis is also present on Instagram with the account @Franciscus, which has recently exceeded 4 million subscribers.

Among world leaders, the Holy Father is in the top spot, following closely by US President Donald Trump.  The world’s Twitter leader is singer Katy Perry, with more than 100 million followers.

As you may have heard, there is a good deal of political warfare waged on Twitter.  You don’t to be on Twitter to know what President Trump tweets; it is reported everywhere.  It tends to generate conversation.

At the other end of the Twitter spectrum are the pop stars like Katy Perry.  I don’t follow Miss Perry, but I checked her Twitter page and quickly learned that she is a woman who has trouble deciding her favorite hair color.  And I learned which other pop star she was riding with on a motorcycle.

Obviously, Twitter can give you a full range from political name-calling to vapid fan gossip.

But check out the Pope – he brings you the real Word.

Just make up your mind

coinUntil a few days ago, I never heard of Brad “Ria” Cooper.  I don’t have anything against him and have a bit of pity for him.

Brad appears to be on a path to earn an entire chapter in the Guinness Book of World Records.  He was the youngest person in the UK to have a sex-change operation, going from male to female at age 15.  After he turned 18, he changed his mind and transitioned back to being male, albeit a gay man.  Now in his early 20s, he is transitioning back to being female (again).

I’m sure there is a long and heart-string-tugging story to be told about Brad.  But with other issues to consider, I won’t pursue it.

The story I find interesting is that of the loss of moral clarity in the UK medical system.  This accompanies its long-standing loss of reputation for caring in any manner for the welfare of their patients.

I have but one personal experience with the medical system in the UK.  It occurred about 18 years ago when I was working in London, got a case of bronchitis.  I mentioned to one of my office colleagues that I had decided I needed to see a doctor and supposed I go to the nearest health clinic.

“You can’t do that,” my colleague exclaimed.  “They’ll kill you…let me give you the name of a private doctor who can help you.”

So, I avoided the government-run clinic and visited the private doctor.  He had a nice office, was extremely polite, gave me a thorough exam, provided me with medicine and charged me a very reasonable fee.

I decided that private medicine trumped socialized medicine.  I have experience nothing on either side of the Atlantic to change that view.

Still, it would be possible for the UK to have an inefficient and ineffective socialized medical system while maintaining some semblance of morality.  But such is not the case.

In recent weeks, we witnessed the despicable – and ultimately successful – campaign by UK medical officials and courts to make sure a sick baby had no chance to live.  Now, the UK’s medical system ponders whether it is appropriate for it to pay to turn a boy into a girl into a man into a woman.

When you lose your moral compass, it becomes really difficult to set priorities, let alone know right from wrong.  Perhaps your only guide is the toss of a coin.

Genetic modification – or mutilation?

Genebank4_(4331057760)Genetic modification is nothing new.  Some might call it miraculous.

The practice started a few thousand years before the birth of Christ.  If a farmer grew corn, he would plant seeds from the hardiest plants that produce the most.  If a herder wanted to improve his flock, he would breed the strongest ram with the fattest ewe to produce better lambs.

Of course, things got more sophisticated in the past several decades.  The first genetically modified plants appeared in the 1980s.  We got better corn, cheese, potatoes and cotton.  In the past couple years, we got modified animals approved for consumption, notably faster-growing salmon.

These improvements come from scientists in laboratories, a clan with admirable determination to make the world a better place.  And who could argue with longer-lasting tomatoes, fluffier rice or sterile mosquitos?

But what about human beings?  What if scientists could modify human genes and make better people?

That has a certain appeal.  Humans aren’t perfect.  My lower back has a slipped disk that must be the result of poor design.  My sinuses are prone to infection.  It wouldn’t hurt to have a few more points on my IQ score.  Maybe those are things genetic engineering could address.  But I doubt it is possible to re-engineer me at the relatively advanced stage of my life.

For future generations, scientists have improvement plans.  Really smart researchers in Portland, Oregon have created genetically modified embryos.  They didn’t let them grow for long, just enough to prove that their genetic editing had been successful.  Then they killed them.  This raises some moral issues in my mind.

First, there is the issues of creating life in a lab, then destroying it.  My reading of the catechism suggests there are at least two wrongs here and they will never yield a right.

Second, there is the potential application of the law of unintended consequences.  By fixing one problem, science might create another.  Maybe engineering people to be smarter would make them arrogant, selfish and less appreciative of God’s gifts.

Third – and speaking of God – as trite as it sounds, are we playing God by playing with the very building blocks of humanity?  Past efforts to build a better man have yielded sad results.

A century ago, the eugenics movement to improve the human race produced racism, sterilizations and abortions.

Nazi efforts at genetic/racial purification produced the genocide of “lesser” races, millions of deaths, torture, hideous experiments and the “great war.”

Such horrors could never happen today.  We’re so more advanced, so smarter, more sophisticated, more.  Perhaps.  But are we any wiser?  We may simply have greater means to create a horror we can’t predict.

Making men meek

John_Wayne_-_1961The last thing any Ivy League school wants is a masculine male wandering around the campus.

This is the era of the sensitive, submissive, weakling.  And at Princeton, enlightened administrators are acting to make sure no latent John Wayne types get loose.

Yes, Princeton is hiring something called an Interpersonal Violence Clinician and Men’s Engagement Manager.  On the surface, the university appears to be determined to prevent stalking and rape.  But I think the real goal is to eliminate what some of the Princeton folks are calling “toxic masculinity.”

I’m not sure what toxic masculinity is and since I’m a man, I’m probably disqualified from defining it.  After all, I think guys like John Wayne act the way men are supposed to act.

But I believe I can provide a service that Princeton has yet to recognize it needs – help with rooting out toxic femininity.  The university isn’t hiring someone to work on that, so I recommend restrictions on coeds that can eliminate offensive behavior:

  1. No makeup.
  2. Hair may be no longer than six inches.
  3. Hair must be its natural color and may not be altered in any way. (If it is straight you can’t make it curly; if it is curly you can’t make it straight.)
  4. Eyebrows may not be tweezed.
  5. Nose hairs may not be trimmed.
  6. Armpits may not be shaved.
  7. Legs may not be shaved.
  8. No high heels.
  9. No skin shown below the collarbone or above the knee.
  10. No winking, smiling or giggling when in the presence of men.

I assume Princeton and its female students would have no problem with any of these rules, as they would help to discourage toxic masculinity through the reduction of toxic femininity.  This will make the campus less threatening to some – and more boring for all.

Save us from total economic collapse

lemonIt is that dangerous season, the height of summer when the recurrent threat to civilization rears its ugly head.

I speak not of ISIS, biological terrorism, nuclear war or global warming.  No.  I speak of the outbreak of unlicensed, unregulated, uninspected businesses that strike fear in the hearts of regulators and bureaucrats.

Across the nation, these threats to health and safety spring up on city streets, suburban roads and even innocent rural paths.  The criminals who staff them may look innocent, but they are scofflaws with no respect for the will of the nanny state that issues permissions for the sun to rise and set.

Make no mistake, this danger cannot be allowed to stand.

But stand it does, as in lemonade stand.  Yes, I’m talking the summer lemonade stand, typically staffed by boys and girls in the age range of 4-10.

These insurgent enterprises pop up like dandelions in my lawn, charging undercutting prices of 25 cents for a class of lemonade, sometimes with the tantalizing offer of a free cookie thrown in to further undermine the will of the governing elite.

It gets worse.  Often the proceeds from these stands can total several dollar, with taxes and FICA withholding surreptitiously avoided.  This tricky scheme may cost state and local government dozens of dollars a year, the price of rampant lawlessness.

There is but one solution to this disheartening tragedy:  ignore it.

That’s right.  Don’t call the police, the health department or the National Security Agency.

Just smile and accept reality.  Boys will be boys.  Girls will be girls.  Children always have sold lemonade and they always will.

As long as they do, a useful check on overbearing government and crabby neighbors will prevail.  God Bless America.

Beyond Charlie

SeghersjobNaked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD. – Job 1:21

I have of late thought much of death.  It isn’t personal; no dread diseases beset me, no dangerous journeys lie in my immediate future.

It is to Charlie Gard’s credit that I consider who ultimately owns life and death.  Is it the doctors who treated him?  Is it the judge who denied his parents the freedom to travel overseas for further treatment?  Is it the well-intentioned bureaucracy of British health care? Is it his parents?

Imagine the pain of those parents.  Less than a year ago they brought a seemingly health son home.  But he didn’t progress as other babies his age and doctors soon discovered his serious illness.  In the months ahead, he was back in the hospital, his condition worsening and his parents working for funds and permission to get more help.  Delays…delays…delays…too late…now.

Those parents soared from obscurity to prime players in an international debate over when to pull the plug on Charlie’s life support machinery.  No parent would choose this path to notoriety.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens. – Genesis 1:20

homocaraAs Christians, we believe life comes from God; it didn’t just ooze up from the mud of a spontaneous planet.  And God had better plans for us than death.

Do not court death by your erring way of life, nor draw to yourselves destruction by the works of your hands. Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creatures of the world are wholesome. There is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of Hades on earth. For righteousness is undying. It was the wicked who with hands and words invited death, considered it a friend, and pined for it, and made a covenant with it, because they deserve to be allied with it. — Wisdom 1:12-16

 Modern medicine has helped us to cure dreaded diseases and mend broken bodies.  The issue of when to remove a baby from life support didn’t exist when I was a baby.  If I had been as sick as Charlie Gard, a judge would have had nothing to decide; I would have died.

I fear we sometimes start to believe we are God, with the power — and wisdom to decide who lives and who dies.  In Charlie’s case, it appears a judge will determine when a baby dies.  That scares me .It should scare you.

Of course, we can only delay earthly death.  There is a path to overcome death; if we don’t believe that, there isn’t much point to being Christian.  That path is a person, Jesus Christ.  He and Charlie have this in common: both had a judge who failed to intervene on their behalf.  Unlike Jesus, Charlie is just a baby.  But he has given us much to think about.

 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. – 1Corinthians 15:26

 

 

No place to experiment

armyI never served in the military.  So, it is possible I have this all wrong.  But I doubt it.

My late father and late father-in-law both served, as did several of my other relatives.  In conversations with them, paying attention to the news and watching probably every movie John Wayne ever made, I got the impression the military isn’t the place for social experimentation.

The military experiments, but more along the lines of how to keep its members safe and eliminate the enemy most effectively.  Sorting out issues related to human sexuality shouldn’t be a priority for people getting prepared for war.

Thus, I was a bit dismayed last week when I read news articles about life in the US Army.  (Kudos for Lifesite for reporting.)

First, it seems the Army has informed its female soldiers that they should show dignity and respect for transgender soldier who are in the process of transitioning from male to female.  These transitioning folk will be using the female barracks and showers even though they are still anatomically male.

In other words, if you are a female soldier and you encounter someone with a penis in your showers, don’t worry; they aren’t really a guy, but an uncompleted woman.

I’m not sure (nor do I want to speculate on this too much) how you know the difference between a transitioning person and a guy who just decided to ogle the women in the bath, but the situation must lead to some interesting conversations for military recruiters…

SARGEANT RECRUITER:  So, tell me about yourself.

AMORPHOUS RECRUIT:  Well, I’m called William Smith on my birth certificate.  Most of my life, people have called me Bill.  But in the past couple years I have started to sense that I should have been Gertrude.  So, my close friends now call me Gert.

SARGE:  That is really interesting.  As you know, the military is open to people of all gender persuasions. Would you like to be assigned to male or female quarters?

BILL/GERT:  Gee, that is a tough one.  Some days I feel like a boy and some days I feel like a girl.  Do I really have to choose?

SARGE:  I hope it doesn’t seem unsympathetic or in any way, threatening to your fluid personhood, but you do have to select one.  However, the Army will do everything to make you feel comfortable and if you decide to be a man now and decide later you would rather be a woman, we’ll pay for whatever treatments and surgeries are involved.

I probably should have mentioned this earlier; the military pays for its members to have sex-change operations. That means we are paying for the operations.  And I don’t think this is a wise investment in the defense of our nation.

You don’t have to be a genius or have won an Olympic medal to join the Army.  But there are entrance exams and fitness tests.  Not everyone gets in.  And if it were up to me, recruits would have to be a demonstrable member of one gender, without the option of changing later on.

The Army isn’t the place to work out sexual identity.

Charlie Gard will die

Lilium_longiflorum_(Easter_Lily)Charlie Gard came into this world on August 4, 2016.  His parents love him and want him to have as much of life as God wills for him.  He may be dead by the time you read this.

Charlie has a rare genetic disorder and brain damage.  Doctors in the UK say his condition is terminal and there is nothing more to be done.

Charlie’s parents don’t accept that opinion.  Parents tend to resist such news.  I know.  I’m a parent and no medical situation, no matter how dire, no matter how terrifying, could remove hope from my heart for a sick child.

As you probably have read, Charlie’s case has been the subject of lawsuits, court rulings, opinions from doctors and medical ethicists, countless news reports and the tears of parents around the world.  Even Pope Francis  and President Trump weighed in.

Medical authorities in the UK won’t let Charlie go home, won’t let his parents take him to the United States for treatment and won’t like his parents take him to Italy for treatment.

I suppose they figure if they can’t heal him, he can’t be healed.  They likely are right, but why fight someone else who is willing to try – and the scores of people willing to pay for trying?

Charlie’s parents are a bump in the road of state-controlled medicine.  They didn’t fall in line with the “system.”  The European Court of Human Rights rejected their final appear.  I guess Charlie has run out of human rights.  When you can’t get help from a court of “human rights”, the Pope or the President, you probably have reached the end of the road.

But it is only an earthly road.  Charlie’s situation moves millions of people around the world.  His parents love him.  God loves him.  He was the definition of innocent victim.

Charlie Gard will die. So will you.  So will I.  Everyone dies.

You and I pray we’ll get to heaven.  I’m pretty sure St. Peter already has a place reserved for Charlie.

Don’t write us off

lennonzukerbergjesus

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I know I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first – rock & roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” – John Lennon, 1966

People have been predicting the end of our Church for a long time.  All were wrong:  Nero, Attila, Hitler, Stalin and so forth.

People usually make this prediction when they have achieved great success in the eyes of the secular world:  money, popularity, influence, power and so forth.  My experience is that people who have acquired such attributes are tempted to feel a bit, well, god-like.

The latest person to unveil this god complex is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  At a conference in Chicago (my fair city) last week, he said, “It’s so striking that for decades, membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter.  That’s a lot of people now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.”

Surprise; he thinks the somewhere else is Facebook.  He suggests (and I have to admit this is positive) that people connected in meaningful ways to others have a greater sense of purpose and give more to charity.  I’m just not convinced that Facebook connects people in a meaningful way.

Facebook and its ilk are called “social” media, not “deeply spiritual, life-changing, salvation-producing” media.  But after 13 years of spectacular growth, a movie of his life story and a few billions in the bank, Zuckerberg likely is feeling rather almighty.

The Fab Four (Beatles) had dozens of hit songs, but nothing to compare with Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

Facebook has reached billions of people.  But it never raised anyone from the dead.  It never promised eternal salvation (and it can’t).  And I’m willing to bet nobody will remember it in 100 years, let alone a couple millennia, as in the case of Christ.

Our culture idolizes the worldly successful.  He who dies with the most toys wins it seems.

Truth is, social media are weak and powerless compared to the son God.  He is the only one you can “friend” to get to heaven.

How much for your vote?

dollar-726884_960_720The special congressional election in Georgia’s Sixth District set a sad record: most money ever spent on a congressional election.

Thirty million dollars.  And as I said, sad.

The district has a population of just under 700,000.  A subset of that number is eligible to vote and as in every district, the subset of people who actually vote is smaller.

The special election generated 260,000 votes.  I figure 80 percent were sure bets to vote for either the Democrat or the Republican.  That means there were about 52,000 people who were pondering their pick.

And it was to influence the decisions of those 52,000 voters that political operatives spent $30,000,000.  For that heap of cash, you gets lots of radio and television ads, billboards, posters, brochures, buttons, refrigerator magnets and rubber-chicken dinners.

Of course, what you are looking for is votes.  If you do the math, you are spending $577 for each of the 52,000 votes in play.  Like I said, sad.

Something is terribly wrong when we spend so much money to market, promote and sell political candidates.  We must believe that the biggest spender will win, not the soundest idea.  Does money make right?