Our American Values – The Dignity of Lions and Babies

“American Values”. It’s the traditional slogan for everything our nation holds dear: life, liberty, hard work, and so on. But what about modern American Values? What would they be? It’s something I’ve pondered for a while, but the thought really came to a head this week.

On the same day that news broke of Cecil–a famous lion in Zimbabwe–being killed by an American hunter, the third undercover Planned Parenthood video was also released. One story is about a beautiful animal that was slain for enjoyment under such effortless conditions that we can’t even call it “hunting”. The other story is about raw imagery offering a glimpse into the dark world of abortion at the hands of a taxpayer-subsidized group, unveiling to the country what has happened to millions of babies over the decades. The lion was protected by law, the unborn were not. Only one of these stories has garnered [intense] media attention and [even more intense] public outrage; can you guess which one?

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Kimmel nearly loses his composure talking about the slain lion.

Everyone is reporting on Cecil. Even entertainers like Jimmy Kimmel are expressing outrage (and tears) at the violent passing of the beloved lion. People on social media cannot avoid the news out of Africa, or the emotional outrage of their friends. While a lion halfway around the world can cause such an emotional response, it should seem shocking that videos of a non-profit organization candidly discussing the dismemberment of unborn babies, perhaps selling their parts for profit along, and actually showing these “doctors” sorting the body parts for sale are getting very little coverage from mainstream news sources. It should also seem shocking that Americans are not plagued with a similar emotional response to the idea of the most innocent and defenseless among our species literally being torn apart by their own kind. It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario where Kimmel or his late-night peers would ever express outrage in a monologue over Planned Parenthood’s anti-human practices.

Perhaps there would be more outrage if there were more coverage of these videos rather than the boring headline of “GOP Wants to Defund Planned Parenthood” that they know the casual news followers will quickly glance over. Our society is driven by visuals, not text. Sometimes until we see something, we cannot really comprehend what’s going on and, thus, cannot be properly outraged. A recent example of this would be how everyone knew that NFL player Ray Rice was abusive towards women, but people were only outraged once they saw it on video footage in an elevator. If only more people were exposed to these videos showing the callous discussion of “crushing” human life and how brutal the actual practice of abortion is. Instead, most casual news followers will be insulated from reality by the soft and caring tone that accompanies “reproductive health”, taking the PR-drafted talking points at face value.

We need to really look at the path America is heading down. We are moving into an era where animals have more rights than some humans. Our priorities are becoming severely perverted against the sanctity of human life. When our reverence for all human life goes, so goes our civilization. Yes, Animals are beautiful creatures of God, and we shouldn’t be callous in how we engage them, but human beings are made in the “image and likeness” of God, with unmeasured dignity. It’s time we heed Saint John Paul II’s words on the “culture of life”.

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5-Year Old Christian Battles Despair with an Epic Burger

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

-Matthew 25:40

Five-year old Josiah Duncan is a Christian whose heart has not been hardened by the indifference to suffering like many of our hearts have. When going to a Waffle House with his mom, he was troubled by a man’s appearance. After asking his mom why the man looked dirty, where his family was, where he lived, and where he kept his groceries, he thought that the man must be hungry. So he convinced mom to hook the dude up with a burger–loaded with bacon of course! Click here for the full story from WMC.

But before eating, Josiah insisted they pray first…

And Josiah [prayed], publicly, with 11 other customers watching. Josiah sang the blessing as loud as his little voice could muster.

“The man cried. I cried. Everybody cried,” [his mom] admitted.

It’s been said by many–including Jesus Himself–that we should approach our Faith and our Father as children. We are to approach as children not only because we are part of a heavenly family, but because children have a better sense of awe for the mystical. Children have stronger faith in the immaterial. Children don’t have “hardened hearts” yet. Children are often more humble.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them,  and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:1-4

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“He came in and sat down, and nobody really waited on him, so Josiah jumped up and asked him if he needed a menu because you can’t order without one.” The man insisted on a cheap hamburger to start, but he was assured he could have anything he wanted. He got the works. “Can I have bacon?” [his mom] remembers him asking, “And I told him get as much bacon you want.”

This post isn’t to suggest that you should blindly throw money at someone shaking you down on the street, rather, it’s to make the point that we shouldn’t default to indifference the moment we see someone that is so obviously broken. Perhaps one person would better be served by money or time donated to an organization that helps people like them. Perhaps another person truly is just looking for their next meal. We need to humble ourselves like children and seek to help people around us. It’s not the government’s job to help the downtrodden, it’s our job.

The gate of Heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it.

-Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Josiah and his mom stamping out despair at Waffle Houses since 2015
Josiah and his mom stamping out despair at Waffle Houses since 2015

Forgiveness in the Wake of Evil

A few days ago the Stoffel family was enjoying a beautiful day in idyllic Menasha, Wisconsin. They were crossing a bridge in a popular park when a deranged gunman decided to shoot as many random people as possible. Four people lost their lives: Brian and Olivia (Father and daughter), Adam Bentdahl (unrelated victim), and Valencia Del Toro (shooter). Erin, the mother, was shot three times and is in severe condition but expected to survive.

According to those who were there, Brian used his last breaths to say “forgive the shooter”. As reported in the Milwaukee paper:

“The family would like to make it known that Erin said Jon’s last words to her after he was shot were, ‘Forgive the shooter.’ We truly love because Christ first loved us. This was the heart of a man who walked the talk — his dying breath and last wish was only that his wife forgive the gunman.”

Would we be able to forgive like Brian did? Could we lie dying next to our wounded family and so quickly forgive the killer? How many of us could truly live out the virtue of forgiveness which, as I often quote from GK Chesterton, is only a virtue if we are able to “pardon the unpardonable“. These are the powerful questions Brian Stoffel forces us to ask ourselves, especially as Christians.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

-Luke 23:34

We hope that the suffering from this tragedy has a meaning we can’t comprehend. We pray for the souls of Brian and Olivia Stoffel. We pray for Erin, that her mind, body, spirit, and living children are able to recover. We pray for the soul of Adam Bentdahl, the third person killed who was also trying to enjoy the nice weather. And, just as Brian asked us to forgive the shooter, we pray for his soul, that he, too, is able to be judged fairly by our Lord and viewed favorably despite this horrendous sin.

Salve Regina

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears! Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Amen

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Adam Bentdahl

Stoffel Family Benefit

Adam Bentdahl | Family Photo
Adam Bentdahl | Family Photo
John and Erin Stoffel
John and Erin Stoffel