Teaching & Suggestions

This is an unsettling development in the American Catholic Church. However, we had it coming. With priestly scandals, weak-kneed bishops, liberal and leftist theology and politics — what are serious Catholics to do? The answer is to hunker down, pray and work for revival, but many are looking to the conservative, experiential, emotionally-satisfying Evangelical churches and/or their exciting personal theology for reli

See my video below about what “born again” really means according to the Bible.

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A study found that the number of Catholics calling themselves “born again or evangelical” increased by 85% since 2008.

John Burger | Jan 28, 2020

There’s been a recent trend of Catholics identifying as “born-again,” a term that has become loaded with both religious and political connotation. But in spite of evidence suggesting that the upward trend has been caused by political trends, a political scientist maintains that the trend is more faith-based than anything.“We can see that for both Republicans and Democrats the more frequently they attend church the more likely they are to identify as born-again,” writes Ryan Burge, who teaches at Eastern Illinois University, at the website Religion in Public.

“The model predicts that a Catholic who never attends is only about 5% likely to identify as born-again, while about a quarter of Catholics who attend multiple times a week would identify as a ‘born-again or evangelical’ Christian.

The other noteworthy thing here is how small the differences in estimates are for the Republicans and Democrats. The lines never deviate more than 4% and at the top end of the attendance scale, there’s no statistical difference in the estimates for Republican and Democratic Catholics. It seems that the rise in born-again Catholics is based more on religion than politics.

In 2008, the share of Catholics who said that they were “born-again or evangelical” was at 8.9%. “However, from there we see a steady and unbroken rise, when it reaches its apex in 2016 at 16.4%,” Burge rerouted, basing his study on the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. “That’s an 85% increase in the number of born-again Catholics.”

It’s also a time period that coincides with the two terms of President Barack H. Obama. Might the upward trend be in response to the Obama administration’s championing of liberal policies such as legal abortion and same-sex marriage?

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this figure was the lowest during Obama’s first election and at its peak during Trump’s victory in 2016,” Burge opined. “Since then, there’s been a modest decline: currently ~15% of Catholics believe that they are “born-again or evangelical,” down about a percentage point.”

According to the apologetics organization Catholic Answers, Catholics and Protestants agree that to be saved, you have to be born again. Jesus says in John 3:3, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

“When a Catholic says that he has been ‘born again,’ he refers to the transformation that God’s grace accomplished in him during baptism. Evangelical Protestants typically mean something quite different,” Catholic Answers says. “For an Evangelical, becoming ‘born again’ often happens like this: He goes to a crusade or a revival where a minister delivers a sermon telling him of his need to be ‘born again.’ …

So the gentleman makes ‘a decision for Christ’ and at the altar call goes forward to be led in ‘the sinner’s prayer’ by the minister. Then the minister tells all who prayed the sinner’s prayer that they have been saved—’born again.’”

Burge looked at data from various angles—age, education, race. But what really jumped out at him was the correlation of Catholics identifying as “born-again” with their attendance at Mass.

He concluded saying he thinks the American public may see the term “born-again or evangelical” as more a label of religious devoutness, regardless of tradition, rather than a type of religious conversion. “That is: ‘born-again’ may be a shortcut for ‘really religious,’” he explained. “This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that 45% of born-again Catholics say that they attend church at least once a week, compared to just 25% of not born-again Catholics.”

Burge also found that in the 2018 sample of born-again Catholics, 43.6% identified as Republican—the highest recorded number. “It seems that this group of born-again Catholics is starting to coalesce around a specific type of political/religious identity,” he said.

“What’s curious, though, is that religious devotion in America has increasingly meant being more conservative politically,” Burge wraps up. “If that’s the case then we should have seen Catholic Democrats hesitate to embrace the label. So, that’s an unsatisfying conclusion. … Maybe ‘born-again’ needs to be seen as its own category, regardless of the religious tradition people select alongside it.”

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Was Jesus Nice?

by Steve Ray on January 7, 2020

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me. “That was not very Christ-like.” This response usually comes after being honest to the point of making someone upset.  The implication is that Jesus was a cuddly little nice guy who was always smiling, always accepting with kind words – in short NICE.

In America we tend to be pretty nice, except maybe if you live in New York City. But in contrast to the rest of the world we tend to be very polite, genteel, gracious and nice. Tour guides in other countries say that Americans are the nicest people. We transpose our niceness onto Jesus and think he was a lot like us.

But does LOVE = NICE?

Of course Jesus was loving. He is God after all and God is love (1 John 4:8). We also know that love does not always equate to NICE. God allowed Paul to have a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (2 Cor 12:7). Three times Paul prayed for it to be removed. God said NO.  God was not acting very American. He certainly wasn’t very nice about it.

Nice is defined primarily as “pleasant or commendable, kind or friendly” (Collins English Dictionary). It originally comes from the Latin meaning “simple, silly or ignorant.”

There is such a thing as “tough love.” It is the kind of love that cares enough to be honest, to confront, to discipline, to cause temporary pain to bring about eternal glory.  On the surface “tough love” does not always appear to be nice. How often has a child, sent to the corner blurt out “You are not very nice!”

Was Jesus nice?

Like Aslan the Lion in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Jesus is approachable and loving, but don’t ever consider him “tame” or too cuddly. Jesus is God as well as man. He expressed the wrath and anger of God as well as the mercy and love of God.

Imagine coming to the Temple in Jerusalem one day to pray. You hear a great commotion and run over to see an angry man throwing over tables, grabbing the money from the merchants and throwing the money on the ground.

Whipping the money changers and dumping over their tables

But worse, you see him make a scourge of cords – a whip – and striking people with it. You are shocked that anyone would be so rude and destructive, so inconsiderate and mean to lash people with a whip. People ran in fear! Everyone was upset. Jesus was red in the face and scowling.  It certainly wasn’t very “Christ-like.” How nice was that?

Jesus was always loving, but he was not always nice, as we Americans count niceness. Here is just one example. Jesus spoke very harshly to his fellow Jews.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. . . .  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:27,  28, 33).

Ouch! It doesn’t sound very kind and courteous: not very thoughtful or nice!

So, maybe there is more to WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) than we’ve been led to believe. Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about being nice, being liked, acting like genteel Americans. Maybe we ought to be more honest and forthright about the things that really matter.  Maybe we should be more willing to hurt some feelings, step on some toes, show tough love to those in sin.

Maybe we should be more Christ-like.

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Was He Ready to Die?

October 19, 2019

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul, it was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They […]

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Who Are the Poor I’m Supposed to Care For?

October 13, 2019

As we leave our rented apartment in Rome and walk towards St. Peter’s Square I notice a ragged, filthy woman sitting on a piece of cardboard with a baby laying lethargically in her arms. She looks up with mournful eyes and pathetically mumbles something as she reaches out hoping I’ll put coins in her hand. […]

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Was Abraham Saved by Faith Alone? Are the Protestants Right?

August 25, 2019

Today (Monday) I will be on the radio with Gary Michuta at 1 PM at https://virginmostpowerfulradio.org/. Hope you can listen in. Our topic will be Abraham, Father of Faith & Works. I am looking forward to this live show. In honor of this event today I am posting this article on Abraham, a critique I made of […]

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Vine, Branches & Fire: Where Will You End up?

August 24, 2019

One has to take time to care for their land and awhile ago I was cutting wild vines out of the trees and thought of the words of Jesus in John 15:5–6, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much […]

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Bias in Bible Translations

August 22, 2019

Translating Holy Scripture is a necessary process by which the sacred text is provided in various languages, usually rendered from the original languages. Not all translations are created equal. Some result from one scholar’s work, others the work of a committee of scholars. Some are literal while others tend toward paraphrase. Translation resembles a sliding […]

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Evangelism Antennas: A Fun Story of One Woman’s Day and the New Evangelism :-)

August 6, 2019

A while ago I gave a talk in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was about the New Evangelization. As part of my talk I explained how Janet and I have our “evangelism antennas” up first thing in the morning – alertly watching for open doors and ways to share our Catholic Faith throughout the day. And […]

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Sympathy for Cradle Catholics Who Can’t Explain or Defend the Faith

July 5, 2019

I thought of a helpful illustration to explain why “cradle Catholics” are often unable to explain and defend the Catholic faith. The example has its weaknesses, but it does help get the point across. As an American I asked myself this question: if some one trained to attack America intellectually approached me on the street […]

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Corpus Christi Sunday: Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 23, 2019

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

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Does one have to experience strong emotion to be a real Christian?

June 5, 2019

I received a few e-mails from a gentleman and his wife, obviously both good and excited Catholics who had recently had a real encounter with Jesus that had revived their faith and filled them with joy and emotion. Brian and his wife were disturbed that I talked so much about the Catholic Church when the […]

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

May 16, 2019

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it […]

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The Eucharist: the Flesh Profits Nothing

May 12, 2019

Since we are in Capernaum today, I decided to share a few words related to the site. I was recently asked a related questions questionic Answers Live. Capernaum is where Jesus said “Eat My Flesh; Drink My Blood.” I thought it would be appropriate to answer an e-mail I received a while ago from a man named […]

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How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb? Another Contradiction?

April 20, 2019

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:38-40) Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb […]

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Welcoming New People at Mass this Easter – They May Be an Answer to Someone’s Prayers

April 16, 2019

We get busy on during the Easter Season. We don’t have a lot of respect for people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter. We may be irritated that seats are taken and the church is noisy. But, you are praying for your family and friends to come back to church and MAYBE these […]

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