John Stonestreet

A-Rod and the Culture of Narcissism

John Stonestreet
By John Stonestreet

August 27, 2013 (Breakpoint) - Here we are in the dog days of August. Makes us think of beaches, barbecues, and baseball. Unfortunately, due to recent news, we no longer think of home runs and hot dogs when we think of baseball. Thanks to superstars like the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, we think of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and cheating.

Rodriguez was on pace to challenge baseball’s most hallowed hitting records. But as a result of his involvement in baseball’s latest steroid scandal, he’s been suspended for 211 games. His career and legacy are in ruins.

A-Rod is appealing the suspension, causing controversy at every ballpark at which he suits up.

Of course, there are a lot more important things to think about than the trials and tribulations of professional sports figures. But the case of A-Rod opens a window to give us a view of where we are—and where we need to be going—as a culture.

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a thoughtful column about Rodriguez and the narcissism that many see in his every decision, including demanding that a personal assistant put toothpaste on his toothbrush.

“One of the mysteries around Rodriguez,” Brooks says, “is why the most supremely talented baseball player on the planet would risk his career to … take performance-enhancing drugs?” Brooks theorizes that “self-preoccupied people have trouble seeing that their natural abilities come from outside themselves and can only be developed when directed toward something else outside themselves. … Locked in a cycle of insecurity and … self-validation, their talents are never enough, and they end up devouring what they have been given.”

It’s devastating.

G.K. Chesterton said that gratitude was the mother of all virtues. Whatever talents and opportunities God has chosen to bestow on us demand our gratitude, and we should aim for His glory as we cultivate them. Self-reflection time: Do we do this? Do you?

Another story out of the sports world provides a stark contrast to A-Rod’s idea of what life is all about. A few weeks ago at the Canadian Open, golfer Hunter Mahan left the tournament to be with his wife, Kandi, who had gone into labor three weeks early.

The really amazing thing about Mahan’s decision is that the thirty-one year old was leading the tournament at the time and had a real chance at the million-dollar winner check. Let me repeat that: “a million dollars.” According to Mahan, though, the decision was easy, because he wasn’t focused on himself or the money, but his family.

“When I am done playing golf,” Mahan said, “I’d rather be noted for being a good husband and good father than anything else … success comes and goes. … Seeing your daughter every day, having a family—that is stuff that makes you happy to your core.”

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The sad thing is that Mahan’s decision wouldn’t have been so newsworthy just a generation ago.

Chuck Colson knew how ubiquitous the culture of narcissism had become, and how we must actively fight it—that we need to call narcissism what it is and repent—even in the church, where self-absorption has gained more than a foothold.

But Chuck knew something else: “The cure for narcissism,” he said, “is stepping away from the mirror and looking at someone else—especially Him who is the true desire of us all.”

Of course, Jesus Christ is not just the cure for narcissism. He’s the cure for all forms of sinful pride and selfishness, and every other sin.

By dying on the cross in our place, taking the punishment we deserve, the Lord was looking out for us, not himself—which is the very antithesis of narcissism! As Paul wrote, Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…. And being found in human form, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” [Phil 2:6-8].

Are you ready to humble yourself, step away from the mirror and up to the plate, and receive this incredible gift Christ offers?

Reprinted with permission from Breakpoint

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State Rep who compared Planned Parenthood with ISIS moves to bar dismemberment abortions

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By Ben Johnson
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State Representative Isaac Latterell, R-Sioux Falls

PIERRE, SD, February 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The state representative who said that Planned Parenthood beheads human beings just like ISIS is calling for the state Senate to ban all forms of dismemberment abortion.

“Planned Parenthood is worse than ISIS,” said State Representative Isaac Latterell, R-Sioux Falls said when introducing H.B. 1230, the Preborn Infant Beheading Ban of 2015. The bill would make it a felony for an abortionist to behead an unborn child as part of an abortion procedure within the state limits.

“There are certain revolting methods of execution, such as beheading, that no state would ever permit, even against murderers who use this method on their victims,” Rep. Latterell said.

The House Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill last week by a 11-2 vote.

But not everyone was happy with the bill and the publicity it drew. (The same committee had killed a dismemberment and decapitation abortion ban last year.)

State Rep. Burt Tulson, R-Lake Norden, amended the beheading law to simply read, “The State of South Dakota recognizes the sanctity of human life.”

The full House passed the amended form of his bill by 65-3 on Thursday, February 19.

Rep. Latterell is now asking the state Senate to revise the bill again – to go beyond beheading and bar all forms of dismemberment of the unborn.

“I knew beheading was an abhorrent technique reserved for the likes of ISIS terrorists, but I did not fully appreciate how much pain the fetal dismemberment that takes place during dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions causes the baby,” Latterell told LifeSiteNews. “I am confident when the Senate committee is finished with its hearing, Planned Parenthood's lies will be exposed. I look forward to banning dismemberment abortion once and for all.”

“Dismemberment abortion kills a baby by tearing her apart limb from limb,” said Daniel Woodard, a Columbus School of Law student who testified for the bill.

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Introducing such a bill would put South Dakota in the mainstream of the national pro-life movement. The National Right to Life Committee has made banning dismemberment abortions a national focus. The same day that the South Dakota House passed Latterell's bill, the Kansas state Senate passed the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act.

Other states, including Oklahoma and Missouri, have introduced legislation to end the most common form of second-trimester abortion, as well.

The amended H.B. 1230 had its first reading in the state Senate on Friday.

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Detaching ‘pastoral practice’ from Catholic doctrine is a ‘dangerous schizophrenic pathology’: Vatican cardinal

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By Hilary White

ROME, February 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Another highly placed Vatican Cardinal has corrected the “progressivist” proposal to offer Holy Communion to Catholics who have been divorced and remarried or who are in other “irregular” sexual unions. The highly respected Cardinal Robert Sarah, recently appointed to the office overseeing the Church’s liturgical practices, says that attempting to detach Catholic teaching from “pastoral practice” is a form of “heresy.”

“The idea that would consist in placing the Magisterium in a nice box by detaching it from pastoral practice – which could evolve according to the circumstances, fads, and passions – is a form of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology,” Cardinal Sarah said.

“The African Church will strongly oppose any rebellion against the teaching of Jesus and the Magisterium,” he added.

The Guinean cardinal is the prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments, but until recently was serving as the head of Cor Unum, the office overseeing the Church’s charitable activities. In his former job, given by Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Sarah was spearheading efforts at reforming the umbrella organization, Caritas Internationalis, as it brought its policies into line with Catholic moral teaching, particularly on contraception and abortion.

The cardinal made the remarks in a book of interviews to be published this week by the French language press, Fayard. Titled “Dieu ou rien” (God or Nothing), the book is described as “frank personal thoughts” on the cardinal’s life, including on “the ideological neo-colonialism in Africa exercised by the decadent West.”

On the various crises of the African continent, he said, “I want to strongly condemn a desire to impose false values ​​using political and financial arguments.” 

He said that in some African countries, “ministries dedicated to gender theory” have been created in order to legitimize the ideology. “These policies are all the more hideous inasmuch as the majority of the African population is defenseless, thanks to the fanatical Western ideologues,” Cardinal Sarah said. 

In the book the cardinal also addresses euthanasia, calling it “the most acute marker of a society without God,” and “subhuman.” But he adds that he has seen an “awakening of consciences,” particularly among younger people in North America who want to overcome “the culture of death.” 

“God was not asleep, he is really with those who defend life!”

Since the “suggestion” on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, made at last year’s consistory, and pushed hard at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in October, by the German Walter Cardinal Kasper and his followers, the Catholic Church is increasingly being shown to be deeply divided at the highest levels and on some of the Church’s most fundamental and definitive issues. While it was frequently commented that the African bishops were on the whole strongly opposed to the Kasper Proposal, the West’s view of the “African Church” as a conservative monolith has been refuted. At least one African bishop has indicated that he outright supports Kasper’s proposal, repeating much of the rhetoric of the Kasper supporters in and out of the Vatican.

Gabriel Palmer Buckle, the archbishop of Accra in Ghana, and one of the bishops chosen to attend the next Synod in October, is quoted by long-time American Vaticanist John Allen saying that he is ready “to vote yes” on allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.

John Allen wrote that the Ghanian archbishop “supports allowing local bishops to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis, and also believes that’s the result Pope Francis wants from the October summit.”

“When a person comes to me, I think I should be able to sit with him or her, or with the family, to find out what the situation is and to give solutions to individual cases without making a sweeping statement,” Palmer-Buckle said.

“It’s not a matter of issuing a new law,” he said. “As for the doctrine [on marriage], I don’t think the Church will change. It’s a question of how we help individuals.”

He added also that the “case-by-case” approach is favored by Pope Francis. “The truth of the matter is that the Holy Father is pushing towards that, when he talks about collegiality,” he said.

The archbishop echoed the phrases and jargon – such as the invocation of “gradualism” and “accompaniment” – used by both the Vatican and Kasper’s supporters during and immediately following the 2014 Synod.

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“The Holy Father has made it clear that the Church’s doctrine [that marriage is always indissoluble] remains the perfection point, the point of arrival, but we are all wounded,” Palmer-Buckle said. “That’s why Christ came, for the sick, the wounded, the needy.”

“If we look at our own pastoral challenges, there must be room to listen and to see how we can pastorally accompany whoever wants to belong more and more to Christ.”

He also reiterated Kasper’s own statement that the proposal is not intended to change Church teaching: “It’s not a matter of issuing a new law…As for the doctrine [on marriage], I don’t think the Church will change. It’s a question of how we help individuals.”

Others have strongly refuted this thesis, including high-level cardinals, who have said that a change in the practice would simply make the doctrine irrelevant to most Catholics.

With the next session of the Synod still eight months in the future, the sides in the argument are rapidly forming. A few days ago, US Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, joined the growing chorus of opposition, saying, “Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral and we cannot carry out something else and call it pastoral, if it doesn’t embody the truth.”

“Certain doctrines are embodied in certain practices and even if you don’t change the doctrine in writing, in a written document, if you change the practice you have changed what the previous practice embodied.”

In January, another Vatican curial official, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, gave a lecture in Germany strongly refuting the underlying theory of the Kasper Proposal. With Cardinal Sarah, Piacenza explained that it is incoherent to suggest that the Church’s “pastoral practice” could possibly be placed in opposition to her doctrine.

Speaking to a group of priests and seminarians, Cardinal Piacenza said, “When in Christianity mercy and truth are presented as antagonistic, or at least as contradictory, it is always the result of a partial perception.”

“It is hardly conceivable that there could be such a strong emphasis on mercy to the detriment of truth. Or, its opposite, a strong emphasis on truth to the detriment of mercy.”

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Eric Metaxas

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What Uncle Sam giveth, he can taketh away: Our rights are from God, not government

Eric Metaxas
By Eric Metaxas

February 23, 2015 (BreakPoint.org) -- During a recent appearance on CNN, Roy Moore, the chief judge of Alabama’s Supreme Court, debated the issue of same-sex marriage with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the son of the late New York governor Mario Cuomo and the brother of New York’s current governor, Andrew Cuomo.

During the discussion, Moore said that “Our rights, contained in the Bill of Rights, do not come from the Constitution. They come from God. That’s clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Cuomo then responded “Our rights do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.”

Cuomo added that the idea of God-given rights is “your faith [and] my faith, but that’s not our country. Our laws come from collective agreement and compromise.”

I can’t help but wonder which country Cuomo is referring to. After all, the Declaration of Independence, by way of justifying the enormous steps the Founding Fathers were about to take, states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men . . .”

These words, which previous generations of American school children were made to memorize, set forth an order that is 180 degrees from that suggested by Cuomo: first comes the Creator, who then endows his creatures with “certain unalienable rights,” and then the creatures form governments to “secure those rights.”

In essence, Cuomo is resorting to a kind of legal positivism, that is, the idea that “law is a matter of what has been posited,” something “ordered, decided, practiced, [or] tolerated,” and is not based on any deeper truth.

But that approach has serious flaws—as our own history bears out. In the run-up to the Civil War, for example, defenders of slavery appealed to the text of the Constitution, which permitted slavery without mentioning it by name. Opponents of slavery, or at least those against its spread into the territories, such as Lincoln, appealed to the Declaration of Independence and its ideas about God-given rights.

Sticking to man-given rights and appealing to “collective agreement and compromise” as Cuomo insists upon doing, would not have ended slavery.

However, if our nation’s leaders agree with Cuomo that the rights we possess are those the government has deined to give us, that would go a long way to explaining the erosion of religious liberty we are witnessing in the U. S. After all, the same government that can create a right to abortion and same-sex marriage can also take away the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of association. This may yield the results folks like Cuomo want, but it undermines the very foundation of human rights that we all claim to hold dear.

And that is really what’s at stake. Years ago on this program, Chuck Colson said that human rights are “based on our most fundamental beliefs about humans being created in the image of God.” Our “rights are not conferred by government, and so they cannot be denied by government.” It was this belief that led Chuck to draft the Manhattan Declaration in defense of human life, marriage, and religious freedom.

More than half a million Americans have signed the Manhattan Declaration. So if you have not, or if you haven’t even read this vitally important defense of our rights and freedom, please come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and I’ll link you to it.

Chris Cuomo was right about one thing: God-given rights are what our faith teaches. If that’s no longer true about “our country,” Heaven help us all.

Reprinted with permission from Break Point. 

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