Art by Angel Valdez for The Houston Catholic Worker at http://www.cjd.org

Back when Jesus walked, children were definitely kept in their place, seen and not heard.

They did not get sweets and presents for their birthdays. (In the big scheme of things historical, birthday celebrations are relatively new.)

People in New Testament times were eager to welcome and rub elbows with people of high social status in order to raise their own status. Even the disciples were prone to this. (See here.)

So when Jesus embraced children against the protests of his disciples — when he said that one had to be like a powerless little child to enter the kingdom of God — he shocked people out of their socks.

He was always good at going for the shock effect.

This Guatemalan girl, who became congested and very ill with a 104-degree fever, was never properly treated before her release from custody in the ICE detention center in Dilly, TX. She died shortly after her release. This was before the current flu outbreak that has caused three deaths of children.

“The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message.”

So wrote Pope John Paul II in a document in which he contrasted the Gospel of life with the world’s culture of death and destruction.

“And how can we fail to consider the violence against life done to millions of human beings, especially children [my italics for emphasis], who are forced into poverty, malnutrition and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between peoples and between social classes?

We are living in shocking times in America, a time when the leader of the free world (and “King of Israel”) seems to go out of his way every hour to spin our heads around with his shocking words and actions. Me, I’m still trying to get over the shock of something that happened in Donald J. Trump’s America a couple of weeks ago.

In these United States, where we supposedly cherish liberty and justice for all, it took a federal appeals court ruling to ensure that powerless children with brown skin have enough edible food, clean drinking water, sanitary bathrooms and sleeping conditions.

Not to mention soap and toothpaste.

Think about that, people (and especially you who are fine with Donald J. Trump and his treatment of powerless children and their families). It took a federal court order for vulnerable children — who now are being denied flu shots in the wake of three child deaths from the flu — to be treated as Jesus would have them treated.

Jesus was always on the side of life and that which gives life. He was a life giver, a carpenter-turned-construction worker for life.

Denying children soap and toothpaste and reasonably healthy food and clean water runs counter to what Pope John Paul II said was at the heart of Jesus’ message.

And meanwhile, oh by the way, millions of impressionable American children are being brainwashed into believing that owning weapons made for war, and not for sport or even for protection, is a God-given right.

Whatever heart that America once had — an American nation that we’re constantly told was founded on Judeo-Christian values — is suffering from a near-fatal coronary attack.

I am praying every day that the nation I love will be able to repair her damaged heart back to good, holistic health.

Pray, and then put prayer into action in order to advance the kingdom on earth.

A sick leader who has posted violent fantasy videos of him knocking down Hillary Clinton and pummeling a CNN reporter may not be the best to decry violence in America.

Click here to see Donald Trump beating a CNN reporter in a fantasy video: https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/donald-trump-cnn-wwe-gif/

Back in September 2017, President Donald J. Trump retweeted a doctored GIF of him knocking down Hillary Clinton — long after he defeated her — with a golf ball.

The sickening and violent GIF (which is a sort of video) created so much outrage he deleted it. (See documentation here.)

This is the same President Trump who believes violent games and movies are one of the main causes of mass murders by American nationalists.

But that’s not all.

There was that violent, fantasy tweet I linked above that he posted of his pummeling a CNN reporter.

This might be the wrong leader to be decrying all the violence in games and creative arts these days.

A man as sick as he is has no moral authority to speak out against any violence or hatred.

That I can tell you.

A picture taken way and very faraway, outside of the beautiful, peaceful and hospitable city of El Paso in the County of El Paso.

So happens I spent a night at this church in a far-flung part of the county, with mostly Spanish-speaking, charismatic Christian believers, in 2004.

My thoughts and prayers have truly been with those wonderful people way out in the most underrated and peaceful city in Texas, El Paso — as well as those in Dayton, Ohio.

I can’t imagine the contagion of pain and suffering the victims of gun-idolatry are struggling to cope with in El Paso, Dayton and a long, long list of cities.

El Paso County, TX, c. 2004

So this morning I was reading the book of Philippians, always one of my favorite epistles, in The Message — the Bible translation that the late, great Eugene Peterson gave us.

The late Eugene Peterson, who left us many great books that included his colorful translation of the Bible (The Message)

Peterson went all in with colorful language that makes for easy, breezy Bible reading and study — language so colorful that I often catch myself grinning as I read.

Take, for example, these verses from Philippians 3, which put me in mind of today’s preachers and TV evangelists who fly to and from their fine mansions in their fine private jets with their bellies full of fine food and drink.

    7-19 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them.

    I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again.

    All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross.

    But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

    20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

Peterson was no fan at all of any megachurches, and a blistering, plainspoken critic of the rich preachers who live on easy street while pushing the “prosperity gospel.”

    “Well, I think it’s a lie,” he said in an interview of the prosperity gospel. “I think it’s just a downright rotten lie. It’s nowhere in Christian tradition, so how does this get going in our culture?

    “It’s greed is what it is. It’s greed given a spiritual name: God will bless you. I want to ask these prosperity gospel people, do your people ever die? Do the people in your church ever die? What do you do when they die? Where’s the prosperity in that? I don’t have much patience with them, to tell you the truth, because I think they’re defrauding people.”

Read the whole interview with Peterson here, with the the former PBS broadcaster and fabulous host of “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” Bob Abernathy.

Abernathy’s program ran from 1997-2017 and I think I speak for a lot of Christians who miss it — and Pastor Peterson — a lot.

Painting by Haitian artist Watson Mere.

This was the real-time Twitter response from the Churchillian genius in the White House to a mass murder at a festive occasion in California yesterday:

    “Law Enforcement is at the scene of shootings in Gilroy, California. Reports are that shooter has not yet been apprehended. Be careful and safe!”

Yes, fellow Americans, always remember that American Law Enforcement is sure to be on the scene!!!

But remember above all remember to “be careful and safe!!!” while you try to cope with shock and trauma from all the hell-on-earth breaking out around you!!!


What has been missing since the president gave us that little report is any kind of followup expressing any sense of care about, and consolation for, the victims and their families.

The victims included a 6-year-old boy whose mother who was shot in the stomach and mother-in-law was shot in the leg


It used to be a given that our presidents loved their fellow Americans enough to pause and feel their pain in the wake of such tragedies. It was a given that the president would give immediate expression to sympathy and compassion for those in so much pain.

There was always this unwritten rule in the president’s job description that he would serve on occasion as “the pastor in chief.”

We always looked for a president to give us some kind of a spiritually healing response to bind us in the wake of catastrophic events that leave all us as Americans reeling.

But then, this president is like no other president in the history of the United States in any form, fashion or manner.

One being that he has a fiendish gift for inflicting pain while feeling no one else’s.

The economy is great . . . for some. For others, it’s a killer.

Pope Francis famously wrote the following in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” (EVANGELII GAUDIUM)”:

    Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.

For all the hype about the booming American economy, it remains an economy of “exclusion and inequality.”

It’s also an economy that continues to kill.

According to a new study, nearly 45,000 deaths a year are associated with lack of health insurance.

That number is about 21/2 times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine back in 2002.

Go here to read the study’s astounding findings, conducted at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance, for yourself.

In recent weeks, groups of desperate American diabetes patients have organized caravans to Canada to buy insulin in bulk at a fraction of what they have to pay in the U.S.

There have also been many reports nationwide of all kinds of people with chronic illnesses (“preexisting conditions”) rationing their medicines.

Obviously, an insulin shot or blood-pressure pill is not something you want to skimp on. But people are skimping because of an economic system so rotten that, as the pope so boldly asserted, it kills.

Somehow this healthcare crisis, the result of a broken capitalist system that allows drug companies to gouge us all, is still not treated like a national emergency.

Our political leaders on the so-called Left and Right have all the answers, all the quick fixes. But politicians of all stripes have been forever promising quick and easy fixes in a capitalist system that left behind fairness and equitable treatment a long time ago.

At the present time, the cost of those quick fixes promised by leaders and candidates on the Left would cost money that America, which has been bankrupt for years, cannot possibly afford.

Even former President Obama, of all people, recently admonished Democratic candidates running for president to get real about the lack of money for so many Grand Plans providing so-called “free” services.

All these grand Grand Plans and promises, Obama pointed out, would be good if we were starting with a balanced budget and not at $22 trillion in the hole. (And projections of a possible $28 trillion debt ahead.)

That said, leaders on the Right don’t seem to care about healthcare and drug-price fixes at all. The last time the clueless Donald J. Trump addressed healthcare costs, he — who feels our pain — promised that he would unveil “a beautiful healthcare plan you’re going to love” — as soon as he is reelected in November 2020.

So no need to worry: he has this secret plan for a healthcare fix not unlike the secret plan he had to win the war in Afghanistan in 30 days upon taking office.

Meanwhile, Americans are suffering because of lack of health insurance and because the price of pharmaceuticals has been skyrocketing for seven.long.straight.years.

This booming, go-go economy with all this low unemployment shows no sign of slowing down, but you don’t have to be a pollster to know that our collective anxieties and economic fears keep running higher.

Maybe because we all know, those of us who’ve had much life experience, that every go-go economic boom is followed by a hellacious economic bust.

Maybe also because we see all those homeless people in the streets, so many of whom had it made in other boom times.

I believe in capitalism and I’m all for it, having reaped the benefits of it my whole life. But here’s the hitch — I’m for capitalism that is fair, and equitable, and ethical, and steered in the direction of the common good.

Capitalism in the 21rst century is none of the above.

Capitalism in the 21rst century, as the pope so boldly asserted is a killer

Number of U.S. companies prosecuted by the U.S. government for hiring undocumented workers in 12-month period ending in March: 0.

Number of individuals prosecuted: 11.

Number of the 11 jailed: 3

Number of individuals prosecuted for illegal entry into the U.S.: 85,727.

Number prosecuted for illegal re-entry: 36,627.

Number of undocumented workers Donald J. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago has hired at his estate in Palm Beach, Fla.*: read here.https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/09/us/mar-a-lago-undocumented-workers.html

Also, read about the undocumented workers at Trump’s New Jersey golf course here.

Syracuse University’s TRAC (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.)

*Excerpt from the article linked above:

    In March, seven veteran maintenance workers at Trump National Jupiter, the golf club 18 miles north of Mar-a-Lago that Mr. Trump bought in 2012, were informed that the work force was being reorganized. Workers had until March 22 to provide proof that they were legally eligible to work in the United States, they were told.

    One by one, the workers — from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico — began to depart. Only one of the seven was a legal resident.

    “They got rid of me after so many years of hard work because I don’t have papers,” said Doroteo Hernández, 42, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who worked for 10 years on the maintenance crew at Jupiter, one of Mr. Trump’s favorite golfing spots on his weekends at Mar-a-Lago.

I think it’s safe to say that the great American writer John Irving is about as credible a historian on abortion in America as anybody alive.

Irving’s novel The Cider House Rules was all about the conflict between a young orphan opposed to abortion and a physician who did illegal abortions. (Irving also wrote the award-winning screenplay for the hit movie of the same name that starred Michael Caine and Toby McGuire.)

Never one to sugar-coat his opinions on all kinds of political and cultural issues, Irving has a lengthy think piece in today’s New York Times under the heading “The Long, Cruel History of the Anti-Abortion Crusade.”

If you read the entire, lengthy piece here, you’ll come to this blistering assertion by Irving:

    Whatever the anti-abortion crusaders call themselves, they don’t care what happens to an unwanted child —- not after the child is born —- and they’ve never cared about the mother.

I used to believe it’s unfair to dismiss all pro-life activists as insensitive to the welfare of a mother and child after the child is born. But it is a relatively small number of pro-lifers who commit themselves to care for even one baby and mother after the baby is out of the womb. Look at the numbers of babies and children that are available for adoption or foster care and explain to me why those numbers are extremely low with so many pro-life Americans around.

How about you, pro-lifer.

How many unborn babies have you ever contracted to adopt or care for from the day they are born? Or how many desperately poor mothers have you pledged to support morally and financially once a baby is out of the womb? Are you a foster parent?

Are you in the process of adopting either a born or an unborn child because of your pro-life commitment?

If you’ve put your pro-life belief into that sort of genuinely pro-life action, I salute you.

But you are not representative of the masses of pro-life crusaders unwilling to put their stridently pro-life and Christian belief into practice.

* * *

All that said, one only has to look at how children are being treated under the pro-life(?) administration of Donald J. Trump on the U.S. border with Mexico today to see that pro-life crusaders aren’t entirely pro-life.

In the past week we’ve had report after report of the cruel and inhumane treatment of children — including babies who have no diapers — in American detention centers on Trump’s watch.

You have to wonder why supposedly “pro-life” crusaders aren’t outside American detention centers where Central American children are being denied everything from toothbrushes and soap to food fit for human consumption — not to mention anything like basic health care.

A prominent law professor who inspected one of the centers told of a babies without diapers being cared for by siblings from age 10 to 14.

Another observer described an American-managed detention centers for children as “a human dog pound.”

(Of course, if animals were being treated with this kind of cruelty, a million American pet lovers would descend on the White House demanding a stop to it. I’ve said before that many people care more about abused animals than they care about abused humans.)

All this because of Donald Trump’s cruel “family separation” policy — a policy that was supposed to have ended a full year ago.

Where are the pro-life crusaders, who teach their children in Vacation Bible school to sing about how Jesus loves the little children of the world?

Why aren’t they out marching and demanding that the pro-life administration treat this inhumane treatment with the urgency of a national emergency?

Might it be because they care more about life in the womb than they care about brown children outside the womb?

American nationalists wrap themselves in the flag and claim to be all about individual liberty, complete with freedom from government meddling and control.

How ironic it is that they embrace government control with open arms.

They can’t seem to get enough government meddling.

And Donald J. Trump — who thrives on keeping paranoid American nationalists ever more scared of enemies real and imagined– is certainly willing to oblige them.

“Give me liberty as long as there’s another dollar to be conquered.”

The nationalists live in fear of an America in which all Americans would be left alone in their love life, allowed to love or marry or live with whomever they wish, without fear of government interference or of being demonized by the bedroom police.

With their lips, the patriotic white nationalists pledge allegiance to an America sustained by “liberty and justice for all.” But they are perfectly willing to accept injustice for many, and no justice at all for a president clearly guilty of treasonous behavior and any number of white-collar crimes going back to a fraudulent “university.”

The nationalists, who think of themselves as America-loving patriots, live in fear of a truly free America in which women would have the freedom to make decisions about birth with their conscience as their guide instead of Uncle Sam thinks he knows what’s best for the ladies.

The good Christian nationalists fear the thought of an America in which people of all faiths (and no faith) are allowed to practice faith (or not) without hostile government leaders who pose and posture as followers of Jesus while passing ludicrous religious-liberty laws and heaping scorn on faiths not Christian.

The patriotic nationalists want law and order — for some; for the president and so many others, not so much.

The patriotic nationalists live in fear of an America in which Americans of many and various beliefs and philosophies — of various skin colors, faith traditions, economic stations in life, and sexual orientations — would be truly welcomed with seats at the tables of leadership in government, business, religion and civic life.

They fear an America in which Americans will no longer have scores upon scores of enemies — real and in many cases simply perceived — to conquer or dominate and dictate to in countries around the world.

They fear an America in which freedom of the press is allowed to flourish anywhere outside of the cool-blue studios of Fox “News” Channel in Donald J. Trump’s home turf.

The patriotic nationalists are fine with freedom of the press as long as the press is Fox News.

The white-right nationalists fear an America in which people are allowed to vigorously exercise their right to protest — unless the protest is against abortion and a woman’s right to let her conscience be her guide.

The Jingoistic, Sword-Rattling, Might-Makes-Right nationalists and the leaders they worship want a United States military that is the greatest in the world and they wholeheartedly support our brave troops — especially at sporting events.

Just don’t expect them or their sons and daughters to put their lives on the line for liberty and justice for anybody.

In short, the mostly white, supposedly patriotic America-first nationalists are too scared of genuine freedom and liberty to allow it to naturally bloom into a true democracy.

The only thing they don’t fear (which in Christian language means revere) is the God they see as having created America to be exceptional.