Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

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A hat tip to the Pilgrims, whose courage and devotion to their faith set a precedent that has flowed through American veins for over two hundred years.  And if we were smart, would inspire us today. Here's a post I wrote a couple years ago regarding my views of those heroes in light of some Catholics who prefer the 'stupid, evil puritans' take.

Oh, and here is a list of the Bad Guys.  And here is a nice list of the Good Guys.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A case for Orthodox Christianity

By Mark Shea. Yeah, that's right.  Mark makes a great case for Orthodoxy when asked by a reader why he is Catholic instead of Orthodox.  How does he do this? Certainly, he makes it clear why he is Catholic!  Of course.  But the content of his arguments just doesn't seem to be, well, read for yourself. 

Well, not really.  First, he fails to give the Number One Reason he has always defaulted to when pointing out the flaws in others' testimonies: Because it is True. No matter what, that's the bottom line reason to be Catholic.  I'm not saying he doesn't think this.  But it's noteworthy when distinguishing between the Church and the Orthodox, a clear "Because It's True" never occurs.

Much of the reasoning - and indeed, much of the reasoning in the comments - is a broad version of 'their mammas wear army boots.  Suggesting that Orthodox are more this or more that or more the other, as opposed to Catholics.  The problems with this, of course, is that it means nothing about the Truth of Orthodoxy's claims, as has been said on CAEI and other Catholic blogs when Atheists blast the actions or tendencies of religious people. 

Several of the theological issues he touches on seem to be vaguely understood at best, and he never really delves into them as I would like to have seen.  The Filioque is perhaps the main example.  Not mentioned by most was less the fact that the Orthodox churches disagreed with the theology of the phrase as much as they disagreed with the theology of the Roman Church suddenly feeling it could add to the Creed without input from the rest of the Christian world. 

Another interesting twist on Mark's take was the emphasis he put on those rascally converts.  This is shocking since, in the day, Mark would be the first to come down hard on someone for impugning the motives or tendencies of converts to Catholicism.  In Mark's piece, he once again makes the suggestion that while 'many' may not be that way (in standard fashion, pointing to personal friends he knows as examples), clearly a problem with Orthodoxy is its converts.  Followed by an equally condemning attitude toward those dreaded reactionaries, many of whom are such converts who become Catholic for all the wrong reasons.  That's called change.  Mark saying what Mark once would have condemned. 

Some of the reasons are silly.  The idea that the Orthodox are anti-Western?  Most of Mark's own Catholic readers are part of the whole 'the West is dead, let it die' movement.  We won't even discuss their attitudes about the US.  Does he mean anti-Western in the sense of the Old Western culture, or currently anti-Western?  That's a broad term and tough to pin.  In that Orthodoxy is not a product of Western Latin Culture is true, and could be part of the issue. He does mention its hostility toward the West since VII.  But I don't really know what is meant by that, so it's hard to say. 

Mark ends it with saying the Orthodox Church just isn't ready to accommodate, as Cardinal Newman said.  Though the phrase is assimilate.  A hairline distinction between those terms to be sure, and a balance I'm not sure the Church is any better at achieving.  Sure, "Doctrine (TM)" will never change.  But almost anything you do with it can change if you're clever.  Something the Orthodox might have figured out, that the Catholic Church, after centuries of changing to fit the latest, still doesn't seem to get.

Anyway, in light of my own post a few days ago, I thought the timing was interesting.  On our way into the Church, we seriously considered Orthodoxy.  Practical considerations made it a moot issue.  But reading this, and the rather weak and contradictory reasons (at least contradictory reasons when considering the criticisms of others' reasons for conversions) was an interesting read. 

Oh, and one more thing.  Mark made a little dig about the Orthodox letting bygones be bygones.  He mentions his ability to get over Pearl Harbor.  Yet even now, there are still tens of thousands of families who lost loved ones living today for that very attack.  Mark's OK with that.  And yet.  As can be expected, grudges are only excusable for the right reasons and right people.  So many revealing statements, so little time.  

The Pro Life Inquisition

Is on display.  Torture is bad.  Got it.  I was shocked at how many conservatives jumped on board that bandwagon.  I understood.  It was clear that many were more concerned with scoring points against Bush than protecting America, and I think in desperation and fear many embraced what they never would have embraced.  But desperation and fear make bad reasons for embracing moral stances.

The A-Bombs were bad.  Got it.  I don't know another way, given the knowledge we now have that suggests Japan's post-war take on events wasn't always the most accurate.  Apart from pacifism and 'just let'm die', don't know what we could have done.  But I've never imagined it was a wonderful thing to cheer about.

War is bad.  Of course.  Who wants war?  Though some of the bygone attitudes surrounding war: sacrifice, honor, loyalty, duty (words seldom used in modern discourse) are quite good.  And again, pacifism or war?

The death penalty is bad.  In that I wish there were no crimes that deserved it, yeah.  And I like mercy over execution.  But historically the Church has understood the need to protect the innocent in a fallen world.  Now that the Church is wanting to change, I can understand the debate.

Some, however, can't. So we have a reminder why the Catholic Church has the dubious distinction of being the only major world religion with its own official Inquisition.  As one who has been accused by the author of the piece of wanting to increase human slaughter, simply because I question the Church's reasoning for suddenly wishing to abolish the death penalty, I can understand a little better how some of those moments in Church history took place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Is everything that the media has been wanting it to be.  Think on this.  Either we are victims of a vast, evil, white racist legal conspiracy.  Or we have a media that has, twice now in just the last couple years, attempted to destroy innocent (or at least somewhat innocent) individuals in order to advance agendas and destroy those who stand in the way.  And if cities and lives and livelihoods are destroyed?  So be it.  Either way, Ferguson has been everything that the media has worked diligently toward for endless months.  People willing to exploit and utilize race to advance agendas and grab a few electronic devices are willing to jump in and lend their support.

For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition...  The media man of the hour.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Merchants of Amsterdam

Is a darn fun game.  And semi-educational too.  I say semi-educational because in fairness, most educational games are just that, semi-educational.

The game has no dice.  It has a time tracker that moves through various years of the 17th century that mark certain events in the fortunes of Amsterdam, when that city was a center of trade and commerce.  In the rules, it gives a bullet point about what happened in that particular year to make it worthy of note.

The rest of the game is a strange combination of strategy and pure luck.  You open markets around the world, build warehouses in Amsterdam (noted for such building in its day), and speculate on the commodities market.  Through a bizarre combination of factoring and figuring, you can rake in the money or lose everything.  The one with the most money at the end wins.

As "historical" games go, it's somewhat light even when you think semi-educational.  But compared to most video games (computer games being another issue), it soars.  It got my kids to realize there was this place that occupies a footnote or a few sentences in most history books that really was, for quite a while, a major player in world events.

As for the game play, it's not easy.  Sometimes it goes fast, other times it drags.  Long term strategies work better than fly by the seat of your pants.  Figuring what to focus on - worldwide markets, warehouse building or commodities exchange - is one of the keys.  And the high point each round is the Auction, which includes a rather bizarre timer.  Who hits the timer first gets the purchase for the price the timer indicates.  That's where it's every man for himself. For the record, I came in 3rd last night.  My wife won, being the non-man in the room.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

American racism

A thought.  Is America a Racist Nation?  Yep.  That's because America inherited the racist justifications used to excuse the African slave trade and persecution of American Indians by the European imperialist powers.  Protestant England, Catholic Spain and Portugal, and yes, the Islamic world.  All had their own Racist Justifications for what they knew was wrong, but a justification for what they wanted.

The thing is, America is a young nation formed in the midst of this.  Those cultures and nations and kingdoms were already ancient by the time the Founding Fathers came together to make some sense of this mess.  The slavery and racism that America had on day one of its official existence was, of course, the gift given from England.  Not that England was unique.  But that's where it came from, and it was in their blood like persecuting opposition to gay marriage is in our blood today.

But when it was time, those cultures could simply dilute those racist excuses into the larger pool of their more ancient cultures, customs, traditions, values, and histories.  America as a nation couldn't.  Racism used in America to excuse African slavery and Indian persecution was there from day one.  There is nothing greater to swallow it up.

Of course that's not to say racism only exists in America.  Or that those other European nations don't still have traces of it in their blood.  But if England adopted flagrant racism to excuse the slave trade or stealing land from the native inhabitants, all of which it benefited from for almost 200 years, that was only a small part of its history that stretches back centuries upon centuries.  Same with Spain.  Or any of the Islamic states that had their own brand of 'they're just so close to animals' reasoning to justify the robust Arabic slave trade.

America?  Nope.  Our existence has had that from day one.  If we got rid of all traces of racism tomorrow, we would have to exist another 600 to 800 years without racism to have the same amount of overarching culture to swallow up the blight.  That we've come this far already, in only a matter of a dozen generations or so, is - to me at least - a point to celebrate.  Especially when we consider the fact that in such a short time, there are 15% of non-whites in the US Congress, vs. 4.2% non-whites in the much more ancient (and far less racist) British Parliament.  Put that in your clay pipe and smoke it.

Just saying.  Since this week is a week once reserved for, among other things, thanking God, being with family, celebrating our heritage; now it's a week to be reminded of white racists imperialists slaughtering godlike indigenous people in order to set up a holiday which is only good as a means for increasing Wall Street's bottom line.  I thought it was worth the reflection.

Because Global Warming causes everything

MSNBC, with its patron saint of science, Bill Nye the Science Guy, steps in to remind Buffalo that this is all because of Global Warming.  Bwa Ha Ha Ha!  Remember in the late 90s and early 00s, when winters were mild and summers were scorching?  Ah, that's when MMGW scientists had it easy.

For the record, what do I think?  I think this.  First, the climate changes.  Every time I look out the window and don't see glaciers and woolly mammoths, I'm reminded that the climate changes.

Two, I have no doubt that mankind's humankind's unbridled embrace of industrialization and technology has not always been great for the natural world.  Lesson learned?  Don't hand science/technology/industry a blank check and say 'here, we're sure this time there will be no problems!'  Of course, rethinking our current approach of science and technology to solve all problems might not be imprudent. After all, caring for the environment isn't a bad thing.

Three, I reject the idea that humans (the latest stage of primate evolution) are the only animals who are a festering malignant blight upon the world whose numbers need to be thinned to save the planet.
Fourth, I certainly reject the notion that America is the sole culprit that needs to be beaten down to size, and that the only way to save ourselves is to support socialists and liberals who need to put me in my place as they await their limousines and private jets.

Fifth, I'm curious why we assume warming has to be a bad thing.  It seems that if we played our cards right, it might mean longer growing seasons and larger tracts of land previously barren.  Who knows?  But who knows?

Sixth, I'm always and forever suspect when people pull variations of Archie Bunker's famous "Stifle it!' approach to dialogue, especially since the majority opinion and the Truth don't always go hand in hand.

Finally, the laughable changing and twisting terms and arguments should make any sensible person skeptical.  Not that scientists have to be experts at public communications.  But when they sound more convoluted in their reasoning and arguments than a bad used car salesman, I'm going to be hesitant when it comes to embracing the weeding out of people as the only way of saving the planet because of something we all have to believe because 'shut up or you're an idiot!'.

Watch Lorenzo's Oil

A prolife movie and then some.  Nick Nolte pulls off a respectable Italian accent, and the always solid Susan Sarandon does her usual excellent work.  It's a tear-jerker.  But it's inspiring.  It's also based on a true story. Alas, young Lorenzo died a few years ago.  But to see the affirmation of life, that life begets life, reminds us that had Lorenzo's parents gone the way of Oprahianity, they would have accepted things, focused on their own lives, and thousands of children would never have been helped by their heroic efforts.  Honorary medical degrees are not given out like nickels and dimes, but Mr. Odone more than earned it. True, it is not a miracle cure.  And I have no doubt that not all experienced the same benefits, as all medical cures tend to be.  What helps most does not always help all.  Nonetheless, as a film, it flies.  Like all great movies, there are many things that recommend it.  But the prolife message is at the top of the list.

BTW, it's worth noting that when he died, many news agencies seemed to want to focus on the shortcomings or failures, rather than the successes.  Whether it's because the emphasis on life is bothersome or we just tend to shy from successful heroes and prefer 'hero in the generic', I don't know.  But I noticed it and took note when it happened.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Arthur Rankin RIP

Arthur Ranking, Jr. has died.  He was 89.  What can one say about a person who helped to shape an entire world for young people of my generation?  Just this last Sunday, we settled in for our annual viewing of Rankin and Bass's The Hobbit.  It's still, IMHO, the best adaptation of any of Tolkien's works to date - Jackson's bloated attempts included.

But it was more than just Hobbits.  Rankin and Bass had their finger on that strange mixture of post-war Boomer culture and various cultural traditions and milestones.  Using varying mediums to convey stories, they brought a host of famous characters to life and defined how an entire generation visualized at least the secular spin on the Christmas holidays. 

For my part, aside from The Hobbit, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Little Drummer Boy.  Others need no introduction.  Rudolph kicked off the whole Christmas Specials for Kids genre, and became one of many specials around which kids my age centered their calendars on the long march leading up to that day of days.  

Anyway, a big thank you for all the memories, the good times and the great stories.  

More atmosphere in a couple minutes than Jackson has managed in over 15 hours of state of the art film making.

Monday, November 17, 2014

On a more serious note

A reminder that the Modern Left is about crushing freedoms and liberties and eradicating wrong-think.  To that end, I applaud all who aren't stupid enough to try to find compromise with a movement that would seek to destroy all that most sensible people should hold dear.

One of the nice things about traveling

Is the food you get to experience.  Finances being what they are, the one thing I miss is traveling.  I can take everything else, but in our day we did quite a bit of traveling.  Some of it was ministry related.  Often personal.  But we made some pretty good dents in the map in years gone by.  Not so much the last few years.  But we've still had our chances to go hither and yon, if not on a limited basis.

Not great for the culinary experiences we used to enjoy, but you can still touch base with old favorites.  One of ours is quite simply the best Irish Pub on this side of the Atlantic, known rather whimsically as The Irish Rover.  Even when not staying in Louisville, we will adjust our travels to make sure we stop there for a bite and a draught.  It's owned by a bona fide Irishman who routinely goes back to the old country to make sure his recipes are authentic and darn good.  It's not a bar made to look like a pub mind you.  You feel as if you've stepped back a generation or so and into a land of emerald greens half way around the world.

In my Doctoral days, I used to stop there every Wednesday at lunch for fish and chips and (psst, don't tell any Baptists) a glass of Harp.  A Presbyterian minister friend of mine sometimes joined me.  It was an 'everybody knows your name' time when my faith in my own denominational doctrines was being shaken, and my journey toward the Historic Faith was taking shape.

Anyway, we found an article in a Louisville publication that had some of the recipes, and we tried our hand at one of the Rover's more scrumptious offerings - Scotch Eggs (a traditional English dish named after Scotland and served in an Irish Pub).  I have to say, except for using mild rather than spicy sausage, the results were splendid.  My Mom called it the best thing she's eaten since she doesn't know when.  Perhaps we'll get her down there someday for the full options.

A perfectly poured Guinness, eyed playfully by our 'still too young' oldest. 

Before the meal, all eager with anticipation. 

Our little attempt at matching the greatness.  Not bad at all. 

Global Warming rocks!

Knowing that everything that happens in our world is the result of Global Warming, I have everyone whose existence is causing this phenomenon to thank for the awesome view outside our windows this morning

.  Though timing could have been better.  How about the weekend next time!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

It must be that time of year again

Retailers' new mascot? 
When unbridled consumerism and the lust for the acquisition of financial gain to the exclusion of any other consideration takes center stage.  Using the celebration of the Lord of Hosts born in the humble surroundings of a 1st century stable as the point of reference, we've now effectively moved to eliminate that other silly tradition of thanking God and being with family that stood in the way of increased time for increasing the Bottom Line.  I know, I know. It's what it is.  So were the Death Camps.  So was Slavery.  So were the Crusades.  A sorry excuse. 

Christians who do uphold the value of the Free Market and support the Capitalist approach are in a tough position.  One of the prime movers of godlessness, blasphemy, hedonism, narcissism, selfishness, debauchery, greed and apathy is the Market.  Look at the latest buxom beauty scantly dressed in order to sell a car or bottle of beer, and you can bet there's a corporate interest behind it.   Not some philosophical or religious or ideological movement.  Just the lust for profit at all costs.

I can say I won't shop at stores that are now opening on Thanksgiving, but I was never a blind fool who risked injury and death for the latest electronic gadget on Black Friday anyway.  So it doesn't mean much when I say I won't flip the bird to hapless low wage earners yanked from their families on Thanksgiving to appease the corporate interest.  It is, however, making me reevaluate my adherence to the acquisition of things as the patriotic duty of Americans.  It is also reminding me that even the best ideas developed by man, when filtered through a fallen world, mixed with sinful humanity, and given time, can end up serving the Darkness rather than the Light.  

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6.10

One of the reasons I keep going back to CAEI

TMLutas is a regular commenter.  In keeping with consistency, Mark Shea still opposes abortion and actual gay marriage.  Likewise, he opposes the recent attempts by the State to curtail the right to not support these things.  Most seem to agree, though some of his more liberal sympathetic readers come in to either defend the Leftist juggernaut, or at least to ponder if there is really any big deal.  Nonetheless, in typical awesome form, TMLutas comes in and says it straight.  For all its flaws, the religious peace that the Constitution established has lasted a good two hundred yeras or so.  Now we are in danger of seeing that peace shattered in the name of tolerance and diversity.  What will happen when it is ultimately ended?  Who knows?  But perhaps it's time to stop piddling around and act like this really is a grave assault on our first and most important right.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

When Jonah Goldberg is right

He's right.  Except I would say we don't really have to wait and see what will happen.  It's been promoted for generations, and while only recently has it become officially endorsed, our 'I'm my own God, thank you' approach to morality has been eating away at the foundations of Western Thought for more than a few years,  In fact, we're now at the stage where we have to adopt new ideas and excuses to rationalize this disaster and its disastrous results.  First up was, of course, the belief that Western Thought sucked anyway, so who cares?  I'll be interested in what excuses will come next.

The Gruber Chronicles keep on giving

When Slate is jumping on board, it's time to panic.  Though from a cynical perspective, this could simply be those Democrats who know full well that Obama is a disastrous president, and simply want to help pound the nails in the coffin to obtain some level of credibility with a population that obviously can't be fooled by media denial.  So far, the Democrats' official 'we never heard of the guy' is laughable, and even supporters aren't buying it.  Some of the damage control is turning on 'isn't this how this how it always is' version of 'everyone does it' that was so effective during the Clinton scandals.  We'll see.  But try as they might, the Media simply can't keep Obama from looking like the disastrous train wreck of a president that he is.  Nevertheless, it will be fun to watch them continue to try.

Friday, November 14, 2014

To compromise or not to compromise

Pope Francis may not be a liberal at all.  Certainly not based on American media definitions.  The world, believe it or not, is not divided between Red State and Blue State.  Trying to see Pope Francis through such lenses - one way or another - is likely an exercise in pointlessness at best.

Much of the speculation and flat out fist fights over the Real Pope Francis is due to the clear and obvious fact that Catholicism has changed quite a bit over the last century.  On almost every level, a Catholic dropped into the Church 200 years ago would be stunned by the differences.  Some are necessary.  Electricity happens.  So does indoor plumbing.  Some accepted sins and problems are dealt with.

But changing to fit with the times can be like eating peanuts.  Once you start, you just can't stop. Ask any one of a hundred variations on Protestantism in our world today.  Some are barely Christian, if at all.  So as the Catholic Church struggles to find a middle ground between the Modern Way and the Traditional Christian Way, it has created not a few reactions from various groups and individuals.

Some are mighty unhappy, and have been for some time.  Others are more than thrilled.  Some are OK, but want more change and accommodation.  Others seem to be overly defensive, as if they can't bring themselves to admit what is patently obvious.  

In any event, I stumbled across an interesting article yesterday.  It's from a member of the Orthodox Church.  As insulting as this is to some Protestant denominations who fancy themselves as modern incarnations of the first century church, and as shocking as it might be for Catholics who imagine otherwise, the Church closest to the most ancient approach we have to living Christianity is the Orthodox.  As a history professor I had once said, if you want a Church that hasn't changed much in 1500 years, you could do worse than going to an Orthodox church.

Not to say the Orthodox aren't without their skeletons, or their modern splits.  Some appear to be following the ways of the post-Christian Left just like Catholics and Protestants.  Still, they can only do what others who want to follow the Modern Way do and reject outright the teachings of their faith and demand change.  But for a Church that smells, sounds and acts like its forefathers centuries ago (with the possible exceptions of electricity and indoor plumbing), there seems to be a willingness on those resisting the Change to do so outright, without need to find some middle ground.

Hence this little article.  Pretty straight forward. As I've said, it should be obvious to any but the most weak minded or willing minded that there is no compromise with this new revolutionary heresy.  What this fellow might be saying is that we should never have assumed there was in the first place.

John C. Wright posts on the Gruber revelations

He defers to the source from which he was made aware of the story. CNN has covered it.  FOX natch.  I've not heard much about it in other outlets, most of whom are focusing on Ferguson.  Some, such as ABC, appear to be running it on their internet pages. Print media seems to not know what to do.  Most are covering it at face value, but you can almost sense the desperate search for a narrative obeying spin.  Right now, it looks like reporting as is and we can, of course, count on some to shoot straight between the eyes.

Jonathan Gruber spills the beans

I would be more skeptical of a FOX News take, if I hadn't heard it on CNN.  Yeah, it's that bad.  And when Jay Carney was asked on CNN if the deceit and lies that Gruber lauds were deliberate, it's noteworthy that he didn't deny they were on purpose. Of course expect no outrage.  If we are a nation of scaredy-cats on one side, that is balanced by the fact that on the other side is a segment of the population that confuses laziness and apathy with virtue.  We have our apps.  We have Netflix.  It probably won't impact me anyway.  America sucks.  Evil happens.  Move on.  Nothing to see here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fast times at Louisville

Can be demonstrated by the joy my boys had in visiting a local water treatment plant.  When my wife and I first moved to Louisville to attend seminary, we used to walk down some railroad tracks to the facility, where a walking track circled the water.  This wasn't some stinky, sewer styled place.  This was built like some Gothic fantasy, and the water looked almost clean enough to drink.  Almost.  

They had fun running around, listening to Mom and Dad regale them about days long gone, and made sure we stopped with water bottles to get water from a spigot outside that they were sure was processed water from the plant.  

Looking like they're posing for an album cover, this was actually taken while they were getting ready for the pic